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This is part five of a series of articles concerning man's knowledge of God. In this article, we will look at some classical arguments that philosophers have used through the ages to prove the existence of God.
"...[W]hat may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--His eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse." (Rom. 1:19-20)
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." (Psalms 19:1-2)
"The fool says in his heart, `There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1)
Contemplating the existence of our Creator is one of the most valuable and rewarding endeavors of scholarship, for the knowledge of God is the most important piece of knowledge we can attain. Contrary to many people's opinion, the existence of God can be well established through logic and reasoning. Some people think that the existence of God is just a matter of faith that cannot rationally be supported. However, this is far from true. The existence of God can very effectively be supported by the same rules of logic as the most established theorems of science and mathematics.
This should not surprise us. The Bible has implied as much. David declares: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge" (Ps. 19:1-2). And Paul tells us: "[W]hat may be known about God is plain to [men], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--His eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). Intelligence is no excuse not to believe in God. God has manifested Himself in such a way that the intelligent man can find Him as easily as the uneducated man.
What of faith, then? Faith is still a precious commodity, even though the existence of God can be proven logically. Faith in fact requires the foundation that reason provides. "Faith presupposes natural knowledge."[Footnote #2] Our innate knowledge of God, the revelation of God in nature, and our reasonings regarding the existence of God provide infallible proofs for the reality of God. Faith deals with the realm of the character and attributes of God, the nature of His plan, the work and person of Jesus Christ, and the promises that we receive through Him.
So, we need faith, but we need reason, as well, to strengthen our faith, confirming the provable statements in the Bible. Never be ashamed of your faith in God: it is your wisdom. Even "the unsaved, natural man, though unable to receive the things of God, is, nevertheless, everywhere confronted with effects which connote a Cause and with design which connotes a Designer."[Footnote #3] To reject God is to display ignorance of the obvious, stubbornness in the face of the apparent. As we shall see, it takes much more faith to disbelieve the reality of God than to believe in God.
In this article, we will offer proofs for the existence of God. We will state these proofs rigorously. Rigorous proofs require axioms, which are self-evident, unprovable, foundational assumptions, so we will also provide the axioms that provide the bases for these proofs. All theorems in mathematics and science are based upon such axioms. In fact, the veracity of a theory is only as strong as the accuracy of its foundational axioms.[Footnote #4] We will also give supporting evidences for the proofs based on observation of the creation. Again, any scientific or mathematical theory is only as good as the observational evidence that supports it. For our proofs, we will provide such evidence.
There are two major classes of arguments for the existence of God: a priori arguments, which begin from man's conception of God and, from there, argue for His existence; and a posteriori arguments, which begin with analysis of created things and, from them, argue for the existence of God. We will provide proofs that fall under four major arguments for the existence of God: the Ontological Argument (which is an a priori argument), and the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, and the Anthropological Argument (which are all a posteriori arguments). Within each of these arguments, many proofs for the existence of God could be stated. I will provide multiple statements of proofs that fall under each of these classes of argument.
Man has a conception of a perfect Being.
Statements of Proof:
Anselm's (a 12th century philosopher) Argument:
"God is that Being than whom none greater can be conceived. Now, if that which nothing greater can be conceived existed only in the intellect, it would not be the absolute greatest, for we could add to it existence in reality. It follows, then, that the Being than whom nothing greater can be conceived, i.e., God, necessarily has real existence."[Footnote #5]
We notice a gradation found in things around us. Some are `more' some are `less' good or true or noble, etc. according to some absolute standard. There is then, something which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is most perfect. The maximum of a genus is the cause of that genus, thus there is some perfection and this is God.[Footnote #6]
Des Cartes' Argument:
"I find in me the notion of God, which I cannot have formed by my own power, since it involves a higher degree of reality than belongs to me. It must have for its Author God Himself, who stamped it upon my mind, just as the architect impresses his stamp on his work. God's existence follows also from the very idea of God, since the essence of God involves existence--eternal and necessary existence."[Footnote #7]
Of the four arguments for the existence of God, this one (admittedly) is seen by most as the least compelling. Nevertheless, I state it here because it provides food for thought by arguing for the existence of God in an uncommon way.
This is an argument that stems from the conception of a "Higher Being" that we all have. From the beginnings of our reasonings as children, we had a sense that there is Higher Being that watches us, a Being that made us, a Being that is all-powerful, all-knowing. The Ontological Argument states that this conception of a Higher Being proves the existence of a Higher Being. How could I have conceived of such a Being unless this Being exists? How can I, being finite, conceive of the infinite, unless the infinite did exist? This argument states that the idea of God could not have originated in the human mind, unless God in fact did exist.
Let us also ask: Why would I have conceived the idea of God unless God did exist? The idea of the existence of God is a threat to the freedom that my sinful nature desires because, by His very existence, a Higher Being demands obedience. I do not want to be accountable to a Higher Being. My sinful nature does not want God to exist, so why would the idea of a Higher Being be so strong in my mind, battling against what my nature desires, unless that Higher Being did, in fact, exist?
Something cannot spring from nothing.
Statements of Proof:
"I exist: I did not always exist: whatever begins to exist must have a cause: the cause must be adequate: this adequate cause is unlimited: it must be God."[Footnote #8]
Aquinas' 3 Cosmological Arguments:[Footnote #9]
1. Argument from motion: whatever is in motion must have been set in motion. One thing may have moved another, and another may have moved the first, but this cannot go on forever. There must have been a first mover, and that is God.
2. Argument for a first cause: A thing cannot cause itself, because it cannot be prior to itself. In efficient causes, it is impossible to go on to infinity, because if there is no first cause, then all are intermediate causes. Yet, all intermediate causes can be lumped into one ultimate effect, but there can be no effect without a cause, thus, there must have been a first cause, which is God.
3. Argument for the necessity of an everlasting Being: In nature, there are things which are possible and not possible to be, for things exist and are corrupted and then cease to exist. These things cannot have always existed. But something cannot come from nothing, so there is necessarily something that always existed, and that is God.
1. Something cannot come from nothing.
2. Since there exists something (namely, the universe), either:
a. The universe has always existed, or
b. The universe was created by a Being that always existed.
3. By observation (namely, the Second Law of Thermodynamics),
we know that the universe did not always exist.
4. Thus, the universe was created by a Being that always existed.
The Cosmological Argument provides a very compelling proof for the existence of God. It is basically an argument from cause and effect. Since we observe cause and effect in action all the time, it is an argument that is accessible to all of us. Reason insists that something cannot spring from nothing. No event occurs spontaneously without an adequate cause. All of science is based upon the principle of cause and effect. Scientific laws require repeatability and predictability, which imply cause and effect. We cannot, even in our imagination, conceive of a phenomenon that does not have a cause. Every activity in our lives depends upon causality.
Note that causation is not mere antecedence. Just because one thing preceded another does not mean that the first caused the second. A cause, in order to be a true cause, must be adequate to produce the effect. For example, just because it rains every time I wash my car does not mean that my washing the car caused the rain (although it may seem so). I would be foolish to presume such a thing. My washing the car is not an adequate cause for the rain.
Now, since all effects must have adequate causes, there must have been either an infinite series of causes or a causeless (i.e., always existent, infinite) first cause. Some would maintain that there were an infinite series of causes, but this alternative is not credible because it does not agree with observation. Through observation, scientists have discovered the Second Law of Thermodynamics which, in our context, states that the result in going from cause to effect is to end up with more disorder. If there were an infinite series of causes and effects, our universe would be infinitely disordered by now, because an infinite number of causes and effects would have preceded this universe. Therefore, since there could not have been an infinite number of causes, we are left with the alternative that a causeless first cause created the universe. This first cause we call God.
Since the first cause of the universe must be adequate, this tells us something about the nature of God, for only a knowledgable, omnipotent, infinite Creator would be an adequate cause of this magnificent universe.
The universe displays evidence of design.
Statements of Proof:
We see things that have no knowledge act according to an established pattern, a design. However, what lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it is directed towards that end. There is a great director, and He is God.[Footnote #10]
Design implies a designer.
The Teleological Argument proceeds from the order, purpose and design that is evident in the universe. This argument builds on the Cosmological Argument by demanding that the first cause be adequate to explain such a design. A designed universe implies intelligence, power and will. Those who deny the existence of an intelligent Creator postulate that the universe was caused by some impersonal, cosmic force, but such a force as a first cause is not adequate to explain the order and design that is so evident in the creation. They say that life came about by chance, but chance cannot imitate design; it is absurd to even entertain the idea that it could. In explaining the existence of the universe, "we have only the two principles of intelligence and non-intelligence, of self-directing reason and blind necessity, for its solution. The former is adequate, and is not far-fetched and violent. It assimilates the facts to our own experience, and offers the only ground of order of which that experience furnishes any suggestion. If we adopt this view all the facts become luminous and consequent. If we take the other view, then we have to assume a power which produces the intelligible and rational, without being itself intelligent and rational. It works in all things, and in each with exact reference to all, yet without knowing any thing of itself or of the rules it follows, or of the order it founds, or of the myriad products compact of seeming purpose which it incessantly produces and maintains."[Footnote #11] No, the first cause of a universe that is so intricately designed could only be an intelligent designer.
The evidence of intelligent design in the universe is far too extensive to enumerate completely. The eye, the ear, the hand, the heart, the liver, the brain,--all of the organs of the body working together, perfectly suited for our environment--all exhibit evidence of being designed to carry out a specific purpose: all prove a purposed existence. How could an eye--which has the specific purpose of translating bombarding light rays into signals that the brain can translate into images--have come about by chance? The purpose must have come before the construction. It was necessary that living beings on the earth be able to take in and interpret their surroundings. The eye was designed to perform this purpose.
Chance is not adequate to explain the design of organs and processes that are so intimately intertwined. "On the outside there is a physical agent called light; within, there is fabricated an optical machine adapted to the light: outside, there is an agent called sound; inside, an acoustic machine adapted to sound: outside, vegetables and animals; inside, stills and alembics adapted to the assimilation of these substances: outside, a medium, solid, liquid, or gaseous; inside, a thousand means of locomotion, adapted to the air, the earth, or the water. Thus, on the one hand, there are the final phenomena called sight, hearing, nutrition, flying, walking, swimming, etc.; on the other, the eyes, the ears, the stomach, the wings, the fins, the motive members of every sort. We see clearly in these examples the two terms of the relation--on the one hand, a system; on the other, the final phenomenon in which it ends."[Footnote #12]
The design of the universe is so complex that we, who claim to be intelligent, do not even come close to understanding it. We pride ourselves in devising elaborate machines, we pride ourselves for the advanced state of human technology, but we, in our pride, cannot even come close to designing anything as magnificent as the most primitive living organism; yet, some see no intelligent agent behind the living things on the earth in all their amazing complexity. "In this age, which is characterized by mechanical development beyond any other, men are justly impressed with that which human ingenuity and inventiveness have effected. But man really originates nothing, and his most cherished feat of devising is never more than a discovery and utilizing of provisions and forces which were already wrought into the creation which God has effected."[Footnote #13]
Man is more than flesh and blood; he has a soul.
Man has an innate sense of right and wrong, an in-built morality, and a conscience.
Statements of Proof:
"Man is composed of that which is material and that which is immaterial, and these two constituent parts are unrelated. Matter possesses the attributes of extension, form, inertia, divisibility, and chemical affinity; while the immaterial part of man possesses the attributes of thought, reason, sensibility, consciousness, and spontaneity. Were it possible to account for the origin of the physical part of man by a theory of natural development (which it is not), the immaterial, as to its origin, remains an insoluble problem apart from the recognition of a sufficient cause."[Footnote #14]
Two Arguments from Augustus Strong:[Footnote #15]
An argument for a sufficient cause of man's intellectual and moral nature:
(a) Man, as an intellectual and moral being, has had a beginning upon the planet.
(b) Material and unconscious forces do not afford a sufficient cause for man's reason, conscience and free will.
(c) Man, as an effect, can be referred only to a cause possessing self-consciousness and a moral nature, in other words, personality.
An argument for a supreme Lawgiver and Judge from man's moral nature:
(a) Conscience recognizes the existence of a moral law ahich has supreme authority.
(b) Violations of moral law are followed by feelings of ill-desert and fears of judgment.
(c) This moral law, since it is not self-imposed, and these threats of judgment, since they are not self-executing, respectively argue the existence of a holy will that has imposed the law, and of a punitive power that will execute of the moral nature.
The Anthropological Argument proceeds from the psychological and moral attributes of man. The fact that we have a soul, a conscience, and reasoning abilities requires an adequate cause to explain these things. Our rational intelligence reflects a rational, intelligent Creator.
Man is not just flesh and bone, but also soul and spirit. Both aspects must be taken into account in any theory of origins. How could the spiritual arise out of the physical? How could a soul be emerge from matter? How could a being which uses language to express ideas, which conceives and appreciates great works of art, which unselfishly expresses love, have arisen by chance out of primordial gunk? "The product of a blind force will never betake itself to the pursuit of art and science, and the worship of God."[Footnote #16]
Man's moral nature is often used as a support for the Anthropological Argument. Man's morality and conscience are evidences of a moral Creator. People from all nations and cultures, from all backgrounds without exception, have a sense of right and wrong. Chance cannot explain the development of morality in humans. The only adequate explanation is a righteous, holy Creator who desires the same righteousness from His creatures. Why does man follow the dictates of his conscience, which are contrary to his own desires? "It carries the soul outside of itself, and brings the will before a bar independent of its own impulses."[Footnote #17] Our conscience is an authority from which we cannot free ourselves, and so, is evidence of a higher authority which created our conscience. We all have a sense of an absolute moral law, and so there is an absolute, moral Lawgiver.
So, Lord, we thank You that You have manifested Yourself in such a way that it is clear that You exist and are concerned about Your creation. Help us, by Your Spirit, to be strengthened in our faith as we ponder the preponderence of evidence for Your existence. Guide us to redouble our efforts to serve You. In the name of Jesus, we pray these things, Amen.
2. Aquinas, Summa Theological, Vol. I, pg. 12.
3. Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pg. 139.
4. Ironically, many theories in science are based (either explicitly or implicitly) upon the mistaken axioms that there is no supernatural and that there is no God. Such theories are highly suspect because they are based upon axioms which, far from being self-evident, are patently false.
5. From Encyclopedia Britannica, Article on "Anselm", 14th Edition.
6. Paraphrased from Aquinas, Summa Theologica, pg. 13.
7. Cited in Miley, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pg. 74.
8. Cited in Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pg. 147.
9. Paraphrased from Aquinas, loc. cit.
10. Aquinas, loc. cit.
11. Bowne, cited in Miley, Systematic Theology, pg. 88-89.
12. Janet, cited in Miley, op. cit., pg. 90-91.
13. Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pg. 150.
14. Chafer, op. cit., pg. 156.
15. Cited in Chafer, op. cit., pg. 157-158.
16. Chafer, op. cit., pg. 157.
17. Diman, cited in Miley, op. cit., pg. 108.
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