There are (4) four classical arguments for the existence of God. I will address each individually: Cosmological, Moral, Teleological and Ontological in order and then offer logical syllogism for each. Following the description of these arguments I will then select the one that, to me is the most sensible, internally consistent and “sits” the best with my conscience.
The first argument for the existence of God is the Cosmological Argument that augments into the Kalam Cosmological argument. Since this has already been discussed in depth in The '1969' GTO Kalam Cosmological Argument post, I will address this concisely and move on and spend more time on the other three. The Kalām Cosmological Argument (KCA) is derived from the “normal” Liebnizian Cosmological Argument from Gottfried Leibniz that says that: (1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God (3) The Universe exists (4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (1 & 3) (5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (2 & 4). If we add to this the stipulation that the universe is not eternal but actually had a beginning. If it had a beginning it therefore is contingent or dependent and therefore…has a cause (or creator God). This argument reinforces Liebniz’s original argument by adding an additional step of logic making it harder to refute.
The second argument to posit is the Teleological Argument. This argument argues for an intelligent designer of the universe/creation. The logical syllogism is as follows: 1) The “fine-tuning” of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design. 2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance. 3) Therefore, it is due to design. When I say fine-tuning I do not necessarily mean that a tidy explanation of the universe is that it was designed or “dialed in to a perfect setting” per se but it is a neutral expression that has to do with constants and quantities' being just right for the existence of intelligent life….us…mankind. In other words the earth being the exact right distance from the sun to allow weather that does not freeze us to death or burn us to a cinder. It is hard to believe otherwise. If the universe were even infinitesimally skewed one way or the other away from the way it is now…life could not exist in it, human or otherwise. Even if the evidence for the “fine tuning” itself were missing, the “multiplicity" of lines of evidence for the fine-tuning of certain constants and quantities as well the number and variety of the constants and quantities that exhibit fine-tuning give ample grounds for thinking that fine-tuning is here to stay and cannot be just written off as a colossal blunder on the part of the scientific community. Ironically it is here I believe that a Christian's strongest argument resides and it is also the weakest point. Why? Because we Christians often need to actually use scientific methodologies to bolster our argument when stating the evidences are scientific “constants”, “quantities”, “numbers”, etc. By doing this we use a posteriori evidences to argue for that which is a priori.
Regardless, the very first premise exhausts the alternatives of thought and by doing so, in the absence of a specific alternative suggestion (which there rarely is), someone is justified in positing the first premise and basically “standing on it”. They’re justified in thinking that because all the alternatives due to necessity and chance (statistics and odds) seem to be exhausted in the face of design. The argument therefore is as sound as the plausibility of the premise… which is extremely plausible. One only needs to look around at the wonders of creation to see the amazing complexity and symbiotic relationships that all work together to sustain life, from the macrocosm to the microcosmic level.
“...since what 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 people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:19-21
The next claim is the Moral Argument from which we derive the following flow of logic. (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. (2) Objective moral values and duties do exist. (3) Therefore, God exists. Every person has a moral compass internally that is intrinsic to who we are. Some are more sensitive to it than others and it shows in their behavior. Most people know and understand it is improper or morally wrong to throw a live child into a fire and kill them for no reason. The moral argument poses the question, “Are there things which I ought not to do and other things which I ought to do? “ The moral argument further adds to this question by also asking, "Do these expressions of right or wrong maintain their validity independently of our apprehension of them, and if so, what is their foundation?"
Many naturalists have maintained that morality as a sense of obligation is merely a sociological and psychological preconditioned response. Theists on the other hand believe it is something much more. In the absence of God or the ultimate moral benchmark or “highest good”, good and evil fail to have any real meaning and objective moral values and duties do not exist. But as we see around us every day in acts of moral rectitude both within ourselves and others, there is a moral standard. If we are to believe evolution people should not be running into life-threatening situations to save another human being's life (or even an animals). The evolutionary concept says that we should actually be running in the absolute opposite direction away from the danger. Running into a fire to save someone or something does not jive with "survival of the fittest" theory. Survival of the fittest says, "Stay alive at all costs". Even if it means sacrificing everyone including throwing your wife and kids under the bus before submitting yourself to the danger of death. But we don't do that as humans, do we? As a matter of fact we willingly submit our lives to jeopardy for strangers in many cases. Only recently has this type of morality begun to breakdown in modern society. Why? Because morality is disappearing. Why? Because God in our lives and in societies is disappearing. The lack of concern for the well-being of our neighbors is in proportion to the lack of God in our lives.
"...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27
As we drift farther away from God, morality is diminishing but even now in a diminished state many people live by a “code”. On the other hand non-theists and/or atheist (in the absence of God) reduce human beings to just another animal species. Although the humanists among them continue to try and treat human beings as morally special in contrast to other species and instill dignity, if they followed out their reasoning to its logical conclusion man would needlessly be amoral and no different than an animal which evolutionists have paint them out to be. The naturalistic view says that moral values are socio-biological and evolutionary constructs. Theists on the other hand argue that the moral gauge is instilled in us by a morally correct being. We are a divine construct. If humanity behaves and works within moral “norms” and we do act morally, so much so that sometimes we are incognizant of that fact. It stands to reason that Something (God) imposed these moral obligations and/or restrictions on/in us. If God did not exist, as Fyodor Dostoevsky once said in The Brothers Karamazov, "everything is permissible."
The last claim suggested is the Ontological Argument and is actually developed from Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga’s Ontological Argument is as follows: (1) It’s possible that a maximally great being exists. (2) If it’s possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. (3) If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world. (5) If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists. (6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists. Having stated these we can then deduce that there is no way we can know unequivocally that the metaphysical exists because the possibility knowing the metaphysical exists cannot be defined with things of “our realm” as it is wholly “other” so knowing as we would normally understand it (facts, evidence) is not possible. In other words the metaphysical (God) and epistemic (human knowledge) are of themselves “ontologically distinct”. Because the metaphysical (God) is beyond the ability to prove through evidences in this realm (physical vs. metaphysical), they’re incompatible. You cannot prove a theory about the existence of apples in a world that only contains oranges and orange parts. This leads to the need for incorporating logic, rationalism and an intangible or an a priori (argued with only logic and rationalism w/o evidence or an a posteriori premise). We need an intuitive warrant or “gut instinct”.
So….based on the ontological argument, Plantinga posits that, if you can conceive it, the concept is intuitively possible, therefore it’s coherent and cogent. He goes on to state that there are weak arguments against it such as: If you can imagine a maximal being you could also imagine a quasi-maximal being also. The question you then need to ask yourself is: Why would the existence of the maximal being be preferable over the quasi-maximal? He posits that if you are rationalizing for an ultimate maximal being the quasi would be redundant and through logic we can conclude that if we are looking for something that is the “Ultimate Being” **AHEM** the Christian God, that basically (1) something less is redundant and unnecessary and therefore not the preferable option or/and (2) Why would the ultimate or maximal being allow the lesser to exist its place being redundant? Stated another way: Intuition would lead us to believe that having found the maximal being, the other cannot exist.
The largest argument against theists is the non-theist view that the theist has no “evidences”. The irony is: If we are arguing for something spiritual or a priori with a posteriori evidences…we never will have the evidence that non-theists are looking for because these “evidences” don’t exist as a non-theist perceives them. What physical evidences do science or evidentialists (need to have) have to prove or disprove God who is Spirit? As the Bible says, things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned…
“...but a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 1:14-16
To wrap this up I will state that, for me, the strongest and most preferable argument of the four is the Teleological Argument. Perhaps it is because I view the world now with spiritual vision vs. naturalistic vision. It is what Paul referred to as the natural man and the spiritual man in 1 Corinthians 2. I personally cannot attribute the symbiotic near harmonious balance of systems in the Creation to anything else but Something or Someone capable of “putting it all together” and making it work. The microcosmic systems at the atomic and cellular work together with biological systems that work together with the hydrological system that works together with the ecological which works together with the global system that melds with the cosmological system....and all these blend seamlessly as if they were intended. What is even more fortuitous for us as theists is that all of these systems and things of Creation are observable. All of them can be used as readily available reference points for theists and non-theists alike as they are visible and discernible to both. They may be observed differently and exegeted/intepreted differently but they are a point of commonality. From the idea of design also arises the intelligent design theories put forward by people like Michael Behe of Lehigh University. As man has dug deeper into the microcosm we have found increasing complexity rather than increasing simplicity. Commonsense would dictate that the more we dig down to the basic building blocks of Creation the simpler things should’ve become. We have now found just the opposite in the sub-atomic realm and in the constitution of a biological cell. This of course has not surprised theist as much as it has baffled non-theists and science. The complexity is counter-intuitive and by revealing this complexity science has opened its own Pandora’s Box that can’t be simply shut again and shoved under the collective scientific bed. It also cannot be explained away with fanciful or whimsical theories of random chance, probability and the elapsing of eons of time. The complexity of and the perfect harmony of the Created order is staggering and can only have been attributed to an intelligent being beyond our ability to fully comprehend…a being that could only have been revealed as human minds cannot even fully grasp Him. Part of the revelation is clearly through the complexity and wonder of the Creation that surrounds us every single day as stated in Romans 1.
I will also state that I prefer the William Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy over the “fine tuning” analogy because (1) it appeals more to a “hands-on” analogy for the common man since nearly everyone has owned or does own a watch and (2) It is an idea that has been around for a long time. It has been solidly reasoned through and has been repeatedly beat on, beat down and attacked and has withstood the concerted onslaught of enemies that mean to annihilate it but fail. I like its time tested-ness. It has been assaulted viciously and even though it has been driven under the water and it looked like it was down for the count, it continually resurfaces for “another go round”.
I will leave you with William Paley's elegant Watchmaker Analogy...
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (...) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (...) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.
~William Paley- "Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature" (1802)Photo Credit 1: Robert Tindale
Photo Credit 2: Paul Stewart