Arguments for the Existence of God

Paul Tillich


Argument from The Ground of Being.

"The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."

--Paul Tillich, The Shaking of The Foundations

This arguement will make a lot more sense if you read this priliminary page first:God as The Ground of Being


(1) We recognize the same primary ontological qualities in being itsel that we recognize in God: necessary, Reity, Eternal.

(2)We can grasp this association Phenomenologically (we can experience it).

(3) Since we find a virtual synonamy between God and Being, we can assume that Being is indicative of God.

(4) Therefore, God is the a priori, the ontological necessity implied in the nature of Being Itself: we know that being is, thus we know God is.


I include this argument among Ontological arguments, not because it is analytical, but because I think it is the sort of thing that Anselm really discovered when he wrote his famous argument. I have no way to prove this, but I think this is what really happened what really happened. He was considering the question, "why does the Bible say that the fool has said in his heart there is no God?" Anslem thought the answer was because God is really obvious and proceeded to formalize the logic of his faith. But the Bible says that "the fool has said in his heart..." And Anslem knew in his heart that God existed, so what he was really trying to formalize was the knowledge of the heart. That knowledge comes to us from our existential position in being. WE understand the infinite in contrast to our own finitude, we understand our ultimate concerns (we are going to die) through our sense of the infinite, and through this we come to understand that the nature of being is "Holy Being" and is special beyond the mere fact that things exist. Thus, wrapped up in the notion of Being is the idea that Being must be grounded in something that is higher and greater and more enduring than anything else, the answer to our ultimate concerns; by definition that thing we call "God."

What does it mean to say:"God is being itself? First, we have to recognize that being, for Tillich, is more than just the fact that things exist. Being is: The positive power that gives existence. We can understand this notion by thinking about being at its most primordial level. Tillich defines being as "the power to resist nothingness." Being is proactive, postive, it is a positive presence in reality, as oppossed to nothingness, whihc is the absence. To say that God is being itself is to say that God is the fundamental essence of this positive proactive power that lends existence to all things. It is also to say that all reality at the most fundamental level is rooted in the fact of God; God is the ontologicl necessity.

If we start from that perspective, and if we realize that things could not have begun from a putative state of nothingness, there has to be an eternal ground of possiblity and support which lends its power to resist nothingness to all actuality.When we recognize that aspect of being we sesne an unbounded condition of reversence for the nature of being. That is a fundamental to link to the God concept.

Ontologically Primary Qualities

Qualities which are primary in an ontolgoical sense would be mutually exclusive for a being or an existant, and they would be more fundamental than "secondary qualiteis" which could be shared by other existants.For example we have a red triangle and blue triangle.What makes these objects the same? What fundamental quality do they share that makes the triangles? Not their color, but their shpae. Any other shape would not be a triangle while a triangle of any other color would still be a triangle.

This argument will show that both God and being itself share the same primary qualities. Those primary qualities are such that we can identify God with being itself in a mutually exclusive way, a way in which not other existant could sahre. That will indicate that we can recognize an aspect of Being we might call "holy being." In other words, that God is Being itself, thus, God must have actual being.

Law of Identity

A = A.

This is he most fundamental law of Aristotelian logic. It doesn't seem very reasonable to dispute this, since the alternative would be to say that A might be non-A in the same place at the same time. Since that would mean allowing contrdictions in logic, most sketpics will avoid this move.

If two existants share the very same quality and that quality is mutually unique and can only be held by one existant, the only logical answer is that the two existants must share identiy, they must be the same thing under two different names. For example, if we know for certain that there can be only one survivor of the planet krypton, and we know that Clark Kent is Kryptonian and that Sueprman is Kryptonian, baring that there could be another survior, the only logical conclusion is that Sueprman must be Clark Kent.

If God and Being itself share the same unique qualities then they must be identical. Of course this is not to beag the question and asusme that God exists. If the concept of God includes those same qualities that only can belon to Being itself, then they must be one and the same. The only reasonable way to determine this is to determine what quailties we find essential for deity.

Primary Attributes of God

These primary attributes must be qualities that only God could possess. In other words, they can't be things like physical appearance, or even personality, since those are shared by all kinds of beings. These must be the very qualities that make God God, that could not be held by any other!

(1) Reity:

This is the concept of the most funamental thing. the putative state of affairs.Ultimate reality. Being must be bound up with Reity, for if the state of Reity did was not actually, was not part of being, then it would not be.

(2) Necessity:

Being must be both an ontological and a logical necessity, otherwise existence itself would be a contingency with no necessity to ground it.

(3) Eternality:

As I argue in God argument 1, it is impossible for nothingess to be the Putuative state of affairs. In other words, reality could no begin in a state of absolute total nothingness. This means that something must always been.

(a) Nothingness cannot possess Reity.

Nothingness is the contrary of something. The state of Reity is something,thus nothingness can't be reity or it would mark it's on contradiction.

(b) Temporal begining

nothingness would have to be a timeless state, since time is something. But in a timeless state there can be no chnage, thus nothing would ever come to be.

(c) Therefore, Being itself is eternal.

Since reality could not have begun from a putative state of nothingness, the only other choice would be that something has always been, being itself is eternal.


Since nothing can be apart from being itself, whatever is contains being and thus being is wherever there is existence or reality.

There's more to being than that. More qualities are explored by Tillich and these are found on the Tillich argument.

These qualies are also indmeic to the Christian Concept of God.It is these qualities and not the "omnis" and conscoiusness that make up the Chrstain God in so far as God is uniquely God. What do I mean by that? Many other kinds of biengs are conscious; aminalms and humans. Consciousness is not uquniquely something that makes God God in a way that no other being can be.

what about:

Omniscisence, Omnipotance, and consciousness?

Conciousness goes with all of these qualities. Omnipotence is the weilding o powe which implies purpose, knowledge and conscousness go together in an obvious way. We don't clealry see that being possess these qualieis, so that would seperate the concept of God from the concpt of being. But on the other hand, these are not primary qualities of God. They are qualieis God does have, and as far as omnipotence goes, not many others do have. But knowledge, even all knoweldge and consciousness might be shared by other beings. These in and of themselves do not make God God any more than any other being might be. But the mutally exclucive and qunique qualities are those listed above, which the God concept does share with Being Itself.


This is a special problem because while we don't have too many examples of non devine omnipotent beings, one might argue for the omnipotence of Being itself in teh sense that being "let's be." Being itself would function like a marix of possibility in that nothing can exist without partaking in it.

Objection: Consciousness

Consciousness presents the real problem since it stands out as something we cannot clealry attach to being. Thus Being and God, though they seem to possess the same primary qualities, are seperated from eacch other by this, and other, secondary qualities which are attached from religious traditions.

But that's because religious traditions don't worship being pre se, but God. That God exist on the order of being itself as the ultimate state of Reity, is a given of those traditions sophisticated enough to think about such things. We can't expect any religious tradition to merely worshp being as such One would also confusse being as an ontolgoical existenial state of affairs with the fact of the existence of things. It is not the fact of existence of each contingent thing that is synominous with God, but he state of Reity that obtains in the primary and primordial nature of Being itself, the very thing that is to be.

So the answer is, the primray qualities are still mutually exclusive. If there more to being than we knew, that doesn't chang the fact that no two existents could share these primary qualities, thus that we find them in being is enough to link being and God in such a way that we can say "there is some Holy aspect to being."

Objection: Not Christian God

No law says I have to argue for the Christian God per se. But as a matter of fact this is a Christian concept.

The Religious A priori