Monday, 5 April 2010

Q & A Forum #2

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Thought I'd toss up a second Q&A, since we haven't had one for a while, and the first one dropped off the front page.

In the last Q&A, there was a lingering unanswered question regarding St. Thomas Aquinas' views on Allah, the God worshipped by the Muslims. I've figured out the best answer that I think I'm going to come to, and have published it in both Open Forums (Fora?).

Anyway, feel free to comment away.

In other news, my parents gave me a refurbished laptop a month early for my birthday, so I hope that will help me get more blogging done. We'll see how that goes :)

God bless, and have a Holy Paschal Season!


Gregory said...

I had left a comment unanswered in the original Q&A. I've since answered Anonnunimust B's question in that forum, but for easier finding, I'm reproducing it here:

He asked, Who did St. Thomas think that Muslims worship? (Please cite your sources, as normal.)

Anonnunimust B.
your question regarding St. Thomas' beliefs about Allah has proved to be quite the complicated one. So far as I can tell, St. Thomas never clearly stated what he officially thought.

However, there are certain things in his writings that give us a bit of an indication.

In St. Thomas' arguments for God's existence as outlined in his Summa Theoligica (Book 1, Question 2, Article 3) known as the "5 Ways", he concludes each of his arguments for God's existence with the phrase, "and this everyone understands to be God," or an equivalent.

From this, we can make an assumption that St. Thomas would hold that anyone who believes in a Supreme Being, by natural theology must believe in God, as such. That is, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagan Greek Philosophers, etc. would all be held, by this understanding, to be speaking of that One God.

Furthermore, Aquinas frequently refers to Islamic philosophers when he is talking about the reasonable basis for belief in God, yet St. Thomas never gives a hint that he thinks that the "God" they are talking about is somehow different than the "God" he is talking about.

Of course, the trickiness comes in when we recognise that all these groups of people have widely different understandings of that One God.

When it comes to Muslim beliefs about God, St. Thomas does level criticism of their beliefs. According to this article, the author claims that St. Thomas thinks the Muslim notion of the absolute interposition of God (Allah) in the chain of causality goes too far. Specifically, he writes,

"In De Potentia, St. Thomas Aquinas contrasts the Muslim view of physical causality with the Christian one, pointing out that Muslims believe that Allah interposes himself at every point in the chain of causality, while Christians believe that natural objects can act under their own power. Contemporary writers, such as Fr. Stanley Jaki, have argued that this Muslim misconception of natural causality is the primary reason science developed in Christian Europe but remained stunted in Muslim societies (the claims of current public-school textbooks and PBS propaganda specials notwithstanding).

I hyperlinked the document of St. Thomas that the author refers to. However, I'm not sure specifically where St. Thomas makes the contrast between Allah and God, since he never specifically mentions Allah. More probably, the Muslim viewpoint is likely reflected without direct attribution in the various objections preceeding Thomas' arguments. I'll let you peruse this work at your leisure.


Gregory said...

Finally, in Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas devotes some space to criticising the Islamic religion and its founding (and founder). He writes, in Book 1, Chapter 6, contrasting the faith of Christianity with that of Islam according to the testament of miracles:

[3] This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness of the signs given in the past; so that it is not necessary that they should be further repeated, since they appear most clearly in their effect. For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes. Yet it is also a fact that, even in our own time, God does not cease to work miracles through His saints for the confirmation of the faith.

[4] On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms--which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning. Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be. seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly. (Articles 3 and 4.)

However, he seems to voice no specific objection to "Allah" as such, but only to the Muslims' erroneous beliefs about Him. I hope that is helpful.

God bless,

Kane Augustus said...

Can you establish a reasonable demonstration that divine revelation actually happened to the littoral peoples of the mid-East 2000+ years ago?

Gregory said...

I believe that the best demonstration of divine revelation would be the testament of miraculous signs and wonders, such as, for instance, the 10 plagues of Moses, and Jesus' miracles and resurrection from the dead. This was, after all, the purpose of such miraculous demonstrations--to confirm the message. Had there been no accompanying miraculous phenomena, we would have utterly no reason to suppose a revelation had been given, other than the "prophet's" say so. This is, incidentally, St. Thomas' point regarding Mohammed in the above text.

The question, I suppose, in that case, is, do we believe the miracles? I would point to their continuation throughout history, in confirmation of those who have faithfully relayed that message from the time of the Scriptures until now.