You have to hand it to Christians. They have an uncanny knack for twisting logic to conform with their beliefs and making it seem reasonable. At least, reasonable enough to have some appeal to anyone who is willing to forgo rigorous logical thinking for the sake of preserving of their illogical beliefs. The desire to confirm beliefs that they acquired through non-rational means is what drives them down the path of irrational thinking. The risk of suffering the possibly deep emotional impact that would result from abandoning their beliefs and their lifelong investment in that system of beliefs is too much to bear for the sake of gaining a better understanding of reality. So they either go to great lengths to cover up the gaping holes in their thinking, or they simply ignore those holes and pretend they don't exist. These tactics are clearly illustrated in two of Victor Reppert's recent posts - one that simply ignores a blatant logical hole, and the other that makes an effort to cover it up with obfuscation.
We'll start with an example of ignoring a logical flaw that should be perfectly clear to anyone who isn't wearing their theistic blindfold. It is the argument of Doug Benscoter, presented here. It starts with two definitions:
Something necessary is something that exists and cannot possibly-not exist.The argument itself is this:
Something contingent is something that possibly exists and possibly does not exist.
1. Something presently exists. (Premise)This argument commits the fallacy of the excluded middle, and it's not hard to see, provided you care to look objectively at the possibilities. I'll start by granting the truth of all statements up to number 5 (for the sake of this argument). Number 2 is not uncontroversial. In my previous post, I took issue with that very statement. But for this discussion, I'll grant that something cannot come from nothing. And if that's the case, then statement 4 must be true. Statement 3, by the way, is a tautology. It simply restates what has already been defined. Everything is either a necessary thing or a contingent thing, depending on whether it can possibly not exist. Statement 5 simply says that because contingent things are not necessary, there could be a time when nothing contingent existed. I take no issue with that statement.
2. Something cannot come from nothing. (Premise)
3. Either everything that exists is contingent, or else there exists at least one necessary entity N. (Definition)
4. Necessarily, there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (From 1 and 2)
5. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing contingent existed. (Premise)
6. Therefore, a necessary entity N exists. (From 4 and 5)
But then we come to statement 6, which is a non sequitur. The blindfolded Christian asks, "Why?" The answer is easy to see if you just remove the blindfold. Statement 5 describes a possibility - but not the only possibility - of what might be the case if contingent objects come into existence. We already know by statement 4 that something must have existed that gave rise to those contingent objects. If there was a time when nothing contingent existed, then some necessary thing must exist. But it might also be the case that there was never a time when nothing contingent existed. Note that contingency is defined by whether the thing could possibly not exist, not by whether it began to exist. So there could very well be something contingent that has always existed, otherwise known as a brute fact. This if a perfectly valid logical possibility, and yet it is ignored by Christians in their zeal to prove their God. And if you point out this hole in their logic, they dismiss it with a wave of their hand.
The other tactic is employed in the video offered here, where obfuscation is used to hide the fact that the argument attempts to define God into existence. The argument is expressed this way:
1. It's possible that a maximally great being exists.The video recognizes a common objection to the ontological argument, which is that a similar argument can be used to "prove" the existence of other things besides God, simply by defining them as "maximally great", but then dismisses this objection on the basis that it is not logically coherent. Well, of course it is logically incoherent, and that's precisely the essence of the objection. No matter what quality or property is claimed for this maximally great object, it is always possible to conceive of (or define) another object that improves on that property. Therefore, a maximally great object (no matter what it is) cannot exist.
2. A maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. A maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
But that video argues that this objection doesn't apply to God, because God's properties are different in nature. You can't improve on omniscience, omnipotence, and omni-benevolence, they say. But why should we think that's true? If we consider the properties actually ascribed to the God that is presumed to exist in this world, we can easily conceive of another God that is a little better. Perhaps it's one that manages to create fewer people who fail to achieve their eternal reward in heaven. Yes, that is conceivable. And the fact remains that despite all efforts to create the impression that the same logic doesn't apply to God, as soon as you actually describe any particular set of properties (even if you call them "omni"), it is always possible to conceive of some other being (that exists in some possible world) that has properties better than that. So premise 1 is false, and the argument doesn't stand up to objective scrutiny.
But that's true of all arguments that attempt to prove the existence of something that doesn't exist. They are all necessarily flawed in some way. Whether the Christian simply ignores the logical flaw, or tries to cover it up by some clever obfuscation, it doesn't matter - he can't defy the rules of logic. He's only fooling himself.