Page 4, 24th November 1961

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By Fr. James QUIN, Ph.D.,

ARECENT article in the CATHOLIC HERALD contained the following statement: God is encountered by "monstration" rather than by "demonstration".

In the absence of definition, this distinction is confusing rather than enlightening and has tended to confirm an opinion already formed by some readers that the existence of God cannot be proved by reason. The Church teaches explicitly an

that human reason c demonsate the existence of God and has condemned the proposition which denies this possibility. Consequently, in view of current opinion, some declaration and clarification of the Catholic position on this question would seem to be called for. This is the aim of the present article.


'FRE existence of God is not. for the human mind. self-evidently true. Therefore, if God is to he apprehended by reason. it can only he by inference from truths previously known. The process of conducting the mind by insight or by a succession ofinsights from truths already known to a truth as yet unknown mean b is what we my demonstration and in this sense of the word the existence of God can be demonstrated. But there are different methods of demonstration.

(a) There is the method of empirical science which proceeds in the following way: an hypothesis is formulated to explain the empirical data; conclusions are drawn from this hypothesis about further empirical data which ought to be observed if the hypothesis is true; these conclusions are then checked by further observation and experiment; if they are verified the hypothesis is confirmed: if they are not,. the hypothesis must be discarded or modified. Just when such a method reaches status atus of strict demonstration no empirical data not concern us here; it cannot be used to establish the exist

ence of God since mpirical data can be deduced with logical necessity from the " God-hypothesis ".


1 F the word "demon ' stration " is restricted to empirical method. obviously the existence of God cannot be demonstrated. But if anyone is using the word in this sense he ought to make the fact clear because in ordinary usage it is not so restricted, (b) There is the pure rational m or pure deductive method used in analytic sciences, like logic and mathematics, where the mind procee.ds from axioms or self-evident principles and from these deduces other truths which they logically C ntail.

This method has been used by Some philosophers to prove the existence of God, notably by Si. Anselm, Descartes and Leibniz. The result is the fascinatingly delusive Ontological Argument.

Such a demonstration of the existence of God is certainly invalid. And here we are on the r, as Hume te

side of the angels, fo and our contemporary empiricists never tire of repeating, this type ea of reasoning is circumscribed within the sphere of conceptual analysis and can give us no information about any matter of fact n yield no judgment of existence.


There is also fel Therationalempirical method which we are constantly using in applied sciences and in the affairs of everyday life. start In this method we art with some


fact of observation, take it in conjunction with some general prin ciple or law d deduce the existence of some other fact which that conjunction logically entails.

In this case the deduced fact is known to be true without empirical verification. For example, we can deduce by reason that the square on the hypotenuse of a rectangular triangiJ is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. Thisof itself gives us no information about any matter of fact. But. if in conjunction with this universal proposition we take the empirically established fact that a certain figure drawn on a plane surface is a triangle with one angle equal to ninety degrees. a hypotenuse of five inches and another side of three. we can deduce that the remaining side is four inches (or approximately so, allowing for lack of absolute precision in measurement). And this is a matter of fact. It is this method we use in demonstrating the existence of God. In pursuit of the method we must take sonic axiom or universal principle which. in conjunction with some empirical fact, logically entails the truth of the proposition ,,God exists".

What then is the principle and what the empirical fact?


A. The principle is the metaphysical principal of Intelligibility or Sufficient Reason. The principle asserts that whatever exists must either be completely intelligible in itself or have the complement of its own deficient intelligibility in something else; in other words a thing either explains itself or it does not; if it does not explain itself, something else must exist to explain it.

This is the principle in virtue of which the housewife blames the butcher when, in spite of her best efforts. the Sunday joint is inedible, the butcher in turn blames the breeder and the breeder the poverty of the pasture. This is the principle which prompted Dalton's Newton's Law of Newton's Law of Newton's Law of Atomic Theory, Newt Gravity and Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

are a Whether any of these explana

tions adequate is beside the point. The point is that explanations are sought and theories proposed only in virtue of the certain conviction that things do have an adequate explanation


B• What fact of experi • ence taken in conjunction with this principle will lead the mind to the existence of God? The answer to this question is simple—any fact of experience whatever. When we have an experience we must experience something. Linguistic Analysts may fill libraries with tomes of minute analyses in their effort to state precisely what it is we experience but no one can


deny the fact that e do experience what the man of commonsense calls himself, other people and physical objects. This object or content of experience is either completely intelligible in itself (i.e. selfexplanatory) or it is not: if it is self-explaniory, it is what we mean by God; if it is not self-explanatory, it must, in the ultimate analysis, have its explanation in something which is. Briefly, if anything exists, God exists. This conclusion is absolutely necessary and no one can deny its truth without at thesame time denying the validity of human reason entirely. Sonic philosophers admittedly deny the validity of reason but they make absurdity doubly absurd when they adduce the reasons which. in their opinion, logically lead to the conclusion that no valid reasons can be adduced which logically lead to anything.

St. THOMAS ALTHOUGH the statement " Something exists. therefore Godexists" is undeniable, it is quite compatible with pantheism. It has been held that the universe of our experience is itself God and is selfexplanatory. Consequently a em further examination of the pirical data is required if we are to arrive at the transcendent God whose existence the Church teaches to be demonstrable by reason. There are many aspects of the physical world which show that it is not intelligible in itself and is therefore distinct from God. These different aspects of deficient intelligibility are. or can be made, the starting points for different lines of argument each of which leads the mind to transcend the sphere of experience and apprehend God as the necessary complement of that deficient intelligibility. The five ways of St. Thomas such line

are five s of thought. They are samples. There are others. But it would be outside the scope of the present article to pursue any of these lines of thought, Our only aim here is to demonstrate that the existence of God can be demonstrated.


I T has been objeeted that in the process of just ust outlined the word ,.God" is only a cloak for our ignorance; we discover some aspect of reality which we cannot understand and call in God to furnish the explanation. God is more than an algebraic X introduced to balance up the intellectual equation, Man. as it were. runs two one accredited accounts with the Bank of Ex

planations, redited to God,

the other to natural causes and the advance of science has been a continual process of withdrawal from the former and deposit in the latter.

It is difficult to accept this as a bona fide objection. It is surely obvious to everyone that the theistic scientist, like his atheistic colleague, has a very large account accredited to Natural Causes as yet Unknown. This alone should make it abundantly clear that "Due to God" and "Due to unknown causes" are not, in the theistic budget, identical accounts. Anyone who seriously believes that God is a symbol of our ignorance has not begun to understand the arguments for His existence, Such a belief is naive in extreme! The kind of deficient intelligibility which leads the mind logically to God is such that no physical expp 1eri 1 a niaetni otn could supply the com And just as a ray of light carries the mind to the unseen source from which it radiates; just as the observable phenomena of our sense experience lead us to a knowledge of the unobservable and unimaginable activities of the infra-atomic world, so also the changing multiplicity and contingent limitations of the physical world lead us with logical necessity to the order of Unique, immutable, Necessary, Infinitely Perfeet Being in which alone there is complete intelligibility and the necessary complement of all deficient intelligibility.


IN the oath against Modernism, the Church bids us profess that "God, the orig,n and end of all things, can he known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (cf. Rom. 1.20), that is from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, arid that, therefore, His existence can also be demonstrated."

The words " can be" in the last part of this statement should he noted. The Church does not teach that a rational demonstration of God's existence will convince everyone. All we are entitled to deduce from the teaching of the Church is that the process by which human reason is carried from thedeficient intelligibility of creatures to the existence of the Creator is valid and if anyone is ineureiade of folliessing this process, the weakness lies, not-in the demonstration. hut in the person who cannot see it.

There are several reasons why some people find valid arguments for the existence of God unconvincing. In the first place, a reflex grasp of the metaphysical argument requires some training and sharpening of intellectual insight. Secondly, to appreciate metaphysical arguments one's intellectual insight must not have developed a positivistic squint.

Thirdly, one's insight must not he blinded by moral obstructions which prevent the mind from looking. Fourthly, man is not a disembodied visit. He is a rational animal and even when his animal nature is not dominant it is still very much in evidence, The human person does not think with his mind alone; he thinks with his whole personality and it is not easy for man. as rational, to accept conclusions which man, as animal, cannot

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