Aquinas on Knowing God's Existence

The question of proving the existence of God by natural reason is at the core of what has come to be known in Thomistic circles as Natural Theology (as opposed to the supernatural Theology of Sacred Scripture). Unless God is known to exist, one cannot have any other knowledge about Him. However, Aquinas has more to say about proving the existence of God than just the Five Ways of the Summa Theologiae.

For Aquinas, the question of proving the existence of God is always bound up with the question of how, and to what extent, we can know God at all. Often before he undertakes to prove the existence of God by reason, he feels it necessary first to show that His existence can be known without reliance on faith and scripture, but also that His existence is not self-evident but does require argumentation. It is clear that when he argues that God’s existence is not self-evident, he is opposing what has come to be known as The Ontological Argument of St. Anselm.

Below are links to texts of Aquinas in which he considers how we can know that God exists. Some of the texts below (On Being and EssenceOn the Power of God) were not put forth as “proofs,” but they have nevertheless been cited by Thomists as containing Thomistic Proofs for the Existence of God. (The numbers in parenthesis refers to the dates the works are believed to have been written.)

Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, Book I, Distinction 3, Question 1, (1254-6)

On Being and Essence, c. 4 (1254-6) – (The Man/Phoenix Argument)

Disputed Questions on Truth, Question 10, Article 12 (1256-9)

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I (1258-64)

Disputed Questions on the Power of God, Question 3 (1265-7)

Summa Theologiae, First Part, Question 2 (1266-68)

Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics (1269-70)

Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics (1269-72)

Compendium of Theology, Chapter 3 (1269-73)

Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Chapter 1 (1269-72)

Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Prologue (1269-72)

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