Approaches to God 267
1) What do Luther, Aquinas, Augustine, Decartes, and Kierkeguard hold about the relationship between faith and reason?
All of these great philosophers had varying views on the relationship between faith and reason. Martin Luther was a key historical figure and a key historical figure of his time. He rose to fame for his 95 thesis and is credited with bringing about the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a feidest- everything opens to faith with no regard to reason. He believed people were saved “by faith alone”.
St Thomas Aquinas did not have the same views as Luther. He was a mitigated rationalist who believed in both faith and reason. Aquinas argued that reason preceded faith. St Thomas, a mendicant fryer, was a believer in the unity of truth.
St Augustine of Hippo, a well respected, top-notch philosopher was one of the greatest thinkers of his time. The great Augustine was also a mitigated rationalist. Unlike Aquinas, Augustine believed faith preceded reason. He took ancient thought and applied it to the bible. He believed man was good, but not perfect. Augustine’s theory that faith precedes reason can be best summed up by citing his famous quote, “I believe in order that I may understand”. St Augustine was a giant in philosophy and continues to be studied today.
Decartes, who invented the Cartesian Plain, wanted to make philosophy as precise as his beloved mathematics. He often related philosophy to the principles of geometry and fineness. Decartes operated out of the theory of doubt, he doubted everything. However he did not doubt the fact that he could think. He felt that he could not think without existing. Hence he came up with the notion “I think therefore I am.” Decartes ultimately pulled faith away from reason and completely separated their relationship.
Kierkeguard was the father of modern existentialism. He stresses the individual as an existentialist he created three levels. The first level was an aesthetic level, second was an ethical, in which one leads a good life, and the third and highest level was called the “leap of faith”, the religious level.
2) Is natural theology a science? Why or why not?
When determining whether or not natural theology is a science or not, we encounter many different opinions. Some may argue yes, while others argue no. The definition of Philosophy comes into play here. Philosophy- the science which studies all things in their ultimate causes by the light of natural reason. Aristotle defines science as knowledge of things through its causes. Based upon these two definitions along with the Scientific Theory- observation, hypothesis, expermintation = natural law, natural theology is considered a science.
Natural law begins with nature. Nature determines the kinds of activities a thing can perform. It is the essence of a thing, viewed from the point of view of the source activity. Natural theology follows an ordinary common sense understanding of reality. Certain activities follow from the nature of a thing. For example a rock acts like a rock, a dog like a dog. We come to know the nature of the rock or dog by the acts which each performs; things may be good according tot here nature.
In order to object a natural law we have to realize how we interpret nature and how the nature of the evolving thing may evolve. Yet when applying this to human nature, we see that human nature always exists by the way nature may evolve around humans. When looking at natural theology it is important to keep in mind principles such as morality, and other principles that deal with human behavior.
If natural theology is the study of human nature, which leads to natural law, it fulfills the definition of a science and scientific method and therefore, from that aspect there must be a science in those specific terms.
5) How does Plotinus relate to Plato? What does he emphasize? What is his influence on Augustine?
Plato and Plotinus relate to one another on their views of creation. Plotinus, like the Christians, believed God created the world. Both Plato and Plotinus believed in the good and in seeing beauty. Both acknowledged the existence of a higher form of being, God. Plotinus was a follower of Plato, in fact he is considered a neoplotinus. Plotinus emphasized the mystical aspects of Plato however, he did not see the material world as important. Like Plato, Plotinus did not pay much attention to the body, rather they placed a very heavy emphasis on the soul. After all, the soul would rise not the body. Plotinus also placed an emphasis on the “Cardinal Virtues.” He was able to define the Cardinal Virtues as wisdom, courage, justice, and moral discipline. Plotinus is considered one of the first non-Christian philosophers to incorporate Christian beliefs in his theories.
St. Augustine was able to expand and elaborate on Plotinus’s work on the Cardinal Virtues. Plotinus was also able to put a lot of Plato’s teachings in writing, which enabled later philosophers such as Augustine to study Plato’s work and respond to his theories. St. Augustine was also able to build on some of Plotinus’s “Christian type” theories on the existence of God and the idea of the soul. Plotinus, like Plato, believed in the existence of God from the ideal good. Augustine also incorporated this idea in his thinking and philosophy of God.
6) What is Augustine’s demonstration for the existence of God?
St Augustine was a mitigated rationalist. His existence of God is evident in his creedo, “I believe in order that I may understand,” Augustine demonstrates God’s existence not only through faith and reason, but also through free will and grace. Augustine operated under the notion that man is good, but fallen. Since man has free will, man is able to make his own choices. However, since man is good but fallen, he has a tendency to make mistakes. According to Augustine, God is the highest truth, the eternal truth. The belief in the eternal truth will lead to the belief in the existence of God.
Augustine also believes in grace in order to explain and prove God’s existence. For a person to be virtuous, he would have to have God’s grace. With God’s grace, man in general is good. Man is therefore saved from evil and forgiven of his sins through the grace of God.
Augustine states that judgement is the one attribute that separates us from all other animals. These judgements allow us to see and express our free will and allow us to make decisions between good and evil. Therefore we can see God through goodness and seeing the good. This leads to believing and knowing that God does in fact exist.
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