Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thomas Aquinas' Arguments for the Existence of God

Most arguments for the existence of God provide evidence based in probability (a la Pascal) rather than proofs to a mathematical certainty. You can always wiggle-out of them by denying this-or-that.

By way of illustration, a painting may exist, but how does a painting "prove" the existence of a painter in general, or a specific painter in particular -- couldn't the painting have been formed by some as-yet undiscovered natural cause(s)? In the absence of actually presenting the painter who painted it, isn't it best to be skeptical when someone points to a painting, and goes around proclaiming, "painter"?! And, in the case of a 200-year-old painting, the painter, if there ever was one, is now dead, so no proof that there was a painter is now possible.

A lot will depend on how motivated you are to deny the existence of the object in question. In the case of God, many atheists show a high emotional commitment to denying God's existence. For example, in my previous post, one commenter said, "why couldn't something come into existence uncaused?". When the subject in question is the entire universe, the uncaused existence of a mere painting should be a walk in the park. A second commentator threatened me with physical violence. So, when it comes to God, a lot of people on both sides of the issue have a lot invested in it emotionally.


Thomas Aquinas (born ca. 1225; died 7 March 1274) was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the Dominican Order from Italy. He is frequently referred to as Thomas because "Aquinas" refers to his residence rather than his surname.

He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with, his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law and political theory.


Here are Aquinas' five classic arguments, offered in concise form. Some are more convincing than others. All reflect a thoughtful philosopher-theologian's attempts to argue from "natural theology" as opposed to revelation.

Aquinas' First Argument, Motion
(1) Objects are in motion.
(2) If something is in motion, then it must be caused to be in motion by something outside of itself.
(3) There can be no infinite chain of movers/movees.
(4) So there is a first, unmoved mover.
(5) This first, unmoved mover is God.
(6) Therefore, God exists.

Aquinas' Second Argument, Causality
(1) Some events cause other events.
(2) If an event happens, then it must be caused by something outside of itself.
(3) There cannot be an infinite chain of cause and effects.
(4) So, there is a first, uncaused cause.
(5) This first, uncaused cause is God.
(6) Therefore God exists.

Aquinas' Third Argument, Contingency
(1) Contingent things exist.
(2) Each contingent thing has a time at which it fails to exist (contingent things are not omnipresent).
(3) So, if everything were contingent, there would be a time at which nothing exists (call this an empty time).
(4) That empty time would have been in the past.
(5) If the world were empty at one time, it would be empty forever after (a conservation principle).
(6) So, if everything were contingent, nothing would exist now.
(7) But clearly, the world is not empty (premise 1).
(8) So there exists a being who is not contingent.
(9) This non-contingent, i.e., "necessary" being is God.
(10) Therefore, God exists.

Aquinas' Fourth Argument, Properties That Come in Degrees
(1) Objects have properties to greater or lesser extents.
(2) If an object has a property to a lesser extent (such as, e.g., "goodness"), then there exists some other object that has the property to the maximum possible degree.
(3) So there is an entity that has all properties to the maximum possible degree.
(4) This entity is God.
(5) Therefore, God exists.

Aquinas' Fifth Argument, From Design
(1) Among objects that act for an end, some have minds, whereas others do not.
(2) An object that acts for an end, but does not itself have a mind, must have been created by a being that has a mind.
(3) So there exists a being with a mind who designed all mindless objects that act for an end.
(4) This being is God.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Kalam Argument for the Existence of God

Greetings to all God-lovers and God-worshippers who worship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The atheists think we are nuts. They think we worship figments of our imaginations; they think God, the transcendent/immanent (and imminent!) One is imaginary. Imagine! They know nothing of spiritual realities, they sense nothing of God's Spirit, feel nothing, know nothing of God -- and, as a result, believe they are entitled to be bowed and scraped to as "brights"!

And yet, we try. We offer them arguments, rooted in logical, rationality, and empirical evidence, for the fingerprints and footprints of the Almighty. Inference to the most likely cause, that sort of thing.

One particularly strong argument, that Joe the Agnost should have fun trying to shoot down, is the Kalam argument. It goes like this.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore, the universe has a cause
That cause is God

There's more to it than this. For a run-down, please go to:

Then, come back and post a comment if you like.

The nice thing about this argument is that it kills two birds with one stone. It makes a logical argument for a Creator out of effectual necessity, and it shuts down the smarty-pants question, "oh yeah, well then who created God?", which young atheists use and actually think they are saying something particularly clever.

And that's the way the glad-I'm-saved Ball bounces.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Augustine's Argument For the Existence of God

Sealed tube: test tube sealed by bunsen burner                          Image via Wikipedia
You can read a summary of the argument here:

I would characterize this as a variation on the argument from transcendence: there are immaterial realities "out there" in the cosmos that imply a supremely intelligent being.

Note that this argument, like many, is rooted more in philosophy than reductionist science. Science is a wonderful tool, but those who limit their view of reality to what may be demonstrated in a test-tube are limiting themselves. As someone has said, "if the only tool in your toolkit is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail". If God is in fact a person, it is logical that you would need more than a test tube to discover him. Coming to know God is going to entail both reason and intuition.

"The clues are out there".

And that's the way the Augustinian Ball bounces.
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Aquinas, Anselm, Augustine and the Existence of God

I was asked this at another site.

Do you think the classical proofs by Thomas Aquinas, Anselm of Canterbury or Augustin are of help [in demonstrating the rationality of belief in the existence of God]?

I answered thusly:

Yes, I do. Not as rigid mathematical proofs, but for showing the reasonableness of theistic, and specifically Christian, belief.

I came to believe in the existence of God from a very simple teleological argument -- from cartoon to cartoonist; from man, infinitely more complex and valuable than a two-dimensional cartoon, to man's Creator. It may not be philosophically rigorous, but it was persuasive.

The Kalam argument promoted by William Lane Craig is very powerful, and the Argument from Transcendence (the proof from the immaterial existence of Logic) I also find persuasive.

Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics, has 20 arguments for the existence of God. Among these, I like the argument from human desire, the moral argument, and the argument from conscience. I suppose you could bundle them all up and create an argument from Coherence -- a theistic belief "makes sense" of the data of life, while an a-theistic belief, to me, is not just highly improbable, but utterly incoherent.

And that's the way the transcendental Ball bounces.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quote of the Day: Neither Destiny nor Duty

" Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance. Neither his destiny nor his duty have been written down. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose". -- Jacques Monod


Jacques Monod was a Nobel Prize-winning French biologist and a friend of Albert Camus. He was a proponent of the view that life on earth arose by freak chemical accident and was unlikely to be duplicated even in the vast universe. Monod believed we are merely chemical extras in a majestic but impersonal cosmic drama—an irrelevant, unintended sideshow.

He used this bleak assessment as a springboard to argue for atheism and the absurdity and pointlessness of existence. (source: adapted from Wik.)


The question to ask would be, "how does Monod know this"? Does Monod, a finite being, have infinite knowledge? Does he know what he "knows" with scientific certainty, or has he extrapolated from science, a finite enterprise limited to the observable material realm, into the realm of philosophy and thought and the meaning of life?

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wanted: A World Sugar-Daddy

"The recent failure of the British Treasury auction, two similar flops in Germany, and a very near miss in the US all prefigure a world with too much debt and too few sugar daddies willing to cover it." -- Mark Steyn

Obama's solution to "too much debt" -- more debt.

When debt is the problem, how can we think that more debt is the solution?

Furthermore, since the West is aborting its future, exactly who do we think we are going to pass the debt on to?

Has the West reached its high-water mark?

Stay tuned...

And that's the way the I-Wish-There-Was-A-Get-Out-Of-Debt-Free-Card Ball bounces.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thank God For Jews!

"Though Jews make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to American scientists since 1950, account for 20% of this country's chief executives and make up 22% of Ivy League students...."

Talk about "over-achievers"!

They have excellent pedigrees -- Moses, David, Solomon (wisest man on earth), Saul of Tarsus, and, of course, the greatest Jew who ever lived... Jesus of Nazareth.

Maybe ingesting Scriptures generation after generation is good for your mental development -- now THAT would be a research project!

Or, maybe living according to, or attempting to live according to, God's revelation has a positive effect on one's mental development. Now THAT would be a research project!

Or, maybe because Jews have had to live by their wits among hostile Gentile nations they have developed a superior genetic pool. Now that's a study that will NEVER be done because secular scientists who claim to believe in a darwinian survival-of-the-fittest model for all life in all other contexts absolutely refuse to "go there". All of a sudden, they jump up into the "upper story" (as Francis Schaeffer calls it) and into the "created equal" ethos of Christian thought.

And that's the way the inquiring Gentile Ball bounces.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Who Cares? Americans, That's Who.

David Marshall in The Truth Behind The New Atheism, quoting Arthur Brooks, Who Really Cares?

No European country gives as much, on average as the United States of America.

The closest, Spain, gives less than half.

* Americans give 3 1/2 times as much as the French

* Americans give 7 times as much as the Germans

* Americans give 14 times as much as the Italians

Americans are far more likely to:
* Volunteer
* Help a Stranger
* Give money back when long-changed in a store

Anecdotally, my experience in Africa confirms this. The Americans, Christians, are THERE, with their wealth, their know-how, their energy, and that distinctly American "can-do" spirit.

The world would be an incalculably poorer place, in every way, without the United States of America, and Americans, in it.

Sometimes, this just needs to be said.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Apologetics 315

I came across an excellent Christian Apologetics resource site the other day -- lots of links to debates, courses, etc.

Here it is:

Check it out!

And that's the way the apologetical Ball bounces.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"I am the resurrection and the life"

"Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to... Rise from the Dead the Third Day.

Such was the Son of God's identification with humanity that he became man, lived under the Law, was baptized (though he knew no sin), and experienced death. He went down into death, and came up and out the other side. We do not have this ability within ourselves -- as even atheists will admit!

That is why Jesus, and Jesus alone, can say, "I am the resurrection and the life -- no man comes to the Father, but by me".

If you have no interest or desire to know the Father, or to live in his presence, then this will not concern you. Your wish will be granted by eternal separation from God. But, if you do, Jesus is, most assuredly, the only way, the only provision, to the Father.

And, he assures us, "anyone who comes to me, I will in no way turn away". That's a generous offer.

As a young man, I was saved not by going to church, but by reading and hearing the words of Jesus Christ. They have saving power.

Why? Because he is alive today and speaks today.

"I am the resurrection and the life -- no man [person] comes to the Father, but by me".

I heard Jesus speaking -- I hope you will, too.

And that's the way the Easter Egg bounces.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Who Is This Man?

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great
and he will divide the spoils with the strong
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Who is this talking about?

Friday, April 10, 2009

This Is Not Right! (A Good Friday Meditation)

On this day, a lord humbled himself and took the form of a servant

- This is not right!

On this day, an innocent man was killed by cruel and unjust men

- This is not right!

On this day, an innocent man died for transgressions he did not commit

- This is not right!

On this day, hands that had healed the sick were pierced with iron nails

- This is not right!

On this day, feet that had travelled to proclaim God's message of reconciliation were nailed to a cross

- This is not right!

On this day, a rebellious world kicked God out of the world he had made

- This is not right!

On this day, God was killed by his creation

- This is not right!

On this day, a son was sacrificed by a father in order to save others outside the family

- This is not right!

"Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to...


Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Maundy Thursday Meditation

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he ate a final meal with his disciples. It was the Jewish Passover, a meal commemorating the Jews' miraculous preservation and deliverance from Egypt. Like all situations Jesus enters, he transformed the Jewish Passover into something wonderfully new, a last supper of the incarnate Son of God with his disciples and friends, prior to his execution.

The clock was ticking.

I remember as a young believer, converted from atheism, being struck by the passage in Luke where Jesus said "with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you". Jesus, the divine Son of God, desired to have a last meal with his friends and disciples before he laid down his life for each and every one of them.

This last meal is now commemorated as part of Maundy Thursday observances. Maundy is from the Latin word from which we get the English word "mandate"; it means commandment. What was his commandment? That his disciples love one another.

Part of this final gathering was Jesus' act of servanthood, when he took off his outer robes, put on the garb of a servant, and did what a servant of Jesus' day did: he washed the feet of his disciples. And he told us to go and do likewise.

As Christians, we should be people of the cross, yes, but also people of the towel.

We don't always manage to do this, but there it is. Jesus laid down an ethical mandate, an "ought", which is with us still and which, along with the parable of the Good Samaritan, has had a positive leavening effect on society, whether overtly Christian or not. The words of Jesus cannot be taken back. They are "out there". And they have transformed human reality, human society, and, best of all, human hearts.

There never was a person like Jesus. There will never be another like him. Of royal pedigree, he didn't think equality with God something to flaunt, but rather took the form of a human being. Being found in human form, he took the form of a servant. Being found a servant, he did Yahweh's will -- healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching good news to the poor. As the climax of his life of servanthood he become obedient to Yahweh unto death, even unto death on the cross, for wrong-doings he had never done.

And so it is in this context that the Son of Man earnestly desired fellowship with his disciples.

The Bible is full of images of eating as a form of communion and fellowship. It pictures a great banquet to be held when Jesus returns to be reunited with his followers. Christians who commemorate the Lord's death in the Lord's Supper look forward to the day when we will all eat together in that great marriage supper of the Lamb. Meanwhile, since the banqueting table is open to all, we long for others to be drawn in as well, and, in our imperfect attempts at witnessing and apologetics, we seek to point others in the right direction -- the direction of the One who said,

"Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come into him, and he will sup with me and I with him".

May you hear his gentle knocking in your heart.

And that's the way the grateful Ball bounces.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Italians Quake

According to Reuters, an Italian scientist predicted a major earthquake around the Italian city of L'Aquila weeks before the earthquake struck the city on Monday, killing dozens of people. The scientist was duly reported to authorities for spreading panic among the population.

Echoes of the free-speech suppression plaguing Canada, the UK and, coming soon to a legistlature near you, the US.

Mustn't Say Unsettling Things. Unsettling speech might make Italians quake; better wait for the real thing.

This provides us an update to the old chestnut about not yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. Mustn't yell "Earthquake coming!". But what if it turns out to be true?!

Think about it.

It's OK to tell people humankind faces imminent collapse due to global warming, but not to predict a local earthquake.

The scientist would have been better off if he had predicted an earthquake caused by global warming. Then, he would have received media coverage and adoration.

It's not what you say; it's how you say it, and what secular gods you bow down to.

My prediction: Mark Steyn's gonna have something to say about this.

And that's the way the shaken, not stirred, Ball bounces.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

King trumps Queen

There's a photo making the rounds of the internet -- you have to hunt for it -- showing Barack Obama bowing before the Saudi King. That's America, the world's superpower, prostrating itself before muscular, oil-wealth Islam. The Saudis spend millions if not billions annually importing Islam to TROTW. The city or state that you live in likely has a mosque built compliments of the Saudis. Islam is on the move, and the accommodating West seems powerless to stop it. Worse, it doesn't even seem to want to.

There's also photos more readily available of Obama and his wife declining, as US protocol demands, to bow before the Queen of England; the Obamas apparently decline to even give the queen a polite nod; in fact, Michelle Obama seriously breaks protocol, not to mention good manners, by bear-hugging the elderly and nearly-frail Queen. "American woman, stay away from me."

All this around the same time Obama's administration handed out a sex phone line number instead of Hillary's.

If George Bush and his wife had done this, they would have been subjected to media ridicule and excoriation.

But the media gives Obama a pass because he is "one of theirs".

It's not just what happens. It's how it's viewed and presented.

And that's the way the Ball genuflects, er, bounces.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What, Me Worry? *Updated*

First Barack Obama gives the British PM a DVD collection of hollywood hit movies in the US/Canada Region One format, which is incompatible with TROTW (the rest of the world), and now he gives the Queen of England (where I am hanging out at the moment), an iPod -- and, according to Drudge, SHE ALREADY HAS ONE.

If he keeps this up, along with everything else that's been going on -- ill-fated appointments, recession profligacy -- Obama is going to quickly go from media poster boy to Alfred E. Newman.

Me? I'm not going to worry about it.

And that's the way mad magazined Ball bounces.


Rhode Island should worry. See comments.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"