Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Is 2+2=4 more certain than God's existence?

Some Christian apologists say 2+2=4 is more certain than God's existence. But is that true? 

2+2=4 may be more evident than God's existence, but is it more certain? Usually, God's existence isn't directly evident because God provides the background conditions for everything else. Of course, there are situations where God can and does make himself directly evident.

Now, it seems to be the case that 2+2=4 is a paradigm-example of a necessary truth. Nothing can be more certain than that. 

However, it's easy to imagine an evolutionary scenario in which we were arbitrarily hardwired to think 2+2=4. We can't help thinking that's the case, we can't doubt it, even if that doesn't correspond to reality. That's just how we were programmed by blind evolution.

Sure, we number things, we count things, but that's because we think they can be grouped into collections of twos and fours. But again, what if that's something we project onto physical objects (or events)?

So the deeper question is whether there's something that makes it the case that 2+2=4? And is that something God? 

I don't mean in a voluntaristic sense, as if that equation is "true" by divine fiat. Rather, mathematical structures are an aspect of God's own mind.

My objective isn't to lay out the argument for that. I'm just pointing out that as a matter of principle, God's existence may be more fundamental than mathematical equations. If so, then God's existence is more certain than mathematical equations. Their certainty is derivative. It depends on God's existence. Again, that requires an argument, and there's an argument to be had for that. 


  1. Steve, without God as the foundation for mathematical truths, how would one know that 2 + 2 = 4 tomorrow or next year? Is it satisfactory to note that it was the case yesterday and today?

  2. Reminds me of Anderson and Welty's Lord of Non - Contradiction

  3. Similar argument made here: https://frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PoythressVernRedeemingMathematics.pdf