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 1, Part 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.
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).
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.