By Paul Fahey Thursday, September 26
First, the kind of proof that I am using is a philosophical and logical proof, not a scientific proof. As an old professor of mine would say, “The nature of a thing determines the way in which it can be known.” Therefore, because God is not composed of physical and quantifiable material, He cannot be studied by science (which only studies physical and quantifiable material), and thus cannot be proved or disproved by science.
Second, this argument does not prove the Christian Trinitarian God. Rather, this argument proves that there is a being whose existence is not dependent on other beings and that all of reality is dependent on this being. Essentially, this argument simply seeks to demonstrate that it is reasonable to believe in God and that it is unreasonable to positively assert that there is nothing that transcends the material world.
As an aside, it is important to note that this is merely my retelling of a proof given by Fr. Robert Spitzer is his excellent book New Proofs for the Existence of God. Also, if there are holes in my process please point them out and I will make reparations by actually going back to the initial text (instead of going off my notes and memory).
All of reality is either made up of beings that depend on other beings for their existence (Argument 1), or there is at least one being that is not dependent on any other being for its existence (Argument 2). Because these options combined cover all possible options, one of these options has to be true, not neither and not both (this kind of argument is called a disjunctive syllogism). Therefore, if I can disprove one option than the other option is, by necessity, true.
A dependent being is simply a being that relies on at least one other being for its existence so that without this other being the dependent being could not exist. Humans are examples of dependent beings. A man is dependent upon his cells for his existence. His cells are dependent upon molecules, which are dependent upon atoms, which are dependent upon protons, etc.
Now to disprove Argument 1 and thus proving Argument 2. If all beings are dependent on other beings for their existence (Argument 1), then this chain of dependent beings is either finite or infinite. One of these must be true in order for Argument 1 to be true.
Here is the disproof of a finite chain. If a being is dependent on only a finite number of other beings for its existence, then there would have to be a “first” being in this chain. However, if there is a first being with nothing before it on the chain, and that being must depend on other beings in order to exist, then that being cannot exist because there is nothing else on that chain for the first being to depend on. Furthermore, if that first being does not exist than anything that depends on that being must also does not exist. However, things exist. Therefore, a finite chain cannot be true.
Here is the disproof of an infinite chain. If there is an infinite chain then every being depends on an infinite number of beings for its existence. However, if a being depends on an infinite number of other beings to exist, then it cannot exist because the conditions for its existence can never be fully met because infinite can never actually be reached. However, things exist. Therefore, an infinite chain cannot be true.
So, if neither a finite nor an infinite chain are true, then, by necessity, Argument 1 is also not true. Therefore, Argument 2 must be true, and there is a being that is not dependent on any other being for its existence. Furthermore, because this being is not dependent on any other being for its existence, then this being exists by itself, through itself, and can be described as Existence Itself.
And voilà, a hole appears in the Materialist’s canoe in under 500 words.
Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and catechist. He has a BA in Theology with minors in History, and Catholic Studies and is currently studying at the Augustine Institute for a MA in Theology.