bookmark_border2017 in the Rearview Mirror

I had hoped to answer the question “Does God exist?” in 2017, at least to my own satisfaction.  No such luck.  That was a bit too aggressive of a goal.   However, I did make some good progress.  I learned that Norman Geisler’s case for God (in When Skeptics Ask) is a steaming pile of dog crap, and I learned that at least half of Peter Kreeft’s case for God (in Handbook of Christian Apologetics) is of a similar quality.
I also began to examine a third case for God by a third Thomist philosopher of religion:  Edward Feser (in Five Proofs of the Existence of God).  Feser’s case is much more extensive than either Geisler’s case or Kreeft’s case.  However, much of Feser’s case depends on the success of the first of his five arguments for God, and I am learning that Feser’s first argument suffers from serious problems of unclarity,  which was my main objection to every one of Geisler’s arguments and to most of the arguments of Kreeft (in the half of his case I have evaluated).  You would think that after more than seven centuries of intellectual effort somebody would be able to state a Thomistic argument for the existence of God with significant clarity and force, but Feser appears to have failed at this task, just as Geisler and Kreeft failed, even though Feser makes a much better effort at this than they have.
In 2017, my project of analyzing and evaluating Swinburne’s case for God has also moved forward significantly.  I am about 2/3 of the way through a revision of my initial draft article about Swinburne’s case for God.  Currently,  I’m revising a section on his Teleological Argument from Spacial Order (TASO), which is Swinburne’s modern inductive version of the classical argument from design.  The dozen pages or so that I have written on this particular argument are some of the best stuff I’ve ever written on the question of the existence of God (although I am mostly presenting Swinburne’s views and only add a couple of critical points of my own).
I plan to continue to work on analysis and evaluation of Kreeft’s case for God this year, and on analysis and evaluation of Feser’s case for God, and I hope to finally complete my article on Swinburne’s case for God, and submit it for publication.   Ideally, I will also find time for analysis and evaluation of William Craig’s case for God, and one or two other cases for God.  If so, then there is a good chance that in December of this year,  I will be in a good position to answer the question “Does God exist?”

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 1: What Feser Gets Right

In his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG),  Edward Feser lays out what he takes to be the five best arguments for the claim that “God exists”.  Based on a quick glance through this book, it seems to me that Feser does a much more reasonable job of making a case for God than either Norman Geisler (in When Skeptics Ask) or Peter Kreeft (in Handbook of Christian Apologetics).  In my view, based on careful reading of Geisler’s case and Kreeft’s case, each of their cases is a SPOC (Steaming Pile Of Crap).  Feser’s case for God has the distinct advantage of NOT being a SPOC.
I have no idea at this point whether any of Feser’s arguments are good and strong or bad and weak, but I do see that he gets some important things right, some basic things that Geisler and/or Kreeft got wrong.
The first thing that Feser gets right in his case for God is the length of his case:

  • Norman Geisler’s case for God (in When Skeptics Ask, p.25-33):  18 pages 
  • Peter Kreeft’s case for God (in Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p.48-86): 39 pages
  • Edward Feser’s case for God (in Five Proofs of the Existence of God, p17-168): 151 pages

To try to prove the existence of God in just 18 pages, as with Geisler’s case, is completely idiotic.  To try to prove the existence of God in less than 40 pages, as with Kreeft’s case, is also very foolish.  To make a case for God in about 150 pages is a bit too aggressive in IMHO, but this is much more reasonable than trying to do so in less than 40 pages, and I admit that it just might be possible to make an intelligent case for God in only 150 pages.
The second thing that Feser  gets right is his focus on just a few proofs or arguments for the existence of God, unlike Kreeft who presents twenty arguments for God, at least ten of which are complete crap (I have only examined the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case so far, but all ten are crap).  Kreeft wastes our time with several obviously lousy arguments, but Feser has carefully selected what he believes to be the very best arguments, and then does justice to those arguments by devoting significant space to developing, clarifying, and defending each argument.
Kreeft wrote an average of only about two pages per argument, while Feser devotes an average of about thirty pages on each of the arguments that he presents.  Kreeft presents outlines of arguments that generally consist of between only three to six statements, while Feser presents outlines of his arguments that consist of between 27 and 50 statements for each argument.  Feser, unlike Kreeft, understands that a reasonable case for the existence of God requires one to put forward some fairly complicated arguments.
The third thing Feser gets right is that he devotes a significant portion of each of his arguments to establishing that a particular being possesses several of the divine attributes that constitute the traditional Christian concept of God.  Geisler makes a pathetic attempt to do this too, but his case is so ridiculously short that he cannot adequately explain, clarify, or justify any of his claims or sub-arguments.  Kreeft doesn’t even make the attempt, and so his arguments for God generally FAIL to be arguments for the existence of God.  Kreeft’s arguments are generally not even in the ballpark.  Kreeft is swinging his plastic-toy bat at whiffle balls out in the parking lot, while the rest of us are on the field swinging real bats at real baseballs.
Each of Feser’s arguments can be divided into two phases.  The first phase gets us to the existence of some sort of metaphysical entity or entities.  In the second phase, the argument attempts to show that there is only one metaphysical entity of that sort, and that this entity has many of the divine attributes that constitute the Christian concept of God.  This is how most reasonable arguments for God ought to be structured:
The Aristotelian Argument  
Phase 1 concludes with this statement:

14.  So, there is a purely actual actualizer. (FPEG, p.36)

Phase 2 concludes with this statement:

50. So, God exists.

The Neo-Platonic Argument
Phase 1 concludes with this statement:

9. So, the existence of each of the things of our experience presupposes an absolutely simple or noncomposite cause. (FPEG, p.80)

Phase 2 concludes with this statement:

38. So, God exists.

The Augustinian Argument
Phase 1 concludes with this statement:

15. So, abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect. (FPEG, p. 109)

Phase 2 concludes with this statement:

29. So, God exists. 

The Thomistic Argument
Phase 1 concludes with this statement:

23. So, either directly or indirectly, each of the things we know from experience has its existence imparted to it at every moment at which it exists, including here and now, by some cause whose essence and existence are identical, something that just is subsistent existence itself.  (FPEG, p.130 )

Phase 2 concludes with this statement:

36. So, God exists. 

The Rationalist Argument
Phase 1 concludes with this statement:

18. So, there must be at least one necessary being, to explain why any contingent things exists at all and how any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment. (FPEG, p.163)

Phase 2 concludes with this statement:

27. So, God exists. 

Furthermore, Feser does NOT skimp on the reasoning for the crucial second phase.  In his first two arguments (Aristotelian & Neo-Platonic), about 3/4 of the argument is focused on phase two.  In his third argument (Augustinian), phase one and phase two are of equal length.  In his last two arguments (Thomistic & Rationalist), about 1/3 of the argument is focused on phase two, and phase two of those last two arguments would have been significantly longer, but he abbreviates the reasoning based on the fact that these arguments reuse several steps of reasoning from the Aristotelian argument (statements 15 through 47 of the Aristotelian argument are devoted to showing that “a purely actual actualizer” must possess several divine attributes).  Feser draws an inference (that the being in question has several divine attributes) in just one or two steps, when the actual reasoning if spelled out fully (as in the Aristotelian argument) involves a chain of several inferences involving dozens of statements.
The fourth thing that Feser gets right is his careful use of the word “God”.  It is absolutely shocking how sloppy and unclear and confused Geisler and Kreeft are in their use of the word “God”.  They abuse and misuse and misunderstand this word, and use it with different meanings, shifting the meaning at will, without providing any notice or warning that they are doing so.  No professional philosopher should be as careless as Kreeft and Geisler are with any key philosophical concept or term, but to abuse and misuse the word “God” when one is presenting a philosophical case for the existence of God is shameful and outrageous.
Feser quite correctly avoids using the word “God” until he gets close to the very end of an argument for God, and he is very clear about what he means by this word.  Although I don’t accept his analysis of the concept of God,  it is a fairly common one from the Thomist tradition, and it represents a sincere attempt to capture the meaning of the word “God” in keeping with traditional Christian theology, and which quite appropriately analyzes the meaning of this word in terms of various divine attributes (e.g.  “omnipotent”, “omniscient”, “eternal”, etc.).
CONCLUSION
I don’t know at this point whether any of Feser’s arguments are good or bad, valid or invalid, sound or unsound, but even if they are all weak and defective arguments, I am still very grateful to Feser for providing a case for God that meets some basic intellectual requirements for making a reasonable case for God.  Unlike the cases for God by Geisler and Kreeft, Feser’s case is NOT a Steaming Pile of Crap, and it is a great pleasure to consider a case that at least has the potential to be a reasonable and intelligent case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada

In part 11 of this series of posts I reviewed the overall structure of Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God, the case that he presented, along with coauthor Ronald Brooks, in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  In this present post, I will once again review the overall structure of Geisler’s case, and will summarize a number of key problems with Geisler’s case.
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For a more detailed analysis and critique of Geisler’s case, or of a specific argument in his case, see previous posts in this series:

INDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/05/25/index-geislers-five-ways/
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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.

PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
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.
What he really means by the word “God” here is “the creator of the universe” or, more precisely: “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that causes the universe to continue to exist now.”  That this is what the word “God” means in his fifth argument can be seen in his comment about the significance of the fifth argument:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
The “argument from creation” is actually two cosmological arguments: the Kalam cosmological argument, and the Thomistic cosmological argument (to a sustaining cause of the current existence of the universe).  Thus, the antecedent of the fifth argument “If God exists…” really means: “If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that is also causing the universe to continue to exist now…”
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 to 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, and he continually shifts the meaning of this word at will, with no warning that he is doing so.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
ALL FIVE of Geisler’s arguments for the above five conclusions must be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If just one of those five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Furthermore, the soundness of all five of those arguments is NOT sufficient to prove that God exists; further arguments are needed.  None of the five basic arguments is sound, and none of the additional arguments that Geisler makes in order to get to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists” is sound, so his case for God is pure unadulterated crap from start to finish.
The basic reason why Geisler needs all five arguments to be sound, is that the concept of God is complex.  God, as understood in Christian theology, has several divine attributes, and so Geisler must show that there is one and only one being that has all of the main divine attributes.
There is no universally agreed upon list of the “main” divine attributes, but we can see what Geisler considers to be the main divine attributes in relation to his lists of God’s characteristics, and in relation to his five basic arguments.  Here is a key comment by Geisler listing several divine attributes:
…God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)
A key attribute that Geisler left out of this list is “unlimited” (see WSA, p.27 & 28).
In view of his five basic arguments, Geisler implies that God also has the following key attributes or characteristics:

  • God caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • God causes the universe to continue to exist now.
  • God designed the universe.
  • God produced the laws of morality.
  • God is a necessary being.

Geisler’s description of God includes more than a dozen different divine attributes.  The existence of such a being cannot be established on the basis of just one simple argument.  That is why Geisler needs ALL FIVE of his basic arguments to be sound, plus a number of other additional arguments, in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If any one of his five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS. If one of his additional arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Geisler’s case depends on the soundness of MANY (about a dozen) different arguments.  If one of those MANY arguments is unsound, then Geisler’s case for God FAILS. As far as I can tell, none of his arguments are sound.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
Geisler represents his case as consisting of two main phases: first he proves that “God exists”, and next he proves that God has various divine attributes:
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)
This argument [his Thomistic cosmological 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.  (WSA, p.19)
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? (WSA, p.26)
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
This is completely idiotic and ass-backwards.  In order to prove that “God exists”, one must prove that there exists a being who has various divine attributes (e.g. all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, etc.).
Proving that there is a thing or being that caused the universe to begin to exist is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a thing or being that is causing the universe to continue to exist now is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a being who designed the universe (or some aspect of the universe) is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  The concept of God in Christian theology is a complex concept that implies a unique being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.  Thus proving that “God exists” in the context of a discussion about the truth of the Christian religion requires that one prove the existence of a being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.
Geisler is free to reject the Christian religion if he wishes, and  he is free to reject the traditional Christian concept of God as well.  He is free to invent his own personal concept of God, and to argue for the existence of that particular idiosyncratic God.  But if he wants to dump Christian theology and create his own new religion, then he needs to be very clear that this is what he is doing, and he would also need to provide a clear alternative definition or analysis of what he means by the word “God”, so that nobody would confuse Geisler’s new idiosyncratic concept of God with the traditional Christian concept of God.
Geisler, however, presents himself as a defender of the traditional Christian faith, so he clearly has no interest in inventing a new concept of God.  In the context of presenting apologetic arguments in support of the Christian faith, when Geisler asserts that “God exists”, he implies that there exists a being who has MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  Therefore, in order for Geisler to prove that “God exists”, he must prove that there exists exactly ONE being who possesses MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  He cannot prove that “God exists” without proving the existence of a being who, for example, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, the creator of the universe, etc.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
The first order of business is to clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five basic 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 a clear and accurate understanding of what they imply:

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 part or aspect of the universe. 

4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver who produced  at least some of the laws of morality.

5a. If there is (or ever was) a being that is (or was) the most perfect Being possible, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

Geisler provides dubious or unsound arguments for these five conclusions.  Furthermore, Geisler is very sloppy and unclear in his thinking, and so he infers significantly stronger conclusions that clearly do NOT follow logically from his five basic arguments:

1b. The entire universe was caused to begin to exist by EXACTLY ONE being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

2b. The current existence of the entire universe is caused by EXACTLY ONE currently existing being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

3b. There is EXACTLY ONE Great Designer who designed every part and aspect of the universe.

4b. There is EXACTLY ONE supreme lawgiver who produced all of the laws of morality.

5b. IF there is a being who caused the universe to begin to exist and who also causes the universe to continue to exist now, THEN that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
Geisler’s five arguments leave open the possibility that there were MANY beings involved in causing the beginning of the universe, and MANY beings involved in causing the continuing existence of the universe, and MANY beings who designed different parts and aspects of the universe, and MANY moral lawgivers who produced different moral laws.
Because the “divine attributes” are distributed differently among these different kinds of beings, Geisler cannot show that there is just ONE being who possesses ALL of the various divine attributes.  Furthermore, since the function of a particular kind of being could be spread out among MANY beings, we cannot infer that the required power or ability exists to a high or unlimited degree in any one such being.  If, for example, a team of one thousand beings worked together to design the human brain, then there might well have been no being who had enough knowledge or intelligence to design the human brain by itself.
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 to begin to exist is very powerful.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very intelligent.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist 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”.
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
A being that causes a universe to begin to exist is NOT necessarily the being that designed the universe; design and manufacturing are two separate functions in most companies that make products.  Making something is NOT the same as designing something.
The laws of nature could have been created by one being, while the laws of morality could have been created by a different being. There is no reason to believe that the cause of the existence of the universe is the same as the designer of the universe or the same as the moral lawgiver.
Because Geisler has NOT proven that these beings are all the same being, he cannot ascribe these various personal attributes (powerful, intelligent, and good) to just one being.  But in order to prove that God exists, he must show that there is ONE being who possesses all three of these personal attributes in an unlimited way, a being that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.
 
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.  As I argued above, what he actually means something like this:

  • If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (in the past) and that also causes the universe to continue to exist (right now), then that being is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
There is no reason to believe that a cause of the beginning of the universe must be a “perfect being”.  Let’s grant for the sake of argument that a “perfect being” must be a necessary being.  The question then becomes, “Does a perfect being exist?”
Geisler believes he has proven that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, but that tells us nothing about whether a perfect being exists.  The fact that the universe is finite and imperfect suggests the opposite conclusion, namely that the being that caused the beginning of the universe (if there were such a being) is something less than a perfect being.   In any case, Geisler has provided no reason to think that the cause of the beginning of the universe was a perfect being, so he has provided no reason to believe that there exists a perfect being, and thus Geisler has provided no reason to believe that there 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.

PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
We see this confusion in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the conclusion that a necessary being must be unchanging:
We said already that necessary existence means that He [God] cannot not exist–so He has no beginning and no end.  But it also means that He cannot ‘come to be’ in any other way.  He must be as He is necessarily.  He can’t become something new.  That removes all change from His being–He is unchanging.  (WSA, p.27)
The expression “come to be” is clearly AMBIGUOUS.  It can refer to something coming into existence, or it can refer to something undergoing a change in an attribute or characteristic.  The concept of a “necessary being” implies that the thing or being in question did not come into existence, will not cease to exist, and cannot cease to exist.  This concept does NOT imply that ALL of the characteristics or attributes of such a thing or being must remain unchanged.
An apple can change from being green to being red; this does NOT involve the apple coming into existence or ceasing to exist.  The apple continues to exist through the change in its color.  An apple can “come to be red” even though the apple previously existed and continues to exist.  Thus, the apple itself does NOT “come to be” when it changes color from green to red.
Geisler confuses and conflates two different meanings of the expression “come to be”.   The claim that an apple “came to be red” implies NOTHING about the apple coming to exist.  An apple can “come to be red” even if the apple has always existed, and will always exist.  The fact that some of the attributes of an apple can change, does NOT imply that the apple began to exist, nor that the apple will cease to exist.  Geisler draws an INVALID inference based on the AMBIGUITY of the expression “come to be”; he commits yet another fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this crappy bit of reasoning.
The same sort of confusion occurs again in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the view that a necessary being must have unlimited attributes:
Because of His [God’s] necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning, without change, and without limitation. (WSA, p.28)
If something is a “necessary being”, that just means that it has existence in a necessary way; it does NOT mean that it has all of its attributes or characteristics in a necessary way.  Geisler again confuses the existence of something being necessary with its possession of its attributes being necessary.  The necessity of attributes does NOT logically follow from the necessity of a thing’s existence.
Geisler contradicts himself a few pages later, by implying that God’s attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is NOT a necessary attribute or characteristic:
…He [God] must be all that He is.  All that is in God’s nature is necessary, but anything that He does extends beyond His nature and is done by His free will.  One cannot even say that it was necessary for Him to create.  (WSA, p.31)
But if it was NOT necessary that God create the universe, then the divine attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is merely a contingent attribute, not a necessary attribute, and therefore God does NOT possess this particular attribute (of being the creator of the universe) “in a necessary way”.   Geisler clearly contradicts his earlier assertion that God “can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.”
Geisler then uses the conclusions from Phase 2 (the cause of the universe is very powerful, very intelligent, and morally good) along with the conclusion of Phase 3 (the cause of the universe is a necessary being) in combination with the conclusions from Phase 4 (a necessary being is unchanging, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, and if a necessary being is powerful, intelligent, and good then it must be all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good) in order to infer this conclusion:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is an unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent necessary being, that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly 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.

Geisler’s argument for this conclusion is based on the following premise:

  • If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
Unlimited beings share many unlimited attributes, but one unlimited being can have an attribute that differs from another unlimited being, thus making it possible to distinguish the two beings as different and separate beings.
For example, since the attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is, according to Geisler (WSA, p.31), a logically contingent attribute of God, it is possible for there to exist both an unlimited being that is “the creator of the universe” and also an unlimited being that is NOT “the creator of the universe”.  Since these two beings would have at least one attribute that they don’t share, it would be possible to distinguish between these two unlimited beings.
Furthermore, according to traditional Christian doctrine, God consists of three different persons, but each of those persons is an unlimited person.  Although these three persons are unlimited, according to traditional Christian belief, it is possible to distinguish between these three persons: one is “the Father”, another “the Son”, and the third is “the Holy Spirit”.   It is logically inconsistent to allow that there can be three distinguishable unlimited persons, but at the same time to insist that there cannot possibly be two or more distinguishable unlimited beings.
In the case of the Trinity,  Christians believe that there are specific unique attributes possessed by each of the persons of the Trinity that make it possible to distinguish one from another.  But this implies that one unlimited person can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited person.  If so, then this implies that one unlimited being can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited being.  Clearly, the attribute of being “unlimited” does NOT dictate every attribute possessed by such a person or being.
 
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
Although Geisler never provides a definition of the word “God”, it is fairly clear that his concept of God 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.
PROBLEM 10:  Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
On the above Thomistic definition of “God”, God is both a person and an absolutely unchanging being.  But a person can make choices and decisions and perform actions and a person can communicate with other persons.  Something that is absolutely unchanging cannot make choices and decisions and perform actions, nor can such a thing communicate with other persons.  The idea of a person who is an absolutely unchanging being is INCOHERENT, it contains a logical self-contradiction.  Therefore, on this definition of “God” it is logically impossible for it to be the case that “God exists”.  The claim “God exists” would be a logically necessary falsehood, given Geisler’s concept of God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 18: The God of the Bible Exists?

After laying out his case for the existence of God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Dr. Norman Geisler attempts to link the God that he thinks he has proven to exist with “the God of the Bible”:
Is this the God of the Bible? At the burning bush, God told Moses his name and said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).  This signifies that the central characteristic of the God of the Bible is existence.  His very nature is existence.  …The Bible also calls God eternal (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2), unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18), infinite (1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:1), all-good (Ps. 86:5; Luke 18:19), and all-powerful (Heb. 1:3; Matt. 19:26). Since these beings are the same in all these respects, and there can’t be two infinite beings, then this God that the arguments point us to, is the God of the Bible. (WSA, p.29)
After presenting one of the most unbelievably crappy cases for the existence of God, you would think Geisler could not manage to go any lower into the depths of unclarity, confusion, and illogic, but this final argument truly takes the cake.  There is so much wrong in this one little paragraph, that I hardly know where to begin.
PROOF TEXTING & ANACHRONISM
First, Geisler is using the biblical passages as proof texts, and the assumed interpretation of those biblical passages is clearly anachronistic.  Geisler is showing no respect for the intended meaning of these biblical passages, and is simply grasping for any biblical passage to provide support for his preconceived conclusions.
Geisler is projecting medieval Thomist concepts back into ancient Hebrew writings (the Old Testament), writings that existed prior to Greek philosophers (certainly prior to Plato and Aristotle), and writings that existed about two thousand years before Thomas Aquinas came along, and he is projecting Thomist concepts back into ancient Greek writings (the New Testament), writings that existed after ancient Greek philosophy, but more than a thousand years prior to Aquinas.
When Geisler says that God is “eternal”, he means that God is outside of time.  There is no hint of this very strange medieval idea in either Colossians 1:17 or Hebrews 1:2.
There is also no hint of the strange Aristotelian and Thomist idea of an “unchanging being” (a being that absolutely cannot ever change in any way whatsoever) in Malachi 3:6 or Hebrews 6:18.  The passage in Hebrews specifically refers to “the unchageableness of His [God’s] purpose” (Heb. 6:17) concerning God’s intention to bless Abraham, so Geisler is grossly distorting the meaning of that passage by interpreting “unchangeableness” to mean a being that “absolutely cannot ever change in any way whatsoever”.
The claim that God is an “infinite being” is a very unclear claim, so unless and until this concept is defined, there is no way to determine whether any biblical passage asserts that “the God of the Bible” has this characteristic.
Thus, at least two of the biblical claims made by Geisler are FALSE, and  are based on very sloppy and irresponsible interpretations of the biblical passages that he cites (but does not quote), and one of his biblical claims is too UNCLEAR (as it stands) to be supported by any interpretation of any biblical passages.
Furthermore, if we accept the claim that “The god of the Bible is an unchanging being”, then we have an excellent reason for concluding that there is no such being as “the god of the Bible” because the idea of a being–who performs actions and tasks in order to accomplish specific purposes–having the attribute such that this being cannot ever change in any way whatsoever is an incoherent idea, an idea that contains a logical contradiction.
The same is true if we accept the claim that “The god of the Bible is an eternal being”, if we understand “eternal” being in the odd sense that Geisler has in mind: a being that exists outside of time, a being for whom there is no such thing as “before” or “after”.  So, if we accept those two assumptions that Geisler makes in this argument, then we are compelled by logic to conclude that there is no such being as “The god of the Bible”.
THE “CHARACTERISTIC” OF EXISTENCE
Second, Geisler’s assertion that “the central characteristic of the God of the Bible is existence.” is one of the most idiotic claims he makes on this subject.  Existence is also a characteristic of atoms and oranges, butterflies and cheeseburgers, rocks, clouds, elephants, etc., etc.  Existence is, literally, a characteristic of EVERYTHING that exists!  So there is nothing special or unique about the “characteristic” of existence.  This characteristic does not distinguish God or Jehovah (the god of the Bible) from anything else.
Geisler might object that he had in mind the fact that God’s “very nature is existence”.  That, indeed, might be something unique, but there are three problems with that point.  First, it is doubtful that this phrase expresses a coherent idea.  This appears to be a string of words that has no specific meaning.  Unless and until Geisler can provide a clear definition or analysis of this strange concept, it remains questionable whether this makes any sense at all.
Second, it is anachronistic to project this strange Thomist idea back onto an ancient Hebrew story (Exodus) that was written before Aristotle was born and perhaps two thousand years before Aquinas was born.  Geisler is again showing no respect for the intended meaning of the biblical passage, and is guilty of proof texting here.
Third (and this problem applies to every attribute mentioned by Geisler in the above quoted paragraph), even if the Bible did assert that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) was such that his “very nature is existence”, this would NOT in any way establish that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) IN FACT had such a nature, nor that Jehovah exists at all!  Yes, it is true that the Bible claims that “Jehovah exists”.  The Bible also claims that “angels exist” and that “demons exist” and that “heaven exists” and that “hell exists”, etc.  But it does NOT follow that these claims are true.
Geisler believes that these claims are all true, because Geisler believes that whatever the Bible teaches or asserts must be true.  He believes that the Bible is 100% reliable in what it teaches and asserts, because he believes that the Bible was inspired by Jehovah, and because he believes that Jehovah is God, and that God is all-good and all-knowing.  So God, and thus Jehovah, would never communicate false beliefs to humans.  But now we are reasoning in a circle.
Geisler believes  what the Bible teaches is true, because he believes that Jehovah is God, and that Jehovah inspired the Bible.  But why does Geisler believe that Jehovah is God?  He believes this because the Bible asserts that Jehovah has various attributes that are the same as attributes possessed by God:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God 
This is lunacy.  This is the sort of awful reasoning one expects from an overly enthusiastic teenage Christian believer who has never taken a course in philosophy or logic or critical thinking.  This is NOT the kind of reasoning one expects from a grown man, particularly from a grown man who has spent decades of his life studying, teaching, and writing about philosophy of religion.
ALL-POWERFUL & ALL-KNOWING & ALL-GOOD
I’m not going to object to Geisler’s biblical claims concerning the God of the Bible possessing the attributes of being “all-powerful”, and “all-good”.  Let’s grant his assumptions on those points, for the sake of argument.  The problem remains that the fact that the Bible teaches or asserts that Jehovah is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good does NOT show that Jehovah was IN FACT all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.  The fact that the Bible teaches these things does NOT show even that Jehovah exists at all.  The fact that the Bible makes these various claims is compatible with it being the case that Jehovah does not exist and never did exist.  Jehovah may be just as much a fantasy as Zeus, just as much a fiction as unicorns.
Once again, Geisler appears to be assuming that whatever the Bible teaches or asserts must be true.  But his belief in the reliability of the Bible is based on his belief that Jehovah is God, and that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.  But in this case Geisler is once again reasoning in a circle:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God 
So, in addition to laying out an unbelievably crappy case for the existence of God, Geisler then puts the icing on the cake by leading his readers to reason in this tight little circle of insanity.
Furthermore, the Bible teaches other things about Jehovah that imply that Jehovah is a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, egotistical sexist.  So, if we believe that whatever the Bible teaches about Jehovah is true, then we ought to believe that Jehovah is a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, and egotistical sexist.  But in that case Jehovah is NOT an all-good being.  So, the Bible contradicts itself concerning the claim that Jehovah is all-good.
Thus, we have very good reason to doubt the truth and reliability of what the Bible teaches about Jehovah.  First, the Bible teaches contradictory things about Jehovah.  Second, if the Bible was inspired by Jehovah but Jehovah is NOT all-good (or NOT all-knowing), then this would cast significant doubt on the truth and reliability of the teachings of the Bible.
THE “JEHOVAH IS GOD” ARGUMENT 
Geisler’s argument on this issue is indicated in the final sentence of the paragraph:
Since these beings are the same in all these respects, and there can’t be two infinite beings, then this God that the arguments point us to, is the God of the Bible. (WSA, p.29)
Here is a clearer outline of this argument:

110. The Bible teaches that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true. [an unstated assumption that Geisler is making]

THEREFORE:

112. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

113. God is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

THEREFORE:

114. Both Jehovah (the god of the Bible) and God are eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

115.  There cannot be more than one infinite being.

THEREFORE:

116. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) and God are the same being.

117. God exists.  [based on Geisler’s pathetic case for this claim]

THEREFORE:

118. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) exists. [the unstated conclusion that Geisler wants his readers to draw]

 
A key assumption was left unstated by Geisler:

 111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true.

Geisler’s argument for the conclusions that “Jehovah is God” and that “Jehovah exists” requires that he make this assumption, or something very similar to it.  If we reject (111), then Geisler’s argument fails.
Geisler believes (111) is true because he believes that the Bible was inspired by Jehovah, and because he believes that Jehovah is God.  So, Geisler believes that the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being (i.e. by God).  Based on these assumptions about the source of the contents of the Bible, Geisler infers that premise (111) is true:

120.  The Bible was inspired by Jehovah (the god of the Bible) alone.

121.  Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is God.

122.  God is all-knowing and all-good.

THEREFORE:

123. The Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being alone.

124. IF the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being alone, THEN whatever the Bible teaches is true.

THEREFORE:

 111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true.

So, if we take into account the reasoning that supports premise (111), then this final argument from Geisler about God and Jehovah is an awful bit of circular reasoning:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God
Because this argument involves the fallacy of circular reasoning, this argument, like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God FAILS, and it fails miserably and for a number of different reasons.  This argument provides a very pathetic (and yet very appropriate) finale to Geisler’s unbelievably crappy case for the existence of God, and for the existence of Jehovah (the god of the Bible).

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://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-first-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-five-ways/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?
https://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2016/12/10/geislers-five-ways-goodness-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 11: The Structure of Geisler’s Case
https://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/01/04/geislers-five-ways-part-13-existence-attributes-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4
https://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/05/20/geislers-five-ways-part-16-just-one-unlimited-being/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?
https://secularoutpost.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://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/05/27/geislers-five-ways-part-18-god-bible-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada
https://secularoutpost.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 16: Just One Unlimited Being?

A standard objection to traditional arguments for God is that even if the arguments were successful, they fail to prove that there is just ONE god, leaving open the possibility that polytheism is true, and that monotheism is false.  In Phase 5 of his case for God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Dr. Norman Geisler presents an argument that is intended to deal with this standard objection:
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, inifinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.  But how many beings like that can there be?  He is a class of one by definition.  If there were two unlimited beings, how could you tell them apart?…There can only be one infinite Being and no other.  (WSA, p.28)
The question Geisler poses is clearly a rhetorical one.  It is just a way of asserting this claim:

If there were two unlimited beings, then we could not tell them apart.

There is also an unstated assumption that connects this idea to the conclusion that Geisler seeks to establish.  I have made that assumption explicit in my statement of this argument, as premise (104):
Argument of Phase 5

100.  There is at least one being that is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

101.  A being X is an unlimited being IF and ONLY IF being X is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

THEREFORE:

102. There is at least one unlimited being.

 

103.  If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

104. If we cannot tell being A apart from being B, then being A is the very same being as being B.

THEREFORE:

105. If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then being A is the very same being as being B.

THEREFORE:

106.  There is at most just one unlimited being.

102. There is at least one unlimited being.

THEREFORE:

107.  There is exactly one unlimited being.

Premise (100) is dubious for many reasons, so this argument rests on a very shaky foundation.  Premise (100) is based on many of the preceding unsound arguments put forward by Geisler, and it has at least these problems: Geisler has failed to show that there is any eternal being, any omnipotent being, any omniscient being, and any perfectly morally good being, and Geisler has also failed to show that there is any eternal omnipotent being, any eternal omniscient being, and any eternal perfectly morally good being, and Geisler has failed to show that there is any being that is both omnipotent and omniscient, and any being that is both omnipotent and perfectly morally good, and any being that is both omniscient and perfectly morally good, etc.  Geisler has failed to establish each and every element of this claim.  His failure could not be any more complete or absolute.
The Phase 5 argument ought to be rejected simply because it rests on premise (100), but there are other problems as well.
The two other key premises of this argument are (103) and (104):

103.  If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

104. If we cannot tell being A apart from being B, then being A is the very same being as being B.

If these two premises were true, the rest of the argument would be solid, because the logic is correct (assuming that the phrase “we cannot tell being A apart from being B” means the same thing in both of these premises,  so that this argument does not involve the fallacy of equivocation).
Premise (103) appears to be FALSE.  The fact that two being have the same degree of duration, power, knowledge, and moral goodness does NOT make it impossible to tell the two beings apart from each other.  For example, if one being was green all over, and the other being was red all over, then we could tell the beings apart by their color.  Duration, power, knowledge, and moral goodness are NOT the only attributes or characteristics that can be used to identify a being, or to distinguish one being from another.
It might be objected that physical attributes like color, shape, size, and weight do not apply to a being that is omnipotent and omniscient, since such a being would also be omnipresent, and thus would NOT have a specific location in space.
But other attributes or characteristics could be used to distinguish two unlimited beings.  For example, if being A was an unlimited being who created the universe and being B was an unlimited being who did NOT create the universe, then we could distinguish between being A and being B by the fact that one created the universe and the other did not.  Therefore, premise (103) is false, and we ought to reject the Phase 5 argument for this reason too, in addition to the highly dubious foundational premise (100).
Furthermore, premise (103) appears to be analogous to a claim which most Christians are bound to reject:

103A.  If person A is an unlimited being and person B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell person A apart from person B.

This assertion implies that we cannot tell Jesus (the Son of God) apart from God the Father.  The Christian doctrine of the Trinity includes the claim that Jesus and God the Father are two distinct persons, that they are persons that we can tell apart.  But the doctrine of the Trinity also teaches that Jesus the Son of God is an unlimited being, and that God the Father is an unlimited being.  The assertion (103A) contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity, and thus most Christians would have to reject (103A), in order to accept the doctrine of the Trinity and to avoid this logical contradiction in their beliefs.  Since most Christians are bound to reject (103A), and since (103A) appears to be analogous to premise (103), this casts significant doubt on (103), from a Christian point of view.
Premise (104) also appears to be FALSE.  If we understand the phrase “we cannot tell being A apart from being B” in a straightforward and literal way, then this premise makes the nature of reality dependent upon our limited and finite human cognitive abilities.  But this makes no sense.  An ant cannot understand algebra or calculus or  the laws of chemistry and physics, but that does not mean that there are no such things as the laws of chemistry and the laws of physics; it only means that there are aspects of reality that humans can understand and perceive that ants cannot understand or perceive.  So, if a human being can distinguish one substance A from another substance B by analyzing the chemical structure of both substances, and if an ant is unable to tell substance A apart from substance B, it does not follow that substance A is there very same substance as substance B.
Similarly, if limited finite human minds cannot tell unlimited being A apart from unlimited being B, that might simply be the result of our human inability to understand and perceive some real difference that exists between being A and being B.  So, the fact that humans are unable to tell apart being A and being B does NOT prove that there are no actual differences between these beings.  There could be real differences that human beings are unable to detect or discern.  The limitations of our human minds do not constrain the nature of reality; they only constrain what we humans are able to understand and perceive about reality.
Furthermore, this common-sense assumption is one that every Christian must accept, because Christian theology teaches that God is real but that the God’s nature transcends limited finite human minds: human beings cannot completely understand and perceive God’s nature.  Thus, Christian theology assumes the view that our human minds are limited and finite and that the limitations of our minds do NOT constrain the nature of reality; they only constrain what we humans are able to understand and pereceive about reality.
Premise (104) could be modified, in order to eliminate the subjectivist view that it presupposes:

104A. If there is no attribute of being A (including the lack of an attribute) that differs from the attributes of being B, then being A is the very same being as being B.

This is basically Leibniz’s principle of “the idenity of indiscernibles”:
The Identity of Indiscernibles is a principle of analytic ontology first explicitly formulated by Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz in his Discourse on Metaphysics, Section 9 (Loemker 1969: 308). It states that no two distinct things exactly resemble each other. This is often referred to as ‘Leibniz’s Law’ and is typically understood to mean that no two objects have exactly the same properties. (from the opening paragraph of “The Identity of Indiscernibles” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
On this interpretation, this second premise is much more plausible, but then premise (103) would need to be modified in a similar manner:

103B. If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then no attribute of being A (including the lack of an attribute) differs from the attributes of being B. 

Given this modification of premise (103) it is even more clear that this premise is FALSE, because “unlimited being” implies only attributes related to duration, power, knowledge, and moral goodness, and it is clearly the case that there are many other attributes that a being can have besides those (e.g.  a being could be the creator of the universe).  So, if we modify premise (104) to eliminate the subjectivist presupposition (which constrains the nature of reality based upon the limitations of human cognition), that does make (104) more plausibly true, but it also makes premise (103) more certainly false (because of the necessary analogous modification to that premise).
In conclusion, the Phase 5 argument FAILS.  Premise (100) is based on several dubious claims, none of which Geisler has shown to be true, premise (103) appears to be false, and premise (104) is dubious because it is based on a subjectivist presupposition. If we modify (104) to eliminate the subjectivist presupposition, then premise (103) must be similarly modified, making it even more certain that premise (103) is FALSE.  This argument is based on a highly dubious premise (100) and a false premise (103), so this argument FAILS, like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God.
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UPDATED 5/21/17
In the above post, I clarified and simplified Geisler’s somewhat unclear concept of an “unlimited being”.  There are, however, other possible interpretations of this concept that are suggested by specific comments that Geisler makes in WSA.  So, to be fair to Geisler we should briefly consider these alternative interpretations of this concept, to see whether that helps to strengthen his Phase 5 argument.
The “whatever He has” Definition
In Phase 4 when Geisler is arguing that “God” (i.e. the cause of the beginning of the universe) has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, he hints at a specific meaning of the concept of an “unlimited being”:
Because of His necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning, without change, and without limitation.  (WSA, p.28)
Geisler is here assuming that there is a cause of the beginning of the universe, and that this cause is a “necessary being”, and from these assumptions he infers that this being (which he mistakenly and confusingly refers to as “God”, once again demonstrating the great unclarity of his thinking) “has whatever He has” in a way that is “without limitation”.  Here is a definition of “unlimited being” based on the above quote:

101A.  A being X is an unlimited being IF and ONLY IF all of the attributes that being X has are had by X in an unlimited way.

Would this interpretation of premise (101) help the argument of Phase 5?  The inference from (100) combined with (101) would no longer work, so this change damages the initial inference in his argument.  However, an alternative premise to (100) would fix that inference:

100A. There is at least one being that is such that all of the attributes that being has are had by that being in an unlimited way.

Geisler thinks that he has shown that there is a “necessary being” (though he has not shown this) and he thinks that a necessary being has all of its attributes in an unlimited way (though he has not shown this either), so Geisler would agree to (100A) and think that he has shown (100A) to be true.  Since Geisler has NOT shown the assumptions that (100A) is based on to be true, (100A) remains dubious, just like (100), so this does not improve his initial inference/argument that is part of the Phase 5 argument, but it also does not damage that initial inference/argument either, at least not in an obvious way.
There are some reasons, however, to doubt that a being that has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness can exist.  The problem is that these “attributes” can step on each other’s toes.  In other words, when some attribute is thought of as being unlimited, it tends to constrain and restrict other attributes of the being in question.
If we think of unlimited power, this implies the power to do evil.  But the God of Christianity is supposed to be perfectly morally good, so God cannot do evil.  In other words, the perfect or unlimited moral goodness of God creates a constraint or limitation on what God can do; it creates a limitation on God’s power.
If a being has unlimited knowledge, then the being knows infallibly every detail of every event that is going to happen in the future, but in that case the being in question does NOT have free will, because it knows infallibly in advance every detail about every choice and every action it will ever perform prior to making those choices and performing those actions.  This is possible only if those choices and actions are pre-determined, only if those choices and actions are NOT free.  But such a being cannot be a perfectly morally good being, cannot be a being of unlimited moral goodness, because a being that lacks free will cannot be a morally good being at all, let alone have unlimited moral goodness.  Thus, unlimited knowledge does not merely constrain a being’s moral goodness, it eliminates the very possiblity of moral goodness.
So, one serious problem with (100A) is that it can be used as the basis for showing that Geisler’s concept of “God” (i.e.  an “unlimited being” that has the attributes of power, knowledge, and moral goodness) is incoherent and contains logical contradictions, and thus does not and cannot exist.
This alternative definition leaves my previous objections to (103) untouched, and also creates the opening for at least one additional objection to (103).  On the definition of “unlimited being” in (101A), we can have the following two examples of an “unlimited being”:

  • Unlimited being A has unlimited size but no weight.
  • Unlimited being B has unlimited weight but no size.

These two beings have the attributes they have in an unlimited way, but they have different attributes, so we can tell them apart.  The really big being is A, and the really heavy being is B.  So, the definition in (101A) provides an additional reason to doubt premise (103).
Premise (104) does not mention the concept of an “unlimited being” so the alternative definition does not change the meaning of premise (104), and I don’t see any impact on my objections and comments about premise (104), so the definition given in (101A) does not help or damage Geisler’s argument in relation to (104).
I conclude that the alternative definition in (101A) does NOT help strenghen the argument of Phase 5, and it does appear to create the potential for some additional objections.
 
The “unlimited in His perfections” Definition
After Geisler presents his case for God, he considers various objections that might be raised.  One of the objections relates to the concept of an “unlimited being”, and Geisler’s response indicates another possible interpretation of the term:
When we say that God is unlimited, we mean that He is unlimited in His perfections.  Now evil is not a perfection; it is an imperfection.  The same is true of nonexistence, weakness, ignorance…and any other characteristic that implies limitation or imperfection.  (WSA, p.31)
If we take Geisler to be explaining what he means by an “unlimited being”, then this quote can be used as the basis for an alternative definition of that phrase:

101B.  A being X is an unlimited being IF and ONLY IF all of the perfections that being X has are had by X in an unlimited way.

Since power, knowledge, and moral goodness are considered to be “perfections”, an unlimited being that has those attributes would have them in an unlimited way, according to the definition in (101B).
Once again, this modification of premise (101) makes it so the inference from (100) and (101B) is logically invalid.  However, we can modify premise (100) to fix the inference:

100B. There is at least one being that is such that all of the perfections that being has are had by that being in an unlimited way.

This premise may be more difficult to establish than the original premise (100), because showing that there is a being that has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness would NOT be sufficent to establish that there is a being such that ALL of the perfections of that being were unlimited.  One would have to either show that the being in question had no other perfections besides power, knowledge, and moral goodness (which is NOT the case with God, according to Geisler and Christian theology) or one would need to somehow show that all of the other perfections possessed by the being in question were also possessed by that being in an unlimited way.
On the other hand, it may be easier to establish (100B) than the original premise (100), because one does not have to prove the existence of a being that has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, in order to establish (100B).  One only needs to show that a being with one or two perfections of some sort or other had that perfection or those two perfections to an unlimited degree.  I cannot think of any examples of such a being off the top of my head, but with some effort someone might well be able to come up with an example of such a being.
In any case (100B) currently remains as dubious and as unproven as premise (100).
How would the alternative definition in (101B) impact premise (103)?  Premise (103) would clearly be FALSE given the definition of an “unlimited being” in (101B), because this definition only requires that a being’s perfections are all unlimited; it does not require that a being have many perfections or any particular perfections.  So, this creates the potential for the existence of a wide variety of unlimited beings, each having a different perfection or different set of perfections.  We could tell such beings apart on the basis of the specific perfection or set of perfections possessed by that being.  Thus, the definition in (101B) does not help strengthen Geisler’s argument in relation to premise (103).
Since premise (104) does not use the phrase “unlimited being”, changing the definition of that phrase does not change the meaning of premise (104). My objection to premise (104) is not affected by this change in the definition of “unlimited being”.
If we use the modified premise (104B), which avoids the subjectivist presupposition, then premise (103) would need to be modified in a similar way to logically connect with (104B):

103B. If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then no attribute of being A (including the lack of an attribute) differs from the attributes of being B. 

Given the alternative definition of “unlimited being” in (101B), it seems fairly clear that (103B) is FALSE.  The alternative definition does not require a being to have more than one perfection, or to have any particular perfection, so we can consider all kinds of possible examples of unlimited beings with just one or two perfections of various different perfections in various combinations, so it seems highly unlikely that we would be unable to come up with two examples of beings with different perfections, and where “all” of those perfections were possessed in an unlimited way.  If the two unlimited beings had either different perfections or a different combination of perfections, the at least one attribute of the first being would differ from the attributes of the second being, making (103B) false.
I conclude that modifying premise (101) to (101B) would not strengthen Geisler’s argument for Phase 5.
Neither of these two alternative definitions of an “unlimited being” helps to strengthen the argument for Phase 5, so my previous conclusion still stands: the Phase 5 argument FAILS, just like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?

Dr. Norman Geisler uses cosmological arguments to show that God is very powerful, and a teleological argument to show that God is very intelligent, and a moral argument to show that God is good (When Skeptics Ask [hereafter: WSA], p.26-27).  But in Phase 4 of his case, he has not yet attempted to show that God exists.  At best he has attempted to show that there is exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and that this being is very powerful, very intelligent, and is morally good.  Geisler has failed miserably at this attempt, but that is what he was actually trying to establish, so far.
A final step in Phase 4 is his attempt to show that the being that caused the universe is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good:
Because of his necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning,  without change, and without limitation.  So while the argument from Creation tells us that He has power, the argument from being shows us that it is perfect, unlimited power.  The argument from design tells us that He is intelligent, but His necessity informs us that His knowledge is uncreated, unchanging, and infinite.  The moral order suggests that He is good, but the perfection of His being means that He must be all good in a perfect and unlimited way.  (WSA, p.28)
In the previous post I criticized Argument 3 of Phase 4, which included an inference to the conclusion that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist had no limitations.  That argument failed (in part) because it was based on a fallacy of equivocation on the phrase “to not be” (among other problems).  In this post I will consider a second argument that Geisler makes for a similar conclusion:
Argument 4 of Phase 4

90. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.

91. If a being B is a necessary being, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way.

92. If all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B without any limitation.

THEREFORE:

93. All of the attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has, are attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has without any limitation.

94.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has the attributes of power, knowledge, and moral goodness.

THEREFORE:

95. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness.

96.  If a being B has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, then being B is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

THEREFORE:

97. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

One standard objection to traditional arguments for the existence of God is that, at best, they only show the existence of a being with finite power, finite knowledge, and limited moral goodness.  The above argument is Geisler’s attempt to get around that standard objection.  His attempt, like every other argument in this case, fails.
First of all, premise (90) is doubly dubious, because (a) Geisler failed to show that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and (b) Geisler also failed to show that the being that caused the universe to exist (if there were such a being) was a necessary being.  The “Argument from Being” that Geisler presents is based on an analysis of the concept of “God”, but Geisler has not shown anything about God or the existence of God yet; he has only attempted to show the existence of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and he failed even at that lesser task.  Because Geisler is still working his way towards showing that God exists, he cannot make use of his “Argument from Being” to support the claim that the being who caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.  Therefore, premise (90) is doubly dubious, and provides a very shaky foundation for Argument 4 of Phase 4.
Premise (91) is also very dubious, for more than one reason.  First of all, this premise is NOT self-evidently true, so Geisler needs to provide reasons or evidence in support of (91), but he provides no such support for this premise.  Second, the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” is vague and unclear, so Geisler needs to provide a definition or clarification of what this phrase means, but he provides no definition or clarification of this phrase.  One cannot evaluate the truth of (91) unless and until the phrase “in a necessary way” is defined or clarified.
Third, if we interpret the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” as meaning that it is a necessary truth that the being in question has that attribute, then this leads to an apparent contradicition with Christian theology.   God, according to Christian theology, did NOT have to create the universe; God freely chose to create the universe, and was not compelled or necessitated to do so.  But one of God’s attributes is being the creator of the universe.  If God is a necessary being, as Geisler asserts, and thus each of God’s attributes corresponds to a necessary truth, then it is a necessary truth that “God created the universe” (or “If God exists, then God created the universe”).  But if this is a necessary truth, then it is logically impossible for God to NOT have created the universe, and thus God did NOT freely choose to create the universe, but was compelled to do so out of logical necessity.  Therefore, premise (91) contradicts a basic claim of Christian theology.
There are good reasons to believe that premise (92) is false, if we assume that (91) is true.  First, the number three is a necessary being, since it cannot not exist.  But the quantity represented by the number three is clearly limited; that is what makes it the number three, as opposed to the number four, or the number five thousand.  The number three is less than the number four, and it is this very limitation that constitutes the nature of the number three.  Thus, a necessary being can have a limitation.
Second, God is the creator of the universe and a necessary being, according to Geisler and according to Christian theology, but the universe is finite both in duration and in size.  If God’s power and knowledge are unlimited, then God could have created an infinite universe, but God, if God exists, created a finite universe.  So, even if God had the potential to create an infinite universe, it appears that he did not actualize that potential.  God’s attribute of being a “creator of stars, planets, and galaxies” is a limited attribute, not an infinite and unlimited attribute.   But in that case, premise (92) would be false, assuming premise (91) was true, because at least one attribute of a necessary being is limited and finite.
The conclusion (93) follows validly from the premises (90), (91), and (92), assuming that there are no equivocations, such as with the unclear phrase “in a necessary way”.  However, each of the three premises is dubious, so this argument for (93) fails.
Premise (94) is a question begging assumption, because Geisler has only attempted to show that the cause of the universe is powerful, the designer of the universe has knowledge, and the lawmaker of moral laws is morally good.  He has made no attempt to show that these three beings (if they exist) are one and the same being.   Geisler also failed to show that there was just one cause of the universe, just one designer of the universe, and just one moral lawmaker.  So, this premise is doubly dubious.  Geisler failed to show that there was just one of each of these types of beings, and Geisler failed to show that these three beings (or types of being) are all one and the same being.  Therefore, Geisler hasn’t even come close to showing that the cause of the universe is powerful AND knowledgable AND morally good.
Since both premise (93) and (94) are dubious, the argument for (95) fails.
Premise (96) appears to be true, but since Geisler failed to provide a solid argument for premise (95), his argument for (97) also fails, just like every other argument in his unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4

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NOTE:
To avoid sounding overly aggressive and insulting,  I will not be repeating the evaluation that Dr. Geisler’s various arguments for the existence of God are a steaming pile of dog shit.  However, please understand that the fact that I refrain from writing such comments does NOT mean that no such thoughts come to my mind as I am reading and thinking about Dr. Geisler’s arguments; it just means that I am restraining myself from stating clearly and forcefully how I view his arguments, for the sake of etiquette and public decorum.
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PHASE 4: ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
Geisler wrongly believes that he has proven the claim that “God is a necessary being” in Phase 3 of his case for God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  He then procedes to argue from this assumption to claims about various metaphysical attributes of God:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.
  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Geisler also argues for the following conditional claims based on the assumption that “God is a necessary being”:

  • If God has power, then God is omnipotent.
  • If God has knowledge, then God is omniscient.
  • If God has some moral goodness, then God is perfectly morally good.

In Part 13 of this series, I argued that Geisler’s arguments for these conclusions failed:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.

In this post,  I will argue that Geisler’s arguments for the following conclusions also fail:

  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Here is how Geisler argues for the first two of those conclusions:
Since a necessary being cannot not be, He can have no limits.  A limitation means “to not be” in some sense, and that is impossible–so He is infinite.  (WSA, p.27)
Phase 4 Argument #3

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.

70. A necessary being cannot not be.

THEREFORE:

71.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) cannot not be.

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

THEREFORE:

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

75.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an infinite being.

First of all, this argument is based on a dubious and unpoven premise: premise (54b), so the whole argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Second, there must be a problem somewhere with this argument, because the same logic can be used to prove an absurd conclusion:

A. The number six is a necessary being.

70. A necessary being cannot not be.

THEREFORE:

81.  The number six cannot not be.

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

THEREFORE:

83.  The number six has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

85. The number six is an infinite being.

B.    There can be only one infinite being.  (according to Geisler: WSA, p.28)

C.    God is an infinite being. (according to Geisler: WSA, p.27)

THEREFORE:

86.  The number six is God. (!!)

The claim “The number six exists” is a necessary truth, so the existence of the number six is necessary; therefore, the number six is a necessary being.
But given Geisler’s logic and assumptions, it follows from the fact that the number six is a necessary being, that the number six is God!  But that is absurd.  God is a person, and the number six is NOT a person, so God cannot be the number six, and the number six cannot be God.  Thus, there must be at least one false premise or one invalid inference somewhere in Argument 3 of Phase 4.
If we clarify the premises of Geisler’s argument, we can see that there is at least one invalid inference in the argument.  Premises (70) and (72) are both in need of clarification.  First, let’s make it more clear that (70) is talking about existence:

70a. A necessary being cannot not exist.

Next, lets think about premise (72) to see if we can clarify that premise,  based on understanding the underlying logic of that premise:

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

A being might have a limitation related to knowledge, thus making the being fall short of possessing omniscience.  For example, a being might NOT know calculus, and thus fall short of possessing omniscience.  In this case, the being can be said “to not be” a being that knows calculus, and that would mean that this being has a limitation related to knowledge.
A being might have a limitation related to power, thus making the being fall short of possessing omnipotence.  For example, a being might NOT have the power to instantly create a universe out of nothing, and thus fall short of possessing omnipotence.  In this case, the being can be said “to not be” a being that has the power to instantly create a universe out of nothing, and that would mean that this being has a limitation related to power.
Note that a being that fell short of omniscience could, nevertheless, exist.  Note that a being that fell short of omnipotence could, nevertheless, exist.  So, lacking some power or characteristic that is required in order to have infinite power or infinite knowledge does not imply the non-existence of the being in question.  I am not omniscient, nor am I omnipotent, but I do exist.  Thus, it appears that the phrase “not be” has a different meaning in premise (70) than in premise (72), and thus Geisler’s argument is invalid because of the fallacy of equivocation (if I had a nickel for every equivocation fallacy by Geisler, I could buy Bill Gates’ house on Lake Washington).
Here is a clarified version of Argument 3 of Phase 4 that makes the invalidity of Geisler’s logic more obvious:
Phase 4 Argument #3 RevA

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.

70a. A necessary being cannot not exist.

THEREFORE:

71a.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) cannot not exist.

72a. A being B has a limitation related to characteristic C IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” a being with property P, where P is a property that B must have in order to have characteristic C to an infinite degree.

THEREFORE:

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

75.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an infinite being.

Premise (71a) has no logical connection with premise (72a), because (71a) is talking about EXISTENCE, while (71a) is talking about having, or not having, some PROPERTY or characteristic.  Therefore, the inference from (71a) and (72a) to (73) is logically invalid, and this argument fails, like every single other argument that Geisler has presented in his case for God.  Geisler has yet again committed the fallacy of equivocation, because he plays fast-and-loose with the meanings of words and phrases, such as the phrase “not be”.
Argument 3 of Phase 4 clearly FAILS because (a) it is based on a dubious and unproven premise, premise (54b), and because (b) the logic of the argument is invalid.
Here is Geisler’s argument about omnipresence:
Also, He can’t be limited to categories like “here and there,” because unlimited being must be in all places at all times–therefore, He is omnipresent.  (WSA, p.27-28)
 
Phase 4 Argument #4

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

THEREFORE:

76. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations related to its location.

77. A being that has no limitations related to its location must be in all places at all times.

78.  A being that is in all places at all times is an omnipresent being.

THERFORE:

79. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an omnipresent being.

This argument is better than most given by Geisler in his case for God.  The main problem is that the initial premise (73) is controversial and questionable, and Geisler has failed in his previous attempt to provide a sound argument for (73).  So, this argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Premise (77) is not Geisler’s wording; it is my attempt to use the logic that we uncovered in clarifying premise (72) in order to clarify this present argument.
There does seem to be a bit of a problem with the truth of premise (77), at least as I have worded it.  Being confined to a particular location seems to be a kind of limitation.  We put people in prison, for example, to confine them, to limit their freedom.  As human beings, one aspect of our freedom and power is to be able to LEAVE a particular location when we wish to do so.  I can pick up my marbles and go home, if I get mad and don’t want to play anymore.  If a being MUST be in a particular location, then that being is confined to that location, and is not free to leave that location.  Thus it seems to be the case that a being that “has no limitations related to its location” would be a being that is able to leave a location and NOT be present at that location, whenever the being wishes to do so.  Thus, it is not clear to me that (77) is true.
Perhaps premise (77) could be modified to get around this objection.  I’m not sure.
My main objection to Argument 4 of Phase 4 is that it is based on the questionable and controversial premise (73), for which Geisler has failed to provide a solid argument.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Die on the Cross? Part 2: Finishing Off Geisler’s Case

It is springtime! The sky is blue, and the sun is shining again here in the great and green Northwest.
Every year Easter brings life back into me.  I feel born again, inspired and energized to once again attack the beast (i.e. Christianity/religion/superstition).  I might be tilting at a windmill, but I’m delighted to be back in the saddle, fighting the good fight, crusading against Christianity.
(Although he probably despises me right now, I’m feeling a bit like the energetic and aggressive atheist, Mr. John Loftus.  Happy Easter John!)
The Christian claim I’m currently examining is this:
(JDC) Jesus died on the cross on the day he was crucified.
I have finished reviewing the rest of Geisler’s case for (JDC) in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), and I’m going to (***SPOILER ALERT***) give you my conclusion right up front:
Geisler’s case for (JDC) is a complete failure.
Recently after working my way through most of Geisler’s case for the existence of God in the same book (WSA), I concluded that his case for God was a complete failure.  So, in WSA Geisler has presented us with at least two key cases in support of Christianity, both of which are of the same unbelievably poor intellectual quality.
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To Dr. Geisler:
If you are reading this post, why not try building a real case for (JDC)?
I’ve tried to get Dr. Craig to do this, but he refuses to budge.  Since Craig has no interest in building an intellectually serious case for the resurrection of Jesus, you have an opportunity to step up to the plate and do the job.
Please consider my challenge to you.  I’m sick of reading the sort of intellectually shoddy apologetic cases that you wrote in When Skeptics Ask (and that William Craig wrote in The Son Rises), and I would love to read an intellectually serious case for the resurrection, to sink my teeth into.   Just Do It!
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The section of WSA that I’m looking at starts on page 120, and has this title:
JESUS ACTUALLY DIED ON THE CROSS
Geisler makes eight points in this section:

  1. There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus was drugged.
  2. The heavy loss of blood makes Jesus’ death highly probable.
  3. When Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out.
  4. The professional Roman executioners declared Jesus dead without breaking his legs.
  5. Jesus was embalmed in about 75-100 pounds of spices and bandages.
  6. Pilate asked for assurance that Jesus was really dead.
  7. Jesus’ appearance [on Sunday] would have been more like a resuscitated wretch than a resurrected Saviour.
  8. A JAMA article concludes that “interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with medical knowledge.”

Three of these points (1, 5, and 7) are objections to specific versions of the Apparent Death Theory (hereafter: ADT).  At best, those objections cast doubt on some specific versions of ADT, so they do NOT rule out ADT in general.  The only way to rule out ADT in general is to PROVE that (JDC) is true. (At least, that is the only way a Christian apologist can rule out ADT.  A skeptic could rule out ADT by proving that Jesus never existed, or by proving that Jesus was never crucified, or by proving that a Jesus look-alike was crucified and mistaken for Jesus.) We can thus set aside points 1, 5, and 7 as irrelevant to the task of proving (JDC) to be true.
Let’s also set aside point 8, because that is a dubious appeal to authority.  Geisler quoting from that JAMA article is very similar to Donald Trump quoting Fox News commentators to “prove” that Obama had ordered Trump Tower to be wire-tapped.  The “authorities” who wrote that JAMA article have about as much intellectual credibility as the Fox News commentators.  The authors of the JAMA article are clearly biased and are incompetent for the task of careful and objective analysis of historical evidence.  Anyway, a serious intellectual case for (JDC) should focus on ACTUAL HISTORICAL EVIDENCE and should not rest on dubious arguments from authority.
Now we are left with the real heart of Geisler’s case for (JDC): points 2, 3, 4, and 6.
In Part 1 of this series, I showed that point 2 was a complete failure, so we now only need to examine the three remaining points (3, 4, and 6).
3. When Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out.
Here is a fuller quote from Geisler on this third point:
When His side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out. The best evidence suggests that this was a thrust given by a Roman soldier to insure death.  The spear entered through the rib cage and pierced His right lung, the sack around his heart, and the heart itself, releasing both blood and pleural fluids.  Jesus was unquestionably dead before they removed him from the cross and probably before this wound was inflicted. …The final wound to His side would have been fatal in itself (v.34).  (WSA, p.121)
In that paragraph, Geisler makes ten relevant claims:
(3a) Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear (while he was hanging on the cross).
(3b) Water and blood flowed out of the wound in Jesus’ side (from the spear).
(3c) The thrust (of the spear into Jesus’ side) given by a Roman soldier (was intended) to insure death.
(3d) The spear entered through the rib cage and pierced Jesus’ right lung.
(3e) The spear pierced the sack around Jesus’ heart.
(3f) The spear pierced Jesus’ heart itself.
(3g) The spearing of Jesus’ side resulted in releasing both blood and pleural fluids.
(3h) Jesus was unquestionably dead before they removed him from the cross.
(3i)  Jesus was probably dead before the spear wound was inflicted.
(3j)  The spear wound to Jesus’ side would have been fatal in itself.
Each of these ten claims is an historical claim, so each of these claims needs to be established on the basis of historical evidence.  But Norman Geisler has no clue about how to make a case for an historical claim:

  • Dr.Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3c)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3d)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3e)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3f)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3g)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3h)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3i)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3j)

Although Geisler comes close to providing ZERO historical evidence in relation to his third point, he narrowly avoids making this point completely free of any historical evidence by dropping a tiny little morsel at the end of the paragraph:
(v.34)
You would think that an Evangelical professor of theology would know how to give a proper reference to a passage in one of the Gospels, but Dr. Geisler cannot be bothered to strain himself to the extent of writing out the name of the Gospel, and the relevant chatper.  So, I will have to fill in the missing information for him:  John 19:34.  This is the entire extent of Dr. Geisler’s historical evidence in support of claims (3a) and (3b), the only claims out of his ten claims (in this third point) that he supports with historical evidence.
There are so many problems and weaknesses with this bit of historical evidence that it is hard to know where to begin.  Because Dr. Geisler makes absolutely no effort whatsoever to interpret, explain, or defend this small scrap historical evidence, I’m not going to put much effort in here to debunk this weak and questionable bit of evidence.
I will quickly point out some of the problems, and then move on to point 4.  If Dr. Geisler decides someday to make a serious attempt at proving (JDC), then I will respond in kind and make a more serious effort to refute or cast doubt on his historical claims.
Here are some of the many points that I would make (and support with arguments and evidence) if Dr. Geisler ever puts forward an intellectually serious case that makes use of claims (3a) or (3b):

  • The Fourth Gospel was NOT written by an eyewitness to the life or death of Jesus.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four canonical gospels.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the spearing of Jesus in his side.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the blood and water coming from Jesus’ side.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the doubting Thomas story (where Thomas is invited to touch the wound in Jesus’ side, see John 20:24-29).
  • The flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side is very rich in terms of theological symbolism, suggesting that this detail was invented for theological reasons.
  • The author of the Fourth Gospel believed that there was an Old Testament prophecy that the messiah would be stabbed with a spear (John 19:37), so this detail may well have been based on the OT prophecy rather than on testimony about the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • There are several conflicts between the Synoptic gospels accounts of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and crucifixion and death and the accounts of those events found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel.
  • There are conflicts between the doubting Thomas story in the Fourth Gospel and events described in other gospels.
  • Most of the events and details found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel are historically dubious, and probably fictional.

I conclude that point 3 is as much a complete intellectual failure as was point 2.
Now we will move on to point 4 of Dr. Geisler’s case for (JDC):
4. The professional Roman executioners declared Jesus dead without breaking his legs.
Here is a fuller quote of the paragraph on this point:
The standard procedure for crucifixion was to break the victim’s legs so that he could not lift himself to exhale.  The victim would then be asphyxiated as his lungs filled with carbon dioxide.  Be clear on this: they broke everyone’s legs.  Yet the professional Roman executioners declared Christ dead without breaking his legs (v.33).  There was no doubt in their minds.  (WSA, p.122)
In that paragraph on point 4 Geisler makes nine historical claims:
(4a) It was standard procedure for crucifixion (by Romans in the first century) to break the victim’s legs (while the victims were hanging from the cross).
(4b) When the legs of a victim of crucifixion were broken (by Romans in the first century) the intention of this action was to prevent the victim from lifting himself to exhale.
(4c) When the legs of a victim of crucifixion were broken (by Romans in the first century) this IN FACT prevented the victim from lifting himself to exhale.
(4d) When the legs of a victim of crucifixion were broken (by Romans in the first century) the victim would then be asphyxiated as his lungs filled with carbon dioxide.
(4e) When Roman soldiers crucified people (in the first century), they broke the legs of every victim (while the victims hung on their crosses).
(4f) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus were professional executioners.
(4g) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus declared Jesus to be dead (before removing him from the cross).
(4h) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus did NOT break Jesus’ legs (before removing him from the cross).
(4i) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus had no doubt in their minds that Jesus was dead (before removing him from the cross).
Each of these nine claims is an historical claim, so each of these claims needs to be established on the basis of historical evidence.  But Norman Geisler is oblivious to this simple and basic intellectual requirement:

  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4a)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4b)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4c)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4d)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4e)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4f)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4g)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4i)

Once again, Geisler provides only one small scrap of evidence for only one of the nine historical claims in point 4:
(4h) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus did NOT break Jesus’ legs (before removing him from the cross).
Once again, Geisler doesn’t even provide a proper biblical reference to the relevant gospel passage; instead what we get is this:
(v.33)
Once again, I will have to provide the missing information for Dr. Geisler:  John 19:33.
Some of the problems with John 19:34 that I mentioned above apply to John 19:33 as well:

  • The Fourth Gospel was NOT written by an eyewitness to the life or death of Jesus.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four canonical gospels.
  • There are several conflicts between the Synoptic gospels accounts of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and crucifixion and death and the accounts of those events found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel.
  • Most of the events and details found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel are historically dubious, and probably fictional.

As with the spear wound to Jesus’ side, the Fourth Gospel is alone in mentioning the breaking of the legs of the crucifixion victims:

  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the breaking of the legs of the (other) victims of crucifixion.

One other specific reason to doubt the historicity of John 19:33 is that the alleged failure of the soldiers to break Jesus’ legs was believed by the author of the Fourth Gospel to be a fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy:
These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”  (John 19:36)
The Old Testament reference is to Psalm 34:20.  Most NT scholars believe that many of the details in the Passion Narratives were derived from OT passages that the authors of the gospels believed to be prophecies about the promised messiah.
The ONE small scrap of evidence that Dr. Geisler provides in support of just ONE of his nine claims, is a very weak and dubious bit of evidence.
I conclude that point 4 is a complete intellectual failureand thus we have seen, so far, that at least three out of the four main points in Dr. Geisler’s case for (JDC) are complete intellectual failures.  That is sufficient to justify the conclusion that his case for (JDC) is a a complete intellectual failure.
Statistics:  
For points 2, 3, and 4, Geisler makes 28 historical claims:

  • For 0 of those historical claims (0%),  he provides strong historical evidence.
  • For 4 of those historical claims (14%), he provides only weak and dubious historical evidence.
  • For 24 of those historical claims (86%), he provides no historical evidence.

 
Point 6 of Geisler’s Case for (JDC)
Point 6, it should be no surprise, also turns out to be a complete intellectual failure:
6. Pilate asked for assurance that Jesus was really dead.
Here is the full quote from Geisler on this point:
Pilate asked for assurance that Jesus was really dead before releasing the body for burial. (WSA, p.122)
That is the sum total that Dr. Geisler wrote on this point.  Notice that he provides no historical evidence to support his claim.
If a professor of an undergraduate course in Christian apologetics asked his/her students to write a short essay defending (JDC), and if one of the students in that course turned in the assignment having written just one single sentence on a single piece of paper, namely the sentence above, then that student ought to receive an “F” for that assignment.
If the professor was feeling particulaly kind and generous, the wayward student might be given the opportunity to have the grade bumped up to a “D” by providing at least a reference to some Gospel passage that supports this claim.  But I’m not feeling particularly generous towards Dr. Geisler, because he already has three stikes, based on the fact that each of his previous three points was a complete intellectual failure (not to mention that he has a doctoral degree and is a professor of Christian apologetics and philosophy, so ought to be held to a much higher standard than undergraduate students).  So, Dr. Geisler gets and “F” for point 6.
But suppose that Geisler had provided some historical evidence to support this historical claim by citing an appropriate Gospel passage, such as Mark 15:42-45?   That would have at least shown a modicum of respect for the basic requirement to provide historical evidence in support of historical claims.
But there are many serious problems with the historicity of Chapter 15 of Mark, and there are specific reasons to doubt the historicity of the specific passage related to point 6, so this is, once again, weak and dubious historical evidence, in addition to the fact that Geisler did not bother to provide any reference to any Gospel passage.
I am tempted to walk through the dozen or more historical problems with Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark, but since Dr. Geisler has provided such a thoroughly lousy defense of (JDC), I don’t feel any obligation to provide a thorough refutation of point 6.
If you want more information about why we should be skeptical about Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark and about the specific passage that relates to point 6, then read the commentary on Chapter 15 of Mark in The Acts of Jesus (by Robert Funk and The Jesus Seminar), pages 149-161.
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P.S.
The idea that a solid case could be made for (JDC) in just two or three pages is ridiculous.
Yet William Craig, Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas, and Michael Licona have all embraced this absurd assumption, which is a large part of the reason why each of their cases for (JDC) are complete intellectual failures.