William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Terms Which Can Be Predicated Of God

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Today some (I think the term is) theological brush clearing. Three chapters which prove, in effect, that God is superior to man. Only post-moderns and fallen angels doubt this, so we needn’t spend too much time here. Take this time to review, then, because next week new metaphysical terms are introduced.

Chapter 29: Of The Likeness Of Creatures

4 Dionysius is in agreement with this argument, for he says (Div. Nom. ix.): The same things are like and unlike to God; like, according as they imitate Him, as far as they can, Who is not perfectly imitable; unlike, according as effects fall short of their causes.

5 However,[3] according to this likeness, it is more fitting to say that the creature is like God than vice versa. For one thing is like another when it possesses a quality or form thereof. Since then what is in God perfectly is found in other things by way of an imperfect participation, that in which likeness is observed is God’s simply but not the creature’s. And thus the creature has what is God’s, and therefore is rightly said to be like God. But it cannot be said in this way that God has what belongs to His creature: wherefore neither is it fitting to say that God is like His creature; as neither do we say that a man is like his portrait, although we declare that his portrait is like him…i

Chapter 30: What Terms Can Be Predicated Of God

1 AGAIN in sequel to the above we may consider what can and what cannot be said of God; also what is said of Him alone, and what is said of Him together with other beings.

2 For since every perfection of creatures is to be found in God, albeit in another and more eminent way, whatever terms denote perfection absolutely and without any defect whatever, are predicated of God and of other things; for instance, goodness, wisdom, and so forth. But any term that denotes suchlike perfections together with a mode proper to creatures, cannot be said of God except by similitude and metaphor, whereby that which belongs to one thing is applied to another, as when a man is said to be a stone on account of the denseness of his intelligence.ii

Such are all those terms employed to denote the species of a created thing, as man and stone: for its proper mode of perfection and being is due to each species: likewise whatever terms signify those properties of things that are caused by the proper principles of the species, therefore they cannot be said of God otherwise than metaphorically. But those which express these perfections together with the mode of supereminence in which they belong to God, are said of God alone, for instance the sovereign good, the first being, and the like…

Chapter 31: That The Divine Perfection And The Plurality Of Divine Names Are Not Inconsistent With The Divine Simplicity

1 FROM what has been said we are also able to see that the divine perfection and the various names applied to God are not inconsistent with His simplicity.iii

1 For we asserted that all the perfections to be found in other things are to be ascribed to God in the same way as effects are found in their equivocal causes:[1] which causes are in their effects virtually, as heat is in the sun. Now this virtue unless it were in some way of the genus of heat, the sun acting thereby would not generate its like. Wherefore by reason of this virtue the sun is said to be hot, not only because it causes heat, but because the virtue whereby it does this, is something in conformity with heat. Now by this same virtue by which the sun causes heat, it causes also many other effects in lower bodies, such as dryness. And so heat and dryness, which are distinct qualities in fire, are ascribed to the sun in respect of the one virtue.iv

And so too, the perfections of all things, which are becoming to other things in respect of various forms, must needs be ascribed to God in respect of His one virtue. And this virtue is not distinct from His essence, since nothing can be accidental to Him, as we have proved.[2] Accordingly God is said to be wise not only because He causes wisdom, but because in so far as we are wise, we imitate somewhat the virtue whereby He makes us wise. He is not however called a stone, although He made the stones, because by the term stone we understand a definite mode of being, in respect of which a stone differs from God.[3] But a stone imitates God as its cause, in respect of being, goodness and so forth, even as other creatures do.v

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[3] Sum. Th., l.c., ad 4. [Referencing chapter 29] [1] Coel. Hier. ii. 3. [Referencing chapter 30] [1] Ch. xxix. [Referencing chapter 31] [2] Ch. xxiii.

iThis is plain enough. It is only some academics and politicians who think they are gods themselves. I skipped lightly over the obvious that causes are greater than their effects, etc.; that a cause does not have to give the whole of itself, as it were, etc. Review!

iiSpeaking of the same individuals… Anyway, I believe the modern terms are “brick”, “thick”, or just “dense.”

iiiPlease don’t forget simplicity is here a technical term, meaning not made of parts, with no potentiality, and those kinds of things. It does not mean easy nor lacking nor any other colloquial shade of the word.

ivIn other word, the sun can do more than one thing even though it itself is only one thing. What thing it does “at the moment” depends on focus. We would never make the mistake of saying, “The sun is warming me therefore it can’t also be lighting my path.” The sun, of course, also provides a point for us to rotate about; it also “hardens” the atmosphere and allows radio waves to propagate over long distances; and many other things. You get the idea.

vHe is also not called a (human) body, even though He made bodies, because by the term body we understand a definite mode of being. It is also significant that wisdom, or rather being wise or unwise, is something we do with our intellects, and our intellects are not material.

12 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    December 7, 2014 at 10:06 am

    The Sun is not one thing, but many things, in particular many atoms. As a single thing it would not be able to emit heat to us, because the heat emitted are tiny bits of the Sun, photons, which are created from the difference in mass between a Helium atom and the protons and neutrons it is made from.

    So the example doesn’t work.

  2. Briggs

    December 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Sander,

    Golly. I guess that yellow orb in the sky had better be called something else. Plus, I guess that makes you not Sander, but, Mr Messofatoms.

    When you feel yourself that anxious to avoid the logic of an argument, it’s a good time to examine your motivations.

  3. Sander: You are not one thing? You are atoms and sub-atomic particles, not a man, not a human?

  4. Sander, to go further with your construction (as long as everyone else is picking on you :>) ) why stop at atoms–you want to go down even more to quarks and other fundamental pieces.

  5. You going all the way with particles, Bob, or would that be to much regression here? 😉

    JMJ

  6. it’ll be quarks/turtles all the way down, JMJ

  7. Sander van der Wal

    December 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

    @Briggs

    The idea behind the ScG is to *convince* the Gentiles, I was told at the beginning of this exercise. So, you will expect Gentiles not being convinced during the argument, would’t you?

    And given that after the argument was first made, there were still plenty of gentiles left, you would not expect that lots of gentiles would be convinced during the argument.

  8. How does simplicity agree with Trinity? So far Aquinas’s God has no biblical attributes.

  9. @Hans Erren

    I think a little patience is in order. Being really thorough about this stuff takes time, and is long-winded, more so when it is being presented at the pace it’s being presented at by Briggs, rather than all in one go.

  10. Eoin, either Aquinas is right or the bible is right, you can’t have it both ways unless you play word-games. I prefer Aquinas by the way, that God is more in line with the Buddhist concept, however already Aquinas’ God has lost internal consistency.

  11. Briggs

    December 10, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Hans,

    The difficulty is with your amateur, off-the-cuff “free” interpretations of the Bible. Amazingly, there has been much prior work in these areas which you are neglecting.

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