Saturday, August 2, 2014
Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways
I have been known to and have been criticized often for disagreeing with or criticizing leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know those who criticize me have never looked at why I do it, mostly because they tend to skim over what I have said, or just believe as many Mormons do that church leaders are above criticism. I have not and never will share that view. If all men are created equal as said by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, then all men should be criticized and held under the microscope, especially when they are making extraordinary claims. As the late Christopher Hitchens often said during his debates with religious leaders "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." His logic is perfect in that premise.
One of the most extraordinary claims that people often make, and leaders in the LDS Church often make is their statement that they "know" that such and such is true, one of them being the existence of a God. What I find strange is that no modern church leader has ever said why he knows that. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly 5 years, and not once have I ever heard an argument for the existence of God. Certainly if such a being exists, their would be an argument from his closet associates as to what evidence there is for his existence. However, you will not find one argument in any modern or past LDS leader as to the evidence for the existence of God.
However, there is such a man who did give an argument for the existence of God, 5 arguments in fact. His name was Thomas Aquinas, and he was the greatest philosopher and theologian of the Roman Catholic Church. He is now revered as a Saint, and his work is still often quoted and used by Roman Catholic theologians as well as by other Christians. Aquinas was perhaps the greatest mind in Christianity, and were I not a Mormon I would be a Catholic due to Aquinas' influence on me.
In his 5 volume work Summa Theologica, Aquinas covers what in Latin is called "Quinque viæ" or in English "Five Proofs" or "Five Ways" arguing the existence of God. They are as follows:
1. The Argument of the Unmoved Mover
2. The Argument of the First Cause
3. The Argument of Contingency
4. The Argument from Degree
5. The Teleological Argument
Let's briefly examine these five arguments, first The Argument of the Unmoved Mover. This argument is comes from an observance of nature, that the planets orbit, that things are in constant motion. All things that move have a mover, as observed in modern physics. This mover who is unmoved is what we cal God.
Second, the Argument of the First Cause. This I believe is the best argument for the existence of God. Everything that is has a cause, that much is irrefutable. However, what was the cause that caused everything. That is God, as he is uncaused and eternal.
Third, the Argument of Contingency. We don't often see that word contingency often so let me define it here. Contingency is "something liable to happen as an adjunct to or result of something else" In other words, it is highly unlikely, in fact impossible, for things to merely exist, or for them to come from nothing. They must be organized by one with foreknowledge of why they exist. As God is a contingent being, he fits this description.
Fourth, The Argument from Degree. We often throw around the word perfection, but is something that is rarely observed. Most things we find today are flawed in some minor or major way. But we all know within ourselves that perfection is attainable, or that it exists in something. That perfection is attained in God.
Finally the fifth argument, the Teleological Argument. All things in the world have a purpose, whether they intelligent (able to think and move on its own with a purpose) or unintelligent (moved by force). Something governs all these things , and moves them to their end. This is God.
Taken all together, Aquinas Five Proofs are very strong and very convincing. Each argument builds on the other, and without one argument begins to lack in some way. That shows how some things must be viewed together to work. For instance, take the Temple Endowment. If a person is shown one part of it out of context, a person may conclude that it is fabricated and not authentic. However, when seen together it is a very exalting experience. Aquinas' Five Proofs are in that same bend.
I am not suggesting that Aquinas' proofs are perfect, as they do show that there is a God but don't tell us which God. However, they do stir one on to believe that there is a being who is in control and is guiding the affairs of the Earth, and that it is rational to believe in God. I thank God every day for his servant who guided me away from atheism and humanism, St. Thomas Aquinas.