We live in an amazing universe.
Have you ever wondered why it exists? Why does anything at allexist? Gottfried Leibniz wrote, “The first question which should rightly be asked is:Why is there something rather than nothing?” He came to the conclusion that theexplanation is found in God. But is this reasonable? Everything that exists has anexplanation of its existence. If the universe has an explanation of itsexistence, that explanation is God.
The universe exists. From these it followslogically that the explanation of the universe’s existence is God. The logic ofthis argument is airtight.
If the three premises are true, the conclusion isunavoidable. But are they more plausibly true than false? The third premise isundeniable for anyone seeking truth.But what about the first premise? Why not say, “The universe is just there, andthat’s all”? No explanation needed! End of discussion!Imagine you and a friend are hiking in the woods and come across a shiny spherelying on the ground. You would naturally wonder how it came to be there. And you’dthink it odd if your friend said, “There’s no reason or explanation for it.Stop wondering. It just IS!” And if the ball were larger it would still requirean explanation. In fact, if the ball were the size of the universe, the change inits size wouldn’t remove the need for an explanation.
Indeed, curiosity about the existence of the universe seems scientific – andintuitive! Someone might say: “If everything that exists needs anexplanation, what about God? Doesn’t he need an explanation? And if God doesn’t need anexplanation, then why does the universe need an explanation? To address this, Leibnizmakes a key distinction between things that exist NECESSARILY and thingsthat existCONTINGENTLY. Things that existNECESSARILY exist by necessity of their own nature. It’s impossible for them NOTto exist. Many mathematicians think that abstract objects like numbers and setsexist like this. They’re not caused to exist by something else; they just existby necessity of their own nature.
Things that exist CONTINGENTLY are caused to exist by something else.Most of the things we’re familiar with exist contingently. They don’t HAVE toexist.
They only exist because something else caused them to exist. If yourparents had never met, you wouldn’t exist! There’s no reason to think the worldaround us HAD to exist. If the universe had developed differently, there might have beenno stars or planets. It’s logically possible that the whole universe mightnot have existed. It doesn’t existnecessarily, it exists contingently. If the universe might NOT have existed,why DOES it exist? The only adequate explanation for the existence of acontingent universe is that its existence rests on a non-contingentbeing – something that cannot not exist, because of the necessity of its ownnature.
It would exist no matter what!So “Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence”…”either inthe necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.” But what about our secondpremise? Is it reasonable to call the explanation of the universe…
God?Well, what is the universe? It’s all of space-time reality, including all matterand energy. It follows that if the universe has a cause of its existence, that causecannot be part of the universe – it must be non-physical and immaterial – beyondspace and time. The list of entities that could possibly fit this description isfairly short – and abstract objects cannot cause anything.
Leibniz’ ContingencyArgument shows that the explanation for the existence of the universe can befound only in the existence of God. Or, if you prefer not to use the term “God,” youmay simply call him: “The Extremely Powerful, Uncaused, Necessarily Existing,Non-Contingent, Non-Physical, Immaterial, Eternal Being Who Created the EntireUniverse…And Everything In It.”