Debate Rounds (3)
First comment on this debate and request to debate me. Only accept the debate when I approve my opponent. Failure to do so results in automatic disqualification.
No personal insults.
Remain respectful at all times.
Round 1 is for acceptance only.
I would like to thank MadeinAmerica1999 (herein referred to as Con) for accepting this debate. While I originally asked that my opponent be approved before beginning this debate, my reasons for requesting this have become unecessary, so I ask voters to kindly overlook this.
Definition of "God": I realized that I did not present a definition of what I mean by "God." This demands clarification on my part. I shall be arguing for the God of classical theism, particularly that of Thomas Aquinas as established by The First Way. Thus, by God I mean "purely actual, timeless, immaterial, omnipotent, perfect substance."
A summary of The First Way
I shall summarize The First Way thus:
P1: IF everything which is moved is moved by another, THEN there is a causal chain which regresses.
P2: IF there is a causal chain which regresses, THEN it cannot regress infinitely and must be finite.
P3: IF the causal chain is finite, THEN it terminates in a first, unmoved, purely actual mover.
P4: Everything which is moved is moved by another.
C: Therefore, there is a first, unmoved, purely actual mover.
This is a logically valid argument.
Act vs. potency
Essential to understanding what is meant by "motion" is the act/potency disctinction. If something is in act, it means it actually has certain qualities. For example, I have a pair of headphones sitting on my desk. They are actually black, actually made of plastic, actually lying here on my desk, etc. However, there are also certain potencies or potentials which the headphones possess. They could potentially be melted, potentially be stomped on, potentially placed on my head, potentially play music, etc.
So, for something to move, is for a potential to become actual. Which is why Aquinas says:
"For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality." 
It should be noted that by "motion" is meant any sort of change whatsoever.
Defense of P4
From our distinction of act and potency, we can see the defense of Premise 4. For something to move itself, would be for a potential to raise itself to actuality. However, this seems blatantly false. How could something which is merely a potential actualize itself? Since a potential has no causal abilities whatsoever, it seems absurd to attribute any sort of actions to it. Furthermore, this contradicts our experience.
Defense of P1
P1 also seems intuitively true. If my headphones are moved across the desk by my hand, then there is a regressing causal chain. The headphones, being moved by my hand, which is moved by my hand muscles, moved by my arm muscles, etc. etc. All of which involve a potential being raised to actuality by something else actual.
Defense of P2
P2 may be misleading. A distinction must be made between causal series ordered per accidens, and ordered per se. In a per accidens causal series, each member has causal abilities of its own, regardless of the existence of prior members. For example, my grand father begets my father, who in turn begets me. I have the causal ability to beget a son, and their continued existence is not necessary. A per se causal series would be a series in which each member is only instrumental. For example, if my hand suddenly disappeared in the example given above, the headphones would not be able to cause anything else, since they would stop moving.
While a per accidens series may, for the sake of argument, regress infinitely, a per se causal series cannot. If this were the case, a paintbrush could paint by itself if the handle were infinitely long.
Defense of P3
P3 seems uncontroversial. If the causal series can't be infinite, then it terminates in a first unmoved mover. The only thing which could terminate this is that which is purely actual, without any admixture of potency. If the unmoved mover did have some degree of potency which spoke to its being, it would demand some further actualizer, and would not be the unmoved mover.
Timeless, immaterial, omnipotent and perfect
It should be obvious that the unmoved mover is immaterial. For whatever is physical has some sort of potentials. However, the unmoved mover, being purely actual, has no potentials. Thus, the unmoved mover cannot be material, and must be immaterial.
Furthermore, if the unmoved mover is immaterial, and absolutely unable to be moved, then it must be timeless, since to be in space and time implies changeability and materiality.
The unmoved mover is also omnipotent. Omnipotence is nothing else other than the ability to raise some potential to actuality. But as purely actual, the unmoved mover clearly can and does raise potencies to actuality.
Finally, the unmoved mover must be perfect. To be imperfect would mean to lack something, which one might possibly gain. In other words, to be imperfect means to have certain potentials. But the unmoved mover has no potentials, being purely actual, and thus is perfect.
Sorry this is short. Over to Con!
What would happen if we get down on our knees and pray to God in this way:
Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
We pray sincerely, knowing that when God answers this completely heartfelt, unselfish, non-materialistic prayer, it will glorify God and help millions of people in remarkable ways.
Will anything happen? No. Of course not.
This is very odd. Jesus makes specific promises in the Bible about how prayer is supposed to work. Jesus says in many different places that he and God will answer your prayers. And Christians believe Jesus -- according to this recent article, "54% of American adults believe the Bible is literally true." In some areas of the country the number goes as high as 75%.
If the Bible is literally true, then something is seriously amiss. Simply look at the facts. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:
Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
If "every one who asks receives", then if we ask for cancer to be cured, it should be cured. Right? If "our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask him", then if we ask him to cure cancer, he should cure it. Right? And yet nothing happens.
In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:
For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
If "nothing will be impossible to you", then if we ask to cure cancer tonight, cancer should disappear. Right? Yet nothing happens. Note that if we take the Bible less-than-literally here, the statement "nothing will be impossible to you" becomes "lots of things will be impossible to you," and that would mean that Jesus is lying.
In Matthew 21:21:
I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
If "you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer", then if we ask to cure cancer tonight, cancer should dissappear. Right? Yet nothing happens. Note again that there is not a non-literal way to interpret "you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer", unless you replace "whatever" with "nothing" or "little."
The message is reiterated Mark 11:24:
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
If God says, "believe that you have received it, and it will be yours," and if we believe in God and his power, then what should happen if we pray to cure cancer tonight? It should be cured. Either that, or God is lying.
In John chapter 14, verses 12 through 14, Jesus tells all of us just how easy prayer can be:
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." [ref]
Look at how direct this statement is: "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." This is the "Son of God" speaking. Have we taken him "too literally?" No. This is a simple, unambiguous statement. Have we taken his statement "out of context?" No - Jesus uses the word anyone. Yet Jesus' statement is obviously false. Because when we ask God to cure cancer tonight, nothing happens.
We see the same thing over and over again...
In Matthew 18:19 Jesus says:
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
In James 5:15-16 the Bible says:
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Thanks to Con for his reply. While Con's arguments might have some force against a debate regarding literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, they have no effect here, since this debate is regarding the existence of God in a very broad sense. Furthermore, Con completely ignores my presentation of Aquinas' First way. Unless Con presents an objection to the argument I've given, there are no reasons to doubt its soundness, and the argument stands.
Deconstructing Con's arguments
Con's arguments regarding the absurdity of interpreting the Bible literally are irellevant and fall flat on their face. Regardless of whether we accept their soundness, they do nothing to demonstrate that God does not exist.
Con's arguments can be summarized:
P1: IF we take the Bible literally, THEN all our prayers will be answered.
P2: IF the Bible is not interpreted literally, THEN God probably does not exist.
P3: Not all our prayers are answered.
C: .'., The Bible cannot be interpreted literally, and God probably does not exist.
This is a logically valid pollysyllogism, with a mixture of modus tollens. If the premises are true, then the conclusion follows. But the premises are unjustified, as will be shown.
Con argues for Premise 1, saying:
"This is very odd. Jesus makes specific promises in the Bible about how prayer is supposed to work. Jesus says in many different places that he and God will answer your prayers. And Christians believe Jesus -- according to this recent article, '54% of American adults believe the Bible is literally true.'"
In fact, I am actually inclined to agree with Con in this.
Con justifies Premise 2 by claiming:
"How might we prove that God is imaginary? One way would be to find a contradiction between the definition of God and the God we experience in the real world."
And then he continues on, assuming that if God exists, he must be the God of the literal Christian Bible. However, these assumptions are unwarranted. In fact, they are just plain false. Why should we assume that if God exists, he will necessarily be the God of the Bible? Why should we assume that if there is a God of the Bible, that the Bible ought to be interpreted literally?
Con's arguments for the literal interpretation of the Bible commit an ad populum fallacy.  Whether or not the majority of people believe the Bible to be interpreted literally is irrelevant.
Con's arguments can easily be refuted by simply disagreeing with literal interpretation of the Bible, and/or disagreeing that if God existed, he would be the God of Christianity.
These are unwarranted assumptions, which demand justification.
The First Way remains
Now that Con's arguments have been properly rebutted, we can return to Aquinas' First Way. Con has not presented any answer to this argument, and if he wishes to show it is unsound, he must present an objection.
This being the case, I would like to make a few comments on popular objections to the First Way, just in case Con chooses to present them.
1. The First Way has nothing to do with the beginning of the universe.
Popular objections to the First Way are notoriously bad. In fact, this argument is often viewed as Aquinas "Kalam argument." But these objections are completely wrong.
Professor Edward Feser notes:
"When he [Aquinas] argues there that there must be a First Cause, he doesn’t mean “first” in the order of events extending backwards into the past. What he means is that there must be a most fundamental cause of things which keeps them in existence at every moment, whether or not the series of moments extends backwards into the past without a beginning." 
In fact, Aquinas even wrote an entire treatise on the topic of whether or not it can be demonstrated that the past is finite (he argues it cannot be demonstrated and is a matter of faith) in De Aeternitate Mundi.
2. "What caused [moved] God?" is an invalid objection.
Richard Dawkins attempts to refute Aquinas' arguments by saying:
"All of these arguments rely upon the idea of a regress and invoking God to terminate it. They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress." 
But this objection does not succeed. The argument says that everything in motion needs a cause of its motion. But God is not in motion, thus he does not need an external cause.
In conclusion, Con's arguments fail to disprove God, or even to cast doubt upon God's existence. His arguments may have force against literal interpretation of the Bible, but that is not what this debate is about, and thus it qualifies as a red herring fallacy.  Con also never mounted as much as one objection to The First Way, and thus it still stands. Please vote Pro.
 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, pg. 101
MadeinAmerica1999 forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Buckethead31594 3 years ago
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