5 more arguments for the existence of God



St. Thomas Aquinas famously formulated 5 arguments for the existence of God.  Robert H. Nelson has formulated 5 more, reflecting modern modes of thinking.

They have to do with (1) the mystery of why mathematics, a mental construction,  applies so completely in the physical world; (2) the mystery of human consciousness; (3) new issues in evolutionary biology; (4) that revolutionary ideas have tended to occur separately but at the same time;  (5) the phenomenon of different forms of worship (including the way even non-religious ideologies such as Marxism assume religious forms).  These all suggest the existence of a mind behind the universe.

More details on these arguments after the jump.  See also Nelson’s book,  God?  Very Probably:  Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God.

Now I’m not sure such arguments, while interesting, get us very far.  They don’t get us to the incarnation of this God, or to His act of atonement on the Cross, or to His resurrection from the dead.

Faith is a curious kind of thing,” the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith is a gift.  As the great thinker  J. G. Hamann said when his friend Immanuel Kant tried to argue him out of his conversion, you can’t argue me out of my faith because I was never argued into my faith.  Faith is a kind of revelation, the personal impact of the Word of Law and Gospel, so it’s very real, hard to shake, and yet a different kind of thing than the conclusion of a rational argument.

And yet, I do think apologetics can be helpful in clearing away obstacles and in reminding us all that Christian faith is connected to objective truth.


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Plantinga wins Templeton Prize

512px-AlvinPlantingaChristian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has won the Templeton Prize for contributions to religion.

Plantinga has shown, in a sophisticated way that is convincing even to most non-believing philosophers, that it is not irrational to believe in God, that the “problem of evil” does not disprove God’s existence, and that Christianity can make important contributions to philosophical questions.

Plantinga, a Calvinist who has been a professor at Notre Dame, has sparked a renaissance in Christian philosophy and has shown Christian academics how they can contribute to secular academia without compromising their faith.

Photo of Alvin Plantinga by Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Hank Hanegraff, the Bible Answer Man, joins the Orthodox Church

640px-Hank_HanegraaffHank Hanegraff, who hosts the Bible Answer Man radio show and who operates the Christian Research Institute, has converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

An apologists for evangelicalism, Hanegraff and his ministry has spoken against Baptismal regeneration and the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  This has put him against Lutheranism.

But now he is embracing the sacraments and other beliefs of Eastern Orthodoxy, including the doctrine of theosis.

He is foreswearing Protestantism, but he is continuing his work with the CRI and the Bible Answer Man.

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C. S. Lewis, atheist

C. S. Lewis, one of the foremost Christian apologists, had been for 15 years a convinced and rather militant atheist.  My friend and former colleague Joel Heck has written a splendid study of Lewis’s atheism, published by Concordia Publishing House:   From Atheism to Christianity:  The Story of C. S. Lewis

There are many kinds of atheism, just like there are many kinds of Christianity, and Joel unpacks the influences, books, and ideas that defined Lewis’s particular variety of unbelief.  In tracing Lewis’s life and intellectual development from his school days through the early years of his academic career, the book is a compelling biography.

In his recreation of the intellectual atmosphere of pre-war Oxford, Joel shows the important influence of idealist philosophers, such as F. H. Bradley and Henri Bergson.  Most studies of early modernism focus on materialism and existentialism.  And yet, arguably, the idealists–who said things like “”the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” (James Jeans)–may have been even more important.  After all, T. S. Eliot, a founder of literary modernism, wrote his dissertation on Bradley.  Certainly the artistic modernists–Yeats and Joyce with their mythmaking; Stravinsky with his neo-primitive music; Picasso’s Cubism, Dalí’s Surrealism, and Kandinsky’s Abstractionism–are hard to reconcile with the definition of Modernism as an “age of reason.”  [Suggestion for graduate students:  Lots of good material for dissertations here!]

Both idealists and materialists could be atheist, and Lewis seems to have vacillated between the two, but idealism best accounted for his personal and aesthetic yearnings.  This new book also describes in detail how and why Lewis gave up his atheism, turning first to belief in a personal though philosophically-abstract deity, and then to the God of Abraham who became incarnate in Jesus Christ.

C. S. Lewis fans, apologists, intellectual historians, and atheists will all want to read this book.

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Mathematical proof of God’s existence?

Kurt_gödelNPG D23949; St Anselm after Unknown artistThe great mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel, who died in 1978, left behind a series of equations that purport to prove the existence of God.

As I understand it (and I don’t understand the math!), the equations test the validity of St. Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence, which defines God as the greatest being that can be conceived.  Such a being would have to have the property of existence; otherwise, we could conceive of a greater being, namely, one that exists.  And that one would be God.

This sounds like a language game, but philosophers have wrestled with the argument for centuries, finding it more formidable than it might appear on the surface.

Now two European computer scientists have run Gödel’s mathematical proof on a computer and found it valid.

You do the math:

“Ax. 1. {P(φ)∧◻∀x[φ(x)→ψ(x)]} →P(ψ)Ax. 2.P(¬φ)↔¬P(φ)Th. 1.P(φ)→◊∃x[φ(x)]Df. 1.G(x)⟺∀φ[P(φ)→φ(x)]Ax. 3.P(G)Th. 2.◊∃xG(x)Df. 2.φ ess x⟺φ(x)∧∀ψ{ψ(x)→◻∀y[φ(y)→ψ(y)]}Ax. 4.P(φ)→◻P(φ)Th. 3.G(x)→G ess xDf. 3.E(x)⟺∀φ[φ ess x→◻∃yφ(y)]Ax. 5.P(E)Th. 4.◻∃xG(x)”.

After the jump, a news story on the computer scientists’ work.  I also include Gödel’s proof and a link explaining the above mathematical notation. [Read more…]

A book on why we should trust the Bible

Trevor's book on the BibleThere are four more shopping days until Christmas, time (especially if you have Amazon Prime with free two-day shipping) to buy for someone who needs it Trevor Sutton’s new book Why Should I Trust the Bible?

Trevor is the author of another good book,  Being Lutheran.  He is a young pastor and an excellent, enjoyable-to-read writer.  (I’m going to be collaborating with him on a project–more on that later.) This book takes on the confusions, untruths, and half-truths that undermine confidence in the Scriptures.  It makes a strong positive case that the Bible is a unique book whose foundation is Jesus and which is utterly reliable.  This work of lively apologetics will connect with the young and the old, the faithful and the questioning.

I especially like the organization of the book, which breaks down the different issues (the charge that the Bible is myth, that it is full of errors and inconsistencies, that the canon was an imposition of power, that the translations are unreliable, etc.).  It deals with each objection thoroughly.  At the end of each chapter is an excursus that looks at the issue in terms of another work of literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare’s history plays, etc.), showing how the Bible comes across better.

After the jump, more description from Amazon. [Read more…]