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Ten Arguments for the Existence of God

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1. Cosmological Argument: Also called the argument from universal causation or the argument from contingency, the cosmological argument is probably the most well-known and well-loved among theistic apologists. The basic argument is that all effects have an efficient cause. The universe, and all that is in it, due to its contingent (dependent) nature, is an effect. Therefore, the universe has a cause…but that  cause cannot be an effect, or one would have to explain its cause. Therefore, there must be an ultimate cause, an unmoved mover, an uncaused cause that began the process. This cause must transcend time and space in order to transcend the law of cause and effect. This transcendent entity must be personal in order to willfully cause the effect. This ultimate cause is God.

2. Teleological Argument: (Gr. telos, “end” or “purpose”) This is also known as the argument from design. This argument moves from complexity to a necessary explanatory cause for such complexity. The universe has definite design, order, and arrangement which cannot be sufficiently explained outside a theistic worldview. From the complexities of the human eye to the order and arrangement of the cosmology, the voice of God is heard. Therefore, God’s existence is the best explanation for such design. God is the undesigned designer.

3. Moral Argument: This argument argues from the reality of moral laws to the existence of a necessary moral law giver. The idea here is that if there are moral laws (murder is wrong, selfishness is wrong, self-sacrifice is noble, torturing innocent babies for fun is evil), then there must be a transcendent explanation and justification for such laws. Otherwise, they are merely conventions that are not morally binding on anyone. Since there are moral laws, then there must be a moral law giver who transcends space and time. This moral law giver is God.

4. sensus divinitatus (“sense of the divine”): While this argument goes by many names, the sensus divinitatus argues for the existence of God from the innate sense of the divine that exists within humans. This sense of the divine, it can be argued, is the “God-shaped void” within all of us. This explains why people, societies, and cultures of all time have, by nature, sensed a need to worship something greater than themselves.

5. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience: This is the argument from universal beauty and pleasure. Beauty and pleasure are universally recognized as such. Even subjective variations in one’s definition of what is beautiful are not distinct enough to relativize this principle. From the beauty of the sunset over the Rockies to the pleasure of eating certain foods, there is a common aesthetic experience that transcends the individual. This transcendence must have a ultimate source. This ultimate source is God.

6. Argument from the Existence of Arguments: The idea here is that there is no such thing as an argument without order and rationality. In the absence of God, all that exists is chaos. Chaos does not give birth to order. Arguments assume order. Order assumes purpose and design, which in turn require a transcendent being for their genesis. To even argue against the existence of God assumes his existence and is therefore self-referentially absurd. Therefore, there is no such thing as an “argument” against Transcendence (God).

7. Argument from the Existence of Free-will Arguments: If there is no God, then all we have is a meaningless series of cause and effect stretching back into eternity. This series of causes and effects is necessary and determined, being the result of the previous cause and effect. As a billiard ball is hit by another and has no self-motivated movements of its own, so all of human existence operates under the same conditions. All things are determined, not self-motivated, including beliefs. Therefore, if someone does not believe in God, it is not the result of self-motivated free-will beliefs, but because of a determined and fatalistic series of causes and effects stretching back into eternity. To argue against the existence of God would not be the result of looking at the evidence and making a more reasoned decision to not believe in God, but because that is what people were fatalistically determined to do. Therefore, all arguments are absurd and unjustified without God.

8. Argument from the Existence of Evil: Like the moral argument, this argument assumes the existence of a universal characteristic that is meaningless without God. Some argue that the existence of evil disproves God (or at least a good God), but to argue such is formally absurd since one would have to have an ultimate and transcendent standard of good in order to define evil. If evil exists, goodness exists. If both exist, there must be a transcendent norm from which they get their meaning. Since evil does exist, God exists.

9. Argument from Miracles: There are events in human history which cannot be explained outside of the existence of God. Many people have their subjective stories that bend them in the direction of theism, but there are also historical events, such as the resurrection of Christ and predictive prophecy, which cannot be explained without an acknowledgment of God. In short, from the Christian’s standpoint, if Christ rose from the grave, then God exists. There is no alternative reasonable explanation that accounts for such an event outside a belief in God. History convincingly demonstrates that Christ did rise from the grave. Therefore, God exists.

10. Pascal’s Wager:
Popularized by French philosopher Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Wager argues that belief in God is the most rational choice due to the consequences of being wrong. If one were to believe in God and be wrong, there are no consequences. However, if one were to deny God and be wrong, the consequences are eternally tragic. Therefore, the most rational choice, considering the absence of absolute certainty, is not agnosticism or atheism (which one could definitely not be certain about), but a belief in God.

11. Ontological Argument: Look it up at your own risk!

49 Responses to “Ten Arguments for the Existence of God”

  1. As promised for my Apologetics class at Crossings Community Church in Okla City.

  2. Oh, but the ontological argument is my favorite!

    ….even if it does tend to make a whole lot of people sort of angry…. 🙂

  3. I’m surprised you used the free will argument. I thought those were made primarily by proponents of libertarian free will.

    Aren’t you a compatibilist?

  4. Yes, but this is really an argument against fatalism. If atheism is true, then fatalism is true. Calvinists are not fatalists. Alvin Plantinga will argue for free will just as strong as anyone and he is a Calvinist.

    At that point, it is the type of free will that is submitted to. Either way, no Christian is a fatalist.

  5. Let me rephrase: “No Christian should be a fatalist.”

  6. In regards to Pascal’s Gambit – Two things: 1) This argument does not appear to me to be an argument for or against God existing. Rather it is a probability argument of the effects of God existing if your belief in him is misplaced. Second (I take this thought from a friend) but I think Pascal’s reasoning is flawed because he starts with the assumption that the Christian God/worldview is the correct one over all other forms of religious thought. What if God is not the Christian God, and belief in Christ does nothing for you? In fact, what if the ‘true’ God is sadistic to some level and has used miracles to make Christianity appear true but it is in actuality a farce and anyone who believes in it is actually going to hell? (I realize point two is a tangent) Anyone’s thoughts would be appreciated.

  7. Aaron

    I mostly agree with you. Just about all arguments can only claim to raise the probability level and should not be taken as “proofs” in a Cartesian sense. However, some would argue that the Cosmological and Ontological are more in line with analytical “proofs” since they are more deductive than inductive.

    Of course you are right that this does not prove the Christian God is the right God. That would be the next step. It is really a three step process: 1)Does God Exist? 2) Has he revealed himself? 3) If so, what has he revealed?

  8. Excellent – How about the Word of God argument? It seems like if I knew nothing at all about God (say I were on an island by myself) and I had a Bible – that the Bible would be the strongest evidence for the existence of God – just as the original writers captured the revelation of God from God and wrote it down for us – it is through that same initial revelation that God most clearly speaks to us today and reveals who He is.

  9. Aaron,

    Pascal didn’t present his wager in a vacuum. From my understanding of his apologetic, he presented many arguments for the Christian faith (historical arguments, arguments from prophecy, etc.).

    If the scenario you proposed (a sadistic who tricks people to send believers to hell) is just as likely as Christianity, than I think your critique succeeds.

    However, if Christianity has some actual evidence, even if only a tiny tiny bit, it is more probable than that particular alternative, and thus more prudent to believe.

    Similar comparisons could be made with other religions and proposals based on the evidence for each and their consequences.

    For me, the bigger problem for Pascal is that I’m not sure you can just “choose” to believe something like that. Even if you could, I doubt the “faith” would be anything like what Christianity requires.

  10. They are arguments, rightly so; not proofs.

    I’m curious how a mathematician Paulos would ‘disprove’ arguments in his book,” Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up.” (2008). The below is my review on it in Amazon store:

    The first sentence of his book is said to read “Are there any logical reasons to believe in God?”

    By what he says he proves himself to be a fool. I’m sure the difference btw a fool and a genius may be paper-thin in case of mathematicians.No one believes in God with any logical reasons. Ask anyone, even gods.

    This book may be a light reading for atheists’ amusement, trying to prove something/someone is not there, where the very being to look for is not SUPER-natural, but SUPRA-natural. How do you find Waldo or Wally in a picture when he is not on that page of ‘Where’s Waldo/Wally’?

  11. Alvin Plantinga will argue for free will just as strong as anyone and he is a Calvinist.

    Depends on what you mean by “Calvinist”; he’s a Molinist.

  12. The Bible and science agree on at least one thing, that before anything came into being in the universe, light appeared. Science calls that light background cosmic radiation which is found everywhere they look and which has a consistent measurement in all locations. That light may well be God.

  13. this is a fun game of “Spot the Fallacy”

  14. C Michael Patton 2011-06-23 at 11:47 pm

    More like hit and run with no weights in the vehicle.

  15. @TDC

    I appreciate your response. My first point was to question CMP’s choice of using Pascal’s Wager as an argument for the existence of God. All the other arguments seemed to me to be trying to answer the question: ‘Is there evidence that God exists?’ The use of the Pascal argument seemed out of place to me. I have always understood it to be answering the question: ‘If I am going to believe or not believe based soley on rational thought, which belief gives me the greatest odds of personal reward?’ So you see, I am trying to make sense of why it was chosen for this post. I very well could be not be interpreting the Pascal argument as it was intended or perhaps there is more to it than I thought. In regards to my second thought, I should have left it out as it is a bit off of this posts topic.

  16. I have always understood it to be answering the question: ‘If I am going to believe or not believe based soley on rational thought, which belief gives me the greatest odds of personal reward?’ So you see, I am trying to make sense of why it was chosen for this post. I very well could be not be interpreting the Pascal argument as it was intended or perhaps there is more to it than I thought.

    No, your interpretation of the wager is spot on. The wager is an exercise in practical reasoning. The fact that Pascal also presented regular epistemic arguments (e.g. the fulfillment of prophecy) is besides the point. The wager itself is not an argument for the existence of God, and it was not intended to be.

  17. I really love all of these arguments for the existence of God. I have used a few in discussion with non-believers , it especially is a great starting point with those who do not believe in the bible as God’s holy word. All of these 10 arguments use logic and reasoning which makes for a good platform for dialogue.

    Thanks CMP

  18. George Jenkins 2011-06-24 at 7:18 am

    “……torturing innocent babies for fun is evil…”

    So what about “guilty” babies? Are there any?

    adjectives, eh?

  19. Hrm, interesting. But I think you need to change the title to “Ten Arguments for the Existence of A god”.

    None of the above suggests the Abrahamic god, merely “a god”.

  20. George Jenkins 2011-06-24 at 7:27 am

    for patriciazell.

    1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
    3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

    By my reading, matter, and darkness, came before light. It says “darkness was over the surface of the deep”. There had to be a deep and darkness before light.

  21. These are the idol Gods. Gods with absolute power, abstract Gods. Not the God of grace, election, Law, Prophet, Priest, King, Christ.

    Latet periculum in generalibus!

  22. The Argument from Miracles is a powerful one – especially (as you suggest) the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. But we need to recognize that it is more “round about” than we might think. In the Scripture, God does not perform miracles to prove his existence – it is always for another purpose. For more on this, see http://www.nestheology.org/2011/06/23/do-miracles-prove-the-existence-of-god/

  23. What about the transcendental argument?

    While I do not subscribe to the dogmatism as incorporated into Cornelius Van Til’s argument, I do think that it is a valuable contribution to Christian apologetics.

  24. Most arguments are well-stated; I find some convincing, others not so much.

    My only disagreement is with number 7, free will.

    CMP said in comments “If atheism is true, then fatalism is true.” I assume you’re using fatalism to mean the same thing as physical determinism.

    First of all, whether the universe is deterministic is a question of physics that has not been solved. Many physicists interpret quantum mechanics to mean that it is -not- deterministic. So, the premise atheism–>determinism can be rejected.

    Second, it’s hard to see why the existence of God implies that the universe is non-deterministic. (One could argue that God’s existence implies some sort of fatalism, and his mere existence says nothing about physics.)

    Finally, the conclusion that “all arguments are absurd and unjustified without God” is fallacious, since the veracity of an argument has nothing to do with our free-will ability to make or believe it.

  25. I don’t like the Cosmological Argument: Even if you were to conclude that the universe did have a cause, what makes the cause a God, or furthermore a non Deist God who is interventionist and trying to save mankind (furthermore the Christian version of God)?

  26. David, it is true that the cosmological arugment does not prove the existence of the Christian God necessarily, but the cause is, by definition, God. So, if the universe has a cause, then God exists. The next question is concerning communication: Has this God communicated.

    A lot of people assume that the next question is: Is God a person. But this is really covered under different forms of the cosmological building on implications of cause and effect (can the effect be greater than (personal) the cause (impersonal)?No) and the timing of creation, a non-personal being could not have created the universe in the universe came into existence at a particular time (implying will—the foundation for personality). If the creator was impersonal, the universe would always be existing since there would never be a point that the creator could “will” to create. Since the creator willed to created, the creator is personal.

  27. From #29 “Is God a person?”

    It’s a very important question. The answer is, however, ehem, very easy. It all depends on what is meant by ‘God’ and what is meant by ‘person’ 😉

    From the Scripture, all we can say is that God comes to us as a person, so that we can relate to, in His love through J.C.

    God cannot be “a person”, even “a being”, as such. He IS mystery and cannot be a countable noun. If that’s true, one’s god is too small. Don’t forget that our universe (or even multiple universes of a cosmological hypothesis) cannot be more that a small ‘toy’ on His fingertip (please excuse for a poor analogy).

  28. Again, this could just as easily be “Ten Arguments for the existence of Odin”. Not that they’re all actually arguments. Nothing above supports the existence of Yahweh more than any other god, nothing.

  29. Paul, that is a good sound bite, but is really not true.

    Odin does not represent transcendence at all. He, properly speaking, was never an option for “the necessary being” as is being argued for in nearly all of these arguments. Odin was simply a really powerful being. But “really powerful being” is not a definition for God. God is defined by transcendence, metaphysically, and the “uncaused cause” philosophically.

    It would be like saying these arguments could be used for the existence of Superman or Green Lantern. No they could not. Even though Lex Luther often called Superman a god, he meant something entirely different. We have to get out definitions straight. These are not arguments for god however you want to describe him.

    Superman, Odin, Santa Clause, Zeus, Caesar, and the like are not helped by these arguments.

    Hope that makes sense. It is a very common mistake, especially among ill-informed atheists.

  30. I’m a Christian, but I do struggle with the idea of God. I often don’t feel he makes himself known or present and I’m not satisfied with any real argument.

    I mentioned the Cosmological argument above, I mean why do we have to claim a cause for the universe and if there is a cause why is it God and not something else, if by God you mean the unknown cause of the universe then what does that prove.

    2. Teleological Argument: could it be things appear to have a design because of the anthropocentric principal? Meaning things appear to be designed for us because we’re here and if slightly different then we’d have a very different reality.

    You mention the complexity of the human eye, what about the complexity of AIDS, or bed bugs or the bot fly or a Loa loa parasitic worm burrowing in someones eye. In a way natural selection makes a much more realistic idea to me than design.

    I’m out of characters, but I do wish sometimes God, if he exists, would make himself known.

  31. I’m not trying to be argumentative. I guess I’m just in a dark night of the soul right now and I sometimes feel I’m just holding on to the idea of God because its what I’ve always known. I wish there would be something out there with will overtake my overwhelming doubt.

    Sorry for my previous posts, I guess its just me expressing my frustration.

  32. It’s a good survey of the available arguments. I think they all have their flaws, but I’m sure you would agree at least that some of them are stronger than others. Are there any of these arguments that you personally think are too weak to use?

  33. David,

    Please know that these arguments are not meant to dispel all doubt. I think that belief and doubt are very mysterious. While these do provide evidences for the intellectual side of faith, faith has more to it than the intellectual and rational. Sometimes we doubt things that make complete rational sense for other reasons, especially experiencial reasons.

    However, I do believe that these can strengthen our faith providing an anchor in times of doubt and uncertainty.

    I have a book that I have just finished called “Increase my Faith.” It is not published yet, but I do think it would help you a great deal. What I do is explain the complexities of faith and why we believe and, often, why we doubt. It also helps you to diagnose you faith problems. I would be happy to send you an electronic copy if you would like.

    I also suggest that you go to http://www.dealingwithdoubt.org and listen to the mp3 on Christian doubt.

    God bless.

  34. Mike,

    I don’t like #5 that much. Nor do I like (or really understand) the ontological argument (though some really smart people think it is the best!)

    While I think that the Cosmological necessitates the existence of a creator, it does not mean that this creator must be the Christian God. But I think the cumulative case for these arguments are overwhelming from an intellectual standpoint, faith is more than just the intellect.

  35. I think I’d agree with your choices. Those are definitely the bottom two. Most of rest are equally weak in my opinion, with the strongest probably being the cosmological argument, though it has it’s problems too. A couple are not arguments, such as number 4 or number 10 (Pascal’s wager isn’t an argument for God’s existence anyway). I don’t know if you can say that these arguments present a cumulative case unless you are willing to consider all of them to be either successful or at least strong arguments. 10 weak arguments do not equal 1 strong argument in any case.

    To riff a little bit off or your comment about the cosmological argument, here’s a little twist. Not only does this argument not prove that the first cause of is the Christian God, but neither does it prove that the Christian God (if he exists) is the first cause. In other words, the god of the Bible could exist and have created the world, but still be contingent (and perhaps not even know it). Hypothetically…

  36. Mike,

    I would agree and disagree.

    1. I don’t like the word “proof” because we usually imply a very modernistic (Cartesian) idea here. So, in the sense that we are talking about mathematical type of certainty, then you are right that most (besides the Cosmological imo) only provide evidences that alternatives can be offered. However, the possibility of an alternative does not mean the probability of an alternative. This is where Occam’s razor is so important.

    None of the “faith decisions” we make every day cannot be shown to have holes. Just because it is possible that aliens seeded our planet does not mean we are we have a right to take that seriously.

    However, as I said before, the cosmological does present a logical deductive case the comes very close to rational proof. Even Hawkins has to punt to metaphysics in his suggestion of an alternative universe to explain ultimate origins. But this is just a punt to heaven! (or transcendence).

  37. Mike, you might see more where I am coming from here: Why I Am Not Completely Certain the Christianity is True:

    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/11/why-i-am-not-completely-certain-that-christianity-is-true/

  38. I’ve read the post to which you linked and I think it describes well the kind of belief I had as a Christian (though there was, of course, plenty of pressure to declare greater certainty than I actually had, so I appreciate your honesty).

    You definitely do have to dig deeper to find the flaws in some of these arguments than others. For some, they’re lying right on the surface. For others, it takes a bit more thought. But the real question is just how crippling are the flaws? Many of the premises are common sense assumptions that do not stand up to rational scrutiny. If you can deconstruct the argument logically then all you have left are feelings and impressions, such as “Well, it had to all have come from somewhere.” These are powerful, and they could be reasons for believing, even when the information necessary to confirm or deny them is lacking. But when you get to be in my position, the flaws become every reason for suspending judgment and remaining agnostic.

  39. You may be aware of JP Holding aproach to apologetics but I have come across Sye Ten Bruggencate. @ http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/main.php

    His aproach is based on presuppositional apologetics …It would be nice if you could include him in your up comming posts on apologetics. peace

  40. Well written. I have also been particularly drawn to those arguments for the existence of God, which have a basis in Science and Physics. “New Proofs for the Existence of God” by Robert J. Spitzer presents that side of the story in a clear and convincing way.

  41. When I read this, I was expecting… something more than what I got. Much, much more. None of these are even slightly thought-provoking.

    As an open-minded atheist, I came here looking for things that might challenge my world view. I accept that I could very well be wrong, and am totally willing to change my belief if someone presents me a strong enough common-sense argument. But each and every argument here is so flimsy and full of holes… is this the best you guys have? There has to be better, right? I’m not speaking from a “holier-than-thou” stance here guys, I’m being completely truthful. This can’t be it.

  42. What about the historical Argument?

  43. Aristotle’s proof for the existence of God is good enough for me. The first cause argument seems to ring true. We struggle with the terminology. God is infinity. Most people I talk to can relate to the ontological proof . We have become a society of non-thinkers.

  44. I have taken some liberties with Gordon H. Clark’s theistic set and have applied it to Jesus/The Word.

    (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    1. Truth exists
    2. Truth is immutable
    3. Truth is eternal
    4. Truth is mental –not independent of mind
    5. Truth is superior to the human mind
    6. Truth is God*
    (*Gordon H. Clark)

    Truth exists—there is knowledge, and therefore the object of knowledge. To say truth doesn’t exist is self-referential nonsense (self-refuting).

    Truth is immutable—what is true today will be true tomorrow, and we know this because if it is truth, its truth always. Pragmatism is not truth.

    Truth is eternal—truth will never perish. While Christ’s humanity did perish his divinity did not. Therefore Christ’s claim of being the truth is significant.

    Truth is mental—it presupposes the existence of minds. Truth cannot exist without a mind, and an eternal mind means eternal truth. Christ couldn’t make a claim of being the truth unless he was eternal, having two natures.
    Truth is superior to the human mind—truth cannot be subjective and individualistic. The human mind is changeable, finite, mutable, and subject to error. Truth therefore transcends human reason, and superior to the human mind. While Christ did have a human mind, which was apt to change, he also has the truth eternal in his divine mind, eternally.

    Truth is God—an ontological ground for truth. Truth cannot be anything perishable or contingent (dependent upon something else), therefore the truth always has existed in an eternal mind. Only God possesses these attributes; God must be truth and therefore Jesus has this attribute.

    Jesus says he is the truth, a definitive claim of an attribute of God from Jesus himself. A mere human mind cannot make such a claim of being the truth and it really be true.

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