Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can God Communicate with Us?

This will be a short one. I hear the objection raised by non-Christians all the time that if God existed, he wouldn't or couldn't have communicated with us. Frankly, I don't understand such arguments, which are so irrational that I just have to shake my head at the person who makes them.

Clearly, if God exists then He is responsible for everything else that exists as well. If God exists then He is responsible for all the matter in the universe, for every physical and natural law, and for life, consciousness, and rationality. To make the claim that God has the power to create everything from nothing at all, but now doesn't have the power to communicate with His creation is a sign of a mind not functioning well. And yet, I cannot count the number of times I have listened to agnostics, and even theists, make this exact claim.

I imagine that this position is taken by people because they have not experienced a personalized communication from God. After all, if He exists and wants us to believe in Him, the best way to achieve this goal would be to throw back the curtain for all to see and announce His presence to the world. Since He doesn't do this, He is either incapable of doing so or He doesn't exist.

The problem with this kind of thinking is glaring. Those who make the argument are assuming that God is just like them, something which actually goes against the teaching of scripture (Numbers 23:19). They assume that God would behave in this way if He could; because that's the way they think they would behave if they were in His place.

Christians believe that God has already communicated the bulk of what He wants or needs to communicate in a little book known as the Bible. The real issue here for most people is not whether God can speak to us, but whether He already has spoken; through the pages in the Bible. But is the Bible reliable? Many people say that it isn't that it's just full of contradictions and errors. Clearly, the Creator God, if He chose to communicate through the pages of a book would have done a better job than what we find in the Bible, or so they say.

We'll take a look at that problem over the next several posts.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So, Where Does This Get Us?

Over the last three posts I have provided three classic cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Over the course of the next several posts I will probably provide you with some more philosophical arguments for God built upon foundations than origins. However, that can come latter. Right now I want to reset just a little bit.

After those three posts you may be saying to yourself, “That was interesting, but what was the point of that? Where does that get us?” If you look back at my original post that begun this topic, you’ll notice that I proposed to examine several points:

  1. Is it reasonable to believe that God exists?
  2. If such a God did exist, could He communicate with us?
  3. Is belief in miracles reasonable?
  4. Is the Bible trustworthy?
  5. Is the resurrection reasonable?
  6. Does the Biblical worldview comport with reality?
  7. How does Christianity fare against the other leading worldviews of today?

I believe that those arguments, in part, establish my first point that belief in God is reasonable. I only say ‘in part’ because taken individually they are generally written off by skeptics as mental exercises with little merit. But when presented in groups, especially when you have several arguments which support the conclusion from several different premises, they become far more compelling and more difficult to ignore.

Simply put, the point of thinking about these arguments is that they lead to the conclusion that there must be a being who has the creative abilities that we ascribe to God, based not on passages in the Bible but on reason and observation.

Does this mean that we can throw out the Bible, and follow God solely through reason and observation? Absolutely not. But what it does begin to show is that Christians, whether we know it or not, have good reasons to believe what we believe.

In the next post we'll start examining whether such a God, since it appear probable that He does exist, would or could communicate with His creation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why Does Anything Exist?

The final philosophical cosmological argument that I will present here is the Leibnizian Argument. Developed by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), I find this the most compelling of all the cosmological arguments.
While many people equate this with the Thomist arguments the metaphysic undergirding this argument is completely different. Instead of asking the question “Did the universe begin to exist,” like the Kalam argument, or “Is there a necessary cause,” like the Thomist argument, the Leibnizian asks the simple question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

In my opinion, this line of reasoning makes the most direct observation of all the cosmological arguments; No fact can be real or existent, no statement true unless there is a sufficient reason why it is so rather than otherwise. In essence, why are we here? Why is anything here at all? Since it is far simpler that nothing should exist (seeing that non-existence requires no explanation, whereas existence requires one), why then does so much exist? This is the question for which Leibniz was searching for an answer.

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument:

(1) Something exists.
(2) There must be a sufficient reason or rational basis for why something exists rather than nothing.
(3) This sufficient reason cannot be found in any single thing or in the whole aggregate of things or in the efficient causes for all things.
a. Things in the world are contingent, that is, determined in their being by other things such that if matter and motion were changed, they would not exist.
b. The world is simply the conglomeration of such things and is thus itself contingent.
c. The efficient causes of all things are simply prior state of the world, and these successive states do not explain why there are any states, any world, at all.
(4) Therefore, there must exist outside the world and the states of the world a sufficient reason for the existence of the world.
(5) This sufficient reason will be a metaphysically necessary being, that is, a being whose sufficient reason for existence is self-contained.

At first glance, this argument is harder to follow than the previous two that I posted, however, lets walk through it quickly, and it should become clear.

The first and second points are obvious, clearly something exists rather nothing, and we know that things that exist require reasons for their existence (whether we know what those reasons are or not). Point (3) begins clearly enough, with the observation that the reason for the existence of everything cannot be found in any one thing that exists, or even in the total collection of things that exist.

The sub-points of (3) are where the argument generally becomes confusing; however, if you keep in mind that the sub-points are only there to justify the point that they go with, it may be easier to follow. Essentially, what these points attempt to justify is that the necessary cause (remember the Thomist Argument in the last post) cannot be found in the universe, or in the total collection of things that make up the universe. These arguments don’t look at the reason for any one thing, but ask instead why anything exists rather than nothing. Thus, since the argument concludes that the reason for the existence of anything (and everything) can’t be found with the physical universe we must look beyond into the non-physical world, to find the necessary reason why we, and everything else, exist.

I will leave it up to you to decide what one should call a non-physical, necessary being, who is the reason for everything that exists.