Christian Apologetics - Lesson 14


There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson 14
Watching Now

The Existence of God

Part 1

I.  Background

A.  All proofs are person-relative. - George Mavrodes

1.  Truth is not person-relative.

2.  Validity is not person-relative.

B.  An argument is a collection of two or more propositions.

1.  Valid

2.  Sound

3.  Cogent

C.  Two Sides to a Proof

1.  Logical

2.  Persuasive

D.  An Argument for God's Existence

1.  The number one is a concept or idea.

2.  Ideas can only exist in minds.

3.  The number one is eternal

4.  The number one is immutable.

5.  The number one must exist independently of human minds.

6.  There must exist an eternal and immutable mind.

E.  There are no coercive proofs.

F.  Deductive or Inductive Arguments for God's Existence?

  • Introduction to Apologetics.

  • Apologetics involves finding evidence and presenting arguments to defend the Christian faith.

  • Two prominent worldviews are Christian theism and naturalism.

  • The law of non-contradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Explanations and responses to different worldviews.

  • If God is good and all powerful, then why does evil exist?

  • Discussion about how the existence of evil is consistent with God's character.

  • Your noetic structure, presuppositions and view of epistemology are important elements in the formation of your worldview.

  • Discussion of deductive presuppositionalism vs. inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Objections to inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Arguments for and against evidentialism.

  • Arguments for and against foundationalism.

  • Discussion of natural theology.

  • There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

  • Discussion of different arguments for God's existence.

  • One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

  • A possible world is a way the real world could have been. Modal logic, propositions, state of affairs and eternal entities are some of the considerations when discussing a possible world.

  • Something is logically possible if its description does not include a logical contradiction. The existence of the laws of knowledge refute the system of naturalism.

  • Middle knowledge is a form of knowledge attributed to God by Molina.

  • Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

  • David Hume's rational arguments against miracles and responses to those arguments.

  • Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

  • The question of whether or not Jesus is the only savior touches on pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.

  • Pluralism is the view that all religions have salvific value.

  • Inclusivism is the view that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for a person to be saved.

  • Salvation is totally the work of God and all children who die in infancy are elect of God.

  • Discussion from a biblical perspective of God's character and attributes.

  • Open theists believe that God does not have a perfect knowledge of the future.

  • Divine omnipotence and divine omniscience are two attributes of God.

  • When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

These lectures were given at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida during the fall of 2001.


Dr. Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson Transcript


[00:00:01] I want to get right to the business of offering arguments for God's existence. And that would be chapter eight of the book Faith and Reason. Now, let me give you some background to the procedure I follow with respect to arguments for God's existence or positive apologetics here. I am presently writing on the board this sentence. All proofs are personal relative. I want to give credit to the philosopher from whom I borrowed this sentence. His name is George Mavrodi. George is a friend of mine. He taught for many years at the University of Michigan, is a highly respected American philosopher. He's now a retired. Perhaps his best book is a book called Belief in God. It's probably out of print now, but if you can find a copy or if you can find it in a library and read it, it I think it's one of the most important works in the philosophy of religion in the last 100 years. Now, I believe this sentence is true. But before I tell you why I believe the sentence is true, there are some other propositions I want to write on the board. Truth is not personal. Relative truth is objective. A proposition is either true or it's false. There's no person relativity involved with truth. Secondly, validity is not personal relative. Now, you must understand here, as perhaps many of you do, the truth is always a property of propositions. What is a proposition? It is a use of language that communicates information. Examples of propositions would be the following. The 2001 baseball season for the Cleveland Indians is finished. Okay, that's a proposition. There are other uses of language that are not propositions. If I were to say to you, sit down, open the window, open the door. Those are not propositions. Those are commands. There are other uses of language. Truth is a property of proposition. That meet certain requirements. And I describe those requirements in chapter ten of your book of the Intro to Philosophy. Book validity is a property of arguments. Now, what is an argument? It is a collection of two or more propositions that are related. In the right way or related in the right way or wrong way if if the propositions of an argument. Well, here is the proposition. Socrates is a man. That's a proposition. And it is also true, even though Socrates is. But when we say all, when we also say all men are mortal. That's a proposition, which is also true. And then when we draw the conclusion Socrates is mortal, we have three true propositions. But the combination of those three propositions in an argument happens to be valid. Okay, valid. Now there's another term we need here. An argument is valid if it satisfies the laws of logic. The rules of logic. An argument is sound. If it is valid and the propositions are true, let me repeat that. An argument is valid if it satisfies the rules of logic. And you can find out what those rules are by reading a logic textbook. An argument is sound if it is valid, and every proposition in that argument is true. Let me see if I can come up. It's very hard for me to think of bad arguments. You know, it's just against my nature. But let's see if I can think of one here. All tuna are mammals. All mammals are warm blooded. Therefore, all tuna are warm blooded. This is a valid argument, but it is not a sound argument because two of the propositions are false. So we don't just want we don't just want valid arguments, we want sound. We want sound arguments where the propositions we're using happen also to be true. Okay. Now, I'm going to give you one more term cogent. This is another. Property. C validity is a property of an argument, soundness as a property of an argument and cogency is a property of an argument. An argument is sound if it is valid and all of its propositions are true. An argument is cogent if it is sound, valid and persuasive. Persuasive. I think the ontological argument for God's existence is sound. I think the argument, the analogical argument for God's existence does indeed prove the existence of a perfect being. But the problem with the ontological argument is its cogency. Most people listen to it and they think something fishy is going on. Every time I preach on the analogical argument in a dispensation lost church, which is never okay, I've never done it. But any time I preach on the analogical argument in a dispensation, the church and give the invitation, nobody comes forward. Nobody comes forward. Now, if I talk about the Antichrist, as you know, then all you know, you get 150 people come forward because they're afraid of not being ready for the rapture. But the analogical argument lacks cogency. No one has ever walked the sawdust trail at a Billy Graham revival. In response to the on a logical argument. All right. Now, these things are not person relative. Why are proof's person relative? Here's the answer. Because there are two sides to any proof. One of them is the logical side, and that's where this stuff enters the picture, unfortunately or not. In order for an argument to become a proof. Listen to this. In order for an argument to become a proof, somebody must be persuaded that it is correct edge And somebody who says. Your proof is terrific, but I just can't accept it. There's something oxymoronic about that. If you are if you can apply the word truth to an argument that's appropriate only when someone has been persuaded by the argument. Okay. Now here's what my friend George MAVRODI once said in his book, Belief in God. He said that you should regard your proofs for God's existence as tools. Interesting analogy. Suppose you've got a job to do around the house and you go into your toolbox in the garage and let's say what you want to do is screw in a screw. Okay. So what you do is you pull out a hammer or you pull out a ruler or something else, and then you get a ball. You get all upset because the tool you've selected isn't sufficient to do the job that's required. Well, view your arguments for God's existence in much the same way Mavrodi says you want to. You want to give somebody a reason to believe that God exists. You're doing positive apologetics. Maybe it's the best argument that you've ever found for yourself, but it doesn't impress your audience. Do you know how some people react to that? George Mavrodi says. They give up and they say, I'm never going to use that argument again. It used to be my favorite proof for God's existence. And now I've found one person and I've given him that argument, and he's left in my face. He's in worse shape than I am over the Cleveland Indians. All right, now here's my bronies. Just don't get upset. If that argument was good for you. It'll be good for somebody else someday. Just don't worry about it. Just go back in your bag of tricks or tools or whatever else and find another argument. Now, I'm going to give you my favorite argument for God's existence. No, that's too weak a word. I'm going to give you my favorite proof for God's existence. Can you stand this? I hope you can. I used to give this in the first class meeting of my philosophy classes of Western Kentucky University. I'd have 52 students in that room, many of them football players. I don't know why football players always took my classes. They always called me coach. So I'm trying to keep these kids in the class so they don't drop my class and take art appreciation or my music appreciation. So I usually time that first period so that with 10 minutes left, I said, okay, kids, now not only is there a thing called philosophy of science and philosophy of literature and philosophy of history, there's also such a thing as philosophy of mathematics. And I just want to give you a little introduction to philosophy of mathematics. One of the things that philosophers do when they think about mathematics is they ask a very fundamental question What is a number? What is a number? Do you know that hardly any professional mathematicians have ever asked the question, What is the number one? Seriously. So I said, Now, students, I want you to tell me what the number one is. Okay. Is this the number one right here? Some would say yes. Is this the number one? Is this the number one? And what I'm trying to get from these students is this. This answer, None of them. None of these things you've driven out, written on the board exam is the number one. They. What you've written are symbols. Reference for r e f e r e A.S. reference for the number one. And so then I went on and I said, you know, students that actually and any book that you might read, you'll never find the real number one. So suppose I give you some propositions that tell you what the real number one is. Why don't we begin by saying the number one is a concept? Oh, that. You know that impressive students. What is a concept? It's an idea. The number one is not found in. This world. The number one is an idea. It is. Okay. Now, where do ideas exist? Ideas can only exist in minds. If you're ever at a bus stop and somebody else at the bus stop is going around like this, and you say, What are you doing? And he says, I'm trying to capture ideas. Walk away. Don't get on the bus with that guy. Ideas don't exist out here. They only exist in mind. Okay. Kids now. Another point, the number one, the number one is eternal. Now I'm going to offer you an argument for this, kids. But I would I would say to my freshmen students. But even if the argument doesn't persuade you, just humor me. All right? I mean, one thing you need to know about philosophers is we're weird people. If we weren't weird, we wouldn't be philosophers. Now the number one has always existed. I mean, if it didn't always exist, when did it start existing? When did it? When did the number one first exist? Now, some people might say the day. Some primitive man first thought about it. Well, how did he know it was number one? When did he say, You know, I just had an idea and I want to know of it and no one else has thought about it. How is he going to compare his idea of the number one to anybody else? It's sort of like, well, the perfect circle has always existed. The Pythagorean theorem has always existed. Now, Pythagoras thought it up. No, he didn't. He discovered it. There has always been a number one. And if it didn't always exist, when did it begin existing and what brought it into existence? Number four, The number one is. Immutable. What does that mean? It means the number one has never changed and the number one can never change. For one thing, if the number one could, it could ever change. What would it change into? Two? The number two. Then it would no longer be the number one. The number one must be forever unchanging, because if it ever did change, it would no longer be the number one. Now, one other thing. The number one must exist independently of human minds. Why? Because no single human mind is eternal or immutable. Nor is the collectivity of human minds eternal and immutable. Because there was a time when no human minds existed. So if the number one is eternal, the number one must precede it. My standard human mind. So number six, there must exist infinitely. If you wonder when this is going to end. Okay. And if you're saying to yourself, This is the most boring discussion of God's existence I've ever heard in my life, you're proving my point. Because my point is all proofs are person relative. All right. So if you're sitting there saying this is the dumbest argument for God's existence I've ever heard, you have unwittingly fallen prey to my method here. There must exist an eternal and immutable mind if the number one can only exist in a mind and the number one is eternal, then the mind in which the number one has always existed must be an eternal mind. And if the number one is immutable and it must exist in a mind, then the mind itself must be at that mind must be immutable. And you know what? Always. And by this time it was 2 minutes before the end of the class, and it was I could have had an alarm clock there. It happened every time at this point in that class. Some football player in the back of the room raised his hand. So help me. It was always a football player. Okay? And I paused and I looked at the football player and I said, yes. He said, Coach, are you talking about God? They. And what I did in that setting, of course, was I just smiled in a kind of mystical, winsome way and said, Class dismissed. And all of these Kentucky high school graduates walked past me and they said. All philosophers are atheists. Nash is a philosopher, but Nash has just slipped guard into this class by using the number one. But. Okay. Now. Is that a good argument? You bet it is. Even if you don't like it, I don't care if you don't like it, because this is a tool. All right. If you're so hopeless, if you're so pathetic that you can't see, if you can't be moved, if you don't hear even now in your ears the music just as I am, I can't help you. I'm not going to go into this into depression here because you don't like my proof. I'll just reach in my toolbox and I'll come up with another proof, another argument. That's George Brody's point. All proofs are person relative means that there is. Now, listen to this. This is important. There is no such thing as a fully coercive proof. For everybody. Now, let me tell you what a coercive proof is, All right? A coercive proof if one of them existed. A coercive proof. Is one that would persuade any intelligent listener who understood the argument. Now I'll give you an example of a core of the closest thing you can get to a coercive proof. I got this from. Who did I hear this from? John Warrick Montgomery. He said he once met a man who said to him, Dr. Montgomery, I am dead. I'm dead. Montgomery said, Do dead men bleed? The man said, No. Okay, well, let's take this little penknife here, and let's just cut your finger a little bit. See if you believe the guy said, I don't care. You could do that. But I'm not going to bleed because I'm dead. All right. So the guy cut his finger. There was blood. Now, John Warden Comey said, All right, have you learned anything? He said, Yes, I've learned that dead men do bleed. Okay. In other words, there are many people, maybe most of the people in the human race, to whom you cannot prove many things. You can't prove it, even that they're dead. Think of all the other things you could say. Do dead men feel pain? Do you see this hammer dog gone? That men do feel pain, don't they? Yeah. Who knows? Well, there used to be a radio program. Let me finish the sentence and see if you know the name of that radio program. Who knows what evil lies in the heart of man? No, not at all. No. Do any of you know the name of the actor who played the role of Lamont Cranston on that radio show for many years? You know the name of that actor? Awesome. Well. Well, who knows what stupid things go on in the minds of people to prevent them from understanding and surrendering to the the irrefutable proofs that Nash offers people? Well, actually, I'm not surprised by that. See, now, I think and you can correct me here, because you guys know I'm not intolerant. You know, I'm not dogmatic, but if I understand the position of my friend R.C. Sprawl, or at least the position of his book, Classical Apologetics, I think the classical apologists believe that there are coercive proofs. And that, you know, when we've got them, all we have to do is present them in the right way. And. The thoroughly prepared recipient will surrender and say, I believe. No human sin stands between us and a rational acceptance of proofs for things like the existence of God. I want to show you why a valid deductive argument for the existence of God is probably impossible. Here's why. Once again, let's use our example of Socrates. All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal. This is a valid deductive argument. And I'm sure I've done this with you earlier. But just bear with me. If. If we use this circle to represent the class of mortal beings, and then we use this circle inside of the larger circle to represent the class of man. These two circles express the truth that is in the claim. All men are mortal. Okay. And then if we put Socrates inside the circle of human beings that expresses the truth of the proposition, Socrates is a man. Now, even though we've illustrated this before, I now want to make a different point with you. What this does is illustrate that in a valid deductive argument and a valid deductive argument, the conclusion can never say more than. And what's what's the completion of this? The reason why a valid deductive argument is necessarily true is because once you say the premises, you've already implied the answer that is expressed in the conclusion. See, all men are mortal. Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal. The conclusion of a valid deductive argument can never say more than the premises. Say, Okay, now what are we trying to prove in our search for an argument for God's existence? We want to prove the existence of a perfect, infinite being bought. Your premises are all going to refer to things that exist that are imperfect and finite. I mean, if you if you use the cosmological argument, you're going to be referring to the existence of a finite universe. The universe exists. The universe has a maker, therefore God exists. But notice, by the time you get to the conclusion, you've got a statement that says far more than the premises say. Everything in the cars. Every premise you use in one version of the cosmological argument talks about things that are finite, imperfect, and then all of a sudden you come up with your conclusion and you think you've proven the existence of a of an infinite being, a perfect being. No valid deductive argument can do that. See, in the case of the teleological argument, you're saying, well, the finite universe bears certain signs of design and intelligence, and before you know it, your conclusion is the existence of a finite, imperfect being. Now, what I'm getting at here is the claim that I will see in more detail next week when we start searching for arguments for God's existence. We'd better, with the exception maybe of the analogical argument, that's a different case. We'd better recognize the shortcomings of any search for a valid deductive argument. And maybe we'd better just agree that any argument for God's existence we use, that we seek to use is going to have to be an inductive argument. Okay. Which means we won't be able to claim certainty for it.


Speaker 2 [00:24:53] Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Your prayers and financial support enable us to provide a biblical and theological education that all people around the world can access. Blessings. As you continue to study and live out your faith and as you grow in your relationship with the Lord.