The Arguments for (G)od’s Existence Not So Commonly Mentioned

There are many philosophical arguments for the existence of God – like a lot. There are some arguments conveniently categorized for the readied inquirer: cosmological arguments, moral arguments, nomal arguments, teleological arguments, ontological arguments, transcendental arguments, arguments from miracles, cumulative case arguments for the Resurrection,  and so on.

Although there may be some obscurely known arguments throughout the history of religious thought, they nonetheless fall under the schema of this categorization. Investigations into ultimate reality or Being can take many forms through experience or what can be known prior to or independent of experience.

This is essentially a list of those obscure arguments which are not often discussed in popular presentations on the existence of God. It’s not really that these arguments are really anymore convincing or persuasive than what’s being presented today, in my opinion, but they are hidden gems for sure. Insight may however be the grounds for persuasion.

I. Immanuel Kant’s Ontological Argument

The best way to approach the religious philosophy of Immanuel Kant is to have a good understanding of the epistemological/metaphysical project he set out on. To express this briefly, Kant brings a certain understanding to analytic and synthetic judgements as well as a priori and a posteriori judgements. This distinction led him to ask several questions:

  1. How are synthetic judgements in mathematics possible?
  2. How are synthetic a priori judgements in physics possible?
  3. How are synthetic a priori judgements in metaphysics possible?

The first question is answered in the Transcendental Aesthetic of his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the second question is answered in his Transcendental Analytic, and the third is answered in the Transcendental Dialectic (TD). Kant essentially argues in TD that by the nature of reason the categories – which are necessary conditions for knowledge – extend beyond that which they are immediately given in space and time, hence, they are posited with the responsibility to prose possible solutions to metaphysical questions.

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A Dialogue on Belief in God

*Two friends Henry and William are both philosophy students. Henry is primarily studying theology and William is wanting pursue a career in teaching philosophy. The two discuss belief in God*

William: I’m not sure if atheism has much going for it. However, I think the converse is true with theism; the evidence simply isn’t there. Maybe you and I can agree on an ultimate reality, but I can’t name it, I can’t call it God, and I can’t find any rational support for it.

Henry: Do you think you and I could agree on an “ultimate” reality?

William: Probably. I’d say so.

Henry: Well, let’s say that there are two realities: reality A and reality B. Let’s better say that these are not “ultimate” realities but realities without “restrictions.” In other words, these realities have no limitations to their being. However, insofar as they are different realities, one must have properties which the other one lacks. Therefore, one reality has some properties that the other one lacks. Therefore, one reality is restricted, while the other is unrestricted.

William: Okay, so after all that we agree: there is an unrestricted reality – which you might say is God – and a restricted reality – you might say “our reality.” What would come next?

Henry: Well, what would this unrestricted reality look like?

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Thinking About God After the Arguments

Precisely the question should arise once we’ve established arguments for the existence of God on what sorts of names or predicates can be attributed to God. In other words, we’ve so far satisfied our intellectual curiosity about divine existence and now must kind of pursue a divine science which helps us understand our Creator-created distinction.

Thomas Aquinas contended that metaphysics is a philosophical science whose main subject or area of study is “being as being.” In doing so, he was aligning himself with the similar definition Aristotle applied in his Metaphysics. In Aristotle’s Metaphysics, written close to a thousand years before Aquinas, Aristotle doesn’t necessarily use this word by name but in book IV of the Metaphysics he says that “there is a science which investigates being as being and the attributes which belong to this in virtue of its own nature.” [1]

However, there is a kind of distinction that emerges from here in book IV to the understanding of metaphysics in book VI where metaphysics now steps in with a more specific interest: immaterial entity or the divine. Aquinas to my understanding took this second understanding – called “first philosophy” or “divine science” – and considered it virtually the same with the first understanding.

However, what made Aquinas unique was his denial – so to speak – that God was the subject of metaphysics. Aquinas and Aristotle agree that the metaphysician should concern himself with knowledge of first principles and the causes of that subject. However, God cannot be the subject of metaphysics because He can only be known indirectly as the cause of what does fall under being as being.

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A Dialogue on The Cosmological Argument

*Two friends Jacob and Mark are having a conversation about God. Jacob is a Christian while Mark is an agnostic. Mark is curious about Jacob’s views of the world. 

Mark: God is not something known by reason. God is just like Santa Claus; too fantastic a story made for simple-minded children! Have you seen any evidence of a God anywhere, at any times, at all?

Jacob: Let’s be honest before we start: you and I differ on what is seen. This will ring true in even the simplest of subjective examples: our preference of ice cream, the aesthetic of colors and paintings and so on. However, is it the case that this kind of “seeing” is the case in religion?

Mark: Obviously not, because if we could see it, we would believe it.

Jacob: On principle, you believe what is seen?

Mark: Yes.

Jacob: How does belief differ from knowledge?

Mark: You can believe something to be true, although it might be the case otherwise. Knowledge however lacks this “might otherwise.” If you know something, you just know it.

Jacob: What sorts of things do we know?

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The God of the Philosophers and the God of Christianity

Let’s consider a historical instance. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274?) in his almost insurmountable work Summa Theologiae (specifically for our purposes the third article of the First Part), offers five arguments or “Five Ways” which demonstrate God exists. The first three arguments are a kind of varying cosmological argument, which look to some phenomena in the world which requires an explanation either in a (i) First “Uncaused” Cause or (ii) metaphysically necessary Being. The fourth argument is a kind of moral argument, which looks at the degrees of perfection or the grades of things in the world to a Most Perfect Cause. The fifth argument is a kind of teleological argument which attempts to argue that intelligent beings act towards an end.

In each argument, we have a picture of God that are probably best taken collectively when considered together. Let’s suppose we took this “collective photo” and ran with an analogy of professional photography. We’ve snapped our shot; we take the photo home and attempt to develop our negative by submerging the material in a stop bath, turn the lights off, let the negative dry for so many hours, and so on. Amidst all of our efforts and painstaking care, will the photo develop to show a picture of the God of Christianity?

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A Dialogue on the Ontological Argument

Two friends Sophia and Nathan are on vacation in France. Sophia is a Christian and Nathan is a skeptic. One day as the two are walking along the foothills of Burgundy, Nathan strikes up an interesting subject with Sophia.

 

Nathan: I was thinking about our conversation the other day.

Sophia: Have you discovered something? Maybe changed your mind?

Nathan: I don’t think so, but I have to say I don’t know whether to find that argument really stupid or somewhat in truth.

Sophia: Well, what is this truth you see?

Nathan: I just want to make sure I have everything right first. Maybe you could better re-explain briefly what the argument is and maybe we’ll see if I see it differently.

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Some Apologetic Approaches

Soren Kierkegaard, “Fideism, Evidence and Stages of Existence” 

Kierkegaard made the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. More precisely said, he distinguished between subjective truth and objective truth. Consider this brief passage from S.K.’s Journal:

What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except in the way knowledge must be precede all action. It is a question of understanding my destiny, of seeing what the Deity really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. And what use would it be if I were to discover a so-called objective truth, or if I worked my way through the philosophers’ systems and were able to call them all to account on request, point out inconsistencies in every single circle? … What use would it be able to propound the meaning of Christianity, to explain many separate facts, if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life?

Quoted from John D. Caputo, How to Read Kierkegaard (Granta Publications: 2007), p. 9

Subjective truth to Kierkegaard, or “subjectivity,” concerns one’s whole being. This distinction relates to Kierkegaard’s emphasis on two things: (i) the difference between the what and the how of Christianity; and (ii) how faith and sin are opposites. Regarding (i), Kierkegaard acknowledged the validity of objective facts insofar as they are concerned primarily and only with logic, mathemathics, hard sciences and so on. It would be a mistake to mingle the objective with the subjective facts of life.

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