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.