On July 4th, 1776, America declared the 13 colonies independent states and free from the rule of Great Britain. With this declaration came the sound of freedom and liberties that Americans have not only enjoyed but encouraged other nations to embrace for more than 200 years.
But I have to ask (and allowing me some equivocation here), “Are there really any ‘independent’ nations that are entirely free? In fact, do any ‘independent’ entities even exist?” The logical complement to independence is dependence. With this in mind, I’d like to introduce the notion (familiar to most who’ve studied the existence of God arguments) that there are no truly “independent” nations, states, societies, or persons. You see, every existing thing in the universe, if not independent, requires a cause for its existence. It follows, therefore, that every caused thing is dependent upon some prior cause for its existence. So we have to ask:
“What is it about the universe that supports the claim that the it requires a cause?”
Before proceeding, a brief (if not underdeveloped) background on the metaphysical categories of “necessity” and “contingency” would prove helpful to those unfamiliar with philosophical speak (see here for fuller discussions).
Anything that exists “necessarily” does so without any dependency or reliability upon some other entity or being for its existence. That is, a necessary being or entity exists necessarily. Put differently, a necessary being/entity is self-existent and does not derive its existence from nor is caused by some other being/entity. It follows, therefore, that a necessary being does not come to exist in time but has always existed. It has no beginning.
By contrast, contingent beings have their origin in or are caused by some other entity. All non-necessary beings or entities fall into the category of “contingency.” That is, contingent beings exist by virtue of their dependence upon some other being or entity. It follows that contingent beings come to exist, have not always existed, and, therefore, have a beginning in time.
- Some contingent beings exist (e.g., humans, etc.).
- If any contingent beings exist, then a necessary being must exist (since contingent beings require a necessary being for their cause or explanation). While it is conceivable an infinite number of contingent beings explain the existence of other contingent beings, this explanation remains incomplete because it begs the question how contingent beings came to exist.
- The universe is a contingent entity.
- Therefore, there exists a necessary being or entity, which is the ultimate cause of the existence of all contingent beings or entities.
With respect to America’s “independence”, consider:
- Some contingent entities exist (e.g., nations, etc.).
- If any contingent entities exist, then a necessary entity must exist.
- America (and all other nations) is a contingent entity.
- Therefore, there exists a necessary entity, which is the ultimate cause of the existence of America as a nation (and all other nations).
These things said, I declare an official Dependence Day for America, since it is a contingent entity whose existence “depends” entirely upon the One and Only God of the universe. “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:38).