submitted by Conor O'Donnell, teacher-Theology, Logic, History, Government
In a recent Confirmation Prep discussion that I oversaw, one of my students stated that he believed in God because of the bible. While this is a beautiful act of Faith, most Atheists claiming to be the voice of reason could easily refute his testimony as being childish and turn it against him. An Atheist might state, “Several books about Christmas tell me Santa Claus is real, should I believe them?” and the reality is that the 2 arguments share a parallel structure (both claim the existence of something based off a book)
Indeed, claiming the existence of God based on the authority of the bible is a childish thought process, and I mean that in a good way. Jesus himself said “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). While we are called to move forward in life with child-like faith, our Lord also gives us another commandment elsewhere, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16).
In an intellectual discussion, appealing to the bible as proof of the existence of God is an argument based on an appeal to an authority, which is the weakest form of argumentation. If there is no mutual respect for the authority being appealed to, it will be an entirely unconvincing argument. For example, between Catholics it should be sufficient to argue that contraception is wrong based on an appeal to the fact that it is a teaching of the Catholic Church. However, if this was going to be my argument when I encounter an non-Catholic volunteer at Planned Parenthood, little to no progress would be made in our discussion because there would be little to no respect for the authority I was appealing to on the part of the volunteer.
Because we live in a world of wolves (atheists who attack our belief in God for example), it important that we heed Christ’s words and become as wise as serpents. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
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.
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” (Rom 1:19-20)
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.
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. (CCC 31, 32, 35)
Having established that as Catholics, we ought to understand that the existence of God is knowable by reason, we shall begin examining some the proofs for God’s existence that are provided by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. That way, the next time someone asks us why we believe in God, we can give them an answer that will make them really think.