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How “New Existence” Implies God

“Why new existence?” What kind of a question is that? Does it really mean anything? We know that motion or change is real and that everything in motion is moved by another. Moreover, a new paper defends the common sense Aristotelian understanding of motion and time while simultaneously definitively refuting certain misinterpretations of modern physics. But what does all that have to do with “new existence?”

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Being a finite or limited being means to exist here and now with certain qualities of being—and no others. Substantial beings exist in themselves, while accidental beings exist only in another and are merely qualities of a substance or, perhaps, of another accident. Thus, being limited means being just what a thing is and no more at a given point in time. That is, every limited being is a substance of a certain specific type, having particular accidental qualities that determine and restrict its way of existing down to the last detail—with certain existential qualities or perfections – and without all other possible ones.

Every being in the cosmos, and the cosmos itself, is a finite entity (or cosmic multitude of entities). The cosmos is a collection of finite bodies. All of them exist in a finite mode of existence (even if only as energy fields or quanta). And even though they may exhibit great states of momentum and velocity, at any given instant in time, they occupy only the exact position they have and not a future one. They are limited in existence at that time to where they are and what they are, while they lack whatever existential perfections they will manifest newly at the next moment. It really does not matter how a “moment” is defined, as long as one realizes that they manifest certain qualities of existence that they have, but simultaneously lack others that they do not yet possess. Nor does it matter which body is actually in motion relative to any other, just as long as change of position entails some real existential difference on the part of one or the other body or bodies.

If every being were truly finite, change would be impossible. Every finite being is limited solely to the existential perfections it possesses here and now. The totality of all cosmic existence, even finite spirits if there be such, is limited to being what it is and no more. So, how can change or becoming take place?

For argument's sake, let us assume that all change is merely accidental (in the Aristotelian sense); nothing changes substantially. Change may be merely a difference in position, size, shape, quality, relation, time, quantity, and so forth. Still, even trivial change, be it submicroscopic or merely imaginary, entails “new existence.” “New existence” is any existential perfection or reality at all which comes into being and was not there before. “Potential existence” is not “new existence,” since potency is only what is able to be, not what actually is. For example, saying one appears to be “potentially” intelligent is rightly not taken as a complement.

Assuming an atomic world in which change means merely change of position, whence comes the newness entailed in the new positions? (This will work even in a non-mechanistic universe, since changes in energy states or quanta are real.) The key insight is this: For change, becoming, or progress to occur, new existence must be posited. Where does it come from? How do you get the new from the old, the after from the before? Is there a real difference between them or not? If not, then all change, becoming, progress, or evolution is mere illusion. (But even an illusion is real as an illusion!)

If change is real, where does it come from? The old, precisely as such, is old because it lacks the existential differences that differentiate it from the new. Neither inertia nor gravity, nor any other physical force or phenomena explains this new reality. These laws merely describe how the world works, not why it is so. What is the metaphysical explanation? This is as simple as Parmenides’ first insights into being. Non-being does not beget being. All finite reality is limited to being what it is in every least detail. If anything truly new comes to be (even by the least change of position, energy level, or any other physical or spiritual quality we might envision), where does the newness come from? Merely rearranging the old does not explain the new existential distinction of the rearrangement itself. And what is rearranged has new properties in virtue of the new arrangement itself. If all finite reality is thus restricted to the “before,” whence comes the “after?”

This is also why it is critical to understand that Newton’s laws of inertia and momentum, while they describe bodies’ behavior, explain absolutely nothing metaphysically – as I have shown in a previous Strange Notions article. Even proclaimed physical “explanations,” such as general relativity’s curvature of space around masses, may give a seemingly deeper understanding in terms of related phenomena, but do not explain the existential origin of the new qualities or perfections manifested by the coming-to-be of new space-time locations and their attendant novel properties, such as greater gravitational attraction or time dilation or length contraction.

But newness does occur. Change, progress, evolution, and becoming are real. Hence, some adequate cause or reason for new existence must be posited—since whatever is in motion is moved by another. Still, the old, finite reality is old and finite precisely because it does not contain what is discovered in the new reality or new existence that is manifested in the “after” state of things.

Considering the universe as a whole, the concept of a limited cosmos in a process of evolutionary becoming and yet existing solely by itself constitutes a contradiction in terms. Because it is constantly becoming or changing, it needs to acquire new states of reality; but because it is limited in every aspect to its present exact limited state of being, it has no source from which to obtain those new states. By definition, the new cannot come from the old, or else, it isn’t really new. Yet, even changes allegedly explained by inertial motion, as seen above, entail new states of being, which then cannot be explained by the old state of the cosmos.

Thus, a purely physical universe in which motion exists is something that cannot be explained in terms of itself alone. Something else must be posited. But all physical reality has already been included in the cosmos (or even multiverse!). So, the “something else” must be non-physical—something entirely outside the finite, physical universe itself.

Moreover, this non-physical entity (or entities) must explain all that comes-to-be in the physical world, since the entire cosmos is lacking in those new qualities that arise through ongoing motion or change. Thus, neither can one finite part of the cosmos adequately account for its own motion nor can one finite part adequately account for motion of yet another finite part. Finally, the role played by this non-physical source of all that comes to be is that of a cause in relation to the effect produced, which effect is all the new aspects of existence that manifest in the world through change.

Nor does this analysis apply merely to the physical world itself. It applies to all finite things, whether they are physical or not—since the same logic applies to any limited being or beings. Such limited or finite reality cannot explain any changes at all, since it cannot give to itself or to another that which it lacks, namely, new modes of existence in any form.

If finite things cannot account for the continued newness that we experience in the cosmos, then something else must. That something else must serve as a "universal donor" of new existence. Since we have already considered every possible finite being in the finite cosmos (and even outside it) as incapable of producing "new existence," whatever causes new existence must, by definition, not be either physical or even finite.

If it is not finite, then there cannot be two such infinite beings that cause change in the cosmos. Were there two such beings, something would have to differentiate the one from the other, or else, as Leibniz points out, the “two” would be one thing. Were either one to possess any quality of differentiation the other lacked, then the one lacking it would not be infinite, but finite.

Hence, there must exist but a single Infinite Being that serves as the only adequate explanation and source of all the new existential perfections or qualities that are continually manifested in our ever-changing universe, or even any world of finite spiritual things. Nothing is new under the Sun. What is new is new in reference to all previously existing finite beings, but is not new in reference to the Infinite Being, since that Being already contains every possible perfection or quality of existence in virtue of being infinite. Such a Being cannot itself be subject to change, or else, it would gain existential qualities it previously lacked, and thus, could not have been infinite in the first place.

Without attempting the lengthy formal demonstrations proper to natural theology, I would simply suggest that the discovery of a single Infinite Being that is responsible for all that is ever-new in finite reality is a good candidate for the classical conception of what men call God—especially since this Being is the cause of the very existence of all that is new.

This "insight based on new-existence" has the distinct advantage that it leads at once to God’s existence – without need to consider intermediate causes or possible infinite regressions among essentially ordered intermediate causes. Still, the preceding argument is not intended as a formal proof for God's existence, but rather as a reflection on a question that finds no rational satisfaction short of conceding an Infinite Being’s existence.

Any formal proof for God's existence requires an extensive number of principles that must be defended or proven before any demonstration can begin. These include metaphysical first principles, such as, non-contradiction, sufficient reason, causality, and finality. Also presumed must be epistemological claims such as realism, objectivity of truth, general methodological principles such as the legitimacy of reason proceeding from the finite to the infinite, the legitimacy of the analogy of being, the validity of an analogous middle term in any such demonstration, and a number of other things far too extensive to deal with here. Perhaps, the best expression of such matters is found in Vol. I of God, His Existence and His Nature by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, where the eminent Thomist spends fully two-thirds of that volume laying down and rigorously defending the logical, metaphysical, and epistemological presuppositions of St. Thomas' Five Ways.

Rather, what I have offered here is merely a mental exercise in which I examine all the logical implications of trying to answer a simple question that proves to have immense metaphysical implications: “Why new existence?”

Relentlessly pursuing the force of this simple question leads the mind inexorably toward an Ultimate Source for all the new aspects of reality that are ever appearing in this dynamic, evolving, ever-changing cosmos. Its force rests in relentlessly confronting the foundational problem entailed in asking, "Where does new existence come from?"

Atheistic evolutionary naturalism is ultimate irrationality, since an unaided evolving finite cosmos refutes itself: it would continuously have to be giving to itself those existential qualities that it lacks. This is why some atheists cannot even accept the reality of motion or becoming or change in the cosmos. The moment you do so, you must also logically accept the existence of an Infinite Wellspring of new existential perfections—the God of Abraham and Moses, “...in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

One may be tempted to embrace various "systems" that simply posit pure becoming, like some form of “process philosophy.” Such claims of “self-actualization” affirm that something can lack a quality, and yet, be in such “act” as to give it to itself. That also entails giving to itself what it does not have—a direct violation of the most basic principle that non-being cannot beget being, or, that you cannot get something from nothing.

This foregoing exploration of “how new existence implies God” is simply a variation on the First Way of St. Thomas Aquinas as found in his Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3. Elsewhere I have published it fully developed as a formal philosophical demonstration.

Dr. Dennis Bonnette

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Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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