Tag Archive: Reasonable Faith


Continuing in the study of arguments for God’s existence, let’s today turn our attention to the Teleological argument for God’s existence, otherwise known as the Design argument. It works likeskywriting this: a design requires a designer, and as the universe gives good evidence of design, we are well-justified in believing in a grand Designer. Here’s the formal argument:

  1. Every design had a designer.
  2. The universe has a highly complex design.
  3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

1. Every design had a designer

This is an intuitively known fact that can be shown true without a whole lot of introspection, but since this notion comes under attack, let’s consider a couple of scenarios to flesh it out.

Paley’s Watchmaker

William Paley, a natural philosopher of the 18th century, underscored our intuition of design by imagining that within a forest a person discovers to the side of the path a pocket watch. Now, a pocket watch is a complex mechanism, with carefully calibrated and assembled gears, springs, and other precise components, working together to perform a function: accurate timekeeping. If one were to find such a device, even if they had never before seen or knew about watches, it seems clear that no one would conclude or even for very long consider the possibility that it assembled through natural processes over time. No, the immediate inference would be that of an intelligent agent having designed the pocket watch.

Skywriting

We’ve probably all seen it at some point – fuzzy white letters in a blue sky saying “Marry Me” or “Eat at Joe’s” or “How Do I Land?” What are our intuitions when we look up and see these words? Coincidence of clouds and water vapors and wind? No, not even a simple “I ♡ U” would be mistaken as the product of natural forces and random chance. Information is conveyed, and our uniform and repeated experience is that information originates from a mind.

2. The universe has a highly complex design.

The “Anthropic Principle” is the term used to categorize the ever-increasing evidence that the universe was designed to permit and support life on earth. This is quite a claim, isn’t it? But it is the best explanation of the evidence of the cosmological constants, seemingly tweaked to make life on earth possible. Here are just a few of those:

  1. Earth’s oxygen level – 21%; 25% would cause spontaneous combustion; 15% would cause human suffocation
  2. Earth’s atmospheric transparency – blocks right amount of solar radiation
  3. Moon-Earth gravitation interaction – greater interaction would mean tidal effects on oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe. Less interaction would cause climactic instabilities.
  4. Carbon Dioxide levels – more would cause uninhabitable greenhouse effect; less would prevent photosynthesis and cause suffocation.
  5. Gravity effects – if any different by an infinitesimal amount, stars and planets would never have formed.

There are over one hundred of these constants, precisely and mind-bogglingly set so that man can thrive. Put all together, the odds are truly staggering that such a universe could have arrived by chance. For a more in-depth look at the anthropic principle, additional cosmological constants, and more numbers on the vanishingly small odds of these constants lining up randomly, please see this excellent article on the anthropic principle here. The author describes a very lucky Powerball winner, and then makes this great observation: “If someone won even two such lotteries consecutively, we would all assume the results were rigged. And yet, when it comes to life existing in our universe, the odds are far more remote than winning a hundred Powerball lotteries consecutively.” Our universe certainly seems to have been rigged.

3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

As with the cosmological argument, I want to remain modest about the results of this argument. It doesn’t prove the Judeo-Christian God. It does, however, demonstrate that a super-intellect and super-power “set the dials” of the constants and designed the arrangement of the universe to be the way it we see it.

As with the Kalam argument, Reasonable Faith has made a great animated short film summarizing and explaining this argument. Check it out:

 

Next time, I’ll spend a little time on design objections. Please join me!

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

In my last post I explained the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, but perhaps some questions were raised in your mind which I did not answer. Today, I would like to try to radiotelescope-1412892-1279x849briefly address a few.

Objections

Firstly, some modern physicists attempt to get around the uncomfortable implications of the universe’s beginning out of nothing by redefining “nothing.” When we say that the universe came from nothing, it is a literal nothing that we are talking about: not a quantum vacuum, not a blank slate that an imperfection can arise on its own, not a quantum vacuum; no-thing. Anything in existence prior to this starting point would have to be explained in terms of causation itself, and this argument concerns that ultimate origin.

A second point sometimes raised concerns the confusing notion of infinities. Why can’t the universe be infinitely old? Aside from the observational data referenced in the Kalam argument post which indicates a beginning, a bit of careful thinking will reveal that actual infinites are impossible. Only mathematical infinites are useful; when one tries to imagine an actual infinite, absurdities begin to multiply. The main issue, specifically applied to an infinitely old universe, is that it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite number of points in time (days, minutes, seconds, etc.) to get to the present moment. If we move back in time ten years, we should have a smaller amount of time prior to today, right? Well no, it’s still infinite. What if we move back halfway in time? Is it a smaller amount? No, still infinite. What if we remove an infinite number of years from the past timeline? Infinity remains. I hope this clears it up a bit, but for more information, a further, more thorough explanation of this concept can be found by William Lane Craig at his website here.

Thirdly, what about the multiverse hypothesis? I am actually going to defer this to a later date, when I discuss Intelligent Design. For now, suffice it to say that any multiverse generator still must be explained in terms of first causes.

Which leads to the fourth issue sometimes raised, that is put forth something like this: “If everything must have a cause, what caused God?” The idea is that we as Christians are trapped in the same infinite regress absurdity that we identify as a weakness of naturalistic explanations in the second point above. But the answer to this is really quite simple – we do not believe in a created God, but one who is the uncaused cause of everything else. Does this sound like a sidestep, some sort of religious special pleading? The point is that every explanation is going to have to have some first cause without a prior explanation. God, I submit, an intelligent, purposeful, willful mind, is the best explanation of a first cause.

Age of the Universe?

Another quite important issue that I want to make some very brief comments about is that of my beliefs about the age of the universe. The second premise in Kalam cosmological argument, namely that the universe began to exist, is largely supported by modern scientific observation and evidence of the Big Bang, the single point in time and space which expanded eons ago into the universe we have now. Now we will revisit some of this in the Intelligent Design section, but the main point to think of here is that, as Greg Koukl puts it, “the Big Bang needs a Big Banger;” that is, we have to account for causes. The Big Bang explanation doesn’t remove the need for God; in my view, it underscores it! Furthermore, even though there is some disagreement among Christians, I believe that an ancient universe is at the very least compatible with the Bible, and indeed the best explanation.

However (and this is important), this is not a crucial issue of orthodoxy, nor is it one I feel such strong convictions over that I spend a lot of time trying to convince anyone. My reasons for adopting an old-universe view are several. For one, I believe that natural revelation points to an old universe, and since the biblical accounts may be vague in their interpretations on this point, I believe that we are justified in applying the more clear evidence from science about this question. For another reason, I don’t stand alone in this view. There are many dedicated, well-credentialed Christian scientists and theologians that have adopted an old-universe view. Finally, pragmatically, this view is convenient in interacting with unbelievers with apologetics. An ancient universe view can be held in common with most non-Christians and built on as a starting point.

That is all I really want to say about the issue of young-earth vs. old-earth creationism except for the good advice from St. Augustine,

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Christian friends, the age of the universe is not one of the essentials.

Finally, if you want to see some of the arguments that have persuaded me, the best one has to do with starlight over at Stand To Reason here. Another site which has done a lot of work to demonstrate from the scriptures and from science the old-earth view is Reasons to Believe, and some of their resources on this topic can be found here.

Next, I plan to discuss another argument for God’s existence from design. Please join me!

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

Many different arguments can be used to demonstrate that God does actually exist. Individually, these arguments are compelling, and I believe when brought together, they make a very strong case, indeed. I want to go through a few of them with you. These are, of course, not original with me, and much more has been said about each of them, but I hope to explain in an easy-to-understand way the intuitive and powerful nature of these arguments.

Causes and Beginnings

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

To start with, let’s look at an argument about the beginning of the universe, called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Reasonable Faith has put together several great videos presenting these arguments, and so I want to start with one of them. Have a look:

The Kalam Cosmological argument goes like this:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This is a deductive argument, and it is in a valid form, so the task is to examine the premises to see if they are true, and so show the conclusion as also being true.

The first premise, “Everything that begins to exist has a cause,” matches our uniform and repeated experience in everything in life and science. To deny this is to say that some things could spontaneously come into existence with no cause and no reason; there is a rather large burden of proof on the one who would want to assert this counter-intuitive claim. An overthrow, or even an exception to the foundational principle of causation would create a massive undermining of the process and understanding of the scientific endeavor. I simply have not seen any convincing arguments or alternative explanations for the tried-and-true principle of causation that we adopt as the first premise.

Secondly, “the universe began to exist” matches the evidence of modern scientific observation, and is the best explanation of the evidence. But let’s consider some alternative theories that have been suggested.

  1. The steady state theory says that the universe has existed in stasis for eternity past. Cosmological observations and discoveries have rendered this theory obsolete, as there is data that shows the universe is expanding outwards from a central point.
  2. Another theory attempts to modify and salvage the steady state theory by postulating a continuous expansion, in which the universe is and has eternally been expanding, and that as it does so, new matter comes into existence from that central point. But this theory seems rather implausible as well, as (referring back to the first premise) our uniform and repeated observation and experience tells us that nothing begins to exist without a cause. Some sort of reasonable mechanism would need to be proposed and explained to redeem this theory, and none exist.
  3. Another model, the oscillating universe theory, suggests that our universe eternally, past and future, oscillates between cycles of expansion and contraction in which the gravitational forces in the universe cause the universe to collapse back in upon itself, after which it will expand back out. In this proposal, we are observing the universe presently in one of the expansion cycles. The problem here is that the force of gravity is not strong enough to pull all the universe back together; a collapse is not possible through this means. It appears we have a one-way expanding universe.

Therefore God?

It seems that we cannot escape the conclusion that the universe has a cause. How does this help our case for God’s existence? As I said in the last post, we are taking baby steps here. I won’t assert that this proves Christian theism, but I do think it provides some good evidence that is hard to ignore. Some of the properties of the causal agent of the universe would include these:

  • Uncaused – the “first cause” must be uncaused or else it would not be the first cause; something beyond would have caused it, into an infinite regress of absurdity.
  • Exceedingly Powerful – even omnipotent, to cause the universe to exist from literally nothing
  • Personal – only a personal agent with will, intent, and consciousness can explain the beginning of the universe with no prior causes.

I believe there are more attributes we could infer from this argument, but again, I want to be modest and not stretch out beyond our reach. These three attributes are certainly God-like as described in the Bible, and as we go on, we’ll see that the other arguments will bring us even closer to the God of Christian theism.

In the next post, I will briefly discuss some objections that may be raised to the cosmological argument and address my views on the age of the universe, another implication of this argument.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)