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Confusing the Arguments for God

Confusion

In this article I wish to offer some clarification on different categories of arguments for the existence of God. I am not weighing in on the relative value any of them here. Rather, I am just pointing out some distinctions and categories that are often confused or missed at the popular level. Also, due to non-standard nomenclature, specific argument titles are not as important as the actual arguments. Regardless of labels, it is important to keep these distinctions in mind when arguing toward various conclusions. As will be shown below, confusing them can have very negative consequences.

Cosmological Arguments

 
Cosmological arguments proceed from the fact of existence of the cosmos to a creator. A key ingredient in the most popular cosmological argument (e.g., the kalam) is the idea that one must avoid an “infinite regress” (i.e., the supposition of an actual infinite quantity).

The main issue I’ve seen here is that many people (e.g., Richard Dawkins) take their understanding of one issue with infinite regresses and then import it into some contingency forms of the argument, like the one crafted from the writings of Thomas Aquinas. The problem is that Aquinas denied the validity of arguing for the beginning of the universe based on an infinite regress, thus he clearly was not supposing such a thing in either the Five Ways or in On Being and Essence.

“Horizontal”  (Kalam) Cosmological Argumentation

The basic form of the “horizontal” or kalam cosmological argument is as follows:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence.

The heart and soul of the kalam argument lies in the impossibility of an infinite regression of temporal events. An actual infinite is a set which contains an infinite number of members, the potential infinite, on the other hand, is an ever-increasing set formed by successive addition. Only the potential infinite has, or can have, real existence, for an actual infinite number of things cannot exist (“infinite number” ultimately being a contradiction). So, if the universe had no beginning, then the number of moments before today would be an actually infinite amount of moments. But there cannot be an actually infinite amount of moments, so the universe must have begun and was caused to begin by something outside the universe.

“Vertical” (Contingency) Cosmological Argument 

The “vertical” or contingency argument comes from the work of Thomas Aquinas. Its form is radically different from the "horizontal" argument:

  1. A contingent being (i.e., a being that exists but can not-exist) exists.
  2. This contingent being must have a cause of its existence that is something other than the contingent being itself, and an infinite number of additional contingent beings cannot provide an adequate causal account for the existence of a contingent being.
  3. Therefore, a necessary being (a being that cannot not-exist) exists.

The key issue in premise 2 is that multiple, even infinite, contingent beings cannot ultimately explain the existence of the being we started with. This is not, however, because we cannot have an infinite number of something—it is because an infinite number of contingent beings would never ultimately account for itself (in the same way that positing an infinite number of train cars does not explain the motion of the first train car—there has to be an engine).

(Note: Other contingency arguments, such as Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, are usually not confused in the above manner and so are not restated here).

Design Arguments

 
These are probably the most confused arguments for God, and it happens all the time. The two main forms, the intelligent design and teleological, are often lumped together.

Intelligent Design Argumentation

Design arguments typically proceed from the identification of various patterns, information, or statistical anomalies to God’s existence as the best explanation for these features. Intelligent design arguments are usually of the form:

  1. The universe (or something in it) exhibits some property that is evidence of design (e.g., information, improbability, hospitality to life).
  2. Design is always thought to be caused by some intelligence.
  3. Therefore, the best explanation for the property is that there exists an intelligent designer who intentionally brought it about.

There are both micro and macro versions of Intelligent Design arguments, some from things smaller than humans (DNA, bacteria, etc.) and some larger (atmosphere, galaxies, etc.). To the extent any of these things are shown to have some kind of design, they are used as evidence of having a intelligent cause. Generally speaking, God is considered that cause.

Teleological Argumentation

“Telos” comes from the Greek word for “ends or goal.” A true teleological argument, therefore, looks forpurposefulness in creation—not simply statistically-improbable states, information codes, or irreducibly complex systems. Aquinas’s argument, for example, relies specifically on the explanation for goal or end-directed natures, activities, or properties found in creation. Goal-directed systems can only be accounted for by the existence of an intelligent being who directs that system.

Further, since all created things seem to operate according to some goal (even goals that are not their own, such as those of rocks and protons), the entire universe can be explained only by the existence of an intelligent being beyond creation.

Moral Arguments

 
There are many version of the moral argument that are often confused as well. Two of the most common versions concern the Moral Law and the Natural Law:

Moral Law Argumentation

The moral law argument is often said to be taken from Romans 2 and was famously used by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. It usually goes something like this:

  1. All people recognize that some things are right, and some things are wrong, which requires a standard or law against which things can be judged.
  2. Standards and laws requires a lawgiver, or something to ground this law.
  3. This universal law requires a lawgiver.

The key here is that moral intuition seems to be built into humans. Because the Moral Law transcends known creation (humanity being at the “top”, so to speak), this universal law requires a lawgiver that  transcends known creation (i.e., God). This, unfortunately, is where the confusion comes in. It is one thing to try to ground morality in God—it is another to explain how we know this moral law. At this point many people confuse the moral law argument with natural law.

Natural Law Argumentation

The term “Natural Law” is sometimes used as equivalent to the “laws of nature,” (i.e., the order which governs the material universe). In these cases, the “law” is really more of a description of what  things are—not necessarily how they should be. Thus, it could refer to rocks falling, plants photosynthesizing, animals sleeping, etc. Natural law arguments, then, proceed from the existence and knowability the nature of things (what they are—not what they do) to moral laws based on those natures:

  1. X is a certain kind of thing.
  2. Action Y is a good for the flourishing of X.
  3. Therefore, Y is moral action for X to perform, and ~Y is bad for X.

Natural laws are derived from observations and experience of things in the world around us. By knowing what something is and what its purpose is, we can objectively determine what is good or bad for it. Thus, it works whether or not natural laws are expanded upon—or explicated by—some deity (for more on this see Dr. Edward Feser’s article). That is why the Natural Law is not the Moral Law “written on the heart” by God, nor part of Divine Command Theory, nor equivalent to God’s group-specific covenental laws. And it is not part of the Moral Law Argument given above. Technically, a non-human alien could observe humanity from another planet and discover natural human moral principles without partaking in humanity’s moral code at all.

Presuppositional Arguments

 
Presuppositional apologists sometimes confuse what they call “the transcendental argument” (that without Christianity, nothing else in reality can be adequately explained) with grounding arguments (aka demonstratio quia).

Transcendental Argumentation

To reason “transcendentally," in this context, is to argue that “X is actually necessary to deny X, therefore X must be the case.” Presuppositional apologists often give the example of logic as being transcendentally necessary, because one must employ logic to deny logic. Since it would be self-defeating to use logic to show that logic cannot be used, the denial of logic can be transcendentally disproved.

Grounding Argumentation

The demonstratio quia ("argument to ground") is similar in that it uses the necessity of one thing in its argument. Unlike transcendental arguments, however, grounding arguments proceed from the existence of some effect to a necessary condition for that effect. The form would be something like this: “X is necessary for Y, so if one denies X, one must also deny Y.”

The key to these differences is that while logic is required to deny logic, morality is not necessary to deny morality. Logic, then, is shown to be transcendentally necessary while God, in the Moral Argument, is not (it is actually a grounding argument: “For morality to exist, God must exist, and morality exists, therefore God exists.”).

The problem is that Presuppositionalists will sometimes give an example of a good transcendental argument, but then switch to grounding arguments in their actual apologetic—even when defending their own system. This confusion also leads some apologists into thinking that Presuppositionalism per se is much stronger and more distinct as an apologetic system than it really is.

Conclusion

 
While basic categories are useful when first learning a subject, eventually the distinctions that justify those categories can become very important. Once you become familiar with these arguments, it will help provoke fruitful dialogue if you get more precise as soon as possible. This is demonstrated by the story of the atheist daughter of a popular Christian apologist who lost her faith when she could not answer a theological question. As is clear from her recounting of her thinking, the question itself was based on her own confusion over natural law and God’s covenant commandments. Confusion about theses arguments, whether by Catholics or atheists, can have real and long-lasting effects.
 
 
Originally posted at Soul Device. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: STL Short Sale)

Doug Beaumont

Written by

Doug Beaumont is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology at North-West University. He acquired a B.A. in Psychology from California State University and a M.A. in Apologetics with Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary. In addition to contributing to many books and academic journals, he's the author of The Message Behind the Movie: How to Engage With a Film Without Disengaging Your Faith. Follow Doug through his blog at Soul Device.

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  • Loreen Lee

    What about the 'ontological argument'. The "I think therefore (my mind exists) - I am. And it's application of 'Being' to the 'intelligence' of God's perfection?

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      It's conspicuously absent. There are a few different kinds, too.

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

      My favorite is Godel's Ontological Argument.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams
        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          I'm glad he acknowledged Plantinga's self-awareness about the limitations of his own ontological argument. The website I linked for Loreen has both versions. If God (as defined by the argument) exists in one possible world, then he exists in all possible worlds, including this one. But if there's any possible world in which God does not exist, then God exists in no possible world, including this one.

          Plantinga's argument is interesting, but it's not my favorite. Godel's is my favorite, in part because it hurts my head, and because Godel himself didn't really believe it. It's interesting whether he believes it or not.

          Theology is a science like mathematics is a science. It doesn't matter whether God or numbers really exist. You can still play fun games with both ideas.

      • Loreen Lee

        I couldn't follow Godel's argument. But possibly, I thought, ontological arguments could be put in the same category as the 'moral arguments': i.e. that they derive from our 'consciousness of consciousness'. Just a thought.

  • BrianKillian

    I like abductive arguments - arguments to the best explanation of the kind of world we live in. They are not proofs, but a hypothesis that is the best explanation of the 'observed' data of our world including religious experience, moral and aesthetic values, logic, mathematical truths, mental properties, etc.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    While I think these are all flawed I think they are more or less what I have heard advanced.

    I might also point out that these don't actually necessarily get you to a God, and certainly don't get you to a god that has an interest in reviving Jesus from the dead. But I recognize there are other arguments in that line.

    • DannyGetchell

      I've looked back at the articles here, and there have been at least a dozen which attempt to prove logically that an essentially attribute-free God exists. Speaking personally as a deist, I'm willing to posit that those proofs are correct.

      What I'm still waiting for is a logical proof that the Catholic, or (a lesser challenge) that the Christian, or (a lesser challenge still) that a scripturally revealed, or (...lesser...) that a personal God exists.

      • Caleb Cumberland

        It seems you need to study the arguments a little deeper then. For instance if the moral argument is correct then that certianly would prove a personal God. Cosmological arguments and design arguments can also prove that God is personal because only a personal being can choose or conceive of what is going to be created or designed. Once we establish that God must be personal and if the argument allows for Him being perfect (which I think some of them do, as they lead to Him being unlimited, such as one of Aquinas' cosmological arguments, take a look at some of Ed Feser's writings on this issue if you're interested) then I think that conclusion necessarily leads to theism, as it would be imperfect for a perfect being to not hep His creation. Then after theism is accepted we can look at the various religions and their leaders, scripture etc. In my view Jesus is the most profound religious leader and a person that we can reasonably believe was God (as long as we are open to the rationality that God would reveal Himself in a direct way to humanity, as that would reasonably be a more perfect thing for God to do). That may seem like a lot of leaps to you, but you should consider that perhaps the leaps are justified, you never know.

  • Octavo

    How does anyone who believes in bodiless human souls prove or show that any beings are contingent? If we exist forever in one form or another after death, is it possible that we've always existed in one form or another?

    ~Jesse Webster

  • DannyGetchell

    More confusion is caused by the misuse of the term "God" than anything else.

    When attempting to "logically demonstrate God's existence" the writer should state up front that by "God" he means either:

    (1) a "first cause" or "necessary entity", and that the proof is not intended to demonstrate any attributes of that entity other than existence, or:

    (2) the personal, triune, revealed God of Christianity, in which case the writer is obligated to logically prove that.

  • Geena Safire

    My favorite counter-apologetics site is Iron Chariots. It was developed by those fine folks at the Atheist Community of Austin. The site name is derived from the following verse from Judges:

    "And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." — Judges 1:19

    Their "ultimate goal is to provide a robust and definitive resource for: * atheists seeking responses to common apologetic arguments, * theists who are questioning the efficacy of their beliefs, * apologists who feel that their "pet" argument is above reproach, * individuals of any philosophical ideal who have an interest in religious studies."

    This is how Iron Chariots categorizes the Arguments for the Existence of God (and they have counter-arguments against each one):

    Anthropic arguments:

        Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument

    Arguments for belief:

        Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees

    Christological arguments:

        Christological argument · Argument from biblical miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord

    Cosmological arguments:

        Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · First cause argument · Kalam · Uncaused cause · Unmoved mover

    Majority arguments:

        Argumentum ad populum · Argument from admired religious scientists

    Moral arguments:

        Moral argument · Argument from justice · Divine command theory

    Ontological argument:

        Ontological argument · Argument from degree · Argument from goodness · Argument from desire

    Reformed epistemology:

        Argument from divine sense · Sensus divinitatis

    Teleological arguments:

        Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument

    Testimonial arguments:

        Personal revelation · Argument from observed miracles · Argument from personal experience · Consciousness argument for the existence of God · Emotional pleas

    Transcendental arguments:

        Transcendental argument · God created numbers

    Biblical arguments:

        Biblical knowledge of round earth before science

    • DannyGetchell

      Nice link, thanks Geena.

      What I would like to find is a solid rejoinder to what some Protestant apologists call the "Road Runner technique" (named because it causes them to envision Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff and suddenly realizing he is standing in empty space).

      Every skeptic has heard it a hundred times. It goes like this: "You say that there is no such thing as absolute truth. But in order for you to be right.....wait for it now....that statement itself must be absolutely true! Gotcha!!!"

      Catholics use it as often as Protestants. Here's a blog post where the Catholic author uses it three times in succession, apparently under the impression that he is making three separate arguments.

      http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2013/10/establishing-absolute-knowable-truth-in.html

      I've considered this for quite a while, and have almost-but-not-quite been able to dispose of the argument by thinking about statements versus meta-statements. But I can't quite seem to close the deal. Surely there are smarter skeptics than I, whose thinking I can draw upon??

  • Geena Safire

    Iron Chariots' list of Arguments Against the Existence of God are:

    Existential arguments:

      Argument from nonbelief · Who created God? · Turtles all the way down · Problem of non-God objects · Incompatible properties argument · No-reason argument · Santa Claus argument

    Arguments from the Bible:

      Failed Prophecy · Biblical contradictions

    Reasonableness arguments:

      Occam's Razor · Outsider test · Argument from locality · Argument from inconsistent revelations

    Moral arguments:

      Euthyphro dilemma · Problem of evil · Problem of evil (evidential) · Moral argument

  • Vasco Gama

    What I would like to see would be a serious challenge to the "Cosmological Arguments" (the real thing, not pety atheist apologetics, I mean).

    • Sqrat

      Kalam's cosmological argument: Christianity posits the existence of an infinite progress of temporal events. That's a basic requirement of the whole notion of "eternal life". One cannot logically take the position that an infinite regress of temporal events would be contradictory without also taking the position that an infinite progress of temporal events would also be contradictory, thus repudiating one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity.

      And while it is true that we are quite certain that the universe had a beginning, we are no longer so certain that the universe -- our universe -- is really all there is. "What caused the beginning of our universe" is a hot topic in physics these days. We should let the physicists get on with the business of arriving at a well-accepted naturalistic explanation for the cause of the universe and not let the theologians get in their way by implying that the mere attempt to arrive at such an explanation must be inherently blasphemous.

      Contingency cosmological argument: Beaumont summarizes the argument thus: "Multiple, even infinite, contingent beings cannot ultimately explain the existence of the being we started with. This is not, however, because we cannot have an infinite number of something—it is because an infinite number of contingent beings would never ultimately account for itself (in the same way that positing an infinite number of train cars does not explain the motion of the first train car—there has to be an engine."

      Unfortunately, the same reasoning applies to the contingency cosmological argument. To assert that some being is "necessary" is simply to say that we cannot account for the existence of said being. Can it even account for its own existence? Did God ever wonder, before he created anything else, why there was something (himself) instead of nothing? Did he ever answer that question to his own satisfaction?

      Moreover, the contingency cosmological argument leaves a yawning and apparently unbridgeable gap between the "necessary being" and the "contingent beings," since it has no theory whatsoever to account for how the former gave rise to the latter. It assumes that it did, but has no clue how, or why. The argument implies that the reason for the existence of contingent beings was "magic," and further implies that simply naming the magician -- the necessary being -- is a sufficient explanation for the existence of contingent beings. However, unless one can explain how the trick was performed, it is no explanation at all.

      • Vasco Gama

        On your comments concerning the Kalam CA:

        The only thing in question is the argument that there is a first cause (not the particulars of that cause, or its attributes, or even less the positions of the Church, those are separate issues).

        The thing here is “that we are quite certain that the universe had a beginning”. And the important point is what caused the beginning of the universe (or of the multitude of universes, or of whatever there is).But nothing of this challenges the validity of the argument (and even much less the assumption that one day we will eventually know that).

        On your comments concerning the Contigency CA:

        «To assert that some being is "necessary" is simply to say that we cannot account for the existence of said being. Can it even account for its own existence? Did God ever wonder, before he created anything else, why there was something (himself) instead of nothing? Did he ever answer that question to his own satisfaction?»

        When we say that a being is necessary that is what we mean (precisely), it is a being that could not fail to exist and that his existence does not depend on any other being (that is why he is necessary, all the other beings are contingent, and could fail to exist). In the argument nowhere is said that the necessary being is god, or anything else for that matter (it is just a necessary being, even if we fail to understand what is it like).

        These arguments were established long ago and they were the object of study of a large number of philosophers, scientist, and metaphysicians, the simplistic refutations (even of their most simple formulations) are obviously preposterous.

        • Sqrat

          the important point is what caused the beginning of the universe (or of the multitude of universes, or of whatever there is).But nothing of this challenges the validity of the argument (and even much less the assumption that one day we will eventually know that).

          Given the 3-premise form of the argument as summarized by Beaumont, you are correct -- if the universe began to exist, it must have a cause. But that means it's an argument for the existence of a cause (or causes) of the universe, not an argument for the existence of God. It's only when an illicit conclusion is smuggled in at the end ("...and the cause of the universe was God!") that it becomes otherwise.

          When we say that a being is necessary that is what we mean (precisely), it is a being that could not fail to exist and that his existence does not depend on any other being (that is why he is necessary, all the other beings are contingent, and could fail to exist).

          So is God a necessary being, or a contingent being? In the context of the argument, he's a "necessary" being because his existence is supposedly "necessary" to account for the existence of contingent beings. But suppose a state in which God had not yet magically created contingent beings. In that state, was God "necessary," or was he "contingent"? Why could he not "fail to exist" in that state, so that nothing at all would exist?

          It would seem that, within this argument, "contingent" beings are "necessary" to account for the "necessariness" of God. Perversely, that means that his necessariness is contingent.

          • Vasco Gama

            God (in the Catholics Church conception) is the first cause and a necessary being.

          • Sqrat

            Understood. The question on the table is whether that view can be correct if the argument in favor of it is flawed.

          • Vasco Gama

            what view?

            The Catholic Church conception of God
            That there is a first cause
            That there is a necessary being

          • Sqrat

            Either view, although specifically I was referring to the view that there is (or was) a necessary being.

          • Vasco Gama

            I would have to say that they are independent.

            We knew that there was a God before the formulation of those arguments.

            We know that our conception (and knowledge) of God is limited and can be perfected.

          • Sqrat

            We knew that there was a God before the formulation of those arguments.

            Christians believed it. I contend that they did not know it (according to the common philosophical definition of "knowledge" as "justified true belief").

          • Vasco Gama

            I guess you don't understand what a "justified true belief" is, but I can try to explain it to you because it is not so complicated:

            First it is a belief: just as the believe that you hold that

            "God doesn't exist"

            For this to be justified you ground it on a justification

            I never saw God, I never experience such a thing as God, there is no empirical evidence of the existence of such a thing as God, science tells me that God doesn't exist, the notion of God doesn't make sense to me, all my palls believe that it doesn't exist, all the smart people don't believe in God, whatever ...

            If you consider this justification (or these justifications) to be reasonable, you would guess that

            then it is true that "God doesn't exist"

            and what you considered to be a "justified true belief" you would consider that that was knowledge, but in fact that is mistake, as God does exist in fact, and however you consider it knowledge, after all it was not real knowledge, but just an illusion of knowledge.

            The thing is that what you accepted as a valid justification was in fact not valid, even if they make sense to you, there is no way they are able to demonstrate the validity of your assumption.

          • Sqrat

            Oh, I would certainly concede that a belief that God does not exist, however well justified, would not be "knowledge" if God exists. Similarly, I would concede to the Mormons that a belief that Joseph Smith did not discover a new revelation in 1823 written on golden plates and buried in upstate New York, however well justified, would not be knowledge if Smith actually did find such plates.

          • Vasco Gama

            Believes are not mere impressions or feelings. The believes that we consider to be justified constitute what we call knowledge (even if some of those believes are really unjustified or false). In the sense that they are what we suppose to know (in reality it is our presumption of knowledge).

          • Sqrat

            A belief may be "considered" justified -- indeed, it may BE justified -- and still be false. You can't know something to be true if it is false, and you can't know something to be false if it is true, regardless of how well justified your belief might be.

            Again, I am just using the standard philosophical definition of "knowledge" here.

          • Vasco Gama

            The problem lies in what we consider to be a justification (sometimes it looks as if it is, but in reality it isn't).

          • Geena Safire

            if the universe began to exist, it must have a cause.

            This presumption has no support.

            First, the only things we know of that began to exist didn't begin to exist from 'nothing'; they all began from 'something(s)' already in the universe. That gives us no basis on which to say whether what comes from 'nothing' requires a cause nor, if caused, what the nature of that cause would be.

            Second, physics has proven that several things in our universe come into existence without a cause.

            Third, the Universe (as opposed to our temporal universe) may have existed eternally outside of time in a smooth, hot, dense state and, for no readily apparent reason, expansion started 13.81 billion years ago. Perhaps that's just what universes do. This idea fits the facts better than positing a deity that must have existed eternally in order to have started our universe:

            (A) We have no evidence of minds absent a physical brain.

            (B) We have no evidence of a supernatural realm or supernatural entities.

            (C) The evidence points not to a complex universe that required lots of technical expertise to create it all but instead a very simple universe of one kind of stuff (no Intelligent Designer required). All the rest of the universe comes from this very simple beginning according to the nature of the matter, energy, forces and fields that we are learning about.

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Sqrt, thanks for the comment. There's too much here to respond to in a single reply, so I'll just tackle your first paragraph. You write:

        "Christianity posits the existence of an infinite progress of temporal events. That's a basic requirement of the whole notion of "eternal life". One cannot logically take the position that an infinite regress of temporal events would be contradictory without also taking the position that an infinite progress of temporal events would also be contradictory, thus repudiating one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity."

        There are lots of confusions here. The most basic one is that you misunderstand the Christian view of eternal life. Eternal life with God is *not* a future "infinite progress of temporal events." It's timeless, not termporal. On the Christian view, heaven exists *outside* of time. Therefore, there is no contradiction between heaven and the impossibility of an infinitely temporal past.

        Also, even if you were correct that the impossibility of an infinitely temporal past necessarily invalidates heaven, this says nothing about whether God exists. It could just mean that God exists, but that humans will not spend "forever" within him, in the temporal sense. I personally reject this view, but my point is that even if true, it would not disprove God's existence nor refute any of the cosmological arguments.

        • Sqrat

          There are lots of confusions here. The most basic one is that you misunderstand the Christian view of eternal life. Eternal life with God is *not* a future "infinite progress of temporal events." It's timeless, not temporal. On the Christian view, heaven exists *outside* of time. Therefore, there is no contradiction between heaven and the impossibility of an infinitely temporal past.

          Are you quite sure that's the "Christian" view? If you type "Is there time in heaven?" into a search engine, you will turn up lots of documents by Christians asserting that, indeed there is. It seems to me that this is something that Christians simply do not agree on. Frankly, that does not surprise me.

          Is it even the Catholic view? I have to wonder whether it is the view of Catholic pew-sitters. Do they understand, that, in their eternal life, they will quite literally at no time exist? That their eternal "existence" will have a temporal duration of zero? How is existence "outside of time" distinguishable from non-existence, except perhaps as some kind of Platonic form?

          As far as I can tell, the Catholic Catechism makes no assertion that there is no time in heaven. Indeed, it says, "In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him 'they shall reign for ever and ever.'" That wording imply a temporal existence, not a non-temporal one.

          Also, even if you were correct that the impossibility of an infinitely temporal past necessarily invalidates heaven, this says nothing about whether God exists ... It would not disprove God's existence nor refute any of the cosmological arguments.

          It would not disprove God's existence, but it most definitely would refute Kalam's cosmological argument.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Already they reign with Christ; with him 'they shall reign for ever and ever.'" That wording imply [sic] a temporal existence, not a non-temporal one."

            That wording is, of course, figurative. You can know this from the obvious fact that there is no "ever" in addition to "for ever." It's just an idiom referring to eternity.

            The traditional Catholic view is that:

            1) God exists outside of time.
            2) Heaven is communion with God.
            3) Therefore, Heaven necessitates transcending time.

            The traditional teaching of the Catholic Church is that heaven is not a temporal state, regardless of what individual Catholics may suppose.

            "It would not disprove God's existence, but it most definitely would refute Kalam's cosmological argument."

            No, it would not. It would not refute either premise. The question of whether an actually infinite future is possible does not directly affect the question of whether an actually infinite past exists, nor the question about whether the universe began to exist.

          • Sqrat

            That wording is, of course, figurative. You can know this from the obvious fact that there is no 'ever' in addition to "for ever." It's just an idiom referring to eternity."

            The wording is figurative unless it is literal. The presumption on reading it is that it is literal,and that "for ever and ever" means "having an infinitely great duration of time," not "having a time duration of zero."

            The traditional Catholic view is that:

            1) God exists outside of time.
            2) Heaven is communion with God.
            3) Therefore, Heaven necessitates transcending time.

            I have little choice but to take you at your word that this is the traditional Catholic view. I simply note that that is far from apparent from the Catechism. Perhaps the current Catechism does not express the traditional Catholic view, but a non-traditional view?

            The point that "God exists outside of time" is interesting. Consider the following argument:

            1. No being can exist unless it has an existence in time.
            2. God is a being who is said to exist outside of time, but not in time.
            3. Therefore, God does not exist. He does not exist now, he has not existed in the past, and he will not exist in the future.

            Call it "Sqrat's temporal argument for the non-existence of God."

    • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

      I'd say the best one I've seen recently is by "counter apologist". In a nutshell it makes just as much sense to say 1) everything material that exists has a material cause. 2) something material has always existed.

      • Vasco Gama

        It is amusing at least.

  • Tim Dacey

    Argument from religious experience?

  • Mary B Moritz

    Thanks for posting this article, very clear and concise, especially the 2 types of argument using "teleology": Paley (design) and Aquinas (goal-directedness)!