§1. CONCERNING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
Christian Dogmatics presupposes God’s existence. If God did not exist, no theology could be written. Every man is certain of his own existence and is likewise convinced that other men exist. Whatever certain philosophical systems may present concerning the reality of the world, but few doubt its existence. Inasmuch as it cannot be proved that man and the world are eternal, they must have had a beginning and in such case necessarily a cause. The concept of causality has therefore great weight in proving God’s existence. This concept is also of the greatest importance in relation to the proof of God’s existence which is based on our idea concerning a higher being. It may likewise be stated as a generally acknowledged fact that religion is the basic element in human personality. The existence of God belongs to the content of religion and is therefore as certain as the existence of man himself. In accordance with the concept of causality as a proof of God’s existence we consider God as a cause by reason of the fact that we know ourselves as causes. We know ourselves as causes because we are conscious of our will. To will is to cause. Furthermore, by virtue of the exercise of the powers of our understanding we reach the conclusion that God is not only the first cause but that He is likewise the greatest intellect. The clearly revealed purpose in the world in things great and small has also great weight in the proof of God’s existence. We may also state that our knowledge of God is acquired in the same manner as the knowledge of our fellow men. This latter knowledge is no more a priori and intuitive than our knowledge of God. Our heavenly Father becomes known in very much the same way as an earthly father and mother. Real character cannot be discerned with the physical eye nor comprehended by the senses. The child, however, soon learns to know its parents and the spirit that dwells in them. The children of men are likewise so constituted that they may know the Father of spirits through His works.
There are some who consider that the existence of God cannot be proved. JACOBI said : “A God that can be proved is no God.” Kant denies that we can know anything of God through theoretical reasoning. Fichte made light of the proofs and stated that the Supreme Being was equivalent to the moral government of the world. Hegel, who proclaimed the identity of thought and being, simply stated that man’s knowledge of God was the same as God’s knowledge of Himself. Others have expressed opinions along the same or similar lines.
Even if objections may be raised against the common proofs for the existence of God, they nevertheless possess relative value, particularly from the viewpoint of Apologetics. Generally speaking, a Christian needs no such proofs, but in the hour of doubt and spiritual assault they become of great value and help.
In presenting arguments to prove the existence of God the following methods must be rejected: 1) When men essay to prove God’s existence as they would that of a material object; 2) when proofs are asserted to be based on direct or intuitive experience; 3) argumentum a ticto, which implies that it is doubtful whether or not God exists, but that it is safer to assume His existence and does no harm, while it may be dangerous to deny His existence, if He does exist; 4) argumenitum ab utili, which sets forth the great benefit of faith in a personal God.
The ordinary proofs of God’s existence are the following :
1. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PHILOSOPHICAL PROOF.
Human personality is made up of a union of receptivity, which finds expression in the emotions, and spontaneity, expressed in thought and will. From these three viewpoints the proof is divided as follows :
a. The Eudaimonistic Proof.
The human emotions find no rest in themselves nor in man. The world with all that is finitely good in it cannot satisfy the soul. Man feels that there must be something higher, something absolutely good, yea, an absolutely good personality. This absolute personality is God.
AUGUSTINE in his Confessions, I. 1, says : “Fecisti nos ad Te, et inquietum est cor nostrum, donee requiescat in Te.”
KANT presents a eudaimonistic proof, but confuses it with the moral proof. He says that harmony between the internal and external is not found on earth, for which reason there must be an absolute being who at least in another world must abolish discord between the desire for happiness and the requirements of the moral law.
b. The Ontological Proof.
The expression is derived from ὲκ τῶν ὄντων == from the essence of things. This is an a priori argument, but not in the sense that we should find in it a cause of God’s existence. The argument proves His existence to us, but His existence is not dependent on the argument.
Man is so constituted that in all his reasoning he concludes that there must be an absolute being. He possesses an innate idea of an absolute personality or a supreme being. When through education he learns to know of God, his understanding apprehends the reality of this truth and his heart says yea and amen thereto. Man thinks of himself as real, and since God constitutes his highest thought, he conceives of God as the most real and the most perfect being (ens realissimum et perfectissimum). The most real and the most perfect being must exist not only in our thought but in reality. The proof has been presented in many ways. There are certain indications of it in Plato and Kleanthes. Some even assert that Plato suggested the proof, while Anselm merely perfected the syllogistic form. AUGUSTINE presents a proof that is analogous to the ontological proof. He said : “Nothing higher than truth can be thought, because it embraces all true being.” He also declared that God as the highest truth must exist, because truth is sought at all times and by all men as something that is certain and unchangeable.
ANSELM’S PROOF sets forth that man has an idea of a most perfect being, but perfection implies real existence. All men have an idea concerning God, even those who deny it, because it is impossible to deny something concerning which men have no idea. The thought of God is the idea of a being who is absolutely perfect, a personality than whom there is none higher. When we realize that we are imperfect and yet exist, it is self-evident that the most perfect being must exist; otherwise the most perfect being would be less perfect than we are. The idea of a most perfect being proves the existence of such a being. Existence is thus proven, otherwise we might imagine that a still higher being existed.
Descartes presents the second main form of the proof. He considered that all other ideas except the idea of God contain only the characteristics of possibility and contingency (contingentia), but the idea of God implies necessaria et aeterna existentia. Because we have ideas that possess no corresponding reality, therefore we are uncertain as to whether or not the idea of God may not be simply a product of our thought. But he endeavors to prove that the idea of God is innate, that this idea is not adventicia, because it could not possibly come wholly from without, nor yet facticia by abstraction, since it is only by abstraction from the finite that we reach the infinite. He considered that existence was inherent in the essence of God. Existence as a mark of perfection could not be thought of as an attribute. He taught that inasmuch as the idea of God was innate, therefore the cause could not be less real than the effect. THE CARTESIAN PROOF is twofold: 1) We have an idea concerning an absolutely perfect being and in this idea itself lies the proof of the existence of such a being. 2) We are imperfect, but nevertheless have an innate idea concerning a perfect being. Only a perfect being could give us this idea. The saying of DESCARTES: “I think, therefore I am,” also proves the existence of God, as all human beings have not only self -consciousness, but also God-consciousness. We think God and cannot get rid of this thought; therefore, God exists just as surely as we exist.
Of course, the ontological proof has been criticised. The monk GAUNILO says that thinking a thing does not necessarily make it real. He uses the following figure: If someone in speaking of an island declared it to be more perfect than all other known islands, intending thereby to draw the conclusion that it existed, that it would not be the best and most perfect if it did not exist, then one would not know who was the more foolish, the one who presented the proof or the one who believed it. The existence of the island must be proved first. Anselm defended himself against Gaunilo. It is evident that Gaunilo and Anselm argue from different viewpoints. Anselm said, if the island was necessary, he would find it. God is a necessary thought, KANT enters an objection and declares that existence is not perfection and that an idea is just as perfect whether the corresponding reality exists or not. It is only through the processes of reason that man can know how he understands God. Hegel confuses human thought with the divine essence and denies a personal God. In accordance with the Hegelian philosophy the ontological proof is a true, speculative proof when the assertion : God is thought, therefore He exists, is changed to : God thinks, that is. He exists. The ontological proof is, however, not a mixture of thought and being, nor yet the result of a subjective thought. Rather man possesses an innate idea of God and in all his thinking proceeds from and returns to God, whose existence is just as certain as his own self-consciousness.
c. The Ethico-Theological Proof.
The will of man cannot be ethically determined by any human will, nor in the last instance can it be determined by impersonal nature. The human will points to a personal God by whom it is materially determined so that the formal freedom receives its proper content. This proof has two forms or names: 1) Argumentum a conscientia recti or the proof of conscience, which implies that conscience is aware of the moral law and that man perceives an inner voice which convinces him of the existence of a higher being. 2) Argumentum morale or the moral proof by which man, conscious of the union of virtue and blessedness, draws the conclusion that a higher being must exist who shall reward the virtuous and punish the unrighteous.
This proof was presented by Cicero and Seneca. Later also by Abelard and Raimund of Sabunde. It was further developed by Kant.
2. THE HISTORICAL PROOF OR ARGUMENTUM E CONSENSU GENTIUM.
This proof stands in close relationship with the preceding one. It may, however, be counted one of the chief proofs, inasmuch as it sets forth the thought, not of individuals, but of whole peoples. The idea of God is found among all peoples. Every people has some form of worship. Objections have also been made against this proof, but the historical truth of the universality of the idea of God cannot be gainsaid.
This proof was set forth by Cicero and was often used by the Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian and others.
3. THE COSMOLOGICAL PROOF OR ARGUMENTUM A CONTINGENTIA MUNDI.
The world is not self-caused. An absolute personality must exist who has caused it. We cannot go back interminably from cause to cause without finally reaching the first, from which all things proceed and which in itself is uncaused by anyone or anything. The first cause could not have been a primitive cell, since the first organism could not have been self -produced. The world must therefore be an ens contingens and created by God.
This proof was suggested by Plato and Aristotle. AUGUSTINE says in his Confessions, X, Chapter VI, 9 : “And what is this? I asked the earth and it answered, I am not he, and all that is therein gave the same answer. I asked the sea and the deep and all creeping things, and they answered, We are not thy God ; look higher than us. I asked the sun, the moon and the stars. Neither are we the God whom thou seekest. And then I made answer to all these things round about me : Ye have told me concerning my God that ye are not He. Tell me something about Him ! and with a loud voice they answered : He made us.”
THOMAS AQUINAS presented the proof in three forms: a) According to Aristotle, from the motion in the world to a primary cause which is not moved by anything, causa efficiens prima; b) according to DIODORUS OF TARSUS and JOHN OF DAMASCUS, from the unchangeableness of the world to the unchangeable being who is the cause of all change: c) according to RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR, from the accidental nature of the world to a necessary being who is per se necessarium.
Among the objections that have been raised against this proof we mention those of KANT. He says that man sees the world as it appears and not as it really is. The accidental nature of the world cannot be proved. Against this it may be urged that Kant misunderstood the relationship between spirit and nature. He should have proved first that the world appears different from what it is. HUME states that there is no analogy to the assertion that all things are caused by a cause outside the world. HEGEL, who changes the causal relationship between God and the world into a state of substantiality, says that that which is temporal is mere appearance, simply external changing forms, but the substance of the world is unchangeable in all change.
This pantheistic objection is contradicted by the consciousness of man, which declares that the world is not determined by a world soul or by impersonal substance.
4. THE TELEOLOGICAL PROOF.
Design or purpose in the world points to an absolutely wise personality. This is an a posteriori argument. Purpose is causa finalis. Compare JANET’S splendid work on Final Causes. Every effect must have an adequate cause, and where purpose is evident this cause must likewise be intelligent. We cannot describe or comprehend a piece of machinery save as we know its use and purpose. The teleological proof is one of the oldest, best and most convincing proofs of the existence of God.
The argument is presented in two forms : a) The physico-theological, when design in nature is considered; b) the historical theological, when plan and purpose in the history of the world are considered.
Among those who have presented this proof in one form or another the following may be mentioned. ANAXAGORAS stated that the guiding hand in the world was νοῦς. SOCRATES asked if this world could be kept in order by something which lacked understanding. ARISTOTLE said that neither the Divine Being nor nature did anything in vain. THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH set forth the figure of a ship and a helmsman. When we see the ship sailing along we conclude that there is a helmsman aboard. MINUCIUS FELIX pointed to the heavens and said that a being with the highest understanding must have set all in order. ATHANASIUS remarks concerning the statues of Phidias that by viewing their form one could recognize the sculptor, and adds, “How much more certain must one not be, in viewing the heavens, that all these wonders have not arranged themselves, but are the work of a Creator.” This proof occurs in one form or another in many other writers down to the time of MELANCHTHON, after which it was abandoned for a considerable period until the representatives of the Wolffian philosophy and the advocates of natural theology exerted their influence.
Many objections have been raised against this proof. BACON OF VERULAM rejected causa finalis and set forth instead causae efficientes or the genetic method, HUME and KANT say that we know the world in very small part. We cannot have faith in an absolutely perfect being because the creator cannot be more perfect than his work. It is not certain that there is design in the world, however much it may so appear. HEGEL says that this proof leads to the idea of a world soul. The Materialists say that the world is not a finished piece of work, but a workshop which produces its own tools. MOLESCHOTT says that the will is conditioned by external influences and that the thinking man is the sum of his sensual experience, or the sum of parents, time, space, atmosphere, sound, light, food and clothes. However, the Materialists have not proved their assertions. They have not proved that the principle of life is a modification of matter and as such the formative principle. Neither have they proved that the soul is a product of matter, nor that ideas are inductively derived from the same source. Even if the Darwinians could prove their doctrine of the original cell, this would still not be a proof that God does not exist. Rightly considered, evolution implies a wonderful teleology that points to an intelligent cause. The teleological proof is incontestably one of the best natural proofs of the existence of God.