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.