A BRIEF STUDY OF THE CLASSIC ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE
While classic theistic arguments don’t prove God’s existence, they demonstrate why theism offers believers in God a more rational intellectual foundation for building their theistic world view.
Within the past few years, there has been an explosion of atheists apologetics books, such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, regurgitating old atheistic dogmas. However, despite the success of these anti-theistic publications, believers in God’s existence, should have no intellectual problem defending their theistic world view because a belief in God’s existence is based on many scientific, logical, and rational theistic arguments, which are supported by many theologians, philosophers, scientists, and intellectuals in history. Although no theistic argument has ever proven the existence of God beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt, the arguments presented in this article demonstrate to readers why theism offers deep thinkers a more rational and intellectual foundation for building their theistic world view through the analysis of the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the ontological argument, and the moral argument.
The cosmological argument, developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, offers theistic philosophers effective apologetics because it defends why God is the most rational explanation for the origin of the universe. Although the cosmological argument has many versions, it is the preeminent argument explaining the logical need for the existence of an uncaused first cause for the origin of universe, which has been often used as an argument for the existence of God. The cosmological argument has been referred to as an argument for universal causation, an argument for the first cause, the causal argument, or the argument for the existence of creation. According to Dr. William Lane Craig and other professional theistic philosophers, the best version of this argument is the Kalam cosmological argument, which has its roots in medieval Arabic philosophy and theology. The Kalam argument appears to be very simple, but it is deceptively profound because it answers some atheist questions based on its three basic premises:
Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause. Premise 2: The universe began to exist. Premise 3: Therefore, the universe must have a cause.
This argument indicates the weight of scientific evidence demonstrates that everything which BEGINS to exist must have a cause beyond space, time, energy, and matter; therefore, it is irrational to believe that the universe could have create itself before it came into existence. God, however, never began to exist because God is the creator of time and whatever or whoever caused time to come into existence must be infinite or eternal in existence; therefore, it is not logical to ask the question “who created God?” The atheist question is simply irrational because it falsely assumes that there can be an infinite series of causes and effects before we reach the present moment. The fact is, we can never reach the second point if there is an infinite series of first points. Thus, there is a rational necessity for an uncaused first cause.
The teleological argument offers theistic thinkers rational apologetics because it defends why God is the most logical explanation for the design of the universe. The teleological argument is known as the argument for design and it has many different versions. It points out that a designer must exist since the universe and living things exhibit marks of design in their order, predictability, complexity, uniformity, and pattern. The philosophical typical analogy employed in this view is the Watchmaker argument that was made famous by William Paley. The Watchmaker argument has five basic premises:
Premise 1: Human artifacts are products of intelligent design. Premise 2: The universe resembles human artifacts. Premise 3: Therefore the universe is a product of intelligent design. Premise 4: But the universe is complex and gigantic, in comparison to human artifacts. Premise 5: Therefore, there probably is a powerful and vastly intelligent designer who created the universe.
In the past few years, the teleological argument has gained much support from theistic philosophers, research scientists, and educators supporting the revised theory of intelligence design. Intelligent design theorists argue that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures found in biological systems and that these origins are empirically detectable. Many biological features discredit the standard Darwinian materialistic philosophical explanations because they appear to have hard evidence for complex designed. Since design logically requires an intelligent designer, the appearance of design is cited as convincing evidence for a Supreme Designer. According to some intelligent design theorists, the primary scientific reasons supporting intelligent design theory includes irreducible complexity, specified complexity, and the anthropic principle, which offers more theistic ammunition to teleological arguments.
Although the strength of the ontological argument is not clear to many atheists, rational theists recognize its value because it defends why humanity has a concept of God. The ontological argument is based on human reason and experiences and it has many versions. The ontological argument evolves from the study of being. The early form of this argument originated from St. Anselm in the 11th century A.D. Anselm’s argument for God is based on the idea of necessary existence. He argues that if God is that than which no greater can be conceived, it is better to be necessary than contingent; therefore, God must be necessary. His argument has four basic premises:
Premise 1: God is the entity than which nothing greater can be thought. Premise 2: It is greater to be necessary than not. Premise 3: God must therefore be necessary. Premise 4: Therefore, God exists necessarily.
Many ontological arguments are not used effectively in most theistic circles because the argument appears to ask the question without offering a clear answer as to what God is like, the argument’s subjective appeal is low for atheists, the argument tend to lack hard objective evidence, and the argument makes it difficult to simply defend the idea that God must exist by definition. A person must be really sophisticated in mind in order to understand the profound significance of the ontological argument. Despite its theological complexity and its philosophical intricacy, the ontological argument reveals the question “if people don’t think of things which don’t exist, where did the God concept originate from?” For example, we can think of pink elephants, unicorns, and flying spaghetti monsters, because of the existence of pink, elephants, horses, horns, spaghetti, meatballs, and reptile monsters. However, thinking of new colors that don’t exist in nature requires experiencing a discovery or making an invention of that new color. Therefore, the ontological argument suggests that the God concept was derived from past human experiences when God communicated with humanity in history.
For many theists, the moral argument is the most rational explanation for humankind’s most logical determination of what is right and what is wrong. The moral argument begins with the fact that all people recognize some moral code because some things are right, while other things are wrong. Many times when we argue about what is right or wrong, we sometimes appeal to a higher law that we assume many people are aware of, believe in, and seek to live by. Right and wrong imply a higher standard or law, and law requires a lawmaker. Since the moral law transcends humanity, this universal law requires a universal lawmaker, which appears to be God. One version of the argument runs as follows:
Premise 1: If there are objective moral values then God exists. Premise 2: There are objective moral values. Premise 3: Therefore, God exists.
In support of the moral argument, anthropologists observe that the most remote tribes who have been cut off from the rest of civilization possess a moral code similar to the rest of humanity. While differences exist in every culture, virtues like bravery, love, unselfishness, and loyalty, and vices like greed and cowardice are universal. If man were responsible for that code, it would have evolved differently as many other things that man has invented. Atheism provides no rational answers for the universal code of ethics existing among humanity because it has no basis for morality, no hope, and no meaning for life. While these anthropological observations don’t disprove atheism, it is a philosophy that should be discarded because the logical outworking of an atheistic belief system fails to account for what we instinctively know to be truth. Without God there would be no objective basis for morality, no purpose in life, and no reason for living because our past experiences, our present struggles, and our future dreams would be just a complete meaningless waste of human effort.
For many years, atheists and agnostics attempt to defeats these arguments, but they have been unsuccessful because the arguments are based upon logic, reason, and scientific evidence. The arguments for and against God’s existence have been proposed by scientists, philosophers, theologians, and educators for many generations. The question of God’s existence probably began when the first man or woman ask the metaphysical question “why is there something rather than nothing?” This question began laying the foundation for the cosmological argument for proving causation, the teleological argument for design, the ontological argument for theistic conceptualization, and the moral argument to determine theistic values. We must understand that the existence of God can’t be proven within the limitations of human reason partly because there are no precise definitions for God. Many theistic philosophers characterize God as omniscience, omnipresent, and omnipotent, which are divine attributes that are far beyond their intellectual capabilities. Therefore, although none of these theistic arguments prove the existence of God, they offer critical thinkers four primary theistic arguments that present a more rational foundation for building a theistic world view.
WARNING TO READERS
Remember not to fall into the intellectual trap of trying to prove God’s existence absolutely because it
- Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion; William L. Reese; 1996.
- Philosophy of Religion Readings; John Hick; 1990.
- The Case for a Creator; Lee Strobel; 2004.
- The Reason for God;Timothy Keller; 2008.
- Kalam Cosmological Argument; Dr. William Lane Craig; 1998.