On Faith and Reason

Last week, I discussed with some friends (all fellow Catholics) some proofs of the existence of God. Of course, we all agreed on most points, including the concept that the proofs, though conclusive, are not coercive or self-evident. More interesting, though, was a disagreement I said little about at the time, but has lingered with me since then.

My friends were all in agreement that God’s existence is not something that can be definitively proven. This view is common enough, but I find it difficult to accept. After all, Christ referred to Himself as the “Truth.” It would seem, then, that any means for arriving at the truth of something should prove – or at least provide evidence for – God’s existence, whether that method be logic or science or any related discipline. If this is not, in fact, the case, then surely there is a major problem.

Many religious people may find my attitude cold, but mine is a largely rational faith – I am Catholic because I find it to be the most rational option, based on what I know. Certainly emotion and upbringing are involved, but ultimately my confidence in the Church rests on my confidence in its rationality.

2 Comments

  1. philalethiac

    “any means for arriving at the truth of something should prove – or at least provide evidence for – God’s existence” – do you mean to suggest that any method which we use to find truth should help us to find evidence for God’s existence? If that’s true, then science should help us do that, so should math. To find out the truth about where a lost item is, you can look under things in your room, or think back to the last place you left a lost item. But I hardly think these methods will help you find proof of God. So, if I correctly understand what you meant to say, it is not the case. I don’t see that being a major problem for God, though.

    I think what you more meant to get at, perhaps, is ask whether God’s existence and the truth of Christianity can be proven? More importantly, if we trust Christ’s teachings, do we expect that these things can be proven?

    I would agree with you that yes, if Christianity is true, then God’s existence is something that should be reasonably proveable. Now, I don’t think Christ, in his preaching, required that God’s existence must be completely proveable. Look around you and ask, is anything completely and absolutely provable? I would say no. However, I do think that Christianity requires God to be reasonably provable: in other words, a person who will reasonably consider the evidence and come to an honest judgement about God’s existence would conclude that yes, most likely, and beyond all reasonable doubt, God exists and Christianity is true. So, if it isn’t the case that we can reasonably prove God’s existence, Christianity does have a major problem.

    What do you mean when you say that proof of God is “conclusive, but not coercive or self-evident”?

    Reply
  2. Richard

    First, thank you for the comment. To clarify a couple points:

    By “conclusive,” I mean “beyond a reasonable doubt.” By “coercive or self-evident,” I mean, well, “self-evident,” as in something no reasonable person would deny, such as “the whole of an object is greater than any of its parts.”

    For example, in a murder trial, I may be able to prove conclusively that the guilty party was Col. Mustard in the kitchen with the candlestick, but this would not be self-evident because the alternative is conceivable. It’s not something that must be true.

    When I say “any means of arriving at the truth of something,” no, I don’t mean absolutely anything, – I apologize for my lack of clarity.

    Reply

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