Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On Thomas and the Worth of Proving God's Existence

I've been reading Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae with some worthy interlocutors, and we've come to Thomas's famous Five Ways in which he seeks to establish the rationality of God's existence. He asserts that, if follow what we know about creation, we can establish the existence of a Creator. He finds a biblical warrant for this endeavor in Paul's words from Romans 1.20, "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made." Consequently, Thomas seeks to prove that God is the ultimate proper cause of change, the efficient causal series, generation, degrees of being, and order

Good enough, I suppose, although I won't go into the merits (or lacks) or these arguments in this post. But I wonder how important these proofs are. I tend to believe that proofs for God are never decisive for belief--we have faith in God for other reasons. Or to quote Pascal, "The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of." They never in fact take us to the God who is really worthy of belief, but a First Cause, or a Governor of the Universe. Nonetheless, proofs for God do help us realize that faith is not irrational--or more strongly, that faith is not against reason. With the proper respect for their limitations, proofs of God's existence serve a useful, if not ultimate, function. So I guess that means I'll keep reading Thomas and his Summa.

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