God Is: An Introduction to the Evidence for the Existence of God, Part 24


            In his dialogue De libero arbitrio (“Free Choice”), completed in 395, St. Augustine of Hippo proposes a proof for the existence of God based on our experience of truth.

            We experience that some things are always true. It is always true, for instance, that 7 + 3 = 10. It’s true that something can’t be true and not true at the same time and in the same way. It’s true that something can’t be and not be at the same time. These truths are always true. They’re unchanging, not influenced by time, the past, present, or future. They’ve always been true, are true, and always will be true. They are eternal truths.

            Augustine argues that, since these truths are eternal and never changing, they can’t be the product of human minds, because human minds are always changing, and they’re not eternal. “If truth were equal to our minds,” Augustine argues, “it would be subject to change. Our minds sometimes see more and sometimes less, and because of this we acknowledge that they are mutable [subject to change]. Truth, remaining in itself, does not gain anything when we see it, or lose anything when we do not see it.” Truth isn’t created or in any way dependent on human beings. Truth is not created at all, but discovered.

            Yet, truths don’t exist outside of a mind. Consider again the truth that 7 + 3 = 10. This is true. It’s eternally true. But, it doesn’t exist outside of a mind to consider it. Numbers don’t exist. They’re concepts, not entities. The number 7, for instance, doesn’t exist independent of a mind that’s thinking about it. There may be seven things: seven trees, seven dogs, seven rocks, or seven people. But the number 7 doesn’t exist in and of itself. There’s no number 7 floating about like some Platonic form, existing independently of a mind to think it. In order for the truth of 7 + 3 = 10 to exist, to be real, it must do so only in a mind.

            Yet, human minds can’t be the minds in which these eternal truths reside, for human minds, as we’ve said, are mutable and contingent. Human minds are not eternal. There must, then, be a mind that is itself eternal, which has always had these eternal truths in mind. This we call God.

            But, isn’t this a circular argument? We need eternal truths to prove the existence of God, and we need God to prove the existence of eternal truths! Not if we distinguish between truth and reality. For instance, it’s true that 7 + 3 = 10. But, this eternal truth can’t exist in reality except in an eternal mind. So, the truth of God’s existence is demonstrated by eternal truths, while the reality of eternal truths is dependent on God’s existence.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


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