Historically there have been many arguments forwarded in favour of the existence of God. Drawing on some of this history as well as applying his critical mind to it, philosophy professor Peter Kreeft has listed 20 of them (1).
Several arguments have been reworked as a way to represent them in an easy to remember form. The Kalam cosmological argument argues from a beginning to the universe to a cause from which God is inferred. The teleological argument looks at the fine-tuning of the universe and infers a designer. The argument from objective moral values and duties affirms the existence of a moral law giver. Several other arguments are also used such as the argument from miracles and the argument from Jesus Christ’s historical resurrection.
These arguments are usually represented in a deductive syllogism, for example, the argument form objective moral values and duties is formatted as follows (2):
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. But objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
If premise three of this argument logically follows from the other two premises then God exists. No-one has doubted that this syllogism represents a valid argument, but some would attempt to reject the conclusion. As such, the critic has to refute either one of the premises to render the argument invalid. In this case he would need to deny that objective morality exists, or that we can have objective morality without a transcendent standard grounded in God.
Many find this argument compelling however, and suggest that naturalistic theories, should one wish to ground moral values and duties, fail to ground moral realism without an appeal to a transcendent standard (3). Sometimes skeptics reject moral realism altogether to embrace a moral subjectivism, thus denying premise two of the argument. Most people tend to accept premise two because they believe that certain behaviours (such as torturing puppies or abusing babies) are objectively morally evil while other acts are objectively good (such as helping a person with down syndrome find a job or sticking up for a mentally handicapped individual being bullied by his peers).
The teleological argument is premised as follows:
1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance
3. Therefore, it is due to design
The argument here is that the constants of the universe shows a rather exquisite precision, so much so that if they were altered to any insignificant degree life would not exist. Many of these constants have been observed, one of which is the force and precision of the big bang explosion. Should the big bang explosion have differed by one part in 10^60 (that’s a one followed by sixty zeros) then life would not be possible as we know it. Rather, the universe would have expanded too quickly for stars to form or it would have collapsed into itself meaning there would be no stars, planets, structures, and no life. Then there is the density of the universe. If the density was any different then the non-uniformities would condense prematurely into black holes before the stars could form, hence making the universe life-prohibiting. Should one increase the gravitation constant by as little as 1%, all carbon would be burned into oxygen. Increase it by a mere 2% and protons would not form out of quarks. And so one can make a long list of such constants which many have noted are evidence of premise one in the argument, namely that fine-tuning exists and needs to be explained. Three explanations are possible. It’s either due to physical necessity, chance, or design. The argument says that it is neither physical necessity or chance. It is not the former because the was no reason the universe had to be the way it is (it could have taken any other form, with one such form being where no life existed at all), and it is not due to chance for the improbabilities are just too great. Regarding improbabilities consider the fact that if the critical density of the universe was off by 1:10^15 (1,000,000,000,000,000) then the universe would have either collapsed or expanded too rapidly, and thus life would not form. This degree of precision is like taking ten billion US dollars in pennies, painting just one of them red, blindfolding a person and asking that person to pick out the red penny from the pile. Most would say that picking the red penny is incredibly unlikely, and thus chance cannot explain the fine-tuning of the universe. Thus, goes the argument, design is what implies the incredible fine-tuning of the universe, which obviously implies an intelligent designer.
The Kalam cosmological argument is one repopularized by philosopher William Lane Craig in a rather simple syllogism:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe begun to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
This argument has compelled many to accept a cause to the universe, and once a cause has been accepted then the nature of this cause can be inferred from the argument. In order to deny this argument one needs to reject the premises and provide alternative explanations. Some skeptics have argued in favour of an eternal universe while others have suggested the universe can come from nothing. Defenders of the argument will defend it on the grounds that science shows that universe begun to exist and therefore must have a cause.
What is also worth noting is that many skeptics have credited these arguments with a certain intellectual potency. Sam Harris affirms the objective nature of morality although his thesis comes short in grounding this apart from a transcendent moral standard many have grounded in God (3) (4). Atheist writer John Steinrucken asks of his atheists peers,
“Just what are the immutable moral laws of secularism? Be prepared to answer, if you are honest, that such laws simply do not exist!”
Although Steinrucken is an atheist he still believes that the “Judeo-Christian tradition… offers a template assuring a life of inner peace toward the world at large.” The atheist Llewelyn Powys once wrote that if we reject God’s existence we therefore need to abandon “all trust in an ordained moral order” (6).
In reference to the fine-tuning of the universe for life, the late Christopher Hitchens stated that “you have to spend time thinking about it, working on it. It’s not a trivial [argument].”
In reference to the big bang as evidence for the first premise of the Kalam cosmological argument, the Stephen Hawking, an atheist himself, writes that “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention” (7). Hawking isn’t the only one to see that a beginning to the physical universe would suggest that a creator might well exist.
In respect to the argument from the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ, atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann affirms that Christ had really appeared to his disciples, the persecutor Paul and skeptic James after his death although Ludemann tries to explain these away as grief hallucinations (8).
According to these voices, from all sides of the debate, the arguments for God’s existence are no mere trivialities, many of which compel one to engage them.
1. Kreeft, P. Twenty Arguments For God’s Existence. Available.
2. Craig, W. Transcript: The Moral Argument. Available.
3. Craig, W. Navigating Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape. Available.
4. Harris, H. 2011. The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. p. 46.
5. Christopher Hitchens Makes a Startling Admission. Available.
6. ‘Impassioned Clay’ Cited in John Gray, The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths.
7. Stephen Hawking quoted by John Lennox in God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
8. Ludemann writes that “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’s death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” (‘What Really Happened? p. 80)