Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Proofs for the Existence of God

Proofs for the Existence of God

          I wrote last week about the epidemic of relativism that is plaguing our Western society, and especially our youth, and I noted the importance of demonstrating to relativists that objective truth does exist.  This is an issue I’ve been faced with on multiple occasions, and it is particularly important to me.  Unfortunately, my experience has not made me an expert, so consider my following discussion as one among many, and please seek out the work of people far more capable on this subject than myself.
          Once the issue of objective truth has been established, people may be able to examine the question of God’s existence.  There are a lot of great resources for us here.  Father Robert Spitzer, the head of the Magis Institute, is a physicist who has done extensive studies and published multiple books as well as a new film, Cosmic Origins, that demonstrate how physics can be used to prove the existence of God.  It is quite heady, but may appeal to a segment of our agnostic friends and family.
          Michael Behe, the author of Darwin’s Black Box, has also done some very interesting work that will appeal to the scientific-minded, and is easy to follow.  Dr. Benjamin Wiker has also done important work in this area, including publishing a book with Scott Hahn called Answering the New Atheism.  Patrick Madrid and Ken Hensley’s book The Godless Delusion, as well as Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition are also good ones.  All of these can be found on the sidebar.  And Father Mitch Pacwa has done many debates with atheists, many of which can be found online.
          These are all useful tools to be used with our friends and family who may have fallen into the trap of scientism, and only recognize truth that can be discerned using the scientific method.  The problem is, that is a heresy.  The scientific method is only one way of arriving at truth, and it is often limited.  I have enjoyed many of the above-mentioned books, but my one complaint is that, from my point of view, they concede too much to the Darwinist in an attempt to argue on their opponents’ playing field.  The idea may be that if they can find enough common ground scientifically, they can demonstrate the glaring weaknesses in atheistic neo-Darwinism, its unreasonableness and scientific unsustainability, and lead people to the conclusions that the evidence would naturally point to.
          As someone who finds much more of evolutionism unsupported, and at least unproven, scientifically, sometimes I feel these books give too much ground.  However, for people who have been bred on these theories, they do an excellent job showing that they necessarily point to the existence of God.  The conclusions should be easy for an honest evolutionist to accept without shattering his entire frame of reference.  Since the Church gives us freedom as far as what we believe in these scientific matters, I think the above-mentioned resources are invaluable tools to have at our disposal.
          I personally prefer a more philosophical approach along the lines of Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God.  Specifically I try to lead young people to examine the argument from contingency.
          The entire material universe around us is contingent on something for its existence.  All matter is contingent.  And Dr. Spitzer’s work does a great job, citing countless studies in physics that show without question that the universe had a beginning. 
Nothing can create itself.  To create anything, I must first exist.  I can not create anything if I don’t already exist.  Nothing can.  Therefore, nothing can create itself.  That means everything is contingent on something else for its existence.
Tracing our own existence, we can follow this line of contingency back.  I depended on my parents for my physical existence.  My parents depended on my grandparents, who depended on my great grandparents, and so on.  But what about the first instance of life?  Try as they might, still no one has been able to bring life from unliving matter.
And what about the first matter, the beginning of the universe?  The material order is also contingent.  There must have been something (Someone) that started off the chain of being, that was not contingent on anything else for its own existence.  There must have been an uncaused cause for the universe.  There must have been a Creator that did not need to be created, an eternal being that was pure “being,” with no potentiality.  This, of course, is who we call God.  Even a cursory examination of the order in creation demonstrates that this Being must be intelligent.  Using another of Thomas Aquinas’s proofs, we can come to the knowledge that He must be a perfected Intelligence, in fact.
It makes sense, then, that when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, he called himself, “I am that I am.”  He simply exists.  Pure Being.  No contingency.
It takes no religious affiliation to come to the above conclusions.  Ancient Greek philosophers did so.  The God who spoke to Moses simply identified Himself as that eternal, uncaused Being.  A little further philosophical examination can lead one to the conclusion that there must be only one God as well, but I will not get into all of that now.
The next question, then, once people come to acknowledge the existence of God, is, Who is He?  And specifically, who is Jesus, the one man in the history of the world, who ever claimed to be that God?