JMC : The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

The Existence of God.

125. St. Paul writes to the Hebrews (XI, 6): "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a Rewarder to them that seek Him". It is asked by many: "Can man, without the light of faith, by his reason alone, know that God exists?" He certainly can. For the 18th Psalm says: "The heavens show forth the glory of God"; and St. Paul writes to the Romans (I. 20): "The invisible things of Him (of God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal power also and Divinity". Hence the Vatican Council, in 1870, defined that it is possible for the existence of God, the Beginning and the End of all things, to be gathered with certainty from created things, by the aid of the natural light of human reason (Sess. III, Ch. 2).

This definition condemned the philosophical school of Traditionalism. In the 18th century, the Jansenists in France had endeavored to force upon men an austere standard of conduct; they had denounced as libertines all who taught that the yoke of Christ is sweet and His burden light. Restless under this excessive restraint, men rebelled against all law, Christian and natural, and soon the utmost licence prevailed. The independence of man was proclaimed; the rule of God over the world, and His very existence were denied; duty was discarded, and the social order overthrown. All the extravagances of the Revolution were enacted in the name of "Reason". In the Reaction that followed, a school of writers arose who taught that reason could not attain to a certain knowledge of God but for an original Divine revelation which was handed down by Tradition; they are called "Traditionalists". St. Augustine urges that, as from the actions of the man before us we conclude that he is living, so from the creatures that we see before us we should conclude that their Creator lives. The texts just quoted from St. Paul prove that it is even easy for man to come by his reason to the knowledge of God, and those who fail to do so are said to be inexcusable (Rom. I, 20); and St. Gregory Nazianzen declares that a man is very stupid who does not recognize the force of the demonstration (Or. 34, nn. 6).

It follows from this that Atheists are inexcusable. It is doubtful whether there are races or savages who know not God; if there are, their reason has not attained its normal development; they are to be regarded theologically as still infants. The cases mentioned by Sir John Lubbock and others do not prove that there exist nations of Atheists. Another school of philosophers have gone to an opposite extreme; they maintain that God is the first object of all our knowledge, and that we see all other things in God. These are called Ontologists; their system was condemned in 1861 by the Congregation of the Inquisition.

126. The arguments of reason which demonstrate the existence of God are chiefly three, which may be briefly stated as follows:

1. The Metaphysical argument proves that there is a necessary Being, -- a Being namely that must be on account of its intrinsic nature, -- and that the world was made by it. The argument proceeds thus: There can be nothing without a reason for it; therefore there is a reason for the existence of the world. Now this reason cannot be the world itself; therefore it is another being. We say the world cannot be itself the reason of its existence; because, first, it cannot have made itself, else it would have acted before it existed, which is absurd; and, secondly, it cannot exist without a maker that originated it. For it is made up of a fixed number of particles of lime, carbon, gold, silver, oxygen, etc.; now it is absurd to say that every one of those particles is of such a nature that it must exist. And why are there just so many of each kind, neither one more nor one less? If one particle is necessary, why would not any others like it be necessary? or why just such a number of each kind? Some other being then must have made them all and determined the numbers of the various kinds. Therefore the world has a maker. If this maker is necessary, has in Himself the reason of his existence, then our proposition is proved. But if he is not necessary, then he too must be made by another being; and this again, if not necessary must be made by another. We must come in our reasoning to a necessary Being, or there must have been an infinite series of beings none of which was necessary. If none was necessary, then the whole series is unnecessary, and therefore has not in itself the reason of its existence; it must therefore have been made by another Being which is necessary. Therefore a necessary Being exists who is the cause of the world.

This argument may be proposed in the simple form in which St. Jane Francess de Chantal, when a child, proposed it to an Atheist; modern scientific speculations have only increased its appropriateness. "Tell me, sir", she said, "where does a hen come from?" He answered, "Why, of course, from an egg". "And whence the egg?" she asked. -- "Why from another hen". -- "But which was the first, the hen or the egg?" -- "The hen I suppose". "Then whence that hen?" He would not say, "from God", and he could say nothing else. -- A modern Evolutionist might think that he could help the Atheist out of his difficulty. For he would say that the first hen came, some way or other, from a lower species of fowl. But he would only shift the difficulty farther back. Where did the first fowl come from? If he said, from some other animal, or plant, the question must come at last, whence came the first living thing? If, without all rhyme and reason, he said, it came from the mere clod of earth, we ask, whence came the earth itself? He might say from a nebula, or a cloud of world stuff. But who made that world stuff, and made it just what it is? It cannot have made itself. There must, therefore, be a first Cause who made all things out of nothing; Him we call God, the Creator.

2. The physical argument proves that this Maker of the world, whose existence we have just proved, is most intelligent or wise. The skill of an artist is known from the beauty of his work, that of an inventor from the adaptation of his machine to produce an intended effect; thus all order shows the working of an intellect adapting means to ends. Now the world displays, in an endless variety of ways, the most admirable order, or adaptation of means to ends. This wonderful order is, and has always been, apparent to every man. "When we look up to heaven and consider the heavenly bodies", says Cicero, "what can be clearer and more obvious, than that there is a Divinity of most exalted mind by whom these orbs are ruled"? Since his day, the telescope has revealed far more beauty in the heavens, and the microscope in time still more wonderful world of little things. Science can point out more wonders in an infidel's tongue in a minute than he can explain in a lifetime. Therefore the Author of time world is most wise.

3. The moral argument proving the existence of God is twofold: (a) Every man judges necessarily that he is bound in conscience to do certain acts and to avoid other acts; and also that he is responsible for his conduct to an unseen and Supreme Judge, a Rewarder of good and evil. A man who does not know these things is an imbecile or an insane man. Now it were absurd to say that all sane men could be mistaken in such judgments; for if that could be, then we could never be certain of anythimig. Therefore it is certain that there is a Supreme Judge, the Rewarder of good and evil. (b) All nations have always worshipped God, and thus showim that human reason acknowledges His existence. If there are any barbarous tribes that practise no religion, (which is very doubtful), they can be such only as are degraded by vice below the nominal condition of human beings.

27. As to the question whether there are real Atheists, we find that some persons of keen minds and extensive information have reasoned themselves, or have been led by others, into a state of doubt regarding the existence of God. Such men often call themselves Atheists. Their mental state arises either from pride, or from corruption of heart, or from a perverted education. But no one can reason himself in good faith into a firm and abiding conviction that there is no God. The Scripture says: "The fool hatim said in his heart there is no God" (Ps. 52), indicating that it is not reason but passion, not the head bnt the heart, that leads men to Atheism.

Pantheists teach that all things are God (pan, all, theos, God). This theory is rank with absurdities: for all men would thus be God, and God would be guilty of all the crimes committed. God would then do to Himself wlmatever we do to one another: He would hate Himself, kill Himself, teach Himself, etc., etc. Moreover, all men being God, they could do as they please; all morality would perish, and all society, of which morality is the necessary bond.

To escape the odium justly attached to Atheism, Huxley and his school call themselves Agnostics (a, not, and gnôstikos, knowing); they pretend not to know what to think on all the great questions that most concern the welfare of man, namely those regarding his soul, its future destiny, its duties, its relations to God, etc. They too, as well as the Pantheists and the Atheists, loosen the bonds of morality; for doubtful belief in duty is powerless to restrain passion, and so is doubtful belief in reward or punishment. Besides, those philosophers, -- if philosophers they can be called who set aside as unattainable the great purposes of philosophy, -- are ever carrying on an active campaign of attacks on the most sacred convictions of mankind; they are in reality destroyers of human happiness. Their system also contradicts the teachings of the Scriptures (n. 125).

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