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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Review: Does God Exist? by Matt Fradd and Robert Delfino

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

Does God Exist? by Matt Fradd and Robert Delfino [1] presents a fictional coffee-house conversation between AJ, an atheist, and Lucy, a Christian. In the conversation, Lucy walks through the Five Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Theologica to demonstrate the existence of God. The dialogue form allows Fradd and Delfino to introduce this apologetic tool in an example of actual apologetic discourse, highlight various criticisms of the Five Ways, and demonstrate a winsome approach to apologetic discussion.

In the First Way, Aquinas argues that everything has potentiality and actuality. For something to realize its potential, it must be acted on by something outside itself. Yet this cannot continue on infinitely. There must be a “first mover” which is only actuality and does not need anything else to move it from potentiality to actuality. Aquinas asserts that this being is God. God is fully perfect in that He lacks nothing and needs nothing to cause Him to be something more than He is [2].

His Second Way follows a similar logic. For every effect seen in the world, there must be a cause that gives rise to the effect. However, the world cannot be a series of causes stretching on infinitely. There must be a primary cause that does not need to be caused by another. Fradd and Delfino compare it to a chandelier. Each cause is a link in the chain. Yet even an infinitely long chain could not hold up the chandelier without the ceiling, a first cause on which all the other causes are hung. Aquinas asserts that this being is God [3].

In the Third Way, Aquinas argues from contingency, the fact that things do not have to exist. Their existence is derived from another source. For example, each person’s existence is contingent on their parents. Our existence is derived from necessary objects which give us our existence. However, those necessary beings are necessary through another. Parents, while necessary beings to their children, are contingent on their own parents. However, there cannot be an infinite series of beings contingent on another. There must be something that is necessary through itself and is not contingent on anything else. Aquinas identifies this being as God [4].

The Fourth Way argues from gradation. Words such as “more” and “less” are utilized to describe the value and worth of things. These words indicate where something is on a spectrum of perfection. Yet for things to exist along such a spectrum, there must be something that is most perfect. There must be an Absolute against which these items can be measured and that Absolute is God [5].

Finally, Aquinas argues that all things act towards an end. Living and non-living things operate in certain, specific, and ordered manners. Yet since not all these things possess intelligence, they are not operating according to their own intelligence, but have been ordered by another intelligence. Something outside the universe must have provided it with its order. Not only does this intelligence provide an end for these things, but gives them existence and their natural inclinations to operate in a certain manner. Aquinas argues that this intelligence is what we call God [6].

While reading the book, it is clear that Lucy is introducing AJ to new ways of thinking about the world, new ways of reasoning utilizing the Five Ways. For much of apologetics, arguments are often given on behalf of God which assumes the worldview of the secular person being debated. However, Lucy demonstrates that secularism and Christianity are differing worldviews and do not share a common understanding of the way the world works from which we can simply argue. She invites AJ to consider the world as Aquinas understands it and shows how his logic works. She demonstrates that Aquinas’s thinking about the world is logical, even if it does not mirror the way AJ typically thinks of the world.

Inviting individuals into a new way of seeing the world requires patience and understanding. Throughout the book, Lucy is a careful listener and quickly adapts to help AJ better understand the Five Ways. She teaches that an essential component of apologetic discussion is listening to what our conversation partners are actually saying so that we can better explain our position to them. She addresses his objections, questions, and confusion specifically and with patience. Her arguments are not merely convincing, but her approach is winsome and inviting.

[1] Fradd, Matt, and Robert A. Delfino. Does God Exist?: A Socratic Dialogue on the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas. St. Louis, MO: Enroute, 2018.

[2] Ibid. pp. 28-35.

[3] Ibid. pp. 36-43.

[4] Ibid. pp. 44-55.

[5] Ibid. pp. 69-82.

[6] Ibid. pp. 83-97.

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