I have read, seen and been told much over the course of my life about Christianity and religion. I have considered faith from many perspectives and concluded that God is an immaterial, omnipotent, omnipresent, and benevolent being who has existed forever and who created the universe in which we exist.
The first premise on which my statement of faith relies is that God exists. My evidence of this includes appeals to authority, unsound deductive reasoning and philosophical proof. I was raised by a Covenant pastor and his devout wife. Their belief system firmly incorporates the existence of God and I trust them a great deal. As such, their belief in God has planted the belief in me. Further, both my parents are very intelligent. My father has a Masters in Divinity, over a dozen years of collegiate study, and decades as a minister in which to found his belief. I respect him as a scholar and this leads me to trust his opinion on the existence of God.
At the young age of twelve, I had doubts. I felt skeptical of the existence of God and decided to test him. I wanted to test the capabilities of prayer and devised a plan to test for cause and effect. I prayed one evening for God to have my friend Josh wear specific green shirt the next day to school. I prayed hard and earnestly, expressing my desire to believe in God and that this was His opportunity to hook me forever. I prayed and prayed and finally went to sleep. The next morning I saw Josh and he was wearing precisely the shirt for which I had prayed. There are many reasons Josh could have worn that shirt that day, but my twelve year old brain saw cause and effect. My prayer had been answered by Who I could only deduct was God.
St. Thomas Aquinas was a fantastic scholar who addressed many questions about humankind, the soul and the existence of the supernatural. My belief in the existence of God relies on his argument in The Summa Theologica. In the first two articles of his second question, Aquinas addresses the issues of whether the existence of God is self-evident and whether or not it can be demonstrated that God exists. These precede his final article: Whether God exists? Simply, Aquinas makes five arguments for the existence of God: an argument from motion, from the nature of efficient cause, from possibility and necessity, from gradation, and from the governance of the world.
The argument from motion posits that everything in existence is either in a state of actuality or potentiality, never both simultaneously (Aquinas and Pegis 24). Things in a state of potentiality can be moved into a state of actuality if acted upon by another thing in a state of actuality. Therefore, everything in the universe was caused by another thing that was in a state of actuality before it, including the universe itself. It is not possible for this chain of cause and effect to regress infinitely into the past so, for the universe to exist, Aquinas suggests that there must have been a First Mover. He believes that force that set the universe in motion is God.
The argument from the nature of efficient cause is similar to that from motion as it equates existence to a set of three causes in a chain reaction: the first cause, the intermediate cause, and the ultimate cause (Aquinas and Pegis 25). The first cause causes the intermediate cause and the intermediate cause causes the ultimate cause. Intermediate causes are the world, mankind and everything else around us. The ultimate cause is in the future has not yet come about. Aquinas argues that to deny the existence of a first cause—which he holds to be God—would be to deny the existence of any intermediate cause, which we can plainly observe all around us.
Aquinas’s argument from possibility and necessity is the assertion that everything in the world has the possibility to not exist, or not be (26). Since everything has the potential to “not be,” then at one time everything must have “not been.” Since existence must come out of nonexistence, Aquinas states that there must exist something that has always “been” to nudge other things in the direction of being and that that thing is God.
The argument from gradation—my personal favorite—discusses relativity (27). Aquinas sets forth the idea that we can observe things in the world that are more or less of some quality (noble, true, good, etc.). He suggests that we are only able to put things on this continuum of gradation if there is some thing of maximum quality to which they can be compared. Further, all things are caused by that maximal thing to which they are compared. Things that are called hotter are all compared to that which is hottest (fire) and made to be hotter by that which is hottest (fire). In a similar fashion, Aquinas argues that all beings must be relative in their existence to some ultimate being. He suggests this ultimate being to be God.
The argument from the governance of the world points to the order evident in nature (27). Aquinas observes that things in the world always, or almost always, act in such a way as to achieve the best end. Things that do not have knowledge cannot act in such an intelligent way, so there must be some intelligent being directing the actions of the world. Aquinas believes that being to be God. While his philosophies were written centuries ago without the understanding of the world we have today, I feel St. Thomas Aquinas still provides some valuable insight into the nature of our existence. His argument in the second question of The Summa Theologica does considerable work for my statement of faith.
The next premise upon which my faith rests is that God is immaterial. Evidence of this comes from personal observation and scriptural reference. I have never seen God and know of nobody who has. God has yet to be quantified or documented by human means. The Bible never tells of a human being who witnessed the essence of God. The closest man ever came to observing God was Moses at the summit of Mt. Sinai in the Book of Exodus. He descended to earth in a dense cloud in which he could not be seen (Dunn, Prisk and Keller 83). From this evidence I conclude that God is not of physical essence, but is immaterial and without body.
God being omnipotent is the next crucial tenet of my faith. Evidence of this is derived from the Bible and present day documentation of religious experiences. The very first verse of the Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth—which we can infer to mean the entire universe (5). Any being that can be said to have brought all other beings into existence should be considered omnipotent. Additionally, God seemingly has the power to break the laws of nature and perform miracles. Later in the book of Genesis, He orchestrated a mighty flood with the purpose of cleansing the earth (Dunn, Prisk and Keller 13). In the third chapter of Exodus, God performed another well-known miracle in appearing to Moses in the form of a burning bush (65). Once God was done communicating with Moses, he left the bush and it was not burnt. These and other stories in the Bible suggest that God has unlimited power.
People report miracles often in the world today. Whether it is a case of terminal cancer mystifying doctors by going into remission unexpectedly or a person witnessing heaven between death and resuscitation, it would seem that acts that no one can explain occur in the world. Whether or not these acts should be attributed to God is another question, but those that affirm this must admit the omnipotence of God.
That God is omnipresent is the next premise in my statement of faith. My evidence to believe this comes from consistency of logic. I have stated that people claim to witness God or have other religious experiences. It must be accepted that these occur all over the world. Statistically, religious experiences have occurred or will at some point occur simultaneously. If these experiences are attributed to God, then I must conclude that God can be in multiple places at once. If He can be in multiple places at once, then he can be everywhere at once. As such, God can be said to be omnipresent.
Next is the premise that God is a benevolent being. This assertion can be somewhat ambiguous if one relies only on scripture to decide its truth. In the book of Nahum, God is referred to as vengeful, jealous, and wrathful (919). In spite of this, Christians are told that the Lord is good and loving. I feel the seemingly negative human qualities of God can be attributed to human fallibility of interpretation. Defining God with human concepts would seem a useless endeavor as He transcends humanity. Evil is often pointed out as the biggest indication that a benevolent God cannot exist, for a benevolent God would not create such a thing in the world. I reconcile this with a thought expressed by authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman in their novel Good Omens. They write, “People couldn’t be truly holy…unless they also had the opportunity to be definitively wicked” (71). The idea articulated here is that evil exists to create opportunities for mankind to do good. If this is the case, then God has created evil not for its own sake, but to motivate mankind to become “truly holy.”
The final two premises set forth in my statement of faith are the eternal existence of God and His creation of the universe. These issues were touched upon in the very first premise. St. Thomas Aquinas’s arguments from motion, the nature of efficient cause, and possibility and necessity all require that some being exists that brought the rest of being into existence. That being can have no creator and therefore must exist eternally. An eternal being exists infinitely into the future and infinitely into the past. God, being recognized as the first cause, must have created the universe. The creator of the universe can have no creator, so must be eternal. Therefore, if God created the universe, then He also has existed eternally.
While I believe in the existence of God, He is an enigma. Doubts and skepticism abound. That which I can take solace in is the fact that my belief is not unfounded. Faith, by definition, is accepting something that is partially inexplicable, but I have eliminated as much doubt as I possibly can.
Aquinas, St. Thomas and C. Anton Pegis. Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 1948. Print.
Dunn, R. Richard, et al. Bible, New Living Translation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004. Print.
Pratchett, Terry and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens. United Kingdom: Workman, Inc., 1990. Print.