“You don’t truly understand something until you can exlain it is a simple way where everyone can understand it.” Let me attempt to do so here:

If something exists, then so does God.

Now more complex:

Romans 1:18-20 is one of the great, theologically rich passages in all of Scripture. It tells us that evidence of God’s reality is universally known and that no one will be able to present a (valid) excuse for unbelief.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

An interesting point that we, as Christians who believe in the ultimate authority of the Scripture, need to be reminded of is that this passage tells us that God has made himself known, not since the creation of the Scriptures, but “since the creation of the world.” While the specifics of the Gospel are not present in creation, God’s “eternal power and divine nature” have been “clearly” seen so that no one will be able to say “I did not know.”

Theologians term this “natural revelation.” It is also spoken of in Psalm 19. Natural revelation is the type of revelation that is available to all people of all time, everywhere. From it we derive a “natural theology.” Natural theology stands beside the Scriptures and aids us in our understanding of God.

Have you ever noticed that the Bible does not make a concerted effort to argue for God’s existence? There is no book in the Bible that is focused on this “first principle” of theology. Why? Because creation itself is sufficient to bring us to a reliable conclusion about this matter. God’s written word does not need to do what his voice in creation had already sufficiently done. As R.C. Sproul put it, “It would be like bringing steel to Pittsburgh. You just don’t need it!”

So, why is there something rather than nothing?

Here is how I work out Romans 1:18-20 from natural revelation:

No matter how ridiculous talking snakes, parting seas, and incarnate Gods may be, when I am at my best, I recognize that existence itself is about as bizarre as it comes. The fact that there is something demands that there be some-thing to explain it. The fact that something exists is more miraculous than we can normally bring ourselves to imagine.

Here is a four step process to moving from natural revelation to the necessity of God.

1. Transcendence:  This some-thing responsible for creation must be metaphysically transcendent. Metaphysical transcendence is defined as being above and beyond all things in the physical or material world. In other words, it is outside of this universe or dimension of existence. Time, space, and matter all demand that they be separate from the essence of their genesis. This metaphysically transcendent “essence” is what is traditionally defined as “God. 

2. One: This “God” from which all things came must be one, not many. For if there were many, one would have to have a way to distinguish between their essence. Once we distinguish their essence, we can no longer describe them as transcendent since multiplicity in essence, demands space and matter as means to essentially distinguish their nature. The presence of space and matter are the antithesis to metaphysical transcendence. If there were many, we would be back to step one of justifying their existence by finding that one existence that is transcendent to them. In other words, “God” must be unified in nature (we sometimes call this “divine simplicity.”)

3. Willful: This “God” from which all things came has to be willful. Since time came into being, there was a singular point when it was birthed. Why was it created when it was created? The answer to this demands that the transcendent “essence” from which all things come must have “decided” at some point to bring it into being. Otherwise, it would have never come into being since, without a will, the transcendent essence would have never created it. This is due to the fact that outside of willful intent, we are left only with cause and effect. Since “God,” in his unified essence, does not exist in relation to cause and effect, before and after (all attributes of immanence), there is no explanatory cause for creation. This transcendent essence must have willfully brought all things into being at some singular point.

4. Personal: Willfulness implies personality. Therefore, this tells me that this “God” must contain “personhood” in some sense. Adding to this personhood is characteristics observed in creation, particularly humanity. Humanity carries characteristics of emotion, rationality, and morality. Love, anger, joy, satisfaction, and desire are all emotional characteristics. Logic, rational thinking, and common sense are all rational characteristic. The innate sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and the pursuit of truth itself are all moral characteristics. Due to the assumed reality that the thing created cannot be greater than that which is responsible for its creation, “God” must contain all of these characteristics to a degree transcendently greater and more pure than the creation.

Thus far, I have ruled out:

Polytheism (Belief in many Gods): There could not be many of these beings or they are not truly transcendent. To be one who believes in many gods, the whole idea of what it means to be “god” must be depleted of essential characteristics. At best, polytheists are those who worship the most powerful beings in our universe who themselves need a sufficient explanatory cause.

Pantheism and Panentheism (Belief that all is God or all is “in” God): Their cannot be immanence coming from the essence or being of transcendence. Both pantheism and panentheism must redefine what it means to be “God” in a similar way as polytheism as true transcendence no longer exists. This is why pantheists are often described as “philosophical” or “metaphysical” atheists.

Atheism (Belief that there is no God): In atheism, there is no transcendent explanatory cause for all things, only an infinite regress of time, space, matter and cause and effects. This is referentially absurd since the reality of a present moment demands, in their worldivew, an infinite amount of time to have been traversed before we arrive at the present moment. But an infinite cannot, by definition, be traversed since there would always be an infinite amount succession of moments and events before we get to “now.” It would be like asking when someone would get out of an infinitely deep hole. The answer is “never” due to the fact that there is no starting point from which to begin and, therefore, complete the journey. Since we are at “now” there must have been a beginning. Since there is a beginning, there must be a transcendent explanation for this beginning. Once this is conceded, atheism no longer is possible.

Deism (Belief in a transcendent God who cannot intervene in history): As deism itself is self-defeating. If something exists, God must be responsible for it. If he is responsible for it, by definition, he is and can be involved in creation. While this is a paradoxical situation that a transcendent God can be involved in immanence, it is, nonetheless, a philosophical necessity due to the fact that something exists. (I understand that there is “soft deism” which is a believe in a transcendent God who does not (not cannot) intervene in history, but that is an internal issue that does not have relevance here. It is really just another form of theism).

Why is there something rather than nothing? Because one transcendent, willful, personal God created it and is involved in it. Creation spells this out clear enough. We are without excuse for disbelief.

Back to the simple:

“You don’t truly understand something until you can exlain it is a simple way where everyone can understand it.”

If something exists, then so does God.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    52 replies to "Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?"

    • Wade T.

      Whoops, looks like the end of my last comment was slightly too long. I’ll try again.

      Consider for example this argument similar to one at http://www.sacklunch.net/ArgumentsForGod/cosmological.html. Suppose we put the universe on rewind where everybody walks backwards and talks funny. No matter how far we go back, it’s impossible to traverse all the past years. How then is it reasonable to think that it’s possible to traverse the other direction?

    • William Mayor


      I consider “folk theology” to be theology that seeks to please the average believer rather than to accurately portray God. A transcendental argument that does not address legitimate counterpoints fits the bill. This is irregardless of how well it fits in with other theologies that likewise seek to placate rather than portray.

      If we believe the Apostle Paul that the universe can reveal the truth of God, then any theology that does not fit with what is knowable from the universe is suspect. Your approach does not fit with what is knowable from the universe and does not rule out pantheism, the only true option to monotheism. Polytheism is a derivative of it and atheism shares basic premises irregardless of its claims.

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