we answer this question, we must distinguish five questions that are often confused.
there is the question of whether something exists or not. A thing can exist
whether we know it or not.
there is the question of whether we know it exists. (To answer this question
affirmatively is to presuppose that the first question is answered affirmatively,
of course; though a thing can exist without our knowing it, we cannot know it
exists unless it exists.)
there is the question of whether we have a reason for our knowledge. We
can know some things without being able to lead others to that knowledge by reasons.
Many Christians think God's existence is like that.
there is the question of whether this reason, if it exists, amounts to a proof.
Most reasons do not. Most of the reasons we give for what we believe amount to
probabilities, not proofs. For instance, the building you sit in may collapse
in one minute, but the reliability of the contractor and the construction materials
is a good reason for thinking that very improbable.
if there is a proof, is it a scientific proof, a proof by the scientific
method, i.e., by experiment, observation, and measurement? Philosophical proofs
can be good proofs, but they do not have to be scientific proofs.
believe we can answer yes to the first four of these questions about the existence
of God but not to the fifth. God exists, we can know that, we can give reasons,
and those reasons amount to proof, but not scientific proof, except in an unusually
There are many arguments for God's existence, but most of them
have the same logical structure, which is the basic structure of any deductive
argument. First, there is a major premise, or general principle. Then, a minor
premise states some particular data in our experience that come under that principle.
Finally, the conclusion follows from applying the general principle to the particular
In each case the conclusion is that God exists, but the premises
of the different arguments are different. The arguments are like roads, from different
starting points, all aiming at the same goal of God. In subsequent essays we will
explore the arguments from cause and effect, from conscience, from history, and
from Pascal's Wager.