Christian Theology, Biblical Theology

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TAG Argument Defined and Defended

The TAG Argument Defined and Defended
Cornelius Van Til via wikipedia
Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God
The TAG is similar to the logical concept of an indirect proof. The Christian worldview holds that for there to be necessary laws of any kind, there must be a Law Giver, and to deny this leads to a contradiction; therefore, to assume that there is regularity in the universe and necessary laws - yet to deny a Law Giver...leads to a contradiction. Applying simple propositional logic to this using the method of indirect proof, let p=necessary laws, let q=law giver exists, if we take the argument and solve for it assuming that q is false, we are lead to a contradiction and an invalid argument. The argument would look something like this:

1. p ->q If there are necessary laws, then a Law Giver exists
2. p There are necessary laws
3. ~q  A Law Giver doesn't exist  AIP (assume indirect proof)
4. q  A Law Giver exists modus ponens (1), (2)

As a note, if Christians are imposing design and order on a random chaotic universe, then science has no discoveries for it too would be imposing its order on chaos and discovering nothing. But I digress.

This (perspicuously simplistic) argument is a form of modus ponens. If one were to assume the negation of the conclusion (premise 3) and try to solve the argument they would derive a contradiction in their theorems of (q) and (~q) which would show that it is not possible to have necessary laws without a Law Giver or God. Any atheist or naturalist argument that makes a claim of necessary laws or relationships existing in the universe or actual world is invalid. For this reason we don't see the atheist or Naturalist community making any claims to necessary laws in the universe except laws of logic and analytic propositions which they justify by convention - which we will later demonstrate as philosophically unacceptable.

This is the essence of the TAG viz. one cannot prove anything (ground any knowledge), without relying on a Law Giver who is a self-sufficient knower, whose knowledge is incorrigible. Therefore, the atheist worldview cannot rationally account for universal abstract entities such as the laws of logic, law of science, the uniformity of nature, nor the success of science -because science is dependent on these abstract laws and the uniformity of nature. The TAG doesn't say that atheists don't use logic and laws, the problem is their worldview is inconsistent with such laws. They suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. Inconsistency is irrational so the atheist who assumes necessity and regularity but denies it's foundations is irrational. In other words, an atheist worldview cannot support the the regularity and necessity that they presuppose in their science. Naturalists will often claim certain laws such as gravity as being "contingently necessary"; in other words: necessary given that certain conditions hold. This still leaves the question of 'How is this necessity grounded?' and still contradicts their worldview. In light of this, many now claim that the laws of science, nature and logic are mere statistical generalizations or products of convention - we will demonstrate how this doesn't jibe either.

The concept of validity and science are dependent on necessity and regularity and knowledge thereof. We all know that we have knowledge - but must be able to ground it in order to justify it. This necessity can only be justified by the presupposition of an eternal being or Law Giver who created a world so that it can be known and sentient beings with the ability to know things about this world and it's necessary laws of science, nature, and logic. Based on this presupposition we may have confidence (and certainty when appropriate) in our laws and propositions corresponding to reality. Otherwise the atheist or naturalist has no other means by which she can attempt to ground or justify the laws of logic and science except for induction and convention or stating: Matter behaves with regularity because that is just the way it is. Propositions and laws are true because they correspond to reality; which is no justification at all! Regularity and necessity cannot be demonstrated through induction because it leads to begging the question and is no more certain than problification. Convention cannot explain the natural laws of science, logic, or morality either; nor can the correspondence theory of truth. This theory is circular in that it presumes the very thing it sets out to prove - reality; therefore, no necessity-no laws-no science-no knowledge!

The only possibility of necessity or necessary relationships in the universe or actual world is by prescriptive laws given from a Law Giver and necessary laws of logic which are grounded in the eternal mind of the Law Giver as a reflection of how He expects us to reason. There is no other way to justify or ground necessary laws (necessary laws is a bit redundant because the term law implies nomacity or necessity). These prescriptive laws can be either externally imposed by the Law Giver and/or by His creating natural kinds with essential properties that cannot change and therefore yield necessary relationships or laws of nature (natural kinds will be discussed below under New Essentialism). Many philosophers such as Popper and Ellis can't avoid the criterion of necessity for a principle to qualify as a nomic or law-like.

The reason necessary laws imply a Law Giver is because the naturalist or atheist always assumes that the world does not exist beyond the physical realm which carries with it the implication that all propositions and laws are contingent (except for laws of logic and analytic propositions), the constantly changing nature of the universe, and the logical possibility that these laws don't have to exist as they are. Therefore, the atheist or Naturalist worldview cannot account for laws of logic science, morality, and nature which are universal invariant abstract entities.

If the atheist was pressed to prove that there are necessary laws of nature, science, and morality, she could not do so because necessity and contingency are contradictory modalities. A necessary law demands a designer or that exists outside of the material universe. Logically speaking, in the naturalist worldview, all laws of the actual world are contingent because there are other logically possible worlds where these laws don't have to exist and all laws of logic are necessary; therefore, necessary laws of any kind would have to be imposed by prescription by the Law Giver. Yet we can't even begin to understand these laws or anything for that matter without utilizing the laws of logic...which are necessary. So in a round about sense, the laws of nature and science depend on the laws of reason or logic. Additionally, if these laws of nature are contingent, what rationale do we have to impose these laws in other domains or to "generalize" these laws?

Sometimes logicians refer to these laws of science and nature as necessary at world n (at some possible world in this case the actual world), laws of logic are considered to be necessary at all possible worlds. This is the TAG in a nutshell viz. necessary laws of science and nature are not possible in the actual world without the existence of a Law Giver.

Now atheists love to talk about laws of science, morality, nature, and logic, but cannot justify or ground these laws. They cannot ground these laws because in the atheists worldview everything is contingent and therefore not necessary, so the best they can do is assume that things have always been such and such in the past; therefore, they may statistically assume that things will continue with the same order into the future aka. induction. Some will go as far as to deny any order to the universe and state that the so-called order we observe is what we sentient beings impose on brute facts. Sort of like our taxonomy making distinctions among the species. But why should these conventions be universally imposed on societies? Why do these laws do such a good job of explaining the way things are? In a theistic worldview we would say that we discover the laws of nature and logic; however, in the atheist worldview they can only say that we impose these laws on nature and they are only contingently true - but then how can the atheist justify applying these laws to all unexperienced domains of events if they are only contingently true and the truth be known on pain of induction?

If laws cannot be explained or justified but rather declared, then how can one know that they are either contingent or necessary?

One of the views of laws is to say that they need no explanation, but merely describe what the scientific community declares to be the state of things. Wikipedia "
Law differs from a scientific theory in that it does not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: it is merely a distillation of the results of repeated observation." If this be the case, then what gives the Naturalist justification to posit anything further than what is observable, such as the modality of the law be it necessary or contingent? Based on this definition, how can they take a leap beyond a mere descriptive understanding of the law?

Do you know that the physicist cannot even account for how two objects collide? If there are infinite points in space between any two points, how can they touch? In fact a physicist cannot even justify the law of cause and effect. This is because they cannot know the true causes of any causal relationship because it is impossible to know the causal agent's categorical properties and distinguish them from dispositional properties, which cannot be the causal factors. So as you can see, the very basics of science are destroyed without a God. This is not to say that physicists don't discover things, but rather they cannot explain them or justify their hypotheses with their worldview of naturalism or atheism.

Inductive reasoning is irrational and undermines the validity of scientific claims - Yet the the Naturalist has to take this approach to laws which really opens up a can of worms.

According to Hume induction undermines science because inductive reasoning is not rational (there is no reason to assume that an experiment which has been demonstrated to produce a particular conclusion in the past will hold true in the future in a contingent universe that is ever changing). So to the atheist her worldview makes no room for nomacity or necessary laws; yet she loves to talk about and use these laws as though they are necessary and can be relied upon but again this is not at all philosophically acceptable because induction is not rational; therefore science in the atheist worldview is not possible - David Hume. The atheist also attempts to ground her logic in convention, if this were true, then we would have many approaches to scholarship, we could have societies that say "Contradictions are OK and this would assume that the laws of logic and science aren't of discovery but grounded in man's imposing meaning on brute facts". The laws of logic as well as science do a precise job of explaining the universe and reality; but this would be a miracle that men have stumbled unto these "conventions" that describe laws of logic and science along with the operation of the universe. Actually the laws of logic have a transcendental necessity about them in that the naturalist worldview cannot account for universal abstract invariant entities such as these laws. Their worldview is natural; laws are supernatural. So now the Naturalist is faced with redefining a law as inductive, and no more than descriptive, thus closing the door to making any further claims about these laws, and if so...unjustified claims.

Aristotle said that even a dog understands the logical inference of disjunctive syllogism. So Aristotle would argue that logic is not a product of human convention. Convention merely amounts to the determining the truthfulness of a law by the agreement of a particular group - in this case philosophers or scientists. Grounding laws of logic and or science in convention only causes more fighting between those that hold to different conventions. In logic there is great disagreement with respect to which inferences are acceptable and which ones aren't. Again this problem arose when science and philosophy digressed from theism to atheism and therefore relative truth, relative morality, laws without nomacity, in short a worldview that cannot account for invariant abstract entities such as laws.

The laws of logic are not dependent upon different peoples' minds or merely an innate reasoning within sentient beings. People are different; what I reason cannot be universally imposed on the world. What takes place in my mind cannot be identical to what takes place in other minds and is therefore not law-like, it cannot be generalized. If the atheist states that the laws of logic are derived through observing natural principles found in nature, then she is confusing the mind with the universe. We discover laws of physics by observing and analyzing the behavior of things around us. The laws of logic are not the result of observable behavior of object or actions. For example, in nature we do not see something that is both itself and not itself at the same time.

Why? Because we can only observe a phenomenon that exists, not one that does not exist. If something is not itself, then it doesn't exist. How then can the property of that non-existent thing be observed? It cannot. Therefore, we are not discovering a law of logic by observation, but by thought.  Or, where in nature do we observe that something cannot bring itself into existence if it does not already exist? You cannot make an observation about how something does not occur if it does not exist. You would be, in essence, observing nothing at all, and how can any laws of logic be applied to, or derived from, observing nothing at all? The laws of logic are conceptual realities. They only exist in "conceptual space", and they do not describe the physical behavior of things because behavior is action, and laws of logic are not descriptions of action, but of truth.

In other words, laws of logic are not actions. They are necessary propositions about concepts, or laws of thought. Though one could say that a law of physics (i.e., the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence) is a statement which is conceptual describes actual physical and observable behavior. But, logical absolutes are not observable and do not describe behavior or actions of things, since they reside conceptual space. We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in matter. You don't watch an object NOT bring itself into existence if it doesn't exist. Therefore, no law of logic can be observed by watching nothing.

If the atheist appeals to the scientific method to explain the laws of logic, then she is using circular reasoning because the scientific method is dependent upon logic; that is, reasoned thought applied to observations. One cannot use logic to justify logic, again the problem of the criterion and also touched on in Godel's incompleteness theorem.

If logic is not absolute, then no logical arguments for or against the existence of God can be raised, and the atheist has nothing to work with. If logic is not absolute, then logic cannot be used to prove or disprove anything. Again atheists use logic to try and disprove God's existence, but in so doing they are assuming absolute laws of logic and borrowing from the Christian worldview - their argument ultimately begs the question.

Now the atheist will tell you that these laws are not necessary but statistically true with a very high probability of maybe 99.99%. Again this is still induction and not reasonably grounded. My question to the atheist is "how does she calculate these probabilities when she has never seen for instance - the second law of thermodynamics viz. entropy fail?" How does the atheist calculate the probability that an electron will orbit a nucleus when she has never seen one fail to orbit? Has the atheist observed every single electron in the universe to make such a cavalier statement? Could it be that her science is really just an extension of her metaphysical presuppositions? I say in jest that physicists are really nothing more than philosophers with slide rules. Unless the atheist has tested every single electron or other relationships that appear to have regularity to them; on what rational basis do they proceed with predicting these relationships will hold true in the future? Again to justify this claim by saying its always been this way in the past is to beg the question and leads to irrationality. To say for instance an electron repels other like charged electrons because it has dispositional properties that make it behave this way; merely begs the question. Induction is not a justification for something to be law-like.

Herein lies the problem with the atheist: With her metaphysics she denies any necessary relationships in the universe but still uses them in her science - she is borrowing the Christian worldview that necessary laws are possible but denying the foundations thereof. She is suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness. An atheist is in a quagmire because she must ground her laws in "convention" or state "that things behave the way they do because they do which is to say that laws are true in virtue of their correspondence to reality". But this is no justification or grounding for laws of science or logic. Does the atheist know the intrinsic nature of matter? Is she omniscient? This is the same problem as with the correspondence theory of truth. This theory holds that a proposition's truth is grounded in virtue of it's corresponding to reality or "how things are"; but we don't know intrinsic reality! We can only know the world through our senses and our conceptual framework as humans, the theory is circular on its most fundamental level and susceptible to a host of fallacies. This again is another example of how the atheist worldview cannot give us a theory of truth. We also mentioned earlier that this view backs the Naturalist in a corner of considering laws as mere descriptions of the way things behave; but again, this precludes any "leap" to further explanations of the operations and modalities of such laws whether they be necessary or contingent--and again forces the Naturalist to appeal to induction.

What gives her the right to say "it's always been this way so we can assume it will be this way in the future"? This induction only begs the question. Grounding your knowledge in convention is like the person who struts around with her feet firmly planted in mid-air. Convention imposes man's intellect on nature whereas the Christian worldview states that the necessary laws of logic reflect or reveal truth. Necessary Laws presuppose a Law Giver. So the atheist uses logic and other laws of nature and science but doesn't have a worldview that is consistent with these laws nor allows for them.

Roderick Chisholm in his works on the Problem of the Criterion acknowledges that we cannot separate our epistemology from our metaphysics. The Christian will ultimately ground her epistemology in an infinite being or Law Giver, but what is left for the atheist to ground her knowledge? She is left with either inductionconvention, or her metaphysics of a universe evolving from nothing by nothing which is contingent - in short she has no justification because she cannot ground her knowledge (including laws of nature and logic) in convention or her metaphysics because both are subject to a host of fallacies including contradiction, circular reasoning, and infinite regress.

On the other hand the Christian worldview does allow for abstract invariant universal entities such as necessary laws of nature in either a prescriptive external sense or an essentialist view - because they imply a Law Giver and the Christian worldview teaches that the universe and all that we know to be reality is created and governed by God in one sense or another. He created the world to be known and has created us with the ability to know the world. Science is not possible without regularity and regularity is not possible without necessity (logic 101). Again one cannot claim "statistical regularity" with regards to the grand laws of the universe without having tested every instance of gravity or observing every electron or measuring every ray or photon of light; by what rational grounds can she apply this statistical regularity to other domains of experience or universalize these statistical laws? The Christian grounds her knowledge in the revelation of a "self-sufficient knower".

Step back from your worldview for a moment and look at this with your common sense. Do you think the atheist scientists truly plan for the law of gravity changing as they make their calculations for lunar landings? of course not, they assume that the laws of nature are necessary yet when questioned about their metaphysical views of the universe - claim that everything is contingent. they claim this because necessary laws imply a law-giver and this is not allowed in an atheist's worldview.

Christianity is the only worldview that is consistent and allow for the laws of logic and science and can justify and ground them in an eternal being who is a self-sufficient knower and whose knowledge is incorrigible; this is the only grounding for knowledge. by the way He created the world to be known and has created us with the ability to know the world; and the way He expects us to think or reason to discover truth.

Summarily - How does an atheist account for the laws of logic or science? Again, She can't because she attempts to ground them in induction which is unreasonable and cannot be proved. She also claims that these laws are valid on pain of convention - again we mentioned the problems with convention viz. who has the right to impose their convention on someone else. If she appeals to foundationalism or a coherence theory; the basic beliefs are still subject to an infinite regress. Secondly the laws of logic and science do such a wonderful job of describing the universe - it is hard to conceive that there is no order to the universe; or the only order or laws that we have are imposed on these "brute facts" by convention. The laws of logic and many of the grand laws of the universe have a transcendental necessity about them in that they reflect the truth of nature and the universe, and in an atheist worldview these are not acceptable - yet they still use them albeit with inconsistency with their worldview that everything is contingent and subject to change. The atheist epistemology cannot ground any knowledge because of it's metaphysics cannot provide a worldview by which knowledge can be justified without fallacy.

How does a Christian account for the laws of logic? The Christian worldview states that God is absolute and the standard of truth - He is the self sufficient knower. Therefore, the absolute laws of logic exist because they reflect the nature and mind of an absolute God. God did not create the laws of logic. They were not brought into existence, since they reflect God's thinking. Since God is eternal, the laws of logic are too. the laws of logic have a transcendental necessity about them. They reflect the truth of how things are and lead to further discovery of truth. God created the world in a way that it can be known by man and other sentient beings; and created man with the ability to know the world. This worldview doesn't imply that all relationships in the world are necessary - only certain one that we would consider to be laws.

Man, being made in God's image, is capable of discovering these laws of logic not inventing or imposing them as some sort of convention that all are bound to comply with if we are to think and reason in a rational sense. Therefore, the Christian can account for the existence of the laws of logic by acknowledging they originate from God and that Man is only discovering them. Nevertheless, the atheist might say this answer is too simplistic and too convenient. It might be, but at least the Christian worldview can account for and justify the existence of logic itself and the atheist is at odds with all laws since she cannot justify reason or the preconditions of reason.

Consider the fallacy of neutrality - all of science, history, the arts are grounded in our presuppositions. There are not brute facts whereby the historian can claim an unbiased opinion; she must decide what to include in her history from many historical facts. And she will do so based on her worldview and other presuppositions and conceptual framework. Unlike the atheist who claims that the laws of logic and nature impose order on brute facts; the Christian worldview claims that these laws reveal and reflect the truths of the universe.

Brian Ellis has put forth a revised Aristotelian view of essentialism called the "new essentialism" which states that there are necessary laws in nature. Matter is made up of "natural kinds" such as electrons, protons...and these natural kinds have essential properties that give them their identity. For example an essential property of an electron would be its repelling other electrons with the same charge; or its propensity to orbit a nucleus. The problem with his view is that it assumes that these "natural kinds" have forever been in existence or at least since the beginning of time - but this runs contrary to evolution and a universe that is contingent. Yet this theory is acceptable to the Christian since we believe that God did create electrons and the elements of the periodic table to behave in certain ways, and to react in necessary ways with other elements. But again to the atheist - this theory won't hold up to their worldview.

It is safe to say that we see atheists using the necessary laws of logic and science; they are suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness. They know this God and use His laws, yet deny His very existence. They deny Him with their heart yet they cannot live this way nor do science without accounting for Him.

So if one is to employ necessary laws of logic, nature, and science, morality; whether tacitly or conspicuously, you must have a worldview that supports abstract invariant universal entities or else their philosophy metaphysics, and epistemology is inconsistent. The atheist worldview does not allow for such abstract entities and therefore cannot ground any knowledge including all laws of logic, nature, morality, and science. The Christian worldview does allow for such abstract universal invariant entities; therefore, can account for the grounding of knowledge, laws of logic, science, morality, and nature. The Christian worldview presupposes that God created the world in a way in which it can be known and has given sentient beings the ability to acquire this knowledge - a world where we can trust the correspondence of our laws and proposition to reality. That is to say that the Christian worldview is consistent in that it allows for this knowledge, while the atheist or naturalist worldview is inconsistent and cannot account for any knowledge. You may not agree with the metaphysical commitments of the Christian worldview; but it does maintain consistency and provides an answer to the necessary laws of the universe that we cannot deny. In fact; the denial of these transcendental presuppositions only leads to more contradiction! for instance the denial of the presupposition that God created the us with the ability to know things is a self inconsistent statement. The TAG doesn't claim that atheists don't use logic or laws of nature, their worldview cannot account for these laws or the successes of science.

Presuppositional apologetics teaches us that God is the creator of the universe and has given sentient beings the ability to know this universe through perception and reason; however, when we attempt to prove or disprove God and His word through this reason - we are in error. We are in error because we are trying to verify God's existence from the vantage of humanity; or rather the creature is judging the creator with Aristotelian logic? If this be the case, that we subject the word of God to logic, then we are elevating our logic above God and we unknowingly gore ourselves with one of the horns of the divine command problem. God's word is self-verifying through the Holy Spirit and doesn't need any verification from an ostensibly higher authority such as propositional logic, the three laws of reason, Aristotelian logic...

I wish to acknowledge Dr. Greg Bahnsen who did such great work in the field of apologetics and the TAG; who was called home to be with the LORD at a seemingly untimely young age of 47.

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