In today’s world, there are many arguments involving the existence of a higher being such as God. Certain religions have different opinions on this hot topic, and it is truly one of the most heated debates the world has ever known. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who was an Italian Dominican theologian created five points that support the existence of God and he also states two oppositions as well. In the following blog I will present the points and my opinions on what I believe is to be true. By the end of reading this, it is up to you to decide what you want to believe, but I encourage you to open your mind and take in all of the information that is about to be presented!!
Saint Thomas starts out his argument by saying “The existence of God can be proved in five ways. The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion” (Hallman 541). By “motion” he is saying the change of something from potentiality to actuality. Nothing can be transformed from potentiality to actuality, except by a being that is already in the state of actuality. In simpler terms, St. Thomas gave an example of fire and wood. Fire, which is the object that is actually hot, makes the wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot. He also says that it is truly impossible to have something be in the state of potentiality and actuality at the exact same time. Therefore, whatever object is put in motion must be put in motion by a higher being, which is believed to be God. Although this point in St. Thomas’ argument is a little more confusing, it is believable. How would motion work if there was not a higher being that taught every object in the world to systematically work? It doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of God alone, but it is something to think about for sure.
The second way that it can be proved that God exists is from the nature of “efficient causation” (Hallman 541). Nothing has ever been proven as being the efficient cause of itself. If it were an efficient cause to itself, then that means that it would have to have existed prior to itself… which makes absolutely no sense, right? Since I like things explained in an easy-to-understand manner, here’s how I comprehend this point: God is believed to be the First Efficient Cause. He is the one that came before everything else and created it all. The same idea as “nothing can be the efficient cause of itself” goes on to explain infinity as well. Nothing lives forever, so what keeps everything in order once people and things pass away? This leads back to God again. A higher being is looked at as being the reason why the order of the world keeps on working.
The third point that St. Thomas made is pretty straightforward: “if at one time nothing existed, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist, and even now nothing would be in existence— which is absurd” (Hallman 541). God is believed to be the necessity for all things, but he doesn’t need a necessity, so this is why He is referred to often times as the Ultimate Creator.
Fourth is taken from the gradation found in objects. There are things that are “more and some less good, true, noble, and the like” (Hallman 542). The words “more” and “less” lead back to something that is in the form of “most.” I’m going to go back to the example of the fire for this one. Fire is the most complete form of heat there is. All other things are made hot by fire. Therefore, there must be something that is the cause of all beings— or every being in the world’s “most” form. This is what we call God.
St. Thomas’ fifth and final point is that “whatever lacks intelligence cannot fulfill some purpose, unless it is directed by some being endowed with intelligence and knowledge— as an archer shoots and arrow to its mark” (Hallman 542). Here the arrow is the object that lacks intelligence. It needs a being to be able to shoot it or make it work. The being behind all objects and even humans is God. He directs all living (non-living) things towards a purpose that he has created.
All of the points that St. Thomas laid out make sense. They are (for the most part at least) simple and easy to side with. However, there are two oppositions that he mentioned in response to his five points. The first objection is that the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If it were true that God exists, there would be no evil in the world. Since however there is sin and evil going on throughout the world constantly, God is not believed to exist. Personally, I do not believe that it is God’s responsibility to make the world perfect. He is in control of all human actions and reactions, yes, but he puts situations in front of us on a daily basis that could either make us better or worse people. WE are the ones to decide whether we want to please Him or if we want to follow the ways of the world.
The second of the two objections is that all things in the world can be divided into two categories: natural causes and human reason. Some people believe that there is no need to suppose God’s existence because actions fall into these two categories anyways. But how could a cause be natural if there was no God to create it? And how could humans have the right reasoning in their actions if there was no God to teach them right or wrong morals?
The two objections stated are probably the two most argued reasons why people do not believe in a higher being. There are things that point to the non-existence of God and there are also many things that point to his existence. Historians and philosophers have tried for thousands of years to find factual information that proves/disproves God’s existence, but in the end it’s really up to the individual to decide on what they believe in. Even if you didn’t learn anything from this and you just kinda zoned out…just remember these five points next time someone has a debate at the lunch table and you can shock everyone with your knowledge!!!
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. New Advent Inc, 1996-97.
Dr. Tom Morris. Philosophy For Dummies. Foster City, California: IDG Books Worldwide Inc, 1999.
Hallman, Max O. “Whether God Exists: Thomas Aquinas.” Traversing Philosophical Boundaries. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub., 1998. Print.
Varner, Gary. Introduction to Philosophy