Proofs for God’s Existence
Proofs for God’s Existence
God’s existence can be proven in a multitude of ways. However, several introductory caveats are in order. First, by “God,” we mean the traditional Christian concept of an all-powerful and wise creator. Second, the project of “proving” anything is logic or science is nearly impossible. Even the best laid logical plans and the most iron clad arguments can be torn to pieces by a skilled logician. Such a state does not invalidate the proofs in question, just merely that the language of the discipline is such that any logical design can be manipulated and refuted by one who ardently desires it be refuted.
What is being dealt with here is that faith in the God of the Christians is not an irrational, “blind faith,” but one that is eminently reasonable and defensible on metaphysical, logical and scientific grounds. 1. The proof of Aristotle, used by Thomas Aquinas later, is the “hylomorphic” proof and is very important to medieval thoughts about God and the nature of his existence. The theory centers around the distinction between first, form and matter which, second, corresponds to action and passion, or act and potency.
The form of an object is it in act, or developing towards its natural telos, or end. The matter is passive, that which has non being, that which still needs to be developed. But the nature of reality is such that as one rises in knowledge, the form dominates over the matter. Mathematics, for example, is almost purely form, with only a minuscule amount of material stuff. But what is the origin of such things? Only the world of pure form, and hence, pure act, that is, God.
God is pure act, pure perfection with no more need for development. It is the form of Forms that renders unchanging knowledge possible. The matter within its formal shell is not nly passive, but accidental, in that it is only the generator of sensations, colors, etc. But such things cannot exist without a substratum (there is no red, without it being a red something), and hence, form is the object of knowledge, not the matter, or the “accident” of the object. But knowledge only sees form, never matter.
Matter might present form in the guise of a sensate object, but logical and mathematics does not work this way, these are separated from matter. Hence, the more universal the knowledge, the less matter. Hence, the ultimately form of knowledge is Pure form, hence God (Owens, 1980: 20-25). 2. Similarly, the proof of St. Augustine from the point of view of unchanging truth. Any such unchanging truth must have a cause. The truths of mathematics or logic never change regardless of time or place, and hence, there must be an entity in existence who could have brought such a world into being.
Such an entity must never change or alter its being in any way, and hence, must be perfect (the only need for change is to improve, if no need for change, then there is no need for improvement). Therefore, God exists (Augustine, 1996: 19). 3. In terms of scientific proof, there is the entire question of natural law. The world is held together by a series of laws that never seem to change. They are regular and can be seen throughout nature, from its macro to its micro level.
The “sensate” part of nature, logically, is anterior to the laws that allow it to exist. Hence, the laws of nature had to have come first, and are the form within which the sensate part of nature functions. Hence, an entity must exist that is capable of creating natural laws within which all created being can function in a regular and logical manner. Only God can be the cause of such things (Copleston, . 2006, 518). 4. The Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyev uses the critique of nominalism to prove the existence of God in his Lectures on Godmanhood.
First, the idea of empiricism is faulty since no real individuals exist (only God has this quality, but this is putting the cart before the horse). The objects seen in daily experience are themselves not particulars, but universals, ultimately reducible to pulses of energy. Force is the ultimate reality of being in terms of metaphysics. Hence, the empirical approach to the world is arbitrary, since the particulars we take for granted are in fact huge and complex collections of force and energy that appear to the senses as colors, sounds, textures, etc.
Hence, energy is the source of being, and hence, retain the ontological status as universals. But this can not be sufficient, since the universal nature of forces must be accounted for. And this accounting can only be an entity powerful enough to have first created these forces that ultimately would register in human senses as objects, seemingly solid and singular, but in truth, complex and made up of universals (and in fact, representing universals in themselves).
But this ultimately spiritual reality must have an equally spiritual cause, that is God. In other words, as the empirical qualities of objects exist only in the mind, the ultimate reality of the world is to be found in universals, and hence, the world of spirit. But all spiritual objects must have a cause that is equally creative and powerful (Solovyev, 1948: 60-63). 5. Spinoza’s concept of God is slightly different from the Christian view, but not entirely dissimilar.
Spinoza argues for a single entity, Substance, that is the ultimate basis for all sensate objects. Substance is God, the ultimate basis (avoiding the word “cause” here) for all change and movement. Logically, there is only one ultimate Substance since there is no real reason for positing and more than one entity that, itself, can survive all change, but is not available to the senses. Spinoza’s Substance is not something that can be apprehended by senses, but only by the mind, and hence, is a spiritual being.
While many writers have broken their backs trying to hold that nature is God for Spinoza, there is no reason to hold this: God is what is behind nature and is the ultimate basis for all being. Spinoza is not a pantheist, as nearly all commentators hold. Spinoza held that all change needs a basis, something that does not change. That which we see as changing is the modes of existence, the sensate objects in space and time (or mind and body). All of these sensate things can be reduced to that which is extended and that which is mental, ultimately one thing seen from two different points of view.
But these two are merely two available modes for human comprehension of an infinite object that never changes, but is at the root of change, its basis, and that is Substance, or God, an infinite being who lies at the root of all change and the laws that govern change. It itself, does not change, but contains infinite attributes that only appear incompletely to human beings under two attributes only. Spinoza does not hold that there needs to be a cause of all things, but he does hold that there needs to be a basis of all things, that this is God (Della Rocca, 2008, 42-48)
6. The last proof or vision of God is to be found in Apostolos Makrakis, the little known 19th century Greek metaphysician. He was a Christian rationalist who held that Descartes butchered his own method. Makrakis holds that one can begin with Descartes ontological doubt. But the conclusion to this doubt, cogito ergo sum, is an arbitrary end point. When I engage in methodological doubt, I come up with several conclusions: first, the doubter exists, second, that the doubter is not the cause of his own existence, and third, that God exists necessarily.
All of this derives from the single act of cognition: it is the true unpacking of the cogito. Since if the cogito is true, than the other propositions are equally true at the same time, known intuitively. Since the cogito is not self-created, then the outside world and God must exist necessarily in the same act of cognition as the original cogito. If one must strip away the outside world in order to reach the cogito, than the outside world is real, since in removing it, one reaches the truth of existence. The outside world cannot be a phantom then, if the doubter is not self-created.
Something needed to have created and sustained the doubter, and this is as certain as the cogito itself. But since that outside world itself is not self-created (in other words, that the outside world does not know itself through itself, but through another), than God necessarily exists, and again, as true as the cogito itself. Hence, the cogito really says: I exist, the outside world exists, God exists, all at the same time all in the same act of cognition since the cogito itself implies it (Makrakis, 1956, 42-43).
Again, none of these proofs are final, but the same can be said for all logic and science. But these do who that reason assents to the existence of God as infinite and all powerful. Spinoza’s approach is the most interesting, since it is compatible with mechanistic science, but holds that such science necessarily needs a basis for action, and this is Substance. The argument #3 above is also very difficult to refute, since one cannot hold to an ordered universe without holding to natural law, and if that, than the cause of natural law itself.
If that is denied, then one is in the unenviable position of trying to argue that the material objects of nature can and did exist without a law to govern their actions. Hence, evolution is impossible. Natural laws (and a lawgiver) had to be before the actual sensate part of creation. But this, in an odd way, is very similar to the argument of Spinoza. It seems that science itself cannot function without recognizing natural law and it’s a priori existence with respect to the objects of science themselves.
Owens, Joseph (1980) Thomas Aquinas on the Existence of God. SUNY Press Augustine (1996) “On The Free Choice of the Will” Readings in Medieval Philosophy. Ed. Andrew Schoedinger. Oxford. 3-24 Copleston, Frederick (2006) History of Philosophy: Medieval Philosophy. Continuum International. Solovyev, Vladimir (1948) Lectures on Godmanhood. Lindisfarne Press (this is sometimes called Lectures on Divine Humanity) Della Rocca, Michael (2008) Spinoza. Taylor and Francis Makrakis, Apostolos (1956) “The Tree of Life. ” in Foundations of Philosophy. Chicago, OCES. 1-104
Subject: God’s Existence,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 October 2016
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