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An Introspection into St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Proofs (term Paper for Critical Thinking)

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DOES GOD REALLY EXIST? The question has been the subject of lively debate among theists and atheists in defense of their various opposing arguments on proving, or disproving, God's existence. Devoted theists agree that no confirmation by way of any proofs, whether be it logical, philosophical, metaphysical or scientific, is required to attest to God's existence for what binds them strongly to their belief is faith. St. Augustine's dictum Credo ut intellegium, which translates to "I believe that I might understand", relates that in order for one to understand one must first believe, because there is no sufficient reason that can be offered to anyone who in the first place does not believe (De Liberio Arbitrio, The Freedom of the Will). Citing the same example by St. Augustine in mathematics, seven plus three is equal to ten, establishes that ten is the true answer because this is what we were taught to believe in. If we were taught otherwise, such that the equation was equal to eleven or any other number, would you have believed that the true answer is ten? Thus faith has great influence in acknowledging the validity of arguments presented for God's existence.

Atheists have continuously expressed counter-arguments, but the most notable of which is the existence of evil in the world. Lactantius, a Christian theologian in medieval period, criticizes in his work, De Ira Dei ("On the Wrath of God"), the Epicurean paradox:

"Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot; or he can but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to; or lastly he can and wants to. If he wants to remove evil, and cannot, he is not omnipotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is not benevolent. If he neither can nor wants to, he is neither omnipotent nor benevolent. But if God can abolish evil and wants to, how does evil exist?"

Epicurus' statement seemed to have been interpreted by Lactantius as a declaration of the implausible existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God considering the amount of evil in the world. Some believe though that Epicurus did not deny the existence of God, rather, he merely regarded them as unconcerned of humans, thus neither punishes nor rewards them for any good or evil committed (O'Keefe, T., 2008). Nevertheless, the modern argument on the problem of evil seemed to have evolved from the paradox and it is under this context that the main concept of Theodicy has historically developed.

Theodicy came from the Greek words theos "god" and dike "justice", thus referred to as a "justification for God's action". It was coined by Gottfried Leibnitz in his work, Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil. In the essays, Leibnitz justifies that the existence of evil does not necessarily conflict with the existence of an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, and therefore cannot invalidate God's existence (G.M. Duncan, 1890). Other philosophers, following Leibnitz's example, soon formulated their own treatises on the problem of evil as "theodicies". In the careful examination of the question, the discussion extended to the validation of proofs on the existence and attributes of God. Eventually theodicy became synonymous with Natural Theology, the branch of Metaphysics concerned with the science of God, based on things which we can have natural knowledge, acquired by the natural light of human reason (Grenier, H. 1948). Thus, theodicy, is now defined as the science which treats of God, including proofs of His existence and His attributes, through the use of reason, based on nature as the source of its proofs (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914).

Following St. Thomas Aquinas' disputations on theodicy in his Summa Theologiae, to be able to fully understand the proofs, we must first state whether the existence of God is self-evident, and if not, whether it can be demonstrated. According to St. Thomas, a thing can be self-evident in two ways: one is self-evident in itself but not to us, and the other, self-evident both in itself and to us. A self-evident proposition is one which can be understood and accepted as true without the necessity for any proof. In other words, it can be explained by its mere essence. As St. Thomas states, "A proposition is self-evident because the predicate is included in the essence of the subject, as 'Man is an animal,' for animal is contained in the essence of man" (Aquinas, 1947, Question 2 Art.1). But, this can only be applied if both the predicate and subject is known and fully comprehended.

In the case of the proposition "God exists", it can be said that it is self-evident in itself, because

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