Smith attributes to the theist the position that with the help of the proofs, “while we may not know the attributes of this being (and therefore have no clear concept of it), we do know that there is some kind of supernatural being, whatever it is. And that is what is meant by the word ‘god.'” (221) Of course, this is nonsense. Proofs for the existence of God illuminate God’s attributes in mind-numbing detail (see, e.g., Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology, Vol. 2); in fact, describing God is part and parcel of proving that the being so described exists. Nor are God’s attributes so discovered “muddled and contradictory.” (222) Smith simply borrows this unjustified conclusion from the earlier parts of his book. What we mean by “God” is something very specific and peculiar, not “some kind of supernatural being.” The concept of God is fleshed out one argument after another.

This answers Smith’s first question, “What caused the universe?” Regarding the second, “How did it cause the universe?” the answer is that “whatever God wills, if that is at all possible, happens” is a law of nature, though not of the created universe’s nature but of the nature of God. This is just one way in which God differs from creatures.

According to Smith,

The universe — the totality of existence — is a metaphysical primary and, as such, cannot require an explanation. (230)

Man cannot explain the existence of nature, because any attempted explanation logically presupposes the existence of nature. (231)

“What caused the universe?” is an absurd question, because before something can act as a cause, it must first exist — i.e., it must first be part of the universe. (240)

This is bizarre. No one distinguishes between the natural and the supernatural on the basis of the existence of the thing whose ontological status is in question. The supernatural stands in relation to the natural as the uncaused to the caused, the perfect to the imperfect, the simple to the complex, the infinite to the finite, and so on. But both exist. Existence does not then constitute a difference between God and a created entity.

In other words, natural theology proves God’s existence as part of uncovering the divine attributes; and the reason why these attributes cannot be “part of the universe” is that God differs from the universe in rather amazing ways. These differences are not according to existence, since both exist, but according to essence, since God’s essence is sui generis and unlike that of any creature. Smith has declared his utter befuddlement over the meaning of the divine attributes, but that really is his own problem.


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