There are many modern voices, it is sad to say, who mock religious faith. Some segments of our society have gone from quiet disregard of religious traditions to open hostility to the very idea of the existence of God.
This state of affairs is painful to the Christian. Yet the challenge is there-the challenge to have a vibrant and informed faith and to communicate that faith in a kind and persuasive manner. It is often said that those who do not vote in elections should not complain about the government they get; it is equally true that Christians who do not make any attempt to be evangelical should not complain about the society in which they live. To be silent is to acquiesce.
By no means do we wish to appear consistent with society's false stereotype of the Christian: intolerant, judgmental and unthinking. We love our neighbors. We are instructed not to judge, lest we be judged. As for unthinking, studying the Bible is the most challenging and rewarding mental activity imaginable. The question of the existence of God has challenged the best philosophers since before the time of Christ.
One of the most interesting discussions of the existence of God can be found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the thirteenth century. In Summa Theologica, he addresses many issues and refers often to Scripture as well as the writings of Plato and Aristotle. His highly "logical" writing style is not always easily understood. Nevertheless, we can extract five interesting points about proving the existence of God:
1. Motion. "It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion." Summa Theologica, Question 2, Article 3 Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas ed. Anton C. Pegis, The Modern Library (New York: Random House) 1948. P. 25. If things are in motion, Aquinas argues, they are in a state of "actuality" and if not, they are in a state of "potentiality." Since things cannot be both at the same time, "whatever is moved must be moved by another." A first mover, moved by no other, must be God.
2. Efficient cause. Nothing can be the cause of itself, Aquinas argues. It would have to be prior to itself, which is impossible. If you remove the cause, you remove the effect. Therefore everything has a cause, which in turn has another cause. "Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God." (Page 26).
3. Possibility and necessity. In nature it is possible for things to be and not to be. In other words, it is possible for things to be generated and corrupted. But they cannot be both at the same time. "Therefore not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. . .Therefore we cannot but admit that the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God." (Page 26). This is perhaps one of the most difficult points to understand. The word "necessity" appears to have a special meaning in certain philosophical contexts. One partial definition of necessity is "constraint or compulsion arising out of the natural constitution of things; impossibility of a contrary order or condition of things." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). My thought: if God were bound by the law of gravity, the project of creating the universe never would have gotten off the ground.
4. Gradation. "Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like." These things are predicted and measured in accordance with what in their different ways they resemble the maximum. Something is hotter if it more closely resembles what is hottest, or perfectly hot. "Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God." (Page 27).This seems to mean that without God, there is neither a source nor a measuring stick for perfection.
5. Governance of the world. Natural bodies act for an end, in order to obtain the best result. "Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly." Whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end unless it is directed by some being with knowledge. "Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God." (Page 27).
This brief summary will serve as an introduction to the logical thinking of a thirteenth-century scholar. Throughout the two-thousand year history of Christianity, the premises and presuppositions of faith have been subjected to rigorous analysis. Our faith has stood the test of time rather well. It is atheism which plunges the human mind into irrationality and disorder. It is atheism which provides no hope, no morality and no joy. Yet our atheist friends are bold in their proclamations of disbelief. Can we be equally bold in spreading the good news?
Exodus 3:14: God said to Moses, "I AM Who I AM." (ESV).
John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life."
Blessings to all,
In faith and fellowship,