Why should we deal at all with arguments if God’s existence is anyway a matter of faith?
Concerning the arguments for the existence of God there are always some great questions: their validity (the power of the proofs), their method (the way of proving) and their aim (how they help).
1 How Valid Are These Proofs?
They were often contested in different ways by many philosophers, but our assessment should be in accordance with the deep conviction of Paul concerning the sure knowability of God:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19–20)
This basic idea of recognising the invisible God from his visible created world is to be found in every culture, from the ancient thinkers to our modern scientists. We do not claim that God’s existence can be proved mathematically or demonstrated, but that “it can, from created things, be known with certainty by the natural light of the human reason” (as Catholics formulated at the Vatican Council). Perhaps we can say that the proofs supply a high degree of evidence that will exclude reasonable doubt even if their demonstrative deductions are not logically inevitable or inexorable.
The proofs for God’s existence never compel anybody to accept them necessarily because they give space to the free will. Mathematical or scientific demonstrations start from some axioms or postulates, and work with some logical rules accepted with general consent by all in that area of science. In case of metaphysical reasoning there are certain conditions for grasping the content and the relations between the proofs. One has to be familiar with the terms and with some abstract way of thinking to see larger connections. Therefore the power of the arguments depends on one’s personal turn of mind, mentality, disposition or education. And the most important condition is that one has to show personal readiness and openness to examine one’s own way of thinking and life.
2 The Ways of Proving
From the many different ways of argumentation we dealt only with the inductive (a posteriori) reasoning, which starts from different aspects of the existence (the contingent world, both in its existence and its features), or of our human experience and which leads to the first cause that is God.
We did not deal with the deductive (a priori) reasoning that starts from the notion of God and infers His actual existence (like Anselm, Descartes, Leibniz). This way of reasoning is contested by many although the question is not always so simple, it depends on how much we accept a certain pre-knowledge about God.
To some extent in all our reasoning both ways are connected, we anticipate some notions of God’s nature when we use the inductive method in order to prove His existence. We can not search what is completely unknown for us. On the other hand, we have to pay attention not to presuppose what we want to prove.
3 What Is the Aim of the Arguments?
Why do we need at all arguments and what should we use them for? What is the gain of these mentally so costly and exhausting methods? Indeed they do not supply us either the whole or the top of our knowledge about God. It is clear that someone does not have to be able to lead a certain way of argumentation in order to become a believer. But we use some rational explanations to understand that our belief in God is not in contradiction with the scientific or philosophical approach of the same reality. We need not become philosophers or scientists to be able to understand God’s existence. But we have to assume a point of view if we are confronted today with so many different world-views that are widespread. We need not base our belief on scientific or metaphysic knowledge, but we should not give up using our mind and intellectual power in search for answers concerning the existence and nature of our Creator, to look for his footprints in nature and his image in man in order to get to know Him and to strengthen our relationship with Him.
For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, “To the unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.” Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:23–31)
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