“Why may not the material universe be the necessarily existent Being?…We dare not affirm that we know all the qualities of matter; and, for aught we can determine, it may contain some qualities which, were they known, would make its nonexistence appear as great a contradiction [metaphysical impossibility] as that twice two is five.”
A slightly different approach can be taken regarding the question of the universe existing as a necessary being. We can ask whether physical objects could exist necessarily. About the universe, Reichenbach wrote:
“all its constituents are contingent beings”
A physical universe is made up of physical parts. This seems to be an obvious fact. And if physical objects exist necessarily, then the naturalist may be on to something. But there are some considerations that appear to count against physical objects existing necessarily.
A necessary being cannot be different from the way it is. Suppose we have a universe (Ua) with a particular configuration of fundamental particles. If Ua is necessary, then the arrangement of particles cannot be any other way than the way it now exists. And, as a necessary being, Ua would have to exist in every possible world, including the actual world. But anything that is physical is composed of parts (the fundamental particles) that can be arranged in alternative ways. If so, it seems to follow that Ua could have been arranged physically in some other way. So in some possible world Ua would no longer be Ua, but Ub, i.e., a universe with another configuration. But since a necessary being must exist in all possible worlds, Ua cannot be necessary. It obviously does not exist in certain possible worlds. Ua is thus contingent. This applies equally to any other universe of a particular configuration of particles (Ub, Uc, Ud, etc).
According to philosopher Alexander Pruss,
“There are two kinds of contingency in a being:
1. The being could have failed to exist.
2. The being could have had other intrinsic properties from the one it does.
In classical theism, God does not have either sort of contingency”
It seems clear that physical objects 1) could have failed to exist, and 2) could have had other intrinsic properties from the ones they do have.
Second, one can use logical intuition to see that physical objects cannot be necessary. Philosopher Stephen Parrish writes,
“[P]articles, such as quarks or leptons all have certain sizes, shapes, masses, locations, charges, and so forth”
In order to be a physical object, it would need to have at least some of these properties. It’s hard to imagine a physical object existing in space that had no size, for example. If the object didn’t have any properties, we can deem the object to be non-existent.
As noted above, a necessary being cannot have been different from the way it is. This means that to say a necessary being is different would be to entail a contradiction. If a physical object is to be considered a necessary being, its being different would need to be a contradiction. But, Parrish writes,
“how could this be? If the particle has a certain size, it would have to be logically impossible for it to have had a different size. However, where is the contradiction generated by thinking that P was 1 percent larger or smaller than it was? Or that one of its charges could be 2 percent stronger or weaker than it actually is? Therefore, since any physical characteristic that one might think of comes in some definite size or strength, then to conceive of the size or strength being different than it is does not generate a contradiction. Hence, the properties of the particle cannot be necessary.”
But perhaps the universe is just a brute fact that has no explanation. We’ll examine this next time.
 David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed., Richard H. Popkin (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1980), Part IX, 55; as cited in C. Stephen Layman, Letters to Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006), p.94.
 Bruce Reichenbach, The Cosmological Argument : A Reassessment; (Charles C. Thomas Publications Ltd., 1972); as cited in Richard T. Purtill, Michael H. Macdonald, Peter J. Kreeft, Philosophical Questions: An Introductory Anthology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p.308.
 Stephen Parrish, “Against a Naturalistic Causal Account of Reality: A Response to Graham Oppy,” Philosophia Christi 13.2 (2011): 420.
 Ibid. 421.