Is God's existence self-evident?
In The Summa Theologiae, written by St. Thomas Aquinas, the question as to whether God’s existence is self-evident is addressed. St. Thomas essentially makes the distinction between whether His existence is intrinsically self evident or if it is self evident to us. Aquinas says if one were to understand what the subject and predicate is in the statement, “God exists,” then it would be self evident, but otherwise it would not be.
He then continues on to demonstrate if the existence of God can be proven. He uses St. Anselm’s ontological argument from the Proslogion as an objection and seems to believe it is not a good argument. One of the five basic arguments for the existence of God Aquinas gives is the existence based on efficient causes. Aquinas says that, “There is no case known in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself.” (ST I 2.3 c) If something were to be the cause of itself, it would exist before the thing itself, which is impossible. Aquinas argues that causes cannot go on for infinity, for ultimately there is an ultimate cause. Therefore, a cause will cause intermediate causes, as many as it needs, in order to achieve the ultimate cause. If there is no beginning cause, then there is no effect, therefore there would be no intermediate causes, and essentially no ultimate effect. An efficient cause is then needed in the beginning to start every other intermediate cause to eventually get to the ultimate cause. This efficient cause is God.
I think that this argument for efficient causes is very logical and must be accepted by all as an absolute Truth, not necessarily that the initial efficient cause is God, but that there must be an initial efficient cause. There would be no effect if the initial cause was taken away, therefore nothing would be in existence. However, this means that there could not have been a time where nothing existed, because there would be nothing to cause effects into being. Therefore, this initial cause must not have been caused, but always existed. This did not cause itself, as Thomas Aquinas says that would be impossible. This cause must have always existed without a cause, and brought all other causes into effect. This is God. Overall, I think that although these five proofs are very simple and quite easy to understand, and even though Aquinas gives more complex answers, I think that these are slightly more concrete than St. Anselm’s ontological argument. Although the argument in the Proslogion is logical, it makes conclusions that only devout Christians would believe, which although is not intrinsically problematic, Anselm makes the claim that anyone can come to his conclusions simply with logic. I also believe that the distinction between whether God is self evident objectively or whether He is self evidence to us is necessary to make, whereas other theologians believed that the two were combined. I believe the point that the knowledge of the subject and predicate is necessary for one to have for if God’s existence is self-evidence for someone. Overall, I think that Aquinas answers the question as to whether God’s existence is self-evident very well, and the five proofs he lists for God’s existence, although simple, are effective.
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