The Evangelical Universalist Forum

God's existence

Tom, if you have time, could you tell me which arguments for God’s existence you find reasonable/convincing?

Also, have you read Eric Reitan’s new book (“Is God a Delusion?”)? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

best wishes

  • Pat

Hi Pat,

Your question about Eric’s book reminded me that I’ve been meaning to order it for several months now. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, only small sections. But I really like what I have read, and, in any event, Eric is one of the good guys–a great guy in fact. So thanks for your question. I finally ordered the book through Amazon.

As for philosophical arguments for the existence of God, I would make three points. First because religious people usually rest their religious faith on an appeal to revelation or revelatory historical events and personal experiences, they can simply let the chips fall where they may with respect to philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Second, conclusive proofs are hard to come by in philosophy, and that is especially true with respect to existence claims. Indeed, one needs to ask, “Just what is a proof anyway? What conditions must an argument meet in order to qualify as a proof for the existence of anything, whether it be the physical universe, other minds, or God himself?” It is rather silly to argue about whether some argument qualifies as a proof unless one has a fairly clear idea of what would constitute a proof in the first place, or at least what would constitute a proof outside the realm of mathematics and formal logic.

But finally, having said all of that, I find all of the major philosophical arguments for the existence of God helpful in clarifying various options, and I have found the Cosmological Argument, viewed as an argument for the existence of a necessary being, utterly compelling ever since reading William Rowe’s book The Cosmological Argument (Princeton University Press, 1975). Because Rowe is an atheist as well as an excellent philosopher, there must be some irony in the fact that it was his book that met virtually all of the objections I had to this argument as an undergraduate. I also find the Kalam Cosmological (or First Cause) Argument persuasive (see William Lane Craig, *The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Harper and Row, 1979), but I prefer a version that grants the possibility of an infinite regress, at least for the sake of the argument.

Hope that helps.



Have you had much opportunity to reflect on Hartshorne’s modal ontological argument (repackaging Anselm a bit)?


While a graduate student, I looked over Hartshorne’s modal version of the ontological argument, but I don’t remember much about it. That may be because Plantinga’s modal version was more topical at the time, and I have a much clearer memory of it. For Planting’s version, see his discussion in The Nature of Necessity.


I have read two very good proofs of God’s existence. Whether they prove only the ‘God of the Philosophers’, that is, the analysis of concepts that are necessary deductions from what we know, in other words God as object (which is what Brunner is arguing against!) or the actual Father, creator of heaven and earth who must disclose himself as Subject to us via the Holy Spirit (as Brunner claims) is up to the reader. I find them both compelling.

This first one is not to be approached without caffeine, perhaps nicotine, a quiet room, pad and pencil, and your big boy pants on. At least that’s what it took for me :-(. I’m not kidding - it’s hard. But if you get through it, you will have accomplished something and also be struck with the force of the argument.
Here’s a link to that, and good luck. I hope someone tries it. It’s very rewarding.

This second one, the Kalam argument which a number of you have read already, I’m sure,
is less difficult, and a grasp of specialized vocabulary is not necessary. I found it enjoyable to work through. YMMV.

Have fun!

I think it is important to make a distinction that is often overlooked. An atheist isn’t saying that there is no God in the absolutely sense. They are saying “The evidence doesn’t convince me”. If God spoke to atheist, they would believe. Additionally, even if God can be reasonably believed (of this, I have no doubt), it still wouldn’t tell us anything about him, other than what is already revealed in nature, in the material world. That means, that you can’t jump from saying there is a God to saying “The Christian God IS That God.” That would be taken on the basis of pure faith. There is nothing wrong with that perse, but it must be admitted to be taken on faith and it must be understood by people of faith why many would would cast doubt on that.

For me, I definitely believe in a high power. What that is exactly, I can’t say. I don’t know if it cares for me, or if I am merely an animal in it’s eyes. Just read a recent news article today about animals (dogs specifically) that they feel emotion, just like we do.

We like to think humans are “special” in the sense of knowing right and wrong. I think this binary thinking is false and instead believe all of creation exists on a spectrum. I think humans may be the pinnacle of intelligent creatures, but that animals are merely just a lesser form of that, and as you go down the chain, you see intelligence scales with creation. We can see highly thought out behavior in many primate species. We see it to a lesser degree in a dog, and even a more lesser degree in a cat, down all the way to a tiny bug.

Where we go wrong, is binary thinking: Humans vs the rest of creation. We go so far as to say only we have souls, and nothing else does and this is largely the result of binary thinking. It is a false dichotomy, really. You are human and thus have a soul, or you are not human and thus do not have a soul.

To clarify though, there is nothing wrong with believing there is a God. But I do think there is something wrong on insisting that the Christian God “made it clear to everyone” that he is THE God. I don’t see it. He didn’t make it clear to me and while it is possible I am just daft and didn’t see it, I still would be disingenuous to pretend to believe it, when I don’t!

I agree, and that is where my disbelief in the Evangelical mindset has cemented my understanding in a all encompassing God.

A God that loves all and works through ALL of our miss deeds…

But I concur, not many can stand the thought of a God that will forgive all, especially when the all is the other person.

I thought that was an agnostic, not an atheistic position? I have read a number of atheists who have stated that even if they heard God speaking, they would not believe, because god cannot exist. I thought agnostics were the ones sitting on the fence, so to speak. Am I mistaken in that?


That too is my understanding. True atheists can’t use arguments like… “well if God is so loving then how come…?” etc, etc because in their frame of reference no such being exists. Those types of statements really reflect an agnosticism, i.e., uncertainty of understanding or belief (which given how much of Christendom has poorly portrayed God I can understand).

Perhaps this interesting article, from today’s Patheos Evangelical newsletter - on CS Lewis - belongs here!


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Yes, but that is what most have been taught… So how do we move from that ‘traditional thinking’?

There are atheists that exist and declare that God does not exist. But these go beyond what atheism really is. Rather than being a non-theist, they are anti-theist.

That said, I don’t understand why someone couldn’t argue against a hypothetical being in the case that Davo brings up. I mean, I could argue why Thanos isn’t the most powerful villain in the Marvel universe, but that doesn’t mean that I have to believe in Thanos, or that he exists (because I don’t!). In this case, an atheist is very much free to object to hypothetical in the natures of God.

That is true, but as we travel down the road of life many will see and experience GOD in our lives. Both every day and in a bigger picture.

A "theist’ believes that a god exists. The prefix “a” means “no.” Thus an atheist believes in “no god.”
A “gnostic” is one who claims to know. An agnostic is one who doesn’t know whether or not a god exists.

I would consider myself moving away (or having moved away from it) from evangelical Christianity, and I believe there is plenty evidence that God has been at work and is at work but the understanding of most bible reading folks is that they think the Bible is somehow written to them.

Bad mojo.:roll_eyes:

Perhaps not TO them, but definitely FOR them. And us.
In any case, I’ve been reading philosophical theology for some time, and one thing that has stood out for me is that any god we think up will be no more than the product of our minds. And good lord, mankind has tried to mentally define, capture, climb up to a knowledge of God since the beginning of thought.
It’s not that our reasoning ability is necessarily faulty, it’s more that our reasoning can only produce results within the scope of reason, defined by reason.
God as He is in Himself, of course is outside that process,prior to it, and cannot be captured and truly defined by it. He’s the one that defines US. We are thinking persons only because He is before all else, and He reveals himself as a thinking Person - the original.

So Revelation is needed for us to have true knowledge of God. I see no way around that. Nature - yes, to an extent it does tell us something about the Creator. But without the Bible, we here in the 21st century would know no more about the true God than people at any time. I have no doubts that God gave the bible (some form of it, I don’t want to get into all the parsing about this or that bible) for all people at all times. It’s not only relevant, it is fundamentally necessary to a true knowledge - and even with that, we need the Holy Spirit to ‘really’ understand it.
I think the Bible says the same thing.
Good mojo! :slight_smile:

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That is true. BUT FIRST OF ALL, I WOULD ARGUE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…But the existence of bible does show us how God related to the people HE chose, in both a historical sense, and in a overall view as to what God was doing…

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That’s right.