Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Argument from Transcendence

"You want evidence that there is a God? The very concept of evidence is evidence that there’s a God. Do you know why? What does evidence require? Evidence requires truth. Evidence requires knowledge. And I’m saying you cannot have truth or knowledge without God.” (Sye Ten Bruggencate)

What would you think of someone arguing that words did not exist? You’d think that they were a fool right? In order for them to argue against the existence of words they’d have to use words!

Likewise, the Bible says that “the fool has said in his heart there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) Romans chapter 1 makes it clear that everyone knows that God exists but that unbelievers suppress the truth because they prefer their sin. According to the Bible unbelievers are fools – not because of a lack of intelligence, but because of a stubborn unwillingness to acknowledge God.

In order for someone to argue that God does not exist they have to use their minds and use logic - both of which presuppose the existence of God - as I will explain in this article.

The Argument from Transcendence, formally known as the ‘Transcendental Argument for God’ / TAG (not to be confused with the false religious practice of transcendental meditation), argues that we all know in our heart of hearts that God exists. The TAG proof is that this is true because if it were not true we could not prove anything.

The TAG says that the existence of a transcendent God – who is above and beyond the physical universe – is known to everyone by things like the basic reliability of our minds, the laws of logic, absolute morality, and uniformity in nature. These things transcend the physical world and could not exist without God.

This argument for God is called the ‘Ultimate Proof’ by Dr Jason Lisle because there is no way to rationally refute this argument. It is rock solid because it is the argument that the Bible uses – presupposing the existence of God and showing that all other alternatives lead to absurdity. In recent times Sye Ten Bruggencate has mastered this argument and his opponents end up refuting themselves as the irrationality of their worldview is exposed. (See the trailer for ‘How to Answer the Fool.’)

The Bible says that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7) It also says that in Christ are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3). We can know that this is true because the Bible says it is true, AND because if it were not true we could not know anything. This might sound absurd – but actually if you think about it you will see it’s true.

We can’t know that something is false without knowing what is true, just as we can’t know something is crooked if we don’t have something we know is straight to compare it with. If I were to say, “I know that this website has had thousands of visitors, but I’m not sure,” do I actually know that? No, I don’t.

So what is truth? And how do you know that your reasoning is valid? Do you know anything for sure? How do you know that the Matrix isn’t real and that everything isn’t just an illusion? And how do you avoid the vicious circular reasoning of using your mind to verify that your mind is reliable? You could say that you know your mind is reliable because you took a test. But how do you know that you remember correctly that you did actually take the test?! (You’re using your mind again to check your mind!)

In the biblical worldview we can know that our minds are basically reliable and that everything isn’t just an illusion because we were created in the image of a transcendent God who is totally reliable and has revealed himself.

In the case of laws of logic, in the biblical worldview we can use and rely on laws of logic because they are a reflection of the logical God who made us. For example the law of non-contradiction says that things cannot be A and not A at the same time and in the same way. But if there were no God then why should there be absolute laws like this? We all know and use these laws – but in non-biblical worldviews their existence does not make sense.

As for laws of morality, we all know that absolute morality exists because we all have a God-given conscience and we were created in the image of a moral God. We know that it is always wrong to do bad things like murdering (not to be confused with extreme exceptions like killing in self-defence). But if you think there is no God then what basis do you have to say that anything is wrong? It just becomes the personal preference of the individual or what the majority of people think. On that basis there would be no way to argue that Hitler was wrong, because the majority of Germans went along with him.

Finally let’s think about laws of nature and how they are always uniform. Why is it that we can do science? Real science is based on repeatable experiments. (Induction). Why is it that we know that the laws of physics and chemistry today will be the same tomorrow? We assume that they will be the same based on the fact that they have always been the same. But this is another vicious circle. Just because something has happened a certain way in the past doesn’t mean that it will always be that way – and in a random atheistic universe why should it?

In contrast, in the Christian worldview we know that the laws of physics and uniformity of nature will remain the same because God is a consistent God who has promised to maintain the universe in an orderly way. (Genesis 8:22)

Even if you profess to be an atheist, you know in your heart that God is real because you have to use your mind, laws of logic, absolute morality, and laws of nature, in order to live and function in this world. However within all non-biblical worldviews you can’t account for these things. (See ‘Self-refutingWorldviews.’)

One of the main reasons I wrote this article is because I care enough enough to challenge and warn people to get right with God. If you haven’t yet done so then I urge you to repent and trust in Jesus.

* Many of the above ideas come from Sye Ten Bruggencate (, Dr Jason Lisle, Dr Greg Bahnsen, and Cornelius Van Til.

For Further Reading / Research:

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