In order to make a case, one must have unambiguous terms, true premises, and valid argument forms. This amusing fake-logic popular blurb cartoon introduces my next point. It actually does not argue for an invalid argument form with anyone, but asserts the truth of a premise.
My argument stated here is separable from all the other arguments, as they all are separable from each other, at least by my intent. To reiterate the purpose of these posts and exchanges, I am putting forth a large number of inductive arguments that, if successful, would make the existence and nature of God very plausible, at least as plausible as that of denying that Santa Claus exists. I am also planning to introduce some alleged deductive arguments for the existence of God, and will discuss how much I am persuaded by them, which may or may not be the case. I also intend to introduce some of the better anti-theist arguments, and attempt to refute or cast doubt upon them.
The Classic Presentation of This Case.
The Apostle St. Paul made an argument regarding the existence and character of God when speaking to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Athens. They already agreed upon the existence of various deities, and there was one more that was thrown in for good measure, "The Unknown God." Here is an observer's recounting of his argument, which I accept.
Acts 17 English Standard Version (ESV)
16 Now while Paul was waiting for [his associates] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection [Anastasis, seemingly a consort of this "Jesus"]. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
About the argument, for our purposes.
Even if we grant the bare fact of Jesus being raised from the dead, one need not necessarily say that it was a miracle or a violation of scientific laws. One could merely say that this is merely yet another fact of the universe yet to be explained, along with dark matter and the exact nature of subatomic particles, and finding the cure of the common cold. One could say that it's just an outlier, and maybe an interesting one at that.
However, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, and there is a whole rabbit trail we could go down if we wanted to dispute that particular fact. For argument's sake, let us grant that it all happened just as described in the New Testament. My own argument then becomes this:
I. Jesus was raised from the dead.
II. His resurrection validates his ministry, teaching, prophetic predictions and view of God and the world.
III. The argument of St Paul (above, Acts 17) is entailed by (I) and (II).
IV. If one is an Athenian philosopher, then one should become a Christian.
IV. A suppressed/condensed argument:
Upon accepting the fact of Jesus' resurrection and the interpretive framework of the Apostles:
If one is a 21st century religious person, then I-III entail that the person become a Christian instead of any other religious persuasion.
If one is a materialist or wants to be a nihilist, then one has good reasons to believe the Jewish metaphysics of Jesus, and thereupon to consider the whole set of implications which are entailed by this alternative metaphysics.
The Limits of This Argument
It'a an all-or-nothing argument. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then materialism is not refuted. And if the fact of his resurrection is not accepted, then materialism is not refuted.
Why I bother with it then
I bother with this argument because I find the evidence persuasive, and the whole set of consequences from accepting the argument to be sound. And because, like Pascal, I find the whole prospect of debating the God of the Philosophers to be beside the point--even if natural theology is a worthwhile subject in itself.