The Anthropological Argument: Part 1

The Anthropological argument is actually a family of arguments, all of which have human beings as their starting point. An Anthropological Argument for God’s existence is then any argument which begins with man and ends with God as an explanation. In this post I shall briefly summarise examples of popular anthropological arguments and how they have been employed. In my next post I shall state and defend a specific anthropological argument, and examine if it is a good and convincing argument.

Some examples of anthropological arguments are;

(1) The argument from the human body as an exquisite biological machine. (2) The argument from the beauty of a human person in the totality of his being. Both of these however, in my opinion, are best described as a type of the teleological argument. It is understandable that the categories in Natural Theology would have some cross-over.

(3) The argument from mind or consciousness of human beings could be described as anthropological. However this is a large field of enquiry in both breadth and depth, and besides this strictly does not argue for God’s existence – at most I think it proves that God’s existence as an immaterial mind is possible because immaterial minds are exemplified in the human persons. Accordingly this type of argument I think should be placed in a separate category of its own.

(4) Blaise Pascal’s whole apologetic method was anthropological. Unhappy with the traditional arguments for God’s existence efficacy to convince, he decided to start with something people could not ignore – themselves. His first step was to dispel apathy. He would then observe that man is simultaneously noble and wretched. For instance,

“The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to be wretched. A tree does not know itself to be wretched. So it is wretched to know one’s wretchedness but it is great to know that one is wretched. (218)”

So man is wretched because the universe can easily crush him like a reed. But man is noble because he knows this, while neither the reed nor the universe takes any note. After other examples he goes on to explain how it is only the Christian religion that is able to explain this seemingly contradictory state.

(5) C.S. Lewis included an anthropological type argument in his apologetic. This was captured in a song by New Zealand’s popular singer/songwriter Brooke Fraser.

“If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the felsh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
?then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined, I’m compared.”

(6) Francis Schaeffer used an anthropological type argument in conjunction with his cosmological arguments, arguing a universe that includes personal beings must be a result of a personal cause, for a non-personal universe cannot produce personal beings. This argument by itself seems thin on the ground, but gains its force in the context of the rest of his writings.

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