Recent conversations with a reader of this blog have prompted me to mention several of the major philosophical arguments for the existence of God. These arguments are not proofs in the empirical and evidential sense. They are philosophical proofs intended to show the belief in a supreme being is logical. There is, in fact, no direct proof for God’s existence. Instead there are logical deductions based upon reasonable inferences. These arguments seek to show the plausibility or necessity of a God by citing secondary evidences for God. These arguments are mostly cause and effect arguments that surmise because a particular reality is true there must be a Deity greater than reality who brought it into existence. In this article I will briefly explain four major philosophical arguments for the existence of God. These arguments merely argue for the existence of an all powerful deity without describing the character of God. I do not offer these explanations as an attempt to prove the existence of God, but to acquaint the reader with the basics of some of the most common arguments for God. Future articles will explain in more detail the particulars of each line of reasoning.
The ontological argument is an argument about the nature of being. This argument can be summarized as “nothing can be imagined that is greater than God, therefore God must exist.” The ontological argument relies on no outside evidences but draws its conclusion from what is possible for man to conceive. This argument is a proposition that is entirely conceptual, an argument from imagination. Because man conceives of an infiniitely perfect God who exists, and because it is impossible for man to conceive of anything greater than a a God of infinite perfections, then such a God must exist.
The teleological argument is also called the argument from design. The world shows evidence of design, therefore there must be a Designer. In daily living when one sees an orderly system that accomplishes a specific function the observer naturally concludes it has been designed. (A watch found lying in the woods is not believed to have evolved in those woods, but manufactured by watchmaker.) Randomness or lack of functionality shows lack of design. Because the universe as a whole and living creatures in particular are orderly and functional there must be a great Designer who created it all.
The cosmological argument is an argument from the existence of a physical universe. Everything in the universe has to have a beginning, therefore there must exist a Being outside the universe that brought it into existence. Observational science has shown that something cannot come from nothing. The universe is something and thus could not have come from nothing. Because the universe exists, there must exist a Creator who brought all things into existence.
The moral argument is an argument from the conscience of man. Since everyone has a perception of right and wrong, there must be a Lawgiver who has built into the heart of every person a basic moral understanding. Without a Supreme Being there would be no universal concept of right and wrong. Without a Lawgiver morals would be subjective and changing based upon the interests of the person or the society. Because there is cross cultural, multi-generational agreement upon basic concepts of right and wrong there must be One who placed the moral law in the heart of all men.
These logical arguments can help understand if belief in God is reasonable. Deductions from nature, reason and conscience can help discern the plausibility of asserting the existence of an all powerful Deity. While such arguments may be helpful, the Christian does not need to “prove” God exists. The Bible itself does not seek to prove God’s existence. Scripture declares the existence of God. “In the beginning God created.” The Bible asserts God’s existence and demands its claims be believed.