A transcendental argument for the existence of God against the atheist unbeliever as related to human reason
A transcendental argument does not, like a teleological (design) argument, gather evidence and make a conclusion based upon what is most probably the case. Instead, a transcendental argument invades a more foundational aspect of the basic assumptions one makes in presenting any evidence at all.
When an individual collects information and presents this information in the form of an argument they are assuming certain presuppositions that can only be accounted for in the Christian theistic philosophy. Christianity is, therefore, the necessary precondition to make the human experience intelligible. In their heart of hearts atheists must assume God’s existence to formulate their very argument against God’s existence; behavior that the first chapter of the book of Romans describes as a suppression of the truth. This is the basis of the transcendental argument and the purpose of this essay will be to demonstrate these facts.
Definition of Important Terms
Objective – applicable and binding to all people in all times and all places
Truth – that which corresponds to reality
Law of non-contradiction – a proposition cannot be both true and not true at the same time and in the same relationship
Christianity – belief and service to the Triune God as presented by His infallible Word in the Bible
Atheist – while I recognize that there are a variety of possible atheistic philosophies, I will try to be as general as possible in my argument against atheism as a whole. I will assume an atheist holds to naturalism, materialism, empiricism, or a mixture thereof.
Explanation of the Argument
When the atheist engages in an argument against the Christian, the atheist makes the assumption that there is a universal standard of reasoning to which both parties must succumb. For example, let’s say the Christian presented an argument in favor of the existence of God that included a contradiction. The atheist would rightly dismiss this argument as a blatant disregard for the laws of logic (in this case, the law of non-contradiction). However, an atheistic philosophy has no foundation by which the laws of logic should be objectively accepted.
Before engaging with atheism I will address the Christian perspective on this issue. The laws of logic and objective standard for reasoning are a reflection of God’s thoughts and character. A contradiction is wrong in all circumstances and for all people because God does not lie. God has had no beginning and will have no end. Likewise, there was no time and there will be no time where the laws of logic do not apply. As we are His creation, we are bound to observe His standard and proper reasoning is therefore determined by its conformity to the objective standard of God’s reasoning. On this ground a Christian is able to identify one method of reasoning as incorrect and another as correct. God, as a revelatory Being, has revealed this knowledge to humankind both innately and through His Word in the Bible. Along with this, God has created our minds and senses and has revealed that these faculties are generally reliable to reflect truth with any exceptions due to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Moreover, God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient so there is no place and there are no possibilities that these principles of rationality and logic can ever be broken. It is for these reasons that the human experience of objective laws of logic and universal standard of reasoning are made intelligible in the Christian worldview.
The atheistic philosophy does not allow for a knowable objective standard for reasoning. With no transcendent and sovereign Creator God, all reasoning becomes individually autonomous and ultimately relativistic. Relatedly, evolutionary biology precludes the conception that one individual is reasoning properly and another is not in a debate. If all individuals have evolved brains, there is no standard by which the atheist can claim that one person’s reasoning methods have evolved correctly and another’s have evolved incorrectly. They are merely different. Moreover, if senses, reasoning, and memory have evolved based upon optimal survival value, how could one say that their faculties reflect an objective truth? By necessity, these faculties are for survival value only and do not necessarily express what actually exists. Principles of rationality become a mere preference and/or chain of chemical reactions that may not be thought objectively superior to any other. Debate about the existence of God, or indeed any knowledge claim at all, is rendered useless in this philosophy as there is no method by which any individual can obtain objective truth or know that they are reasoning correctly.
Despite this the atheist unbeliever does in fact live and act as if a universal standard for reasoning actually exists. Atheists constantly assume the universality of the laws of logic as they preform scientific experiments and argue for truth. As their philosophy cannot account for these things they must be inconsistent at this point and borrow the concept from the Christian worldview. Indeed, God has provided the atheist with an innate knowledge of Him and His universal standard for reasoning through which the atheist can engage in valid discourse. However, the atheist suppresses this truth and rebels against the Creator. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20)
1) Some atheists will reject the whole notion of an objective truth. However, to be consistent they would also have to reject the rejection of objective truths.
2) Moreover, some atheists will reject the idea of objective laws of logic that are applicable to all people, at all times, and in every place. To this claim, I simply respond that if you reject the laws of logic, then you accept them. If laws of logic do not exist I can contradict the atheist without reproof.
3) Some will contend that objective laws of logic exist as simply a property of the natural world and do not require the Christian God for explanation. To the Christian this is partially correct; God has created the natural world logically. However, this statement is unintelligible in an atheistic philosophy as individuals are unable to know this standard as objectively true due to the limitations already mentioned.
4) An atheist may make an appeal to the established society norms or majority opinion. However, to assess these societal standards they must engage their reasoning and there is no basis by which to claim that they are reasoning correctly. Furthermore, I would expect that the atheist would reject as objectively incorrect a society that decides to accept logical contradictions as fact.
5) Likewise, one may make the objection that the laws of logic are merely a preferred rationalistic standard that allows for proper human functioning. The atheist, however, is unable to determine an objective standard for proper functioning itself and has no foundation by which to demand others to accept their standard. Along with this, if the atheist arbitrarily assumes a standard for human functioning (ex. reproductive success), they would be forced to admit that whoever meets this standard most perfectly is the model for proper reasoning (in this case, Genghis Khan).
6) An objection may be raised that this argument does nothing for the Christian God per se, only for an undefined higher being. However, the preconditions of intelligibility are only made sensible when the specific attributes of the Christian God are considered. If the atheist wants to argue that a general deism will suffice, I would congratulate them for abandoning their atheism and would interact with their new view accordingly to demonstrate it’s shortcomings.
7) The astute observer may ask the Christian how one may know God’s revelation of His standard for reasoning – is it not through prior personal reasoning? The only consistent answer that will avoid the relativism of individual autonomy would simply be that God has revealed it in such a way that we may know it to be true. This obvious circularity (God’s revelation is known because He has revealed it) is unavoidable for any ultimate authority claim; however, circularity is valid as the conclusion does indeed follow from the premise. The necessary investigation for a circular argument is if it is sound/true. If instead an individual assumes personal reasoning to be their ultimate authority they are left with the circularity of validating their reasoning by using their reasoning. Between these competing circularities only the Christian circularity provides the necessary foundation to make sensible the human experience of an objective standard for reasoning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
8) Finally, to the skeptic who refuses to acknowledge objective truth and standard of reasoning I will graciously conclude my argumentation provided they accept that their philosophy is, by definition, illogical and irrational.
Only the Christian worldview provides the necessary preconditions of rationality. On the other hand, the atheistic philosophy is unable to account for the universal standard of reasoning that is continually assumed by both Christians and atheists. When the atheist unbeliever engages in debate on the existence of God, that individual is presupposing foundations that only exist in Christianity. Romans chapter 1 reveals that all people know that God exists (for example, through their unconscious appeal to the objective standard of reasoning that requires the Christian God) yet they suppress that truth in unrighteousness. I urge all atheists to cease their rebellion and turn with repentance to the God they know exists. Lastly, I exhort Christians to be reminded of 1 Peter 3:15 which first states to sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart before admonishing preparedness for defense of the faith. Only when Christ, not man, is the Lord and foundation of our reasoning are we able to defend the faith properly.