Norman Geisler’s Neo-Thomistic Apologetics -- By: Richard A. Purdy

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:3 (Sep 1982)
Article: Norman Geisler’s Neo-Thomistic Apologetics
Author: Richard A. Purdy


Norman Geisler’s Neo-Thomistic Apologetics

Richard A. Purdy*

Norman L. Geisler has done an extraordinary thing in the contemporary world of apologetics. Discontent with the often uncritically-accepted Humean and Kantian analyses of Thomas Aquinas’ theistic proofs, he has attempted a twentieth-century reconstruction of the cosmological argument based on “existential causality”—a concept he considers misunderstood and frequently confused with Leibniz’ law of sufficient reason.

In doing this, he has gone against the tide of Protestant apologetics and attempted to bridge Protestant and Roman Catholic apologetics.1 His work therefore is immensely important as a clarification of the Thomistic proofs for theism.

I. Leibniz On Sufficient Reason

Leibniz divided reason into two laws: (1) contradiction, and (2) sufficient reason—which asserts that the existence of facts and the truth of propositions are contingent on “sufficient reasons.”2

According to Geisler most apologists follow Leibniz, basing their cosmological argument on the law of sufficient reason and falling prey to at least two of Kant’s criticisms: (1) infinite regress (of sufficient reasons) and (2) restriction to the conceptual realm. Kant argued that there is no way to pass from the conceptual to the ontological realms.3 The ontological argument does not help here. The reason follows.

II. The Missing Premise In The Ontological Argument

The traditional ontological argument of Anselm was stated in two forms.

The first form begins with the definition of God as an absolutely perfect Being. Since existence is a necessary predicate of perfection, it follows that God exists necessarily. Kant, however, denied that existence is a predicate on the ground that it adds nothing to the concept of a thing.

The second form premises the conceivability of a necessary Being and concludes with the necessary existence of this Being.

*Richard Purdy teaches at St. Paul’s Bible Institute in Norwalk, Connecticut.

At this point, Geisler breaks in with his “implied premise.” He argues that “the ontological argument does not claim that whatever is possible to conceive as existing must necessarily exist but only what is necessary to conceive as existing must necessarily exist.”4 he mistaken major premise is that the rational is the real.

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