Yesterday my family and I finished reading Chapter 9, “The Existence of God,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time. The previous day we’d considered two answers to the question of how God exists: all people have an inner sense of God, and evidence of His existence can be seen in the Bible and in nature. Yesterday we considered four traditional proofs for the existence of God constructed by philosophers at various times in the past.
Cosmological argument. Each known thing in the universe has a cause and that cause had a cause, etc. This series of causes could not go back indefinitely. Therefore there must have been a first uncaused cause. We call that first uncaused cause God. (The cosmological argument has different forms, and I’ve given the one that I’m most familiar with instead of the one given by Grudem.)
Teleological argument. The universe shows evidence of design. Design implies a designer. Therefore the universe owes its existence to a designer. We call that designer God. (“Design” can be defined as “a fitting together of structures and processes to bring about a certain result” and “a designer” can be described as “an intelligent and purposeful author.” Grudem says that the teleological argument is really a subcategory of the cosmological argument, but I view it as a distinct argument.)
Ontological argument. God is a being greater than which none can be thought. Since it is greater to exist than not to exist, that being (God) must have existence.
Moral argument. People have a sense of right and wrong and of the need for justice to be done. Therefore there must be a God who is the source of right and wrong and who will someday mete out justice to all people.
Grudem claims that all of the arguments are based on true facts about the universe and, when carefully constructed, are valid. Thus he concludes that they are proofs even though not everybody is persuaded by them and attributes unbelievers’ not accepting them to their beginning with false assumptions or not reasoning correctly from the evidence. I respectfully disagree with him and will explain why in the following paragraph.
When I was working on my M.A. in Humanities with California State University Dominguez Hills some thirty years ago, I considered doing my thesis on one or more of the philosophical proofs for God’s existence. In preparation for writing it, I did an Independent Study of versions of the four arguments given above, specifically: Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’s cosmological argument, Paley’s teleological argument (and Hume’s criticism of it), and Kant’s moral argument. For each of the arguments I concluded that either one of the premises was false or the argument was invalid. As a result I decided not to do my thesis on the proofs of God’s existence. I didn’t share with my family in our reading of Grudem’s presentation what I found faulty in the arguments and thus I won’t do so here either.
I agree with the writer of Hebrews that faith is required to know that God exists, his asserting, “Without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV), but I think that the proofs of God’s existence can help overcome objections from unbelievers and thus make them more willing to listen to the inner sense of God that everyone has and to the witness of the Bible regarding Him. However, in light of 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the eyes of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,” I agree with Grudem that even more is needed, help from God. Only He can remove the blindness so that unbelievers can believe in Him and accept the salvation that He offers everybody through Jesus Christ.