How the Transcendental Argument Proves Atheism Is Incoherent

The transcendental argument for the existence of God usually has something like the following form: (1) logical absolutes imply a transcendent mind, because nothing short of a transcendent mind is adequate to explain why they should exist; (2) logical absolutes exist, therefore a transcendent mind exists. Dostoyevsky’s “If God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted” is also a kind of transcendental argument; like all such arguments, it seeks to prove the existence of God by demonstrating the absurdity of the contrary.

According to the transcendental argument, God is the necessary precondition for universal categories, such as logic, morality, the uniformity of nature, etc. Why’s that a problem for atheism? Because atheism, like all worldviews, presupposes universal categories; consequently, it presupposes its own negation. Let’s take a look at some typical examples of atheist incoherence:

  • All truth is relative=itself an absolute statement regarding truth

  • There is no truth=itself a truth claim

  • Life is meaningless=self-refuting because the statement “life is meaningless” must also be meaningless (if true to its own internal logic), for the part can’t be greater than the whole

  • One can’t know anything for sure=itself an absolute knowledge claim; self-refuting because agnosticism implies one has absolute knowledge of one’s own ignorance

  • Appeals to logical consistency=an ethical claim that one ought to be logical; begs the question, why should one be logical?

  • All knowledge is empirical= a self-contradiction because you cannot arrive at this conclusion through empirical means; “all knowledge is empirical” is actually a metaphysical (and epistemological) position

  • Everything’s a social construct=if everything is a social construct, then the idea that everything is a social construct is also a social construct and therefore untrue

  • Determinism=no reason to believe your thought processes in any way correspond to the truth; they are, after all, completely determined by non-rational material forces, like everything else; you can’t claim your philosophy is true, only inevitable; can’t take credit for anything if all your actions are determined; on this view, you are the moral equivalent of a patch of ragweed

  • Everything is matter=first of all, a universal claim that can’t be demonstrated through the scientific method; assumes language can effectively communicate abstract concepts from one brain to another, etc., but can’t account for why this should be possible on a materialist worldview in which everything is in perpetual flux; assumes the uniformity of nature, but can’t account for it; can give no justification for the principle of inductive reasoning, which is the basis of scientific knowledge; if evolution true, no reason to assume that what has been evolutionarily selected-for has anything to do with truth or morality as such; by the way, is logic matter? what about morality? beauty? love?   

  • Atheism combined with moral indignation=obviously irrational since no basis for morality on this worldview; atheists don’t act as if their worldview is true; really act as if logical absolutes exist; really act as if there is free will; really act as if morality is universally and objectively valid; thus, atheists always presuppose the very God they are seeking to deny; they are always sawing off the branch they’re sitting on; begs the question, why should one be moral?

  • I don’t need God to be a good person=perhaps you don’t need God to be a good person, but you do need God for the concept of “good person” to make any kind of sense at all

  • God can’t exist because the world is full of evil=the problem with the problem of evil is that it tacitly assumes something that doesn’t make sense apart from the existence of God: absolute moral standards

  • Atheists’ utilitarian morality=arbitrary and unjustified; moreover, it isn’t obvious how you’re supposed to apply it; e.g., no principled basis to value a lot of happiness for five people less than a little happiness for 500

  • Dualism=how did matter and the realm of forms get together in the first place?

  • Pragmatism=might replaces right; utility replaces truth; ends in total solipsism and absurdism

It’s clear that atheism simply cannot account for the existence of universal categories, even as it relies on them to make sense out of human experience; it is incoherent. By contrast, logic, morality, the uniformity of nature, human freedom, mathematical concepts, beauty, love, etc., are readily intelligible on a theistic framework. Says Dr. Bahnsen: “The proof of the Christian worldview is that, without it, you couldn’t prove anything.”

Still, we shouldn’t expect the transcendental argument to convince everyone: just because an argument is objectively valid doesn’t mean everyone will find it subjectively compelling. In the end, people believe in God because they want to, and disbelieve in God because they want to.

All worldviews are stands on the following seven central issues:

  1. What is human nature? For example, are we fundamentally good? Fundamentally corrupt? Are we simply blank slates, to be molded this way or that by the omnipotent state? Are we all basically the same or are there innate, unalterable differences between races, the sexes, etc.?

  2. What is the relationship between the individual and the greater whole? E.g., family, race, society, God, etc.

  3. What is the nature of morality? E.g., is it objective and universal or subjective and relative?

  4. To what extent do we have free will?

  5. What can be known?

  6. Does God exist? 

  7. What is the purpose of life? E.g., is it to eat, drink and be merry? Is life here a preparation for something else?