“[E]xplain which of the proofs [of God proposed by those who came before St. Thomas] … you found most interesting and why”—discussion prompt answered by Cameron Daly

Last night, I posted what follows to the above discussion prompt in the truly epic Philosophy of God class I’m taking at Holy Apostles this semester (taught by Prof. Christopher Apodaca). As another point of interest, yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Roman Catholic Reflections’s existence!

 

I think the proof that jumped out at me the most was Plato’s.

Plato’s argument was the first of its kind; that is, it was the first attempt at proving the divine via the physical. Unlike the traditionally-understood (to modern Catholic philosopher ears) unmoved divine first mover, however, Plato suggested something somewhat different: a self-moved divine first mover. 1(Both of which are reasons I find the argument interesting.)

His argument for this ran that there had to be a point of initiation for all of the change we observe in the world around us. In his view, change itself comes about by things either moving themselves (which spiritual things are capable of) or moving other things (which material things are capable of). Therefore, the initiation obviously has to be in self-propagated motion—which indicates a spiritual source, something Plato identifies as God. 2

McInerny notes that there is a “serious metaphysical problem with the idea of a self-moving mover”; 3for anything that moves, even a spiritual will, must be moved at least in part by another (even if, as far as a spiritual will is concerned, that other is some external perceived good/desire). This is one reason for Aristotle’s theorizing an unmoved mover. 4

For Catholics, this may present a point of confusion: for if a human will must be moved to some degree by other things, why not the divine will? How can God will to create, and yet remain unmoved, if even a spiritual will must be moved to action?

God can do this, and yet be unmoved, because He is eternal—and therefore all of Him, including His will to create, 5 is eternal and unchanging. As McInerny notes, to move is understood to mean to change in any way6 This applies to a temporal, changing human will, but not to the eternal, changeless divine will. This is why God can will something, and yet remain unmoved in doing so; for what He wills, He wills throughout all eternity, even if His eternal will reflects differently through changing creation at different points throughout time.

1 D. Q. McInerny, Natural Theology (Elmhurst, Pennsylvania: The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, 2005), 51-52.
2 McInerny, Natural Theology, 51.
3 McInerny, Natural Theology, 52.
4 McInerny, Natural Theology, 53-55.
5 concerning God’s will being God Himself, see Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Illustrated) (New York, US: Aeterna Press, 2015), chapter 4, The Mind Works on Infinity, Kindle edition.
6 McInerny, Natural Theology, 53.

 

A classmate had noted a bit of confusion of his, concerning why our own “eternal” spiritual wills could change, while God’s could not. The meat of my reply to his confusion runs as follows:

 

St. Augustine held that only God is eternal in the sense that God is eternal. Maybe you could think of his “eternity” and the “eternity” of our souls as being the difference between true eternity (always in existence) and immorality (in existence with a beginning but without end). We can change because we are not eternal–only immortal. You might find this post I once wrote interesting and hopefully helpful: https://camerondaly.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/the-unchangeable-god-and-his-changeable-creation/

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