Skip to main content

The Problem of Transcendence and Causation

By Philonous ~

One of the fundamental reasons why I find the notion of God philosophically unsound is because of either the tension or contradiction between the transcendence of God and God as a causal agent. The transcendence of God asserts that God is not only independent of the universe, but such independence is constituted by negative attributes or predicates that make God’s nature contrary to that of the universe. This dualistic understanding of transcendence makes it difficult to reconcile it with the other important notion of God as being the causal agent. God is immaterial (pure spirit) as oppose to material, immutable as oppose to mutable, and eternal as oppose to temporal. What each of these negative predicates/attributes of God suggests is that God is beyond the spatial-temporal reality because God is a non-spatial-temporal entity.

However the problem with this view is that it is irreconcilable with the notion that God is a causal agent because causality is intelligible in the context of space-time. While causality is a difficult notion to define, ever since Hume challenged the notion of it, it is obvious that causality is at least understood intelligibly in the context of space-time. Causality is understood as the most fundamental state of affairs in which events can be said to connect to each other. It is not merely one event follows after another that constitute causality but rather how they follow from each other dictated by the laws of nature that determines the universal state of affairs of spatial-temporal fabric. The laws of motion are a classical example of the mathematical examination of the causal relation among mass of objects. The notion of physical energy opens up to several possible understanding of causality such as transference of energy, conversion of energies, and converting energy into matter and vice versa. There are, of course, a few exceptions since causality is not applied to quantum physics and the decaying radiation, but beside those exceptions causality is common in scientific discourse.

If God’s attributes are such that we understand them to be non-spatial and non-temporal, then how do we distinguish that from merely not existing? Despite the overwhelming complexity of causality in the scientific view, it is plain that causality is intrinsically situated in space and time. To speak of cause is to say that one event at certain point in time and location of space is responsible for the transition to the next event; in other words it speaks about contingency within the preconditions of space-time. However if God is remote from this reality based on His nature, then how can we speak of God as causality? How can we speak of God as a causal agent without being part of an event? How can we speak of God as a causal agent and exclude temporality and contingency simultaneously?

These questions are very difficult to answer, and the source of this difficulty lies in the contradiction between transcendence and causality. Transcendence implies negative attributes that is contrary to space-time, whereas causality implies temporal contingent events intrinsically occupying in space and time. To say that God is both a transcendent and causal agent is a contradiction in retrospect to the prior difficulties; it is an incoherent proposition.

If God’s attributes are such that we understand them to be non-spatial and non-temporal, then how do we distinguish that from merely not existing? I will present another argument in this format: 1) anything that exists occupies space and time.2) God does not occupy space and time. 3) Therefore God does not exist. From our experience within this universe, we witness the existence of things, and every time we perceive existing things we perceive them in the dimensional fabric of space-time; We perceive them exist spatially and temporally. However what does it mean for us to perceive things to exist non-spatially and non-temporally? We can simply conclude that to exist non-spatially and non-temporally is simply non-existing. We can also say that to exist non-spatially and non-temporally is a contradiction since anything that exists intrinsically occupies space and time. At least from our understanding of the universe, existence is intrinsically associated with space and time, and consequently it seems inseparable from it. However we cannot apply this understanding to God at all, so what do theists mean when they say “God exists”?

God, then, is an incoherent concept. If God is an incoherent concept then it follows that God is also an incoherent explanation for the existence of the universe since God cannot both a causal and transcendent agent. Examining the strict understanding of the nature of both of them has lead me to the conclusion that both of them are mutually exclusive, hence cannot both predicate the same subject (God). Since I understand “existence” to be anything that I attribute to things that have consistently occupied space-time, I do not attribute existence to that which does not occupy space and time. It follows that for me to attribute “existence” to God is incoherent. Therefore I do not attribute “existence” to God, on the basis of how existence is intelligibly understood, and it follows from there that God does not exist.


Popular posts from this blog


By David Andrew Dugle ~ O ctober. Halloween. It's time to visit the haunted house I used to live in. When I was five my dad was able to build a big modern house. Moving in before it was complete, my younger brother and I were sleeping in a large unfinished area directly under the living room. It should have been too new to be a haunted house, but now and then I would wake up in the tiny, dark hours and see the blurry image of a face, or at least what I took to be a face, glowing, faintly yellow, high up on the wall near the ceiling. I'm not kidding! Most nights it didn’t appear at all. But when it did show itself, at first I thought it was a ghost and it scared me like nothing else I’d ever seen. But the face never did anything; unmoving, it just stayed in that one spot. Turning on the lights would make it disappear, making my fears difficult to explain, so I never told anyone. My Sunday School teachers had always told me to be good because God was just behind m

The Blame Game or Shit Happens

By Webmdave ~ A relative suffering from Type 1 diabetes was recently hospitalized for an emergency amputation. The physicians hoped to halt the spread of septic gangrene seeping from an incurable foot wound. Naturally, family and friends were very concerned. His wife was especially concerned. She bemoaned, “I just don’t want this (the advanced sepsis and the resultant amputation) to be my fault.” It may be that this couple didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. It may be that their choice of treatment was less than ideal. Perhaps their home diabetes maintenance was inconsistent. Some Christians I know might say the culprit was a lack of spiritual faith. Others would credit it all to God’s mysterious will. Surely there is someone or something to blame. Someone to whom to ascribe credit. Isn’t there? A few days after the operation, I was talking to a man who had family members who had suffered similar diabetic experiences. Some of those also suffered ea

Reasons for my disbelief

By Rebekah ~ T here are many layers to the reasons for my disbelief, most of which I haven't even touched on here... When I think of Evangelical Christianity, two concepts come to mind: intense psychological traps, and the danger of glossing over and missing a true appreciation for the one life we know that we have. I am actually agnostic when it comes to a being who set creation in motion and remains separated from us in a different realm. If there is a deistic God, then he/she doesn't particularly care if I believe in them, so I won't force belief and instead I will focus on this one life that I know I have, with the people I can see and feel. But I do have a lot of experience with the ideas of God put forth by Evangelical Christianity, and am confident it isn't true. If it's the case god has indeed created both a physical and a heavenly spiritual realm, then why did God even need to create a physical realm? If the point of its existence is to evolve to pas

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two