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St. Augustine’s Confessions Book 7 Chapter 14

In this particular section of the Confessions, Augustine gives several short arguments that will be later used by the Scholastics. In a short amount of space, Augustine covers a multitude of ontology and cosmology that really need to utilize within the faith communities as a means to evangelize the world consumed by scientism.

Augustine discusses how a plurality of gods would contradict the nature of God. Naturally, this idea will be further developed by Thomas Aquinas in Chapter 42 of the Summa Contra Gentiles. Aquinas explains in relation to the divine:

“[2] For it is not possible that there be two highest goods, since that which is said by superabundance is found in only one being. But God, as we have shown, is the highest good. God is, therefore, one.

  [3] Again, it has been shown that God is absolutely perfect, lacking no perfection. If, then, there are many gods, there must be many perfect beings. But this is impossible. For, if none of these perfect beings lacks some perfection, and does not have any admixture of imperfection, which is demanded for an absolutely perfect being, nothing will be given in which to distinguish the perfect beings from one another. It is impossible, therefore, that there be many gods.

 It appears that Aquinas isn’t the only scholastic to borrow and develop of Augustine. Augustine gives a sort of proto-ontological argument to illustrate his understanding of unity of God. He writes, “For no soul ever has been able to conceive or ever will conceive anything better than You, the supreme and perfect Good.” Of course, if anyone’s taken a theology or philosophy course this statement may sound familiar, as the idea is usually attributed to St. Anselm of Canterbury who put forth what is known as the Ontological Proof for God’s existence.

In Chapter 3-7 of the Proslogion, one discovers St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God. The basic argument comes from this statement from St. Anselm is that “O Lord my God, You exist so truly that You cannot even be thought not to exist…For if any mind could think of something better than You, the creature would rise above the Creator and would sit in judgment over the Creator—something which is utterly absurd.”[1]

I find it interesting that St. Anselm proposes that God cannot even be thought not to exist. Recently, I’ve been in conversation with a few Atheists who claim not to believe in God, and yet God ever preoccupies their mind to search out theist to discuss him. Again, it goes back to St. Augustine, our heart is restless until it rests in God.

Augustine also addresses challenges to the omnipotence of God. It’s fairly common for skeptics to challenge Christians by asking, “Can God create a rock so heavy that he could move it?” The question appears at face value to be a formidable objection to the concept of the nature of God. Naturally, when one understands what is God’s nature, he will see the question be absurd. So, if we start with the premise that God is all-powerful because of his omnipotence God could not do anything that would contradict his very nature of being all-powerful. Another example would be could God make a square a triangle? Well, no, they couldn’t be the same thing because for a square to be a square it has to have four sides; therefore, by having three sides it would no longer possess the nature of a square.

[1]Anslem of Canterbury, 94.