Whether God exists is an intellectual question that demands a serious treatment. In the end, faith confirms reason and elevates it to the Divine Reason.
By Patrick Tchakounte
25 November 2017
Contemporary man seems to have arrived at psychological maturity; having conquered the natural environment, he has extended the Kingdom of Man to the entirety of the globe and is on the verge of extending its reach in the voyage beyond the stars and the microscopic catalogue of his genetic patrimony. With his reason, man has formed wonders that fascinate the imagination; through the fascination of the technique of empirical science, the human being has come to erect an autonomous order of life, though in which the human person remains at the service of the economic system, a cog in a machine that militates for the totality of human life and the spirituality of its allegiance: control.
Since the 19th century, human development in the Western countries has greatly altered the way of life of human cultures, extending their lifespan in the obsolescence of the old agrarian order of Medieval Christendom; electricity, the steam engine, the airplane and the motor car, these are the characteristic features of the modern world, they form its pride and its celebration of the autonomy of man in rebellion to Divine authority, confident in the progress that human reason can realize apart from the authority of Divine Reason. In the face of the discoveries of science, the remarkable achievements of human development, the emancipation of human nature in liberalism, the recognition of human rights, and the conscience of the universality of human culture, man appears to have come to mature age. The question that is raised in this condition is whether belief in the God of the forefathers is still of use to the contemporary man.
In the current condition, it appears that Christianity is experiencing a crisis in its relevance within Western civilization. The problem that the religion faces is the fact that it seems to lose its vital relation to the life of the average fellow, concerned as he is with the serious business of life whereas religious faith is continually relegated to the emotive sphere that has no rational value and no real importance for human living. At the center of the contemporary situation is the central question of the existence of God, for, in the present climate in which the human person is detached from the life of religion incarnate in a social institution, the existence of God presents as an intellectual question that ought to be treated with seriousness. In fact, the existence of God is the central truth of human existence determining the form that human culture takes, the destiny of civilization, the path of peoples, nations, and tongues.
Since the age of the Enlightenment, it appears that atheism has become a respectable intellectual position, as great intellectual minds have taken the pen to defend the irreligious position with vehemence and great acuity, in a certain conviction that has created philosophical systems and scientific theories that leave no room for the existence of God.
Take the naturalistic thesis of Darwinian evolution. Its influence on intellectual thought is preponderant as it has provided an apparent alternate explanation for the millennial belief in the special creation of man as a being created in God’s image and likeness. Darwin’s theory on the origin and development of life is often taken to mean that life on Earth owes its existence entirely to natural causes only, without any consideration of God as the first-order principle of creation and the activities of creaturely secondary causes which are intentionally activated and sustained by his divine power. As such, Charles Darwin introduced a principle of doubt rooted in naturalism that has attacked the sturdy edifice of faith.
Without a proper understanding of how God is necessary for the creation of the physical universe, that he creates it as its primary cause, and that he may utilize a process of evolution through secondary causes that are sustained and guided by him in order to bring about a greater unfolding and diversity in the physical universe, people can come to the wrong conclusions. Consequently, some have become convinced that Darwin’s ideas have rendered the truths of religion as mythical, infantile, and irrational. In this obscurity, atheism is thought to have become a respectable intellectual position. However, the negative effects of such a frame of mind are many. For example, it has contributed to the formation of a materialistic conception of reality that reduces the human person to merely the neurochemistry of his brain and cedes the place of the soul as the central power of explanation. This has resulted in a supposed animal conception of man which is opposed to the loving power of God the Creator and to the dignity of the human person as created in the Imago Dei.
The Catholic Church has, since its inception, opted for a rational defense of the existence of God through philosophical argument and theological exposition of divine revelation. Over the centuries, the most brilliant minds of the Church have raised impressive arguments for the certainty of the existence of the Divinity, relating the fact that, in truth, religious faith is not incompatible with reason, but rather demands rationality in order to be intelligible and present a coherent system of belief that can elevate the human spirit to the adoration of the Godhead “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The Quinque Viae by 13th century Italian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas remains one of the most convincing proofs for the existence of God and is firmly set in the history of thought as one of the serious reflections and synthetic comprehensions on the matter. Also, St. Anselm is famous for the ontological argument for the existence of God.
That man can doubt the existence of God is certain. In fact, the temptation to doubt the existence of God is a fact of the life of the saints themselves who, through undergoing their own dark nights—whether of the soul or of the spirit—they come to a severe test against the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and undergo temptations to despair and the apostasy that is the rejection of the faith. Indeed, it cannot be put to silence of the fact that temporal existence on Earth is certainly a test, a trial, a purgation—though it is also an education that is a pilgrimage towards Eternity.
Whether God exists is the question that the young boy asks himself as he awakens to the constant questioning of his reason. A young boy, conscious of his creaturely finitude, wonders and raises questions about the reality of the Infinite Being that is His Maker and asks the same question that a young St. Thomas Aquinas once asked: “What is God?” The existence of God is inherently the proof of dogma, an irrefutable proof that is evidenced by history and religion, but also by the existence of the soul that remembers God and that from this memory obtains the recollection of the Divine Goodness it senses mysteriously in the events of its life and from the first moment of ensoulment. In the final analysis, Faith confirms the argumentation of reason and elevates the human reason to the Divine Reason; it is a mystical union with the Divine Word, the Logos, or Verbum, who is the mystical Judge of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, and the Christ.
Photo Credits: Graham Holtshausen, https://unsplash.com/photos/63JKK67yGUE (top). “The Temptation of Christ”, Ary Scheffer, 1854, Wikimedia Commons (text inset).