Does the Boeing 747 argument come down for a smooth landing or totally crash? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
With the Reason Rally coming up and Richard Dawkins speaking, we can be sure new atheists will be wanting to promote Dawkins’s main argument against theism. He refers to this as the ultimate Boeing 747 argument. From my perspective, it is in fact the ultimate crash landing.
Dawkins asks us to realize that we Christians believe that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. In all of this, we must serve a God that is complex. Now if we believe that complex things on Earth require a designer, then God must be infinitely more complex and God Himself must need a designer, so who designed the designer?
Really, the question of “Who made God?” is one I might expect a child in Sunday School to ask. I don’t expect an Oxford writer with a PH.D. to ask this kind of question and think that it is the ultimate stumper. I even remember one atheist telling me that David Hume refuted all of Aquinas by asking this question. The reality is, Aquinas would react to the question the way I do. It would be with laughter.
How much is wrong with this argument? To begin with, let’s suppose that it is true that complex things need designers. Then we can point out that the complexity we see in life does require a designer. If complex things do not require a designer, then we can just as easily say God does not either.
Supposing also we get to a creator of the universe, if we are asked how He came to be and we answer “We don’t know, but we have enough evidence that He is there,” then the position STILL needs to be dealt with. Because it is not known how God would come to be, it does not mean that He is not there. There could still be a creator outside the universe.
A lot of readers are thinking “Geez Nick. Aren’t you assuming the big question? Aren’t you assuming that God came to be?” Not at all! I am granting that possibility for the sake of argument, but that is the biggest flaw. Dawkins has not shown that God “came to be” or is in the category of “Things made.”
For Dawkins who believes in a materialist universe, it is not surprising that he thinks of God in terms of matter. This is an assumption he does not give evidence for. Christians do not hold God to be material and if he wishes to argue against our belief system, he needs to treat it as it is. He cannot just make God material.
In fact, I instead hold to the idea that God is simple. By saying God is simple, I do not mean that He is easy to understand. This is a misunderstanding that can regularly happen. Am I saying that because God is simple that He is easy to fathom? Not for a second. Simplicity refers to His nature. It does not refer to our understanding of His nature.
Let us follow the route of Aquinas and consider what we see here on Earth. We have beings that are a combination of matter and form. My wife and I both possess human natures, but the natures we have are differentiated by the matter that we have. We do not possess the same matter and are different persons thus.
If we walk down the street, we could see poodles, pugs, terriers, pit bulls, dalmations, great danes, etc. All of these could be quite different, but in all of them we could recognize something that is called dog. This is the form of dog and there are variations of that form and differentiations expressed through matter.
On the other hand, my wife and I could think about a future child of ours. We can imagine him or her and even give a name. At this point, this child is not real. The child is only real insofar as there is something being imagined. He is real the way we could say Clark Kent is real.
Now let us suppose we had the idea and then the idea became a reality. What would have been added? It would have been existence. There is a distinction then between matter and form and existence.
After we humans, in Christian thought, there are angels next and angels are not material. Still, angels have forms, or we could say essences, and then they have existence. This is also why Aquinas says that each angel is its own essence since they cannot be differentiated by matter.
Now the atheists might want to say “Angels aren’t real!” You’re free to think that, but in the Christian view angels are real and it will not work against the argument to say “You can’t say that because angels aren’t real.” You need to understand the system and then show the flaw in the system itself instead of just asserting it.
So now we come up to God. How is God different? For God, there is no distinction between existence and essence. God’s own essence is what it means to be. He is not limited by anything else. If he were, He would be just another creature in need of a creator as well. If you know what it means to truly exist without limitations, just look at God. Think of anything that exists and remove any limitations and as the limitations are removed, you are getting to God.
To ask then “Who made God?” is to ask a question like “Who created existence?” In that case, either an existent being did it, in which case He could not have created existence itself for he already exists, or existence was created by non-existence, which is just absurd.
While new atheists might jump up and down with this question as if they have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the reality is that this kind of objection just makes them look further like a joke.
Let’s hope this question will finally be put to rest.