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The Failure of Traditional Proofs

The Ontological Argument

written by Anselm (1033-1109)
  1. If I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable, then I can think of no being greater
    • If it is false that I can think of no being greater, it is false I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable
  2. Being is greater than not being
  3. If the being I am thinking of does not exist, then it is false that I can think of no being greater.
  4. If the being I am thinking of does not exist, then it is false that I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable
  5. Conclusion: If I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable, then I am thinking of a being that exists
Problems:
  • confuses concept of God in reality with the actual existence of God
  • simply defines God as a necessarily existing perfect being
  • human thought imposes no necessity on things
  • men have all kinds of imaginations and delusions about God
  • addresses the "is-ness" of God but ignores the "what-ness", which is a much more difficult task

Assumptions Made by Empirical Arguments

Empirical arguments for the existence of God usually attempt to prove the "is-ness" of God by use of some variation of the cosmological argument.  The cosmological argument reasons that something caused the universe to exist.  This "first cause" must be God.  This argument for the existence of God assumes the following:
  1. the validity of empirical method of knowing truth (epistemology)
  2. an empirical criterion to screen out unwanted sense data
  3. the "effect" character of the universe (that the universe had a first moment)
  4. the impossibility of infinite causal regress (an eternally repeating cause)
  5. probability arguments are meaningful
  6. assumes man is neutral

Validity of the Empirical Method of Knowing (Empirical Epistemology)

The empirical method of epistemology would rely on inductive reasoning (observing, forming a hypotheses, experimenting, and inferring conclusions from that experimentation).  However, this methodology has the following limitations.
  • it cannot justify a general truth proposition (since future experimentation could always come along to disprove it)
  • it cannot justify any statement about the future
  • it cannot justify any statement about ethical values (can never move from is-ness to ought-ness).  Therefore, empiricism can never justify the empirical method, since the empirical method is how we ought to justify our beliefs
There is much about the Christian God of the Bible that is resistant to empirical observation, since the Bible declares him to be pure spirit (John 4:24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth").  How can God be measured, seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or heard?

Screening Out Unwanted Sense Data

A Christian evidentialist must accept all sense data, unless he can provide an empirical criterion to screen out unwanted sensation.  In other words, there are many "unwanted" sense data that would seem contradict the Bible's description of a good God.  One could only assume that effects are caused by similar causes.  Assuming empiricism can support an ethical proposition (which it can't), we "experience" many evils in the world (e.g. Hitler gassing millions of Jews and Christians, the death of up to 10 million people under Stalin, Mao's "Great Leap Forward resulting in more than 20 million deaths, not to mention natural disasters, birth defects, etc).  An "evil" effect would more likely be caused by an "evil" cause, unless the evidentialist can provide a empirical criterion for assuming otherwise.  As Christians, we know from the scriptures that God ordains evil for the purpose of glorifying Himself (Prov. 16:4 "The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom").  But a Christian evidentialist can not make use of the scriptures but must argue from sense data.  He therefore has no grounds for screening out "evil" sense data effects that would lead someone to believe that there was an "evil" cause.

The "Effect" Charater of the Universe

The Christian evidentialist must prove empirically that the universe as a whole had a first moment, before he address a first cause.  But, to do this, the evidentialist would have to observe the universe as a whole.  Observing a single part of the universe is not enough, since the universe as a whole could be much different than the observation of only a part of the whole.

The Impossibility of Infinite Causal Regress

Infinite causal regress is the belief that the universe was caused by a eternally repeating cause.  The evidentialist has no empirical basis for ruling out such a possibility.  Also, evidentialist also commit another logical fallacy when insisting that the essence of the cause (infinite, supernatural, uncaused, non-empirical) is different from the effect (finite, natural, caused, empirical).  This would be granting to the cause more properties than are necessary to account for the effect ("begging the question").  The Ligonier apologists would argue that the universe is either contingent (finite and created) or self-existent (non-contingent, transcendent).  If the universe or part of it is self-existent, then we have found God.  "If we discover that it is the molecule which is self-existent, eternal, and is that which exists necessarily, we can shout with Archimedes, 'Eureka!'  We have found it!  Now we can take off our shoes in the presence of this divine molecule which has the power of being, to whom we are indebted for our own creaturely existence, and worship it without fear of idolatry." (R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Aruther Lindsley, Classical Apologetics, p 119)  But they fail to rule out this pantheistic idea.

Probability Arguments Are Meaningful

The cosmological argument (something caused the universe, this "first cause" must be God) is in the form of an inductive argument and is therefore a probability argument.  But, because the universe in not known as a whole, we have no idea what number of possibilities await observation, thus making probability meaningless.

Assumes Man is Netural

The scientific method relies on the scientist to be neutral, in order to formulate a completely neutral hypothesis.  However, the scriptures teach that man already knows that there is a God (Romans 1:20-21;32) but "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18).  They are far from neutral.  All unregenerate people are at war with God (Rom. 8:7)   
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