Faith and knowledge are often seen as opposed. “I have found it necessary to deny knowledge to make room for faith,” Immanuel Kant once said. Kant’s words express the way many contemporary Christians and non-Christians alike have come to understand belief in the existence of God.
The idea goes something like this. On the one hand, there is knowledge. Knowledge is certain and derived from the senses. On the other hand, there is faith. Faith is tentative, vulnerable to doubt, requiring a “leap”. Since we cannot see God, belief in God’s existence must therefore belong in the latter category – the uncertain category of faith.
The Catholic Church has always rejected this way of thinking. This is in part because the Church rejects any opposition between knowledge and faith – the Church teaches that faith is not opposed to but rather a kind of knowledge. But perhaps more surprisingly, the Church also teaches that human beings can come to know God exists independently of religious faith. This teaching achieved the status of dogma at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), when the Council Fathers proclaimed in the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius that:
“The […] Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the beginning and end of all things, may be certainly known by the natural light of human reason, by means of created things; “for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20)”
In this course we will explore some of the classic philosophical arguments for God’s existence. We will examine the arguments of the Greek pagan philosophers Aristotle and Plotinus as well as those of the Christian philosophers Augustine, Aquinas and Leibniz. We will consider the most popular contemporary objections to these arguments and how to answer them. Finally, we will show how the God of the Philosophers and the God of Biblical Faith are one and the same. Ultimately the course aims at equipping you to do what Saint Peter asks us to do: “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Luís Pinto de Sá is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at Saint Louis University. His research focuses on the nature and value of knowledge and intellectual flourishing. Born and raised in Portugal, Luís has lived in the U.S. since 2008. Chief among the many undeserved gifts this country has given him is his lovely wife, Lillian.
Edward Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2017.
Date(s) - May 22, 2018 - June 28, 2018
Cardinal Rigali Center