Thomas Aquinas was an Italian philosopher and theologian from the thirteenth century. He is one of the Catholic Church’s most beloved saints.
After the fall of the Western Roman empire, humanity entered the Dark Ages, a time in which philosophical thought dwindled and Christianity reigned; truths were justified via divine revelation of God’s Word rather than by logical reasoning.
But Aquinas, being the learned man he was, saw value in reconciling faith and reason. He drew on the works of Aristotle to explain religion in philosophical terms.
His most famous set of arguments, “The Five Ways,” seeks to prove God’s existence from a rational standpoint. To give a pair of examples, Aquinas claims that everything in existence and motion is brought into existence and motion by something else. Since this chain of causes and caused, movers and moved, cannot go on forever (as doing so would cause an infinite regression), there must be an uncaused cause and an unmoved mover at the beginning. Aquinas asserts God is therefore the necessary ultimate source of all being and movement.
Yet Aquinas acknowledges the lingering uncertainty surrounding God’s existence. In fact, he regards faith as “imperfect knowledge”; a belief rooted in trust in God and what He has revealed in the absence of corroborating evidence. For all his work attempting to endow religion with a logical underpinning, Thomas admits there are certain aspects of Christianity, e.g. The Holy Trinity, that exceed our comprehension, and can be accepted only through a humbling of oneself to God and an admission of one’s limited ability to understand Him in this life. After experiencing a divine revelation toward the end of his life, Aquinas wrote, “All I have written is straw compared to what I have now seen.”