An Apologetic Issue With Deism

Deism. The belief that God created the world but is not sustaining it providentially. In other words, though God exists, he has no interaction with the created world. This term is also used to support the view that true religion is a natural religion grounded in reason rather than any authoritative special revelation.[1]

Most people who are deists are convinced that some god exists because of something like the Cosmological Argument. All things that exist have a cause; the Universe exists; therefore the Universe has a cause. That cause is God.

It’s easy enough to agree with that little syllogism. It’s actually a stretch to deny it.

Now the deist would rightly claim that the Cosmological Argument, and many other apologetic arguments, proves only that a god exists. These arguments say nothing about a god acting inside of space and time. It’s true. A great deal of apologetics is meant to give evidence for theism (belief in a god).

The deist has another problem though. It may be one they haven’t considered. Once a person assents to theism and then makes a move to deism, they are standing on some thin philosophical ice. It’s very difficult to hold to a belief in the kind of god it would take to create the Universe and continue to hold onto an aversion to miracles, a common problem deists have with Christianity. This difficulty exists because of one á priori commitment that deists have. God has already worked a miracle according to deist’s own beliefs.

Deism. Deism is the belief in a God who made the world but who never interrupts its operations with supernatural events. It is a theism minus miracles (see Miracle).[2]

Christians and deists already have a common understanding of what a miracle is.

Both the deist and the Christian would agree that a miracle is by definition, anything God does supernaturally, anything that occurs apart from the natural.

As I said before, deists do not believe in miracles because they do not believe that God acts in space or time. He (God) simply sat things in motion, they would say, and left them to their own future consequences.

I’m curious though. An apologetics issue with deism would be, what kind of idea is it that postulates a god who creates a universe (BIG MIRACLE), yet holds to a view that opposes miracles?Deists oppose the idea that miracles occur. Why? They do so because they do not see miracles occur, yet they already admit that at least one miracle has occurred, creation. Most deists are not realists but empiricists, it would seem.

An argument for deism should look like this:

  1. God, who created the universe, was outside of it.
  2. Miracles do not occur inside of the universe.
  3. Therefore, God remains outside of the universe.

This argument assumes a couple of things I can be critical of.

The first is the assumption that for God to act inside of the universe he must do so in the form of a miracle and he may not act through ordinary means.

The second is that the miracle of the creation of the universe ceased to be miraculous when the event of creation ceased.

The first assumption is a huge one in my opinion. Why would someone think that all of God’s actions are miraculous? Why would anyone think that he does not or would not act through the ordinary? Why assume that if God created ex nihilo (from nothing) all that is, he only acts in such a grand scale or uses such extra-ordinary methods as it takes to create space, time, or matter?

It only seems logical that if God spoke the universe into existence, an action that would require a great deal of power, he may easily control much less powerful things such as weather on Earth or the wills of men. If a person can build a truck, surely he can change channels on the radio, change gears, and steer the truck. This person (God) not only assembled the truck, he made all of the parts from nothing! It doesn’t make any sense to say that he never drives it, tinkers with the carburetor, or washes and waxes it.

The fact that the second design filter allows for deism need not derail Christian apologetics, since the chapters that follow will make the case that the Designer has revealed himself in Christ and the Bible, thus refuting the distant God of deism.[3]

Next, it is another fallacious assumption to believe that because everything that has already come into existence is self-sustaining. Science itself seems to disprove that assumption, not to mention the teleological argument or fine-tuning. There are just too many factors at play that if even one of them varied in an extremely finite degree all would be lost. We are, as some say, dancing on the razors edge of existence all of the time.

Just as it is no accident that the universe came into existence, it is not an accident that it remains in existence. Take that truck again. Why would someone build such a thing and never fuel it, change the brakes, or check the coolant? Sure, it might happen, but its not likely. It’s possible but not probable, especially when we see the truck running up and down the highway, always shiny, and never overheating. Someone’s maintaining the truck man!

Ultimately deists have to deal with other arguments like the Resurrection of Jesus, the existence of inspired Script, and the changed lives of billions of people (the Church). All of these are hard to get around. But I hope to have at least pointed to the strangeness of deism, its improbability if not its logical inconsistency.

In the end, deists have less of an aversion to theism as they do anything that damages their autonomy. They are committed to autonomous reason, as are most people. It is not an intimate God that they fear as much as it is an intimate and just God that not only cares for his creation but also holds it accountable.

You’ll see the following Scripture in many of my articles. 

 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (ESV) Holy Bible

[1] Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 32). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (p. 189). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Groothuis, D. (2011). Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (p. 328). Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Apollos.

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