Classical Arguments for the Existence of God – Part 3

Now we’ll look at the Teleological Argument for God.  Many people are familiar with this argument in it’s more common name, “The Watchmaker Theory.”

Basically, the idea is that if you find a watch on the ground, you see the complexities and the order of the device and automatically assume there is a watchmaker.  You’ve never seen the watchmaker himself (or herself, for that matter), yet you believe that he exists because of the order of the watch.  Now, if you look at the Earth and see all the complexities therein, in the same vein as the watchmaker theory, you would assume there is an Earth-maker, right?

A bit more formally, the basic elements of the Teleological Argument are as follows:

  1. The Universe has order
  2. Order cannot come from chaos or chance
  3. Therefore, the Universe must have Someone who ordered (or orders) it.
  4. God exists, and He ordered the Universe.
This is the argument for Intelligent Design, as well.  As you might notice, the Teleological and Cosmological arguments are similar, but they are distinct. The Cosmological argues that something cannot come from nothingness.  The Teleological argues that order cannot come from disorder.

Also to note, that it is the Teleological argument that Darwin explicitly argues against in his famous work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.  (Yes, I put the whole title there).

Anyway, what’s your take on the Teleological argument??  Any fans?

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  • Bib

    I like your points, and I appreciate what you do on this blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. But I have a non related question to ask. We talked in youth about seeds that fall but there is no moisture, and the word is "taken" away from them, and they fall away. We then proceded to talk briefly about witnessing to them, but I fail to see the point, to put it bluntly. Hebrews 6:4-6 says how those who fall away cannot be saved again. I know this is a subject of much debate, but one cannot explain away or interpret another Meaning of a blunt statement like that.

    There is the point of view that the "enlightened" part are those people who see the truth but don't accept it, then fall away. That goes along with once saved always saved. But that's a whole different argument.

    So for example, James goff. He could be catagorized as fallen away, so according to this verse, why should anyone try witnessing to him again if he is incapable of accepting it? Why not concentrate efforts on others?

  • Christian

    Thanks for the comment – sorry it took so long to respond.

    I definitely see what you're saying about it's hard to explain that passage, but the question does come down to endurance in the faith. The question is, "Was the person who fell away really saved?" The hard part is that only 2 people know the answer to that: God, and the person in question.

    I heard a pastor say this great comment: "God does not intend any sentence in the Gospels to be understood as though any other sentence in them were not true." The point being that we have to look at the whole of scripture. While time (and comment space) doesn't allow a full discussion of this, I would say that in general, in the Bible, you never see God giving up on people. Even such stories as Sodom and Gomorrah – God sent angels there to stay with Lot, and immediately the people turned against them. It seems that God extends mercy until our dying breath, so I would say we ought never to give up sharing the Good News with anyone, regardless on whether or not they used to be a Christian.

    Now, there are times, like in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians, when we are told to have nothing to do with a sinner, but it's in the specific context of church discipline and the purpose is to protect the church. If you have an unrepentant sinner in the church causing division and attacking people's faith, that person must be properly disciplined for the sake of the congregation.

    My point being – for those who have fallen away, evangelism just needs to take a different approach. We don't give up, we just have to try getting the right message using a different method.

    As for James' case, I don't know him that well. I think it would be interesting to know why he's left the Christian faith, and see if there are questions that can be answered for him. I think a lot of people leave Christianity because of unanswered questions or unmet expectations. To help them leave, most Christians are pretty cocky in our approach to truth. Listen to people, see what their issues are. Then we can pray for specific answers to specific questions.

    Most importantly, though, never underestimate our God's love for people. He can convert the most staunch atheist – Like Saint Paul :)

  • JamesGold

    I'll tell you exactly why I abandoned my Christian faith: because it's logically unsupportable. I'm a person who really cares about the truth, and upon examining the evidence, it became abundantly clear to me that Christianity (and religions in general) are not true. You can speculate as to why I abandoned my faith all you want, but that's the real reason.

    I have some problems with the watchmaker analogy and the Teleological argument. They are classical arguments from incredulity.

    Complexity usually means something is hard to understand. But the fact that one cannot understand how something came to be does not indicate that one may conclude it was designed. On the contrary, lack of understanding indicates that we must not conclude design or anything else.

    In the sort of design that we know about, simplicity is a design goal. Complexity arises to some extent through carelessness or necessity, but engineers work to make things as simple as possible. This is very different from what we see in life.

    Also, complexity arises from natural causes: for example, in weather patterns, cave formations, and life itself. The modern human being is infinitely more complex than the first organism, all as a result of natural selection, no designer required.

  • Christian

    First, thanks for all your responses. Lively discussion and debate is exactly why I wanted to start this blog. Also, I just wanted to say that I don’t expect to say anything that is going to persuade you, but I would like to offer a Christian point of view. I meant to respond earlier, but that’s life.

    I’m going to make some inferences from your comments, and if I’m wrong, I’m sorry for misrepresenting you.
    1. From your statement, “the number 4 is not a ‘thing’ that ‘exists.’ It cannot be photographed, frozen, weighed, or measured,” I infer that you believe only that matter exists – nothing else. This would also speak to the nature of human beings as being extremely complex machines – no souls, no free will. Personality is an effect of chemical and electrical impulses within the brain.
    2. Although you mention that “the assumption that every event has a cause…is not necessarily universal,” I have to infer that you believe any uncaused effect would be purely chance. Any other explanation would not correlate with premise 1 above. A random gene manipulation in natural selection could be considered a viable example of chance “causing” an effect.
    3. By saying, “the Christian faith…[is] logically unsupportable,” I’m taking you to mean that Christianity is logically circular. That is, you cannot arrive at God (or any religion, as you pointed out), when you start off with pure reason. I also am inferring that you hold logic or reason in the highest regard.
    Again, if I’ve misrepresented you, please accept my apologies, and reply!!

  • Christian

    I’ll respond to #3 first. I agree with you that Christianity is logically circular. As Christians, we must take the Bible as the ultimate Truth. Other truths are derived from it, either directly or indirectly. This is a presupposition, and so we would evaluate other truths in light of the Bible. The scriptures make many statements about the world and humanity. For example, we believe that God created the universe with a uniformity of cause and effect, but also allowing the system to be open to change by Himself as well as His creatures. This means that we can have real knowledge about an outside world. This tells us that scientific knowledge is both real and valuable. We believe that God created humans in His image, giving them real personality, as well as the ability to know things and make free moral choices, etc. This gives us the basis for morality. We believe that mankind’s choice in the Garden of Eden doomed the Universe in its present form, as we refer to the “Fall” which tainted every aspect of Creation. This tells us that we have incomplete knowledge and understanding, so we must strive to get better. We also believe that God, intervening, sent His Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ to redeem the world in the end, and that everyone who calls upon His name will be saved from the coming destruction. This shows us that the God Who Is There cares for His creation and wants good things for us and that He will restore all the brokenness in Creation. I know you have heard all this, so I’m sorry to bore you. My point is that while Christianity is circular, that doesn’t stop it from being internally cohesive. I would argue that all worldviews are circular, but the question for validity is internal cohesiveness.

  • Christian

    Let me now speak to #’s 1 and 2 above. For a Naturalist, the ultimate truth can only be derived through logic. If matter is all that exists, then perception and knowledge are both the result of the material world – that is, the brain. If this brain has come to be by a chain of cause and effect, with the occasional chance input, then there is no reason to trust that the perception and knowledge we have attained is actually true. That is, we have significant reason to doubt the information we have about the outside world. What’s more is that we have no reason to believe any results of logic, which makes our ultimate truth unattainable. James Sire puts it this way:

    “Naturalism places us as human beings in a box [of chance and cause and effect]. But for us to have any confidence that our knowledge that we are in a box is true, we need to stand outside the box or to have some other being outside the box provide us with information (theologians call this “revelation”). But there is nothing or no-one outside the box to give us revelation, and we ourselves cannot transcend the box. Ergo: epistemological nihilism.” (Emphasis his) Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997) p.85.

    So, with naturalism, it seems that you must presuppose logic, which then makes it (as Alvin Plantinga would put it) “self-referentially incoherent.”

    I know that you know a lot about the scriptures, and I don’t want to take any more of your time, but this is one of the benefits of Christianity – we get to know Real Truth. Jesus has revealed this to us, and we can know it with certainty.