Vertical Cosmological Argument

Here it is, gang, the Vertical Argument for the existence of God. This is the one that’s heavy as a lead balloon, and is usually not dealt with by very many atheists or skeptics. I’ve shamelessly stolen this version from Jason Reed & Doug, in the Sound Rezn blog (here: So fasten your seat belts, you’re in for a big one. This argument is one of the only arguments, perhaps THE only argument, that defeats strong pantheism.

This argument logically proves the existence of the Christian God, and does so without quoting the Bible. Keep in mind that this does NOT speak of a “reason” or “sufficient reason” for existence. Proving God via the principle of sufficient reason is generally not held to be sound. Rather, this argument deals from causality and contingency. One cannot infer sufficient reason into an argument based on causality.

  • Something exists (e.g., I exist).
    • This must be true, for in the very attempt to deny my existence I affirm that I exist, otherwise I could not make the denial.
  • This existence is possible but not necessary (its non-existence is possible).
    • Necessary being does not have the possibility not to be.
    • It is of the essence of necessary being to exist, i.e., its essence and existence would be identical, for everything a necessary being “has” it is necessarily, i.e., everything about necessary being is essential to its existence, since its existence is identical to its essence.
    • Necessary existence would be one in which non-existence, change, temporal succession, limitation and composition are not possible:
      • No change can occur in what a necessary being is essentially and necessarily.
      • Whatever passes through states of temporal succession changes. But necessary existence cannot change. Therefore, necessary existence cannot be temporal in its existence.
      • Limited existence is existence with potentiality or can-be-ness; what limits existence is the ability, capacity or possibility to be a certain kind of existence.
      • But necessary existence has no possibilities or potentialities whatsoever; it “has” only actuality and necessity, i.e. the necessity of its own actuality. Therefore, necessary existence would not be limited existence.
      • And if unlimited then it must be non-spatial (i.e. immense).
    • But all existence is either necessary existence or possible existence
      • A possible being has being accidentally, not essentially
      • A possible being has being (in contrast to a necessary being which is being)
      • It is not of the essence of a possible being to exist (as it would be for a necessary being) – e.g., a unicorn can be defined without reference to its existence, thus existence is not part of a unicorn’s existence. The same can be said for all possible beings.
  • Whatever has the possibility not to exist is currently caused to exist by another.
    • Some beings exist whose essence is not to exist (i.e., whose essence and existence are distinct).  Proof of this is:
      • The non-existence of these beings is possible.
      • These beings change and a necessary being cannot change.  If a necessary being did change in its existence it would go out of existence, which a necessary being cannot do.
      • But every being whose essence and existence are distinct  must be caused to exist by another, since—
        • It must be caused to exist by either the principles within itself or else by some agent outside itself.
        • But it cannot be caused to exist by the principles within itself, for—
          • Existence cannot cause itself (this is impossible), and
          • Essence cannot cause existence; the potential cannot cause the actual.
        • Hence, it must be caused to exist by something beyond itself.
      • Now every being cannot be a caused being, for then no being would be causing and some being must be causing for some beings are being caused.
      • Therefore, there must be a being which causes the actual existence of beings whose existence is possible.
  • The cause of the existence of every composed being must be an uncaused cause.
    • First, a self-caused existence is impossible.
    • Second, the cause cannot both be beyond itself and within itself, because otherwise it would be causing its own existence which is impossible.
    • Third, the cause of all composed being is uncaused because an infinite regress of causes of present (here-and-now) existence is impossible.
      • For in this kind of infinite series every cause is being caused, since if one cause is found that is not being caused then we have arrived at the uncaused cause the infinite series attempts to avoid.
      • It is not necessary to deny the existence of an actual number of things (ala the Kālām Cosmological Argument), but even in an infinite series at least one cause must be the efficient cause of the existence of every composed being that exists.
      • However, all causality of present existence is vertical and simultaneous (as in the gears of a watch).
    • It follows then that there is a first cause of any alleged series of causes of being.
    • Thus, this first cause must be uncaused.
  • This uncomposed and uncaused cause of all composed being must be necessary, changeless, eternal, unlimited, pure actuality, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, and personal.
    • An uncomposed being would have to be unlimited because it lacks all potentiality.
    • The infinite cause and its finite effects cannot be totally different or totally the same, and being or existence must be similar (analogous) between the effect and the cause.
      • The cause cannot give any actuality it does not have to give.
      • The effect has being by participation but the cause is being essentially.
      • But whatever the effect has by participating in what the cause is, the cause must be.
    • If “personal” means an intelligent being that can love and is worthy of being loved, then this infinite cause is personal.
      • For this infinite cause is intelligent.
      • And this infinite cause is infinitely good and does (promotes) good.
  • Now whatever is all of this is appropriately called “God” since:
    • He is the creator of all that exists.
    • He is unique or one of a kind.
    • He is the ultimate and absolute basis of all good.
    • Hence, as ultimate Worth He is worthy of or worth-ship (i.e., worship).
      • But the ultimate object of our worship is what we mean by the term “God”.
      • Hence, this being is appropriately called “God”.
  • This God is identical with the one described in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
    • Both have the same infinite characteristics.
    • But there cannot be two such infinite beings.
    • Therefore, the God shown to exist by this argument and the God described in the Bible are identical, i.e., they are one and the same God.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Vertical Cosmological Argument

  1. Pingback: The Vertical Cosmological Argument and the Fallacy of Composition | Thomistic Bent

  2. Pingback: Cosmological Argument, Sufficient Reason, & Causality | Thomistic Bent

  3. Pingback: Creation, Big Bang, and Age of the Earth | Thomistic Bent

  4. Travis says:


    Love the post but it seems you are missing the word infinite in this statement. “infinite number of things.” I believe is what you mean to say,

    “It is not necessary to deny the existence of an actual number of things (ala the Kālām Cosmological Argument), “

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