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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does the God of the Bible Exist?

Don Stewart :: What Is the Teleological Argument for God's Existence?

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What Is the Teleological Argument for God’s Existence? (The Argument from Design)

Does the God of the Bible Exist? – Question 6

If there is a God who was the first cause of the universe, as the cosmological argument states, then what kind of God is He? What sort of God exists? The teleological argument answers this question. He is an intelligent cause.

The Universe Appears to Be Designed

The teleological argument comes from the Greek word telos, meaning “purpose, end, or goal.” It is an argument from design and purpose. Everything in the universe has a purpose and everything appears to have been specially designed to fit that purpose.

Everything Designed Indicates a Designer

If everything observable in the universe has a design and purpose, then why not the universe itself? There cannot be poetry without a poet, there cannot be music without a musician, and there cannot be design without a designer. The original or ultimate designer, or purposer, is God.

Although not directly arguing for God’s existence in this manner, the Bible assumes this to be the case. The psalmist wrote the following about the God of the Bible.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. (Psalm 104:14, 15 NRSV)

The biblical writers saw God behind the intricate design and balance of the universe. We read the following in Proverbs.

Ears that hear and eyes that see—the LORD has made them both. (Proverbs 20:12 NIV)

The design of the human body is credited to God.

The psalmist also noted how wonderfully the human body was constructed. He gave praise to God for such a marvelous creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14 NIV)

There is a majestic harmony in the universe. The order and design we see everywhere tells us that the Creator is not disorganized or that He does things some sort of haphazard way. The Creator has a purpose in everything that He does. From the most distant objects in space, to the minutest material detected by a microscope, we find order and design. This is the sign of an intelligent designer.

The Illustration from the Watch

One of the oldest illustrations that is used to point to design is that of a ticking, working, watch. When a person examines a watch it bears the all the marks of something that has been specifically designed. There are a number of parts of the watch that are put together for a purpose. They are arranged in such a way as to regulate the motion of the watch in order to tell time.

Two things can be inferred from looking at the design of a watch.

First, the watch had to have had a maker. Second, the maker had a purpose in mind when designing the watch. We make these conclusions even though we never saw the watch being made, never saw the watchmaker, or have no idea how the work could be done. We determine this because the end result, the watch, forces us to this conclusion.

In the same manner, when we look at the universe, and its intricate design, we assume that it had a Designer who wisely made it for a purpose. The belief in a Designer is not affected by the fact that we did not see Him, did not observe His construction, and cannot understand how He did it. Indeed, we believe in this Designer because the evidence forces us to that conclusion.

There is something else which we must appreciate. Although a watch demonstrates intricate design, how much more does the hand upon which the watch is worn show the obvious work of the Creator?

The value of the teleological argument is that it demonstrates that some intelligence made the universe in its present form. The universe is too intricate to have randomly come together. Chance does not explain the intelligent design that we find everywhere. It is too hard for us to imagine that the marvelous design of everything in the universe is a product of mere chance. Consequently, the argument from design gives evidence of the existence of a Creator as well as telling us something about His nature.

The Limitations of the Teleological Argument

While the teleological argument is consistent with the universe as we know it, there are, however, weaknesses or limitations in this argument. They are as follows.

1. There May Be No Source or Ultimate Designer

Perhaps the universe just seems designed. It is possible that everything occurred by blind chance. The fact that it looks designed does not mean that it is designed. Given enough time, it is argued that the universe could arrange itself.

2. The Intelligence May Be Impersonal

If the universe was designed by some intelligence, we do not if this intelligence is personal or impersonal. While it is possible that a personal intelligence created the universe it is also possible that what we see was not designed at all, but rather came about by a series of chance formations by some impersonal force.

3. The Designer May Be Finite, Not Infinite

If there is a Designer who made the universe, then it is possible that this designer is finite or limited in power rather than being infinite and all-powerful. From the design itself, we cannot know the nature of the designer.

4. There May Be Other Designers Who Exist

If the universe is designed by a designer, we do not know whether it is the only fashioner or designer that exists or whether the one who fashioned our universe is one of many designers. The designer may be the only one who exists or the designer may be one of many. Either is possible. From the design itself, we do not have an answer to this question. Thus, we cannot assume that the design and purpose of the universe can be traced back to a single origin.

5. The Designer May Owe His Power to Some Other Being Who Created Him

We do not know whether this designer is all-powerful or whether the designer owes its power to some other being with greater power. Again, it is possible that the designer of our universe is not necessarily the being with the greatest power.

6. There Are Destructive Forces in the Universe and Processes That Seem to Lack a Purpose

There is one more thing. Although the universe seems to testify to one grand design, there are processes in the universe which seem to be destructive. Other processes seem to be without any real purpose. These processes must be accounted for if one it to argue for a universe that is designed. In other words, if the universe has been designed, why do we find disharmony? This seem inconsistent with the idea of a perfect designer.

Furthermore, if one assumes that some God is the designer of the universe, then what do we do with the fact that there is evil in the world? If He designed everything, then is He not the cause of evil?

Again, while the teleological argument is helpful, it does not prove the existence of God.

Summary – Question 6
What Is the Teleological Argument for God’s Existence? (The Argument from Design)

The teleological argument is the argument from design. As we examine the universe it appears to be designed. Indeed, everywhere we look we seem to find evidence of design. We also know that every design has a designer. Since the universe is one big grand design there must be a designer behind it. That designer is God.

While the argument from design is consistent with the idea of a God who exists there are weaknesses in it.

For one thing, the universe may only appear to be designed. It is possible that the design we think we see is not really a design at all.

Furthermore, the so-called designer of the universe does not have to be God; it may be some impersonal force. We cannot tell the identity of the designer from merely looking at the universe as it now stands.

If there is a designer, it may be a finite or limited being not an infinite being. Again, from the universe itself there is no way of telling which it is. Either is possible.

There is also the possibility that other designers exist. Indeed, the designer of our universe may have someone or something that designed him. We just do not know.

Finally, if the universe is designed, then how do we explain the destructive forces in nature? Since there is death, destruction and all sorts of evil in the world the designer must be evil. At the very least, it seems that he is not perfect.

To sum up, the argument from design is consistent with some sort of God who exists, but by itself it does not provide convincing evidence.

What Is the Cosmological Argument for God's Existence? ← Prior Section
What Is the Anthropological Argument for God's Existence? Next Section →
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