On November 7, during a lunchtime offering of “Stump the Priest” at the University of Alabama’s Ferguson Student Union Building, I spoke with a young woman whose story—like many other young people’s stories I have heard—revolved around her growing up in a conservative/fundamentalist Christian household that was unwilling to accept differences of theological opinion, alienating her and anyone else who did not believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture. Seeing both my colleague and I wearing clergy collars, this young woman took advantage of the opportunity to see who these Episcopal folks were and where they stood on things. For about 15 minutes, she and I talked about many things—the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Bible: literal or inspired, salvation, Heaven and Hell, and a couple of other topics. As the conversation ended, the young woman thanked me for taking time to speak with her, helping her see that it is OK to be a Christian that does not have all the answers and asks questions. But before she left, she asked me one final question: “Why do you believe?”
In Part I, Question 2, Article 3 of the Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas asserts that all that exists “cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence…Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end, and this being we call God.” It is rational to me that all of the created order had to have begun from one central force—one whose abilities are completely perfect to have organized all that exists to operate in the ways that they do. For me, it is the very existence of all that is created that makes me believe in God’s own existence. From this, I get the assurance that God’s existence was, is, and forever shall be and that His grace manifests itself throughout creation and within each and every one of us.
Jesus—the Incarnate Face of God—reinforces my belief in God’s existence. In the same section of the Summa, Aquinas replies to an objection against God’s existence by stating that part of God’s infinite goodness is for Him to allow evil to exist, but that He achieves ways for good to be brought forth out of it. In our Eucharistic Prayers, we acknowledge how humanity turned against God and one another, which brought evil into the world. But we also acknowledge the One who was sent by God, born of a woman, to fulfill His Law, so that freedom and peace would be made open to us. I believe in Jesus because I see Him as the representation of God’s infinite goodness and love arising out of evil and His crucifixion and resurrection forever ensuring that I, created in the image of God, have been freed from the bondage of sin, evil, and death. I take to heart the testimony that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” and that “He is God’s way of dealing with our sins…” (I John 2.1-2, Common English Bible)
In the words of Blessed John Henry Newman: “Firmly I believe and truly God is Three, and God is One; And I next acknowledge duly Manhood taken by the Son.”