Adelaide Chapter

Archive for the ‘2013’ Category

Should we argue for God’s Existence?

On Thursday the 21st of November Mike Russell spoke on “Should we argue for God’s existence?”  Mike believes that we should presuppose God’s existence in apologetic discourse. He calls his apologetic approach ‘no-excuse intuitionism’. The dividing line between what we should argue for using evidence and what we should presuppose is governed by the principle of no excuse. Any element of moral truth that a person needs to know to live a blameless life, he ought to know, and can know by intuition. However, the Holy Spirit works through the arguments and evidences from the Scriptures. Thus any other element of truth that a person needs to know to be saved through Jesus can and should be argued for using evidence and arguments.

So, according to Mike, if you do not believe in God, then you ought to, without requiring any evidence.

Some were convinced and others were not. Mike has provided us with his Power Point Slides and the presentation and discussion has been recorded on You Tube. The full content of his talk is the subject of his current Master’s thesis and so cannot be published. However, he is happy to provide the full text through Reasonable Faith Adelaide, provided that it is not published or passed on. Please email me if you would like a copy. We are also hoping that Mike will provide a brief summary that we can provide with this post.


Mike is married to Ally, and they have four children.  He has been a Christian for around 20 years, and is Associate minister at St. George’s Magill. He is currently writing an MTh thesis in the area of apologetics.

Why I Am Not a Creationist

On Thursday the 7th of November Dr Ian Saunders, a CSIRO scientist, spoke on “Why I am not a Creationist”.

Christians are divided on the issue of evolution and the age of the earth. Many of our own members are supporters of Creation Ministries International (CMI), which promotes Young Earth Creationism (YEC). On the other hand, many of our members are not YECs. Ian is one of those.

Ian has been a Christian and a professional scientist for about 40 years. He recently retired from a position as Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO. The publication of his first scientific paper coincided with his conversion to Christianity and he has endeavoured since to keep the two sides of his life thoroughly entwined, each being a part of the search for truth. His talk is summarised briefly as follows:


In his talk he spoke about the development of the scientific method as a response to dissatisfaction with a wholly philosophical view that sought to deduce everything from first principles. As an example of the method, he described the rise and fall of the phlogiston theory of combustion, which initially seemed to explain the facts, but became less and less tenable as more experiments were done until after 70 years it was abandoned. The scientific method seeks to avoid reliance on authority and to take an impartial approach to evaluating theories against observations: “Love your colleagues’ results as your own”.

The danger with accepting prior authority is that it encourages looking for evidence to support a position rather than to discover the truth. So Ian is neither an evolutionist or a creationist in the sense that he squeezes his data to match his preconceptions. He illustrated the way in which modern biological research papers promote an evolutionist position even when there is no need to go beyond the observed phenomena.

However, he does not accept Genesis 1-11 as accurate history. He gave some examples from geology and astronomy that cast severe doubt on a literal interpretation. Instead he sees them as parables teaching spiritual truth about the relationships of God to the Universe and to Mankind and about the existence of evil. He spoke also about evolution, acknowledging that he sees it at the  most likely explanation of a range of phenomena, though without direct evidence one way or the other at this point.

He quoted with approval St Augustine “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture” [De Genesi ad Litteram, I, xviii, 37]

Ian’s view is that the Bible contains unique knowledge about God and his purposes, while science can tell us about what is (or was) but not about meaning or purpose. The fine details of creation are not key to our relationship with God and it is possible to combine a strong faith in Jesus with an acceptance of scientific research. We should avoid placing stumbling blocks in the path to Jesus by insisting on matters of secondary importance. Ultimately, Jesus is the Truth and one day we will see Him face to face.


Ian’s talk may be accessed from the following links:

Did we resolve the issue once and for all to everyone’s satisfaction? Absolutely not! However, (for the most part) we were able to discuss the issues in an open, friendly and respectful manner.

Reasonable Faith Adelaide currently does not officially endorse any particular view, but encourages discussion on the relevant issues so that that people are better informed to develop their own opinion. So, I encourage you to come and hear Ian and participate in the discussion.

During the course of discussion we decided to cover a couple of additional topics in future meetings:

  • Radioactive Dating Methods – What are they, how do they work, how accurate are they, and are they reliable?
  • On the 20th of February 2014, John Hartnett (Associate Professor of physics at Adelaide University) will speak on “Cosmic Mythology: Exposing the Big Bang as Philosophy, not Science

The True Origins of Christianity – A Sceptical View

On Thursday the 24th of October Laurie Eddie, the founder of the SA Skeptics, presented his views on the “The True Origins of Christianity”.

Laurie Eddie is a joint founder of the South Australian branch of the Australian Skeptics in 1983. Laurie was formerly the president of SA Skeptics and is the current vice president.  Prior to retirement Laurie was a clinical psychologist and also worked for the Department of Correctional Services.

Laurie gave a one hour Power Point presentation on The Origins of Christianity, which was then followed by discussion. His main thesis was that:

  • The early church in Jerusalem was Jewish and mainly followed Jesus’ teachings but did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God or that he rose from the dead.
  • Paul took the gospel to the gentiles and introduced the divine aspects of Jesus, based on Gnostic teachings and influenced by Roman mystery religions. It was Paul who taught that Jesus was Son of God and that he rose from the dead. The majority of the New Testament is largely unhistorical, contradictory and reflects Paul’s views.
  • The Jerusalem church was nearly completely wiped out during the Jewish Wars and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The survivors moved to Pella (across the Jordan) and subsequently declined in influence.

After his presentation, we had an open discussion. Laurie also invited a number of his friends from the SA Skeptics and so we shared a diversity of views. Laurie’s presentation and the subsequent discussion is now available on You Tube. There was insufficient time to fully engage with all of Laurie’s material; so we will be reviewing his material in subsequent meetings next year.

Laurie’s views are not the same as ours. However, Reasonable Faith Adelaide wishes to engage with people who disagree with us. We encourage dialogue and it is our full intention to listen carefully to and honestly evaluate the opinions and arguments of those with whom we disagree. Laurie previously participated in a debate with us on the existence of God. He takes an interest in what we do and has attended a number of our meetings. Thus we welcome his participation.

Kevin Rogers

Did NT writers copy pagan religions?

On the 10th of October Dr Stephen Spence presented the current status of comparative religious studies and especially the influence of pagan myths on the New Testament.

During the debates between Lawrence Krauss and William Lane Craig, Krauss claimed that Jesus is nothing new. Krauss claimed that Dionysus, Perseus, Attis, Krishna, Horus, Mercury and Romulus were also born of a virgin. In particular, Dionysus (the Greek God of wine) was born of a virgin mother, fathered by the king of heaven, returned from the dead, transformed water into wine and was the liberator of mankind. Krauss also claimed that Osiris (the Egyptian God of life) rose from the dead and all mortal men could be resurrected if they followed the correct religious rituals.

The claim that Jesus is a copy of pagan deities is a common ploy from sceptics. However,

  • Are the parallels real?
  • Are these claims supported within academic circles or are they just believed within populist, non-academic sceptical circles?
  • What are the implications of these parallels?
  • Is Jesus of Nazareth really unique?

In response, Dr Spence provided a background on Comparative Religion and the historical background and current status of the School of History of Religions. This also included an assessment of the degree of influence of pagan religions on the NT. He also provided an assessment on the plausibility of the virgin birth and the nativity narratives.

Steve went over his time budget, but he is forgiven. It was a really interesting talk and well worth viewing the video recording on You Tube. Stephen provided us with Overhead slides and handouts as well as a Review of Kyrios Christus by Larry Hurtado. Kyrios Christus was one of the key publications from the School of the History of Religions, which first proposed that the divine view of Christ was derived from pagan sources.


The Reverend Dr Stephen Spence is the Deputy Principal (Academic) of Tabor College in Adelaide.  He is also the Professor of New Testament and Theology. Dr Spence has international theological training, including a PhD from Fuller Seminary, and has also been a pastor in several churches in Victoria. Stephen is married to Colleen (who is also on staff at Tabor), and has two children. He supports the Richmond Tigers, and won the 2008 Tabor football tipping! – See more at:

Krauss Versus Craig

Why is there something rather than nothing?


On Thursday 26th of September, Reasonable Faith Adelaide reviewed the “dialogue” between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss on the topic “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This dialogue was held on the 13th of August in Sydney.

William Lane Craig is the director of Reasonable Faith in the US and is a leading apologetics debater. He spoke at two functions in Adelaide via the City Bible Forum and many of us had the opportunity to hear him and meet him personally. However, his main activity in Australia was the series of “dialogues” with Lawrence Krauss.


Lawrence Krauss is a high profile New Atheist. He has spent a significant time in Australia and has appeared on Q&A on two occasions.


There were 3 dialogues held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Krauss chose a dialogue format rather than a debate. This enabled a highly interactive discussion that was quite volatile. For instance, in Brisbane Krauss launched a personal attack on William Lane Craig. He accused him of being a dishonest charlatan. He later softened his line a little and admitted that Craig was a gentleman who sincerely believed in his cause but still accused him of presenting deliberate distortions to bolster his arguments.

I highly recommend that you watch each dialogue and judge for yourself who the honest man really is. They are all now available from the City Bible Forum site at:

The topic “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is closely related to Krauss’ most recent book “A Universe from Nothing”, which was reviewed by Mark Worthing on the 15th of August.

The dialogue format consisted of a 15 minute talk by each speaker followed by a discussion, moderated by Rachael Kohns, the presenter of “The Spirit of Things”, which is an ABC radio show.

Krauss’s Presentation

Krauss spoke first and his main points were:

  • Craig presents deliberate distortions
  • We are not the centre of the universe. There is no special place.
  • We live in flat universe, which has a total energy of zero. This suggests that the universe could come into existence from nothing without any “divine shenanigans”.
  • The Bible claimed that the universe had a beginning before science did. However, so did many other creation myths, so what is unique about the Bible? It is often claimed that the Bible is not a scientific book so why suddenly make a switch and claim that Genesis 1:1 is a scientific statement?
  • The fine tuning of the laws of physics is a source of fascination. However, a multiverse may explain the fine tuning and the fine tuning could be better. So the fine tuning is not evidence of divine design.

One of Craig’s commonly used arguments is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. He uses this argument to show that the cosmos had a beginning, which requires a transcendent cause by a necessarily existent being. One of the evidences to support a physical beginning is the Borde, Guth and Vlenkin (BGV) Theorem. In response, Krauss’s displayed the following personal email from Vilenkin:

Hi Lawrence,

Any theorem is only as good as its assumptions. The BGV theorem says that if the universe is on average expanding along a given worldline, this worldline cannot be infinite to the past. A possible loophole is that there might be an epoch of contraction prior to the expansion. Models of this sort have been discussed by Aguirre & Gratton and by Carroll & Chen…Jaume Garriga and I are now exploring a picture of the multiverse where the BGV theorem may not apply. In bubbles of negative vacuum energy, expansion is followed by contractionHowever, it is conceivable (and many people think likely) that singularities will be resolved in the theory of quantum gravity, so the internal collapse of the bubbles will be followed by an expansion. In this scenario,… it is not at all clear that the BGV assumption (expansion on average) will be satisfied… Of course there is no such thing as absolute certainty in science, especially in matters like the creation of the universe. Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.


Krauss used this email to argue that the BGV theorem did not necessarily indicate a beginning. Krauss reused this email during the Melbourne dialogue.  In Melbourne Craig questioned Krauss on the missing bits indicated by the ellipsis markers. Krauss claimed that these were “technical bits”.

Subsequent to the dialogues, Craig wrote to Vilenkin, who supplied the full text of the email, as given below. The sections in bold are the “technical bits” that Krauss omitted.

Hi Lawrence,

Any theorem is only as good as its assumptions. The BGV theorem says that if the universe is on average expanding along a given worldline, this worldline cannot be infinite to the past.

A possible loophole is that there might be an epoch of contraction prior to the expansion. Models of this sort have been discussed by Aguirre & Gratton and by Carroll & Chen. They had to assume though that the minimum of entropy was reached at the bounce and offered no mechanism to enforce this condition. It seems to me that it is essentially equivalent to a beginning.

On the other hand, Jaume Garriga and I are now exploring a picture of the multiverse where the BGV theorem may not apply. In bubbles of negative vacuum energy, expansion is followed by contraction, and it is usually assumed that this ends in a big crunch singularity. However, it is conceivable (and many people think likely) that singularities will be resolved in the theory of quantum gravity, so the internal collapse of the bubbles will be followed by an expansion. In this scenario, a typical worldline will go through a succession of expanding and contracting regions, and it is not at all clear that the BGV assumption (expansion on average) will be satisfied.

I suspect that the theorem can be extended to this case, maybe with some additional assumptions. But of course there is no such thing as absolute certainty in science, especially in matters like the creation of the universe. Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.


The missing bits don’t seem all that technical to me and they do throw a different light on Vilenkin’s views. A more extended record of the discourse between Craig and Vilenkin can be obtained from

If you have been reading this summary carefully, you may have noticed that Krauss’s arguments are not particularly relevant to the topic. However, he did show a short video clip that explained how nothing is more complicated than previously thought. Craig subsequently provided a summary of Krauss’ claims about nothing, which I have listed below.

In 1922, William Hughes Mearns published the following poem.

The other day upon the stair

I met a man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

Oh, how I wish he’d go away

Mearns is guilty of calling nothing something. However, Krauss seems to be guilty of the opposite sin. He calls something nothing; and this was the main thrust of Craig’s argument.

Craig’s Presentation

“Nothing” is not a different type of something. It is “not anything”. However, Krauss defines something to be nothing. Here are some quotations from Krauss:

  • There are a variety of forms of nothing, they all have physical definitions
  • The laws of quantum mechanics tell us that nothing is unstable
  • 70% of the dominant stuff of the universe is nothing
  • There is nothing there, but it has energy
  • Nothing weighs something
  • Nothing is almost everything

The above quotations were almost identical with Krauss’s video clip. They all illustrate that Krauss is being misleading in his use of the word “nothing”. In all instance his use of nothing is really something, whether it be a quantum vacuum or quantum mechanical systems.

Craig further supported Krauss’s misrepresentation of nothing with a quote from “On the origin of everything” by David Albert, a philosopher of science.

Vacuum states are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff…the fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings…amount to anything even remotely in the neighbourhood of a creation from nothing. Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.

See for the full text.

Craig then presented Gottfried Leibniz’ argument for the existence of God based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason:

  1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1 and 3).
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2 and 4).

I suggest you watch the video to see how Craig supported this argument.


The interesting part of the discussion was on Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument. The central point of discussion was premise 2, “If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.” During Craig’s talk, he had presented arguments to support premise 2. Krauss’s question was, “If there is an explanation, why does it have to be God?” More importantly, what type of explanation are we talking about? Is it a causal explanation or is it about purpose? This is extremely important to the argument and Craig was about to explain. However, at this stage, Rachael (the moderator) was obviously out of her depth and so interrupted the argument with a silly question about aliens. So, all was lost and now we will never know. Thank you Rachael.


Some of the discussion was confusing and difficult to follow. In all 3 dialogues the discussion was hindered by Krauss’s frequent interruptions and shouting over the top of Craig to prevent him from completing his explanations. However, in my opinion one observation was clear from the Sydney dialogue. Krauss is equivocating in his use of nothing. He is confusing something with nothing to argue how the universe could arise from nothing, when it is really something. He has conceded that it is likely that the physical cosmos has a beginning, but has not in reality provided any explanation for its origin or the reason why it exists. Science attempts to explain how the physical world can be transformed from one physical state into another. However, it always presupposes a prior physical state. To explain how the physical world can arise from absolutely nothing is inherently beyond the scope of physics. That is what “meta-physics” is all about.

Kevin Rogers

Miracles, Weeping Statues and Aliens

This is a summary of Brian Schroeder’s talk on miracles, presented at Tabor College on 12 September 2013. The video recording is available on You Tube. His power point slides are available at Miracles.


There are people who believe in miracles and people who don’t. There are people who want to believe in miracles and people who want to disbelieve in them. Many others – both denying and supporting ‘miracles’ – have come before me and produced much greater and more thorough efforts than me. (eg. see Kevin Rogers’ article on the RFA website).

The purpose of this article is to:

  • demonstrate that non-belief in miracles is a philosophical decision, not a rational or scientific one
  • define what “miracle” is
  • promote rational scepticism – a guarded open mind
  • differentiate between atheist and Christian apriori rejections
  • demonstrate the belief in miracles is perfectly rational

I will not look in detail here at specific Biblical miracles. My aim here is to promote rational thinking, to show that a proper examination of the evidence (and of the accounts of witnesses) is reasonable, rational and worthwhile. If miracles are real they can stand rigorous examination. If the are not then they need it. The claims, ramifications, and evidence are great enough that they deserve it and leave no basis, wishful thinking aside, for simply burying heads in the sand and chanting the mantra ‘miracles don’t exist’.


  • Are miracles possible?
  • Can miracles happen?
  • Have miracles happened?
  • Do miracles happen?
  • What exactly is a miracle?
  • What do we mean by the word?

What are Miracles?

Are they:

  • Something that cannot happen?
  • The least probable explanation for any given event?
  • A happening contrary to the laws of nature?
  • A highly unlikely good event (eg. winning the lottery)

Chambers Concise Usage Dictionary

  1. Something which man is not normally capable of making happen and which is therefore thought to be done by a god or God: Christ’s turning of water into wine was a miracle.
  2. A fortunate happening that has no obvious natural cause or explanation: It’s a miracle he wasn’t killed in the plane crash

David Hume

Of Miracles” is the title of Section X of David Hume‘s An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748).

Hume starts by telling the reader that he believes that he has “discovered an argument […] which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion”.

Hume first explains the principle of evidence: the only way that we can judge between two empirical claims is by weighing the evidence. The degree to which we believe one claim over another is proportional to the degree by which the evidence for one outweighs the evidence for the other. The weight of evidence is a function of such factors as the reliability, manner, and number of witnesses.

Now, a miracle is defined as: “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.” Laws of nature, however, are established by “a firm and unalterable experience”; they rest upon the exception-less testimony of countless people in different places and times.

“Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happens in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.”

As the evidence for a miracle is always limited, as miracles are single events, occurring at particular times and places, the evidence for the miracle will always be outweighed by the evidence against — the evidence for the law of which the miracle is supposed to be a transgression.

There are, however, two ways in which this argument might be neutralised. First, if the number of witnesses of the miracle be greater than the number of witnesses of the operation of the law, and secondly, if a witness be 100% reliable (for then no amount of contrary testimony will be enough to outweigh that person’s account). Hume therefore lays out, in the second part of section X, a number of reasons that we have for never holding this condition to have been met. He first claims that no miracle has in fact had enough witnesses of sufficient honesty, intelligence, and education. He goes on to list the ways in which human beings lack complete reliability:

  • People are very prone to accept the unusual and incredible, which excites agreeable passions of surprise and wonder.
  • Those with strong religious beliefs are often prepared to give evidence that they know is false, “with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause”.
  • People are often too credulous when faced with such witnesses, whose apparent honesty and eloquence (together with the psychological effects of the marvellous described earlier) may overcome normal scepticism.
  • Miracle stories tend to have their origins in “ignorant and barbarous nations” – either elsewhere in the world or in a civilised nation’s past. The history of every culture displays a pattern of development from a wealth of supernatural events – “prodigies, omens, oracles, judgements” – which steadily decreases over time, as the culture grows in knowledge and understanding of the world.

Hume ends with a new theme: the argument from miracles. He points out that many different religions have their own miracle stories. Given that there is no reason to accept some of them but not others (aside from a prejudice in favour of one religion), then we must hold all religions to have been proved true — but given the fact that religions contradict each other, this cannot be the case.

(Wikipedia Article: “Of Miracles”)

Refuting Hume

According to the naturalistic view of the age and size of universe – human observations are minuscule in comparison (both time and space), negligible Þ not relevant. Thus Hume’s definition of natural laws coming from “the exception-less testimony of countless people in different places and times” is rather suspect.

Looking at the assumption that a miracle is something that is contrary to the laws of nature (David Hume) – how do we know?
We can define a law of nature as a repeated observation that something always happens the same way. For example, the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. But just because we have never observed something different does not of itself make that something different impossible.

The Fremantle Football Club has never been known to win an AFL premiership. Does that mean it is contrary to the laws of nature for them to do so? That it would be a miracle (ie. an impossibility) for it to happen? “Maybe” you may think. But none of us truly believes that. Even if they never win a premiership, we still believe it is naturally possible for them to do so.
Similarly, according to our observations dead people are not resurrected. That observation by itself is not proof that it cannot happen. It could be that it simply requires a specific set of (natural) circumstances for it to happen.

Another problem with Hume’s argument is that if any ‘miracle’ IS proven to have occurred then, according to his definition, it automatically ceases to be a miracle and becomes an intrinsic part of ‘nature’. Thus his argument distils down to: Anything that is impossible is impossible; anything that cannot happen will not happen. A tautology we can all agree with whole-heartedly. It is, however, meaningless and fails completely in its purpose.

Atheist Miracles

Despite all that, atheists believe in miracles too. According to Hume’s definition, the following examples are miracles:

  • “big bang” – once-only, unobserved creation of everything from nothing – all by itself and contrary to the laws of physics (ignoring attempts by some to redefine “nothing”)
  • spontaneous generation of life from non-life
  • the ability of randomly generated aggregations of matter to develop consciousness with the capacity to observe and reason validly
  • quantum mechanics – “spooky” action at a distance. Schrödinger’s cat… ? ERP Paradox
  • The greatest believed miracle: a material impersonal random non-rational universe created itself out of absolutely nothing and then, through totally random unthinking means created personal thinking rational sentient beings able to make sense of it all.
  • That the random arrangements and movements of material objects (eg. electrons, atoms) are able to provide objective trustworthy truth.
  • That there is actually believable meaning in our existence from all this.

If ‘miracle’ is the least likely explanation of any given phenomenon, then if the only available explanations are all miracles – the least unlikely miracle would seem to be the logical choice. Creation by an intelligent personal being seems the best such option.

Trusting our faculties

Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion.” (CS Lewis – Miracles). Which leads to the obvious question: What basis do we have to trust our senses on anything?

So after viewing some optical illusions we face the question: what basis do we have to trust our senses on anything? From a purely naturalistic point of view – none. “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” ? J.B.S. Haldane, Possible Worlds


Scepticism is a good thing! The problem with most sceptics is that they limit their scepticism to a collection of their pet hates or personal biases. They rarely, if ever, question their own pre-suppositions. It is important that we question everything. That doesn’t mean we never accept anything, but it does mean we have good reason for what we believe, that we are less likely to get taken in by scams, less likely to be swayed by every glib-talking charlatan, “every wind of doctrine”, …

Sceptics criticize those who choose to believe in God because they (desperately) want a God to believe in; who cling to their belief despite all evidence to the contrary; who will not consider the evidence; who will not countenance any challenge to their deeply held beliefs/position/dogma.

Personally I agree. That is simply not a good enough attitude, or basis for anything. BUT most sceptics seem to cling to their position in exactly the same way. They so desperately want their beliefs/position to be true that they refuse to honestly consider the evidence.

In any society there are prevailing dogmas which one must believe, and which being sceptical of can be dangerous and bring swift retribution. Eg. (1) 14th century Europe: Christianity; (2) 20th century Iran : Islam; (3) Us here and now: global warming, evolution; etc.

It is important to recognize and acknowledge that we all have incomplete knowledge & evidence.

Christian De-mythologising

Some theologians have been convinced by the naturalists that miracles are simply not possible. They have therefore created a new theology to conform to that belief by ‘de-mythologising’ the Bible. Thus any miracle recorded there must be interpreted in some other way – eg.

  1. fiction with a moral,
  2. a later insertion by someone wanting to “sex up” the story,
  3. Primitive superstition from people who didn’t know better.

Unfortunately the Christianity they are left with bears little resemblance to historical Christianity, and contains very little to differentiate it from pure naturalism. It thus poses the question : On that basis, why associate themselves with such a religion? Why call/consider themselves Christians?

Apriori rejections

Atheists (and others) dismiss out of hand any possibility of miracles. They refuse to even consider the evidence. “Why waste time and effort on something when there is only one possible outcome anyway?”

Christians tend to take offence at such an attitude, But – What about:

  • fairies at the bottom of the garden?
  • “The Great Pumpkin”
  • Easter bunny?
  • Perpetual motion:
  • Horoscopes?

Are we any different? It is very important to examine our motives and our reasons. The approach of many (most?) Christians is no more valid than that of atheists, based on unthinking unexamined biases (whether or not those biases be true or false is another matter, and requires proper examination.) An open mind combined with proper scepticism is needed. (‘guarded open mind’)

False Miracles

There have been many false claims from both ‘Christians’ and others. Some have been outright frauds, some genuinely believed. Eg.

How on earth do they know it is Mary? How do they know what she looks like? Etc.

(Mostly of Mary – Why? If it is of God then why not Jesus? Good questions!)

Miracles and Magic

Any god we can control is, to some extent at least, acceptable. The big problem with the Christian God (and Muslim and Jewish) is that he wants to be in charge. He thinks he is God! And we can’t handle that.

The difference between miracles and magic is that miracles are done by this divine being who acts as if he is in charge. Magic, so we believe, is done by ‘me’, under my control, as I choose.

For Miracles the power resides in God. For Magic, the power resides in me.

Miracles are always presented as being good (even, for example, the plagues of Egypt are presented as an exercise of justice and the gracious offer of salvation). Even in popular thinking: ‘It is a miracle he survived the plane crash’. ‘It is a fluke he was killed in that freak accident’ – only the good is a miracle. Magic can be good or evil (“black magic”?) because it comes from the human heart. And “magic always comes with a price” – Once Upon A Time (TV series) – comes with a sting in its tail.

Magic, ESP, psychic powers, etc. are similar in nature to miracles, and so official scepticism is very high. But since they are believed to be intra-universe (if real) then the imperative to deny or debunk them is less. Thus some genuine scientific attempts to study these have been made.

Christians and Magic

God is Spirit (“Spirit” – not nebulous and less than real, but a whole other dimension > physical existence) {consider the analogy of 4D beings in a 3D world}

Christians also believe that God created other spirit beings, some of which rebelled against God. Like sceptics, Christians believe that magic is not a part of this naturalistic universe, and so, if it exists, must be due to the actions of these malevolent spirit beings.


It is those who are most eager to find extra-terrestrial life who seem to be the most opposed to believing in God or in any sort of supernatural. They are so keen to define man as the measure of all things. They are at the forefront of the fight for equality – animals, the sexes, homosexuals, the disabled, and so on.

How would they feel if we discovered real aliens and they turned out to be genuinely superior to us in every way? Intelligence, strength, knowledge, wisdom, skill, appearance. Would ‘we’ worship them: Try to drag them down to our level? Try to destroy them? Fight to be accepted as equals, despite not being? Live in denial? What? How would they cope?


Many people believe in UFOs – spacecraft piloted by aliens who come to visit our planet. There are stories and pictures (always blurry, never clear) of such incidents. Most such cases can be easily explained away (eg. weather balloon, meteorite). Some people, however, refuse to believe the simple explanations and continue to insist aliens are real and that official denials are just a cover-up. All this is despite the fact that according to the best physics at our disposal, if aliens DO exist they would/could never come here.
Do Christian (and other) claims of miracles fall into the same category?

Christians and Aliens

Christians who believe that God created the universe and us in it would readily accept that such a God could also have created other beings on other planets. However for various reasons not worth discussing here we consider such a possibility HIGHLY unlikely. According to all we know of science (incomplete as that is), one inter-stellar alien visit would be impossible, thousands on a regular basis even more so.

Still, Aliens if they do exist are a part of this naturalistic universe. So once again they do not present so significant a challenge to the sceptic. In fact the whole idea of aliens, despite their incredible unlikelihood, has so gripped popular imagination that SETI has garnered plenty of support, and anything that can be even vaguely interpreted as pointing to aliens is eagerly grasped at.
Aside from the general belief in aliens and UFOs, there is also a very small, but not insignificant, group of people who claim to have been kidnapped by aliens for various purposes (strangely, such people all seem to belong to so-called “western” nations – esp. USA – where alienism has a cult following – in contrast to belief in ‘miracles’ supposedly being predominant in primitive cultures). Not every such report, however, can be dismissed as insanity, hallucination, drug-induced, deliberate deception, or the like. Christian belief in malevolent spirit beings (as applied to magic above) would then be appropriate here too.

Miracles, God, Christianity

Performance magic (ie. illusions created by performers) appear impossible; appear to be magic; but that is only because we don’t know the trick, how it was actually done. Similarly miracles which appear to violate (what we think are) the laws of nature may just be so because we don’t know what is actually happening behind the scenes.

Note: this does not in any way deny the miraculous nature of the ‘event’, merely the claim that it is contrary to ‘the laws of nature’ and thus that it is unreasonable/unrational/wrong to believe that they can/do/may occur.

If you define ‘miracle’ as something that cannot happen, then miracles don’t happen. Simple. But that’s not what people mean by the word. A ‘miracle’ is generally considered to be a rare event (irrespective of the probability), a good event, and something requiring external input of some sort – where “external” => beyond the control of anyone involved.

If God exists, he may or may not perform “miracles”. Ie. He may or may not intervene to alter the course of events such that they are (noticeably) different to what would have happened anyway. BUT if miracles are real, then this implies that God must be also (since miracles come from God).

Just as atheists cannot countenance ID – irrespective of the evidence – because it implies an intelligent designer, so miracles must be rejected because they imply a (supernatural) miracle worker. Thus if your position is that “God does not exist” – that being one of the basic apriori assumptions on which your world view is built – then miracles MUST be rejected out of hand, no matter what the evidence.

Even one genuine miracle is enough to obliterate the foundation of everything you believe in, causing the entire structure of all you have built to collapse. Since this cannot be allowed, miracles must be denied no matter what.

 “Miracle” in the Bible

The Greek words translated “miracle” in our Bibles are ??????? and ??????? (dunamis and s?meion). These are generally translated as “power” and “sign” respectively. Thus what we call miracles were then considered to be acts of power, and/or signs to verify the status or claims of the one displaying them. Thus a miracle is something that would not or could not happen by itself in the normal course of events but requires the input of power from some external source. Similarly we have countless examples of things that require the input of power to happen – whether it be the conversion of small hard corn kernels into big fluffy pop-corn, enabling us to see when it is dark (electric lights), or the sending of men to the moon – contrary to the scientific law of gravity. So a miracle is no more contrary to the laws of nature than any of these ‘normal’ things, it simply has a different source for that input of power.

If God exists (in a theistic sense), then it stands to reason that he would take an interest in his creation (unlike a deistic god) and involve himself in it. It also stands to reason that a God sufficiently powerful to create the entire universe from nothing is not lacking in the where-withal to tweak things here or there. It is also perfectly possible that we may be totally unaware of much of what he does. (Whether or not such a God exists is another subject entirely. I am merely postulating here how such existence would outwork itself if true.)

Some interventions (tweakings) may be apparent to human observation. Some may even correspond to or follow human intercessions or requests. We may call these miracles.

Why he would do some things and not others we may think are equally or even more worthy we do not know. But we do know that his grasp of the big picture must be incomparably greater than ours (by definition), and that he always does what is right and best (see my previous discourse on Good and Evil for more info).


Multitudes of claims exist world-wide; some written up. Some are very doubtful, some highly credible, some extensively documented. Just because “you” claim to have never seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I personally believe in many things I have never seen (eg. Moscow, Grand Canyon, neutrons, …).

Examining Miracles

According to Stephen Jay Gould the “non-overlapping magisteria” of science and religion must be kept distinct. Miracles would fall into the realm of religion and thus are a valid topic for religious discussion, but should be excluded from any empirical or rationalistic study since they are not a part of the real or material world in which we dwell. Just as fairies (or orcs and elves) may be a valid topic of discussion in literature circles, but not in history or science circles.

Related to this are the claims of the effects of prayer, since prayer is clearly a request to a deity. One problem with the idea of running ‘live’ studies is that it assumes ‘we’ can control God (assuming he exists) with our prayers. But if God is truly God then we can never control him. Consider Aslan in CS Lewis’s “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” – “He is not a tame lion. But he is good!” He is mighty and powerful, and does whatever he pleases.

However Candy Gunther Brown has ignored Gould’s view, and found ways to overcome the inherent problems to conduct successful and rigorously valid clinical trials that have shown much more significant results than expected from such a study. Her book, published by Harvard University Press is called “Testing Prayer, Science and Healing”.

Miracles and Coincidences

Some ‘miracles’ are not so much considered miraculous by their nature as by their timing or high degree of unlikelihood. (Eg. In “Vanya” – story of soldier granted leave contrary to all expectations). Consider the Biblical plagues of Egypt – All of these can be explained naturally (eg. see Immanuel Velikovsky “Worlds in Collision” – I am not endorsing his work, merely using it to demonstrate the possibility) – but for them to happen as and when they did with perfect timing verges on impossibility.

Thus some miracles are dismissed as merely coincidences. And the basic principles behind so doing are generally valid. Christians who believe in miracles also acknowledge readily that many unlikely events that take place are in fact genuine coincidences. Coincidences are real. None-the-less there are definite situations where the circumstances point so clearly to an external influence that, aside from apriori assumptions that this is not possible, “miracle” is clearly the best and most reasonable explanation.

Summary / Conclusion

  • If God does NOT exist and the material universe is all there is, then no matter what the evidence, miracles do not exist / are not real. They are merely natural phenomena which we do not (yet) understand. This is, however, begging the question and assumes the conclusion. (especially since, if true, we have no basis whatsoever to place any faith at all in our abilities to so determine.)
  • If God DOES exist then it stands to reason he has every right and all necessary power to influence/affect/engage with his creation in any way he sees fit.
  • Any such action would be in keeping with the natural order, laws which he created, and not “contrary to the laws of nature”. But, clearly, it would also result in a different effect than if he had not so acted – just the same as when any of us does anything.
  • This is thus (a) an exercise of power and (b) a sign to us of his existence and involvement.
  • Thus for anyone prepared to honestly and with guarded open mind to properly examine the evidence, belief in both miracles and the miracle worker is rational, reasonable, and easily the best interpretation and conclusion.

Post Modernism

Often, Christians are concerned about the dangers of “postmodernism”, while still being unsure what it actually means. On 29 August 2013 Matt Gray took us through the core aspects of postmodernism, including where and how they emerged. This included the high scholastic debates of the middle ages, through to the angry anti-imperial protests of the early 1990s.   A central issue in the discussion is how much of our culture is actually POST modern? What was so bad about modernity that people would want to move away from it? What about modernity are they moving away from? And how much of this cultural phenomena is a movement AWAY from modernity, and how much is it the ultimate fulfilment of modernity’s promises? Is it not POST modernity, but HYPER modernity?   In exploring these questions, we start to understand the cultural underpinnings that uphold many of the conversations we have in our society today, including apologetical discussions, such as sexuality, technology, and relativism.


Matt is one of Adelaide’s main thinkers on integrating Christian history into contemporary life. He has a wide grasp of the Christian story, and seeks to apply it to the individual Christian’s discipleship, and to the mission of the Church as a whole. In his teaching, he has a reputation for passion, humour, relevance and practicality. He is currently doing a PhD in history with Adelaide University; is a senior member of the missional Christian community of Glen Osmond Baptist; and regularly writes for an apologetics magazine online.

His talk was video recorded and is available on You Tube. The text of his talk can be accessed from Postmodernism PDF. See also his Power Point Presentation on Postmodernism.

On the 1st of August Chris Jolliffe talked on Gay Marriage.

The video recording is at

A number of Chris’s sources came for the  Saving Marriage site. These include:

See also:

The Bible on Homosexuality by Chris Jolliffe

How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships by Mark Regernus

Note: This issue is highly controversial. The above sites represent Chris’s views. For each of the above links there are numerous counter arguments. These can be easily found by Googling the subject title. If you want to get a good feel for this subject then you should research the counter arguments as well.



Kant’s Critique of the Traditional Arguments for the Existence of God

This is a summary of the presentation given on the 4th of July. Unfortunately we were not able to video record the meeting. However, there were power point slides (see Kants Critique).

1         Kant for Dummies

When I was a young engineer, a senior manager at the Electricity Trust told me, “If you really understand something, then you can explain it simply”. I believe this is largely true. So, I am going to attempt to provide a simple explanation of Kant’s Critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. Unfortunately the converse does not apply. If you explain something simply, this does not necessarily mean that you really understand. Anyway, here we go.

After reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, the German Lutheran Pietist J. G. Hamann wrote “If it is fools who say in their heart there is no God, those who try to prove his existence seem to me to be even more foolish.” However, are Kant’s arguments correct and was Hamann right in his assessment? In fact, Kant’s arguments have not been universally accepted. So, at the risk of being a fool, I will reconsider Kant’s arguments and assess whether it is sound and valid to argue for the existence of God.

So, what were his arguments, are they valid, are they relevant to contemporary arguments and how do they affect the scope and usefulness of arguments for the existence of God?

1.1       Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a major philosopher during the period of the Enlightenment, which is a supposedly anti-Christian movement. However, Kant is not necessarily anti-Christian. He was brought up in a devout Lutheran family and never rejected that faith. Although he is famous for having launched a critique against the traditional arguments for the existence of God, he still believed in God. In fact he believed that atheism was dangerous to society and also developed an argument for the existence of God based on morality as outlined in his Critique of Practical Reason. Thus we can consider Kant’s critique as “friendly fire”. His intent was to clarify the limitations of the traditional arguments so that their claims were not overstated.

Immanuel Kant

During the Enlightenment the 2 major epistemological movements were rationalism and empiricism. The chief originator of empiricism was John Locke, who believed that all of our knowledge came through the senses. Rene Descartes was the father of rationalism. Descartes’ aim was to gain certain knowledge from a foundation of indubitable beliefs and to derive certain conclusions from that foundation using “Pure Reason”.

1.2       Critique of Pure Reason

Kant’s major work was the Critique of Pure Reason (1787). Kant was primarily an empiricist and his critique was an attempt to unite empiricism with rationalism, which he referred to as Pure Reason. In this work Kant also provided a critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. Kant’s critique has been highly influential.

Kant’s analysis of the arguments for the existence of God are contained in Transcendental Doctrine of Elements, Second Part, Second Division, Book 2, chapter 3, sections 3 to 7 of the Critique of Pure Reason.

2         Definitions of Terms

Before we review the traditional arguments we should be careful to define out terms, especially regarding existence. At least 3 types of existence have been identified. These are:

  • Impossible existence
  • Contingent existence and
  • Necessary existence.

Impossible existence refers to entities that cannot exist. These are usually entities that are logically impossible, such as square circles and married bachelors.

Contingent objects are those that we typically observe. They have a beginning, they are caused and we can imagine a world in which they do not exist. In other words they do not have to exist.

When we talk about God it is generally assumed that God is a Necessary Being. This may come in a number of flavours. It may mean that he is uncaused or has no beginning and is the cause of all other things. However, there is an even stronger sense. It may also mean that he exists necessarily. In other words it is impossible for God not to exist and that he must exist in all possible worlds. However, when we say that God is eternal and uncaused, are we necessarily asserting that God is necessary in this last and strongest sense?

Let us keep this in mind as we review Kant’s objections.

3         The Traditional Arguments for Existence of God

According to Kant (1787), there are only 3 arguments that need be considered. These are the Teleological (Design), Cosmological (First Cause) and Ontological arguments. “More there are not, and more there cannot be.” Why is this so? He does not say, but let’s just see what he says.

The Cosmological and Teleological arguments have been around since Plato and Aristotle. They depend on observations about the actual world and even have some basis in scripture, since Paul claims that God’s eternal power and divine nature is clearly perceived in what he has made.

The Ontological Argument, however, is of a quite different nature. It was invented much later in the 11th century. Nobody had thought of it before. It is nearly a purely logical argument with no reference to any particular thing in the actual world, except perhaps our minds.

Although the Cosmological and Design Arguments are much older than the Ontological Argument, Kant considers the Ontological Argument first. He argues that the Ontological Argument is a poor argument. He then argues that the other 2 arguments are ultimately dependent on the Ontological Argument and thus fall with it.

Thus firstly we will consider the Ontological Argument.

4         Ontological Argument

We have already considered the Ontological Argument 4 weeks ago (see However, I will give an overview. This will be an introduction for those who were not present at that meeting and some revision for those who were. I will provide an overview of the historical development of the Ontological Argument prior to Kant. This will cover Anselm, Gaunilo and Descartes. I will then summarise Kant’s Objections to the Ontological Argument, then compare modern Ontological Arguments and then give assessment of the relevance of Kant’s critique.

4.1       Anselm

The Ontological Argument was first developed by a Benedictine monk called Anselm (1033-1109), who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Ontological Argument is contained in the Proslogion, which means “discourse on the existence of God”. Even if his argument is not correct, it really is a stunning piece of original thinking.


Psalm 14 states that “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God’”. Anselm alludes to this passage and argues that even a fool has a concept of God. He states,

Hence, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, when he hears of this, he understands it. And whatever is understood, exists in the understanding. And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater. Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.

This passage is quite verbose, but we can simplify it a bit. Anselm reasoned that, if “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” existed only in the intellect, then it would not be “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”, since it can be thought to exist in reality, which is greater. Thus it follows that “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” must exist in reality.

Alvin Plantinga has provided a summary of Anselm’s argument in a more logical form:

  1. God is defined as the greatest conceivable being
  2. To exist is greater than to not exist
  3. If God does not exist then we can conceive of a greater being that does exist
  4. Thus if God does not exist then he is not the greatest conceivable being
  5. This leads to a contradiction
  6. Therefore God must exist

4.2       Gaunilo of Marmoutiers

In Anselm’s own time, his argument was opposed by Gaunilo of Marmoutiers. He parodied the argument by applying it to other entities, such as “A greatest conceivable island” or “a greatest conceivable lion”. This tactic has often been used to parody the ontological argument. However, this was not the approach taken by Immanuel Kant.


4.3       Descartes

The Ontological Argument was developed further by philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.


Descartes’ simplified argument can be summarised as:

  1. The very conception of God includes the possession of all perfections.
  2. Existence is a perfection.
  3. Therefore, it is inconceivable that God does not exist.

4.4       Kant’s Ontological Argument Objections

It is difficult to summarise Kant’s critique of the Ontological Argument simply. However, it seems that Kant is mainly targeting Descartes’ version, although he does not make this clear. The major points that he seems to be raising are.

  • The Ontological Argument confuses existence and essence
  • Existence is not a Predicate
  • Negation of the proposition “God exists” does not result in a contradiction
  • You cannot establish God’s existence merely from our conceptions of God

Kant’s critique of the Ontological Argument has not gone unchallenged. For each of Kant’s objections, I will mention counter objections that have been raised.

4.4.1     Confusing Existence and Essence

Descartes’ version of the Ontological Argument can be summarised as

  1. The very conception of God includes the possession of all perfections.
  2. Existence is a perfection.
  3. Therefore, it is inconceivable that God does not exist.

Descartes claims that existence is a perfection. However, Kant believes that Decartes is confusing essence with existence. The essence of God answers the question, “What is God like?” and describes God’s properties or characteristics, such as omniscience. However, the existence of God answers the question, “Does God exist?” Essence and existence are 2 different things. When Descartes claims that existence is a perfection, he is confusing or conflating essence with existence. On this issue Kant may well be right.

4.4.2     Existence is Not a Predicate

Kant’s main critique of Anselm’s and Descartes’ version of the Ontological Argument is that existence is not a predicate. Propositions consist of a subject and a predicate. For instance, in the sentence “A dog has four legs”, the dog is the subject and “has four legs” is the predicate. The predicate describes properties of the subject. By claiming that existence is not a predicate, Kant is challenging the claim that existence is a perfection, or that to exist is greater than to not exist.

4.4.3     Negation is not a Contradiction

Kant claims that “God exists” is not a necessary truth. Some statements are necessarily true, since their negation entails a contradiction. A couple of examples are:

  • All bachelors are unmarried
  • All squares have 4 sides

If we negate the predicate we get a contradiction, eg

  • All bachelors are married
  • All squares do not have 4 sides

However, consider the statement “God exists”. If we negate the predicate we get “God does not exist”. However “God does not exist” is a coherent statement that does not entail a contradiction. Thus Kant argues that “God exists” is not a necessary truth. In this respect I think Kant is right. The statement “God exists” is not a necessary truth. However, I think Kant confuses “necessary truth” with “Necessary Being”. The Ontological Argument is not arguing that “God exists” is a necessary truth. It is arguing that God exists necessarily, and that is different.

4.4.4     Conceptual Conundrum

Anselm argues for concepts in our minds to the objective existence of God. However, Kant argues that we cannot establish God’s existence merely from our conceptions of God. How can a conceptual conundrum in the mind affect a being’s objective existence?

4.4.5     Kant’s Conclusion

Thus Kant concludes his discussion with the cutting assessment that the Ontological Argument “neither satisfies the healthy common sense of humanity, nor sustains the scientific examination of the philosopher.”

This all sounds very damning, but are Kant’s objections valid?

Kant claims that he is targeting Ontological arguments in general, but he seems to be mainly targeting Descartes’ version rather than Anselm’s.

4.5       Response to Kant’s Ontological Argument Objections

Two objections to Kant’s critique of the Ontological Argument are that

  1. His Predicate Argument is irrelevant, and that
  2. Necessary Existence is indeed a Property

4.5.1     Predicate Argument is Irrelevant

Kant’s most famous objection to the Ontological Argument is his claim that existence is not a predicate. However, even this has been challenged by eminent philosophers. Alvin Plantinga has claimed that Kant’s predicate argument is irrelevant to Anselm’s Ontological Argument.


He states:

Kant’s point, then, is that one cannot define things into existence because existence is not a real property or predicate in the explained sense. If this is what he means, he’s certainly right. But is it relevant to the ontological argument? Couldn’t Anselm thank Kant for this interesting point and proceed merrily on his way? Where did he try to define God into being by adding existence to a list of properties that defined some concept? …If this were Anselm’s procedure … then indeed his argument would be subject to the Kantian criticism. But he didn’t, and it isn’t. The usual criticisms of Anselm’s argument, then, leave much to be desired. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the argument is successful, but it does mean that we shall have to take an independent look at it.

Plantinga’s counter objections are not universally accepted (Robson 2012). However, they do illustrate that Kant’s predicate critique of Anselm’s version of the Ontological Argument is not universally considered to be watertight.

4.5.2     Necessary Existence is a Property

One of Kant’s key claims is that existence is not a property and the Ontological Argument fails because it assumes it is. However, he then proceeds to apply this to necessary existence. The idea of necessary existence is not the same thing as the idea of a being whose properties include existence. A being exists necessarily if it is impossible for that being not to exist. This need not involve the inclusion of a property called existence. Necessary existence is a type of existence and hence necessary existence is indeed a property.

4.6       Does it apply to Modern Arguments?

Alvin Plantinga has been critical of Kant’s arguments regarding Anselm’s formulation of the Ontological Argument. However, he has also proposed a revised form of the ontological argument called the Modal Ontological Argument, which goes as follows:

  1. It is possible that a Maximally Great Being exists
  2. If it is possible that a Maximally Great Being exists, then a Maximally Great Being exists in some possible world
  3. If a Maximally Great Being exists in some possible world, then a Maximally Great Being exists in every possible world
  4. If a Maximally Great Being exists in every possible world then a Maximally Great Being exists in the actual world
  5. Therefore a Maximally Great Being exists

Plantinga believes that his argument avoids Kant’s fire. He claims:

Now we no longer need the supposition that necessary existence is a perfection; for obviously a being can’t be omnipotent (or for that matter omniscient or morally perfect) in a given world unless it exists in that world… It follows that there actually exists a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect; this being, furthermore, exists and has these qualities in every other world as well.

However, Plantinga concedes:

But obviously this isn’t a proof; no one who didn’t already accept the conclusion, would accept the first premise. The ontological argument we’ve been examining isn’t just like this one, of course, but it must be conceded that not everyone who understands and reflects on its central premise — that the existence of a maximally great being is possible — will accept it. Still, it is evident, I think, that there is nothing contrary to reason or irrational in accepting this premise. What I claim for this argument, therefore, is that it establishes, not the truth of theism, but its rational acceptability. And hence it accomplishes at least one of the aims of the tradition of natural theology.

4.7       The Essence of the Ontological Argument

To me the essence of the Ontological Argument is that if it is possible that a Necessary Being exists, then a Necessary Being must exist in all possible worlds. This seems quite logical. However, the following issues still need to be resolved:

  • Is a Necessary Being possible?
  • Can we show that the Necessary Being is maximally perfect and is God?

4.8       Conclusion on the Ontological Argument

There seems to be an essential difference between Anselm’s version of the Ontological Argument and Plantinga’s. Anselm seems to be arguing that it is impossible for God not to exist, whereas Plantinga is arguing that if it is possible for God to exist, then he must exist. However, he leaves the possibility of God’s existence as an open issue that people will debate. Thus Plantinga concludes that it is rational to believe in God but the Modal Ontological Argument is not a proof.

Personally I am not convinced by either Anselm’s or Decartes’ version of the Ontological Argument and so I am not overly perturbed by Kant’s critique. However, I am more interested in his critique of the Cosmological argument. Has Kant undermined the Cosmological Argument in all of its possible forms?

At first sight it seems strange that Kant can possibly claim that the Cosmological Argument and Design Argument are dependent on the Ontological Argument. After all the Cosmological Argument and Design Argument have been around for over a thousand years before the Ontological Argument was ever thought of (or conceived – pun intended).

However, Kant believes that the cosmological and design proofs presuppose the ontological proof since these proofs conclude that a Necessary Being must be a most real or most excellent being. Thus even if the Cosmological Argument or Design Argument can show that a Necessary Being must exist, they then rely on the Ontological Argument to show that the Necessary Being is God.

Kant then argued that the Cosmological Argument is dependent on the Ontological Argument. Thus he believes that, if the Ontological Argument fails, the Cosmological Argument and the Design Argument fall with it.

Firstly we will consider the Cosmological Argument.

5         Cosmological Argument

Kant’s main attack on the Cosmological Argument is that it is dependent on the Ontological Argument. The Ontological Argument argues God is a Necessary Being. Kant claims that the Cosmological Argument argues for the existence of a Necessary Being, which it then identifies as God. Kant accepts that there must be a Necessary Being in order to avoid an infinite regress. However, he disputes that it can be proven that the Necessary Being is God. He believes that the Cosmological Argument relies on the Ontological Argument to make that association. Thus if the Ontological Argument fails then the Cosmological Argument falls with it. However, is Kant right about this dependency?

5.1       Dependency Arguments

Kant seems to use 3 arguments to show the dependency of the Cosmological Argument on the Ontological Argument.

Kant’s key arguments for making the Cosmological Argument dependent on the Ontological Argument are that the Cosmological Argument assumes that:

  1. a Necessary Being is Possible
  2. the Necessary Being is Actual
  3. the Necessary is God

5.1.1     Necessary Existence is Possible

Firstly the Cosmological Argument seems to presuppose that necessary existence is possible and then shows that it is actual, since if it is not possible then it cannot be actual. Kant’s argument goes something like this:

  1. The concept of a Necessary Being appears in both arguments.
  2. The Cosmological Argument assumes that necessary existence is at least possible since if it is not possible it cannot be actual.
  3. This is a conclusion of the Ontological Argument.
  4. Thus the Cosmological Argument is dependent on the Ontological Argument.

However, the Cosmological Argument does not assume that necessary existence is possible. Instead, the argument tries to show that necessary existence is actual, from which we can infer that it must be possible. This practice is currently used in science. Cosmologists have proposed the existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy to explain the motion of galaxies. They have little idea what they are and so cannot directly prove that they are possible. However since they are actual, they must be possible.

5.1.2     The Necessary Being is God

The second reason that Kant provides for the dependency of the Cosmological Argument on the Ontological Argument is that the Cosmological Argument relies on the Ontological Argument to associate the Necessary Being with God. Kant claims that the Ontological Argument shows that God is a Necessary Being and therefore exists. The Cosmological Argument shows that a Necessary Being exists, but then relies on the Ontological Argument to infer that the Necessary Being is God.

However, this is not necessarily so. William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument does not go via this route. We will discuss the Kalam Cosmological Argument later.

5.2       Additional Objections

As well as claiming that the Cosmological Argument is dependent on the Ontological Argument, Kant raises additional objections to the Cosmological Argument itself.

Kant thinks that space and time are absolutely necessary and are examples of some things that are necessarily existent apart from God. However, Kant’s views are simply dated and have been overtaken by recent scientific discoveries.

One of Kant’s aims was to define appropriate limits for the exercise of pure reason. He does not disparage pure reason altogether as much of his critique is pure reason. However, his belief that space and time were infinite and existed independently of God was, he believed, a valid conclusion based on pure reason. It was this belief that caused him to claim that a finite past led to contradictions. However, it appears he was wrong. Later empirical evidence has led to the conclusion that space and time are finite, which means that there is no contradiction if the universe has a finite past. In this case, it seems that Kant has overstepped the use of pure reason, which probably illustrates his point.

5.3       Kalam Cosmological Argument

William Lane Craig is a current proponent of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

I will cover:

  1. The argument
  2. Justifying the premises
  3. The conclusions drawn

5.3.1     The Argument

Craig’s formulation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument can be summarised by the following syllogism (2008):

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

5.3.2     Justifying the Premises

For the most part, premise 1 is usually accepted as being intuitively obvious. Most of his effort goes into justifying premise 2. Premise 2 is justified using 2 philosophical arguments and 2 arguments from scientific discoveries during the last 100 years, which are:

  1. Philosophical Arguments
    1. It is impossible to instantiate an actually infinite set. Thus there cannot be an infinite sequence of causes.
    2. It is impossible to traverse an infinite sequence of causes.
  2. Scientific Arguments
    1. The second law of thermodynamics implies that there cannot be an infinite past.
    2. The expansion of the universe implies that the universe cannot be past infinite and originated in an event 13.3 billion years ago, referred to as the Big Bang.

5.3.3     Argument Conclusions

Craig then uses information about the Big Bang to derive various attributes of the initial cause. The Big Bang marked the beginning of matter, energy, space and time. Thus the cause must at least be transcendent, timeless and powerful. These attributes are not derived from any a priori argument.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument does not argue that the cause of the universe is a Necessary Being or even God. It limits itself to those properties that are directly implied by the empirical and logical evidence.

6         Design Argument

Kant (1787) says that the Design Argument may demonstrate a designer who modifies the form of matter but not a creator of matter. To demonstrate the existence of a creator, we must rely on the Ontological Argument and the Cosmological Argument, which he regards as spurious. This proof can at most, therefore, demonstrate the existence of an architect of the world, whose efforts are limited by the capabilities of the material with which he works, but not of a creator of the world, to whom all things are subject.

In other words, the Design Argument may still be valid, but it is just limited in scope. However, this is not of serious concern. The aim of the arguments for the existence of God is mainly to establish God’s existence, not to completely define God’s attributes, and if the Design Argument is sound, then it is also decisive. The main challenge to the Design argument came much later with Darwin’s theory of evolution, which provided a naturalistic explanation of design within living creatures. To overcome this, the Design Argument has been revived in the form of the Fine Tuning Argument, which highlights design in the laws of physics, which are not subject to a Darwinian explanation. Craig’s formulation of the Fine Tuning Argument can be summarised by the following syllogism:

  1. The fine tuning of the initial conditions of the universe and of the constants in the laws of physics are due to law, chance or design.
  2. They are not due to law or chance.
  3. Therefore they are due to design.

Craig then uses this syllogism to argue for a designer of the universe.

7         Craig’s arguments

From all of the above arguments it is deduced that God is maximally great, exists necessarily, is transcendent, timeless, powerful and the designer of the universe. The Plantinga version of the Ontological argument is not subject to the critique that existence is a perfection. The Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Fine Tuning Argument do not rely on any support from the Ontological Argument. Thus these arguments are immune from the main thrust of Kant’s critiques. However, these arguments still have limitations. They are arguments, not proofs. An atheist can always choose not to believe the premises, although the intent is to make the atheist pay an intellectual price for doing so. If well presented, they should demonstrate that it is rational and reasonable to believe in God. In addition, these arguments do not specifically point to the Christian God and are used by Jews and Muslims as well. Specifically Christian arguments must rely on evidence from the New Testament.

I personally do not find the Ontological Argument to be particularly compelling, but I do find the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Fine Tuning Argument to be quite convincing. I believe this has Biblical warrant, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what he has made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Here Paul seems to be agreeing with the main thrust of the Cosmological and Design Arguments by saying that the observable world provides compelling evidences for some of the properties of the invisible God. If Paul is correct, then well-constructed Cosmological and Design Arguments should provide reasonable evidence for the existence of God.

8         Conclusion on Validity

Kant was also a man of his own time. He lived during the peak of the Enlightenment and many of his views reflect that influence. For instance, Kant claims that the Cosmological Argument is based on the “spurious transcendental law of causality”. It is not certain whether Kant is deriding the law of causality in general or just the notion of a transcendent cause. However, this statement reflects Hume’s scepticism regarding cause and effect, but should we concur with Kant that the principle of cause and effect is spurious? The Enlightenment project aimed to achieve certainty either by rationalism or empiricism. However, it failed to provide assurance even on the principle of cause and effect. However, this principle is the basis of science and is intuitively accepted to be true. After all, according to Francis Bacon, “science is the study of secondary causes”. Kant’s scepticism should be borne in mind when evaluating his critique of the Cosmological Argument. Kant is working from a standard of rigour and a desire for certainty that most scientists and ordinary people would consider to be unrealistic.

There have been a number of critics that have shown that there are numerous weaknesses in Kant’s arguments. However, his arguments have still been widely accepted, even amongst Christian theologians and apologists. Why is this so? Joyce (1922) provides a possible explanation:

It is not to be denied that ever since Kant’s time an impression has prevailed widely that the old proofs are no longer defensible. Possibly the mere fact that an eminent thinker had ventured to call in question such seemingly irrefutable arguments seemed by itself almost equivalent to a disproof. But another reason also, extrinsic it is true to the merits of the criticism, but none the less effective, operated in favour of this result. During the last century, rationalism, in the form either of naturalism or of idealism, had become strongly entrenched in the great centres of learning. It was only natural that thinkers who had discarded belief in a personal God should applaud Kant’s conclusion, even if they might hesitate to affirm that his criticism of the proofs was in all respects sound. Thus it came about that those who admitted the value of the traditional arguments were regarded as out of date. Often the validity of Kant’s objections is simply taken for granted, and the proofs of God’s existence dismissed without more ado. Even some of the apologists of revealed religion, eager not to be behind the fashion, discard them as untenable.

9         Assessment

Probably the strongest point that Kant made was that existence is not a predicate, which (to some degree) undermined the Ontological Argument, as formulated by Anselm and simplified by Descartes. Prior to Kant the arguments were regarded as proofs. One of the themes that came out of the Enlightenment was that this level of certainty is just not possible. On the other hand, I believe that Kant’s arguments on the dependency of the Cosmological Argument and Design arguments on the Ontological Argument are highly dubious.

I believe it is beneficial to be aware of Kant’s arguments and to be careful not to overstate the effectiveness and scope of Craig’s arguments. They are arguments, not proofs. However, people like Craig and Plantinga are well aware of Kant’s critique and their arguments are well crafted to avoid Kant’s fire. I have not seen any debate where Craig has been attacked directly on the basis of Kant’s critique, but occasionally some of Kant’s arguments do reappear without Kant being directly invoked.

Thus, in conclusion, I believe we can thank Kant for his interesting points and then proceed merrily on our way.

10    References

Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd edition, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, 2008.

Joyce, G.H., Principles of Natural Theology, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, Toronto, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, 1922.

Kant, I. The Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd edition, 1787, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn, A Penn State Electronic Classic Series Publication, Pennsylvania State University, 2010.

Koons, R.C. Western Theism, Lecture notes and bibliography from Dr. Koons’ Western Theism course (Phl 356) at the University of Texas at Austin, Spring 1998,, in particular Lectures 5&9.

Plantinga, Alvin, God, Freedom and Evil, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1974. The pertinent section on the ontological argument is quoted at

Robson, Gregory, The Ontological Proof: Kant’s Objections, Plantinga’s Reply, KSO 2012: 122-171, posted August 26, 2012

Worthing, M., Apologetics Intensive Lecture Notes, Section 05, Apologetics, proofs and science, 2012.



Arminianism and Calvinism are 2 views on the sovereignty of God and human freedom over which Christians have been divided. Arminianism emphasizes the freedom of the human will and responsibility in choosing to follow Christ, whereas Calvinism emphasizes God’s sovereignty in choosing the elect in accordance with His own free and unmerited favour.

On Thursday the 20th of June John Quin provided a presentation on Molinism. Molinism is named after the 16th Century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina. It is a doctrine that attempts to reconcile the providence of God with human free will and supposedly is a middle ground between Arminianism and Calvinism. Molinists hold that God knows what His creatures would freely choose if placed in any circumstance in addition to knowing everything that does or will happen. William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga are some of its best known advocates today and use its principles to address the problem of evil.

Unfortunately video recording equipment was not available on the night. John seemed quite delighted. However, here are John’s Power Point slides on Molinism.