Summary Against Modern Thought: God Knows Evil

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.

Two simple chapters today, which is well, because I am on vacation. Don’t miss the definition of evil, which is below.

Chapter 70 That God Knows Trivial Things (alternate translation)

[3] …Further. Whatever is, for as much as it exists, or is such, is actual, and a likeness of the first act, and for this reason has nobility. Again whatever is in potentiality, has a share of nobility through its being ordained to actuality: for so is it said to be. It follows, therefore, that everything, considered in itself, is noble; but is said to be mean in comparison with that which is more noble. Now the noblest of things other than God are no less distant from Him than the lowest creatures are from the highest. If, therefore, this latter distance hindered God’s knowledge, much more would the former: and thus it would follow that God knows nothing other than Himself; which has been disproved above.[2] If, therefore, He knows something other than Himself, however most noble it may be, for the same reason He knows everything, no matter how mean we call it…

Notes This question is not burning for us, as it must have been for St Thomas’s contemporaries. The counterargument must have been that for God to know trivia, as for instance many university professors now “research” the ignoble (say, television or comic books), debases God, who therefore turns a Nelson eye whenever somebody flicks “ON”. None of us, I think, given the material that came before, at least arguendo, have any difficulty accepting that God knows the small and trivial.

[5] Further. The meanness of things known does not of itself reflect on the knower: for it belongs to the nature of knowledge that the knower contains the species of the things he knows, according to his mode. And yet the meanness of things known may reflect accidentally on the knower: either because while considering mean things he is withdrawn from the thought of noble things, or because through considering mean things he is inclined to certain undue affections. But this cannot take place in God, as appears from what has been said.[4] Therefore the knowledge of trivial things is not derogatory to the nobility of God; rather does it belong to His perfection, for as much as He prepossesses all things in Himself, as we have shown above…[5]

Notes Wait. Did you miss this? “And yet the meanness of things known may reflect accidentally on the knower: either because while considering mean things he is withdrawn from the thought of noble things, or because through considering mean things he is inclined to certain undue affections.” This is the argument, admittedly not fully fleshed out here, for the university as it was conceived and created by Christianity in those horrible middle ages. What universities have now become—utopian politics and scientism—is the exact opposite of their original nature. Later in this chapter, St Thomas quotes the book of Wisdom (ellipsis his): “She reacheth everywhere by reason of Her purity…and no defiled thing cometh into Her.” Elitist!

[1] Ch. xlv.
[2] Ch. xlix.
[3] x. i.
[4] Chs. xxxix., lv.
[5] Ch. xxix.

Chapter 71 That God Knows Evil Things (alternate translation)

[2] …For if a good be known the opposite evil is known. Now God knows all the particular goods to which evils are opposed. Therefore God knows evil things.

[3] Further. The notions of contraries in the mind are not opposed to one another, else they would not be together in the mind, nor would they be known at the same time. Therefore the aspect under which we know evil is not repugnant to good, rather is it connected with the idea of good. Accordingly if, as we have proved above,[1] all the aspects of goodness are to be found in God, by reason of His absolute perfection, it follows that in Him is the notion by which evil is known. Therefore He knows evils also.

Notes Apropos: “…Who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.”

[4] Again. The true is the good of the intellect:[2] for an intellect is said to be good for as much as it knows the true. Now it is not only true that good is good, but also that evil is evil: for just as it is true that what is, is, so is it true that what is not, is not. Hence the good of the intellect consists even in the knowledge of evil. But, since the divine intellect is perfect in goodness,[3] it cannot possibly lack any intellectual perfection. Therefore it has the knowledge of evils.

Notes This is much the same as the previous chapter. Knowing evil does not debase God. And it doesn’t debase us, either, unless one willfully embraces it, i.e. sins.

[5] Moreover. God knows the distinction between things, as shown above.[4] Now the notion of distinction includes negation, for when things are distinct, the one is not the other. Hence primaries which are distinguished by themselves, include mutual negation of one another, and for this reason negative propositions about them are self-evident, for instance, No quantity is a substance. Therefore God knows negation. Now privation is negation in a definite subject, as is proved in 4 Metaph.[5] Therefore He knows privation, and consequently evil, which is nothing else than the privation of due perfection…

[7] Again. God knows not only form but also matter, as was proved above.[9] Now matter, since it is being in potentiality, cannot be known perfectly, unless it be known to what its potentiality extends, and this applies to all kinds of power. But the potentiality of matter extends to both form and privation: for that which can be, can also not be. Therefore God knows privation: and consequently He knows evil…

Notes Right there is the definition of evil: “the privation of due perfection“. Evil is a lack of the good. It is not the opposite of the good, but its absence. And that distinction makes all the difference.

[9] Further. We are never blamed for knowing evils, as regards that which belongs essentially to knowledge, that is, as regards judgment about evil, but only accidentally, for as much as sometimes one is inclined to evil through thinking about it. But it is not so in God, for He is unchangeable, as was proved above.[11] Nothing therefore hinders God from knowing evils.

Notes We’re back at the university. Note that we often suffer when evil is said to be good, as in Planned Parenthood, for example. This is proof enough of free will.

[1] Ch. xl.
[2] 6 Ethic. ii. 3.
[3] Ch. xli.
[4] Ch. l.
[5] D. 3. ii. 8.
[6] Ch. l.
[7] D. 9. viii.
[8] D. 9. iv. 6.
[9] Ch. lxv.
[10] 11 Metaph. x.
[11] Ch. xiii.


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