Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 9: The Argument from Change

MY EVALUATION OF THE SECOND HALF OF KREEFT’S CASE

In Part 1 and Part 2 I argued that eight out of ten (80%) of the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments (from Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Chapter 3; hereafter: HCA) are AWFUL arguments that are not worthy of serious consideration, that we should thus toss them aside, and ignore those eight arguments.

In Part 3 I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #12 (The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God), and in Part 4 I evaluated Argument #12 as being a BAD argument that provides ZERO support for the claim that God exists.

In Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8, I analyzed and evaluated Argument #19 (The Argument from Common Consent), the only remaining argument of the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments.  Here is the conclusion I reached about Argument #19:

…the Argument from Common Consent is based on a FALSE premise, premise (1), and it is also based on a dubious premise,  premise (3), for which Kreeft has offered two VERY BAD arguments.  The Argument from Common Consent is a FAILURE because it rests on a premise that is clearly FALSE and on a dubious premise that Kreeft has failed to give us any good reason to believe.

Of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case,  I have shown that eight arguments (80%) were AWFUL arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.  Only two of these ten arguments seemed worthy of serious consideration: Argument #12 and Argument #19.  After careful analysis and evaluation, I concluded that Argument #12 was a BAD argument that provided ZERO support for the claim that God exists, and I concluded that Argument #19 was based on a FALSE premise and also on a dubious premise.  Thus, all ten arguments in the second half of Kreeft’s case for God (i.e. 100%  of those arguments) are BAD arguments, and they fail to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.

 

STARTING WITH HIS BEST AND STRONGEST ARGUMENTS

Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.  If that impression is correct, then there is a significant chance that some of the earliest arguments in his case are strong and solid arguments.

Kreeft is a Thomist, so given my assumption that he is presenting what he takes to be the best and strongest arguments at the beginning of his case, it is no surprise that the first five arguments in his case are arguments based on Kreeft’s understanding of the “Five Ways” of Thomas Aquinas.  This provides some confirmation of my view that Kreeft has placed what he believes to be his best and strongest arguments up front in his case, and put his worst and weakest arguments in the second half of his case.

So,  I am going to reverse my strategy now, and I will begin analysis and evaluation of the very first arguments that Kreeft presents, on the assumption that those are the ones he considers to be the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.  If the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL, just like all of the last ten arguments did, then that will be a strong indication that Kreeft’s entire case is a SPOC (Steaming Pile of Crap) that FAILS to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.

If I find that his first five arguments all FAIL, I will, nevertheless, go on to analyze and evaluate the remaining five arguments in the first half of Kreeft’s case, but at that point there will be very little hope of me finding a real gem among all the manure that Kreeft has shoveled out in Chapter 3 of HCA.

In my analysis and evaluation of the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case, I don’t care whether he has correctly interpreted Aquinas.  My only concern is whether the arguments that Kreeft presents are good and solid arguments.   I believe that Kreeft has grossly misunderstood the reasoning of Aquinas about the existence of God, but that is of no importance here.  The only thing that matters, for the purposes of this series of posts, is whether the arguments presented by Kreeft are good arguments or bad ones.  They can be good and solid arguments for God even if Kreeft has totally distorted the reasoning of Aquinas, and they can be bad and weak arguments even if Kreeft’s understanding of Aquinas is flawless.  What I care about is the quality of Kreeft’s arguments for God, not the quality of his interpretation of Aquinas.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE ARGUMENT FROM CHANGE

Kreeft presents Argument #1 (The Argument from Change) twice.  The second presentation appears to be a summary.  It is a bit shorter than the first statement of the argument, and he begins the first sentence of this second presentation with the word “Briefly…”.  In any case, the second statement of the argument seems more clear and straightforward to me, so I will focus on the second statement of Argument #1, and draw upon the first statement only as necessary to clarify or evaluate the argument presented in his second statement of the argument.

Here is Kreeft’s second statement of Argument #1:

Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.  But it does change.  Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.  But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.  These three things depend on each other.  Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time.  It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.  (HCA, p. 50-51)

We need to take a closer look at this reasoning, in order to specify the actual logic of Argument #1. 

Let’s start with the first three sentences:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE: 

3. There must be something in addition to the material universe.

This inference is INVALID.  Premise (3) does not follow from (1) and (2).  There are some unstated assumptions and inferences operative here, which need to be made explicit to make this reasoning logically VALID:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

 

Let’s continue to examine the rest of the argument:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

4.  But the material universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.

5.  Matter, space and time depend on each other.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

8. This being outside the material universe is the unchanging Source of change.

There are three inferences in this part of Argument #1, and NONE of these three inferences is logically valid!  That is, none of them is a formally valid deductive inference.

One could argue that premise (6) entails premise (7), but that alleged entailment is not self-evident, so some reasoning or argumentation is required to SHOW that (6) actually does entail (7).  The two other inferences are just flat out wrong.  Some additional assumptions and inferences might repair this bit of reasoning, but it is a logical MESS in this current state.

You would think that in presenting his strongest and best arguments, Kreeft could at least make an effort to present arguments that had logically VALID inferences.  A professional philosopher presenting the most important arguments for the most basic belief in his philosophical point of view ought to know a little bit of deductive logic and be capable of presenting such arguments so that they conform to the simple and basic rules of deductive logic, but I guess this is just too much to ask of Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft.

I’m beginning to get the feeling that Kreeft’s strongest and best arguments for God will turn out to be pathetic failures, just like the last ten arguments in his case.   Argument #1 is looking pretty sad at this point.  In the next post of this series, I will attempt to clean up this sloppy, pathetic mess of an argument a little bit more, and then I will evaluate it.

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