‘The first thing to know about God’: Kretzmann and Aquinas on the meaning and necessity of arguments for the existence of God

Religious Studies 39 (3):251-267 (2003)
This paper examines critically Kretzmann's reconstruction of the project of natural theology as exemplified by Aquinas's Summa Contra Gentiles. It is argued that the notion of natural theology, as understood and advocated by Kretzmann, is particularly indebted to the epistemologically biased natural theology of modernity with its focus on rational justification of theistic belief. As a consequence, Kretzmann's view of the arguments for the existence of God and their place within Aquinas's theological project is insufficiently sensitive to the ontological conception of truth and intelligibility which underlies the argumentation. From his epistemological point of view Kretzmann differs from Aquinas in two aspects. First, he contends that it is not necessary to establish the existence of God with absolute certainty at the outset; one may begin with the hypothesis that there is a God. Second, the arguments do not yet conclude to the existence of God in the specific theistic sense; they show at most the existence of a primary explanatory entity, which may be identified with God later on. Both claims are criticized in the light of a discussion of Aquinas's theological method.
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