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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Does God Exist?

I recently read "Language, Being, God, and the Three Stages of Theistic Evidence," a chapter by Dallas Willard, in Does God Exist: The Debate between Theists & Atheists, by J. P. Moreland (a Christian) and Kai Nielsen (an atheist) with contributions by others. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993) Much of the book was a debate between the principal authors, at the University of Mississippi.

Willard's chapter is on pages 196-217. It is understandable, and well written, although Willard is an expert in philosophy, and uses this discipline throughout his contribution.

Willard doesn't claim that he has a knock-down argument for the existence of God, but he does say that it is a valid one, and he claims that the arguments for the non-existence of God are weak, at best.

Willard begins by saying that philosophically, there is a physical world, and that anything present in the physical world depends on something previous. If you go back far enough, there must have been something before the physical world itself. The Big Bang, he says, is not really an explanation -- it's an occurrence, which, like everything else, requires something previous. Some atheists endow the Big Bang with almost mystical properties. Willard says that this supports the first part of his argument.

Second, Willard says that order must come only from pre-existing order. However, he does not encourage arguments such as that sometimes made from the existence of intricate biological entities such as the eye.

Thirdly, Willard says that there must be a power acting in human affairs, hence, a God.

I repeat, Willard understands that he has not presented a knock-down argument for God, but he seems to have presented philosophical arguments that cast grave doubt on the philosophical arguments for atheism.

A convinced unbeliever doesn't usually want to pay attention to the evidence for belief. Sometimes such evidence is presently poorly, or material which isn't evidence is treated as if it were. I don't think Willard has done either of these.

Thanks for reading.


James F. McGrath said...

The question, to put it another way, is why something exists rather than nothing. This will always be a mystery, whether one is a theist or an atheist. Either a God who is rather complex (if the Biblical depiction of God is anything to go by) just exists, or a rather complex universe just exists. Or both - for some, such as process theologians and some other panentheists, the assumption is not made that God and the universe represent two entirely distinct things, and so the two may, according to this perspective, eternally co-exist.

The mystery of why anything exists is a strong one in pointing to transcendence, to something far greater than ourselves. But it doesn't cease to be a mystery just because one posits that an inexplicable God created it - it just pushes the mystery back a stage. Unless, of course, you want to say that 'it is turtles all the way down' :)

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you. I believe I agree with you .