The classical arguments for God – Part Five

This is the final installment in a series of posts where I’ve been attempting to explain some of the arguments for classical theism. The reason for this philosophical foray is because it’s the most logically consistent argument for God of any I’ve ever seen, and yet so few seem to understand it, including some Christians. But, as I said before, once you do see it you’ll also see how solid our foundation is for belief in God. 

It should be noted that Aquinas taught these arguments to his students as an introduction to theology. He wanted to give them a philosophical foundation that would undergird their understanding of God. So, again, this argument is not making a claim for a specific “God.” That’s a different argument. In fact, most of the major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) hold to these classic tenets.  Their foundations go back over 2,500 years. This series of arguments is specifically making the logical deduction for a Necessary Being, or Prime Mover, which we theists call “God,” without which nothing at all would exist at this particular moment.

There are more of these classical arguments but I’ll leave them for now. However, before I finish here, I want to answer a possible question one might have after reading these posts. In parts two and three, I gave a rather technical explanation of the attributes for God when we consider that He is “Subsistent Existence Itself.” Here’s the list (you can go to the posts for explanations). A “Prime Mover” would logically necessitate some of the following characteristics:

  • Pure Act (fully actualized)
  • Immutable (unchangeable)
  • Eternal (transcending time)
  • Immaterial and incorporeal (transcending space)
  • Simple (no composite parts)
  • Omniscience (all knowing)
  • Omnipotent (all powerful)
  • Perfect (lacking nothing)

These are only some of the requirement for a Prime Mover, or God, but it will have to suffice for now. I may need to clear up some possible confusion though. You’ll notice that we’re saying God is simple, meaning He has no composite parts, as David Bentley Hart explained in an interview with Robert Kuhn:

“God is not dependent on other things which would include things that would be ingredient to His nature if He were composite. It would create a principle of unity, which would be a higher ontological principle than God Himself then, because whatever allows for the disparate unity between disparate things is itself a more encompassing reality. But saying God is “simple” doesn’t mean that He lacks something. Classical affirmation is that simplicity is a state of absolute plenitude in which everything is more virtually or more eminently contained…more along the lines of an infinite act of consciousness. When we are saying that God is simple we are saying that God is capable of all, of everything.”  (From video interview, “The Being of God.”)

But then you might ask, if God is simple, how can He have what looks like parts from the list above? Doesn’t this mean He’s composite, therefore, not Pure Act?  No, not necessarily.

First, remember these attributes are deduced from one simple principle–Subsistent Existence Itself. Thus, when we assert various attributes of God, it must be said that each of these attributes in God correspond to the same principle. The reason they diversify this way is because WE are not simple, and we must divide attributes into analogous concepts in order to grasp them. Think of it like a prism of light. Without the prism through which light is refracted it would merely be whiteness (from Classical Theist, “An Argument for the Existence of God“):

If you would like to dig further into the subject, I would recommend you go to the following sites and/or books. It is worth learning if you want to rightly understand the classical theist arguments (I have yet to hear a skeptic rightly explain these arguments.)

Summarizing, we can show the existence of God in our everyday experience by simple logical deduction at this very moment (and every other moment). It has nothing to do with time, whether the universe is eternal, or quantum vacuums, inflation, but on things “ordered essentially” (versus “ordered accidently”). If we don’t get this distinction we miss the whole point (Ed Feser has a good discussion on this distinction here).

Look at it this way: Einstein pointed out that time is an illusion. All we actually have in reality is what Aquinas called the “here and now.” Furthermore, we can deduce God’s invisible attributes as I have shown. Therefore, the following Scripture rings true:

20 Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.

21 Throughout human history the fingerprints of God were upon them, yet they refused to honor him as God or even be thankful for his kindness. Instead, they entertained corrupt and foolish thoughts about what God was like. This left them with nothing but misguided hearts, steeped in moral darkness. (Rom.1:20-21 TPT)

We’re all without excuse about the question of “God,” unless, of course, you want to throw out logic, reason, and empirical observation.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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16 Responses to The classical arguments for God – Part Five

  1. John Branyan says:

    I like the prism analogy. The problem with describing God as “simple” is that many religious people find the term offensive. Calling someone “simple” in our language isn’t a compliment necessarily.

    I’m pressing for a sermon series on classical theology at our church. How would you suggest presenting these concepts without overwhelming folks?

    • Mel Wild says:

      The problem with describing God as “simple” is that many religious people find the term offensive.

      Yeah, “simple” can have a negative connotation because we normally think of it as what’s missing from something. This use of the word is the very opposite. It’s simple in a way that requires nothing outside of itself, no parts, nothing can add to it. It’s fully actualized in every way possible.

      How would you suggest presenting these concepts without overwhelming folks?

      First, it’s important that they understand why they’re learning it (it explains the necessity of God, etc.).

      The philosophical terminology is probably the hardest part to understand. You would have to define terms in as non-philosophical way as possible, or define them clearly. But one advantage you have with a live sermon that you don’t with a written post is you can do live illustrations by using props and/or volunteers. This is very helpful for showing what is meant by motion, etc.

      Using analogies is also important. For example, I’m a guitar player so I can use a guitar to show my music illustration. There are a lot of other practical illustrations that could be done. But once someone understands the terminology, understands what we mean by “ordered essentially,” they will get the basic concept. It’s really very easy to understand because it’s so easy to show it at work in our everyday lives.

      Finally, tie it to scripture. Col.1:16-17; Acts 17:28-31; all of the “I am” statements, etc. It really clears up how the early church understood God who holds all things together.

  2. I appreciate this series,Mel. It’s helped to clarify some things in my mind. I chat with a lot of people who present their arguments as reason, as logic, when in fact they are anything but. Just last night, I got the very “scientific,” very “non philosophical argument” that mother nature is kind and merciful, almost as if she were a Prime Mover possessing sentience, morality, and sacrificial love for us. At least I was able to say, “oh good, you’ve managed to logically deduce the existence of a Prime Mover.” Of course, “mother nature” has no concern for your well being and will gleefully rip your eyeballs out, but I left that part unsaid.

    As to “the simple,” that is actually a quality i really value in God, in my husband, in assorted pastors I’ve known. There is nothing so beautiful as simple words, to the point, cutting through all the nonsense. Smart people aren’t offended by “simple” at all, they are usually relieved of the burden of complexity, grateful for the light shining at the end of the tunnel of our chaos. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Of course, “mother nature” has no concern for your well being and will gleefully rip your eyeballs out, but I left that part unsaid.

      LOL! You crack me up! Yeah, we certainly better hope mother nature is not the prime mover. Yikes! Talk about messed up! As you said, at least the subject was brought up.

      But, seriously, the Prime Mover can’t be just anything we like. It does have to fill the bill on what it means to be fully actualized, like omniscience, omnipotence, immaterial, eternal, transcending time and space…and that also includes full-out other-centered, self-giving love at the very core. Otherwise, you don’t have a fully-actualized Prime Mover.

  3. sklyjd says:

    It is quite amazing that you deduce so much about the Christian God you worship it could be said you have a secret source of information, just like many apologetics who claim they know intimately what their god thinks, acts and judges people even though the Bible says you will never understand his ways.

    Romans 11:33 King James Version (KJV)
    “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

    This passage is even clearer.
    (CEV) “Who can measure the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God? Who can understand his decisions or explain what he does?”

    Is it then not a surprise that the basics of the scriptures, Jesus himself, what Jesus even looked like, most of the stories, who wrote what story and basically how indistinct and muddled the theology is generally presented? It is all open to interpretation as the Romans 11:33 passage appears to have stated. It suits many different ideologies because nobody really knows any real facts, and never will, I might add.

    For your Christs sake, you cannot even find out when the rapture is supposed to happen, who the antichrist is, what denominations are saved or if the return of Christ is supposed to be the city of Jerusalem. This return has been predicted and failed many hundreds of times and since you can discover exactly how God works, can you not at least find this most important information for Christians?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Wow. What a long comment that has absolutely nothing to do with this post or anything deduced in these arguments. But you do sound like you have a problem with pre-trib Fundamentalists.

  4. sklyjd says:

    My comment did have something to do with the post because you listed a heap of qualities that you believe are some requirements of a “Prime Mover” God along with others that you have not mentioned.

    You have deducted everything; it is guess work only, it could be completely wrong, however you also understand nobody will prove you wrong because nobody will ever find out how much wisdom the God has or have any explanation as to why God does anything.

    Why is this? Simply because mystery is at the root of why religions work and the Romans 11:33. paragraph speaks volumes about what the expectation for the feasibility of the Christian God is. As you have only deductions and speculative beliefs that are not evidenced in physical reality but attributed to the supernatural and spiritual nature of God, individuals are obliged and often coerced into what becomes mind altering (brain chemistry has physically changed) principles and beliefs to understand the mysterious. Of course, it is not exclusive and usually the decision to follow God is combined with a multitude of motivational personal life dramas and influences that keep people taking up the challenge of accepting God.

    • John Branyan says:

      The level of ridiculous in your non-evidenced delusion claimed as facts concerns me.

      • Mel Wild says:

        I’m concerned, too. He seems to have gone off the rails on this one. Of course, some Christians were wrong about the timing of the rapture and who the antichrist is so that proves that classic theism is wrong! Ha!

    • Mel Wild says:

      My comment did have something to do with the post because you listed a heap of qualities that you believe are some requirements of a “Prime Mover” God along with others that you have not mentioned.

      Your comment is not only irrelevant to the argument but now you’re showing you don’t understand what logical deduction is. The “heap of qualities” wasn’t just made up in thin air. They were deduced from what would necessarily follow for a Prime Mover, or Subsistent Existence Itself, that is fully actualized in every way.

      As you have only deductions and speculative beliefs that are not evidenced in physical reality….

      And all you have is a myopic worldview that believes the physical world is all there is, which requires faith since science cannot test anything outside of the natural world, even if it does exist. So, your faith religion is scientism, which is self-refuting since science cannot make the claim that science gives us the only real evidence there is. And you also have an incoherent ontology that has no explanation for your own existence in the here and now.

      ….but attributed to the supernatural and spiritual nature of God, individuals are obliged and often coerced into what becomes mind altering (brain chemistry has physically changed) principles and beliefs to understand the mysterious.

      “Coerced into what becomes mind altering…” Not too judgmental, are you. Your whole comment is a total faith statement, your opinion, nothing more. You cannot prove that the natural world is all there is, and you obviously have no answer for the arguments I’ve posted, otherwise you wouldn’t go on with these irrelevant red herrings. I’m left wondering if you even understand the arguments at all.

  5. Anthony Paul says:

    “And all you have is a myopic worldview that believes the physical world is all there is, which requires faith since science cannot test anything outside of the natural world, even if it does exist. So, your faith religion is scientism…”

    Throughout this series on the arguments for God, I find that this is the most elementary point — and very well stated — from which one may either choose to engage in discussion or not. Unfortunately the flow of any meaningful discussion is hampered by the fact that those sitting on the other side of the aisle from you and so many others are ignoring this very basic tenet of philosophy. IMHO, faith in God may be an absurdity… believing that one knows what God looks like in a fully spiritual sense is even more absurd. But to actually stand up in a public forum and say that only science has the voice to speak all truth and knowledge (and for all time) betrays a sense of hubris and downright ignorance that would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Over the centuries, I don’t believe that Philosophy has ever made claims of a scientific nature; it is only in our day that some men of science have chosen to take their own “leap of faith” to declare that the pursuit of spiritual knowledge is not worth the trip… On the contrary, many of us have found that living our lives so as to discover the divine nature in all of us is in fact the whole joy and wonder of living an authentic existence.

    Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century: “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing of…” And as we look back through millennia, we see that mankind has looked to the inscrutable heart (not the sterile test tube) as the seat of meaningful knowledge and enduring wisdom… science, by its very nature being grounded in reason, should understand that room must always be left in any argument for that which is unknown… and it is this that I find most offensive about some who post their contrary views on this forum: it is not that they can’t agree; only that they become offensively dogmatic about their own anemic views about what constitutes the nature of truth and reality.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Very well said, Anthony. I especially liked this comment.

      “Over the centuries, I don’t believe that Philosophy has ever made claims of a scientific nature; it is only in our day that some men of science have chosen to take their own “leap of faith” to declare that the pursuit of spiritual knowledge is not worth the trip… On the contrary, many of us have found that living our lives so as to discover the divine nature in all of us is in fact the whole joy and wonder of living an authentic existence.”

      To adapt what G.K Chesterton once observed, we’re in this strange situation now where it’s the scientific “disbelievers” who are the dogmatic ones making leaps of faith to defend their materialist worldview, while many of the faithful are the more open-minded, appealing to reason and logic. And, as you said, we’re finding our lives more fulfilling in the light of a more transcendent reality than some purposeless and meaningless universe where we’re not much more than organic automatons responding to stimuli and brain chemicals, enslaved to our DNA.

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Thanks Mel… I think you and many others here get it… I’ve always liked Chesterton very much; what a brilliant mind.

        In our time, I so often feel as though we who are trying to remain open to that which requires a great deal of thought, prayer, and contemplation, are caught on the horns of the dogmatic bull… science on the left and religion on the right.

  6. john zande says:

    it’s the most logically consistent argument for God of any I’ve ever seen

    Really?

    Right off the bat, it commits the fallacy of composition.

  7. Pingback: A critique of Scientism | In My Father's House

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