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Aquinas’ Five Ways: Proofs for the Existence of God from General Revelation April 21, 2008

Posted by preacherwin in Apologetics, Reflections.
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St. Thomas Aquinas listed what he saw as five intellectual proofs of the existence of God—proofs that were dependent on reason and observation, not the revealed word of God.

 

Aquinas and the First Way:

 

Aquinas recognized that for motion to take place, there had to be something that interacts with it to cause it to move.  For a ball to move, for example, it must be struck by another object, for example, the foot of a child kicking it.  The ball has the potential to move, but that potential cannot reach its actuality until something else acts upon it.  Aquinas argued then, that as the original object that was moved needed to have something act upon it to move, so too does the second object have something act upon it.  The boy swings his leg, which moves his foot which in turn moves the ball.  And the chain continues backwards from there.  He also recognized that without a first mover, the chain of cause and effect must, by definition, go eternally back.  Since that idea is absurd to the ordered mind and is not consistent with observable evidence, there must be a first mover upon which nothing is needed to act to cause him to move.  This, in turn must be an infinite being outside of creation and hence is God.

While it is not my purpose to go into a detailed critique of these proofs, it is important to point out what Aquinas is doing.  It is clear from the language that this is designed to be an intellectual argument for the existence of a god, but it does not point clearly to the existence of the Biblical God.  This proof could just as easily be applied to Allah, Odin, or Jupiter.  The point is simply to argue that it is impossible to rationally look at our world without seeing the reality of a creator God.

 

Aquinas and the Second Way:

 

The second approach that Aquinas mentioned is similar to the first, but focuses on cause and effect rather than on potential motion being converted into actual motion.  Every effect must have a cause, if you eliminate the cause you eliminate the effect.  Once again, since an infinite series of cause and effect is irrational, the principle posits that there must be an original cause that in itself does not need a cause:  hence God.  Again, this does not posit the God of the Bible, or even a good and benevolent God for that matter, it only posits that a God exists who is the cause of all things and who is the effect of nothing.

 

Aquinas and the Third Way:

 

The third approach deals with a question of being and not being.  Aquinas argued that from observation, the things around him had the possibility of being (or existing) or not being.  The chair that you are sitting on exists, but it has not always existed.  There was a time when the chair was not.  He went on to observe that for something to move from not being to being, that action had to be brought about by something that was being.  In other words, for the chair we spoke of earlier to come into being, it had to be manufactured.  To manufacture something you must “be.”  Something that does not exist cannot make something come into existence, the idea of such is nonsensical.  Thus, all things that exist must be brought about by that which exists.  Just as in the question of causation, there must be a first being.  Yet, if that first being exists, he must necessarily not have the possibility of not being.  In other words, as non-existence cannot bring about existence, the first being necessarily has to have always existed.  And this entity that necessarily exists and cannot not-exist, is God.

 

Aquinas and the Forth Way:

 

Aquinas points out that we recognize that there are degrees of things.  Some things are better than others; some things are shorter or taller or colder or hotter, etc… than others.  And thus we rate them as good, better, and best.  Yet, for us to have the idea that one thing is better than another, we must have a standard by which all things are measured and that can never be exceeded.  That standard, then, is God.  Note that this is not the suggestion that we get the idea of goodness or hotness from God, but simply that there must always be something that is more good or more hot than that which we are viewing and since there is a gradation, there must always be a top to the gradation that can never be surpassed.  Such a top or asymptote, by definition, requires an infinite being, hence it must be God.

 

Aquinas and the Fifth Way:

 

Fifthly, Aquinas points out that there are entities in creation that have no consciousness at all, yet still act in a regular fashion and in such a way that it is beneficial to their continued existence.  Trees, for example, have no consciousness of their own to direct themselves, yet they will sink their roots deeply into the soil to collect water, they will spread their branches wide to collect light for their photo-synthetic leaves, and they will drop seeds by which they may propagate their kind.  Aquinas observed that since they act with some sense of direction in terms of self-preservation, yet are unguided by their own consciousness, they must be guided by the consciousness of another.  This, once again, is the role of God.

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Comments»

1. DrBonnette - June 14, 2009

Just a couple points of clarification to your fine presentation: (1) The causal regress in these arguments is not one going back in time, but rather one in which all links in the chain of intermediate causes are simultaneous. That is why he says that to take away the cause is to take away the effect. An infinite causal regress going back in time is at least conceivable in principle, provided the causes are what St. Thomas calls, “per accidens.” But simultaneous causation requires a First Cause Uncaused to account for the causality which runs through the entire thread of causation to the final effect. (2) While St. Thomas does not claim that each of these “ways” proves the existence of the Biblical God, he does end each argument with a statement to the effect that this is de facto what all men call God (a nominal definition). Shortly after completing the Five Ways, he offers another text in which he proves that the Being which his Five Ways reaches is in fact the God of the Bible: “I AM WHO AM,” the Infinite Pure Act of Existence Who is Lord and Creator of all finite things.

Dennis Bonnette, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
Youngstown, NY

preacherwin - June 14, 2009

Dennis,

Thanks for the clarifications, they are appreciated. From a philosophical perspective, let me pose the question, with respect to an infinite God, what is the difference between a chain of intermediate causes that is simultaneous and one that has a temporal progression. Certainly, when it comes to finite humans, bound by time, I can see the distinction, but what of an infinite God who is not bound by time? How would you mark the distinction?

Thanks again,

Win

2. DrBonnette - May 21, 2011

Preacherwin,
Sorry to miss your reply by two years! Just found it. God is eternal, which means the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life. He is outside of time and thus “stands above” the entire temporal sequence of per accidens causes running through time. But the causality which leads to God is not temporal. It is the simultaneous “vertical” causality which sustains in being and act each and every moment of created time’s contents. At each moment, there is a causal regress that leads at that very moment to God as First Cause. Temporal regression needs no first. But neither does the past explain the present. Present effects need present causes, not past ones. An effect is a being that does not fully explain itself, and a past cause cannot make up for a present existential deficit. Thus we need present causes to explain present effects. It is in that order of simultaneous causality that God is needed as a presently existing First Cause.

preacherwin - May 23, 2011

Dr.Bonnette,

Thanks for the reply, however long belated. :-)

In terms of your comment, the first part I am in agreement with. God is eternal and not bound by time or any sequential set of events, concepts, or even ideas. “God never learns,” as one of my old professors used to say somewhat tongue in cheek given the double entendre. God sees all at once.

But the next step of your reasoning is where we depart. The implication of present effects needing present causes, which is derived from the eternal “now” of God does not follow for the logical end of your line of thinking would seem to be that the past is non-existent or that it ceases to be as soon as it happens. This is the approach that many Open Theists have sought to take when trying to explain their rejection of a sovereign God who has superintended all things. Know that I am not trying to poison the well here by throwing open theists into the discussion, but it would seem that their reasoning falls short in the same ares. Just because God exists outside of any temporal sequence of events, that does not mean a temporal sequence of events cannot exist outside of God. In fact, God did create the temporal sequence (beginning to end), thus being Aquinas’ First Cause with the additional ability (as he is outside of time) of being an interrupting cause in any sequence of events within the temporal sequence.

This posits the real existence of the future and the past, but this is a position that has been affirmed by theology, philosophy, and science for generations, and if I am understanding String Theory correctly (and there is a good chance that I don’t as I have not kept up with all of the developments), it would affirm the existence of a real series both past and future. Because they really exist, they exist as a result of various causes (miraculous, providential, and mechanical) that can be traced back through the temporal sequence and do not demand that God be the the first cause of every present event.

I welcome your further discussion…even if it is not for another two years… ;-)

Blessings,

w.

Dennis Bonnette, Ph.D. - March 22, 2012

Dear Preacherwin,

As usual, I only noticed you reply by accident long after its posting — this time through the help of a friend.

I am trying to grasp what you are saying as you intend it. I suspect the problem may be that you are somehow allowing the existence of effects outside of God without His actual and immediate causality. Past (and future) events and things do exist when they exist, but always with God being the First Cause of their existence and coming-to-be, even though He may employ secondary causality in the process. When He no longer causes them to be, they cease to be in reality. Yet, all things — past, present, and future — exist in God’s mind. He knows them either as merely being in His mind, or as actually existing in their own reality when, and only when, they do.

In metaphysics, we know that an effect is a being whose sufficient reason for being is not totally within itself. Hence, it needs an extrinsic sufficient reason (cause) to account for that existential reality within itself which is not fully explained by itself. Hence, you can NEVER have any aspect of reality which is not fully explained in a thing without an extrinsic adequate explanation or cause. This applies even to a thing’s very existence, which, in finite beings, is never self-explained. This is why you cannot ever have past events (or future events) existing somehow in their own right without God’s actual effective causality positing them in being. They cease to be in actuality when they cease to be in time (or before they come to be), and hence then exist only in the mind of God Who did create them in the past, or will create them in the future.

String theory is merely a physical hypothesis, which, even if true, does not escape the metaphysical laws of existence and causality.

If you want to avoid our exchanges taking place over vast periods of time, feel free to use my email address directly to me.

3. Shalom - May 05, 2012

Please would you continue your argument through this blog so that we can learn by reading your interesting and intellectual arguments.

Student.

preacherwin - May 07, 2012

Shalom, I am glad you are finding our discussion edifying. I will email Dennis and see if he is okay with me posting the pertinent excerpts from our dialogue so you can read the whole of the discussion.

For me, the most interesting idea conceptually is Aquinas’ concept of the past and future only existing in the mind of God, that they only are real insomuch as the design and plan of God is real, though the future has no real existence to us until we happen to be in that particular moment. Having been a student of physics in a former season of my life, the concept of the reality of the past and future is one that is curious to me.

Again, I will email Dr. Bonnette and confirm that he is okay with the non-personal elements of our discussion being posted in this forum.

Thanks for your interest,

win

4. Joe Hanon - June 18, 2012

I’m also interested in this lucid discussion of metaphysics and wish that each of you continue within this blog.

preacherwin - June 24, 2012

Okay, Joe, sorry for the delay, my life has been swamped. I will endeavor to gather the email conversations in a sensible way and post them up here.

Thanks for your interest.

w

preacherwin - June 27, 2012

On 3/27/12, Win wrote with Dennis’ responses in bold print:

Dennis,

Thank you for the continued dialogue, I appreciate your taking your time to interact like this. 

While I agree that all things hold their existence in God (either actualized or in the mind of God), where I have my reservations is in disassociating past causes from present effects. God is sovereign, but it would seem that God acts not only as the primary immediate cause in history, but also as a secondary and a tertiary cause through strings of causal events.
 
This area is deep in the heart of metaphysics, and frankly, it would be much easier were I in the same room with you discussing it. Email is so prone to misunderstanding on tiny points of expression, which face to face dialogue would instantly avoid. Still, let us try. What is at issue here is the entire relation of God to his creatures, and the nature of how His continued creation (conservation) of creatures takes place. This is matter at the heart of my own formation because my first book was Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (Martinus-Nijhoff: 1972) and I have taught metaphysics for some forty years before my retirement from Niagara University in 2003, and even now in the free Aquinas School of Philosophy, where I teach every Friday night at Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, NY. See http://aquinasphilosophy.com/
 
God is the Primary Cause of all creatures, standing entirely outside of time, equipresent ontologically to all things in time — past, present, and future. The problem you allude to may focus on how God can directly cause all creatures without, at the same time, denying to them their proper secondary causality, and free will, in the case of man and angels.
 

 

Your description of events only coming to be with God as their first cause seems to rule out normal causal chains, something I am not comfortable in doing particularly because the explanation of an aspect of reality is often explained through causal events: x acts upon y and the result is z. Not self-explained but explained through causality.
 
This is a bit hard to explain. God acts directly and immediately through and in all creatures. But the key insight is that He does so in and through their own natures, so that the effect produced is actually effected by the finite nature acting, but acting as existentially sustained in its being and acting by God. Creatures are not mere puppets. The act in accord with their own natures, but those natures are constantly being sustained in their being and activity by God’s continuously creative act.
 
A key concept — one many people initially find difficult to grasp — is that any cause must be and act simultaneously with its effect. Thanks to the misconception by David Hume, most people tend to think of causal chains sequentially through time. So that cause A acts, and THEN, effect B results. This is wrong. Plain wrong. As St. Thomas says, when the cause ceases causing the effect ceases. Or, to take away the cause is to take away the effect. (I cover this in my Foundations of Metaphysics CD series listed in the Aquinas School of Philosophy.) An effect is any being whose sufficient reason for being is not entirely within itself. To the extent that it does not explain itself entirely by itself, it needs some extrinsic sufficient reason to explain that “existential insufficiency” within its being. An extrinsic sufficient reason is simply another name for a cause.
 
Thus, while temporaly prior causes are true  causes of coming to be, they are not true causes of being here and now. What existed in the past was a true cause of what and how things came to be from it, but, since it no longer exists or no longer is causing, the total reality of what exists in the present must be accounted for either by the things in themselves or some extrinsic cause or causes. (See, this gets a bit complicated.)

The concept of time you present is one that I am not sure that I am ready to commit to. Assuming that I am understanding your statement correctly, rather than presenting time as a line, you are presenting it as a series of points, with each point being individually brought into being by God and replacing the previous point in real existence. Outside of some of the implications of string theory, this is not a view that I have heard argued and thus intrigues me. A view of time as I am understanding you to describe it necessitates God as the immediate cause of all things whereas the linear approach that I am more familiar with allows for mediated causes through chains of events. That while all things have their ultimate first cause in God, that first cause may be mediated through a series of causal events that lead up to a result. 
 
Again, this idea of causal chains acting through time is critical to grasp correctly. We must always distinguish between ontologically prior causality and temporally prior causes. The latter are true causes, but only of coming to be, not being. And we must be very careful not to confuse the perspective of natural science with that of metaphysics, two critically distinct sciences. I could write a chapter on this point alone. How to cut the Gordian knot? Perhaps, this point. Most people think of causal chains as going back through time, with God being the First Cause of all at some finite beginning point. This is not the thrust of the Five Ways at all. God is the First Cause here and now. You could go back through time eternally, and never come to God — and St. Thomas knew this. The First Cause acts in the here and now as the ultimate adequate cause for all causality and being now existing. But He also was acting in the past regarding past events and causality — and He will for all future events. Still all finite agents act according to their own proper natures in producing real effects — but always with God sustaining their own being and natures and the operations of those natures in producing that which comes to be through their secondary causality.

At the outset, the danger that I see with this view is that it seems to eliminate any vestige of human liberty or will (recognizing that to be a can of worms in terms of definition). If God is the immediate cause of every moment and thus of the actions and events of every moment, then how is the will preserved?
 
Here you hit a critical point. How can man (and angels) have free will if God sustains and causes all their being and nature and operations. The answer — at least initially — is this: God causes all finite secondary agents to act and to be in accord with their natures. They are not mere puppets. Natural agents act necessarily in accord with their physical natures to produce effects over which their natures give them no choice. But free agents are also determined to act in accord with their natures — only their natures, being free, must act — are determined to act — in accord with their free nature, that is, freely. This is a very mysterious process, indeed! Still, it is the only intelligible way in which to grasp both the genuine freedom of the free will, while, at the same time, recognizing God as the omnipotent, omniscient creator and sustainer of every aspect of every one of His creatures.

Blessings to you; I enjoy this kind of dialogue, so thank you for taking time to interact with me…regardless of how much time passes between.  :-)
 
Thank you again for writing and sharing your thoughts and concerns with me. Do not hesitate to do so again. I am attaching a copy of a published article that may provide some added insights.

in Christ,

win
 

************

On 3/30/12 Win wrote:

Dennis,

Thank you for your insight. I look forward to reading your essay on Creation implying the existence of God, though with Easter coming quickly, I have had to print it and place it to the side for the next week or so.  ;-)  Lot’s on a pastor’s plate this time of year…

I need to add your book to my list of future reading as well, as you have piqued my curiosity.

I think that I am beginning to understand the distinction that Aquinas (through you) is making between physical and ontological causation and the idea has intrigued me, though at the same time there is something about it that unsettles me, though I have not yet been able to put my finger on it. I think that the main reason is that I have been taught to think of time in a linear fashion, bit not so much in terms of a series of points finding their interconnection in God. It is a different conceptual approach to toy with.

The view is Biblical and fits quite nicely with, for example, what the Apostle Paul teaches on the nature of creation being held together in Christ. Also it not so much solves as it eliminates, the dilemma of how to understand philosophic time travel in light of a Sovereign God. If events cease to be (apart from finding their being in the mind of God) or are not, but just the “now” has ontological being, then the question of traveling in time is logically an invalid question to ask. 

You answered the question of the will much as I do so, even looking at the timeline in a more causal way. In Reformed Protestant circles, we refer to this as Compatiblistic Freedom, where we act in a way that preserves our liberty to choose, but we act in accordance to the character that God has designed within us. Even God acts in a way that is logically compatible with his character, to suggest otherwise would be a logical impossibility.

With this in mind, just to get a sense of how far Aquinas goes down this line of thinking, with respect to existence in the mind of God, how ontologically “real” are things that exist in that way? The reason I propose this question is that since God is unchanging, then we have existed (as idea) in the mind of God eternally. Would then, Aquinas argue for a form of pre-existence of man as we existed in the mind of God?  I am probably not formulating the idea well as I am still chewing on it some.

Blessings. 

win

********

On 3/30/12, Dennis also responded:

Win,
 
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Everything you say fits in well with my own conception of the world and God’s revelation.
 
I am not quite certain how to explain the ontological reality of things in terms of existing in the mind of God, because I am not quite sure I grasp the nature of the problem you pose. Please let me try to put it as I understand it, and then we can see our our conceptions fit together. God is eternity itself, with no change or alteration in Him. From all eternity (our temporal existence manifests itself in constant linguistic confusions), God knows what He plans to create in time. Those creatures are ontologically real as distinct from God only when actually existing in their own time of existence, but they are eternally known to God — both as potential before actually being created in time, and as actually existing in themselves and distinct from God when God actually creates them in time. Much confusion arises because we cannot properly think in terms of eternity. Our language is forced to use past, present, and future tenses, whereas in God no such distinctions exist except as He knows them as applying to us. This is why it takes so much class time to explain this material.

 
Please do not hesitate to stay in touch.
 
God bless,
 
Dennis

***********

On 6/9/12, Dennis also wrote:

Dear Win,
 
Is it possible in our dialogue that I failed to mention that I published a book on the Five Ways? I must have mentioned it, but just in case, it is Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (Martinus-Nijhoff: The Hague, 1972). This book is now out in PoD format for a ridiculous price like $123! Still, many libraries have copies of it…
 
I should tell you that the book is not really about the Five Ways per se. It was my doctoral dissertation, and, as such, a very technical treatise whose actual title was: St. Thomas Aquinas on “The per accidens necessarily implies the per se.” One of my dissertation readers said that it concentrated on the proofs so much that he could not understand why I did not simply call it “Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence.” I ignored the suggestion and submitted it to Martinus with the original title. Their reader then approved it for publication, but suggested it be retitled: Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence. I was defeated, and thus the title changed to what everyone thought it should be except me. :-) But because it really focuses on that principle, it does not try to present the proofs as proofs for God as such, but rather as applications of the principle. One major point, though, is that applying the principle required solving thoroughly the famed “problem of infinite regress,” which is one of the two major premises of the proofs. Thus the book turns out to be the most complete analysis of the problem of infinite causal regress ever published, as far as I know.
 
Good luck on finding a copy.
 
God bless,
Dennis

preacherwin - June 27, 2012

I want to publicly thank Dr. Bonnette for his input and for the dialogue we have had on the question of time, causality, and Aquinas’ five ways. In the above dialogue, I edited out those things that would reflect personal information to protect Dennis’ privacy. As we dialogue further off and on, I will add to this link.

Blessings in Christ,

win

5. Rick - June 25, 2012

“The point is simply to argue that it is impossible to rationally look at our world without seeing the reality of a creator God.” Well, in that case, these proofs have done a poor job of making their argument, since each one of them requires huge leaps in logic, or acceptance of arbitrary perspectives as objective reality.
As an easy example, the claim is made that being cannot come from non-being. This holds with physics (conservation of energy) and seems valid. A natural, reasonable conclusion might be that the energy in the universe has always existed. Another reasonable hypothesis might be that time itself is not an infinite, linear, one-dimensional expanse, but is instead finite (like a book) or circular (like a song set on “repeat”), and that energy can therefore exist without ever being created or destroyed. But no, this proof instead chooses to jump the tracks, declare the existence of a being who breaks the rules on which the proof is grounded, and then say that this being is God.
It is ridiculous to treat this as if it is rational thought; it is a few steps of rational thought followed jarringly by an inexplicable leap in logic toward a conclusion that was chosen in advance.

preacherwin - June 27, 2012

Rick, really, there are no leaps of logic present, the difference is that each of us goes back to an a-priori position. For me, the starting point begins with “God is.” For you, the starting point is “Nature is.” The question that needs to be answered is which of those presuppositions makes more logical sense.

What you really seem to be objecting to is the notion of a preexistent God, yet in place of the idea of a preexistent God, you substitute the idea of a preexistent nature. Yet, if you object to the one, it seems rather silly that you would embrace the other. Your own statement is the one that proves irrational.

In addition, the concept of an infinite regression (as your infinite nature would necessitate) is logically invalid in any kind of causal relationship. Even the pagan philosopher Aristotle noted the logical necessity of an “Unmoved Mover” which was uncaused and unchanging who could be the agent that serves as the first cause. Aquinas recognized the significance of this principle and pointed out that the only agent that fulfills the requirements of the unmoved mover is the God of the Bible.

There is no question that there is some circularity to the logic employed, but you need to understand that by definition, starting presuppositions will be circular at least in part. Do you not see the circularity of your own argument? You presume that God does not exist because you presume the idea of God is silly and thus you presume that nature must be preexistent, but the reason (in your mind) that nature can be preexistent is because God does not exist. You come full circle.

Sorry, Rick, but your argument is self-defeating.

win

preacherwin - June 28, 2012

Dr. Dennis Bonnette added his response to this line of discussion:


I don’t start with assuming that “God is.” I start with the world, discover that it needs an explanation, and later learn that no finite explanation suffices. Only then do I rationally conclude that “God is.”

Let anyone who thinks you can get being from non-being try to get a loan at a bank without collateral or a job. Let the scientist who denies this principle try to do science. If all phenomena can “be” from “non-being,” then they need no explanation. Scientific “laws” become the writings of Lewis Carroll. Scientific observations become meaningless, since nothing need explain them. Even David Hume, the Scotch skeptic who denied causality, could not write his works without using the now meaningless term, “because.” Examples drawn from science become equally meaningless, since they explain nothing and need explain nothing.

Physics presumes metaphysical first principles and even cosmological definitions. If you doubt this, check any basic physics textbook. You will find a glossary in the back defining all things in terms of motion…. but no definition of motion itself! Materialists tend to simply assume that physics explains everything and metaphysics in a pseudo-science explaining nothing. But physics without philosophy becomes just another religious faith that cannot ultimately defend its own foundations. Natural science presupposes that we can know the external physical world, but any explanation it gives as to how we do this presupposes the very external observations of the physical world it is trying to prove. Talk about a cat chasing its tail!

The “natural metaphysics of human intelligence” gives all rational men the certitude that you never get something from nothing — except when they are trying to refute proofs for God’s existence.

Dennis

6. Anne Bumgardner - May 03, 2013

I am a 57 year old woman who is a recovering alcoholic and have been searching for belief in a God. One day I opened a Bible quite by random and read the first sentence that stood out:itread:
“Neither the person who plants, nor the person who waters makes the plant grow,but only God does”
I havdea potted plant on my table with one tulip growing. I sunnedly felt the energy of what made the plant alive..I had planted it, and watered it but a force greater than myself brought it to life. I Now see that force in everything., including me.
I can feed me, I can exercise ,and take medicine,I was born long ago.
I believe a God created the plant and me.God exists in both of us to keep us alive.
I believe God created me different than the plant,in that I was given a mind to think,not just respond.
I believe I was given the ability to choose anyway to act.
So God does not cause terrible weather changes, but mankind has chosen to act in ways that effect the environment in adverse ways that now give us extreme weather patterns, which hurt ourselves. Mankind can also choose to change the damaging behavior to stop the continued damage.

I have the choice{Will} to choose to act differently.
The energy is in me, that God energy of goodness. I get to tap into it or not and when I stay close to it I lead a relativily happy life. I
The life now will include service to others because service is God working thru me.This goodness force, I call love is God working on earth but just one way, if I choose to do so.
this is not a moral right thing to do, but an extension of the goodnes in God,s creation that he made me.
Now that I still human being and not God, I will always make mistakes and hurt people, and choose wrongly, but that is to be expected.
I can try again and hopefully learn from my mistakes.
My God could be defined as the pure energy form of Love. It closest fits how I see God.
Thank yuoufor your talks on St. Thomas and God.

Anne B. St, Paul

preacherwin - May 06, 2013

Anne, thanks for your thoughts and praise God for your deliverance from alcohol and for God drawing you closer to himself. Indeed, one plants, another waters, another harvest, but God brings the growth and he brings it in His timing, not ours.

Yet, just as it is God who brings the growth, it is God who brings to pass all of the factors that cause growth. I live in a farming community and one thing that farmers understand better than most is that God controls the factors that will bring them a healthy harvest. God brings the rain in its season and the sunshine as well. But God also brings locusts, storms, draught, blight, etc… As God speaks through the prophet, Isaiah, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being (Hebrew word here is “peace”) and create calamity (Hebrew word here is “evil”), I am the LORD who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

God is sovereign over our lives, but also over the circumstances that affect our lives. Yet even in the midst of terrible circumstances, he uses them to draw us closer to himself. Sometimes he uses harsh events to bring us to repentance, sometimes to teach us trust and reliance on Him. These terrible weather changes cannot all be traced to man — there are too many other pieces of that puzzle to over-simplify things in that way. In the end, God will bring about his sovereign will in drawing his elect to himself and bringing his enemies into judgment (see 2 Peter 2).

May God bless you and I am glad that these reflections on Aquinas were meaningful to you as well.

In Christ,

win

Dr. Dennis Bonnette - May 06, 2013

Nice to see that Anne perceives the presence of God in all His creation. Of course, the variability of the planet’s weather primarily comes from the speed of rotation, which causes wind patterns. If Earth rotated any faster, our winds would constantly be disastrous; if any slower, we would get too hot in the day and too cold in the night. God has set our orb rotating at its best speed for all mankind. And I would attribute present weather “extremes” mostly to long term patterns that we are simply not anticipating.

preacherwin - May 06, 2013

Amen, it is good to hear from you, Dennis. May God bless you and your family in, through, and with his grace. In Christ, w

7. Ben - May 20, 2013

preacherwin what is your name i would like to cite you for my apologetics paper

preacherwin - May 20, 2013

Win Groseclose

Blessings, Ben, as you finish your paper up.

win

8. Steve - June 29, 2013

Really,it all comes down to faith. Believe, don’t believe, or just don’t know. There is no “proof” that god exists. There is no “proof” that he doesn’t exist. I think Rick was trying to point this out. Nature certainly exists,but, was it created by “God”? Unless this cosmic all-star chooses to physically prove himself there must be doubt about his existence.

St.Thomas’ proofs and most of your excellent and entertaining thoughts have finally given me the answer to a question that has been on my mind for a while now.

Question: Is there or isn’t there “God”.
Answer: YES

preacherwin - July 01, 2013

Steve,

I do think that the question is deeper than that which you are making it.

To begin with, I agree, Aquinas’ proofs cannot get you to the God of the Bible or even to a God in a personal sense — they only show that the idea of a greater being is both reasonable and a logical necessity. Yet, if these proofs were where the discussion ended, it would do nothing more than to convince someone of Deism or Agnosticism.

That is why one must recognize these “proofs” are a useful tool, but not the only tool in one’s toolbox — an automechanic would have difficulty if the only tool he had access to was a flat-headed screwdriver. Same here.

In terms of your specific illustration regarding nature existing but no understanding of whether a God created that nature, I think that you are being rather simplistic about what you mean by “existence.” For example, must I be able to see, touch, or do a scientific test to prove the existence of everything I believe to exist? I believe, for example, that quarks exist, but I cannot see or touch quarks — we know of their existence because of the effects they cause in particle acceleration tests.

More importantly, your science cannot prove that Julius Caesar existed. One cannot do a scientific test, one cannot see him, and one cannot touch him — his corpse is long gone. We know he existed, though, because of his writings and because of what was written about him. More simply, we know he existed because of the effect he had on the known world of his day (and beyond). The same argument then must be applied to God and as Christians, more specifically to Jesus. I do not believe blindly, but I believe on the basis of reasonable evidence.

When one sees order and design, the natural result is to presume a designer. The level of intricate design found in nature is not possible by any sort of random chance — the atheist is really the one asking you to believe something in blind faith — hence the reminder of Aquinas’ five ways. To borrow from Anselm before Aquinas, these five ways, if nothing else, affirm the words of Psalm 53:1 — “The fool says that there is no God.” The evidence is around us; true, faith is required, but not a blind or fickle faith, but a faith that is reasoned and informed by that evidence and by logic.

Something to chew on at least,

Win

9. Khaki - October 06, 2013

May I ask? How God start motion when God is not first in the series of moved movers?

preacherwin - October 09, 2013

Khaki,

In some ways you are asking the wrong question. This falls into the distinction between a non-contingent being and those things that are contingent. God is infinite and a non-contingent being; he is and to try and predicate his existence on anything else (added series of movers) is to confuse the definition of a non-contingent being. We are contingent beings and all of nature is also contingent…we owe our existence to God who brought about the creation … in this case, set time and nature into motion.

Remember that these proofs are not designed to prove the God of the Bible, only to demonstrate that a belief in God is not only rational, but necessary. Even the Greeks recognized the logical need for an “unmoved mover” to set things into motion as otherwise you would end up with an infinite regression.

Helpful?

w

Dr. Dennis Bonnette - October 09, 2013

You are quite right in saying that the Five Ways do not as such conclude to the God of the Bible. In fact, in each Way, St. Thomas says something like,” And this is what all men call God.” This is a nominal definition of God, meaning simply that St. Thomas is telling us that the being to which that particular Way concludes happens also to be the same being as what we call “God.”

Still, in the Summa contra gentiles, book one, chapter 22, section ten, while proving that in God, the act of existence and essence are identical, St. Thomas cites a Biblical foundation for his previous proofs for that Being whom he has just demonstrated as fulfilling the nominal definition of God. He refers there to Exodus 3:13-14, where God in the burning bush tells Moses that His name is “I AM WHO Am.” Having in that same chapter just demonstrated that God’s very essence is existence itself, this amounts to having proven the nature of God as found in the Bible, the same being whose real existence St. Thomas has proven earlier in book three, chapter 13 and which, of course, he also demonstrates in the Five Ways of the Summa theologiae.

Hence, the God of the Bible IS demonstrated philosophically by St. Thomas, once he explicates the full implications of the proofs for God’s existence (in nominal terms).

As Christians, it remains true, of course, that St. Thomas does not prove, nor does he even attempt to prove, that God is Triune in nature, as a revealed mystery of the New Testament. Yet, in terms of the Old Testament, I think we can say that St. Thomas, when adding further proofs and explanations about the nature of the God proven in the various Ways, does prove the God of the Bible.

preacherwin - October 10, 2013

Thanks, Dennis, for your input. As always I appreciate the light that your expertise in Aquinas can shine on the subjects at hand.

Blessings, my friend,

Win


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