By Caryn Tennant

In earlier centuries, belief in God was a common phenomenon. As the world becomes more enlightened with new discoveries and streams of thought, faith is often scoffed at. Why would rational human beings be so ‘irrational’? What fantasy world are they living in?

Perhaps two of the main obstacles to believing in an omnipotent creator would be the following:

 

1. Science versus Religion

“The noblest power of man is reason. The highest goal of reason is knowledge of God.”

St. Albert the Great, a scientist, scholar and doctor of the Church

When most things can be proven scientifically, what need is there for God? And more importantly, why should we believe in God when science can’t prove his existence?

The first question is popular among those who think that believing in God is an unreasonable thing to do. The good news is that faith and reason are complementary.

One can arrive at faith through reason and vice versa. Reason is the tool to help us discern what is true, and with some exploration into Scripture, Church teachings and attention to one’s desires, a depth of faith can be acquired.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century theologian, came up with five theories as to why God could exist.

  1. Everything is in motion. Nothing can move on its own, therefore something has to be the first mover. This first mover is God.
  2. Everything has a cause. Something caused us and the universe to come into being. This cause is God.
  3. The proof of necessity. The earth will not fall off its axis if one of us was to die. In order for the world to exist, it needs one necessary being to exist. This necessity is God.
  4. The argument for perfection. If we can all agree that there is a spectrum of good and evil in the world; imperfect and perfect, then we can agree that there must be an absolute or a maximum on this spectrum. This maximum good is God.
  5. The order of creation. Scientists will tell you that there is an incredible design in the world – take away one element (be it gravity, oxygen and so forth) and we would cease to exist. This intelligent designer is God.

Just to emphasise how reason is a welcomed principle, Thomas Aquinas was made a saint and doctor of the Catholic Church largely because of these philosophical contributions. For those who think that the Church is contrary to science, it was in fact a Catholic priest who proposed the Big Bang Theory. To find out more, click here. This is to say that reason is an essential part of faith and that belief in God is a reasonable option.

 

2.  Apathy: “Why should I?”

“Something incomprehensible is not for that reason less real”

Blaise Pascal

Furthermore, there are those who couldn’t care less if God is or is not real. This is especially so because society has rejected the idea of objective truth. This is to say that truth is relative to each person’s reality.

Or else, faith can seem so far removed in comparison to the stressful, more pressing events in life. Why take the time to further investigate the ‘God question’?

Before we get so sucked into the here-and-now of modern times, we need to bear in mind that religion has always been a fundamental part of human existence.

Why is this historical nugget important? It indicates that man is naturally a spiritual being – or at least it indicates that each of us has a desire for something more.

A man who lived 1661 years ago was also seeking something greater when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  All these years later, and I relate to this restless feeling of which St. Augustine speaks.

We need to look no further than the things sold to us through advertising convincing us that we need better phones, better cars and lives that look more like pinterest boards. We are quick to climb the next ladder.

Each of us has a desire for something greater and I guarantee that this restlessness cannot be satisfied on earth. This is why we need to pay attention to God being a real entity. Such a discovery has the power to change everything because perhaps, for once in your life, you will find something that is of greater value than any other fleeting and immaterial happiness.

 

The proof of God is written in goodness, truth and beauty

If there was a singular, satisfyingly comprehensive argument that explains to the entire world that God lives, there would be no need for us to question God’s existence. Fortunately, God is not the pushy, forceful guy with the stick who wants to force himself into our lives. The freedom to believe is part of God’s loving nature.

Although the writing may not be on the wall, there is nevertheless an invitation to believe. We find this invitation in our response to goodness, truth and beauty. For such qualities are a reflection of the Creator.

Thomas Aquinas states in one of his theories that God is the absolute value of perfection. Furthermore, Scripture portrays God as beautiful, truthful and good countless times. Needless to say, ‘good’ is the overwrought word in Genesis. I have not met a single person who would like to be loved less, be lied to or be content in an ugly world. These qualities are written in our desires.

St. Augustine challenges: “Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: “See, we are beautiful.” Their beauty is a profession. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One who is not subject to change?”

These things are at the base of our search and recognition of what we long for: God.

Notice these qualities around you:

Goodness is undeniable when a friend helps you in a time of need.

Truth is what we search for to make sense of things. It was this principle during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was hoped to bring healing to post-Apartheid South Africa.

Beauty is photographed, aimed for, purchased.

We search for these things because they are images of our Creator, who is good and created all of these things to draw us into relationship with him.

This brings us to the crux of the argument.

 

Made for relationship

 “When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.”

– St. Augustine

In my life, God has used everything – the good and the bad – to lead me to him. The blessings of a loving family, anointed friendships and doors that opened have all been an effort for him to show me he is with me; guiding me. The times of struggle where I sinned or when I couldn’t make sense of foggy situations have also been used to strengthen my character and my faith.

Jesus, who many perceive as a mere historical figure and a great teacher, is more than just a two-dimensional character from some book. He is the man who was flesh so that I might know how to live according to his radically loving teachings, but he is still the God who is encouraging me, raising me to new life, strengthening me through his Holy Spirit and teaching me so that I can spend eternity with him.

Mostly, I know that God is real because of the insatiable desires in my heart that can be quenched by nothing else.

 

Can’t shake the mystery

Possibly the most frustrating and elusive and beautiful (!) part of searching for God is the mystery that still remains. It is part of our desire for absolute truth and clarity which makes it tempting to simply box in some wonderful theories so that we can be satisfied with a neat stance. But in doing so, we box in mystery and we box in God.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.”

It is a choice of how we would like to respond to this mystery. It can drive us crazy with its inability to be contained. Or it can console us with the affirmation that our hearts will one day be at rest. Thankfully, the Church provides us with the channels to access this beautiful mystery. Through the Sacraments, we are given the invisible graces of God manifest in physical gestures and forms.

 

Further reading:

St. Augustine’s Confessions

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica

More on the Big Bang Theory: http://catholicexchange.com/is-the-big-bang-church-teaching

What does the Church say about evolution? http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution

 


About the Author

Caryn Tennant

I was raised Catholic, but had a deeper encounter with the faith when I spent my gap year in Australia ministering to teenagers. It changed the course of my life completely and I am grateful for the adventure and joy I have found in living my life with God at the centre. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living in Cape Town, South Africa, where I finished my BA degree and am now teaching English at a high school.

 

 

 


 

 

Disclaimer: Teach Me articles are not necessarily written by trained theologians and are merely aimed at enlightening the reader and prompting discussion and dialogue.  If you would like to share your opinions or give us feedback, please contact us via email, Twitter or Facebook.