William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Angels—or Aliens—Did Not Make The World

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.

Angels, aliens, science, or the “vacuum” cannot create form, and form is necessary to make matter.

Chapter 43 That the distinction among things does not result from some secondary agent introducing forms into matter (alternate translation)

1 CERTAIN modern heretics say that God created the matter of all things visible, but that this was diversified with various forms by an angel. The falseness of this opinion is evident. For the heavenly bodies, wherein no contrariety; is to be found, cannot have been formed from any matter: since whatever is made from pre-existing matter, must needs be made from a contrary. Wherefore it is impossible that any angel should have formed the heavenly bodies from matter previously created by God.

Notes What’s this? The great saint used the H-word? Don’t tell anybody or there’ll be an Internet flap. Interesting, though, that this heresy is found in modern form, e.g. Gaia.

2 Moreover. The heavenly bodies either have no matter in common with the lower bodies, or they only have primary matter in common with them: for the heaven neither is composed of elements, nor is of an elemental nature: which is proved by its movement which differs from that of all the elements. And primary matter could not by itself precede all formed bodies, since it is nothing but pure potentiality, and all actual being is from some form. Therefore it is impossible that an angel should have formed all visible bodies from matter previously created by God.

Notes Don’t forget that angels aren’t made of stuff like we partly are. You will find no angelic dipstick, which is why science is blind to metaphysics. Also recall that prime matter must be married to form to create a material thing. Hence prime matter is “pure potentiality”. Forms, however, can and do and must exist in the mind of God (keep this in your mind in paragraph 4). Matter must have form to exist: everything you see has a form.

3 Again. Everything that is made, is made to be, since making is the way to being. To each thing caused, therefore, it is becoming to be made as it is becoming to be. Now being is not becoming to form alone, nor to matter alone, but to the composite: for matter is merely in potentiality, while form is whereby a thing is, since it is act. Hence it follows that the composite, properly speaking, is. Therefore it belongs to it alone to be made, and not to matter without form. Therefore there is not one agent that creates matter only, and another that induces the form.

4 Again. The first induction of forms into matter cannot be from an agent acting by movement only, for all movement towards a form is from a determinate form towards a determinate form: because matter cannot be without all form, wherefore some form is presupposed in matter. But every agent intending a merely material form must needs be an agent by movement: for since material forms are not subsistent of themselves, and their being is to be in matter, they cannot be brought into being except either by the production of the whole composite, or by the transmutation of matter to this or that form. Therefore it is impossible that the first induction of forms into matter be from someone creating the form only, but it must be from Him Who is the Creator of the whole composite.

5 Further. Movement towards a form comes naturally after local movement: for it is the act of that which is more imperfect, as the Philosopher proves. Now in the natural order things that come afterwards are caused by those which come before. Wherefore movement towards a form is caused by local movement. But the first local movement is the movement of the heaven. Therefore all movement towards a form takes place through the means of the heavenly movement. Hence those things that cannot be made through the means of the heavenly movement, cannot be made by an agent that cannot act except by movement: and such must be the agent that cannot act except by inducing form into matter, as we have proved. Now many sensible forms cannot be produced by the heavenly movement except by means of certain presupposed determinate principles: thus certain animals are not made except from seed. Therefore the original production of these forms, for producing which the heavenly movement is not sufficient without the pre-existence of those forms in the species, must needs proceed from the Creator alone.

6 Again. Just as local movement of part and whole are the same, like that of the whole earth and of one clod, so the change of generation is the same in the part and in the whole. Now the parts of those things that are subject to generation and corruption are generated by acquiring actual forms from forms in matter, and not from forms existing outside matter, since the generator must be like the thing generated, as the Philosopher proves in 7 Metaph. Neither therefore can the total acquisition of forms by matter be effected by any separate substance, such as an angel: but this must be done either by means of a corporeal agent, or by a creative agent, acting without movement.

Notes Betcha didn’t think you’d see the word clod in this book. Recall next that the First Cause is God, as provide in Book 1, Chapter 13.

7 Further. Even as being is first among effects, so does it correspond to the first cause as its proper effect. Now being is by form and not by matter. Therefore the first causation of forms is to be ascribed especially to the first cause.

8 Moreover. Since every agent produces its like, the effect obtains its form from that to which it is likened by the form it acquired: even as the material house acquires its form from the art, which is the likeness of the house in the mind. Now all things are like God Who is pure act, inasmuch as they have forms whereby they become actual: and inasmuch as they desire forms, they are said to desire the divine likeness. Therefore it is absurd to say that the formation of things belongs to another than God the Creator of all.

Notes The line we are “made in God’s image” is starting to make more sense now.

4 Comments

  1. -Sigh- Yes, Thomas is brilliant. But while he proceeds precisely, he doesn’t write as clearly as you. Why? Because you give form to his thoughts with your examples, which illuminate my dimwitted mind! And funny ones at that. Specific examples make everything clear, at least to me. I know you don’t wish to intrude upon Aquinas’s work of precision, but please know that he is more accessible through your humour.

  2. I have always had a soft spot for the contemporaneous Roger Bacon, the Franciscan, whose work was nearer to the physics of today. At least I think it was – his reputation seems to grow and diminish through the ages. He worked on the development of experimental science – when he is in fashion people claim that he ‘invented the concept of science that we know today’.

    At present he is at a low ebb – we have just had the 800th anniversary of his birth, and as far as I know there was no celebration of it anywhere in the world – not even Oxford, his alma mater.

    James Blish wrote a semi-fictional autobiography of Bacon, and was greatly impressed by some of his work on the metric frame of the Universe. In ‘Doctor Mirabilis’ he says:
    “…there is no way, short of another book, to convey the flamboyancy of this logical jump, which spans seven centuries without the faintest sign of effort….what Roger begins to talk about is the continuum of action, an Aristotelian commonplace in his own time, but within a few sentences he has invented – purely for the sake of the argument – the luminiferous ether which so embroiled the physics of the nineteenth century, and only a moment later throws the notion out in favour of the Einsteinian metrical frame, having in the process completely skipped over Galilean relativity and the inertial frames of Newton…”

  3. Well duh! Obviously God used macrame to make everything! It’s String Theory man!

    JMJ

  4. IS it correct what Aquinas writes about the heavenly bodies here:
    “The heavenly bodies either have no matter in common with the lower bodies, or they only have primary matter in common with them: ”

    The argument itself depends upon very dubious assertions about heavenly bodies:
    “For the heavenly bodies, wherein no contrariety; is to be found, cannot have been formed from any matter: since whatever is made from pre-existing matter, must needs be made from a contrary. Wherefore it is impossible that any angel should have formed the heavenly bodies from matter previously created by God.”

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