Richard Swinburne

Richard Swinburne

May16, 2016

EDMONTON - Faith is the evidence of things unseen, but evidence helps.

Thus the marvel of The Existence of God, a keynote lecture by Prof. Richard Swinburne of Oxford University, delivered at the Atheism and the Christian Faith conference at Concordia University of Edmonton on May 6.

Swinburne uses scientific evidence, mathematics and reasoning to form logical and convincing arguments to prove the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly free, perfectly good and everlasting God.

"The paradigm of knowledge of modern humans is science," said Swinburne. "You have to start from where the modern world is."

The British philosopher, 81, has applied his understanding of science to Christian theism over the past 50 years, becoming one of the most influential proponents of philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

He is considered by many to be one of the most distinguished philosophers of our time, said Bill Anderson, professor of religious studies at Concordia.

His lectures on the hypothesis of theism incorporate the technical works of academic philosophy. His rigorous standards of proof pique the interest of the most learned of scientists.

Swinburne was to be ordained a priest in the Church of England when he opted to become a professional philosopher.

"I was very conscious of the fact that the Church at that time seemed to have very inadequate answers to objections from the secular world," he said.

Swinburne saw that the discipline had high standards of rigorous argument which he thought might be used to defend Christianity, rather than oppose it.

Swinburne studied the history of science - how scientists come to adopt one theory rather than another - and spent the first 10 years of his philosophical career writing about the philosophy of science.

While the view of some scientists is that the simplest explanation is that there is no God, Swinburne maintains that the simplest explanation is the existence of God.

"Theism is a very simple hypothesis indeed, and simpler - I suggest - than any inanimate hypothesis which could be constructed," said Swinburne, stressing the importance of the criterion of simplicity.

"A hypothesis is only rendered probable by evidence insofar as it is simple."

After lectures, he welcomes lengthy question and answer periods with attempts to refute his conclusions. His own research of arguments opposing God's existence has only brought him closer to belief.