THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: CLASSICAL PROOFS AND THEN SOME

Posted on February 12, 2016 (originally written on November 20, 2012)

  
Hundreds of years ago the existence of God was simply assumed by the vast majority of people, and although this may or may not have been appropriate, it is nevertheless no longer the case. Today millions upon millions of people are abandoning the idea of any sort of God, and most specifically the God of the Bible. This is in large part due to the fact that many people believe that science has somehow disproven the existence of God, even though in reality that is an absolutely ridiculous assumption, for science cannot disprove something that is not disprovable, such as the existence of God. This is because science by definition deals with the natural world and God is part of the supernatural world. Now of course this is not to say that science therefore has nothing to contribute to arguments in favor of God’s existence. Rather it simply means that as a negative test for God’s existence science is impotent, since at best science attempting to prove the non-existence of God would amount to the informal logical fallacy known as appealing to ignorance. Just because someone doesn’t see carbon monoxide doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and just like the existence of God one would do well to be certain with regard to such an issue, for his/her life depends on it. In this paper there will be an attempt to prove the existence of God using a variety of classical arguments. Although many different people have utilized and nuanced these arguments over the centuries, this paper will be using, for the most part, the arguments from more modern theologians and philosophers, primarily due to the fact that the various classical arguments have been substantially strengthened in their credibility over the years and so the more modern versions of these arguments tend to be far more persuasive than the typical arguments used when they were first presented many centuries ago. This paper will also utilize some argumentation that supplements the classical arguments but that is not actually formal argumentation itself, or in other words some of the arguments in this paper will be non-syllogistic argumentation. This paper will begin with a quick look at the teleological argument and why it is insufficient to prove monotheism. Then there will be a brief discussion of the cosmological argument, followed by a discussion of some material that is supplemental to the cosmological argument.  After that there will be a discussion of the ontological and the moral arguments, followed by some concluding remarks.
The Teleological Argument
            “Forms of the teleological argument can be found in Socrates, Plato, and Philo. But it came to fruition later in the middle ages and modern world.”[1]The teleological argument is the argument; or rather the type of thinking that has led to the recent scientific movement known as Intelligent Design, which links patterns in nature with patterns in things that are known to be designed, such as Mt. Rushmore. However, the teleological argument, as shown by Dr. Winfried Corduan in his book No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity, falls short of being a legitimate proof for monotheism. Dr. Corduan points to David Hume’s critique of William Paley’s version of the teleological argument, including problems such as that Paley’s argument leaves open the possibility of multiple gods rather than just one, or a god who is not necessarily all good, and so on.[2]  Paley’s argument basically states that just like a watch needs a watchmaker, so too the universe, which exhibits exquisite levels of design as does a fancy watch, needs a designer of some sort. Now, Paley’s argument here is the typical sort of teleological argument used, although there are many various forms of it these days. The general thrust of the argument though remains to be that since the universe and its contents appear to be designed there must therefore be something or someone that designed it. Obviously this argument is far too generic to prove the existence of the God of the Bible, or even monotheism in general, but if it is used along with other arguments, such as the ones below, it can add strength to one’s overall platform of arguments in favor of the existence of God.
The Cosmological Argument and Some Supplemental Information
            The cosmological argument can be found in various forms in a wide range of people’s writings going back all the way to Aristotle, one of Plato’s students.[3] There are many different forms of this type of argument. Primarily cosmological arguments argue from causality, or put differently they argue that since something exists, something must exist other than it that created/caused it, namely a necessary being, since everything in this universe is contingent. One of the most basic forms of the cosmological argument is the kalam cosmological argument, which was developed by Muslim theologian al-Ghazali (1058-1111),[4] and later nuanced by the modern theologian and philosopher William Lane Craig. 
            In William Lane Craig’s book On Guard, Craig discusses the kalam cosmological argument. In and of itself it does not prove much other than that the universe has a cause, which is really all that any basic cosmological argument is apt to accomplish anyway. The kalam cosmological argument is stated as follows in On Guard:
Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Premise one is essentially undeniable due to two basic facts. First, nothing can come from nothing, and second, nothing can create itself. With these two truths in mind, the only other option is that if something begins to exist then it must have a cause, which is essentially what premise one says. Premise two can be shown to be true by recalling certain scientific information, such as the second law of thermodynamics, which basically states that everything in the universe is moving from order to disorder, and that the universe is constantly and continually physically deteriorating rather than regenerating or getting better. Also, evidence such as the cosmic background radiation of the universe, which supposedly points to evidence for the big bang, and the red shift effect of the universe which shows that the universe seems to be expanding are often used to support premise two, but since there is good reason to doubt the reality of the big bang, and since there is a possibility that the universe is no longer expanding,[5] it seems best to stick with the second law of thermodynamics as proof for the truth of premise two. This is proof because if everything is constantly becoming more chaotic that means that at some point there will be a point of maximum chaos, and since everything continually deteriorates, and since everything is not yet completely deteriorated, it seems most feasible to posit a beginning to the universe at some point in the past when everything began to decay, because if the universe was eternal then it would have already reached the point of total decay according to the second law of thermodynamics, and then nothing and no one would be alive and able to survive. Therefore, since there are still people alive and surviving and things still with a certain amount of order, the universe must have had a beginning.
            So, since premises one and two are both true, it logically follows that premise three is true, and so the universe must have had a cause. Now, as was said earlier, this only proves a general cause for the universe. However, one must consider the philosophical truth that a creation can only exhibit characteristics that its creator possesses, or put a different way, a cause can only provide attributes to its effect that it itself possesses. Dr. Winfried Corduan puts it this way: “a cause cannot convey a property it does not possess; for example, an ice cube cannot start a forest fire.”[6] Therefore, it is pertinent to examine the universe to determine just what sort of characteristics the Creator/Cause of this universe would possess, and after that a better picture of just what this Creator/Cause is like can be established.
            Some of the things that are present in this universe, or more specifically in the creatures in this universe, namely the main creatures, that is, humans, include love, power, goodness, and knowledge. This means that the Creator of this universe and the creatures in it would have to possess these qualities. But it is more complicated than that, for unless this Creator is uncaused and necessary it must also have a cause, and so it must be asserted that this Creator is selfexistent, as in completely and fundamentally necessary. This must be the case unless one is going to posit that this Creator began to exist, and since there is no good reason to think that this Creator began to exist, then this Creator must necessarily be a self-existent, uncaused, necessary being. Some people like to argue for an infinite number of creator gods, but this is impossible since an infinite regress is logically absurd and irrational.[7] Therefore, there must be a starting Creator, and since there is no good reason to believe that there is more than one Creator, or rather since there is no evidence that more than one Creator exists, it is best to postulate that only one uncaused, necessary, self-existent Creator exists, and that it is this Creator who Created everything else besides Itself. Also, this being, since it is self-existent and uncaused, it also not contingent, but necessary, as stated above. This means that this Creator cannot be bound by anything, since it is not contingent and therefore not dependent on anything outside of itself, thereby making the Creator infinite, and since the Creator interacts with the world (i.e. by creating it at least) this makes the Creator a personal Creator also. 
So, the cause of the universe is a necessary, uncaused, self-existent being who is infinite and personal. Also, since this Creator is infinite and since it has been shown that it must possess certain qualities since Its creation possess those qualities, this Creator must also be all-loving, all-powerful, all-benevolent, and all-knowing, not to mention all-present since all of Its creatures are always present somewhere at any point in time. These qualities must be unlimited since the Creator is infinite and therefore unlimited, as stated above.
            Now, one could ask why this Creator possesses goodness rather than badness, or why not both? Well, as for possessing both, that would be a contradiction since this is an infinite being, because if something is all-good then it necessarily has no room for any bad in it; but why good and not bad? This is because good is the standard and bad is simply a deviation from that standard,[8] and so that which is the standard would be that which the Creator possesses, since to possess the deviation from Its own standard would be absurd, and there is nowhere else the standard could come from but the Creator. This is because all things besides the Creator are contingent in this universe, due to the second law of thermodynamics and the simple fact that things in this world deteriorate constantly, getting closer and closer to destruction. Everything in this world also depends on something else for its survival, which also makes everything besides the Creator contingent. So, if there is only one thing that the essence and standard of goodness can come from, namely a non-contingent, necessary being, which would be the Creator, then the Creator must possess such a quality, and the deviation of that quality and standard, namely badness, would necessarily be opposed to the Creator. Goodness must also stem from the Creator because the Creator is transcendent, namely the Creator is above and beyond this world, which is made clear by the fact that It is the Creator of this world, for to create the world It must necessarily transcend the world, otherwise It would be a part of the world, and it has already been established that nothing can create itself, and that includes any part of itself.
            In short, a Creator who possesses all of these qualities would seem to be none other than the God of the Bible. One might of course argue that this God could be the God of Islam, but truth be told Islam teaches that Allah (the Muslim God) can contradict himself and his typical attributes and qualities if he so chooses, for Allah is said to be completely powerful and able to literally do whatever he so chooses to do, and that he is not even bound by himself and his own attributes; and so this is certainly not the same type of God that is being discussed here, for the Creator being discussed in this paper is an infinite and necessary being with specific qualities and characteristics, and it is impossible for a being with infinite characteristics to ever do anything contrary to those characteristics, because this Creator is infinitely all of the things that It is and therefore It cannot possibly be otherwise, for the very fact that It is infinitely something, anything, leaves no room for It to be the opposite. Now, someone might argue that this being still should not be called “God,” but as Dr. Corduan points out, since all indications lead to the idea that this Creator is in fact God, namely the God of the Bible, there seems to be no good reason not to call It such,[9] and so from this point forward this Creator will be referred to as God, as in the God of the Bible.
The Ontological Argument
            The ontological argument was established originally by Anselm and has been debated widely over the centuries ever since. Due to the fact that this paper has already proved the existence of God above, and since this argument is so heavily controversial, the discussion regarding this argument will be brief.
            The ontological argument is an argument from “being.” Essentially the argument says that since God is the greatest conceivable being, He must necessarily exist. Now other people would no doubt present this argument differently than what was just stated above, but this is basically what the argument says. Some people try and argue that Anselm was saying that if a greatest conceivable being existed then it would exist necessarily, and then they argue that Anselm made the illogical leap from that hypothetical statement to the statement that “therefore the greatest possible being, namely God, exists.” In other words, many people accuse Anselm of arguing from “if” to “therefore” without proving the “if” first. However, according to Dr. R.C. Sproul this is not what Anselm was arguing. Anselm was basically saying that God is the greatest conceivable being, and since one cannot even consider or think of being without also considering the concept of existence going with it, since a being that does not exist is a nonbeing, and a being that is a non-being is absurd and a logical contradiction, therefore God must exist.[10] Also, Anselm was arguing that the greatest conceivable being could not simply be a possible being, since a possible being could be a non-being if it did not exist, and the greatest conceivable being necessarily possesses the reality of being, as stated above.[11] 
            Although many people do not like the ontological argument, especially as presented by
Anselm, when considered in this light it at least seems to be a valid proof for the existence of God. This argument also seems to get closer to the idea of the existence of the God of the Bible, rather than the generic Cause that the kalam cosmological argument proves. Ultimately though it does seem as if Anselm’s argument commits the fallacy of asserting the “therefore” without proving the “if,” and Dr. Sproul has simply made this fallacy sound much more elegant than it is generally presented to be. Also, whether or not it is rational to argue that something can possess something such as “being” or “existence” is also hotly debated, and these things do not seem to be comparable to other things that are said to be possessed, such as attributes and characteristics like goodness, power, and so on, for if anything “being” and “existence” could be possibly said to be static attributes; attributes that do not cause, require, or entail action in and of itself, but since no other attributes or characteristics seem to fit into this static category it does not seem fair to create a category just for these two so as to be able to call them attributes or characteristics, since they are necessarily different from all other attributes and characteristics; at least in this way, namely that they do not require, cause, or entail any sort of action. And so it would seem as though Anselm’s ontological argument fails to prove anything at all necessarily and at best needs to be clarified and qualified in much greater detail if it is to be useful. However, whether one thinks that the ontological argument is a valid proof or not will no doubt influence whether or not it is used in his/her apologetic. 
The Moral Argument
            The moral argument has already been alluded to somewhat above in the section regarding the cosmological argument and the attributes of the Creator, so this section will be fairly brief as well. Ultimately the moral argument says that due to the fact that there seems to be a universal knowledge of various things as being either right or wrong, regardless of where one lives in the world, there must be some sort of universal moral law giver. This is because if the moral status of something, say rape, is universally accepted as being wrong, then something beyond humanity must be the source of such moral judgments.
            Someone might say that humans themselves could each form their own moral judgments and just happen to come to the same conclusions, but again it certainly seems that certain things seem wrong to everyone, even from a very young age, such as being punched or kicked, and knowing that these types of things are wrong does not seem to be a judgment, but rather it simply seems to be something that is known inherently by all humans everywhere. Everyone feels wronged in one way or another when they are physically assaulted. This is why it seems as though morality is best explained by positing a moral law giver, since knowledge about morality, at least to some extent, seems inherent in everyone, and so something as universal as that must come from whatever created humans. Therefore, there must be a God who is responsible for being the grounding of such morality.
            There are various arguments against this line of thinking, but there is neither time nor space to go into those arguments here, and it is certain that all attempts to come up with a way to posit morality without also positing a God who is the ground of that morality have failed miserably thus far, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future. So, it seems best to simply posit that a moral God exists that created humans and provided them all with certain inherent moral knowledge.  The argument could be put like this:
If objective moral values exist, then a personal God exists.
Objective moral values do exist.
Therefore a personal God exists.
Clearly the second premise is true, for as was just seen above virtually all people understand certain things to be wrong. Also, for the reasons discussed above premise one must also be true, for morality must come from something that transcends humanity, since objective morality necessarily transcends humanity, and so there must be a transcendent being that is responsible for such objective morality. Therefore, premise three follows and is also true, thereby proving that a moral God exists.
Conclusion
            In conclusion, it has been shown that the teleological argument by itself does not prove monotheism, and that the ontological argument fails to prove anything in its basic form presented by Anselm. However, it has also been shown that the cosmological argument and the moral argument show that God does in fact exist, and when one combines these arguments with the teleological argument and all of the additional information that was discussed above in this paper, one comes to the realization that something very similar to the God of the Bible does in fact exist. Now of course neither these arguments nor any other arguments in and of themselves will convince someone to become a Christian, for that takes the work of the Holy Spirit through the act of regeneration; but as far as the existence of God goes, it has been seen in this paper that it can in fact be proven that God exists. Everyone would do well to do their absolute best not to take this information lightly, for one’s eternity depends on how he/she responds to such information, and more importantly the information found in the Scriptures.
 
  

Just because someone doesn’t see carbon monoxide doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and just like the existence of God one would do well to be certain with regard to such an issue, for his/her life depends on it.

Bibliography
Corduan, Winfried. Handmaid to Theology: An Essay in Philosophical Prolegomena. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981.
Corduan, Winfried. No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity. Nashville: B&H Publishers, 1997.
Craig, William Lane. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010.
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd. ed. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
Dewitt, David A. Unraveling the Origins Controversy. Lynchburg: Creation Club Curriculum, 2007.
Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999.
Sproul, R.C. The Consequences of Ideas: An Overview of Philosophy. Disc 3. Ligonier Ministries, 1998. DVD.
 
Notes
[1] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 714.
[2] Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity (Nashville: B&H Publishers, 1997), 55-58.
[3] Geisler, Encyclopedia of Apologetics, 160.
[4] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd. ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 96. 5 William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 74.
[5] David A. Dewitt, Unraveling the Origins Controversy (Lynchburg: Creation Club Curriculum, 2007), 141-155.
[6] Winfried Corduan, Handmaid to Theology: An Essay in Philosophical Prolegomena (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 123.
[7] Craig, On Guard, 78-87.
[8] This is because the good is what is required of humans and bad is a deviation or denial of that good. The fact that the standard is good rather than bad can easily be established by the fact that the moral compass of virtually all individuals points to bad being a problem, or the wrong direction, while good is almost universally considered as acceptable. This can be seen in the fact that virtually everyone on earth considers it wrong to harm others, or for others to harm them, until they grow up and gain reasons to think otherwise. This inherent knowledge as children that harm/bad is wrong is the reason for stating here that good is the standard and bad is simply a deviation from that standard.
[9] Corduan, No Doubt About It, 113.
[10] R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: An Overview of Philosophy , disc 3 (Ligonier Ministries, 1998. DVD)
[11] Ibid.