With Christians gathering to worship the Triune God of the Bible, countless others scoff at such behavior. The difference lies most basically in either a recognition and submission to God’s existence or a rejection and denial of his existence. Although I know it is impossible to persuade someone away from something they are utterly convinced of, I hope here to at least provide a very basic survey of the various historical arguments for the existence of God. Christians may find this totally unnecessary because they desire God and willingly submit to his authoritative rule over all things. However, these arguments have helped convinced many Christians of God’s existence and, therefore, helped give meaning to trusting Christ. If a person cannot be convinced of God’s existence, he or she would be silly to believe in Jesus, a savior, sin, future judgment, eternal life, etc. For some, lasting joy begins with recognition of the God who is there.
Throughout history there have been many attempts made at proving the existence of God. There are different ways in which individuals have argued for God’s existence, five of which concern us at present. While Christians will not have to turn very far in the Word of God to see God’s existence, (Gen. 1:1) others have given ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments for God’s existence.
The Ontological Argument
An ontological argument for God’s existence is deduced from an a priori concept of God. This argument stems from the thought that since thinking about God is the greatest thought we can have, then he must exist. God’s existence is therefore a necessity since there can be no higher conception by humans than that of an ultimate being. Because our minds can conceive God, he must exist. This argument is based on the assumption that existence is greater than non-existence. If God is thus the greatest being which can be conceived, then he must exist. Anselm, the most famous proponent of this argument, said,
And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For suppose it exists in the understanding alone; then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.
Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.
Anselm was the most famous proponent of this argument, but Alvin Plantinga gives great insight to this issue as well. The simplest form of this argument can be listed in three parts: (1) God is perfect, (2) Perfection implies existence therefore (3) God exists. Plantinga himself admits that this argument, in his opinion, has brought few to belief in God.
The Cosmological Argument
A cosmological argument has also been given to prove God’s existence. This is another deduction approach to argue for the existence of God—a posteriori. Basically, this is a cause and effect argument or a hierarchical argument. Humans observe causal relations in the world. Each of these are dependent on a prior cause. Since there cannot be an infinite number of relations that are dependent on prior causes, there must be an ultimate cause of all relations in the universe. The existence of the universe and the way in which it functions is evidence of a first cause of all relations in the universe. Therefore, God can be described as being this first cause. One prominent figure in philosophy and theology who argued from a cosmological standpoint was Thomas Aquinas. According to Aquinas, contingent beings exist as a result of a set that contains at least one non-contingent being. This one necessary, non-contingent being is God.
The Teleological Argument
Another argument that has been given for the existence of God is the teleological argument. From this argument, the existence of God is induced from the reality of design. Our universe is extraordinarily ordered. Order directly implies a designer. For example, the intricacies of a watch directly imply that there is a watch-maker. God’s existence is highly probable from this order-designer induction alone. The order and intricacy of the universe speak to the creative abilities and activity of God. Likewise, such order and intricacy provides a major problem for anyone who would argue for the existence of the universe form pure chance. Order and intricacy all but eliminates the notion that the universe exists by chance. This argument also gives some purpose to the universe as induced from the reality of the order of the universe around us.
This argument is very convincing and it presents several problems to atheists. One problem is the alternative problem. If an atheist continues to deny the existence of God, then they have only one alternative to choose to explain the order of the universe. They would have to claim that the universe is so orderly simply by naturalistic processes, entirely apart from an intelligent designer, and solely by scientifically desirable forces. By blind chance, the world has turned out the way that it is. This is simply not a very intelligent or plausible claim. It is much more probable that a designer, namely God, created the universe. This is the best explanation for the intricacy of the universe. All scientific and biological problems are solved with the teleological argument as they provide evidence for it.
The Moral Argument
A final argument given for God’s existence is what is known as the moral argument. This argument is based on ethics and universal morals that are found in each individual and evidenced in the governing of nations. This argument induces from the moral code that is objective and universal that there must be a moral code writer. It seems that this argument could easily be refuted by a denial of objective moral truth. However, it would actually be difficult to refute it. A denial of objective moral truth is a denial of ethical values. Relative views of moral truth would eliminate the need for laws or regulations. The alternative to objective moral truth is irrationality and chaos. Therefore, the presence and reality of objective moral truth necessitates an author of this moral truth.
You may or may not be in the least convinced of God’s existence through these arguments. Nevertheless, I hope that you have at least seen the viability, reasonableness, and probability of God’s existence. There are many refutations to these arguments that have not been discussed. However, I did not come across any compelling enough to include in a post of this size. Today is Sunday. Christians gather to worship across the world. If a God of such moral perfection and sheer grandeur exists, worship is the only appropriate, logical, and reasonable response.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.