Thinking about the existence of God is something that shows that humans are very different from everything else that exists in the world.
When people speak about God they use metaphors because God is a mystery.
Theologians and philosophers don’t think that God is a man with a long beard.
In this course we will assume that if God exists s/he is a spirit who is:
In this course you will study two arguments that have persuaded many people that there must be a God. You will also study one argument that has persuaded many people that God doesn’t exist. These arguments are:
1. The Cosmological Argument
2. The Teleological Argument (more commonly known as the design argument)
3. The Problem of Evil and Suffering
1. Why do you think humans think about the possible existence of God?
2. Why is it difficult to know anything about God?
3. Explain what type of language St. Thomas Aquinas said people use when they write about God.
4. Look at the following song lyric: ‘Why does it always rain on men? Is it because I lied when I was 17?’ (Travis)
The writer is using metaphorical language. Try to explain what idea he is trying to express.
5. Look carefully at the ideas expressed about God in the following Biblical references.
(a) Job 11:7
(b) Isaiah 40:12
(c) Psalm 91:2,4
(d) Psalm 116:1,2
Try to write a paragraph about God based on these ideas. Remember that the writer is using metaphorical language.
6. Try to find one of Michelangelo’s paintings of God.
(a) Do you think God is really a strong man with a long white beard? (Explain your answer.)
(b) What ideas are being expressed in the paintings you have located? Copy and complete the chart below.
Metaphorical Image Idea Being Expressed about God
• Long White Beard
7. Look up the following Biblical references that describe God using metaphorical language. Try to match up each reference to one or more of the following ways of describing God: Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Eternal or Spiritual.
(a) Exodus 34:6
(b) Job 26:12–14
(c) Psalm 23:1–3
(d) Psalm 90:2
(e) Psalm 139:1–4
(f) Psalm 139:7,8
(g) Psalm 145:5,6
(h) Luke 12:7
(i) John 4:24
(j) 1 John 4:7
8. Copy and complete the following sentences:
‘When philosophers and theologians talk about God they are not thinking about …’
‘When philosophers and theologians talk about God they are thinking about …’
The cosmological argument
Religious belief: God is the creator of the universe: Without God there would be nothing.
The great advantage that this argument has is that it begins with a statement that nobody can seriously doubt. It begins with the simple FACT that there is a universe.
Consider the following information:
• Our galaxy4, 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.
The argument predates Christianity and has been presented by some hugely significant thinkers in many different forms throughout the centuries:
• 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 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 what people understand by ‘God’.
Think about yourself ... What caused you? You obviously did not bring yourself into existence; you are the effect of your parents and your parents are the effect of their parents, and so on. 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. In order to fully answer the question 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, ‘What caused you?’ will eventually lead you right back to the very beginning of the universe itself.
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 goes back and back for ever. 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.