Mary asked:

Proofs of the existence of God. Identify which of these arguments seems to be the best, and explain why you think so. Complete your response by reflecting on why philosophers have sought for thousands of years to provide such proofs, and whether it is necessary to do so.

Answer by Eric George

First of all let me clarify that the question ‘does God exist?’ is not a scientific one, it is a philosophical/ theological inquiry. Generally speaking, scientific proof, is based upon the repeatability of an experiment in order to validate whether or not the outcome of that certain experiment determines a falsification of something existing or the truth of something existing. In other words, science verifies truth by way of conducting tests which express certain consistencies within a prescribed method of obtaining such truths. So the person who wishes to assert that God does not exist because one cannot scientifically prove God’s existence is using a method of verification which is outside of the actual premise to begin with, since the matter of God’s existence is a philosophical and theological one, it follows therefore that the matter itself must be approached philosophically and theologically as well. The answer must be endeavored within the context of the question.

Philosophers have thought it necessary to provide answers to questions ever since western philosophy itself began with the ancient Greeks. If we treat the matter of the existence of God as another question then of course it is necessary to provide answers as to whether or not you believe God exists or does not exist. The pondering on God’s existence began as philosophy gathered mankind’s thoughts beyond the material world, as to whether nature defines us, society and culture defines us or whether something detached from all that we experience defines us i.e. God. It is necessary to take into consideration I believe since the matter itself has always been within and around the very subject of philosophy, the issue of God has become a tenant of basic common philosophical questions, meaning, purpose, destiny and such. Also, what is meant by ‘God’ — is it the highest good? The unmoved mover? A spiritual entity? The definitions for and what God is, are numerous indeed. I think it safe to say though, that generally within western society a reference to God means the accumulative expression of God put forward by christian theism, and more recently deism (which is a form of theism).

I would not say personally that anything can be proven indefinitely, since to prove something means that it could be no other way, and as such I would not use the term ‘proofs’ to denote mere arguments in favor of theism, the arguments themselves seek to provide evidence for the superiority of theism over atheism in a sort of arms-race to solidify the existence of God as a way of ‘following the evidence’ which somehow concludes that God exists. The arguments for the existence of God or ‘theistic arguments’, can be classically put forward as follows: The cosmological argument (from contingency), the moral argument (on objective moral values), the teleological argument (intelligent design, on fine-tuning), the ontological argument (on the existence of God, his existence to his actuality — the possibility therein), the historicity of christ argument (historical support for the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of christ — vindicates the existence of God) and an off-shoot of the cosmological argument coined as the kalaam cosmological argument (beginning to cause correlation, origins of the universe).

All six classical arguments for the existence of God, when studied in depth, are quite logical in the context that their premises are true; and their premises are more plausible in light of the evidence than their negations. However, I have some criticism to put forward. First of all the historicity of christ argument in comparison with the other five arguments, is quite weak since it depends mainly on the synoptic gospels and draws from early commentaries within church tradition. The sources drawn from outside church tradition are very scant; cite Josephus and Tacitus, you would think that more would be written about Jesus Christ of Nazereth, especially by historians who existed during and around that time which are external from church tradition. I feel that the extraordinary claim that the historicity of christ argument is making — in light of affirming the death and bodily resurrection of christ as a true historic event, is so scantly written and recorded about by any sources detached from church tradition that the argument collapses as non opus, even on the premise that the resurrection is some how the best explanation for some established facts such as the ’empty tomb’ and so forth. It seems to me that this argument should not even be apart of the theistic arsenal, it should be left a part, separate as an article of faith rather than an article of argument based upon historicity. Especially since the substance of such historicity cannot be measured to match the historic claim of such an argument.

That being said, there is one argument which seems to me to be very persuasive, I refer to the moral argument and what it is inclusive to. The moral argument for the existence of God simply put, explains that if objective moral values exist then therefore God exists since it would necessitate a mind prior to the Human mind to define moral values which are binding irrespective of ones culture and society, i.e. across the board. It also builds upon this by stating that if God does not exist, then accordingly, objective moral values do not exist and that what we term ‘morality’ is merely synonymous as an invention that we as Humans, have fabricated as time has gone on, as nothing more than a means of regulating our existence to socially survive in somewhat of a convenience. Life and ones actions within life are in essence totally subjective and non-binding, every individual creates their own sense of moral duties — whether this sense is fulfilled in murdering someone or helping someone, it matters not in the end. The moral argument for Gods existence is compelling, since it plays on both the emotional and intellectual scale of the Human mind.