Proof of God’s Existence

Notes from Greg Bahnsen’s lecture, Proof of God’s Existence.

An argument does not need to be accepted by everyone in order for the argument to be conclusive. There is a complete difference between proving something and persuading an individual. Sometimes people are persuaded without good proof. Other times you might have good proof but people refuse to be persuaded.

Metaphysics studies that which is real-the origin and structure of reality. Epistemology studies the nature and limits of human knowledge. There is a difference between something existing and someone knowing it exists. Something can exist without someone knowing it and not being able to prove it. There is a difference between God actually existing and people not knowing he exists or not being persuaded of his existence.

Faith is not something contrary to reason. All reasoning rests upon some kind of presuppositions and ultimate authority. Reasoning is not neutral and apart from the worldview underneath it.

4 different approaches to justifying claims of knowledge
1. Continental Rationalism: we have clear and distinct ideas which are the benchmark of truth. The rationalist criteria of truth fell into subjectivism. They also could not agree with one another about the theory of reality. Descartes said reality is dualistic. Spinoza said reality is monistic. Leibnez said reality is atomistic.
2. British Empircism: we can justify knowledge through our senses. They ran into problems of cognitive psychology. They were not able to figure out how the human mind works using sensation to produce propositions and gain understandable information. Empiricism is self-defeating because you cannot use your senses to know that all knowledge comes via senses. They end up in skepticism.
3. Pragmatism: certainty and be dispensable, all that matters is being able to adapt to our environment and adapt. Truth is that which is useful. Pragmatism is short sighted because it does not take into account all of the consequences for the thing in question.
4. Transcendental Proof: you try to show something is true for the impossibility of the contrary. A proposition is true, because otherwise you’d be lead to absurdity or an impossible situation. Transcendental proof attempts to provide the preconditions of the intelligibility of human experience.

Cosmological Argument
it focuses on the concept of causation for God’s existence. It has no worldview presuppositions except that which is agreed upon by both unbelievers and believers. It argues from our experience of causes that are themselves caused-secondary causes. If there is such a chain of secondary causes, then this would seem to imply that there is a first cause of the causal chain as a whole. It begins with the premise: every event has a cause. This premise is known by observation. It adds God into the chain of causes. This argument assumes that human reasoning and experience is intelligible insofar as they go. The theist asks the atheist to take his thinking as it is and reason further so that God is the conclusion to what they already know about the world.

Critique 1: If you begin with the premise that every object has an origin, then God must have an origin.
Critique 2: If you begin with the premise that every object has an origin, then do we know that premise to be true on the basis of our observation of the world? No, we have not experienced everything about the natural world.
Critique 3: Traditional apologists say an infinite regress of entities must be ruled out. If you have a infinite regress of events then history would never get started. But this begs the question. Did the universe get started or is it eternal?
Critique 4: There is a cause for each event, hence there is a cause for all events. This is an error of quantification. It is an error to argue about the parts of something to the whole of something. It would be saying the leggo statue weighs 1 oz because each leggo piece weighs 1 oz.
Critique 5: How do you know that the cause of the universe is a non-natural cause? The premises in the cosmological deal with the natural causes in the world, but the conclusion deals with a supernatural cause outside of human experience and time.

Transcendental Proof
Do we have a reason for believing the causal/inductive principle at all? We should set the theist and atheist worldview aside and ask which provides the preconditions of intelligibility.

The causal principle is the principle by which inferences are drawn from instances of sensation. Certain factors did not simply precede another event, rather, certain factors caused the other event. When it is a necessary and predictable connection, we say that A caused B. We can reason from past experience to future experience because of the causal principle. The question is do we have a reason for believing this principle? We can never use experience to prove the induction principle without begging the question. Every argument from experience that says future experience will be like past experience already assumes the inductive principle.

Given the Christian worldview we can account for the the inductive principle, because God is in control of the universe. God’s existence is the precondition for all reasoning. An atheistic worldview cannot provide a cogent reason for what we necessary assume in all of our reasoning. It cannot avoid provide the preconditions of the intelligibility of human experience.

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