Systematic Theology Lecture 3
Class notes from Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology
(Working on the audio)
God's Existence and Attributes:
Can God be defined?: God cannot be defined comprehensively or exhaustively. He is infinite.
He may be defined in a limited way according to what he has revealed of himself and definitions based on his self-revelation can be correct or incorrect. That the definition cannot be “complete” does not mean it is inexact
“We may know a thing correctly as far as we know it, even though we don't know all about it.” (54)
We can set forth the attributes of God as he has revealed them.
We may say that: “God is” and then set about differentiating him from other things that exist.
Some definitions: “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” (Westminster Shorter Chatechism)
“God is a Spirit absolute, personal, and holy, infinite, and eternal in his being and attributes, the ground and cause of the universe.” (HB Smith)
The Existence of God: God has revealed himself and we are able to apprehend his revelation. What are the arguments for his existence. They fall into three broad groups:
1. The Belief in God is intuitive: A belief is intuitive if it is universal and necessary.
a. Universal: Romans 1:18-23: All men know that God exists by the things that are made because God has shown it to them so that they are without excuse. There is not a group or a people that does not have some form of belief in some kind of God.
b. Necessary: We cannot deny his existence without doing damage to the laws of our own nature. If we do deny it, it is only forced and temporary. “Just as the pendulum of a clock can be pushed off center by an internal or external force, so a man can be pushed off his normal belief in God. But just as the pendulum returns to its original position when the pressure is removed, so a man returns to his normal belief in God when he is not under the influence of false philosophy.” (56)
Atheism is only found where educated people have trained themselves not to believe in God.
His existence is so obvious the mind is constrained to believe it. (56)
2. the Existence of God is assumed by the scriptures.
The bible does not set out to “prove” the existence of God. It is everywhere assumed and taken for granted that 1. he exists and that 2. all men know he exists. Special revelation was the sufficient ground of this knowledge.
3. Belief in the existence of God is corroborated and corrected by arguments: These arguments do not prove God's existence so much as they confirm what is already evident and known. The arguments:
a. do not stand as independent proofs of God's existence but expositions of our innate knowledge of his existence
b. since God is a spirit we must not insist on the same kind of proof that we demand for the existence of material things, but only such evidence as is suitable for the object
c. the evidence is cumulative, a single argument is inadequate, but taken together they are sufficient to “bind the conscience and compel belief”
The Cosmological Argument: Every effect must have an adequate cause; the universe is an effect; thus the universe must have an adequate cause.
Premise: A contingent being (a being that if it exists can not-exist) exists.
This contingent being has a cause of or explanation for its existence.
The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than the contingent being itself.
What causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must either be solely other contingent beings or include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation for the existence of a contingent being.
Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
Therefore, a necessary being (a being that if it exists cannot not-exist) exists.
Objections: Some argue that the universe is eternal/infinite
1. But they have to contend with the fact that nothing in the universe is eternal so you will have an eternal whole made up of non-eternal parts.
2. There is no such thing as an actual infinite. Everything in the material universe may be potentially infinite but it is also also potentially finite. In an infinite sequence without any supporting force, all potentiality will be fulfilled meaning that all that has the potential not to be will one day not be.
3. That means that we cannot say the contingent universe will have an infinite future unless we find a power capable of keeping the potential for dissolution from coming to pass.
4. It would also mean that the universe cannot have an infinite past since if it has the potential for non-existence then it would have already met that existence.
a. The argument from change: There must be a First Cause
b. The argument from potential: There must be a Pure Actuality
c. The argument from contingency and necessity: there must be a Necessary Being.
What does the argument establish:
That the universe was brought into being by an adequate cause.
That the cause exists outside of the universe and that it is intelligent
Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Personal, Immutable, Simple
II. Teleological Argument: the argument from design Order and useful arrangement in a system imply intelligence and purpose in the originating cause. The universe is characterized by order and useful arrangement; therefore the universe has an intelligent and free cause.
(1) Some things in nature (or nature itself, the cosmos) are design-like (exhibit a cognition-resonating, intention-shaped character R)
(2) Design-like properties (R) are not producible by (unguided) natural means—i.e., any phenomenon exhibiting such Rs must be a product of intentional design.
(3) Some things in nature (or nature itself, the cosmos) are products of intentional design. And of course, the capacity for intentional design requires agency of some type.
1. Chance cannot create an ordered and intelligent cosmos...nor can order maintain itself: the development of the cosmos has proceeded in accordance with organizing laws and remained in order despite the second law of thermodynamics.
2. Naturalistic evolution cannot produce irreducible complexity
What can the argument prove: the existence of an intelligent and free architect who is distinct from his creation
III: Ontological Argument: We have the idea of an absolutely perfect being but existence is an attribute of perfection. An absolutely perfect being must therefore exist.
An idea of God does not necessarily demand his existence.
We might point to a correspondence between the other faculties of our mind and the existence of real things in the world and suggest that there must be or might be a similar correspondence between our idea of Superlative attributes and God—but this is not a “proof”
IV: The Moral Argument: the argument from conscience. That we all know that there is a “right and a wrong” even though we are not agreed on what it is points to the existence of an eternal lawgiver who is just and good.
Moral facts exist.
1. Moral facts have the properties of being objective and non-natural.
2. The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is provided by theism.
3. Therefore the existence of moral facts provides good grounds for thinking theism is true.
V. Argument from Congruity: the postulate which best explains the facts is true. The best explanation for the existence of the Cosmos and the character of its existence is the existence of the God who reveals himself in Scripture.