Arguments for the Existence of God
Firstly why should this concern us?
Firstly, if God did exist, there would be certain important consequences
Secondly, the arguments are very persistent – so we have to deal with them
Thirdly, as well as being persistent, the arguments are very high profile and generate much interest on all sides.
So what are the sides?
There are three basic views people have on the question of the existence of God.
“I don’t believe that God exists.” – this is called Atheism
“I believe that God does exist.” – this is called Theism
“I am undecided on whether God exists or not.” – this called Agnosticism
Assignment 1 - Discussion & Report
What reason(s) could someone give for each of these views?
What could change the mind of someone with each of these views?
But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. How do we know that when two people are discussion God that they share the same idea?
Assignment 2 - Discuss & Report
Imagine the job of God is vacant. You are going to produce an advert inviting applications for the job. Create a newspaper advert for the post of God. Remember to include a job description and necessary qualifications.
Remember we are still not assuming that a qualified applicant actually exists!
The Philosophers’ God
We are not discussing the God of religious faith – not the God of the Jews, Christians, Muslims or any other religion.
We are concerned with the God of philosophical definition.
In other words, that being who has the qualities of, omniscience, omnipresent, omnipotent, who is eternal, perfectly good, and the necessary being who is creator and sustainer of the universe.
In the film “Bruce Almighty”, at no time does Bruce believe that God does not exist. Bruce’s point is that as the Supreme Being, God sucks. Bruce’s life is unsatisfactory and, because God is all-powerful, this is all God’s fault.
It is not clear on what Bruce’s belief in the existence of God is based. It could be his upbringing, a religious faith or an acceptance of one or all the arguments for the existence of God.
Cosmological Argument for the existence of God
How would you answer the question how did you get here today?
You could say “I walked”, or “I came up the stairs” or “On the school bus” or “By car” or even “From my mummy’s tummy”
What we are looking for is a sufficient answer to the question.
For some people, the sufficient answer to the question “Where did the universe come from?” is – “GOD”.
Or to put it another way
“The existence of the universe is evidence for the existence of God.”
Basically this is the cosmological argument.
The Cosmological Argument For The Existence of God
The great advantage of this argument is that it begins with a statement that nobody can seriously doubt. It begins with the simple FACT that there is a universe.
This is an example of an argument based on sense experience. Such arguments are called a posteriori.
Consider the following information:
• Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains about 400 billion stars.
• The largest galaxies in the universe contain about 1000 billion stars.
• There are about 100 billion galaxies in the universe.
• The furthest parts of the universe are about 15 billion light years away.
Have you ever wondered why all this exists? It’s perfectly possible that nothing should exist at all. But, the fact is, the universe does exist.
‘Why does something exist rather than nothing?’
The cosmological argument is perhaps the simplest of all the traditional arguments for the existence of God. It tries to show that there is a God from the bare fact that the universe exists.
Some hugely significant thinkers in many different forms throughout the centuries have used the argument:
• Ancient Greek philosophers (e.g. Aristotle and Plato)
• Christian theologians (e.g. St. Thomas Aquinas, Father Frederick Copleston)
• Jewish theologians (e.g. Maimonides)
• Islamic theologians (e.g. the Kalam argument presented by, among others, al-Ghazali).
St Thomas Aquinas
Probably the most famous advocate of the cosmological argument was St Thomas Aquinas (1225–74AD). He presented five ways to prove that God existed in a book known as Summa Theologica. Three of these explanations were forms of the cosmological argument. We will briefly look at one of them.
The argument from the ‘Uncaused Cause’
• Everything we observe has a cause.
• Every cause has a cause.
• This cannot go back forever.
• Therefore there must be an uncaused cause that isn’t caused.
• The uncaused cause is ‘God’.
If we get back to you ... HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
Logic states that you did not come from nothing – only nothing can come from nothing
Nor did you create yourself.
Your parents caused you and their parents, and so on caused your parents. However, to fully explain your cause you will need to go back much further than your near relations.
Even if you could trace your family line back hundreds of years you would still have only partly explained where you came from.
To fully answer the question – How did you get here? – you would need to explain where all humans came from. To then explain the cause of the human race you would then need to find out when and how the earth came into existence; explain the origins of our solar system; understand the history of our galaxy, etc. Your attempt to fully answer the question, ‘How did you get here?’ will eventually lead you right back to the very beginning of the universe itself.
Is this all necessary?
Well that depends on the principle of sufficient reason. What do you consider to be a sufficient answer to the question – “how did you get here?”
Why did the match light? Is the answer “Because I struck it on the matchbox”, a sufficient reason?
If not then you might have to explain the chemical reaction which took place. If this was not considered sufficient, you could explain the physics of the event. If this was not enough, gain we could end up with the origins of the universe again and the creation of the physical laws!
There are two main problems with the principle of sufficient reason.
At what point does a reason become sufficient?
Is it really necessary to go to such extreme lengths?
Why should we be concerned with the arguments for the existence of God?
What three basic positions do people take on this question?
With which God are we concerned?
What are the qualities of this God?
Why is it important to be clear about this definition for God?
The cosmological is an a posteriori argument. What does this mean?
What is the starting point for the cosmological?
What is the principle of sufficient reason? Use and example.
According to Aquinas, what was special about God?
Why did Aquinas believe that God was the only possible reason for the cosmos?
Aquinas was pointing out that behind everything there must be a huge chain of causes that goes back and back in time.
He believed that it doesn’t make any sense to say that this chain came from nothing. Nothing comes from nothing.
Neither does it make any sense to say that a caused thing can cause itself. (It would have to been caused to then cause itself!)
Also to have a causal chain going back forever makes no sense either because that would mean there was no first cause. If there was no actual beginning there would be nothing now! To be here now,the whole thing must have started at some point. Aquinas believed that there must have been something that started off the chain of cause and effect. He felt that the only possible answer was God, the uncaused cause. Only God fitted the bill. God was a necessary being, not a contingent being. Only God was self-caused.
Aquinas was looking for a sufficient reason for the existence of the universe. Of course he believes that only God could ever be a sufficient reason. So, according to Aquinas, only God is the necessary and sufficient reason for the existence of the universe.