Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Course Description

Natural Theology is the study of God from the perspective of what human reason can know about God without any divine revelation. It attempts to show the certainty of God’s existence and certain of his naturally knowable divine attributes, such as his infinite goodness, beauty, truth, mercy, justice etc. For this course, therefore, we would not be relying upon what sacred Scripture says concerning God, even though some of the things we can know without divine revelation are most certainly contained within Scripture. For as Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) says, there are things God has revealed about himself which we could know, even if he had never revealed them (this is the domain of Natural Theology), and there are things he reveals about himself, such as the Trinity of persons in God, which we could never have possibly known unless he had revealed them (this is the domain of Sacred Theology).

In this course we will begin by looking at the human mind’s capacity to prove the existence of God, as he exists outside of the thinking person. After which we will have an in-depth investigation of Thomas Aquinas’ famous five ways for proving God’s existence. From there we will look at the naturally knowable attributes of God and how they are logically derived from the proof for God’s existence. This study of God’s existence will also entail an investigation into the phenomenon of atheism.

It is not to be thought that the study of Natural Theology undermines the Christian faith in any way. There is an essential difference here: the truths of faith are revealed by God and believed by the Christian to be true on the basis that God has revealed them; whereas the truths deduced by reason within Natural Theology are seen as logical conclusions drawn from evident principles derived from observable reality. If anything, the science of Natural Theology actually bolsters Christian faith in God’s revelation; for as Pope John Paul II says in Fides et Ratio, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

So come and join us for this exciting and in-depth study of Natural Theology.

Course Objectives

  1. To obtain a firm grasp of the nature of Natural Theology.
  2. To see the difference between Natural Theology and Sacred Theology and how they operate.
  3. To gain an understanding of Aquinas’ ‘Five Ways’ of proving God’s existence.
  4. To learn about God’s naturally knowable attributes and how these impact our daily lives.

Course Duration

6 Weeks: 12 Hours (i.e., two hours, one night a week).

Recommended Reading

Popular Level Reading:

De Lubac, Henri. The Drama of Atheistic Humanism. Translated by Edith M. Riley, et al. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998.

Feser, Edward. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2010.

Gardeil, Henri Dominique. Introduction to the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (vol. 4: Metaphysics). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2012.

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald. Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought. Translated by Patrick Cummins. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1950. (Revised Printing: Ex Fontibus Company, 2012).

Geisler, Norman L. and Paul D. Feinberg. Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980.

Glenn, Paul. Apologetics. Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1980.

_________. Introduction to Philosophy. London: B. Herder Book Co., 1966.

Hahn, Scott and Benjamin Wilker. Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God. Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road, 2008.

Rogers, Glenn. Proof of God? Inquiries into the Philosophy of Religion: A Concise Introduction. Estherville, IO: Simpson & Brook, Publishers, 2012.

Maritain, Jacques. Introduction to Philosophy. Translated by E.I. Watkin. Merryland: Sheed and Ward, 2005.

Scholarly Level Reading:

Aristotle. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Burrell, David. Aquinas: God and Action. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979.

_________. Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986.

Burrill, Donald. The Cosmological Arguments: A Spectrum of Opinion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.

Collins, James. God in Modern Philosophy. Chicago, 1959.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy. (11 vols.). Great Britain: Continuum International Publishing, 1946-1975.

_________. A History of Philosophy. Medieval Philosophy from Augustine to Duns Scotus. (vol 2.). New York: Image, 1993.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006.

Davies, Brian and G.R. Evans (eds.). Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Davies, Brian. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

_________. Thinking about God. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1985.

Dodds, Michael, O.P. The Unchanging God of Love. Fribourg, Suisse: Editiones Universitaires, 1986.

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald. God: His Existence and His Nature. (2 vols.). Translated by Dom Bede Rose. New York: Preserving Christian Publications, 1993.

_________. The One God: A Commentary on the First Part of St. Thomas’ Theological Summa. Translated by Dom. Bede Rose. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1959.

Gilson, Etienne. God and Philosophy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961.

_________. The Elements of Christian Philosophy. New York: New American Library, 1965.

Hankey, Wayne. God in Himself: Aquinas’ Doctrine of God as Expounded in the ‘Summa Theologiae’. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Hetzler, Florence. Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Peter Lang, 1991.

Hibbs, Thomas S. Dialectic and Narrative in Aquinas: An Interpretation of the Summa Contra Gentiles. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995.

Hughes, Christopher. On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas’ Philosophical Theology. Cornell University Press, 1990.

Kenny, Anthony. The Five Ways. New York: Schocken, 1969.

Klubertanz, George P., Maurice R. Holloway. Being and God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Being and to Natural Theology. New York: Meredith Publishing Company, 1963.

Kretzman, Norman. The Metaphysics of Theism. Clarendon Press, 1997.

Levering, Matthew. Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Long, R. James, ed. Philosophy and the God of Abraham: Essays in Memory of James A. Weisheipl, OP. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1991.

Macierowski, E. M. Thomas Aquinass Earliest Treatment of the Divine Essence: Scriptum super libros Sententiarum. Book I, Distinction 8. Global Publications, 1997.

Maritain, Jacques. Approaches to God. Chicago, IL: Greenwood Pub Group, 1978.

Martin, Christopher. Thomas Aquinas: God and Explanations. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997).

McInerny, Ralph and John O’Callaghan. Recovering Nature: Essays in Natural Philosophy, Ethics, and Metaphysics in Honor of Ralph McInerny. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999.

Owens, Joseph. St. Thomas Aquinas on the Existence of God. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1980.

Rocca, Gregory P. Speaking the Incomprehensible God: Thomas Aquinas on the Interplay of Positive and Negative Theology. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2004.

Spitzer, Robert J. Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Woodbury, Austin. Ostensive Metaphysics: Natural Theology. Sydney: Aquinas Academy (unpublished text), 1966-67.

Scholarly Journal Articles:

Blair, George. “Another Look at St. Thomas’ ‘First Way.’” International Philosophical Quarterly. 16 (1976).

Dodds, Michael, O.P. “St. Thomas Aquinas and the Motion of the Motionless God.” New Blackfriars. 68 (1987).

Miethe Terry L. “The Ontological Argument: A Research Bibliography.” Modern Schoolman 54 (1977): 148-166.

_________. “The Cosmological Argument: A Research Bibliography.” New Scholasticism 52 (1978): 285-305.

Moreno, Antonio. “The Law of Inertia and the Principle ‘Quidquid movetur ab alio movetur.’” Thomist 38 (1974): 306-331.

Prado, C. G. “The Third Way Revisited.” New Scholasticism 45 (1971): 495-501.

Quinn, John. “The Third Way to God: A New Approach.” Thomist 42 (1978): 50-68.

Smith, Vincent E. “The Prime Mover: Physical or Metaphysical Considerations.” Proceeedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 28 (1954): 78-94.

Wallace, William A., O.P. “Newtonian Antinomies against the Prima Via.” Thomist 19 (1956): 151-192.

_________. “The Cosmological Argument: A Reappraisal.” Proceeding of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 46 (1972): 43-57.

Weisheipl, James A., O.P. “Quidquid movetur ab alio movetur: A Reply,” New Scholasticism 42 (1968): 422-431.