The Second Way

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we’re diving into the Ocean of Truth. We’re going through the doctrine of God right now and discussing the Second Way of Thomas Aquinas in showing the existence of God. Those wanting to read the relevant portions of the Summa are invited to go to NewAdvent.org. Before that however, I wish to give prayer requests. The first is for my continued Christlikeness as I grow to be the man I need to be. The second is for my finances. The third is in a final related area of my life to both of these. For now, let’s look at the Second Way.

To begin with, we need to define some terms. Aristotle had spoken of four kinds of causes for something.

The first kind is the material cause. That is the matter that something is made of, such as a chair that is made of wood.

The second is the formal cause which is the form something possesses, to which a desk possesses the form of a desk.

The third is the efficient cause. That is the cause that makes the thing the thing that it is. A sculptor makes the block of stone into a statue.

The fourth is a final cause. That is why the thing is the way it is. My TV is made to broadcast visual images to me.

In the medieval period, two more causes were added.

The instrumental cause is the how a thing comes to be. This blog comes to be in part because of my typing.

The exemplar cause is that after which something comes to be. A building is based on the blueprints the architect lays out.

Aquinas’s second argument is about efficient causes and gets into what is the existence/essence distinction. What is the cause of things coming to be? This will be extremely important when we get to the doctrine of God’s simplicity.

For Aquinas, all composed things have a cause of their being. Now when we hear of composed, we can think of something like say, the DNA molecule, and think “Why yes. I can see why something like DNA would need to have a cause.” While Aquinas would not dispute that, it is also not entirely what he means. We can too often read back into the medievals modern concepts, which we will see often takes place when we get to the fifth way of Aquinas.

For each thing that we see, it has a nature, such as the nature of a desk, but it also has existence. Think in your mind of an idea of something you see around you. Now look at the object that you see as it is. What differentiates the two? It’s quite simple. The object in your mind exists only in your mind. The object in the real world exists in actuality. It possesses extramental being.

Thus, you have in your mind the form of whatever it is. However, the object in the real world possesses the form as well as possessing the being that goes along with that object. This can happen to the simplest particle. It possesses the matter that makes it what it is and it possesses its essence.

How about other beings that aren’t material? By this, we mean angels of course. Angels do possess a nature and we can later talk about that nature, but for now, we’ll assume just a basic angelic nature. What do they possess in addition to that nature? Being.

God is the only one that’s different. He has the basis for his being in himself. He is not for Aquinas being plus a nature. His being is his nature. God does not receive being from anything external to him nor is he being plus something for that would make him composed in some way and he’d need a composer.

This is also why an eternal universe was not a problem for Aquinas. He could have the universe going on for all eternity and still have God as the ground for the existence of the universe. The universe’s eternal existence would not be an aspect of its nature internal to itself but rather something it received from God.

In other words, without God, there is no basis for existence.

Now some of you might be wondering how that concept of God is defended. If you are, put it on hold. Aquinas will answer it later.

Tomorrow, we shall look at the third way.

2 Responses to “The Second Way”

  1. Joel Gonzaga Says:

    I think I liked the 2nd way the best. I can’t remember why. I need to re-read my Summa.

  2. The Apostle’s Creed: In God | Deeper Waters Says:

    […] had five ways to demonstrate that God exists. The first can be found here, followed by the second, third, fourth, and fifth. In fact, you can also listen to a debate I did on the Razor Swift […]

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