## Is "Jesus is God" necessarily true, necessarily false, or a contingent proposition?

• 3
If you take as a given that God is a necessary being, does it follow that the Christian belief that Jesus is identical with God is either necessarily true or necessarily false? My reasoning here is that it follows from "God is a necessary being" that:

1. If something is identical with God, then it is a necessary being
2. If something is not a necessary being, then it is impossible for it to be identical with God.

According to this reasoning, it seems like either Jesus is necessarily God, or it is impossible for Jesus to be God (given the premise that God is a necessary being). A third possibility is that my reasoning here is faulty. My questions are as follows:

1. Have I made a logical error, and if so, where?
2. If I have not made a logical error, how would I set about determining whether the necessary truth is "Jesus is God" or "Jesus is not God?"
• 578
You have made a 'logical error'. (Refer to 'fallacy of affirming the consequent').
(Your argument takes the form iF p THEN q....NOT q...therefore NOT p....which is invalid)
• 578
IMO Since 'classical logic' can be problematic in general philosophy, it is likely to be even more so in theology !
• 33

Hey fresco, you are right to point out that @CurlyHairedCobbler presented an argument that seems to take the form:

${P\rightarrow Q, \neg Q}\vdash \neg P$

However, this is different from affirming the consequent, which has the form:

${P\rightarrow Q, Q} \vdash P$

This is a fallacy, since $P$ could be either true or false (given $Q$ is true). The first, however, is a valid inference. The contrapositive $\neg Q\rightarrow \neg P$ is true. In fact, the contrapositive is logically equivalent to the conditional $P\rightarrow Q$.

I hope this helps!

This is interesting. I think (1) and (2) are uncontroversial.

However, there seems to be an issue with the claim "Jesus is necessarily God". This says something different. Namely, the necessity operator, here, applied to an identity. When I say that God exists necessarily, what would follow is that if Jesus is God, then Jesus exists necessarily.

I think it is a further step in reasoning to speak of Jesus being necessarily identical to God. That is, if God is a necessary being, then God exists in every possible world. Should Jesus be God, then Jesus is identical with God in every possible world. So, yes, necessarily Jesus is God. Again, however, I am not sure that this is a controversial claim. It seems controversial, but claims of the sort would apply to any necessarily existing being.

But perhaps I missed something...
• 8.4k
2. If something is not a necessary being, then it is impossible for it to be identical with God.
Who says necessary beings are (a) one and not a many? That God is the only necessary being? Of course this takes you into needing to define your terms. Is there some reason you did not?

And, is nothing a being?
• 18k
Anyone who believes that statements about the identity of Son and Father are simple ought to read up on the Filioque Controversy.
• 18k
And, is nothing a being?

A note from the SEP entry on John Scottus Eriugena. He was an early medieval philosophical theologian and translator of arcane Greek texts. He says of 'the nothingness of God':

Eriugena proceeds to list ‘five ways of interpreting’ (quinque modi interpretationis) the manner in which things may be said to exist or not to exist (Periphyseon, I.443c-446a). According to the first mode, things accessible to the senses and the intellect are said to exist, whereas anything which, ‘through the excellence of its nature’ (per excellentiam suae naturae), transcends our faculties are said not to exist. According to this classification, God, because of his transcendence is said not to exist. He is ‘nothingness through excellence’ (nihil per excellentiam).

The second mode of being and non-being is seen in the ‘orders and differences of created natures’ (I.444a), whereby, if one level of nature is said to exist, those orders above or below it are said not to exist:

For an affirmation concerning the lower (order) is a negation concerning the higher, and so too a negation concerning the lower (order) is an affirmation concerning the higher. (Periphyseon, I.444a)

According to this mode, the affirmation of man is the negation of angel and vice versa (affirmatio enim hominis negatio est angeli, negatio vero hominis affirmatio est angeli, I.444b).

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scottus-eriugena/#3

This insight was practically lost to philosophical theology by late medieval times, although it turns up again in the negative theology of Paul Tillich:

"Existence" refers to what is finite and fallen and cut of from its true being. Within the finite realm issues of conflict between, for example, autonomy (Greek: 'autos' - self, 'nomos' - law) and heteronomy (Greek: 'heteros' - other, 'nomos' - law) abound (there are also conflicts between the formal/emotional and static/dynamic). Resolution of these conflicts lies in the essential realm (the Ground of Meaning/the Ground of Being) which humans are cut off from yet also dependent upon ('In existence man is that finite being who is aware both of his belonging to and separation from the infinite' (Newport p.67f)). Therefore existence is estrangement.

Although this looks like Tillich was an atheist such misunderstanding only arises due to a simplistic understanding of his use of the word "existence". What Tillich is seeking to lead us to is an understanding of the 'God above God'. ...The Ground of Being (God) must be separate from the finite realm (which is a mixture of being and non-being), and that God cannot be a being. God must be beyond the finite realm (therefore, beyond existence and non-existence). Anything brought from essence into existence is always going to be corrupted by ambiguity and...finitude. Thus statements about God must always be analogical (except the statement 'God is the Ground of Being'). Although we may claim to know God (the Infinite) we cannot. The moment God is brought from essence into existence God is corrupted by finitude and our limited understanding. In this realm we can never fully grasp (or speak about) who God really is. The infinite cannot remain infinite in the finite realm. That this rings true can be seen when we realize there are a multitude of different understandings of God within the Christian faith alone. They cannot all be completely true so there must exist a 'pure' understanding of God (essence) that each of these are speaking about (or glimpsing aspects of)...."

"... However in many cases Tillich's theology has been misunderstood and misapplied and this most notably with his statement that God is beyond existence (mistakenly taken to mean that God does not exist). Tillich presents a radically transcendent view of God which he attempts to balance with an immanent understanding of God as the Ground of Being (and the Ground of Meaning)...

https://www.doxa.ws/Being/Ground_Being.html
• 93
If you take as a given that God is a necessary being - I'd guess the 3 major types of monotheism take God as a necessary being and theologians in each area have reasoned about scripture for centuries. Only one type of monotheism thinks Jesus is a son of God... So what's the point of this discussion? I see no "necessity" other than a concocted one.
• 8.4k
God the ineffable. But he's got my Mercedes on order!
• 578
Kornelius

Point taken !
• 13.8k

Re your argument, you're substituting a claim about necessary beings with claims about identification. I'm not sure why you'd not realize that the two are not at all the same thing.

You could say that if Jesus is God then Jesus is a necessary being. But that's not at all the identification claim you're asking about.

What you should be looking at instead is arguments about identity/identification a la rigid designators. Personally I think a lot of rigid designator analysis is a mess, but at least it has to do with what you're asking about. See, for example, section 1.1 here ("Names, Ordinary Descriptions, and Identity Statements"): https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rigid-designators/#NamOrdDesIdeSta
• 8.4k
If... God is a necessary being,
What, then, is the status of "necessary"? Of necessity, of necessitation?
• 33

Hey Tim,

It is absolutely true that there is the possibility for there to exist multiple, distinct necessary beings. However, neither claims (1) or (2) from the OP are affected by this. That is, there could exist more than one necessary being and both (1) and (2) can still be true.

As to the more recent question, i.e., on the status of 'necessity'. A necessary being is a being that exists in every possible world. That is, a world in which such a being did not exist is not logically possible, i.e., it would be inconceivable.

Given that this is the nature of necessity, the person who wishes to argue for the necessary existence of a being has a daunting task ahead of them.

I hope this helped!

You could say that if Jesus is God then Jesus is a necessary being. But that's not at all the identification claim you're asking about.

Interesting. As I read the OP, this was the only controversial claim I came across. Could you re-state what you think the intended claim is? You would be correct, I take it, that the original argument would not establish a deeper, intended proposition.

Given how uncontroversial the claims seem to be, I think you are right to say that the intended claims are different from those mentioned. I just am not sure what they would be.

Thanks!
• 8.4k
A necessary being is a being that exists in every possible world.

The idea is that if a necessary being is necessary, then necessity precedes being. Further, if absent a necessary being, then nothing can be, then there is necessarily nothing if not something; again, the priority of necessity. Perhaps it is not God - whatever that means - that is first cause, first mover. & etc. - that is primary, first, foundational, but necessity. But in that case just what exactly is necessity?

i suspect this is just a rabbit hole in language; still, though, it is necessary to deal with it.

As it sits, the idea of a necessary being is a kind of nonsense. Who will make sense of it?
• 5.1k
Is "Jesus is God" necessarily true, necessarily false, or a contingent proposition?

I think "Jesus is God" is necessarily necessary for the believers of Christianity.
• 18k
As it sits, the idea of a necessary being is a kind of nonsense. Who will make sense of it?

I think I can try and help here, in terms of the 'history of ideas'.
• 13.9k
Re your argument, you're substituting a claim about necessary beings with claims about identification. I'm not sure why you'd not realize that the two are not at all the same thing.

I don't see how this criticism is relevant. If God is a necessary being, then everything about him is necessary. If God is a triune being with Jesus being one part of the Trinity, then God is necessarily a triune being and Jesus is necessarily God. This all just follows from the logic of necessity.

Of course, from the point of view of our limited knowledge, we don't know if God is a necessary being or if Jesus is God, and therefore we cannot say that Jesus is necessarily God; all we can say, to reiterate, is that it logically follows that if God is a necessary being and if Jesus is God, then Jesus is necessarily God.
• 8.4k
is that it logically follows that if God is a necessary being

Hi. If you'd care to weigh in on the function and perhaps ontological status of "necessary" here, I'd read with interest.
• 5.1k
Everyone knows that logically a god is not necessary, and everyone knows that illogically all true believers think a god is necessary in the grand scheme of things.

As far as I am concerned, there is no point in debating this. Nobody will convince anyone else of their point. The debate only leads to strife and bitterness. Frustration. Or worse. (Such as animosity and name-calling.)

I wish instead of trying to come out triumphant in this debate, we'd learn from the bottom of our hearts to accept that others' views on the subject are completely different from ours, and to respect this differentness.

This is my opinion, and of course I offer it as a peace branch to bury the topic and the hatchet with it.
• 13.8k
I don't see how this criticism is relevant. If God is a necessary being, then everything about him is necessary. If God is a triune being with Jesus being one part of the Trinity, then God is necessarily a triune being and Jesus is necessarily God. This all just follows from the logic of necessity.

You'd have to explain how that follows.

If the evening star ("Hesperus") were necessary because, say, strong determinism were true, would that imply that the evening star is necessarily the morning star ("Phosphorus")? It seems like it could have turned out to be the case that Phosphorus was a different necessary star.
• 18k
The idea of 'necessary being' is most clearly laid out in Anselm's ontological argument. It's based on the axiom that 'being' is a good, and that 'non-being' or 'non-existence' is a deficiency. So when 'the fool' claims that 'God does not exist', then he's contradicting himself, because the very idea of 'God' is something which by definition, must be, because to not be, or to not exist, is a deficiency, and God, by definition, is not deficient in any respect, and so, therefore, could not "not be". Put another way, if God is indeed God, then God must be; His being is in that sense 'necessary'.

Anselm's argument is given in Wikipedia as follows:

1. It is a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (that is, the greatest possible being that can be imagined).
2. God exists as an idea in the mind.
3. A being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, other things being equal, greater than a 4. being that exists only as an idea in the mind.
4. Thus, if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imagine something that is greater than God (that is, a greatest possible being that does exist).
5. But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is a contradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagined.)
6. Therefore, God exists.

(However I would add the caveat that the expression that 'God exists' ought to be written as 'God is', because if indeed God is a transcendental reality, then 'existence' is what God is transcendent in respect of. Put another way, anything that exists, can also not exist, because all existing beings are contingent. What necessarily exists, is not contingent, therefore a necessary being is something to which the attribute of 'existence' can't be applied.)
• 13.8k
The idea of 'necessary being' is most clearly laid out in Anselm's ontological argument. It's based on the axiom that 'being' is a good, and that 'non-being' or 'non-existence' is a deficiency. So when 'the fool' claims that 'God does not exist', then he's contradicting himself, because the very idea of 'God' is something which by definition, must be, because to not be, or to not exist, is a deficiency, and God, by definition, is not deficient in any respect, and so, therefore, could not "not be". Put another way, if God is indeed God, then God must be; His being is in that sense 'necessary'.

Aka "pretending that we can define God into existence."
• 8.4k
because the very idea of 'God' is something which by definition,

And just here I think is the substance of Anselm's "proof." Not as to the existence of God in any sense whatsoever, but that God is defined, understood, believed in, in the defined way. R. G. Collingwood calls this an absolute presupposition (Collingwood's An Essay on Metaphysics, pp. 189-190).

That is, (per Collingwood), not that the proof proves, but rather because of the proof, we "are committed to belief in God's existence." Of course this is a metaphysical argument (as defined by Collingwood); as such there is nothing in it that can be specifically derived as to any aspect of the nature of God, other than the quality attributed by Anselm, of there being no greater conceivable being.

It's as if Anselm had written - and had he been alive today might well have written - "That's how we roll, suckahs, deal with it!" Which is the substance of what he did write to a contemporary critic history names as Gaunilo of Marmoutiers.
• 33
The idea is that if a necessary being is necessary, then necessity precedes being. Further, if absent a necessary being, then nothing can be, then there is necessarily nothing if not something; again, the priority of necessity. Perhaps it is not God - whatever that means - that is first cause, first mover. & etc. - that is primary, first, foundational, but necessity. But in that case just what exactly is necessity?

i suspect this is just a rabbit hole in language; still, though, it is necessary to deal with it.

As it sits, the idea of a necessary being is a kind of nonsense. Who will make sense of it?

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the response. I am not quite sure I know exactly what you intend to mean by your first sentence. That is, I am not sure what exactly "necessity precedes being" means, and why this should follow from the mere fact of a being that necessarily exists.

It seems to me that should something exist necessarily, all we are saying is that it is logically inconceivable to imagine a possible world in which such a being does not exist. Maybe we can do better with less technical language: if a being exists necessarily, then what I am saying is that I simply cannot imagine a situation in which such a being cannot exist. If I think I am imagining such a situation, I must be mistaken, since such a situation is simply incoherent.

Mathematics is typically the best way to understand necessity. It is necessary that a Euclidean triangle have interior angles that sum to 180 degrees. That is, I cannot conceive of a triangle (in Euclidean space) with interior angles that sum up to more (or less) than 180 degrees. If I think I am doing so, then I am simply mistaken, or I am not imagining a triangle at all.

I am not convinced that there is anything problematic about speaking of necessity in this simple way, and extending our talk of necessity to the existence of objects. If I imagine a situation where one object has the property $P$, and some object that does not have this property, then there necessarily exist at least two distinct objects.

Now if I want to say that an objects exists necessarily, I am simply saying that this object exists in every possible situation, and that I cannot conceive of a situation in which such an object does not exist.

Now it very well may be that no object satisfies this criterion. But I am not sure that there is anything problematic about it. Maybe you can clarify your position?

Also:

if absent a necessary being, then nothing can be

I must be misunderstanding this statement, because on the face of it, it seems obviously false to me. Surely, it is entirely possible that there exist only contingent objects, and that there is no object (persons/beings, etc. included) that exists necessarily. Thus, if there is no object that exists necessarily, it does not follow that nothing exists.

Your last remarks also give me the impression that we are both using the word 'necessity' in different ways, and that there is no dispute here. This may be why I am not understanding your position. Necessary existence has nothing to do at all with causation. An object can exist necessarily and be entirely causally innocuous. That is, the object need not enter into any causal relations at all.

Some argue that certain abstract objects exist necessarily. Mathematical structures/objects would be a prime example.
• 18k
I am not convinced that there is anything problematic about speaking of necessity in this simple way, and extending our talk of necessity to the existence of objects. If I imagine a situation where one object has the property PP, and some object that does not have this property, then there necessarily exist at least two distinct objects.

Now if I want to say that an objects exists necessarily, I am simply saying that this object exists in every possible situation, and that I cannot conceive of a situation in which such an object does not exist.

One obvious question is whether there are any actual objects to which this this applies. Take your example of the Euclidean triangle - it can be demonstrated by a physical drawing, which is an object, but the principle itself can't be said to be 'an object' in any sense but the metaphorical, can it?

Other logical principles and laws and 'arithmetical primitives' (foundational concepts in arithmetic which cannot be further defined) are likewise not objects in any sense other than the metaphorical. They can be applied to objects, insofar as the attributes of the objects in question can be made to conform to them, which is fundamental to modern scientific method.

Some argue that certain abstract objects exist necessarily. Mathematical structures/objects would be a prime example.

That's the sense in which an a priori truth is a necessary truth, is it not? And that also is assumed by modern scientific method, which seeks mathematical certainty in respect of those matters it investigates.

So the point of all the above is that 'necessity' in this sense, is a logical, not an empirical, matter. Bearing this in mind, caution is required when we talk of 'objects' and 'beings' in this context, as it is not altogether clear that what we are discussing is an objective matter.
• 13.9k
You'd have to explain how that follows.

Ah, so you're asking for an explanation! :wink:

How it follows from what? From your presuppositions, I suppose! :roll:

You would need to know a little bit about the history of Western philosophy to know what the ideas of necessity and necessary being logically entail. Perhaps read some Spinoza or Aquinas.

You probably won't get it, but I'll risk wasting a little time and effort explaining it anyway, especially as this is also for @tim wood. A distinction was drawn between contingent beings and necessary being. A contingent being is one whose being depends on others, that is on contingent circumstance. If your parents had had sex five minutes later than they did, chances are you would not have existed; you are a contingent being. Everything about you, all your attributes are thus contingent.

A necessary being is one whose existence depends upon nothing outside itself. Obviously no physical being could be a necessary being, because a necessary being cannot come into existence, since it necessarily always and forever exists. It follows that whatever qualities such a being possesses are also necessary. So, as I said already, IF God is a necessary being, and IF God is a triune being, and IF Jesus Christ is God as one arm of the trinity, then Jesus is necessarily God.

See above.
• 13.8k
Ah, so you're asking for an explanation! :wink:

Yes. I'm not anti explanations. I'm anti "there's no explanation for x, therefore . . ." arguments sans criteria for explanations. I go into detail about all of that in the posts you're not interested in.

You would need to know a little bit about the history of Western philosophy to know what the ideas of necessity and necessary being logically entail. Perhaps read some Spinoza or Aquinas.

Patronizing mode. Aren't you familiar with my background?

At any rate, so you're not using "necessary" in the general philosophical sense where we it's conceivable to say that the morning star and evening star might be metaphysically necessary?

And in the limited sense in which you're using the term, Jesus was not physical?
• 18k
A necessary being is one whose existence depends upon nothing outside itself. Obviously no physical being could be a necessary being, because a necessary being cannot come into existence, since it necessarily always and forever exists. It follows that whatever qualities such a being possesses are also necessary.

I think that’s a sound paraphrase. Perhaps a question that could be asked is this: is there anything known to science which conforms to this description? I think the answer is ‘no’. But there are indeed necessary truths.
• 13.8k

So would you say that the "necessary connection" component of Hume's analysis of causal relations doesn't make much sense?
• 18k
I'm interested in the sense in which logical necessity can be said to apply to objects. And actually, since writing my response above, I've started to see the sense in which it can be - in the case of physical and chemical necessity, which underwrite the whole concept of scientific law.
• 13.8k

Do you buy that there are different sorts of necessity, such as metaphysical necessity?

This is a Kit Fine paper I've linked to before:
https://as.nyu.edu/content/dam/nyu-as/philosophy/documents/faculty-documents/fine/Fine-Kit-necessity.pdf
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