Five Proofs of the Existence of God [Book Review]

My first exposure to philosophical argumentation for the existence of God did not occur until a freshmen philosophy class at Harvard. That would be a humble brag except that I didn’t go to Harvard. I went to two classes for summer school and then they wouldn’t let me in for undergrad. I assume it was their loss. Personal bitterness aside, the arguments for the existence of God were fit into a couple of sentences in an early class. The professor assured us that serious philosophers no longer felt these arguments compelling, so we moved on to more interesting and destructive topics like situational ethics. Were those theistic arguments worthy of contemporary consideration? Would Christians today benefit from engaging deeply with these arguments?

In Five Proofs for the Existence of God, Philosophy professor Edward Feser walks readers through the actual arguments from the great minds of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz. They are deeply inter-related arguments. He argues from the existence of change, or the existence of compound objects, or the difference between an objects existence and its essence to the existence of the theistic God.

What causes the change from potential to actual in an object? Feser argues back to the existence of an unmoved mover or (more technically) an unactualized actualizer which is the source of all change that we perceive. His argument does not depend on a series of changes moving backward in time, but rather that at any particular moment in time, there must be some source of change in the world.

Each argument is stated informally, then in a formal way, then objections are answered. Even the interested student may become weary as the five arguments seem similar. However, worth the price of the book would be simply to read the first argument and then to read the excellent final chapter Common Objections to Natural Theology. At a minimum you will know how to answer the objection, “if everything has a cause, what caused God?”

Five Proof of the Existence of God is a clear, in-depth, approachable summary of the major Natural Theology arguments for the existence of God. It will appeal to Christians who appreciate the intellectual and apologetic aspects of faith.

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