Written by Jason Petersen
The Transcendental Argument for God is an argument that focuses on the impossibility of the contrary of God’s existence. This article will be a non technical look at the Transcendental Argument for God. It will also provide some brief arguments for how the Christian can account for universal standards. I plan on posting a more technical article after I have some posts on the basics of the fundamentals of logic. Thus, this article will be geared towards laypeople.
If atheism is true, there can be no foundation for known truths, certainty, or knowledge. Atheists have no choice but to use inductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning does not deal with absolutes. Rather, for Christians, we start with God and from that point we can use deductive reasoning to defend our foundation for knowledge.(Whereas atheists must defend their knowledge inductively.)
It is important to note, atheists are able to know things because God does exist, however, they can’t account for how they know things. For in order to know anything, they must borrow from the knowledge of God. To deny that God exists is akin to denying that words exist. In order to proclaim that words do not exist you must use words, at the same time, in order for an atheist to deny God they must borrow from the knowledge of God.
How can a Christian have knowledge? If God exists, it follows logically and necessarily that the following must exist:
Discernible truths, metaphysical truths, universal values, and knowledge.
Since God exists, we can expect that there would be discernible truth. And The Bible tells us so. Jesus says he is the truth.(John 14:6) The bible also says that knowledge begins with God. (Proverbs 1:7). Thus, our foundation for truth is as follows:
P1: If God exists then discerning truth is possible.
P2: God exists
Conclusion: Therefore, it is possible to discern truth.
What I just shared is a deductive argument in the form of modus ponens. Thus, if all of the premises are true, the conclusion must follow logically and necessarily. Unlike inductive arguments such as ones atheists would use to justify discernible truth, deductive arguments deal in absolutes.
Next, we look at metaphysical truths. Metaphysical truths are truths that lie outside of nature. Truths such as “I exist” or “There are other minds other than my own.” Such notions are not able to be proven by science nor can science study them. Science can only presuppose these metaphysical truths to operate. However, atheists can’t account for metaphysical truths. For if atheism is true, how can any truth exist outside of nature? The first argument I gave covers this as well, all one must do is replace “Truth” with metaphysical truths. The way Christians account for metaphysical truths is the same way that we account for truth and knowledge. Such notions are only possible if God exists:
P1: If God exists then metaphysical truths exist.
P2: God exists.
Conclusion: Therefore, metaphysical truths exist.
Similarly, universal values such as moral values, laws of logic, etc. Can only exist if God exists. Because if atheism is true,then universals such as the laws of logic can’t really be universal. For if there is no arbitrator for these values, then what would make them universal anyway? Such values can only be relative at best. Thus, we can form the following argument:
P1; If God exists then universal standards exist.
P2: God exists.
Conclusion: Therefore universal standards exist.
Looking a these 3 deductive arguments, the objection the atheist will attempt to make is obvious.
Obviously any atheist that has any grasp on the fundamentals of logic will not try to say that these arguments are circular. After all, the arguments are in the form of modus ponens, which is a valid form of argumentation and is not considered to be begging the question or circular reasoning. The atheist has only one option. He must deny the second premise. The one in which states that God exists.
However, if he denies the second premise of these arguments then he must also deny universal standards, metaphysical truths, and discernible truths unless he can build a foundation for these on his own. However, he can only build them inductively. Inductive reasoning does not deal with absolutes, so it follows that inductive reasoning does not deal with universal standards such as truth, metaphysical truths, laws of logic, morality, etc. Thus, the atheist must in essence cut off his own feet in order to reject these arguments. For if there are no universal standards then anything is permissible in the realm of morality, logic, knowledge, metaphysical truths, etc. There would be no purpose in life, no way to know anything, everything would ultimately be meaningless!
How would such an exchange go? Let’s see:
Atheist: I don’t need God for universal standards. All I have to do is make the following argument:
P1: If God does not exist then universal standards exist.
P2: God does not exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, universal standards exist.
Christian: By what standard do you claim that universal standards exist?
Atheist: By the scientific method.
Christian: But the scientific method doesn’t test universal standards, it assumes them. So the scientific method can’t be a foundation for universal standards.
Atheist: Well then, I evaluate them through my own personal experiences.
Christian: How do you know that your own personal experiences are a good standard?
Atheist: Because I experienced them personally.
Christian: What about other people who disagree with you? What makes your standard any better than theirs?
Atheist: I’m not saying that my standard is the best, it’s just the one I use.
Christian: So then, it is all relative.
Christian: Then there is no universal standard.(Remember, the atheist was trying to argue that universal standards could exist if atheism were true.)
You see, atheists can only support a relativistic worldview at best. But relativism does not accept universal standards or absolutes.
But how else can we demonstrate the impossibility of the contrary for God’s existence? For the arguments I shared are not arguments for the existence of God, but rather, arguments that show exactly how Christians can account for universal standards. The answer is the Transcendental Argument for God. I prefer the modus tollens version which is not circular, rather, it is a valid form of argumentation, just like modus ponens.
P1: Without God, knowledge is not possible.
P2: Knowledge is possible.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is not possible that God does not exist.
Since atheists use inductive reasoning and can’t deal in absolutes, they are unable to be consistent with their worldviews when they make claims to knowledge such as “God doesn’t exist.” Or “I can have knowledge without God.” Not only that, but an atheist must appeal to their own reasoning in order to validate their own reasoning! This foundation for knowledge is circular. Not only that, but because their reasoning is inductive they can’t make any claims to knowledge. They can say ”I know that 2+2=4″ but if their reasoning is inductive and doesn’t deal with absolutes, they can’t be sure about this claim, rather they can only “think” that 2+2=4. For if they use induction and claim absolute certainty on any topic then they contradicted their own foundation for knowledge. According to the law of non contradiction, self-contradictory statements can’t possibly be true. If their foundation for knowledge is self contradictory, it’s false. Epistemology is a major tenet in any worldview. Epistemology deals with knowledge. If their entire foundation for epistemology violates the law of non contradiction then it falsifies their entire worldview, for epistemology ties into how you build other tenets of your worldview such as teleology, axiology, metaphysical truths, etc.