I occasionally commend books that I don’t necessarily recommend people read because of the challenging nature of the material. But that such works exist—and can be profitably read by folks with sufficient background—should be widely known. This is true of Robert J. Spitzer’s New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, c. 2010), in which he sets forth five arguments (two scientific, three metaphysical) designed to persuade the reader that God necessarily exists.
Scientifically there are, firstly, “indications of creation and Supernatural design in big bang cosmology.” Arno Penzias, a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, put it plainly: “‘Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan’” (p. 13). Spitzer summarizes the evidence, all leading to the conclusion that “a universe without a beginning is impossible” (p. 36).
Secondly, there are “indications of supernatural design in contemporary big bang cosmology” supported by many eminent physicists. Given the universal constants basic to the material world, it is highly improbable—“exceedingly, exceedingly, exceedingly remote” (p. 65)—that our anthropic universe could have accidentally emerged. Evidence of this deflated Fred Hoyle’s atheism, for he concluded the facts indicate “‘that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question’” (p. 73).
Turning to philosophical arguments, Spitzer insists that the same way of thinking we follow elsewhere applies equally to metaphysics. Rigorous investigation leads to certain “reasonable and responsible” beliefs, as demonstrable as the fact that you and I exist or the laws of thought. “Metaphysics and proofs for God’s existence do not require any more belief or force of will than an application of mathematics or logic to the world” (p. 109). There is, then, a compelling “metaphysical argument for God’s existence.” Thinkers including Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas have articulated a cogent case for the necessary existence of an “unconditioned reality” basic to all that is. Secondly, Spitzer proposes a “[Bernard] Lonerganian proof for God’s existence.” God, defined as the unconditioned Reality, is tacitly known in our minds as we sense that there is an ultimate answer to all our questions that necessarily exists. Thirdly, there is the Kalam “proof against the infinity of past time” that dovetails with recent insights into the Big Bang. Though we can imagine an infinite future, there cannot actually be an infinite past!
Though the bulk of Spitzer’s work focuses on his five proofs for God’s existence, he concludes his study with a brief philosophical discussion (resonate with Platonic and Thomistic insights) of His nature, showing that “Love itself, Goodness itself, and Beauty itself exemplify the characteristics of perfect unity (absolute simplicity) identified with the unconditioned Reality (Being itself) and unrestricted intelligibility (Truth itself)” (p. 245). Within the “divine mystery” there are five “transcendentals.” God not only must exist—He is, necessarily, a certain kind of God. Importantly, these attributes satisfy our deepest hungers. As early as we can talk we ask “Why is that?” And we’re never quite satisfied with the answers—ever asking more questions. There is obviously an “inadequacy of partially intelligible answers, and that true satisfaction will only occur when complete intelligibility has been achieved” (p. 259). We know, in our dissatisfaction with partial truths, that there is an ultimate Truth—what Lonergan terms a horizon that serves “as a backdrop over against which I compare the ideas that I have understood” (p. 263). We’re also attuned to the Reality of Perfect Love. We not only realize our need for love—we know it should be perfect! We admittedly never experience such love, but we both desire and know it must be.
So too we desire perfect justice and goodness. Children early declare “That’s not fair!” They just know things should be just. “Not only do human beings have a sense of good and evil, a capacity for moral reflection, a profoundly negative felt awareness of cooperation with evil (guilt), and a profoundly positive felt awareness of cooperation with goodness(nobility); they also have a ‘sense’ of what perfect, unconditioned justice/goodness would be like” (p. 268).
Conscience—so rightly celebrated by Immanuel Kant and John Henry Newman—truly seems to be the voice of God within the human heart. Newman memorably declared: “‘Conscience implies a relation between the soul and something exterior, and that moreover, superior to itself; a relation to an excellence which it does not possess, and to a tribunal over which it has no power. And since the more closely this inward monitor is respected and followed, the clearer, the more exalted, and the more varied its dictates become, and the standard of excellence is ever outstripping, while it guides, our obedience, a moral conviction is thus at length obtained of the unapproachable nature as well as the supreme authority of that, whatever it is, which is the object of the mind’s contemplation’” (p. 273).
Fourthly, we have a deep “desire for perfect beauty” that must be rooted in a Transcendent Beautiful Reality. We rejoice in the beauty of the mountains or music, but in time we long for something still more beautiful. One Rembrandt on the wall must be followed by another. One Mozart symphony never quite suffices. As Plato discerned in the Symposium, we move “‘from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty’” which must ultimately be “‘the true beauty, the divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life, thither looking and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine’” (p. 279). Most beautiful of all, we want a “perfect home.” Strangely enough, we feel ourselves strangers on earth, lost in the cosmos, hungry for a final resting place. By nature, as C.S. Lewis so eloquently argued, we long for heaven. Now and then we experience an ecstasy akin to the bliss of eternal life.
Consequently, Spitzer ends his treatise as he began, with the words of Sir Arthur Eddington: “‘We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammeled by the world of physics. In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the expression of art, in a yearning towards God, the soul grows upward and finds fulfillment of something implanted in its nature. The sanction for this development is within us, a striving born with our consciousness or an Inner Light proceeding from a greater power than ours. Science can scarcely question this sanction, for the pursuit of science springs from a striving which the mind is impelled to follow, a questioning that will not be suppressed. Whether in the intellectual pursuits of science or in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and the purpose surging in our nature responds’” (p. 1; p. 286).
Gerard Reed is a retired professor of history and philosophy, most recently Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He is the author of three books--The Liberating Law; C.S. Lewis and the Bright Shadow of Holiness; C.S. Lewis Explores Vice & Virtue--as well as a variety of articles and book reviews.