Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, and the Existence of God
Students, faculty, and half-marathon runners at Benedictine College gave up two hours of their Saturday morning to crowd into an overflowing room and hear a lecture arguing for the existence of God.
On Saturday, November 7, the Gregorian Institute brought Dr. Peter Kreeft to Benedictine College to discuss C.S. Lewis’s argument for the existence of God, the Argument from Desire, which Kreeft called “the most intriguing argument in all of human thought, because it argues for both the existence of God and heaven. It is more moving, arresting or apologetically effective than any other argument.”
The three premises of the argument are that no desire exists that cannot be satisfied. There is, however, a desire that cannot be satisfied by anything in this world. Therefore, there is something that exists that is more than anything the world can offer, and that Something can satisfy the insatiable desire.
“All innate desires come from our spiritual heredity, all artificial desires from society,” Kreeft posited. “The satisfaction for innate desires exist, or we would not have the desire. You cannot naturally desire something that you do not know of. You do not know what you do not know.” Everyone has the same innate desires – happiness, safety, love. Heaven, Lewis argued, is one of these innate desires.
Kreeft has publicly argued for the existence of God with members of various world religions and with atheists. At these debates, he asks the other people on stage with him if they want there to be a heaven. The atheists say No, that they are perfectly content with the physical world and that they don’t want there to be a heaven after death. Kreeft’s only explanation for this strange worldview is that atheists do have a desire for heaven, but don’t or won’t admit it, even to themselves.
There is an innate desire, Lewis and Kreeft argue, that is never satisfied, no matter what we do. “There is an infinite Something that is always more than one’s idea,” Kreeft said, and only that Something can satisfy us.
“Do an experiment,” he told the room. “Imagine God came to you, and you knew that it was really God, that there was no doubt, and he offered you everything in the entire world, but if you choose it, you could never see him again for all eternity. What would you choose?
If you have not chosen the world, look what you’ve done. You have chosen God before the world.
The desire for God is greater than the actual satisfaction of all other desires.”
Kreeft cited Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the world which God has done.”
“The heart was not designed at Harvard or at
Hollywood but in Heaven,” he noted. And that is why nothing in this world, even a degree from Harvard or anything offered by Hollywood, can satisfy the heart.
“How can you correct a mistake except by a standard of truth?” Kreeft asked. There are some things you cannot not know, and truth is one of them. “Knowledge of ‘better’ means there’s a knowledge of ‘best,’” he continued, “even if you’ve never experienced it.”
This idea is what drives the heart in the pursuit of the Something that can satisfy it. No matter what we experience, no matter how happy we are in this world, there is always a sense that it could be better. And that feeling leaves us unsatisfied.
Kreeft distinguished between three kinds of people in this pursuit – the people who seek God and find him, who are both satisfied and happy; people who are looking for God, who are happy but not satisfied; and people who are not looking for God, who are neither happy nor satisfied.
“Note that there is not a fourth category, of people who find God without seeking him,” Kreeft pointed out. “’See and you shall find’ – that means that if you do not seek, you will not find. No one finds God without seeking him.”
“And so the argument from desire is an argument from the heart. The heart has feelings, but it also has deeper reasons.”
The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).