Metaphysics

Atheist Criticizes Categories of Contingency

From George H Smith:

A major flaw in the contingency argument lies in its artificial dichotomy between necessary and contingent existence. To say that something exists contingently makes sense only within the sphere of volitional action. So, for example, we might say that a building exists contingently, meaning that, if certain men had decided to act differently, the building would never have been constructed. With this exception, however, the idea of contingent existence has no application. Everything exists necessarily. 17 In using the distinction between necessary and contingent existence as part of his argument, the theist smuggles in a crucial premise. He assumes that there are, in effect, two kinds of existence: deficient and sufficient. He then argues that the universe is metaphysically deficient, that it does not exist necessarily, so we must infer the existence of a transcendent necessary being. Thus, in his original distinction between necessary and contingent existence, the theist assumes beforehand that natural existence requires an explanation. In using the necessary-contingent dichotomy in his argument, the theist is asking that a major point of controversy be conceded to him without argument. If the dichotomy is challenged, the contingency argument can go nowhere. If one rejects the notion of contingent existence (in the sense here described), there is no reason to posit a transcendent, necessary being. As Copleston puts it, “if one refuses even to sit down at the chess-board and make a move, one cannot, of course, be checkmated.”

Smith, George H.. Atheism: The Case Against God (The Skeptic’s Bookshelf) (pp. 251-252). Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

Soskice on Genesis and Metaphysics

It should be stated at the outset that the Hebrew Scriptures generally are little concerned with questions of metaphysics or scientific cosmology. In the first chapters of Genesis God calls light from the formless void, separating it from darkness, and names the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. God divides the waters from dry land, creates the sun and moon, living creatures and, in a culmination of this creative work, humankind, male and female, in God’s own image. In the Book of Genesis this sequence forms the prolegomena for the calling of Abram, renamed at that time Abraham, which marks the creation of the people, Israel, through whom God’s blessings will be shed on the world. These narratives do not probe the metaphysics of space and time, or even present a consistent view on the origin of matter. They are more concerned to show the relationship of all things to God and to each other, and to establish that the creation is ‘good’ and the work of a beneficent God. They tell us something about the created order, but also something about the nature of God.

Janet M. Soskice, “Creation and the God of Abraham”, [Chapter 2] Cambridge University Press, New York , © Cambridge University Press 2010