And the rest…

Reasons for believing » God » 7: And the rest…

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that there were three types of argument for God’s existence: cosmological, ontological and teleological. Often today those taking a course in religious studies will be presented a cosmological argument, an ontological argument and a teleological argument as if those were the arguments for God – just these three.

But it’s not true. Firstly, there are numerous subsets within these three categories. For example, there is the kalam cosmological argument and there is the Leibnizian cosmological argument. Secondly, and more importantly, there are numerous arguments that don’t fit in these categories. And this should not surprise us. If God exists then he is the basis of all reality, the most fundamental thing there is, so the evidence for God is everything – all of reality.

  • There are complex philosophical arguments from set theory and from concepts (do concepts that no one has thought of exist?).
  • There are arguments from our mental capacity, such as consciousness and intentionality (how do you explain the mind without denying it is real?).
  • There are arguments from the consistency of the universe (isn’t it a strange coincidence that universe obeys the laws of logic?).
  • There are arguments against universal scepticism (how do you know that your thoughts are, in any way, related to reality?).
  • There are arguments from the intelligibility and discoverability of the universe (isn’t it useful that the present is like the past?).
  • There are arguments from the transcendent nature of human experience (is music, art, beauty, just about attracting a mate?).
  • There are arguments from our transcendent desire (why do we long for something more?) and arguments from the search for meaning (are our lives just a cosmic fluke?).
  • There are arguments from providence (seeing God at work in your life) and arguments from miracles (some things just seem to require a God).

And there are probably many more.

Now the point is not to just throw arguments at you till you’re too weary to object any more. Every argument needs to be judged on its own merits. Sometimes people make bad arguments for the existence of God, or present arguments in a bad way. There would be no point just stacking up bad arguments. But there are also numerous good arguments and sometimes all it takes is one to change someone’s perspective.

The real point of this essay is that thinking about the existence of God is thinking about reality itself. And the question is: does reality seem ordered, meaningful, purposeful, filled with depth and richness? Or does reality seem chaotic, meaningless, pointless, just an unhappy result of blind chance? If, on balance, you think the first option is more like reality as you experience then you have good reason for thinking there is a God.

And having come to the realisation that there probably is a God then you’re ready to start exploring what that means for you.

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Further reading – advanced

Alexander R. Pruss, “Leibnizian Cosmological Arguments” in Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (2009)

Kai-man Kwan, “The Argument from Religious Experience”, Philosophy Compass (2006) (PDF)

Robert E. Maydole, “A Modal Model for Proving the Existence of God”, Philosophical Quarterly (1980) (PDF)

Richard Swinburne, “God as the Simplest Explanation of the Universe”, European Journal of Philosophy of Religion (2010)

John M. DePoe, “The Argument from Reason” (PDF)

J. P. Moreland, “Argument from Consciousness”