MUST-READ: J.P. Moreland’s argument for theism from consciousness

Here’s a post from Thinking Matters New Zealand.


Last year, the release of J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig’s Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology saw a lot of attention. And quite rightly. The Companion marshalled some of most cutting-edge work in the field of the philosophy of religion and showed why natural theology is fast becoming an exciting scholarly domain again. But in the shadow of the Companion’s release, another of Moreland’s works was published: The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism. Although it might not have got the same amount of attention, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei also represented an important entry in the contest of ideas and a powerful defense of theism. In it, Moreland argues for the theistic position by way of a stinging attack on naturalism and its failure to answer the problem of consciousness and account for the basic facts of human experience, such as free will, rationality, and intrinsic value.

And here’s the formal argument:

1. Genuinely non-physical mental states exist.

2. There is an explanation for the existence of mental states.

3. Personal explanation is different from natural scientific explanation.

4. The explanation for the existence of mental states is either a personal or natural scientific explanation.

5. The explanation is not a natural scientific one.


6. The explanation is a personal one.

7. If the explanation is personal, then it is theistic.


8. The explanation [for the existence of mental states] is theistic.

That’s the argument. Each of the premises needs to be more likely than not for the argument to go through. And you can read about how each premise is supported in this helpful post from Bill Vallicella at Prosblogion. This is good little argument to ad to your quiver of scientific arguments. I think this argument and moral argument are two nice little philosophical arguments that show that theism is the necessary starting point for morality and rationality. Particles in motion will not do the job.

I actually learned about this argument by reading chapter 3 of “Scaling the Secular City”, and listening to J.P. Moreland lectures. If you want to learn about this argument in a lecture, try this one. This is one of my favorite lectures. It was delivered at the University of Georgia. That’s the one I use when I’m training this argument, along with his lecture on “The Invisible Man” for Stand to Reason’s Masters Series, which is also good. Moreland also does public debates.

I notice that the new book mentioned above is quite expensive, and you’d be better off buying “Body and Soul” and “Philosophical Foundations for a  Christian Worldview”. SPCK is an academic press and so their books are very expensive, compared to IVP.

4 thoughts on “MUST-READ: J.P. Moreland’s argument for theism from consciousness”

  1. It supports my notion that the “argument from sufficient cause” covers a lot of apologetical ground. Consciousness not only requires a cause, but a sufficient cause, and, as you’ve said, colliding molecules doesn’t cut it.

  2. Thanks for posting this concise formula. JP is a brilliant asset to the community. I recently encountered Mormons that argue for philosophical materialism. This was helpful!

  3. I would really like to hear Moreland’s lecture at University of Georgia that you mention here. The link on this page no longer works, and I can’t find it. Can you help?

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