Tag Archives: Thomas Aquinas

What Is the Purpose of Life? Part 3

The third argument stated that the wealthy are happier, because of all the expensive things they can buy. Money can buy cars, houses, clothes, TV’s, and vacations. Do those things bring us ultimate happiness? It turns out that the wealthiest people, in actuality, are rarely the happiest.

In 1957, Americans’ per person income, expressed in today’s dollars, was $8,700.00. Today, it is north of $20,000, more than twice as high. Psychologist David Myers writes, “We have twice as many cars per person, . . . we eat out two and a half times more often, . . . and few Americans, in the 1950’s, had dishwashers, clothes dryers, or air conditioning.”

Myers also notes that

the percentage of Americans calling themselves ‘very happy’ reached its highest point in 1957. Since then, the number of Americans who say they are ‘very happy’ has declined from 35 to 32 percent. Meanwhile, the divorce rate has doubled, the teen suicide rate has nearly tripled, the violent crime rate has nearly quadrupled, and more people than ever (especially teens and young adults) are depressed. We are great at making a living but not so good at making a life.

What does the wisest man that ever lived have to say about wealth? King Solomon said, “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. . . . I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me” (Ec 2:8-9). Did this bring him happiness? In verse 11 he gives the answer: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ec 2:11).

Solomon also said this: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ec 5:10).

Virtually every wealthy person that has ever lived will tell you that money did not bring them the happiness they sought, yet those who are not wealthy do not believe them!

Do you remember the humorous quote from earlier? “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.” That’s what many people think. This experiment has been run billions of times, all with the same results, yet all of us want to run the experiment one more time to see if we can be the first to succeed. Why? I think we’re all insane.

Let me tell you the true story of a 55-year old man named Jack Whittaker. If money brings happiness, then he should be one of the happiest people on the planet. In Dec of 2002, Jack won the multi-state Powerball lottery and was able to take home $114 million after taxes. His life of happiness started almost immediately.

A month after he won, he was arrested for drunk driving. Eight months later, thieves broke into his car while he was at a strip club and stole $545,000 in cash. Two employees of the club were later arrested in a plot to drug him and then rob him.

In Jan 2004, he was arrested for assault after threatening a bar manager.

His business was inundated with multiple lawsuits, all after his winnings came to light.

Even more tragically, in Sept 2003, a 17-year old friend of his granddaughter died of a drug overdose. A little more than one year later, his own granddaughter died of a drug overdose. The friend’s parents sued him for their son’s death, alleging that the $2100-per-week allowance that Jack gave his granddaughter was what allowed them to buy the drugs.

Jack was also sued by Caesar’s Atlantic City casino for bouncing $1.5 million worth of checks to cover his gambling losses.

Jack’s wife divorced him.

Jack now claims he’s flat broke after thieves allegedly wiped him out.

When asked if he was glad he won the lottery, he claims it was the worst thing that ever happened to him and that he wished he never won. I guess wealthy people aren’t always happier.

What Is the Purpose of Life? Part 2

The 8th ranked answer to what brings happiness is wealth.  Aquinas argues that wealth, which is defined as money or material possessions, is at the same time the most common answer to what brings ultimate happiness and also the most foolish.

So why do people believe that the possession of wealth is the purpose of their lives? Here are a few possible answers to that question.

First, everybody wants wealth. If you ask any person, they will tell you that they want more money or more material possessions because money buys everything. It seems to be a universal desire. We often hear statements like:

(1) All things obey money.

(2) Money makes the world go round.

(3) Everything has a price tag.

If these things are true, then wealth must be what gives ultimate happiness.

A second argument might be this: Wealth is needed to buy necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. These things are necessary for human happiness. Therefore, the gaining of wealth must bring us human happiness.

Third, people who are wealthy seem to be the happiest people. Wealthy people get to enjoy better food, better houses, nicer clothing, and extravagant vacations. Those things all bring happiness and money can buy those things. Wealthy people just seem happier, so wealth must be the purpose of life.

Those seem like good arguments, so how do we respond to them?

The first argument stated that everyone wants more wealth because they believe money can buy everything. Aquinas responds in a humorous way and says the following: “All material things obey money, so far as the multitude of fools is concerned, who know no other than material goods.”

In other words, not everyone agrees that wealth can buy all things. Wise people do not agree, and shouldn’t we listen to the wise over the foolish? Here is a partial list of things money can’t buy: wisdom, character, friendship, love, and salvation. Proverbs 17:16 asks, “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?” Jesus asks in Matt. 16:26, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” Clearly money does not buy everything.

Argument two points out that money buys the essentials for life. This is true, and it is difficult for a person to be happy who is starving, who has no shelter to protect her from the weather, and who has no clothing. I think we can all agree that these things are ingredients for happiness, but notice that the money is only the means to get what we really want: the food, shelter, and clothing. It’s not the money that makes us happy, it’s the things money can buy.

Therefore, money cannot be our ultimate purpose in life, because it is only a means to an end. By the way, research has shown that subjective happiness does not rise with increasing money once a person has the essential things she needs to live in her particular society. Once you get the basics, money does not generally give you more happiness.

There is more to say about wealth, so we’ll continue in part 3.

What Is the Purpose of Life? Part 1

What is the meaning or purpose of life? Some say that the purpose of every single person’s life is to attain happiness. It’s hard to argue that point since I don’t know anyone who would say that they don’t want to be happy. You always hear parents say, “I just want little Suzie to be happy” or “I don’t care what Johnny does, as long as he is happy.” Even the person who says they want to be unhappy is really saying that to be unhappy would make them happy. It seems undeniable that everyone wants to be happy, but what do we mean by happiness?

Here are some quotes from people about what happiness is:

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.”

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”

“It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich.”

“Money can’t buy happiness; it can, however, rent it.”

“All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.”

“In Hollywood, if you don’t have happiness you send out for it.”

“Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook, and a good digestion.”

“A man doesn’t know what happiness is until he’s married. By then it’s too late.”

“To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”

Joking aside, a common definition of happiness is “a sense of pleasurable satisfaction.” It’s a pleasant feeling that is largely dependent upon your circumstances. We feel happy when we watch a good movie, play a sport well, or receive a compliment. This kind of happiness is transitory. It doesn’t last; it comes and goes and is heavily dependent on your circumstances.

But this definition of happiness, “a sense of pleasurable satisfaction,” is recent and quite different from the meaning of happiness that dominated western civilization until about 100 years ago. When our ancestors spoke of happiness, they typically meant something like the following: “a life of virtue characterized by wisdom, love, and goodness.”

It is a state of reaching the perfect good of man. Happiness was the ultimate goal for every person because it was thought to be the perfect good for a person, and what person doesn’t want the perfect good? This contrasts sharply with the modern version of happiness.

In the history of the Christian church, one of the greatest philosophers and theologians was Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century. Using the traditional definition of happiness, “the state of the perfect good of man,” Aquinas tried to figure out what things make us ultimately happy. What are the good things that constitute the perfect good of man?

Aquinas considered 8 candidates for what makes us happy. He ranked the 8 candidates in a countdown from what he considered to be the most foolish to the most wise, so as we proceed, we will move from the worst candidates for happiness to the best candidates. In part 2 of this series, the countdown begins!

How Do Theology and Philosophy Interact?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In my opinion, the greatest Christian thinker of all time, after the apostles died, was Thomas Aquinas. Etienne Gilson, in his work The Christian Philosophy Of St Thomas Aquinas, takes on the task of defining what distinguished theology from philosophy for Aquinas.

This issue comes up again and again when I hear cultists and even Christians claim that Christian teaching was hijacked by philosophy during the Middle Ages. We’re told that Plato and Aristotle took center stage and that biblical revelation was shoved aside.

Is it true that men like Aquinas did not take the Bible seriously, that they placed the philosophies of Plato and Arsitotle in judgment over revealed theological truths?

Gilson explains that in the case of Aquinas, nothing could be further from the truth. So how did Aquinas distinguish between theology and philosophy?

It has become customary to label “theological” any conclusion whose premises presuppose faith in a divinely revealed truth, and to label “philosophical” any conclusion whose premises are purely rational , that is, known by the light of natural reason alone. This is not the point of view stated by St. Thomas himself at the beginning of his Prologue to the Second Book of his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. According to him, the philosopher considers the nature of things as they are in themselves, whereas the theologian considers them in their relation to God conceived as being both their origin and their end.

From this point of view, every conclusion concerning God himself, or the relations of being to God, is theological in its own right. Some of these conclusions presuppose an act of faith in the divine revelation, but some of them do not. All of them are theological; those, among them, which are purely rational, belong to theology no less than the others. The only difference is that, since these do not presuppose faith , they can be extracted from their theological context and judged, from the point of view of natural reason, as purely philosophical conclusions.

To repeat, philosophy considers the “nature of things as they are in themselves” whereas theology considers the nature of things “in their relation to God conceived as being both their origin and their end.” Thus every conclusion about God or about the world in relation to God is theological first and foremost. Any theological conclusion which does not presuppose faith (is purely rational) is also a philosophical conclusion.

Gilson explains why this distinction is important:

This is an extremely important point in that it enables us to understand how strictly metaphysical knowledge can be included within a theological structure without losing its purely philosophical nature. Everything in the Summa [Theologiae, Aquinas’s most famous work,] is theological, yet, elements of genuinely philosophical nature are part and parcel of Thomistic theology precisely because, according to St. Thomas himself, the distinction between theology and philosophy does not adequately answer the distinction between faith and reason.

Now we come to Aquinas’s concerns with mixing philosophy and theology. Gilson writes that critics of Aquinas often misunderstand what Aquinas was trying to do.

According to some of his modern interpreters, St. Thomas thought of himself as a philosopher who was not anxious to compromise the purity of his philosophy by admitting into it the slightest mixture of theology. But as a matter of fact , the real St. Thomas was afraid of doing just the reverse. In the Summa Theologiae, his problem was not how to introduce philosophy into theology without corrupting the essence of philosophy; it was rather how to introduce philosophy into theology without corrupting the essence of theology (emphasis added).

Not only the hostility of the “Biblicists” of his time warned him of the problem , but he was himself quite as much aware of it as they were. And the more freely he made use of philosophy, the more was he aware of the problem. As he himself understands it, theology must be conceived as a science of Revelation. Its source is the word of God. Its basis is faith in the truth of this word. . . . For theologians who were not in the least worried about philosophy, no problem actually arose. Persuaded that they should add nothing human to the bare deposit of revelation, they could rest assured that they were respecting the integrity and the unity of the Sacred Science. They proceeded from faith to faith, by faith.

For St. Thomas Aquinas the problem was rather different. It was a question of how to integrate philosophy into sacred science, not only without allowing either the one or the other to suffer essentially thereby, but to the greater benefit of both. In order to achieve this result, he had to integrate a science of reason with a science of revelation without corrupting at the same time both the purity of reason and the purity of revelation.

Thus Aquinas was eminently aware of the dangers of mixing theology and philosophy. Rather than placing philosophy above theology, he did just the opposite.  One can argue about how successful he was, but there can be no argument that Aquinas allowed philosophical considerations to knowingly trump revealed biblical truth.

#10 Post of 2013 – How Do We Know the Universe Hasn’t Existed Eternally?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

For those of you who look to science to answer every question, cosmologists are pretty unanimous in agreeing that our universe is not eternal, and in fact begun about 14 billion years ago. You may not like this answer, and so go running toward alternative cosmologies to escape the standard big bang model of the universe. Unfortunately, there is no salvation there either.

As summarized nicely on the Wintery Knight blog, “The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin [theorem] shows that every universe that expands must have a space-time boundary in the past. That means that no expanding universe, no matter what the model, can be eternal into the past. Even speculative alternative cosmologies do not escape the need for a beginning.”

So it would appear that science is no help to those who want to desperately cling to an eternal universe. What about philosophy?

The dominant ancient metaphysical traditions have also demonstrated why the physical universe cannot be eternal. Here we quote from Edward Feser in an article he wrote for First Things:

In general, classical philosophical theology argues for the existence of a first cause of the world—a cause that does not merely happen not to have a cause of its own but that (unlike everything else that exists) in principle does not require one. Nothing else can provide an ultimate explanation of the world.

For Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, for example, things in the world can change only if there is something that changes or actualizes everything else without the need (or indeed even the possibility) of its being actualized itself, precisely because it is already “pure actuality.” Change requires an unchangeable changer or unmovable mover.

Feser goes on to consider other great thinkers of the past:

For Neoplatonists, everything made up of parts can be explained only by reference to something that combines the parts. Accordingly, the ultimate explanation of things must be utterly simple and therefore without the need or even the possibility of being assembled into being by something else. Plotinus called this “the One.” For Leibniz, the existence of anything that is in any way contingent can be explained only by its origin in an absolutely necessary being.

But why can’t the first cause, the necessary being, “the One,” be the universe itself instead of God? What is the difference between an eternal Creator and an eternal universe?

The difference, as the reader of Aristotle or Aquinas knows, is that the universe changes while the unmoved mover does not, or, as the Neoplatonist can tell you, that the universe is made up of parts while its source is absolutely one; or, as Leibniz could tell you, that the universe is contingent and God absolutely necessary. There is thus a principled reason for regarding God rather than the universe as the terminus of explanation.

So, positing the universe as an eternally existing thing that is the cause of everything else both collides with modern science and with classical metaphysics. I happen to think the metaphysical arguments are stronger, but maybe you prefer the science. Either way, it don’t look good for an eternal universe.

How Does Christian Metaphysics Ground the Good? Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In parts 1 and 2, we spelled out how classical Christian metaphysics is able to identify the good for human beings, and thus provide a sturdy foundation for Christian moral realism. Moral values and duties really exist and they transcend time and place.

In a previous series of blog posts, we looked at why Sam Harris’s metaphysical naturalism utterly fails to identify the good with anything transcendent. It will be instructive to compare Harris’s identification of the good with the Christian identification of the good.

Recall the difficulties with Harris’ identification of the good.  First, he falls prey to the naturalistic fallacy.  Harris identifies the brain states that constitute human well-being with the good, but G. E. Moore has persuasively argued that natural facts about the world (e.g., brain states) cannot deliver values, on metaphysical naturalism.

For a Christian theist in the Aristotelian–Thomistic tradition , the naturalistic fallacy is simply not a problem.  On his metaphysics, values are built into the world, and the good is located in formal and final causes.  Edward Feser elaborates in his book Aquinas:

A gap between ‘fact’ and ‘value’ could exist only given a mechanistic-cum-nominalistic understanding of nature of the sort commonly taken for granted by modern philosophers, on which the world is devoid of any objective essences or natural ends.  No such gap, and thus no ‘fallacy’ of inferring normative conclusions from ‘purely factual’ premises, can exist given an Aristotelian–Thomistic essentialist and teleological conception of the world.

Harris’ next difficulty is his assertion that moral values can conceivably reverse in the future.  Cruelty and cheating could possibly become good if neuroscience can deliver feelings of well-being to individuals who are cruel and who cheat. Even worse, Harris concedes that rapists, liars, and thieves could occupy peaks on the moral landscape that are equivalent to peaks occupied by saints.

Although he believes that these scenarios are highly unlikely, his metaphysics allows for the possibility.  For Aquinas, no such scenarios are possible because the good is located proximately in a fixed human nature and, ultimately, in the unchanging nature of God.  Moral values, therefore, can never be reversed in the future, and the goodness of rapists, liars, and thieves can never be equivalent to the goodness of a saint.

Harris’ final difficulty is his belief that it would be morally good for human beings to be sacrificed for the well-being of a vastly superior alien race.  Here again, Aquinas would disagree.  The good of human beings is located in the human nature given us by God, and there is nothing in human nature that would lead us to believe we are designed as sacrifices for an alien race.

Instead, we are designed by God, in his image, as living, free creatures with intellect, will, and passions.  To be used as sacrifices for super-aliens runs counter to the purposes for which God created us, and is, therefore, clearly not good.  Natural law theory affirms our deepest moral intuition, that to be abused by superior conscious beings would be morally wrong, contrary to Harris’ bizarre reasoning.

So what can we conclude from this analysis? It should be abundantly clear that Harris’ naturalistic metaphysics leads him to a completely inadequate account of the source of moral values.  The well-being of conscious creatures fails to provide an unchanging, transcendent ground for the good.  The good is apt to be different for each person, depending on what gives him feelings of well-being.  Although Harris emphasizes that human evolution and the common laws of nature should produce moral values that are more or less constant, the fact of the matter is that nothing in Harris’ metaphysics guarantees what seems completely obvious to all of us: moral values are transcendent.

Christian metaphysics, as expounded by the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, does provide a grounding for moral values that supports our most deeply held moral convictions.  Moral values are based upon human nature and the ends toward which it points.  The finite goods of human beings – health, virtue, pleasure – are the same for Sam Harris and Thomas Aquinas.  However, Aquinas can affirm these as eternally fixed by God, whereas Harris can only affirm them as transient byproducts of purposeless physical processes.  The gaping metaphysical hole in Harris’s moral landscape, then, is the Being of pure actuality from which every good thing comes.  Without God, man is truly a conscious creature of no consequence.  To quote Aquinas, “God alone constitutes man’s happiness.”

How Does Christian Metaphysics Ground the Good? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 1 we left off with the question, “What is man’s ultimate purpose?” We cannot identify the good for man without knowing what his ultimate purpose is.

Many answers have been offered throughout the millennia to this question. The most common answers are the following: wealth, honor, fame, power, pleasure, health, wisdom, and virtue. All of these are, no doubt, goods, but are they the ultimate good?

It would seem not because a man, once acquiring any of these goods, is still not satisfied. These goods only satisfy for a short time and then leave a man desiring something more. The ultimate good should satisfy forever and completely, otherwise it wouldn’t be ultimate.

Thomas Aquinas, having considered the finite goods of man, concludes,

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness.  For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired.  Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true.  Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good.  This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone . . . . God alone constitutes man’s happiness.

Any moral theory which cannot locate the good in God is, therefore, fundamentally and profoundly deficient.  If God is the ultimate purpose, the final cause of all final causes, for human beings, then God must be front and center for any moral theory.

Finite goods certainly exist for man, and Christians can even agree with non-theists that human well-being is a good.  Health, pleasure, wisdom, and virtue are all goods, or ends, for which human nature was designed, but it is a grave error to think these are the ultimate purposes for man.

We can now see how metaphysics is foundational for the Christian identification of the good.  The very existence of finite beings composed of act and potency leads inexorably to a being of pure actuality, God.  The principles of form and matter inform us that humans, along with all other form/matter composite beings, possess a real nature that is eternally fixed in the mind of God.

Humans are mind (form)/body (matter) unities.  The four causes enable us to explain the existence of human beings.  Humans are characterized by formal causality, material causality, efficient causality, and final causality.  It is only through the knowledge of formal and final causes that we can know the good for human beings.  Without these principles in place, the metaphysical locus of moral values is adrift on a sea of instability and change.

In part 3, we will compare atheist Sam Harris’s identification of the good with the Christian identification of the good to contrast the abilities of metaphysical naturalism and Christian theism to undergird moral realism (the view that there are real, objective moral values).

Introduction to Classical Christian Metaphysics – Part 5

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 4 we introduced being and goodness. In part 5 we analyze ultimate being, or what Christians call God.

As metaphysics is the study of being, the question arises: what is ultimate being?  Aquinas reasoned that given any change in the world (a movement from potency to act), there must exist a being who is changeless, who is pure actuality with no potency.  Joseph Owens summarizes the argument:

Every sensible thing . . . has its being from something else. . . . Its nature, prior to the reception of being from an efficient cause, has no existence at all.  Its nature, accordingly, cannot produce its own being.  Its being is caused efficiently by an agent other than itself.  If that agent in turn exists through an act of being that is accidental and prior to its own nature, it will similarly depend upon another agent for its proper being.  It will be a caused cause, in the order of efficient causality.

The series of causes will have to continue.  Even an infinite regression of these caused causes, however, would not account for the least being in the world.  In every instance and in all the instances together there would be only nature that contained no being, nature that merely remained open to receive being from something else. There would be an infinite series of existential zeros. . . . This means that for any series of efficiently caused causes there is a first cause.  It is first in the sense that it does not have its being from anything else.

Thus Aquinas concludes that “it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”

From God existing as pure actuality, reason leads us to several other attributes of God.  “Since being is the act of all acts and the perfection of all perfections, where it subsists it will be perfection in the highest degree. . . . It therefore contains within itself the perfections of all other things.”

From pure actuality and from the perfections deduced from observation of the world, we reason that God must be immutable, immaterial, eternal, intelligent, volitional, morally perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, simple, omnisapient, and so forth.  God is the greatest conceivable being.

With the conclusion of this 5-part series, we have introduced a handful of basic concepts from classical Christian metaphysics. Armed with act and potency, form and matter, the four causes, being and goodness, and, most importantly, God as ultimate being, we can now construct a foundation for Christian ethics. That is the task we take up in another blog post series.

Introduction to Classical Christian Metaphysics – Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 3 we introduced the four causes which give a complete explanation of a thing. In part 4 we introduce the concepts of being and goodness.

Metaphysics is the study of being, as such.  Act, potency, form, and matter are all aspects of being.  Edward Feser comments that “being is the most comprehensive concept we have, applying as it does to everything that exists, so that there is no way to subsume it under something more general.”

Being is an analogical notion, so it cannot be applied univocally to all beings.  “[M]aterial things and angels can both be said to have being, but material things are composites of matter and form while angels are forms without matter; created things and God both have being, but in created things essence and existence are distinct and in God they are not; and so forth.”

The good is convertible from being (they are both transcendentals).  According to Feser, “Something is good to the extent that it exists as, or has being as, an instance of its kind.”

As Aquinas says, “everything is perfect so far as it is actual. Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual.”

There is more, however, to the essence of goodness than existence.  A thing is good because it is in some way desirable or appetible.  Joseph Owens relates, “Goodness, accordingly, is being when considered in relation to appetite.  It adds nothing real to being, for it is merely being itself, now conceived as appetible.”

Aquinas summarizes, “Hence it is clear that goodness and being are the same really. But goodness presents the aspect of desirableness, which being does not present.”

A chair is good insofar as it accomplishes its purpose (i.e., final cause) of providing a place to sit.  In a metaphysical sense, the chair “desires” to provide a place to sit; that is why it was created.

A heart is good insofar as it accomplishes its purpose (i.e., final cause) of pumping blood.  In a metaphysical sense, the heart “desires” to pump blood; that is why it was created.

Note that these are not examples of moral goodness, though.  The transcendental notion of goodness contains more than human morality.  Morality is a subset of transcendental goodness, having to do specifically with the desirableness of human behavior.  In other words, human behavior is good in so far as it accomplishes the final causes for which human beings were brought into existence.

In part 5, we look at ultimate being: God.

In What Sense Is God the Good?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Classical Christian theism affirms that God is the Good. David Baggett and Jerry Walls explain that

in some important sense we wish to argue that God just is the ultimate Good. This view . . . has a venerable history within Christianity. Thomists, Anselmians, theistic Platonists, and theistic activists, including such contemporary analytic philosophers as Alvin Plantinga and Robert Adams, all concur that on a Christian understanding of reality, God and the ultimate Good are ontologically inseparable.

Notice that last sentence. Ontologically inseparable means that God and the Good are the same thing. If we look at Thomas Aquinas’s view, in particular, we see that the

terms “being” and “goodness” are the same in reference, differing only in sense. A thing is perfect of its kind to the extent to which it is fully realized or developed; the extent to which the potentialities definitive of its kind—its specifying potentialities—have been actualized. In acting, a thing aims at being.

Being and goodness . . . co-refer, picking out the same referent under two different names and descriptions, . . . Since Aquinas took God to be essentially and uniquely “being itself,” it is God alone who is essentially goodness itself. This allows us to make ready sense of the relationship between God and the standard by which he prescribes or judges.

Many atheists still throw the Euthyphro Dilemma at Christians, as if it is a telling blow against the existence of the Christian God. This dilemma, in essence, argues that either moral laws exist ontologically independent of God, or moral laws are arbitrarily commanded by God. Both of those options are problematic for Christians, but as has been stated numerous times by Christian thinkers, there is another option – the moral law is built into God’s nature. In other words, God is the Good.

Baggett and Walls expand this point:

For the goodness for the sake of which and in accordance with which God wills whatever he wills regarding human morality is identical with his nature. Yet since it is God’s very nature and no arbitrary decision of his that thus constitutes the standard of morality, only things consonant with God’s nature could be morally good. . . .

We are inclined to think that the ultimate ontological inseparableness of God and the Good is something of an axiomatic Anselmian intuition; a vision apprehended, not just the deliverance of a discursive argument. That so many solid theists through the centuries have gravitated toward such a view bolsters this impression.

If God is the ultimate Good, such that necessary moral truths are reflective of an aspect of God, then indeed Plantinga is right that to apprehend such truths is to catch a glimpse of God himself. Moreover, if such dependence or even identity obtains or is even possible, then the Euthyphro Dilemma is effectively defused and the moral argument for God’s existence accordingly gains strength.