It may surprise some but the argument for God goes back further than Christianity. In fact, when Paul discusses the “unknown God” to the Greeks at the Areopagus in Acts 17, he is talking to a people who have heard these ideas but haven’t generally accepted them.
Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. (17:22-27)
Remember, Socrates was put to death for his radical views on a single God, and his ethical ideals which closely mirror the teachings of Christianity.
Belief in one God predates Christianity and was developed outside God’s revelation to the Hebrews. Socrates, Parmenides, Aristotle and a slew of others were discussing the idea of an all powerful God.
St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) was “lucky” enough to live at the time in which the works of Aristotle were first available in Latin. He was able to “synthesize” these works. Not without controversy, he had his fair share of opposition from within the Church for “baptizing a pagan”. That lesson is for another day, but what I wanted to unfold here is his contribution to the reasons to believe in a God. This is how he chose to start out his Summa Theologiae. If he were to write a mass of information about God, he would first need to prove God exists. This work was meant to be a “summary” of the Christian faith, but ended up for many to be a difficult read. He addresses it to those with a basic education, but in his time, that would have been one filled with a good lexicon of philosophical terms – which many today are without. I’ll attempt in this series of posts titled “Summa Blogologica” to ease the pain in bringing forth the writings of the Summa.
(Question 1 is a quick recap of nature of doctrine, read it here if you want)
Question 2 answers for the existence of God. That is, how do we know God exists? This is called his Five Ways (quinqae viae, Latin) since there are to him, five means of knowing God exists from “proof”. Keep in mind this is not the sort of “proof” that is offered in labs where material hypothesis are testable, because God is not a material thing, but instead is on the basis of philosophy and logic.
The first is motion. Where motion exists there must be a mover and ultimately there must be a first mover, unmoved. For example, all things are set in motion by another, but there cannot be, by that very rule, an infinite set of movers; there has to be a prime and first act of motion. This is God.
The second is efficient cause, where like motion, there are effects in the universe and each effect has a cause. Because we know no particular thing which caused itself, each cause in turn has its father cause and ultimately there must be a first cause which is uncaused. This is God.
Third is the concern of possibility or “contingency”. Things that are contingent do not have to exist (not necessary) but are only possible. Obviously, things in the universe do exist so there must have been a thing in the universe which was necessary and non-contingent. The contingent undergo change and thus are finally existent like the master bringing the sculpture out of the marble. The sculpture was possible but needed a change to come out of the material. That change is unnecessary, it ever needed to happen. Therefore anything that is unnecessary but is, we can deduce that a necessary thing brought it into being. This necessary being is God.
Fourth is the gradation, or the degrees of perfection in which things are observed. In things we find varying levels of good and better, more and less, etc., which are smaller levels of an utmost in their category. There are levels of beauty, levels of light, levels of love, and all intellects recognize this but ultimately there has to be a best or a perfect or an utmost. This utmost is God.
Finally, the fifth proof of God’s existence is the observation of governance in the world. Things in the world act in specific ways as if programmed (governed) like a computer and every computer has a program which requires intelligence; an intelligent programmer. This is God.
To read more go here and have some fun: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm
These are VERY important themes moving forward into the Summa so please, if you follow along ensure you understand God as the “first mover” or “first act” or “prime mover” as those terms will be used often.