Sermon: Thomas Aquinas

The podcast is available here.

Let’s see how badly I can confuse you today!  

Can you prove to me that there is a God?  Sounds easy enough, but when it comes right down to it… not so much.  However, there have been several who tried, and in the eyes of many, including the Church, have succeeded; one of which is our Saint for today, Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas was born in 1225 in Italy and his teachings and writings can really only be compared to those of St. Augustine of Hippo when considering their effect on Christian thought (think of them as the Einstein’s of Christianity).  It was during Thomas’ life that the writings of the great philosopher Aristotle were ‘rediscovered’, and it was Thomas Aquinas who took these writings of Aristotle and integrated them into Christian thought, which means that a new way of understanding God was brought into Christian thinking and that understanding was through the use of reason.  How so?  Think of the polarized views of today.

On one side we have science.  Science is essentially all reason.  A bit like math: one plus one equals two.  That same reason has led some in the scientific fields or understanding to deny the existence of God, for example, the creation of the universe came about through the Big Bang, therefore, all that business in Genesis is just a fairy tale and God doesn’t exist.  The other side is Sola Scriptura, which declares that the Bible is all that is needed to prove the existence of God.  Aquinas would say, “Not so fast,” to both groups.

In his greatest work, Summa Theologica, Aquinas puts forward five logical arguments (reasons) for the existence of God, the first of which is the argument of motion.  He begins by simply saying, things move.  We can all agree on that.  From there he says, in order for things to move, something had to make them move.  Think of a ball on a pool table: if that ball is going to move, something has to move it, whether it is the cue stick or gravity or even a ghosty, something made it move, but what made that something move?  You can chase that as far back as you want, but for Aquinas, you eventually have to admit that there was something entirely different that made the very first thing move: the ‘first mover,’ something that was the initiator of all other movement, so why not call that ‘first mover’ God.  That doesn’t reveal the God of Christianity, but it does establish some ‘higher power,’ as some like to refer to it today.  So, when it comes to creation and someone arguing the Big Bang started it all, Aquinas would simply ask, “Who made it go bang?”  To those who say, Sola Scriptura, Aquinas would say, “God gave you a brain.  Use it.”  The one thing the argument of reason cannot answer is how do we go from ‘higher power’ to the God of Christianity.  For Aquinas, that takes one more step: revelation.

Revelation goes back to our study of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans where we understood that our belief in God is a grace given to us by God.  Because of this grace, this revelation, even though we cannot prove that the ‘higher power’ is the God of Christianity, we can have faith and believe.  This same grace, faith, revelation helps us in discerning the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and ultimately the ability to declare that Jesus is Lord, for as Jesus said to Simon Peter when Peter declared Jesus as Lord, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  “Flesh and blood”, that is ‘reason’ did not reveal this to you, but the “Father”, that is ‘revelation’ did.

Confused?  It’s OK if you are.  Most of us are.  The important thing to note is that there have been and are these really great thinkers of the Christian faith and through their work, we can learn that things like reason and science and faith are not incompatible opposites, but in fact work together in providing a more clear understanding of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

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