30 Abbreviated Arguments for the Existence of God

universe 2  Many apologists focus on a few arguments. But did you realize there are multiple arguments for the existence of God? Understand that it would be impossible for one to post an in-depth article on each of these arguments without having written a book. It is not the purpose of this article to present an in-depth look at these arguments. Rather, it is the purpose of this article to open the eyes of the reader to the wealth of arguments that exist for the existence of God. One will note that some arguments, or proofs, are stronger than others. It is not the intent of this article to defend each argument. However, the article does intend to show the strong case for God’s existence when taking all the arguments together as a whole. Most of these arguments were taken from the works of Peter Kreeft. Please see the bibliography and check out his works as he gives a much more detailed explanation of these arguments than what was sought in this article. There may be many more arguments that are not listed in this article. However, the arguments presented are among some of the more popular arguments. The last three arguments are those of this writer, as strong or as weak as they may be. In addition, this article was created to be a quick reference for those seeking popular arguments for the existence of God.

1. Ontological: Anselm’s Argument (Anselm)

One of the more controversial arguments is that of Anselm’s ontological argument. The argument goes like this:

“1. It is greater for  a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.

2. ‘God’ means ‘that than which a greater cannot be thought.’

3. Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality.

4. Then a greater than God could be thought…

5. Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality” (Kreeft and Tacellli, 1994)

In other words, God is that which nothing greater could be conceived. If God is this, then God must exist in reality as well as in the mind.

2. Ontological: Modal Version of the Ontological Argument (Hartshorne and Malcolm)

Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm developed an additional version of Anselm’s argument. Kreeft and Tacelli define it as:

“1. The expression ‘that being than which a greater cannot be thought’ (GCB, for short) expresses a consistent concept.

2. GCB cannot be thought of as: a. necessarily nonexistent; or as b. contingently existing but only as c. necessarily existing.

3. So GCB can only be thought of as the kind of being that cannot not exist, that must exist.

4. But what must be so is so.

5. Therefore, GCB (i.e., God) exists” (Kreeft and Tacelli, 1994).

It would seem that this version accepts God’s existence as a necessity and continues from there. Since GCB is consistent and the highest thing that could necessarily be, GCB must exist.

3. Ontological: Possible Worlds Argument (Alvin Plantinga)

The following is a difficult argument constructed by Alvin Plantinga and simplified by Kreeft and Tacelli:

“1. There is a possible world (W) in which there is a being (X) with maximal greatness.

2. But X is maximally great only if X has maximal excellence in every possible world.

3. Therefore X is maximally great only if X has onmipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection in every possible world.

4. In W, the proposition ‘There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being’ would be impossible–that is, necessarily false.

5. But what it impossible does not vary from world to world.

6. Therefore, the proposition, ‘There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being’ is necessarily false in this actual world, too.

7. Therefore, there actually exists in this world, and must exist in every possible world, an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” (Kreeft and Tacelli, 1994).

In other words, if God is possible in one world, God is possible in all worlds. God’s existence far exceeds the rationality of God’s non-existence.

4. Cosmological: Argument from Motion (Aquinas)

Nothing can essentially change itself (i.e., grow wings or grow gills by one’s own power). Therefore, one must be changed or created from something beyond the scope of oneself. Ultimately, this leads to a prime mover (God).

5. Cosmological: Argument from Efficient Causality (Aquinas)

Nothing can create its own existence. One’s existence requires something beyond the scope of oneself. (Even the universe came from something beyond the scope of itself. Quantum physics show how things already in existence can appear to pop into existence. However, this is viewing the physics after it has been created. It should be considered that at the beginning, before physics even existed, even these things have to possess a first cause.) Ultimately, the prime Creator is God.

6. Cosmological: Argument from Contingency and Necessity (Aquinas)

There are contingent beings (beings that exist because of something else) and a necessary being (a being that is necessitated by the existence of contingent beings…in other words a being that must be, or a being that cannot not be). Contingent beings…beings that are here depending on a necessary being…are here because of a necessary being (God). In other words, our existence demands that God must exist.

7. Cosmological: Argument from Degrees of Perfection

Degrees of perfection demand that there be a standard of perfection. A standard must exist before the imperfections of a standard can be known. That standard is found in the person and being of God.

8. Teleological: Argument from Design (Teleological)

Teleological arguments discuss the design in the universe and how such design shows the need for a designer…God. William Lane Craig explains this argument as:

“1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due either to physical necessity, chance, or design.

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design” (Craig 2008, 161).

Check out Craig’s work Reasonable Faith for more information on this argument.

9. Teleological: Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (Leibniz)

Gottfried William Leibniz also had an argument for the design and/or origin of the universe. This is considered a cosmological argument, but is added here due to the influence of design on the implications of Leibniz’ argument.

1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (From 1, 3).

5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (From 2, 4)” (Craig 2008, 106).

10. Teleological/Cosmological: Design (Kalam) Argument

We have addressed this argument before in a previous article. The argument goes: 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. This argument is short, sweet, and stout in its implications.

11. Psychological: Argument from Absolute Truth (Augustine)

Augustine purported that we are in contact with objective absolute truths that transcend us. These absolute truths (such as mathematical formulas) are superior to the human experience and on par with the divine. The divine God is the only acceptable explanation for such truths.

12. Psychological: Argument from  Origin of Idea of God (Descartes)

Descartes seems to make an argument for revelation. Descartes argues that our idea of God could not have originated by the effect (us), but must have originated by the cause (God). Some may write this off. However, it is plausible especially understanding that one cannot know another unless introduced. Animals have no concept of the divine. If humans are merely a product of animalistic adaptations, then why should humans think of the divine? Superstitions would lead to animism, but not to the divine unless the divine introduced Himself to humanity.

13. Psychological: Argument from Morality (Kant)

The argument from morality goes: 1. God is the best answer for the existence of objective morality. 2. Objective morals exist. 3. Therefore, God exists. There are variations of this argument, but we have presented the general gist of the argument. Objective morals are those morals that transcend culture (e.g., wrong to rape, wrong to murder those of one’s community, and et cetera).

14. Psychological: Argument from Consciousness (Newman)

The argument from consciousness argues the existence of God as the explanation of consciousness. Kreeft and Tacelli post the argument as:

 “1. We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.

2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.

3. Not blind chance.

4. Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence” (Kreeft and Tacelli, 1994).

Consciousness comes from consciousness. Ultimately, consciousness must come from an eternal, conscious being…God.

15. Psychological: Argument from Innate Desires (C. S. Lewis)

C.S. Lewis popularized the argument that people have desires for real things (desire for money, desire for power over something, etc.). People have, at least unconsciously, a desire for God and heaven. Therefore, God must exist.

16. Psychological: Argument from Aesthetic Beauty (Von Balthasar)

Peter Kreeft explains, “Beauty reveals God. There is Mozart, therefore there must be God” (Kreeft 1990, 64).

17. Psychological: Argument from Existential Meaning

Without God, everything is meaningless. Since life has meaning, that meaning must be found in God.

18. Psychological: Argument from Mystical Experiences

Individuals have had visions of the divine and other such experiences that could only come from God. This gives credence to the existence of God as many of these experiences are not explainable by hallucinations and the like.

19. Psychological: Argument from Religious Experiences

Individuals all across the globe have had similar experiences of the divine. Most of these experiences can only be attributed to God, especially among those who were adamantly opposed to the faith in the beginning.

20. Psychological: Argument from Love and Value

Without God, no absolute form of love is possible or conceivable. Absolute love is possible and conceivable. Therefore, absolute love is found only in a loving God’s existence. Add to this the value of life found in love.

21. Mental: Argument from other Minds (Alvin Plantinga)

It is just as difficult to prove other minds exist as it is to prove the Mind of God. Since other minds exist, it is conceivable that God exists and God is the source of the mind.

22. Practical: Pascal’s Wager

There are two options: God exists or God does not exist. There are two choices: choose God or reject God. If one is wrong about the existence of God, there is nothing to lose. If one is correct in that God exists, then the only choice to insure eternal happiness is God. So, there is everything to gain with God and everything to lose without God.

20-arguments_pascal

23. Historical: Argument from Miracles

Miracles are understood by supernatural works by God. If miracles occur at any point in history, God must be the cause. Multiple miracles have occurred over the course of human history. Therefore, God exists.

24. Historical: Argument from Providence

God’s working can be seen in history, through the working of Scripture, and through the working of individuals. God’s existence is the only possible explanation of these occurrences.

25. Historical: Argument from Authority

As Kreeft explains, “Most good, wise, reliable people believe in God” (Kreeft 1990, 64). If this is the case, then the common link is God.

26. Historical: Argument from the Saints

If something is positively different about authentic religious people than those who are not, there must be a reason. If the positive results are shown to be from God, then God must exist. Authentic religious people are different than unbelievers. Many show changes and possess strength that could only be attributed to the divine. Therefore, God exists.

27. Historical: Argument from the Resurrection

If the resurrection of Christ can be shown as a real event in history, then the existence of God is demanded as an explanation for the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is and can be shown as a fact of history. Therefore, God exists.

28. Additional: Information Argument

Processes and programs require information to operate. Information requires intelligence. The universe consists of processes and programs. Therefore, the universe requires programming intelligence. In other words, since there are processes in the universe, there must be a grand programmer of all things…God.

29: Additional: Transformation Argument

This is similar to the argument from the saints. There are several individuals throughout history who have experienced a 180 degree turnaround. Atheists and antagonists to the Christian faith have become Christians due to personal encounters with God. God’s existence is the only rational explanation for these occurrences.

30. Additional: NDE and OBE Argument

Since there are several occasions where people have experienced God after death, and there have been occasions where these experiences have been medically confirmed (for example, individuals who have witnessed and confirmed events and objects after being pronounced dead, then being allowed to come back to confirm the events and objects), the existence of God and the afterlife are the only rational conclusions. See the works of J. P. Moreland and Gary Habermas for greater detail of such occurrences.

Conclusion:

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, some of these arguments may be more convincing than others. However, when one examines the entirety of these arguments as a whole, one is left with a compelling argument for the existence of God. Ultimately, the greatest apologetic is when one is open to an experience with God. All in all, there is, in this writer’s mind, good, solid reasons for believing in God.

Continuing to argue for and experience this powerful, holy, loving God,

Pastor Brian

Nuckolls_County_Courthouse_courtroom_2

Bibliography

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith, 3d Ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

Kreeft, Peter and Fr. Ronald Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1994. From http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm. Accessed October 21, 2013.

Kreeft, Peter. Annotated Notes in Thomas Aquinas. Summa of the Summa. Edited and Annotated by Peter Kreeft. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 1990.

 

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

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7 thoughts on “30 Abbreviated Arguments for the Existence of God”

  1. Reblogged this on The Emmaus Road and commented:
    Apologetics is all about presenting a reasoned defense of the Christian faith. Contrary to popular belief, the Christian faith is not “blind.” Christianity is a rational belief system built upon compelling evidences. Christians are required not only to know what they believe and why they believe it, but we are also required to be prepared to share with others the reasons for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15).

    The following article, written by Pastor Brian Chilton, is a great summary to be used as reference for some of the more popular arguments for the existence of God. I highly recommend that Christians take the time to become familiar with several of these arguments. Some of them are better than others. Most of them have been around for a long time. Do some further research on the ones that you like until you know them inside-out. But remember, arguments never led anyone to the Lord. That is the exclusive work of the Holy Spirit. Using arguments to defend the existence of God is not the same as “arguing” with someone. I Peter 3:15 admonishes us to be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us, but it also instructs us to do this with “gentleness and respect.”

  2. It would be really interesting to apply the knowledge of your “33 Logical Fallacies Everyone Should Know” to these arguments. But this would be much to long for any comment.

    For example: Anselms and other ontological arguments are logically sound (valid). But you won’t find much philosophers who think that they are convincing. Why?

    First, I use this argument to disprove the existence of the christian god. After this, you might re-evaluate your thinking about the argument.

    1. ‘God’ means ‘that than which a greater cannot be thought.’ (Anselms premise)
    2. I can without difficulty think of a god greater than the christian god – a god, for example, that created the world with less evil, less pain, less suffering. If you say that this ist logically impossible, I could think of a greater god who is not bound to logic. And, btw, you just denied that there is a paradise, heaven must be a place where the suffering continues, because suffering is impossible to eliminate.
    3. Because only one of a greater god can exist, my “higher god” must exist.
    4. But this contradicts the fact that there is suffering in the world.
    5. Therefore, there is either no god which is greater than you can think og, or, it is not the christian god, the creator of this world.

    The game played with Anselms argument is just this: You can’t think of a higher number than I do. To which I reply: Of course I can, and I can prove it. Which I have done.

    So rethink these type of arguments. They are by no means convincing. And if they are, so much worse for the christian god!

    1. Volker, I appreciate your comment. However, I think you are misapplying Anselm’s Ontological Argument. The main premise of your objection is one of theodicy. Can the highest conceivable God permit suffering and evil? The answer is yes. That is; if it is better to allow for a world in which suffering would lend itself to a greater good, then a God that would allow for suffering would be the greatest conceivable god. In addition, if one permits the existence of some form of human freedom, then the existence of suffering is probable, because one would know that there would be some that would reject and choose to perform acts of evil. However, if God foreknew precisely the choices being made, then God would be able to use such events to bring forth a greater good. Philosophers have noted, especially William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga, that the theodicy issue has been solved in some respects according to the aforementioned logic. Now, what about heaven? Heaven is the outflow from those who have responded to God’s grace, have suffered for their convictions and persevered, and entered the kingdom of God. Heaven is the highest conceivable place of existence because such place is the untainted existence with God. Hell is the worst conceivable place because such a place is tainted without the presence of God. Thus, heaven and hell are the outflows from the two choices provided in this world. So, it makes perfect sense why Anselm’s Christian God would allow for a place such as this if and only if there could be a greater good stemming from it.

      Blessings to you,

      Pastor Brian

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