Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Critique of Ray Comfort's Argument for God's Existence

By Ryan Hemelaar

Ray ComfortRay Comfort, founder of the ministry Way of the Master and who was also featured on a 2007 ABC Nightline debate on the existence of God, has one main argument he uses to prove the existence of God. It goes something like this:

"When you see a building, how do you know there was a builder? The building is proof of the builder. When you see a painting, how do you know there was a painter? The painting is proof of a painter. In the same way, if you look at the trees, the birds and the rest of creation, creation proves there was a creator."

Now this argument sounds pretty reasonable. It is based on the Thomistic Cosmological Argument for the existence of God put in analogous form. However, this argument has one major flaw, and so I would like to point it out and suggest a modification to Ray's argument in order to correct it.

The Problem

In Ray Comfort's argument, the reason why a building must have a builder is because the building exists. Similarly, for the painting and then for the creation. So to put Ray's argument in a formal form, it would go something like this:

  1. Everything that exists has a creator.
  2. The universe (creation) is something that exists.
  3. Therefore, the universe (creation) has a creator.

If you are any bit familiar with Thomas Aquinas' arguments, you'll realise that this is pretty much exactly one of his proofs for God. The only problem with it however is that we as Christians affirm that God exists, therefore according to the first premise, God would also need a creator.

When Ray Comfort has been presented with this objection, he responds that God had no creator, sometimes making reference to the impossibility of infinite regression. While it is true that infinite regression is impossible, by Ray's own words, he has denied his own first premise. For it's no longer, "Everything that exists had a creator" as God does not conform to it and thus Ray can no longer point to something and say that it obviously must have had a creator.

The Solution

There is a solution to this problem. Just like the Thomistic Cosmological Argument for the existence of God as been largely abandoned in favour of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, I hope it can be the same with Ray Comfort's argument. Put formally the Kalam Cosmological Argument reads as follows:

  1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause (creator).
  2. The universe has a beginning.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause (creator).

This argument does not succumb to the same problem as Aquinas and Ray Comfort's argument. As God's eternal existence does not refute the first premise, since God had no beginning and thus requires no cause. So no longer can an unbeliever defeat the argument on that basis, although you might want to explain to them if they ask why God couldn't have had a beginning (please see this article for some reasons why).

However, some may say this argument is too advanced for a few people, so it would be useful for me to explain how you could use this argument with the same simplicity as Ray's. Try this:

"Just say you came to this very spot a number of years ago when this building right here was not yet built. Then you come back to this very spot today and notice that the building exists. How do we know there was a builder for it? Well because it exists today and didn't exist a number of years ago. In the same way, since science says that the universe had a beginning, if we look at the trees, the birds, and the rest of the universe/creation, the fact the universe/creation exists today and didn't at one stage in the past, proves that there must have been a creator to it."

There are obviously many different ways you can use this argument with different examples (maybe you can suggest some in the comments below?). I just hope that this will prevent the objection coming up in the unbeliever's mind that a logical fallacy has been committed in saying that God does not conform to the very argument that you're presenting (if you're using Ray Comfort's argument).


  1. One could, of course, as most atheists do, agree to the first and second premise, but deny God as the cause.

    Point 3 only follows from 1 and 2 with God as creator if He can be argued to be the only possible cause.

  2. Nathan, in the actual Kalam Cosmological Argument article I investigate what we can know about this cause. And the conclusion that is reached there, basically aligns with what most Christians define as God (personal, powerful, intelligent, uncaused, etc).

    But most of the time one doesn't need to go so in-depth like that when witnessing to an unbeliever, as generally they will accept that the definition of 'God' is simply the creator of the universe. And the argument proves a creator to the universe, thus it proves God's existence.

  3. Ryan,
    I appreciate the gracious critique of this particular argument used by Comfort. I think the solution you suggest is reasonable and more effective.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. Thank you for your clarity of thought and syllogism. I was unfamiliar with the term "Kalam etc.", though have heard Sproul use it from time to time.

    Are you familiar with the presuppositional method made famous by Bahnsen, Frame and originated by...Paul the apostle? (Actually, most attribute it to Cornelius Van Til...I'd argue it goes back to Moses and the Holy Spirit...)

    I'm interested in a pedestrian version of the TAG argument. I'll keep searching your blog.




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