söndag 7 september 2014

Saint Thomas Aquinas was Not an Atheist

1) Great Bishop of Geneva! : Saint Thomas Aquinas was Not an Atheist ; 2) Creation vs. Evolution : CMI Cites Bible Text Supporting St Thomas over St Bonaventure

Some people have found in Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae words like "it would seem there is no God, for if of two opposites one is infinite, the other is null, but God per definition is infinite good, however, there is evil, so there is no infinite good, there is no God" or some paraphrase of Occam's Razor (before Occam even lived) used against existence of God as superfluous in explaining things.

If the complaint is simply about a Christian stating the case for Atheism, for whatever purpose he may do it, I cannot defend him by saying the words are not there. They are. But if it is meant as proving he was himself an Atheist, that is quote mining. Today Lita Cosner had to answer a question about quote mining. Here is part of her answer:

It would be like an atheist quoting the Bible as affirming their belief in atheism, because 15 places in the Bible say “There is no God”. Of course, the Christian would point out that they are in contexts like, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you” (1 Kings 8:23) or “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 53:1). The surrounding words completely change the meaning, so it is dishonest to quote only the words that say what you want it to say.

Well, in Saint Thomas Aquinas too the surrounding words change the meaning. Before the two statements quoted he has asked something like "article three, whether there is a God" (in article two he had dealt with whether existence of God could be proven, answering yes, and that against those saying it could not be proven because self evident, and you cannot actually prove grass is green, because that is a primary fact used to prove other things, same with God existing). So the immediately preceding words might imply Saint Thomas was referring to some kind of debatable question. And the following words completely destroy the proposition "there is no God". First there is a Bible quote (Exodus 3:14 - not overlookable to π fans since the day when a Catholic bishop divided the Bible chapters into verses on a hunt), then he gets to a rational proof of God's existence. The first three parts could eventually mean there were some kind of impersonal unmoved mover, uncaused cause, necessary existence giving its existence to non-necessary items - modern Atheists would of course say that atoms are necessarily and eternally existent and the things we see are accidental configurations thereof - and this side was when he wrote not as easily and readily explainable in an Atheists sense, and that will on top of this also be further destroyed when he analyses "unmoved mover" in questions like whether God is a body or material or composed or multiple (with no, no, no, no answers all the way), but there are two more items even in this question that directly point to God being personal. Ordering wisdom - and most noble of nobles, in a clear hierarchy of values of the valuable existent things. Ordering wisdom as well as unmoved mover type of omnipotence is of course the approaches we use now against Atheism - as Geocentrics and as Creationists. A Universe where Venus and Mars are dancing around the Sun which is dancing around the Earth and all this within an aether turning westward around the Earth each day is too complex a thing to be set up by chance. Tychonic cosmology makes this even clearer than the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic one which Saint Thomas in his time had access to. Echosystems, the contribution of the Heavens to keep them alive on Earth, the cell, all of these defy atheistic explanations.

Then, after all the discussion which I have paraphrased for modern readers rather than quoted, converging to the conclusions that unmoved mover, uncaused cause, necessary self-existent existence, most noble of nobles and most wise ordainer of the order of Creation by everyone (back then) is (was at least) called God, Saint Thomas answers the two cases of atheism:

Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.

Now, to CMI (as I know from Jonathan Sarfati quyoting Saint thomas) it is no big news he was no atheist. But some people, both Protestant and perhaps even among the Orthodox, will still resort to accusing Saint Thomas of Atheism on account of some quote mining done by some anti-Catholic Anglican Divine of the 18th or 19th Century (unless it goes even further back).

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
Sunday and Vigil of
the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

CMI : Feedback archive → Feedback 2014
‘What if Jesus tells you you’re wrong?’ (named after first letter, I was quoting answer to the second one)
Published: 7 September 2014 (GMT+10)

Newadvent/Summa : First Part : Question 2. The existence of God : Article 3 Does God exist? (down to ad 1, ad 2)

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