|"As a deer longs for flowing streams, |
so my soul longs for you, O God" (Ps 42:1)
More philosophically, the great thirteenth century Roman Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas (who thus wrote before the Protestant/Catholic divide), offered an initial outline of the famous “Five Ways.” First, there is the Argument from Motion: since everything that moves is moved by another, there must thereby exist an Unmoved Mover. Second, the Argument from Efficient Cause: the sequence of causes that make up this universe must have a First Cause. Third, the Argument to Necessary Being: since all things that exist are dependent on other things for their existence, there must exist at least one thing that is not dependent. This then is a Necessary Being. Four, the Argument from Gradation: Since all things that exist can be compared to such qualities as degrees of goodness, there must exist something that is an Absolutely Good Being. Finally, the Teleological Argument: The intricate design and order of existent things and natural processes imply that a Great Designer exists.
Whether or not these Five Ways are maligned or praised, they have offered an excellent outline for subsequent thinkers who make philosophical arguments for God’s existence and for our natural knowledge of God. In fact they really constitute really a summary of what would have been known to his students reading the Summa and therefore not a full-blown proof are based on Thomas’s conviction that human beings have knowledge that God exists, although revelation is needed to know who God is.
In the seventeenth century—right at the flowering of modern science—the mathematician Blaise Pascal offered another proof for God. He began, in a similar vein to Augustine with our existential search for rest: “By nature, we all seek happiness.” But where do we seek it? “Some seek the good in authority, some in intellectual inquiry and knowledge, some in pleasure.” Pascal continued by observing that all these various potential sources for happiness, for a beautiful life, leave us craving for more. He pondered what that meant:
What else does this craving, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him… since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
C. S. Lewis echoed this conclusion about three hundred years after Pascale with a simple, logically compelling, phrase in his apologetics: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Lewis believed that this argument from desire constitute one of the strongest proofs for God’s existence.
It may surprise some in the Reformed tradition—at least those who have read Karl Barth’s cavils against “natural theology”—that the seminal voice of Reformed theology, John Calvin, wrote similarly of the “awareness of divinity.” Calvin was not out to prove God, but to state that inherent in human existence is a basic, vague, and powerful natural knowledge of God. Indeed, in Calvin’s vastly influential 1559 Institutes of the Christian Religion, he wrote, “There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity.” This awareness of divinity or sensus divinitatis is “beyond dispute” according to Calvin.
What do you think about a natural knowledge of God? (I'm working on these ideas as I sketch some thoughts toward a systematic theology in light of science.)