Can Aquinas persuade the 21st century average thinker of God’s validity?

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Aquinas makes a handful of statements that are meant to be self-evident. The problem is that they may be self-evident for the average person in the 14th century, but maybe not for us. That is the question I want to ponder on. In Summa Theologica, Aquinas argues for the rationality of his religion. This fact is meant to seem so actual and strikingly true that it would come across as actual.

Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas’ rational approach to religion was no doubt met with sincere hostility, since much of logic was associated with the pagan Greeks and was not to be tampered with any longer. Faith was a significant spiritual force in many people’s lives, especially in the 14th century when many people could not read. Rationality therefore could have been freely condemned and later was by influential theologians such as Martin Luther, the reformer.

Aquinas also makes the statement that the proposition that we know the essence of God “is not self-evident to us, but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us . . . by His effects” (39). This naturally comes to mind when thinking of God. It is impossible to prove his existence without seeing the things that he does.

Of the unseen he says that “we cannot know in what God’s essence consists, but solely in what it does not consist, as Damascene says. Therefore we cannot demonstrate that God exists” (40). His reference, mistakenly so, is the Bible. It seems to be reasonable for someone who is completely convinced of it’s truthfulness and has supposedly committed most of it, if not all, to heart. Timothy 3:16 goes so far as to say that all of it is God-breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. There is no mistake. This suggests why Aquinas keeps referencing it on a number of occasions to make arguments seem valid. In this case he takes Romans 1:20 (“The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”), to say that “[w]hen an effect is better known to us than its cause, from the effect we proceed to the knowledge of the cause” (40).

A number of problems arise if we are to take his text Summa Theologica seriously. Number one, in order to make an argument for the truthfulness of a text, it is hard to validate it through the use of the original text. In the past however it could have been a valid source, since it was heralded as the most reliable source. Nowadays, we can point at misinterpretations, mistranslations, contradictions, etc. to conclude that the text is not the most reliable document, as few others are.

Number two, Aquinas points in his first way to prove God’s existence (as a response to the problem of evil) to the argument for the first mover. What Aquinas did not know at that time was that Dark Matter comprised 70% of the known universe, which means that there are forces that seem counter-active when in fact they are capable of creating matter in the first place as with the case with the universe we are temporarily inhabiting.

Many have dealt with Aquinas’ proof. I believe them to be essential for providing meaning for the average 14th century citizen. Now, however, we have come to a point where certainly all of these arguments are just that, a historic relic of the world in the past — a medieval Christianity.

I have written about this before. If you are interested here is the link:

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Author of “Up in the Air: Christianity, Atheism & the Global Problems of the 21st Century” on AMAZON | Exploring Ethical Living | IG: jakub.ferencik.official