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May 7, 2022 12:01 am
The existence of God is clearly demonstrated in creation, and unbelievers are "without excuse" (Rom. 1:20). So, why do so many people remain so skeptical? Today, R.C. Sproul assesses the influence of Immanuel Kant's philosophy on our relativistic age.
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18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant questioned whether we could know anything about God. Many theologians of his arrow bought that argument.
They said things like this, you could maybe assume the existence of God presupposes existence of God or grant the existence of God by faith. For what you cannot do is prove the existence of God by rational categories. Many theologians however refused by Kant's argument that good men like Thomas Aquinas who asserted God's existence could indeed be proven welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday, but we well let's dive into this debate is Dr. RC Sproul from his series defending your faith in our last session, we examine briefly. Thomas Aquinas's view of natural theology and if you recall, during that session. I indicated that Thomas was reacting to the integral Aristotelianism of Muslim philosophy that taught the double truth theory well St. Thomas who was called the Dr. Angelica's for the angelic Dr. the Roman Catholic Church was a Titan in the realm of philosophy and theology in the middle ages, and he is most responsible for constructing what is known in the history of theoretical thought as the classical synthesis that is by showing that philosophy as well as theology manifested the truth of the existence of God and so strong was this synthesis that it was rare in those days for intellectuals to challenge the notion of the existence of God and historically the principal arguments for the existence of God were the following.
First of all, there was the famous ontological argument for the existence of God, which will look at later which have been formulated early on by Augustine in his version, but made most famous by the version set forth by St. Anselm of Canterbury and the ontological argument for the existence of God was an argument for God from being is a sale take time later to explain more of that for you. Secondly, there was the cosmological argument and the cosmological argument was that argument that reasoned from the world or the cosmos back to the origin of the world to the creator. It was the argument based on the law of causality, arguing that that world that we perceive has to have a transcendent cause and so the cosmological argument was part of that historical tradition. Then there was also what was called the teleological argument that word teleological may be foreign to some it comes from the Greek word count loss which is the Greek word that means and or purpose or goal. The teleological argument was the argument from design that is the presence of design in the universe would indicate a design and the argument that was teleological said that all around nature we see things operating in a logical way and that they are put together with an amazing symmetry that suggests an intelligent creator or an intelligent designer and so the argument from the appearance of purpose and order and harmony in the universe was used to argue for the existence of God, and in addition to that, there was the moral argument for God which I'll pass over for now. But these arguments, as they had been articulated by Christian philosophers through the centuries represented formidable proofs for the existence of God and made it possible for Christianity to dominate in the academic world, particularly in western Europe where in the University of the Middle Ages theology was seen as the queen of the sciences and philosophy her hand maiden that is the science of philosophy operated as a servant for the aims and goals of theology because it was seen that there was a unity between theological affirmations and philosophical thinking and evidence.
So again we want to put to rest the idea that St. Thomas Aquinas was trying to separate philosophy from theology or nature from grace but was trying to maintain their unity and putting together the classical synthesis that rain for so many centuries, and this synthesis enjoyed dominance in theoretical thought until the massive work of Immanuel Kant that took place towards the end of the 19th century in the history of Western thought. We see the publication of Emmanuel Kohn's book the critique of pure reason. As a watershed moment in history. It was a book that was revolutionary in scope and fact it's timing was almost exactly at the same time as the American revolution and we tend to think of the American revolution as one of the most significant events to take place in modern history and that the American revolution changed the course of world history forever.
And yet at the same time, I would say that the intellectual revolution that was provoked by Kant's critique of pure reason was even more far-reaching in terms of its revolutionary impact than anything that was accomplished in the political arena by the American colonies in their revolt against the crown of England in his famous critique of pure reason can't who had been awakened by the skepticism of the British empiricist David Hume said he was awakened from his dogmatic slumbers and was afraid that Hume's critique of causality which we've already looked at briefly in this class would sow the seeds of destruction for all of science. Not to mention religion and faith and so part of what was motivating Kant in his critique was to rescue science from skepticism and along the way he laid his acts at the root of the tree of the classical synthesis giving a comprehensive critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God and with that, Kant was not an atheist and was not trying to be totally destructive of Christianity, but rather he was trying to attack reason in order to make room for faith because he saw Christianity having degenerated into too much of a dependence on human reason and not enough on faith and so he gave this critique of the existence of God. Now at the heart of this critique.
I shouldn't say he gave a critique of the existence of God, that's incorrect. He gave a critique of the arguments for the existence of God. He himself affirmed the existence of God, but he said that you cannot know the existence of God from natural reason. His was an attack against natural theology and he said that there were two realms, as it were, the realm of what he called the noumenal realm where the noumenal world and down here the phenomenal world and in the noumenal realm.
He placed three concepts in the noumenal realm is the idea of God. The idea of the self and the idea of what Kant called the ding on Zeke or the thing in itself, or if you will essences now just take a deep breath here and will try to get an understanding of what that's about when he talks about things in themselves, or essences. He's talking about the metaphysical level of reality that is beyond the ability of our senses to perceive no Plato and Aristotle. Another philosophers were fond of talking about the essence of a thing, and yet we never perceive essences. We only see outward appearances. We never perceive tree mass whenever perceive humanness. We only perceive particular human things and I don't know the soul of a person, or even if he has a soul from observation by analysis. I can't go to the doctor and get an examination and say Dr. what kind of shape is my soul and what are its vital sign because the soul cannot be perceived by the senses and so all of these metaphysical realities that philosophers postulated beyond the realm of physics. That's what metaphysics is that which is above and beyond the physical realm.
Those things cannot be known directly through sense perception. We never see them taste and touch them or smell them or so those things can't assigned to the noumenal world. The self or the soul with the mind and how do we know that there is such a thing as the self that you think you will that's simple woman we all are aware of ourselves that we have a certain self-consciousness, but Kant would begin to analyze that carefully. From a philosophical perspective and say it again.
How can you measure the self of the person so that he would put the self in the noumenal world along with God. God, the self and essences. Now he doesn't say that there is no such thing as God and there is no such thing as the self or there's no such thing as essences for Kant, the question is epistemological, that is, the question is can we know anything about these realities or if in fact they exist at all, through scientific inquiry through rational inquiry that his answer was no. That all of our knowledge is restricted to this realm, the realm of phenomena the phenomenal world does not mean the terrific world.
Sometimes we say somebody who's outstanding in sports, we face phenomenal.
Fantastic. He's terrific know what this word means is phenomenal means that which can be perceived by the five senses.
The it is the world of appearances. It is the world that can be studied and analyzed and examined scientifically.
That is the phenomenal world know what Kant was saying is that through the use of reason or of scientific investigation, we cannot get from here to here that there is an unbridgeable chasm between the world that we see in the unseen world of essences so we can have no real knowledge of what's up Peter and one of the principal reasons. He said that was because he said even though the law of causality works in the sphere in which we live in the phenomenal world. We can't know for sure that it can be applied to the metaphysical realm, so that we cannot use the reasoning based upon cause-and-effect they get from the cosmos to God to get from this world to the supernatural world and so he has I said was skeptical about the ability to know anything about God not the same time, he said in his critique of practical reason that for practical purposes, we must live as if there is a God. We must believe that there is a God in order for civilization to be possible because the God hypothesis, as we will see little bit later is necessary for meaningful ethics and if you don't have a meaningful ethic.
You can't have an enduring civilization without morality or law based upon objective virtue, sooner or later societies will degenerate into the law of the jungle and into anarchy. Where might makes right. Dostoyevsky said it this way if there is no God. All things are permissible as law becomes reduced to preferences and there is no such thing as what ought to be done only what is done, but in any case with this skepticism the Christian church reached a crisis and many theologians and apologists after this critique was leveled against the traditional arguments turned away from the classical synthesis and away from natural theology to what we call in theology for deism of one sort or another for deism is based upon the word for faith in Latin and for deism simply means that we take the idea of God on faith through some kind of leap of faith and the notion of God cannot be known rationally and we certainly cannot prove the existence of God.
You have to take it by faith or some kind of first principle upon which you build everything else you could maybe assume the existence of God, presuppose the existence of God or grant the existence of God by faith.
For what you cannot do is prove the existence of God by rational categories and as I say, many philosophers and theologians capitulated to Kant at this point all others however refused to play dead at the feet of Immanuel Kant, and have sought ever since the 18 century to reconstruct natural theology in such a way as to answer the objections that can't leveled against traditional theism and I've been very much concerned about this undertaking in my own teaching career for the simple reason I want to be faithful to Scripture and I find a simple conflict between what Kant taught and what is taught in the New Testament. We've already looked at the first chapter of Romans, wherein the apostle Paul declares that the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and deity are known through the things that are made as to what Paul is saying is you can get here from here. He says that there is a general revelation by which God not only can be known, but is known in and through the created order, and that that knowledge is so manifest and so clear as to leave the world without an excuse. If there really is a barrier between this world and the world of God.
If caught is right, then ladies and gentlemen, the unbeliever has an excuse for not embracing the truth of God. He has the excuse of ignorance where he says, I couldn't get there from here. So what we have here is an irreconcilable difference between the teaching of the apostle Paul and the teaching of Immanuel, so I look at that as a Christian and I say well if Paul is right, then manifestly, Immanuel Kant has to be wrong and if Kant is correct, then Paul is wrong again because Kant says you can have no knowledge of God through the knowledge of this world where the New Testament says we do have a knowledge of God through a knowledge of this world, that is, that God can be known cosmologically. Now Kant went on in his critique to say that all of the traditional arguments of God are based upon the ontological argument, which is the argument from being and the classic formulation of that was from St. Anselm who said that God is not being a part which no greater than can be conceived or we turn that around and say God is the greatest conceivable being that he says that the greatest conceivable being must be conceived of as really existing because if you're thinking of the greatest conceivable being as being merely a construct of the mind.
Just an idea with no correspondence.
In reality, you're not thinking of God because when Anselm was getting at is that God and God alone. Is that which no greater than can be conceived.
Who can only properly be conceived as being and is existing. That is to say he's thinking of obeying who cannot not be now can't challenge that and were going to re-examine that in much greater carrier fairly soon, but what Kant was saying is that from the perspective of a concept. There is no difference between a hypothetical being and a real being because he said existence is not an attribute existence is not an attribute that is there is no difference in reality between the idea of a perfect dollar and the reality of a perfect dollar because the concept of the dollar is the concept of the dollar. This is the same argument that was leveled against Anselm by God alone who spoke about islands. He said there's of basically just because I have an idea of the most perfect island conceivable doesn't make it true. And Anselm said you missed the point. I'm not talking about islands or dollars everything else. I'm only talking of one case of that being which no greater than can be conceived and that must be conceived of being because it is greater to exist than not to existence greater to be in reality than the simply be in the imagination and so the debate continues even to our own day, but I just leave you with this. Now that caught in his critique of the traditional arguments for God said that they all boil down in the final analysis to some form of the ontological argument because what what you're saying here is that if we're going to be rational reason demand that God exists. But just because reason demands that God exist does not mean that God exists. All it means is that reason demands it may be reality in the final analysis is not rational. That's why many people went from Kant's critique into a philosophy of your rationalism, such as existential philosophy and to relativism, which pervades our culture today and I think it's amazing how familiar those ideas soon to us because we are living in a society that is ruled by relativism.
Kant actually said that we cannot know God, let alone prove his existence.
If were going to be effective in sharing our faith. We need to be able to counter these kinds of arguments that's why we're featuring this series by Dr. RC Sproul here on Renewing Your Mind. We likely to have the complete series, you can request defending your faith when you contact us today with a donation of any amount. There are 32 messages on 11 DVDs and you can call us to request them at 800-435-4343 or you can go online to Renewing Your Mind.org.
The series also includes a bonus disc that contains the MP3 audio files of the series, and a copy of the study guide that provides access to an outline of each lecture study questions for discussion and suggested readings. So again request defending your faith when you call us at 800-435-4343 if you prefer to give your gift online.
Our address is Renewing Your Mind.org you can answer daily Bible study routine when you request a subscription to table talk magazine only will you receive the print edition each month by mail will also have access to thousands of articles and Bible studies online. If you've never subscribed before you can start with a free three month trial subscription. Just go to table talk magazine.com to make that request. So can you prove the existence of God. Today you heard how a manual can't said no but next week Dr. scroll make the case that the answer is yes. Be sure to join us then for the next edition of Renewing Your Mind