St. Thomas’ Causality Proof Of Godby Don Lacey on Jun. 04, 2012, under Art & Culture, Atheism, Biblical Inerrancy, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Critical Thinking, Faith, Fundamentalism, God & Bible, History, Logic, Reason, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Uncategorized
editor’s note: In his book, Out of God’s Closet, a former faithful Roman Catholic priest-become-psychologist shares his inviting journey through agnosticism to atheism and The 21st Century Golden Rule. Dr. Uhl’s Journey was quite unique. Yet he clearly shows most of us how to get free and drop childhood prejudices and myths. This can deeply enrich individuals and families throughout our pluralistic society.
If you’d like to get the book or listen to Dr. Uhl read it to you, you can do both right here.
The Causality Proof is one of the baseline arguments for the existence of God. It’s one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ five ways. It’s important to do the research and look into these so called “proofs” with open eyes and ready reason.
St. Thomas’ Causality Proof Of God
Serious minded men, looking around and seeing the great realities of nature, wonder where all this came from. St. Thomas did just that, and, since he was a respectable philosopher, he realized that everything in the world had to have an adequate cause; nothing happens by itself; nothing can cause itself. All the mutable things in this world had to be caused by something else; everything is the effect of some cause. We see Johnson (effect) and know there had to be a John (father or cause of Johnson). But John also was caused by his father and mother, so John is a secondary cause, not the primary or initial cause of Johnson. The same can be said for John’s grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, etc. Everyone is the effect of a secondary cause. The long chain of secondary causes stretches back through history and beyond, every caused effect being a secondary cause, all the way back to an Adam, an amoeba, an atom, or whatever.
However, this chain of secondary causes cannot be infinite, said St. Thomas; it has to have a beginning; there must be a first link; it is logically, mentally abhorrent to suppose an infinite regression of secondary causes. “Therefore,” concludes St. Thomas, “there must be a primary cause, a first link of that chain, and this primary cause we call God.”
Now this logical “proof” convinced the Catholic Church and her theologians for centuries, the same dogmatic Church that so roundly condemned Copernicus and Galileo. It became a formal and official teaching of that church that God’s existence could be rationally proven, proven purely by human reason unaided by faith. Really, this was a dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church for centuries; it may still be.
Now if the Church were right that a good human mind unaided by faith could actually prove God’s existence, then it would behoove all of us of lesser intellects to believe in God’s existence. But wait; look more closely at that “proof” that St. Thomas and his church accepted as being a proof from pure reason unaided by faith.
St. Thomas’ GRAND Assumption Exposed
When St. Thomas’ reason rebelled at the possibility of an infinite regression of secondary causes, an infinite chain of great-great-great-great-…-grandparents, his faith apparently took over; he simply and quite gratuitously said “therefore there must be a primary cause which we call God.” This conclusion is not a conclusion of reason; it is a posited statement of faith based on ignorance: ”I cannot understand my own concept of an infinite regression of secondary causes, a chain whose first link I cannot find. Therefore, rather than humbly admit that logically I have to be an agnostic, I posit, suppose, assume, believe there must be that first link, a primary Cause, God.” Unlike Copernicus and Galileo some 200 years later, St. Thomas allowed his faith to get in the way of his science, which allowed him to draw the politically correct conclusion that God caused it all. This, in turn, allowed him to become the most respected philosopher/theologian in Christendom.
Instead of using a long chain of human secondary causes (the great-great-grandparent chain) as St. Thomas did, one could use the example of an oak table. But no matter what is used, as you approach the observable beginning, you will become an agnostic admirer of nature and humbly admit “I cannot know where the very first ‘acorn’ came from.” Like the ant and the dung beetle that enjoyed their natural gifts from above them, I really do not need to know, so I don’t need to act as though I know where it all came from. (Do you think perhaps the dung beetle considers the bull that defecates his playground to be supernatural? Surely the bull, creating this good world for the beetle, seems supernatural to the beetle. So should the balling dung beetle pay homage to such a Higher Power or just enjoy the bull feces?)
I am now embarrassed to admit that I had accepted the “logical” arguments from Saint Thomas with large crowds of other believers. I had gone through twelve years of seminary preparation, followed by post-graduate theological studies, and I still did not question adequately the validity of St. Thomas’ classical “proofs” of God’s existence. Just like St. Thomas, I let my faith at that time, now over forty years ago, get in the way of my reason. Back then, indeed, I enjoyed a blind and blinding faith. This embarrassing experience of mine helps me understand sympathetically the great difficulty many people have in letting go of old beliefs. We all develop at our individual rates. At the same time, I so strongly want everyone to enjoy the peace and security I have won, that I may seem impatient as I look forward to others “seeing it my way!” Many will not be able to succeed in this matter. As in the case of most victories, if success were easy, everyone would do it.
It was after about eight years in the priesthood, that I experienced that critical breakthrough and saw the inadequacy of Saint Thomas’ causality “proof.” I vividly recall precisely where I was in the monastery chapel doing my daily meditation on an especially insightful morning. This was really a memorable morning for me; for this was the morning I took a big personal leap from blindly credulous theism toward agnosticism.
For humankind trying to know something beyond or above nature turns out to be an exercise in futility. It is just as impossible as the brain trying to study itself in a state of total inactivity. That effort is just as frustrating as that of the man trying to lift himself up by his own ankles or an almighty God trying to create a stone so heavy he cannot lift it. We cannot know logically or rationally about any extra-natural or supernatural being’s existence. We can assume anything we choose to assume—anything—including an uncaused First Cause or a pope knowing more about reality than Galileo. Such assumptions are neither verifiable nor falsifiable. But don’t forget that anything that is freely assumed can be freely denied, whether it is culturally popular or not. Any gratuitous assumption, since it is simply asserted without evidence, can be just as gratuitously denied. This principle holds both in law and in logic.