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Gregory E.

Ganssle: Thinking about God Summary
By Jim Douglass 2007 Revised and Edited by Brendan Moar

Chapter 3
The fact that arguments cannot be produced that definitively prove (i.e., with 'unquestionable certainty') God's existence is unsurprising and doesn't weaken the case for God's existence.

Some arguments may not seem reasonable enough to convince someone of God, but may be reasonable enough to convince them that your belief is reasonable.

Chapter 4
It is important to think about God. The 'answers to many important questions are tied up in what is true about God'. Thinking about God also allows us to engage with 'cultural challenges to our beliefs.'

Thinking about God is different to belief in God. You can think about God with or without believing and believe with or without thinking about God. You can also believe in God without believing (trusting) him.

Faith on the basis of authority (faith knowledge) rather than reason (understanding knowledge) is not inferior knowledge. Thinking abut God is turning faith knowledge into understanding knowledge.

Chapter 5
A believer approaching the question of God cannot be neutral but can be open minded. It is difficult for anyone to be neutral because human beings are not neutral regarding God.

Everyone has a philosophy of life which makes exclusive truth claims. Something can (legitimately) be relatively true if it is personal or preferential (favourite ice cream flavour, name of spouse). Conversely, some things are true for everyone whether they believe it or not. (E.g. in the case of a disagreement with distinctly opposite positions, say A and not-A, at least one of the views comes from a mistaken belief(s). If A is true [let's assume it is], then not-A cannot be true. To believe that not-A is true is a mistaken belief. A is true even if someone does not believe it. )

Open-mindedness entails identifying one's assumptions and opinions and subjecting them to critical enquiry.

Part 2 – reasons to believe in God Chapter 7
An example of a Cosmological Argument When something happens, we call it an event. Events can: 1) bring things into existence; 2) change existing things, or; 3) take things out of existence. Events can be caused by other events—in fact they usually are.

Whatever comes into existence is caused by something else. There cannot be infinite past causes. Therefore there exists a cause which was not itself caused.

A valid deductive argument is one in which the premises lead to the conclusion. A valid argument with true premises is a sound argument.

Argument for God's existence 1. Whatever exists is caused to exist by something else 2. If the series of past causes is not infinite, then the series of past causes came into existence 3. There cannot be an infinite series of past causes 4. Therefore, the series of past causes came into existence 5. Therefore, there exists a cause for the series of past causes which did not itself come into existence.

Argues premise 3 is reasonable because it is impossible to complete an infinite series by successive addition, yet eternal life still works because it does not rely on an infinite series having already occurred.

Two examples of scientific evidence that there cannot be an infinite series of past causes are: 1) 2nd law of thermodynamics (amount of usable energy in any closed system always decreases). You can't decrease a finite amount of usable energy

(closed system=no new energy coming in, therefore finite usable energy) by an infinite amount. 2) Theories such as big bang.

Yet an eternal being is possible if that being is either outside of time, or time before created time was different.

Chapter 8
Uses some probabilist thinking—weighting the rule over the exception— to defend premise 1 of his cosmological argument. He throws argument by analogy in at certain points too. Can something come into being without any cause (contra premise 1)? Could the universe itself be an exception to this expectation?

Physicists describe quantum events: uncaused changes in the state of a particle. This is when sub-atomic particles change quantum levels.

Three possible causes of the universe 1. It has always existed (refuted in previous chapter) 2. It came into existence without a cause 3. It was caused by something outside it.

Argues against premise 2 as quantum mechanics describe sub-atomic particles rather than supra-atomic particles. Also difficult to claim the universe was uncaused unless you have a reason to think it.

Chapter 9
Aquinas unfairly charged with assuming God is the first cause in his five proofs – spends hundreds of pages working the argument. The first cause must not be spatially part of the caused universe. The first cause cannot be temporal (assuming time is created with the universe), but existed in unmeasurable metaphysical time. The first cause cannot be physical (assumes all physical things are in this universe) The first cause must be powerful to kick off the universe The first cause must have been a personal agent to explain why the universe came into existence at the time it did – if all the conditions were ready at any time, creation required a willing to create, and therefore some type of personhood.

Chapter 10
Teleological Argument Design argument – (e.g. Paley) the argument that something appears to be designed suggests a designer (more of a hunch than an argument) Old Man in the mountain (rock formation) is a counter-example to the premise that anything which appears to be designed must have a designer. Ganssle plays the probability card—weighting the rule over the exception—to argue that it is reasonable to assume that the appearance of design suggests that design (and a designer) is probable.

Chapter 11
Darwin's theory all but killed off the design argument by postulating an alternative to an intelligent designer. Describes a mechanism (natural selection) which accounts for something having the appearance of design, while in reality being entirely accidental. Darwin's theory posits an argument that counters intelligent design in living things only.

Chapter 12
The universe itself bears the marks of design. It is a non-living thing that seems designed. There are evidences from physics that there were a large number of specific constants required at the time of the Big Bang for our particular universe to come into existence. The statistics involved render its coming into existence by chance as improbable. It is more plausible that a designer brought the conditions together.

Chapter 13
There is nothing unreasonable about thinking that extremely unlikely events happen by chance. If our universe is one of billions attempted, then it could be the 'lucky' one that had all the right variables. (many worlds conjecture) Yet the many world conjecture is itself non-natural – replacing the supernatural (God) for another non-natural explanation (outside our universe, and the possibility of scientific observation). Design seems a better argument than (evidence-less) many worlds conjecture.

Chapter 14
Moral facts are 1) unobservable (like mathematical and logical facts) and 2) true. They describe how something ought to be, and carry and obligation to that "ought" (normativity). Error theory – the claim that there is no moral wrongness. Individual relativism – morality depends on the individual. There are moral facts but they depend on the individual who holds them. (Schoolyard bully objection) Cultural relativism – the view that culture determines morality. There are moral facts framed within a culture. (Cultural bully objection) Hero objection – Martin Luther King is a hero because he criticised society and changed its morality – an immoral act if cultural relativism is true. Evolutionary theory of morality – morality developed out of groups seeking human survival. Argues this reduces moral facts to moral feelings – fails to explain morality.

Chapter 15
Engages in a form of teleological argument. Hypothetical imperatives or conditional commands are those rules which must be commanded if we want to fulfil a condition (e.g. doing homework to succeed at school) Morality consists of unconditional demands (also called categorical

imperatives) made upon us whether we opt in or not. Morality is purposive, therefore there is purpose for humanity.

He is not arguing that a particular moral rule is unconditional, rather that the obligation to follow the moral imperatives is unconditional. Moral facts involve unconditional imperatives which in turn require unconditional purposes, which points to the existence of God.

Chapter 16
Cumulative case commonly used to provide evidence. • Existence of universe best explained by powerful being outside time and space. • Nature of universe best explained by intelligent designer creating a universe suitable for life. • Moral facts indicating a purpose of human life from outside humanity.

However the cumulative evidence not to believe in God must also be considered.

Part 3 – God and Evil Chapter 17
Evil – bad things that happen, things that we have a hunch ought not to happen. Objections to God on the basis of evil can be theoretical or existential (or both) Sometimes these objections come from disillusionment rather than intellectual issues. Sometimes people need comfort rather than more philosophical answers. Mackie's problem of evil:

1. God exists and is wholly good and all powerful 2. Evil exists 3. There are no limits to what an all powerful being can do 4. A good being always prevents evil as far as it can Therefore God cannot exist because 1 & 2 are contradictory. (square circle objection)

Chapter 18
Mackie's problem of evil is a valid argument. Premise 1 is opposed by: • • Deists (created the world but lets it go on); Process theologians (God not all powerful).

Premise 3 fails the contradiction test (God can't make a rock so big he can't move it), so ought to say there are no non-logical limits … Premise 4 fails because a good being sometimes allows evil where there is a good reason to allow evil (e.g. allow sadness so a lesson is learnt.) Therefore there is no evil unless it is logically necessary or God has a good reason to allow it. Hence we show that the existence of God and evil are logically possible.

Chapter 19
Free will is the will to decide whether or not to perform an act, irrespective of capability (libertarian freedom or incompatibilist freedom) More important is moral freedom – freedom to make decisions of moral import, not just trivial decisions (which flavoured doughnut)

The creation of creatures with significant moral freedom allows the possibility of evil. Without freedom we have no moral responsibility. Freedom is valuable because we value those things we choose Relationships are valuable because they are freely chosen. God may allow evil to ensure human freedom Regarding natural evil (e.g. earthquakes) our actions are only meaningful if they impact the world. The regularity of causal laws may be the reason God allows some natural evil.

Chapter 20
Determinism – every event in the universe is determined to happen. Argues that determinism necessarily means our actions aren't free. However majority argue that an act can be both determined and free because it meets two requirements: • • I do the action in accordance with my will If I didn't want to perform the action I wouldn't have

Ganssle insists a third element of freedom is required: • Whether or not I perform the action is up to me

Chapter 21
Evidential problem of evil (Rowe) – is it likely that God has sufficient reason to allow the amount or kinds of evil we see? • If there is unjustified evil (evil for which there is insufficient reason for God to allow it), God does not exist. • Probably, there is unjustified evil

Therefore, probably God doesn't exist.

Chapter 22
Argues against premise 2 (above) arguing that the move from 'it seems that' to 'therefore there probably' isn't a good inference (e.g. it seems there aren't any carbon atoms in the room – how could you know? Suggests awareness of the reasons God may have for allowing evil is the same – how could you know? There are many things about God if he exists which we could not be expected to know.

Part 4 – What is God like? Chapter 23
Traditional understanding: • • • God is a non-human person with thoughts, intentions and actions God does good because he is good (morally perfect) God is a person with a lot of power

Chapter 24
Laws of logic and mathematics hold irrespective of physical universe. God can alter physical laws (miracles) but laws of logic define who God is, so he doesn't tamper with those. Therefore God can do everything that is possible to do (he cannot draw a round square, i.e., make a contradiction true)

Chapter 25
Knowledge is constituted by belief, truth and justification (for that belief) If there are true things which God doesn't know then he isn't omniscient If God is not in time or space is it possible for God to know that I am now sitting here. God can know where I sit in relation to space without occupying that space If God is outside of time he experiences time all at once and therefore it is argued doesn't know as we know. Some philosophers argue that God must be 'in time' to know what is happening now. Other philosophers argue that time functions similarly to space and therefore God can be out of time and still aware of what is happening at any moment. Either way, it can still be held that God knows every truth.

Chapter 26
Solutions to argument that if God knows ahead of time what you will do then your choice isn't free: • • • Undetermined foreknowledge God knows because he is atemporal God knows all true things but future events are not yet true and therefore unknowable.

Chapter 27
Two ways of knowing anything about God:

Inferring about God from our world – approach of this book but it results in disagreement about how to interpret results

Special revelation

If God exists, is morally good and has a purpose for us we ought to expect that he would reveal it to us. God made us language users – it is our primary means of communication so it makes sense that God would communicate through language.