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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saint Thomas Aquinas - Pondering the Existence of God

Pondering the Existence of God 

With St. Thomas Aquinas
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Jesuits
NASA and Others

“You have drawn us to yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is unquiet
until it rests in you.”
Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #27)

“With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

“For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.” (Wisdom 11:24-26) (CCC#301)

Whether the existence of God is self-evident?

“A thing can be self-evident in either of two ways: on the one hand, self-evident in itself, though not to us; on the other, self-evident in itself, and to us…....because we do not know the essence of God, [God] is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature---namely, by effects.”*

Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?

“Objection: It seems that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated.”

Yet “ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made,” in other words His effects. (Romans 1:20)

“Demonstration can be made in two ways: One is through the cause… The other is through the effect... When an effect is better known to us than its cause, from the effect we proceed to the knowledge of the cause. And from every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated,  so long as its effects are better known to us; because since every effect depends upon its cause, if the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence the existence of God, in so far as it is not self-evident to us, can be demonstrated from those of His effects which are known to us.”

Whether God exists?

Objection 1: If God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

Objection 2: It seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.

Reply to Objection 2: Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle.”

It is certain that the universe does exist and depends on something outside of it for its existence. What is this “something” that the universe depends on for its existence? What is the First Cause or Immovable First Principle?

“Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #31)

Thomas Aquinas Five Proofs
for the Existence of God

The Argument of Change or Motion

If there is nothing outside of the universe, then there is nothing to cause the universe to move or change. Yet it does. We experience a universe in motion and changing. Whatever is in motion is moved by something other than itself. Since the universe is in motion it must have been put into motion by something already in motion. What is the “starting point” of the first change? What or who is the “First Mover”?

“It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another… It is impossible that …..a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must need be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”

The Argument of Efficient Cause

“God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens."(Psalms 8:2) Indeed, God's "greatness is unsearchable". (Psalms 145:3) But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures' inmost being: "In him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) In the words of St. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self". (CCC #300)

All things have a cause. If all things are caused by other things and there exists no “uncaused being,” then nothing would exist. Yet we do exist. It is not possible for something to be its own cause because that would mean that it existed before itself. Who or what is the “Uncaused First Cause?”

“In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. …Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.”

The Argument of Necessary Existence

“The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes." Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.” (CCC #308)

All things come into existence and out of existence. If all things were capable of not existing, then there was a time when nothing existed. Nothing comes from nothing yet something exists. Who or what is the “Absolute Necessity” which began existence?

“We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be… Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing… every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another…. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.”

The Argument of Uttermost Maximum Perfection

There are values or degrees given to all things, such as hot, hotter, and hottest, or true, truer, and truest. If the maximum perfection of any given value is considered its cause and all things exist in degrees of perfection to other things, then there must exist an uttermost perfect cause. What or who is the “Uttermost Perfect” being who first caused existence?

“Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being… the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.”

The Argument for an Intelligent Designer

“The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.

As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:19-20)

And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One who is not subject to change?”(CCC #32)

“The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”

“Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.” (St. Augustine, Confessions, CCC #45)

"O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you." Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

O My Lord, thank you, for you have created us so wonderfully to take part in your glorious universe - what an incredible journey you place before us - Pax
*Unreferenced quotes in this blog taken from Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas [1947], at 
St. Thomas Aquinas - Francesco Solimena
God Creates The Sun, Moon, and Stars (detail) - Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo
God Creates Adam (detail) - Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo
God Creates Eve (detail) - Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo
Fr. Robert Barron on God and the Problem of Evil
NASA Television's 2010 Season's Greetings ID (A journey through some of Hubble's most beautiful images - ends with a view of a peaceful Earth through the cupola of the International Space Station) Mark R. Hailey, NASA Television's Art Director with piano accompaniment by Michael Chao
Domino Effect
Absolutely Nothing
The Helix Nebula (Eye of God) May 10th 2003 - NASA
Hubble Window to the Universe NASA
EWTN Bookmark - 10-09-2011 - New Proofs of the Existence of God - Doug Keck with Fr Robert Spitzer

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