Theistic Arguments

When we talk of arguments for the existence of God, what do we mean by God?

We mean a personal being who exists outside of the universe and acts upon it with great power.

 

What do we mean by an argument?

By argument, we mean a show of evidence which supports our hypothesis.

 

Does argument differ from proof?

It depends what is meant by proof. If by proof we mean a mathematical proof such as we might use to show that the sum of all the angles of a triangle will equal 180 degrees, then we deny that such a proof of God’s existence is possible. No truth in science can be proven this way. Nor do we assert that there is the kind of proof that we would use to prove that there is a pot of gold buried in our back yard. In such a case, we would dig up the pot and show anyone who doubted it. In this case, we have proven the existence of the gold. The kind of proof we are seeking is the kind of proof a detective would seek as he tries to determine what happened at a crime scene or an archeologist trying to discern what caused a given formation or marking or the identify of a given artifact. In this context, we mean arguments or proofs which are inductive and which summon evidence pointing to God’s existence, cf Butler. Locke held that the evidence for God was so certain that it amounted to a mathematical certainty. source

 

What is the difference between a priori arguments for God’s existence and a posteriori?

A posteriori arguments start from something that exists in our world and argues that only a deity could account for the existence of this thing, whatever it might be.  A priori arguments argue for the existence of God from the very idea of a deity.

 

The Truth Argument

What is the truth argument for God’s existence?

This argument simply tries to account for the existence of truth and meaning in our world. The argument is this:

All truth must originate in a mind;

There is truth in our world;

Therefore, there exists some mind which created truth and there are persons who can express and apprehend truth.

 

Why is this a problem for the naturalist worldview?

This is a problem because naturalists hold that the universe is a closed system with nothing acting on it from the outside. Hence, there can be no personal being with a mind and intelligence who created persons with similar minds. It then becomes impossible to account for the fact that we believe we have minds, that we communicate truth to each other, and that we expect others to understand, believe, and act on what we say. Hall writes:

Truth has no meaning, except as either proceeding from or apprehended by mind. It cannot be interpreted except in the forms and terms of intelligence. Apart from personality, therefore, truth has no existence. source

 

Explain that truth has no existence apart from a mind.

Suppose that you saw a flower patch growing on a hillside that had the shape of the words “Welcome to Michigan.” What difference would it make to you, if you knew that these flowers had grown this way purely by chance? There was no gardener or landscaper who had arranged and designed the patch to make these words. Would you now see it as true that you were entering the state of Michigan?

Now change the scenario. Suppose there was some gardener who had intentionally planted and arranged these flowers to grow into these words; would this change your view of this flower patch and the words it spelled out? Of course, if you knew they had grown this way by chance, you would never give your assent to what was stated. In fact, you would say that the category “truth” is not something that even applies to a flower patch. The only way there would be any meaning to these flowers and the statement “Welcome to Michigan” is if you knew that someone had intelligently and purposely grown and arranged them in this way.

 

How is this an argument for God’s existence?

Because the naturalist says that the entire universe, parallel in the above illustration to the flower patch, has no intelligent agent behind it. There is no mind which intelligently formed our universe. The obvious conclusion is that if there is no mind, then there is no truth and no meaning whatsoever. No one, however, lives this way. We all live assuming the reality of truth and meaning.

 

The Cosmological Argument

What is the cosmological argument?

This argument is articulated in wide variety of different ways. Perhaps the simplest way is to think about this. If there was ever a time when there was really nothing at all, then there would be nothing now. The Latin expression is ex nihil (from nothing) nihil fit (nothing comes).

 

How does this show us the existence of God?

Because it shows us that something must be eternal.

 

Why must something be eternal?

The assumption here is that there are things now in existence. If this is so, then something must be eternal since if there was ever nothing, then there would be nothing now. Pearson writes:

We find by the experience of ourselves, that some things in this world have a beginning before which they were not; the account of the years of our age sufficiently infer our nativities, and they our conceptions, before which we had no being. Now if there be any thing which had a beginning, there must necessarily be something which had no beginning, because nothing can be a beginning to itself. source

Edwards writes:

What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable: but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves. That whatsoever begins to be, which before was not, must have a cause why it then begins to exist, seems to be the first dictate of the common and natural sense which God hath implanted in the minds of all mankind, and the main foundation of all our reasonings about the existence of things, past, present, or to come.  source

 

How do you know that things exist now?

Because even to doubt our existence, we must first exist; cf Descartes.

 

Put this altogether for me.

Sure, here is Clarke’s statement of the cosmological argument.

First then, it is absolutely and undeniably certain, that Something must have existed from eternity. This is so evident and undeniable a proposition, that no atheist in any age has ever presumed to assert the contrary; and therefore there is little need of being particular in the proof of it. For since something now is, it is evident that something always was; otherwise the things that now are must have been produced out of nothing, absolutely and without cause, which is a plain contradiction in terms. For to say a thing is produced, and yet that there is no cause at all of that production, is to say that something is effected, when it is effected by nothing; that is, at the same time when it is not effected at all. Whatever exists, has a cause, a reason, a ground of its existence; (a foundation, on which its existence relies; a ground or reason why it doth exist rather than not exist;) either in the necessity of its own nature, and then it must have been of itself eternal; or in the will of some other being, and then that other being must, at least in the order of nature and causality, have existed before it. source

William Lane Craig articulates the argument by pointing out that whatever begins to exist must have been caused to exist. Since there is good evidence to show that our universe had a beginning, then it must have been caused to exist by something else. That something else must be something which did not begin; otherwise, this something would also require a cause for its own existence. Eventually, there must be something eternal; i.e. something without a beginning. source

 

What does this argument prove? Is it really a proof of God’s existence?

It is true that this argument does not prove the existence of the God we know and love. It simply proves that something must be eternal. To learn more about this eternal being, we will have to continue farther down the path of natural theology.

 

Is it not possible that the world has just always existed?

This is what every non-theist must believe. The evidence of science, however, makes this an impossible theory.

 

How so?

Because most scientists have abandoned the steady-state theory of the universe in favor of the big bang theory. Furthermore, science teaches us that the world is running down as per the second law of thermodynamics. Now if the world were eternal, it would have long since reached the state of entropy. But the universe has clearly not reached entropy; and therefore, is not eternal.

 

What is the Ontological Argument?

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What is meant by the cosmological argument?

Might not this world or matter be eternal?

What is meant by the teleological argument?

What is meant by the moral argument?