Arguing Against The Existence Of God

When I posted Atheism as a lack of belief (and reason) I waited with the anticipation of a lil’ kid waiting for morning to see what Santa had brought.  Needless to say, I received the equivalent of coal in the stocking.  In fact, I am regularly disappointed when an Atheist finally does try to argue against the existence of God.  Vacuous complaints like the Bible authors were biased, or God is mean, or God doesn’t exist because life sucks are regularly offered as “solid evidence” and the many “good reasons” to be an Atheist.  I am beginning to think that Atheists have hidden behind word games for so long in order to avoid defending the things they believe when it comes to God (See: Win By Default, I Don’t Not Believe It!, Not At All Lacking, Who Did You Say You Were Again?) that they have forgotten how to ride the bicycle of reasonable argumentation.

Well, today I was listening to a Christian talk radio podcast and the host was discussing the idea that God desires things which do not come to pass.  He cited the fact that God desires all to be saved but not everyone will be.  As the show progressed, an argument against the existence of God began to formulate in my mind.

The Judeo-Christian concept of God in part is that He is maximally perfect.  Maximally perfect, broadly speaking, entails that God is as perfectly Just, Merciful, Loving, Righteous, etc. as He could be.  God knows everything which can be known, can do anything which can be done, and so forth.  God is a maximally perfect being and His qualities cannot be improved upon.

If then God has certain desires, such as that all should be saved, and does not come to pass for whatever reason, then what does this mean for God’s maximal perfection?

  • This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
  • The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
  • Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11).

For this argument the reason His desire does not come to pass should be irrelevant and implies deficiency.

If we are to attribute any degree of freedom to man it turns out that God desires the impossible.  Because man has a will of his own it follows that barring direct intervention by God, not all will be saved.  Because every man has broken His Law (Romans 3:23) and God has not, and will not intervene on behalf of every man, God desires the impossible — and He knows it.  I believe it stands to reason that a maximally perfect being would not desire that which He knows is impossible to obtain given the parameters He has set forth i.e., that He will not intervene for every man.

God’s desire is for all men to repent and trust in Him for their salvation.  God, knowing that many will not come to trust Him, yet still desires that all will, puts Him in the position of desiring something He knows will not happen.  I think this can be reasonably classified as a deficiency.  If a being is deficient in any way to any degree, it fails to be maximally perfect.  God, by abandoning the desire that all be saved, or by intervening for every man so to guarantee all be saved, the deficiency could be removed thus improving to maximal perfection.  This means that the God of the Bible in His current state is not maximally perfect.  By definition God, if He exists, must maximally perfect.  Therefore God does not exist.

So why do Atheist bloggers and commenters — who claim the intellectual high ground — spend all their time concocting excuses to avoid arguing for their position instead of formulating arguments for their position?  As I said above, I think the Internet Atheists have gotten lazy.  More and more of them offer meager complaints and ridicule in place of actual argumentation.  “You idiot, you can’t prove something doesn’t exist”.  Nonsense, you can try to show its existence is philosophically impossible.  I agree that calling names and demanding the impossible from Christians (See: Prove It!, Never Quite Enough,  Not A Shred Of Evidence, The Impossibility Of Miracles) is easier than breaking down Christian defenses for God’s existence, but I shouldn’t have to do your leg work for you.

To my Christian apologist readers, please feel free to refute the argument I offered.

Comments

  1. John, the argument you proffered here is very similar to the Argument from Non-belief, which, incidentally, was one of the arguments I previously cited as one of the reasons I don’t believe the Christian god exists (along with the Problem of Evil). Unfortunately, however, no one tried to argue against the former, and the conversation abruptly ended on the latter. I’d be willing to continue the discussion here/start the discussion on the Argument from Non-belief, if you like…?

    • It’s not so much an argument from non-belief as much as God desiring something which does not come to pass. And desiring it in the face of knowing it is impossible to attain, and that He is the one preventing it from attaining. I only used this as an example. But we can tackle your non-belief argument, I’m sure it’s similar enough, right?

  2. Put very briefly: God desires all man to be saved. In keeping with this, God ought to do everything in His power to ensure that that happens; otherwise, we can levy the argument that God does not, in fact, want all man to be saved. It is not apparent, or evident, that God has done all that He can in order to ensure man’s salvation. So, either God does not want all of man to be saved, which would pose problems to his attribution of omnibenevolence, or He does not exist.

    • well, The reformed theologian would argue that God doesn’t desire that all men (people), but rather all elect men be saved. (Mark 4:11-13)

      And that Jesus was not sent to the whole world, but only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24-28)

      And Omnibenevolence needs to be defined in a way that doesn’t conflict with the Biblical description of God. But the Bible doesn’t ever claim He is omnibenevolent.

  3. As an example, I can say that God does not come down to Earth on a daily basis and declare Himself to be God, performing miracles and all that jazz. This act, at least, would increase the number of men saved.

    • Well, He did it once before and was killed in spite of this. There were witnesses to his miracles who still refused to believe. While I would agree that more would be saved. But certainly not all would.

  4. You can’t prove a negative. I can’t prove that there isn’t a god anymore than you can prove that I don’t have a pink elephant in this room I’m typing from. And yet you talk about riding the bicycle of reasonable argumentation. Confusing. Or actually, not confusing.

    -John with an H.

    • John

      Thanks for stopping by and offering nothing to the conversation. But a negative can be proven by sucessfully arguing its existence is philosophically impossible.

      Thank you also for offering another example in laziness in thinking among internet atheists.

  5. You’re right, I’m sorry. It’s been a long day and I completely messed the argument up. The argument is not predicated on belief, but rather on knowledge: I do not know that God exists.

    “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:4

    Should we hold to the proposition that God is omnipotent, then it stands to reason that He would at least make it evident that He in fact exists. The fact that there are those who genuinely do not think God exists on the basis of their being no evidence for it is a testament that God has not done everything He can to make His existence evident. Further, it stands to reason that God would, at the very least, make His existence apparent so that one may at least decide for himself, especially considering the outcome should one not believe.

    • Oscar,
      First, I don’t think salvific faith need to be based on knowledge (epitemologically speaking). I think it would be stronger, but not necessary. In most cases I would venture to say that knowledge of God being true comes after the onset of salvific faith. For me it happened at the same time, while I was investigating/challenging my pastor friend.

      But referring back my posts Prove It! and Never Quite Enough, the being convinced must happen in the believer, not the evidence. Think of the mother whose son is accused of robbing a bank. She is shown a video of the robbery and yet still comes up with excuses to not believe it was really her son, or that he wasnt really robbing the bank. People’s will to refuse something can be quite strong even when presented with what many would consider rock solid evidence.

  6. Considering that one must have belief in order to be saved, a prerequisite to belief is knowledge.

  7. Absolutely wrong. I defy you to prove something doesn’t exist to me. Pick something. Anything. Because all I have to do is dance away from your logic the same way christians dance away from scientific, philosophical, and psychological evidence. The same way you seem to have become adept at dancing. You seem quite sure of your own reasoning. You’ve really done a good job protecting the imaginary friend inside your own friend. But your smug response won’t win you many return visits to your blog. Nor will it win you any souls for God’s kingdom. In your fervor to protect him, you seem to be fairly blaze about the Great Commission he ordered you on.

    “And yet these three remain: Faith, hope, and repugnant pseudo-intellectualism. But the greatest of these is repugnant pseudo-intellectualism.”

    Make it a great one!

    -John with an H.

    • Well, John,

      You have meandered on to my page, for which I am grateful. But you have done so while demanding things of me, giving me homework so to speak. You condescend me and my religious convictions all while complaining that I was rude? Not to mention my post was an argument against God existing. It was an argument for a thing not to exist.

      While I would love for you to return and interact I would only want you to do so respectfully.

  8. *Head, not friend, in line 5.

  9. John with an H,

    A thing cannot be both x and ~x. We can thus say that no thing exists that is both x and ~x.

  10. Marshall Art says:

    To both John B and Oscar, I have to say the premise here is wrong. One must keep in mind Who it is we are discussing and what we do know about Him from the only source we have. That is, we must do this if we are talking about the God of the Bible, as opposed to an unnamed Intelligent Designer or Supreme Being. As such, we know that He created all things and eventually created the first man and woman and gave them freedom to live in the perfect Garden as they please with one caveat, that they not eat of a certain tree. Having failed in abiding this restriction they were cast out and sin corrupted creation. Yet, after this, and even after wiping out most of those who followed in the Great Flood, He chose to allow free will to continue. Despite this, He maintains His Sovereignty over all things and indeed can make Himself know if He so chooses as well as do all sorts of things, being all powerful, all knowing, etc.

    And that He desires that none should perish, knowing that some will is not a sign of some kind of flaw in Him, but in us. For Him to see His desire come to fruition would mean removing our free will. For Him to expose Himself to all would do the same as with full knowledge of Him, it would be hard to deny Him.

    It was submitted that He had exposed Himself before and people did not believe or abide His will. But to whom did He expose Himself? First, it was Adam, and I give him a pass because He was not really provided the same info we have. He did NOT have the knowledge of good and evil. Then, came Moses. Between Adam and Moses, no one had direct contact ala face-to-face. And fewer still heard His voice directly, but only His message through a prophet.

    Then there was Jesus. Of those who saw Him after He rose, I know of no one who did not convert.

    What do WE have? Just the knowledge passed down through the generations and the other evidences we’ve found since that time that lends credence to those ancient stories.

    Put all this against the notion of being loved or worshiped. Which of us who has a spouse would prefer that the spouse love us by force or because there is no choice in the matter? Would that be the type of love that is most gratifying? Hard as may be to believe, I’ve been given the brush once or twice in the old days. And my wife is not “in love” with me as if she was some smitten teenager whose mind is filled with nothing but my image. Believe me. She’s here by choice alone, not by any force of fancy. THAT means far more to me because she chooses to love me, though I try hard to provide no reason to change her mind.

    So imagine YOU’RE God and you’ve created all things and you make these people to worship you. You could create them to love you or you could create them to choose to love you. Which is worth more to YOU?

    So you leave enough for the people to know you exist if they truly care to know. You hope they all will but you made them with free will. But to leave no doubt defeats the purpose and with NO doubt, having given them free will is rendered meaningless.

    What’s more, the difference between God and His created is so vast, that I don’t believe it would be possible for a human being to be in His presence and NOT devote himself to Him from that point forward. Thus, it is NOT reasonable to expect that He would make Himself known completely if His plan is to be loved and worshiped by choice rather than by design.

    So, to desire that none should perish is a lament based on the fact that He HAS to have things as they are in order for Him to be loved and worshiped in the manner He desires. There’s a logic to it that it is not in His nature to abandon or override. Thus also, it is not a deficiency, but a caveat of his master plan that must be in place.

    • Marshall

      I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. My response however would be that even though Man sinned and ruined perfection for imself. It was still a known thing to God. God knew and does know people will reject Him. This is where the argument I think hinges. That God desires something impossible given that it was His decision to bestow us with a will of our own (to whatever degree). Therefore, because He could, through divine intervention, ensure that His desire is fulfilled but does not, means He desires something He knows is impossible yet He could attain. Therefore since He could improve in some way, i.e., that an impossible to fulfill desire could be acted upon to fulfill it, He is not maximally perfect.

      Listen, I’m not saying this is thoroughly sound, or that it will even hold up to careful scrutiny. The point of this was that for all the belly-aching many Atheists on the internet do about not being able to prove God doesn’t exist, or all the linguistic gymnastics they do in order to avoid having to defend why they believe God doesn’t exist — I, a Christian was able to formulate at least a cogent argument for why God doesn’t exist (and it didn’t take that long). So what’s their excuse?

  11. I have demanded nothing of you. I questioned your point using the phrasing “I defy you to…” I basically asked you in a sense to defend your point that a negative can be proved. You apparently have declined to defend that point. I haven’t condescended you. I’m finding that some religious take things personally very quickly when challenged. But I’ve attacked your argument, and not you. You don’t seem to be interested in responding to my points, only in turning this into a good old fashioned internet flame war. I have no interest in that. We don’t seem to be thinking within the same confines of understanding and this feels like a waste of time. It may feel that way for you as well.

    Adios, amigo.

    • John

      You defied me to defend a position, which is essentially a demand, since you then claimed that I would likely dance around like others. Then referred to God as an imaginary friend. If thats not demanding and condescending then I dont know what is.

      But more to the point, my post was an argument of proving a negative, and instead of you actually addressing my post, you came in defying me to restate the post. Then when Oscar showed you a very simple example of showing that something which is impossible to exist, you didnt even answer it.

      So if you’re going to pout off and not come back because I didn’t humor your attitude, so be it. I would prefer you come in with a charitable attitude with an intention to hold a discussion without condescention, but if you can’t, I’d rather not sully up the atmosphere.

  12. It actually is possible to prove a negative. That is what “falsification” means, and is the foundation of science. For example, if I say there is a place in Thailand where gravity is reversed. Surely I would only have to go to that place and “drop” a pencil.

    However, there are certain claims that cannot be proven negative, look up Carl Sagan’s Dragon in his Garage for an example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRy3Kl_z5E).

    The problem is when a claim is made in such a way that a claim is unfalsifiable (equally, look up Carl Popper’s “science as falsification”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztmvtKLuR7I&feature=plcp)

    There are a number of ways to make a claim unfalsifiable, the three most obvious are to make a theory compatible with any imaginable reality; to make a claim broad enough to not actually mean a lot and to shift the goal posts defining the claim.

    I say this to quickly note how the definition of God, a logically impossible omnipotent and omniscience being, has shifted to a vaguer term: “a maximally great Being”. Also note the immaterial, non-temporal disembodied mind (not a quote from this page).

    Things also have to be logically consistent. So if you wanted to disprove God you have to pin down the definitions being used. Can a Being be both merciful and just? Well, no. Mercy is deviation from justice. Mercy is a lessening of what the just response should be. So God cannot be both.

    Claims don’t only have to be logically internally consistent, but consistent with other truths as well. The evidential problem of suffering is a good example. How can a benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent being exist at the same time that famine and droughts and natural disasters cause deep suffering and death? (http://allalltor.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/the-problem-of-suffering/)

    The answer is often The Fall narrative, but that quickly enters into the “theory compatible with any imaginable reality” problem: God’s benevolence causes all the goodness and the Fall causes all the suffering, and in any given (or even imagined) scenario the weighting just shifts from “God’s benevolence” and “man-made Fall” depending on the amount of goodness or suffering. (http://allalltor.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/what-possible-world-cant-be-explained-by-gods/)

  13. @John

    So are you saying the faith and belief in God precedes knowledge in God; or, at the very least, they occur simultaneously?

    @Marshall

    The argument is predicated on knowledge, not salvation. Moreover, knowledge in God does not affect one’s free will. You said:

    “What’s more, the difference between God and His created is so vast, that I don’t believe it would be possible for a human being to be in His presence and NOT devote himself to Him from that point forward. Thus, it is NOT reasonable to expect that He would make Himself known completely if His plan is to be loved and worshiped by choice rather than by design.”

    This is simply not true. Let us take, for example, those who profess to know that there is a God, but refuse to worship Him because they perceive Him as evil. Another example, and perhaps one that would be more of an impact on you, would be fallen angels and Lucifer. These are “His created” who were actually in His presence and yet chose to not worship Him. The argument is not contra belief or salvation, the argument is contra knowledge of God.

  14. Marshall Art says:

    Oscar,

    I anticipated the example of Lucifer and the it must be remembered that he is not human. We are speaking of human beings who are decidedly different from angels. At the same time, as I have indicated, few people in history have had direct face-to-face contact with God/Jesus and there is no example that comes to mind of any of them rejecting Him afterwards. So I am speaking of FULL knowledge that can only come with such direct contact. Anything short leaves room for doubt, no matter how irrational.

  15. Marshall Art says:

    John,

    I am aware of the point of your exercise. I just wanted to get on with the shortcomings of it before anyone tried to run with it.

    • Marshall

      Many of the Pharisees saw him and his miracles and attributed them to the power of the devil. Remember he was tried by the Jews first and he mentioned that many of them had seen him and never arrested him before.

  16. @John

    That seems a restricted and exclusionary way to salvation. Is this based on Scripture or experience?

    @Marshall

    Why do you suppose that angels and humans differ in their methodology to belief? Why would humans be incapable of not believing and angels immune to this?

  17. Marshall Art says:

    @ Oscar

    Two reasons. First, because it happened (according to Scripture) but never in the case of humans. Secondly, because we have no idea of just what an angel truly is, as compared to humans, to the extent that we can presume that they would be affected by God’s presence in the same way as humans.

    @John

    The Pharisees saw Jesus at a point where even if they did not attribute his power to the devil, they would have had no hard reason to suspect Him more than just another prophet. Indeed, Jesus spoke of all He did being because of the Father, rather than of His own Godly nature. And we don’t get much in the way of Pharisee commentary post resurrection to know if any of them had direct contact with Jesus at that point. Those with any doubts at all about Jesus (those who knew Him pre-crucifixion) had no doubt at all once they saw Him risen. Not everyone saw Him risen, and I’m only speaking of direct contact with God, full knowledge of His existence. Post resurrection, it’s seem all who saw Him were convinced and changed their lives accordingly.

  18. Marshall, I didn’t understand your first reason. Second, so you assume that this is how it works merely because it fits into what you would like it to?

  19. Marshall Art says:

    @ Oscar,

    What I meant was that according Scripture certain angels rebelled against God. There is no mention of angels who never were in the presence of God, so I take it to mean that all angels have experienced being in His presence. Scripture says some of them rebelled and were driven out of Heaven. Thus, according to Scripture, we know that angels had full knowledge of God’s existence in a way very few humans have while alive, and rebelled anyway. There is no such example of humans doings so. Even Judas did not regard Jesus as God, or was doubtful enough initially that his betrayal was not on par with one who would have full knowledge of God’s (Jesus being God) existence. It was only after He had risen that any human who saw Him in person regarded Him as God, and from then, no one rejected Him who saw Him.

    “Second, so you assume that this is how it works merely because it fits into what you would like it to?”

    I’m assuming nothing, including what you mean by this question. If you are referring to the difference between humans and angels, I make no judgement one way or the other, but only speak to what is known, which is so very little. If you are referring to whether or not being in God’s presence would be such that no human could then choose to reject Him, that too is based on what we know. I think it is rather foolishly arrogant to suppose that one could withstand being in His presence as if He was just some dude on the street. It isn’t logical or rational to suggest that any human is capable of maintaining his “cool” by being so exposed. Moses came the closest to actually getting a face-to-face and it was still restricted. It left him changed physically as well as in every other respect.

    Our present knowledge of God is far more restricted than that. We have nothing that comes close to direct contact and thus, for those who prefer, they can reject Him all day and come away believing it has no negative affect upon them to do so. What we regard as “knowledge of God” is hardly a tangible thing as is knowing one’s mother or wife or child, or even a celebrity on TV. So to try to point to those who say they believe there is a God but refuse to worship Him doesn’t really pass muster. They don’t know or believe in God at all, or are rolling the dice that He doesn’t exist, probably assuming on some level that there will be time to flip later.

  20. John, I have heard this argument before and the answer I have heard is that God, in his creation of the universe, purposefully chose to LIMIT his power and/or for-knowledge in order allow free-will. This is actually entirely consistent with what nearly all Christians believe about the incarnation: That God (the Son) chose to temporarily limit his power and for-knowledge in order to become fully human. It’s a bit simplistic, but I think it is a fair response to this particular argument against God. What do you think?

  21. @tumeyn

    If God chose to limit His own power, temporarily or otherwise, then he would no longer be omnipotent. Same goes for his knowledge.

    @Marshall

    I think the distinction you are trying to make between how humans know God exists (as present in the Bible, say), and how angels know, is very convoluted. You are predicating your argument on merely a human seeing, but I merely used seeing as an example. The fact is that God could do things that would further increase the population of believers. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that you are correct in wanting to delineate in actually seeing to know, is it not true that God could do other ‘miracles’ that would increase the number of believers that would also not impact their free will? My argument is not saying that performing miracles will convert people into believers, my argument is saying that God can perform miracles that could convert people into believers. And if we are to believe the verse I provided above at face-value, God should want to perform said miracles.

    Moreover, I’m not so sure your delineation is all that tenable. How are you defining presence? You say that Moses was left physically changed when in His presence, yet was Moses not also “in His presence” when God revealed Himself in the burning bush? Did not Adam and Eve have a conversation with Him in the Garden of Eden in which it was said that He was “walking” through? Were Adam and Eve not “in His presence then? I could give more examples, but I think you get my point.

    Moreover, why do you suppose *seeing* God would affect our free will, but “being in His presence” wouldn’t? You *are* assuming that seeing God would affect our free will as you have no reason to suppose that doing so would, in fact, controvert our free will.

  22. Marshall Art says:

    @ Oscar

    My distinction is only convoluted if you can prove you know enough about angels to say so. We don’t. All we know for sure is that they are spiritual beings that are not human. This alone is a very compelling distinction between us and what their make-up means as far as their ability to withstand God’s presence and still rebel is not something upon which anyone can comment with authority. Suffice it to say that the Bible speaks of it happening once, but never with humans.

    There’s also a vast distinction between actually seeing someone and being exposed to evidence of that being’s existence. I recall an episode of M.A.S.H wherein Hawkeye and his friends created a fictitious soldier to fool Hot Lips and Maj. Burns into believing the fiction was real. They left enough evidence that was convincing, but the guy did not exist.

    The opposite happens with God. There is plenty of clues and testimonies from Scripture and others that point to His existence and many refuse to believe and others just can’t. The Bible even speaks of miracles and the Hebrews still rebelling. But had they actually been in His presence in a face-to-face context, I don’t think they could rebel. Moses, by the way, did not “see” God when he encountered the Burning Bush. He had a later opportunity to, as Miracle Max might say, mostly see God, though not entirely. No else has ever “seen” Him until Jesus, and not in His glory until after He had risen. From that point on, those who encountered Him face-to-face were seeing God, yet still not “entirely”, but as close as one can get since Moses’ opportunity. These are all varying degrees, but few have come even as close as any described herein. Thus, no full knowledge is possible for the average person until death.

    I don’t know that I made a distinction between “seeing” and “being in His presence”. My intention was that they were the same, or that I meant to imply as much. True, one can say they are in the presence of God while in church or, for that matter, anywhere. But it isn’t the same thing as being in Oscar’s presence, where one can face you and touch you and know you truly exist because of it. In such a case, no faith is required because there’s no longer any doubt.

  23. vincedeporter says:

    That was a great presentation, my friend! Puts Atheists to shame that a Christian can respond better than they do. I enjoyed this. Thank you for this exercise.

  24. vincedeporter says:

    I agree. I admit to have much more heated debates with atheists than with theists. Ironic!

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