25 Transcendental Argument: Where Does Logic Come From?

Have you ever thought about what grounds the laws of logic and mathematics? We know they work, but why? The Christian apologist has a quick answer: God sustains them, and nothing besides God could explain the existence of something as fundamental as logic. The Transcendental Argument for God challenges the atheist to resolve this any other way.

In response, let’s consider physics, one branch of science dependent on logic and math. We have never gotten physics from Christianity before, so why go to Christianity now to find the fundamental basis for physics? The Bible explains how everything got started, but science shows with evidence that the Bible is wrong.

There’s a difference between having an answer based on faith and having an answer backed up by evidence. No honest seeker of the truth says, “I don’t know what causes this . . . so therefore I do know! It must have been God.”

Apologists sometimes undercut the relationship of God to logic when they dodge puzzles like “Can God make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it?” They’ll respond that God can’t do anything illogical—he can’t make an impossibly heavy rock, a square circle, or a married bachelor. They say the question is ill-formed. But by dodging this pitfall, they land in another as God’s actions become constrained by an external logic. If God is bound by logic, logic isn’t arbitrary. God can’t change it, and he didn’t create it. He acts logically because he must, just like the rest of us.

Suppose God exists, and he created arithmetic. Were God’s hands tied in creating arithmetic, or did he have some creative control? For example, 2 + 2 = 4 in our universe. Could God have made 2 + 2 = 9? If so, prove it. And if not, God was obliged to make arithmetic the way it is and unable to create any other kind. Here again, he answered to an external reality.

But let’s assume the apologist’s argument and see what happens. They say our familiar logic is the way it is because God made it so, and a godless universe might have no logic or different logical truths. In our universe, for example, the Law of Identity says X can’t be the same thing as not-X. Something can’t simultaneously be a rock and not-a-rock, but the apologists are claiming that something might be a rock and not-a-rock in a godless universe. Or maybe that a godless universe would be a universe without properties. Could a property-less universe even exist? These claims are groundless without evidence.

Arguments like the Ontological, Design, Cosmological, and Transcendental Arguments are all deist arguments, which means that if they were convincing, the Christian would be no further in showing it was the Christian god in charge than any other god.

Asking why we have our familiar physical laws and not others is a fair question, but it gives no evidence for the supernatural. “God did it” is simply a repackaging of “I don’t know,” because it tells us nothing new. How did God do it? Why did God do it? Who is he and where did he come from? Since the apologist has no answers with evidence to each of these new fundamental questions, let’s just save a step and not replace a natural unknown with a supernatural one.

Image credit: David Fulmerk (CC BY 2.0) via flickr


Deist argument: Deists and theists both believe in god(s), but the deist doesn’t believe that they interact with the universe. A deist argument argues for god(s) but makes no argument about any god’s identity—it’s as likely Allah or Zeus as Yahweh.

Logic: Imagine someone using logic to make the Transcendental Argument. But was that a valid argument? If that argument wasn’t circular, it argued using logic without assuming God. This very argument then shows that God isn’t required for logic!