An Introduction to Four Philosophical Arguments for God

The burden of proof is a legal term (Latin: onus probandi) regarding the obligation of one to sway another’s belief from neutral to positive on their subject. This is the burden of those who believe in God. While there is no evidence to absolutely prove the existence of God, more specifically the God of the bible, which includes Jesus as the Son of God (his historical existence is already acknowledged by theists and non-theists alike) and the Holy Spirit, there are a number of legitimate philosophical arguments for the existence of them and physical evidences which lend credence to their existence. Here we will review four of the arguments for the existence in God.

The four philosophical arguments for the existence of God are: 1. Cosmological, 2. Teleological, 3. Ontological, and lastly the 4. Moral argument.

Argument One: Cosmological

Starting at the top with the Cosmological Argument, the case states that there is a God because there was a “First Cause.” This argument has been made by such notorious philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, and theologian Henry Thiessen. Scientists today have continued trying to find the first cause with such work as done in the Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Plato wrote in his book, The Laws, that the Cosmos was “imparted motion” and that motion depended on an “originating motion.” Scientists using the Hadron Collider discovered the “God Particle” forces the question, “what came before that particle and what came before that?” So then, what was the original motion? I believe that God existed before time and space, and the Cosmological Argument must be considered for those who deny God’s existence. Aristotle, obviously influenced by his teacher Plato, also wrote about the “unmoved mover” who started the movement of all matter.

One illustration is of a child playing with a ball strung to a stick. The child whips the ball around and the person observing notes: the ball is moving, but why? The ball is moving because the string swings it around, but why? The string continues rotating because of being attached to a stick that moves, but why? And so on it goes to the boys hand, to his arm, to his shoulder, to him as a person. There is a always another cause until we end at what that first cause.

Argument Two: Teleological

The Teleological Argument states that there is a design, and a purpose, and because of this God must exist. The fact that there is intelligence and order as well beg the defense of the divine. The teleological argument depends deeply on the great advancements of science. Contrary to stereotypes and ancient history, biblical Christians believe greatly in the work of science to understand the created heavens and earth.

William Paley illustrated the Teleological Argument by describing a watch. Imagine having a dissembled watch in your hand. Then, without aim, toss the parts into the air. Watch each cog, wheel, hand, and dial fly helplessly from sky to floor. What odds would you make that the watch ends up assembled? 1 in a million? a billion? infinity? This is the strength of the Teleological Argument. That even to argue against it requires years of endless incredible development of your mind to make such opinions and research. Our wonderfully developed minds and bodies are the result of purpose and design and intelligence, and those traits are intrinsic to our nature; we are purposeful, designed, and intelligent people.

Thomas Aquinas is a notable defender of the Teleological Argument. In his profoundly written Summa Theologica, Aquinas presents five arguments for God. One of which states,

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore, some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. —Summa Theologica: Article 3, Question 2

The fact that the tilt and rotation of the earth sustain life on earth, but not on other planets, is one way we see the purposeful design and contingency of the universe on a God who initiated the creation of the world we live on.

Argument Three: Ontological

The Ontological Argument states that the idea of God in man is an evidence of his existence. We will briefly discuss this, as it is the weakest of the four arguments because it depends on the others to have substance. St. Anselm of the 11th century and Rene Descartes were both proponents of the Ontological Argument. Their defense went that God was the greatest idea of man, and that nothing greater could be conceived. That a perfect being was the ultimate thing the human mind could grasp made the argument plausible.
It’s more clarity to this argument can be found here,
I conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. If a being than which no greater can be conceived does not exist, then I can conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived that exists. I cannot conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. Hence, a being than which no greater can be conceived exists. (Source)

Argument Four: Morality

The Moral Argument is the last we will address, and is my favorite of the four. The argument states that if there is an objective morality for all of humanity, for all of time, to abide by, then God must exist. This argument intrigues me most because of the persuasive writings of C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity is a wonderful apologetic book on the defenses and definition of the Christian faith.
In  Mere Christianity lewis writes,
“But the most remarkable thing is this. whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking on to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?”
The argument goes
  1. If ethics is subjective, then we should expect people to recognize that actions which they are inclined to think of as “wrong” are only wrong from their point of view.
  2. But invariably, people view wrongs against themselves as actions that are really wrong.
  3. Therefore moral values are objective and not subjective. (Source)

Essentially, there must be a source for the standard of morality. The standard comes from something untainted and holy not influenced by bias and is impartial, unable to play favorites. Democratic societies tend toward an objective morality, and allow the courts and police to enforce the rules when people exert their subjective morality on others (i.e. theft, murder, rape).

Counter Arguments

Each of these arguments has a counter argument, usually from non-theists, and can be viewed here.

  1. Cosmological counter argument
  2. Teleological counter argument
  3. Ontological counter argument
  4. Moral counter argument

A simple search on the internet for “arguments for” or “against God” will yield millions of articles. Some well written and some poorly, often by angry people, religious and not, attempting to slam their view down the another’s throat.

I believe that through combining these four arguments together, though my writing here was merely introductive, there is a strong presentation for the existence of God. There is no proof that is ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’ for the existence, nor any evidence that absolutely proves against the existence of God.

Soren Kierkegaard taught that in order to really know God we must “leap” from reason and into faith. Not to state that we stop thinking, but that we start acting upon our belief. May we too come to act as if there is a God and find him greater than we ever ontologically imagined!

*This post was written to fulfill the SLR requirement for THE1033 God and Angels*

1. What did you like about the student’s presentation?

2. How could the student improve in the way he participated?

3. What other words of encouragement do you have for the student?

4. Name of person commenting and his/her relation to the student:

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