by Jill Ragar Esfeld
OVERLAND PARK — “You’re going to have to be our boots on the ground,” Father Robert J. Spitzer, a Jesuit priest and former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., told high-school seniors gathered in the auditorium at St. Thomas Aquinas High School here Oct. 22.
An expert in the fields of apologetics, philosophy, cosmology and physics, Father Spitzer was intent on arming students with the knowledge to defend their faith in God — a faith he knows will be challenged often during their college experience.
“We can turn around people who have unbelief,” he said, “but we need to get them the facts.”
“There is a great deal of evidence for the existence of God and your soul,” Father Spitzer assured the Aquinas students, who were joined by seniors from Hayden High School in Topeka.
And he said it was a “huge myth” that science can disprove God.
But students were more likely going to have to justify theism to their humanities teachers rather than to their science teachers, predicted Father Spitzer.
But he offered them a simple way to do it.
“Say to the humanities professor, ‘Who says God had been disproved? Have you disproved the Borde–Guth–Vilenkin proof?’”
Father Spitzer drew on more than that to demonstrate the existence of God scientifically, however. He spent some time helping students grasp the Borde–Guth–Vilenkin theorem that demonstrates that no matter what kind of scientific model someone proposes for the universe, it must have an absolute finite beginning — a beginning that points to God.
“The only condition that needs to be met is that there must be an expanding universe, and it must have a beginning,” he said, arguing against the possibility of an accidental universe.
“Something transcendent and very smart,” he said, “had to move [the universe] from nothing to something.
“That sounds like God to me.”
Father Spitzer ended his talk with a brief discussion of near-death experiences, telling students, “There is a transfigural aspect to our being.”
He cited what he called some “very good, highly controlled studies” that show people who are clinically dead — even those blind from birth — can see and hear in the near-death state.
“Transfigural souls see veridical data,” he said. “Something weird is happening.”
“We are not limited,” he concluded, “to our bodies alone.”
After the lecture, Dr. Kathy O’Hara, superintendent of schools, dismissed students to lunch, where they had an open question-and-answer session with Father Spitzer.
Father Robert J. Spitzer is a Jesuit priest and a recognized expert in apologetics, physics, philosophy, and theology. He has written many books and published several scholarly articles.
Father Spitzer served as president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., from 1998 to 2009 where he also taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has taught at several other universities, given hundreds of presentations across the globe, and won numerous awards and honorary doctorates.
Father Spitzer is known for his debates on God and modern physics with physicists like Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, and alternative medicine physician Deepak Chopra. He has also appeared on the “Today” show and on the History Channel in “God and the Universe” and on a multiple-part PBS series, “Closer to the Truth.” He has also appeared on dozens of nationally syndicated radio programs.
Most recently, Father Spitzer founded the Magis Center for Reason and Faith in Irvine, Calif., to provide resources for anyone interested in justifying theism in the face of science.