In classical apologetics two major arguments for the existence of God are based upon observations of the natural world. The teleological argument argues that the evidence of design in the world is evidence of a God who created it all. The cosmological argument argues that because the universe exists it must have a beginning and a Being who brought it into existence.
The longer form of the cosmological argument begins with the statement that the physical universe exists. Everything that exists in the physical realm must have a cause. The cause cannot be the universe itself. The cause must exist outside the universe and have the ability to bring the universe into existence. The cause that brought the universe into existence is God. Because the universe exists, God exists.
This argument finds support in the observations of science. No natural mechanism is known by which something can arise from nothing. The normal arrangement of the world shows the things that exist in the physical world have their source in things with an earlier existence. Everything we observe is contingent upon an ancestor or a creator. The first law of thermodynamics seems to support this argument with its declaration that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Since the physical universe exists and it could not have risen from nothing it must have a source great enough to bring the universe into existence.
Like other arguments from classical apologetics the cosmological argument is primarily a philosophical argument. The proofs offered by this argument are not based upon physical evidences for an act of creation, but upon the logical necessity of a causative agent bringing the universe into existence. This argument is easier to understand and explain than the ontological argument because it is based upon premises which are more familiar to the average person. This line of reasoning may be reflected in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handywork.” All creation speaks to the necessity of a Creator. Because this universe exists there must be One who brought it into existence. To know the nature of this Creator a person must turn to the Bible. Genesis 1:1 simply states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The reality of God can be glimpsed in creation, but the character of God is only found in the Bible. He has revealed Himself clearly through His Word. God’s command to all men is to believe His Word.
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.