Aquinas presented a cosmological argument and decided the first way to prove the existence of God was to concentrate on the ways in which objects move, grow or change in state. He drew this from Aristotle’s observation that every single thing in the universe that moves is moved by something else. The second way is very similar but instead of the idea of change, it’s replaced with the concept of cause. Aquinas argued that every ‘effect’ has a ‘cause’.
The third way is that everything in the world is contingent, meaning that the all have a beginning and an end and so they must therefore be dependent on external factors for its existence.
Firstly, Aquinas focused on the way objects move, grow or change in state. He concluded that everything which is in motion or changing, must be put into motion or changed by something else. This produced a slight understanding of the physics of motion and so evaluated that things stay the same unless a force acts upon it to make it change or move.
For example, for ice to turn to water, heat as to be applied to make it melt. Aquinas believes this theory should be applied to every object and therefore concludes that everything needs to be set in motion but something else, the ice wouldn’t have melted if the heat hadn’t been applied. This could be a compelling reason to believe in the existence of God as many seem to view him as a creator or external being and so he would be the easiest, most logical explanation to those who do view him in this light.
This is a good point as nearly one third of the earth’s population is Christian and so it provides not only another reason for them to have faith and believe in the existence of God but also give them another reason to add to why he is omnipotent and benevolent. However, it’s just as easy to say that the external force is something else entirely and so even the thought of a God is a ludicrous idea. This can be fathomed when Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins had their radio debate. Russell labelled himself as agnostic, meaning he claimed that there’s insufficient evidence to prove the existence of God. Copleston was a priest and so fought until the end to prove his beliefs. Copleston argued that if God didn’t exist then humans and the whole of human history would have no meaning or purpose other than the one they give themselves. This provides a good argument towards Aquinas’ first three ways explaining compelling reasons to believe in God as it’s presenting us with the idea that God gives us reason and without that we’d have to give ourselves purpose. However, Russell argued that a thing or being cannot be ‘necessary’ as mathematical equations or definitions can be ‘necessary. When people say ‘God exists’ they’re giving a synthetic proposition and so confirming that ‘God’ cannot be necessarily true in the way that 2+2=4 is necessarily true.
Secondly, Aquinas argued that infinite regress is impossible. This led him to theorize that there must be a ‘First Cause’ which is understandable and logical until he goes on to explain that most people refer to this ‘First Cause’ as ‘God’. Aquinas borrows the terminology or the idea of ‘efficient cause’ from Aristotle himself. Aristotle focused mainly on the question of why things exist. This captured the attention of Aquinas and therefore encouraged him to think about the same things. Aristotle concluded that ‘cause’ works at four different levels and this is when he came up with the idea of the material, efficient, formal and final cause. Aristotle explained that by ‘efficient cause’ he meant the activity or force that makes something happen, for example, a drummer hitting the drums with drumsticks is the efficient cause of the music. This, again, is a compelling reason to believe in the existence of an efficient or first cause but not so much of a reason to believe in the existence of God as there could be many other possibilities of who or what this external force could be. Copleston uses Gottfried Leibniz’s idea that God is a being of sufficient reason and so makes sense of all contingent things in the universe instead of them explaining themselves. This provides a compelling reason the believe in the existence of God as it, again, explains that God gives us reason and purpose and we therefore would have to give ourselves purpose if God didn’t exist. However, Russell argued that Copleston and Leibniz’s explanation didn’t make sense and instead it only recognised proximate reasons. For example, striking a match, to make a flame with a match the adequate explanation would be to rub the match on the box. This explains that using God as an explanation for existence of humans and all other thing or being in the world, doesn’t provide enough reasoning and so cannot be use as an adequate explanation.
Thirdly, Aquinas argued that the world consists of contingent beings. This means that they have a beginning and an end and are dependent on some external force for their existence. He explained that things are contingent in two ways; they depend on something to bring them into existence in the first place and then they also depend on external factors for the continuation of their existence. For example, since Aquinas’ realisation we’ve become more aware of the existence of eco-systems and the fact that the existence of one species can very much depend on the existence of another and other natural resources. It’s been argued that these discoveries can prove the point Aquinas made and therefore prove the existence of God. Leibniz argued that it doesn’t mater if something is eternal or not, we still need a reason for it. This adds to Aquinas’ point as it just reinforces the fact that everything must have an external force acting upon it and highlights the fact that this could be God.
In conclusion, the evidence and information I’ve given has proved that Aquinas’ first three ways provide compelling reasons to believe in the existence of God as he seems to be the most logical figure to attach to the role and Aquinas didn’t really mind as he was a Christian himself and it encouraged others to believe in his theory and most people were Christian or Catholic in his day. However, Russell presented enough evidence to make some people doubt that a God even exists as he provided many normal and reasonable explanations for the existence of beings and things.