The most current philosophical arguments for the existence of God?

I know that many of the people here are Christians, like me, and that many here also do not believe that teleological arguments are valid evidence for the existence of God (which I agree with), as the responses to Audrey’s recent post showed. However, I’m more interested to know what philosophical arguments there are for the existence of God.

I’m aware, I think, of most of the major arguments for God’s existence: the argument from reason, the various ontological arguments, several different cosmological arguments, the historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection, etc. But which, if any, of these arguments stand up to scrutiny? And what convinced you, personally, of the Christian God’s existence (if not simply because you were raised to believe in Him)?

Please don’t present the evidence as a fellow Christian; act as though I am an atheist that you are trying to convert. I’d like to see the arguments in their most convincing forms. Thanks!

1 Like

Hi Andrew
There are many pieces of evidence that convinced me that a creator God was behind the universe. Here is a list.
DNA is a translatable code for proteins.
The existence of DNA repair
The existence of the spliceosome and alternative splicing
The process of self replication
The ability of vertebrate cells to change replication speeds
The ability of birds to grow wings that actually can produce flight
The ability of matter to form molecules critical for life
The nature of atoms and our ability to create the world we live in with them.
The consciousness of humans.

Who is the Creator

The evidence that the Jewish profits predicted future events especially the birth, death and resurrection of the Messiah. Ref both Daniel and Isiah especially.

The letters of Paul and Pauls conversion.

The vast documented evidence for the resurrection.Gospels, Writings,

The timeless brilliance of Jesus teaching.

The historical record of Jesus by the Jewish/Roman historian Josephus

The dating to the prophets writings to before Jesus (Dead Sea Scrolls).

1 Like

One caveat I’d have with the title of this thread is that philosophy, seemingly pervasively, presents arguments not evidence, and that I think we need to be careful at distinguishing between the two.

I would note that in your OP’s body, it is arguments for God’s existence that you are discussing.

4 Likes

Thanks for the suggestion. I updated the title.

Hi Bill, thanks for sharing. I’m playing devil’s advocate here so please don’t take anything I say the wrong way.

All of these arguments – in fact, all arguments for God from science – boil down to the teleological argument, which is simply the claim that P(Life|God) >> P(Life|~God).

However, none of these possibilities are calculable. We do not know everything about nature, and so P(Life|~God) will remain incalculable until we know much, much more than we do now. And even if we could know P(Life|~God), we could absolutely never know P(Life|God) since we can never know God’s motives for creating or not creating life. [1]

For this reason, all teleological arguments are invalid. There is simply no way to ever know P(Life|God) without circular reasoning.

Now, this is a more interesting argument. This seems to be an argument from reason, or argument from consciousness. Can you articulate precisely why you believe that P(Consciousness|God) >> P(Consciousness|~God)?

With regard to Isaiah 53, the prophecy seems rather ambiguous, at least, too ambiguous to provide any strong evidence in favor of the Christian God. Jews (rather reasonably IMO) see this prophecy as referring to Israel, while some scholars see it as referring to Isaiah himself. If you could show that Isaiah 53 referred to Jesus beyond a reasonable doubt, that would be more interesting. But it would still be circular, since Isa. 53:11-13 prophesies the resurrection of the Messiah, and so you need to presuppose that Jesus was resurrected to claim that this prophecy was fulfilled by Him.

With regard to Daniel (I assume you mean Dan. 9:24-27), this is also too ambiguous to provide strong evidence for the Christian God. Even among Christians, there are so many interpretations: some see the prophecy as referring to Nehemiah; some see it as referring to the Maccabean Revolt; some see the sixty-nine weeks ending in 30 AD; some believe they ended in 33 AD; some believe that the seventieth week hasn’t occurred yet; some think that it has; et cetera.

Paul is indeed an interesting case; but surely you know that Christianity isn’t the only religion that has had hostile converts? Also, according to extant accounts of Paul’s conversion, he converted because of a vision that no one else saw. [2] It’s not that ridiculous to think that he may have hallucinated, is it?

Can you cite which “writings” you’re referring to? AFAIK the only written evidence for Jesus’ resurrection from the first century is from the gospel accounts and Paul’s letters. Even if we take all of the NT writings to be non-pseudepigraphs, the only eyewitness account of the risen Christ that we have is from Paul, who (as noted above) only saw him in a vision that no one else saw.

On second thought, John of Patmos also claims to have seen the risen Christ, though this also happens to be in a vision that no one else saw.

Merely establishing the existence of a man named Yeshua whose teachings led to the Christian religion (per Josephus) is certainly not enough to provide any strong evidence for the Christian God. We know that Muhammad was a real man whose teachings led to the Islamic religion, but that does not lead you to believe that Islam is true, does it?

I’m not aware of any “timeless wisdom” in the gospel accounts that could not have been produced by any first-century human. “Treat others as you would be treated” isn’t particularly revolutionary. And some of Jesus’ teachings don’t seem to translate well to the twenty-first century, like his condemnation of divorce without any provision for spousal abuse (Matt. 19:8-9). Is that “timeless wisdom”?

Thanks for humouring me. I would like to know what you think about these criticisms. But please don’t feel obliged to respond if you don’t want to.


[1] At least, we could never know P(Life|God) without making massive assumptions about God’s nature, which ultimately ends up being a circular argument, since we can’t know about God’s nature without presupposing that He exists.

[2] According to Acts 9:7, Saul’s traveling companions heard a voice but saw no light, whereas according to Acts 22:9, his companions saw a light but heard no voice. Whichever one of these contradictory accounts is true, or even if neither are true, it’s clear that Saul’s companions didn’t see the vision in the same way that he did.

6 Likes

Hi Andrew
What you are leaving out is that the mind of God fixes the probability issue because P(life Given a mind) one that is a powerful enough to explain life. This.is required to explain all of the above. Science does not have an explanation IMO. If you want to call this a philosophical argument that is fine.

I respectfully disagree and here is a good argument for it taking the Hebrew into account.

The writings about Messiah are all over Isaiah.
7 14.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b]will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel.

and 9 6

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There are many more and I think you should re read the Book. Here is a interpretation by the Bible project.Watch: Isaiah | BibleProject™

As far a Daniel goes he describes the timing of Messiah’s death.

The conversion is evidence. Sure it could have been a vision but taken with all the other evidence and his abrupt change from Christian persecutor to be willing to die for his faith most likely required more than a dream.

First Peter

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

This true of any single piece of evidence. It is the aggregation of all the evidence that is convincing.

1 Like

Jonathan Cahn - Part 1: Isaiah 53 Mysteries about Jesus the Messiah

Sorry I could not link to the video. You can find it with a google search.

Mary didn’t call her son Immanuel. She called him Jesus.

1 Like

God would certainly be powerful enough to create life. The question is not whether P(Life|God) > 0, which it certainly is, but whether P(Life|God) >> P(Life|~God). And without a strong understanding of the inner workings of both the natural universe and God’s mind, neither possibility is calculable. We’d need at least a plausible TOE before even attempting to calculate P(Life|~God).

Personally, I agree that Isaiah 53 is Messianic. But the problem remains that there are alternate interpretations, which weakens it as proof of the Christian God. Furthermore, even if you could show beyond a doubt that all other interpretations are false, it would still be a circular argument, since Isa. 53:11-13 prophesies the resurrection of the Messiah.

Now that’s a bit problematic because in context these prophecies are referring to individuals from the time of Isaiah. The first prophecy you cite was originally about a child who was born before the Assyrian invasion of Israel (Isa. 7:13-17), and the second was about a king who would deliver Judah from Assyria, that is, Hezekiah (Isa. 8:1-10:19). Although these were later applied to the Messiah by the authors of the New Testament, that was clearly not the original intention, and the NT authors were taking some liberties with the text.

And many Christians and non-Christian scholars would disagree with you about that, and say that it’s about the Maccabean Revolt or Nehemiah. Even among the Christians who think that it prophesies the time of Jesus’ death, there is disagreement over whether it occurred in AD 30 or 33. Because of this, Dan. 9:24-27 is just not a convincing argument for the predictive power of prophecy (since it’s too ambiguous), let alone for the existence of the Christian God.

Again, you’re certainly aware that Christianity isn’t the only religion with hostile converts, right? I’m sure that Muslim apologists could cite many Muslims that were formerly hostile to Islam. This is definitely a piece of evidence in favor of Christianity (albeit weak IMO) but it is equally evidence in favor of any other religion with hostile converts.

However, Peter does not claim to be an eyewitness. He simply claims that Jesus was resurrected, not that he saw the resurrected Jesus. This is therefore hearsay, which is not valid evidence in a court of law, for good reason. The only eyewitness claims we have in the New Testament that are not hearsay are from Paul and John of Patmos, both of whom only saw Christ in a vision, which weakens their claims somewhat.

However, merely establishing the existence of Jesus is not evidence at all for the Christian God, just as establishing the existence of Mohammed is not evidence for the Islamic God. The consilience of multiple lines of evidence is convincing, but not when those lines of evidence aren’t evidence at all.

Unfortunately, I don’t find the evidence you’ve put forward for the Christian God convincing… sorry. I’m hoping that there are some other Christians here who are well-versed in the actual philosophical arguments for His existence and can explain why they believe.

2 Likes

Bill always has the most bestest sources.

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #1439: Jonathan Cahn

3 Likes

Bayesian inference assuming a prior probability of one (1.0) is a great way to conclude that which you assume. Unfortunately it doesn’t accomplish anything useful. :wink:

4 Likes

Hi Andrew
I will answer you by tomorrow but if you could explain your point here that would be helpful. Why would prophecy and it’s fulfillment be a circular argument?

This is a good point.

The real issue is we don’t have any explanation for what we are observing without extreme intelligence being involved.

To address this point in more detail, there is rather less to it.

First the starting point is very unclear.

Second, it does not state that it is about the Messiah, only about a messiah - or more likely two messiahs.

Third, it does not state that the (second) messiah will die - that is an interpretation

Fourth, even choosing the “best” starting point to get the date you want, it still doesn’t work out. And it’s not particularly likely to be the intended starting point either.

Fifth. Assuming either your start point or that the “cutting off” of the messiah refers to the Crucifxiion, the events of the Seventieth week do not happen on schedule.

Sixth, Daniel is clearly focussed on the Maccabean Revolt (Daniel 8 is very clear on that, for instance) and the events of the seventieth week do fit into the Maccabean Revolt.

So it seems that this is very much more about forcing a reading onto the text than finding the meaning in it. Which makes it much, much less than convincing. Indeed, it raises the question of why anyone would bother to raise it as an argument at all. Surely it’s very weakness detracts from your case.

4 Likes

Hi Bill, I’m not saying that all fulfillment of prophecy is circular. What I’m saying is that Isaiah 53:11-13 prophesies the resurrection of the Messiah, and so you can’t use the fulfillment of Isa. 53 to prove that the Christian God is real, because Isa. 53 is only fulfilled if Jesus was resurrected (and the Christian God is real). Because of that, using this specific prophecy as an argument seems circular to me. Maybe I’m wrong though.

Why does it need to be extreme intelligence? Couldn’t it be a moderate intelligence with a very long time to think about it? Couldn’t it be a rather dim intelligence with narrow focus, who after eons of trial and error finally gets it right? It could also be randomness and eons of time. We have no means of assigning a probability to any of those.

3 Likes

I would say that the shroud of Turin is evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, hence of God.

If for the sake of discussion we accept the Shroud to be a genuine miracle, does this comprise a complete argument for the existence of God?

Thinking about this another way, we might find a fossil of a creature that lived long ago, is this a philosophical argument for dinosaurs? (not necessarily dinosaurs, but I think you get the idea.)
Does this fossil constitute a philosophical argument for evolution?

Perhaps my example is not really equivalent, since we have lots of fossils and only one Shroud?

Answering my own question, I think a shroud or a fossil is evidence of something that was once living. I don’t think a single piece of evidence, on it’s own, can be a good argument for God, or evolution.

OK, I realize I may have gone off-topic by bring evolution into the discussion - we don’t need to repeat that argument here. So let me try this a different way:

Does any depiction of Jesus, say da Vinci’s The Last Supper, also constitute a philosophical argument for the existence of God?

4 Likes

The shroud of Turin was first mentioned in 1354, and has been 14C dated to the Middle Ages, so why do you think that it’s evidence of any first century event? Even if it could be reliably dated to the first century, what makes you think it is the shroud of Jesus, apart from a tradition which dates to over 1000 years after Jesus? Even if you could show that it was Jesus’ shroud, that would only be evidence of Jesus’ death, so how do you get from that to His resurrection? (Needless to say, lots of people have died without being resurrected.)

Sorry, but if this is your best/only evidence for the Christian God’s existence, I can only conclude that you have lowered the epistemic bar to a ridiculous degree with regard to His existence. Fortunately, there are much better arguments for God’s existence – at least, I hope there are (no one has put forth any so far).

7 Likes

I think that the Shroud is an excellent philosophical argument against God’s existence:

  1. If God exists, he wouldn’t allow his believers to be duped by an obvious fabrication because it makes him look bad by extension.
  2. God believers do believe in the obviously fabricated Shroud of Turin.
    C. God does not exist.
6 Likes