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Leibniz on God, Part 3: God is Sustaining
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Leibniz on God, Part 3: God is Sustaining

Here we continue with Leibniz’ third of four contingency arguments for God. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, find them here and here.

Argument 3: God is Sustaining

The Principles of Nature and of Grace.[1]

What if God “wound up” the universe, and left it?

Despite a necessary and personal “God” existing, every Abrahamic religion would still be thoroughly false.

No divine involvement means no prophetic revelation, no answered prayers, no providence, no miracles, and certainly no Jesus. So Leibniz makes a third argument:

The Syllogism:

  1. Contingency is a permanent quality.
  2. The universe was contingent upon God.
  3. Therefore, the universe is still contingent upon God.

The Reasons:

1. By definition, if a contingent thing stops being contingent, it stops being. A necessary thing must justify every moment of a contingent thing’s existence, and even if a contingent thing becomes “endowed with spontaneity,”[2] it is still possible for it to have not existed (since once it did not exist), and therefore it is still contingent. Thus, a contingent thing can never cease being contingent by becoming necessary; it must either remain contingent, cease to be.

2. By Arguments 1 and 2.

3. Therefore in whatever ways the universe began to exist (i.e., time, force, energy, space, and matter), it must still be contingent in those ways; otherwise it would have begun with sufficient reason and continued ex nihilo. So long the universe still exists, it must still be composed, and since it cannot be composed of nothing (lest it not exist) or infinitely smaller things (lest it never succeed in existing) it must be composed of some final non-compositional thing (i.e., tracing to a necessary thing) making sufficient reason. A necessary thing cannot be any part of the universe that once did not exist and now does, and therefore so long as the universe still exists it must still rely on some extra-universal thing—“God”—to continue existing. Note this argument is not by “God of the gaps,” but “God of the ends,” and these ends must exist, since infinite regressions cannot.

The Bottom Line:

Since the universe must be perpetually contingent, God must perpetually sustain it. And if indeed “the reason which has caused things to exist by Him, makes them still dependent upon him in existing and in working,”[1] the inactive God of deism and the “dead” God of pandeism are disqualified. Every moment the universe still exists is a moment requiring an act of God. And if God is still acting at every moment, what prevents Him from acting in a special way?

Thus, divine involvement in human affairs becomes possible.

So what if God can act in special ways? That doesn’t make Him a special God. What if God is flawed, or incompetent, or evil? And if God is responsible for creating a universe so full of evil, why should anyone follow Him? Leibniz asked those questions too—stay tuned for the series conclusion, Part 4!

Footnotes:

[1] Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. “The Principles of Nature and of Grace.” Discourse on Metaphysics, On the Ultimate Origin of Things and Other Principal Essays. Translated by George Martin Duncan, George R. Montgomery, and Robert Lattar, Ukemi Audiobooks, 2019.

[2] Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. “On Nature in Itself, or the Force Residing in Created Things.” Discourse on Metaphysics, On the Ultimate Origin of Things and Other Principal Essays. Translated by George Martin Duncan, George R. Montgomery, and Robert Lattar, Ukemi Audiobooks, 2019.

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