II. Five Arguments of St. Aquinas

Aquinas set out his proof of the existence of God with five sets of arguments:


  • The Argument of Motion, though long drawn out in Aquinas’s words, it simply means that the natural state of anything is static; but we see things (such as the sun, moon and stars) in motion, so there has to be a Prime Mover, and such a mover is God.
  • Argument of Efficient Causes All things that exist have a cause. Seeing them as a long chain of cause and effect – every effect has a cause behind it and that cause with another link of effect and cause behind it and so on, till we come to the first cause without a cause. That first cause is God. (You see Ibn Cina shining forth in this argument).
  • Argument of creation: Although Aquinas does not specifically appear to put forth this argument, but it is inherent in his argument of Efficient Causes.
  • Argument of Gradation can be summarised thus : Some are better than others, and that better one is not as good as another one above it, and going up in this scale of gradation, there has to be one who is the most perfect. Alexander_Pope_by_Michael_Dahl
    The Most Perfect has to be God. Poet Alexander Pope (Catholic; 1688-1734)) put it in a satirical vein:

Order is Heaven’s first law; 

and this confessed.

Some are, and must be,

greater than the rest.

                                      (God leads that long chain from behind as the greatest.)

  • Argument of Possibility and Necessity. (The older version of the currently prevalent argument of Something-out-of-Nothing.)

It is s impossible to conceive that everything we see always existed. This means that nothing existed at some point of time. So things that we see as contingent and necessary must have been brought into being by a Being that is true and contingent. That contingent Being is God. This is a powerful argument provided that we accept the popular notion that there was a time when nothing existed; that the universe is built on a vacuous foundation of nothingness.

  • Argument of Design is what is advanced by the knowledgeable even today : Everything appears to be designed towards an aim, and like an arrow shot with precise aim to a target has to have an  archer, these designs we see have to have a creator, and that creator has to be God. The irreducible complexity  – a modern term for the complexity you notice in living beings –  particularly man and his environment seemingly just right for his existence proves that there is a conscious and intelligent being behind such a complex design.

The design argument is a very powerful subject of debate; Christianity often hides behind a theory known as Intelligent design, proposed implicitly by Isaac Newton (1742 to 1726/1727) and explicitly by Fred Hoyle  (1915-2001) both scientists of great renown.

Intelligent Design came to call itself  a ‘science’ by 1989 and tried its introduction into Biology classes in the US, but U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. The First Amendment introduced by Thomas Jefferson prohibits any law that favors the establishment of any religion. This prevents, much to the chagrin of priests and preachers, teaching of religious beliefs – Genesis and the six-day creation for instance – in US Schools. The agnosticism (if not atheism) implicit in this secular statute was circumvented in 1956 by adopting the motto “Ïn God We Trust”. The motto was signed into law by President Eisenhower (1890-1969), Presbyterian by baptism, son of a Jehovah’s Witness on the maternal side and the “most deeply religious man I know” by self-confession.

Intelligent design continues its forceful presence in the United States and elsewhere, supported by several persons of repute. However, The U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1991  stated that “creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.”  Such a decision by a district court or NAS is not conclusive; the concept, which relies on the irreducible complexity”” of life which, they assert,  is not entirely solved by Darwin’s theory of Evolution or the concept of Natural Selection.  Hence the concept of Intelligent Design merits a discussion in another essay.

  • God of the Gap Argument. Not by Aquinas, because in the 13th century, the theory of Evolution was not heard of. It was six  centuries later that  Charles Darwin (1809 –1882), after careful study of nature for several years, proposed that all living beings came into existence through a continuous chain of evolution from a common ancestor or ancestors. While arguing his case of the Survival of the Fittest in Natural Selection, Darwin naively confessed that there were gaps into which his theory did not quite fit in.

NEXT :  III. Argument of Motion