Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?

Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being? January 1, 2017

PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING

Geisler abuses the word “God” yet again in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

He is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  Perhaps, he actually means something like this:

  • Whatever caused the universe is a necessary being.

Because Geisler’s Phase 3 argument depends on “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1, we need to first take a closer look at that earlier argument.

 

THE ARGUMENTS FROM BEING 

While Geisler speaks of “The argument from being” (WSA, p.27),  he actually presents two different arguments with that title.  Here is the first argument:

Argument from Being #1 – Initial Version

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being.  

THEREFORE

47. … necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being.

(WSA, p.24-25.  NOTE: The numbering of the premises has been changed to fit my numbering scheme).

 

This argument, he tells us, “attempts to prove that God must exist by definition.” (WSA, p.24)   But this is NOT an argument for the existence of God, because the word “God” appears nowhere in this argument.  You cannot give an argument for the existence of God that never mentions “God”.

However, in introducing this argument, Geisler indicates that this argument is based on “the idea of God as a perfect Being” (WSA, p.24).   So, he appears to be suggesting a definition of the word “God” in relation to this argument from being.  The first premise of Argument from Being #1 uses the phrase “the most perfect Being possible”, so a definition of “God” corresponding to that precise phrase would be this:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

We could add this definition to the above argument, in order to produce an argument that actually talks about the existence of God:

Argument from Being #1 – Revision 1

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46a. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.  

THEREFORE

47a. Necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.

48. A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible.

THEREFORE

49. Necessary existence must be attributed to God.

 

Geisler rejects this argument, as an argument for the existence of God:

Now this argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence; but it fails to show that God actually exists.  (WSA, p.25)

At this point Geisler offers a second version of “The argument from Being”:

Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)

Unlike the previous version of “The argument from Being”, this argument uses the word “God”, both in a premise, and in the conclusion.  What does the word “God” mean in this argument?  Geisler does not bother to provide a definition or clarification of what the word “God” means in this argument, so once again, we have to guess at what the hell Geisler means by this word in this argument.

There are three different possible meanings of the word “God” in the context of this argument.  One obvious interpretation is to use the definition implied by Geisler when he introduced the first version of “The argument from Being”:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

Let’s use this definition to clarify the second verion of the argument from being:

Argument from Being #2 – Revision 1

50a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN we conceive of the most perfect being possible as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN the most perfect being possible must exist and cannot not exist.

 

This interpretation will not do.   The problem is that Geisler has provided no reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible exists”.  He has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of God, so if we understand “God” to mean “the most perfect being possible”, then Geisler has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of “the most perfect being possible”.  But if Geisler has provided no sound argument for the claim that “the most perfect being possible exists”, then the conclusion (52a) will be of no use:  “IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN….”  Such a conditional claim is useless given that there is no good reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible” exists.  Therefore, we must set aside this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, and look for other possible interpretations of the word “God” in that argument.

In Phase 3 of his case for God, Geisler makes a statement about how the “argument from being” functions in his case:

The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that he does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)

According to Geisler, the existence of “God” is shown by “the argument from Creation” (in Phase 1 of his case) and then later (in Phases 3 and 4 of his case) “the argument from being” is used to show that this “God” has various significant attributes.  If that is how “the argument from being” functions in Geisler’s case for God, then the meaning of the word “God” in “the argument from being” is determined or constrained by whatever it is that was (allegedly) proven to exist by “the argument from Creation”.

There is a relay race here where a baton is handed off from “the argument from Creation” to “the argument from being”.   In order for these two arguments to coordinate with each other, in order for the logic of Geisler’s case to work, the meaning of the word “God” in premise (50) of the argument from being cannot mean anything other than whatever it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist in the argument from Creation.

The argument from Creation does NOT prove the existence of “the most perfect being possible”, so there is at least a second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered in trying to understand the second version of the argument from being. Roughly speaking, the second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered is this: “whatever caused the universe”.

But there are actually two different arguments given by Geisler that he refers to misleadingly as “the argument from Creation”. There are thus two different meanings of the word “God” that relate to what was (allegedly) proved to exist by the two arguments from Creation:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).
  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now). 

Argument from Being #2 – Revision 2

50b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN we conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) must exist and cannot not exist.

 

On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50b) is false, and thus the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the universe to begin to exist.  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the universe to begin to exist.   An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  So, premise (50b) is clearly false, and this argument is UNSOUND, given that we interpret the word “God” here to mean “a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).”

What about the other possible interpretation of the word “God” based on what it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the other argument from Creation?  Let’s revise the second version of the argument from being using this other sense of the word “God”:

Argument from Being #2 – Revision 3

50c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)  exists, THEN we conceive of a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) exists, THEN a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) must exist and cannot not exist.

 

On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50c) is false, and the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  Therefore, if we understand the word “God” in the second version of the argument from being to mean “a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)”, then premise (50c) is false, and this argument is UNSOUND.

CONCLUSION ABOUT THE ARGUMENT FROM BEING

Both Aquinas and Geisler rightly reject the ontological argument for the existence of God.  Geisler calls ontological arguments “The argument from being”.  Geisler reformulates “The argument from being” so that it uses the word “God”, but as with various other arguments presented by Geisler, the meaning of the word “God” in the argument from being is UNCLEAR. (It is very clear at this point that Geisler simply does not give a shit about being clear, since he is constantly UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOS in the use of the most important word in his case).

There are three different possible interpretations of the word “God” that could be used to clarify the meaning of Geisler’s reformulated argument from being.  On the first interpretation, the argument is somewhat plausible, but the argument is USELESS to Geisler’s case, because he has given us no reason whatsoever to believe that “the most perfect being possible” actually exists.

Two other interpretations of the word “God” are based on what it is that Geisler (allegedly) proved to exist in his two arguments “from Creation”.  But on either of those interpretations, the first premise of the reformulated argument from being is FALSE, making Geisler’s reformulated argument from being UNSOUND.

Based on the above considerations the reformulated argument from being is either (a) plausible but USELESS for Geisler’s case, or (b) useful for Geisler’s case but is UNSOUND.   The argument from being is critical to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because it is supposed to provide support for a key claim in his case:

  • The creator (or whatever caused the universe to begin to exist) is a necessary being.

Since the one argument Geisler has for this claim is either USELESS for this purpose or is UNSOUND, Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS, once again, at this crucial juncture.

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