Follow by Email

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Confusion Over The Transcendental Argument For The Existence Of God


Generally speaking TAG is a deductive argument, but it is unlike all other deductive arguments. What sets TAG apart from garden variety deduction is that with the latter we begin with some truths (or inferences) and reason to others – but unlike transcendental arguments that to which we reason is not presupposed as a necessary precondition for the intelligible experience of the original fact of experience (or its denial). For instance, “If causality then God” merely means that causality is a sufficient condition for God and that God is a necessary condition for causality. Which is to say: if causality exists then it is logically necessary that God exists. However, such a premise does not delve into the question of how God and causality relate to each other. It does not tell us whether God exists because of causality or whether causality exists because of God. Causality presupposes God says more than causality is a sufficient condition for God and that God is a necessary condition for causality. If causality presupposes God then God must be logically prior to causality.

The transcendental argument for the existence of God is an argument that has as its conclusion God exists.

Prove A: The Christian God exists.
Step 1 ~A: (Assume the opposite of what we are trying to prove): The Christian God does not exist.
Step 2 (~A--> B): If God does not exist, then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility
Step 3 (~B): There is intelligible experience (Contradiction)
Step 4 (~ ~A): It is not the case that God does not exist (Modus Tollens on 2 and 3)
Step 5 (A): --> God does exist (Law of negation.)
Q.E.D.

Whereas professing atheists are willing to concede the validity of the above argument Christians should happily concede that the argument is not only not fallacious (i.e. valid) but also sound. In other words, although professing atheists and Christians alike agree that the above argument has a valid form – i.e. the conclusion follows from the premises – Christians should agree that since the premises are all true and the form is valid the conclusion is true. But unfortunately Christians don't always grasp this point.

Christians often say that TAG does not achieve its goal because not every worldview is refuted in the argument. Such a claim simply demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of TAG. The above argument is aimed to prove that God exists, which it does. To deny that it does is to reject logic and / or biblical truths. Again, the argument above has a specific conclusion, God exists. The conclusion of the argument is not that if God does not exist, then there could be no intelligible experience. In other words, the above transcendental argument does not aim to prove that God is the precondition for intelligible experience, though that is a premise used in the argument which is why the argument is transcendental. That is where Christians who oppose TAG get tripped up. They don’t appreciate what is being argued.

So what about step 2 of the argument? We can defend the premise of step 2 deductively by appealing to the absolute authority of Scripture. Of course the unbeliever rejects that authority; nonetheless that the unbeliever is dysfunctional does not mean that an appeal to Scripture is fallacious! After all, if a skeptic rejects logic should we then argue apart from logic? Since when does the dullness of an opponent dictate which tools of argumentation may be used? Of course, given the unbeliever’s suppression of the truth the Christian does well to defend step 2 inductively by performing internal critiques of opposing worldviews, which of course can only corroborate the veracity of step 2. It would be fallacious, however, to conclude because of such condescension toward the unbeliever that the conclusion of TAG (God exists) and the justification for its step 2 (God is the precondition of intelligibility) rest upon inductive inference. By the use of induction the Christian is merely acknowledging that the unbeliever refuses to bend the knee to the self-attesting Word from which step 2 can be deduced by sound argumentation. Since unbelievers will not accept the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, a deductive defense of step 2 the only thing the Christian can do is refute the hypothetical competitors, but that hardly implies that step 2 cannot be proved by deduction.

Finally, it has been noted by some and popularized by Don Collet in the Westminster Theological Journal that the only way a transcendental argument may be formalized is thusly (TAG*):

C presupposes G if and only if both 1 & 2:
1. If C then God exists
2. If ~C then God exists

Given such a construct, we are no longer negating the metaphysicality of causality but rather the truth value of the predication of the metaphysicality of causality. In other words: ~causality (which is chaos) does not presuppose God so for the construct to make sense it must pertain only to prediction about causality. In other words, since non-causality is an impossible entity that defies creation, providence and intelligibility, such a formulation of TAG (TAG*) limits itself to predication only. Does the apologist really want to do that? Do we want to give up arguing that God is the precondition for the intelligible experience of actual causality? I think not. TAG* (as opposed to TAG) is indeed powerful but it does not pertain to anything other than predication; whereas TAG may pertain to predication and the reality that the predication contemplates.

Ron
Free Website Counter

230 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 230 of 230
Anonymous said...

What about John Frames Argument that the precondition for the obligation we all feel to be moral must be both absolute and personal since morals are absolute and obligation to be moral only makes sense in interpersonal relationships.(Apologetics to the Glory of God, pp. 97-102)?

wishful Presup said...

Now, since just like arguments we can always be mistaken in empirical matters, right? Like ,we can always be mistaken of a form of argumentation or rules of mathematics. So, can a skeptic turn that on us and say you can't be sure of your knowledge of the propositions in scripture? Or Could they say since we have our interpretations of text we can never be sure of the text true meanings? Would that undercut our appeal to scripture(speaking of TAG)? TAG seems to hinge itself on that appeal of scripture .

Reformed Apologist said...

A,

You'll agree there are many preconditions for our sense of obligatory morality, like being made in God's image and for the Christian, being recreated in Christ's likeness. Indeed though, there must be absolute and personal aspects to having a (personal) sense of (absolute) morality. But by using () as I have, I hope I've showed that the observation in view is more a matter of definition than a philosophical insight. I don't have the book, though I'm fairly acquainted with it. I suspect JF was setting up an argument from those observations rather than that being his argument.

Reformed Apologist said...

Wishfulpresup,

The most concise response to the skeptic might be, does the ability to be wrong imply one can never be right, even know he's right? No matter how he answers he's presupposing he can know without error.

Both John Frame and Gordon Clark made similar mistakes, though over very different concerns. Roman Catholicism even has built an entire need for her magisterium on this fallacy.

Rex said...

Do presuppositionalist commit the fallacy of a false Dichotomy when arguing that Laws of Logic are conceptual? It seems that when you argue that Laws of logic are conceptual or a product of the world . You produce a false dichotomy. There is a third option. No one would classify God as either conceptual or a product of the world. (maybe a few cults and religions) . So, a third option could be spirit. Then, the response to that seems to be " Well, you provide another option " which doesn't mean that there is not another option that can account for it. Then, it becomes an argument from ignorance. So, how would you go about it?

Reformed Apologist said...

Not tracking, Rex. I believe the law of non contradiction is an attribute of God. Since God is ultimate and given His simplicity, I have no problem saying that God is not only logical but also Logic. He's love, good, etc.

Rex said...

You know the Dr. Bahnsen -Dr. Stein argument. Laws of Logic are invariant,immutable, or absolute and unchanging. It doesn't make a difference there. But the controversial issue is the conceptual or abstract part.

Reformed Apologist said...

By abstract he meant not material in nature. That's all. They're transcendentals.

Rex said...

So, you're saying abstractions need minds? Which then follows that you're saying they're conceptual . So, don't we end up in the same position as the first comment stated?

Reformed Apologist said...

You're not making sense to me. Not sure what your grasp is of the terms. Your thoughts seem disjointed. I don't see any point in continuing. There's probably enough in this marathon thread to chew on.

Rex said...

Well, I asked about laws of logic . Mainly Bahnsens argument (used against Stein). Would you use the laws of logic argument in this manner. Laws of logic are absolute and unchanging. They are abstract entities. Abstract entities exist in minds. How does an atheist account for immaterial,unchanging,absolute, universal abstract entities without a mind that has the same qualities? ( Btw. I'm not arguing against Christianity. I'm an orthodox Christian. I'm just asking a certain question about TAG)

Reformed Apologist said...

Bahnsen didn't bring in the mind of God in that manner. He asked Stein how a naturalist like can account for universal abstract entities that are invariant. He then noted how God can provide the precondition.... That propositions are mental is not a Bahnsen argument. Augustine, Clark and Plantinga employed it.

Reformed Apologist said...

Rex, I'll take your call. Please post your number and I won't publish it.

Rex said...

Your last comment answered my question. So, one last question . Do you agree with Augustine,Plantinga, (I'm guessing Gordan) Clark? Thank you

Reformed Apologist said...

Yes, G Clark. And yes, on this I do agree with all three, that truth is mental. It can only exist in minds. :)

Vincent said...

How would you reply to certain positions?
Like ,Dialetheism and objective idealism.

Reformed Apologist said...

V

As I said before, given the never ending open ended questions, I'll only discuss over the phone.

Anonymous said...

If truth is propositional (I think we both agree,but I assume this) , then how do we explain that (1) natural revelation comes through the senses yet gives the person knowledge of God and (2) we come to know scripture through our senses ? They seem on the surface to be a problem ( I was listening to a talk by Scott Oliphint)

Anonymous said...

That is propositional.

Reformed Apologist said...

I no longer see my response to your 2:32 post but you apparently saw it given your 4:56 post. Anyway, here it is again:

"Sensations that come through the senses to the mind can be formed into propositions. That means general revelation can be understood in propositional form. Yet also, an adult without senses and an infant who knows no words by which it is often thought statements must be formed and thereby propositions believed does nonetheless know God on some level. Is this propositional or non propositional?"

Anyway, your query is ambiguous to me. You don't delineate your problem. You only say you have one.

Anonymous said...

If sensations can be formed into proposition , then it seems we can gain knowledge from our senses. But how does one get propositions from a non propositional source? That was really my thoughts.

Reformed Apologist said...

Read Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19:1,2.

God himself utters forth speech through creation and providence. It's called general revelation. His thoughts are communicated to our minds.

Anonymous said...

Do you hold to A theory of time or B theory?

Anonymous said...

It could be arbitrary if God had the nature he happened to have with no reason for it to be a given configuration over another. There’s no necessitating that he “could change his nature” for it to be arbitrary

Anonymous said...

In other words,Is good-making property defined as whatever God's nature is? Or are there good-making properties Which are required for the nature of God?

Reformed Apologist said...

I don't think I can help you other than by taking. Feel free to send contact phone number. I'd not publish and would try to phone.

Vincent said...

I think that John Frame has some good input "through the years have applied such reasoning to the concept of ethical goodness. Does God love the good because it is good, or is it good because God loves it? The latter answer would seem to make goodness something arbitrary; but the former answer would seem to make goodness independent of God.
The problem is resolved, I think, by the principle advanced in the lecture outline: that God’s nature is righteous and therefore normative. God loves goodness because he is good, and therefore he commands goodness in his revelation to man. Therefore in one sense, God loves the good because it is good; the concept is not arbitrary. Yet he does not need to look outside himself for a standard of goodness. That standard is his own character.
In some senses, too, the good is what God loves, what he commends and commands; the good is what he says is good! (1) Our only access to God’s nature is his Word. Therefore our concept of God’s goodness must be determined by his revealed word. For us, the good is good because God says it is. But this does not mean that God hits us with a lot of abstract commands which could have been opposite to what they are.1 The word reveals not only God’s commands, but also his nature. In the word we see how wonderful God’s character is, as well as the commands which proceed from it. The word also reveals our own nature, created by God to image him. In the word, we see that God’s commands are “for our good.” Thus God’s word gives us, not only commands, but also a context showing the background of those commands in God’s nature and his creative work.
(2) In another sense, this is also true for God himself. For God’s Word and God’s goodness are equally ultimate aspects of his character."

Also, the old Euthyphro dilemma can be turned around on the atheist. Is something good merely because people (nations,communities,individuals) say it is Good? Or is something good because it is actually good? The first option makes it arbitrary (yet I think when pushed you'll be forced into Non cognitivism. Which then you have to deal with the Frege-Geach problem). The other options presents the idea that there is something out there , up and above that man must submit to.

Vincent said...

The arbitrary part seems to go against the common view that God is a necessary being. While your objection ignores that and treats him as contingent.

V. said...

Me and a friend got into an argument about whether Bahnsen Held to A or B theory of time. I said A he said B. Would you know? ( We also argued about which is Christian. Which the common sense view really fits the idea of the biblical progression of time Genesis to revelation)

Anonymous said...

Are you saying God(agreeing on omniscience) knows things propositionally? Where would you fall on the Clark - Van Til controversy?

«Oldest ‹Older   201 – 230 of 230   Newer› Newest»