How the Mind Ascends to God

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Recently I've been talking about the rationality of Christian (and specifically Catholic) belief in God, and how one's mind can begin to ascend to the reality of God.  It's an imperfect ascent; God is infinite, and human reason, even at its best, is both weak and finite; but with God's help it is possible.Thomas begins, as Aristotle does, by reflection on the world around us.  He takes for granted the existence of objective reality, and our ability to perceive and grasp it directly, or in o … [Read more...]

My Road to Catholic Belief

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Last week I explained why there is no magic bullet for belief, no simple, straightforward argument that will compel belief in the Christian God.  This raises some questions: how do believers come to believe in Christianity?  And how can Christian belief be rational absent such proofs?First, most Christians come to belief experientially.  Some are taught as children, and later reach out to accept what God has for them: they "taste and see that the Lord is good," as scripture has it.  Others co … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Natural Theology in a Nutshell

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We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Chapter 35 of Thomas’ Compendium Theologiae is a nutshell summary of everything that has gone before: From all the details of doctrines thus far discussed, we can gather that God is one, simple, perfect, and infinite, and that He understands and wills. All these truths are assembled in a brief article of our Creed, wherein we profess to believe “in one God, almig … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: No Magic Bullets for Belief

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Occasionally I'm asked what arguments I have that prove that Christianity is true, as if there were a perfect argument for the Christian God so lucid in its rationality that the most hardened atheist could not help but accept it after a few moments' perusal.  (I exaggerate, but, I think, not by much.)  The trouble is, there is no such argument for any proposition, of any kind, in any field.  The closest we come is basic plane geometry, in the field of mathematics, where all reasonable people can … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: The Will is in the Willing

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We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Thomas has shown that God has a divine will, and that His will is the same as His intellect.  His next move is more of the same:Hence it is also clear that the divine will is the very act of willing in God. As has been pointed out, God’s will is identical with the good willed by Him. But this would be impossible if His willing were not the same as His will; fo … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Do Humans and Animals Think in the Same Way?

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Last week’s discussion of “nobler beings” predictably started a comment thread about the nature of intelligence and the intelligence of animals, with excursions on language and tool use.  Thomas believed (as did Aristotle before him) that human intelligence is qualitatively different than animal intelligence—that human beings are defined as being the kind of animal that reasons.  I might add that reason, to Thomas, encompassed more than logical argumentation.  Human reason encompasses three thing … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Nobler Beings? Who says?

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Last week a reader took issue with Thomas’ use of the term “nobler beings” as being a subjective judgement.  Here is the passage in question: Another consideration: among the various perfections of things, the chief are intellect and will. A sign of this is that they are found in the nobler beings. (Emphasis mine.)  The word “noble” is a fraught one in American usage.  We either associate it with altruistic self-sacrifice (as in “a noble act”) or with the whole European social scheme we left be … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: With God, Knowing is Doing

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We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.If you've been paying attention then Thomas' next move should be unsurprising.  First, Thomas showed that God is simply One.  Then he showed that God has intellect; and that His intellect is the same as Himself: we approach some small understanding of God by considering His intellect as a distinct thing, but God is without part: He is all One.  Lastly, Thomas has … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Does God Love What Is Good?

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Given intellect, says Thomas, God must also have volition: He must be able to will, to choose:We perceive, further, that God must have volition. For He understands Himself, who is perfect good, as is clear from all that has been hitherto established. But good as apprehended is necessarily loved, and love operates through the will. Consequently God must have vo … [Read more...]


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