The Logic of Miracles – Part 3: Kreeft’s First Ten Arguments

The Logic of Miracles – Part 3: Kreeft’s First Ten Arguments December 19, 2018

WHERE I AM HEADED

I am going to examine Peter Kreeft’s case for the existence of God, in order to test the following hypothesis:

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.

Peter Kreeft’s case for God consists of 20 different arguments (these are from Kreeft’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics, hereafter: HCA).  Because one of those arguments is “The Argument from Miracles” (Argument #9 in Kreeft’s case), his case does not fit perfectly with Classical Christian Apologetics as I have previously defined this approach.  However, if we simply toss out that one argument, the other 19 arguments would constitute a case for God that could be put forward by a Classical Apologist.

So, for each of the 19 other arguments, I wish to answer the following question:

Does this argument require any assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God?

Suggested Standards for Evaluation of My Hypothesis:

  • If  17 or 18 or 19 (89% or 95% or 100%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will strongly confirm my hypothesis.
  • If 14 or 15 or 16 (74% or 79% or 84%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will partially confirm my hypothesis.
  • If only 11 or 12 or 13 (58% or 63% or 68%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will neither confirm nor disconfirm my hypothesis.
  • If only 8 or 9 or 10 (42% or 47% or  53%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will partially disconfirm my hypothesis.
  • If only 7 or fewer (37% or less) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will strongly disconfirm my hypothesis.

 

KREEFT’S ARGUMENT #1: THE ARGUMENT FROM CHANGE

Kreeft briefly summarizes the Argument from Change:

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)

There are various problems with this argument, that I have discussed elsewhere, so this is NOT a solid argument for the existence of God.  However, suppose that this argument was successful in proving the stated conclusion that there was a being that was “the unchanging Source of change.”  This does NOT by itself get us to the conclusion that “God exists”.

A key question would still need to be answered:

Is the unchanging Source of change the CREATOR of the universe?

Either this being is the CREATOR of the universe or it is not.  If this being is not the CREATOR of the universe, then this being clearly is NOT God, and then the Argument from Change would FAIL.

On the other hand, if this being is the CREATOR of the universe, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL.  Some of the events in the universe involve pain, suffering, violence, death, and destruction.  If every event in the universe ultimately traces back to the CREATOR of the universe, then because some events appear to be EVIL or BAD, it becomes doubtful that this being is perfectly morally good, and thus it becomes doubtful that this being is God.

If the Argument from Change is to be a solid and successful argument for the existence of God, then this argument must be supplemented with a THEODICY, a justification of the moral goodness of the CREATOR of the universe.  But one cannot provide a plausible THEODICY apart from making some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the CREATOR/God.  Therefore, in order for the Argument from Change to work, to be a successful argument for the existence of God, it must be supplemented with a THEODICY, and thus with some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.

Kreeft’s Argument #1, the Argument from Change, requires assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God.

 

KREEFT’S ARGUMENT #2: THE ARGUMENT FROM EFFICIENT CAUSALITY

Kreeft’s second argument can be summarized in a couple of paragraphs:

… suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now. For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist. So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing things to be, need a cause. They can give being only so long as they are given being. Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.

But caused by what? Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing. But that is absurd: all of reality dependent—but dependent on nothing! The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent. (HCA, p.51)

The implied conclusion is this:

A. There is an Uncaused Being on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

There are various problems with Kreeft’s second argument, as I have previously argued, but let’s assume that the above conclusion is true.  In fact, let’s assume an even stronger claim, the claim that there is ONLY ONE such being:

B. There is EXACTLY ONE Uncaused Being (on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent).

This stronger assumption gets Kreeft closer to the claim that “God exists”, for there can be only ONE God.  If all that Kreeft’s argument shows is that there was at least one uncaused being, then it would FAIL to show that “God exists”.

There is an important question that needs to be answered in order to get from (B) to the claim that “God exists”:

Is the Uncaused Being the CREATOR of the universe?

Either the Uncaused Being is the CREATOR of the universe or it is not.  If the Uncaused Being is NOT the CREATOR of the universe, then the Uncaused Being is NOT God, and Argument #2 FAILS to show that God exists.  However, if the Uncaused Being IS the CREATOR of the universe, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL.   The universe includes events that are EVIL or BAD (e.g. pain, suffering, injury, disease, violence, death and destruction), and thus it is doubtful that the CREATOR of the universe is perfectly morally good.  But then, if the Uncaused Being is the CREATOR of the universe, it is doubtful that the Uncaused Being is perfectly morally good, and thus it is doubtful that the Uncaused Being is God.

In order for Argument #2 to be successful, to be a solid argument for the existence of God, it must be supplemented with a plausible THEODICY, a justification of the moral goodness of the CREATOR in view of the PROBLEM OF EVIL.  But a plausible THEODICY requires that we make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the CREATOR/God.  Thus, in order for Argument #2 to be successful, we must make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.

Kreeft’s Argument #2, the Argument from Change, requires assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God.

 

A PATTERN EMERGES

Argument #1 and Argument #2 in Kreeft’s case for God both require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be successful arguments for the existence of God.

Both arguments attempt to prove the existence of a certain kind of metaphysical being (the Unchanging cause of Change, or the Uncaused cause of the existence of other beings), but then in order to infer the existence of God from the existence of that metaphysical being, we need more information about that being:  Is it the CREATOR of the universe?

If the metaphysical being is NOT the CREATOR of the universe, then the argument FAILS.  If the metaphysical being is the CREATOR of the universe, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL.   But THE PROBLEM OF EVIL can be resolved only if the argument is supplemented with a plausible THEODICY, which in turn requires that we make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the CREATOR/God.

Therefore, in order for these arguments to be successful arguments for the existence of God, we must make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.

 

A BRIEF EXAMINATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENTS #3 THROUGH #10

This represents a pattern of reasoning that can be applied to many of Kreeft’s arguments for God.  Let’s consider the next eight arguments in Kreeft’s case for God:

  • Argument #3: The Argument from Time and Contingency
    • This is an argument for the existence of an “absolutely necessary being” (HCA, p.53)
    • Is the absolutely necessary being the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #4: The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
    • This is an argument for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”. (HCA, p.55)
    • Is the absolutely perfect being the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #5: The Design Argument
    • This is an argument for the existence of an “intelligent Designer” of the universe. (HCA, p.56)
    • Is the intelligent Designer of the universe the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #6: The Kalam Argument
    • This is an argument for the existence of a “cause for its [the universe’s] coming into being.” (HCA, p.58)
    • Is the cause of the coming into being of the universe the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #7: The Argument from Contingency
    • “Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist [now] must transcend both space and time.” (HCA, p.61)
    • Is the being that constitutes what it takes for the universe to exist now the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #8: The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
    • This is an argument for the existence of a “transcendent” “cosmic-wide” “ordering Mind” (HCA, p.64)
    • Is the transcendent cosmic-wide ordering Mind the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #9: The Argument from Miracles
    • This is an argument for the existence of a “cause” of “miraculous events” (HCA, p.66)
    • Is the being that is the cause of miraculous events the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #10: The Argument from Consciousness
    • “Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.” (HCA, p.66)
    • Is the intelligent being from whom the intelligible universe is a product the CREATOR of the universe?

NOTE:  I had planned to skip Argument #9, because it is NOT an argument that a Classical Apologist would present as part of a case for the existence of God.  However, it is worth noting that Argument #9 is subject to the same objection that I have raised against all of the other arguments in the first half of of Kreeft’s case for God.

 

CONCLUSION SO FAR

So far I have considered the first ten arguments in Kreeft’s case for the existence of God, and ALL TEN of them require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be successful arguments for the existence of God.  They all require such assumptions because they ALL must be supplemented by a plausible THEODICY in order to be successful, and a plausible THEODICY requires one to make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  It looks like my hypothesis will be at least partially confirmed, and possibly it will be strongly confirmed.  I will be in a better position to evaluate my hypothesis after examining the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case for God.

To Be Continued…

 

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