Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paraphrasing the Summa: First part, Question 2

Question 2. The existence of God

Is the existence of God a matter of question?  I'm afraid so.  Before I came back to the Catholic Church, I denied the existence of God.  I was an atheist.  Before I fell away from Catholicism, I questioned the existence of God.

And I have noticed, unfortunately, that many times, when asked if they believe God exists, many, otherwise faithful people, will respond, "I'm not sure.  I believe He exists."  Not realizing, apparently, that they have contradicted themselves.  Because anyone that is not sure whether God exists, can not believe in Him.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:
The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.1
31 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.7And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material",9 can have its origin only in God.

34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone calls God".10

35 Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.

St. Thomas answers the following questions:
  1. Is the proposition "God exists" self-evident?
  2. Is it demonstrable?
  3. Does God exist?
Before we delve into his answers to these questions, how would you respond to them?

Do you believe that the existence of God is obvious?  Or is it questionable?

Well, if we think about it, the existence of the second question answers the first.  If God's existence needs to be demonstrated, then the existence of God is not self evident.  However,  I think the proper response is more complicated than that.  I have met people who never doubted the existence of God.  Men like Marcus Grodi, for example, the host of the popular, Journey Home program, seem genuinely surprised that anyone would ever question God's existence.

Therefore, I would say that there are some to whom God's existence is obvious and self evident.  But, others, like myself before I came back to the Catholic Church, not so much.  The difference, is to me, inexplicable from a human point of view.  It appears to be,  completely, a matter of grace.

How about the 2nd question?  Is the existence of God, demonstrable?

Today, I would answer in the affirmative.  But, long ago, I denied the existence of God and openly denied that anyone could demonstrate or prove His existence.

Then, one day, my wife said to me, "we're having a baby."  And from that moment, I believed in God.  I walked out of the room, in a daze, and suddenly, the hand of God was manifest to me in every part of the world.  From the clouds overhead to the blades of grass beneath me.

And this is what God says to us in Scripture.  That He demonstrates Himself to us everyday, in nature.  So, those who do not believe in God, are without excuse.

So, I answer that the existence of God is demonstrable, to those whose heart God has prepared to accept the demonstration and believe the proof.  One of my favorite movies, the story of Bernadette Sobirou and Our Lady of Lourdes, ends with the words, "To some no proof is necessary.  For others, no proof is ever enough."  Again, it is a matter of grace.

The 3rd question, "Does God exist?"

I answer this question with a resounding, "YES!"  There is no question in my mind that God exists.  Hopefully, as we review these proofs of God's existence which the Angelic Doctor has provided for us, we will be better prepared to respond to those who are seeking their Maker and who want to be united to Him for eternity.

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