Aquinas – 5 Arguments for the Existence of God

I read Aquinas’ three articles on the existence of God found in his Summa Theologica.  The following article I wrote as an analysis of his five arguments for the existence of God found in article 3.  To better understand and engage with this article, please read the linked selection above.  Thank you! 


Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar, born in Aquino, Italy, in the 13th century, is known as a master of systematic theology, with no one of great comparison before him besides Augustine.  He was a great influencer in the tradition of scholasticism, a school of thought that placed a high emphasis on reason.  As such, it is no surprise that Aquinas is well known for his contribution to natural theology, reasoned arguments from logic and natural experience that make the case for the existence of God.  These arguments are found in his work, Summa Theolgica, a text that Aquinas wrote as a summary of the Catholic faith.  His other two important works include the Summa contra Gentiles, written to postulate Christian theology in the context of the unbeliever, and the Compendium Theologiae, written for the lay beginner learning the faith.  In this paper I will briefly present and analyze his arguments to answer the question, “Whether God Exists?” as found in Aquinas’ Summa Theolica.

Aquinas’ purpose in this selection of his work is to show that God does exist in opposition to the objection to God’s existence on account of the presence of evil in the world (since God is infinitely good, it appears there should be no evil if he existed) and the objection that supposes it is reasonable that everything in the natural world can be accounted for by nature itself and that everything voluntary can be accounted for by the human will apart from God’s existence.

To answer how he knows that God exists, Aquinas gives five arguments from natural knowledge.  The first argument is that the observed motion in the world dictates a first mover to initiate the movement.  The second argument is that God alone has the necessary qualities to be the efficient cause of all things (to be that first mover), since a thing cannot bring itself into existence (existing before it existed).  The third argument derives from the possibility for things not to be, meaning it’s possible for nature to not exist, but at that point there would be nothing, and since nothing produces nothing, it then follows that nothing cannot be the explanation of the first mover. The fourth argument is that of gradation in which all aspects of nature have a comparable greater than or less than quality to them and that the maximum in any given classification (genus) is the cause of all in that category.  It follows that there must be something that is maximum to all beings from which everything derives: God.  Finally, Aquinas’ fifth argument for the existence of God is taken from the orderly and intended purposes found in all things of the natural world, thus pointing to an intelligent being that orchestrated this design.

Aquinas then uses these five arguments from nature to refute the two objections against the existence of God that he is striving to refute.  To the existence of evil being incompatible with God, Aquinas applies the principle that God is the highest good stating, “He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil” (Kerr, 114).  It is reasonable to say that the best of the best in the realm of goodness would be able to produce good out of evil.  To put the nail in the coffin for the objection that nature can produce all we see in nature, Aquinas simply works from the fifth argument he gave back to the first.

Aquinas adequately met his goal to defend the existence of God against these two objections, but I’m not sure who would have been making a case for naturalism in Aquinas’ day that would have been interacting with this work to warrant such an articulated effort on his part.  In today’s zeitgeist, numerous sophisticated arguments for atheism have emerged (Darwinian Evolution, multiverse theory, panspermia theory, and even redefining nothing as something).  However, all of these arguments (or mere theories) fail to answer the question of first causes and break down upon the same arguments Aquinas offered almost 800 years ago.  In fact, Aquinas’ arguments are essentially the same arguments from nature used today; they are just more refined and organized into syllogisms now (usually).  For example, William Lane Craig has in recent decades popularized the Kalam Cosmological Argument, stems back to Aristotle (who said everything has a cause), was then established by Aquinas (who said God is the uncaused cause), then repackaged by Islamic philosophers in the Kalam argument, which states: 1) Everything that begins has a cause.  2) The Universe has a beginning. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause for its beginning.[1]  The personal creator God is that cause, since as Aquinas explained, the universe couldn’t cause itself and it couldn’t have been the product of nothing.  The argument of design and order that Aquinas presented, which in modern day is typically called the teleological argument, has garnered much more detailed support through our increased knowledge of the fine details of the building blocks of life (cells, DNA, etc.) and the intricacies of organ systems within living creatures and the interplay of ecosystems – all we know of the world (which is more than in Aquinas’ day) screams for a Creator, just as Paul said it does in Romans 1.

In closing, Aquinas’ work seems to be the foundation of much of modern day Christian apologetics concerning arguments from nature.  However, arguments from nature are arguments that any Theist can offer, as demonstrated by Craig’s reinvigoration of the Islamic Kalam argument.  I’d argue that it is far more important to focus Christian apologetics on revealed knowledge, pointing to the historicity of the Gospel narratives concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that demonstrate not only that God exists, but tell us precisely who God is and what he thinks of us and what he has done for us.  Centering such arguments for the existence of God around the cross of Jesus of Nazareth and his subsequent empty tomb also better counter the problem of evil that Aquinas was ultimately addressing through his arguments for the existence of God.  Instead of just posturing that an infinitely good God isn’t incompatible with the existence of evil, because such a God can produce good from evil, Aquinas, and Christians today, can and should point to the certain assurance of God’s capabilities to do this through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Out of the greatest evil that has occurred in human history (the death of the God-Man at the hands of his own creation) the greatest good was produced (salvation for all who believe as Jesus reconciled the world to the Father through the shedding of his blood).



[1] All About Philosphy. “Cosmological Argument”: accessed on Oct. 29th, 2018.

Re: Bible Contradictions Quiz Show

God’s Anger Burns Forever

Forever – “You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.” – Jeremiah 17:4

Not Forever – “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?  He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” – Micah 7:18

His anger burns forever for those who are not his people.  In Jeremiah, the people loosened their hands from their heritage that was from the Lord.  They relinquished their hold on all that God promised for them to have.  In Micah, the remnant (those who still believed, who remained in faith in the Lord) retained the inheritance that was promised from the Lord – those his anger for them is not eternal.

Jesus demonstrates this dichotomy in John 3:36 when he says:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

From the context of who is receiving God’s eternal anger, you can see that there is no Biblical contradiction on this point.  Against those who are not God’s people, his wrath forever burns.  For those who are his people, who are found in Christ, his anger doesn’t forever burn.  For those found in Christ, all of God’s wrath has already been poured out upon Jesus on the cross of Calvary.

God Tempts People

He Tempted Abraham – Genesis 22:1 if we read the King James Version  The New International Version translations says, “Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.”

One translation says he tempted Abraham, another says that he tested Abraham.  Testing is not tempting.  The Hebrew word in this verse is nacah (pronounced nah-sa).  In the KJV it is translated as “to prove” 20 times and “to tempt” 12 times.  There are some other translations that are used to for the same word in the KJV.  Of English translations, NKJV, New Living Translation, New International Version, English Standard Version, New English Translation, and the Revised Standard Version all say “test”, not “tempt” for this verse in their translation of nacah.

With James 1:13, the KJV says “tempt”.  With the KJV, this would have to be a contradiction in the Bible.  I don’t see how the context of James 1 and Genesis 22 could show otherwise.  However, in translation, the word in Hebrew could be translated as test or to prove.  Tests are not bad.  Testing someone’s faith is not the same as tempting them to sin, to do something that is evil.  A test could be to see if someone will do something good, which in the case of Abraham would have been obeying God through faith!

The Greek word translated as tempt in James 1:13 is predominantly only translated as tempt in the KJV.  Other popular translations all choose to use the word tempt for James 1:13.
Are we Saved by Works?

The video cites Romans 3:28 and James 2:24 as being in direct contradiction to one another.  I address this contradiction in my book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True.  Here is the passage when which I explain how it’s not a contradiction if Paul and James are defining the word, “faith” differently:

Romans 3:28—“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

James 2:24—“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

So which is it? Is a man justified by faith alone, or by faith plus works?  These two verses must be contradictory!

At face value, if these two verses were all that we had to answer the question of how a man is justified, we’d have to say that both of these can’t be true.

In context, we can see that Paul and James have different meanings in their use of the word faith. James is addressing a misunderstanding that was arising in Christianity concerning the relationship between faith and works. Some were saying that all they needed was faith to be saved, and others were saying that all they needed were works to be saved.

James in his epistle was pointing out that “saving faith” is accompanied by works. James quotes Genesis 15:6, which says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” He says that this verse was fulfilled when Abraham was “considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar” (James 2:21). James says that this illustrates how Abraham’s “faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22). For those who thought that faith and works could be divorced from one another and a person still be saved, they were dead wrong; works are a sign of faith.  For those to claim to have faith apart from works, James is indicating that their faith isn’t actually faith; it’s knowledge. To the crowd that says, “I have faith [meaning knowledge],” James says, “You believe [know] that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). If salvation is based on a faith that only “knows” there is a God, then even Lucifer and his horde of demons are saved.

When Paul writes that “a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law,” he is building a case against those who think that their works apart from faith will justify them and earn them salvation. He too uses the example of Genesis 15:6 to indicate that Abraham was justified long before the observance of the command to be circumcised, before the trust in God that he and his wife Sarah would bear a child together when they were about hundred years old, and definitely before he offered his son, Isaac, on the altar as a sacrifice. Paul says that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11).

For both James and Paul, Abraham’s works were signs, seals, and fulfillments of the righteousness that was already credited to him on account of his faith. Faith produces works. The message is that simple. It is one that Jesus taught before them (John 15:6–7), but to see the harmony between James and Paul, both of their epistles need to be read in context.

Seeing God’s Face and Living

Can See the Face of God and Lives – “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” – Genesis 32:30

Cannot See the Face of God and Live – “But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” – Exodus 33:20

Here is Genesis 32:30 in greater context:

Jacob was called by God to return to his homeland, yet he was afraid for his life there, thinking his brother Esau would kill him for what he had done previously.  So he divides his family and possessions into two groups as they approach his homeland so that if Esau attacks them, at least one group would hopefully survive.

Jacob send the groups in different directions and is left all alone.

Now for the Scripture:

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Who does he see?  Who does he wrestle? Scripture says a man!  Scripture also says that Jacob recognized that he had seen God face to face.  Jacob saw God.  Jacob saw God in human form.

Is seeing God in human form the same as seeing God face to face?  If the answer is yes, then we have a contradiction.  If the answer is no, then we don’t have contradiction.

We must also remember that the God of the Bible exists as three persons. Often times when Scripture refers to God, the author is referring to the Father.  This is particularly true in the New Testament where the Triune nature of God is most specifically revealed to us through the person of Jesus.  One of the cited verses in this game show video to show the contradiction that the Bible says people can’t see God and live and that people can see God and live was John 1:18.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”  This verse demonstrates the point I’m making concerning the Trinity and people having seen God face to face and have lived.  This verse is used by the video maker to show that no one has seen God.  In this verse no one has seen God (that is the Father) except the Son, who is himself God (that is divine, being equal to the Father in divinity, not being created, nor made).

The verses listed in the video of people having seen God and lived are certainly challenging.  In close inspection, you’ll see that they are examples of people having seen God in human form, in a cloud, in a vision, in a dream, in a burning bushing, or some other sense in which God’s divinity would have been masked by something physical.

The Christian claim is that Jesus is God.  This means that during his time on earth, people now only saw God, but touched God, ate with God, spoke with God, etc.  Only Jesus however can make such a claim concerning God the Father.  When the Spirit of God has been seen, he also has been seen in some sort of physical form, as a dove at Jesus’ baptism, or as flames upon people’s heads as at Pentecost in Acts 2.

One of the challenging passages concerning people having seen God and have lived that the video lists is Exodus 24:9-11.  The following is an explanation of this passage from Kyle Pope from a sermon he wrote that is posted on Focus Magazine:

“Exodus 24:10 tell us that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders “saw the God of Israel.” Moses was even said to have had the unique honor of speaking to God “face to face” (Deut. 34:10). Did Moses actually see the face of God?

To answer this, we must first understand one of the terms that Scripture uses. The word that is translated “face” in Exodus 33:20 is the Hebrew word panim. While this word can have a specific, literal, and anatomical sense in reference to the front of a person’s head (Exod. 10:28), it can also refer to the surface of something – “the face (panim) of the earth” (Exod. 33:16), the front of something – “the forefront (panim) of the tent” (Exod. 26:9), it can mean to be before someone – “your males shall appear before (panim) the Lord GOD” (Exod. 23:17),  or it can even refer to the  presence of someone – “they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence (panim)” (Exod. 10:11)

The Hebrew word panim.

When it comes to God, it is clear that panim can have these same distinct applications in different contexts. For example, while God told Moses “My face (panim) shall not be seen” (Exod. 33:23), He also promised the Israelites a few verses before this “My Presence (panim) will go with you and I will give you rest” (Exod. 33:14). What we must conclude is that there is some element of the grandeur of God that cannot be witnessed by human beings, that Exod. 33:20-23 calls His “face (panim).” At the same time, we must also conclude that there is some other limited aspect of His glory that can be seen, to which the same word can sometimes apply—and most translations call His “Presence (panim).”

Let’s notice a few things that support this conclusion. In Exodus 24:10 Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders go up on the mountain. We know that Moses was allowed to go further (Exod. 24:2), but the others were to “worship from afar” (Exod. 24:1). It is from this more remote distance that it is said:

…They saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank (Exod. 24:10-11, NKJV).

Now then, if this was all we had we might conclude that they saw the full grandeur of God but were spared death, since it says God did not “lay His hand” on them. However, there is more to it. What they were allowed to see, was some aspect of what Exodus 24:16 calls “the glory of the Lord,” that came down on the mountain. Its appearance is described as “a consuming fire” (Exod. 24:17). Was this the full glory of the Lord?No. After this even, Moses begs the Lord, “Show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18). It is in response to this that God covers Moses in the “hollow of his hand,” sets him in the “cleft of the rock” and passes before Moses (Exod. 33:19-23). It is in this context that God allows Moses to see his “back” (33:23) but declares, “You cannot see My face (panim); for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exod. 33:20). It is clear in this text that when God says “see Me” He does not mean his “back” (Exod. 33:23), nor whatever aspect of His glory that Aaron and the other saw (Exod. 24:10). What God calls His “face (panim)” in Exodus 33:20 and 33:23 must be some fuller manifestation of His glory. As noted at the beginning of our study, New Testament writers confirm this distinction. When John wrote, “No one has seen God at anytime” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12), he is clearly talking about that fullest part of God’s glory that no one has yet seen. To see some aspect of God is not to behold the fullness of His glory. That honor belongs only to the “blessed” in heaven. Jesus promised, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).”


87. Surfing Sye Ten Bruggencate’s Website

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Ben Fisher’s back from his Reconnect sabbatical and he guides three high school seniors through Sye Ten Bruggencate’s website, “Proof That God Exists.”  The website has an interactive questionnaire that uses presuppositional apologetics to guide visitors to the conclusion that God exists based on the visitor’s admission that absolute truth exists, that you know things to be true, that logic exists and that it is universal, not made of matter, and does not change.  If visitors don’t come to the conclusion that truth, knowledge, and logic exist in absolute, unchangeable, immaterial terms, then they are eventually redirected to Disneyland’s ticket ordering web page.

58. Crash Course – The Problem of Evil

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the devil

Andy watches an episode of CrashCourse, an educational channel on Youtube, that focused on answering “The Problem of Evil” from a Theistic worldview.  The answers however utterly fail to answer the problem from a Christian worldview.  Enjoy!

Show Links:

Watch the CrashCourse video here!

“Evil” related blogs posts at

Contradict Movement – Order a sticker, pack of tracts, or Andy’s book.

55. David Pratt on Apologetics

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David Pratt 2David Pratt has been a Lutheran high school teacher for twelve years.  In his theology classes, no matter the course title, he constantly sprinkles apologetics into the lesson plans.  After listening to episodes 22 and 29 of Reconnect, which both explained and critiqued the use of various approaches to Apologetics, he had a lot of feedback to provide.  In this episode, David shares his commentary on those episodes, correcting what he thought was not always an accurate depiction of presupositional apologetics in those episodes.  Hopefully, you’ll learn as much from his feedback as I did.  His explanation and use of presuppositional apologetics has certainly given me a much better understanding of the usefulness and tactful approach to take with presuppositional arguments for the purpose of sharing both the Law and Gospel of God’s Word.   – Andy Wrasman

Show Links:

Episode 22: Mixed Martial Apologetics with J. Warner Wallace

Episode 29: What’s up with Presup? with Andy and Ben

David’s School: Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School in Las Vegas