Who came first, God or man?

Who or What is God? According to Descartes, God is that which an infinite, unlimited and absolute perfect being is. Leibniz believed that God is a necessary being which constitutes the sufficient explanation of the totality of contingent things; the universe is this way rather than any other. God according to him is not only necessary but he is also the source and therefore has the explanation of the universe. Aristotle advocated that God himself is beyond space and outside time, God also does not have any physical shape. While many philosophers have theorised the concept of God, these very same concepts can be seen resonating multiple religions. Despite the well established fact that the concept of God itself varies from religion to religion, there are a few key points that fabricate the very meaning of God i.e., it is common to all religions and have been theorised by various philosophers.

It comes as no surprise when we equate ‘perfection’ to God. Descartes propagated that God’s existence is ratified by attributing perfection to him and by speculating that existence is a part of perfection. Aquinas equates God’s perfection to Mozart’s perfect symphonies which are so ‘exalted’.

The other quality bestowed upon God is that of Him being the creator. Aquinas argues that a doctrine of creation out of nothing, which affirms the radical dependence of all being upon God as its cause, is fully compatible with the discovery of causes in nature. God’s omnipotence certainly does not challenge the possibility of real causality for beings, including that particular causality, free will, which is characteristic of human beings. He says, Creatures are what they are as God is the cause for their creation and in the manner in which they exist. God for whatever reason has been used as a tool to maintain discipline, more so, instil fear.

While the fear factor could in some cases be futile, for most, it has enabled discipline in society. A certain sense of reverence to God or the belief that God is always watching one’s actions and thus one should be weary to free oneself from punishment has ensured a smooth functioning of society, moreover has in  most cases instilled a sense of tranquillity in man due to a disciplined and regulated life-style.

What is or rather who is Man? According to some, man is the imperfect being. To quote Thomas Aquinas, he said the human is a paradox. Why? Because he is a rational being, able to interpret, discern order, derive meaning and act decisively. Our intellects upstage their material confines with a unique freedom and imagination. Yet, we are subject to many errors, our limitations as human beings will always be prevalent. There are numerous imperfections that we are subject to, we are ignorant, not perfect in knowledge nor from mistake. We are neither infallible nor omniscient .We are bound with infirmities like weakness of understanding or heaviness of imagination. Such in another kind, are impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation; to which one might add a thousand nameless defects. From infirmities like these no one is perfectly freed till their spirits return to God.

Despite our challenges and man’s varied belief in God whether theistic, agnostic or atheistic, we are compelled to question who came first. God is understood to be a constructed entity and some believe him to be ever-present and an eternal being. According to me, God is an eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent and all powerful being who is responsible for the construction of this universe. I second Descartes who states that, God is supremely perfect, and because existence is a perfection, God must exist.

God is “independent, all-knowing, all-powerful” and that is the most perfect thing that can be imagined. He also states that, because existence contains more reality than non-existence, and God is supremely perfect, God must exist. Therefore, the non existence of God would not be considered as perfection in God. Descartes then asserts that it belongs to the nature of God that He exists. To exemplify this assertion, Descartes compares the nature of God to that of a triangle, he says, that the existence of God cannot be separated from His essence any more than having its angles equal 180 degrees can be separated from the essence of a triangle.

Descartes also states that humans do not have the capacity to imagine something that is more perfect than them, therefore, to imagine or think God is a proof of his existence

He also states, “I am not free to think of God without existence (a supreme being without a supreme perfection)” .This statement asserts Descartes’ general principle, which states that if one “cannot clearly and distinctly perceive a thing X without a property P, then P is inseparable from X” .Thus, Descartes asserts that existence is part of the essence of God. As Descartes declares God to be a supremely perfect being, his argument can be stated as such:

1 God is a being that has all perfections.

2 Existence is a perfection.

Further explaining the argument mentioned in the previous paragraph which talks about a human being’s incapability to conceive of something more perfect than him.

Descartes defines the more perfect as “that which contains in itself more reality”, so that there are gradations of perfection beginning with the subjective phantasms, just like a chimera and culminating with the most perfect being in God Himself. Thus, because our idea of God is one of absolute perfection, and existence contains more reality than nonexistent thoughts alone, God exists. Descartes’ argument can be represented logically as:

(1) In our thoughts we experience an idea of the most perfect being.

(2) Existence in reality is more perfect than existence in our thoughts alone.

Therefore, (3) the most perfect being exists in reality.

 

To some extent the thought of some all knowing, omniscient Being makes us feel comfortable in a life oozing with tribulations, big and small. We believe that this Supreme Being is aware of our desires, wishes and wants in life. We feel that as God is omniscient, he will hear our prayers and fulfill our wants. It is in times of trouble and despair that the thought of a Divine Being brings to us certain reassurance.  We repose hope in this Supreme Being. Moreover, we also tend to visualize God as a ‘just’ being.

The more we deny our most fundamental desire for goodness that Aquinas calls God, the more insatiable our appetites become. When we fail to realise that our deepest desire is for something that this world cannot offer and that our thirst for knowledge can never be satisfied by science alone, we risk becoming endlessly frustrated and restless in our propagating desires to possess and control everything around us.

Quoting the Rolling Stones: “I can’t get no satisfaction, ’cause I try and I try and I try and I try.” Aquinas says that our desire takes us towards a source of joy beyond the purview of this mortal life, and only in accepting that are we free to know and enjoy the things of creation in a balanced and harmonious way as designed by God.

– Amreen Taneja

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One response to “Who came first, God or man?

  1. ‘The other quality bestowed upon God is that of Him being the creator. ‘ How can a mortal bestow a quality on God when God has been suggested elsewhere in the article as the ‘ perfect being’. This is like the winner of the Gold in the junior athletic meet bestowing the gold medal on the Olympic champion. The example of the triangle and the 180 degree is nice. Ramakrishna Paramahmsa has given the example of Milk and its whiteness being inseparable. I would think Man came first, because he invented the idea of God. Without him there is no God, it just ‘is’. Space exists only in the context of time. Without time space folds itself to a point within which every event happens simultaneously. That I think is creation and that point is ‘God’ or Godliness. So my belief is God exists when time ceases to be. In every other context, God remains just a concept with no one being able to have any real experience of ‘God’.
    Overall, I felt the article makes some good points.

    Like

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