What Can We Know About God?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE UNCAUSED?

As you probably guessed from the prior page, philosophers refer to the uncaused cause as God.  He is the Necessary Being from which all other being is derived.  Before we go on to cosmology, though, we need to investigate some of the things that are necessary for something to be uncaused.

 

The first obvious thing is that God must be pure act:  In other words, he must be act without any passive potency.  If God had any potency to exist, it would mean that he is limited and did not always exist.  Being pure act also means that God will always exist in the future because something that is pure act can not change.  This means that God can not be acted on by another being.

DOES PURE ACT MEAN STATIC?

When we refer to God as being unmoved, uncaused, or pure act, we are not saying that he's static with regard to his ability to act but only in regard to his ability to change (e.g. his ability to acquire or remove being or perfection).  In other words, God is the same now as in the past and will be in the future.  His power can move other things from potency to act, but his power, itself, does not increase, decrease, or change. 

 

He is not a secondary mover which receives motion from something else and passes it on.  Rather, he's the prime mover and the source of all movement who is able to transmits being to others.  He is the source of his own being.

 

Lastly, please note that even though we're referring to God using the masculine pronoun, we are using the masculine pronoun in its gender-neutral sense.  God is neither masculine nor feminine.

Green fern

Since God is pure act, it means that he can't be comprised of physical parts.  As we know, physical, material parts are limited in space and time and, as such, have potency.  Another problem with being comprised of physical parts is that there needs to be an organizing principle [such as a force] which binds them together.  Since this organizing principle would be outside of God and acting on God, it means that God is not pure act and is not the ultimate cause of everything.  Consequently, God can not be physical for these two reasons.

 

Since God is pure act, he also can't be comprised of the metaphysical parts of potency and act.  Therefore, God can't have physical, material parts nor have the metaphysical parts of potency and act.  In short, to be the uncaused cause, God must be materially and metaphysically simple.

DOES SIMPLE MEAN STUPID?

Some people object to calling God simple because it seems to depict God as powerless or stupid.  This is not true at all.  When philosophers refer to God as being simple, they're only saying that he is not comprised of physical or metaphysical parts.  God is a simple unity.

 

Being a simple unity and the origin of all being means that everything that is divided in the universe and all of our divided concepts about God, in fact, originate from a single unity -- It's all one in God.

Moose in a green meadow

Why Does Anything Exist at all?

Although we've just shown intellectually that God must be simple, this makes intuitive sense as well.  If you go back before the Universe came into being, there were only two real options:  Absolute Being or Absolute Nothingness. 

 

Nothingness, of course, is nothing.  Simple, pure being without division or complexity is the only other obvious choice.  If scientists were philosophers, they would refer to both scenarios as the two most elegant solutions.  All other scenarios are less elegant.

Some cosmologists look out at the galaxies and marvel at the fact that being exists.  It seems that nothingness might be the more obvious option.  But Being does exists, and so we know that something must have always been. 

If you're one of the few who thinks that something can actually come from nothing, we'll also demonstrate the impossibility of this notion shortly from a scientific perspectives.

What we do know is that God is a simple unity.  In this simple unity is the principle for everything that is.  God is the Necessary Being that, by its very nature, exists.  There's much more to say about this, but let's move on now to science and cosmology.

Red Maple leaves in Autumn

Natural Theology

Please note that we've deduced the existence of God by reason alone without resorting to religion or divine revelation.  This is called Natural Theology.  Natural theology pertains to God based on what we see in nature using reason and logic.  Natural Theology must not be confused with supernatural theology which pertains to religious knowledge involving divine revelation.  Supernatural theology is an entirely different subject.

 

For a deeper understanding of this fascinating topic, there are many good books on Scholastic Metaphysics and Natural Theology that can be purchased on the internet.

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Upper left inset photo by Echo Grid from Unsplash.com

Center right inset photo by Nathan Anderson from Unsplash.com

Lower left inset photo by Patrick Hendry from Unsplash.com