By Clare Walker, Holy Trinity In-House Writer
You might think a book of philosophy about the proofs for the existence of God would be hopelessly opaque and difficult to read. In the case of this book, at least, you would be delightfully mistaken. Professor Edward Feser has a rare gift: the ability to make esoteric philosophical arguments accessible to lay readers. With charm and wit, Dr. Feser summarizes five arguments for the existence of God, based on Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz.
Don’t be intimidated. Dr. Feser swept me along on the gentle current of his explanation, and I found myself understanding, for the first time in my life, various “—isms” of philosophy that in my younger years completely confused me.
In the first part of the book, Feser summarizes the five proofs for the existence of God. These proofs lead inevitably to a list of God’s attributes and an understanding of His nature, which take up part two. Finally, Dr. Feser brings it all home by unpacking and refuting many common objections to the five proofs, with particular emphasis on the arguments of the New Atheists: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and others.
It turns out that much of modern atheism’s objection to the five arguments arises from a total misunderstanding of what the arguments actually assert. For example, the arguments from causality conclude by naming God as the Uncaused Cause. Atheists respond with, “But if everything has a cause, then what caused God?” To which they may cleverly append, “Gotcha!”
What they don’t understand is that the arguments from cause do not try to assert that “everything has a cause.” The arguments specifically arrive at the conclusion that there is one thing, and one thing only, that does not have a cause.
That thing is God. Critics of First Cause arguments don’t even realize they are “destroying” an argument that no serious philosopher has ever made!
“So,” Feser writes, “to ask, ‘What caused God?’ far from being the devastating retort New Atheist writers suppose it to be, is in fact painfully inept.”
Most of the time, Dr. Feser defines the words he uses, but perhaps the book would benefit from a short glossary of philosophical terms.
That’s actually a minor quibble. For a person of faith to have certainty of faith is a great blessing. One can obtain this certainty not only through revelation and a personal encounter with the living God but through exposure to the unshakable philosophical and rational foundations of belief. We live in an age of cynical unbelief, surrounded by people who dismiss religious experience as mere emotionalism. For those who crave a rational basis for their faith, or want to demonstrate to their intellectual detractors that faith in God is rational, reasonable, and well-founded, this book is perfect.
This article originally appeared, in slightly longer form, in The National Catholic Register and can be found here: www.ncregister.com/daily-news/how-can-we-prove-god...
Clare T. Walker, a Holy Trinity Parishioner since 2003, writes for the National Catholic Register (www.ncregister.com). She is also an independent fiction author. Here are some handy links to her website and her books:
Clare T. Walker
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