Does God Exist? Theism and Biblical Faith vs. Atheism and Agnosticism

History is chock-full of attempts both to argue for the existence of God and to refute the existence of "a God or gods." How does one succinctly introduce such a vast undertaking? Man has debated a higher power, higher purpose and the like since Aristotle in ancient Greece and likely beforehand. Most people today think of Thomas Aquinas' writings when discussing traditional arguments for God's existence, embodied in his famous Five Ways, which argue:

Aquinas believed that mysteries like the Trinity and the incarnation go beyond reason, are only found by revelation of Scripture but are not contrary to reason.

However, many agree that his arguments in their original form do not suffice and have been refuted successfully. David Hume and Immanuel Kant entered the fray several hundred years ago and seriously challenged Aquinas' thinking. Yet contemporary theistic philosophers like William Lane Craig, Peter Kreeft and Alvin Plantinga have resurrected and improved upon such traditional arguments. Plantinga has changed the trajectory of the ongoing project of analytical philosophy (of religion, at any rate), resurrecting and improving upon Anselm's ontological argument while helping launch Reformed Epistemology. Plantinga is widely recognized to have decimated arguments for the logical problem of evil, as well.

Philosophers recognize many arguments for the existence of God with varying degrees of seriousness. The major categories include:

We have assembled a sampling of the traditional arguments for God's existence, some refinements on the kalam cosmological, teleological and other arguments, along with insights into theism and atheism and finally alternative views as to the usefulness of traditional arguments and some alternatives. Whether you are an avowed atheist, an agnostic, investigating, curious or wish to persuade others regarding belief in God, we welcome your thoughtful, appropriate feedback.


—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Featured Debate

Newly released full transcript of a debate between Christendom's top debater-philosopher, Dr. William Lane Craig and atheist philosopher, professor and author Dr. Quentin Smith of Western Michigan University. Dr. Craig's many other debates, most of which deal with some aspect of the existence of God, are found online at his Virtual Faculty Office here at LeaderU:

Does God Exist?
Debate between William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith
In April 2003, renowned author, apologist and debater Dr. William Lane Craig debated well-known atheist Quentin Smith at the Harvard Science Center. Smith opens with two arguments for belief that there is no God or gods. Craig responds with the following basis for the debate and goes from there: I. Are there any good arguments against God's existence? and II. Are there any good arguments for God's existence? The entire debate transcript is online here with annotations provided by Dr. Craig.

Featured Articles on The Question of God

A popular recent documentary by PBS (Public Broadcasting System) entitled The Question of God was based on a book by Harvard professor Armand Nicholi comparing the worldviews of legendary author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis with those of atheist Sigmund Freud, whose psychological theories both shook the world and continue as an integral part of Western society's zeitgeist. The book, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, arose from the most popular elective course at Harvard University in recent times, taught by Nicholi. The Real Issue, a partner publication of, was the first to publicly feature these concepts of integration of faith and reason by a believing professor (Nicholi) and to highlight the meaningful yet sharply contrasting worldviews of  two influential cultural icons (Lewis & Freud).

Part I: When Worldviews Collide: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on God, life, pain and death
Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
A comparison of the thoughts and viewpoints of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. Dr. Armand Nicholi examines the worldviews of Lewis and Freud, and in particular their ideas concerning life, pain and death. These ideas grow out of each thinker's own thoughts and experiences of faith and God or lack thereof. Part one of two.

Part II: When Worldviews Collide: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on God, life, pain and death
Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Nicholi concludes his analysis and comparison of the worldviews of Freud and Lewis by writing of their thoughts on death and life. These ideas grow out of each thinker's own thoughts and experiences of faith and God or lack thereof. Nicholi has done much original work in his research on the two personalities. Part two of two.

Traditional Arguments for God's Existence

Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God (
Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli
From the Handbook of Christian Apologetics, this comprehensive survey contains original arguments for God's existence with many expansions. Format: the argument is summarized, often illustrated, then objections are presented and answered.

A (Not So) Brief Defense of Christianity
Jimmy Williams
This wide-ranging compendium by a master Christian apologist covers the waterfront on topics that atheists, agnostics and other skeptics traditionally question: evidence for God's existence, the reliability of the Biblical documents, and the person of Jesus Christ. Williams briefly outlines the traditional arguments for God's existence in the first section.

Natural Theology, Teleology and the Anthropic Principle

The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle
Dr. William Lane Craig
The discovery during our generation of the so-called anthropic coincidences in the initial conditions of the universe has breathed new life into the teleological argument. Use of the Anthropic Principle to nullify our wonder at these coincidences is logically fallacious unless conjoined with the metaphysical hypothesis of a World Ensemble. There are no reasons to believe that such an Ensemble exists nor that, if it does, it has the properties necessary for the Anthropic Principle to function. Typical objections to the alternative hypothesis of divine design are not probative (that is, do not afford proof).

Is There a Role for Natural Theology Today?
By Dr. Owen Gingerich
Gingerich sets out to persuade—not to prove—that natural theology does indeed have a place in today's philosophical and scientific discussions. Despite the fact that modern science has rejected teleology, the idea that "design suggests...the existence of a goal-directed, end-directed process," still the sheer number of "astonishing details of the natural order...evoke a feeling of awe...." E.g., he explains star formation in relation to the incredible "coincidence" of carbon's function as the building block of life. Gingerich argues for the coherency of natural theology as a common convincer, via rhetoric—a maligned, misunderstood but important tool alongside logic.

Part I: Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang, and God
Dr. Henry "Fritz" Schaefer III
The most popular among thousands of resources at Dr. 'Fritz' Schaeffer's lecture on Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Draws together astrophysics with arguments for the existence of God. Part one of two.

Part II: Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang, and God
Dr. Henry "Fritz" Schaefer III
The most popular among thousands of resources at Dr. 'Fritz' Schaeffer's lecture on Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Touches on the anthropic principle, atheism, Hawking's "no boundary proposal," scientists of faith and the limits of science, ending with seven conclusions. Part two of two.

Is There Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God? How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe
Dr. Walter Bradley
Dr. Walter Bradley explores the overwhelming evidence from modern science for the existence of God. He considers three areas: 1) evidence for design in the universe; 2) the origin of the universe; and 3) the origin of life.

LeaderU Special Focus: Our Universe: Fine-Tuned for Life?
Edited by Byron Barlowe
Science is recently awash in discoveries related to just how finely tuned the universe must be to accommodate us and the rest of carbon-based life on our planet. Many believe the best explanation is a Creator. We examine the arguments in our Special Focus (posted on 2/8/02).

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

According to Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli (see Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God, above), "The Arabic word kalam literally means 'speech,' but came to denote a certain type of philosophical theology—a type containing demonstrations that the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. This sort of demonstration has had a long and wide appeal among both Christians and Muslims. Its form is simple and straightforward:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being."

Dr. William Lane Craig has famously revamped and expanded this argument.

Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause?: A Rejoinder
Dr. William Lane Craig
Wes Morriston maintains that a negative answer to the question, "Did the First Cause exist in time prior to creation?" forces the defender of the kalam cosmological argument to analyze the concept of 'beginning to exist' in a way that raises serious doubts about the argument's main causal principle and that it also undercuts the main argument for saying that the cause of the universe must be a person. Craig critiques Morriston's two-part critique in two reflective parts of his own: Must the Universe Have a Cause? and Must the Cause of the Universe Be a Person?

A Swift and Simple Refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?
Dr. William Lane Craig
John Taylor complains that the kalam cosmological argument gives the appearance of being a swift and simple demonstration of the existence of a Creator of the universe, whereas in fact a convincing argument involving the premiss that the universe began to exist is very difficult to achieve. But Taylor's proffered defeaters of the premisses of the philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe are themselves typically undercut due to Taylor's inadvertence to alternatives open to the defender of the kalam arguments. With respect to empirical confirmation of the universe's beginning Taylor is forced into an anti-realist position on the Big Bang theory, but without sufficient warrant for singling out that theory as non-realistic. Therefore, despite the virtue of simplicity of form, the kalam cosmological argument has not been defeated by Taylor's all too swift refutation.

Theism, Atheism / Faith & Reason

Faith and Reason: Friends or Foes?
Tim Garrett
Are faith and reason friends or foes? Does faith in Christ require checking your brain at the door? This essay presents three positions on faith and reason, from Tertullian, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

Hume, Kant, and Rational Theism
Dr. Hugo Meynell
"...I shall try to show that the case made by these philosophers against some at least of the traditional arguments for the existence of God can be refuted [Meynell deals briefly with each traditional argument, for example the cosmological argument, from Hume's and/or Kant's perspective]. By 'rational theism,' I shall mean the view that there are sound arguments for the existence of God, which do not either overtly or surreptitiously assume what they set out to establish.... Hume in effect confines our knowledge to experience, Kant to an apparent world created rather than reflected by our thought," and thus, cannot be compatible with scientific discovery of inferred phenomena or historical testimony, for example. Meynell argues, at bottom, for the intelligibility of the universe and against Hume and Kant's notion "that any entity or state of affairs the existence of which might be verified by appeal to experience, must itself be an actual or conceivable direct object of experience."

Theism, Atheism, and Rationality
Alvin Plantinga
Bertrand Russell famously said that, if awakened in heaven with God after dying, he would say to Him, "Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!" Plantinga critiques and refutes the evidentialist argument that belief in God is irrational or unreasonable, that there is a lack of evidence to hold such a belief.

LeaderU Special Focus: A Good God? The Problem of Evil
Edited by Byron Barlowe
Shootings. Natural disasters. "How could a good God allow all this evil and suffering?" That's probably the number one question on the lips of believers and skeptics alike. In fact, many atheological objections proffered by atheists center on this topic. Our Special Focus explores the possibility of real answers (posted 9/30/99).

Western Theism & Contemporary Christian Philosophy
Virtual Office of Dr. Robert C. Koons
Lecture notes and bibliography from Dr. Koons' Western Theism course (Phl 356) at the University of Texas at Austin, Spring 1998. Extensive outlines and notes on Western theism and Contemporary Christian Philosophy.

Alternative Viewpoints on, and Methods of, Christian Apologetics

The Apologetic Methodology of Blaise Pascal
Dr. Phil Fernandes
Dr. Fernandes outlines Pascal's apologetic methodology, which opposed the use of traditional proofs for God's existence, which he saw as a waste of time. "...Pascal's methodology could be classified as a type of psychological apologetics. For he attempted to speak to the entire man, not just the intellect." Fernandes attempts to show the relevance of the Pascalian method for today among people not always interested in rationality, but often very concerned about their existential experience.

A Conversation with an Atheist
Rick Wade
Rick Wade distills an in-depth e-mail dialogue with an atheist in which he addresses her doubts and arguments concerning the existence of God. She raised several objections: insufficient evidences for belief—she restricts meaningful knowledge to that accessible by scientific means, that is evidentialism; that belief in God adds nothing of value to life, and; that there are significant moral problems with theism. Rather than engage in proofs for God's existence, Wade analyzes this skeptic's presuppositions, placing the burden back on her to prove belief unwarranted.
Available in Español

Interview: Theism as a Properly Basic Belief
Interviewee: Dr. Alvin Plantinga
A brief interview with one of today's most important theistic philosophers who believes that apologetics and philosophy may persuade, but are insufficient to even foster belief in God. Plantinga maintains that one can know a proposition is true in several ways, but that does not mean that that knower can prove the knowledge to a skeptic. Belief in God being properly basic, in this sense, means it just makes sense, contrary to the opposite claim by many atheists. "...The arguments [for God's existence] are no doubt useful in some contexts. All I say is they're not necessary either for rationality or for knowledge."

Toward a Post-Apollonian Theology
Peter J. Leithart
Leithert calls into question the entire enterprise of the Church's response to the Enlightenment skeptics, in which the Triune God of revealed Scripture was replaced, according to Leithart, by an ordered, rational Apollonian Theistic caricature that stripped the Yahweh of the Bible of personalization and passion. "Hesitancy to confess the reality of this God has caused an incalculable impoverishment of the church's witness—quite a price to pay to secure a respectful hearing in the salon [philosophical circles]."

The Psychology of Atheism
Professor Paul C. Vitz
Not a proof for theism or against atheism, rather this article offers an unusual opportunity—especially for atheists—to examine possible emotional/psychological reasons for their intellectual commitments. Such reasons are common to people holding any view—they may mean more than one first appreciates.

Related Links Outside Leadership University

The Question of God: Two Different Lives
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Very well done page containing video vignettes of the PBS special The Question of God (see section on Nicholi articles at top). Each segment is brief enough to be practical while being extremely well produced. Transcripts also available. Don't miss other site channels, particularly Nine Conversations, in which individuals from a variety of perspectives from the publisher of Skeptic magazine to a Christian believer dialogue with Dr. Nicholi on topics like Science or Revelation? Why Believe? and Miracles. Three video segments available.
Top-notch Web site and other tools (e.g., radio programs) for high-level yet practical apologetics. From the About Us page: "The purpose of is to remove intellectual impediments to Christian faith, thereby enhancing believers' confidence in the truth of the gospel and increasing their effectiveness in communicating that truth to others."

Internet Infidels (The Secular Web)
Reportedly the largest atheist site on the Web, "The Secular Web is...operated by the Internet Infidels, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet."
A rather complete yet succinct Web-based reference outline of: Arguments for the Existence of God, Arguments for Atheism, Arguments for Agnosticism, Christian Ethics, a Directory, a Glossary, and a Library. Creator Tim Holt writes, "Many, though not all, philosophy of religion resources on the Internet consist either of brief lecture notes or of technical journal articles. Here I’ve tried to find a middle way between these two extremes, providing material that is detailed, but also concise and reasonably accessible."