Thursday, January 28, 2010
Happy St. Thomas Aquinas Day!
Nature of God
Aquinas believed that the existence of God is neither obvious nor unprovable. In the Summa Theologica, he considered in great detail five reasons for the existence of God. These are widely known as the quinque viae, or the "Five Ways."
Concerning the nature of God, Aquinas felt the best approach, commonly called the via negativa, is to consider what God is not. This led him to propose five statements about the divine qualities:
1. God is simple, without composition of parts, such as body and soul, or matter and form.
2. God is perfect, lacking nothing. That is, God is distinguished from other beings on account of God's complete actuality.
3. God is infinite. That is, God is not finite in the ways that created beings are physically, intellectually, and emotionally limited. This infinity is to be distinguished from infinity of size and infinity of number.
4. God is immutable, incapable of change on the levels of God's essence and character.
5. God is one, without diversification within God's self. The unity of God is such that God's essence is the same as God's existence. In Aquinas's words, "in itself the proposition 'God exists' is necessarily true, for in it subject and predicate are the same."
In this approach, he is following, among others, the Jewish philosopher Maimonides.
Following St. Augustine of Hippo, Aquinas defines sin as "a word, deed, or desire, contrary to the eternal law." In other words, anything that disobeys God's will is said to be a sin, and is synonymous with "evil" (privation of good, or privatio boni).