Leibniz’ Contingency Argument
- Everything that exists has an explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its nature, or in an external cause.
- If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
- The universe exists.
- The universe has an explanation for its existence (from 1 & 3).
- The explanation of the universe is God (from 2 & 4).
- Conclusion: God exists.
This argument for the existence of God made by German Philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716) is logically airtight. This means so long as the premises are more plausibly true than false, the conclusion is unavoidable.
Premise three is obvious, at least to any serious inquirer of truth. The real “issue” lies with premise one and two.
I have emboldened the second part of premise one to emphasize that there are actually two parts here. The first part seems clear and obvious, but also an immediate objection to Theism seems to rise.
If everything has an explanation for its existence, doesn’t God?
The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is, maybe not in the way you think. God has an explanation, but that explanation isn’t external to himself. If God exists at all, He exists necessarily. That is to say, as the un-created Being that gives being to everything else, God cannot not exist. He is necessary, if at all.
So God has an explanation for His existence like everything else, only His explanation for existing is in the necessity of His own nature.
Now the question is: Well, if the theist says God is that which necessarily exists, why can’t the atheist say that the universe is that which exists necessarily?
There are two criteria of necessary existence that should be pointed out. In order to exist necessarily, a thing must be:
- Eternal – having no beginning.
- Changeless – the same in every possible world.
The problem is that all of modern cosmology is pointing to a finite past for space-time, rendering the possibility of a past-eternal universe highly unlikely. In fact, Alexander Vilenkin, Physicist, says this:
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”
Many Worlds in One (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), 176.
The universe began to exist, therefore it is not eternal.
If that isn’t enough, the universe certainly isn’t changeless. In fact, the atheist is the first to point out that the universe could have existed any number of different ways when they postulate a multiverse. I don’t even need to argue that the universe isn’t changeless, the atheist has done this for me.
It follows that the universe does not meet the requirement for necessary existence and therefore does not exist necessarily.
Premise two is made obvious by the fact that whatever created the universe could not be part of the universe. And since the universe is all of space-time (including matter and energy), it follows that the creator of the universe must be space-less, timeless, and immaterial. There are only two candidates that meet this description:
- Abstract Objects (like numbers)
However, abstract objects do not stand in causal relationship with anything. 2 + 2 never put 4 dollars in my pocket.
That leaves us with only one candidate, God.
Since premise 1 and 2 are more plausibly true than false, and premise 3 is obvious, the conclusion is unavoidable. The universe has an explanation for its existence, and that explanation is God.