Thursday, March 17, 2005

Introduction to God Arguments

The taditional arguments for the existence of God, having supposedly been dashed by Kant and Hume, were ignored for almost two centuries. Since the 1960s, however, a whole new breed of intrepid philosophers (the "back to God movement") has been working steadily to revive the arguments. This revitalization of God talk presents a whole new dynamic with which the atheist must deal. Some of these arguments, and more besides, are presented in the following pages. Below I present my own view of God, which is greatly influenced by the work of Theologian Paul Tillich.It was theologian Karl Barth, who kicked off the back to God movment when realized that Anselm actually had several more versions of his famous argument, whith which Hume, Kant, and Russell never dealt.

It Norman Malcom who first realized that Barth's work could revive the arguments, and he soon shocked the philosophical world in the 1960s.He took up Barth's observatoins on Anslem and presented them as serious philosphical arguments.That a philosopher of Malchom's status would revive the ontolgoical argument, lent prestige to the cause, and he was soon joined by the late Charles Hartshorne..They argue for a rational warrant for belief in a creator who is necessary to the existence of the universe and all that is. But to demonstrate which particular religious tradition we should follow is another argument (see page on Gospel). Nor do they offer absolute proof of a creator, but they do offer rational warrant for belief which is strong enough to offer a prmia facie Justification.

Moreover, one concept in particular is important to understand in order to understand these arguments. That is the idea that God is not just a big man on a throne. The great theologians of Christian faith, the Orthodox Church, and theologians such as Paul Tillich, John Mcquarry, believe, as Timothy Ware (The Orthodox Church , New York: Pelican, 1963) quoting St. John of Damascus says, "God does not belong to the class of 'existing' things; not that he has no existence but that he is above existing things, even abvoe existence itself..." McQuarry says that God is Being itself, while Tillich says God is "The ground of being." These are actually the same concepts. The important thing to remember is that God is not along side other beings in creation, is not a being at all, but is on the order of being itself.

God is the overarching principle that defines and predicates the universe and in fact of being as a whole. If you consider what it was like before God created anything. There would be nothing else but God. God, therefore, would be the same as being because all being would be defined as God. The only being that ever came to be flowed out of the will and the energies of God, therefore, God is beyond the chain of cause and effect, God is on a par with being itself.Foolish demandsMany skeptics, including Christian Sketpics, are skeptical about the very possibility of proving the existence of God. In fact, Paul Tillich thought that it was degrading to the notion of God to try and prove his existence at all.

Others think that only empirical knolwedge can be trusted. While I always ask them, can even empirical knowledge be trusted? I also feel that the real crux of the issue is not "absolute proof," but the nature of the assumptions that should bemade. If these arguments do not offer the sort of proof to which any rational thinking person must give asscent, they at least offer a rational warrant for belief, and they indicate that the assumptions we should be making are those that we can make in the most logical fashion. Belief meets the prima facie burden when it offers a rational warrant, it than becomes the skeptic's job to show that the burden has not been met. It is hoped that these arguments will provide the reader with information that will provoke thought about God, if not actual belief.

Foolish Demands

It is foolish of atheists to make the demand that we "prove the existence of God." First, because the idea of God existing is a philosophical violation of what the Christian faith actually affirms about God, at least what major theologians such as Tillich affirmed, and about the nature of reality itself.

Secondly, God transcends the contignet level, we should not expect to be able to prove God as though God is some sort of 'thing' along side other things in creation.My View of God What is my view of God? I beleive that God is ultimate reality, and the ultiamte mystery. I agree with the Greek Orthodox theologians who said that God cannot be described directly, but must be spoken apophatically (we can't say what God is, we can only say what God is not). We can have direct experience of God, but this must come through mystical experince and cannot be put into words (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Chruch. To speak of these expeirnces one must speak through analogy, which contians both a like and not-like dimesion. God is like a father, but in some ways not like a father. God is like a king, but in some ways not like a King. On the other hand, logical argument is made possible by a direct understanding of the affects of God upon the world, which come to us through the energies of God, which are working in the world. The energies of God are God, they are emmenations, or extentions of God's power, God's thoughts so to speak.So for me God is a mystery which transcends the threashold of human understanding.

All we can have is a hint, but through experience and logic we can have some pretty good hints. Yet, God himself blows away all our pre-concieved notions and our nice little formulas about what can be and what is. To that extent then, God is above and beyond any sort of empirical proof and this is why we can't expect some sort of incontrovertable proof. The best we do is to offer rational reasons to beleive, but we cannot expect these to do that much. Basically all they can do is to open the skeptic to the possibilities, that is all we can ask. They might also bolster the faith of the beleiver, but both things are wastes of time if they are not followed up with prayer and contempalation and seeking through the heart for the trace of God in the universe.

The Prima Facie Standard

Mattey (Thomas Reid Project):

"Far from concluding that our senses are "fallacious," Reid placed them on the
same footing as memory and reason, though they are "undervalued" by philosophers
because "the informations of sense are common to the philosopher and to the most
illiterate. . . . Nature likewise forces our belief in those informations, and
all the attempts of philosophy to weaken it are fruitless and in vain.""Reid
pointed out that when we fall into error regarding the objects of sense, we
correct our errors "by more accurate attention to the informations we may
receive by our senses themselves." So the "original and natural judgments" that
are made on the basis of our constitution lose their original justification in
the presence of additional information. Contemporary philosophers call this kind
of justification "prima facie," a term from law which describes an initially
plausible case that could prove to be entirely implausible given further
evidence. A belief of common sense, then, is justified "on the face of
it.""According to the doctrine of prima facie justification, one is justified in
accepting that things are the way they appear, when

* it does appear to one that
they are that way, and

* there is no reason to think that something has gone

"But if there is such a reason, one's justification is "defeated."
Thus prima facie justification is "defeasible.""For Reid, our beliefs about
physical objects are justified by sense-experience, which he took to be a
product of the interaction between the senses and physical objects.
Twentieth-century philosophers have been somewhat more cautious, however, and
have followed more closely the account of perceptual knowledge given by Reid's
predecessors such as Descartes, Locke and Hume: that what justifies our beliefs
about physical objects is a mental state such as:

* looking like something is

* a sensation of red

* seeing red-ly"

"For example, what justifies a person in
believing that he sees something red is that it looks to him as though there is
something red. The mental state of that person is one in which there is an
appearance of red, and just being in this mental state is enough to give prima
facie justification to the belief that he really sees something red. On the
other hand, what confers justification might be a belief about how things

Why not argue for the Christian God?

Certainly I believe in the God of the Christian tradition. But I also believe that God is an a priori concept. In other words, God is ultimate reality, known treuly though mystical concsciousness. Religion is a cultural construct created by the necessity of filtering mystical experinces though shared symbols that we understand. This is the only way to speak of a reality that is beyond words. Thus, it is the same "ultiate relaity" that inspired all religions. The only difference is, that one tradition is an outgrowth of the teachings of Jesus Christ, who was this ultiamte reality come in the flesh to communicate directly about his nature. But to prove that, or to argue for that tradition one must assume the existence of God. Thus I first prove God, than I show which tradition best mediates the ultimate transformative expreince. That is what the rest of the Website is for.Two more crucial concepts must be discussed before the arguments can be understood correctly. Note: If you do not read these next ttwo pages you will miss crucial concepts which will enable you to understand the arguments, and you will not understand the assumptions they make.:


1 comment:

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm working my way through your blog. this is going to take a while, but so far it's interesting and well written.