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The Temporal Argument Against Deistic And Theistic God(s)

Throughout the ages, a number of arguments have been advanced to attempt to falsify the existence of deities of one kind or another. The evidential problem of evil is used to give reason why an all good, all loving, all knowing and all powerful god is unreasonable to believe in. The argument from divine hiddenness is used as a defeater for a god that desires to be known and loved by man but is actively hiding his presence from us. Omni-property paradoxes offers a challenge that things like omnipotence entails a contradiction. Each of these arguments, while potent and useful to falsify classical theistic god, fail to attack a more broad sort of god offered by non-theistic accounts like a deistic god or a god that is not all good. My goal in this paper is to offer an argument that falsifies a broader sense of a god where god is a mind that is somehow the “ultimate” of reality as a whole by deriving a contradiction between the concept of being a mind and being ultimate.

The most fundamental agreement about what god is or how god is defined under both theistic and deistic terms can be summarized with two features:

1) God is a mind

2) God is ultimate

When it is said that god is a mind what is usually meant is that god has things like intentions, desires, subjective experience, something that it is like to be god. Absent these features God would fail to meet the criteria both of being a mind and subsequently he would fail to be a person at all. It is not my intent to object to a god without personhood like the god offered by Spinoza so any position that says god is not a mind or does not have personhood would not be the target of this discussion.

What is meant by “god is ultimate” is often more ambiguous but how I am using the term here is that god ontologically precedes all the remaining features of reality that are not themselves god. God comes first, before any and all features, aspects, contents, descriptions, normativity, etc of the remainder of reality as a whole. This entails there are no dependence relations from god to any other thing in existence. Y is said to depend on X if X ontologically precedes Y and the falsity of X entails the falsity of Y. God being ultimate is a being such that no feature stands in this outlined dependence relation such that god is a Y to any given X. He is the final point, the last link in every chain, the foundation that all things stand upon and that - itself - need stand on anything else, and nothing stands apart from.

So what then is the issue with the conjunction of these two features? Fundamentally it is my contention that a mind requires experience, experience requires a sequence of mental states, a sequence of mental states requires time to exist. That is to say that time is a feature on which all minds will depend in order to qualify as a person. If it is the case that personhood depends on time then it’s not the case that a mind (in the person sense) can be both ultimate and dependent. Dependent things cannot be ultimate in the ontological sense and this entails a contradiction between being a mind (a person) and being ultimate. God being ultimate would mean he is not dependent on any other thing but god being a mind entails being dependent on time.

The formalization of the argument is as follows:

P1: God is a mind that is ultimate.

P2: If God is a mind that is ultimate, then God is a mind that ontologically precedes the remainder of existent things.

C1: Therefore, God is a mind that ontologically precedes the remainder of existent things.

P3: If God is a mind, then God has experience.

P4: God is a mind

C2: Therefore, God has experience.

P5: If God has experience, then God has a sequential relation of mental states.

C3: Therefore, God has a sequential relation of mental states.

P6: If God has a sequential relation of mental states, then time is required to ontologically precede God.

C4: Therefore, time is required to ontologically precede God.

P7: Time is an aspect of reality.

P8: If time is an aspect of reality and time is required to ontologically precede God, then God cannot ontologically precede all remaining aspects of reality.

C5: Therefore, God cannot ontologically precede all remaining aspects of reality.

P9: If God cannot ontologically precede all remaining aspects of reality, then God does not exist.

C6: Therefore, God does not exist.

If god is ultimate he cannot have any dependence relation to any other aspect of reality. Minds as a person require a dependence on time in order to have a sequence of mental states so that the person can have experience. From this we can know that god cannot exist.

Objection one:

The first objection, I predict, will come from the classical theist camp. The contention is that God is a single eternal thought not a sequence of distinct thoughts like our mind. A mind and a person are analogues to what god is like but god isn’t the sort of mind or person we are. This is, in my opinion, the strongest objection that can be offered.

Response one:

The folly is two fold. First, this will inevitably lead to an equivocation between what a mind is in the sense god is and what a mind is in the sense we are. God will be a Smind and a smerson rather than a mind and a person. Second, singular mental states will fail to have distinctions necessary for even an analogue to a person. Persons have things like desires and intentions, a likeness to be that being. To have intentions and desires an agent will need to perceive the way things are (one mental state) and the way the agent desires things to be (a second mental state). Time conjoins these mental states to make them a mind. To be clear, I am not committed to bundle theory (that a mind is merely a bundle of mental states). Minds have mental states, each mental state is not itself a mind, and a person has mental states but a mental state is not alone a person. An analogy I would use would be music. Music has notes and each note has sound but for it to be a song it requires more than a single note and more than just a sound. A song is the relationship between those notes. I am refuting that god is a song, not that god is a note. The song is the mind, the person, a note is just a state. Without any relationship there isn’t personhood but something like smersonhood. Without identifying the common feature between a person and a smerson it’s not even warranted to identify god as a mind or a person even in an analogical sense.

Objection 2:

The classical theist may also contend that they operate on a different definition of a person altogether. Note that the definition I have offered is minimalistic and certainly not exhaustive of what a person is but then the onus is on the theist to demonstrate god is in fact a person with a mind without equivocating on the terms. Alternatively the theist could claim that a mind and person are analogues to what god is. Their responsibility would be to provide what that common feature is that allows for an analogy here. I am healthily doubtful any such feature can or will be offered but some I have encountered are knowledge. If knowledge is justified true believe we yet again have multiple mental states (a justification is a set of beliefs distinct from the belief being justified all of which the believer must ascent to). This is likely better handled in a dialectic form.

Objection 3:

The third objection that could be levied is that god’s mind is a plurality of mental states but rather than having temporal ordering god’s mind has only logical ordering. The analogy that might be used is something akin to how numerical ordering doesn’t require time. One comes before two and two comes before three but no temporal ordering would be necessary for this.

Response 3:

While this is an interesting objection it again sacrifices god being a person. God becomes a platonic object. Without some distinction or distinguishing factor between platonic objects with logical ordering and god’s platonic type logical ordering it still wouldn’t be meaningful for god to be a mind or a person. He would be like numbers and who would believe numbers are minds or persons? Without some metaphysical distinction if we believed god is such a platonic object and has experience then why not think the same of other platonic objects?


The temporal argument against god would fail to falsify a non-mental god such as those offered by some pantheists like Spinoza. I fully concede this point as it is not the goal of this paper to propose challenges to non-personhood sort of gods. It would also fail against a god that occupies his own space and time outside of our part of reality. This would however fail to make god an ultimate in the sense being used and so would not fall under the definition of god as outlined here. This would be more of a super intelligent alien god building a simulation that we live in but who occupies its own reality. Another limit would be a god who is a first mover with a single beginning thought that started the universe and the remainder of his or her existence is temporal. Many non-classical theists have advanced this position largely for similar reasons to my own. It is now considered the dominant view among philosophers that god is temporal. See here for elaborations on why (


While it’s clear that there are at least some deistic and theistic accounts that could survive this attack it’s not the case that classical theism is well equipped for this sort of an argument hence the predominant shift away from classical theism in the philosophical community. Most deistic accounts - if the deistic god is atemporal - would also be falsified by this argument. The non-classical theist has the strongest possibility of managing to counter this argument but would fail against other troubles from other arguments (the problem of evil, divine hiddenness, omnipotence paradoxes, etc). This leaves one sort of deity that remains a potential. A deistic god that his/her first thought created time and the universe and the remainder of their existence is temporal.

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