An addendum to the “Damascene Ontological Argument”


I recently explored the Cosmological Argument of St. John of Damascus (or what I would now call the “Damascene Ontological Argument”) and have realized something in the argument that needs clarification, namely, how could God remain unchanged in light of the Incarnation? (Much thanks to my friend Vic and commenter CK for bringing this problem up)

My first proposition looks like this:

(1) All things are either created or uncreated
(1a) If they are created then they are changeable
(1b) If they are uncreated then they are unchangeable

For God to be eternal, this means that He must be unchangeable, but how can this be so in light of the Incarnation? Wouldn’t this indicate “change”?

St. John sheds light on what he means by “change” when he argues that an angel or human can “change” by doing something moral or immoral. A human can have another human, thus increasing the quantity of humans, indicating a change. A human also changes physically. Thus, humans change. Christ, who is God, was also a human. The question then becomes, how could Christ be both man and God, but not change? If Christ didn’t change, then He isn’t human. If He did change, then He isn’t God.

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The Cosmological Argument of St. John of Damascus


St. John of Damascus

For those unfamiliar with philosophical terms, “cosmological”  simply means “an explanation of the beginning.” So to say something is a “cosmological argument” merely means, “It’s an argument about why everything exists.”

I have been reading bits and pieces of St. John of Damascus’ book The Orthodox Faith. I’m currently re-working my way through Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic mostly so I can read the first part of St. John’s book Fountain of Knowledge (I’m rusty on my terms). In reading over the third chapter of The Orthodox Faith, St. John presents a solid cosmological argument:

All things, that exist, are either created or uncreated. If, then, things are created, it follows that they are also wholly mutable. For things, whose existence originated in change, must also be subject to change, whether it be that they perish or that they become other than they are by act of will. But if things are uncreated they must in all consistency be also wholly immutable. For things which are opposed in the nature of their existence must also be opposed in the mode of their existence, that is to say, must have opposite properties: who, then, will refuse to grant that all existing things, not only such as come within the province of the senses, but even the very angels, are subject to change and transformation and movement of various kinds? For the things appertaining to the rational world, I mean angels and spirits and demons, are subject to changes of will, whether it is a progression or a retrogression in goodness, whether a struggle or a surrender; while the others suffer changes of generation and destruction, of increase and decrease, of quality and of movement in space. Things then that are mutable are also whollycreated. But things that are created must be the work of some maker, and the maker cannot have been created. For if he had been created, he also must surely have been created by some one, and so on till we arrive at something uncreated. TheCreator, then, being uncreated, is also wholly immutable. And what could this be other than Deity?

St. John had a classical education, so he puts the argument in the form of a syllogism. If we were to break that syllogism down it would read something like this:

(1) All things are either created or uncreated
(1a) If they are created then they are changeable
(1b) If they are uncreated then they are unchangeable
(2) All beings that fall within our experience are changeable
(3) All of these things have therefore been created and require a creator
(4) The creator, by logical necessity, would have to be uncreated and therefore unchangeable (we can’t have an infinite regression of “p created q who created r, ad infinitum“).
(5) By definition, such a creator would be called God

Logically, this is a solid argument. The premises follow one another and therefore provide a proper conclusion. If something is changeable, then it is created and requires a creator. If something is unchangeable, then it is not created and therefore does not require a creator.

Though the argument is valid, the question then becomes if the premises and conclusion are true. In a valid argument, the conclusion logically follows the premises, thus if the premises are true and the argument is valid, then the conclusion is also true.

So let us look at the premises:

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Does God exist? (Part 3)


I received a reply. Here is my response to the reply I received:

Issue 7 – Does God need “special pleading” to avoid the arguments against naturalism?

Me:

It is necessarily true that in any universe where matter decays it must also have a beginning. Thus, even if we say there was something prior to the universe, we’re still left with the problem of infinite regress – at some point, there has to be something beginning everything.

Atheist:

Except for God right? He gets a special pass.

That would be the Special Pleading Logical Fallacy i think

Me:

I thought I did a good job explaining why God is not subject to the problems listed in the original post. As I stated:

If the universe requires a beginning, then it requires an immaterial, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful mind to bring the physical world about. All of these would be part of the nature of the being that caused the universe, thus satisfying the requirement of premise (1). The universe, as it is, fits none of the above descriptors, thus requiring an explanation. Continue reading

Does God exist? (Part 2)


I hadn’t intended on making this into a series, but I received an email from an atheist concerning my previous post. So I am putting up his arguments to my arguments and then supplying my defense.

Here was my response:

Issue 1 – Kalam Cosmological Argument

Me:

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Atheist:

Why do you assume that the universe had a cause?

“Our” universe came into being however many billions of years ago, but who is to say what was there before. The matter within this universe could have always existed, just not necessarily in its current form.

Me:

It is necessarily true that in any universe where matter decays it must also have a beginning. Thus, even if we say there was something prior to the universe, we’re still left with the problem of infinite regress – at some point, there has to be something beginning everything. Continue reading

Does God exist? (Part 1)


Considering the overwhelming evidence we have for the Big Bang…wouldn’t such a belief nullify any possible theories in naturalistic evolution? Especially if we apply it to the kalam cosmological argument:

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

If we combine this with Leibnizian cosmology:

1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3) The universe exists.
4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

If I remember correctly, Leibnitz is assuming that Aquinas is correct in saying that the “unmoved mover” is what people call “God.”