Philosophy and Ethics - Arguments for the existence of God

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  • Created on: 23-03-18 20:01

Revelation

What is it?

  • Revelation to catholics is the way God has made himself known to humans.
  • Revelation is when God speaks to humans and reveals things about himself to them that they could not have otherwise known.
  • Caholics belive that Jesus was the final revalation of God. God no longer spoke at a distance to his people but came down to Earth through Jesus.

Importance

  • Without it catholics can not know who God is which they belive is the meaning and purpose of being a human
  • It is proof for God's love of humans (omnipotent). He sacrifices his most prized possession, his Son, for our wellbeing.

SOWA - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son," John 3:16.

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Revelation (2)

What the revelation of Jesus shows about God

  • Sending Jesus was a sacrifice for us & he sent Jesus out of love for humans
  • God sent Jesus to save humans and lead them back to faith - before Jesus (OT) there were many people doing things that go against God's word

Exodus 32:4 Aaron "took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."

Christians belive that God first revealed himself to Moses in the story of the buring bush.

Catholics believe that Jesus is the final revelation of God - he no longer spoke as a distance to his people but came down to Earth through Jesus and walked and ate with them as friends.

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Visions

What is it?

  • For Catholics, the content of these private revelations (visions) can only be accepted if they don't contradict anything taught by the Catholic church.
  • The Church has recognised some visions - (those of St Bernadette and Joan of Arc) which gives catholics the right to believe in visions.
  • Visions may be of Jesus, Mary, one or more saints or of angels. They may also take other forms and only be understood by the beliver in their own personal context.

Importance

  • They can prompt action or greater faith for the person who has experienced them
  • They suggests a direct calling from God or a possible vocation
  • Shows the loving part of Gods nature as a father by offering guidance through visions.

SOWA - "Fear not Abraham, I am your sheild; your reward shall be very great," Genesis 15:1

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Visions (2)

Key Words

  • Corporeal Vision - where people physically see something
  • Imaginative Vision - where people see something in their imagination ir in their dreams

Non biblical SOWA Joan of arc (a young, illiterate, peasent girl) had visions of St Micheal, St Catherine and St Margaret who told her she msut force the english from her French homeland.

Reasons in support of visions

  • Many biblical examples which makes it acceptable
  • Can be emporewing for the persong who experiences it

Arguments against visions

  • There is often no lasting or physical proof that visions have happened
  • Could be interpreted as hallucinations or a misunderstanding
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Miracles

What is it?

  • A miracle is something that seems to break all the laws of science and leads people to believe that it could have only been the work of God. They always involve a religious experience.
  • According to John's Gospel, the first miracle that Jesus performed was at a wedding in Cana. As the wine began to run out, Mary asked Jesus to help - he turned water into wine.

Importance

  • The miracles that Jesus performed were clear signs of his divine nature and the nature of God's kingdom.
  • If a person witnesses and event that they belive God has caused or created, their faith is likely to be stregthened.
  • Miracles prove that God is omnipotent e.g. when he parted the red sea

SOWA - "The waters were divided and the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground," Exodus 14:21-22

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Miracles (2)

Reasons in support of miracles

  • They have no scientific explanation which lead people to think that miracles are God's doing
  • Those who were a part of or witnessed a miracle may have felt like they were in direct contact with God which proves his omnibenevolence.
  • If there is no other possible explanation even an atheist or an agnostic may look to God as an answer.

Arguments against miracles

  • Miracles could just be coincidences or very unusual events. Even though the possibilities are very small, unusual events can still occur.
  • Scientific and medical knowledge is limited but always still developing. Just because something is unexplainable now doesn't mean it will always be unexplainable.

Some Christians and non-Christians struggle with the idea that miracles fail to happen in times of crisis and not every request for healing is granted.

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Religious experiences

What is it?

  • A religious experience is sometimes descired as a numinous. It is the feeling of having the presence of God which fills people with hope and sometimes fear.
  • People may feel an awareness of something greater than them and this they feel is God. The feeling may go beyond their usual 5 senses.
  • It is often described as an experiencs of transcendence which means going beyond human experienc and existing outside of material world.

Importance

  • The experiences often build faith or give a sense of encouragement to the reciever.
  • It can be an important reminder to catholics of the omnipresence of God.
  • It may also confirm God''s role as a creator and designer of the world.
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Religious experiences (2)

Why religious experiences may not be proof for God's existance

  • Miracles contradict the law of nature implying that it is rare and doesn't happen often - a wise man should 'proportion his belief to evidence' so it is unreasonable to believe that a miracle has occured.
  • There is a lack of evidence - often the experience is brief or was only experienced by one or a small number of people.
  • Could be due to drugs, hallucinations or wish fufillment.

Catholic responses to the question of proof

  • As an omnipotent being, God is not bound by the laws of nature. He can break the laws of nature.
  • Just because a religious experience leaves no evidence, doesn't mean that it didn't happen - many catholics believe that faith doesn't require proof.
  • Catholics do not disagree that drugs, hallucinations and wish fufillment can mimic the effect of a religious experience. For these and other reasons, the church does not lightly recognise religious experiences as true private revelations.
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The design argument

What is it?

  • It is sometimes called the teleological argument and is found in many different philosophy and belief systems.
  • Catholic theoligican St Thomas Aquinas argued that even things that lack knowledge such as plants are directed to their end by God - they still have meaning and purpose. He gives the metaphor of the arrow on its own doesnt know where to point but the archer gives it direction.
  • An Anglican Vicar William Paley made an important analogy using the design of a watch. If you came across a watch in a field, you wouldn't assume that the parts had come together by chance - it is clearly something that has been designed for a purpose. Therefore you should not assume that the creation of the world was accidental - it was made by a creator (God) for a specific purpose.

SOWA - "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly percieved in the things that have been made," Romans 1:20.

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The design argument (2)

Strengths of the argument

  • Its based on our own experience of design - there appears to be many designed, ordered and purposeful objects which everyone can observe.
  • It complements a Christian view on the nature of God - It suggests purpose for human life which strengthens faith.
  • The argument brings science and religion to an agreement 

Evidence against the argument

  • David Hume was a critic of the argument who said that the universe is unique and like nothing else which means that we cannot use an analogy to explain it. (Catholics would say that just becasue something is unique doesn't mean that we cannot use an anology to explain it)
  • Evil and suffering may suggest that God is a poor designer or there is no designer - if God is omnibenevolent then why is did he create a world that has suffering (Catholics would argue that people can learn goodness from their experience of evil and suffering).
  • Evolutionary theory suggests that complex organisms have developed through genetic mutation and natural selection and not through design.
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The cosmological argument

What is it?

  • The cosmological argument is the idea that there was something that the universe. The ancient greeks Plato and Aristotle called this the 'prime mover'.
  • Three of the five of St Thomas Aquinas' arguments link to the cosmological argument and the idea of a first cause as an explanation for everything that exists.

Importance

  • The very existence of the universe requires an explanation or 'first cause' (Aquinas' Argument of the Unmoved Mover)
  • God is the first cause of the universe
  • Without the first cause, the chain of cause and effect would stretch infinetly backwards into the past (called infinite regress). This seems impossible so logic suggets that there must have been a first cause.

SOWA - "It is neccessary to admit a first cause, to which everyone gives the name God." - St Thomas Aquinas.

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The cosmological argument (2)

Strengths of cosmological argument

  • Everyone can see the evidence that all things in the universe have a cause
  • It is difficult to deny that cause and effect exist in the world
  • It is more logical than the alternative - believing in an infinite chain of causes and effects seems impossible (e.g. big bang theory).

Evidence against cosmological argument

  • The first cause isn't neccessarily God - some scientists use the Big Bang Theory to explain it
  • Bertrand Russel argued that a total explanation of everything that exists was impossible as all explanations rely on earlier explanations.
  • Russel said that because everything in the universe needs a cause,does not mean that the universe as a whole needs a cause. We haven't experienced a universe being made-we can't just assume.

What the cosmological argument reveals about God's nature

  • Catholics believe that it shows God's omnipotence - he has the power to do all things which He demonstrates by creating a whole universe.
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The existence of suffering

What is it?

  • If God is omnibenevolent then He would surely want it to stop, if God is omniscient then He knows that suffering exists and if God is omnipotent then he surely has the power to stop suffering. This is often reffered to as the classic 'problem of evil'.
  • It is seen as one of the weaknesses of the design argument - David Hume suggested that the problem of evil and suffering is the 'rock of atheism' (it is the strongest argument against God).

Importance

  • It can cause people to feel bewildered about the power of God
  • Reduces the importance of the design argument and makes it seem false
  • God is either seen as non-existent or not worthy of worship.

SOWA - "...unless we first know evil, we shall be unable to know good," Lactantius, Ch13, Treatise on the Anger of God.

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The existence of suffering (2)

Natural evil

  • Natural evil leads to suffering which comes from natural events in the world which humas can not control including: natural disasters (e.g. tsunamis and earthquakes), Illness and disease.
  • Natural evil often seems incomprehensible. Suffering because of a natural evil does not seem as juct a punishment for victims if there has been no crime. Individual catholics may feel like natural evil is a test of faith and will make them stronger and able to appreciate all the good in the world.

Moral evil

  • Moral evil causes suffering from actions carried out by humans including: murder and terrorism.
  • Catholics argue that humans have free will. Despite the sometimes evil consequences, it is the price you pay for true free will.

SOWA - "God created a rational being...a person who can control his own actions," CCC 1730.

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Solutions to the problem of suffering

What is it?

Catholics believe that God is creator of all and that all of his creation was good, Catholics do npt believe that evil is a thing in itself but instead an absence of good or a wrong choice. 

Practical responses

Prayer  - Catholics are given the opportunity to share their suffering with God through prayer and this may give a sense of relief. During the Mass, prayers of intercession are offered for those locally, nationally or internationally who are suffering. 

Charity - Catholics believe that Jesus calls them to help those in need because helping others is the same as helping Christ. Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheeps and goats) makes it clear that those who help otehrs will be rewarded a place in heaven.

SOWA - "For everything created by God is good," 1 Timothy 4:4.

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Solutions to the problem of suffering (2)

Biblical responses

The book of Job is a poem of a righteous who is allowed by God to be tested and tormented by Satan. The story of Job may give people strength but also emphasizes that suffering may have a purpose and that purpose can not always be understood by man.

The Psalms make it clear that it is correct to believe in a God that is:

  • Omnipotent - "Whatever the Lord pleases, he does in heaven and or on earth," Psalm 135:6.
  • Omiscient - "Great is our Lord and abundant in power, his understanding is beyond measure," Psalm 147:5.
  • Omnibenevolent - "For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures for ever," Psalm 100:5.

Theoretical responses

St Irenaeus was a bishop who argued that God was responsible for allowing evil but it was justified in its existence. Humans have two stages: to be made in the image of God and then to work towards perfection to be like God. He said that evil and suffering were the best ways for humans to develop.

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