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2. The Existence of God

1. It is sometimes said that the truth of God's existence is self-evident, and hence neither needs a proof nor admits one. Now, a truth may be self-evident in two ways: (a) in itself and to the human mind; or (b) in itself, but not to the human mind. If you know the meaning of the words circle and roundness, you need no proof for the statement, "A circle is round." Indeed, no proof is possible, for a proof is to make a thing more evident, and nothing can make this statement more evident than the words in which it is expressed. Knowing what a circle is, you know that roundness belongs to it; when you say "circle" you are already saying "round." Here, then, is a truth that is self-evident both in itself and also self-evident to your mind. But if you did not clearly know the meaning of the words circle and roundness, the statement, "A circle is round" would not be self-evident to your mind, although it would still be, in itself, a self-evident truth. Now, the truth of the statement "God exists" is self-evident in itself; for God is necessarily existent; existence is as truly identified with God as roundness is identified with a circle. If the ideas God and existence, with their implications, were as quickly and perfectly available to the human mind as are the ideas circle and roundness, we should not need, and could not have, a reasoned proof for the existence of God. But, as a fact, we have not this prompt and perfect knowledge of God and existence. Thus, while the truth that God exists is self-evident in itself, it is not self-evident to the human mind. For man, this truth needs to be evidenced or proved.

2. Can we prove that God exists? Yes, we can. We can reason out this truth. There are two ways of reasoning a thing out. First, we may so perfectly know a cause that we can reason out what its effect must be; this is a priori reasoning. Secondly, we may know an effect better than we know its cause, and by studying the effect we can work back to know the cause that produced it; this is a posteriori reasoning. In proving the existence of God we use a posteriori reasoning.

3. There are five notable ways of reasoning out the truth that God exists. The first way is by considering motion in the world. Where there is motion, there is a mover, and ultimately a first mover, itself unmoved. This is God. The second way is by considering the chains of effecting causes that exist in the world. Things here are produced by their causes; these causes in turn were produced by their causes, and so on. Ultimately, there must be a first cause which is itself uncaused. This is God. The third way is by considering the contingency of things in the world. Contingent things do not have to exist; they are non-necessary; they come into existence, and undergo change, and pass away. Now, contingent things demand as their ultimate explanation a non-contingent being, a necessary being. This is God. The fourth way is by considering the scale of perfection manifest in the world. Things are more or less good, more or less noble, and so on. Now, where there is good and better and still better, there must at last be a best which is the source and measure of goodness all along the line. And where there is noble and nobler and still more noble, there must ultimately be a noblest which is the standard by which all lesser degrees of nobleness can be known and given their rating. In a word, where there are degrees of perfection, there must ultimately be absolute perfection. This is God. The fifth way is by considering the order and government seen in this world. Things act in a definite way and were manifestly designed to act so; through their nature (that is, their active or operating essence) they are governed in their activities. Thus there are design and government in the world. Hence there are ultimately a first designer and first governor. And since both design and government involve intelligence, there must be governor and designer who is the first and absolute intelligence. This is God.

"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "
Thomas á Kempis

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