Apr 18, 2023
“God is not a helicopter; God does not fill gaps. Our God is Logos, the deep structure of the real world; our God is Torah.”
It is almost universally conceded that the existence of God cannot be ‘proven’, i.e., inferred by induction from experience or deduced by logic from a set of irrefutable assumptions. I have said so myself on many occasions, most recently just last week in TWS: God Proofed.
Efforts at such a proof have appropriately foundered on the twin reefs of God’s existence and God’s essence. The considered wisdom: you can’t prove existence from essence. William of Ockham notwithstanding, perfection (essence) does not entail existence because existence is not an attribute or quality; it is not something you can ‘perfect’…unless you’re Martha Stewart.
The wonder is that we ever expected anything different! This is a classic Uncertainty Relation (Heisenberg). Broadly speaking, the more we know about the essence of something, the less sure we can be of its existence. Conversely, the more certain we are that something exists, the less we can know about what it is that exists. Heidegger distinguished Dasein (that it is) from Wassein (what it is).
Naively, we imagine a complete, inert existent to which we may add a rainbow of features. This is not how it is, in fact! Existence and essence complement one another. They co-exist on the border of Uncertainty.
Unexpectedly, this Uncertainty Relation resonates with the primal pair, ‘momentum and position’. Knowing the location of something is akin to knowing that it exists, especially if we define existence as occupying a region of spacetime. Conversely, to know the momentum of something is akin to knowing its qualities, e.g., its behavior, its potentialities.
This is not entirely new terrain. Blaise Pascal believed he knew all he needed to know about God’s essence, so he was forced to leave the question of God’s existence to the vicissitudes of game theory. A medieval Irish poet, St. Dallin, flipped the script: “Naught is all else to me save that Thou art.” While Pascal went all in on Essence, Dallin went all in on Existence.
On the other hand, mystics claim to know with certainty that God exists, often based on personal insperience, but they are also the first to say that God’s essence is ineffable. Again, classic Heisenberg!
At the deepest level, ‘existence and essence’, like ‘particles and waves’, complement each other. On the one hand, they cannot be conflated; on the other hand, they cannot be separated. Disembodied essence is no more conceivable than featureless existence.
But could there be a different approach? One that does not hang up on the essence-existence dichotomy and so, perhaps, skirts ‘Heisenberg’? In this article, we will be looking for God elsewhere, prior to essence or existence, in the deep structure of reality itself.
The concept of God is bound-up with notions of Presence, Eternity, Creation, and Salvation. If there was an Entity that was Omnipresent, Eternal (timeless), and the Alpha (creator) and the Omega (redeemer) of everything that was, is, or ever will be, would I be entitled to call that Entity God? If so, can we show that an entity satisfying these pretty outrageous conditions does, in fact, exist?
Consider this reasoning:
A World exists: It is. (Big Bang)
It is inherently self-reflective: I am. (Descartes)
It consists of discrete but related events: they are. (Whitehead)
Events are instances of self-reflection. The World reflecting on itself is an event. In fact, every event is an instance of the World reflecting on itself. That is precisely what an event it: a quantum of self-reflection.
Events occur in, and only in, the Present. They define the Present. They are what Presence is. Presence and Occurrence are synonymous.
A truly Present event is neither past nor future with respect to any other event. It reacts to the Past and anticipates the Future but is neither.
Events no longer or not yet Present can be ordered with respect to one another, using the concept of Time. Fully realized events are said to lie in the settled Past while purely prospective events are said to lie in the undetermined Future.
Time is linear and indefinitely divisible. Therefore, every event, to the extent that it is ‘not yet’ or ‘not still’ Present, lies either in the past or in the future of at least one other event. According to Alfred North Whitehead, such events ‘exist’ as Propositions and Superjects of actual (i.e., Present) events.
On the other hand, a truly Present event is neither past nor future with respect to any other event. It reacts to the Past and anticipates the future but is neither.
Past and Future constitute the domain of Time. Present events exist outside of Time; they are timeless, they are eternal (aeternal). Eternity, like Presence, is the explicit absence of Time. To be an Event is to be Eternal per se and ab initio. Eternity precedes Time; Eternity succeeds Time. It is neither the accumulator nor the accumulation of Time. Eternity is synonymous with Presence and Occurrence.
So, I believe we have established the existence of an Entity that is uber-Present, Eternal, and the Creator and Curator of everything. So I ask again, “Am I entitled to call this Entity God?”
If so, God is not a helicopter, God does not fill gaps. God is Logos, the deep structure of the real world; God is Torah. God is not so much the Maker of all things as the Precondition of everything that is. Satisfied?
Consider this my attempt at ‘peer review’. Did I meet my burden? I await your input. In the meantime, “God exists!” QED… at least until you show me where I’m wrong!