Does God's Existence Need Proof?

Does God's Existence Need Proof?

Does God's Existence Need Proof?

Does God's Existence Need Proof?


The possibility of proving the existence of God has fascinated thinkers and believers throughout the centuries. This book critically analyzes both sides of the contemporary debate between the two most important living philosophers of religion--Richard Swinburne and D.Z. Phillips--and constructs an alternative solution. Instead of taking sides on the issue of God's existence, Messer argues that behind each thinkers' work, and their attitudes toward proving the existence of God, lies fundamental trust. A positive discussion of relativism leads to a fresh analysis of the arguments for God's existence, particularly the ontological argument. In this way, Messer concludes that they are indeed worthwhile, although not for the traditional reasons.


In this chapter I will deal with the traditional philosophical acceptance of, and rejection of, what I will call the principle of rationality. This states that the issue of the existence of God is susceptible of philosophical justification or refutation (or simply agnosticism if the arguments and evidence examined are inconclusive). The principle assumes that reason can be usefully applied to discussion of God's existence, and that it is an appropriate philosophical task to attempt to justify or refute objects the existence of which is contentious.

I will show in Section 1 that Swinburne stands in a long tradition, still dominant today, of holding to the rationality principle. In Section 2 I shall contrast his position with that of Phillips in particular, showing how the Wittgensteinians also stand in a long tradition of rejecting the rationality principle. Finally, in Section 3, I shall apply my discussion to the appropriateness of the Proofs themselves.


(i) Swinburne's project

The second volume of Swinburne trilogy, entitled The Existence of God, is an attempt to show that it is probable that God exists, and that therefore we are rationally compelled to believe in God. Swinburne argues that a cumulative case can be made for God's existence using the evidence available from all the classical a posteriori Proofs. The versions of the ontological argument are rejected as being 'mere philosophers' arguments' which do not reflect the reasons of ordinary men for believing in God: moreover, 'the greatest theistic philosophers of religion have on the . . .

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