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Holman QuickSource Guide to Apologetics Chapter 5: Which God Exists?
guest blog by David Stoecker*
I often hear people say this, "Basically, all religions are the same" and "Isn't it possible you are all right?" First, all religions are not the same. We will cover that in the rest of the blog today, as that is what this chapter is about. Secondly, if I play a game of golf with you and you say that scored a 78 and I say I scored an 80 on the course, are we both right? That would be impossible. We may not be that far apart in our beliefs about what I scored, but that closeness does not make us both right. Either I am right, you are right or we are both wrong. Those are the only options we have to chose from!
As we have seen, the cosmological and design arguments show that "God is necessary, powerful, transcendent, non-contingent, intelligent and personal. The moral argument shows that God has a moral will, a purpose for how we are to live, that he is engaged in the world and that the motives and actions of human beings matter to Him. Lastly, God is unique. If God as described above does exist, then there is nothing outside of Himself that He did not create; no other God could exist."
So now we are left with a glass slipper to fill. We have the requirements, and if a religious view does not fit one of these requirements than it gets cast out.
Atheism: Atheism posits that God does not exist. All that exists is the physical universe. The problem here is that there are no good explanations for how the appearance of design in the universe exists or how/why said universe came into existence to begin with. Atheism also lacks a reason for why morality exists. There is only one religion that really has aspects of atheism in it, and that is Buddhism, where God is really irrelevant. The hardest concept to prove in atheism is that God does not exist. To know something does not exist requires exhaustive and complete knowledge of everything that exists. To get around this some atheists say that if God were to exist we could know nothing about Him. This again, knowing for certainty that we could not know anything about Him, requires that someone know without certainty that there might exist an unknowable thing.
Agnosticism: Agnostic simply means lacking/having no knowledge. This view basically states that an individual does not currently have the knowledge to know whether or not a God exists or they have some knowledge but not enough to actually make a decision one way or another. I was an agnostic for most of my life, and my premise was that you could not empirically prove or disprove the existence of a God to me so therefore I would not commit either way.
Pantheism: In Pantheism, there are no opposites. Things either exist or they do not exist. That translates to there being no good or evil, no right or wrong and no true or false. There is no difference between malevolence and benevolence. Reason and logic don't exist, because they too deal with things that are either true or false. Pantheism also believes the universe to be eternal and unchanging, without an end or a beginning. That requires actual infinites, which are false based on the Kalam cosmological argument we looked at in Chapter 2.
Pantheism says when we die, we are all taken back into the impersonal whole. Everyone shares the same fate, Adolph Hitler and Mother Teresa. Further, we are all part of God, and God is unchanging. Yet if we realize we are part of God, is that not a change? To answer this, pantheism states that we cannot know because logic and reason don't exist. Of course, that could not be known without the use of logic and reason so it refutes itself.
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Panentheism: Panentheism sees God as both distinct from and dependent on the world at the same time. God comes from the world and the world comes from God. It says that the universe/God has always existed will always exist, but it is always changing. If it is always changing, then moral values are also changing or they can change. There are no grounds for morality given by Panentheism. If morals change, then there is no reason to have moral behavior because the laws could change and make the moral behavior immoral. Bottom line, panentheism does not account for the reality found in the design, moral and cosmological arguments.
Finite Godism: Finite Godism sees God as loving, personal and good but says that since evil exists, God must not be able to control or destroy it. With that being seen as true, God cannot be all-powerful. It further looks at the imperfections in the universe and reasons that God must be imperfect. God therefore is finite so we do not know where God comes from or what the source of morality is. And if God is the source of morality then morals are limited because God is limited.
Polytheism: Polytheism is the view that there are more than one god. Said gods either came from nature or where at one time men and women who became gods. Gods are thus finite and contingent. Polytheism states that the universe has always existed. In the case of Mormonism, there has to be infinites since gods came from gods that came from previous gods. In polytheism there is no accounting for the creation of the universe. All things come from the universe, even Gods. Gods don't exist apart from the universe, and the beings that do exist all have limited power which causes polytheism to not meet all the requirements.
Deism: Deism basically asserts that God cannot be known through religion because the only way to know God is through nature and reason. Because we can only know God through nature and reason there is no miracles. The only way God has revealed Himself is through what He has created. Because there are no miracles we are missing the creation of the world, which was a miraculous act. If the world was able to exist without God, God would not be all-powerful since He could not step it, He would not be necessary and He would have no moral authority since there could be no purpose for what He didn't create.
Monotheism: Monotheism sees God as the creator and sustainor of all things. He interacts with creation numerous ways and reveals Himself to us through reason, nature, morality, etc. Thus, monotheism fulfills every part of the requirements stated at the top.This in turn would reduce our search to three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
All three of these religions believe in the same God. Islam says the Old Testament is now corrupted. Christianity sees the promises of the Old Tesament fulfilled in Jesus. Judaism says that both of these stances are false. All 3 also believe Jesus existed. Judaism sees Him as a pretender, claiming to be the Messiah. Islam believes Him to be a great prophet, and the gospels are corrupted accounts. Christians believe Christ to be the Messiah.
To begin seeing which of these claims is the correct one, we need to see whether or not the New Testament is trustworthy and accurate. If the New Testament is not reliable, then we can narrow down the choices to Judaism and Islam. If it is reliable, then we can discount Islam and narrow it down to Christianity and Judaism. From there we can look at the Old Testament and its veracity. If it is trustworthy, then we look at what it says about Jesus and see whether we embrace Christianity or Judaism. In chapter 6 we will begin to investigate the New Testament.
*Written for TPE by David Stoecker of Spiritual Spackle.
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