Theistic Arguments


Theists argue that God is the best explanation for objective moral truths.  Atheists typically appeal to the Euthyphro Dilemma (ED) to show that God cannot be the foundation for morality.  The ED asks whether something is good only because God wills it as such, or if God wills something because it is good.  If something is good only because God considers it good, then goodness seems arbitrary and relative to God’s desires.  If He had so chosen, murder could have been right and truth-telling could have been wrong. On the other hand, if God wills the good because it is inherently good, then goodness would be a standard that exists outside of God.  He is subject to the moral law just as we are.

So either goodness is arbitrary or it is independent of God.  Either God arbitrarily declares what is good or He recognizes what is good based on some standard outside of Himself.  If the good is an arbitrary expression of God’s will, then the good is subjective rather than objective.  While God may serve as the foundation for His subjective morality, He cannot serve as the foundation for objective moral truths.  On the other hand, if God wills something because He recognizes it is objectively good, then something other than God is the standard of objective moral truths.  He may inform us of those moral truths, but they do not depend on God for their existence.

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Justin Brierley illustrates the fine-tuning argument using dice.

William Lane Craig’s latest illustrated argument for God’s existence takes up the ontological argument. This is quite a controversial argument, and many theists ignore it.  I must admit, I don’t use it myself.  It’s not because I don’t think it’s sound, but because it is so philosophically esoteric for most people to grasp, and because it is so nuanced.  Nevertheless, WLC has done a nice job helping people to better understand the argument through illustration.

For WLC’s other illustrated arguments, see:

No_Room_For_GodjpgMany scientifically-minded atheists claim that science can explain or has explained everything that God was once invoked to explain, and thus there is no more room for belief in God.  But when theists point to gaps in scientific knowledge and argue that God best explains that gap, atheists accuse us of committing a God-of-the-gaps fallacy.  If the discovery of natural processes to explain some phenomena counts as evidence against God, how can it also be that the lack of a naturalistic explanation cannot count as evidence for God’s existence when God is the best explanation for the phenomena?[1]  Heads I win, tails you lose.

Obviously the lack of a naturalistic explanation for some phenomenon in and of itself is not evidence for theism, but it does show that (1) science has not explained everything that needs to be explained or that the God hypothesis has been invoked to explain, and (2) it shows that there is still explanatory power in theism.

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William Lane Craig’s ministry, Reasonable Faith, has released another excellent video illustrating a major argument for God’s existence.  This time it’s the argument from contingency.  Of the four released thus far (kalam, moral, cosmic fine-tuning), this is probably the most difficult to follow, but it also has the best graphics.  Take a look:

PlatoVirtually all moral theories end up with a subjective version of morality (including evolutionary explanations of morality), in which moral values have their genesis in the human will in one way or another. In our moral experience, however, we have a basic moral intuition that moral values are objective.

To say a moral value is objective is to say its truth value does not depend on any human knower. So, for example, to say that killing Jews simply because of their ethnicity is immoral in an objective sense is to say that killing Jews is wrong whether anyone believes it to be wrong or not. If Hitler had won the war and eliminated everyone that thought the Holocaust was immoral, such that everyone believed it was moral, it would still, in fact, be immoral.

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Garret Merriam

Professor Garret Merriam argues that if God exists, then we can’t be moral.   In other words, we can only be moral if morality is not grounded in God’s existence.  This is a reversal of the moral argument for God’s existence.  It’s a moral argument against God’s existence.

Like many new atheists, Merriam argues that the Christian God commands and commits evil, so if morality is rooted in God and our moral duties are based on God’s commands, morality is impossible.  I don’t accept the premise that God commands or commits evil, but let’s grant it for the sake of argument.  Does his conclusion follow?  No.

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