The Differences Between Religion, Theology,
Religion and Theology--beliefs about the nature and existence of God are accepted on faith,
and ultimately authority.
Philosophy--beliefs about the nature and existence of God must come from from experience
and reason--which is based upon human knowledge.
One way of distinguishing between the two might best be understood in the
naturalistic--philosophical explanations must comport with the existing
reality in some strong sense.
anti-naturalistic--religious and theological explanations do not need to
comport with the same strength because they often appeal to super-
natural elements that are not based in reality for further justification.
Philosophy of Religion Lexicon
Theism--the belief that a personal God exists.
Deism--the belief that an impersonal God exists.
Monotheism--the belief that only one God exists.
Polytheism--the belief that more than one God exists.
Atheism--the belief that God does not exist.
Agnosticism--the belief that we are unable to know about the existence and nature of God.
Anthropormorphism--the belief that God has human form or properties.
The Concept of God
God as a perfect being.
a. eternal--no temporal limits, there was never a time God did not exist.
b. omnipresent--no spatial limits, there is no place where God is not.
If God is everywhere, there can be no physical body because that would limit in
time and space.
a. God creates all and out of nothing.
1. transcendent--totally distinct from the realm of time and space.
2. ruler--God rules the creation or what he has acted upon.
b. self-existent--God makes everything, although God is neither made nor created.
He is the uncreated creator.
a. God is thought of with personal characteristics such as being able to understand
and can communicate.
a. God is morally good and does no evil. Everything God does is morally correct.
b. God is the highest good and the goal of our lives of what we should strive for even
though it may be unattainable.
a. God is all powerful
b. God is limited by the laws of logic; thus, God cannot make a squared circle.
c. God does what is logically possible.
a. God knows all--past, present, and future.
b. There is nothing that is not known by God.
Some philosophers of the ancient and medieval times added two more
characteristics a perfect being should have.
a. Perfect beings cannot change.
b. There is a medieval debate about the immutability of God.
The debate is about the creation of the universe. It seems to me that what
the group of Aristotelians failed to take into account is that if God does 'x', and 'x'
is consistent with with His nature, then he has not changed. God is bound
by logical impossibility and decreeing the world to come into existence is
not a logical impossibility.
a. God is unaffected by creatures like us.
b. For God to be God, God has no wants or needs.
The Implications of 1-8
1-8 express either one of two types of properties.
Essential properties are those that something without that property fails to be that thing.
For example, an essential property of being human is having DNA. An essential
property of water is H2O.
Relational properties are those that put a thing in relation to another thing. For example,
'x taller than y', 'y is heavier than z', and many others. God being the ruler of the world
is a relational property, it puts him into a relation with an object. However God is
not dependent upon that object, nor does that property form an essential property of
God. In other words, God could not be ruler of the world and still be God. However
God could not be omnipotent and still be God which is an essential property.
The properties we deem to be essential constitute our concept of God.
Implication#1--essential properties often conflict and reveal inconsistencies.
a. If God is all good and cannot perform an immoral action, then
there is something that God cannot do (this conflicts with
b. If God cannot do things that are logically impossible, then there
is something God cannot do. The stronger claim is that if God
is bound by the laws of logic he created them knowing they
would limit him. But, before the laws of logic existed, nothing
was logically impossible, so God knowingly limited his own power.
c. If God is outside of time, how does he operate in time?
d. If God is everywhere, then he is in and outside of time. If he is
inside time, he must be limited in some sense and this conflicts
with his being unlimited.
Implication#2--properties can be ambiguous--more than one meaning.
a. What does 'time' mean for God? Is it sequential or momentary?
b. What does 'eternal' mean? Existed forever, existed?
a. What 1 and 2 show is a semantic problem. When absolute
statements are used, they can conflict with each other. Having
7-8 absolute statements further magnifies the problem. The
question becomes, does our language limit an unlimited God?
The 20th century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said,
"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." Our world is
not entirely coextensive with God's, thus our limits may be just
our limits and not God's.
We began by examining our basic belief
that God exists.
The next step is to formulate the problem.
What is the reasonable
thing to believe about the existence of God?
So, we are now looking for solutions to this question. we might also use the method of
reversal to get at one of many solutions by reformulating the question,
Why might belief in God not be a reasonable thing?
Fideism--An emotional commitment to the existence of God and not a rational
commitment based upon reasons and evidence.
Soren Kierkegaard--rational knowledge was the enemy of God and to truly
know God, one must have complete and utter devotion through trust. When
you try to rationalize God, you are not trusting Him. Trust comes first, then
"201. All this world--historical to-do and argument and proofs of the truth of
Christianity must be discarded; there only proof there is, is Faith. If I truly
have a conviction, my conviction to me is always stronger than reasons;
actually a conviction is what supports the reasons, not the other way
around." Diary of Soren Kierkegaard, p. 163
Kierkegaard's version of fideism is extreme. There are lesser versions including
St. Augustine's fides proecedit intellectum, or faith precedes understanding
is another version. Augustine's point was that one put the intellect aside and
give faith the highest priority. St. Anselm's credo ut intelligam, or I believe in
order that I may understand, is another version. This serves as the basis
for his Ontological Argument for the existence of God.
The Ontological Argument (from Sober, Core Questions, pp. 82-83)
History: Originally formulated by Saint Anselm (1033-1109). Anselm was a
Catholic theologian and eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury. The
argument is found in the Proslogion. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) a French
philosopher and mathematician also used several versions of the ontological
argument that can be found in his Meditations on First Philosophy.
O1--By definition God is the greatest possible being.
O2--A being who fails to exist in the actual physical world we inhabit, while
existing in other possible worlds, is less perfect than a being who exists
in all possible worlds.
Thus, God necessarily exists.
The Cosmological Argument (from Sober,
Core Questions, pp. 38-39)
History: Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) is the most famous proponent, but arguably
a form of the argument can be traced back to Aristotle and his Prime Mover
argument. Contemporary proponents include William Lane Craig with a unique
version called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. His argument is based upon
the work of an medieval Islamic scholar named Al-Ghazali (1058-1111).
Aquinas's First Argument from Motion
M1--There are objects in the natural world that are in motion.
M2--Objects that are in motion in the natural world are always sent into motion
by objects other than themselves.
M3--Causes in the natural world must precede their effects.
M4--There are no infinite cause/effect chains in the natural world.
M5--Thus, there is an entity outside of the natural world (a super natural being)
which causes the motion of the first moving object that exists in the natural
Thus, God exists.
Aquinas's Second Argument from Causality
C1--There are events in the natural world.
C2--In the natural world, every event has a cause, and no event is caused by
C3--Causes must precede their effects in the natural world.
C4--In the natural world, there are no cause/effect chains that are infinite.
C5--Thus, there is an entity outside of nature (a supernatural being), which
causes the first event that occurs in the natural world.
Thus, God exists.
Paley's Design Argument
History: William Paley (1743-1805) was an English theologian and moral
philosopher. A contemporary proponent of this view is William Dembski.
D1--Organisms are well suited to the tasks of survival and reproduction.
D2--Organisms are intricate.
Thus, organisms were created by intelligent design.
W1--The watch is well suited to the task of measuring time.
W2--The watch is intricate.
Thus, the watch was created by intelligent design.
Van Til and the Transcendental Argument
Born May 3, 1895 in Holland.
Awarded a Th.M. from Princeton Seminary in 1925.
Awarded a Ph.D. in 1927 from Princeton University in
Philosophy for his dissertation God and the Absolute.
Wrote over 30 books and 220 articles/reviews on Christianity, Philosophy, Ethics and Theology.
He died in 1987 after teaching from 1929-1972 at Westminister Seminary.
Calvinism versus Arminianism
Calvinism v. Arminianism
T—Total Depravity Limited Depravity
(man is bad due to sin) (man is good and bad)
U—Unconditional Election Conditional Election
(God saves who He choses to) (man saves himself)
L—Limited Atonement Unlimited Atonement
(Christ died for the Elect) (Christ died for all)
I—Irresistible Grace Resistible Grace
(God’s grace cannot be resisted) (Man can resist God’s grace)
P—Perseverance of the Saints No Perseverance
(God will keep you in the faith) (Man can lose faith and salvation)
Van Til was a strong Calvinist. Notice
for the Calvinist, God does it all. For the Arminian, he/she
is in charge and God more or less becomes his/her servant—God does not do it all, man either
does it or “cooperates” with God.
Why I Believe in God
This is a simple pamphlet showing the transcendental method. The transcendental method
is defined as “Transcendental reasoning is concerned to discover what general conditions
must be fulfilled for any particular instance of knowledge to be possible: it has been central
to the philosophies…of Aristotle and Kant. Van Til asks what view of man, mind, truth,
language, and the world is necessarily presupposed by our conception of knowledge and
our methods of pursuing it.” (Bahnsen 5-6) Another way you might want to think about this
is what kind of structure makes man, mind, truth, and language possible at all—as a coherent
entity that produces knowledge.
Five Main Themes in Van Til
1. Creature/Creator distinction. Man is created and necessarily relies upon his/her Creator.
The Creator relies upon man in no way.
2. Belief versus Unbelief. If one is not in a state of belief, they are in a state of unbelief.
There is no middle ground.
3. No Neutrality. There is no neutral worldview. Every single person has a worldview and they
argue from it. The atheist has a worldview with metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical
posits. The Christian does the same, as does the Buddhist, etc…
There is no neutral worldview from which other worldviews can be judged.
4. Sin Blinds. Van Til refers to this as wearing colored glasses. Going back to the ‘T’
in Calvinism, Van Til believes that sin so utterly affects one’s thinking that they
cannot see the simple evidences and truths of Christianity.
5. Autonomy versus Theonomy—Man either believes himself to be his/her own law
or he/she believes that he/she relies upon the Law of God and His Will.
The Transcendental Argument
1) God is the All-Conditioner.
2) If God is the All-Conditioner, then his/her experience is unified.
3) Unification of experience gives experience meaning.
C—God as the All Conditioner gives his/her experience meaning.
The Unintelligibility Argument
1) Man is the All-Conditioner.
2) If man is the All-Conditioner, then his/her experience is dis- unified.
3) Experience that is disunified has no meaning.
C—Man as the All-Conditioner gives his/her experience no meaning.
We need to analyze two quotes to understand what Van Til is doing in these
“On the other hand, by my belief in God
I do have unity in my experience. Not of
course the sort of unity you want. Not a unity that is the result of my autonomous
determination. But a unity that is higher than mine and prior to mine.”
“Looking about me I see both order
and disorder in every dimension of life. But I look
at both of them in the light of the Great Creator who is back of them.”
Unity in experience—causal connections
between events, conceptual continuity,
logical necessity, moral absolutes and others. All of these unify my experience, I
know that if I put gasoline on a fire it will flame up, I know the concept of ‘dog’ I
have stays the same, it doesn’t change, I know that ‘tautologies’ will always
be true, and I know that moral absolutes like “You should not murder” holds for all
of us. Not only do these unify my particular experience, they unify yours as well.
Van Til believes that only by presupposing God can we have this kind of unity.
God is the All-Conditioner, he makes the unity of our experience possible. We are
his Creatures in His Creation.
Without presupposing God, we have disunity. “Man by contrast either imposes his
own unifying ideas of his own mind on an external reality not controlled by his
mind.” This is form of epistemological subjectivism. “Or (man) respects the
particularity and novelty of every fact in the world, in which case nothing can be
said about it using unifying concepts or uniform principles. Imposing a ‘system’ in
advance discards the need for scientific research; respecting the individuality and
novelty of experience destroys the intelligibility of those facts in advance.” (B, 140)
Translation: There are two points here. 1) Man’s mind may impose unifying ideas on
reality, however there is no guarantee that they unify reality. Thus his unification is
not objective and there is no unification between the individual and reality. 2) If
every fact in the world is unique, there is nothing to unify those facts because they
share nothing in common. The science claim is interesting. This goes back to #1.
If your subjective system gives you unity, why do you need science? Your system
already limits your discovery because there is no necessary correspondence with
reality. Your system tells you everything you need to know. The “individuality and
novelty” claim of the last sentence is strong. If everything is an individual and
unique in experience, why would we count those as facts? Facts require some kind
of unification. Cal Poly is a university is a fact which requires unification of the
concept of ‘university’, otherwise what would Cal Poly be? A school, once again that
requires a unified concept. If you really want to push this argument to its strongest
conclusion, there is just a sequence of experiences, all individual. Yet, this requires
a unified concept of ‘experience’ and ‘individual.’
Summary: Four arguments for the existence
of God have been presented. Three of them are
conceptual: ontological, cosmological, and transcendental. Two of them are empirical in some
sense: teleological and transcendental. A unique property of transcendental arguments is that
they are both conceptual (what are the necessary preconditions for experience) and empirical
(what is our experience actually like). These two should correspond. We also considered a
non-rational argument through the ideas of Kierkegaard called 'fideism.'