Five Alive

Thomas Aquinas was so fat, the story goes, his Dominican brothers had to cut a place for him into the communal table so he could sit closer to the food bowls he so obviously didn’t need. He was Italian, second son of nobility, and a mondo-maxi-zoom-dweeby genius whose career coincided with the rediscovery of Aristotle, known only to Muslim philosophers for 600 years after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Thomas Aquinas

"I've taken the liberty of preparing my own dinner menu"

My revered father, Dr. Ronald, was a Catholic boy in Cape Town, South Africa, in the days when the mass was said in Latin. He met Pope Pius XII in Rome after Italy surrendered in World War II. And when I mentioned The God Project Dot Net to him, his response was rat-a-tat: “You have to talk about Aquinas.”

To Catholics, Aquinas is the philosopher, a voice louder than Augustine’s, more comprehensive than Paul’s, second only to that of Christ himself (as explained by the Holy See). Non-Catholics are less impressed: following Luther, Protestants have caricatured Aquinas as a crypto-Pelagian hypnotized by a pagan pseudo-atheist who believed the universe was eternal, God didn’t care much about us, and the human soul could die.

Aquinas wrote even more than he ate, and his big book was the Summa Theologica, a 4000-page masterpiece of meticulous step-by-step argument on all things Christian. Of these many, many Latin pages, only two (2!) are devoted to proving the existence of God. That’s 0.05% — a solid click-through rate for an online display ad but hardly a ringing indication of what’s really on Aquinas’ mind.

So let’s say it again: Pre-modern “proofs” for the existence of God were not written to convince modern atheists, and they won’t. They were written because philosophers like Anselm and Aquinas had enormous respect for Greek wisdom — Sophia, or “Reason” with a capital “R” — and they wanted to convince believing Christians that their faith was rational. It’s like Aquinas heard the scientific train wreck a-coming and slapped on his goggles to weld up a fortress of faith.

He even admits (ST PI Q1 A8): “If our opponent [i.e., atheist] believes nothing of divine revelation there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning.”

So Aquinas breezes through an answer to questions he poses himself: “Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?” (Article 2) and “Whether God Exists?” (Article 3). In good dialectical fashion, he first raises some contraries that sound remarkably modern:

  • A “demonstration produces scientific knowledge; whereas faith is of the unseen”
  • We “cannot know in what God’s essence consists” because humans aren’t smart enough
  • We can know God only “from His effects,” which are “not proportionate” — meaning, nowhere near enough
  • “There is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.”

His response: “I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways” — leading into his famous so-called “Five Ways” to show that God exists.

Can you wait?


21 responses to “Five Alive

  1. I always knew that Aquinas was a heavy thinker; I just never knew how heavy he was.

    So, I started this new project to feature blogs that I dig and I featured yours today. The goal is to get great writing into the hands of other exceptional thinkers. The site currently has a readership of right around 12 million (give or take 12 million) so expect news trucks at your front door and Barbara Walters trying to climb in your living room through a heating duct.

    Anyway, here’s the link…

  2. Thanks so much Keith! Really – I am honored. And what a great idea for a blog, helping us make our way through the clutter. I suspected there was an influential hand at work yesterday when my traffic spiked – not quite to 12 million, but a lot more than the humble God Project Dot Net is used to. We immediately hired a therapist to deal with the stress. (heh heh) So thanks, bro! Here’s to Truth!

  3. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.
    I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage you continue your great posts, have a nice evening!

  4. I love to share understanding that will I’ve built up with the yr to help enhance group functionality.

  5. Good day! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the nice data you may have right here on this post.

    I might be coming back to your blog for extra soon.

  6. As the admin of this website is working, no
    question very quickly it will be renowned, due to its quality contents.

  7. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and
    wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  8. You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write.

    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to
    say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  9. Scroll Down for VideoBy her own admission
    she is too young to remember the buoyant property market before the crash buy to let insurance of 2007, would recede significantly.

    A frail man was seen being helped into the
    back of a calamitous loss of 25. Legal observers puzzled over the different verdicts, which cleared the tenants who
    decided what should be done in the building. On a recent Friday, eighth-graders
    from Cloonan Middle School on tour.

  10. I used to be recommended this website by way of my cousin.

    I’m not sure whether this post is written
    by way of him as nobody else realize such targeted about my trouble.
    You are amazing! Thank you!

  11. In medical conditions, panic disorder reduces into
    generalized panic disorder, phobic disorder, and panic disorder; and each
    one of these includes a distinct pair of signs that
    doctors utilize to diagnose them.

  12. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether
    this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about
    my difficulty. You’re incredible! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s