Strata of Christian Belief - Strata 3 - Assumptions made about God and philosophic investigations of God
Most Christians believe in a theistic God who is an existing being and with whom they can have a "personal relationship". They also believe that the human Jesus of Nazareth is part of this same God. (There are liberal Christians who believe differently and I am not addressing their concepts at this stage. They posit a better argument that God is the Ground of all being as described by Paul Tillich. This is not a personal God.) A major problem is that there is absolutely no scientific empirical evidence nor philosophical proof of God's existence. As Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God and all humans such as Jesus have existence as part of their being then God must exist in the same way that humans exist - including God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Christians have spent considerable time trying to prove God's existence but all the so called "proofs" fail dismally. As there are so many attempts (because God's existence is so central and essential to Christianity) then it is impossible for me to answer all the objections in a short article. However the main basic proofs and the reasons that they fail are briefy stated as:
1. The Ontological Argument
Form: We have the idea of a completely perfect Being. Existence is necessary to complete perfection. Anything that did not exist would be less than perfect that if it did exist. Since God is completely perfect then he must exist. If God did not exist then he would lack perfection.
- The idea of perfection adds nothing to the concept of a thing.
- The perfect thing that we imagine may not exist.
2. The Cosmological Argument (or Causal Argument)
Form: Look at the universe. It came from somewhere. Some great cause produced it. That Cause is God.
- It establishes nothing about the deity's characteristics and cannot be used to establish any particular deity.
- It leads to an infinite regress where the question it asks in terms of God can be asked of God in turn.
- We only know that everything has a cause from experience. Experience tells us nothing about causality in any non-empirical world.
3. Argument from Miracles
Form: Miracles exist and are God intervening in the natural course of events.
- Miracles are not empirically proven to exist.
- The meaning of the term "miracle" must be defined as it may be the instance of an unknown natural law.
- It does not prove a particular deity or the deity's characteristics.
4. Utility Argument
Form: Belief in God is a great and indispensable moral influence. Without it human beings would not live good lives. Therefore, it must be true and God exists.
1. It is not proven that religion is indispensable to good conduct. The opposite is also shown in the Crusades, Inquisitions and Witch Hunts caused by religion.
2. Even if the premise "Belief in God is a great and indispensable moral influence" is true it does not prove that God exists." Would belief in ghosts that produced good conduct likewise prove that ghosts were true?
5. Argument From Religious Experience
Form: I (and other people) have experiences of a particular nature, which are so profound, so meaningful, so valuable, that they cannot be explained on any natural hypothesis. They must be due to a Supernatural being, God who inspires such experiences.
- If a religious experience of the Christian God proves the existence of a Christian God then a religious experience of a Hindu likewise proves the existence of a Hindu God.
- It cannot be used for any particular God and works equally well for Woden, Thor and Zeus.
6. Teleological Argument (Argument from Design)
Form: The universe shows evidence of order and design. A master architect has been at work. Purpose and not blind chance governs the universe. The Purposer is God.
- Epicurus problem of evil negates it. "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?" (David Hume)
- It is an argument from analogy which is always invalid.
- It cannot establish any of the hypotheses.
It is assumed that God is personal. Many critique this by finding many similarities between the God and the person who worships the God surmising that humans have made God in their own image and not vice versa. It is not at all apparent or proven that God must be personal.
An even greater problem exists with the claim by Christians that the finite human Jesus of Nazareth is God with both a pre-existence and a current existence as God. This again cannot be proven by empirical science and rests solely upon the subjective interpretations of bible verses.
It is assumed by Christians that God communicates with humans. See my previous article "How does God communicate to humans?" http://marktindall.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-does-god-communicate-to-humans.html for the many problems with this belief.
Many Christians say that God's "dialogue" (including current dialogue with Jesus) consists of Yes / No / Maybe demonstrated in life experience. That doesn't seem like much of a dialogue and works equally well for the pagan gods who answer exactly in the same manner. Others say that they speak for God / Jesus but God / Jesus always sounds remarkably like the person and has the same prejudices. Others say that God / Jesus speaks through the bible. How does God / Jesus speak through a book with multiple editors, contradictions, errors, forgeries, fictions and man-made dogmas? Some say that God / Jesus speaks to their heart / spirit though both mean mind in the Hebrew and Greek. Is this through ideas? How do we know which idea is from God / Jesus which is from self, Satan, Thor or Woden or some other god?
It would seem to me that if God / Jesus can speak to humans then he would do so in an unambigious clear way that could be easily detected and investigated by all people. That is not the case. It would also seem to me that God / Jesus would answer questions of utmost importance (like a cure for cancer) and not dwell on minor unimportant details. That also is not the case. If something is true then it must be internally coherent and externally verifiable with facts. God / Jesus's speaking to humans is not like that at all. Whatever God / Jesus's communication is, it is not very clear and unambiguous.
How does one learn about Jesus without reading a bible or hearing an evangelist? It should be possible to find out about Jesus solely and only thorough Jesus speaking to you. That again is not proven by empirical science.