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the whole God thing

Many people have trouble with this popular portrayal of God:

God You know, the Big Guy in the Sky, the all-knowing person up there watching the world play out, the one to whom we pray for favors (e.g., "Please God, let me pass this test" or "Please God, let Joe get better") and the one with whom we attempt to make deals (e.g., "I'll do this if only you do that").

If you have trouble buying into a God like this, you're not alone. In his book God Matters, Herbert McCabe calls this the "idolatry of a celestial housekeeper." (p.57) And Brian Davies in his book Thomas Aquinas, finds the idea of God as "a person without a body who invisibly thinks and wills and lives a life as our contemporary" not even "remotely credible." (p. 185)

It's not the kind of God Aquinas describes either. The God Aquinas describes is more like:

  • the mystery behind our existence
  • the mystery behind order
  • the mystery driving our evolution
  • the stuff of goodness.

Being a theologian, you'd think Aquinas would have much to say about God, and he does, but it's based on a radical foundation: he says we really can know nothing of God. He says that the only thing we can know for sure is what we percieve with our senses. We can reason about God based on what we see in the world, and Aquinas filled many books with such reasoning. And we can know of God from Scripture. But the God he talks about is the hidden power behind the mystery of life, not some old bearded dude on a throne.

This is refreshing for two reasons. First, he doesn't ask you to start by believing something crazy; to get Aquinas you don't have to pitch your common sense. Second, Aquinas grows his entire theology out of what we fondly refer to as reality: you know, the known world, the world we actually live in, made up of space and time, with music and cartoons and science and countries and people and schools and businesses and Star Trek. Part of this reality is Scripture and he obviously has a special place in his theology for that, but everything is grounded in what we can perceive with our senses and about which we can reason. Aquinas centers God in the inherent mystery of the known world, and derives his thought from the evidence of life.

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"All things come from 'God'. Likely so, but not any God mankind has been badgered with."
Dr. Robert C. Rhodes

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