Tim Cannon

A thoroughly convincing case for belief in the God of the Bible

by Thomas Dubay SM
(Ignatius Press, 1985, 266pp, softcover, $24.95.
Available from Freedom Publishing)

Although it was first published more than 20 years ago, Fr Thomas Dubay's Faith and Certitude is, without question, a book for our time. This is not surprising, since it is largely concerned with uncovering the truth about Truth; and, as Dubay would assert, all Truth is eternal, and therefore timeless.

Of particular interest are those truths which extend beyond the material world. Our author wishes to take us into the realm of faith, by systematically considering the questions which have captivated and consumed mankind since time immemorial, questions pertaining to the existence of God, and the origin and purpose of the universe and of human life.

Fr Dubay considers whether such questions are answerable, and if so, whether in answering them, we may do so with certitude, in spite of our inability to completely grasp their often perplexing intricacies.

Today's militant atheists, such as best-selling author and biologist Richard Dawkins, would view Fr Dubay's enterprise as futile at best, and at worst, symptomatic of a mind plagued by the 'virus of faith' (to use Dawkins' own phrase.)

But the very fact that Fr Dubay's book precedes the current rash of anti-theist sentiment, and yet methodically and unflinchingly answers each of its criticisms, demonstrates the unoriginality of the sceptics' credo.

Starting point

Faith and Certitude presents a thorough (and thoroughly convincing) case for faith in the God of the Bible. The author takes as his starting point the common experience of mankind, which has, from time immemorial, thirsted for a fulfilment which the material world simply cannot deliver. He shows that what man desires is spiritual fulfilment, a necessary consequence of man's spiritual nature, which is constituted in the reason and the will.

Since the contemplation and experience of the spiritual takes man beyond the quantifiable material world, and into the unquantifiable, seeking the spiritual requires an act of faith. But, as the author notes, faith which is uncertain is incredulous, and ultimately meaningless; only faith with certitude will appease the searching heart of man.

Fr Dubay proceeds to show how the attainment of faith and certitude, to which mankind is naturally purposed, is beset by all manner of obstacles: of circumstance, such as the prevailing scepticism and relativism of our time; of individual and collective ignorance through error and laziness; and of conflicting advice, such as the body of theological and biblical scholarship which dissents from the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

The author concludes that these difficulties can and must be overcome if an individual is to reach the fulfilment promised by a secure faith in his Creator. More than this, he establishes how one might overcome such difficulties.

Throughout, Fr Dubay's arguments are thoughtfully compiled, drawing on theological, philosophical, and scientific scholarship, as well as literary insights, and, perhaps most helpfully, concrete, practical experience. He ably illustrates the dangers of relying too heavily on one or other particular aspect of human understanding - scientific discovery, for example, or individual experience - showing instead that the sum of human experience points overwhelmingly to the existence of a supreme and infinite Cause, which we call God.

Meanwhile the author's clear, economical, engaging language, and his frequent analogies, skilfully tame complex theoretical concepts which threaten to escape the grasp of the inexpert reader. Indeed, this is a book whose subject matter will challenge; nonetheless, readers will be pleased to encounter an author who is both willing and able to assist them on their journey, and to guide them with comparative effortlessness to the treasures which lie at its end.

Pros and cons

The final three chapters provide a concise assessment of atheism; a concise assessment of theism; and the review of a dialogue, by correspondence, between the author and an avowed atheist.

The former two chapters offer an excellent juxtaposition of the pros and cons of the two alternative approaches to life, and a strong case for choosing theism (for the author consistently maintains that belief in God requires an affirmative choice, an act of the will.)

The final chapter exemplifies the manner in which this debate is frequently played out in the real world, away from the controlled medium of published discourse. This is immensely helpful to the reader, for whom personal dialogue is likely to be the normal mode of participation in this ongoing struggle between believers and non-believers.

Faith and Certitude is as fascinating as it is useful in a time when hostility to religious belief and practice is rapidly becoming the social norm. Strengthening the faithful, allaying the doubts of the uncertain, and posing inescapable truths to the sceptical, Fr Dubay carefully and cleverly shows that faith, characterised by certitude, is not merely a defensible position for the individual; it is in fact the only truly sensible position a thoughtful individual could take.

Tim Cannon is a research officer with the Thomas More Centre.

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