Arguments for the Existence of God

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Arguments for the existence of God refer to some arguments which are proposed using intellectual and rational methods to prove the existence of God. The existence of God has been the most important religious dogma among the followers of divine religions. Thus, throughout history, religious scholars have been trying to present more rational and plausible arguments for the existence of God. These efforts results in a variety of proofs for the existence of God in different school of thoughts.

Some significant proofs such as Burhan al-Siddiqin, Burhan al-Imkan wa al-Wujub, Burhan al-Huduth, are proposed for the first time by Muslim philosophers or theologians; and some of the other popular arguments such as Burhan al-Nazm (Teleological argument) developed in some new versions in Islamic theological-philosophical traditions.

Characteristics of the Arguments for the Existence of God

The common characteristic of these arguments are the intellectual methods and philosophical tools which are invoked in these proofs.

Typology of the Arguments for the Existence of God

Religious scholars have proposed various proofs for the existence of God. Generally, there are three main types of the arguments: cosmological arguments, teleological arguments and Ontological Arguments.

Cosmological Arguments

These kinds of arguments presuppose the existence of the universe and the existent entities. It means, the first premise in these arguments contains the existent (minor terms) which are described as contingents, movers or creatures (middle terms); and the second premises indicates a plausible general rule. Then, the acceptance of both minor and major premises, leads us to acceptance of the existence of God. Cosmological arguments were very popular among Islamic philosophers and theologians and some of them such as Kalam cosmological arguments are proposed for the first by them.

All of these arguments are based on some philosophical assumption such as the principle of causality, impossibility of infinite regress and vicious circle. So, we should first explain these philosophical thoughts.

Principle of Causality

According to this principle, every phenomenon which wants to come to exist requires one or more factors. In this relationship, the former is called effect and the latter is called cause and the very relationship is named causality.

Vicious Circle

It refers to a conceptual idea in which the existence of something (a) is dependent on the other thing (b), and the existence of the latter (b) is directly or indirectly based on the existence of the former (a). This is merely a conceptual picture and is impossible in reality; hence, it is called vicious circle.

Impossibility of Infinite Regress

It refers to a conceptual state in which there are some causes and effects in a chain and the existence of everything is dependent on the former. This chain of cause and effect cannot continue forever and should arrive to a non-effect being. This state is construed as the impossibility of infinite regress in philosophical literature.

Prime Mover Argument

Prime mover argument or unmoved mover argument is proposed for the first time by Aristotle. This argument can be summarized as follows:

  • All beings in the world would somehow change and have some kind of movement.
  • According to the principle of causality, every moved being requires a mover which moves that.
  • Based on the impossibility of infinite regress and vicious circle, there should be a prime mover or an unmoved mover who moves all the motion in the universe.
  • Therefore, the existence of God as unmoved mover would be proven.

Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Kalam argument which is one type of cosmological arguments has a very long history especially among Islamic theologians. This argument presupposes the fact that all beings in the universe are not eternal, but are created.

This argument is formed as follows:

Burhan al-Imkan wa al-Wujub (Cosmological Argument)

This argument is first proposed by Avicenna and followed by Aquinas in the Christian theological tradition. This argument is one of the major arguments for the existence of God in Islamic philosophical and theological tradition.

According to this argument,

  • All beings in the universe are contingent beings.
  • According to the definition, a contingent being could not come into existence by itself but it must depend upon another being in its existence.
  • According to the impossibility of infinite regress and vicious circle, there would be a necessary being which all contingent beings in the universe depend upon.
  • Therefore, the existence of necessary being would be proven.

Teleological Argument

Teleological argument or design argument is a religious classical argument. This argument proves the existence of God based on the apparent design of the universe. This argument is the most popular argument among ordinary people.

The common form of this argument is as follows:

  • The universe is replete with designs and plans.
  • Every design requires a designer who creates this design.
  • Therefore, the existence of a designer would be proven.

Burhan al-Sidiqin

Main article: Burhan al-Siddiqin

This honorable argument traces back to the some works of al-Farabi and Avicenna, but thereafter, Mulla Sadra has presented a more perfected version of this argument. Likewise, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i has presented a new and contemporary version of this argument which he argued that it doesn’t need to any philosophical presuppositions.

A simple form of this argument can be presented as follows:

  • There is no doubt on the reality of the existence.
  • This reality, in itself, cannot adopt inexistence and nullity. In other words, if we suppose that all realities are invalid and inexistent, this means that in reality, all realities are inexistent; and it is a reality itself. So, reality is proven from the very point it was rejected.
  • Therefore, there is an eternal reality which we recognized it by the name God.

Ontological Arguments

Ontological Arguments refer to some of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God which are based on some conceptual definitions of God. There are a variety of versions of this argument in Christian and Islamic traditions. For the first time, this argument was presented by Anselm of Canterbury in Christian theological tradition and Immanuel Kant was the first who called it as an ontological argument.

This argument can be summarized as follows:

  • We are told, God is the greatest and most perfect being which no greater can be conceived.
  • If we suppose that there is no God in the reality, it means that this being exists just in mind.
  • The being which exists just in mind is less perfect than the being which exists both in the mind and reality.
  • Then, if there would be no God in reality, it equals to the fact that God is not the greatest and most perfect being; and it is contradicts our presupposition which is mentioned in the first line. (Proof by Contradiction)
  • Therefore, God exists in reality.

See Also