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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

St Thomas Aquinas - January 28 - Whether God Exists?

Saint Thomas Aquinas 
January 28 
Whether God Exists? 

Today's saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas pondered this question, and wrote extensively on this subject. Yet, he was humble enough to know the limits of his human reasoning and his writing. After celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273, he stopped working on his last and greatest work, The Summa Theologiae. When asked why he stopped, he replied, "I cannot go on...because all that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me."

Whether God Exists? 

Though the work was unfinished, Saint Thomas gave us much to ponder with his Summa.  In one part he discussed the existence of God with his commentary, Whether God Exists. His theory broke down into five proofs.  
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.” (Summa )

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". (Catechism of the Catholic Church #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.” (Summa)

The Argument of Necessary Existence

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.” (Summa)

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.” (Summa)

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.” (Summa)

Saint Thomas Aquinas' five proofs are something to prayerfully ponder.  

For gifts related to the Catholic Church 

Saint Thomas Aquinas - Carlo Crivelli 

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