The Transcendental Argument

TAG is a particular style of argument commonly associated with Immanuel Kant, that proves the existence of God by arguing non-material things such as logical absolutes, morals, love, etc. ultimately presuppose God or some type of supreme being.

The oversimplified argument is logical absolutes exist.  Logical absolutes are conceptual (AKA are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature).  They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter) because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true. Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds because human minds are different (not absolute and still existent outside of the mind).  But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent ‘mind’ of sorts that is authoring them.  This is called God. 

TAG is a pre-suppositional argument, everyone presupposes something so there is no one who is pre-suppositionally neutral when it comes to factual questions and evidence. The use of logic, reason, evidence – is not something proven by experience. It is by that which one proceeds to prove everything else. The transcendental argument then, attempts to uncover the preconditions on which we have logic, reason, and argumentation.

What is this precondition? God. If morality and logical absolutes exist both outside of ourselves (our minds) and outside of the material world this renders the atheist viewpoint inadequate (I’ll get more into this at the end of the article). For saying no one can know if God exists is a knowledge claim in itself, you’re claiming to know that no one can know. Or as Ravi Zacharias says, ”

“To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.” – Ravi Zacharias

 

If Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then truth cannot be known. But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true.  Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth. For this topic, I’m assuming you already know truth is absolute and not relative or subjective.

Logical Absolutes are transcendent. They are not dependent on space or time, nor are they dependent on human minds. Humans contradict each other daily, and have different viewpoints (albeit not equal, remember truth is by definition exclusive), logical absolutes cannot be the product of contradictory minds for they would cease to exist once the mind ceases to exist.

Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world. These absolutes cannot be measured or weighed, such as love or logic. These are conceptual by nature to humans and can be perceived outside of the physical. But if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true. For example, if the universe did not exist, it would still be true that something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.

Since Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then it seems proper to say that they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent ‘mind’ AKA God. We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent ‘mind’ God since a physical brain is not transcendent by nature because it is limited to physical space; and God is, by definition, transcendent in nature.

Objections To The Atheistic Viewpoints

If you were to reject this, you would be left with viewpoints which are inadequate: that of materialism or world illusion or our perception of logic is limited to our own minds.

  1. If the only thing that exists is the material this leads to monism, if everything is matter how can you quantify logic and love as matter/material? This would make differences that we perceive as illusions, or at best subjective social constructs, which we know truth cannot be subjective. It is by definition exclusive. This viewpoint also fails to account for how the material universe obeys immaterial laws.
  2. If this is all an illusion, some type of matrix-style fantasy, this also must mean that you arriving at this ‘truth’ that the world is an illusion is also part of the illusion. Self defeating your stance.
  3. If the laws of logic are regulated to our own minds, then they cannot be regarded as universal. What happens in your brain cannot be law for it doesn’t always correspond to what is happening in someone else’s brain, the laws of logic don’t happen strictly because of our brain, but because they are true. If they were man-made inventions then different cultures could just adopt different laws of logic – this would make rational debate impossible if the laws of logic were conventional, because the two parties could simply adopt different laws of logic. Each would be correct according to his own arbitrary standard.

The atheist might respond “Well, I can use the laws of logic and I am an atheist.” But logical reasoning requires the existence of a transcendent God, not a profession of belief in Him.

To conclude, the transcendental argument for the existence of God argues that atheism is self-refuting because the atheist must presuppose the opposite of what he is attempting to prove in order to prove anything. That being there is something immaterial and unaccounted for that produces our framework of logic, rationality and morality upon foundations of universal truth and absolutes that science cannot quantify. For the theist, this is of course God. Atheists have access to the laws of logic, but they have no foundation (God) upon which to base their deductive reason within their own paradigm.

(Resources for the TAG Argument I took from: Matt Slick, Norman Geisler, Jay Dyer, Frank Turek).

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