Reviewed by Matt O’Kelly
Does God exist? Could there be a more fundamental question to ask? Edward Feser in his latest book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, does exactly that. Drawing from the arguments of five great thinkers in the history of Western philosophy – Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Gottfried Leibniz – Feser takes the five arguments he deems to be the strongest in favour of God’s existence.
From reason alone, Feser shows not only that God exists, but that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, unchanging – most, if not all, of the divine attributes traditionally ascribed to God.
Chapters 1–5 take the reader through each of the arguments, showing briefly how each shows various attributes of God’s existence. Much of this discussion, however, is reserved for chapter 6, in which Feser spells out in detail how God can be said to be the God of classical theism. While he responds to objections as he goes, he defers much of this to the final chapter in which he rebuts any and every objection to God’s existence that may come to mind.
It must be said that such rigorous philosophy can quickly become very abstract and difficult to keep up with. For at least two reasons I find Feser’s writing to be an exception.
Firstly, the philosophical concepts necessary to understand the arguments are introduced along the way. Other books of his, like The Last Superstition and Aquinas also include powerful arguments for God’s existence and attributes, but only after a fair bit of space does he lay out the philosophical framework in which these arguments are properly understood. By introducing them as he goes, Feser makes his writings more accessible to the contemporary reader.
Secondly, it must be said that there is a difference between writing simply and writing simplistically. Many books in Christian apologetics are more simplistic than anything else – the arguments are easy to follow, but aren’t particularly strong. The stronger arguments unfortunately often tend to be the more complex ones. The ability to bring such complexity down to the level of the ordinary reader is a rare gift – one Feser certainly possesses.
Five Proofs of the Existence of God stands as a serious challenge to anyone who would deny the existence of God. Christianity, contrary to the opinion of many an atheist, is an incredibly defensible worldview, and ought to be taken seriously. I have yet to come across another book as easy (and gripping) to read, but as rigorous in its argumentation. For the scholar, for the layperson, for the searching; this is the book to read.