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Transcendental argument for the existence of God

The transcendental argument (TAG) is an argument for the existence of God that attempts to show that logic, science, ethics, and other often-thought-to-be good things in philosophy presuppose God's existence. That is, you can't make sense of them unless you stipulate that God exists. The argument is used by presuppositional apologists. Transcendental reasoning is inference about the prerequisite conditions for the possibility of knowledge. All major philosophies have transcendental theories.

The TAG aims to prove God's existance from the impossibility of the contrary. Theists and nontheists alike rely on logic, science and ethics. The Christian God, being all logical, all uniform, and all good, exhibits his character in the created order. It is the Christian's contention that no other worldview can account for these things. Therefore, Christianity is true by being the sole contender left standing.

Table of contents
1 More details on the argument
2 Objections
3 More Information

More details on the argument

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God is a very complex argument that is difficult to summarize in a few, short sentences. As stated above, its premise is that no worldview except the Christian theistic worldview as found in the Bible provides the necessary preconditions for science, ethics, logic, mathematics, morality, induction, etc. All other worldviews (Atheism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc), if carried out to their logical conclusion, are reduced to absurdity. TAG is a transcendental argument, one which proves itself from the impossibility of the contrary. (See also Immanuel Kant)

It asserts that oneís worldview eventually must boil down to a single set of governing presuppositions that are the foundation of all other beliefs. It asserts that alternative to assuming God is to wildly stipulate other entities that enjoy no independent support. Said another way, eventually we must come to an end of our chain of reasoning. If we believe A, and we believe A because of B, and we believe B because of C, and so forth, eventually we come to a belief that is the foundation of all our other beliefs. For the Christian, the self attesting Word of God is that fundamental, independent, foundational belief. According to TAG, only the Bible provides the necessary preconditions for rationality. TAG than challenges the core beliefs of the non-Christianís worldview and shows where those foundations lead to arbitrariness, inconsistencies, or absurdity.

TAG argues that the relativist must secretly rely on the Christian God to make sense of any appeal to morality. On the Christian worldview, there is an all-good God whose character is the basis for right and wrong. In his self-revelation, he reveals how man should act, and commands man to be moral. Thus, man does have an absolute standard of morality by which to commend or condemn oneís actions.

Thus, if the relativist wishes to remain consistent, he cannot condemn any action; not murder, not rape, not even the holocaust. To do so is, as TAG supposes, an exposure of his reliance on the notion of absolutes, and is based on unacknowledged presuppositions, assumptions about right and wrong which he claims to reject. No moral condemnation can be accounted for from the relativist's own worldview, TAG argues, and is derived from unconsciously "borrowed capital" from Christianity, which he in turn uses even in his argument against Christianity.

Objections

There is reason to believe that any worldview, if carried to its logical conclusion, is reduced to absurdity. The history of totalitarianism is replete with suggestive examples. Most of us, fortunately, do not base every judgment or action on a few unsupported fundamental principles, but instead work from a broad base of learned and empirical knowledge and experience. Empirically, it is quite clear that some non-Christians are able to do pretty good science, mathematics, logic, induction, etc. Non-Christians can be very ethical people, as can Christians.

TAG proponents deny saying that non-Christians cannot be logical or moral, or that non-Christians are unable to perform scientific inquiry or mathematics. Rather, TAG argues that within a non-Christian worldview, there is no logical foundation that can make sense of these activities. Second, TAG asserts that Christianity is both self-consistent, and consistent with reality (in principle); i.e. that it does not lead to absurdity. These may not be true, and it is the responsibility of the proponent is these fantastic assertions to show that they are at least plausible. In any case, the inconsistencies of Christianity are legion, its absurdity evident to many non-believers, and its history replete with war, cruelty, and injustice.

Proponents of TAG assert that if morality is relative, than any basis by which to condemn an action, say rape or child molestation, is lost. They argue that it may be undesirable for the well being of society, but it cannot be evil in any meaningful sense, that Evil cannot exist if morality is relative. For this argument to be meaningful, they must assume their conclusion, that morality depends on a cosmic Evil defined and enforced by a perfect God. Quite a number of reasonably consistent moral and ethical systems require none of that. Indeed, the most fundamental, globally recognized rules of morality are clearly the genetic result of evolution by means of natural selection. Absolute consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but is not a requirement for morality and ethics. The success of social systems, like natural ecosystems, depends on diversity and continual adjustment to real world conditions, not rigid logical consistency.

TAG depends on knowledge of an absolute moral system. This requires the assumption of a perfect God, perfect communication from that God to the writers of the Bible in its present form (after deletion of "heretical" writings, translations, etc.), perfect understanding of its meaning by TAG proponents, and perfect transmission of that moral system to less erudite consenting and non-consenting adults. For all of that to be consistently free of self-interest and political motivation would be a miracle.

More Information

A number of Apologists have used TAG, including Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, and Michael Butler. Also see Michael Martinís Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God.