Rational Theism: Why Logic Compels Belief in God

Something cannot come from nothing, and yet, it did.  This is, by definition, supernatural.  And since it cannot have happened randomly, and cannot have happened accidentally, the creation of this universe must have been done intentionally, by something outside of this universe that also possessed the power and knowledge to bring this one into existence.

Few subjects seem to inspire as much irrational thought as the debate over whether there exists a God.  Too often, the subject shifts to questions — really, mockeries — about religious claims of miracles and phenomenon that defy generally accepted scientific principles.  Worse, if only because it is even more off point, the discussion frequently lurches towards criticisms of the wrongs sanctioned by religions, and perpetrated by religious people, as though any of that speaks to the original topic.  On the other side, people of faith argue the consequences of a godless existence, which, though undoubtedly grim, nevertheless does not speak to whether He exists.  All of this emotionally fueled non sequitur cannot help but skew what should be a dispassionate analysis, as any analysis should be.

To be clear, while religion is an emotional topic — perhaps more so than any other — whether or not God exists is not a religious question, and it should not be conflated with one.  Religion concerns itself with the relationship between God and man.  But whether God actually exists is simply a question of fact, no different than asking whether the Earth is round, regardless of the theological framework we create in order to make sense of Him.

Understand, then, that the following essay is not a Christian apologetic.  It is not a defense of “new Earth,” seven-day creationism.  It does not take issue with evolutionary theory.  And it is certainly not meant to refute the “Big Bang.”  We can posit, for the sake of argument, that the universe is unimaginably old, and began with all the material that would comprise it condensed into a ball that exploded outward in a “big bang,” forming the universe as we now know it. 

What follows instead argues that a logical application of our generally accepted scientific principles not only provides for the possibility that God exists, it shows that it is precisely those scientific principles that necessitate the existence of God.  To summarize briefly, this essay argues:

  • Because science tells us that something cannot come from nothing, the existence of this universe is, by definition, “supernatural.”
  • Because we cannot escape the paradox of self-creation (i.e., that for something to come from nothing, something had to have created itself), we must accept self-creation as necessary to the existence of this universe, and indeed, to existence itself. 
  • Because self-creation cannot have occurred randomly, or accidentally, it must have been intentional. 
  • Because intention is not enough to cause self-creation, whatever caused the universe to come into existence must also have had power and knowledge.
  • The only way to account for all of the above, therefore, is if this universe is the product of something with will, power, and knowledge, that exists in a separate universe, that is subject to its own scientific principles, different from our own.

These assertions are expanded on below.

1. Science is not in conflict with the supernatural. Rather, science necessitates the supernatural.

One of the great myths that seems to underly the debate between theism and antitheism is that science and the supernatural are in conflict.  While there are certainly religious claims that conflict with science, the existence of God is not one of them.  If anything, science and its limitations necessitate the supernatural.

To begin with, there is a broad consensus shared by science and religion (and common sense), that our universe had a beginning.  So, let’s posit that much.  At one point there was nothing, and then there was something.

But then we have a problem, because we also know that something cannot come from nothing, meaning we have two things that we know to be true, but which cannot both be true.  We know that something cannot come from nothing, and yet, we know that it did because here we are.  Even the Big Bang doesn’t bother to explain this, positing only that at some point in this universe’s history, all the material that would make up the universe was tightly condensed into a ball before exploding outward.  OK, but where did that ball come from?  Where did the material come from?  How did this something come from nothing?

It can’t.  At least, not according to the science of this universe.  So the only way to account for this paradox is to accept that something happened that did not conform to our scientific principles.  And that, by definition, means that the process was “supernatural.”

To be sure, to say “supernatural” at this point is not necessarily to imply the existence of a deity or a spirit realm.  It simply means that something occurred that is “unexplainable by natural law or phenomenon.” But it is nevertheless important to use the word if for no other reason than to acclimate the reader to concepts that may be hard to accept: belief in the supernatural, and more than that, the necessity of the supernatural to explain the existence of this universe.  In other words, the necessity that something happened beyond the laws of nature.

Now consider our analysis to this point, and take comfort in the realization that one does not have to choose between science and the supernatural.  In fact, it is science, by its own contradictory laws, that makes the existence of the supernatural necessary!  Our universe, with all its scientific principles, simply cannot have come into existence without some sort of occurrence that was literally “supernatural.”

2. The Paradox of Self-Creation

But what exactly was that occurrence?  How did the material that makes up our universe come into existence?  There are only two explanations: either the material created itself, or it was created by some outside force.  There are simply no other possibilities.  And notice that either way, one has to accept the necessity of self-creation.  Because even if you reject the possibility that this material was self-created, you are logically forced to accept that the outside force that created the material was either a) self-created or b) created by some second outside force, which, in turn, forces you to accept that that second outside force was either a) self-created or b) created by some third outside force, and so on and so forth, until you finally come to an outside force that was self-created, thereby setting the rest of the time continuum in motion.

It’s really not as confusing as it sounds.  What confuses the matter is that we tend to look at time retroactively; that is, when we consider the origins of the universe, we look backwards from the present, and what we see appears to be infinite.  But pretend you are a spectator at the beginning of time.  There is no universe, only a blank slate.  At some point, something comes on to that slate out of nowhere.  Since there was nothing else to create it, either it created itself, or was created by something outside of this universe that was itself either self-created, or part of some lineage of creators that began with a self-created entity.  It’s that simple.

So, in addition to the two natural principles that we posited earlier — that the universe has a beginning, and something cannot come from nothing — we can now posit two supernatural principles: 1) that self-creation is possible, and 2) that self-creation is necessary.

3. Self-creation cannot be achieved randomly. It must be intended.

So how can self-creation be achieved?  Again, only two answers are possible: either it occurred by accident, or intentionally.  There is no middle ground.  Stated another way, it was either an act of randomness, or of intelligence.

Permitting a slight diversion, it should be noted that there is significant scientific debate over whether randomness is even at all possible in the universe, or whether what we perceive to be random, such as the rate at which an atom will decay, is merely our failure to perceive and account for all the variables at play.  Other people can argue about that.

But one need not be a scientist to understand why randomness, assuming it does even exist in this universe, cannot account for self-creation.  To accept the possibility of randomness is also to accept its limits, and its greatest limit is that it requires something to which to attach itself.  Randomness works by affecting something.  It cannot affect nothing.  It needs a canvas upon which to paint.

  Here’s what we mean: accept for the moment that randomness causes an atom to decay at an unpredictable rate; that it causes dice to turn up numbers in an unpredictable order; that it causes freckles to form on the skin in unpredictable locations; whatever.  And notice the obvious, that each time randomness works, it does so by affecting something.  Randomness affects a decaying atom, it affects the dice, it affects the skin.  That’s all fine and well, but remember that here we are concerned with the beginning of time and the concept of creating something out of nothing.  And if there’s nothing, then there’s literally nothing for randomness to affect.  Randomness simply cannot explain self-creation, because randomness cannot act unless something else exists upon which it can act.

So if randomness cannot account for self-creation, then what?  Design is the only remaining option.  If it wasn’t random, then it must have been intentional.  And design, by definition, requires some sort of intelligence.  Note that by “intelligence,” of course, we mean simply whatever knowledge is necessary to achieve the desired end.  It does not necessarily mean omniscience.

Now, one might argue that a lot of things happen in this universe that are neither the product of intelligence nor accident.  To give a few examples, plants perpetuate botanical life by producing seeds that produce other plants; the weather changes from sun to rain and back again; and species evolve over time.  There is no intelligence involved in any of that, and none of it is accidental.  True enough, but those are all examples of systems functioning according to pre-determined rules.  A plant is programmed to produce seeds to produce other plants, the weather reacts to changes in the atmosphere, species evolve based on genetic mutations and survival of the fittest.  It’s all automated in accordance with the laws of nature and the universe. 

But remember, self-creation breaks the law; and more than that, it writes its own.  Instead of doing what the laws of nature and the universe demand, self-creation acts independently and against the system to create something out of nothing.  And because it cannot be random, and because it is not functioning according to pre-determined rules but rather against them, the only alternative is that self-creation is an intentional act.

4. In addition to intention, self-creation requires knowledge and power.

But intent is not enough to achieve self-creation.  In order to produce an intended result, there must be two other elements present: knowledge to achieve the desired result, and the power to effectuate it.  And if any one of those properties is absent, self-creation is impossible.  If there exists only the intention and power for self-creation but not the intelligence to achieve it, self-creation will fail because for not knowing of how to put the power to use.  If there exists only the intelligence and the power to achieve self-creation, but not the will to do it, no self-creation will be achieved for lack of motivation  And of course, if it has the will and the intelligence, but not the power to achieve self-creation, the self-creation effort will fail for lack of means.  It is therefore necessary for all three elements to be present, combined somehow in an entity of some sort.

And now, that self-created entity begins to resemble something we might recognize.  It has a self-made intelligence, a self-made will, and self-made supernatural power.  Lifeless matter does not possess these characteristics.  Matter is simply material; it has neither will nor intelligence nor power; and all three being necessary, it cannot create itself any more than a sculpture can sculpt itself, or a painting can paint itself.  No, these are the characteristics — intelligence, will, and power — of a living being.  And because of that, we’re now ready to answer a question posed earlier: How did the material that comprises our material universe come into existence?  The answer is that it must have been created by this living being in a separate universe, that is subject to different scientific principles than our own.  And a living being, existing in His own universe, who brought this universe into existence through His power and knowledge is, by definition, God.

True, from our analysis heretofore, we do not know if this God possesses all of the qualities that we humans traditionally associate with Him.  Though we know He is intelligent, we do not know if He is all-knowing.  Though we know He is powerful, we do not know if He is all-powerful.  Though He pre-existed our universe, we do not even know if He is eternal.  And we certainly do not know if He is benevolent.  That is where faith comes in.  Faith is used to determine the relationship between this Creator and ourselves.  But logic is all that is necessary to know that our universe was created supernaturally by some living entity, acting deliberately, that was able to combine intelligence and willpower.  And if that’s not God, what else is it?

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