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Category: SAMT

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

November 23, 2014 | 13 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not A Body

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.


Chapter 27: That God Is Not In The Form Of A Body

1 ACCORDINGLY, having shown that God is not the being of all,i it can be proved in like manner that God is not the form of any thing.

2 For the divine being cannot be the being of a quiddity that is not it own being, as shown above.[1] Now that which is the divine being itself is no other than God. Therefore it is impossible for God to be the form of any other thing.ii

3 Further. The form of a body is not its very being but the principle of its being. But God is being itself. Therefore God is not the form of a body.

4 Again. The union of form and matter results in a composite, and this is a whole in respect of form and matter. Now the parts are in potentiality with respect to the whole: but in God there is no potentiality.[2] Therefore it is impossible for God to be the form united to any thing.

5 Again. That which has being per se, is more excellent than what has being in another. Now every form of a body has being in another. Since then God is the most excellent being, as the first cause of being,[3] He cannot be the form of any thing.iii

6 Moreover, this can also be proved from the eternity of movement, as follows.[4] If God were the form of a movable thing, since He is the first mover, the composite will be its own mover. But that which moves itself can be moved and not moved. Therefore it is in it to be either. Now a thing of this kind has not of itself indefectibility of movement. Therefore above that which moves itself we must place something else as first mover, which confers on it perpetuity of movement. And thus God Who is the first mover is not the form of a body that moves itself.iv

7 This argument avails for those who hold the eternity of movement. Yet if this be not granted the same conclusion may be drawn from the regularity of the heavenly movement. For just as that which moves itself can both be at rest and be moved, so can it be moved with greater or less velocity. Wherefore the necessity of uniformity in the heavenly movement depends on some higher principle that is altogether immovable, and that is not the part, through being the form, of a body which moves itself.v

8 The authority of Scripture is in agreement with this truth. For it is written in the psalm:[5] Thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens; and (Job xi. 8, 9): He is higher than heaven, and what wilt thou do?…the measure of Him is longer than the earth, and deeper[6] than the


iGod is not the universe. Pantheism is out.

iiAs proved before, God’s existence and essence are the same; existence itself is not a body; a body is partly in act, partly in potential, but in God there is no potential; just as God is not made of material stuff; thus God is not a body. These same (now proven) premises are picked up in arguments 3 and 4.

iiiThe thing to recall here is that objects, like bodies, are composites of form and matter. The same matter under the “influence” of other forms is a different object; i.e. objects are instantiated forms. Ed Feser’s favorite example (now forever stuck in my head) is rubber balls and erasers: two objects made of the same matter, but with different forms. But God is not made of matter, and God’s form is His existence, therefore He is not a body.

ivWe ever come back to Chapter 13, which is best to review. So much flows from the demonstration that God is Unmoved Mover, the Uncaused Cause, and other nicknames, that it is astonishing. The proof here flows directly (and easily).

vIt’s as well here as anywhere to remind us of the kind of movement Aquinas spoke of in his proof of God being the First Cause. He was not talking about the kind of movement like dominoes, where one pushes another and so on. He meant the here-and-now bottom-down ultimate cause of all movement. If you can’t remember this distinction, do the review before commenting.

viI normally leave the scriptural arguments out because they are not convincing to modern audiences. However in this case, since the question has often arise that since Jesus was in the form of a body, and in the Eucharistic species, and that Jesus is part of the Trinity, i.e. is God, does it not follow that God is a body? It does not. Jesus is God, and had a fully divine nature. But he was also a man and had a human nature, a nature that required a body. That part of him was not divine; it was human flesh, just like ours. The Eucharistic is likewise of two natures, divine and mundane. The bread is there, but do is the divine. Now how are these miracles brought about? I haven’t the slightest idea.

Likewise, when scripture uses figurative or metaphorical language (“Seated a the right hand of God…”), it is just that: figurative or metaphorical. Avoid the atheist temptation to read all of the Bible literally.

[1] Ch. xxii.
[2] Ch. xvi.
[3] Ch. xiii.
[4] Cf. chs. xiii., xx.
[5] Ps. viii. 2.
[6] Vulg., broader.
[7] Sum. Th. P. I., Q. iii., A. 8.

November 16, 2014 | 43 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not The Universe

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.

Pantheism is the belief that the universe (or multiverse or whatever is all that exists) is identical with God. It is an ancient and current belief. See inter alia Star Wars or attend any yoga class. Atheists speak like pantheists (see discussions about “spontaneous” effects, creation from “nothing”, etc.).

Chapter 26: That God Is Not The Formal Being Of All Things

1 FROM the foregoing we are able to refute the error of some who have asserted that God is nothing else than the formal being of everything.[1]

2 For this being is divided into substantial and accidental being. Now the divine being is neither the being of a substance nor the being of an accident, as shown above.[2] Therefore it is impossible for God to be the being whereby everything is formally.i

3 Again. Things are not distinct from one another in that they have being, since in this they all agree. If, then, things differ from one another, it follows that either being itself is specified by certain differences added thereto, so that different things have a specifically different being, or that things differ in that being itself is attached to specifically different natures. But the former of these is impossible, because an addition cannot be attached to being in the same way as a difference is added to a genus, as already stated.[3] It remains, therefore, that things differ because they have different natures, to which being is attached in different ways. Now the divine being is not attached to another nature, but is the nature itself, as shown above.[4] If, therefore, the divine being were the formal being of all things, it would follow that all things are simply one…ii

5 Further. That which is common to many is not something besides those many except only logically: thus animal is not something besides Socrates and Plato and other animals except as considered by the mind, which apprehends the form of animal as divested of all that specifies, and individualizes it: for man is that which is truly an animal, else it would follow that in Socrates and Plato there are several animals, namely animal in general, man in general, and Plato himself.iii Much less therefore being itself in general is something apart from all things that have being; except only as apprehended by the mind. If therefore God is being in general, He will not be an individual thing except only as apprehended in the mind. Now it has been shown above[6] that God is something not merely in the intellect, but in reality. Therefore God is not the common being of all.iv

6 Again. Generation is essentially the way to being, and corruption the way to not-being. For the term of generation is the form, and that of corruption privation, for no other reason than because the form makes a thing to be, and corruption makes a thing not to be, for supposing a certain form not to give being, that which received that form would not be said to be generated. If, then, God were the formal being of all things it would follow that He is the term of generation. Which is false, since He is eternal, as we have shown above.[7]v

7 Moreover. It would follow that the being of every thing has been from eternity: wherefore there would be neither generation nor corruption. For if there were, it would follow that a thing acquires anew a being already pre-existing. Either then it is acquired by something already existing, or else by something nowise pre-existing. In the first case, since according to the above supposition all existing things have the same being, it would follow that the thing which is said to be generated, receives not a new being but a new mode of being, and therefore is not generated but altered. If on the other hand the thing nowise existed before, it would follow that it is made out of nothing, and this is contrary to the essence of generation. Consequently this supposition would wholly do away with generation and corruption: and therefore it is clear that it is impossible…vi

We skip the next six arguments, which refute an error not of main interest to us.


[1] Sum. Th. P. I., Q. iii., A. 8.
[2] Ch. xxv.
[3] Ch. xxv.
[4] Ch. xxii.
[5] Ch. xv.
[6] Ch. xiii.
[7] Ch. xv.

i“This being” is the pantheistic deity, if it existed. Obviously, the universe is made of parts, is in potential, and all those things we already know God cannot be. This is probably the simplest proof in the whole book! So obvious is this that we’ll skip around the remaining arguments, though there is plenty there that is of interest.

iiThere was some confusion about this in the past. If you exist and I exist (and we do) then we both share existence, or being. But after that, we begin to differ. That’s all this means, and Aquinas draws the implication in the next sentence. There are not different kinds of to exist. The takeaway point is that in God existence is essence, or nature.

iiiThat is, we can know the essence of animal, and other essences, too! Once you grasp this seemingly simple point, boy howdy do things change.

ivIn other words, God cannot be a thing which only exists in your imagination.

vA good review: things which are in existence, have being, have form and matter. Take away the form of you and what is left? Nothing but dust. The form of man is his soul.

viI find this argument beautiful. Put another way around, if the universe were God, then nothing could change; things change; therefore the universe is not God. Being cannot alter into new ways of being Being, and nothing can come from nothing. If God were there universe, it would be a dull constant unchanging void with not even a seething quantum “vacuum” to liven it up.

November 9, 2014 | 26 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not In A Genus

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.

We know God’s essence and existence are the same thing. God necessarily exists; existence necessarily exists. We know God is not made of stuff, has no potentiality, is not made of parts (is “simple” in a technical sense). He has no extraneous properties. Let’s continue to flesh out, as it were, more of God. We’ll skip a little quickly through these two chapters, because they’re easier and non-controversial (everything here follows simply if you accept what came before). The reader is encouraged (do it!) to go to the original chapters for the complete story.

Chapter 24: That the divine being cannot be specified by the addition of any substantial difference

2 …Whatever needs something added to it, in order to exist, is in potentiality to that thing. But the divine substance is not in potentiality in any way, as proved above:[3] and God’s substance is His being. Therefore His being cannot receive essential specification from something added to it.i

3 Moreover. Whatever makes a thing to be in act, and is intrinsic to that thing, is either the whole essence thereof or part of its essence. Now that which specifies a thing by an essential specification, makes a thing to be in act, and is intrinsic to the thing specified: otherwise the latter could not be specified essentially thereby.ii Therefore it must be either the very essence or part of the essence of that thing. But if something be added to the divine being, it cannot be the whole essence of God, for it has already been proved[4] that God’s existence is not distinct from His essence. Therefore it follows that it is a part of the divine essence: and thus God would be composed of essential parts, the contrary of which was proved above.[5]…

Chapter 25: That God is not in any genus

1 HENCE it follows of necessity that God is not in any genus.iii For whatever is in a genus, has in itself something whereby its generic nature is specified: for nothing is in a genus without being in some one of its species. But in God this is impossible, as shown above.[1′] Therefore it is impossible that God be in any genus…

3 Again. Whatever is in a genus differs as to being from the other things contained in the same genus: otherwise a genus would not be predicated of several things. Now all things that are contained in one same genus, must agree in the whatness of the genus, because the genus is predicated of all in respect of what a thing is. Therefore the being of anything contained in a genus is beside the whatness of the genus. But this is impossible in God.[4′] Therefore God is not in a genus.

4 Further. A thing is placed in a genus by the nature of its whatnessiv, for genus is predicated of what a thing is. But the whatness of God is His very being.[5′] Now a thing is not placed in a genus according to its being, because then being would be a genus signifying being itself.v It remains therefore that God is not in a genus.

5 That being cannot be a genus is proved by the Philosopher as follows.[6′] If being were a genus, it would be necessary to find a difference in order to contract it to a species. Now no difference participates in the genus, so that, to wit, the genus be contained in the notion of the difference, for thus the genus would be placed twice in the definition of the species: but the difference must be something besides that which is contained in the notion of the Now there can be nothing besides that which is understood by being, if being belong to the notion of those things of which it is predicated. And thus by no difference can being be contracted. It remains, therefore, that being is not a genus: wherefore it follows of necessity that God is not in a genus.


iIf you need food, then you’re potentially fed. (Something actual must bring this about.) But if you need something that you don’t have, you’re not complete. And God is complete, and has no potentiality (and no parts).

iiThis two sentences are, after a moment’s thought, obvious. But look how well they’re put. Succinct city! It’s also good to reflect. That which causing something to be actual is what makes up that thing’s essence. Causality (act) and essence are linked. This applies everywhere, of course. Not just to God.

iiiFor Aristotle and Aquinas, there are two levels, species and genus, the latter being a collection (if you like) of species. Genus is higher up in the taxonomic order. If something is in a genus, it must then be in one of the species of that genus. But God is sui generis. There is nothing like Him.

ivQuiddity, essence.

vEvery being has being; rather, everything that is in existence, so that it exists does not a genera make.

viThe key phrase is “the difference must be something besides that which is contained in the notion of the genus.” You cannot use the definition of genus as a genus. It is to be real differences which make up a genus. The rest is like the previous argument.

[3] Ch. xvi.
[4] Ch. xxii.
[5] Ch. xviii.

[1′] Ch. xxiv.
[4′] Ch. xxiv.
[5′] Ch. xxii.
[6′] Metaph. iii. 8.

October 26, 2014 | 37 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: There Is No Accident In 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.

An easier (relatively speaking, considering you have been reading along thus far) article today, proving God does not look like His popular depictions, i.e. that He has no extraneous properties.

Chapter 23: There Is No Accident In God

1 FROM this truth it follows of necessity that nothing can accrue to God besides His essence, nor anything be accidentally in Him.i

2 For existence itself cannot participate in something that is not of its essence; although that which exists can participate in something else. Because nothing is more formal or more simple than existence. Hence existence itself can participate in nothing. Now the divine substance is existence itself.[1] Therefore He has nothing that is not of His substance. Therefore no accident can be in Him.ii

3 Moreover. Whatever is in a thing accidentally, has a cause of being there: since it is added to the essence of that in which it is. Therefore if anything is in God accidentally, this must be through some cause. Consequently the cause of the accident is either the divine substance itself, or something else. If it is something else, this other thing must act on the divine substance; since nothing introduces a form whether substantial or accidental, into some recipient, unless in some way it act upon that recipient: because to act is nothing but to make something to be actual, and it is this by a form.

Wherefore God will be passive and movable to some agent: which is against what has been decided above.[2] If, on the other hand, the divine substance itself is the cause of the accident that is in it, then it is impossible for it to be its cause as receiving it, since then the same thing in the same respect would make itself to be in act. Therefore, if there is an accident in God, it follows that He receives that accident in one respect, and causes it in another, even as bodies receive their proper accidents through the nature of their matter, and cause them through their form: so that God, therefore, will be composite, the contrary of which has been proved above.[3]iii

4 Again. Every subject of an accident is compared thereto as potentiality to act: because an accident is a kind of form making a thing to exist actually according to accidental existence. But there is no potentiality in God, as shown above.[4] Therefore there can be no accident in Him.iv

5 Moreover. Everything in which something is accidentally is in some way changeable as to its nature: since an accident, by its very nature, may be in a thing or not in it. Therefore if God has something that becomes Him accidentally, it follows that He is changeable: the contrary of which has been proved above.[5]v

6 Further. Everything that has an accident in itself, is not whatever it has in itself, because an accident is not of the essence of its But God is whatever He has in Himself. Therefore no accident is in God. The middle proposition is proved as follows. A thing is always to be found more excellently in the cause than in the effect. But God is the cause of all things. Therefore whatever is in Him, is found in Him in the most perfect way. Now that which is most perfectly becoming to a thing, is that thing itself: because it is more perfectly one than when one thing is united to another substantially as form is united to matter: which union again is more perfect than when one thing is in another accidentally. It follows therefore that God is whatever He has.vii

7 Again. Substance is not dependent upon accident, although accident depends on substance. Now that which is not dependent upon another, can sometimes be found without it.[6] Therefore some substance can be found without an accident: and this seemingly is most becoming to a supremely simple substance, such as the divine substance.[7] Therefore the divine substance is altogether without accidents.viii

9 …Having established this truth we are able to refute certain erroneous statements in the law of the Saracens to the effect that the divine essence has certain forms added thereto.ix


iThis follows, probably obviously, from God’s essence being His existence (last week). Think of it like if existence = essence, then there’s no room for accident’s. What can be an “accident”, i.e. an unessential property, of existence itself?

ii“that which exists can participate in something else.” You exist, and accidentally (in this sense) have characteristics that other human beings might or might not have. None of these accidents change your essence, which is that of a rational being. The rest follows simply from point 1.

iiiA lot of words, which I trust you read carefully. If there was an accident in God, it must have been caused. By what? The only possibility is God. But that would make Him composite, and we have already proved He is not made of parts, and (as we’ll need next) He has no potentiality. Thus this proof is pretty simple.

ivYou remember act versus potential, I trust? That it takes a cause, i.e. something actual, to turn a potentiality into an actuality? The rest follows.

vThe footnote is, as it often is, to Chapter 13, which proves God is the Unchanging Changer slash Unmoved Mover. Not too different than proof 3, then.

viThe middle term is “an accident is not of the essence of its subject.”

viiThe rest is really proving existence and essence are one in God again, though the roundabout way. A cause is more than its effect, and cause cannot give what it doesn’t have. Good analogy I once read is that the cause of the water becoming red is red dye, but the red dye will necessarily be redder (or no less red) than the water. The rest follows, but it is admittedly a bit of a tangle.

viiiThis obviously follows from the material above; it doesn’t survive on its own. But note what simple means: without accidents or parts, without potentiality. It is not a synonym of “less” or the like.

ixI left this in only to prove what we already know. That disputes are ever with us.

[1] Ch. xxii
[2] Ch. xiii.
[3] Ch. xviii.
[4] Ch. xvi.
[5] Ch. xiii.
[6] Cf. ch. xiii: Again it any two things . . . p. 28.
[7] Ch. xviii.
[8] v. 4.