Argument and Explanation
The question of God’s existence is one of the most controversial issues in philosophy. Some philosophers argue that God exists, while the others absolutely disagree with the statement. There are also individuals who state that people cannot know whether God exists or not because they can see only the material things. To prove God’s existence, many philosophers considered different arguments that existed in Christian theology. Below presented are the major arguments, which are the Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, and the Teleological (Design) Argument.
The Ontological Argument
The Ontological Argument was first formulated by the Canterbury philosopher, Saint Anselm, back in the 11th century. This argument was mainly based on the theory of a priori, which means that knowledge is independent of experience. Thus, according to Anselm, “God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Halsall, 1998, ch. III). The philosopher believed that God should exist in a mind of every person, even the one who did not believe in God. Consequently, if something greater exists in a person’s mind, it should also exist in reality (Halsall, 1998, ch. IV). One can interpret this argument in the following way: if a person believes that God is something greatest, and it exists in his/her mind, then God really exists. However, this argument is rather weak, since one cannot prove the existence of something material that cannot exist. For example, one cannot imagine the sun which is the greatest possible because such sun does not exist. Therefore, Anselm’s argument cannot be considered as a sound argument.
In addition, Thomas Aquinas also once rejected Anselm’s ontological argument, claiming that people do not know the real nature of God. The philosopher assumed that God does not exist because evil exists in the world (Halsall, 1996, Article 3). At the same time, he offered five ways that proved that God existed. These five ways are based on the existence of motion, efficient causality, possibility and necessity, the gradations found in things, and the governance of things (Halsall, 1996, Article 3). All these proofs rebuff Anselm’s argument. There are other philosophers, such as Kant, Gaunilo, and Hume, who also rejected the ontological argument, which means that this argument is weak.
The Cosmological Argument
The Cosmological Argument, however, is based not on a priori but on a posteriori, i.e. the awareness proceeds from personal experience and from observations. The Cosmological Argument is subdivided into several arguments, which try to prove that God must exist because someone had to create the universe. Thomas Aquinas explained this argument as the first cause argument. This explanation can be found in his second way to prove God’s existence. Thus, Aquinas believed that “there is an order of efficient causes” in the world, and nothing can be “its own efficient cause” (Halsall, 1996, Article 3). Without an efficient cause, there would be no second and third causes. One could assume that the first efficient cause is God. However, this argument does not confirm that the first cause is God. It can be any other creature, such as devil, for example, or just the law of nature. The only thing that this claim actually proves is that there must be the initial cause, which is not enough to confirm that it is God.
The British philosopher named Samuel Clarke offered the second explanation of the Cosmological Argument. According to Clarke, every being that exists or has ever existed, is either dependent or self-existent (Introduction to Philosophy, n.d., p. 9). Since not every being is a dependent being, an independent being exists, and this independent being is God. Thus, the argument just restates Aquinas’ claim that all living beings should have a cause, or are dependent on some self-sufficient being. Again, this argument is not strong enough, since it cannot prove that God is the initial cause for everything and that there is nothing above or before God.
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The Teleological Argument
The third argument about the God’s existence is the Teleological, or Design, Argument. Thomas Aquinas accepted this argument, explaining it as the governance of things. Thus, many things lack the cognition and act by design, which means that something should direct them towards their actions. The intelligent being that directs all natural beings to their end is called God (Halsall, 1996, Article 3). The argument is based on the analogy between the universe and human artifacts, showing that if someone created artifacts in a particular order, then someone should also create the universe. Later, David Hume criticized this argument, assuming that the whole universe could not be a result of a human’s influence, but no one can prove that the universe was the result of someone else’s design because no one had a chance to observe it. Hume wrote, “No demonstration of the Being of God! No abstract arguments! No proofs a priori!” (Banach, 2006, 143). At the same time, it is impossible to deny that the creator of the world existed, although it is unclear whether it was God or devil, or some other wise and powerful creature.
The Teleological Argument is weak too, since it does not take into account the fact that the universe is much more complicated than human artifacts. The universe is not mechanical but it is constantly evolving. Most of the human artifacts are simple, while the universe is very complex. Moreover, when creating the analogy between human beings and the creator, or designer, of the universe, one could assume that the creator was any deity, superman, or any other living creature, except for human beings.
After analyzing all of the three arguments about God’s existence, one can conclude that the third argument is the most reasonable. Although, it does not prove that God was the creator of the universe, it provides an understanding of the world’s creation in general. From the Teleological Argument, it becomes clear that someone more intelligent and powerful than human beings designed the universe, and this “creator” might not be living today, but it existed at the time of the world’s creation.
Along with the arguments of God’s existence, the arguments of evil’s existence also occur. Many philosophers criticize the logical problem of evil in different ways, while theologians accept this critique and explain both the God’s and evil’s existence (Mackie, 1955, p. 200). According to the most popular explanations, evil is an instrument of good, it is necessary for good, and it is the result of human freedom.
Evil, as an instrument of good, can be explained in the following way. People live in the world where goodness prevails. However, if there were no evil, they would not appreciate the good because they could not compare it with something opposite. Therefore, a small suffering is sometimes necessary for a greater good. However, this claim is not perfect, since if God wanted people to be happy, He would not create evil at all.
The response that evil is necessary for good is more logical and effective. For example, a person has some health problem, and the only possible solution is to make a surgery. Surgery may be considered as bad because it requires cutting human skin and certain pain and suffering. However, after such actions, a person will be alive and well, which is a greater good. At the same time, if God was omnipotent, He would not allow people to suffer from diseases.
The other response is that evil is the result of human freedom. This response suggests that God is not the one to blame for evil, since He gave human beings the possibility to choose, and they do evil because they want to do it (Mackie, 1955, p. 208). However, if God were all-good, He would not allow people to fight with each other.
After analyzing these three responses to the problem of evil, one can conclude that the best response is the last one. Although it rejects the existence of the all-mighty and the all-good God, it shows that God is not fully responsible for evil. He just allows it to happen; however, people are free to decide whether to act violently or be good.