Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 21: Bait and Switch?
WHERE WE ARE AT
In Part 1 through Part 8, I argued that the last ten of Peter Kreefts twenty arguments for God in Chapter 3 of his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) are all bad arguments and fail to provide us with any good reason to believe that God exists.
In Part 9 through Part 20, I examined the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, arguments which he appears to think are the best and strongest arguments in his case. The first five arguments are Kreeft’s versions of Aquinas’s Five Ways. These arguments also all fail, and they provide us with no good reason to believe that God exists.
One important theme in my criticism of Kreeft’s arguments for God is that nearly all of them are NOT actually arguments for the existence of God! Thus, Chapter 3 of HCA appears to be one big BAIT-and-SWITCH maneuver. The title of that chapter is “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God” but there is hardly a single argument for the existence of God in this chapter. In this current post, I will spell out this key objection once again. In the next post after this one, I will consider how Kreeft or a defender of Kreeft would be likely to respond to this Bait-and-Switch criticism.
THE CONCLUSIONS OF KREEFT’S FIRST TEN ARGUMENTS
A philosophical argument for the existence of God, ought to end with one of the following conclusions:
- God exists.
- There is a God.
So, one BIG CLUE that Kreeft’s case for God is seriously defective is that in the first ten arguments, which he appears to think are his best and strongest arguments, he almost never explicitly states the conclusion of an argument to be “God exists” or “There is a God”.
There is only ONE argument in the first ten arguments that has the proper conclusion. Argument #9, the Argument from Miracles, has a proper conclusion:
4. Therefore God exists. (HCA, p.64)
The conclusions of the other nine arguments fall short of making this claim:
Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. (HCA, p.50)
So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent. (HCA, p.51)
…there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being. (HCA, p.53)
…there must exist…a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings. (HCA, p.55)
Therefore, the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer. (HCA, p.56)
Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being. (HCA, p.58)
Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time. (HCA, p.61)
Thus… [there exists] a Transcendent Creative Mind. (HCA, p.64)
Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence. (HCA, p.66)
So, 90% of Kreeft’s best and strongest arguments “for the existence of God” fail to end with the conclusion “God exists” or “There is a God”, and those nine out of ten arguments all FAIL to be arguments “for the existence of God”; rather, they argue for the existence of a being that has one or two characteristics that are characteristics that are also (supposedly) possessed by God.
In some cases, Kreeft attempts to bridge the logical gap between the conclusion that he actually argues for, and the desired conclusion:
This is one of the things meant by ‘God’. (HCA, p.50)
Therefore, there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us… (HCA, p.51)
This absolutely necessary being is God. (HCA, p.53)
This absolutely perfect being…is God. (HCA, p.55)
These additional claims are Kreeft’s attempts to provide a logical connection between the stated conclusions of those arguments and the desired conclusion that “God exists.”
However, Kreeft does NOT argue for or defend any of these key premises, and thus he BEGS THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of the most important and most controversial premises of those arguments. Thus, even in the cases where Kreeft provides a premise that links the stated conclusion of an argument to the conclusion that “God exists”, he still FAILS to show that “God exists”, because he does not provide any good reason for us to believe those crucial and controversial premises.
Since the title of Chapter 3 is “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God” we could simply INFER that the conclusion of every one of the twenty arguments is that “God exists.” This would require adding missing premises to many of his arguments. For example, Argument #5 has this stated conclusion:
Therefore, the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer. (HCA, p.56)
We could add a further premise to turn this argument into an argument for God:
A. IF the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer, THEN God exists.
However, this additional premise is clearly FALSE. We can imagine an evil designer or a designer who had no sense of right and wrong, and if the universe is the product of either an evil designer or an amoral designer, then that would imply that God does NOT exist, because God, by definition, is a perfectly morally good person who designed the universe. So, if an evil person designed the universe, then the universe was NOT designed by a perfectly morally good person, and thus God does NOT exist. Therefore, premise (A) is FALSE. It is possible for the antecedent of (A) to be true while the consequent is false.
Kreeft might, with some justification, complain that we have saddled his argument with an obviously false premise. But it is not our responsibility to try to construct a solid argument for God out of a crappy argument presented by Kreeft. Kreeft is a professional philosopher who has taken on the responsibility to present solid arguments for God, and when he provides half-ass arguments that are logically incomplete, arguments that do not explicitly conclude that “God exists”, it is fair to simply point out that his arguments, as presented, FAIL to show the conclusion that they are supposed to show. It is fair to simply point out that his arguments either BEG THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of controversial premises, or else that they are NOT actually arguments for the existence of God.
THE FIVE WAYS ARE NOT ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
One reason why Kreeft presents so many half-ass arguments “for the existence of God” is that he misunderstands the Five Ways of Aquinas, which Kreeft takes to be the strongest and best arguments in his case for God. The Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God, and so Kreeft starts out with a very fundamental false assumption, which leads him astray.
God, as conceived of in the Christian faith, has many divine attributes. Although it would be unreasonable to expect a Christian to prove the existence of a being that has ALL of the divine attributes that Christians have traditionally believed God to possess, there are a few divine attributes that are essential to a traditional Christian concept of God:
- God is an eternally bodiless person (a spirit).
- God is an eternally omnipotent (all-powerful) person.
- God is an eternally omniscient (all-knowing) person.
- God is an eternally perfectly morally good person.
- God is the creator of the universe.
It is difficult to prove the existence of a being that has just ONE of these divine attributes, but it is much more difficult to prove that there is a being that has ALL FIVE of these divine attributes. To prove that “God exists”, one must prove that there is a being that has ALL FIVE of these divine attributes, and there is not one single argument in Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments that makes a serious attempt to do that.
The Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God, because none of the five arguments presented by Aquinas even attempts to show that there is a being who possesses ALL FIVE of the above divine attributes. However, after presenting the Five Ways in about two pages, Aquinas goes on for over one hundred more pages, in order to establish the existence of a being who has MANY of the divine attributes (or attributes that Aquinas believed to be important attributes of God). Kreeft misunderstands the purpose of the Five Ways. These arguments are NOT arguments for the existence of God, they are simply the opening moves of a lengthy and complex case for the existence of God, a case that includes dozens of arguments and that stretches over one hundred pages in Summa Theologica.
In fact MOST of Aquinas’s case for the existence of God is concerned with establishing that there is ONE being who possesses MANY different divine attributes beyond the attributes explicitly discussed in the Five Ways arguments. One can compare, for example, Peter Kreeft’s version of the Argument from Change with Edward Feser’s presentation of that argument (which includes the rest of the logic from Aquinas found in the one hundred or so pages following the Five Ways passage) to see how badly Kreeft has distorted and misunderstood the reasoning of Aquinas.
In Part 10 I analyze Kreeft’s version of the Argument from Change. There are eight explicit claims, and five unstated premises. The conclusion of this argument in my interpretation is as follows:
8a. There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.
In Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change, something close to this conclusion is reached by premise 14:
14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer. (Five Proofs of the Existence of God, location 494)
Feser is using more technical concepts than Kreeft, but a “purely actual actualizer” is basically the same thing as an “unchanging Source of change” in Kreeft’s simpler terminology. Although Kreeft’s argument ends with statement (8a), Feser’s Argument from Change has only just gotten started; it goes on until he arrives at statement number 50:
50. So, God exists. (Five Proofs of the Existence of God, location 494)
In other words, less than 30% of Feser’s Argument from Change is concerned with showing the existence of an unchanging source of change, and more than 70% of Feser’s Argument from Change is concerned with establishing that such a being possesses several other divine attributes. But 100% of Kreeft’s Argument from Change is concerned with showing the existence of an unchanging source of change, and 0% of Kreeft’s Argument from Change is concerned with showing that such a being possesses several other divine attributes.
Feser’s version of this argument contains reasoning that is found in the one hundred or so pages of arguments that Aquinas presents AFTER the Five Ways passage. Feser’s version of this argument is ACTUALLY an argument for the existence of God. Kreeft’s version is NOT an argument for the existence of God, it is an argument for the existence of an unchanging source of change. That is why there are only eight explicitly stated claims in Kreeft’s argument, but there are FIFTY explicitly stated claims in Feser’s version of this argument. Kreeft simply leaves out most of Aquinas’s reasoning. Kreeft ends the argument when Aquinas is just getting started. Kreeft misunderstands and distorts the reasoning of Aquinas, mistakenly thinking that the Five Ways are five arguments for the existence of God, when they are merely the opening moves in a very long and complicated proof of the existence of God.
Robert Pasnau and Christopher Shields are two philosophers who co-authored a book called The Philosophy of Aquinas (hereafter: POA). In Chapter 4 of POA, they provide a summary of the Argument from Change. That summary strictly covers the reasoning from the Five Ways passage, and it includes just nine statements. But the ninth statement does NOT assert that “God exists”:
9. Therefore, there exists an unmoved mover. (POA, p.86)
This is basically the same as the conclusion of Kreeft’s Argument from Change, and basically the same as statement (14) in Feser’s version of the Argument from Change. However, later in the same chapter, Pasnau and Shields present “Phase Two” of the argument (POA, p.97-99), which begins with the previously arrived at conclusion that there exists “an unmoved mover”. They proceed to outline the reasoning of Aquinas in a series of FIFTY-ONE claims that attempt to show that the unmoved mover has several divine attributes.
So, in this summary of the reasoning of Aquinas, nine out of fifty-eight premises are concerned with showing the existence of an unmoved mover, while forty-nine premises are concerned with showing that an unmoved mover has several divine attributes. In other words, only about 16% of this summary of Aquinas’s reasoning is concerned with showing that an unmoved mover exists, while about 84% of this reasoning is concerned with showing that an unmoved mover has several divine attributes.
The analysis of Aquinas’s reasoning about God by Pasnau and Shields confirms Feser’s analysis and understanding of Aquinas’s reasoning about God. Namely, the little bit of reasoning in the Five Ways passage about the existence of an unmoved mover is merely the opening moves of a long and complicated proof of the existence of God that spans over one hundred pages in Summa Theologica.
Kreeft mistakenly believes that the very short Argument from Change found in the Five Ways passage represents an argument for the existence of God. This is a gross misunderstanding of Aquinas. Aquinas knew that he had a great deal more work to do in order to prove the existence of God. Kreeft’s misunderstanding of Aquinas, his gross distortion and oversimplification of the reasoning of Aquinas, leads Kreeft to wrongly believe that he can present “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God” in just thirty-seven pages, devoting less than two pages (on average) to each argument.
If Kreeft had presented just ONE actual argument for the existence of God, such as Aquinas’s Argument from Change (including the reasoning supporting several divine attributes), he would have found that even a very compressed summary of such an argument, without any explanation or justification, would require several pages, and that explaining and defending ONE actual argument for the existence of God would require most, if not all, of the thirty-six pages he used to present his twenty pathetic arguments.