Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ambassador Challenge #1:Does God Exist?

Christian theologians often cite three classic reasons for believing the Christian God exists. They do not claim that these arguments lead to final, complete truth, only that their cumulative impact (through the use of abductive reasoning) presents a reasonable, compelling case for God’s existence.

1) The Cosmological Argument


Why is there something rather than nothing? Cosmological arguments have to do with the origin of the universe. Not the universe as in planets and stars, but the universe as in everything that is. It is often presented in this simple syllogistic style:
  • Everything that begins to exist has a cause 
  • The universe began to exist 
  • The universe has a cause 
In short – something outside of the universe caused the universe. As Greg Koukl likes to say, “a big bang needs a big banger”.

2) The Moral Argument

What is the foundation of morality? C.S. Lewis wrote one of the most well-known summaries:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
In a more formal syllogism, the argument takes this form:
  • If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. 
  • Objective moral values and duties do exist. 
  • Therefore, God exists.

3) The Teleological Argument

How does one explain the overwhelming impression of design? You may have heard the terms teleological argument, argument from design, or the fine-tuning argument. These have to do with the likelihood that anything exists, the likelihood that any life exists, or the likelihood thathumans exist.

It seems incredibly unlikely – and perhaps impossible – that undirected processes would result in human life. Take an aquarium, for example. There is a range of acceptable salinity that is quite narrow. The same applies to light, temperature, food, air, size of tank, etc. The human living environment on earth and in the universe is almost unimaginably more complex: Gravity, temperature, nuclear forces, atmosphere around us, distance from sun and moon, ozone layer, existence of water, etc…. Roger Penrose, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, recently noted:
“The likelihood of the universe having usable energy (low entropy) at its creation is ‘one part out of ten to the power of ten to the power of 123.’ That is ‘a million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion.’” - as quoted  by Dennis Prager in “Why Some Scientists Embrace the Multiverse” 
The syllogism typically takes a form similar to this:
  • The universe appears to be designed (specified complexity). 
  • This happened either by chance, necessity, or design. 
  • Not chance or necessity. 
  • Therefore, it was designed. 
These arguments, as well as others Christian theologians have presented, have certainly not convinced everyone. Antony Flew* once raised a challenge in the form of a story called The Parable of the Gardener. Here is a version cited by Flew in “Theology and Justification”:
"Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 
“But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.” At last the Skeptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?”
In response, John Frame wrote the following parable in “God and Biblical Language: Transcendence and Immanence”:
Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. A man was there, pulling weeds, applying fertilizer, trimming branches. The man turned to the explorers and introduced himself as the royal gardener. One explorer shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries. The other ignored the gardener and turned away: “There can be no gardener in this part of the jungle,” he said; “this must be some trick. Someone is trying to discredit our previous findings.” They pitch camp. Every day the gardener arrives, tends the plot. Soon the plot is bursting with perfectly arranged blooms. “He’s only doing it because we’re here-to fool us into thinking this is a royal garden.” The gardener takes them to a royal palace, introduces the explorers to a score of officials who verify the gardener’s status. Then the skeptic tries a last resort: “Our senses are deceiving us. There is no gardener, no blooms, no palace, no officials. It’s still a hoax!” Finally the believer despairs: “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does this mirage, as you call it, differ from a real gardener?”
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*Antony Flew late became a Deist, citing design as a compelling reason to believe that God in some fashion existed. He never embraced the beliefs of any particular religion.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
Origins: “A Bigger Story”, Ravi Zacharias
Cosmological Argument
               Chapter 3, Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig
               Chapter 4, On Guard, William Lane Craig
               Chapter 1, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Mark Mittelberg
                Chapter 5, Is God Just a Human Invention, Sean McDowell (Geivett)
Moral Argument
                     True for You, but not for Me, Paul Copan
                      The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis
                      A Refutation of Moral Relativism, Peter Kreeft
                      God, Naturalism and Morality, Paul Copan (in “The Future of Atheism”)
                      Why I Am Not a Moral Relativist, Francis Beckwith
                      The Moral Argument for God’s Existence, Paul Copan
                       Did Morals Evolve?, Greg Koukl
                       Debate: Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural?, Craig/Harris
                       Why I’m Not an Atheist, Ravi Zacharias
  Teleological Argument
                          Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer
                           Fine-Tuning For Life In The Universe, Hugh Ross
                           Dr. Stephen Meyer at Cambridge
                           Why is the Universe Fine-Tuned, Guillermo Gonzalez
    General Resources

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