Does God Exist? A Debate: (1) Christian Opening Statement, B.C. Askins
“God exists” is an intuitive, basic belief of mine. (To be clear, by the term “God” I do not mean a metaphor for the nature of reality—rather, I am referring to the classical Christian conception of God drawn from the Old and New Testaments. See the Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 2 for a condensed statement on the subject.) Unfortunately, when confronted with opposition to some of our most basic intuitive beliefs, it is often difficult to provide evidence or arguments in favor of those beliefs—because they are the beliefs by which we evaluate evidence and formulate arguments. If I challenge you to prove the existence of your right hand, you might wave it in my face or touch me with it. But if I ask you to prove that space and time exist, you might just scratch your head in confusion. The existence of space and time is something which we often assume for the purpose of providing evidence or argumentation regarding other subjects. It can be difficult to explain and defend one’s intuitions inferentially. How would you respond to someone who stands before you, using the air she is breathing to deny the existence of both air and her own voice?
By analogy, arguing for the existence of the Creator of space and time is no less difficult than defending one’s belief in space and time itself, since—if God exists—his existence is even more foundational than the existence of his creation. So, on the question of the existence of God, either atheists are radically self-deceived or theists are. Either I believe in an “imaginary friend in the sky” or atheists, like Mr. Courtney, are assuming the existence of God in order to argue against the existence of God. One of us is colossally wrong.
There are many ways that people have responded to skepticism regarding a belief in God. I’ll provide four brief arguments in this regard. The first two will be arguments for the existence of God; the second pair will be arguments against atheism. These arguments aren’t original to me, though I will take responsibility for their particular presentation in this debate. I am indebted to the writings of Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Gordon Clark, Steve Hays, John Byl, David Byron, James Anderson, and Greg Welty (among others). I’m also grateful for Mr. Courtney’s patience during our exchange and willingness to debate someone with no experience in formal debate.
Transcendental argument for God from mathematics
Hermann Weyl famously defined mathematics as “the science of the infinite.” Set Theory combined with Predicate Calculus provides the foundations of mathematics. The ultimate goal is to describe the structure of the mathematical universe, emphasizing systems of internal consistency and proof. Certain equations imply other equations, membership in one set implies membership in others, addition implies subtraction, etc. In a system with internal relationships, such as the number 4’s relation to 2, all of the relations must be consistent in order for any of them to be consistent. 2+2=4 because 1+1=2 and 4-2=2, etc. So, in a system of infinite internal relations, the infinite must be actual rather than potential.
Mathematical objects also appear to be inherently mental objects. What else could they be? 2+2 doesn’t transform into 4. 2,000,000 doesn’t have any more mass than 2. The existence of a number is independent of the existence of a particular instantiation of its properties, i.e. if I erase the symbol “9” from a chalkboard or smash two apples into sauce I haven’t affected the number 9 at all. But if numbers are mental objects which are members of an actual infinite set, this requires the existence of an infinite mind where they inhere—the mind of an eternal, omniscient God. 2+2=4 only if God exists.
Anderson and Welty’s argument for God from logic
“The laws of logic are necessary truths about truths; they are necessarily true propositions. Propositions are real entities, but cannot be physical entities; they are essentially thoughts.
So the laws of logic are necessarily true thoughts. Since they are true in every possible world, they must exist in every possible world. But if there are necessarily existent thoughts, there must be a necessarily existent mind; and if there is a necessarily existent mind, there must be a necessarily existent person. A necessarily existent person must be spiritual in nature, because no physical entity exists necessarily. Thus, if there are laws of logic, there must also be a necessarily existent, personal, spiritual being. The laws of logic imply the existence of God.” (James Anderson, Greg Welty. “The Lord of Non-Contradiction,” Philosophia Christi 13.2)
Argument against ultimate non-personality
According to the law of excluded middle, reality is ultimately either personal or non-personal. (A minimalist definition of “personal” would be a “rational, self-conscious entity.”) If reality is ultimately personal, then the existence of human persons is almost self-evidently explicable: persons come from other persons (via creation or reproduction). However, if one maintains reality is ultimately non-personal, as atheists do, then problems arise in explaining how personality emerges from non-personality, how rationality is produced by non-rationality. Note that there is not even a standard accepted theory of abiogenesis (despite many experiments conducted by highly rational persons), which is a much less difficult question than the origin of personality, given ultimate non-personality.
Argument against atheism as self-refuting
Mr. Courtney is about to make his opening statement. I predict there will be truth claims within that opening statement. Regardless of one’s theory of truth (correspondence vs. coherence vs. pragmatic, etc.), that theory will depend upon the existence of a mind, in which propositions correspond with external reality or cohere with other true propositions or are most expedient, etc. However, if we combine atheism with standard scientific theories on the evolution of life, there was a time when no minds existed—but would it be true to say of that time that no minds existed then? Answering “no” is plainly self-contradictory. If the answer is “yes,” then how can something that was not true at that time become true now with reference to then? Either answer is self-refuting. Only if we grant a divine mind, where this truth may inhere, can one even predicate that there was a time when no human minds existed.
I look forward to reading Mr. Courtney’s opening statement.