Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. I realized last night after I got done that I forgot my prayer requests. It’s quite odd for someone like myself who tends to be very repetitious in my actions. Thus, I wish to correct that. First, I ask for your prayers in my Christlikeness. I saw in many ways today again how much I need this prayer. Second, I ask for prayers in my financial situation. Finally, I ask for prayers in a third related area of my life.
For now, we’re going to go back to the Summa Theologica and continue looking at the ways by which Aquinas proves the existence of God to his readers. For those who do not happen to have a copy of the Summa lying around (And it would not hurt you to have one), I recommend going to newadvent.org and reading the Summa. Yes. You can be Protestant and read Aquinas.
The fourth way is arguing from degrees. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, one of the biggest joke books there is, tries to make this absurd by saying “Well is there such a thing as the smelliest?” This is one point that needs to be kept in mind. If it seems like there’s an obvious absurdity in an argument, you might want to look at it again, especially with a mind like Aquinas’s.
Aquinas here is talking about mainly transcendental qualities which would include the good. For him, there are degrees of goodness. Some things are more good than others. Every Christian should agree with this. There are things that are good and there are things that are not good and there are in-between. We are good, and we are better than the animal kingdom, but we are not as good as God is.
Aquinas uses as an example fire and getting its source from the sun. Now keep in mind that their understanding of the sun in those days was not like ours is today. This is not to say that they were ignorant of science as this is a time that took science very seriously. There were just some things that could not be discovered about the sun without modern technology and we don’t need to fault the medievals for that, just as there are some things we won’t discover until our technology advances and future generations should not fault us for that.
For Aquinas, the sun was hot, but it was a different kind of hot. He did not think of adding more to fire and then lo and behold, you get the sun. The sun was hotness of a different kind. However, without that heat, there could not be the hot that is fire. In the same way, without something that was maximum goodness, there could not be minimal goodness. There must be something from which goodness comes that is maximum so we can recognize the lack.
This is an important distinction in Aquinas. He makes the point that some things are different by kind rather than degree alone. This is a problem with the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression. It makes it sound like you get man and you add up a bunch of attributes in him and then power them up wholesale and lo and behold, he becomes God. God is different from us in kind however. We can never have power, goodness, love, knowledge, etc. as he has it.
Aquinas does look however and sees that there is goodness and beauty and nobility in the world. In order for it to be in the effect as a transcendental, it must be in the cause and this cause that is maximum goodness, beauty, nobility, etc. is what everyone knows to be God.
Tomorrow, we shall look at the fifth way, probably the way most misunderstood by atheists today.