bookmark_borderINDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

Here is my multi-part critical examination of Dr. Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God in his book When Skeptics Ask (coauthored with Ronald Brooks):
Geisler’s First Argument
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-first-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-five-ways/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/18/geislers-five-ways-part-2-how-many-arguments-for-god-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/23/geislers-five-ways-part-3-just-one-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 4: Phase Two of Geisler’s Case for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/28/geislers-five-ways-part-4-phase-two-of-geislers-case-for-god/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 5: The Gap Between Phase 1 and Phase 2
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/03/geislers-five-ways-part-5-the-gap-between-phase-1-and-phase-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 6: Arguments for the Intelligence of the Creator
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/05/geislers-five-ways-part-6-arguments-for-the-intelligence-of-the-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 7: Argument #2 of Phase 2
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/13/geislers-five-ways-part-7-argument-2-of-phase-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 8: The Design of the Human Brain
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/19/geislers-five-ways-part-8-the-design-of-the-human-brain/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 9: The Supreme Moral Lawgiver
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/24/geislers-five-ways-part-9-the-supreme-moral-lawgiver/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 10: The Goodness of the Creator
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/10/geislers-five-ways-goodness-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 11: The Structure of Geisler’s Case
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/16/geislers-five-ways-part-11-structure-geislers-case/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/01/01/geislers-five-ways-part-12-creator-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/01/04/geislers-five-ways-part-13-existence-attributes-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/03/geislers-five-ways-part-14-finishing-off-phase-4/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/17/geislers-five-ways-part-15-omnipotent-omniscient-perfectly-good/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 16: Just One Unlimited Being?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/20/geislers-five-ways-part-16-just-one-unlimited-being/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/24/geislers-five-ways-part-17-god-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 18: The God of the Bible Exists?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/27/geislers-five-ways-part-18-god-bible-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/09/07/geislers-five-ways-part-19-whole-enchilada/

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?

Because Dr. Norman Geisler is unclear and confused in his use of the word “God”, he fails to properly conclude his case for the existence of God in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).
But this failure is easily fixed.  I will reconstruct the final inference of his case for God in this post.  First, here is a comment that indicates part of what Geisler thinks he has proven:
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)
Geisler also thinks that his initial arguments, from Phase 1 of his case, have shown that the following claims are true:

  • There was exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago).
  • There is exactly one being that is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).
  • There was exactly one being that was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago).
  • There is a supreme moral lawgiver.

Geisler also believes that these four beings are one and the same being, although he does not provide any reason or argument for this crucial assumption:

  • There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago) and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver.

We can infer a concept of God from these various claims, and construct a concluding argument that summarizes Geisler’s case for the existence of God in just two premises:
GEISLER’S OVERALL ARGUMENT

1. There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver, and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being, and this being is also infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.

2. IF there is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver, and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being, and this being is also infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

3. God exists.

This summary argument is not as obviously bad as most of the subsidiary arguments that make up Geisler’s case for God in WSA.
Obviously, premise (1) would BEG THE QUESTION, if it were simply asserted and assumed to be true.  But Geisler’s case, which I have been carefully analyzing and evaluating in the previous sixteen posts, provides his reasons in support of (1), so he is not guilty of that fallacy.
Because his case has been filled with false premises, questionable premises, and invalid inferences, he has failed to provide any solid arguments in support of any of the elements that make up premise (1).  So, this final argument clearly rests on a highly dubious premise, namely premise (1).
In my view, however, this final argument is not just based on a dubious premise; rather, premise (1) is FALSE.  In my view, this premise is necessarily false.  This is because Geisler’s concept of “God” is incoherent; it contains some logical contradictions.
Geisler’s concept of God includes the attribute of being “infinite” and the attribute of being “unchanging”, and the attribute of being “eternal”.  The attribute of being “infinite” is unclear, thus making it impossible to determine whether or not any being meets this requirement.  The attributes of being “unchanging” and “eternal” make Geisler’s concept of God incoherent, thus premise (1) is false as a matter of logical necessity.
It is logically incoherent for a person to be “unchanging”, especially for a person who has great power and who sometimes exercises some of that power to accomplish some task (such as causing the universe to begin to exist).  A person cannot perform an action and exercise power to accomplish some task without undergoing some change.  But Geisler’s “God” is conceived of as a person who performs actions and exercises power to accomplish tasks while remaining unchanged.  This is an incoherent concept of God.  No such God exists, because it is logically impossible for such a being to exist.
It is logically incoherent for a person to be “eternal” in Geisler’s sense of the word “eternal”, especially for a person who has great power and who sometimes exercises some of that power to accomplish some task (such as causing the universe to begin to exist).  By “eternal” Geisler means a being that is outside of time (see WSA, p. 27), a being for whom there is no such thing as “before” or “after”.  A person cannot perform an actiona and exercise power to accomplish some task without the passage of time, without there being a “before” or “after” for that person.  But Geisler’s “God” is conceived of as a person who performs actions and exercises power to accomplish tasks while remaining outside of time.  This is an incoherent concept of God.  No such God exists, because it is logically impossible for such a being to exist.
One can coherently conceive of God as being “eternal” if we understand this in the ordinary sense of the word: having always existed, and continuing to always exist in the future.
Geisler also includes some unnecessary attributes that are redundant: “uncreated” (not needed if we conceive of God as having always existed and as continuing to always exist forever into the future).  The attribute “omnipresent” is also redundant, because any being who is both omnipotent and omniscient must also be omnipresent (i.e. such a being is aware of every object and event in every location and is able to influence or affect every object or event in every location).
We can simplify Geisler’s overall summary argument, and remove the most obvious logical self-contradictions by reducing the attributes and roles that make up the concept or definition of “God”:
GEISLER’S OVERALL ARGUMENT – Rev.A

1A. There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, and this being has always existed, and will always continue to exist.

2A. IF there is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, and this being has always existed, and will always continue to exist, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

3. God exists.

This is a much improved version of Geisler’s overall argument.  His actual overall argument was weighed down (and sunk) by  overkill.  Premise (2A) appears to be true to me.  The logic is fine (a standard modus ponens inference). So, the evaluation of this argument rests on our evaluation of the first premise.
Even though we have significantly pared down the elements of premise (1), this claim remains extremely dubious, because there is not one single element of this claim for which Geisler has actually provided a solid argument.  Every one of the seven elements of premise (1) is dubious and unproven.  Thus, we ought to reject this argument, and therefore reject Geisler’s unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 11: The Structure of Geisler’s Case

I’m going to take a step back in this post and look at the overall structure of Geisler’s case for the existence of God, a presented in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).
PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
On pages 15 through 26, Geisler presents five arguments for five conclusions.  I call this Phase  1 of this case.  Here are the five conclusions of the five initial arguments:

  • Something other than the universe caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • Something is a first uncaused cause of the present existence of the universe.
  • There is a Great Designer of the universe.
  • There is a supreme moral Lawgiver.
  • If God exists, then God exists and God is a necessary being.

Note that the word “God” is being misused by Geisler in the statement of the fifth conclusion.  The purpose of his case is to prove that “God exists”, so a premise that begins, “If God exists, then…” is of no use in his case.
As with many of the arguments that I have examined in Geisler’s case, he is using the word “God” in an idiosyncratic sense, which he does not bother to clarify or define.  So, we have to examine the context of each such claim in his case to figure out what the hell he means each time he misuses the word “God”.  (This is part of why I say that this case is a steaming pile of dog shit; Geisler does not bother to clarify or define the meaning of the most important word in his argument.)
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
On pages 26 and 27,  Geisler presents Phase 2 of his case.  He argues for three claims related to personal attributes of “God”:

  • God is very powerful.
  • God is very intelligent.
  • God is [morally] good.

Once again, Geisler misuses the word “God” here.  But he gives us a good clue as to what he means by “God” in his Phase 2 arguments:
The argument from design shows us that whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence.  (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
Geisler had argued in the previous paragraph that based on his two cosmological arguments “God” had great power.  Then Geisler uses his argument from design to try to show that “God” had great intelligence.  The above quoted statement implies that the word “God” is being used in the narrow sense of “whatever caused the universe”.  Roughly speaking, the conclusions that Geisler argues for in Phase 2 are more clearly stated as follows:

  • Whatever caused the universe is very powerful.
  • Whatever caused the universe is very intelligent.
  • Whatever caused the universe is [morally] good.

So, Geisler is arguing that there exists a cause of the universe, and that this cause has various personal attributes that are part of the ordinary meaning of the word “God”.
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
Yet again, Geisler abuses the word “God” in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is how Geisler states the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

Clearly, he is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  Presumably, he actually means something like this:

  • Whatever caused the universe is a necessary being.

Since I have not yet closely examined the argument in Phase 3, I’m not sure that this is the best interpretation of this key conclusion, so an important part of analyzing and evaluating the argument in Phase 3 will be to figure out what the hell Geisler means by the word “God” when he asserts that “God is a necessary being.”
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
On pages 27-28, Geisler presents Phase 4 of his case.  There are two different sets of alleged implications that Geisler argues follow from the existence of a necessary being.  First there are implications related to God’s “metaphysical” attributes (as contrasted with God’s personal attributes above):

  • A necessary being is unchanging.
  • A necessary being is infinite.
  • A necessary being is eternal.
  • A necessary being is omnipresent.

Second, there are alleged conditional implications of the concept of a necessary being:

  • If a necessary being is powerful, then it is all-powerful.
  • If a necessary being is intelligent, then it is all-knowing.
  • If a necessary being is [morally] good, then it is perfectly [morally] good.

Geisler then uses the conclusions from Phase 2 and Phase 3 in order to argue for this conclusion:

  • Whatever caused the universe is an unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent necessary being, that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and pefectly morally good.

PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
In a short paragraph on page 28, Geisler argues that there cannot be multiple beings of the sort that he thinks he has shown to exist:

  • There can be only one infinite Being.

PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
Although Geisler never provides a definition of the word “God”, it is fairly clear that he assumes a meaning of the word “God” that is something like this:
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:

  • X caused the universe to begin to exist, and
  • X causes the universe to continue to exist, and
  • X is the great designer of the universe, and
  • X is the supreme moral lawgiver, and
  • X is a necessary being, and
  • X is the only unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent being, and
  • X is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good being.

So, the ultimate conclusion of Geisler’s case is this:

  • God exists.

Here, finally, the word “God” is being used in something like it’s ordinary sense.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 6: Arguments for the Intelligence of the Creator

Here is my version of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 2 of his case for God:
ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 2
10a. Only a being with great power could create the whole universe by itself, and only a being with great power could sustain the existence of the whole universe by itself  (for even just one moment).
11a. There is a being that both (a) created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that (b) sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
THEREFORE:
12a. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that being both (a) had great power (in the distant past) and (b) has great power (right now).

Premise
 (11a) presupposes the following two claims:
13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
Geisler believes that Argument #1 of Phase 1 proves (13) and that Argument #2 of Phase 1 proves (14), but in the previous post we saw that the inferences from the conclusions of the Phase 1 arguments to (13) and to (14) were logically invalid.  
I also noted that Geisler needed to prove that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (in the distant past) must be the same being as a being that causes the universe to continue to exist (right now), but that Geisler provides no reason or argument supporting this critical assumption.  Thus, Geisler FAILED to provide a good reason or argument for all three assumptions supporting premise (11a).  Since premise (11a) is a controversial and questionable premise, and since we have been given no good reason to believe (11a), Geisler has FAILED to show that (12a) is true.
The conclusion of the second and third arguments in Phase 2 is implied in this sentence:
The argument from design shows us that whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence.  (WSA, p.26)
This sentence may appear to imply that the argument from design shows that whatever caused the universe had great power, but that is not what Geisler means.  He has just finished arguing that his cosmological arguments show that whatever caused the universe had great power, and now he is moving on to use the argument from design to show the additional claim that whatever caused the universe had great intelligence
Here is the second argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God:
ARGUMENT #2 of PHASE 2
21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
25. Whatever being “caused the universe” to begin to exist “had great intelligence” (when the universe was being designed).  (WSA, p.26)
Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):
 Argument 2 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Geisler also provides another closely-related argument for the great intelligence of “God”:
ARGUMENT #3 of PHASE 2 (Geisler’s wording)
26. God “designed our brains.” (WSA, p.26)
27. IF God designed our brains, THEN “God…knows everything there is to know about the way we think…” (WSA, p.26)
THUS:
28. God knows everything there is to know about the way we think.
29. IF God knows everything there is to know about the way we think, THEN God had great intelligence.
THEREFORE:
30.  God had great intelligence.
If Geisler was using the word “God” in its ordinary sense, then premise (26) would clearly beg the question at issue, which is whether God exists.  So, Geisler is again using the word “God” in a non-standard way, and since he has failed to explain or define what he the hell he means by the word “God” in this argument, it is confusing and misleading to use the word “God” here.
Given that Geisler is attempting to make use of his argument from design, the most likely interpretation of the word “God” in this context is “the designer of the universe”. Furthermore, we need to clarify the time frames in these premises and conclusions, and it is clear that the time Geisler has in mind is the time when our brains were being designed.  
Here is my clarified version of this argument:
ARGUMENT #3 of PHASE 2 – Rev. A
26a. The designer of the universe designed our brains.
27a. IF the designer of the universe designed our brains, THEN the designer of the universe knew (when our brains were being designed) everything there is to know about the way we think.
THUS:
28a. The designer of the universe knew (when our brains were being designed) everything there is to know about the way we think.
29a. IF the designer of the universe knew (when our brains were being designed) everything there is to know about the way we think, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when our brains were being designed).
THUS:
30a. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when our brains were being designed).
31. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
32. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist had great intelligence (when our brains were being designed).

Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):

Argument 3 of Phase 2


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the next post I will begin to evaluate these two arguments from Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 5: The Gap Between Phase 1 and Phase 2

Here is my version of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 2 of his case for God:
 

ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 2
 

10a. Only a being with great power could create the whole universe by itself, and only a being with great power could sustain the existence of the whole universe by itself  (for even just one moment).
 
11a. There is a being that both (a) created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that (b) sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
THEREFORE:
 
12a. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that being both (a) had great power (in the distant past) and (b) has great power (right now).

Premise (10a) has some initial plausibility, so I can understand why Geisler does not provide an argument in support of that premise.  
Premise (11a), however, is clearly a controversial and questionable claim, so he needs to provide reasosns or arguments to support (11a).  But NONE of Geisler’s five initial arguments proves that (11a) is true.  However, premise (11a) presupposes the following two claims:
 

13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
 
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
Geisler would presumably claim that his first argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (13) and that his second argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (14).  But if we take a closer look at those two arguments, it will become clear that they do not show that (13) is true, nor that (14) is true.
 

Let’s take a look at the first argument that Geisler presents in Phase 1 of his case (WSA, p.16) :
 

ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 1
 

16. The universe had a beginning (in the distant past).

17. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by something else.
 

THEREFORE:

1. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the distant past) by something else.
 

Premise (17) is ambiguous in terms of the quantification implied by the phrase “caused by something else”. Here are two different interpretations of premise (17):

17a.  Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by exactly one other thing or being.
 

17b. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by at least one other thing or being.
 

I am something that had a beginning, and my beginning was caused by TWO other beings: my mother and my father.  So, it appears that (17a) is a FALSE generalization.  If Geisler had intended premise (17) to refer to “exactly one” being, as spelled out in (17a), then the second premise of his first argument is FALSE, and that argument is thus UNSOUND.

However, we can be charitable and assume that what Geisler had in mind was (17b), which is not subject to the counterexample that I just gave.  If we interpret premise (17) to mean what is stated in (17b), then we need to also revise the conclusion, so that it follows logically from the combination of (16) and (17b):
 

ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 1 – Revised
 

16. The universe had a beginning (in the distant past).
 
17b. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by at least one other thing or being.
 
THEREFORE:
 
1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the distant past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe. 
 

This conclusion, however, falls short of showing the truth of the assumption that Geisler needed to prove:
 

13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
 

The conclusion (1a) does not imply claim (13),  because (1a) does NOT say that the universe was caused to begin to exist by exactly one thing or being, so (1b) leaves open the possibility that many beings caused the universe to begin to exist.  If many beings caused the universe to begin to exist, then it would be false to say that some particular being created the whole universe by itself.  Thus,  Geisler’s first argument in Phase 1 FAILS to provide needed support for premise (13), so it also FAILS to provide needed support for premise (11a) in the first argument of Phase 2.
 

Furthermore, (1b) talks about the cause of the universe; it does not talk about what created the universe.  If a being “created” the universe by itself, then that being also caused the universe to come into existence, but the reverse is not necessarily the case.  If a thing or  being “caused” the universe to come into existence, that thing or being might not be the creator of the universe.
 

We can, for example, imagine one being causing the basic matter of the universe to come into existence, and another being orgainzing that matter into stars and planets, and solar systems and galaxies.  The being who caused the matter of the univese to come into existence would not be the creator of our universe, in that the major astronomical components of our universe were not brought into existence by that being.  The being who took the raw materials provided by the frst being and organized that matter into stars, planets, solar systems, and galaxies, might, however, be justifiably called the “creator” of our universe.  

Or, possibly, neither of these beings would be accurately described by the term “the creator of the universe”, because they might both be considered “partially responsible” for the origin of our universe, in which case it seems misleading to call either being “the creator”.  In any case, the cause of the beginning of the universe need not be “the creator” of the universe, so we cannot legitimately infer (13) from (1b).

The first argument from Geisler’s Phase 1 fails to support premise (11b) in the first argument of Phase 2 of his case for God. There is clearly a logical gap between the conclusion of the first argument of Phase 1 and the premise (11b) of the first argument of Phase 2. The former argument FAILS to establish the truth of claim (13), and thus FAILS to provide support for premise (11b). What about claim (14)?  Does the second argument in Phase 1 of Geisler’s case show that claim (14) is true?  Let’s take a closer look at the second argument in Phase 1 of Geisler’s case (WSA, p.18-19):


ARGUMENT #2 OF PHASE 1

18. Finite, changing things exist.
19. Every finite, changing thing must be caused by something else.
20. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes.
THEREFORE:
2. There is a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists.
 
Here is my (partially) clarified version of this argument:
ARGUMENT #2 OF PHASE 1 – Rev. A
18a. Finite, changing things exist (right now).
19a. The current existence of every finite, changing thing that exists (right now) must be caused by something else that exists (right now).
20a. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes (of current existence).
THEREFORE:
2a. There is a first uncaused cause that exists (right now) of the current existence of every finite, changing thing that exists (right now).
I have previously stated that the conclusion of this second argument in Phase 1 of Geisler’s case is ambiguous and has two different meanings.  But in fact, it has at least four different meanings, because there are two different ambiguities in the conclusion (2a).  
Here are the four different interpretations of the conclusion (2a):
2b. There is exactly one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now).
2c. There is exactly one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of all finite, changing things that exist (right now).
2d. There is at least one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now).
2e. There is at least one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of all finite, changing things that exist (right now).
The interpretations that speak of “exactly one” uncaused cause, should be rejected, because the argument cannot plausibly support such strong conclusions.  For premise (19a) to be plausible, it must leave open the possibility that two or more things could work together to cause the current existence of a finite, changing thing.  If one were to interpret (19a) as implying that there can only be exactly one being that is the uncaused cause of a particular finite, changing being that exists (right now), then (19a) should be rejected as an implausible claim, and thus this second argument should be rejected as well.  
The Argument #2 of Phase 1 only has a hope of being acceptable if we interpret (19a) as leaving open the possibility that two or more things or beings could work together to cause the current existence of a finite, changing thing.  Therefore, since the conclusions (2b) and (2c) do NOT logically follow from this argument, given that interpretation of (19a), we should reject interpretations (2b) and (2c).  
That leaves us with interpretations (2d) and (2e).   Interpretation (2e) should be rejected for the same sort of reason that we rejected interpretations (2b) and (2c), namely, that this would require an understanding of the meaning of (19a) that would make that premise implausible:
19b. The current existence of all finite, changing things that exist (right now) must be caused by at least one other thing or being that exists (right now).
This premise asserts that ALL of the trillions of trillions of bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now) are being caused to continue to exist by at least one thing or being.  But it is clearly conceivable and logically possible that SOME  of the trillions of bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now) are being caused to continue to exist by one thing, let’s call it “Thing 1” and that OTHER bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now) are being caused to continue to exist by some different thing, let’s call it “Thing 2”.  Geisler has given us no reason whatsoever to reject this scenario as logically impossible, and there is no obvious reason to think it is logically impossible, so we should reject (19b) as a dubious and probably false claim, and thus reject Argument #2 of Phase 1, if premise (19) is interpreted as meaning what is stated in (19b).  Thus, Argument #2 of Phase 1 cannot be used to provide solid support for conclusion (2e).  
That leaves us with just one possible interpretation of the conclusion: (2d).  Here is my best and final clarification of this argument:
ARGUMENT #2 OF PHASE 1 – Rev. B
18a. Finite, changing things exist (right now).
19c. The current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now) must be caused by at least one other thing or being that exists (right now).
20a. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes (of current existence).
THEREFORE:
2d. There is at least one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now).  
One could still object to (19c) as being in need of a supporting reason or argument, but it is at least a bit more plausible than the other interpretations of premise (19) that we have considered.  Given this interpretation of premise (19), the conclusion that is logically entailed by Argument #2 of Phase 1 leaves open the possibility that there are MANY (perhaps even trillions) of first uncaused causes of the current existence of the trillions of trillions of bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now).  Becuase conclusion (2d) FAILS to rule out this possibility, it also FAILS to provide proof of claim (14):
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).  
In conclusion, ARGUMENT #1 of Phase 1 FAILS to prove (13), and ARGUMENT #2 of Phase 1 FAILS to prove (14), so neither of these arguments help to prove premise (11a) of ARGUMENT #1 of Phase 2.  Therefore, there is a serious logical GAP between Geisler’s arguments in Phase 1, and a key controversial premise of a key argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.  
Geisler believes that the first two arguments of Phase 1 support this key premise of the first argument of Phase 2, but he is wrong. Once we clarify the meanings of the premises and conclusions of these various arguments, it becomes obvious that Geisler’s case for the existence of God is logically invalid.  (2d) does NOT imply (14), and (1a) does NOT imply (13).  Geisler’s case for God thus rests on a questionable premise for which he has FAILED to provide a good reason or sound argument, namely premise (11a) in ARGUMENT #1 of Phase 2.
Part of Geislers Case for God
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NOTE:
Premise (15) is a placeholder for one or more claims that when taken together show that a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past) and a being that sustains the current existence of the whole universe by itself (right now) must be the same being.  Geisler does not give us any reason to believe these beings are the same being.  
Later on, he does argue that there can be only ONE being of infinite power and infinite knowledge, but that argument presupposes the truth of (11a) and (12a) and thus is of no help in proving the truth of (11a) at this earlier stage of his case.
 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 4: Phase Two of Geisler’s Case for God

It is tempting to jump right into a critique of Geisler’s five initial arguments.  However, my first priority is to sketch out the logic of Geisler’s case for the existence of God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), and, as I have previously argued (in Part 1Part 2, and Part 3), the five arguments are merely the first phase of Geisler’s case. So, let’s dive into the next phase of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.

 Recall that Geisler stated that all five arguments must be sound for his case to work:
 
If we want to show that God exists, and that He is the God of the Bible, then we need to show that all of the things in the arguments mentioned are true.  (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
On pages 26 through 29, Geisler attempts to make use of his five initial arguments and their conclusions:
 
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence?  That is what we will do in the following pages. (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
Here is a key premise in the first argument Geisler gives in Phase 2 of his case for God:
 
Only a God with incredible power could create and sustain the whole universe. (WSA, p.26)
 
The conclusion of this argument is indicated in the paragraph after the one with the above premise:
 
…whatever caused the universe…had great power… (WSA, p.26)
 
Geisler does not state the full argument, but I’m a helpful guy who is willing to clarify the arguments of a professional philosopher of religion so that people can have a clear understanding of those arguments.
 
Here is the first argument of Phase 2, sticking closely to Geisler’s wording:
 
10. Only a God with great power could create and sustain the whole universe.
 
11. There is a being that created and that sustains the whole universe.
 
THEREFORE:
 
12. There is a being that created the whole universe, and that being is a God with great power.
 
This argument has some significant problems in terms of unclarity and ambiguity, so I’m going to help Geisler a bit more, so that his argument is clear and unambiguous.
 
[By the way,  this kind of unclarity and ambiguity in the thinking and arguments of Christian apologists is one of the reasons I left the Christian faith and became an atheist and a secular humanist back in the 1980s.  Christian apologists are often intellectually lazy and sloppy, and not very good at critical thinking.  After years of being embarrassed by unclear shit like we find in Geisler’s case for God, I switched over to the team with sharper thinkers.]
 
I realize that Geisler is presenting his case in a popular book aimed at a general audience, not in an article in a professional journal of philosophy.  So, we should cut him some slack in terms of his non-scholarly presentation of arguments.  However, the clarifications that I’m going to make here are NOT based on technical philosophical distinctions, but are a matter of common sense and ordinary points of clarification.  So, writing for a general audience does not excuse Geisler’s lack of clarity in this instance.
 
Here is my version of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 2 of his case for God:
 
10a. Only a being with great power could create the whole universe by itself, and only a being with great power could sustain the existence of the whole universe by itself  (for even just one moment).
 
11a. There is a being that both (a) created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that (b) sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
THEREFORE:
 
12a. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that being both (a) had great power (in the distant past) and (b) has great power (right now).
 
I replaced Geisler’s phrase “a God” with the phrase “a being” because (a) the phrase “a God” is ungrammatical; “God” is a proper noun, the name of a person, so it is ungrammatical to speak of “a God” just as it is ungrammatical to speak of “a Jehovah” or “a Norman Geisler” (unless there are multiple people that have the same name), (b) Geisler has failed to clarify or define the word “God” and he clearly means something other than “the God of the Bible” here, otherwise he blatantly begs the question.  So, it is simply unclear and confusing for Geisler to use the word “God” in premise (10).  The point is obviously to show that the creator of the universe has “great power” and Geisler can make this point without using the unclear and undefined term “God” in his premises.
 
Probably the most important clarification that I have made is by adding the phrase “by itself” to Geisler’s premises and conclusion.  This is NOT a sophisticated philosophical distinction.  Two high-school dropouts drinking beer at a local rural tavern in Oklahoma can understand the concept of “by himself” (or “by herself”, or “by itself”):
 
JETHRO:  “Jim Bob is a real strong dude.  I once saw him lift the front end of a one-ton pickup truck two-feet off the ground!”
 
CLYDE: “Really?  Did he lift it by himself?”
 
JETHRO: “Yeah, all by himself.”
 
When you lift something heavy all by yourself, that requires more strength than lifting the same object when some other people are helping you to lift it.  This is a simple and obvious fact of life.
 
This simple point of clarification is required in order for Geisler to be able to justify his conclusion about a being having “great power”.  If the being in question was merely one of billions or trillions of other beings who worked to bring the universe into existence, then we obviously cannot conclude that each such a being had “great power”, because, although the task of creating the universe would be a huge task for just one being, and would probably require a great deal of power in that one being, if there were billions of beings all working together on the project of creating the universe, then each individual being would only require a modest amount of power to perform its particular task or function.
 
I also added some clarifications in relation to time: “in the distant past” and “right now”.  This is also NOT a technical philosophical distinction.  Even an IDIOT (like Donald Trump) can understand the difference between an event that took place billions of years ago, and an event that is happening right now.  So, Geisler has no excuse for failing to note the different time frames for the creation of the unviverse (which is the focus of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 1) as compared with sustaining the existence of the universe in the present moment (which is the focus of Geisler’s second argument in Phase 1).
 
Now that I have clarified the first argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for God, we can see that there are some significant problems with Geisler’s case for God.  Geisler needs to prove the truth of premise (11a), but NONE of his five initial arguments prove premise (11a).
 
In order to show that (11a) is true, Geisler needs to show that the following three claims are true:
 
 13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
 
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
15. If there is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past) and there is a being that sustains the whole universe by itself (right now), then the first being and the second being are the same being.
 
Geisler would presumably claim that his first argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (13) and that his second argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (14), but he has not given us any reason at all to believe that (15) is the case. 
 
Furthermore, in the next installment of this series, I will argue that Geisler’s initial five arguments cannot be used to prove any of these three claims. 
 
To be continued…
 
=============================
NOTE:  On Saturday morning (10/29/16)  I revised this post, because I realized that my clarification of premise (11), which is given in (11a), was overly complicated, and that I was trying to do too much in my clarification of premise (11).  So, I simplified (11a), and then, accordingly, also revised my brief critical comments about that premise.
=============================

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument

Although, as I have previously argued, Geisler characterizes his case for God as consisting of multiple arguments for the existence of God,  this is a mischaracterization of his case for God.
 
Geisler’s case for God rests upon five claims, and he gives an argument for each  of those five claims, but each of those five claims plays a critical role in Geisler’s case.  If one of the five claims is false, then Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS.  Thus, Geisler’s case for God consists of just ONE argument, and the five claims function as premises in that ONE argument.
 
There are two main options for representing the logical relationship between the five claims (for which Geisler presents his five arguments) and the ultimate conclusion that “God exists”.  Based on Geisler’s characterization of his own case for God, one might well be tempted to think that his case consists of five arguments or five independent reasons for believing that God exists:

Five Arguments for God
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The last step of the argument is from premise (6) to the ultimate conlcusion (7):
 
(6) There currently exists a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and this being is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.26 and p.28)
 
THEREFORE:
 
(7) God exists.
 
It is very tempting for Christian believers and Christian apologists to view a case for God this way, because on this view the believer has five chances to win.
 
On this view, if just ONE of the five arguments is a sound argument, then the case for God works.  On this view, even if each one of the five arguments is somewhat questionable (containing a premise of uncertain truth or an inference of uncertain validity), so long as each argument has some significant probability of being a sound argument, then there would be a good chance that at least ONE argument is sound, and thus there would be a good chance that the overall case for God works, and that God actually exists.
 
Unfortunately for Geisler and his Christian readers, this is NOT how the logic of Geisler’s case actually functions.  In reality, his case for God consists of just ONE argument that requires each of his five arguments to be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  It is actually the skeptic who has five chances to win, because if just ONE of the five arguments is an unsound argument, then Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS.
 
Here is a diagram showing the actual logical structure (at a high level) of Geisler’s case for God:

One Argument for God
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The logic of Geisler’s ONE argument for the existence of God is a bit more complicated than what appears in the above diagram.  So, I am going to start laying out the details of the logic of his argument, so that we can evaluate an argument that is a clear and accurate representation of Geisler’s reasoning about the existence of God.

The first order of business is to specify and clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five arguments.  Here are the conclusions in Geisler’s own words:

  1. Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God. (WSA, p.16)
  2. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.19)
  3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p. 20)
  4. Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver.  (WSA, p.22)
  5. Therefore, if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist. (WSA, p.25)

These conclusions need to be cleaned up and clarified, so that we have an accurate understanding of what they mean:

1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe (or some part or aspect of the universe) that existed prior to when the universe began to exist.
2a. There currently exists at least one uncaused cause for each finite, changing thing that currently exists.
3a. There existed (in the past) at least one Great Designer who designed some aspect of the universe
4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver of laws of morality.

Claim (5) is a bit tricky, because it appears to be ambiguous.  The ambiguous term in (5) is the word “God”, and I believe that Geisler commits the fallacy of equivocation in how he makes use of (5).  Here are the two different ways of interpreting (5):
5a. If there is or ever was a being that was God (i.e. “the most perfect Being possible”), then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
5b. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
If we interpret (5) as meaning the same as (5a), then this claim is irrelevant to Geisler’s case for God, because the antecedent of the conditional implies that “God exists now or God existed in the past” and none of Geisler’s other arguments show this to be the case.  So, (5a) cannot be used to infer any other claims, and it is thus useless in his case for the existence of God.
On the other hand, if we interpret (5) as meaning the same as (5b), then Geisler can use the conclusion (1a) from his first argument and combine it with (5b) to infer that the cause (or causes) of the beginning of the universe “must always exist and cannot not exist”, which might be helpful to his case for the existence of God.
The problem with (5b) is that it appears to be FALSE. We can conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist but then, perhaps due to the exertion required for that great feat, ceased to exist. If this is a logical possibility, then (5b) is FALSE.  
In any case, Geisler has given us no good reason to believe that (5b) is true.  The argument for (5) goes like this (WSA, p.25):

If God exists, we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.

By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.
 
THEREFORE:
 
If God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.
As it stands, this argument is of no use to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because he must FIRST prove that “God exists” in order to make use of the conclusion of this argument.  But if Geisler can prove that “God exists” with some other argument, then there is no need for this argument.  So, this argument is only of use to Geisler if the word “God” here is interpreted in the weak sense of something that caused the universe to begin to exist.  
 
Geisler believes that his first argument shows that “the universe was caused by something else”.  We need to rephrase the above argument to make the intended meanings of the premises and conclusion clear:
 
8. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then we must conceive of that being as a necessary Being.
 
9.  By definition, a necessary Being must always exist and cannot not exist.
 
THEREFORE:
 
5b. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
 
The key premise (8) is FALSE.  We can conceive of something causing the universe to begin to exist which is NOT a necessary Being.  For example, we can conceive of a powerful angel causing the universe to begin to exist even though that angel was NOT a necessary Being.
 
So,  if the conclusion of the fifth argument is (5a), then the argument is irrelevant to Geisler’s case for God, but if the conclusion of the fifth argument is (5b), then it is relevant to his case for God, but the fifth argument would then be unsound, because it is based on a premise that is FALSE.  So, we have no good reason to believe that (5b) is true.
 
To be continued… 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?

In Chapter  2 of When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler appears to present five different arguments for the existence of God.  However, there are some significant problems with this characterization of Geisler’s case for God.
 
NONE of the five arguments end with the conclusion that “God exists”.  In fact, only his first argument even mentions the word “God”, and it is precisely the reference to “God” in the conclusion of his first argument that makes that argument logically invalid!  So, if we correct the logic of the first argument, and remove the reference to “God” in it’s conclusion, then there is no mention of “God” anywhere in any of Geisler’s five arguments.  There is no mention of “God” in the premises of any of the five arguments presented by Geisler, and there is no mention of “God” in the conclusions of his arguments, with the exception of the first argument.
 
How can Geisler present five arguments for the existence of God, and yet NONE of the arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”?  This is bizzarre.  This is absurd. This is ridiculous.  What the hell is going on here?
 
Geisler is a professional philosopher who has specialized in the philosophy of religion and in Christian apologetics, and he has been writing books defending basic Christian beliefs for decades.  I remember reading his book Christian Apologetics in the early 1980’s, and that book was originally published in 1976.  He earned his PhD in Philosophy in 1970.  Here is a blurb on Geisler from his website:
 
Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian. To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested, “Imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.”
 
Norm has authored or co-authored over 100 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years. He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary and to Southern Evangelical Seminary.
 
Geisler is well-educated, well-informed, has a PhD in philosophy, and has been writing and lecturing on philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics since at least the 1970’s.  So, how can it be that he thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, and yet ZERO of the arguments that he gives end with the conclusion that “God exists”?
 
One might doubt the claim that Geisler thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, but there is good reason to believe this is in fact, how he views his own case for God:
  1. The first section of of Chapter 2 is labelled “Does God Exist?” (WSA, p.15). The five arguments are presented in this section, indicating that these arguments settle the question about the existence of God, in Geisler’s view.
  2. The first sub-section in that first section is labelled “Arguments for the Existence of God” (WSA, p.15)  Note that Geisler uses the plural “Arguments” not the singular term “Argument”.  The five arguments are presented in this sub-section, indicating that each one of the five arguments is believed to be an argument “for the existence of God”.
  3. The opening sentence of this sub-section states that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).  Geisler then goes on to present his five arguments in terms of these four basic types of argument; he gives two “forms” of cosmological argument (or what he calls “the Argument from Creation”) and one argument for each of the remaining three types of argument.
  4. In describing the history of “the Argument from Creation” (his term for cosmological arguments), Geisler states that this argument is “the most widely noted argument for God’s existence” (WSA, p.16).  This is a clear indication that each one of the “Arguments from Creation”  presented by Geisler is thought to be an argument “for God’s existence”.
  5. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that Kant “rejected all of the traditional arguments for God’s existence.” (WSA, p.22).  Note the use of the plural “traditional arguments” and that these were arguments “for God’s existence”.  This parallels nicely with the idea that Geisler is presenting a number of “arguments” which are arguments “for God’s existence”.  This is an echo of Geisler’s intial statement that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).
  6. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that this argument has been refined “to show that there is a rational basis for God’s existence to be found in morality.” (WSA, p.22).   This is an indication that Geisler believes that “the Moral Argument” can be used as a stand-alone argument to show that God exists.
Finally, Geisler is a Thomist.  He was clearly influenced by the philosophy of religion of Thomas Aquinas, and Aquinas is generally believed to have presented five different arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler does not stick with the five arguments used by Aquinas, but he does use at least a couple of Aquinas’s Five Ways, and he also sticks with presenting five brief arguments, just like in Aquinas’s (alleged) case for God.
 
Thus, there are several good reasons to conclude that Geisler believed he was presenting five different arguments for the existence of God, and yet we have the very odd fact that NONE of these arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”.  How can this be?
 
One big clue comes when Geisler discusses the second argument, which is Geisler’s version of a cosmological argument by Aquinas:
 
This argument shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  How do we know that this is really the God of the Bible?  (WSA, p.19, emphasis added)
 
This is a fairly clear indication that Geisler is working with at least two different senses of the word “God”.  Geisler thinks that his second cosmological argument proves the existence of “God” (in one sense) but does NOT prove the existence of “the God of the Bible”.  He believes that the second cosmological argument proves the existence of some sort of “God” but not the existence of some other sort of “God”. 
 
But this is very confusing.  What kind of “God” does Geisler think his second argument proves?  and how is that kind of “God” different from the “God” of the Bible?  Furthermore, what sort of “God” does Geisler think his first argument proves to exist?  Does the first argument prove the existence of the “God” of the Bible or some other kind of “God”?  If it only proves the existence of some other kind of “God” is that other kind the same as the other kind of God proven by the second argument or is the other sort of “God” proven by the first argument different from both the “God” proven by the second argument and different from the “God” of the Bible as well? Is there a third sense of the word “God” that is in play in the claim that the first argument proves the existence of “God”?  Are we now dealing with three different senses of the word “God”?  
 
The same questions apply to each of the other arguments as well.  There is clearly an ambiguity in the way that Geisler uses the word “God”, but since he failed to provide any definition of the word “God”, we are at a loss to know what the hell he is talking about.
 
In spite of the great potential for confusion from using the word “God” in two or three different senses, Geisler never bothers to provide a definition of any sense of the word “God”. However, based on some additional reasoning and arguments that Geisler presents, it becomes fairly clear what he means when he speaks of the “God” of the Bible.  We will return to this point in a moment.
 
Geisler admits that there is a problem with considering his five arguments individually, as separate and independent arguments, and he suggests that we must somehow combine the five arguments together in order to arrive at the conclusion that “the God of the Bible” exists:
 
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence?  That is what we will do in the following pages.
 
If we want to show that God exists and that He is the God of the Bible, then we need to show that all of the things in the arguments we mentioned are true.  Each one contributes something to our knowledge of God and, taken together, they form a picture that can only fit the one true God. (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
Why bother to “combine all of the arguments”?  If Geisler has previously proven the existence of God four or five times, isn’t that enough?  In mathematics and in logic, you only need to give ONE proof and you are done.  Geisler gives five arguments, and then he continues on with some new hybrid argument that attempts to combine the previous five arguments “into a cohesive whole”.  Why not just quit after proving the existence of God four or five times?
 
Clearly, Geisler believes that his five arguments are NOT enough to prove that the “God” of the Bible exists. That is because the five arguments prove the existence of “God” in some other sense (or senses) of the word, a sense (or senses) of the word that Geisler fails to explain or define.
 
But it is clear what Geisler does think that he ends up proving with his combination of the five arguments “into a cohesive whole”, and so this gives us a fairly clear indication of what it is that he means by the “God” of the Bible:
 
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.  (WSA, p.28)
 
We can construct a definition of the word “God” in accordance with the sort of “God” that Geisler thinks he has shown to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
  1. X is all-powerful, and 
  2. X is all-knowing, and
  3. X is all-good, and 
  4. X is infinite, and 
  5. X is uncreated, and
  6. X is unchanging, and
  7. X is eternal, and 
  8. X is omnipresent.
Geisler admits that his first argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his second argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his third argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fourth argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fifth argument doe NOT prove the existence of such a “God”.  
 
Geisler admits that NONE of his five arguments is sufficient by itself to establish the existence of “God” in this sense of the word, which is (more or less) the ordinary sense of the word as used in the context of the Christian faith, Christian theology, and Christian-dominated cultures.
 
But then, what sort of “God” do his five arguments prove exists?  Geisler does not bother to spell this out, so we have to try to guess at what he means by the word “God” in this context.  In Geisler’s “combined” argument, he begins by using the cosmological arguments, his first two arguments, to prove that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and to show that this being is very powerful (WSA, p.26).  
Geisler then uses his argument from design to show that:
 
…whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence. (WSA, p.26)
 
What connects these two arguments together is the idea of “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist.  So, it would appear that the “God” that is proven to exist by the first argument is simply “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
X caused the universe to begin to exist.
 
But if this is what is meant by “God” in relation to what the five arguments can prove by themselves, individually, then it is still the case that most of the five arguments (with the possible exception of the first argument) FAIL to prove that “God” exists, even in this weak sense of the word.

The second cosmological argument allegedly shows the existence of a current sustaining cause of the universe, but this does not imply that the universe began to exist.  It is conceivable that the universe has always existed and that the sustaining cause has always caused the universe to continue to exist. (Avoiding the issue of whether the universe began to exist was precisely the reason that Aquinas favored this second cosmological argument and rejected the cosmological argument that Geisler gives as his first argument for “God”).  If the universe has always existed, then there is no X that caused the universe to begin to exist, so the truth of the conclusion of the second cosmological argument is compatible with there being no “God”, in the sense of something that “caused the universe to begin to exist”.
 
Geisler’s third argument allegedly proves the existence of a designer of the universe.  A designer of the universe is not necessarily the cause of the existence of the universe. The universe could have always existed, and at some point an intelligent being organized the matter of the universe into something like its present form.  In that case, there would be a designer, but no creator and no cause of the universe coming into existence.  
 
A moral lawgiver need not be the cause of the existence of the universe.  So, proving the existence of a supreme moral lawgiver FAILS to prove that “God” exists, in the sense of proving the existence of something that caused the universe to come into being.
 
Geisler admits that the fifth argument, an ontological argument, “fails to show that God actually exists.”  (p.25)  It is clear that by “God” here he means the weak sense of the word “God” (not the “God” of the Bible). So, argument number five is also a failure.
 
All of these failures of the five arguments to prove that “God exists” would have been evident from the start if Geisler had simply bothered to define the word “God” before presenting his five arguments, and if he had actually constructed clear arguments that ended with the conclusion that “God exists”.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways

Norman Geisler is a Thomist.  His case for the existence of God is basically a simplified, clarified, and somewhat modified version of the case for God made by Thomas Aqinas in Summa Theologica.  Geisler borrows the basic logical structure of the case for God made by Aquinas, as well as some of the specific sub-arguments of Aquinas.
The standard view of Aquinas has it that Aquinas presents Five Ways or five arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler apparently accepts this standard view of Aquinas, and he is thus led to believe that his own case for God rests upon five arguments for the existence of God.
But the standard view of Aquinas is completely mistaken, and the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God.  Similarly, Geisler mischaracterizes his own case for God as including five arguments for the existence of God.  The truth of the matter, however, is that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler is an argument for the existence of God.  Geisler literally does not know what he is doing.
In order for an argument to BE an argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument must be that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  None of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God ends with the conclusion that “God exists”, and none of the five arguments ends with the conclusion that “There is a God”.  Thus, it is very clear that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God is an argument for the existence of God.
We saw in the previous post about Geisler’s first argument, that the word “God” did appear in the conclusion of that argument.  But we also saw that the word “God” did not appear in any of the premises of the argument, and that the inclusion of the phrase “this cause was God” in the conclusion of that argument makes that first argument logically invalid.  In order for the first argument to be logically valid, we must remove the reference to “God” in the conclusion.
If we look at just the conclusions of the remaining four arguments that Geisler presents, it is clear that none of those conclusions contain the word “God”:
Argument #G2: The universe needs a cause for its continuing existence (WSA, p.18-19)
4. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.18-19)
Argument #G3: Argument from design (WSA, p.20-22)
3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20)
Argument #G4: Argument from moral law (WSA, p. 22-24)
3.  Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver. (WSA, p.22)
Argument #G5: Argument from being (p.24-26)
3. Therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being. (WSA, p.24-25)
Since the word “God” does not appear in any of the conclusions of the remaining four arguments presented by Geisler, it is clear that NONE of these four arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  Therefore, NONE of the four remaining arguments is an argument for the existence of God.
Geisler believes that in his case for God he has presented five arguments for the existence of God, but it is crystal clear that, in fact, he has presented ZERO arguments for the existence of God.  So, it appears, at least initially, that Geisler’s case for God is a complete and utter failure.
However, just as the standard view of Aquinas presents a mischaracterization of the case for God made by Aquinas, so because of Geisler’s own misunderstanding of what he is doing, he has mischaracterized his own case for God.  If we come to see what Aquinas was actually doing in Summa Theologica, that will help us to understand what Geisler is actually doing in his case for God.  
Just as I believe that the case for God in Aquinas is a serious one that deserves serious consideration and analysis, so I think that Geisler’s case for God is better than what my critique has indicated so far.  There is some real substance to Geisler’s case for God, but we need to reconceive the overall logic of his case.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s First Argument

Norman Geisler’s case for God appears to consist of five arguments for the existence of God.
Here is my critique of the opening paragraph of Geisler’s case, and my critique of his first argument for the existence of God:
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NOTE: I forgot that my plan was to put my posts on cases for God here at The Secular Oupost, and put my posts that are more specifically about Jesus and Christianity over on my own blog site.  So, I have moved my post about Geisler’s first argument for the existence of God from my blog site to here.
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Before we examine Geisler’s first argument for God, we need to carefully consider the opening paragraph of his case for God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  He makes some very important points in this first paragraph:
The existence of a personal moral God is fundamental to all that Christians believe. If there is no moral God, there is no moral being against whom we have sinned; therefore, salvation is not needed. Furthermore, if there is no God, there could be no acts of God (miracles), and the stories of Jesus can only be understood as fiction or myth. So the first question that must be addressed in pre-evangelism is, “Does God exist?” The second question is very closely related to the first: “If God exists, what kind of God is He?”  (WSA, p. 15)
COMMENTARY
The existence of a personal moral God is fundamental to all that Christians believe.
This seems right to me.  If there is no God, then most of the basic beliefs or doctrines of Christianity are false or are probably false.

If there is no moral God, there is no moral being against whom we have sinned; 
This conditional claim appears to be false.  We can “sin” against (or wrong) other human beings even if God does not exist, and human beings are moral beings.  So, we can sin against moral beings even if God does not exist.
Now, if one defines “sin” as meaning “an act of disobedience towards God”, then obviously the non-existence of God would, on that definition, logically imply the non-existence of “sin”.
But if we understand “sin” more generally to mean “an act that is bad, morally wrong, or evil”, then it seems that we could “sin” even if there were no God.  
Geisler will argue against this possibility later, but he has not argued that point yet, so he is not yet entitled to simply assume that no action could be morally wrong if there was no God (i.e. to assume that morality exists only if God exists). To make that assumption at this point in the game would amount to the fallacy of begging the question.
Also, I’m not sure that the qualifier “moral” is essential here.  One could “sin” against a non-moral creature.  If a person raised a dog from a puppy and treated the dog in kind and loving way as it grew up, and then one day took the dog into a basement, chained the dog to a table, and then brutally tortured the dog for hours until the dog died from the pain, shock, and loss of blood, then one would have “sinned” against a non-moral creature.  So, the adjective “moral” seems unnecessary here.  Human beings can do morally wrong actions against non-moral creatures (such as dogs).
therefore, salvation is not needed.
Clearly, if one has never “sinned” or done something that is bad or evil, then one has no need of “salvation” from one’s sins.  That is obviously true.
However, it is NOT in any way obvious that “salvation” MUST be conceived of as “salvation from one’s sins”.  Different religions and worldviews have different conceptions about what the fundamental issue or issues are for human beings.  Different religions diagnose the “disease” or basic problem(s) of human beings differently.  Christianity asserts that the basic human problem or “disease” is sin, but other religions and other worldviews do not accept this view of human nature or of the human situation.  Thus, Geisler appears to be begging the question, begging a very basic worldview question here in favor of the Christian religion or worldview.
Furthermore, if there is no God, there could be no acts of God (miracles)…
It is certainly true that if there is no God, then there are no “acts of God” either.  But Geisler then sneaks the word “miracles” into this claim in parentheses, making the claim significantly more problematic and dubious.  
If we simply define the term “miracle” to MEAN “an event brought about by an act of God”, then clearly the above claim would be correct.  However, the term “miracle” can be used in a broader sense, to mean “an event brought about by any sort of supernatural being or force.” On such a broader defintion, it would be possible for “miracles” to occur even if there were no God.  
God is NOT the only possible supernatural being nor the only possible being who has supernatural powers.  Many Christians believe that there are angels and demons, and they believe that these are supernatural beings who have supernatural powers.  So, even within the Christian worldview, there is the belief that there are supernatural beings and supernatural powers other than God and other than the powers that God directly exerts.
Furthermore, if there is no God, … the stories of Jesus can only be understood as fiction or myth.
This statement is clearly false.  
Geisler is assuming that the alleged supernatural events and supernatural powers asserted in the Gospel accounts of the life and death of Jesus could be true ONLY IF God exists.  But as I just argued, supernatural beings and supernatural powers can exist even if there were no God.  
According to traditional Christian belief and theology, angels and demons exist, and these are supernatural beings who have supernatural powers, and thus they can bring about supernatural events.  We can conceive of a world in which there are angels or demons but no God, and in such a world there would be supernatural beings and supernatural powers, but no God.  
The non-existence of God, therefore, does NOT logically imply that the Gospel accounts of the life and death of Jesus are “fiction or myth”.  The “miracles” in the Gospel accounts could have been brought about by a supernatural being other than God, or by some animal or human who possessed supernatural powers.
We see in the first few sentences of the opening paragraph of Geisler’s case for God, that his thinking is infected with some false beliefs and some illogical reasoning related to God.  This does not inspire confidence that his case for God will be based on true premises and logical reasoning. But the final sentences of the opening paragraph indicate that there is a very serious problem with Geisler’s case for God.
So the first question that must be addressed in pre-evangelism is, “Does God exist?”
While this statement has some initial plausibility, I believe Geisler is completely wrong on this point, and that this statement represents a very fundamental error in Geisler’s thinking, an error that destroys or severely damages his case for the existence of God.  
The first question that must be addressed in any evaluation of Christianity is, rather, this:

  • What does the assertion “God exists” mean?

By failing to address this very basic question, Geisler dooms his case for “God” to failure. We can see that he is making this great mistake here by considering his next point.
The second question is very closely related to the first: “If God exists, what kind of God is He?”
Here Geisler clearly reveals that he is following in the footsteps of Thomas Aquinas.  
In the standard view of Aquinas, Aquinas provides Five Ways of proving the existence of God, and then proceeds to prove that God has various divine attributes.  This is exactly the way that Geisler builds his case for the existence of God.  
But this is ASS BACKWARDS. One must first clarify the MEANING of the word “God” and THEN proceed to prove the existence of God. 
The meaning of the word “God” is ordinarily (and properly) defined in terms of various divine attributes, such as “eternal”, “omnipotent”, “omniscient”, and “perfectly morally good”, and “creator of the universe”.  Such a definition reflects the ordinary meaning and use of the word “God” in relation to Christian belief and theology.  
Apart from clarifying or defining the word “God” we literally do not know what Geisler is talking about, and thus we have no rational way to evaluate the strengths or weaknesses of his arguments for the existence of “God”.
Suppose that I want to persuade you that GORPU exists, and I present you with the following argument:
1.  If grass is green, then GORPU exists.
2.  Grass is green.
Therefore:
3. GORPU exists.
This is a perfecly logical argument.  The inference from the two premises to the conclusion is a valid deductive inference.  But would you accept this argument?  Of course not.  You don’t know what “GORPU” means, so you have no way to determine whether premise (1) is true or not.  
Before you can evaluate this argument, you must first understand what the assertion “GORPU exists” means, and since I am the one who is presenting the argument, it is up to me to clarify or define the meaning of this expression, so that you will be able to understand what it means and thus be in a position to rationally evaluate premise (1).
Geisler is violating one of the most basic principles of critical thinking: BE CLEAR, and clarify the meanings of the key concepts that you use in your arguments (especially when those concepts are abstract ideas and/or controversial ideas and/or vague ideas):
Clarity is the gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell anything about it because we don’t yet know what it is saying. (“Universal Intellectual Standards” by Richard Paul and Linda Elder)
Before Geisler, or anyone else, can prove that “God exists”, it is necessary to clarify or define the meaning of this assertion:
To prove or to produce evidence that a certain being, x, exists, is, one might say, to prove that a certain set of compossible properties is actualized.  That is, we cannot prove or know that x exists without at the same time knowing something about the nature or essence of x
To prove the existence of God is, then, to show that the properties ascribed to the Christian God in the Bible are actualized in one and only one being.  (“Thomas Aquinas” by Knut Tranoy, in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, p.110)
Because Geisler fails to clarify or define the meaning of the assertion “God exists”, his case for God appears to be doomed to failure even before he presents the very first premise of his first argument for the existence of God.
Argument #G1: The universe was caused at the beginning 
1. The universe had a beginning.
2. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused by something else.
3. Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God.   
(WSA, p.16)
The first thing to note about argument #G1 is that it is clearly logically invalid.  It is clear that the conclusion (3) does NOT follow logically from the premises. 
The following argument form is logically valid:
1.  x is a B.
2.  Everything that is a B is also a C.
Therefore:
3. x is a C.
But the form of #G1 has an additional claim in the conclusion:
1.  x is a B.
2.  Everything that is a B is also a C.
Therefore:
3. x is a C  AND y is G.
But the premises of #G1 do not mention anything about G,  so the added claim “y is G” does not follow logically from the premises.
Suppose that there is no God, but that there was an angel who existed before the universe came into being.  Suppose that angel caused the universe to come into being.  In that case the universe “was caused by something else” but was NOT caused by God.  
This scenario is completely compatible with the truth of the premises of #G1.  It is compatible with the claim that the “universe had a  beginning” and it is compatible with the claim that “anything that has a beginning must have been caused by something else.” 
Thus, it is possible for premise (1) and premise (2) to both be true, and yet for the added conclusion “this cause [of the universe] was God” to be false.  Since we can conceive of circumstances in which the premises of #G1 are true and the conclusion of #G1 is false, this argument is logically invalid.
But we can fix Geisler’s embarrassing logical GOOF quite easily, by removing the added claim that Geisler had mistakenly inserted into the conclusion:
Argument #G1revA
1. The universe had a beginning.
2. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused by something else.
Therefore:
3a. The universe was caused by something else.  
This argument, unlike #G1, is perfeclty valid.  However, it will not do, because it is missing a very important phrase:
God exists.
In order to repair Geisler’s first argument for the existence of God, we must remove the reference to “God” from the conclusion of the agument. But if we do this, then it is no longer an argument for the existence of God!
In order to prove that God exists, one must provide an argument which has as its conclusion, the claim that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  An argument that concludes with the claim “the universe was caused by something else” is NOT an argument for the existence of God.
So, either we leave argument #G1 alone and reject it because it is logically invalid, or else we correct the logic of this argument and then reject it because it is no longer an argument for the existence of God.  Either way, the argument fails to prove that God exists.