One curious objection I have seen and heard to arguments for the existence of God is that these arguments apply to deism, not Christianity. For example, Michael, an atheist blogger, writes, “Note that these are effectively arguments for deism, not Christianity!” about the Moral Argument (here).
The objection seems to be that an argument for the existence of God (such as the cosmological argument) that could be utilized for deism doesn’t help the epistemic justification for belief in the Christian God. This objection is misguided for a number of reasons.
First, Michael objects in this way in his discussion of the Moral Argument. But deism is the belief in “a creator who has established the universe and its processes but does not respond to human prayer or need” (Honderich, 195 cited below). Clearly, then, this god of deism cannot be the God towards which the Moral Argument points. The moral argument places God as the objective standard of morality for the universe. It is hard to see how a god which doesn’t care about or respond to human need could be the objective standard of morality.
Second, the classic arguments for the existence of God do not necessarily each establish the entirety of the Christian worldview, but may instead serve as a cumulative case to demonstrate God’s existence and attributes. The Moral Argument argues for omnibenevolence; the teleological argument demonstrates omniscience and omnipotence (along with omnibenevolence, to a lesser extent); the cosmological argument illustrates omnipotence, transcendence, and necessary existence; the transcendental argument shows God’s transcendence and necessity; the ontological argument argues for a greatest possible being with essentially all the attributes of the Christian God; the argument from consciousness demonstrates God as mind; the argument from reason demonstrates the rationality of God; and the list could continue. Furthermore, almost all of these arguments show that God is personal, and therefore, by definition, not deistic but theistic.
Not only that, but how is it an objection to these arguments to say that they don’t each individually demonstrate the Christian God is the one true God? Arguments for the existence of a god, as long as they don’t contradict the God of Christianity, can be taken as evidence for the existence of the God, namely, the Christian God.
Take an example of a case in court. A man is accused of committing murder. The victim was found hung in his room. The prosecuting attorney argues that the accused had the means–he recently bought some rope. He then argues the accused had motive–the victim had recently gotten a promotion for which the accused was vying. He also shows that the accused has rope marks on his hand and scratch marks on his face, which show the struggle which occurred as the accused allegedly hung the victim. He argues, finally, the accused had opportunity–he was in the room at the time the victim died and he was also the only other person in the room.
Now imagine how ridiculous it would be if the defense attorney stood up and complained that these arguments don’t really apply to the case at hand, because none of them demonstrates the accused committed the murder! They just show, individually, that he had means, motive, and opportunity; not to mention the strong evidence for the accused being involved in a struggle with some rope and another person. But to demonstrate the guilt of the accused, the defense continues, the prosecution must come up with an argument that demonstrates all of these things at once! Otherwise, they just demonstrate the other things individually!
Obviously, the defense attorney has something wrong here. But then the atheistic objector also has something wrong. The Christian philosopher of religion has argued that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, transcendent, necessary, etc.; the atheist responded by saying “those arguments individually only demonstrate a deistic God!” [Discounting, for the moment, that a deistic God wouldn’t share some of these attributes.] But that isn’t how the arguments work. Any argument which demonstrates that a God exists, as long as that God is not contradictory to the Christian God, can serve as evidence for the existence of the Christian God. Sure, they may be consistent with deism [and many of the arguments aren’t, as shown above], but they are also part of the total case for the Christian theistic worldview.
Ted Honderich, ed., The Oxford Guide to Philosophy (New York, NY: Oxford, 2005).