Cross Image
Xristian.org Green Logo
Doctrine of God
The Evidences of God - The Traditional "Proofs" of God

Cross Image

Proving God's Existence
As discussed in the article, The Existence of God, God's existence is not something to be proved or rationalized. God is not the result of some extensive line of reasoning. God simply IS. Furthermore, the skeptic can ultimately raise uncertainty to some level (significant or not) in any chain of logic by doubting the accuracy of starting postulates, sense perceptions and data collection, or interpolations, extrapolations, and other reasoning. This is why the traditional "proofs" of God are better referred to as "evidences." And, while it may be said that these evidences do not prove with 100% certainty the existence of God, they provide compelling arguments that support the existence of God. They demonstrate the consistency of Biblical theism.

The Ontological Proof
Among the traditional proofs of God, the ontological proof is the sole a priori argument. Rather than starting with an observation and then reasoning to a conclusion (as the a posteriori proofs do) the a priori reasoning starts with the definition and reasons from there (in backwards direction). Various versions of the proof have been offered over time by Anselem, Descartes, Aquinas, Hegel, etc....

The ontological proof is often argued:
  1. God is the greatest of all conceivable beings.
  2. A being which does not exist cannot be the greatest of all conceivable beings.
  3. Therefore, God must exist.
A variant and perhaps more understandable version of this proof may be described:
  1. The idea of God is infinitely great.
  2. An infinitely great idea could not originate with something finite.
  3. Therefore, the source of the idea must be infinite - God.
While this proof is consistent with the basic truth that a true God is the source behind the very concept of God, it still fails to prove that God exists for the following reasons:
  • The proof itself assumes that God exists in the first point in either of the above variations.
  • This proof draws conclusions about reality from the abstract, which is often invalid or meaningless. The many instances of mathematical modeling of real life examples (as accurately predictive as they can be) do not prove the existence of the reality modeled. Millard Erickson notes that even if in the abstract two plus two is defined as equal to four, this has an unknown correlation to reality.
  • Finally, this proof does not define what kind of being God is, which can lead to having proven an infinitely evil being or criminal.
The Cosmological Proof
The cosmological proof of God begins a series of the a posteriori proofs, those that work off of verifiable scientific data. The typical argument for the cosmological proof follows:
  1. All things in the world have a known cause.
  2. The infinite universe, then, must have an infinite cause.
  3. God is the infinite cause of the universe.
This argument is subject to the following common objections:
  • This proof assumes the law of causation, when there is no proof that A actually causes B. All man can say with 100% certainty is that B typically coincides with or follows A. Man does not directly see the causality, but instead infers it.
  • This proof does not explain where God came from. The proof only begs the same question of God if all things have a cause.
  • This proof does not prove a single, nor an absolute, nor a personal cause (ie. it does not result in an understanding of what kind of God was the first cause).
  • This proof comes close to implying a deistic God, one who put things in motion with a first action, and then sits back while the dominoes fall.
The Teleological Proof
The teleological proof is simply a modified cosmological proof. While the cosmological focuses on the beginning or origin of things, the teleological focuses on the end and design (from the Greek telos, meaning end, purpose, or goal).

The teleological proof is typically argued:
  1. Intelligence, order, and purpose are demonstrated everywhere by the universe.
  2. The world, then, must have an intelligent, ordered, and purposeful designer able to have created the universe.
  3. The designer and creator is God.
This is one of the strongest arguments against a godless big bang and godless evolution controlled by natural selection. Such teachings ignore the incredible design of human bodies and the solar system, and it leaves human existence a product of only random chance. It has been argued that if a caveman was wandering along a pathway and stumbled upon a digital watch (something he had never seen before), that upon examining the watch he would of course assume a designer rather than a randomly assembled object. This proof argues the same of God from the wonderfully ordered creation.

This proof is subject to the following objections:
  • Most of the same objections as the cosmological proof.
  • It challenges the presence of miracles, which are significant deviations from an ordered universe.
  • The same logic would equally prove the existence of a purposeless and disordered God if one starts with the law of entropy at work in the world. (The law of entropy is the second law of thermodynamics that states all things tend toward disorder. A child's clean room over time demonstrates the concept rather well.)
The Moral/Ethical Proof
The moral proof of God is typically argued in the following fashion on the basis of ethics:
  1. Man has an inborn sense of right and wrong (a moral imperative), which is accompanied by the concept of justice.
  2. Therefore, there must be a God who is the source of right and wrong, who will as Supreme Judge work out justice accordingly.
This proof is subject to the following objections:
  • While this proof argues for a holy and just being somewhere in the world, it falls short of proving that individual is God (creator, infinite being). It is like showing there are police officers around without any necessary mention of a president (or chief authority).
  • Many find this proof too "subjective" to be considered seriously, since different societies have different relative values (even within the church over time one can see controversies over moral right or wrong).
  • Finally, if pushed too far this proof also imperils the very doctrine of justification by faith alone in being too legalistic.
The Historical/Ethnological Proof
The historical or ethnological proof of God is typically argued:
  1. Across multiple cultures, there is a sense of the divine revealed in religious practices.
  2. Because this nature is universal, it must be inherent to man himself.
  3. Man's subsequent worship of God must find its explanation in a higher being who made man in such a fashion.
This proof is subject to the following objections:
  • Universality of belief in God does not prove an extrinsic truthful source, as an early common ancestor could have errantly introduced this tendency unto all his descendants.
  • The tendency of man to express this divine awareness is more prevalent in primitive cultures than advanced cultures; yet, God's existence is constant and independent of the strength of the degree to which this awareness is manifest in a people.
The Aesthetic Proof
Finally, the aesthetic proof of God's existence is argued:
  1. All around him, man may observe beauty and quality.
  2. This beauty and man's inner sense of it have been woven within the fabric of creation and man himself by a creator.
  3. The creator is an infinitely beautiful God, who is full of glory.
This proof may be objected to on the following grounds:
  • Scripturally, there is a right and high place for "ugliness," as in the case of the Messiah (Ps. 53:2).
  • Even though artistic beauty may have some level of "objective" standards the artist has to meet, ultimately this argument is subjective and an extrapolation from the finite to the infinite. It fails to prove an infinite creator God.
Conclusions
As claimed in the beginning of this article, the above proofs fall short of proving God's existence. However, each has validity in testifying to the existence of God. Many aspects of them can even be found in the Bible as a testimony to God - testimonia for which man is accountable before God. The psalmist, for example, can see the aesthetic beauty of God and his cosmological grandness in Ps. 8 and Ps. 19. The Apostle Paul not only adds cosmological testimony to God's existence in Rom. 1:18-25, but he also makes explicit reference to the historical/ethnological awareness of God in man in v. 21, which is expressed as widespread idolatry in v. 23. Additionally, all good, right, and beautiful things come from God according to James 1:17. And, furthermore, the Bible presents man as accountable to God's moral law and end purposes. So, for sure, the evidences cited above do support and affirm the Great God of the Bible. They demonstrate a consistency of the Biblical God with reality and reason; however, they fall short of establishing in themselves proof of the existence of the Biblical God.

Copyright 2003, Xristian.org.
All Rights Reserved.