Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER II. Proofs for the Existence of an Intelligent First Cause or Personal God.

SECTION 1. -- Method of Proof.

23. THE object of the three following chapters is to prove not only that there is a First Cause of all things else that exist, but also that this First Cause has the attributes which are associated with the conception of a First Cause in the minds of monotheists, especially of Christians. This is most necessary if we are to make our ground sure. In a certain sense materialists and pantheists maintain the existence of a First Cause. What else are the eternal atoms out of whose combinations and movements the materialist believes the cosmos to be composed? What else is the Absolute of the pantheists, alleged to be eternally evolving itself under manifold aspects and conditions, and thereby creating the world out of its own substance? In truth, what is denied, particularly in these days, is not so much self-existence, as personal self-existence. We have to prove the existence of a Personal First Cause, that is to say, of an intelligent self-existing Being who is distinct from the Cosmos of which He is the ultimate cause. 24. The proof of this position is three-fold. We have the argument of the First Cause, the argument from Design, and the so-called Moral argument. The argument of the First Cause draws from the simple fact that some things exist the conclusion that there must be a First Cause, and then from the fact that intelligent beings, namely, men, exist, the further conclusion that this First Cause must be intelligent. It can thence proceed to the ultimate conclusion that such a First Cause must be One and Infinite in all respects.

The argument from Design starts with the order observable in the world, and infers the existence of a supra-mundane intelligent Designer. It then continues, in accordance with the method of argument already pursued by the argument of the First Cause, to argue for the self-existence, unity, and infinity of this Designer.

The Moral argument is that drawn from the general recognition of the existence of an invisible Lawgiver, a superhuman Lord and Ruler. It contends that a recognition of this character must be taken as the genuine voice of nature, and not as the outcome of any of the deceptive influences to which nature is subject. However, this argument, like that from Design, only proves the existence of an intelligent, superhuman ruler of the world. It does not tell us whether this ruler is self-existent or himself dependent on some previous Maker or Ruler. For this we must again go back to the argument of the First Cause.

Thus it is seen that the argument of the First Cause is the only one which is sufficient in itself. Absolutely, therefore, the others might be dispensed with. Nevertheless, they have their useful purpose. The argument of Design brings out more impressively the need of recognizing Intelligence in the First Cause, and the Moral argument fortifies our minds in their grasp of the previous arguments, for it shows them to be no mere outcome of an individual speculation, the conclusion to which the minds of men are impelled in such numbers and under such conditions that we are constrained to recognize in the impelling force the voice of our intellectual nature.

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