Kreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 1

DOES GOD EXIST?

One way to approach this question is to critically examine some cases for the existence of God.  I am especially interested in cases for God made by Christian philosophers in the late 20th century or the early 21st century.  One such case was made by Peter Kreeft:

Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God

 

KREEFT’S CASE FOR GOD

In September of 2017, I began to analyze and evaluate Peter Kreeft’s case for God in his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli).  In July of this year, I finished examining the final argument of his case for God:

INDEX: Kreeft’s Case for God

 

A SUMMARY OF MY CRITIQUE OF KREEFT’S CASE

In Part 1 I toss four arguments aside as being unworthy of serious consideration:

We can quickly whittle down the list of twenty arguments to a list of sixteen arguments by tossing aside the following four arguments:

11. The Argument from Truth
13. The Ontological Argument
14. The Moral Argument
20. Pascal’s Wager

We can toss these arguments aside based on serious problems with these arguments that Kreeft himself admits.

 

In Part 2 I toss another four arguments aside as being unworthy of serious consideration:

The last ten arguments in Kreeft’s  collection of twenty arguments are, in my view, very weak and very flawed arguments; they are unworthy of serious consideration, and they fail to add significant weight to his cumulative case for the existence of God.  In the first post of this series I argued that four of those last ten arguments could be tossed aside right away based on admissions by Kreeft of serious flaws and weaknesses in those arguments.  The case for tossing aside another four of those last ten arguments is not in general based on Kreeft’s own admissions, so I will have to make the case myself, based on serious problems that I see with these four arguments:

15. The Argument from Conscience
16. The Argument from Desire
17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
18. The Argument from Religious Experience

I tossed out Argument #17, because Kreeft makes no effort whatsoever to defend the questionable main premise of this argument.

The other three arguments (in the second set of four crappy arguments) all share the same serious flaw; their conclusions are VAGUE and UNCLEAR:

…something superior to me [exists].  (HCA, p.75)
…something more than nature [exists]… (HCA, p.81)
…there exists a “divine” reality… (HCA, p.82)

NONE of these three arguments ends with the clear and straightforward conclusion that “God exists”.  But the question at issue is NOT whether there is something superior to us humans, nor is the question at issue whether there is something more than nature or natural phenomena, nor is the question whether there is a “divine” reality (whatever that means).  The question here is: “Does God exist?”  So, I am only interested in arguments that end with the conclusion “God exists” (or “God does NOT exist.”).  I also point out other confusions and problems of clarity in those three arguments, major problems that show those arguments to be unworthy of serious consideration.

So, in the first two posts, I toss out eight arguments (40% of the arguments) that Kreeft presents.  At least 40% of the arguments in Kreeft’s case for the existence of God are crappy arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.

 

In Part 3 and Part 4 I analyze and evaluate Argument #12 in Kreeft’s case for God:

12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

The bulk of Argument #12 is concerned with supporting premise (14):

14. The idea of God must have been caused by something outside us.

But premise (14) is irrelevant to the conclusion, so that portion of the argument constitutes a Red Herring fallacy; it is a lot of blather about a point that is irrelevant to the question at issue.

The core of Argument #12, on the other hand, is a bit of deductive reasoning that IS relevant to the question at issue:

15. The idea of God must have been caused by something which has nothing less than the qualities contained in the idea of God.

6a. But only God himself has the qualities contained in the idea of God.

THEREFORE:

7. God himself must be the cause of the idea of God.

However, the core of Argument #12 has a very serious flaw: both of its premises use an ambiguous phrase: “the qualities contained in the idea of God”.  When the meaning of this phrase is clarified, we see that there are four possible interpretations of the core of Argument #12.  We examined each of those interpretations, and discovered that the core of Argument #12 is UNSOUND no matter which interpretation we give it.  Because this core argument is UNSOUND no matter which interpretation we consider, we must conclude that Argument #12 is a BAD argument and that it provides ZERO support for the conclusion that “God exists”.

 

In Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8,  I analyze and evaluate Argument #19 in Kreeft’s case for God:

19. The Argument from Common Consent

The Argument from Common Consent is based on a FALSE premise, premise (1):

1. Almost all people of every era have believed in God.

It is also based on a dubious premise,  premise (3), for which Kreeft has offered two VERY BAD arguments:

3.  It is FAR MORE LIKELY that almost all people of every era have believed in God and God does exist, than that almost all people of every era have believed in God but God does NOT exist.

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.

 

In Part 9 I begin to analyze and evaluate the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God:

1. The Argument from Change
2. The Argument from Efficient Causality
3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
5. The Design Argument

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.

 

The very first argument in Kreeft’s case is this one:

1. The Argument from Change

I analyze and evaluate Argument #1 in Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12.

Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of Argument #1: “…this being outside the universe…is the unchanging Source of change.” (HCA, p.51).  I have re-stated this claim to clarify it a bit:

8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.

One of the first things I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Argument #1 is presumably one of the very best and strongest arguments for God, in the view of Peter Kreeft.  But there is an OBVIOUS and SERIOUS problem with Argument #1: The conclusion does not mention God!

In fact, the word “God” does not appear in anywhere in this argument.  How can Argument #1 be a strong and clear argument for the existence of God, if it never once mentions God?  In order for an argument to be a clear and strong argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument should be that “God exists” or “There is a God”.   Argument #1 fails to satisfy this basic and obvious requirement.

We can fix this obviously defective argument by adding yet another  premise to fill in the logical gap:

(F) IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 

Here are the main problems I found with Argument #1:

  • The single most important premisenamely (F), is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.
  • The single most important premisenamely (F), appears to be FALSE.
  • The second most important premise, namely (8a), is supported by an INVALID core argument.
  • Although both premises of the core argument supporting the second most important premise, namely (8a), appear to be TRUE, the very reason why one of those premises, namely (3a), appears to be TRUE shows that (8a) is FALSE.

In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that both appear to be FALSE.

 

In Part 13 and Part 14 I analyze and evaluate Argument #2 of Kreeft’s case:

2. The Argument from Efficient Causality

Here is the core argument inside Argument #2:

5a. It is NOT the case that: there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.

THEREFORE:

7a. God exists.

The main problem with Argument #2 is the same as the main problem with Argument #1 the single most important premise in the argument is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.  Specifically, Kreeft fails to state the premise that links the sub-conclusion (6a) to the conclusion that God exists, (7a).  Kreeft does not bother to explicitly state the most important premise in this argument, namely (C):

C. IF there is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now, THEN God exists.

Kreeft does not mention premise (C) and provides no supporting arguments for (C).   Since this is the single most important premise in Argument #2, and since it is a highly controversial premise which requires several arguments to justify it, and since Kreeft makes no effort to justify (C), Argument #2 clearly FAILS, just like Argument #1.

The only conclusion that can be inferred from (5a) is the conclusion in the first clause of (6a):  “There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.”  The second clause of (6a) does NOT follow from (5a).  One cannot infer that “there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in  order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.”   For one thing, (5a) does not imply that there is EXACTLY ONE THING, at least not in any obvious way.

Argument #2 clearly FAILS, because Kreeft fails to state or to support the single most important premise of the argument, namely premise (C), and because Kreeft supports the second most important premise of the argument with a dubious inference that appears to be INVALID, namely the inference from (5a) to (6a).

 

In Part 15 I quickly toss aside two more of Kreeft’s thomistic arguments:

3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
5. The Design Argument

Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.” Based on Kreeft’s pathetic track record, and based on the fact that he continues to repeat the same blunder as he did in Argument #1 and Argument #2, we can quickly toss aside Argument #3 and Argument #5.

To Be Continued…

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