A.L.: Opening Statement


Opening Statement for Theism

First, I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate. I hope this debate will get us closer to truth. I believe we can learn something new, which usually happens when two minds interact.

Two Contentions

I will take the modern Christian approach of debating God's existence. I will hold two contentions: there are no good reasons to think atheism is true and that there are good reasons to think theism is true.

First Contention

Atheism is a claim that there is no God. Therefore it needs to be given justification. As Dr. William Lane Craig has said:

'Atheism, or the claim that there is no God, is just as much a claim to know something as is theism, the claim that God does exist. Therefore, if the atheist is to prove his view, he must do more than say, "There's no good evidence for God's existence." He must present positive evidence against God's existence.'
(http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/washdeba-craig1.html)

The Problem of Atheism

If atheism is true, then there would be no such thing as the supernatural; naturalism would be true. But if naturalism is true, then why should we trust our cognitive faculties? Why should we believe naturalism is true? If the natural evolutionary theory is true, then all we need is consistency to survive. Evolution is only 'interested' in survival, not truth. So in order to prove atheism, I believe that one must show that it is reasonable to trust our cognitive faculties to discover truth.

Second Contention

My second contention is that there are good reasons to believe that Christian theism is true, or at least, more probable than atheism; by Christianity, I will be arguing for what C.S. Lewis calls 'Mere Christianity.' This contention is demonstrated by the following arguments.

Metaphysical Arguments

Thomistic Cosmological Argument

There are in this world non self-existing beings (notice the word 'existing' -- This argument tries to explain why things exist now). For example, I do not exist by myself. I depend on something else like my parents, food, air, etc. I am a contingent being. From this data, we can apply the principle: whatever does not exist of absolute necessity, cannot exist without a proportionate cause. In other words, any being that does not have in its own essence to exist needs a cause outside of it. For example, we need not to look at a triangle for its explanation of having three sides because it has in its own nature or essence to have three sides. However, a triangle does not need to be red. Therefore we need to look at something outside of the triangle to see the explanation of its redness. This leads to the next principle: adding dependent, contingent beings does not explain its existence. The best explanation is the existence of a being that has its own essence to exists, a self-existing being. Therefore in order to explain the existence of dependent beings, God must exist.

There are many who ask, 'Why can't there be an infinite number of causes?' The answer to that question is that nothing would exist if there are an infinite number of causes. For example, in a line of dominoes, if there is an infinite number of dominos that must fall before domino x is struck, it will never be struck. The line of fallings will never get to it since it would take an infinite number of dominos to strike. So too, if there are an infinite number of causes, then nothing would exist since it would take an infinite number of beings to give existence to. But something does exist. Therefore there cannot be an infinite number of causes. There must be an Uncaused First Cause. And since Cause is uncaused, it does not need a cause by definition.

Also, if there are infinite number of causes, then dependency would be meaningless. It would make the word "dependency" meaningless in itself because dependency presupposes a non-dependent. The reason for this is that dependency is an intentional word or it has a referent. For example, let us take an example of another intentional word: opinion. An opinion is an opinion about something. What is the opinion an opinion on? If it is an opinion of an opinion, then what is the second opinion on? If there were an infinite number of opinions, then we would have an opinion on an opinion on an opinion on an opinion, ad infinitum. There would be nothing to opine on! Opinion is meaningless until we come into something that is not an opinion, like a fact. No matter how many opinions there are, it would be unexplained until we get into a non-opinion.

This is the same with dependent beings. If we are dependent on a dependent being that is a dependent being that depends on a dependent being, ad infinitum, the existence of dependent beings would be unexplained. Dependency therefore would be meaningless. But dependency is meaningful since we know there is dependency. Therefore there must be a Being that is Independent. In other words, it isn't "God vs. infinity", but God vs. dependency itself! If one were to admit a dependent being, then there must be God. The Independent Being that has in its own nature to exist is what we call God, the reason for the existence of all beings.

As A.E. Taylor said:

'The dependence meant in the argument…meant that our knowledge of any event in Nature is not complete until we know the full reason for the event. So long as you know only that A is so because B is so, but you cannot tell why B is so, your knowledge is incomplete. It only becomes complete when you are in a position to say that A is so because Z is so, Z being something which has its own raison d'etre, and therefore such that it would be useless to ask why Z is so. This at once leads to the conclusion that about any event in Nature, why that event is so, what are its conditions, the Z which is its own raison d'etre cannot itself belong to Nature.' ('The vindication of Religion' in Essays Catholic and Critical, edited by Selwyn. Copyright, 1930, by The Macmillan Company, pg 50)

And Alvin Plantinga:

'Why is there anything at all? That is, why are there any contingent beings at all? …An answer or an explanation that appealed to any contingent being would of course raise the same question again. A good explanation would have to appeal to a being that could not fail to exist, and (unlike numbers, propositions, sets, properties and other abstract necessary beings) is capable of explaining the existence of contingent beings (by, for example, being able to create them). The only viable candidate for this post seems to be God, thought of as the bulk of the theistic tradition has thought of him: that is, as a necessary being, but also as a concrete being, a being capable of causal activity. (Difference from S's Cosmo Arg: on his view God a contingent being, so no answer to the question "Why are there anything (contingent) at all?"' (Two Dozen or So Theistic Arguments: Lecture Notes by Alvin Plantinga)

Kalam Cosmological Argument

Unlike the Thomistic argument which argues for a 'now and here' Cause, this argument is an argument from time. The argument is:

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist needs a cause.

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion: The universe needs a cause.

The first premise is based on the metaphysical intuition that beings do not pop into being out of nothing; out of nothing, nothing comes. Imagine you are walking and you saw a person with a gun in his hand. You ask, 'Why are you carrying a gun?' He answers, 'Because a tiger might pop into existence!' In your head, you might be thinking that this person is taking too much philosophy. It is very improbable that a tiger or any other thing will pop out of nothing. In fact, what we have in our universe is actually not 'nothing'. There is space and time. Now, imagine if there were no space, time, and matter. Would it be probable that something would come out of absolute nothingness? If it is very improbable that something would come out of nothing in space and time, then it would be much more improbable for something to come out of absolute nothing.

The second premise is supported by both scientific and philosophical arguments. First, the scientific argument is based on modern cosmology which asserts that 15-20 billion years ago, the universe began to exist: the Big Bang. The philosophical argument is the argument that if the universe did not begin to exist, then the number of past events is infinite. However, an actual infinite number of things cannot exist because there will be contradictions. William Lane Craig states:

'…if we subtract all the even numbers from all the natural numbers, we get an infinity of numbers, and if we subtract all the numbers greater than three from all the natural numbers, we get only four numbers. Yet, in both cases, we subtracted an identical number of numbers from an identical number of numbers and yet did not arrive at an identical results. In fact, one can subtract equal quantities from equal quantities and get any quantity between zero and infinity left over. For this reason, subtraction and division are simply prohibited transfinite numbers—an arbitrary stipulation which has no probative ontological force.' (Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate. Ashgate Publishing, 2003, pg 159)

Since an infinite number of things cannot exist, then an infinite number of past events cannot exist. The universe must have had a cause. Now, which is more reasonable, that the universe has a cause or the universe came out of nothing? I believe in the former.

Arguments for a Divine/Intelligent Mind

From Principle of Finality

Another proof is from the order in the universe. This argument is from the principle of finality .We see agents act for an end. For example, eyes see, ears hear, legs walk, wings fly. But only an intelligent designer can act the means for an end. Why? As Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange said,

'Because the end, which determines the tendency and the means, is none other than the effect to be realized in the future. But a future effect, which as yet has no actual existence, must, to determine the tendency, be in some way already present, and this is possible only in a cognitive being.' (Providence, pgs 25-26)

Therefore there must be an Intelligent Designer which would explain why agents act for an end.

From Unity

There is also a unity in the universe. For example, when we hear music with different instruments with a beautiful sound that flows, we know that it is played by a band. Every instrument has an intrinsic end and an extrinsic end. For example, the intrinsic end of a flute is to play the music of a flute. The extrinsic end would be harmonizing other instruments to make some kind of harmony. This goes on with the universe. For example, the intrinsic end of a sun is to give light or heat and its extrinsic end is to give light to a plant to make a plant grow. A plant's intrinsic end is to produce fruit and its extrinsic end is to be an animal's food. In other words, there is unity in the universe. But the universe itself is not sufficient to explain it.

As Peter Kreeft said,

'In any such system as the above (like our world) no component part or active element can be self--sufficient or self--explanatory. For any part presupposes all the other parts--the whole system already in place--to match its own relational properties. It can't act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it. Any one part could be self--sufficient only if it were the cause of the whole rest of the system--which is impossible, since no part can act except in collaboration with the others. Nor can the system as a whole explain its own existence, since it is made up of the component parts and is not a separate being, on its own, independent of them. So neither the parts nor the whole are self--sufficient; neither can explain the actual existence of this dynamically interactive system.' (Handbook of Christian Apologetics, pg 63)

But only an idea can make a something present this unity at once as a whole since only an idea can hold together many different elements at once without destroying or fusing their distinctness (ibid, 64). As Fulton Sheen said,

'But unity, which is the foundation of order, is possible only on the condition of an Intelligence capable of grasping the extension of the multiple into a unity of conception. A mind does not understand an engine if it is incapable of grasping the relation between the ignition and the carburetor. In like manner, if the universe is one, it must be because it was conceived mentally as a unity, even before its division into multiplicity, just as the engine was one in the mind of the engineer, before it was made in all its parts.' (Philosophy of Religion: The Impact of Modern Knowledge on Religion. Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948, pg 160)

Just as a concert needs a conductor and music a musician, so too the universe needs an Intelligent Designer, a Unifying Cause.

From Abstract Entities

There are abstract objects like properties and numbers. But it looks like that they are not just ideas in a human mind since there are many abstract entities, such as numbers, which has never been thought of. But how can they be if never thought of? The best explanation is that they were in a Divine Mind. As Plantinga said,

'...there are properties, one wants to say, that have never been entertained by any human being; and it also seems wrong to think that properties do not exist before human beings conceive them. But then (with respect to these considerations) it seems likely that properties are the concepts of an unlimited mind: a divine mind. ' (Two Dozen or So Theistic Arguments)

From Scientific Evidence

Scientists have found out that there are conditions to be met in order for intelligent life to exist. A life permitting universe is very improbable, so improbable that Donald Page said that the odds of our universe existing is 1 out of 10,000,000,000123. Therefore it is more probable that there must have been an Intelligent Designer behind it.

Scientists have discovered that DNA contains what they call information. Information in DNA shows that there is intelligence behind it. Another example is a structure of a wing. When we see an airplane, we see that its structure is designed. We can also point out that a structure of a bird's wing is designed as well. One might say that evolution is the cause. However, what is the probability that evolution would occur? The fact is that evolution is highly improbable. In other words, it would've been a miracle for evolution to occur. J.B.S Haldane says:

'We must give up the idea that an organism could have been produced in the past, except by a similar pre-existing organism or by an agent, natural or supernatural, at least as intelligent as ourselves, and with a good deal more knowledge.' (The Origins of Prebiological Systems and Their Molecular Matrices, ed. S.W. Fox, 1965, pg 12)

You might then ask, "Who then designed the designer?" If something or some being designed the designer, what happened to the designer? The designer became a design since it was designed. Now take this into infinity, a design designed by a designer, designed by a designer, etc. It is like having an infinite number of clocks. You know they must be designed and made, but that thing that designed and made it is designed and made as well. Having an infinite number of clocks does not explain the clock at all! This is also like having an infinite number of paintings. It's like saying, "Well, this painting needs a painter, but there are an infinite number of paintings without a painter." This is of course absurd in our minds because a painting, because of its complexity and order, needs to be painted. Only when we can find a painter who is not painted, do we have an explanation of the painting. So too, only when we can discover an undesigned Designer can we explain the universe. To say there is no Intelligent Designer would be like saying there are many paintings without a painter. Therefore there needs to be an Intelligent Designer to explain the order and complexity of our universe.

Argument from Morality

If God does not exist, can objective moral values exist? By objective moral values, I mean that there is such thing as right and wrong, a true moral right and wrong. It does not depend on culture or people. It means that an action in itself is either good or evil. What makes the holocaust evil? One might say, 'Because it murdered human life and human life is sacred.' But why is it sacred? It seems that if there is no God, there is no metaphysical foundation of sacredness of man.

Why should I be moral? Why not be immoral? One might argue that if I am immoral, there are consequences such as jail. In other words, you would be looked down by society. But what if I don't care about what society thinks? What if I don't care about people's feelings? What if I wanted to rape everyone just because it gives me pleasure? Most people would find my actions wrong or evil. But why?

We all know that objective moral values exist. We all know murder, rape, torture, etc are evil and are not just socially unacceptable. The explanation by theists is that evil is a perversion of Good, which is God. It seems like there is a moral law, therefore there must be a Moral Lawgiver.

Some atheists object and ask, 'Is something good because God wills it or God wills it because it is good?' In other words, is God's character the way it is because it is good or is God's character good simply because it is God's character? The answer is that God is Good itself. Anything else is a participation of His nature, THE GOOD. From His nature, flows His Divine Will. In other words, because He is Good, He wills what is good. Acts of mercy, compassion, and justice are participation of God, who is Mercy, Compassion, and Justice.

The Resurrection of Christ

This is an argument from miracles. We know from the Bible that (1) Jesus died, (2) He was buried, (3) there was an empty tomb on Sunday, and (4) people saw appearances of Jesus. Those four are held to be historically reliable. With that background information, it is more probable that the hypothesis 'God raised Jesus from the dead' is true. William Lane Craig argues:

1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw post--mortem appearances of Jesus, and why the Christian faith came into being.

2. It has great explanatory power: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people repeatedly saw Jesus alive despite his earlier public execution, and so forth.

3. It is plausible: given the historical context of Jesus's own unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection serves as divine confirmation of those radical claims.

4. It is not excessively ad hoc or contrived: it requires only one additional hypothesis: that God exists. And even that need not be an additional hypothesis if you already believe in God's existence...

5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis: "God raised Jesus from the dead" does not in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don't rise naturally from the dead. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead.

6. It far outstrips any of its rival theories in meeting conditions (1)--(5). Down through history various alternative explanations of the facts have been offered, for example, the conspiracy theory, the apparent death theory, the hallucination theory, and so forth. Such hypotheses have been almost universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. No naturalistic hypothesis has attracted a great number of scholars. Thus, the Resurrection Hypothesis fares very well when assessed by the standard criteria used for testing historical descriptions. Its greatest weakness is that it is ad hoc in requiring us to assume that God exists. But for those of us who are theists that is not an insuperable problem. (Visions of Jesus: A Critical Assessment of Gerd Lüdemann's Hallucination Hypothesis)

Existential Argument

We have an innate desire for perfect happiness. But we cannot find it here. Nothing less of an infinite satisfies us. All innate desires correspond to reality. I have a natural desire for food, sex, sleep, etc and there is such as those. Since there is nothing here that can satisfy us, then it is conclusive that we were made for another world. This is what we call 'life with God.'

Closing

From the arguments above, I have shown that it is more reasonable to believe in God. In order to prove atheism, one must show that our cognitive faculties are reliable in a naturalistic worldview. Second, one must have a positive argument for atheism. We yet have to hear good reasons for rejecting theism and good reasons for atheism/naturalism. So far, we have read that there are good reasons for believing in theism. These are independent arguments and if taken together, they make a powerful cumulative case. The Thomistic argument shows that there must be a self-sufficient, necessary being which causes presently existing things. The Kalam Cosmological argument shows that the universe had a beginning and therefore had a cause. Taking the cosmological arguments together, we have a transcendent, immaterial, timeless, immanent, presently existing Cause of the universe. The design arguments show that the Cause must be intelligent. The moral arguments show that this Cause is a moral being. The resurrection of Christ and existential arguments argues for a personal being who wants us to be happy. From those arguments, we have a self-sufficient, transcendent, immaterial, timeless, immanent, presently existing, intelligent, moral, and personal Being who raised Jesus from the dead. This is what we call God.

A.L.

Words: 4000 approx

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