Arguments for God's Existence (Traditional)

The evidences produced, by the use of logic, in favour of God's existence. Some have held that by one or other of these arguments the existence of God can be demonstrated or proved. Others hold that a demonstration is not possible, but that the accumulated weight of the evidence from all the arguments confirms belief in God's existence. Still others give even less credibility to all logical arguments on the subject and hold that God's existence is a truth revealed to, and received by, faith alone.

The arguments most often used in favour of God's existence are as follows:

1. The a priori argument argues from cause to effect and is based on "self-evident truths," or upon essential laws of human intelligence. From these principles it labours to show that belief in God is a logical necessity.

2. The ontological argument of Anselm—i.e., Anselm's argument from the nature of being or existence. Recognizing the difference between absolute, perfect being, and relative, imperfect being, he argued in the form of a syllogism.

Major premise: The human mind possesses the idea of an absolutely perfect being.

Minor premise: Absolute perfection of being implies necessity of existence (for that which must exist is of a higher order than that which may exist).

Conclusion: An absolutely perfect being does exist—for that which must exist, does exist.

3. The cosmological, or a posteriori argument argues from effect to cause. It proceeds: Every effect must have a cause adequate to produce it. The world, or the universe, is an effect and, therefore, must have an adequate cause. The only cause capable of producing such an effect is an all-powerful, eternal Creator, God.

4. The teleological argument is the argument from design. The universe bears evident marks of design or purpose; everywhere there is a wise and skilful adaptation of means to end. But design presupposes an intelligent designer, God.

5. The moral argument considers the phenomena of conscience in the human soul and the universal feeling of accountability and dependence in men (the religious sentiment). It is argued that this sentiment is common to the moral constitution of all men, and if God does not exist, this universal conscience is a lie. Thus, the primary sources of our belief in God are built into our moral constitution.

6. The historical argument shows three things: (a) that the human race is not eternal—that it had a beginning, or was created; (b) that the providential presence of God is evident in human history; (c) that it has been the universal consent of all men of all races throughout all history that God exists.

7. The Scriptural argument uses the evident supernatural origin of the Bible, its miracles, its prophecies, and the beneficial effects it always produces wherever it is introduced as proofs that the God of the Bible does indeed exist.

In all such arguments, the danger to be avoided is that of assuming man's ability to be a competent judge and interpreter of the facts. All argument starts with some presupposition. To presuppose the ultimacy of human reason and interpretation is to deny the ultimacy of God and the fallen state of man. On the presupposition of the ontological Trinity, each form of argument has merit and appears in Scripture. But on any other presupposition, no argument can demonstrate the truth of God's existence, for truth cannot be established by presupposing a lie.

A consistently Christian way of arguing for God's existence rests on the implications of God's revelation of Himself as the I AM. God is. He is not one fact among others, to be proved as a mathematical formula or logical proposition may be proved. He is not the most probable way of explaining the observable data of the universe that may be satisfactorily interpreted without reference to Him at all. He is the necessarty ground of all facts and all predication. The only reason there is anything to know, and the only reason anything has any meaning so as to be knowable, is the reality that God is. He is back of all the facts of the universe, giving them reality and meaning (John 1:1–3; Col. 1:17). Nothing can exist apart from Him. We do not think of any fact rightly unless we see it as a God-created fact. Thus David, in considering the heavens, spoke to the Lord of "thy heavens, the work of thy fingers" (Psa. 8:3). Those who study God-created facts apart from the God who created them simply take what Cornelius Van Til calls God's capital and invest or use it in illicit ways.

Because of the truth of this line of argument we may say that it is only the presupposition of the great I AM that the facts of the universe "fit." If they find their true meaning in God their Creator they cannot be consistently interpreted on any other basis than the acceptance of God's existence. Without God, they become a meaningless jumble (see Atheism). Thus, one of the uses of rational argument is to shew that any other presupposition than that of the ontological Trinity of Scripture is incapable of making sense of the facts of the universe. It is only because God is that anything is (Psa. 19:1–3; Rom. 1:19–20).

Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (pp. 39–40). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

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