Is There God?
A simple (hopefully not simplistic) philosophical inquiry . . .
Or why is there something, the material universe, matter and space? And why is that something the way that it is? And if there were not something or its absence (space / vacuum), how could there be neither of those? And how could any of these things possibly be, something or nothing? And how can there be such a thing as consciousness of these realities and questions?
First off (since there really, actually is something), there are basic questions of the mystery of matter / space, existence, purposefulness, and consciousness in all their varied forms:
We are made of, and are surrounded by, seemingly infinite manifestations and extensions of variously ordered ‘matter’ and its absence (vacuum or space). Yet we only have speculation or unhelpful definitions as to what that mysterious stuff actually is – its essence, nature, why it is structured or ordered like it is, its purposefulness, etc., much less of how it came to be and not even to mention its absence.
Due to our questioning, manipulative intelligence, we have progressively developed varying degrees of ability to use matter in its variegated forms, experiment with and examine it (since, once understood, it has reliable order and structure depending on its various manifestations), manipulate it, etc. We have never been, however, able to create even the smallest particle of material, having always been powerless to make some thing out of no thing. Nor are we able to destroy matter or space, having merely the ability to alter its form or state. Both these capabilities have always been outside the realm of human power and should cause us to pause and deeply think about such things.
The existence, essence, indestructibility, and variegated forms of matter (and of its absence) is, if seriously reflected on, an unfathomable, insoluble mystery, despite the best of scientific inquiries and experiments into these things. Nor have we intellectually resolved a more fundamental question, its purpose for being if any. And so, matter remains an ongoing, likely eternal enigma to unaided human understanding as to its existence, essence, reasons or purpose for being, and its dynamic, multi-variegated structure and order.
It appears these fundamental mysteries of matter, its nature, and behavior can logically lead to only one of two conclusions:
1) Either matter itself is eternally existent and somehow has within itself the ability to intelligently, dynamically differentiate and order itself in the micro (sub-atomic, etc.) and macro (biological, galaxy, etc.) levels, or at least fool itself / us into believing that, or
2) There exists a personal, self-existent, non-material, transcendent (wholly other) being of (at a minimum) unique power, intelligence, and skill who created matter (out of nothing), ordered it, and gave it the varied forms, order, structure, dynamic properties (and purpose?) it possesses.
Given those two possibilities, the main philosophical (i.e., religious) alternatives to the existence of the material universe and our consciousness of it seem to be:
First atheism, a faith / faith stance which generally makes little genuine or honest effort to inquire into these issues. The clear impression is that these folks usually relying on dogmatic, absolute assertions or stances regarding the accidentalness and / or puposelessness of matter or existence but lacking any serious attempt to address its existence or that of the material universe, life, meaning, etc. This is, by far, the most unreflective of faith stances, philosophical, religious approaches to these mysteries of existence and should be quickly dismissed by open-minded, reflective persons, those who give these mysteries deep or serious thought. Scripture nails this false, absolute human autonomy well, stating, “The fool has said in his heart, No God!” Psalms 14:1, Romans 1:20-22, revealing the often hidden, but adamant and untenable assertions absolute personal autonomy.
Next agnosticism, a stance that generally believes in personal or human inability know between , apathy, or unwillingness to reflect rigorously on the mysteries of that of which we are composed and in which we exist, choosing to believe that the origin and purpose of the material universe cannot be known with any certainty, leaving us spiritually, philosophically, existentially twisting in the wind without any truly legitimate reasons for doing so.
Third, the various pagan / pan-theistic, open-theistic, multi-theistic, or non-theistic faith approaches to the mystery of matter as it presents itself in and to our consciousness, vary quite a bit, at times taking it for granted and worshiping it in its various forms, and / or believing that matter is eternally existent, fully immanent and therefore all is ‘god’, the evil matter / good soul approach of Platonic dualism, or that ‘god’ is somehow in process of becoming, growing up, etc. Some examples are Paganism (nature worship in various forms), Hinduism, gnosticism, and Panentheism. Most of these existential (religious) approaches fall in category #1 above.
Finally, the mono-theistic religions which implicitly accept and acknowledge the mystery of matter, including its existence, order, structure, and reason for being while normally not attempting to address the mystery of its essence. These approaches are in category #2. I believe these religions take the most compelling, direct, and philosophically tenable approach to the whole question of why there is something instead of nothing, and why this something is ordered, structured, and purposeful as it is. The alternative is that there is nothing (if that were possible), in which case there would be no one to delve into these issues and would itself be a mystery of unfathomable depth.
On the next pages, we can narrow things further and get closer to the truth of the God that actually is and a more clear idea of what He is actually like.