Arguments for the Existence of God (1)

INTRODUCTION

In this essay, I will consider what the classical arguments for the existence of God prove, if anything at all, and discuss the relationship between religion and philosophy. I will then move on to discuss what pastoral relevance the arguments for the existence of God may have, and what our attitude should be to them.  First, then, to the arguments themselves.

[The brief descriptions that follow in this section are a condensation of the arguments as presented by Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach and Basinger, Reason & Religious Belief, pages 87ff.]

We must briefly consider the classical arguments for the existence of God, and they are summed up as follows:

ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

Persons have the idea of God and, since this idea is in the mind and existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind, we can conceive in our mind of a greater being than a greatest being that exists in realty; but, since there can be no greater being than the greatest possible being, the greatest possible being therefore exists in reality.

COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

Contingent beings exist in a universe that had a beginning which cannot be explained by an infinite series of causal conditions; there must therefore have been a first cause, which is the greatest possible being.

ATEMPORAL ARGUMENT

Contingent beings exist which have a cause or explanation outside themselves; what explains the existence of contingent beings is a non-contingent (necessary) being; therefore this necessary being must exist.

TELELOGICAL ARGUMENT

Seeing the intricate design and sophisticated operation of creation, we cannot help but conclude that creation had an intelligent Creator who fashioned it according to design and purpose.

MORAL ARGUMENT

There is an objective moral law outside of human opinion or thinking and we must decide whether to obey that moral law, which must have come from a moral God.