Back into the fray! Article 3 is Natural Theology. The juiciest articles are eight through ten.
Remember, we’re doing summaries of summaries here; only bare sketches are possible. Buy his book for more detail.
Article 1: Whether natural theology is possible?
Yes. Since you cannot desire what you do not (or cannot) know, you couldn’t desire God if He didn’t exist (see also Art. 5). “And insofar as anything is knowable by reason, it can be the object of a rational science, whether physical, mathematical, or philosophical.” Yes, lads and lasses, theology is a science; indeed, as Newman said, the Queen of them all. When the world was young, it was thought impossible, and it was true, that to receive an education lacking royal exposure was no education at all. It is still true.
How can you study an infinite creature such as God, since we cannot know infinity?
God can be defined negatively. as the non-finite being, the non-temporal being, the non-caused being, the non-potential being, etc.
Playing with infinities is also the daily toil of mathematicians, who would recoil if you were to tell them that because we cannot know the value of the last number, infinity doesn’t exist.
God can be an object of faith or reason. Here’s something you hear all the time: “We now know how this certain protein folds.” We know nothing of the kind, at least if we is taken as all of mankind, instead of a small fraction of highly trained (and gifted) individuals. A physicist can tell his mother a neutrino has mass and she will reply, “Yes, dear” and believe him. One knows by reason, the other by faith. The latter class is always much larger.
(Scientists usually accept this, except for evolution, where ignorance is considered sacrilegious and as justification for verbal stonings.)
Article 2: Whether there is one primary meaning to the word “God”?
Yes. Atheists love to tell theists, “I am almost like you. I reject all the same gods you do. I just go one further.” It’s a good line, if you have a back-slapping fetish, but it is fallacious if used to say God therefore doesn’t exist. It’s also an (indirect) and unfair aspersion against mathematicians. How?
John Von Neumann was asked by a colleague for a proof of some contention. Von Neumann asked which of several theorems his questioner knew, and then proceeded to prove the contention by one or two theorems. There is usually more than one path to the right answer. Or to the partial answer. Just because one religion emphasizes one aspect of God, and a different religion highlights another, does not mean that both are wrong, in the sense of completely, utterly wrong (though of course they might be wrong in part).
Anselm’s definition of God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” is “agreed to by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and even Buddhists and Taoists.”
Article 3: Whether God’s existence can be proved from the concept of God (Anselm’s “ontological argument”)?
Article 4: Whether God’s existence can be proved from the cosmos?
Yes. Kreeft then gives his précis of a Kalam-like argument, which he calls “the Emo argument.” Here is my précis of his précis, which is therefore too short by far.
- All matter, time, and energy came into existence, probably at the Big Bang.
- “Either this event was caused or uncaused.”
- If uncaused, then we have defenestrated causality and Cole Porter was right: Anything Goes. Including, for no reason whatsoever, the popping into existence of Emo, “a large blue rabbit with the name ‘Emo’ tattooed on its tail.” Emo couldn’t have caused his own appearance, neither could anybody have been the tattooer.
- “This (Emo) is absurd.” God help you if you disagree.
- Therefore matter, time, and energy must have been caused by something outside itself (quantum fields are not outside themselves). Which is to say, God (being itself, “I Am”) created physical existence.
Article 5: Whether God’s existence can be proved from human existence?
Yes. Besides the argument from conscience (we all have one, it came from somewhere, and all agree it should be obeyed; why?), and the argument from intelligence (only something at least equal to our intelligence could have caused our intelligence; and, yes, evolution could have been a tool here), there is the argument from desire.
We all desire perfection, beauty, goodness, etc., and desires can only correspond to real objects (“real hungers entail real foods”), thus the only thing that fits the bill is God. What of unicorns? Glad you asked:
The objects of ideas can be mere potential beings, or mere essences, like unicorns, but the objects of desires are real goods.
Article 6: Whether God’s existence as man’s ultimate end can be proved?
If we weigh the idea of God, in the scales of the mind, against all other ideas and ideals that have ever appeared in all the minds of men who have ever lived, this single idea infinitely outweighs all others. For it is the idea of “that than which nothing greater can be conceived,” the idea of an infinitely perfect being. What a dirty trick it would be if all the other ideals we could aspire to were real and attainable and this one alone, the greatest of all, were not…It would indicate not randomness but the existence of a God behind this carefully designed trick, but his name would be Satan.
Article 7: Whether God’s relation to man (“religion”) can be proved?
No. God can be known to man, but mere “knowing is not religion.” It is “not to have a personal relationship.”
Aside: Stalkers also get this wrong, but in reverse.
Article 8: Whether the existence of evil disproves the existence of God?
No. An unhappy guy bumped into me when I was moving a box, which caused me to slip and cut my right middle finger. Just a pinprick, really. But it stung when I washed my hands and again when my dental floss rubbed up against it. Ouch.
On the scale of evils, this rates somewhat below Communism or faulty tenure committees (but I repeat myself). Still, it is evil. Even lower down the scale is the sentencing of thousands of otherwise joyful souls to suffer a third of each day in a “cubicle” (see torture, instruments of). Don’t forget the one everybody leaves out, the philosopher’s favorite premise: All men are mortal.
How could an all-loving, all-powerful God could have allowed evils like these to flourish? Why doesn’t He just drop (antioxidant rich, transfat free, etc.) manna in front of us at regular intervals so we don’t have to move? Shouldn’t our physical lives be unrelenting bliss, all desires satisfied on demand? For anything short of that perfection bespeaks of a deity who is willing to let bad things happen.
[T]he existence of infinitely good God and the existence of evil are compatible because of the existence of time. For an infinitely good God could allow evil to exist in order to bring out of it, in time, an even greater good than could have existed if evil had not been allowed to exist. Evil will, indeed, be totally destroyed, but in its proper time.
Evil is allowed to exist in order to preserve free will…Also, the premise that evil exists is not, strictly speaking, true, for evil is not a substance, but existence is properly predicated only of substances.
Article 9: Whether human free will and divine predestination are logically contradictory?
No. It’s difficult, probably impossible, to write of free will from the point of view of God, who is outside of time. We’re stuck in it, and in a sense made out of it. For us, it is enough to observe we have free will (our intellect understands choices, and the consequences of choices). This observation, incidentally, falsifies all theories which say free will is an illusion (of course!; only rational beings with free will could comprehend illusion; only intellects can comprehend!).
Kreeft puts it in terms of a story, which is under control of an author but which is populated by creatures with wills (or who follow rules). It’s only an analogy, though, because it’s easy to imagine writing a story where a character is made to do whatever we want; and then the character doesn’t really exist except in our intellect. The analogy is not entirely satisfying.
But tough luck. Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t it make it false (unless you can prove it false; but then you understand it: how much depends on whether your proof is merely demonstrative or constructive).
Article 10: Whether God changes (or is in “process”)?
No. If God at some point changes for the better, he was imperfect; and then if He changes for the worst, well then He becomes imperfect. Perfection cannot change.
God’s love is an act. There are two kinds of act. (1) “First act,” or actuality (as distinct from mere potentiality), does not necessarily imply change. (2) “Second act,” or activity, follows and depends on first act, and implies change in its object, but not necessarily in its subject. An unchanging cause can produce changing effects, and this would entail changes in the relationship between them.
Kreeft doesn’t mention it, but there some who posit a changeable God as a solution to free will. The solution is to deny God knows the future, which is as “open” to Him as it is to us. Ever wonder what tomorrow will bring? So does God in this view. But as there is no predestination, it’s easy argue for free will. The price for this is a radically diminished God who cannot understand what He created. This deity is sort of a superior space alien who one day said to himself, “I wonder what’ll happen if I press this button?” Kind of sort of like Deism.