On Mar. 4, Trinity University’s Catholic Student Group (CSG) hosted a speaker from the Thomistic Institute: Alexander R. Pruss, a professor of philosophy at Baylor University. This is their second speaker from the Thomistic Institute this semester. Pruss’s lecture focused on one of the many philosophical proofs for God’s existence: The First Cause. The First Cause proof is a cosmological argument proving the existence of God based on the idea that some first cause must have caused the universe to exist, and that this first cause is God.
CSG’s motivations for the talk were very similar to Pruss’s motivation for coming to campus: both hoped that students on campus would see that religion and the belief in God are not a matter of faith, but of logical reasoning. “There are good reasons to believe, it is something reasonable to believe,” said Pruss.
Alex Jacobs, the Activities Director of CSG, said, “As a Catholic, the history of the Christian tradition is full of very good arguments for the existence of God, that I think that a lot of people don’t know about or don’t fully understand. I’ve heard people here at Trinity claim that it’s unreasonable to believe in God, and so we wanted to bring in Dr. Pruss because we think that a lot of people could benefit from hearing him talk about why it is reasonable to believe in God.”
Pruss has two PhDs, one in Mathematics from the University of British Columbia, and another in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. Pruss said that his background in mathematics is helpful in his theology. “[My degree] helps with seeing how all these infinities are handled. I think mathematics gives one the picture of how to reason in a precise way,” said Pruss.
Pruss focused on only one proof so that he could thoroughly explain the proof and his reasoning to the audience—a fully-packed lecture room on Trinity University’s campus. Before starting his lecture, he addressed the idea that it is unreasonable to believe in God.
“Some people think that believing in God is entirely based off of faith. They also believe that faith cannot be reasoned. This causes some people to believe that it is unreasonable to believe in God,” said Pruss. He explained how passages in the New Testament (Romans 1:20 and 1 Peter 3:15) encourages Christians to use logical reasoning in their own faith and when telling others about their faith.
“Pruss approached his argument slightly differently than the approach taken by the typical theologian,” Blaise Fort, a senior student at Trinity who attended the lecture, said. “Most theologians go from the supernatural to the scientific to make this argument. Dr. Pruss explained the science and logic behind the proof, and then explained how that related to a supernatural being.”
Pruss approached his argument very methodically. He fully explained each step of the First Cause proof before moving on to the next set of ideas. His lecture was very easy to understand, even if the concepts were difficult.
While Pruss’s argument was laid out clearly, not everyone in the audience agreed with him or liked some of the things he had to say about the typical atheist argument. Alex Bradley, the founder and president of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) at Trinity University, said, “There was at least one part where I felt misrepresented as an atheist, especially when Pruss said that an atheist argument is that some things have no explanation. I personally don’t believe that, I believe that we as a human species do not know the true cause of some things.”
CSG brought in Pruss to explain why it is reasonable to believe in God. They hoped that his lecture would have an effect on campus, or at least on those who came to his lecture, according to Jacobs. “[The effect on campus] is directly related to their openness to hear what he said. So, I think that if people were open to what he said, then it will have a big impact on them. The impact depends on how people respond tonight, and how they received his talk. At the very least, the next time someone tries to argue with me that God doesn’t exist, I can ask why they didn’t come to the lecture, which proved that He does,” said Jacobs.