Philosophical Proofs For the Existence of God

#1

I’ve thought about the commonly used Christian philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and I think that there is something most Christian apologists are missing in their logic that I would like to point out.

Firstly, I’d like to talk about the Cosmological Argument.

This is an argument based on logical and scientific inferences from our observations on nature. It is true that nothing which begins to exist caused its own existence, for this is a illogical. Also, I’d like to point out that it is impossible, or at the very least logically unsatisfying, to assume an infinite regress in the chain of causality in the physical plane of matter/space/time. Whether or not a quantum shift, or God, or what have you, is the cause behind the big bang/creation of our universe, it is at the moment unimportant.

The most you can logically deduce from the cosmological argument is this, so far as I can tell.

  1. That our universe plainly began to exist at a finite time ago, before which space/time/matter did not exist. This is evident from the big bang, and from the necessity of the illogicality of infinite regressions. Even if you think that maybe there was a big crunch/big bang circling into infinity, this would still constitute a necessarily illogical position due to this simply still being an infinite regression with no end or logically necessary beginning, and this is true for multiple universe theories as well. So really whether or not big bangs/crunches are part of the natural order, those too must necessarily begin at a finite amount of events ago in the past, otherwise the concept of infinity would leave those events without ever reaching the present. In fact I might go so far as to postulate (just my own idea) that infinity is impossibly in the physical world. Thus at the very least we can postulate that the most reasonable position to conclude from logical and scientific evidence is that our universe began at a finite amount of events ago.

  2. Since it is illogical, or at the very least scientifically and logically unsatisfying to postulate that nothing caused our universe to begin, we can conclude that something caused the universe to begin. Ultimately this is as far as the cosmological argument will allow us to go.

I feel like Christians take a logical jump at this point, and this is where I feel this argument will fail in their favor. At best, I believe all you can conclude is that it is the most reasonable position to hold our universe began and had a cause to its beginning. Logic and philosophy can only take us this far. To jump from that to say “so clearly God caused the universe” makes a logical and philosophical jump without merit.

Simply from the logic and science, one can only conclude that there must necessarily be a cause, but at the very best all we can say about that cause is that we simply do not and can not, by light of science and reason/logic/philosophy alone, know what that cause is.

Thus the most reasonable position you can hold based on this logic is one of agnosticism. I feel like this is in fact a good starting point for Christian apologetics since you could go on from here to show why you feel the belief in the Christian concept of God is the most reasonable belief about what the unknown cause is, but I feel it is dishonest logically speaking to jump immediately from the position of logically reasonable agnosticism to Christianity. That is all.

#2

That was a well written post, and I agree with most of what you have written.

That said, While it is personally mentally unsatisfying for me and you to say that “nothing caused our universe to begin”, this cannot be ruled out. We may discover in future that it was an uncaused event. The fact that a hypothesis causes some personal consternation says nothing about the truth value of a hypothesis.

Furthermore, it is fallacious to extrapolate our individual personal experience of cause and effect to the beginning of the universe - they are completely different environments. We cannot say that the principle of cause and effect also existed at that time.

I do strongly agree that there is an unsupported logical jump in the cosmological argument. This jump could equally apply to Allah, or Xenu, or Zeus, etc…

#3

If something cannot cause its own existence and one does not accept the idea of infinite cause-effect progression, it is VERY logical to acknowledge a BEING who is not caused and is the FIRST CAUSE of all other cause effects. But I go even further than that, not only did God CAUSE all to exist, but God is CAUSING it to continue to exist (just as long as I will to think a thought - the thought exists).

A rock that is thrown into a pond causes a splash and the concentric circles. But who or what initiates the rock being thrown? Who or What is the primary mover, but is not moved?

I know only God has to exist and nothing else need or has to exist. God does not cause His existence. God could have continued in BEING for all eternity without ever having created anything. The leap from creation to a Primary mover is not illogical to me.

#4

How is that logical?

Your reasoning is merely: “I go even further than that”.

Further, how do you come to the conclusion that the proposed first mover is the christian god, and not (for example) the triune hindu gods of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva?

#5

This is just an excerpt from Pope John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio - From my understanding and personal testimony, Faith and Reason (Philosophical Proof) aren’t at odds but Reason enhances Faith. Faith is a gift from God, not a derivation of Reason. If you really want to know the Catholic response to your question (which I assume you do if you are asking it on Catholic Answers Forums, unless you are trying to apostisize which would be against the forum moderator rules), read the entire encyclical at vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

“Complex systems of thought have thus been built, yielding results in the different fields of knowledge and fostering the development of culture and history. Anthropology, logic, the natural sciences, history, linguistics and so forth—the whole universe of knowledge has been involved in one way or another. Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all. It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned.”

#6

I would say not that nothing as a cause is ruled out, only that based on scientific observations and what we know about logic, it is more reasonable to assume a cause than to assume no cause. I only meant that it is the more probable or reasonable view.

#7

Exactly and you have grasped my point entirely. I don’t mean to say you can’t then go on further to show why the Christian God is the more probable or reasonable cause to exist, I merely meant that simply from the cosmological argument alone you cannot know who or what the God or cause is. I am a Roman Catholic and even the papacy agrees with me on this one.

#8

No sir I am in fact a Roman Catholic, I was pointing out that from the cosmological argument alone, who God is cannot be proven or known. In the Catechism is states that through reason alone man cannot know God apart from divine revelation.

#9

:banghead:
Not only does the Catechism not say that, it says exactly the opposite.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p1s1c1.htm

III. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD ACCORDING TO THE CHURCH
**36 ** "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God’s revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created “in the image of God”.12
37 In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone:
Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful.13 **38 ** This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also “about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error”. 14

#10

maybe no one has explained the jump from there to Christianity
its 2 steps. the first identifies the most likely cause. the second proves the validity of Christianity.

nothing physical can cause itself. therefore only a non-physical cause is possible as Thomistic First Cause.

what are the possible non-physical causes?

  1. a random event.

  2. an independent actor

a random event could create any possible universe. from one with no matter at all to one that has no free space at all, one with gravity increasing as a square of distance, to one where the speed of light is the minimum.

an independent actor could simply choose to create this particular universe.

so the choices of likely processes are

either a coin flip to create this universe or picking the winning lottery ticket from a nearly infinite supply

i think it is much more reasonable to believe that an independent actor chose to create this particular universe than to believe that of all possible universes this one came about as a random action

having given the argument for an independent actor, we now turn our attention to the Judeo/Christain G-d

in this case Christianity has the unique adavantage of convergent messianic claims

prophecies of a Messiah, written by many different people, in different areas at diffeerent times came true in the person of Christ.

a mathematically undeniable test of validity.

the argument is still rough so i am happy to have some help fleshing it out.

#11

Which part of that says we can know exactly who and what God is through reason alone apart from divine revelation?
Also, my point was through through the cosmological argument you can’t tell who God is. I didn’t read in there that the through the cosmological proofs of God alone we can know who he is.

In case you don’t notice my emphasis in your post, explain how you overlooked this sentence from the Catechism.

“This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation”

#12

If God did not exist, I would not exist.
I exist, therefore God exists.
I am not God.
Only God is God.
Only I am I.

If God does not exist, nothing could or would exist.
But I exist, and thus I know that God exists :slight_smile:

#13

That’s not what you said.

The Catechism clearly indicates that attributes of God (for example: His existence) can be known with certainty through human reason alone apart from divine revelation. God’s essence is existence. That can be comprehended from the cosmological arguments. To state otherwise is to contravene the teaching of the Church.

I didn’t say that divine revelation was unimportant as you assume.

#14

Ok then, lets go on what you’re insinuating. With reason ALONE, without the Bible, without knowing about Jesus, could you reason that God exists, and that God is a triune God who exists coeternally as the father son and holy spirit? No, so what are you trying to prove? You’re reading into the Catechism something that isn’t there.

#15

That God exists and What God is can be understood from reason.
Who God is can only be understood from revelation.

#16

Isn’t that what I said? I’m also suggesting that what God isn’t isn’t necessarily that apparent since the cosmological arument could equally apply for any definition of “God”, be it Muslim or Hindu.

#17

Sorry if I misunderstood you. The documents of Vatican II state that religions other than Judeo-Christian are man’s attempt to reach out to God. The Jewish and Christian faith is God taking the initiative to reach out to mankind to reveal WHO He is :slight_smile:

#18

Yes indeed that was my point. Call it original sin or whatever you like, without divine revelation on the part of Christ and his message, we could never know fully who God is. All I meant to point out is that purely from the cosmological argument alone we can’t definitively conclude that the God of Christianity exists, merely that “God” is most likely to exist.

#19

In all those cases, we wouldn’t be here to discuss it. But what makes any those universes somehow less likely to exist than the one we live in?

an independent actor could simply choose to create this particular universe.

so the choices of likely processes are

either a coin flip to create this universe or picking the winning lottery ticket from a nearly infinite supply

i think it is much more reasonable to believe that an independent actor chose to create this particular universe than to believe that of all possible universes this one came about as a random action

However likely or unlikely it is, the one thing we know for sure is that it did happen, because we are here. We’ve got no idea what brings universes into existence, so you cannot really say that it is improbable or not.

I find a puddle of water in a hole in the road. There are billions of water molecules in that puddle; the likelyhood that by random chance, they would arrange themselves into a configuration that exactly fits the hole, is vanishingly small; it just could not have come about by chance. Therefore, the water molecules in that puddle must have been arranged in the hole by an intelligent agency.

Do you find that a convincing argument? Yet it is equivalent to what you are arguing.

Or put it another way; if we were giant intelligent gas bags floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, would you be marvelling at the fact that Jupiter is at exactly the right distance from the Sun, with an atmosphere of exactly the right composition and exactly the right force of gravity to support giant intelligent floating gasbags?

It’s a pity MindOverMatter’s other thread on this subject got locked - I thought I was just about to get a response to my objections, and then it all went quiet. Oh well.

having given the argument for an independent actor, we now turn our attention to the Judeo/Christain G-d

in this case Christianity has the unique adavantage of convergent messianic claims

prophecies of a Messiah, written by many different people, in different areas at diffeerent times came true in the person of Christ.

a mathematically undeniable test of validity.

The problem with the Bible, is that it is a whole library of books that have been translated and re-translated, copied, editorialized… prophesies are vague enough to mean anything, let alone when you have problems with virgin really meaning virgin or not.

#20

nothing, thats the problem with the random act as first cause. the chances of us being here to discuss anything would be vanishingly small, the fact that we are here throws serious doubt on the odds of a random act, after all, its only one chance out of a near infinity of universes would result in this universe.

However likely or unlikely it is, the one thing we know for sure is that it did happen, because we are here. We’ve got no idea what brings universes into existence, so you cannot really say that it is improbable or not.

we can rule out any physical cause, as such we have only a non-physical cause as an option for first cause.

in either case the cause must be one of two things, a random cause or a independent actor

we can deduce a lot of information about the first cause from the clues we have, just like any other intellectual investigation, we take the available evidence and apply reason. its no different here.

I find a puddle of water in a hole in the road. There are billions of water molecules in that puddle; the likelyhood that by random chance, they would arrange themselves into a configuration that exactly fits the hole, is vanishingly small; it just could not have come about by chance. Therefore, the water molecules in that puddle must have been arranged in the hole by an intelligent agency.

Do you find that a convincing argument? Yet it is equivalent to what you are arguing.

not really because there are no ‘holes’ for the universe to fit in too, they can be logically excluded as another universe or system, which, would need a cause itself.

no matter how many universes may be nested like those little russian dolls, each one is in the chain of causality.

Or put it another way; if we were giant intelligent gas bags floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, would you be marvelling at the fact that Jupiter is at exactly the right distance from the Sun, with an atmosphere of exactly the right composition and exactly the right force of gravity to support giant intelligent floating gasbags?

yes, i would be amazed that any particular universe resulted from a random act.

the odds are 1 to near infinity, that this particular universe resulted.

the logic doesn’t change with form.

The problem with the Bible, is that it is a whole library of books that have been translated and re-translated, copied, editorialized

we have been witnesses since the beginning of Christs ministry, long before the bible more than 300 years before the canonization.

its not really a problem for us.

prophesies are vague enough to mean anything

  1. He would be of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 23:5; Psalm 89:3-4).
  2. He will be born in a small city called Bethlehem, specifically the one formerly known as Ephratah (Micah 5:2).
  3. He will come while the Temple of Jerusalem is standing ( Malachi 3:1; Psalm 118:26; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 11:13; Haggai 2:7-9).
  4. The Gentiles will believe in Him, while His own people (the Jews) will reject him ( Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; 49:6; 50:6; 60:3; Psalms 22:7-8; 118:22).
  5. A messenger (a man of the wilderness) will prepare the way for Him (Isa. 40:3; Malachi 3:1). See John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; John 1:23; Luke 1:17).
  6. He will enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (the colt of an ***) (Zechariah 9:9). Fulfillment: Matt. 21:5; Luke 19:32-37.
  7. He will be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:3-10; 26:47-48.
  8. The betrayal money will be used to buy a potter’s field (Zech. 11:13). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:6-10
  9. He will be beaten and spit upon (Isaiah 50:6). Fulfillment: Matthew 26:67; 27:26-30.

Click to learn more about the betrayal and death of Jesus in our God’s Story section.
They will divide his clothing and cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18). Fulfillment: John 19:23-24.
from christiananswers.net/dictionary/messianicprophecies.html

most look really specific to me. and thats just a few of some random site

usually the counter argument is that they were fake or lies.

many people in todays society, even Christains dont really understand what we believe or why we believe it. you must understand that there are billions of people just as intelligent as you and me who believe for these exact reasons.

to argue that these people are wrong is to imply that they are less intelligent or knowledgable. its absurd

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