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 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being

In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God, Geisler reformulates the argument from being as follows:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He [God] must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)
 
PHASE 3 ARGUMENT
Both premise (50) and the conclusion (52) are conditional statements with the antecedent “If God exists…”.  So, in order to make use of this argument, Geisler must first prove that “God exists”, which he says he did with “the argument from Creation”:
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)
So, the conclusion of the argument from Creation is (allegedly) that “God exists” and this affirms the antecedent of premise (50) and the antecedent of the conclusion (52).  Because the claim that God is “a necessary being” is crucial for Geisler’s case, we should use premise (50) as the basis for the argument in Phase 3.
Phase 3 Argument – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54. God exists and we conceive of God as a necessary being.

 
This argument needs a little bit of tweaking to make it support Geisler’s desired conclusion:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 1

50a. IF God exists, THEN God exists and God is a necessary being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

 
As I have previously explained, in order for the logic of this Phase 3 argument to be VALID, the word “God” in  premise (53) must have the same meaning as the word “God” in the other premise of the argument, namely in premise (50a) and in the conclusion (54a). Because the truth of premise (53) is based on the argument from Creation, we know what the word “God” means in premise (53).  So, we can replace the word “God” in premise (53) with a phrase that clearly and accurately represents the being that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the argument from Creation:

53a.  There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

We must plug this same interpretation of the word “God” into the other premise and into the conclusion of the Phase 3 argument in order to maintain the logical validity of the argument:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 2

50b. IF there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago), THEN 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.  

53a. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

THEREFORE:

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.  

 
The above argument is UNSOUND because premise (50b) is FALSE, as I argued in the previous post.  Also, Geisler’s argument from Creation does NOT prove that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin, so premise (53a) is dubious and controversial.  Thus, the argument in Phase 3 of Geisler’s case for God FAILS, just like the arguments in Phase 1 and in Phase 2.  The first three phases of Geisler’s case constitute a big steaming pile of dog shit.  I have no expectation at this point that the next phases and arguments will be any better.
 
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.  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.

Geisler’s argument for the claim that “God is unchanging” is brief (see WSA, page 27), as are all of his arguments in Phase 4:
Phase 4 Argument #1

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

THEREFORE

56.  God cannot “come to be” in any other way.

THEREFORE

57. God must be as He is necessarily.

THEREFORE

58.  God cannot become something new.

THEREFORE

59. God cannot change in any way.

THEREFORE

60.  God is unchanging.

Since the only argument that Geisler gives us in support of premise (54a) is UNSOUND, the truth of (54a) is questionable, so this whole line of reasoning rests upon a shaky foundation.
The inference from (54a) to (56) is also questionable.  Geisler provides no reason or justification for this inference, but the inference is NOT obviously correct or self-evident.  Furthermore, although Geisler does define the phrase “a necessary being”, his definition is not very helpful:  “must exist and cannot not exist”.  Because this definition is somewhat unclear, it is difficult to be confident that the alleged implications of being “a necessary being” are in fact logical implications.
This definition of “a necessary being” includes entities like the number three, because the number three “must exist and cannot not exist”.  It is a logically necessary truth that the number three exists.   Can the number three “come to be” in any other way (besides coming into existence)?  It certainly seems that the number three can “come to be” in a way that is other than coming into existence.  Yesterday my favorite number was the number seven, but today I’m tired of that number, and my new favorite number is the number three.  Thus, the number three has “come to be” my favorite number.  Thus, the inference from (54a) to (56) is not only questionable, it appears to be INVALID.
I understand that one can draw a distinction between ordinary properties on the one hand and relations on the other, and it is often thought that changes in relations are not REAL changes, or that they are a significantly different sort of change than the change of ordinary properties.  But Geisler has no discussion or justification of this inference, so there is no way to be clear about his conception of changes, and his understanding of the concept of “a necessary being” and how this concept works in terms of relations (like the number three becoming my favorite number).
The other inferences in this line of reasoning are also NOT obviously correct, nor are they self-evident.  But Geisler provides no clarification and no justification for any of these inferences.  So, this argument begins with a questionable premise, and procedes with several questionable inferences.  It is a dubious and unclear mess from start to finish.
But suppose that by some miracle Geisler was able to come up with a new and sound argument for premise (54a), and suppose that he was able to come up with clarifications and justifications that show each of these inferences to be correct.  In that case the conclusion that Geisler would have actually proven is this:

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

This conclusion would actually show that God does NOT exist.  Here is an argument that uses (60a) to prove that God does NOT exist:
Argument Against the Existence of God – Based on Unchanging First Cause

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

61.  IF a being X is unchanging, THEN being X is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

62. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

63. It is NOT the case that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

64. IF God exists, then the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

THEREFORE

65.  It is NOT the case that God exists.

Geisler would object to premise (61),  but the concept of “a person” implies a being that can make choices and perform actions, and the idea of “making a choice” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while making the choice, and the idea of “performing an action” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while performing the action.
So,  argument #1 of Phase 4 is highly questionable, but if it could be revised and made solid, it would provide the basis for a strong argument AGAINST the existence of God.
Phase 4 Argument #2

66. Time is just a way to measure change.

THEREFORE

67.  Without change, time is impossible.

60. God is unchanging.  (the conclusion from Argument #1 of Phase 4)

THEREFORE

68.  Time is impossible for God.

THEREFORE

69.  God is eternal.

 
Time is a very abstract concept and a difficult concept to understand, so premise (66) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident.  But Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this premise.  Similarly, the inference from (66) to (67) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident, and Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this inference.
Premise (60) is the conclusion of the very dubious argument #1 of Phase 4, so this premise remains questionable and has not been supported with a solid argument by Geisler.
The inference from (67) and (60) to (68) appears to be INVALID, because premise (67) talks about a circumstance in which there is NO CHANGE at all, but premise (60) does NOT assert that there is NO CHANGE at all, but rather that there is no change in God (or no change in the being that caused the universe to begin to exist).
Suppose there are no changes in the cause of the universe; that is compatible with there being changes in the universe (which clearly there have been).  Since there are changes in the universe, premise (67) is purely hypothetical and has no application to the way things actually are.  Changes occur, so time is possible.  In other words, premise (67) is too broad and general to warrant an inference in the specific case at hand, where one thing might be unchanging while everything else undergoes changes.
In order to repair this INVALID argument, we would need to have a more specific premise, such as this one:
70.  IF a being X never changes, THEN time does not pass for being X.
But this more specific claim is also more questionable than the premise that it replaces.  Even if the being that caused the universe to begin to exist never changes, since the universe itself constantly changes, it would seem to be the case that time would pass not only for the universe, but for the unchanging cause of the universe too.
For example, let’s call the first moment of the existence of the universe time T1.   Suppose that the first planets of the universe formed one billion years after T1.   Let’s call the moment that the first planet formed time T2.  The cause of the universe’s begining, did it’s great work at (or before) time T1, and clearly the first planet formed some time AFTER time T1.  Thus, the first planet formed some time AFTER the cause of the beginning of the universe did its great work.  The cause of the universe might not have changed one bit during the billion years between the beginning of the univese and the formation of the first planet, but it seems clear that the formation of the first planet occurred a long time after the cause of the universe brought the universe into existence, and this appears to imply that time did pass for the cause of the universe.
In fact, what makes the “unchangingness” of the cause of the universe impressive (in this scenario) is precisely the fact that it remained unchanged over a billion years of time.  If no time had passed at all, then there would be no reason to expect any changes in the cause of the universe, because changes take time.
Given the imaginary scenario where there is an unchanging cause of the universe, and a constantly changing universe, the more specific premise (70) appears to be false.  But Geisler needs a more specific premise like (70) in order to make argument #2 into a VALID argument.  So, it appears that the argument that Geisler actually gives us is INVALID, and that it may be rather difficult for Geisler to come up with a more specific version of premise (67) that would fix this problem.
The final inference from (68) to (69) is questionable.  The word “eternal” normally means “has always existed and will continue to exist forever”, but Geisler apparently interprets the word in an unusual way, to mean “outside of time”, which is a strange and difficult to understand idea.  Both (68) and (69) are unclear claims, so any inference from one to the other is suspect.  Unless and until Geisler can do a better job of explaining and clarifying these unclear and difficult to understand ideas, this inference will remain dubious.
Argument #2 of Phase 4 contains some dubious premises, at least two dubious inferences, and one INVALID inference.  Like all of his other arguments that we have considered so far, this one also FAILS, which is no surprise because every single argument that he has presented so far has had one or more serious flaws.