Thomas Aquinas the Dominican and Catholic philosopher and theologian argued for the existence of God on the basis of the concepts of potency and act, following Aristotle. He explains that a motion or change involves going from potentiality to actuality. For example, your dinner has the potentiality to be hot and your oven actualizes that potential. Your dinner doesn’t have the capability of making itself hot; this means that no potential can actualize itself. There must be something outside of the potential for it to be actualized.
Also, the immediate efficient cause of a thing is simultaneous with it. For example, the immediate cause of a car being pushed is the application of the hands and force of the person. But those hands take their position because of his nervous system, and also because his friend asked him to push the car. With this, there comes the distinction between accidentally ordered and essentially ordered series.
An example of an accidentally ordered series is when a father begets a son, and his son can beget a son even if his father is dead. This means that the father’s continuing presence and action is unnecessary for the series to continue. This can apply for the car. It can be pushed even if the friend asked for this request two days earlier.
An essentially ordered series is like when a stick pushes a soda can. The stick cannot push the soda can if there isn’t a hand making the stick push the can. This means that whenever the last part of the series exists, which is the hand moving the stick, the earlier parts exist, which is the stick pushing the can. Eventually, the later members of the series have no independent powers of motion of their own. The can and the stick can’t move if the hand doesn’t move them.
The essentially ordered series needs a beginning, while an accidentally ordered series doesn’t. Even so, the hand is not the first member. It moves, because the arm moves, and the arm moves because the right muscles flex, and they flex because certain neurons fire, etc. Inevitably, this means that without a first member, there would be no series because it is only the first member that is doing anything, and the later members are mere instruments.
This means that the first mover in a series like this must be unmoved or unchanging. If it is movable or changeable, it is another way of saying it can go from potential to actual. Then, there would have to be something outside of it actualizing its potential, but it can’t be the first mover, because something else would be moving it. It must be something unmovable. This being must be pure actuality, or Pure Act, with no potentiality. With no potency to realize, this being could not move or change and his answer is God. God is the only one that doesn’t change, and is Pure Act. He is the one that makes everything be.
Aquinas also explains some of the divine attributes of God using reason. One of them is that He is one. He explains, if there were more than one god, there would have to be some way of distinguishing them. To distinguish two things, one must have an attribute that the other lacks. But lacking a feature is just an unrealized potentiality. A purely actual being has no unrealized potentialities. For example, if one such being were more powerful than another that would mean the other one had failed to fully actualize its potential for power.
Another attribute he explains is being immaterial. He says that being material involves being changeable, but a purely actual being cannot be changeable. Therefore, God would have to be outside of time and space.
Now that I have explained all of this, let me tell you what I believe. I do believe that you can prove the existence of God, and some of His attributes using reason, as we just saw. However, you will always be limited.
Thomas Aquinas in this explanation is an example of scholastic philosophy. As I have mentioned before, faith and reason cannot be combined. In the book of Genesis in the Bible, we see that there were two trees in the Garden of Eden; the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they did not reason. They lived by the Spirit, and had all knowledge and wisdom (wisdom that does not come from man; 1 Corinthians 2:4-16). Once they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil all of that knowledge and wisdom, all that guidance from the Spirit of God stopped from being in man, and they were now limited to human strength which made reason flourish. Man would now want to know the answers to everything around them, even to who they were, because they lost their identity which was in the Father. This inevitably led man to reason. Nevertheless, reason could not, has not, and will never give man its identity. That is why people search it on popularity, money, family, education, jobs, businesses, intelligence, music, sports, etc. These things will also never give man its identity. Our true identity comes from the Father, and He is the only one that can give it to us. Otherwise, we will never understand why we are here.
This is why I believe that faith and reason cannot be combined, and utilized in a way that they strengthen each other without conflict, when they are completely the opposite. Reason blocks faith from flourishing, it creates walls of darkness that don’t let the “impossible” (to the mind) be made possible. While with faith everything is possible, because when you believe and have faith the things happen, they come and that which was immaterial becomes material.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If faith cannot be seen through the natural eye or reason, how can we expect it to be made one with it? Faith is faith, and your level of faith will determine your life and future. If you have faith you can be healed without taking medicine, you will. If you don’t have faith in God or in the spiritual things of God, then you will never reach your highest potential. This is because reason will always limit me into synthetizing my spirit with the Spirit of God.
Combining faith and reason is like combining the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. This is because faith comes from the tree of life, while reason began in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Our true origin is not reason; Gods’ divine design for us is in the tree of life. Believing we can combine faith and reason is like saying our origin was in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and therefore faith is not real. If I come to the conclusion that my reason is greater and can give me the answers to everything, then I don’t need faith. Ultimately, with that way of thought I have made reason greater than faith, therefore man is greater than God, and as masons would say the perfection of man or the superhuman.
Aquinas said, “It is impossible that the truth of faith should be opposed to those principles that the human reason knows naturally”.
If we analyze this we go back to the same conclusion that reason was originated in sin; in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, saying “human reason knows naturally”, he is talking about the fallen nature of man, making this argument false and erroneous.
I conclude, faith and reason can never be made one when their nature and origin lies in different trees.