Contemporary arguments for God's existance?


#1

Hello!

Can anyone provide any explanations that would appeal to a contemporary young adult mind that would show that God exists? I’m aware of Thomas Aquina’s proofs. Are there more contemporary explanations and approaches?

A precocious young adult Catholic, whom I know and who was very active in her parish, started college this year and is excited about her studies, living in the dorms, etc. She just announced that she no longer believes that God exists and that the bible is stories that people just tell each other.

If she no longer believes in God because she has an intellectual problem with the concept of God, then maybe I can appeal to her intellect with a contemporary “argument”, otherwise, she may have embarked on a spiritual detour.

Thanks very much and God bless!


#2

Here are Dr. Kreeft’s explanation of 20 arguments for the existence of God. He uses modern language that’s easy to understand.


#3

[quote=Joseph]Hello!Can anyone provide any explanations that would appeal to a contemporary young adult mind that would show that God exists? I’m aware of Thomas Aquina’s proofs. Are there more contemporary explanations and approaches?

A precocious young adult Catholic, whom I know and who was very active in her parish, started college this year and is excited about her studies, living in the dorms, etc. She just announced that she no longer believes that God exists and that the bible is stories that people just tell each other.

If she no longer believes in God because she has an intellectual problem with the concept of God, then maybe I can appeal to her intellect with a contemporary “argument”, otherwise, she may have embarked on a spiritual detour.

Thanks very much and God bless!
[/quote]

Let me speak as a Catholic youth (17) with a bit of a skeptical streak. I’ve had trouble believing in God.

I personally find that the strongest argument for God is the argument from Christ’s divinity. But first, you have to firmly establish that Christ existed-- this Protestant site has a pretty good bit on “Shattering the Christ Myth.” Some of that stuff she won’t care about, but don’t let her miss the part on the historical evidences for Christ, specifically the secular sources, including Tacitus, Josephus, Thallus, Pliny, Lucian, Suetonius, The Talmud, etc… But group that argument with Resurrection Evidence.

Figure it as a multi-tiered argument.

  1. Christ existed.
  2. The Gospels portray Christ.
  3. We must come to a conclusion about Christ’s character from the Gospels, and the only reasonable one is that he is our Lord. First ask her if she thinks he is a good teacher. If that is her initial response, then any consequent conclusion that he isn’t God is disengenuous, because then he either lied or was insane.
  4. The strongest testimony to Christ’s divinity is His resurrection. The Apostles witnessed that resurrection, and universally were persecuted for it. In fact, 11 of the 12 died. And the one that didn’t die was exiled for part of his life, and also led a celibate life for his beliefs (John). This leads us to the conclusion that: the Apostles were telling the truth about Christ’s resurrection.

Now. One BIG PAUSE before you use this argument, which I find very convincing. You have to set it up first with two different methods.

First, show her that there is no reason that God can’t exist. Provide her with the various cosmological arguments for God’s existence. If that makes her say, well, I can see how God can exist, you’ve done a very good job. Next, argue from the Argument from Desire and from the Argument from Conscience. Remember where she is coming from, a fallen away Catholic. She’ll likely have some sort of idea that she has a longing for God to complete her life, even if she won’t say it. She doesn’t have to admit it to you, but it’s still a powerful argument, the argument from desire. Next, the argument from conscience. The idea of absolute right and wrong, and the existence of conscience are likely things she implicitly understands, or at least is willing to accept due to her Catholic background.

Ok. Now you’ve laid the groundwork. Now, you have to show her that Catholicism and the Bible makes sense. Generally, not totally. Ask her what parts of Catholicism don’t make sense to her, and show her that Catholicism is internally consistent. This is important. Otherwise Catholicism is a dead faith to her. Once she accepts this, hit her with the zinger.

Joseph, I’d always be willing to talk with her, if she’s willing to talk online as well. I can understand where’s she’s coming from, with her doubts about God. I am also a contemporary of hers, as a high school senior. Feel free to private message me if you want to talk to me too.

But let me recapitulate what I think would be most important:

  1. Show that God can exist.
  2. Argue from various (cosmological) proofs that God does exist.
  3. Argue from Desire and Conscience.
  4. Show that Catholicism is reasonable.
  5. Prove Christ existed.
  6. Confront her with the “Trilemma.” (Liar, Lord or Lunatic)
  7. Explain to her the evidence of the Resurrection.

#4

This to me, is sufficiently strong to prove it. And personally, it lays a good foundation, and then becomes convincingly stronger and stronger as it goes.

In relation to #4. For me, a huge boost in Catholicism’s credibility to me was both learning that we as Catholics don’t just “make stuff up,” and that the Fathers of the Church are the foundation of our faith. Personally, I was always a bit of a history nerd, so I already had been trying to interpret my national documents (the Declaration and the Constitution) in the light of our American Founding Fathers-- whether or not from the Federalist Papers, or various writings of Jefferson (the Kentucky Resolution), etc…

So when I was confronted with the Fathers it was a huge epiphany for me. Finally the phrase, Faith of Our Fathers, Holy Faith! made sense to me. Show her that the Fathers believed in things that Catholics believe in.

Oh and, after you’ve given her every reason to know that God exists, nail it in by giving her every reason to *believe *that God exists-- Pascal’s Wager. By placing this last, she will have sufficient doubts about God’s nonexistence, and enough reason to believe to take the wager. And it’s easy enough once you start living it, I suppose.

If you are unable to believe, it is because of your passions since reason impels you to believe and yet you cannot do so. Concentrate then not on convincing yourself by multiplying proofs of God’s existence but by diminishing your passions. You want to find faith, and you do not know the road. You want to be cured of unbelief, and you ask for the remedy: learn from those who were once bound like you and who now wager all they have. . . . They behaved just as if they did believe.

It’s really funny how not believing is cast as the irrational decision. Furthermore, it completely devastates the somewhat comfortable middle position of agnosticism. That’s one of the good parts of the argument.

Anyway, this topic struck such a cord with me! I feel like I have so much to say.

EDIT:
Additionally, some people have trouble with Catholicism, or Christianity in general, because the teachings on sex in particular are hard. Perhaps you can show her that while hard, they are certainly sensible. I’m not sure, my thoughts aren’t as collected here. Someone else could tack onto this suggestion of mine.


#5

There is a famous atheist professor at Oxford, whose named is Anthony Flew. He was the champion of non-believing skeptics for years.

Last year, he publicly announced that he changed his mind, and could no longer deny that God exists.

But here’s the good part: He said his change of mind was caused by reading a book by a very learned scientist-rabbi named Gerald Schroeder: The Hidden Face of God.

I am reading this book right now; it’s very a very powerful presentation and it should be read by every college student.


#6

Joseph,

You should seriously consider learning at least the basics of the Presuppositional Argument. It’s a transcendental argument, meaning it attempts to show that the Christian God exists by the fact that it is impossible for us to know anything, have consistent reasoning, actually predicate (do/know, etc) anything unless the Christian God exists.

It’s relatively simple, but it is packed with enough philosophy to keep a person busy for several months learning the ins and outs of why it’s such a strong argument. However, anyone should be able to easily learn how to argue for God’s existence using it.

Here are some links for some basic information on the argument:

Wikipedia Article

Why I Believe in God” by Cornelius Van Til - This is one of his basic writings in which the argument is set forth. Good for an example.

It is a contemporary argument, yet, it’s quite faithful to the Bible’s presentation of God’s existence (Prov. 1:7, Ps. 53:1, etc), and the deceitfulness of those who assert “there is no God.” They are trying to deceive themselves, and are led to folly.

So give it a shot, I’m sure you’ll be glad you did!


#7

[quote=Joseph]Hello!
[/quote]

Joseph,

Hello to you, and welcome to the CA Forums!

When I was a good bit younger, for a while my belief in God hung very strongly on the Shroud of Turin. I don’t consider this to be an admirable state to be in, but it helped me along. There is, quite simply, no way at all that the image on that shroud could have been made–given the technology available in ancient and medieval times. Literally, the Resurrection is the likeliest explanation for the image on the shroud.

Something else for your friend to sink her teeth into is the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I would enjoy hearing from her–or from anybody else–a natural explanation that holds water for more than about thirty seconds.

  • Liberian

#8

If I became convinced that God did not exist, I would be very sad: Death triumphs over life and most of the time, evil triumphs over good. There is no ultimate good and no ultimate justice.

Oddly enough, when people lose their faith, they don’t seem to be sad but are usually smug and triumphant. And they need to convince everyone that they are right! I would consider losing my faith as a great personal tragedy that would transform my life for the worse. As a result, I think I would keep it to myself. Apostates seem to feel liberated from the obligations that seem to be imposed by an all-perfect higher power. They delude themselves that somehow they, who did not create themselves or really anything else (we only fashion what creation has given us) and cannot perpetuate themselves beyond their short lifespan can become the highest power in the universe. Being answerable to a higher power is a big drag so they are seduced by the postmodernist creed that rejects not only the power of God but also that of logic, reason and objective reality.


#9
  1. Any material thing exists must have a cause for its existence.

  2. The universe exists.

  3. The universe must have a cause for its existence.

Qualifier: An infinite regress of cause-effect is logically untenable and, in reality, impossible.

Question: What non-material thing could there possibly be with sufficient intelligence and power to cause the entire universe?

– Mark L. Chance.


#10

I still think the best “argument” for the existance of the divine is not “scientific” proof, but soul proof.

Reason and logic and all that are fine, but is that what we want our faith to address?

My faith steps in when reason and logic fail. I find spiritual moments to be much more compelling reasons to believe than anything someone can write on paper. The change in heart and soul, the steadfast strength displayed in a believers life, the peace that follows genuine prayer.

maybe that’s just me,

cheddar


#11

Ask her to read Paul Vitz’s FAITH OF THE FATHERLESS. Vitz is a psychologist who has analyzed his own reasons for giving up his faith and turning atheist. I think his principle motive was peer pressure. He has since recovered his faith and published some extraordinary analyses of why people most often turn to atheism, including brief bios of some of the most famous atheists in modern history.

This young woman may be going through the same experience. Peer pressure in college is also accompanied by the authority of elder professors (skeptics for the most part) who are imposing their secularism on her both through their lectures and their reading assignments.


#12

[quote=cheddarsox]I still think the best “argument” for the existance of the divine is not “scientific” proof, but soul proof.

Reason and logic and all that are fine, but is that what we want our faith to address?

My faith steps in when reason and logic fail. I find spiritual moments to be much more compelling reasons to believe than anything someone can write on paper. The change in heart and soul, the steadfast strength displayed in a believers life, the peace that follows genuine prayer.

maybe that’s just me,

cheddar
[/quote]

No, it’s not just you!! I know for me, when I start to feel a slipping away from grace, it’s not a lack of logical consistency that’s the root of the problem. No, it’s more a lack of strength of faith, perseverance, hope, love of God. Basically, more spiritual things. So, I’m certainly not disagreeing with anything you said.:thumbsup:

However, as Christians we must also take seriously the awesome tool God gave us that did not have to be invented like the hammer, the vise grip, power saw, etc. did. Nope, it’s ours by virtue of being a human. But, it does need training, it does need exercise. It’s our brain, and the intellect of our mind. And we are called to love God with all of it, along with all our heart, soul and strength (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:30).

We are also called to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
(I Peter 3:15)

We need to be able to give a reason for our hope in the Risen!

Many people will try to use the “I know better than you weak minded Christians” out. We have to take that option away from them. And alongside a prayerfull, faithful life, it’s good to be able to gently remove the intellectual reasons for not believing in God, and kindly replace them with reasons for the intellectual necessity to believe in God. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, but its part of what we should try to do.


#13

Because I think it’s very helpful and a God glorifying style of arguing for God’s existence, allow me to post what many consider the “Great Debate” on that topic. It’s between Dr. Greg Bahnsen (Christian) and Dr. Gordon Stein (atheist).

Here’s what a Catholic had to say about the debate, on the website you can download the debate at for free:


[font=arial]alvin from Singapore (7/21/2004) writes:

  [/font]                     **The Great Debate!** — AWESOME!!! after listening to sloppy preachers like jason...but after listening to the facts stated by Dr Bahnsen and Kevin Hovind i mean truly a legacy about bahnsen is that he knows and has done a lot of lot of homework on the idea and has nailed his faith firmly where it cannot be shaken....i a catholic..not in the argument of whether catholics are better or the protestants...but i know i believe in One God and Dr. Bahnsen made me believe and truly believe praise God...  

Once again, here’s the link. It’s about 13 Meg, about a 2 hour debate. Presuppositional apologetics in action against a formidable atheist opponent. It’s at sermonaudio.com, and if you’re not registered, you’ll have to register to download. All you do is enter your email and name, no password or anything.


#14

To those who are saying belief through faith, without science, is best, you are 100% right.

Yet there is a fundamental, cognitive insight that is accessible to all, it is the realization that you are created and owned.

The first words out of the mouth of Isaiah (taking poetic license in translating the Vulgate): Cows and asses are smart enough to figure out they have an owner, so what’s up with you, Israel?

If only college professors could elevate themselves to the level of farm animals.


#15

[quote=Maranatha]Here are Dr. Kreeft’s explanation of 20 arguments for the existence of God. He uses modern language that’s easy to understand.
[/quote]

The link doesn’t work…


#16

[quote=outatime]The link doesn’t work…
[/quote]

I tested it again and it worked for me. You can try his home page and navigate to featured writings, more writings and the 20 arguments article.


#17

Greetings Joseph,

Some others above have mentioned Professor Kreeft’s 20 arguments. I recommend that you get a hold of a copy of his (and Fr. Tacelli’s) Handbook of Christian Apologetics. I couldn’t say enough about its excellent qualities as an apologetics text, not the least of which are the very good explanations on the various arguments.

Also, some have mentioned William Lane Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument, which is also excellent in that it is very pithy. It consists of 2 premises and a conclusion that necessarily follows from the premises. Most lay Christians find it useful because it is simple enough for anyone to get his mind around.

Also, I didn’t see that anyone above mentioned the Evangelical Thomist, Dr. Norman Geisler. His 2 versions of a contemporary cosmological argument are excellent, especially the one contained in his book Christian Apologetics. Also see his rev. ed. of Philosophy of Religion. He may be Evangelical, but he is a Thomist through and through when it comes to the existence and nature of God. I, for one, have never found a more persuasive version of the cosmological argument than the 10 step version that appears in his Christian Apologetics. The only difficult premise is the 3rd premise on “motion” because Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy undergirds it, and if you don’t know what Aristotle means by something metaphysically (not physically) “moving” then you won’t understand the premise. However, Geisler’s explanation on that premise in that book in particular is flat out excellent. Anyone willing to put forth the effort to get through the intricate argument will get a lot out of it. I do find it rationally compelling.

One last thing to note is that the Holy Council Vatican I affirmed that the existence of God is not merely an article of faith. God can be known to exist with certainty through the natural light of unaided human reason. This is clearly and explicitly put forth as a dogma of faith by the council fathers of Vatican I. Once a Catholic accepts this truth, then the journey begins to find which arguments one finds to be best.

Also, please keep in mind that a Catholic must keep this ever on his mind when trying to be apologetical toward another person. Why? Because usually the other person questioning the faith is starting from some quirky aspect of reality. That is, of the two most powerful arguments against God’s existence (i.e., the argument from evil & the hiddenness of God argument) both of them neglect to treat the arguments for God’s existence. What I’m trying to get at is that a Catholic would do well to remember that God’s existence can be known with certainty, apart from any other considerations of reality (e.g., the presence of evil), and then once we have established His existence and learned of His nature, only then do we begin to treat of problems like evil or His so-called hiddenness from His creatures, &c. If you let someone start from, for example, the argument from evil, without having them first (or simultaneously) address the many arguments for God’s existence, it seems like his case is strong. But, this is an illusion because one can fashion the most intricate argument from evil ostensibly demonstrating that God does not exist all day long, but if at the same time that individual completely ignores the multitude of arguments for the existence of God, his argument from evil is ultimately unfounded.

If a person cannot undermine the cosmological argument, then the only rational thing for that person to do is to believe that God exists. Only after this would it be sensible to wonder at the problem of evil.

Hope this helps…:thumbsup:


#18

We can know of God’s existence through two means: 1. Reason (as applied to the world and our experience of it), and 2. Revelation (Scripture and Tradition).

Here’s one argument from category #1:

We know that God exists from the impossibility of the contrary. In other words, we know he exists because it is rationally impossible that he not exist. Consider this: If there had ever been a time when absolutely nothing existed, then it’s pretty clear what would exist today—nothing! Therefore, something must exist which possesses the power of existence in and of itself. (This cannot include creatures like us, who depend on things outside ourselves for our existence.) And this “something” we call God.

So, we could say that the very fact that you exist, or that anything at all exists, is strong evidence for the existence of God.

Hope this helps. God bless.

Don


#19

Thank you all for your wonderful encouragement and references! I’ll be talking with my young friend’s mother and I hope to see the young woman to whom I referred in this posting. I’ll read up on some of the material to which you referred me, and I hope she still has enough curiosity and interest to consider some of the authors you mentioned.

(And RobNY, I hope keep up your religious and spiritual studies! You have the makings of a wonderful apologist!)

Thanks and God bless!

Joseph


#20

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