Summary Against Modern Thought: God And His Relation To Effects

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.

This is our last week of throat-clearing and set up. Next week the juicier bits begin. It’s good to go through this to build your own confidence, and for the interesting material about the infinity of potentialities in the second Note.

Chapter 11 That something is said of God in relation to creatures (alternate translation)

[1] Now as power is becoming to God in relation to His effects, and as power conveys the notion of a principle, as we have stated; and since principle denotes relationship to that which proceeds from it, it is evident that something can be said of God relatively, in relation to His effects.

[2] Again. It is inconceivable that one thing be referred to another, unless conversely the latter be referred to it. Now we speak of other things in relation to God; for example as regards their being which they have from God, as already proved, they are dependent upon Him. Therefore conversely we may speak of God in relation to creatures.

[3] Further. Likeness is a kind of relation. Now God, even as other agents, produces something like Himself. Therefore something is said of Him relatively.

[4] Moreover. Knowledge denotes relation to the thing known. Now God has knowledge not only of Himself, but also of other things. Therefore something is said of God in relation to other things.

[5] Again. Mover implies relation to thing moved, and agent to thing done. Now God is an agent, and an unmoved mover, as already proved. Therefore relations are predicated of Him.

[6] Again. First implies some kind of relation, and so does supreme. Now it was proved in the First Book that He is the first being and the supreme good.

[7] It is therefore evident that many things are said of God relatively.

Notes That’s the entire, unexpurgated chapter. It shows how extraordinarily careful St Thomas was at all times, with nothing taken for granted. The whole point here, and for the first three paragraphs of the next Chapter, are to understand what is really part of God, and what is not, and to show that we are able to say something about how things related to God. We creatures are not part of God. The universe, His creation, is not God. And so forth. These points will be clarified in the Chapters to come.

Chapter 12 That relations said of God in reference to creatures are not really in God (alternate translation)

[1] THESE relations however which refer to His effects cannot possibly be in God.

[2] For they cannot be in Him as accidents in a subject, since no accident is in Him, as we proved in the First Book. Neither can they be God’s very substance: because, since relative terms are those which essentially refer somehow to something else, as the Philosopher says (Predict.), it would follow that God’s substance is essentially referred to something else. Now that which is essentially referred to another, depends in some way thereon, since it can neither exist nor be understood without it. Hence it would follow that God’s substance is dependent on something else outside it: and thus it would not be of itself necessary being, as we have proved in the First Book. Therefore suchlike relations are not really in God.

[3] Again. It was proved in the First Book that God is the first measure of all beings. Therefore God is compared to other beings as knowable things to our knowledge: since opinion or speech is true or false according as a thing is or is not, according to the Philosopher (Predic.). Now though a thing is said to be knowable in relation to knowledge, the relation is not really in the knowable, but only in the knowledge: wherefore according to the Philosopher (5 Metaph.), the knowable is so called relatively, not because it is itself related, but because something else is related to it. Therefore the said relations are not really in God.

[4] Further. The aforesaid relations are said of God not only with respect to those things that are actual, but also with respect to those that are in potentiality: because He both has knowledge of them, and in reference to them is called the first being and the sovereign good. But that which is actual has no real relation to that which is not actual but potential: else it would follow that there are actually an infinite number of relations in the same subject, since potentially infinite numbers are greater than the number two which is prior to them all. Now God is not related to actual things otherwise than to potential things, for He is not changed by the fact that He produces certain things. Therefore He is not related to other things by a relation really existing in Him…

Notes This bears repeating: “the relation is not really in the knowable, but only in the knowledge.” The relation is not ontological, but epistemological, which is the point I have been making about (logic and) probability. The relation doesn’t exist, therefore cannot exist “in” or as part of God.

The God is changeless, or that He exists outside time, i.e. is eternal, and that in Him there is no potential we already know. And we know that relations are knowledge. We have also delved into the subject of potentiality and actuality. Potentialities can be infinite, as Aquinas states, and God can obviously know He could have made things other ways. That knowledge is therefore in God. And we can have knowledge of (some of) these, too. That we can is where uncertainty enters the picture; this is the origin or probability. It is only because we can have knowledge of potentialities that we can be uncertain. This, then, is something which separates us from God.

Actualities are harder. Can they too be infinite? Is space, for example, infinitely graduated, i.e. continuous, or is space only made or “more points” potentially? This is too huge a subject for us to answer here. However, we’ll come back to infinity again and again.


  1. Chapter twelve is simply a corrolary of the assumption that god is a creator, the same reasoning is also valid for a software programmer. Nothing to be exited about. The question remains why would one equate “the creative force” with the god of the bible? Answer: because aquinas was a believer in the myth.

  2. why would one equate “the creative force” with the god of the bible?

    Sr. Amelia: …and so, class, as we see from Postulate 9 and Axioms 6 and 2, supplements of the same angle are equal. Yes, Hans?
    Hans: But, Sister, I don’t see how this proves that a point equidistant from the endpoints of a line segment lies on the perpendicular bisector of the line segment!
    Sr. Amelia: It doesn’t, Hansl. That comes later. Now class, let us proceed to showing that the vertical angles of two intersecting lines are equal.
    Hans: But, Sister! How will that show that a point equidistant from the endpoints of a line segment lies on the perpendicular bisector of the line segment!
    Sr. Amelia: You must have patience, Billy. You can’t prove everything all at once, so you must prove something first.

  3. Ja, I know. It was Billy in the original, and I neglected to change the last reference. Noticed too late, alas.

  4. Yos!
    I was only joking anyway. I assumed it was something obvious which I didn’t understand. It brought back memories of geometry.
    I remember being rather rushed through the reasoning and probably daydreaming. Learning the method which is fun and then wondering again how on earth did someone think of this in the first place. Had It’s as well to be reminded of first principles.
    No one will believe me but I WAS good at maths once. Then I hit fifteen.

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