The nomological argument for God’s existence

Since the 1960s, despite the heyday of logical positivism, there has been a resurgence of the traditional metaphysical argument to prove the existence of God. We’ve heard of the “big three” arguments: ontological, cosmological, and teleological.

The ontological or “a priori” argument tries to establish the necessity of God’s existence by explaining the concept of necessary being. St. Anselm, for example, argued that “God is the being none other than which can be conceived.”


Other variations are Alvin Platinga’s “modal” and Kurt Godel’s “higher-order.” 

Cosmological arguments posit that God’s existence can be inferred from facts concerning causation, change, motion, explanation, contingency, dependency, finitude with respect to the universe, or some totality of objects.

Teleological arguments (Palley’s biological for design and “fine-tuning”) try to prove that the world exhibits an intelligent purpose based on experiences from nature, such as order, design, unity, symmetry, coherence, and complexity, implying a “supreme designer.”

Other forms of arguments have received serious discussion recently. These involve morals, religious experience, miracles, consciousness, reason and aesthetics.

Regularities of nature

Now, what about the nomological argument?

Derived from the Greek nomos, which means “law,” the nomological argument is based on the laws of nature or “regularities,” such as that planets have elliptical orbits, the speed of light is the same in all frames of reference, or oppositely charged particles attract.

It may be illustrated by a game of poker. Suppose you are dealt five consecutive royal flushes. Two hypotheses could come to fore: Either you received the cards by chance or someone arranged the decks for you. In all probability, the former would seem unlikely and the latter may be the better explanation: Someone is responsible.

According to the nomological argument, the best explanation for regularities in nature is a supernatural personal being, who is God. In this sense, it may not be necessary for God to have all the attributes of a biblical God—omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection— but only that God is an intelligent being with the power to control nature’s regularities.

A point of clarification, though. The nomological argument is not synonymous with the teleological or “design” one.

While a teleological argument points to an “intelligent design” and tries to ask specific questions of regularities (say, why well-adapted species exist today due to regularities of natural selection and genetics), the nomological argument tries to ask the general question: Why are there regularities at all, as opposed to irregularities?

Imposing an order

In the string of royal flushes—which, as we pointed out, likely involves a person—we could deduce some pragmatic, aesthetic, and even moral reasons a person might want to impose order on decks of cards. Maybe a pragmatic reason is self-interest: Someone might impose such an order on the card decks because they want you to win some money. Perhaps an aesthetic reason is beauty or elegance: Royal flushes look nice. And maybe a moral reason could be that you deserve to win.

By the same token, we can deduce pragmatic, aesthetic, and even moral reasons God would want to impose regularities on nature: Very likely, for example, in a world without regularities, the transcendent values of love, happiness, rationality, knowledge, free choice, or meaningful relationships may not just be realized. And since God is a person, it is plausible to think God may have moral and aesthetic preferences. If we knew that a personal being was about to create a world, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for us to anticipate regularities, even if we knew nothing else about that being.

Ah, enough with philosophizing (or rationalizing). I’d like to veer back to the immanence of real life.

Empirically proving or rationally arguing the existence of God is one thing, while believing in God is another.

Undeniably, there are those who can reason out and believe, and others who, even without reasoning out, simply believe.

“Faith begins where reason ends,” they say.

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the case may be incomprehensible to the finite human mind but remains reasonable. In this sense, knowing precedes faith (for example, you can readily believe or love a person if you would know him or her first).

On the other hand, St. Augustine of Hippo contended that “credo ut intelligam” (I believe in order that I may understand). Believing is possible even before knowing or understanding (for example, if love encompasses all, then it is possible to love a person even if you do not know him or her). Bulag na pag-ibig?

But given the inevitability of human incompleteness and imperfection, of natural and moral evils, of pain and suffering in this world, it is but more meaningful or practicable to have a comforting belief in a supreme being, or personal God—“incomprehensible yet reasonable,” a “transcendent yet immanent,” a “mysterious yet real” companion in our life journey.

After all, what is more exigent is not proving or disproving, but experiencing the reality of God—and living a meaningful and satisfying life. Benedictus Deus!

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