In Philsophy of Religion class, we are talking through the arguments for the existence of God. So far, we have seen how Paley’s rendering of the teleological argument is quite frankly, a bad argument as far as arguments go. Now this isn’t to deny that we believe the universe is designed by God, but that Paley’s way of arguing toward that end, in hopes of convincing a skeptic, does not really cut it.
One could make a similar critique of Aquinas and the cosmological argument as he only proves a god, not God. This of course is granting him the ability to prove anything based on his epistemology (which in the end actually destroys the possibility of knowledge) but that’s another issue entirely. As Dr. Blount noted, William Lane Craig is enamored with the Kalam version of the cosmological argument, but it seems to struggle as well. I personally would see all version of the cosmological argument open to the same charge: they point the god of deism, and not the Triune God of the Bible.
Of the traditional arguments, the one that comes the closest to proving the Triune God is the ontological argument, which actually fares the best in philosophical circles and a version of which is Dr. Blount’s favorite. I found the initial formulation of that argument by Anselm, as per Van Til’s reading of it, to be close but not quite satisfactory, but it seems in some ways to be the most promising of the traditional proofs.
We have talked before about transcendental arguments, so what will follow below is hopefully a short summary of that idea in terms of an epistemological argument for the existence of God.
In making an epistemological argument for the existence of God, we arguing transcendentally, which means we are asking what are the necessary transcendentals for an argument to even get off the ground. This means we need to examine the preconditions of intelligibility, which are the prerequisites for any rationale discourse. So here, in short, are just two:
Rules of Logic
In order to even argue in the first place, both sides are presupposing the possibility of winning, that is, being “right.” This is only possible if there is some objective standard by which to measure “rightness” or “wrongness.” Usually this rests on whether or not one person is following the rules of logic. The rules of logic though rest upon the law of non-contradiction (“A” cannot equal “not A”), and this in turn rests upon some presupposed notion of absolute truth. Absolute truth in turn would have to originate with some sort of absolute personality/rationality, which is exactly what we asserted about the ontological trinity elsewhere.
The Uniformity of Nature
Further, the possibility of argumentation rests on the uniformity of nature. A person’s ability to argue rests on the foundational assumption that there exists a universe where reality and the laws of nature are not constantly changing. This in turns rests on the assumption of the existence of a universe rather than a multi-verse. By “multi-verse,” I am not referring to the popular belief that there are multiple universes. Rather, I am using the term to refer to a cosmos that is not unified in any sort of way (via laws of physics or what have you). A universe is united by something (or Someone) and has laws that remain constant over time. A multi-verse is just a random collection of material objects that wouldn’t have laws that remain constant.
The act or arguing for, or even against something, presupposes that logic remains constant, rests on the principle of non-contradiction and that both in some sense cohere within a universe that is not run by randomness and chance.
Now, on anything other than a worldview based on the Triune God as the foundation of rationality and the absolute personality that makes the universe a universe rather than a multiverse, there is no justified epistemological ground for argumentation. In other words, a person can deny God’s existence and still carry on an argument, but could not give an account within their own worldview of how their ability to argue is even possible, or why one would even want to pursue such a thing in their universe (or should we say multi-verse). In many ways, an atheist’s attempts to argue with a Christian is self-defeating since it ultimately rests on presuppositions that are only at home within a Christian worldview.
The atheist can use logic, but can’t give an epistemological account of logic.
Or as Van Til said, “Everyone can count, but not everyone can account for counting.”
This type of argumentation can really start though with any fact (as the quote from Van Til illustrates). As a short example, this works well with the argument against God on the basis of evil, usually on the basis of the amount of evil in the world. The real question is whether or not within a strictly atheist worldview one could categorize anything as evil and if so, on what basis would one be able to make such a qualification. Interestingly enough, this can work on the claim that God doesn’t exist, as all that needs to be asked is what must be true of knowledge and rationality for one to even make such a claim.
I realize this wasn’t all that short, but hopefully its drawn you in, and you can read this follow up post.