Geisler’s Five Ways

Geisler’s Five Ways October 16, 2016

Norman Geisler is a Thomist.  His case for the existence of God is basically a simplified, clarified, and somewhat modified version of the case for God made by Thomas Aqinas in Summa Theologica.  Geisler borrows the basic logical structure of the case for God made by Aquinas, as well as some of the specific sub-arguments of Aquinas.

The standard view of Aquinas has it that Aquinas presents Five Ways or five arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler apparently accepts this standard view of Aquinas, and he is thus led to believe that his own case for God rests upon five arguments for the existence of God.

But the standard view of Aquinas is completely mistaken, and the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God.  Similarly, Geisler mischaracterizes his own case for God as including five arguments for the existence of God.  The truth of the matter, however, is that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler is an argument for the existence of God.  Geisler literally does not know what he is doing.

In order for an argument to BE an argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument must be that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  None of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God ends with the conclusion that “God exists”, and none of the five arguments ends with the conclusion that “There is a God”.  Thus, it is very clear that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God is an argument for the existence of God.

We saw in the previous post about Geisler’s first argument, that the word “God” did appear in the conclusion of that argument.  But we also saw that the word “God” did not appear in any of the premises of the argument, and that the inclusion of the phrase “this cause was God” in the conclusion of that argument makes that first argument logically invalid.  In order for the first argument to be logically valid, we must remove the reference to “God” in the conclusion.

If we look at just the conclusions of the remaining four arguments that Geisler presents, it is clear that none of those conclusions contain the word “God”:

Argument #G2: The universe needs a cause for its continuing existence (WSA, p.18-19)

4. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.18-19)

Argument #G3: Argument from design (WSA, p.20-22)

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

Argument #G4: Argument from moral law (WSA, p. 22-24)

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

Argument #G5: Argument from being (p.24-26)

3. Therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being. (WSA, p.24-25)

Since the word “God” does not appear in any of the conclusions of the remaining four arguments presented by Geisler, it is clear that NONE of these four arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  Therefore, NONE of the four remaining arguments is an argument for the existence of God.

Geisler believes that in his case for God he has presented five arguments for the existence of God, but it is crystal clear that, in fact, he has presented ZERO arguments for the existence of God.  So, it appears, at least initially, that Geisler’s case for God is a complete and utter failure.

However, just as the standard view of Aquinas presents a mischaracterization of the case for God made by Aquinas, so because of Geisler’s own misunderstanding of what he is doing, he has mischaracterized his own case for God.  If we come to see what Aquinas was actually doing in Summa Theologica, that will help us to understand what Geisler is actually doing in his case for God.  

Just as I believe that the case for God in Aquinas is a serious one that deserves serious consideration and analysis, so I think that Geisler’s case for God is better than what my critique has indicated so far.  There is some real substance to Geisler’s case for God, but we need to reconceive the overall logic of his case.

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