Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 3

What about the cause of the universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I will say in his defense that chapters by Skydive Phil tend to be well-researched and better than most other chapters. That’s not saying a lot, but that is something. Unlike many other authors, he does have a copious list of notes for what he says. Seeing as this chapter is largely scientific, as you all should know by now, I will not comment on science as science. However, when we get to philosophical points, I will say something.

So let’s get to one:

When we think of causes though, we always do so in the context of time. We could say all events that have causes have prior moments in time. If the universe had a beginning then there was no prior moment of time and hence we have no right to demand there must be some prior cause. Causality may also be a consequence of the laws of physics and the arrow of time. If we had some state with no space or time, no laws of physics and no arrow of time, are we really in a position to demand there must still be a cause?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Ah, but this is assuming chronological causation. Now I fully grant that there is time in that A causes B. My hands are typing on this keyboard which is causing letters to pop up and my hands typing were caused by my willing them to type. That is all well and good. Could it be possible for something to be eternal and still have a cause?


Imagine a mirror that has been standing for all eternity. In front of this mirror stands a man who is also somehow eternal. This man is eternally looking in the mirror unmoving. The man sees his reflection eternally in the mirror.

Is his reflection caused?

Yes, and yet it is eternal.

Hard to fathom and get your head around? Sure, but it doesn’t change reality.

The point is all of this is in the context of the Kalam and Phil deals with the modern version that is about the origin of the universe. The historical version of it is not.

In Q. 46 and article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologica, it is asked if the beginning of the universe is an article of faith. This doesn’t mean blind belief. It means if this is something that is taken on authority revealed from God. Now were people like Phil correct, Aquinas would say “Of course not! Our argument shows the universe has a beginning!”

He does not.

On the contrary, The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively, because faith is of things “that appear not” (Hebrews 11:1). But that God is the Creator of the world: hence that the world began, is an article of faith; for we say, “I believe in one God,” etc. And again, Gregory says (Hom. i in Ezech.), that Moses prophesied of the past, saying, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”: in which words the newness of the world is stated. Therefore the newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.

Ah! But doesn’t he in his first way assume a beginning?

No. He does not. After all, the ways are built on truths that can be known from reason alone. Therefore, Aquinas’s arguments do not depend on the universe having a beginning. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t nor does it mean that were he here today he would hold the same opinion on if the universe had a beginning. We don’t know what he would say today, but we know what he said then.

Phil goes on to say:

What then caused God? Theists must agree that there is something that doesn’t need a cause. And whilst acausal interpretations of quantum mechanics are still on the table it seems they have the advantage over God because at least we know that quantum mechanics actually exist. The theistic response is that only things that begin to exist need causes. As God didn’t begin to exist then he doesn’t need a cause. An obvious question to ask is how do theists know this? It seems to me like a pure assertion. But what if the universe didn’t begin to exist? Then it wouldn’t need a cause and we will not require God.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

From a Thomistic perspective, we know this because God’s nature is to be. His nature is existence itself. What does it mean to be? Look at God. What does it mean to be limited in being? Look at everything else. Saying “What made God?” is like asking “What created existence?” It is by no means an assertion. The great classical theists gave arguments for it. You might think they were wrong, but it was by no means an assertion.

And as for the final part, I have argued that that is just wrong. Saying the universe is eternal does not mean it doesn’t have a cause. Unless the universe contains within itself the principle of its own existing, in other words, it exists somehow by its own power it needs a cause.

From a Thomistic perspective, since the universe is changing, it is limited in its being, and thus needs a cause. My formulation of Kalam in the style of a syllogism goes like this.

That which has passive potential which is actualized depends on something else for its being.
The universe has passive potential which is actualized.
The universe depends on something else for its being.

Passive potential is capacity for change and being actualized means the bringing about of that change. This doesn’t apply to God since He has no passive potential.

When the steady state theory was popular, theologians appealed to passages that describe God’s continual sustaining of creation to make the bible compatible with that too. So it seems that it is not so hard to find passages in the bible whose meaning can be molded to support whatever narrative suits.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This can be done, unfortunately, but that is not the fault of the Bible, but of modern man. It’s why I reject Concordism. The Bible is not meant to be read as a modern scientific text and Christians and atheists both make this mistake.

As for design arguments:

What about design? Well the problem here is that Justin isn’t just asking us to believe in a designer, but an immaterial one. Whenever we see design by agents we see they are physical, they need external energy to do their design work. We also see that complex creatures capable of design arise after long periods of evolution. We also see that the more complicated a designed object is, the more the number of designers are needed. Think of the Large Hadron Collider, one of the most complex objects on Earth. It wasn’t designed by one person. So if cosmic design is like Earthly design, shouldn’t we presume there are many designers? Design by a single immaterial being that didn’t undergo evolution and doesn’t need any external energy source, doesn’t seem to fit what we know about design at all. Theists merely appeal to the similarities that suit and ignore the ones that don’t.  As an atheist then it seems this type of design is the least plausible of Justin three explanations.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The problem here is that this is a sort of part to whole fallacy. All designers we see are material designers, therefore all designers are material. That doesn’t follow. It depends on the nature of the designer and again, classical theism argues for a God who is simple since He is not material and has no parts to Him. Were it otherwise, He would need a designer. Whether design arguments work overall, I leave to my friends who are more scientifically inclined.

In a later statement on miracles, Phil says:

If God frequently performs miracles, can we really say  there is so much regularity in the world? We are being asked to believe that God sets up immutable mathematical relationships in the world only to suspend them every time he does a miracle.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

As said in earlier posts on this, not only can we, we have to. If there is no regular order, there is no way to recognize a miracle. Miracles only make sense if there is a regular order where all things being equal, A consistently causes B in C.

There is a whole lot in this chapter I have not replied to because I realize I am not trained in the area to do so. I leave that to the more scientific among you. Next time we look at this book, we’ll discuss morality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)



Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 1

Is there any reason in the atheist universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I get email subscriptions for Kindle books on sale and I saw David Mills’s Atheist Universe for sale. It sells itself as the thinking person’s answer to Christian fundamentalism. Those who can’t do, obviously teach.

I really strive to be open when I read different books and be as fair as I can. I have said a number of Christian apologetics books are no good. If I see good points in an atheist book, I will point that out. Your book is not automatically good because it’s Christian or bad because it’s not. The same holds in this case.

No. This book has thus far found a number of other reasons to be bad.

The first chapter is an interview Mills had with someone who I didn’t see named. Unfortunately, whoever it was gave a lot of softball questions. On the other hand, Mills could have sought them out for that reason. Who knows?

I wasn’t too long into this book before it was so bad I was sharing the quotes on Facebook.

So let’s start with one question asked. Why don’t you believe in God? In that answer, we find this gem:

Indeed I’ve written three full-length books devoted to thrashing out these arguments myself in great detail. But I now believe that it is a perfectly acceptable philosophical position to dismiss the god idea as being self-evidently ridiculous as Darrow quipped. Christians instantly disregard the Greek gods as being figments of an overactive imagination, and so I view the Christian god in the same way that the Christians view the Greek gods.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 28). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

In this, Mills treats all forms of theism as the same. I reject the Greek gods because none of them are ultimate. They are all dependent beings that depend on something else for their existing and are pretty much just superhuman beings. This is not at all like the deity in all three monotheistic faiths. Mills rejects them because they are gods.

But to answer your question directly, I am an atheist because no more evidence supports the Christian god than supports the Greek or Roman gods. There is no evidence that God—as portrayed by any religion—exists.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 28). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Which is frankly a nonsense statement. You can say there is insufficient evidence for the Christian God. You can say you don’t find it convincing. To say there is no evidence means that all the people out there who believe in the Christian God, including brilliant intellectual minds, do so without any reason whatsoever.

It’s fairly easy to demonstrably prove that the Genesis accounts of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s worldwide deluge, are fables. It’s easier to prove these stories false because, unlike the notion of God, the Creation account and Noah’s flood are scientifically testable. Science may explore human origins and the geologic history of Earth. In this regard, science has incontrovertibly proven that the Book of Genesis is utter mythology. So while, on esoteric philosophical grounds, I hesitate to claim absolute proof of a god’s nonexistence, I will claim proof that the Bible is not “The Word of God” because much of it has been shown by science to be false.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 28-29). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Perhaps if you went with a literalistic YEC interpretation and even then, I know some YECs who I am sure could give Mills a run for his money in a debate.

Remember that the rules of logic dictate that the burden of proof falls upon the affirmative position: that a god does exist.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 29). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Actually, they don’t What is the reality is that whoever makes the claim has the burden to prove it. Suppose I was unable to convince Mills that God exists. It does not follow from that that God does not exist. What follows is I didn’t have good reasons to believe or Mills is not following an argument properly for whatever reason. If I do show up and say “God exists” it is my burden to demonstrate that. If you show up and say “Christianity is false”, it is your burden to show that.

We should recognize that all children are born as atheists. There is no child born with a religious belief.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 29). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Actually, there are studies that have been done that seem to indicate children instinctively find purpose and design in places. Also, children are not born knowing their multiplication tables or the laws of physics. So what?

The interviewer later asks how the universe could have been created without God. The response?

Leaving aside your presumptuous use of the word “created”—that line of reasoning is known as the Aquinas cosmological argument. Thomas Aquinas, who lived during the 13th century, argued that everything needs a cause to account for its existence. Aquinas believed that if we regress backward in time through an unbroken chain of causation, then we would eventually arrive at the cause of the universe itself. Aquinas argued that this “First Cause” could be nothing other than God Himself.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 29-30). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, Aquinas didn’t say anything about backward in time. He actually didn’t think the universe having a beginning could be established by reason alone. He even wrote a small book arguing against that notion. Other than that, what could possibly go wrong here with Mills’s argument?

Many of you probably know where this is going and are waiting for it.

This so-called “First Cause” argument, however, is a textbook illustration of ad hoc reasoning. For if “everything needs a cause to account for its existence,” then we are forced to address the question of who or what created God? If God always existed, and therefore needs no causal explanation, then the original premise of the cosmological argument—that everything needs a cause—has been shown to be erroneous: something can exist without a cause. If everything except God requires a cause, then the “First Cause” argument becomes ad hoc [i.e., inconsistent and prejudicially applied] and is thus logically impermissible. If we can suppose that God always existed—and thus requires no causal explanation—then we can suppose instead that the mass-energy comprising our universe always existed and thus requires no causal explanation. Many people, including some atheists and agnostics, misinterpret Big Bang theory as proposing that mass-energy popped into existence ex nihilo [i.e., out of nothing] before the universe began its current expansion. This something-from-nothing belief is not only false, but flagrantly violates the law of the conservation of mass-energy.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 30). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

There is not a single defender of the cosmological argument that has ever put forward such a thing, and by defender, I mean someone who knows the literature well, not Pastor Steve down at your local Baptist Church. Aquinas would want Mills to explain the actualizing of potential in the universe to which Mills would likely give a blank stare and say the typical atheist quip about word salad.  Then, Mills goes and repeats the other false notion about the argument.

But let me summarize by saying that the “First Cause” argument not only begs the question logically and is scientifically bankrupt, it also fails to address which god is supposedly proven existent by the argument! In other words, Zeus or Allah has just as much claim to being the “First Cause” as does Jehovah or Jesus.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 30-31). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.


The first cause argument is not meant to prove which God does exist. It’s meant to prove that some God does exist. Mills is faulting an argument for not proving what it was never meant to prove in the first place.

How about beauty and order? How is that explained?

There is some degree of beauty and order within Nature. But each year, Nature also cruelly victimizes millions of perfectly innocent men, women and children through natural disasters:

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 31). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

But is there beauty and order? How does that get explained? Christians have a ready explanation for the cruelty we see. We live in a fallen world. You can think that’s a cop-out, but it is fully consistent and an essential part of the Christian claim on reality.

Christians are masters of selective observation—or “counting the hits and ignoring the misses.” Anything Christians perceive as attractive or orderly is counted as evidence for God’s existence. But anything Nature offers that is grotesque or in disarray is never counted against God’s existence. Any theological conclusions based upon such selective observation are therefore meaningless.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 31). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It appears there’s only one master here of selective observation. Mills has brought up all the cruelty and said “No God”, but the beauty is not explained at all. He needs to explain both. Christians freely admit the problem of evil and have written numerous theodicies explaining it. Has Mills written something on what Chesterton called “The Problem of Pleasure”?

On another question he says:

Atheism is synonymous with freedom and freedom of thought, which, in my opinion, are highly positive and desirable.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 33). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It’s hard to say how they are synonymous since some atheists say that on atheism, you have no free-will. You’re just matter in motion and doing what the matter in you has to do. On that, I agree with them. As for my Christianity, I do value freedom of thought and freedom in general and think God provides for both of those.

Then he is asked about a sort of Pascal’s Wager question:

That argument is known as Pascal’s Wager, because it was first articulated by Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century French philosopher. There are several fallacies in the argument. But the most obvious is that the same argument can be applied to any religion—not just to Christianity. For example, I could say that, since we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by converting to Islam, we should all become Muslims. Or since we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by being Hindu, we should all adopt Hinduism. Christians never stop to consider that they are in just as much danger of going to the Muslim hell as I, an atheist, am in danger of going to the Christian hell. Pascal’s Wager is also flawed in its premise that a person has everything to gain, and nothing to lose, by converting to a religion. The fact is that, whether we like it or not, our earthly life is the only life we’re ever going to experience. If we sacrifice this one life in doormat subservience to a nonexistent god, then we have lost everything!

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 33-34). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It’s a shame this is the one argument Pascal seems to be remembered for the most. Everyone should go and read the whole of Pensees and hear his other thoughts. Not only this, but I don’t understand Mills’s reasoning at the end. How have we lost everything? After all, if atheism is true, you’re not going to be kicking yourself in an afterdeath wishing you had lived differently.

In talking about Christians, he says:

No wonder His followers are so intolerant. They are only following Jesus’ declarations that anyone who disagrees with their religious beliefs deserves eternal incineration.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 34-35). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Well first off, many Christians like myself don’t believe Hell is a fiery torture chamber. Also, Christian societies are by and large extremely tolerant. Let Mills go to a Muslim country and see how well he does arguing that there is no Allah or arguing in favor of the LGBTQ+ community.

There is more in just this first chapter. When we return to it, we will start looking at the historical Jesus and what Mills has to say.

Brace yourselves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)







Deeper Waters Podcast 4/4/2020

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The past is a funny place. They do things differently there. So it is that they did not see the world we do. They didn’t know about germs and viruses like our world knows about right now. They didn’t know how to explain weather. Until Galileo, they thought the sun went around the Earth. They would never have dreamed of the internet, video games, Alexa devices, automobiles, or anything we have today.

Now seeing how they didn’t have all of that and we have so much more today, why should we take what they said back then seriously? These are modern times after all! You can Google and learn anything that you want to! Modern science has shown us so much about the world! Why would we want to go to another system like philosophy?

Maybe though, just maybe, those who came before us have something that they can teach us. Maybe science and philosophy can work together. Maybe if we go down this path, we can find that we are truly not alone in the universe, not in the sense of extraterrestrial life, though that could be, but in the sense of a God who is out there.

In the 13th century, there lived a monk named Thomas Aquinas who was named the dumb ox by his classmates. His teacher said that dumb ox would roar and the whole world would hear it. His teacher was right. Today, Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy is still shaping the thinking of many people.

It’s not just Catholics either. Protestants like myself can greatly value the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. In order to discuss him and mainly his arguments for God, I am bringing on an up and coming apologist to talk about the issues, something I am prone to do as others did the same for me and still do the same. His name is Gil Sanders.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Gil studied under Edward Feser for almost three years at PCC, and got his bachelors in philosophy at Cal State Los Angeles. He co-founded a Ratio Christi at PCC, lead a philosophy club, and went on to publish a paper in the CSULA journal. Gil’s special areas of research include philosophy of religion, metaphysics, politics, and ethics. 

We’ll be discussing Thomistic metaphysics, why anyone should care about Aquinas, and how Aquinas gave a convincing argument that God exists. I hope you’re looking forward to this one. We are still working hard on uploading older episodes. Stay tuned!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Praying in the Presence of our Lord with St.Thomas Aquinas.

What do I think of Mike Aquilina’s book published by Lambing Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife got me this book as a gift knowing that I am looking to improve my prayer life and that I’m a big fan of Thomas Aquinas. At the start, this is a book by a Catholic for a Catholic. I am not faulting that at all. Protestants write for Protestants normally, Orthodox for Orthodox, Atheists for atheists, Muslims for Muslims, etc. Naturally, they all write books at times to try to convince others, but books that are more devotional will be more likely to be non-argumentative.

So if you’re a Protestant reading this, no, you likely will not agree with the views of the Eucharist and Mary, but that’s okay. It is quite foolish to say whichever camp you belong to that you cannot learn from the others. Aquinas is definitely someone we can all learn from and not just in his intellectual mind, but in his devotional mind.

Aquilina goes through some of the prayers of Aquinas and breaks them down bit by bit and has a devotional entry on each of them. This could then be a good daily devotional to be read just to have something to meditate on. At the same time, someone could go straight through, like I did, and get some good material out of it.

Reading through also gives the reader something to shoot for. Aquinas was in his day from my understanding a loner and standout from the crowd, but his passion is something not talked about often. Aquilina tells us that when Aquinas had a hard problem, he would go and lean his head on the altar and rest it there hoping to receive solace.

God wasn’t just an intellectual pursuit for Aquinas, although there was certainly a lot of that in his life. God was a being, a personal being, to be desired for His own sake. It is easy to go to God to thank Him for what He has done, which we should, and to make our requests known to Him, which we should do, but too often we do not come to Him for who He is.

Aquilina tells us that adoration is something that should be reserved for God alone. Of course, there’s always the chance that words change meanings and what we mean by adore isn’t the same thing as was meant back then. The attitude would still need to be the same and that would be that only God deserves the highest place. Any Christian knows that sadly, that can be a struggle at times.

So if you want to improve your prayer life and use Aquinas as a model, this is a good one. Areas of disagreement for Protestants do not have to be the focus. Catholics and Orthodox are more likely to enjoy those elements of the work, but we could all bear to improve our prayer life. Aquinas is a great model for that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/26/2017: Gerard Verschuuren

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Science has taken many twists and turns throughout the centuries. From the ancient Greeks through the medievals to the time of the Reformation and the Enlightenment and up to modern times. Today, science is the language of the day. It is the force that most people take the most seriously. We are in the age of progress and have no need of the ideas of the past that bear no relation to modern science.

But what if they do?

Nearly 800 years ago, a monk was born named Thomas Aquinas. His intellectual tradition had a major impact on the world as he formed a bond between Aristotelianism and Christianity. Aquinas had some interest in the science of his time, but if we were talking about great scientists of the past, his name would not likely come up as he’s much more known for his philosophical and theological conventions. To change Tertullian’s statement, what has Aquinas to do with modern science?

He could have quite a bit actually. The philosophy of Aquinas could have severe ramifications for science and how it is done. As one who considers myself a Thomist, I was alerted about the book Thomas Aquinas and Modern Science. I decided to get a review copy of it and the author of it, Gerard Verschuuren, will be my guest.

So who is he?

Gerard wears many hats. He is a scientist, a speaker, a writer, and he serves as a consultant. He has a doctorate in the philosophy of science and today serves as a human geneticist. As of 1994, he lives in the southern part of New Hampshire.

We’re going to be talking about what role Thomas Aquinas has for modern science. Perhaps it the case that old Aquinas should not be forgot. What does Aquinas have to say for modern cosmology and genetics? Could it really be that scientists might actually need to study some metaphysics? Could it be that if they don’t, that are possibly doing metaphysics and just doing it very poorly and their science could actually improve with metaphysics?

What about questions we have today? Did the universe have a beginning? Would a multiverse be a problem? Should we even be using the metaphysics of Aquinas since we know he got them from Aristotle and Aristotle has been shown to be wrong in his physics hasn’t he? If so, why should we care about his metaphysics?

Evolution is sometimes seen as a defeater by many Christians and atheists. Is it? What would Aquinas think of the work of Darwin? What would he think of by contrast of the Intelligent Design movement? Does Aquinas have something that both sides can learn?

What about our minds and bodies? How do the two of them interact? Does Aquinas have something to say about that as well? What would Aquinas think of Near-Death Experiences? Would he support a dualism?

Also, what about our modern government? How does Aquinas say about how we should all function together? Does he have anything to say about our economic struggles today?

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode. Aquinas was a fascinating thinker in his day and still deserves to be listened to today. Please be watching and consider leaving a positive review on ITunes of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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 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.

The Amazing Atheist On Aquinas: The First Way

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re spending our time now looking at a video by “The Amazing Atheist” where he thinks he’s debunked Aquinas. Last time, we laid down a preliminary and then noted how TAA thinks that he’s smarter than Aquinas by an order of magnitude. (That’s not me saying it. He says it himself in his video of “Thomas Aquinas Sucks.” Be warned he does use profanity.)

Having laid a background for our study, we are now going to see how badly TAA does not understand them.

Let’s look at how he summarizes the first argument.

#1-objects are in motion.
#2-If something is in motion, then it must be caused to be in motion by something outside of itself.
#3-There can be no infinite chain of movers/movees
#4-So there is a first unmoved mover.
#5-Therefore, God exists.

Before we go on then, let’s see if this is a fair summary. Here is what Aquinas himself says in the Summa Theologica.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Aquinas calls this the argument from motion. Remember that as we said yesterday, motion is the actualizing of potential. Aquinas says that our senses tell us that some objects are in motion. What is he getting at? For one thing, he’s making it clear that he needs something itself that is not part of the problem, something that is not being actualized. Second, he is dealing with the problem raised by Parmenides centuries before. How can change be possible? Parmenides was a monist who did not believe in the reality of change.

For instance, imagine something existing. How does it change? Does it change by being or by non-being? It cannot change by non-being, because non-being is nothing and nothing cannot change something. It cannot change by being because that would mean that being is changing into being. Aquinas’s answer to this ultimately was that there were degrees of being whereby things change.

Aquinas also starts with the senses because for Aquinas, knowledge begins with sense experience. He also does this since he is doing natural theology. He is not wanting to say at this point “Well the Bible says such and such.” This is what someone was to use when interacting with the person who did not accept Scripture.

For Aquinas, the putting of something into motion is due to the recipient’s potentiality, whereas putting something into motion is based on the agent’s actuality. The only way something can pass something on to something else is if that something somehow has the power to cause the effect.

You will not freeze something by putting it in fire because fire does not have the power to produce cold. Fire does have the power to produce heat. Two sticks being rubbed together also have the power to produce heat. God has within Himself the power to produce fire if need be as well. Thus, something must exist in the agent actualizing the potential either formally, based on its form, or as is sometimes said “virtually.”

Aquinas also says something cannot be something in actuality and potentiality both in the same sense. Now of course something could be hot and be potentially hotter, but it cannot be both hot in actuality and potentially hot. If it is hot, it is hot. Something cannot be both light and dark at the same time and in the same sense. This is simply the Law of Noncontradiction at work.

In reviewing how TAA describes this argument, he says nothing about what motion is and I have no reason to think that he has any clue how Aquinas refers to motion. One could speak of Newton’s laws of motion, but remember that Newton is speaking as a physicist and about how matter moves, and while Aquinas’s ways can include that, they do not limit themselves to only that.

This is a mistake many modern critics make as they go from metaphysics to physics and think that they’re disputing the metaphysics of Aquinas by arguing physics. Consider it part of the mistaken image that we have that because someone is a scientist, they are automatically an authority on anything that they comment on.

TAA is willing to grant his first and second premises listed above. The problem comes when he objects to the third premise in his way of looking at the argument. This is dealing with the infinite regress.

To begin with, he does not refer to the kind of infinity he is dealing with. TAA’s statement is simply “How does he know? We’re still trying to understand it today.” This is not an objection however. For one thing, it is a certainty as far as I’m concerned that TAA has never read Question 46 of the Prima Pars of the Summa which we pointed to yesterday to understand the kind of infinite regress that Aquinas speaks of.

Why does TAA not mention the two kinds of regresses that Aquinas knew of? It is because he does not know about them. In my last post, I referred to a number of works that one could read to further understand Aquinas. It is likely that TAA knows nothing of any of these people. One would hope he would at least read Anthony Kenny, an atheist critic of Aquinas, and get some idea of better arguments against Aquinas. (Although better is not saying much in this case)

We move on to step four where he says that this one is ridiculous since it contradicts the so-called second premise. What is ridiculous really is thinking that no great thinker throughout the ages who looked at Aquinas’s arguments failed to notice such a thing. In reality, TAA has made a simple mistake that most atheists make when attacking the horizontal cosmological argument. (Remember, this guy is supposed to be smarter than Aquinas by a magnitude)

When you read atheists, their literature will often say that the Kalam argument states that everything that exists has a cause. No Christian writer I know of defends such a premise. They say that everything that begins to exist has a cause. That which exists by nature does not need a cause.

TAA is making the same kind of argument here. Aquinas is talking about an unmoved mover. The unmoved mover is that which is not put into motion as it does not have any potential. This is a being of pure actuality. There is no contradiction as the argument talks about that which is put into motion and not that which is in motion by nature.

As for unmoved, this means unmoved by another. God is the most moving of all because it is by Him that all actuality is possible and he is the fundamental mover. Note Aquinas does not need God to be a first mover chronologically as he is open to a past without a beginning. Note also that TAA refers to the infinite chain again, the chain that he does not know about.

It is no shock that TAA refers to Aquinas as some moron living in the 13th century with no concept of modern science. Again, this is a problem that is frequently made as a metaphysical argument is made to be a physical argument. This is a sad condition many scientists get themselves into in that they can only think about something in scientific terms.

When TAA comes to the conclusion, he asks that even if we accepted everything before, why is it God. Why can’t it be a blueberry muffin?

And I thought the Flying Spaghetti Monster idea was dumb.

To begin with, a blueberry muffin is a material object and that which has some material component to its being always has potential to its being. Also, keep in mind that in order for something to actualize potential, it must exist in the agent actualizing either formally or virtually. Could the TAA tell me what actualizing he expects a blueberry muffin to do?

At least the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be an agent that could supposedly act of its own volition seeing as all living things are soulish to some degree. Plants have a soul that can take in nutrients. Animals have that power plus that of movement. Humans have those powers plus those of rationality. All other beings that are not soulish depend on something else entirely for their movement.

For TAA, a blueberry muffin sounds more plausible than God since he’s seen a blueberry muffin. I’ve also seen blueberry muffins, but I’ve never seen a blueberry muffin capable of creating a universe or capable of actualizing potential or possessing pure actuality. Maybe TAA has a recipe for blueberry muffins he needs to share.

Of course, we could say that if we are basing this on only objects we’ve seen, then we will need to throw out much of science since no one has ever seen many particles that we say are absolutely essential to the functioning of our universe. Does TAA think we need to replace those with blueberry muffins?

TAA says he has never seen God however. So what? Since God is not material in nature according to Thomistic thought, then of course God will not be seen. We only see God in an analogical sense. One will see God much the same way one sees that 2 + 2 = 4. How did we ever get to the point of “I’ve never seen God” somehow counts as an argument?

I conclude that TAA, again, does not have a clue about the arguments he critiques. Of course, he is more than welcome to come to TheologyWeb and challenge me on this if he disagrees.