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 Post subject: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:49 pm 
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Religion: Possibly Theist. Very confused.
I understand that Catholics believe that God holds all of creation in existence from moment to moment by an act of omnipotence. Why?

Is there some reason why God cannot create a universe that exists on its own?

I ask, not as a faithful Catholic, but as a man who isn't even sure that I am a theist. I ask for answers from reason, not from revelation and the magisterium.

Next, if so, why is it necessary to believe that God lavishes infinite care on every little detail? Why can't some, or even most things be matters of indifference to God? Right now, I'm having trouble seeing God as anything other than a vast, dispassionate, and infinitely remote intellect.

Finally, why can't pantheism be the the right answer? The universe, itself, being alive, and self existent.

Justin


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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:01 am 
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Just a note that I'm not ignoring you. I am looking for better-spelled out answers than I could provide on my own.

I will note that your middle question puts you right where the best of the Greek philosophers found themselves. They were able to recognize that there could be one and only one God in the proper sense, but not that He was concerned with His creation. I'm not sure at the moment if that's knowable by revelation only or if it can be deduced.

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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:05 am 
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I think it can be deduced that God is the moral lawgiver, and I think it can be deduced that notions like love and justice and righteousness must in some sense preexist infinitely in God. Whether or not it can be deduced from that that He actually loves us and cares for us, etc . . . that's a much more difficult question.

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:07 am 
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It is in the Summa, I think: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1020.htm#article2

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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:04 pm 
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Huh. I'd not seen that before. Much obliged.

----------

To the OP, you've asked a lot of heavy questions, so it's hard not to get into heavy (and thus long) answers. But let me take a stab at the last one--the one about pantheism--as it might give you a good basis for starting to think about the others. A general and helpful principle to remember is that if anything is made up of parts, then it is a contingent being. Or again, if anything is made up of parts, it had to have a cause. The reason is that you need an explanation as to what put those parts together as well as an explanation as to why it exists in the particular way it does.

So I think it's pretty obvious that the whole world is made up of parts. There are stars and planets and atoms and quarks and people and . . . well . . . you get the idea. So how do we explain the fact that those stars and planets and atoms and so on exist in the particular way, the particular structure, the particular configuration that they do? What caused them to be that way? However you answer that (because the answer itself doesn't matter), the fact is that there IS, in fact, a cause -- and in this case, a great many causes for the various configurations.

But then we get all the way back to very basic metaphysics. What we've just said is that the world as a whole needs a cause. All of its parts need causes. Put then what's the cause of all of THAT? What we are saying is that the world is contingent. It is caused. But contingent on WHAT? Caused by WHAT? What we soon discover is that there must be something that exists that is not-contingent (we call that necessary); something that is not caused. That means such a thing cannot be composed of parts (we call that "simple"). But that means such a thing (which we call "God") is not the world. Thus, God is not the world, and thus pantheism is false.

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:12 pm 
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Justin_1968 wrote:
Is there some reason why God cannot create a universe that exists on its own?

If you re-read that, you'll start to see the trouble. :)

Obviously, you mean "that thereafter exists on its own," but the question remains: why does it thereafter exist on its own? What characteristic does it have that makes it such. Insofar as you've granted for the sake of argument here that God created it ex nihilo it obviously has no characteristic not given to it by God. Its characteristic of "remaining perpetually in existence once brought into being" is as utterly dependent upon God for its existence as the universe itself. Why does that characteristic continue to exist? Does it have the characteristic of "remaining perpetually in existence once brought into being"? If so, why? And how do you avoid a vicious infinite regress here? If not, then the question is clearly unanswered and then so is the question of why the universe continues to exist perpetually, since the existence of the characteristic that allegedly explains that fact isn't satisfactorily accounted for.

The thing is, the universe's existence--granted that God brought it into being--is contingent. If its existence is contingent, then it could fail to exist. If it could fail to exist, then its existence demands an explanation. That applies at each moment of the universe's existence. You should either just say that the universe's existence is necessary (which is very hard to rationally defend), or that God sustains it in existence at all moments of its existence (which is of course the truth), or that its existence is brute--which is to say that it has no explanation at all (which is very hard to rationally defend): but if the existence of the universe is brute then the coming into existence of the universe ought just as well to be brute, and hence your granting for arguments' sake a theistic source of the universe becomes gratuitous.

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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:15 am 
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Thank you all for your replies. I’m going to chew on these for a while before replying. This takes a lot of thought and I want to make sure I understand.

Also, I’m away from my laptop and I don’t like trying to write anything lengthy on my phone.

Justin.


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 Post subject: Re: A self-sustaining universe.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:37 pm 
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Justin_1968 wrote:
I understand that Catholics believe that God holds all of creation in existence from moment to moment by an act of omnipotence. Why?
To answer that, we first need to look at your second question:

Justin_1968 wrote:
Is there some reason why God cannot create a universe that exists on its own?
Yes, for the same reason that God cannot create a married bachelor or a circular square. As gherkin points out, the very fact that the universe is created means that it is contingent, and that it could fail to exist. Anything that is contingent in and of itself, and has the capacity to fail to exist, needs to be sustained by another. To use an example: a book doesn’t have the capacity, in and of itself, to be a meter above the ground. It needs a table or something similar to do so. It needs this table to sustain its position. If the table is removed, the book is no longer sustained in its position a meter above the floor. What needs to be said is that this doesn’t (necessarily) involve time. The book is sustained by the table in real time or simultaneously with the table’s position. It isn’t sustained because the table used to be there, and it will not be sustained the second the table is removed. But it doesn’t stop there. This goes all the way down, as Edward Feser points out. For the table is dependent on the floor which is dependent on the foundation of the house, and so and and so forth. And since I don’t like plagiarism, I’ll point you to Feser’s excellent book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, especially pp.21-29, as well as this talk of his (which was a draft of the chapter on his book).

So the point remains that a self-sustaining creation is a contradiction in terms, just like a married bachelor or a circular square.

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