Is It Possible That God Exists?

I was recently asked to “prove that it is even possible for God to exist.” In order to answer this challenge, we need to define some key terms. I will leave off “prove” for reasons that I think will become clear.

When I speak of God, I am referring to a being that is all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, unchanging, good, rational, wise, and loving, and holds all these attributes perfectly and without limit. He is also self-existent, which means he is not in any way dependent on anything or anyone else for his existence, rather all else that exists is dependent on God.

With respect to time, I hold that he is timeless without creation, but temporal since creation. This is important to note in order to explain how it is more reasonable to think God is the one who brought the universe, all of matter, energy, space, and time, out of nothing. It is my view that time is simply the relation of before/after, duration and interval between events, where an event is a change in the state of affairs. On this view, there was a state of affairs where all that existed was God. God created the universe, and with it time. He has since sustained the universe for some length of time (it is beyond the scope of this post to argue for how long that has been.)

So how does this prove that God is possible? Now we have to define possible. Philosophers divide possibilities into three modalities: logical, metaphysical, and physical.

“…on the standard model of the relation between these kinds of modalities the logical possibilities are the most inclusive; they include any proposition that sheer logic leaves open, no matter how otherwise impossible it might be. The metaphysical possibilities are the logical possibilities that are also allowed by the natures of all of the things that could have existed. The physical possibilities are the logical and metaphysical possibilities that are also allowed by the physical laws of nature. [1]

So rather than “prove” it is possible that God exists, I need only show that his existence is consistent with at least one of the above modes of possibilities.

Is there any law of logic violated by God’s existence, or even the proposition “God exists?” It is not an identity statement, so there is no violation of the Law of Identity. There is no compound proposition from which an excluded middle could be suggested, so there is no violation of the Law of the Excluded Middle. And, since there is no claim that God exists and does not exist at the same time in the same sense, there is no violation of the Law of Noncontradiction. So in this case, asking for proof of logical possibility is really asking for proof of a negative, and really the burden should be on the one who thinks it is logically impossible since it would be so easy to meet it, but that’s just my opinion.

Is God’s existence metaphysically possible? Metaphysics is the study of things and what kind of things they are. In a sense it is the study of what is and what can be. It seems to me that a being with the attributes listed above is the kind of being that is among those things that could have existed. There is nothing about such a being that is incoherent. For this distinction, however, let me illustrate the difference between metaphysical and logical possibility. It is strictly logically possible that the Prime Minister is a prime number (there is no violation of the laws of logic.) However, since prime numbers are not the kind of things that by nature are Prime Ministers, it is not metaphysically possible. To say that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe is logically possible, and metaphysically possible since the kind of being God would be is the kind of being that could create and sustain the universe. Conversely, it is not metaphysically possible that God is the Flying Spaghetti Monster since the FSM is a material being and material beings are not the kind of things that can exist timelessly and unchanging.

With respect to physical possibility, there is nothing in the laws of nature that precludes the existence of God. This is a separate issue from whether it is possible to empirically detect God. How we can even in principle know God exists is a distinct issue from whether it is physically possible. It may even be fair to say that to ask the question of physical possibility is a category error since God is not a physical being. However, something is possible just in case there are no impossibilities against it.

So in all three modalities, it is possible that God exists. Ordinarily, I think whoever is making a claim bears the burden, and I have tried to support my claim that God’s existence is possible. However, it seems that taking a stance that it is impossible is to hold that the idea violates logic, or God cannot be the kind of thing that could have existed, or that there is a law of nature that precludes such existence. I would love to hear which of these is the case with respect to God.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/modality-epistemology/#PriPos

Author: apologeticsminion

Daniel has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He is married and has four grown children. Professionally, Daniel is a sign language interpreter.

3 thoughts on “Is It Possible That God Exists?”

  1. obviously, there’s going to be a problem with language here, such as with “exist” and “possible” and so on. possible cannot be akin here to probable (ayer, LTL) and exist generally put as “manifest in reality”.

    so in saying god is possible, we can only mean logically possible and to exist, i’m not sure we know exactly what we mean other than a “super” natural (smith, atheism: the case against god) which places god outside of our comprehension but leaves us at least with the idea that whatever that reality is, god is present and known.

    in asking the question “does god exist”, we can only be saying there is an ineffable reality unknown to us and we’re imagining what the real implications are for us; “real” being about our comprehended world.

    the existence of god as the end of our concern can’t possibly matter. the question is a means to an end and that end is found in the questions “why anything at all”, “why this place” and “why a place like this”. if we then take our thoughts on god’s possible existence, the only reason and way they could find meaning is that they somehow apply to these questions.

    while i find the question of god’s existence in all ways pointless in itself, should i have an impression of some “big other”, what i made of it may matter quit a lot.

    the difficulty is that we can take nearly any general absurdity and make coherent statements, and we understand already that logic is in the end, a formalized language descriptive of how folks think, that it proves nothing in actually, and rational god-talk in terms of moving in any direction nearer or farther from believing “there are gods” is fairly impotent. one would have to ask about a functional benefit to any single sentence or volume of them that are descriptive of “the present king of france” (russell, on denoting). and where this leaves the apologist with such proofs of god, presenting them to non believers is, at a loss. the failure there is not understanding that without some real and relatable experience, both god and “the present king of france” are equal and worth that same, which is to say they’re both worthless. these are happy to let the believer finding value in these thought-games, but they find none in it themselves; only becoming interested when believers foist their musings onto society as a whole and those musings are negatives in it.

    so the question for you perhaps is in asking what way it matters to anyone whether or not there are gods.

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    1. I think I made my point as far as I intended in my post. As for your questions of what reasons there may be to think God exists, that is a different matter. But to ask why it matters, it seems to me that if he doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t matter, and neither does anything else. However if God exists, of would give at least a superior explanation why everything else that exists does, and would suggest there is, in fact, a purpose to existence. As far as the reality of God being ineffable, this assumes that such a being could not reveal himself in an intelligible way to his creatures.

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      1. oh, i’m not really trying to pick at your points but really to question maybe what good even the best arguments for or against gods get us. not very far, that i can see. it herds tribes together, i think, but i think what apologetics may be good for is overlooked.

        to your other concern, if we debate over the existence of god, then we admit the question itself is by nature, genuinely dubious. i don’t think then that life takes on any particular meaning or loses any by believing one thing or the other. now, those two things together (genuine doubt and acceptance of the proposition) seem to make it clear belief can matter despite our ability to know whether or not there are god’s. this is what i mean in suggesting the futility of apologetics as employed currently.

        the “cosmic”, fatalism that all meaning only has meaning if it all just ends with a big whimper and the lights all go out … seems a bit odd, given the only meaning i find that has practical worth is in things temporal; such as the birth of a child, the death of a spouse, sharing a meal with someone starving. i think particularly christians suffer, and to their great loss, any sense of real meaning in life and the opportunity to engage it when their view of christ is one of being a means to an end, which again is dubious. too, eager to leave life as if life is not the most fundamental reason we exist at all; here, now, just as we are.

        as for ineffability, there is no assumption. to say god transcends all means of relatability (the material) and supersedes all its laws of order (by which the material is experienced and understood) is to place god literally outside human comprehensibility (mccabe, god matters; geisler, systematic theology vol 1; smith, atheism: the case against god, aquinas, summa). no theologian i know would say we can know god, but rather, if there is a god, we can apprehend things which may be true of his nature; but certainly, when we speak about god, we literally have no point of reference which guarantees any meaning (zizek, idiot’s guide to ideology) and then, we have no concept of the god we name or describe.

        to the nod to first cause, we can accept the argument without reservation; save that it implies a willful, mindful, volitional entity.

        god is not in any sense an answer to any question we have about the world. rather, god is the result of the world giving us the idea there’s a question we should ask: is there a god?

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