The Logic of Miracles – Part 2: Showing that God Exists

The Logic of Miracles – Part 2: Showing that God Exists December 16, 2018

CLASSICAL APOLOGETICS FAILS IN PHASE 2

Classical Christian Apologetics organizes the case for Christianity into three phases:

 

In my previous post on The Logic of Miracles, I argued that Classical Apologetics FAILS at the second phase because SHOWING that a particular event is a miracle, i.e. an event caused by God, requires that one first SHOW that God has specific PLANS and PURPOSES that give God a MOTIVE for causing the event in question.  But the usual way of SHOWING that God has specific PLANS and PURPOSES involves an appeal to divine revelation (usually the Bible).

This, however, involves CIRCULAR REASONING.  Christians point to the Bible to SHOW that God has specific PLANS and PURPOSES, but if they are making use of Classical Apologetics, then they argue for the inspiration of the Bible on the basis of the occurrence of miracles.  Here is how the CIRCULAR REASONING goes:

1. God has Purposes A, B, and C. 

THEREFORE:

2. God caused Event X.

THEREFORE:

3. Event X is a miracle.

THEREFORE:

4. The Bible was inspired by God.

5. The Bible says that God has Purposes A, B, and C.

THEREFORE:

1. God has Purposes A, B, and C.

Because we DON’T KNOW the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, we cannot determine whether a particular event was caused by God or not, so we cannot determine whether a particular event is a MIRACLE or not, so we cannot determine whether a particular book or message was inspired by God or not.

Our ignorance of the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, however, affects more than just Phase 2 of Classical Apologetics.  This ignorance is also a big problem for Phase 1, for the attempt to SHOW that God exists.

 

SWINBURNE’S CASE FOR GOD

This problem is especially clear and obvious in what is probably the best case ever made for the existence of God, the case presented by Richard Swinburne in his book The Existence of God (2nd edition, hereafter: EOG).  Because Swinburne uses miracles as evidence for the existence of God, his defense of Christianity does not fit my definition of Classical Christian Apologetics.   However, like a classical apologist, Swinburne does begin by arguing for the existence of God, and a classical apologist could make use of most of Swinburne’s arguments, just setting aside the argument from miracles used by Swinburne.

Swinburne’s case for the existence of God rests on some basic assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, and this is reflected in each of the arguments that Swinburne uses in his case for God in EOG.

The first argument in Swinburne’s case for God is his inductive cosmological argument.  This argument is based on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God:

Yet, if there is a God, clearly he can create a universe; and he will do so in so far as his perfect goodness makes it probable that he will.  I argued in Chapter 6 that God has good reason to create humanly free agents–that is, creatures with limited free choice between good and evil and limited powers to make deeply significant  differences to themselves, each other,  and the physical world by those choices, and also (because of the evil they may produce) reason not to create such creatures.  I argued that it would be an equal best act to create or not to create such creatures, and so we should suppose the logical probability that God would create such creatures to be 1/2.  I argued that these creatures would need to have bodies, and so there would need to be a physical world.  So for this reason alone the probability that a God will create a physical world will be no less than 1/2. (EOG, p.151)

Swinburne does not claim to KNOW the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, but he claims that it is somewhat probable that God, IF GOD EXISTS, would PLAN to create humanly free agents with bodies in a physical world, for the PURPOSE of bringing about creatures who would have “limited free choice between good and evil and limited powers to make deeply significant differences to themselves, each other, and the physical world by those choices…”.  Therefore, the existence of a physical world provides evidence in support of the existence of God, according to Swinburne’s cosmological argument.

Swinburne’s second and third arguments for God are both teleological arguments, and they too are based on such assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God:

  • The Teleological Argument from Temporal Order (e.g. natural regularities and laws of physics):

See EOG pages 164 and 165.

  • The Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (e.g. the evolution of animal and human bodies):

See EOG pages 188 and 189.

Swinburne’s fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth arguments for God are also based on assumptions about God’s PLANS and PURPOSES:

  • The Argument from Consciousness: 

See EOG pages 209 to 211.

  • The Argument from Moral Awareness:

See EOG pages 217 and 218.

  • The Argument from Providence:

See EOG pages 219 and 234 and 235.

  • The Argument from History:

See EOG page 275 and 276.

  • The Argument from Miracles:

See EOG pages 284 to 286.

The ninth and final argument (in EOG) is used to move from it being about as probable as not that God exists to the ultimate conclusion (in EOG) that it is more probable than not that God exists (EOG, p.342).

  • The Argument from Religious Experience:

This argument does not obviously require assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, but there are two respects in which this argument does depend on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  First, this argument depends on the assumption that the previous arguments for God show that it is “not very improbable” that God exists (EOG, p.341 -342), and the previous arguments rely on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  Thus, there is an indirect dependency upon such assumptions.

Second, Swinburne appeals to assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God in order to strengthen his argument from Religious Experience:

And also, as we saw at the beginning of this chapter, there is some reason to suppose that God would give to some people experiences apparently of himself. (EOG, p.327)

See also page 293, and pages 267-270.

So, Swinburne’s case for the existence of God depends on various assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.

 

SWINBURNE’S CASE MIGHT NOT BE REPRESENTATIVE OF OTHER CASES FOR GOD

One might object that Swinburne is a very logical and systematic thinker, and thus it is no big surprise that his case for God is built on a foundation of a few assumptions, and that each argument in his case draws on that same set of assumptions.  However (the objection might continue), other philosophers might not be as logical and systematic in their cases for God, and so many of the arguments used in other cases for God might not require assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.

Peter Kreeft, for example, presents 20 different arguments in his case for the existence of God, and there is no apparent logical structure or systematic thinking that ties these various arguments together into a coherent whole.  Perhaps many of Kreeft’s arguments for God do NOT require assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.

This is a reasonable objection, so I’m going to investigate my hypothesis further by reviewing many (maybe all) of Kreeft’s arguments for God, to see if any of them can hold up WITHOUT making any assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  If all or almost all of Kreeft’s 20 arguments for God depend on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, then that will confirm my hypothesis that Classical Apologetics FAILS at Phase 1 because we are ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, and this ignorance makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to SHOW that God exists.

To Be Continued…

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