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Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?

“You don’t truly understand something until you can exlain it is a simple way where everyone can understand it.” Let me attempt to do so here:

If something exists, then so does God.

Now more complex:

Romans 1:18-20 is one of the great, theologically rich passages in all of Scripture. It tells us that evidence of God’s reality is universally known and that no one will be able to present a (valid) excuse for unbelief.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 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 men are without excuse.”

An interesting point that we, as Christians who believe in the ultimate authority of the Scripture, need to be reminded of is that this passage tells us that God has made himself known, not since the creation of the Scriptures, but “since the creation of the world.” While the specifics of the Gospel are not present in creation, God’s “eternal power and divine nature” have been “clearly” seen so that no one will be able to say “I did not know.”

Theologians term this “natural revelation.” It is also spoken of in Psalm 19. Natural revelation is the type of revelation that is available to all people of all time, everywhere. From it we derive a “natural theology.” Natural theology stands beside the Scriptures and aids us in our understanding of God.

Have you ever noticed that the Bible does not make a concerted effort to argue for God’s existence? There is no book in the Bible that is focused on this “first principle” of theology. Why? Because creation itself is sufficient to bring us to a reliable conclusion about this matter. God’s written word does not need to do what his voice in creation had already sufficiently done. As R.C. Sproul put it, “It would be like bringing steel to Pittsburgh. You just don’t need it!”

So, why is there something rather than nothing?

Here is how I work out Romans 1:18-20 from natural revelation:

No matter how ridiculous talking snakes, parting seas, and incarnate Gods may be, when I am at my best, I recognize that existence itself is about as bizarre as it comes. The fact that there is something demands that there be some-thing to explain it. The fact that something exists is more miraculous than we can normally bring ourselves to imagine.

Here is a four step process to moving from natural revelation to the necessity of God.

1. Transcendence:  This some-thing responsible for creation must be metaphysically transcendent. Metaphysical transcendence is defined as being above and beyond all things in the physical or material world. In other words, it is outside of this universe or dimension of existence. Time, space, and matter all demand that they be separate from the essence of their genesis. This metaphysically transcendent “essence” is what is traditionally defined as “God. 

2. One: This “God” from which all things came must be one, not many. For if there were many, one would have to have a way to distinguish between their essence. Once we distinguish their essence, we can no longer describe them as transcendent since multiplicity in essence, demands space and matter as means to essentially distinguish their nature. The presence of space and matter are the antithesis to metaphysical transcendence. If there were many, we would be back to step one of justifying their existence by finding that one existence that is transcendent to them. In other words, “God” must be unified in nature (we sometimes call this “divine simplicity.”)

3. Willful: This “God” from which all things came has to be willful. Since time came into being, there was a singular point when it was birthed. Why was it created when it was created? The answer to this demands that the transcendent “essence” from which all things come must have “decided” at some point to bring it into being. Otherwise, it would have never come into being since, without a will, the transcendent essence would have never created it. This is due to the fact that outside of willful intent, we are left only with cause and effect. Since “God,” in his unified essence, does not exist in relation to cause and effect, before and after (all attributes of immanence), there is no explanatory cause for creation. This transcendent essence must have willfully brought all things into being at some singular point.

4. Personal: Willfulness implies personality. Therefore, this tells me that this “God” must contain “personhood” in some sense. Adding to this personhood is characteristics observed in creation, particularly humanity. Humanity carries characteristics of emotion, rationality, and morality. Love, anger, joy, satisfaction, and desire are all emotional characteristics. Logic, rational thinking, and common sense are all rational characteristic. The innate sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and the pursuit of truth itself are all moral characteristics. Due to the assumed reality that the thing created cannot be greater than that which is responsible for its creation, “God” must contain all of these characteristics to a degree transcendently greater and more pure than the creation.

Thus far, I have ruled out:

Polytheism (Belief in many Gods): There could not be many of these beings or they are not truly transcendent. To be one who believes in many gods, the whole idea of what it means to be “god” must be depleted of essential characteristics. At best, polytheists are those who worship the most powerful beings in our universe who themselves need a sufficient explanatory cause.

Pantheism and Panentheism (Belief that all is God or all is “in” God): Their cannot be immanence coming from the essence or being of transcendence. Both pantheism and panentheism must redefine what it means to be “God” in a similar way as polytheism as true transcendence no longer exists. This is why pantheists are often described as “philosophical” or “metaphysical” atheists.

Atheism (Belief that there is no God): In atheism, there is no transcendent explanatory cause for all things, only an infinite regress of time, space, matter and cause and effects. This is referentially absurd since the reality of a present moment demands, in their worldivew, an infinite amount of time to have been traversed before we arrive at the present moment. But an infinite cannot, by definition, be traversed since there would always be an infinite amount succession of moments and events before we get to “now.” It would be like asking when someone would get out of an infinitely deep hole. The answer is “never” due to the fact that there is no starting point from which to begin and, therefore, complete the journey. Since we are at “now” there must have been a beginning. Since there is a beginning, there must be a transcendent explanation for this beginning. Once this is conceded, atheism no longer is possible.

Deism (Belief in a transcendent God who cannot intervene in history): As deism itself is self-defeating. If something exists, God must be responsible for it. If he is responsible for it, by definition, he is and can be involved in creation. While this is a paradoxical situation that a transcendent God can be involved in immanence, it is, nonetheless, a philosophical necessity due to the fact that something exists. (I understand that there is “soft deism” which is a believe in a transcendent God who does not (not cannot) intervene in history, but that is an internal issue that does not have relevance here. It is really just another form of theism).

Why is there something rather than nothing? Because one transcendent, willful, personal God created it and is involved in it. Creation spells this out clear enough. We are without excuse for disbelief.

Back to the simple:

“You don’t truly understand something until you can exlain it is a simple way where everyone can understand it.”

If something exists, then so does God.

52 Responses to “Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?”

  1. Good post. Our post-Enlightenment society puts so much weight on the material world and empirical evidence that we’ve abandoned philosophy and logical thought as a way of knowing ‘facts’.

    Have you read Willard’s “Spiritual Knowledge”? It’s a nice little work and in line with your post.

  2. Something rather than nothing (the primordial existential question), the fact that matter follows laws, and the resurrection of Jesus are the three things which always seem to see me through my times of doubt. As ludicrous as Christianity may sound at times, it is by far the least ludicrous option available.

  3. I assume the ‘simple’ versions at the beginning and end are intended to be humorous?

  4. C Michael Patton said: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 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 men are without excuse.””

    I am an atheist.

    According to this text, The wrath of Yahweh is being revealed from heaven against me.

    I’m not sure how, though. I do have a cold at the moment, maybe that is it?

  5. Boz, you will have to look further into the text. Later in Romans 1 it says that God “gave them over” three times. The giving over is to their own depravity. In chapter two it talks about “storing up” the wrath for the day of judgement.

    Hope that helps.

  6. C Michael Patton said: “The fact that there is something demands that there be some-thing to explain it.”

    C Michael Patton, this argument is begging the question. The statement implicitly assumes that an agency causes our eixstence, and then goes on to conclude that an agency named Yahweh causes our eixstence.

    C Michael Patton said: “In atheism, there is no transcendent explanatory cause for all things, only an infinite regress of time, space, matter and cause and effects. ”

    There cannot be an infinite regress of time, because the total amount of time that has ever existed (so far) is around ~14b years.

  7. C Michael Patton, the bible I have here doesn’t mention three times in Romans 1 (maybe it is implicit?), but it does go on to say about non-christians (including me):

    Yahweh gave them up to the evil desires of their hearts, working shame in their bodies with one another. [having homosexual sex?],

    and that non-christian men gave up the natural use of the woman and were burning in their desire for one another, men doing shame with men [clearly having homosexual sex] !

    That is a very funny chapter, Paul of Tarsus doesn’t hold back when describing non-christians!

    He says that non-christians are: Being full of all wrongdoing, evil, desire for the goods of others, hate, envy, putting to death, fighting, deceit, cruel ways, evil talk, and false statements about others; Hated by God, full of pride, without respect, full of loud talk, given to evil inventions, not honouring father or mother, Without knowledge, not true to their undertakings, unkind, having no mercy.

  8. Not really Boz. It is simply assuming the legitimacy of cause and effect relationships and the illegitimacy of infinite regress of such. Either of those assumption can be challenged, but I have never heard anything legitimate.

    The giving them over is all-inclusive. Those are just illustrations of what they are given over to.

  9. Boz, you stated “That is a very funny chapter, Paul of Tarsus doesn’t hold back when describing non-christians!”

    If you keep reading, in chapter 3 Paul quotes the Psalm “There is no one righteous, not even one”

    His reason for writing is not to say that anyone who is not a Christian is bad. He is arguing in ch 2-3 is that all people are sinners and therefore Jews have no right to judge Gentile Christians.

    CMP, interesting thoughts. I have become more and more aware that God is obvious, but at the same time he is unprovable. My belief in God is due to his initiative, not to my ability to look outside and understand that he is there.

  10. Phantom,

    I do agree that theologically speaking our belief is based on him (Eph 2; 1 Cor 2), but there is also the “without excuse” of Romans 1.

    I don’t think it is an either/or, but a both/and.

    “Proof” is a funny word these days. Do you mean “sufficient evidence for belief” or “unable to be wrong.” I reject the latter in most cases. For the most part, belief in Christianity is “proven” by sufficient evidence. But I understand people’s adverse reaction to the word coming out of a cartesian philosophy.

  11. Yes I agree completely that we are without excuse. It’s an interesting problem that God is obvious, and yet that we are unable to see him. (At least I wasn’t…..perhaps i have particularly poor vision 🙂 )
    Actually I think this is more problematic than the problem of evil…the fact that we are culpable for something that is not completely our fault.

    By proof I mean proof. There is more than sufficient evidence. I have tried every philosophical route I can find and there is always some loophole. God will not allow me to prove his existence. Which is also sorf of obvious, since if there was a proof someone would have found it long ago and we would all be theists.

  12. I am with you there. I have heard many “presuppositionalists” attempt to use this passage saying that the “without excuse” must mean that there are no loopholes. I just think it means “without [a good] excuse”.

  13. CMP,

    Your argument fails. Craig has been repeating this old Islamic argument for quite a while now, and math-ignorant theologians have happily repeated it without knowing how absurd it is.

    You say:
    “This is referentially absurd since the reality of a present moment demands, in their worldivew, an infinite amount of time to have been traversed before we arrive at the present moment. But an infinite cannot, by definition, be traversed since there would always be an infinite amount succession of moments and events before we get to “now.””

    This is about as absurd as going into a math class and arguing that “zero” cannot exist in the set of integers, because you would have to transverse all of the negative numbers to get there.

    The problem is that you *assume* a finite set boundary (“start from…”), then conclude that you can’t reach another point. That’s a circular argumentan, and doesn’t even address the actual event set definition that’s relevant to this model.

    Craig has yet to come remotely close to demonstrating Kalaam for an unbounded set, even though that’s what he pretends to analyze.

  14. Wolf, your analogy confuses me.
    “This is about as absurd as going into a math class and arguing that “zero” cannot exist in the set of integers, because you would have to transverse all of the negative numbers to get there.”

    Zero is a quantity; infinity is not. CMP’s argument is that it is impossible to count from negative infinity to zero (present time). His point is that zero -does- exist; time began at a certain value (14bya) and worked its way up to zero.

    Of course his argument assumes that it is, in fact, impossible to count from negative infinity to zero. Which seems reasonable to me, but I’m not qualified to analyze the mathematics.

  15. Wolf,

    The funny part is that if Craig’s argument (the Kalam Cosmological) is invalid (and it could be) I have yet to find a philosopher or physicist discount it in a way that isn’t completely laughable (e.g. Mr. Hawkings recent attempts at philosophy disquised as “science”). In every single debate and writing in which Craig has defended this argument he has dismantled his opponents objections with ease and often (as was the case with someone who made a similar objection to Boz’s assertion of question begging) makes his opponents look like fools. If you read his writing you would see that he is quite careful to distinguish between imaginary infinites (for instance numbers which in and of themselves only exist in our heads) and a infinite actually existing in reality.

  16. Michael,

    I for one am quite familiar with Craig’s work, and the objection offered here is valid. You are clearly unaware of the relevant mathematics if you have been impressed with Craig’s arguments (especially in his debates!).

    Craig assumes a finite set boundary, then proceeds to show that a finite sequence of steps will not produce an unbounded set.

    Great.

    Considering he started with a finite set boundary, it’s just not surprising that it gave him, well, a finite bounded set.

    In his blissful mathematical ignorance he then proceeds to convince the rest of the mathematically uninformed public that he has refuted an unbounded set model.

  17. Michael,

    “If you read his writing you would see that he is quite careful to distinguish between imaginary infinites (for instance numbers which in and of themselves only exist in our heads) and a infinite actually existing in reality”

    In repeating Craig’s argument you have demonstrated that you don’t understand the issue.

    Craig has never, in any peer reviewed paper, book, or otherwise, actually applied his “infinite regress” set building algorithm to a set of numbers as basic as even the the integers. If he did, he would have realized that the very same set properties refute his argument, because the argument is based on the wrong set boundary definition.

    Unfortunately people get so impressed by the abstraction on which Kalaam is based that they don’t realize Craig has no idea what he’s talking about.

  18. Ken G.

    1. “Craig assumes a finite set boundary, then proceeds to show that a finite sequence of steps will not produce an unbounded set.”

    Except that he claims that he isn’t using or analyzing a bounded set. Now let me be straight about Craig here – I disagree with him on a number of things. However, the guy is brilliant and has absolutely destroyed people who raise the amateurish arguments I have come up with against him in these other areas (e.g. Molinism and his theory of time – in fact I remain agnostic about Molinism simply because he has done such a good job of answering some of the objections I’ve come up with when others raised them). Thus I can only assume that given his intelligence and knowledge of the available material that if he is pulling some kind of bait and switch here he is fully cognizant of that fact. I have nothing in his character to indicate to me that this would be the case.

    2. Are you claiming that the universe does not have a beginning and is in fact eternal? Since this is ultimately the premise that this argument goes to.

  19. Wolf,

    1. Simply claiming that because I repeat an argument I don’t understand the material is as naked of a ad hominem as I’ve ever seen. You might as well have said “Your wrong because your stupid”.

    2. Can you name me a peer reviewed article which has raised the argument you yourself are raising (if that is going to be the standard), thus we could expect a response to it (I know Graham Oppy has written some stuff – all of which has been responded to by Craig)? The fact of matter is that it is Craig’s contention that he is not doing what you say he is doing. Face it amateur philosophers like us can sit around and chase our tails all day long coming up with ridiculously unreasonable objections to any persons work while the big boys will tear us to shreds (e.g. a recent humorous address by Craig on the 10 Worst Objections to the Kalam Cosmological garnered from the internet). The problem is Craig, and no professional philosopher or scientist for that matter, is going to respond to our amateur musings nor should we expect them to. I should further note that I do not recall any of the professionals raising this objection in the numerous debates I’ve watched.

  20. Richard Worden Wilson 2010-10-12 at 2:49 am

    CMP:
    Although there is much to commend in this post, it seems to me that there is something of an inconsistency in your line of reasoning. The statement “If something exists, then so does God” is simple, but it doesn’t contain any explanatory power. You note that there is no bible text that contains a concerted effort to argue for God’s existence. Yet your statement and argumentation is exactly that. For Paul it was simply an Apostolic and prophetic assertion: “God’s everlasting power and divine nature” have been manifested clearly from what has been created. Your argument on the other hand is an argument for the existence of God, then on to his nature from what you see as necessary arguments toward your necessary conclusions. It seems to me that your arguments are only necessary if they are also apostolic/prophetic. There doesn’t seem to be a logical necessity in Paul’s argument, simply a spiritual-prophetic necessity. Paul’s explanation may not be directly convertible into logically compelling discourse, but it doesn’t need to be because it has a “witness to Jesus” kind of authority that can’t be duplicated. Not sure this is helpful, but I hope it isn’t hurtful.
    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richard W. Wilson

  21. CMP. Have you ever read any of the Summa Theologica on this sort of topic? Aquinas’s distinction between existence and essence I consider to be a powerful argument for God’s existence.

    Also, on other important matters, do you agree that the final season is just awesome so far?

  22. There’s an interesting video by Lawrence Krauss called “A Universe From Nothing.” I think it might be on youtube. I saw it on a blog called “Dwindling In Unbelief.”

  23. What exactly is “essence” anyway? You say that there cannot be more than one God because they would have to be distinct in essence and therefore not transcendent. I have a couple of problems with this. First of all, I have no idea how one would know what the essence of a transcendent being would be anyway. Second, when you propose a transcendent being, all you are really saying is that he is somehow outside of the universe. He is not bound by it. I don’t see how you can really develop a definition of transcendence beyond that. Since all that we know and can observe is the universe, how can we claim to know what properties, if any, things outside the universe must possess? How do we know how many things lie outside the universe? How do we know what essence they have?

    Biblical theology seems to suggest that there are other beings that lie outside our universe, such as angels. They are different in essence from God, but they are transcendent of the physical universe. You would probably say that God is transcendent of them as well, and so you begin to extent your cosmological argument into the metaphysical as well. How far back does it need to go? What if the universe was not created by the ultimate being? What if the God or gods who created the universe were themselves products of another divinity?

    How is any of this speculation at odds with the idea of transcendence? The fact is that once you get outside of the observable universe, there is no limit to what you can speculate since we are entering into an area about which we can, by definition, know nothing.

  24. Michael,

    1.”Except that he claims that he isn’t using or analyzing a bounded set.”

    That’s what I already told you. He claims the contrary, but even a basic training in theoretical math would show that he is wrong. But you’ve demonstrated that you believe whatever he says anyway, because his character and academic prestige (in the wronf field!) impress you.

    If you are interested in thinking for yourself, this is why his argument is mathematically laughable.

    Craig explains that, given an unbounded universe, one cannot arrive at the present wihout first traversing an infinite sequence of events.

    This is only true if you start at a fixed, finite set boundary. He thus demonstrates NOTHING about unbounded sets, except that they can’t result from a bounded set undergoing transformation via algorithm.

    2. It would allow unbounded physical causality. (Please feel free to do me the pleasure of trying to make a physics argument against this 🙂

  25. It seems from Romans 1 that a spiritually dead man can acknowledge truth directly pertaining to God and reject it. I like the idea of choice and responsibility I see in this chapter. God reveals himself to man, yet man can reject the truth or trust what is revealed.

  26. Ken G.

    I do not claim to be an expert on this part of his argument. I’m not a mathematician or a physicist or a professional philosopher. I’m a lawyer for heavens sake :). However, if your objection is so obvious where has it been raised in the literature? I seriously hear people who say they’ve come up with this or that way to defeat a professional philosophers arguments all the time (from both Christians and Atheists alike) in forums such as this. 99.99% of the time when the philosophers actually address those arguments (i.e. some of them have blogs where they occasionally do this) they turn out to be laughably absurd (e.g. the objection that Kalam begs the question).

  27. Michael,

    Don’t you claim to be a lawyer? For a lawyer you should know better than to throw around terms like “ad hominem” so loosely.

    Repeating his wrong reasoning as a defense certainly implies you don’t understand the topic. Crying ad hominem isn’t an objection to that. And you’ve yet to do anything but confirm this notion by your subsequent posts…

    “Face it amateur philosophers like us can sit around and chase our tails all day long…”

    You should also know better than to assume someone shares your lack of relevant academic qualifications.

    You made a salient point though – your belief in Kalam is NOT based on your understanding of the argument, but on your faith/trust in a human (this time being Craig).

    …And on peer reviewed papers – you apparently only read the ones that Craig thinks he has refuted (have you even read those? Or just his responses?)

    Craig has been thoroughly refuted in at least a half dozen British and American philosophy journals, over a couple decades (his Kalam premises have even been refuted independently by well known 20th century Muslim scholars). Morriston did a good job in Philo in the late 90s showing how confused Craig was, and he has yet to adequately correct his argument.

  28. Michael (re your last response),

    I’ve already addressed your ignorance of the copious professional philosophical literature refuting Craig…

    But I am left wondering how you can both admit ignorance on the topic and yet identify when a refutation of Craig is insufficient.

    Funny how your expertise level fluctuates so conveniently…

  29. Wolf,

    1. I have yet to actually see anything other than a professional theologian appear on these forums. I have discussed with you in the past and you did not reveal at that time any special qualifications that would lead me to believe you are any more authoritative then anyone else here. If I was wrong in this assumption I apologize.

    2. I do not admit ignorance. I rather admit that I am not a professional philosopher. Thus my skills of understanding are not up to that level. This does not imply complete ignorance.

    3. I also am do not admit complete ignorance of the material. I rather admit that I have not read every single objection or response on the matter.

    4. On Morriston. Craig and him dialogued back in 2009 on this issue. Secondly Morriston’s arguments only applies to Craig’s articulation of the problem of infinity, not the general philosophical problem of infinity (as Morriston himself indicated in the 1999 article you mentioned). Thirdly a number of Morriston’s objections depend upon philosophical positions that Craig denies (e.g. that abstract objects are real). Fourthly, Morriston doesn’t appear to be raising the same objection you have (or is it Ken who raised that??).

  30. “The fact is that once you get outside of the observable universe, there is no limit to what you can speculate since we are entering into an area about which we can, by definition, know nothing.”

    Which is a statement that pretends to know something about something we supposedly know nothing about. This is a universal negative. If someone, i.e., God, who is in a realm of that which is unknown to us, reveals something about it to us, then we can know something about it. However, if one is an atheist, he can say nothing about it one way or the other. He cannot say that it is unknowable or knowable. It is simply self refuting for him to do so. The atheist should be silent on the matter and say nothing about God one way or the other. Otherwise, his statements are self defeating.

  31. Hodge,

    But this is not an argument about revelation is it? The arguments presented in this post are entirely a-priori. If there is a way that we can get reliable information from the other side of the veil as it were, then that’s another story. But the issue here is whether the existence of the monotheistic God of the Bible can be inferred back from the existence of the universe.

  32. Isn’t the arument over Kalam somewhat moot now that modern physics and cosmology affirm a finite begining for space-time (aka the ‘Big Bang’)? Modern science, as I understand it, affirms the conclusion of Kalam by saying space-time does not stretch infintiely into the past.

  33. Casey,

    No. Not at all. That is what physics-naive theologians like Craig and Copan would like you to believe. But cosmological trends are about the worst basis you could possibly use for a theological argument – especially since leading physicists are plodding ahead to model a natural causal history for the universe that has no need for any violation of physical causal closure (the 14BA of the big bang doesn’t imply God, to say the least).

    Even aside from that, though, the “God did it” proposition fails as an explanatory response. One cannot propose a less-observed, less-understood, less-probable phenomenon (ie God) to explain another observation without independent verification of that proposition. That’s reason in reverse.

  34. Mike,

    I’m simply refuting the statement as you made it. Now, if you want to argue whether we can infer a particular proposition from a particular event, that may be a different story; but saying that we can know nothing about it in order to make inferences is to make a universal negative and a self defeating claim. That’s my only point. I’m a presuppositionalist, so I don’t make these classical arguments; but I do see that they are to a degree valid points to bring up.

  35. @Ken – I think Marquis de Sade made your final point most clearly in his book “Juliette”, where one of the depraved nuns remarks on Aquinas’s “prime mover” argument by saying, “Explaining away one absurdity with another is no explanation at all”. An invisible Jew in the sky named Yaweh isn’t logically more satisfying than infinite regress.

    I don’t quite get your first point, though. If physicists did, indeed, postulate that the universe “began” in the sense that Craig uses the word “began”, then it renders the disputes against KCA moot, and casey would have a point. Certainly things might change in the future, but it would make the debate moot *today*.

    Casey’s point is still moot, though, since most (all?) cosmologists adhere to a different understanding of time (B-theory of time), where time is not linear. So it’s not coherent to talk about “beginning” as if it means the same thing Aquinas or Craig meant. To the cosmologists who talk about a beginning, the universe didn’t begin in the same sense that Aquinas was talking about. If we found cosmologists who postulate a big band and adhere to A-theory, then it *might* be worth mentioning (but as you say, the leap to an invisible Jew in the sky requires additional arguments).

    HSAT, I think Michael T. is essentially correct. There is often a direct inverse correlation between the number of hyperbolic, sweeping statements a person makes and his perceived credibility. The only people who speak as if the matter is conclusively settled are people who are arguing on message boards.

    It’s an incredibly complicated topic, and things are changing all the time. I have at least 4 favorite theories, all of which seem mutually plausible to me, and all of which are mutually exclusive. And the theories which seem to be gaining most traction with “the experts” seem increasingly metaphysical, compared to what we expected 100 years ago.

  36. Rayner Markley 2010-10-12 at 10:09 pm

    CMP, you say that you work out Romans 1:18-20 using natural theology. In fact, I see what you have done here differently. You are finding evidence for God using natural philosophy. I’m pretty sure that your interpretation of the verses isn’t what Paul had in mind. So you end up using the passage as simply a literary reference, a device that writers may employ to lend panache or elegance.

    Is there really such a thing as natural theology? And how much can it tell us?

    By the way, the main reason why the Bible doesn’t address God’s existence is that it was written for the people of the time and the audience in most cases already believed.

  37. Michael,

    The 2009 “dialogue” between Morriston and Craig came after some derision against Craig for failing to address salient critique in a professional manner for more than a decade. As already stated, he still failed to do so adequately in 09 (this was even noted by a former student now at Notre Dame who eve shares his theological views.)

    Until you’ve read Morriston’s actual paper, which I’m still not clear you’ve even done, there’s no point in further elucidation here.

    Again, I find it interesting that your belief ultimately rests in your character assessment of another human.

  38. Is this the article? This is the one I’ve read

    http://stripe.colorado.edu/~morristo/infpast.html

    As to character when one has reason to believe that someone is not outright lying or attempting to mislead this does play a role in whether or not one is likely to listen to the person in question.

  39. Richard Worden Wilson 2010-10-13 at 1:21 am

    Wow, some “stuff” really gets flung at the fan around here, no?

    There are probably no human arguments that do not contain at least some presuppositions hidden even from those who propose them.

    If one were to propose a presuppositionless argument it would probably be meaningless to everyone this side of ‘eternity.’

    Discovering and comprehending the presuppositions behind or underlying our most simple statements may be one of the most noble tasks to which we may devote ourselves.

    We would do well to commit more time to this than to bashing the proposals of others with our most recent ratiocinations.

    Let the discovery continue.

    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richard Worden Wilson

  40. “No. Not at all. That is what physics-naive theologians like Craig and Copan would like you to believe. But cosmological trends are about the worst basis you could possibly use for a theological argument – especially since leading physicists are plodding ahead to model a natural causal history for the universe that has no need for any violation of physical causal closure (the 14BA of the big bang doesn’t imply God, to say the least).”

    Translation: something came from nothing. Why not just state this plainly instead of reverting to abstraction and rhetoric?

  41. Wolf Veizer 2010-10-13 at 9:01 am

    Michael,

    Craig has literally built his career on the “truth” of his primary argument, and would be bankrupt philosophically if he admitted it was all based on his misunderstanding of basic set theory.

    He has garnered a huge following among scores of naïve theologians who actually think he is right.

    He has convinced thousands of Christians they can prove God’s existence.

    That’s more motive than one could possibly ask for to create a self-sustaining lie. It happens with scientists too – that’s the downside of staking your career on one stubbornly held over promise…

  42. Ken G.,

    I fail to follow your point. I have no doubt the current cosmology is well beyond me, but you did not provide any explanation of how scientists are explaining the beginning of nature according to natural law. I know that Hawking just recently tried to propose such a theory…but I’m not sure how it was recieved…and many have said it is just wild untestable, and even irrational, speculation.

    Reagrding “God did it”. Well, I could see how a strict empiricist could say that. But the Greatest Possible Being is an intuitive, rational and conceivable possibility. And being necessarily transcendent to space-time-matter, it wouldn’t necessarily be expected to be directly observed by scientific process. I know you say “how convenient”. But all of this is very reasonable.

    I think the issue is an a priori rejection of the Transcendent, even thought its rationally and philosphically very plausible…even probable. Your presupposition won’t allow you to consider it an option. Only what can be physically observed is possible.

    JS Allen –

    I did a quick read up on the B-theory of time on wikipedia (I know, I know), and I think that I would even subscribe to it. I think most serious theists would ascribe to it, but perhaps I’m wrong. I fail to see, though, how it has substantial impact on the idea that time itself had to have a beginning. In other words, time may in fact be simultaneously past, present and future (for lack of a better explanantion of B-theory), but as far as I can tell it still had to begin to exist where is previously did not before…that still begs and explanation.

    casey

  43. @casey – Craig is actually a proponent of A-theory, and his KCA depends on it. I also think A-theory is more intuitive to most people; it’s just physicists and Calvinists who think in B-theory 🙂

    However, I think Wolf is indulging in wild hyperbole to say that Craig would be bankrupt philosophically if he allowed himself to be persuaded by Oppy and Mackie’s objections. KCA is by no means his only contribution to philosophy. It’s also hyperbole to say that Craig’s entire career depends on KCA. He’s a brilliant man with a diverse set of accomplishments.

    Here is Craig’s response to the discussion about set theory. I don’t find it terribly convincing. It seems he just brushes the criticisms aside in the name of “ontological parsimony”. I haven’t read all of the papers in question carefully, though.

  44. I assume Mr Craig has addressed this somewhere, but I have always been confused as to why the argument against an actual infinite would not apply to the person of God. I suppose he would argue that he is dismissing an actual infinite composed of parts, and as God is simple (Ie not composed of parts) and is eternal… he is not infinite in a quantitative sense, but in a qualitative sense. Even so, it seems that we would be hard pressed to ever get to a place or time called “the beginning” given God’s eternal nature.

  45. William Mayor 2010-10-16 at 11:22 am

    Much as I dislike siding with the non-believers, in this discussion I must agree that they have the upper hand. The initial blog is a great example of “folk theology” rather than sound, intellectual reasoning. One may logically argue for theism, and from that to Christianity, but not conclusively. Likewise, one may logically argue that pantheism (which includes polytheism) and atheism are two sides of the same coin and imply the same ultimate outcome, but we cannot dismiss the possibility of that outcome, merely acknowledge that we do not wish to live as if it will come, just as those who accept it live as if they do not live as if the only logical alternative outcome will come to pass.

    Bill

  46. William, interesting perspective. While I don’t know how the post can be thought of as folkish (meaning that it mindless parroting of society, culture, or upbringing), I am interested to see how you conclude such. Your comment did not flesh this out in any way.

    Is it the assumption that something cannot come from nothing that is folkish?

    Is it the law of cause and effect?

    Is it the denial of the possibility of infinite regress?

    In the end, while there could be “theories” which present alternatives, of all I have heard, they don’t present us with actual probabilities.

  47. William Mayor 2010-10-16 at 11:42 am

    Michael,

    Given the current knowledge available in physics it is quite possible to proclaim that the Big Bang did not have a cause. I have accessed this referenced article through JSTOR, so you would need access to that or perhaps you could directly access the article. However, I refer to <<< "Did the Big Bang Have a Cause?"Author: Quentin SmithSource: The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Jun., 1994).

    As for the legitimacy of pantheism (polytheism is a misnomer and does not truly exist) or atheism, I devoted a 25-30 page paper when I was working on my MDiv to that problem. Neither can be conclusively ruled out based on available knowledge without adding assumptions to it. I reject both positions, but then I also reject most traditional Christian theology as an accomodation to the Roman Empire based on the historical record, including parts that are often ignored. This includes that Christians were persecuted not for specifically religous beliefs but rather for what was preceived as treason .

    Bill

  48. William, without getting into the “possibility” of something coming from nothing, are you saying that a legitimate transcendental arguement (such as this one) can no longer be accepted because of the conclusions of some scientists? Therefore it is folk theology?

  49. From what Wolf said earlier,
    =====
    “This is referentially absurd since the reality of a present moment demands, in their worldview[sic], an infinite amount of time to have been traversed before we arrive at the present moment. But an infinite cannot, by definition, be traversed since there would always be an infinite amount succession of moments and events before we get to “now.””

    This is about as absurd as going into a math class and arguing that “zero” cannot exist in the set of integers, because you would have to transverse all of the negative numbers to get there.
    =====
    This strikes me as a false analogy. No “traversal” is needed for this set to exist, and the issue is whether an infinite traversal is possible.

    =====
    The problem is that you *assume* a finite set boundary (“start from…”), then conclude that you can’t reach another point.
    =====
    Exactly why is this a problem though? Imagine for instance someone named Joe Walker is trying to reach a point infinitely far away, walking at a finite pace (say, one meter per second). He traverses 1 meter, 2 meters, 3… but he can never traverse the infinite region. It isn’t just that traversing an infinite region will take a really long time, it’s that the infinite traversal is _impossible_. Traversing an infinite number of years to reach the present is even worse because you “cannot even get started. It is like trying to jump from a bottomless pit.” (Quote from philosopher J.P. Moreland–wish I could take credit for it.) The fact that an infinite past has no beginning point seems to make things worse, not better, unless some further justification is given.

    Consider for example this argument . Suppose we put the universe on rewind where everybody walks backwards and talks funny. No matter how far we go back, it’s impossible to traverse all the past years. How then is it reasonable to think that it’s possible…

  50. Whoops, looks like the end of my last comment was slightly too long. I’ll try again.

    Consider for example this argument similar to one at http://www.sacklunch.net/ArgumentsForGod/cosmological.html. Suppose we put the universe on rewind where everybody walks backwards and talks funny. No matter how far we go back, it’s impossible to traverse all the past years. How then is it reasonable to think that it’s possible to traverse the other direction?

  51. William Mayor 2010-10-18 at 9:27 am

    Michael,

    I consider “folk theology” to be theology that seeks to please the average believer rather than to accurately portray God. A transcendental argument that does not address legitimate counterpoints fits the bill. This is irregardless of how well it fits in with other theologies that likewise seek to placate rather than portray.

    If we believe the Apostle Paul that the universe can reveal the truth of God, then any theology that does not fit with what is knowable from the universe is suspect. Your approach does not fit with what is knowable from the universe and does not rule out pantheism, the only true option to monotheism. Polytheism is a derivative of it and atheism shares basic premises irregardless of its claims.

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