Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada

In part 11 of this series of posts I reviewed the overall structure of Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God, the case that he presented, along with coauthor Ronald Brooks, in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  In this present post, I will once again review the overall structure of Geisler’s case, and will summarize a number of key problems with Geisler’s case.

================

For a more detailed analysis and critique of Geisler’s case, or of a specific argument in his case, see previous posts in this series:

INDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2017/05/25/index-geislers-five-ways/

================

PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS

On pages 15 through 26, Geisler presents five arguments for five conclusions.  I call this Phase  1 of this case.  Here are the five conclusions of the five initial arguments:

  • Something other than the universe caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • Something is a first uncaused cause of the present existence of the universe.
  • There is a Great Designer of the universe.
  • There is a supreme moral Lawgiver.
  • If God exists, then God exists and God is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.

Note that the word “God” is being misused by Geisler in the statement of the fifth conclusion.  The purpose of his case is to prove that “God exists”, so a premise that begins, “If God exists, then…” is of no use in his case.

What he really means by the word “God” here is “the creator of the universe” or, more precisely: “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that causes the universe to continue to exist now.”  That this is what the word “God” means in his fifth argument can be seen in his comment about the significance of the fifth argument:

The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)

The “argument from creation” is actually two cosmological arguments: the Kalam cosmological argument, and the Thomistic cosmological argument (to a sustaining cause of the current existence of the universe).  Thus, the antecedent of the fifth argument “If God exists…” really means: “If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that is also causing the universe to continue to exist now…”

As with MANY of the arguments that I have examined in Geisler’s case, he is using the word “God” in an idiosyncratic sense, which he does not bother to clarify or to define.  So, we have to examine the context of each such claim in his case to figure out what the hell he means each time he misuses the word “God”.  This is part of why I say that this case is a steaming pile of dog shit; Geisler does not bother to clarify or define the meaning of the most important word in his argument, and he continually shifts the meaning of this word at will, with no warning that he is doing so.

PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.

ALL FIVE of Geisler’s arguments for the above five conclusions must be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If just one of those five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Furthermore, the soundness of all five of those arguments is NOT sufficient to prove that God exists; further arguments are needed.  None of the five basic arguments is sound, and none of the additional arguments that Geisler makes in order to get to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists” is sound, so his case for God is pure unadulterated crap from start to finish.

The basic reason why Geisler needs all five arguments to be sound, is that the concept of God is complex.  God, as understood in Christian theology, has several divine attributes, and so Geisler must show that there is one and only one being that has all of the main divine attributes.

There is no universally agreed upon list of the “main” divine attributes, but we can see what Geisler considers to be the main divine attributes in relation to his lists of God’s characteristics, and in relation to his five basic arguments.  Here is a key comment by Geisler listing several divine attributes:

…God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)

A key attribute that Geisler left out of this list is “unlimited” (see WSA, p.27 & 28).

In view of his five basic arguments, Geisler implies that God also has the following key attributes or characteristics:

  • God caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • God causes the universe to continue to exist now.
  • God designed the universe.
  • God produced the laws of morality.
  • God is a necessary being.

Geisler’s description of God includes more than a dozen different divine attributes.  The existence of such a being cannot be established on the basis of just one simple argument.  That is why Geisler needs ALL FIVE of his basic arguments to be sound, plus a number of other additional arguments, in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If any one of his five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS. If one of his additional arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Geisler’s case depends on the soundness of MANY (about a dozen) different arguments.  If one of those MANY arguments is unsound, then Geisler’s case for God FAILS. As far as I can tell, none of his arguments are sound.

PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.

Geisler represents his case as consisting of two main phases: first he proves that “God exists”, and next he proves that God has various divine attributes:

The first question that must be addressed in pre-evangelism is, “Does God exist?”  The second question is very closely related to the first: “If God exists, what kind of God is He?”  (WSA, p.15)

This argument [his Thomistic cosmological argument] shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  (WSA, p.19)

But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence? (WSA, p.26)

The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)

This is completely idiotic and ass-backwards.  In order to prove that “God exists”, one must prove that there exists a being who has various divine attributes (e.g. all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, etc.).

Proving that there is a thing or being that caused the universe to begin to exist is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a thing or being that is causing the universe to continue to exist now is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a being who designed the universe (or some aspect of the universe) is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  The concept of God in Christian theology is a complex concept that implies a unique being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.  Thus proving that “God exists” in the context of a discussion about the truth of the Christian religion requires that one prove the existence of a being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.

Geisler is free to reject the Christian religion if he wishes, and  he is free to reject the traditional Christian concept of God as well.  He is free to invent his own personal concept of God, and to argue for the existence of that particular idiosyncratic God.  But if he wants to dump Christian theology and create his own new religion, then he needs to be very clear that this is what he is doing, and he would also need to provide a clear alternative definition or analysis of what he means by the word “God”, so that nobody would confuse Geisler’s new idiosyncratic concept of God with the traditional Christian concept of God.

Geisler, however, presents himself as a defender of the traditional Christian faith, so he clearly has no interest in inventing a new concept of God.  In the context of presenting apologetic arguments in support of the Christian faith, when Geisler asserts that “God exists”, he implies that there exists a being who has MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  Therefore, in order for Geisler to prove that “God exists”, he must prove that there exists exactly ONE being who possesses MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  He cannot prove that “God exists” without proving the existence of a being who, for example, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, the creator of the universe, etc.

PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.

The first order of business is to clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments.  Here are the conclusions in Geisler’s own words:

1. Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God. (WSA, p.16)

2. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.19)

3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p. 20)

4. Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver.  (WSA, p.22)

5. Therefore, if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist. (WSA, p.25)

These conclusions need to be cleaned up and clarified, so that we have a clear and accurate understanding of what they imply:

1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe (or some part or aspect of the universe) that existed prior to when the universe began to exist.

2a. There currently exists at least one uncaused cause for each finite, changing thing that currently exists.

3a. There existed (in the past) at least one Great Designer who designed some part or aspect of the universe. 

4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver who produced  at least some of the laws of morality.

5a. If there is (or ever was) a being that is (or was) the most perfect Being possible, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

Geisler provides dubious or unsound arguments for these five conclusions.  Furthermore, Geisler is very sloppy and unclear in his thinking, and so he infers significantly stronger conclusions that clearly do NOT follow logically from his five basic arguments:

1b. The entire universe was caused to begin to exist by EXACTLY ONE being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

2b. The current existence of the entire universe is caused by EXACTLY ONE currently existing being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

3b. There is EXACTLY ONE Great Designer who designed every part and aspect of the universe.

4b. There is EXACTLY ONE supreme lawgiver who produced all of the laws of morality.

5b. IF there is a being who caused the universe to begin to exist and who also causes the universe to continue to exist now, THEN that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  

Geisler’s five arguments leave open the possibility that there were MANY beings involved in causing the beginning of the universe, and MANY beings involved in causing the continuing existence of the universe, and MANY beings who designed different parts and aspects of the universe, and MANY moral lawgivers who produced different moral laws.

Because the “divine attributes” are distributed differently among these different kinds of beings, Geisler cannot show that there is just ONE being who possesses ALL of the various divine attributes.  Furthermore, since the function of a particular kind of being could be spread out among MANY beings, we cannot infer that the required power or ability exists to a high or unlimited degree in any one such being.  If, for example, a team of one thousand beings worked together to design the human brain, then there might well have been no being who had enough knowledge or intelligence to design the human brain by itself.

PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES

On pages 26 and 27,  Geisler presents Phase 2 of his case.  He argues for three claims related to personal attributes of “God”:

  • God is very powerful.
  • God is very intelligent.
  • God is [morally] good.

Once again, Geisler misuses the word “God” here.  But he gives us a good clue as to what he means by “God” in his Phase 2 arguments:

The argument from design shows us that whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence.  (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)

Geisler had argued in the previous paragraph that based on his two cosmological arguments “God” had great power.  Then Geisler uses his argument from design to try to show that “God” had great intelligence.  The above quoted statement implies that the word “God” is being used in the narrow sense of “whatever caused the universe”.  Roughly speaking, the conclusions that Geisler argues for in Phase 2 are more clearly stated as follows:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very powerful.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very intelligent.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is [morally] good.

So, Geisler is arguing that there exists a cause of the universe, and that this cause has various personal attributes that are part of the ordinary meaning of the word “God”.

PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.

A being that causes a universe to begin to exist is NOT necessarily the being that designed the universe; design and manufacturing are two separate functions in most companies that make products.  Making something is NOT the same as designing something.

The laws of nature could have been created by one being, while the laws of morality could have been created by a different being. There is no reason to believe that the cause of the existence of the universe is the same as the designer of the universe or the same as the moral lawgiver.

Because Geisler has NOT proven that these beings are all the same being, he cannot ascribe these various personal attributes (powerful, intelligent, and good) to just one being.  But in order to prove that God exists, he must show that there is ONE being who possesses all three of these personal attributes in an unlimited way, a being that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.

 

PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING

Yet again, Geisler abuses the word “God” in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is how Geisler states the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

Clearly, he is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  As I argued above, what he actually means something like this:

  • If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (in the past) and that also causes the universe to continue to exist (right now), then that being is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.

There is no reason to believe that a cause of the beginning of the universe must be a “perfect being”.  Let’s grant for the sake of argument that a “perfect being” must be a necessary being.  The question then becomes, “Does a perfect being exist?”

Geisler believes he has proven that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, but that tells us nothing about whether a perfect being exists.  The fact that the universe is finite and imperfect suggests the opposite conclusion, namely that the being that caused the beginning of the universe (if there were such a being) is something less than a perfect being.   In any case, Geisler has provided no reason to think that the cause of the beginning of the universe was a perfect being, so he has provided no reason to believe that there exists a perfect being, and thus Geisler has provided no reason to believe that there is a necessary being.

 

PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”

On pages 27-28, Geisler presents Phase 4 of his case.  There are two different sets of alleged implications that Geisler argues follow from the existence of a necessary being.  First there are implications related to God’s “metaphysical” attributes (as contrasted with God’s personal attributes above):

  • A necessary being is unchanging.
  • A necessary being is infinite.
  • A necessary being is eternal.
  • A necessary being is omnipresent.

Second, there are alleged conditional implications of the concept of a necessary being:

  • If a necessary being is powerful, then it is all-powerful.
  • If a necessary being is intelligent, then it is all-knowing.
  • If a necessary being is [morally] good, then it is perfectly [morally] good.

PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.

We see this confusion in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the conclusion that a necessary being must be unchanging:

We said already that necessary existence means that He [God] cannot not exist–so He has no beginning and no end.  But it also means that He cannot ‘come to be’ in any other way.  He must be as He is necessarily.  He can’t become something new.  That removes all change from His being–He is unchanging.  (WSA, p.27)

The expression “come to be” is clearly AMBIGUOUS.  It can refer to something coming into existence, or it can refer to something undergoing a change in an attribute or characteristic.  The concept of a “necessary being” implies that the thing or being in question did not come into existence, will not cease to exist, and cannot cease to exist.  This concept does NOT imply that ALL of the characteristics or attributes of such a thing or being must remain unchanged.

An apple can change from being green to being red; this does NOT involve the apple coming into existence or ceasing to exist.  The apple continues to exist through the change in its color.  An apple can “come to be red” even though the apple previously existed and continues to exist.  Thus, the apple itself does NOT “come to be” when it changes color from green to red.

Geisler confuses and conflates two different meanings of the expression “come to be”.   The claim that an apple “came to be red” implies NOTHING about the apple coming to exist.  An apple can “come to be red” even if the apple has always existed, and will always exist.  The fact that some of the attributes of an apple can change, does NOT imply that the apple began to exist, nor that the apple will cease to exist.  Geisler draws an INVALID inference based on the AMBIGUITY of the expression “come to be”; he commits yet another fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this crappy bit of reasoning.

The same sort of confusion occurs again in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the view that a necessary being must have unlimited attributes:

Because of His [God’s] necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning, without change, and without limitation. (WSA, p.28)

If something is a “necessary being”, that just means that it has existence in a necessary way; it does NOT mean that it has all of its attributes or characteristics in a necessary way.  Geisler again confuses the existence of something being necessary with its possession of its attributes being necessary.  The necessity of attributes does NOT logically follow from the necessity of a thing’s existence.

Geisler contradicts himself a few pages later, by implying that God’s attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is NOT a necessary attribute or characteristic:

…He [God] must be all that He is.  All that is in God’s nature is necessary, but anything that He does extends beyond His nature and is done by His free will.  One cannot even say that it was necessary for Him to create.  (WSA, p.31)

But if it was NOT necessary that God create the universe, then the divine attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is merely a contingent attribute, not a necessary attribute, and therefore God does NOT possess this particular attribute (of being the creator of the universe) “in a necessary way”.   Geisler clearly contradicts his earlier assertion that God “can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.”

Geisler then uses the conclusions from Phase 2 (the cause of the universe is very powerful, very intelligent, and morally good) along with the conclusion of Phase 3 (the cause of the universe is a necessary being) in combination with the conclusions from Phase 4 (a necessary being is unchanging, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, and if a necessary being is powerful, intelligent, and good then it must be all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good) in order to infer this conclusion:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is an unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent necessary being, that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good.

 

PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING

In a short paragraph on page 28, Geisler argues that there cannot be multiple beings of the sort that he thinks he has shown to exist:

  • There can be only one infinite Being.

Geisler’s argument for this conclusion is based on the following premise:

  • If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.

Unlimited beings share many unlimited attributes, but one unlimited being can have an attribute that differs from another unlimited being, thus making it possible to distinguish the two beings as different and separate beings.

For example, since the attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is, according to Geisler (WSA, p.31), a logically contingent attribute of God, it is possible for there to exist both an unlimited being that is “the creator of the universe” and also an unlimited being that is NOT “the creator of the universe”.  Since these two beings would have at least one attribute that they don’t share, it would be possible to distinguish between these two unlimited beings.

Furthermore, according to traditional Christian doctrine, God consists of three different persons, but each of those persons is an unlimited person.  Although these three persons are unlimited, according to traditional Christian belief, it is possible to distinguish between these three persons: one is “the Father”, another “the Son”, and the third is “the Holy Spirit”.   It is logically inconsistent to allow that there can be three distinguishable unlimited persons, but at the same time to insist that there cannot possibly be two or more distinguishable unlimited beings.

In the case of the Trinity,  Christians believe that there are specific unique attributes possessed by each of the persons of the Trinity that make it possible to distinguish one from another.  But this implies that one unlimited person can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited person.  If so, then this implies that one unlimited being can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited being.  Clearly, the attribute of being “unlimited” does NOT dictate every attribute possessed by such a person or being.

 

PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS

Although Geisler never provides a definition of the word “God”, it is fairly clear that his concept of God is something like this:

X is God IF AND ONLY IF:

  • X caused the universe to begin to exist, and
  • X causes the universe to continue to exist, and
  • X is the great designer of the universe, and
  • X is the supreme moral lawgiver, and
  • X is a necessary being, and
  • X is the only unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent being, and
  • X is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good being.

So, the ultimate conclusion of Geisler’s case is this:

  • God exists.

Here, finally, the word “God” is being used in something like it’s ordinary sense.

PROBLEM 10:  Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”

On the above Thomistic definition of “God”, God is both a person and an absolutely unchanging being.  But a person can make choices and decisions and perform actions and a person can communicate with other persons.  Something that is absolutely unchanging cannot make choices and decisions and perform actions, nor can such a thing communicate with other persons.  The idea of a person who is an absolutely unchanging being is INCOHERENT, it contains a logical self-contradiction.  Therefore, on this definition of “God” it is logically impossible for it to be the case that “God exists”.  The claim “God exists” would be a logically necessary falsehood, given Geisler’s concept of God.

"Sidenote: this"men no more need to be taught that there is a God, than that ..."

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part ..."
"All this logical reasoning seems unnecessary. Something limited can certainly conceive of something perfect without ..."

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part ..."
"Interesting point. I don't think this impacts my assessment of (1b). First of all, I ..."

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part ..."
"I'd like to agree with your argument for 1b against 1a, but you have missed ..."

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment