Beyond The Grasp Of Human Reason

Welcome readers to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We’re going to be continuing our look tonight at the Jehovah’s Witness booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” I don’t see much difficulty with the section where the Trinity is defined, so let’s skip to the section with the head title of our blog title tonight.

The Watchtower says there is much confusion when it comes to the Trinity and in a sense, they’re right, because the church has grown lazy in explaining this doctrine. I used to follow Greg Koukl in making the joke that I have only heard one sermon in church on the topic of the Trinity, and I was the one who preached it. I have done a sermon on the Trinity before and it was certainly the first one I ever heard on it.

However, this kind of thinking is the thinking that creates several atheists in response to theology and philosophy. “There’s so much confusion out there so surely no one has it right!” Now I know not all atheists think like that as some do take philosophy seriously, but a lot are saying that we need to abandon philosophy and go straight to science, which is itself a philosophical statement about what we ought to do.

Keep in mind the bad referencing that the Witnesses do. First, they say that the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is to be “beyond the grasp of human reason.” What edition of the encyclopedia? We don’t know. What page? We don’t know. Does anyone? Do you think your average Witness at the door knows where this quote can be found or has bothered to look it up?

We have then some quotes. Monsignor Eugene Clark says “God is one and God is three. Since there is nothing like this in creation, we cannot understand it, but only accept it.” Then there’s a quote of Cardinal John O’Connor with “We know that it is a very profound mystery, which we don’t begin to understand.” Finally, there’s a quote of Pope John Paul II.” The Watchtower says that he speaks of “The inscrutable mystery of God The Trinity.”

Movie Review: The Green Hornet

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’m putting a pause for the time being on the look at the Watchtower pamphlet of “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” due to my wife and I going to see “Green Hornet” last night. Since we got back so late, I decided to forgo the blog and write on it today instead. Be warned of spoilers if you haven’t seen this and plan to.

I’ve been a fan of hero flicks for some time now. Green Hornet is one not as well known to the generation most familiar with Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. In that light, it’s good to see that they’re bringing back older heroes for a generation that might not know them as well.

Britt Reid is a young boy who in our first view of him is brought to his father’s office for misbehaving at school. Based on Reid’s description, he wasn’t misbehaving. He was trying to rescue someone from some bullies and got seen as the bad guy. His father will not put up with this, seeing as he’s busy running a major newspaper, so he takes Britt’s superhero toy and rips the head off.

Fast forward and Britt is living the life of a playboy going nowhere. He wakes up one day in his house next to a girl whose name he can’t even pronounce right when his father comes in and asks him if that’s what he wants his life to amount to. Britt doesn’t really listen however, but it was refreshing to see a statement like this in light of the hedonism often seen in our culture today.

Britt is driving in a car later and sees on the news that his father has died. While several come and offer their sympathies, Britt has no tears. He didn’t like his Dad at all. The next time we see him getting emotional in fact is when he wakes up to find out his coffee is terrible and goes to complain to the staff who tell him that Kato is the one who makes the coffee and that he had been fired by Britt. Britt demands that Kato return.

When Kato shows up, Britt soon finds out he’s a genius who’s been adding nifty gadgets to the cars in the garage and has built a machine that makes the coffee. Britt and Kato start talking about Britt’s Dad and how it would be nice to see justice since none of them liked Britt’s Dad. Thus, they decide to go take the head off of the statue that has been put up in honor of him.

While that’s being done, a mugging takes place. Britt tries to stop it only to find himself the next target, at which point Kato comes in and using some martial arts wipes the floor with all of the thieves. Britt is quite excited about the whole event and tells Kato that they’re both meant for more, especially Kato. Wouldn’t it be great to be doing this regularly? Britt tells Kato in great line that it’s not dying Kato’s afraid of, but never having lived.

What will set them apart? Britt suggests that they be seen as characters that the police don’t know what to do with? If they’re known to be the good guys, then the bad guys can use that to their advantage. If they’re not however, the bad guys won’t know what to do with them and that will give them leverage. Being the head of a newspaper since his Dad died, Britt brings up a picture of someone running from the statue of his Dad carrying the head and saying he wants that man and the name is given to him of “The Green Hornet.” Thus, the newspaper provides the publicity needed and Britt and Kato start hitting areas of crime making it seem like a gang war is going on. The main villain of the movie is the crime lord of the city in charge of all crime and what will happen in his interactions with the Green Hornet and Kato.

Themes to see? I think about the idea of the noble lie, whereas a community is told a lie that is known to be a lie for their greater good. The Green Hornet seeks to do the same, not wanting to be seen as a hero entirely for the sake of truly being a hero. We see a similar theme when Batman and Spider-Man are seen as villains, but when the real villains know they’re dealing with heroes, then they know there are some boundaries that the heroes can’t cross. What if the villains themselves don’t know however?

Friendship is a major topic in the movie as the Green Hornet and Kato have numerous ups and downs in their relationship and it comes to the question of forgiveness. When all the cards are on the table, where will your loyalties lie? Are you willing to set aside that which angers you about your partner for the greater good? A question the viewer will be asking is how some actions will affect the relationship between the Green Hornet and Kato.

No doubt, both have good intentions in wanting to rid crime, but the intentions are not enough. For instance, Kato is everything in the team. He builds the gadgets, does the driving, and does the fighting. How does that affect things when the Green Hornet is seen as the main character, especially in light of how egotistical the Green Hornet is in the film?

Because of his inability to fight and lack of foresight, the Green Hornet can get in over his head and rely on Kato to save him. Is that the way of the hero? Should the Green Hornet be out there? Or, could it be the Green Hornet gets his wings as it were by being willing to take a risk? Does that mean some who are unskilled in an area should take risks? When? Do you really want to fight evil when evil will not treat it like a game?

Thus, it’s really hard to describe this one. The heroes are not always the heroes we’d think, and that could be a good thing. It could be encouragement for the rest of us who sometimes just want to do a little bit of good and wonder if we can do it. Do we simply want to be like Britt in the beginning and be leading hedonistic lifestyles for only the moment? Is our worst fear dying or never living in the first place?

Parents will want to provide some caution. There are some sexual references throughout the film and there is profanity. However, it is a movie my wife and I both enjoyed and I look forward to a possible sequel in the future.

Does The Trinity Matter?

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve started looking at the doctrine of the Trinity from the Jehovah’s Witnesses magazine, “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” Before I get into that, I will state on a personal note that I did get a part-time job today. Of course, my wife and I still appreciate donations that can be made through Tektonics that are tax-deductible. However, we do have some breathing room.

Now let’s get to the matter at hand. The first point is one I in essence agree with the Watchtower on. It is important to know about the Trinity. If the Watchtower is right, then I say I am indeed committing blasphemy by saying Jesus is God when He is not. However, if I am right, then the Watchtower is denying who Jesus truly is and He made his identity the focus of his message and essential to salvation. There is a huge price to pay on both ends.

The Watchtower tells us that various Trinitarian concepts exist. The sad part is that they never list one other one rather than the orthodox one. I find this troublesome consider the last Witnesses that we had visit could not get my position straight. They’d give a modalist view and I’d say that’s not what the Trinity is and then they’d be saying later “So you don’t believe in the Trinity” and I had to correct them time and time again.

Unfortunately, I can understand them when they say many Christians they meet do give different descriptions and this is where we are falling short. Ask the average person at a church service to explain the Trinity and more likely than not, you’ll get a modalist interpretation, especially if they say “It’s like me being a father, a son, and a husband.”

Also interesting is how the magazine says “Others say that” and then goes on to list beliefs such as Jesus pre-existing as a spirit person created by God and the Holy Spirit as God’s active force and not a person. It’s not hard to wonder who these others are. The Witnesses don’t seem to mention “Watchtower” often, but go to their Kingdom Hall service and be amazed as you constantly hear about the “Faithful and Discrete Slave.”

Why do this? Most likely so that they will seem like Christians who believe the Bible just like you and I. The method has sadly worked. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses get a gathering from Christians at churches. The Mormon church has claimed that they baptize a Baptist church every week.

The Witnesses also say the Trinity is of pagan origin using as a source Arthur Weigall’s “Paganism in our Christianity.” How many of you all have heard of that name? Very few. Why is that? For one thing, it dates from 1928. Keep in mind that this magazine was written in 1989. Why did the Watchtower go back 61 years? I’m not saying because it’s old, it’s wrong, but when dealing with this topic, you need the latest scholarship and if it’s believed by scholars, moderns will be saying it just as much.

But just taking this source, is there anything the Watchtower isn’t telling us?

You bet there is. Look at some other claims and see if the Watchtower will accept these.

On page 204 they say the only document in existence written by someone who personally knew Jesus is 1 Peter.

In the chapter on the virgin birth, he argues that this was common in pagan circles and that the belief should not be included in Christian creeds.

Various other beliefs in gods played a role in shaping Christian doctrine, especially the god “Mithras.”

For the sake of argument, and definitely for that as I think Weigall is entirely wrong, it could be that Weigall was correct in everything he said. The question however is why do the Witnesses write about the Trinity being pagan without taking to note everything else the same writer believes to be pagan, namely beliefs like the virgin birth.

Now of course, no scholar gets everything right. It could be he was right about the Trinity but wrong about everyone else. This wouldn’t help the situation however. Why did the Watchtower just mention him as an authority without stating the reasons for his believing the Trinity are pagan. That’s what we’re interested in.

Now the Witnesses we dealt with said that all of that is just man’s opinion anyway. To that I say that saying it is man’s opinion does not mean that it is wrong. It certainly means it’s not infallible. However, fallible human beings can be right. No one is completely wrong in what they believe. Someone can say it’s man’s opinion, but I want to know if this man’s opinion is right or not.

If his authority is not to be taken seriously, then why should he be cited at all? All we have is an appeal to authority, which is not always invalid, but if we are to believe on the basis of authority, then we need to deny that most of the NT was written by people who did not know Jesus personally and that the virgin birth is pagan. Do the Witnesses want to say that?

Please note also the poor citation given here. The Witnesses go far enough to tell where the artwork throughout the book comes from. They do not tell when they cite a book what page the information is found on and many times they don’t tell the author. If a book has had many editions. They do not tell that. It is almost as if they don’t want you to check their sources.

Let’s not be gullible with them however. I intend to hold their feet to the fire and tomorrow, we shall hopefully examine further claims.

Should You Believe In The Trinity?

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we’re diving into the ocean of truth. Based on recent events in my life, I’m going to be starting a new series tonight. Just last Monday, my wife and I had what I believe to be our last visit with some Jehovah’s Witnesses that visited. I found it very revealing they had to leave suddenly in the middle of my reading Ephesians 2:8-9. (I mean that literally. They got up to leave as soon as I read verse 8)

One thing that they’d done prior however was to leave me a copy of “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” This book is one they hand out regularly and I considered it important to look into it further. Doing that can be difficult however as even with a Seminary library at my disposal, I could not find all the books mentioned. Some of them I was able to find on Google Books.

For this series, I’d like to do what I can to equip my fellow Christians to deal with the knock on your door. It will require you to really learn what is being said however as Jehovah’s Witnesses will not do internet research on their own. As one who has been to a Kingdom Hall before, I do not hesitate to say that they practice indoctrination, and it is indoctrination of one of the strongest nature’s that I have ever seen.

This series will be looking at the Witnesses based on how they do research, something I’ve been looking at a lot lately with the new atheists as well. What I find quite revealing is that compared to “Should You Believe In The Trinity?,” the New Atheists are researchers par excellence. Those of you who have studied this pamphlet of the Jehovah’s Witnesses know very well that it is one of the worst publications out there.

We will be looking at the idea that orthodox Christian beliefs came from pagans, something the Witnesses hold to. More important in that area however will not just be disestablishing the claim, but pointing out how bad the research is that is done by the Watchtower to establish this and giving better rules for research. This will also help other readers when dealing with areas I’m not discussing right now, such as the popular internet film “Zeitgeist.”

We will also note styles of argumentation. For instance, the Witnesses specialize in the one-sided argument. By reading their book, you would think that Christian scholars have not considered these objections. It does not mean that there are no hard questions, but have those questions been interacted with?

I hope that this will be helpful resource as we go through and it will be one I’ll want to keep on hand as well for when the Witnesses come by again. I advise caution as well in dealing with the Witnesses and make sure you know your stuff before you deal with them. The last response to do however is to slam the door in their face as that will solidify their belief that they are on the right path.

Tomorrow, we should begin.

Is God Rational?

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! As much as I did enjoy the review of The Amazing Atheist on how badly he botched the arguments of Aquinas, I am glad it’s over in the sense that I no longer have to return to that video, a video I believe my wife was also getting annoyed with.

However, in all of this, a reader who identified himself as Rolo asked a question.

I’ve really enjoyed many of you’re posts so far especially the ones where you examine the many shallow soundbites used unfortunately by both Christians and atheists. Something that’s always bothered me about many of the philosophical arguments for God is that many of them hinge on the claim that God is rational and logical. I think the transcendental argument is a prime example of a philosophical argument that hinges on God being by nature rational and logical. The problem I have with these arguments is that where in the scriptures does it say that God cannot do something illogical or that logic is a part of God’s nature? I’m hoping that maybe you in enlighten me on this issue.

I do appreciate the compliment and I do hope I can help with this question and if you have some further questions about what I say, feel free to ask.

There are some philosophers who would disagree with what I say, like Descartes. However, it is my stance that God cannot do that which is illogical. Now note by illogical, I mean something that is necessarily contradictory. We all act in ways that to some people seem illogical, without violating any law of logic. It could be that we are acting without proper thinking in some cases, but not always.

I say this because I do not believe a contradiction can exist in the real world for it is impossible for something to be and not be in the same time and in the same sense. I have yet to see a strong case for any event being otherwise. I cannot for instance know that two plus two equals four and non-four.

Throughout the Scriptures, we are invited to know God. To know God means that there are truths about Him that can be known. We Christians accept that God exists, for instance, and that He exists in Trinity and has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. Of course, if a reader wishes to paint the Trinity as a contradiction, they are free to do so, but it is a failed attempt. The earliest formulators of the Christian creeds on this topic made sure to avoid contradictions.

How can we know God if God is contradictory? A contradiction is something that cannot be known and a point I make to atheists when asked if anything could disprove God’s existence is to be shown that there is a necessary contradiction in the doctrine of God. Note that there are apparent contradictions, but not necessary ones. Apparent ones are more like contradictions you think you see when you watch a murder mystery. How did the killer commit the crime when they were miles away? It seems like a contradiction at first until you study it.

As for being rational, that would depend on what is meant. Can we say God has a thinking process? Not in the sense that He thinks on things to find out what he doesn’t know, for He already knows all things. Does He think to feel better about something? No. That would be change. Does He think on something so He’ll know to deal with it? That would make him temporal as well. God simply knows all truths eternally. These he knows by knowing Himself. In knowing Himself, He knows all ways being can be and is.

Note also that when God reveals Himself, He makes the claim that what is said is true. He is the God of all truth. I believe this is a valid claim and a true one as well, but it only makes sense if he does not contradict. Now some of a more presuppositional bent might say that I’m using man’s reason.

This is not going to work however, for our minds are creations of God and our reasoning powers. They are not invalid and we are invited to use them to come and see Him as He is. There is not man’s reasoning and God’s reasoning. There is simply reasoning. There is good reasoning and bad reasoning however.

But doesn’t Isiaah 55:8-9 say His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Question. Why is that being said? If you look at the context, it is about how God judges those who go against Him and rewards those who live righteously. Our thoughts would be that the wicked should be punished and we want them to be punished and God ought not have mercy on them. We should be careful when dealing with evil people that we do not become like Jonah.

God however says let them come forward and repent so they will live. Your thoughts may be on their destruction, but I am thinking of their salvation. My way of dealing with people is better than yours for even if they don’t repent, my judgment is perfect judgment from an eternal perspective.

The verse is not saying anything about God’s mind ontologically, but only on the outworking of God’s mind to us.

I conclude then that the reason God invites us to know Him is that He can be known. I do not mean to say He can be comprehended. No one should have a problem with the idea of knowing God. Those of us who are married know that we know our spouses, but at the same time, we are still learning new things about them. Couples who have been married for fifty years are still learning things about their spouses.

I hope this answers the question.

The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: Conclusion

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve spent the past few days looking at the YouTuber known as The Amazing Atheist and seeing how badly he misrepresents the arguments of Thomas Aquinas. For the sake of argument, Aquinas could still be wrong, but we can definitely say that TAA is wrong in how he presents the arguments. Today, we’re going to look at this and say “What did go wrong?” and “Why waste your time dealing with someone on YouTube?”

Where did this guy go wrong? To begin with, he’s one of those who thinks that just reading the text is always enough. In modern times, that can happen since we all know the culture and language. When reading a work from another culture and in another language, more study is needed. It could be other reading or talking to a teacher in the topic. I also believe the same is true of the Bible. We will without further understanding read our own culture and meaning of words back into the text.

As a Thomist, I can tell that TAA does not understand the arguments because he raises up objections that show a lack of familiarity. For instance, to say that Aquinas was unaware that existence is the basis for all things is to show supreme ignorance of Aquinas, whose whole metaphysical system was built on existence and its relation to God.

To understand the arguments, you need to know Aquinas’s view of metaphysics and his epistemology. You need to understand Aristotle as well seeing as Aquinas based his system on that of Aristotle. Does this mean a mastery of the topics? No. Not at all. All of us are still growing in knowledge. However, you need to understand that when Aquinas says motion, he means what Aristotle would mean by motion and not by what a post-Cartesian would mean.

Other examples of the ignorance of TAA include the replacing of God with blueberry muffins. At least the so-called Flying Spaghetti Monster would be a creature who would possess intellect. That TAA thinks you can easily replace God with such a concept is quite revealing. Also, he makes the statement often made about an infinite regress. Aquinas deals with this in Question 46. Does this mean I expect TAA to have read the whole Summa? No. However, an interaction also with those who are Thomists prior to his making a video would have cleared it up for him. Instead, TAA makes a video on a topic he does not know anything about thinking that a cursory reading of Aquinas is enough.

Not one Thomist out there would be convinced by this video. Even Anthony Kenny, an atheist who frequently takes on Aquinas’s arguments, would have told TAA that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Well if no Thomist would be convinced, why bother spending a week dealing with the guy?

Because others will be. At a check just now, the video has 67.358 views. No other video I see after that in response comes anywhere near that. Only one that I see crosses 1,000 and I’m not even sure if it’s really a response to that video as much as someone saying he doesn’t care about TAA. Now it could be a lot of those views are strong Christians coming back to debate on YouTube. However, it could be those who are not.

Some of you who are parents might say “Well my son would not search for a video by TAA.” No. Maybe not. However, he could go on YouTube to hear a song by a favorite Christian band and off in the related links section see a video calling into question some aspect of Christianity. He clicks that one out of curiosity and then if he’s further intrigued, like a porn addiction, starts clicking more and more and eventually finds his way to TAA.

If such a boy is uninformed in his faith, as too many are, myself included at that age, then he will not be prepared and will think “Wow. This is supposed to be my champion and this guy has no fear of him whatsoever and he seems to be making some good points!” In reality, the young boy has never read Aquinas and probably never will and will not seek out a counter-response.

There are also the atheists who are watching that video who will think that Aquinas has been dealt with by TAA and they themselves will never read the saint. This is also the case with Dawkins’s hideous treatment of the arguments in “The God Delusion.” I recall at this automatically the person who told me that David Hume had refuted Aquinas by asking the question “Who made God?” If anyone thinks this is a refutation to Aquinas, they only reveal their ignorance. It’s tantamount in his system to asking “Who made existence?”

Thus, I have written this series in the hopes that we will learn what to do more and why it matters. Be ready to research the other side. I frequently debate atheists, but I also have numerous books by atheists that I read. When Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons come to my door, I want to make sure that I not only know my arguments, but that I also know theirs, and I want to know their arguments better than they do. I want to know them so well that if I had to, I could argue for them myself.

Be willing to learn. Most of us don’t have that. We want to act in public as if we’ve read everything and know everything. I assure you Christian, just pick your favorite apologist. That person is still learning. They are still reading. There are still areas they’re studying and things that they do not know. They may be further along in their studies, but they are still studying. As I’ve said, my own writings on Aquinas will be further refined over the years as I learn more and seek to learn even more.

That could require going to a bookstore or a library, and I would prefer you do those instead of relying exclusively on the internet. If you have to, go to a college and take a course on the matter. A Seminary could offer a course on Thomas Aquinas that you could benefit from.

Be sure that education is going on, especially of your children, since unbelief is so pervasive on the internet. Statistics indicate that most children when they leave home, leave the faith also. You don’t want yours to be one of them. Don’t assume basic Sunday School is enough to equip them. It isn’t. Get good books and teach them the arguments and how to think and always allow them to doubt and to question. Do not punish either doubts or questions. Our faith is to be open to the hardest of inquiry. If you punish your child for doubting and questioning, fearing that you will not answer them, that says more about your view of your faith rather than the faith itself.

When you see what is going on in the atheist community with people like this, be ready to take a stand. Now for those who have never debated before, expect to get your tail kicked some. It will happen. Only take that as an incentive to study more. Feel free also to point people like TAA to blogs like this. (I would still love a chance to debate TAA on TheologyWeb on either of the five ways of his choice)

What we have in the video of TAA is tripe that ought to be convincing nobody, but unfortunately several will be convinced. Take a stand today. It is a stand for truth, and it is the truth that will last in the face of any objection. Aquinas told us that since Christianity is true, there can be no objection that disproves it. I believe he was right. Do you? Then live accordingly.

The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: The Fifth Way

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been looking recently at the efforts of a YouTuber who goes by the name of “The Amazing Atheist” in his video “Thomas Aquinas sucks” who is trying to refute the five ways of Aquinas. There has been some mockery of Aquinas of course. I don’t have a problem with that. I just say that if you think you’re smarter than Aquinas, you’d better show it. So far, he hasn’t shown it. Tonight, we look at the fifth way and how The Amazing Atheist treats that and what a Thomistic response would be.

Let’s see how he sums up the fifth way first off:

#1-Among objects that act for an end, some have minds whereas others do not.
#2-An object that acts for an end but does not for itself have a mind must have been created by a being that does have a mind.
#3-So there exists a being with a mind who designed all mindless objects that act for an end.
#4-Hence, God exists.

Let’s see what Aquinas himself said:

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

As should be evident from what has been said, TAA has once again not understood this argument. For instance, creation is nowhere mentioned. Aquinas is not interested in dealing with a divine watchmaker like Paley’s argument. His is entirely different from that one.

For instance, Paley wants it to be probable that there is a god. Aquinas wants it to be a certainty. Paley is interested in design inherent in the objects. Aquinas is interested in design as a whole. Paley does not have final causes in his argument per se. Aquinas bases his entirely on them. Paley does not tell you about the nature of the designer too much. Aquinas has it as the God of classical theism.

What about evolution? It would be a non-question at this point. Now keep in mind Aquinas does not care if Paley would be right or not, so this argument does not say ipso facto that Paley was wrong. Evolution is seen as a threat sometimes to Paley’s argument. Aquinas would not see it as a threat at all. In fact, it would be a case of The Blind Watchmaker of Richard Dawkins winning the battle but losing the war. One can imagine Aquinas being around today, reading the book and saying “Cool theory! I can go with that! Thanks for demonstrating my Fifth Way further Professor Dawkins!”

For Aquinas, in this way, God is entirely immanent in the creation. It is not to be like a watchmaker making the watch and then leaving it be. It is more like God is a musician playing a song. The universe is his song and as long as the musician is playing, the song is around. If God ever ceased being, the universe, and everything else, would go out of existence.

Getting back to the argument and seeing how TAA botches it, Aquinas is arguing from what is seen. Why do thinks act regularly? Why do they act in the same way provided there is no outside interference? Chance would not bother him because even chance has a background with some regularity to it. It is chance what numbers come up when the dice is rolled, but laws of physics could determine such and even still, there is final causality in the roll of the dice.

Now when it comes to why you or I act for a purpose, that is easy enough to understand, but why is it that something else does? For Aquinas, only agents act for an end. It does not mean however that everything that is has a purpose, as there can be some offshoots that don’t have a purpose from that action. Thus, when Dawkins asks, as he did recently in a debate where Craig was involved, the purpose of a mountain, a good Thomist can say “Maybe there isn’t one” and be consistent. Note also that because a purpose is unknown, that does not mean there is none. This is a classical mistake. Theists are accused of saying “We don’t know how that happened, therefore God did it.” I condemn such an attitude as well. A naturalist like Dawkins however can say “I don’t know why that is, therefore there is no reason why it is the way it is.” This is what happens with the problem of evil also.

Aquinas contends that the reason some things are acting for a final cause is that there is an efficient cause outside of them providing that cause to them. TAA wants us to ask why this has to be a being. Why can’t it just be an accident. Aquinas would say that an accident cannot explain final causality and regularity in nature.

If something didn’t have a mind, it too would need to be directed by an agent and thus it could not be the efficient cause guiding the final causes. If it had potential, it would have had to be made for a purpose and again, we meet the same problem. Aquinas’s solution? There is a being who does not need an efficient cause of His being but rather is the efficient cause of all other beings and provides final causality to the universe and this, we know to be God.

Thus, we have seen that TAA just hopelessly messes up the arguments each time. Why is this? We shall see tomorrow as we conclude.

The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: The Fourth Way

Welcome back everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We’ve lately been going through a video made by The Amazing Atheist on YouTube where he claims that Thomas Aquinas sucks. For all interested, so far, I have not heard from the Amazing Atheist and my attempts to post on the wall of this video have failed. My challenge is still here for him to come to TheologyWeb and challenge me on the way of his choice. Tonight, we’re going to look at TAA’s take on the Fourth Way.

#1-Objects have properties to greater or lesser extents.
#2-If an object has a property to a lesser extent, then there exists some other object that has the property to the maximum possible degree.
#3-So there is an entity that has all properties to the maximum possible degree.
#4-God exists.

TAA thinks even this is too stupid, although he has not understood it of course, and so he wants to change it to understand beings by grades.

#1-There is a gradation to be found in things. Some are better or worse than others.
#2-Predications of degree require references to the uttermost case.
#3-The maximum in any genus is the cause of all of that genus
#4-Therefore there must also be something to which all beings is the cause of their goodness and all other perfection and this we call God.

Again, let’s see what the master himself said:

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

What’s interesting for the first version TAA gave is that he gave the standard objection that Dawkins gave when Dawkins asked if there’s a most smelly being of all. TAA asks if God is the fattest and the skinniest of all, the gayest and straightest, etc. That seems to be his objection.

However, this objection fails and TAA could have just done what I did to find out why. You read more on the topic or you talk to someone who knows more. Instead, TAA goes on about how dumb Aquinas is and that refuting Aquinas is kindergarten stuff. Well, I suppose building straw men of arguments could be something a kindergarten student would do.

However, let’s get to the kinds of traits Aquinas is talking about. Note that he uses the example of fire being the maximum cause of heat. Why does he do this? Because in the medieval worldview, fire was understood as the ultimate cause of heat and the maximum heat could be found in fire. Note that Aquinas is giving an analogy here. He is using that which is understood to point to that which is not understood.

Thus, he is talking about divine attributes ultimately and so it should be obvious then that smelliness and fatness and other such qualities are not to be included. Do we have any idea what qualities he is talking about? Indeed we do. Aquinas is explaining the transcendentals.

At such an argument, TAA doesn’t even attempt a refutation. For him, just saying it’s dumb is enough. However, we must look at this more. If you have something that is of your essence to have that is a perfection, then it will be had to the maximum. Cats are fully cats. Horses are fully horses. Humans are fully human. Humans cannot have being to the full or goodness to the full for we do not have all that that entails.

God does however and God is the cause of all the degrees that we see in other beings. He is what is called the supreme being. Keep in mind that in Aquinas’s system, qualities like truth and goodness are convertible with being. He would agree with Augustine that insofar as we exist, we are good. Thus, when you speak of a being with maximum truth, goodness, nobility, etc., you speak of one with maximum being.

If a being has all perfections to the maximum, there can be no other that has that, especially since its existence is its essence. After all, how will the other being differ? Will it differ by having a perfection the other does not have? Then whatever one the other does not have, it is not the maximum of perfections.

Keep in mind also that for Aquinas, this does not just mean there could have been a God at one point that got degrees of goodness started and then went away. No. God is eternally active and is the cause of the gradation we see of goodness in beings today. As long as we have degrees of goodness, there is a maximum goodness that is out there and this, everyone knows to be God.

I will grant however that the fourth way is a hard argument to understand and I suspect that given a year or so my writing on it will be more in-depth. However, at this point, I believe this is also the closest we have to the moral argument and it’s one I wish would be used more often. After all, we sometimes ask atheists “How can you determine good actions without God?” That’s a good question! Still, let’s make it better. How can you determine the goodness of anything, even good results, without a standard of goodness?

TAA has given the standard Dawkins reply, which is interesting since he refers to Dawkins as someone smarter than him. I do not doubt that, but I also realize this shows me more about TAA’s thinking. Dawkins is a scientist. He is not a philosopher or a theologian and you need training in those areas to be able to really understand Aquinas’s arguments.

After all, if you do not understand the arguments and think you do, you could embarrass yourself in the face of someone who knows them better.

Much like TAA would with any Thomist he’d meet.

Tomorrow, we shall look at the fifth way.

The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: The Third Way

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve spent a lot of time lately looking at the YouTuber known as “The Amazing Atheist” and his review of the five ways of Thomas Aquinas. Tonight, we’re going to look at the “job” that he did on the third way and see how lacking it is.

First, his summation of the argument.

#1-Contingent things exist.
#2-Each contingent thing has a time at which it fails to exist. Contingent things are not omnipresent.
#3-So if everything were contingent, there would be a time when nothing would exist, call this an empty time.
#4-That empty time would have been in the past.
#5-If the world were empty at one time, it would be empty forever, a conservation principle.
#6-So if everything were contingent, nothing would exist now.
#7-But clearly the world is not empty
#8-So clearly there exists a being who is not contingent.
#9-Hence God exists.

Let’s see what Aquinas himself says:

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

What Aquinas means by the possibility of to be and not to be is that such objects contain within themselves the potentiality of corruption and can corrupt to the point where they cease to be, that is, cease to be as they are. Keep in mind that for Aquinas, matter only exists when it is combined with form to make substance.

Aquinas says that that which is possible not to be is at some point not. What does he mean? He means that if anything has within it inherently such corruption, it was not at one time as it was depending on another to bring it into being. It is very important to learn what these terms mean and again, I refer the reader to Feser’s guide for an excellent treatment of the five ways.

Aquinas tells us that if all things were like this, there would be a time when there was nothing. Why? Remember Aquinas is open to a universe without a beginning. What he means then is that given infinite time, every potentiality would happen. We cannot speak of an infinite amount of time and that which is possible not happening.

Thus, since everything that is contingent in this way depends on something else bringing it into existence, then there must be something that is not contingent. At this point, the modern atheist can often think “Ah! Well let us suppose the universe is necessary! The third way is refuted!”

Well, no.

Note that Aquinas says that every necessary thing either has its necessity in something else or not. Why? How much sense does this make? What Aquinas means by necessary however is not what modern philosophers mean by talk of possible worlds. What he means is everlasting. As long as something has been, this has been.

Could it be that the universe is the end of the deal then? No. That is because the universe contains matter and matter cannot be the end deal. Matter is pure potential and as was said, it has actuality by being combined with form to make a substance. We could not say the substance is what has always been either because substances are always coming and going out of existence.

Thus, if matter is everlasting, it has to be combined with something else and that combination does not come from itself or it would be the cause of its own coming into existence, which is nonsense.

Now The Amazing Atheist thinks that what Aquinas has forgotten is existence. He tells us about the equipment necessary to make a YouTube video and then says that if you have a hard drive, you can bring back those items that are needed to make a video into existence. Existence itself is the hard drive. It is the universe that is used.

In saying this, he makes the universe the necessary being, which we have said won’t work, but even more embarrassingly, he reveals that he has not read Aquinas at all since he says that Aquinas is unaware of existence as the fallback position. In reality, being, that is, existence as existence, was the central doctrine of Thomistic thought. Only someone completely uneducated on Thomistic thought would make such a basic mistake.

Of course, The Amazing Atheist also gives the same canard of “Well why can’t it be a simple particle? Why must it be a complex God!” This one has been made by Richard Dawkins as well and when someone advances this argument seriously, you can rest assured they have not really read theology and they definitely do not understand Thomistic arguments.

As we said with Dawkins when we reviewed “The God Delusion” and as we said when we reviewed the simplicity of God in the Summa Theologica, if someone will simply read on ahead in the Summa, they will find that this is the very next doctrine God deals with. God is not complex in his being, but rather He is simple. People like The Amazing Atheist and Richard Dawkins and others assume a more materialistic understanding of God which goes against what Aquinas believes. Now you can say Aquinas is wrong in His concept of God, but you must give a reason why his philosophy on this matter is. Aquinas gives arguments for God’s simplicity based on his doctrine of being. Why are they wrong?

Honestly, in listening to this part of the video, I had to laugh when The Amazing Atheist made the statement about existence. Let this be a reminder as we will see later on this week that one really needs to understand the points one criticizes, lest one publicly embarrass themselves.

Tomorrow, we shall examine the fourth way.

The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: The Second Way

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Lately, we’ve been looking at the, ahem, “work”, of a YouTuber who calls himself The Amazing Atheist. What we’ve found amazing so far is his inability to grasp Thomistic arguments and think that he’s refuted them. Last night, we looked at how he did in dealing with the first way. Tonight, we’re going to look at the second way.

What does he say about this one?

#1-Some events cause other events.

Then says “That argument is exactly the same as your motion argument. I’m not refuting the same argument twice.”

Actually, refuting it the first time would be nice, but anyone watching right now his video should just be ready to realize that even if they don’t know Aquinas, that he surely at least would not put forward two different arguments not knowing that they were the same argument.

So what did the angelic doctor say?

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The first argument is about motion. This argument is about a specific kind of motion which revolves around bringing things into existence. How are things brought into existence? There are similarities to be sure, but to simply say that they are the same argument is to show a profound ignorance.

What is an efficient cause? For a refresher of what we discussed Wednesday, the efficient cause is that which brings something into being. Aquinas at the start says that for something to cause itself is nonsense. Why? It would have to exist in order to bring itself into existence. Only that which has actuality is in capable in any sense of acting.

There are a number of instrumental causes that can be used to get to the final effects that we see today, that is, our existence. Aquinas does not care if it is one or many. For Aquinas, the evolutionary debate today would be a non-question. Aquinas would just say “If God did it fiat, fine. If He didn’t, then evolution was the instrument that He used.”

In other words, the evolutionists can freely win the battle for evolution and still lose the war.

This also gets us into the existence/essence distinction. Let us take the idea of a unicorn. The unicorn only exists as far as we know in our minds. However, were the idea to become actualized in the extramental world, we would see the existence of a real unicorn.

For each of us, we have a human nature that is actualized and the distinction of that nature is made known by the matter that we possess. For angels, there is no differentiation by matter, so Gabriel is the essence of Gabriel and that is actualized by adding existence. (Of course, existence is added to our essence as well)

What about God? Well he doesn’t need a cause seeing as He is uncaused. He is existence by nature. This is a point we will look at again tomorrow in discussing the third way. There is no existence that needs to be added to essence for Him. In God, they are one and the same.

Keep in mind that when God is the efficient cause for the existence of other things, it says nothing about the temporality of those things. There could have been an everlasting past still. First cause does not mean first chronologically necessary but first fundamentally.

TAA doesn’t have much to say today, which is probably good on his part. Fortunately, we do, and we will say more tomorrow on the third way.