That Which is Possible is Necessary

Initially published here.

Written by
Jedidiah Paschall
Jul 19, 2020
Jedidiah Paschall

n this brief essay I mean to explore the idea that asserts that which is possible is necessary, while these are stated in a somewhat philosophical nature, I am more interested in these in their implications for human creativity which allows us to embark on the exploration of possibility and therein discover the Good, Beautiful, and True in ways that are fresh and inexhaustible in our everlasting outstretching (epektasis) into the Divine Life in which we participate. The Apostle proclaimed in Athens that “in him we live and move and are” (Acts 17:28). By this I take him to mean that all things exist in and from God. We exist in him because God is immanent in all things, the uttermost principle of our existence as the One who graciously donates being to all beings. We exist from God because he is transcendent, which I understand to mean that being and beings do not exist in themselves, but find their origin extra nos from the Being who is properly beyond-Being who exists not only immanently within all being, but beyond all being as its transcendent source.

So, when I think of the One who is both simple in pure Act and the abundant overflow that is productive of all things, I am left to wonder about the relationship of ‘all things’ within the realm of necessity and possibility, which I will return to shortly. At the offset, I mean to affirm that in se being has no existence, it is contingent upon the One who creates – hence we affirm that we are from God as the transcendent source of all things. Yet, in God who is the Creator of all things, who though beyond-Being cradles the plenitude of being in which all beings participate and exist necessarily in him, all in order for the manifold perfections of the One to be manifest among all things that exist. There is a stark intransitive principle at play here. Though all things exist necessarily in God, these donate no necessity to him – there is no co-dependency between God and creation. God remains totally transcendent of all being, yet all being necessarily exists within him. Alongside this, I follow the venerable Neoplatonic and Christian tradition that asserts that being is that which is rationally conceivable – meaning being and beings are real objects of thought, in contradistinction to those who posit ‘possible worlds’ that may or may not have any real ontological status.

These things said, returning to the beings in particular and their relationship between necessity and possibility, intuition leads me to wonder if that which is possible, namely that which possesses the potential to reflect the perfections of its Maker must, at some point in this world or any other rationally conceivable world, exist. I say this because Divine Simplicity demands that there is no passive potency in God – in him, there is no unrealized potential as he is Pure Act. He is, after all, properly Creator which is why we Name him as such and all things can neither add to or subtract from him, so we could say analogically that all things have always existed in the mind of God even if we say so over an apophatic gulf. Additionally, if this cosmos does not foreclose upon all things and all things exist in God with Him as the principle of their existence – both as a unified whole and each particular thing – to reflect the infinite Beauty of the Creator, then if it is possible for a thing, a world, or some other cosmic order outside this one to exist, each and all must exist because all things exist in God. Though the principle of this existence is atemporal in the One who is eternal, that which exists is actualized temporally in sundry times and spaces where ontology is manifest in the realm of creaturely apprehension. There is probably not much to say about precisely how things eternally exist in God since this lies beyond the rational capacity of temporal creatures, but that they do seem rather clear from reason and revelation. Moreover, if God is properly God and there is the potential for an infinite sequence of rationally conceivable things to exist, then these objects of rational thought, inasmuch as they are rationally apprehensible, must come into existence and participate in the One who is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

What is most interesting in this to me, I can only assert as a creative thinker and not a proper philosopher, is what this means in light of recent developments in cosmology. Though not without controversy, physicist Max Tegmark, has come up with a multiverse model that at its most simple level states that any mathematically conceivable universe that can be said to exist, exists (or will). Now obviously there is a disjunction between what physicists conceive as infinite and Divine infinitude, since there is some form of infinite sequence involved in these possible worlds so that they can be numbered on into infinity, yet God’s infinity has no sequence because it is properly nowhere at all while simultaneously permeating all things. So, even in an ‘infinite’ assembly of worlds, God exists infinitely beyond these. Yet, if Tegmark is right, then this is one of the most important scientific discoveries ever because of its metaphysical implications for the nature of creation itself – namely that the distinction between possible and actual on the created plane is one of logic and temporality but not one of meaningful difference as it merely describes that which comes into being as a result of the infinite and eternal creative Act of God in whom all real possibilities exist in him merely as ontological realities that await actualization in this world or in an infinite plenitude of worlds outside of this one.

The implications of all things existing in God needn’t end in modal collapse where all things and God exist in mutual necessity precisely because God exists beyond-Being, at once manifesting himself to intellection yet utterly surpassing it. No minded thing is able to span the infinite abyss that marks the disjunction between that which participates in Being and that which subsists beyond-Being. Inasmuch, however, as God manifests himself in Being by making himself reasonably knowable or as One who can, however apophatically be conceived and spoken of, those beings possessed of rational capacity, while unable to rationally comprehend the incomprehensible God, are able according to their natures to rationally apprehend him as they participate in his Being. So, while our native powers run up against the limit of freedom and necessity in the realm of creation, God simply exceeds these in what he is as God. As as the infinite Overflow of all things where God permeates and exceeds all things, the collapse of the modalities of necessity and freedom is impossible because all things exist by necessity in and of him, yet he does not exist by necessity with respect to anything that exists because these add nothing in their actuality to the One who is already eternally and infinitely prior to all things.  God creates freely, if I might say knowing this is controversial, not because he could have done otherwise, because in God there is neither could nor otherwise; rather he creates freely because there is no constraint upon his infinite overflow in which he, as Pure Act, is reflected in a ceaseless plentitude of creation that is an ever blossoming reflection of his infinite and eternal perfection.

Initially Published on St Judes Tavern

I live in Southern California and am the father of three incredible kids. I come from a Reformed background but my own Christian convictions have developed in a far more eclectic direction. I am an author, and I work as a consultant in a few business sectors (primarily related to green technology) and I am also a freelance copywriter.