Rational arguments concerning the existence of God are quite fascinating since they try to establish the existence of the `Wholly Other’ from things we see every day and from known attributes that we fasten to God. The first part of essay discusses whether we can do this through the `just about ageless processes’ of induction and deduction. It presents a `general’ theists definition of God and looks at the a posteriori and a priori arguments which arise from this definition before going onto a critical examination of the rational processes of induction and deduction.
This is followed by the issues raised by atheists in light of the insufficiency of rational arguments for God’s existence. The second part of the essay involves a presentation and evaluation of the, ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments; arguments which are implied in the theist’s general definition of God and which the theist claims as adequate inferences to prove the existence of the `Wholly Other’. Introduction: Last century Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) remarked that `not a solitary problem resents itself to the philosophical theist at the present day which has not existed from the time that philosophers began to think out the logical grounds and the logical consequences of Theism.
The fact that the belief in God’s existence had withstood repeated assaults during so many ages in the past is the best guarantee of its permanency in the future’. 1 Today this last inference can not be advanced with as much confidence considering that `postmodernism’ is described as `rejecting teleology’, `denying ontology’ and as challenging `the rationalistic idea of the discovering truth by pure reason. 2 Nevertheless, Christians still draw on the arguments of `philosophical theism’ mainly in apologetic discussion with sceptics.
Usually, holding to the notion that truths about God either cannot be established nor falsified by natural reason or like Thomas Aquinas that `the existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by naturalreason are not articles of faith, but preambles to articles of faith. ’3 Intention of this Essay: This essay discusses whether the existence of God can be proven by way of the rational arguments implied in a general definition of theism.
And evaluates these arguments in light of this definition, since theists mostly restrict their premises to the characteristics of God as stated in the definition. Of course this presumes an agreement on God’s characteristics and also suggests a certain circularity between the definition and the evaluation. But circularity tends to be the nature of speculative arguments about God, since in some sense the arguments presuppose the characteristics of God by looking for them in what they investigate.
Can the Existence of God be Proven? General definition of theism and the arguments for God’s existence: Theism is the view that all limited, or finite, things, though fully real in their own right, are dependent on some way, yet distinct from, one supreme or ultimate being, of which one may also speak in personal terms. And this being is called God, who is regarded as beyond human comprehension, perfect, and self-sustained but also peculiarly involved in the world and its events. ’ 5 This definition is given in two propositions. The first affirms a dependent relationship holds between two or more objects, those which are finite, material and self-aware and that which is absolute and personal.
Pailin describes this relationship as `contingent existence’ or `a mode of existence which belongs to an object that happens to exist but whose non-existence is coherently conceivable’ and whose existence is dependent on factors beyond it. 6 It is from this experience of `contingent existence’ in the universe that `theists’ either infer `something’ which is the initial cause of everything finite and therefore absolute or infer `something’ which is the final cause of everything finite and therefore personal or intelligent.
The second proposition calls this `something’ God and affirms that God has certain properties or characteristics, namely, that God is beyond human comprehension, perfect, and both self-sustained and involved in the world. From certain of these properties or predicates the theist deduces God’s existence and can do so `a priori’, without reference to the world or personal feeling: since the idea of God’s existence is contained in the predicates themselves, i. e. `the idea of a `perfect being’ contains the notion of actual existence’.
The Burden of Proof: According to principle that `the burden of proof lies with someone who takes a positive position on an issue,’ 7 it is up to the theist to provide the sufficient evidence or the negative position of the sceptic prevails. The question of whether induction and deduction provide sufficient evidence for `God’s existence’ needs to be dealt with on two levels. The first level relates to the adequacy of induction and deduction as a vehicle for truth and is linked to the question `Can the existence of God be proven? ’.
The second relates to the uniformity and soundness of the theist’s claim: whether the premises are certain or whether objections to the theists claims are valid. This is linked to the evaluation of the arguments. Is Induction an adequate vehicle for truth? : The basic principle of induction can be stated as `if your data consists of evidence that a series of objects of some kind has some property or characteristic and you know of no object of that kind that does not have that property, then conclude that all objects of that kind have that property. 8
Ideally the patterns in the evidence will give us beliefs about the world that we can have confidence in and from which we can infer God’s existence. For example: A series of non-sentient beings has the characteristic of order I have not seen orderliness and excellence that does not have the property of design : The presence of a design indicates the presence of a designer. But induction is not without its problems. Firstly, `the value of the evidence which supports the conclusion can be discredited by the production of a single contrary instance. 9
A problem which also applies to those arguments where the universal has been inferred from observation, such as the following `first cause’ argument:10 Every event has a cause So there is something that is the first cause : So there is a God. Can we think of instances where some event does not have a cause or where order is not evident in the world? 11 And even if no instances can be found does this prove that there is a `Designer’ or a `First Cause’? This latter question is a major objection to the causal arguments claiming God’s existence. 12