Proof Of God's Existence

“What is the New Creation…?”

Discussions on this topic are of theology, and as human beings we will exercise our reason and intellect. When we discuss God, we are undertaking theological discussions. Theology is the science of religion and the way arguments may be constructed (via speculative philosophy), on matters pertaining to particular conceptions of God. The following summary is fairly typical …“theology may deal with dogmatic ascertains, or may be natural theology, or consist of arguments about God. Such activities include writings ranging from those of St. Aquinas, to the 20th-century theologians, such as Karl Barth. Theologians have endeavoured to construct theology as a science that radically differed from the natural and the human sciences because its ultimate subject, God, was not accessible to empirical investigation. Aquinas included in his theological system five proofs for the existence of God. Barth considered God’s freedom and revelation (communication of himself), as providing the understanding of God. In this way Barth believes one may avoid the danger of approaching God as an object of investigation”.

Even if we agreed that we avoid considering God as an object for empirical investigation, we cannot reason that revelation may be within a range of phenomena that are human potentialities or of the human senses. We have ruled out objective-based activities such as found in the natural sciences. Revelation cannot be defined in a way that philosophy or science may argue and consider within the ideas of reason.

For revelation to be valid, the person being revealed unto needs to be able to respond, to reason, and to consider the revelation within his (context of) life. The meaning of God needs to be completely comprehensible. Since I understand all human life and reason to be within the freedom of birth, freedom of life, and freedom of thought (intent), revelation is also understood within freedom. The unreasonable part of the human condition is lack of freedom that finds its ultimate unreasonable condition in death.

The goodness of life is within the completeness of life and the resulting continuation of life. Revelation is that God reveals himself within the possibilities of the goodness of life and its continuation; revelation is presented to human beings within such goodness and revealed things become meaningful. Furthermore, because revelation is comprehended as goodness, it can be argued that this leads to an increase in reasonableness. Revelation is in harmony with reason and removes the antimony found in reason and may be said to add to the reasoning aspects of a human being. The possibilities within human beings regarding revelation arise from both the responses of reason to revelation, in that each person may respond according to his reason and heart, and also because revelation can be comprehended within the framework of life and death, thus within good and bad. The remarks concerning the idea(s) of god(s) and the capacity for human beings to conceptualise such entities within the context of human attributes, provides many possibilities that reason may ponder and consider as the meaning of god within the human context. Because of these many possibilities that confront reason, the necessity of faith naturally follows this discussion.

So while we should have a working understanding of major philosophical arguments, the theological content is what matters, and Berkley (and many other philosophers) understood this. The emphasis that I place to these arguments is the necessity of faith - this is especially relevant in this age of materialism/science, which appears to exclude perhaps the major aspects of what makes us human. Christ indeed took on human flesh and bone and we are also taught that we have the mind of Christ - able to discern spiritual matters as mature Christians.

@GJDS I’ve read your post above twice and I don’t really understand it. Could you summarize in a sentence or two the point you were trying to make about reason and revelation?

I apologize if I offended you in some way. It was not my intent. My reply to @cosmicscotus about Pascal was intended as a reply to him, not a critique of your proof of God.

Actually, I was presenting the position of the Logical Positivists/Empiricists. They are the ones who insisted that the only statements that have meaning are those that can be verified by facts. I do not agree with them.

Anyway, getting back to your argument, I am personally not persuaded, but that has more to do with my conviction that the universe has objective existence and is not a “fiction” generated by minds. It really has nothing to do with the logic of your argument. Even if you were another Anselm or Aquinas or Descartes, I still would not agree that you were correct. Perhaps, then, the fault lies with me.

Against my better judgment, I’ll offer a few more observations. I suggest your rewrite Prop. 1 to say “Empiricism is the preferred way of determining scientific truth.” Prop. 2 (Assumption is not a firm basis for truth) assumes that you already have established the truth of Prop. 1, rather than merely asserting it. I had the same reservations about Prop. 4 that @dscottjorgenson expressed. Prop. 7 (There is empirical evidence that minds exist) lacks appropriate proof. The theorem “I think, therefore I am” is not empirical evidence. It is based on the logic of the proposition, not empirical induction. I suspect that there is empirical evidence that minds exist, but cogito isn’t a good example of it. Is there a better example? As for Prop. 8, I don’t know what to say. It seems that there is a mountain of empirical evidence that physical objects exist, otherwise the collection of empirical procedures, data, and propositions that we call “science” has been a charade. Perhaps, as you say, I just don’t understand what you are trying to say. In any case, this proposition rests so soundly on Prop. 4 that you would have to convincingly prove Prop. 4 before someone could accept Prop. 8. Prop. 4 is critical to your argument, so I would concentrate on making that as strong as possible, if I were in your shoes. I wish you well with it, but I probably won’t be of much help to you, so I’ll take my leave.

Aside:
A couple issues with the ‘necessary’ God of philosophy:

  1. It’s darn hard to connect the God of philosophy with the God of the Bible. That is, it appears that the God of the Bible is described as possessing specific attributes for which it is hard to justify an omnipotent, omniscient and/or omnibenevolent God of philosophy having.
  2. From necessary beings come necessary outcomes. It has remained very hard to describe how to generate ‘contingency’ with a necessary, self-sufficient cause or agent.

These issues have been examined for centuries in philosophy and it’s definitely clear that no one has nailed down the answers there. It makes for useful thought exercises, I suppose. I wonder if it would be productive investigating whether any of these questions can actually be determined in a logical system (i.e. along the lines of Kurt Gödel’s work or some other construct). I’d love to see a proof showing that these questions cannot be answered.

@Christy

  1. knowledge of God cannot be a human construct or an intellectual idea.
  2. as such human reason cannot provide an authentic proof of God
  3. knowledge of God exists however, and this is by revelation
  4. revelation is not coerced, and the response of a human being is within freedom and reason
  5. the essence of God and revelation is goodness, so the central response is to goodness, and human beings can understand goodness within human existence
  6. we as humans may consider many aspects of what is good and not-good (or evil), and thus,
  7. faith in God is a necessity when we respond to the revealed goodness.
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Okay, I lied. haha

@Argon
Interesting points. I definitely agree with No. 1, but this is the first time I’ve heard No. 2, and it certainly is a conundrum. It seems to steer right back to the tension between personal freedom and God’s sovereignty that runs throughout the Scriptures. I won’t get into that debate, but I wonder if much of the confusion arises from the simple fact that we do not know exactly how God exercises his divine power. Can he “cause” a human choice while still retaining the freedom of the creature? We may not be able to conceive how that would be possible, but that simply points out the limits of our reason, not the limits of God’s power.

Beats me, Jay.
It goes deeper than personal freedom. I think it has roots in questions about basic causality. From what I’ve seen, many philosophers have attempted to address the problem by playing with definitions but I think that effort tends to obfuscate rather than clarify.

In any case, I suspect the best one should expect from metaphysics is not to achieve final clarity but to uncover interesting questions.

Yes, true on all of that. I wasn’t clear, but what I meant was to draw an analogy between the freedom paradox and the causality paradox. Our confusion on both counts may be because we have zero understanding of divine action and power. Like you say, interesting to speculate, but no final answers. Thanks for your input!

Jay - that very idea was integral to both mainstream scholastic and Reformed theology: there is a fascinating contemporary treatment of it in Hugh McCann, “Creation and the Sovereignty of God.” He does not attempt to cross the limits of human reason and nail everything down, but does, to my mind, make a good job of showing where divine mystery applies, and where we can gain some understanding.

Argon’s second point is, when it comes down to it, a question of trying to “work out God from first principles” - as if there were a category of “necessary beings” and so on. That may be the only way philosophy can operate, but must be subject to God’s self-revelation.

So if God says man is accountable because of his own choices, but that he sovereignly governs human choices (of which there are numerous examples in the Bible) then it’s legitimate to shelve the “How?” question rather than say that God can’t do that.

Quite so Argon - or more usefully, to push the boundaries of what may be known by reason, recognising that there are boundaries, and also give practically useful handles for dealing with reality (such as categories of causation and so on).

As Jay says, we have zero knowledge of divine action and power … with the big exception of what he chooses to reveal, and one must include in that not only special revelation, but the general recognistion that God is not entirely alien to us, but the Father who made both us and the world to be in communion with him.

In fact we assume such knowledge every time we do science, by believing that the cause and effect we find in the world is more than just a human convenience, but a reflection of the truth of what God put into the world. It’s either (our method assumes) the way God actually works, or (to channel Pacific Maelstrom) the way he chooses us to see him working, a divinely authroised analogy. Either way such analogy is all we can know, whether revealed in general revelation, or in the special revelation of Christ and his Spirit.

@Jon_Garvey
@Jay313
@Argon

Interesting questions which have exercised many people for many years, and I want to add some “meanderings of my own” - I do not have a definitive answer, but I have wondered if we are treating “freedom” and “causality” in a way that is consistent with Christian theology? Freedom to us essentially amounts to being ourselves within our context; we are constrained physically, we may imagine and intellectualise, but we are constantly aware, as Jon says. of our limits. When we try to think of what God may and may not do, or cause, the paradox is that we are free to imagine what that may amount to, but we would also reason that we cannot think as God - so where does that take us? If I think God and consider that I understand what and who He is, it must by necessity constitute knowledge as this is my thought - I prefer to think of the way we obtain knowledge of ourselves and all that is about us, to be due to the creation made to suite the unique intellect/spirit of humanity (often termed intelligibility). On spiritual matters, I can only see this as “caused” by an act of Grace and due to the Holy Spirit.

Because we communicate between ourselves, I am attracted to Kant’s antimony of reason - we face more than a conundrum as we try to reconcile the spiritual with testable knowledge.

You are certainly correct about dreams being less ordered and complex then real life. This doesnt have any bearing on the arguement, however. And I have found dreams to be amazingly detailed in some instances where I can remember them clearly. In fact, consider that the “world” you create when you dream is far more complex and detailed then what you can imagine while you are awake. Even more profound is that conviction that dreams are real when you are asleep, and conviction that life is real when you are awake. How do you know but that conviction you feel is accurate? You don’t. You’re giving explanations for things that make sense while you were awake, but when you are asleep you feel assured of things that do not make sense when you wake up. There’s no way to tell that the things that you feel make sense (like a reality of physical objects) really make sense. This is another example of why you cannot simply trust your experiences at face value if you are looking for truth.

But even if no one ever dreamed, this argument would still be correct because we would still not be unable to observe anything beyond our experiences, and thus we are unable to demonstrate a link between our experiences of objects and an actual object. Since it is possible to JUST have the experience without the actual object, no link can be confirmed. Dreams just provide a convenient demonstration of this and I mention it because they are an experience that we all share.

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This is precisely the kind of situation in which it is meant to be applied. We have two alternate theories that explain the same phenomena (our experience). One of them relies only on known entities. The other requires assuming the existence of entities which cannot be proven to exist. The razor allows us to eliminate the theory that requires more assumptions.

You are claiming this is a faulty application of the razor because you feel you are losing something by eliminating physical objects, but that’s just because it conflicts with your intuition. Denying logic does no justice to God’s handiwork. Please make a logical case rather than one based on your Intuition or prior assumptions.

You don’t like the idea of a mass hallucination, that’s your framing of the issue. We’re not talking about hallucinations. We’re talking about a reality that is just as real as a physical reality. There’s nothing about a physical reality that makes your experiences more real. Experiences are real regardless.

There is little in scripture that elaborates on the image of God, and people seem to hold a wide variety of views on this topic. I’ve heard the image of God be equated with all sorts of aspects of our existence, and I’ve done it myself. But the verses are pretty clear in my opinion that being made in the image of God means we are “like God”. The image of God is what sets us APART from nature and gives us dominion over it. Since we can understand nature as a rendering that comes directly from God, nature itself has no independence from him. It has no ability to have its own experiences and make it’s own relationships and choices. But since we are in the image of God, this means we are like God, being independent beings (or “minds”, for lack of a better word) who are actors and independent agents in the world that is otherwise created and maintained by God alone. Like God, we are spiritual beings, although very limited we are able to form relationships and love and make choices in a reflection of our triune God.

Now unlike God who is infinite and privy to all of existence, we are limited and designed for a specific kind of environment, one which is ordered by time and space. These are the experiences we are given, and they are what we are designed for. We are capable of realizing that reality is something beyond our experience, but with our limitations we would be unable to experience it. This will not change, the new creation will still be built for human experiences, it will still have recognizable time and space and objects because these are the things we are capable of understanding, and they are the conceptualizations which God has created us to interact with.

When Jesus became flesh, he took on the limited perspective of a human soul and experienced his own creation through the perspective that God renders for us as we live our lives. He played by the same rules that he had created for us, even experiencing death, showing by his resurrection that death is not the end. He did this to set and example and to show us how much God loves us and how he has taken our sins and forgiven them despite how much we have wronged him and caused his suffering.

A reboot is not a bad analogy. I think it is important to notice that it is relationships that cause more suffering than any physical pain. We are incapable of not causing this suffering to others, and even if the physical problems of the world were completely removed: death, disease, hunger and all pain, we would still be as miserable as ever because of how we treat each other, even when we try our best. A suffering-free world is only possible because we submit to the guidance of the Holy spirit. (allow Jesus to “take the wheel” so to speak) Here in this fallen world we are shown both the suffering that arises from selfishness and the joy that can result through love. Thus while we are able to make the free and informed choice to give ourselves to God and choose to be part of the new creation. Anyone refusing to make that choice cannot be part of it, and God does not force them to submit to him because that would not be love but slavery instead. So the new creation is more about the redeemed human element then the nature of the “physical” experience itself.

Thanks for addressing the propositions.

Prop 1 is an Axiom. All logic must start with Axioms. It is possible to adopt the alternate Axiom, for example, that subjective feelings of conviction are the best way to determine Truth. What Axiom would you suggest?

Prop 2 is based on prop 1, yes.

See my reply to him above for prop 4. It doesn’t matter that dream experiences are “different” because we have no way of ranking them. Is it NECESSARILY true that a more highly ordered and complex experience can only be the result of perceiving physical objects? No. The proposition does not REQUIRE that dreams be exactly like reality, it only requires that we are capable of having experiences that are non-physical. It is the physical nature of the experience that cannot be distinguished. You cannot demonstrate a connection between an underlying physical object and the experience of the object, because it is possible to have JUST the experience alone. This problem has been recognized since ancient times, but people often prefer to attempt to make their logic to agree with their assumptions, rather than the other way around.

Prop 7: You experience yourself directly. (your thoughts, ideas, choices, experiences, etc) Therefore you have direct empirical (experience based) evidence of your own existence. This IS sufficient. I really can’t wrap my head around your objection. Why don’t you try observing yourself, and then you can empirically decide if you exist or not… Are you going to deny your own existence to preserve the existence of physical objects? (This is EXACTLY what many materialists end up doing, by the way, and it is as delusional as you can get if you ask me.)

Please reconsider this conviction that a non physical reality is necessarily a “Fiction”, that is a personal bias that is getting in the way of your understanding of this concept. A fiction is something that is not real, but your experiences are still real regardless of where they come from. Fiction is only a valid concept when it can be contrasted with nonfiction. If the world is mind-generated, then that is what “reality” MEANS. It is impossible for reality to be a fiction, that would be a paradox. If the essence of our real life is that we experience a God-rendered environment, then this is no less “real” than a hypothetical universe of physical objects.

The mind-rendered reality has permanence and consistency, real interactions with others, real experiences, real choices that effect the reality, and real eternal stakes… what else do you think reality is supposed to entail if not these things? How would “physical objects” make it all more meaningful and “real”?

I think arguing about physical objects is important because it addresses the objections of many people, but thanks for the props.

@pacificmaelstrom,

You don’t think bringing up the physical side isn’t an unnecessary distraction?

All these years, I just considered physical things to be a special CATEGORY of consciousness. I don’t even throw doubt on the physical.

Though I do think it is helpful and important to categorize the orders of reality … we know much more reliably that we are CONSCIOUS than that what we are conscious about is actually real (dream vs. [so-called] reality!).

Many people think the physical is ALL that exists and that their consciousness is somehow physical. I am demonstrating how the idea of God is much more logical than that.

. . . . or . . . the physical could be just as non-material as consciousness… there’s more than one way to skin a metaphysical cat …

I don’t think we are disagreeing as far as I can tell. If you don’t need all the points to reach the conclusion, more power to you.

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