The Inherent Existence of God

I published an article on October 20th indicating that I was finally beginning to understand Nagarjuna, and if my test results from my Buddhism class aren’t completely based on nepotism, I apparently have a firm grasp on the other concepts of this religion as well. Therefore, I feel confident moving forward with this discussion, at least as confident as I’ll ever be, and turn towards why I disagree with Nagarjuna regarding inherent existence.

To recap, Nagarjuna states that nothing inherently exists because such a concept is absurd. To inherently exist means to be eternal, to never change, and Nagarjuna states that something which never changes can never change anything else either. If something inherently existed, it could not move, could not feel, could not be moved, and could not move anything else. It would also have to be unconditional, which is to say that nothing would cause that which inherently exists. Likewise, that which inherently exists cannot cause anything else.

The logical conclusion of this line of argument is that if something does not possess inherent existence–that is to say, it is capable of change–it will die. Likewise, everything that is temporary and going to die is also conditional; everything is caused by something else. Nothing exists on its own.

That which is temporary and conditional is “empty,” Nagarjuna would say. It has no inherent existence; it is conditional on something else, and is itself a condition for other states. It only exists, is only defined, by its conditions. It is empty.

You may have already surmised my response, which is that Nagarjuna’s perception was limited. He observed the world around himself with the same assumptions everyone in Asia made at the time and came to these logical conclusions, but they’re only logical based on that limited perception.

It should be stated here that, within Buddhist theology, there are gods. I had previously always believed it an atheistic religion, or philosophy, but there are certainly gods within Buddhism. And these gods are the same as everything else: susceptible to change, death, and rebirth.

I believe strongly that I serve a God who is both the beginning and the end, however; who has always existed and always will. Despite that, I do not believe that God inherently exists as Nagarjuna would define it.

The Christian God “inherently exists” in that His existence is not conditional. God does not depend on anything else for His existence. However, inherent existence, to my mind, does not preclude the inability to change or to affect change. Nagarjuna took a step from “not caused” to “unable to cause” that I cannot quite comprehend. The only arguments he offers is that if something is not caused, it cannot exist, and therefore cannot cause anything else. But what if something existed without being caused? Could it not then affect change?

Our God exists without being caused, and this fact alone leads to the unraveling of Nagarjuna’s chain of logic. Beyond this, we know that God can change, else He would have wiped out the Israelites during the time of Moses, left them in exile in Babylon, or left humanity dwelling in sin. The story of Jesus is a story of changing times, and it was our God who changed them.

God doesn’t need us for His existence. God just is. But He presses into us as we press into Him, He shapes and teaches us, and we must therefore recognize that God affects change. God claims to be the beginning and the end, and I cannot dispute His claim. I have met God, and know His face. It smiled, and in this, I saw God move.

Hug your bicycle

Last Thursday, our mortgage agent called to say that they had nearly everything ready, but they needed a copy of my current driver’s license; the one they had on file was out of date. Of course, I knew that my license didn’t expire until September of 2008, and I had been putting off renewing it until then (partly because I procrastinate and partly (much later in the process) so it would have our new address on it), and after convincing the nice woman on the other end of the line that this was the case, I pulled my wallet out to look at my license.

Yeah, it expired in September of 2007.

Somewhat embarassed, I told her that I’d get it taken care of tomorrow (last Friday) and fax her a copy, thinking that I could run to the License Bureau during lunch, pay whatever fine was attached to having let my license lapse, and be on my merry way.

“Oh ho!” says the license bureau, “your license is more than six months expired! That means you might have forgotten everything there is to know about driving!”

If your driver’s license is more than six months expired, you have to retake all the tests associated with that license. I can partially understand this, but in the two and a half hours it took to get my license renewed, I couldn’t help but stew in frustration. If I had gone in five months ago, there would have been no test needed. Yet, somehow in that five extra months, it was assumed that I was no longer a competent driver who knew a “Do Not Enter” sign from “Left Yield.”

Both written and driving tests taken and passed, I have a shiny new license… a month before my address changes. Did you know that you have a legal obligation to keep your license up-to-date address-wise? When you move, you’re supposed to purchase new identification. Mine still had my dorm address from 5+ years ago on it.

So, after we move, I’ll go and get a new license with the new address on it. At least this one won’t require a time-wasting test.

Nothing has made me appreciate my bicycle so much. As I biked away from the license bureau, I had such a feeling of freedom. Here was transportation that doesn’t require license or laws (except some minor safety ones), and they can’t tell me whether I can or can’t bike. This is mine, just like the shoes on my feet, no test required.

It’s just so much simpler. Though I have to admit, the entire licensing process was sort of like any physically painful experience: it sucks at the time, but after it’s over, it’s difficult to remember what it was like. The pain is gone, time has passed, and though you know that it was bad, it’s hard to remember exactly what it felt like or how much it hurt.

Regardless, I’ll be certain not to let my license lapse again.