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Posted: March 19, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Parson to Person: Proof of God: the teleological argument

I am in a series exploring the classic proofs for God. Let me clarify for you that these "proofs" are not final proof positive for God, rather they are more like clues or evidence which, when looked at, lead us to certain conclusions concerning the existence or, for some, the non-existence of God. Personally I find the clues given us by the arguments of these classic evidences compelling.
In my first two articles I dealt with the cosmological argument for God. Put simply, this argument is that every effect must has an adequate cause. Of course those who choose not to believe in God claim that the cause is itself natural, like the big bang theory. While we tend to look at theories like this as scientific while decrying the creation account as fanciful faith, the reality is even the scientist must make a step of faith in his assumption of where the stuff for the universe began. Richard Dawkins stated that he is "intrigued by how nature came into existence with the laws of nature already written into it." By this statement Dawkins admits to the reality that even scientists must make a step of faith with it comes to explaining how we came into existence.

When I look into the night sky, I am convinced of the truth of Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1, ESV). Is that faith? Yes. When Mr. Dawkins looks into the sky he proclaims, "all of this came about naturally." We are looking at the same evidence, but we come to different conclusions, both of which display an element of faith. The things we don't understand we assume.
Closely related to the cosmological argument is the teleological argument. The cosmological argument deals with cause of effect, the teleological deals with the argument from design. Put simply the intricate design of the universe and life suggests there must be a designer.
The best illustration for this argument comes from an experience in the life of the father of modern Science, Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was a devout believer in God who had a scientific friend who did not share his (Newton's) views on origins and they would often lock-horns on the subject. Darwin of course had not even come on the scene yet, but the early stages of evolutionary theory have been around at least since Lucretius (99 B.C. to 55 B.C.) if not before.

Newton had a skillful mechanic make him a replica of our solar system. In the center was a large ball representing the sun, and revolving around this were smaller balls fixed on the ends of arms of varying lengths, representing Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, in their proper order (Pluto had not yet been discovered). These balls were geared together by cogs and belts and moved in perfect harmony by the turning of a crank.

One day as Newton sat reading in his study, with this mechanism on a large table near him, his unbelieving friend stepped in. He recognized at a glance what sat on the table and approaching it he slowly turned the crank. With undisguised admiration he watched the heavenly bodies move at their relative speeds in their orbits. Backing off a few feet to get the full impact of the work he exclaimed, "My, what an exquisite thing this is. Who made it?" Without looking up from his books, Newton answered, "Nobody." Quickly turning to Newton the skeptical friend said, "Evidently you did not understand my question. I asked who made this thing?" Looking up now, Newton solemnly assured his friend that nobody made it but that the aggregation of matter had just happened to assume the form it was in. The astonished scientist replied with some agitation, "You must think I am a fool! Of course somebody made it and he is a genius! I would like to know who he is."

Newton, now laid aside his books, rose and laid a hand on his friends shoulder. "This thing is but a puny imitation of a much grander system whose laws you know," he said. "I am not able to convince you that this mere toy is without a designer and maker. Yet you profess to believe that the great original from which the design is taken has come into being without either designer or maker. Now tell me, by what sort of reasoning do you reach such incongruous conclusions?" This unbeliever was at once convinced and became a firm believer.

That, my friend, is a great example of the argument from design.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.


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