THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY - By CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS, D.D.LONDON - S.P.C.K 1965 Holy Trinity Church  Marylbone Road London NW 1 - Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd  Bungay Suffolk - First published in 1943 - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004.




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Arguments for the Existence of God are the Buttresses, not the Foundations, of our Belief

Our belief in God is not founded upon argument. 
As St. Ambrose [De Fide, 1. 42.] says,
it was not God's will to save His people by dialectic
(Non complacuit Deo salvum populum suum per dialecticam facere). 
God's revelation of Himself is accepted by faith that is itself a gift from Him. 
Faith is in no way contrary to or inconsistent with reason. 
It is, not believing something, which would otherwise be incredible. 
But it is the answer of the whole of our nature, the will and the emotions as well as the mind, to the love of God. 
A man may be intellectually convinced that his country is right in going to war,
but that will not by itself make him willing to give his life in her cause. 
So it is not enough to be convinced that there is a God. 
We must give ourselves wholly to Him,
and it is only faith that enables us to do this.

We accept the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as true,
and the experience of the Church, including our own, confirms our acceptance. 
When Nathaniel doubted whether any good thing could come out of Nazareth (St. John 1.46),
Philip did not try to convince him by argument. 
He said, "Come and see."
This is what the Church says to the doubter today:
"Come and see;
try it for yourself.

The witness of Christians is of supreme importance. 
What convinces men of the truth of the Gospel of Christ,
is the changed lives of those who have accepted it.

But though our belief is not FOUNDED UPON argument, it is BUTTRESSED BY arguments. 
We are quite willing to argue, and we believe that reason is on our side;
but we do not think that reason by itself will make any man a Christian.

The Five Traditional Arguments for the Existence of God

There are five traditional arguments for the existence of God. 
They are:

  1. The Argument from Consent,
  2. The Cosmological Argument,
  3. The Teleological Argument,
  4. The Ontological Argument,
  5. The Moral Argument.

The proof of the existence of God is what is called cumulative
that is, it is the result of several arguments,
drawn from different premises and different points of view,
but all leading to the same conclusion.

I. Argument from General Consent

The first of these arguments can be dealt with briefly as it has already been mentioned. 
All races of men, with few or no exceptions, have had some god or gods whom they worshiped. 
We must suppose that there is in man's nature a need for worship that requires to be satisfied. 
If this is true, it seems highly probable that the means of satisfying that need exists,
that if all men need a God to worship,
there must be a God, or that need would never have arisen,
or at least would long since have become atrophied that is, perished for want of use. 
Creatures that live in permanent darkness end by losing their eyes. 
Man would not have continued for thousands of years to need God if no God had existed to satisfy his need.

The French critic, Ernest Renan, supposed that the Semitic people were especially religious,
and that the Hebrew-Christian religion sprang from this special trait,
as Greek philosophy sprang from the speculative ability of the Greeks. 
The answer to this suggestion is that it is not true. 
The Semites were not specially religious. 
The Israelites were continually rebuked for their failure to observe the covenant that they had made. 
The other Semitic nations appear to have practiced one of the most debased religions known to us,
the worship of the generative powers of nature. 
The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians,
who were closely akin to the Hebrews,
were notably lacking both in religion and in morality. 
Ronan's suggestion is rubbish.

Since the human race has almost universally felt the need of God,
it is for those who deny that there is a God to prove their case. 
The burden of proof lies on them,
for the general opinion of mankind is against them.


II. The Cosmological Argument

The second argument is the Cosmological Argument,
or Argument from a first Cause.

The old form of this argument was, that every effect must have a cause;
the whole universe, which is certainly an effect, must have a cause that can only be found in God.
Various objections have been raised to this form of argument that need not be discussed here.

It appears to be more satisfactory to say that we do not know what we mean by a cause
except when it proceeds from a personal will. 
Causality is another name for will. 
It is reasonable to assume that as the only movements of which we know the cause
those of our own bodies proceed from will,
all other movements proceed from will also. 

God is not only the First Cause,
but the Only cause,
indirectly the cause of what we and other rational beings do because He has made us rational,
and directly the Cause of everything else that happens
[J. H. Beibitz, Belief, Faith, and Proof, ch. 4.].
If this is true,
we learn by it not only that there is a God,
but also certain truths about Him.
He is self-existent and self-determined,
for He who is the Cause of everything else must be Himself uncaused. 
He is personal,
for an impersonal being cannot be the cause of personality,
and indeed cannot be a cause at all. 
He possesses free will because the causes that we know have their origin in our free will,
and therefore the Cause of everything must have free will too. 
Since the universe constitutes a single order in which all events are connected causally,
the Cause of it must be One,
and Infinite,
for He cannot be limited by anything but His own nature.

[F. J. Hall, Dogmatic Theology, v. 3, pp. 147-192.]

III. The Teleological Argument

The third argument is the Teleological Argument, or Argument from Design,
sometimes called the Plain Man's Argument. 
We find it implied in many passages of Scripture: e.g. Ps.19.1-4; Job 37-41; St. Matt.6.25-32; Acts 14.15-17, 17.23-28
The universe displays to us a vast system connected in all its parts and developing in a particular direction. 
There are innumerable instances of the ingenious ways in which the different parts fit into one another,
and the more we learn from the natural sciences, the more instances we find. 
One very striking example
is the elaborate devices by which some of the orchids contrive to be fertilized by one particular species of insect, and no other. 
Another is the immense complication of the human body,
each portion of which is adapted for its purpose. 
Such a vast and ever-growing system cannot have come into existence without Someone to design it.

DNA Model 

The chance that a number of letters of the alphabet, thrown together by accident,
would produce one line of one of Shakespeare's plays is small beyond imagination.
The chance that the universe could have taken its present form
by a chance coming together of atoms is incalculably smaller still.

The amazing beauty which nature so often displays
leads us to believe that the Designer of it is not only the greatest of engineers,
but also the greatest of artists.

Bee collecting nectar from a Corn flower

Our modern belief in evolution, far from destroying the force of this argument,
makes it much stronger than before. 
We no longer believe that God made the world, just as it now is, by a single act, and created each species separately;
but that He created the universe in its original form, whatever that may have been,
and guided each step in its development in accordance with His plan. 

Hubble Observatory.

We know from astronomy
that the whole universe is one system
that the elements, for instance,
which are found in this earth are found also in the sun and the stars
and this itself is an argument for belief in one God who designed the vast whole.

If it be objected
that there are some things in the universe of which we cannot see the use, and others which appear to be badly suited to their purpose,
we reply that our knowledge of the universe is still small,
and that as we do not know clearly what God's plan is, we cannot say that this or that detail is out of harmony with it.

Galaxy NGC 4603 - Centaurus Cluster - 108m light years distant. 

In any case such details are very few when compared with the vast number that are admirably suited to their purpose. 
Darwin's theory of natural selection
that is,
that the differences between different species are entirely due to the survival of those features most suitable to the environment in which each animal found itself
is not universally accepted. 
But even if it is true,
it does not in any way weaken the force of the argument
that so admirably designed a scheme must have had an intelligent Mind behind it.

This is probably the easiest and most convincing of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. 
It shows us that the Designer of the universe is a single personal Being of supreme wisdom and supreme beauty,
for if created Nature is so beautiful,
how much greater must the beauty of its Creator be!

IV. The Ontological Argument

The fourth argument for the existence of God is the Ontological Argument,
sometimes called the Philosopher's Argument. 
It is a very difficult argument and can hardly be understood without some training in metaphysics.

Perhaps the simplest way to state it is that the idea of God is necessary to our reasoning. 
If there is nothing in reality corresponding to this idea,
our reasoning is all deceptive, and further argument is useless. 
Dr. F. J. Hall says that any form of this argument is open to objections in formal logic. 
St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the argument altogether. 
However, there is this important element of truth in it,
that if anything proves to be necessary to our power of reasoning, we must accept it as true,
for we refuse to believe that the universe is an irrational and meaningless chaos.

V. The Moral Argument

1. Conscience Implies a Moral Governor of the Universe

The fifth argument for the existence of God is the Moral Argument,
which has already been referred to as the argument from the existence of the conscience. 
All men possess a sense of the distinction between right and wrong, which we call the conscience. 
This is a fact, however we may choose to explain it. 
We do not find this peculiar fact anywhere else in the material universe,
but we place greater value upon it than upon anything purely material. 
Now, if this fact exists in human nature, as it does, we cannot believe that it is found only in human nature. 
There must be something in the nature of the whole universe that accounts for it. 
As the beauty of the universe leads us to believe that its Designer is the supreme Artist,
so the presence of conscience in man leads us to believe
that there must be in the universe some permanent and universal standard of goodness.

2. Moral Government in Human Affairs

This belief is supported by the evidence of moral government in human affairs.

(a) Virtue Rewarded and Vice Punished

The evidence is not easy to summarize, and many deny its existence;
but on the whole it is true that in the long run,
sometimes the very long run,
virtue is rewarded and vice is punished,
although if one takes a short view, the wicked are often successful in this world and the just perish miserably. 
(The optimistic view to the contrary,
maintained by Job's three friends and the author of the Books of Chronicles,
is shown by experience to be false.) 
But sooner or later families and nations that persist in disobeying the laws of God come to grief.

(b) Moral Progress in History

It is also true that the human race has made some moral progress. 
It is easy to exaggerate and to misrepresent this truth, as the Victorian Liberals did. 
There is no such thing as necessary progress. 
Perpetual vigilance is the price not only of liberty but of all progress. 
There is, however, good reason for holding that moral progress depends on the power of the Incarnation of the Word of God;
that before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth the human race was morally degenerating,
and that it still degenerates wherever the power of the Incarnation is unknown or impeded. 
(The power of the Incarnation works far beyond the boundaries of the Christian Church,
and profoundly influences many who are not Christian, and even believe themselves to be anti-Christian. 
An instance is Voltaire's campaign for justice, the spirit of which was Christian, though directed against Christians.) 
But even so, moral progress is by no means straightforward. 
There are so many setbacks and eddies that it is easy to argue that moral progress does not exist.

3. Objections to the Moral Argument

Three objections have been raised against this argument.

(a) That the Human Will is Not Free

The first is that the human will is not really free. 
This objection is based usually upon the assumption
that as the material universe, apart from man, is, as far as we know, without free will,
man himself is also without free will. 
But if we have no free will, there is no such thing as morality and no such thing as intention. 
I can no more help writing these words than the apple can help falling from the tree. 
Most of us cannot possibly believe this. 
That we are really free to choose (though not, of course, completely free), is a fact of direct experience. 
As the great German philosopher Kant taught, it is one of the three assumptions (the other two are God and immortality) that are necessary to thought.

(b) That the Conscience Developed out of Non-moral Origins

The second objection is that the conscience has developed out of non-moral origins, and that for this reason the evidence of the conscience is an illusion.  
But it is by no means certain that the conscience has developed out of non-moral origins. 
It is a theory that has not been and perhaps cannot be proved. 
Whatever the researches of the anthropologists may tell us about the skull, the food, the arts, the weapons, and the mode of burial of prehistoric man, they cannot tell us much about his conscience. 
Even if the theory is true, the value of ideas, as of organisms, is not to be judged by their origin. 
Because the oak was once an acorn, it is not any the less an oak. 
Our ancestors may have once been fish-like creatures without reason or conscience, but that does not in the least lessen the achievements of man. 
The basis of the argument is not what our conscience was once (which, in any case, nobody knows for certain), but what it is now.

(c) That Moral Systems Contradict One Another

The third objection is that there are many different systems of morality, so that some people think right what others think wrong. 
Herodotus tells us that Darius, King of Persia, once called before him some Indians from the eastern frontier of his kingdom, and some Greeks from the western frontier. 
He said to the Greeks, "What price would you take to eat the dead bodies of your fathers?", and they answered that nothing on earth would induce them to do so. 
He then asked the Indians what price they would take to burn the bodies of their fathers, as the Greeks did, and the Indians, to whom fire was a sacred thing not to be defiled by a dead body, were equally horrified [Herodotus 3. 38.].

It is true that there are enormous differences among men about what is right and what is wrong. 
Even within Christendom different nations and communions hold different opinions. 
The British Government discourages sweepstakes but permits divorce and contraception. 
The Irish Government encourages sweepstakes but forbids divorce and discourages contraception by every means in its power.

But human beings are agreed on this,
that there is a difference between right and wrong,
though they are not agreed about what is right and what is wrong. 
This universal agreement, that right is one thing and wrong another, is the basis of the argument.

4. Obedience to Conscience is the Means of True Development

The moral Argument is supported by the fact
that we only reach our highest and fullest development when we follow the guidance of our conscience. 
To obey his conscience makes a man strong, free, and happy. 
To disobey it makes him weak, enslaved, and miserable.
This seems to show that self-control under the guidance of the conscience is the means of true development,
and that conscience is not a mere accident
but is directly connected with the Power by whom the whole universe including man is guided and governed.