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The presence of God is still a point of contention among theologians, philosophers, and other academics. Religious believers should not subscribe to their different teachings based on well-articulated explanations for their beliefs. Many believers, on the other hand, depend on explanations and reasoning to justify their religious beliefs; such arguments for and against God's presence have been present in religious philosophy for nearly two millennia. While several hypotheses have attempted to justify God's presence, most scholars have relied on ontological, cosmological, and teleological theories to support various claims for God's existence. Against this backdrop, the paper explores some reasons fronted by various scholars on God's existence by exploring supporting reasons and objections from various researchers. Arguably, most of the dominant religions hold beliefs concerning the transcendent reality of the physical World; philosophy of religion thus tries to make people understand the Ultimate Reality about God’s existence as it applies in both Eastern and Western traditions.The paper, therefore, concludes that the existence of God remains a controversial issue and the arguments can only try to suggest the existence of a deity in the theism sense of it; however, people have the freedom to refute the arguments where they feel they do not provide a compelling justification for God's existence.
In Western religions, particularly those that trace their origin to Abrahamic descent such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism believe in the existence of a personal God ostensibly perfect in all respects. Such a God according to such religious organizations possess othervarious attributes such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience among others. Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism, on the other hand, interpret Ultimate reality differently. These religions do not believe in God as a personal creator but a complete state of existence hence they cannot use terms such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience to define him because of his undifferentiated state of being. The variations in understanding who God is among the Eastern religions create meaning in their conceptions of life on earth and life after death. Utimism contends with the Ultimate Reality concepts by supporting the existence of a spiritual being with whom, some good can come.
Arguments for and against the Existence of God
These arguments take different approaches based on apriori reasoning about God's existence. Most of them present independently known premises devoid of the World's experience. Saint Anselm of Canterbury proposed ontological theories to support God's existence (Oppenheimer& Zalta 1). Anselm defines God as a being from which no any other greater person can be conceived; he posits that conception and real existence of God in man's mind are two distinct things. Consequently, those who believe that God exists in their mind think so in reality since assuming that God only exists in mind would contradict such conceptions (Oppenheimer&Zalta 3). Despite some objections, ontological arguments suggest that God's real existence proves greater than mere mental interpretations and understanding of him; as a result, an individual naturally arrive at the conclusion that God exists.
The principle of superior of existence or noblest creature contends with Anselm’s ontological arguments concerning the existence of God. Sheykhiani (125) argues through the illumination school thought and the principle of oneness that a possibility of a superior creature exists. The scholar further suggests that, if human beings believe in the existence of any creation then some superior being should have existed before it. Since most creations have a physical body; such a premise may receive great objections when one suggests that they came into existence without any reputable source. Arguably, an individual can rely on cause and effect relationship and posit that a spiritual being possibly existed before the physical ones and created them. The theory of the possibility of superior thus suggests that existence of natural creations suggests a possible existence of God from whom all creations generate without sources.
Objections to Ontological Arguments
A scholar called Gaunilo provides an analogy on the existence of the greatest island to critique Anselm’s arguments. Gaunillo employed reductio ad absurdum to posit that confirmation of Anselm's argument amounts to confirming the existence of the largest possible island. Since proving the existence of the greatest possible island may sound absurd; such is Anselm's theory. Although Gaunillo could not identify vivid flaws in the argument; he insisted that believing would make people believe things that they cannot justify and have no adequate reasons to prove their existence. Another philosopher Immanuel Kant conversely argued that Anselm’s premise does not provide a real predicate. The absence of a predicate and quantifiers make Anselm’s argument invalid since existence alone does not add any concept of a thing making the whole argument flawed.
Other scholars have employed various theories and principles to discount Anselm’s ontological arguments that support God’s existence. Oppenheimer and Zalta (2) use the theory of abstract objects to discount his assertions in the existence of a greater being from which humanity can conceive nothing greater. According to the duo, Anselm relies on an intentional object that only exists in mind and serves as the content for his reasoning. Millican on the other hand, argues that the fact that Anselm’s argument begins from faith makes it weak to confirm the existence of a superior being (1041). Millican criticizes Anselm’s theory for beginning from the definition of God and what he thinks him to be based on his revelations to humanity as a weaker premise to justify his existence. Despite such objections, many philosophers have found it difficult to find precise flaws in Anselm’s argument making its fascination to remain.
These arguments begin by exploring some metaphysical facts around the World and then suggest that someone/something outside the World must have caused such an existence. The arguments entail making conclusions about God’s existence through keen observation of the cosmos – the environment surrounding humanity. Cosmological school of thought has existed since the days of Plato and has been employed other renowned scholars and philosophers to make arguments concerning God’s existence (Jeffcoat 1). The arguments can either take a vertical or horizontal approach. In a vertical dimension, the arguments hold that every physical creation must have a cause or is being created at the moment whereas horizontal arguments suggest that all creations must have a cause from a superior being. Understanding horizontal aspect of cosmological arguments seems a little easier since it does not involve much philosophy as the vertical approach.
Put differently; cosmological arguments may suggest an attempt to define causality from an objective point of existence without involving matter faith or religion. The World exists and cannot justify its existence; something else has, therefore, to account for universe' existence and that other thing should have reasons and explanations for its own existence. These arguments suggest that uncaused being had to exist somewhere and must be responsible for the availability of other creations in the World; such uncaused being can only be God (Jeffcoat 2). Thomas Aquinas argument on contingent beings further contends with cosmological arguments by suggesting that contingent beings have a beginning and an end; this implies that they must have some necessary being to cause otherwise they would not exist. Contingency depends on the passage of time without which no change can occur; since all natural things change, one can naturally conclude that some non-contingent being exists and takes responsibility for these changes.
Another scholar Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz presented the Leibnizian argument in which he seeks to find out why there is something instead of nothing. According to his reasoning, sufficient reasons must exist for everything that exists in the World by either necessity of its nature or due to an external cause. As a consequence, he attributes the universe exists because of a transcendent God since the World does not have natural power for existence. Through Aquinas and Leibniz arguments, one can conclude that anything in the World must have a reason for its existence beyond the contingent beings. The Kalam argument on the contrary charges that whatever has a beginning has a cause; and since the universe began, a personal cause must exist for that.
Objections to Cosmological Arguments
Many objections exist on cosmological arguments; firstly, the principle of infinite regress holds that contingent beings can have numerous causes. One of the primary premises of this principle posits that even if traced to infinity; such contingent series may not provide valid reasons to justify the existence of any non-contingent being (Jeffcoat 4). Nevertheless, the same argument contradicts itself by suggesting that an infinite series does not require any necessary cause making it difficult to understand causality relationships for existence. The objection has received several responses from other philosophers who charge that efficient cause of beings must exist for nothing can have its efficient causes (Jeffcoat 4). Besides, such scholars argue that regressing to infinity is impossible in situations with efficient causes; an initial cause thus has to exist since withoutsuch a causeothers would not exist.
Other scholars have in the same manner objected to cosmological by questioning why the cause has to be God and not any other issue. Cleanthes, for instance, suggests that even if cosmological arguments were to succeed; the proponents may still need to justify why the last non-contingent being is God. These critics argue that matter could provide a more plausible explanation for its cause within itself; that is, nature could cause matter to exist. Based on this premise "the World is just there" meaning it cannot have any sound explanation for its origins of existence. People can neither feel nor experience the World; as such they cannot provide answers concerning the universe to some force outside itself. However, it has been argued that people do not require feeling every contingent beings and concepts like the world to confirm that they have a cause.
Some scholars refer to these arguments as design arguments. Primarily, they aim at proving the existence of a deity. The term teleological has its origin from the Greek word telos, which translates into the English word “purpose;” the theory holds that it takes someone with a goal to develop a “purpose.” Thus the arrangement and organization of things in the universe was done by somebody with purpose and for a reason (Gebhard 44). As a design argument, it implies that the World at some point had a designer who perfectly and purposely created everything in it. For instance, the Grand Canyon has vivid differences with Mount Rushmore; Grand Canyon resulted out of physical geographic processes whereas Mount Rushmore was perfectly designed by an intelligent creator. In other words, teleological arguments suggest that nothing in the World occurred/happens by chance; that there must be a reason and purpose for everything in the universe.
A simpler version of this proposition argues that order and complexity of the World entirely suggest that it must have a designer responsible for it. The intelligent designer arguably may be none other than God. These arguments contend with St. Paul’s writings that God’s existence is “understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (NKV Rom. 1:20) (Gebhard 44).Apart from living organisms in the World, the whole system appears designed for life since the random sequence in which everything occurs surpasses the human understanding. Notably, the complexity in the World may only require a technological explanation; nonetheless, such an approach would receive an immediate opposition given the history of the universe and technological revolution. Even science does not believe in spontaneous designs thus the earth must have a supernatural designer responsible for all the happenings.
William Paley, a renowned 19TH century explained teleological argument through an analogy of a watch. He argued that anybody who comes across a watch has to attribute its designs to some designer known or unknown; as a result, humanity should infer the designs of nature to a grand designer based on its purposely, organized structure and complexity. According to this analogy, people should find it easier to believe the natural designs than those done by fellow human beings because of their evident means ordered nature. In a broader context, the analogy suggests that; since human artifacts like watches can provide a means to an end as products of design; then natural designs like human hands should be attributed to a designer.However, because more natural models exist compared to human designs, then the natural designer may probably possess more intelligence an power compared to people.
Objections to Teleological Arguments
Philosophers and theologians have raised some objections concerning Paley's design premise of God's existence. For instance, David Hume suggests that comparing natural works and human artifacts o does not provide substantial evidence to justify God's existence in the religious/theist sense. Furthermore, he suggests that the high level of evil in the World does not support that God took responsibility in making the universe; such an argument cannot give credence to a theistic God. As a result, the World's design could have resulted from natural occurrences and events. Scientists, on the other hand, find it difficult to believe in God as the creator and designer of the universe; science primarily drive its conclusions from compelling pieces of evidence thus they do not see God's existence in natural designs of the world (Gebhard 44). Nevertheless, these objections have received responses from other researchers who discount evolution and the big band theory that life could not have developed spontaneously through natural processes.
Finally, teleological arguments originate from natural theology and maintain that they do not purpose to justify the existence of any deity or religion but provide plausible arguments concerning the existence of a grand designer – God. A section of natural theologians asserts that none of the different cases may provide a full blown proof of God's existence. Therefore, people should combine propositions from various arguments to develop a better form of theism. For instance, an individual can employ moral arguments to understand God as the natural/universal law provider and use cosmological arguments to appreciate God’s natural providence through creation. Taken together, these different propositions suggest the existence of a super natural being even in the religious sense; however, a person has his/her reasons to refute these arguments when and if he/she does not find them compelling.
The paper has presented various views concerning God’s existence; however, most of these classical views receive different objections from other philosophers and theologians. The major arguments employed in this assignment include; ontological arguments which assert that God remains the greatest and most powerful of all creation and whoever conceives that in his/her mind must believe it in reality. Another one entails cosmological arguments that suggest that everything in the universe has a cause and all contingent beings must depend on some non-contingent being – God. Teleological arguments form the last category and charge that the orderly and complex nature of the universe suggests the existent of a grand designer who made it for a purpose. Each argument has its set of objections has discussed above with a different set of responses and answers from various scholars. The paper, therefore, concludes that the existence of God remains a controversial issue and the arguments can only try to suggest the existence of a deity in the theism sense of it; however, people have the freedom to refute the arguments where they feel they do not provide a compelling justification for God's existence.
Gebhard, D.David. Intelligent Design an Overview of Intelligent Design. (n.d). Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Jeffcoat, W. D. The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God. Apologetics Press, 1996.
Millican, Peter. "Ontological arguments and the superiority of existence: Reply to Nagasawa." Mind 116.464 (2007): 1041-1054.
Oppenheimer, Paul E., and Edward N. Zalta. "Reflections on the Logic of the Ontological Argument: A Journal of Analytic Scholasticism." Studia Neoaristotelica 4.1 (2007): 28-35.
Sheykhiani, H. "The Principle of Possibility of Superior and its Epistemological Complications." (2010): 125-142.
The Holy Bible:Nkjv New King James Version. , 2016. Print.
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