Thomistic vs. Biblical God


Is the Thomistic God in agreement with the Biblical God?


No, they have arguments all the time.

Just kidding. There are two ways to answer your question depending on what you mean by agreement. If one is talking about, say, Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, then, from considering only the proof, the conclusion “the First Cause, or Unmoved Mover exists” does not capture all that God has revealed about Himself in scripture.

But if one is a beliver, then one can put that conclusion within another argument:

  1. The God of Scripture is the First Cause of Creation (Genesis 1).
  2. The First Cause exists (or is known to exist on the basis of natural reason, e.g. from Aquinas’ Third way).
  3. Therefore, the God of Scripture exists (or is known to exist on the basis of natural reason).

Thus, Aquinas knows from his faith that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the First Cause of Existence, and knows from reason that this First Cause exists. (He also knows from faith that God exists, but he believes it can be known by reason, too (see Rom. I, 20)). So, while he would say that the Biblical God is in fact identical to his Thomistic God, he is not forced to admit, and he in fact would not admit, that there is an equivalence between the terms “God” and “First Cause.” Being a First Cause is in fact an attribute of God, but this is enough to insure (on the basis of his faith) the truth of the statement “God is the First Cause.”

The following argument, however, would not be valid for Aquinas.

  1. The First Cause exists.
  2. The First Cause is God.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

This argument is not Thomistic since, first of all, it is in an invalid form. But it is in an invalid form because premise 2 sets up an equivalence which, I said above, Aquinas would deny. And if it is not a strict equivalence, it is an imprecise way of saying “God is the First Cause.” In any case, the former and not the latter argument is the proper context for the proofs for God’s existence.

So, the Thomistic God is in agreement with the Biblical God, insofar as the basis for the former title is an attribute of the latter, and insofar as what each of them signifies (God in Himself) is the identically same reality. They do not agree insofar as the Biblical God signifies much more (the Trinity of Persons, the Savior of Israel and of all humanity) than what the Thomistic God (First Cause) signifies. It is nevertheless true that what it means to be the Biblical God includes being the First Cause, even though it means much more than this.

For more on this topic, see the essays This Everyone Calls God and Natural Theology or the following video:

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