By: Patrick Arrington
How do we know God exists?
This is a loaded question for sure. And one that the world is constantly asking us. So how do we go about answering it?
First, we must remember that everything we say and do must be done in love. It's easy for us to lose our heads when someone starts attacking our faith, but no heart is ever changed in a yelling match. I'll address a couple ways for us to defend God's existence in this piece, so that you will be prepared to head out and answer that question when you are asked.
One of the most famous Church backings of God's existence comes from St. Thomas Aquinas' Aristotelian philosophy. St. Thomas Aquinas proposed five logical arguments, better known as Aquinas' Five Proofs. These are 1. The Argument from Motion, 2. The Argument from Efficient Causality, 3. The Argument from Contingency of Being, 4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection, and 5. The Argument from Final Causality.
Now, if you are completely unfamiliar with these, and this is the first time you have heard of them, you may want to pause here. Going into these can get heavy, and to at least give you a basic understanding of them, you can watch this short 3 minute philosophy video briefly explaining each one at youtu.be/CwToalGJlF4.
The Argument from Motion
In this first way, Aquinas argues that anything that moves must be moved by another. Aquinas further explains that we cannot have infinite regress of movers, so there has to be an Unmoved Mover to account for all other motion in the universe.
Think about any motion, for example shooting a basketball. The ball moves through the air because the shooter pushed it into the air, the shooter's arms moved because of the muscles in them, which moved because of the neurons firing in the brain, which are alive and working because the shooter's mother gave birth, and so on back the line. Aquinas argues that at some point there was a first motion, but in order for that to occur the there has to have been one that was unmoved to move that first thing.
This argument when I first heard it reminded me of Newton's laws of motion. Newton's first law of motion being that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by another force. This would mean that in order for anything to move, we would need to first have a motion to start it all. Aquinas surmises that God is the one to have set it all in motion and remain unmoved. Now, while Aquinas' argument on the motion aspect makes logical sense, it is a rather large leap to go from that to saying the Unmoved Mover is God, but we'll address that concern later on.
The Argument from Efficient Causality
The second way, Aquinas argues that anything that is created must have been created by something else, and as nothing can create itself, there has to have been a first cause, and is the Uncaused Causer.
The age old question of the chicken and the egg, and which came first, really comes to mind with this one. Go back far enough down the line of that one chicken and we have to have a beginning point. Again, we encounter Aquinas making the leap of the Uncaused Causer being God, and again, we'll address that concern further down.
The Argument from Contingency of Being
The third way, Aquinas argues that because everything's existence is contingent, meaning that it is possible for any given thing to not exist, there must be a being whose existence is necessary and accounts for everything else. Otherwise, nothing would exist.
This argument initially upset me. I mean who is this Aquinas guy saying that my existence doesn't matter to the greater creation! But then I thought about it, humbled myself, and recognized what he is saying. If I were not to exist, the world would still go on, and yes, some things would certainly be different, but let's not entertain any catastrophic butterfly effect scenarios, cause that just isn't very plausible. Now, this realization does not make my life meaningless, because I was still created by God, and it is out of His love for me, that I (or any of us) have life.
The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
The fourth way, Aquinas argues that for us to attribute the labels of "good" and "bad" to things, we must be able to compare things to something that is better. This means that there must be a "best" thing, and Aquinas says that to be God.
This argument can be mistaken in how it is written. We must realize that the sample size in this is something that must include everything. If we don't, then we encounter an issue as such: If we take 100 of the most despicable criminals, and ordered them to find the least offensive one, that one would be the best out of the group. We clearly would not call that individual good though, showing that this argument must be all inclusive.
Aquinas was seeking to use this argument to point to truth, beauty, and goodness. These three things we attribute to being absolute perfect in God.
The Argument from Final Causality
The fifth and final way, Aquinas argues that everything in creation is working toward a goal. Extending upon this, for plants or animals, this final cause can be seen as survival or self-preservation, but because they cannot perceive their ends due to a lack of intellect, they must be directed toward their ends by an intelligent being. In the case of humanity, think about why you will do any action. Why go to school? To be educated, possibly hoping to achieve a better career with better grades. A sculptor may build a statue with the final cause of receiving a commission. We all have a final cause of our own.
Addressing the Leap
Now to understand how Aquinas makes the leap that each of these are God, and more specifically the God we know from Catholic teaching, is that these arguments were not meant to serve as proofs to begin with, but have been coined with the title since then. Aquinas was altogether very much cognizant of the leaps he made in these, and what them to simply be more so statements of fact we already believed. They give us the underlying notions of what we mean by the word God. These are a great starting point for discussion. So now let's get into how we can build upon them.
Everyone has Faith
This statement might very well confuse you. Considering this post is focused on how to address those who don't believe in God, I can understand your confusion when I say that everyone in the world has faith. A very simplified understanding of faith is believing without seeing. And yes, while I will be oversimplifying it here, people believe things they have never seen all the time. We take trusted sources, and accept their word. For example, I had never experienced snow until about 2 1/2 years ago. Being from South Florida, that makes sense. However, I fully believed snow was cold, despite having never experienced it. Why? Because I had people I trusted tell me that, in this case my parents when I was very little.
So how does that help prove God's existence? Well, Jesus Christ is more than a character from some book. Jesus has been documented by numerous historians as being a real person, who had a real following, and died a real death on the cross. So if we take them at their word for that, then we already are at having a faith in the existence of Jesus.
Now, the extension can continue through the same pattern for Jesus' actions, and claims to be God. Do we trust that those who followed Him were of stable minds, and speak accurately of His actions in the Bible? The understanding that Jesus' followers held jobs beforehand, Matthew was even a tax collector, shows that there is a stable mind, answering that part of the question. As for did they speak accurately, the question that comes to mind is, "why would they make this up?" They did not gain wealth or status from it, in fact, they paid for it with their lives. Going back to Aquinas' fifth argument, this simply answers how they lived out their final cause, to bring truth into the world, no matter what the cost.
By: Patrick Arrington
Whether an introvert or an extrovert, most of us hate sitting in silence. We’ll go out looking for others to talk with, or blast the radio when driving in the car alone. We just don’t want it to seem as if we are alone.
Now as an extrovert, who will walk outside to find someone to go talk to when I get bored, I am just as guilty of this. But it is really when I take this mentality into prayer that I hurt myself the most. There have been countless times I’ve gone into the church for a holy hour, only to spend the entire hour talking at God, as opposed to talking with God. Prayer is meant to be a conversation with God, not a monologue.
Now I know what you are saying, “It’s not like God will talk right back to me.” And you know what, you’re right, for the vast majority of us, we won’t hear God audibly speak while on earth. Perhaps you may be one of the future saints who will hear Him audibly speak, and to that I just want to ask if you could ask Him a few things for me, because I would love to get some clear answers.
So if God isn’t going to audibly speak to me, why should I sit in silence for a response in prayer? Well, while we may not hear that audible voice, He can still speak to us. In my own life, there was an occasion I was sitting down waiting for the Eucharist to process in at a FOCUS conference. I was feeling incredibly anxious, and I didn’t understand why. I decided to silence my heart to just prepare myself for Jesus, and as soon He processed in, I felt an overwhelming call to missionary life. It had been on my mind, but never in a way that I thought I should apply and then move across the country for a year, giving up my comfortable job. But I knew in that moment that God had something amazing planned for me with missionary work, and in trusting Him, I moved 3000 miles away from home to minister to people every time I step outside. If I hadn't been open to listening in that silence, there is no way that I would be here at Mary, Queen of Peace today.
Now that is my experience with silence, but not everyone will be struck with a sudden realization. Maybe you are already serving where God wants you, maybe you’re already following His plan for your life. In those cases you may just be given a gentle feeling of peace in the silence. When presented with a few options for a step in your life, bring them to God. Let Him reveal where He wants you through the peace He gives you with each option.
Whether you are a freshman just beginning your high school career, a senior looking forward to college and beyond, or a parent of a teen now in high school, God still wants to speak to you in the silence. I truly believe that the reason we fear silence should be our reason to embrace it. Listening to God in the silence can change our lives in momentous ways, and we should never fear that plan that God has for us!