bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 24: The Argument from Contingency

WHERE WE ARE AT
There are only two more arguments for the existence of God left to consider out of the twenty arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God from Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).  In this post I will analyze Argument #7: the Argument from Contingency.
 
THE CONCLUSION OF ARGUMENT #7
None of Kreeft’s twenty arguments is actually an argument for the existence of God, and Argument #7 is no exception to this generalization.  Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of this argument:

5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist [right now] must transcend both space and time.  (HCA, p.61)

A further conclusion is mentioned in Kreeft’s explanation of this argument:
…we know that this cause [of the current existence of the universe] cannot be finite or material–that it must transcend such limitations. (HCA, p.62)
Because Kreeft uses the expression “this cause”, he is clearly assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE cause of the current existence of the universe.  When Kreeft asserts that this cause “must transcend both space and time” he is contrasting this being with “the collection of beings in space and time” (HCA, p.61), so transcending space and time implies being OUTSIDE of both space and time.
We can now clarify the intended conclusion of this argument to be as follows:

There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

Because part of this conclusion is that the cause of the current existence of the universe is NOT material, I take it that Kreeft is (in part) arguing for the existence of a bodiless person, so Argument #7 could be part of a cumulative case for God, since one of the basic divine attributes is being a bodiless person.
Proving that there is a bodiless being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe does NOT prove that God exists.  This argument fails to show that (a) this being is omnipotent, (b) this being is omniscient, (c) this being is perfectly morally good, or that (d) this being is the creator of the universe.  This argument also fails to show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe; there could be many beings that are involved in causing the current existence of the universe.
In order for Argument #7 to play a significant role in a cumulative case for God, the cause of the current existence of the universe must be shown to be the same being as another being with other divine attributes.  However, most of Kreeft’s arguments do not concern any of the basic divine attributes, so there are only a few other arguments that could be combined with Argument #7 Setting aside Argument #13, which Kreeft himself admits is a bad argument, there is only one argument that supports more than one basic divine attribute: Argument #6.  So, to even begin to build a cumulative case for God, Kreeft needs to show that the being discussed in Argument #7 is the same being as is discussed in Argument #6.
Kreeft thinks that in Argument #6 he has proved the existence of a person who was the creator of the universe, which is one of the basic divine attributes.  So, if Kreeft’s cumulative argument is going to be even partially successful, he needs to show that the creator of the universe is the same being as the being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe.  Kreeft makes no effort to show that these two beings are the same being, so his cumulative case for God is clearly a failure.  His cumulative case for God doesn’t even get started.
Kreeft implies that the cause of the current existence of the universe exists OUTSIDE OF TIME and outside of space.  If the cause of the current existence of the universe is something that exists OUTSIDE OF TIME, then the cause of the current existence of the universe is absolutely and completely UNCHANGING, and if the cause of the current existence of the universe is absolutely and completely UNCHANGING, then the cause of the current existence of the universe is NOT a person.
Argument #6 is an argument for the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe.  Thus, if the conclusion of Argument #7 was TRUE, and if the cause of the current existence of the universe were the same being as the creator of the universe, the it follows that the creator of the universe is a being that exists OUTSIDE OF TIME.  But a being that exists outside of time cannot change in any way, and so such a completely changeless being cannot be a PERSON.  Therefore, if Argument #6 and Argument #7 are both discussing the same being, then both arguments are discussing a non-existent being, for in order for something to be the creator of the universe it must be a PERSON.  The idea that the creator of the universe is NOT a person is an incoherent idea, so no such being exists.
In short, if Argument #7 were a sound argument that proved it’s conclusion to be true, then Argument #7 would be of no use in a cumulative case for God, because the conclusion of Argument #7 is about the existence of a being that is NOT a person, and thus that being cannot be the creator of the universe, and thus that being cannot be God.  Therefore, not only does Argument #7 fail to prove that God exists (because it only relates to one of the basic divine attributes), but if it were in fact a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that is NOT the creator, and that is NOT God.
 
INITIAL ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #7
Here is Kreeft’s summary of Argument #7:

1. If something exists, then there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

2. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists.

3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.

4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

(HCA, p.61)
It is clear from Kreeft’s discussion of this argument that he is talking about the existence of the universe at a particular moment in time, specifically: “now”.   Because of this temporal specificity, the above statement of the argument needs to be clarified so that it refers to a specific moment in time:

1a. If something exists at time t1, then there must exist at time t1 what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must exist at time t1 what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

4a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

THEREFORE:

5a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 must exist at time t1 and must transcend both space and time.

The ultimate conclusion of the argument is based on (5a):

6. There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

Because Kreeft does not include references to a specific moment in time, it might be objected that it is unfair to ascribe to Kreeft the assumption that the cause of the existence of a thing X at time t1 must itself exist at time t1 in order to cause the existence of X at time t1.   But when Kreeft gives his primary example of a “contingent” being, he clearly implies this to be the case:
…you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you.  Not your parents or grandparents.  They may no longer be alive, but you exist now.  And right now you depend on many things in order to exist–for example, on the air you breathe.  To be dependent in this way is to be contingent.  You exist if something else right now exists.  (HCA, p.61)
Kreeft infers that the cause of a person’s existence right now cannot be the “parents or grandparents” of that person, because people continue to exist even when their parents or grandparents no longer exist.  This inference is clearly based on the assumption that something that does NOT exist right now CANNOT cause something else to exist right now.  Therefore (1a) is an accurate and correct clarification of the first premise of Argument #7.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 22: Kreeft’s Reply

MY BAIT-AND-SWITCH OBJECTION
In Part 21 I reiterated a criticism of Kreeft’s case for the existence of God that has been a theme in my critique:  very few, if any, of Kreeft’s twenty arguments are actually arguments for the existence of God, thus Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) appears to be one big bait-and-switch ploy.
Although it would be unreasonable to insist that Christian apologists prove that there is ONE being that possesses ALL of the many characteristics that Christians believe God to have, there are some basic divine attributes that a case for the existence of God should show are possessed by ONE being.  In order to be “God”, a being must be:

  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent (all-powerful) person
  • an eternally omniscient (all-knowing) person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person
  • a person who is the creator of the universe

Kreeft does repeatedly attempt to show that there is a being who is the designer of the universe, but none of his arguments show that such a being exists.  Even if  one of Kreeft’s arguments did actually succeed in showing that there was an intelligent designer of some part or aspect of the universe, this does not imply that there is a person who is the creator of the universe.  First, evidence of a designer does not imply that there is JUST ONE designer of the entire universe.  Second, even if we knew that there was just one designer, this does not imply that this designer also CREATED the universe.   Designing something is not the same as making that something.  Third, the existence of a designer or creator of the universe in the distant past does not imply that such a being still exists today.
Furthermore, a designer of the universe is not necessarily a bodiless person, and is not necessarily an eternal person, and is not necessarily an omnipotent person, nor an omniscient person.  And the many problems of evil indicate that if there is a designer of the universe, that designer was either not omniscient or not omnipotent or not a perfectly morally good person.  The argument from design actually casts doubt on the existence of God, when we take into account the problems of evil in the apparent “design” of the universe.
There are very few arguments presented by Kreeft that even attempt to show the existence of a being who is a bodiless person, or who is an omnipotent person, or an omniscient person, or who is a perfectly morally good person.  In the first dozen arguments presented by Kreeft, there is only ONE argument for the existence of a bodliess person, only ONE argument for the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe, ZERO arguments for an omnipotent person, ZERO arguments for an omniscient person, and ZERO arguments for a perfectly morally good person (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Finally, there is not a single argument that even attempts to show that there is a being who possesses three or more of the above basic divine attributes.  Thus, there is not a single argument in Kreeft’s twenty arguments that actually ATTEMPTS to prove the existence of God.  Therefore, it is highly misleading for Kreeft to call Chapter 3: “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God”.  It would be much more accurate to label Chapter 3: “Zero Arguments for the Existence of God.”
 
KREEFT’S DEFENSE OF THE LOGIC OF HIS CASE FOR GOD
Kreeft has some awareness of this objection to his case for God, for he makes a few comments that indicate an awareness of the sort of objection that I am calling my bait-and-switch criticism.  In this post I will examine some of Kreeft’s comments that are relevant to my bait-and-switch objection.
In a nutshell, Kreeft’s reply to the sort of objection that I have repeatedly raised is that his twenty arguments form a cumulative case for the existence of God.  It is the whole collection of arguments, taken together, that prove the existence of God, or that show the existence of God to be highly probable, not individual arguments:
Not all of the arguments are equally demonstrative.  One (Pascal’s Wager) is not an argument for God at all, but an argument for faith in God as a “wager”.  Another (the ontological argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed; … Others (the argument from miracles, the argument from religious experience and the common consent argument) claim only strong probability, not demonstrative certainty.  We have included them because they form a strong part of a cumulative case.  We believe that only some of these arguments, taken individually and separately, demonstrate the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have (no argument proves all of the divine attributes); but all twenty taken together, like a twined rope, make a very strong case.
(HCA, p. 49-50, emphasis added)
Kreeft clearly believes that SOME of his arguments “claim demonstrative certainty” in showing “the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have…”.  Such an argument could prove that God exists, but ONLY IF the properties or divine attributes in question were proven to be “properties only God can have”.  If only God can have the property of omnipotence, for example, then proving the existence of an omnipotent person would be sufficient to prove the existence of God.
But Kreeft never argues that being “eternal” is a property “only God can have”.  Kreeft never argues that being “bodiless” (or immaterial) is a property “only God can have”, and Kreeft never argues that being “the creator” is a property “only God can have”.  Furthermore, it seems fairly obvious that these are not properties “only God can have”, so proving the existence of a person who is eternal would not prove that God exists.  Proving the existence of a person who is bodiless would not prove that God exists, and proving the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe would not prove that God exists.
By combining all of his arguments together, Kreeft could, in theory, show that there exists a being or person who has MANY of the basic divine attributes.  However, there are at least three serious problems with the cumulative case that Kreeft has actually provided:

  1. Most of his arguments do not attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes. The chart above shows that eight out of the first twelve arguments in his case don’t attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes (see the rows for Arguments 1 & 2, 4 & 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12).
  2. A number of the basic divine attributes are not touched upon by Kreeft’s arguments, or are supported by only one argument.  The chart above shows that in the first twelve arguments ZERO of them attempt to show that there is a person who is omnipotent, or a person who is omniscient, or a person who is perfectly morally good, and the chart also shows that only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a bodiless person, and only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a person who is the creator.
  3. Additional argumentation is needed to show that there is JUST ONE being that possesses the various basic divine attributes.  But Kreeft does not argue for this assumption.  He simply ASSUMES that all of his arguments are about the same being or person.   Furthermore, it is fairly obvious that many of the attributes could be possessed by a person who was not God, because it is possible to have one divine attribute without having all of the other divine attributes.  One could, for example, be the creator of the universe but not be an omniscient person, and not be a perfectly morally good person.

In the first twelve arguments presented by Kreeft, only one argument attempts to show the existence of a person who has more than one of the basic divine attributesArgument #6 attempts to show that there is an eternal person who is the creator of the universe.  Yet Kreeft admits that this argument falls short of establishing many divine attributes:
Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does?  Less than everything, however, is far from nothing.  And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth.
(HCA, p.60, emphasis added)
Proving that there is an eternal person who is the creator of the universe, however, does not show that there is a JUST ONE person who has ALL of the basic divine attributes.  Proving that there is a person who is eternal and who created the universe does NOT prove that God exists, because the creator of the universe (a) might not be omnipotent, (b) might not be omniscient, (c) might not be a perfectly morally good person. 
Furthermore, although Kreeft is right that it would be unreasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there exists a being who has ALL of the characteristics that Christians ascribe to God, it is not unreasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there exists a being who has ALL of the basic divine attributes, and it is certainly reasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there is a being who has MOST of the basic divine attributes.  The kalam argument, as presented by Kreeft, fails to do this, and Kreeft’s cumulative case for God also fails to do this.
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UPDATE 4/25/18
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I have added the rest of Kreeft’s arguments, specifically Argument #13 through Argument #20, to a chart showing which of the basic divine attributes, if any, each argument attempts to support.  The chart shows that one argument, Argument #13, attempts to prove the existence of a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.  The chart also shows that Argument #14 through Argument #20 do not attempt to show that there is a being with ANY of the basic divine attributes:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other than Argument #13, the rest of the arguments that I have added into this chart are of little worth in terms of making a cumulative case for the existence of a person who has ALL (or MOST) of the basic divine attributes.  However, Argument #13 looks like it could potentially rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, because it provides an argument for three basic divine attributes that no other argument in Kreeft’s collection supports.
Argument #13 is the Ontological Argument for God.  Specifically, Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument concludes that “there actually exists…an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.” (HCA, p.72)  However, Argument #13 is of no help to Peter Kreeft, because he (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli) admit that this argument is no good:
Another (the Ontological Argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed… (HCA, p. 49)
The ONE argument that had the potential to rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, is an argument that Kreeft tells us is a “fundamentally flawed” argument.  I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the Ontological argument is fundamentally flawed, so I must conclude that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure.