Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 6: What About the Theistic Proofs?

Nick Peters continues his review.


As we continue our journey through Krueger’s work on atheism, we come to his chapter on theistic proofs. Keep in mind that Krueger has an allergy to citing in this book. Who are the people giving the arguments? We don’t know. Where do they say them? We don’t know. How do they defend them? We don’t know.

Krueger starts with the design argument. I won’t say anything about the science aspect of this. I am not a scientist and if someone wants to read that side, there are plenty of books on the topic. In some ways, I agree with Krueger. If all you have is “The universe is designed” it is not enough to establish classical theism. Philosophy has to take over at that point. I do agree that it can be a good start and that would be fine.

Krueger does say that God in Genesis uses magic words to create the universe, a comment laughable in itself. No surprise that he uses the argument of “Who designed God?” The argument assumes God is designed, something I dealt with in my argument of Dawkins and the 747 Boeing. (See link.)

Krueger does have some criticisms as well on what the argument does not show. It does not show that this God is the Christian God. It does not show that there is only one creator. It fails to show that God still exists, is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, or omniscient. I agree with all of those. However, I do agree that it establishes likely some kind of theism and that is all that is needed.

Next we move to the cosmological argument. At least at this point he does mention Aquinas, but like Dawkins, Krueger does not understand Aquinas. One hopes that there is some glimmer of light coming through when Krueger says that a contingent being is that which is caused to exist by something other than itself. A necessary being is not caused to exist by another. I could disagree with some aspects of that, but I will explain that soon. The problem is that Krueger states that a necessary being is caused to exist by its own nature. If he is speaking of God, God is not caused by anything. I do agree that something could be necessary but always be dependent on another. I don’t think this is the case, but I am open.

Krueger says that it does not follow that there is only one first mover. With this, Krueger shows he does not understand the argument and likely is thinking motion refers to physical motion when it refers to any change whatsoever. There can only be one being who is being itself for if there was another, they would have to differ in some aspect of being and how could pure being differ from pure being?

How can it be sure that God still exists? Because the first mover has divine simplicity and cannot change and going out of existence would count as a change. He is eternal and outside of time. The same kind of thing can be said for all of Krueger’s other objections and had he actually read the Summa Theologica, he would have seen that Aquinas argues for the love of God, the knowledge of God, and the power of God from reason.

Krueger also says that Aquinas assumed an infinite regress was impossible. He did no such thing. In fact, he was open to an infinite regress. He would disagree with Craig today in saying that the universe cannot be proven to have a beginning by an infinite regress argument that is horizontal. This is stated in Question 46, article 2, of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologica. Aquinas believes the universe had a beginning because Scripture says so. He says philosophy cannot show that.

But some of you are saying “But in his divine proofs, he does say we have to avoid an infinite regress.”

You are correct, for there are two kinds of infinite regresses. The first is a per accidens. In this one, the existence of that which is present in no way requires the current existence of that which was past. Suppose my wife and I want to start having children and while deciding this, in a horrible tragedy, our parents die in car accidents. Does this mean we cannot have children? In no way. Our ability to have children does not depend on our parents.

Now suppose a chain of gears is moving and they are all being moved by one big gear. This is going on for eternity. Then all of a sudden, we find a way to remove the big gear. Do the little gears stop? Yes they do. Their motion is dependent on the big gear and this is a different kind of regress called a per se regress.

Aquinas’s classic example is a hand moving a stick that is moving a rock. If the hand goes away, all movement stops. This is the kind of regress he is speaking of in his divine proofs. There has to be something that is the cause of motion in all other things to explain their motion, yet it itself is not in motion.

Could the first cause have been the universe itself as Krueger says? No. The universe is material and that which is material in Aquinas is that which is always in a state of potential and thus cannot be purely actual. Again, this is really basic Aquinas and that Krueger writes on this shows he does not understand the basics of Aquinas.

These are the only kinds of arguments dealt with. Krueger might think he’s dealt with other arguments like the moral argument or the argument from the resurrection, but he does not. He also seems to coalesce all of Aquinas’s arguments into one, but they are each different in their own way.

Chapter 7 next time.


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