Thomas’ 5 Ways Simplified

I’m teaching high school theology and we’re covering Thomas’ 5 ways to approach God philosophically. I’m trying to simplify the material down for their level. Below is my attempt. If any of my theologian friends would like to check my theology to make sure that I am properly representing Thomas (as well as possible for 9th-11th grade theology), please do so.
Argument From Motion:
    • Given: Nothing makes itself move, but things are in motion.
    • Therefore: Something must have given motion to things.
    • Therefore: Some “First Mover” must exist that gives motion, but never needed to be moved.
    • Finish: We call this First Mover “God.”
Argument From Cause
    • Given: Things don’t cause themselves.
    • Therefore: Something must have begun the causing of things.
    • Therefore: Some “First Cause” must exist that caused things, but was not caused.
    • Finish: We call this First Cause “God.”
Argument From Possibility and Necessity
    • Given: Things are generated and decay.
    • Therefore: It is possible for things to not exist.
    • Therefore: At some point in the past, there must have been a time when nothing existed.
    • Given: Nothing can come from nothing.
    • Therefore: There must have been some Necessary Being who always existed and gave existence to other things.
    • Finish: We call this Necessary Being “God.”
Argument From Gradation
    • Given: Things can be “more” or “less” of various perfections
    • Therefore: There must be a “most” to every perfection.
    • Therefore: There must be some Maximum Being which is the most perfect.
    • Therefore: Since this Maximum Being must be the most perfect, He is the most of all other perfections as well (goodness, truth, beauty, etc.).
    • Finish: We call this Maximum Being “God.”
Argument From the Governance of the World (Intelligence)
    • Given: Things in the universe naturally move toward a goal and work in an orderly way.
    • Therefore: Because the order is so intricate, we must assume that these things accomplish their goal by design, not by chance.
    • Therefore: There must be something that has designed the whole universe to act so orderly and acts to direct all things to their natural goals.
    • Finish: We call that designer “God.”

One thought on “Thomas’ 5 Ways Simplified

  1. Many of my notes on this are still packed away and it's been about 10 years since I spent any substantial length of time studying this. However, from what I recall, this looks accurate. Hoping to share it with a few friends/family who also teach high school theology. I will tell you from my own experience that when I first started learning this (junior year of high school in a church history class), the priest who taught us had to teach the philosophical concepts over and over (I'm talking reviewing the same lessons 3, 4, 5 classes in a row until it clicked. I learned about that time that I was philosophically minded and could grasp these concepts quickly, but no one else in the class could. I went onto major in philosophy, they didn't.) They likely have little to no philosophical background and the concepts won't “click” right away. BE PATIENT! Also, I know that I have my notes from my high school course when I first learned this (very helpful when I needed a simple refresher in college). I think I know where my notes are on this. I'll try to locate them in a day or two and give more feedback. Good luck! I know you can teach this if you take your time. The older students will likely have an easier time than your freshman. All the best! Miss you and sending prayers!! -Kathy


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