Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument

Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument October 23, 2016
Although, as I have previously argued, Geisler characterizes his case for God as consisting of multiple arguments for the existence of God,  this is a mischaracterization of his case for God.
 
Geisler’s case for God rests upon five claims, and he gives an argument for each  of those five claims, but each of those five claims plays a critical role in Geisler’s case.  If one of the five claims is false, then Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS.  Thus, Geisler’s case for God consists of just ONE argument, and the five claims function as premises in that ONE argument.
 
There are two main options for representing the logical relationship between the five claims (for which Geisler presents his five arguments) and the ultimate conclusion that “God exists”.  Based on Geisler’s characterization of his own case for God, one might well be tempted to think that his case consists of five arguments or five independent reasons for believing that God exists:

Five Arguments for God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last step of the argument is from premise (6) to the ultimate conlcusion (7):
 
(6) There currently exists a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and this being is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.26 and p.28)
 
THEREFORE:
 
(7) God exists.
 
It is very tempting for Christian believers and Christian apologists to view a case for God this way, because on this view the believer has five chances to win.
 
On this view, if just ONE of the five arguments is a sound argument, then the case for God works.  On this view, even if each one of the five arguments is somewhat questionable (containing a premise of uncertain truth or an inference of uncertain validity), so long as each argument has some significant probability of being a sound argument, then there would be a good chance that at least ONE argument is sound, and thus there would be a good chance that the overall case for God works, and that God actually exists.
 
Unfortunately for Geisler and his Christian readers, this is NOT how the logic of Geisler’s case actually functions.  In reality, his case for God consists of just ONE argument that requires each of his five arguments to be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  It is actually the skeptic who has five chances to win, because if just ONE of the five arguments is an unsound argument, then Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS.
 
Here is a diagram showing the actual logical structure (at a high level) of Geisler’s case for God:

One Argument for God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The logic of Geisler’s ONE argument for the existence of God is a bit more complicated than what appears in the above diagram.  So, I am going to start laying out the details of the logic of his argument, so that we can evaluate an argument that is a clear and accurate representation of Geisler’s reasoning about the existence of God.

The first order of business is to specify and clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five 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 an accurate understanding of what they mean:

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 aspect of the universe
4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver of laws of morality.


Claim (5) is a bit tricky, because it appears to be ambiguous.  The ambiguous term in (5) is the word “God”, and I believe that Geisler commits the fallacy of equivocation in how he makes use of (5).  Here are the two different ways of interpreting (5):

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

5b. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

If we interpret (5) as meaning the same as (5a), then this claim is irrelevant to Geisler’s case for God, because the antecedent of the conditional implies that “God exists now or God existed in the past” and none of Geisler’s other arguments show this to be the case.  So, (5a) cannot be used to infer any other claims, and it is thus useless in his case for the existence of God.

On the other hand, if we interpret (5) as meaning the same as (5b), then Geisler can use the conclusion (1a) from his first argument and combine it with (5b) to infer that the cause (or causes) of the beginning of the universe “must always exist and cannot not exist”, which might be helpful to his case for the existence of God.

The problem with (5b) is that it appears to be FALSE. We can conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist but then, perhaps due to the exertion required for that great feat, ceased to exist. If this is a logical possibility, then (5b) is FALSE.  

In any case, Geisler has given us no good reason to believe that (5b) is true.  The argument for (5) goes like this (WSA, p.25):

If God exists, we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.

By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.
 
THEREFORE:
 
If God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.
As it stands, this argument is of no use to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because he must FIRST prove that “God exists” in order to make use of the conclusion of this argument.  But if Geisler can prove that “God exists” with some other argument, then there is no need for this argument.  So, this argument is only of use to Geisler if the word “God” here is interpreted in the weak sense of something that caused the universe to begin to exist.  
 
Geisler believes that his first argument shows that “the universe was caused by something else”.  We need to rephrase the above argument to make the intended meanings of the premises and conclusion clear:
 
8. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then we must conceive of that being as a necessary Being.
 
9.  By definition, a necessary Being must always exist and cannot not exist.
 
THEREFORE:
 
5b. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
 
The key premise (8) is FALSE.  We can conceive of something causing the universe to begin to exist which is NOT a necessary Being.  For example, we can conceive of a powerful angel causing the universe to begin to exist even though that angel was NOT a necessary Being.
 
So,  if the conclusion of the fifth argument is (5a), then the argument is irrelevant to Geisler’s case for God, but if the conclusion of the fifth argument is (5b), then it is relevant to his case for God, but the fifth argument would then be unsound, because it is based on a premise that is FALSE.  So, we have no good reason to believe that (5b) is true.
 
To be continued… 
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