Is God Really Necessary?

by Randy Everest

A friend alerted me to another argument against God that I think was poorly made. Christians typically conceive of God as a necessary being. For newcomers, God as necessary means that he could not fail to exist; God exists in all actually possible situations; God cannot come into nor go out of existence; he just exists! For this, we often say God has the property of necessary existence. With me so far? Yes? No? Well, I’ll pretend you said yes, because this is my blog.

I found the argument, as originally given, to be a muddled mess, but I think I can represent it both fairly and validly.[1] It seems to be this:

1. All necessary beings have all their properties necessarily.

2. It is possible for God to have different properties than he does have (i.e., some of God’s properties, at least, are not-necessary, or contingent).

3. Therefore, God is not a necessary being.

Some Christians might shrug their shoulders since, after all, this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. But it does mean that God is radically different than how we have conceived him. Perhaps he is powerful, perhaps good, perhaps all sorts of things, but one thing he is not is necessary. He therefore

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would not be the maximally great being (at least, the maximally great being would not exist). This is a price most Christians would not want to pay, though I suspect the atheist thought this means that God does not exist. So what is his defense for (1)? He never actually said. He simply asked a question to the effect of, “How can a necessary being have non-necessary properties?” Asking a question is just that—a question, certainly no substitute for an argument. It’s barely more than an assertion, perhaps masking as an objection, just dying to get out.

But what is that objection? The property of necessary existence itself doesn’t entail that all properties of such a being are necessary. Take the extrinsic, contingent property that God has of “having created Randy Everist.” Why would God’s having the property of necessary existence necessitate or entail that Randy Everist is created? I fail to see the link. I suspect that perhaps the objector means something like “all of God’s essential properties are necessary; there cannot be any essential properties that are not-necessary.” Agreed, but of what relevance is this? Anyway, I can’t figure out a good argument for why we should think (1) is true. What about (2)?

I think (2) is correct: I think some of God’s extrinsic properties are contingent. But it occurs to me in the cleaning up of this guy’s argument that he may not have meant this at all…


Possible Worlds: Is God Really Necessary?