Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 5:
Reasons sufficient to exclude any need of doubting God's existence are available, although they do not exclude the possibility of doubting if people want to doubt. Speaking of unbelievers, Scripture tells us, in Romans 1:20, that "what can be known of God lies plain before their eyes; indeed God himself has disclosed it to them; his invisible attributes, that is to say, his everlasting power and deity, ever since the world began, to the eye of reason, in the things he has made." In other words, man can find in the material universe around him sufficient basis for reasoning to the existence of God as the Creator of it. However, as Cardinal Newman maintained, intellectual reasons in favour of God's existence do not of themselves give anyone an inner awareness of relationships with him. This awareness arises from one's conscience which recognises an obligation to do what is right rather than what is wrong – an obligation conscience did not impose upon itself and which it cannot abolish. Reason confirms the fact of God's existence; conscience is the inward experience of responsibility to him which brings home to us the reality of the relationships between him and ourselves. It has been said that God is "intellectually superfluous, emotionally dispensable, and morally intolerable." But he is not that to the man who is willing to let both his intelligence and his conscience speak, who loves truth and virtue, and has the will to do what is right regardless of worldly expediency or of his own personal comfort and pleasure.
Not unless it is an unjustifiable assumption to say that man is endowed with reason and that it is natural for him to exercise it. In studying the universe physical science in its own sphere seeks the reasons why things are as they are. "How did this come to be?" and "What causes it to behave as it does?" are the most natural questions in the world. Moreover, by formulating its laws, physical science expresses in an intelligible way the phenomena of the universe which must therefore have "intelligibility" as one of its characteristics; that is, it must have a rational basis or we ourselves would not be able to think or speak intelligently about it. Now it is certain that not a single thing can be the cause of its own existence, or it would have to exist before itself in order to cause itself. This applies even to God. He could not be the cause of his own existence. He can only be self-existent or uncaused. All else, however, is caused. Our reason, devoting itself to finding explanations of all in this universe, justifiably seeks to account for the existence and intelligibility of the universe as a whole thing or "cosmos." Existence and intelligibility cannot belong to it for no reason whatsoever; and since it is not self-explanatory, we rightly seek the reason for both.
There is no need to do so. The wrong suggestion would be that reason is not entitled to ask it. Of course, once we ask about the cause of the universe itself, distinct from it or transcendent and beyond the reach of our physical sciences, we must be prepared for a different kind of proof than that which is possible for physical science to provide. We must seek a purely rational explanation supplied by philosophical reasons. So Mr. W. H. V. Reade rightly says: "It makes not the slightest difference whether matter is as hard as adamant, as stodgy as suet, as volatile as gas, as agile as electricity, or as naked as a mathematical formula. The only relevant question is whether it is self-sufficient or created by God; and this, as we cannot too often remind ourselves, is a question on which natural science has nothing to say."
Our reasoning process does not begin by assuming God's existence. We begin with the observed fact of the visible universe we know. We say there is a reason for its existence either because it must of its very nature exist, that is, because it is self-existent, or because it is caused by some reality other than itself. But this material universe does not contain in itself the reason why it should exist rather than not exist, nor why it should be this kind of universe rather than some other kind. Denial of God as its Creator wipes off an intelligible universe as unintelligible in regard to its most basic requirement, that of its very being or existence. Reason rebels against this and affirms, not assumes without any factual basis, the existence of God as its Supreme Maker or Cause.
Science has a vast field for progress in its study of the whole world system of interdependent and interwoven processes of change; but the whole system points beyond itself to God as the absolute and transcendent source of its existence. Even within this universe, however, there is much which the physical sciences cannot hope to explain. They cannot tell us the purpose of our lives, nor what constitutes a good life as opposed to an evil one. They cannot tell us what becomes of us when death cuts us off from this world. These are important problems we need to solve. The unbeliever in God is not made by asking too many questions, but by not questioning sufficiently and deeply enough. Bacon's words are still true: "A little philosophy inclines man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy brings men's minds about to religion."
Russell there fell back on a misrepresentation. We do not say that everything must have a cause. We say that everything which does not contain within itself sufficient reason to account for its own existence must have a cause apart from itself. The material universe confronting us is a collection of finite, dependent, ever-changing elements. It is not selfexplanatory; but it is there and reason cannot find within it the explanation of why it is there. So the mind of man reaches out beyond it to the existence of One who is different in kind from the things around us - One who owes nothing, not even the fact that He exists - to anything else. The universe must owe its existence to a self-existent Being whom we called God, who is the Cause of all things other than himself, He himself being the Uncaused Creator of them. Bertrand Russell suffered from a mental blockage where religion was concerned. In a TV interview in 1958 he told his listeners that he thought his unbelief went back to a nightmare he had during a dream when he was a child only six years of age. Apparently all his philosophy had never emancipated him from the resultant obsession.
That conjecture would bring us no nearer to a solution of the real problem. God, as the supremely intelligent Creator, if he arranged things in that way, would still be necessary. Einstein himself did not think his suggestion did away with the need of God. In a lecture in Amsterdam in 1934 on "The World as I See It", he said that to the scientist "the harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
No one claims the existence of God to be an obvious fact like the material things around us of which we have sense-experience. That God exists is a judgment of man's intelligence based on the existence of the things obvious to our senses. People do not need to be deeply versed in philosophy to make that judgment. There are millions of human beings who cannot follow abstruse philosophical discussions, yet whose natural and spontaneous judgment that there is a God is quite sound. Nor is there any reason apart from your will to do so why you should have confidence in unbelieving intellectuals who say they do not find arguments for God's existence convincing rather than in believing intellectuals who insist that reason rightly demands our admission that He does exist. For the rest, the debates of philosophers have no effect on God himself. He remains as the Maker and Final Judge of all mankind including, the wrangling philosophers who, just as any other human beings, will have to answer to Him in the end for the use they have made of their lives.
To some extent, yes. I leave aside for the moment what He has told us of himself by divine revelation. We rightly conclude that He must possess in some way proper to himself all the good qualities He has bestowed upon creatures, although such qualities are given in varying degrees and are necessarily as finite or limited as creatures themselves. We, on our level, seeing only created and limited qualities, are compelled by reason to affirm what is good in them of God, denying that the limitations can apply to Him, and also insisting that He must possess them in a far higher way proper to his own infinite Being. Since we ourselves are persons, that is, possessing intelligence, freewill, and individual responsibility for our own deliberately chosen actions, God himself cannot be inferior to us in this respect and less than personal. He must be intelligent, free, and personal in an infinitely higher degree than ourselves. Naturally, if we are to talk about God at all, we can do so only in human terms on our own level, realising that our ideas in the way we think them are not strictly applicable to God in that same way. Our ideas are bound to be inadequate, only to some extent true, but there is something in God which corresponds to what we are trying to say of him. Our common sense should tell us that in order to understand God fully one would have to be God. We must resign ourselves to the fact that we are not God, that while we know something of him we cannot know all, and that He must remain for the human mind the Unique, Uncreated and Mysterious Reality that He alone can be.
They could grasp the fact of a Supreme Maker and Ruler of this visible universe. St. Paul's words were as true of them as of ourselves, namely, that the existence of God is manifested by visible creation in "the things that are made, his everlasting power also, and deity." Rom., 1:20. A comparative study of primitive religions shows that all peoples had the idea of a Supreme God above and beyond all lesser gods they had imagined for themselves, and they preserved both the sense of religion and of the duties of religion however misdirected their efforts to express religion in practice. St. Paul says of pagans who have lacked the knowledge of revealed truth that at least they have not outgrown a conscience within themselves, its approval or condemnation of their conduct remaining to serve as a witness on the day when God judges the secrets of mankind (Rom., 2:14-16). It should be noted that only intelligent human beings have ever had a religion. The phenomenon is not to be found among irrational animals. To have no religion is not a sign of intelligence. The Second Vatican Council, in its Decree on "The Church in the Modern World", n.19, admits that in our sophisticated civilisation there are atheists who regard the idea of God as simply meaningless, but it denies that such unbelief is based on sound reasoning. Rather it is due to men so exalting their own scientific achievements, or to their being so engrossed in earthly affairs, that they exclude from their attention any thought of God. And the Council adds: "Undeniably those who wilfully shut God out from their hearts and try to evade the question of religion are not following the dictates of their conscience. Hence they are not free from blame."
It is true that religion, if one is genuinely religious no matter in what way, expresses itself in prayer, whether spoken or unspoken. Prayer may take many forms. It may consist simply of an act of recognition and appreciation of God, or of gratitude to him, or apology for our own misdeeds, or of petition for his protection and assistance. Prayer is not only asking for things, although many in their thinking do not go beyond that aspect of it. That prompts their question as to why should we have to ask for anything. The answer is that, although God has given us many things without our having to pray for them, there are also many things He wills to give us provided we do pray for them. We must here allow for all the secondary causes and influences which are part of God's providential plan for the universe as a whole and for man in particular. Man, endowed with intelligence, is meant to be his own providence in many things, depending on his own initiative; but also man is dependent on the power of prayer as a safeguard against his own deficiencies, physical, mental or moral. No one can deny the uncertainty of our own human providence for ourselves. We do not always know what is really in our own best interests where the choosing rests with ourselves; and, in any case, there are many factors in life which are simply beyond our control. Such considerations should make second nature to us prayer to the God who made us; and millions have experienced the efficacy of such prayer. The truth remains, as Tennyson expressed it, that "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."
Here we must keep in mind that God is a fact, or nothing would exist at all; and suffering is also a fact. Difficulty in reconciling these two facts proves, not that there is no God, but only what we all ought to know, namely, that our small human minds cannot fully understand everything. Unless we are very foolish, we are well aware of the limitations of our human reason both as regards the number of things we can know and the degree of understanding we can develop concerning them.
There is bound to be some element of mystery. We have just got to accept that and make the best of things. One thing is certain. If there be no God, the mystery of the world without a Creator of it is a much greater mystery than any confronting the believer in God. Atheists try to do away with the problem by saying that there are sufferings and evils in this world and that therefore there is no God. At the other extreme there are religious people who say that there is an infinitely good God and that therefore there are no sufferings or evils. These latter, they say, we only imagine. They are illusions. But that, too, is to take refuge in unreality, evading the problem. The truly reasonable person admits that God is a fact and that the sufferings and evils are a fact. He refuses to go back on his tracks and deny either of the things he does know because of what he does not know and cannot expect to know. If the two facts conflict with our ideas of what ought or ought not to be, then we had better readjust our ideas. We cannot alter the facts.
Nature itself, as far as this material universe is concerned, is governed by physical laws which operate mechanically. At times, the interplay of secondary physical laws can result in disasters for vegetation, animals and human beings. Earthquakes and floods can wreck the countryside; fires can destroy vast areas of vegetation; carnivorous animals devour other animals; human beings have been struck dead by lightning. Changes of weather alone can be uncomfortable for creatures endowed with the power of sensation. Even God could not make a sensitive being not capable of feelings of any kind. Incidentally, sensation makes much pleasure possible if, at times, pain also. One could go on almost endlessly with the list of possible physical ills in this world. But they are off-set by the far greater physical benefits; so much so that the predominant desire to continue living in order to enjoy them rather than die and lose them is general among all living things. If we really thought the possible evils of this life outweighed the good we would pity, not the mouse just devoured by a cat and liberated from it all, but the cat for having to go on with its miserable existence!
We must take total and not partial views. By the creation of this whole universe God manifests his infinite power. Man can engage in processes of transforming things; but he could not create an acorn. God's wisdom is manifested by the laws appointed for the development of the universe leading to such an astounding variety, beauty, and opportunities of enjoyment that multitudes give little thought to anything else despite the hazards you mention. And He manifested his goodness by not denying existence to the universe and all in it, including ourselves, because of such occasional hazards. As for these hazards, they are necessary only in the sense of being an inevitable consequence of the kind of world we inhabit. All that we can say is that, viewing the world as a whole, reason itself cannot object to lesser disadvantages when they are outweighed by a greater total good. All finite realities, of course, are subject to some deficiencies by the mere fact of their being finite or limited in their degree of being and of the qualities they possess.
Here we enter upon a different field. God is in no way responsible for the moral evils which he forbids, which no human being need commit, and which are due to a guilty misuse of freewill. Men, and not God, are responsible for those. What must be said is that it would not be good, owing to possible moral lapses, to deprive man of his true dignity as a free and responsible person, turning him into an automaton or robot, as incapable of virtue as he would be incapable of vice. Here again, we must take complete and not incomplete views. We must not forget the solidarity of the human race. God had not to choose between creating this or that individual, but between creating or not creating a race propagating its kind. Since the general good of humanity outweighs the evil individuals do, it was better to create than not to create humanity. Also, the more one magnifies the evils resulting from abuses of freewill, the more in a way one pays tribute to the mercy of God who, in his patience, refrains from blotting the human race out of existence. Finally, this life is not all. Beyond our few short years in this world there is another life for mankind in which all injustices will be rectified. A merciful God can certainly tolerate trials and sufferings caused by evil men and endured with resignation and often with heroic constancy by men of goodwill, who can attain to greater eternal happiness as a result. It would not be more merciful to deprive all men of their opportunities of salvation by not granting any of us existence because some evil individuals choose to misuse the gift of freewill, causing such temporary distress to others.
We must not expect religion to do what it is not supposed to do. All human beings, religious or irreligious, while in this world are subject to its prevailing conditions; and these alternate between the comfortable and the uncomfortable. Speaking of temporal blessings, Christ said that "God makes his sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and his rain to fall upon the just and the unjust." Matt., 5:45. Equally, on the other hand, both the just and the unjust are subject to the ordinary trials of life. Meantime, the denial of God remedies nothing. The unbeliever still has to endure his share of inevitable sufferings. Others, who believe in God, at least find in their religious convictions a reason for patience in bearing with such trials as God chooses to permit. The Old Testament tells us of Job, whose religious fidelity no disasters could shake. The New Testament tells us of the teachings of Christ and of the way in which he himself faced the worst that this world could do to him. You may say that the appeal there is not to philosophical reasoning but to a religious faith. It is, however, to a faith supported by the evidence of historical events very much down to earth and on our own level which cannot be explained except by the direct intervention of God in human affairs. For the rest, while unbelievers voice their protests against particular evils as if there were nothing else in the universe, a Father Damien, who believed in a God of mercy, devoted himself uncomplainingly to manifesting God's mercy by caring for the lepers of Molokai until the dread disease of leprosy claimed his own life. The ultimate truth is that this world is not enough for man, who is made for far more than it can offer; and it is religion, as revealed by God, which alone can provide a satisfactory answer to the whole problem of life. That is why Pascal jotted in his personal notes that he believed in "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; not of the philosophers and scholars." Pascal regarded the abstract speculations about God, which was all that the philosophers and scholars had to offer, as scarcely worth the paper on which they were written. Very different, however, were his reactions to the revelation God had made of Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; to the way in which God had acted both upon them and within them - they in turn judging all things in the light of their relationships with Him.
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