Gary Gutting—Does It Matter Whether God Exists?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If our hope is for salvation in.. [the] sense [of being safe from final annihilation when we die and will be happy eternally in our life after death]— and for many that is the main point of religion—then this hope depends on certain religious beliefs’ being true. In particular, for the main theistic religions, it depends on there being a God who is good enough to desire our salvation and powerful enough to achieve it.

But here we come to a point that is generally overlooked in debates about theism, which center on whether there is reason to believe in God, understood as all-good and all-powerful. Suppose that the existence of such a God could be decisively established. Suppose, for example, we were to be entirely convinced that a version of the ontological argument, which claims to show that the very idea of an all-perfect being requires that such a being exist, is sound. We would then be entirely certain that there is a being of supreme power and goodness. But what would this imply about our chances for eternal salvation?

On reflection, very little. Granted, we would know that our salvation was possible: an all-powerful being could bring it about. But would we have any reason to think that God would in fact do this? Well, how could an all-good being not desire our salvation? The problem is that an all-good being needs to take account of the entire universe, not just us.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & Culture* TheologyApologeticsTheodicy

Posted March 26, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

An exercise in constructing a god from one’s own speculation.

But what if God reveals Himself?  What if He shows us what a good God is, what He desires for us, what sin is etc.  That is what the Scriptures do for Jewish and Christian theists.  If we accept God’s self revelation as real then we don’t have to resort to speculation and make things up.

March 26, 9:34 am | [comment link]
2. NewTrollObserver wrote:

Do Scriptures themselves reveal God, or do they make it possible for God to reveal Himself?

March 26, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
3. David Keller wrote:


March 26, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
4. sophy0075 wrote:

“The problem is that an all-good being needs to take account of the entire universe, not just us.”
Mr Gutting is assuming in his meanderings that even though God created the universe, He is not all-powerful or omniscient. As the Creator of everything, He would have control and knowledge of it all.

“We might hope that any evil we endure will at least be offset by an equal or greater amount of good for us, but there can be no guarantee.”
That is a rather human-centric and ego-centric statement, which also assumes that we know better than God as to what constitutes “good.”

“It may seem to us that if we live as we should, God will ensure our salvation.”
Well, yeah - if we subscribed to salvation by works. This, of course, would lead to the question ‘What is live as we should?’ and the required answer ‘Perfection, because only that is in keeping with the perfection of God.” That, of course, is unachievable (even Richard Dawkins would probably admit such). But we Christians subscribe to salvation by grace alone.

“How could we possibly know that the power we are in contact with is not deceiving us?”
Um - compare the direction suggested to us with what we know is God’s communication with humanity - the Scriptures? (But oh, yeah, secularists don’t think that was God-breathed.)

“we may need to reconsider John Gray’s idea of religion with little or no belief.”
No thanks. I think I’ll rely on phrases including John 3:16, Hebrews 11:1-3, John 10:28. As for Mr Gutting’s plaints for proof, I guess he doesn’t put any credence in John 20:29 either.

March 26, 2:51 pm | [comment link]
5. Emerson Champion wrote:

“For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible.”

While this text appears at the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland, I believe it applies here as well.

March 26, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
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