Can Anything Be Like God?

Hello everyone. Welcome back to Deeper Waters where we dive into the ocean of truth. We’re going through the Summa Theologica now which can be read at newadvent.org. We’re looking at the doctrine of God and today, we’re going to wrap up our talk on God’s perfection. First, I wish to give my prayer requests. I’d appreciate prayers for my continued Christlikeness. Yesterday was a hard day and last night a difficult night. I am becoming increasingly aware of many aspects of my fallenness that need to be changed. Second, I ask for prayers for my financial situation. Finally, I ask for prayers for a third related area in my life. The Lord knows. He is perfect after all.

Can anything be like God? It’s quite interesting the ways that religions can go on this one. Mormonism, for instance, teaches that God was once a man as you and I are (Excepting women who get to be joined to their spouse in an eternal celestial marriage) and that if someone is a good Mormon including going through temple services, then they will become gods of their own planet just like God became the god of this planet.

Islam, on the other hand, has a God who is quite unknowable. He is totally unlike his creation. This would seem to have someone end up in agnosticism in the nature of God. These are the extremes we want to avoid. God is not just a pumped-up man, as Mormonism has enough problems with God’s simplicity which we’ve already studied. However, in Christianity, we are to know God and for that, we need to know something about him.

Can anything be like God? Aquinas says that there are three ways one can be like something else. The other is to be an exact representation, in which in this case, there would be an equality of the forms between the original and the object that is like the original.

The second way is for two things to have the same form but to have it in different degrees. The favorite of Aquinas to use is whiteness. It is to have something that is white and then to have something else that is more or less white than that.

The final is the same form, but not in the same way. Now for God, this is being, but Aquinas gives an example of how the sun can give its heat, but it is not received the same way. For this, we must remember that the medievals spoke of superhot to describe the heat of the sun. We could have heat here, but the sun’s heat was different by kind and not degree.

This is how beings can be like God. They receive being, but they do not have it in the same way. An important distinction must be made here. We are like God. God is not like us. Consider if you were to look in a mirror. What you see in the mirror is like you. You are not like what you see in the mirror.

Prepare for a good time tomorrow as we start talking about goodness.

Are All Perfections in God?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas to help us come to a deeper understanding of the doctrine of God. For those who do not have a copy of the Summa, one can be found at NewAdvent.org. First, I ask for prayers for my Christlikeness. Today has been a really hard day for me and it’s being a hard night and I just ask that you pray for me in this. There are some nights I think we become exceptionally aware of our fallenness. The second situation to pray for is my financial one. Finally, I ask for prayer in a third related area of my life.

Are the perfections of all things in God? Thomas Aquinas says they are. This means that if something is to attain to its perfection, it must reach for God. Someone can say “Well what about the atheist?” Yes. The atheist must reach for God as well. He will not reach for God directly, but he will reach for the lesser, the things that God has made and for the good, the true, and the beautiful he sees in the world, but all the while, he is perhaps unknowingly searching for God.

Aquinas argues that they do for any perfection in something must exist in its cause in some way. A man can give the nature of a man to a man in the process of being a parent. (And of course, let’s not be pedantic. We all know that it’s the women that give birth, but the men are a part of that. We could simply say human to be sure.)

In another sense argues Aquinas, the sun is the likeness of whatever is produced by the power of the sun. We must remember that for the medievals, fire was hot, but the sun was super-hot. It was not different by degree but by kind. Any heat that existed on Earth received that heat somehow from the sun ultimately.

What would it mean for the sun to be perfect heat? It would mean that all the perfections that exist in heat somehow exist in the sun so that the sun would lack nothing that would be fitting for the perfection of heat. Aquinas argues that the same is true for God.

The difference is that God is being so that all that is perfect of being itself is found in God. He lacks nothing that is fitting to being pure actuality. Aquinas says he can have even the basis of composed things in him just as the sun being one heat can be the perfection of all other things that are generated by its heat.

In conclusion, for us, if we want to find our perfection, we must look to God. Now this doesn’t mean total ontological perfection as we will never be like God in that way, but it does mean that if we are to be perfect human beings, we are looking fruitlessly if we do not look for such in God.

We shall conclude the doctrine of perfection tomorrow.

Is God Perfect?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. We’re going through the Summa Theologica and we’re discussing the doctrine of God. The Summa Theologica is the masterpiece of Thomas Aquinas and can be read at newadvent.org. Tonight, we’re going to be starting the doctrine of God’s perfection. Before that, I have prayer requests. First, I ask for prayers for my Christlikeness. Today has been a really difficult day in that area, but maybe it could be that the days you are most aware of your fallenness are the days that you are actually improving the most. Second, I ask for prayers for my financial situation. Third, I ask for prayers in a third related are of my life. For now, let’s get to the topic. Is God perfect?

Some readers are saying “Well of course God is perfect.” This was the beauty of the medievals however. They wanted to prove everything and make sure of their arguments. In fact, as you read the Summa, you notice that Aquinas brings forward the strongest arguments that he knows of against the position that he holds. I sometimes speculate that maybe he had his students go out and find arguments for a “Can you stump the teacher?” kind of game.

So what arguments were brought against God being perfect? Well the first is that something perfect is completely made. God however is not made, therefore God is not perfect.

The second is that God is the first beginning of things, but the beginning of things is not perfect, just as the seed of a tree is not perfect, therefore God is not perfect.

Third, God’s essence has been shown to be being itself, but that would seem to be the most imperfect. After all, it is received by everything and receptive of all modification.

Let’s be clear in this that we’re not talking about moral perfection. Now I do believe that in a sense, God does possess moral perfection, though I don’t think moral can apply to God like it can to us, as if God does what he ought to do because there’s a moral law outside of him that he has to obey. This is talking about ontological perfection. God is complete in his being lacking nothing appropriate to his existence.

Aquinas tells us that Aristotle said the ancients did not ascribe perfection to the first principle, because they saw everything as material and a material being could not be the perfect one. However, God is not material. That which is material is always in a state of potentiality as matter can always change. God, however, as an agent is always in a state of actuality. God being the first and the source of all actuality must be most perfect then.

What of the objections? For the first, Aquinas says that something is called perfect when it is brought into the actuality it ought to have. Thus, whatever does not lack in its mode of being is perfect. It doesn’t matter whether the thing has been made or not.

For the second, the material being cannot be first as has been said so that must be after something else that is actual. For this, Aquinas could easily return to his first way and demonstrate God from there and since he is immaterial and being, he is perfect.

The final one is the one I think the most difficult but Aquinas answers it well. Being is the actuality of all things, but the problem is we are comparing the giver to the receiver. It’s the other way around. They receive being in their limitation. They cannot be as actual as God is because they are limited by their forms and/or matter.

Tomorrow, we shall ask if the perfection of all things is in God.

Does God Enter Composition?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We are studying the doctrine of God with the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas being our guide, which can be found at newadvent.org. Right now, we’re studying the doctrine of God’s Simplicity and tonight, we’re going to wrap that up. Before that, I do have some prayer requests. First, I ask that you pray for me in my Christlikeness that needs to develop. Second, I ask for your prayers in my financial situation. Finally, I ask for prayers for a third related area of my life. For now, let’s get to the doctrine.

Does God enter into things in that his being is mixed into the being of all other things? It would seem that we could easily arrive at this conclusion if we agree that God’s existence is his essence. If that is so, does that mean that all that exists is participating in God?

No. Because God’s nature is existence, it does not follow that all that exists is participating in that nature. Once again, we return to the causes that Aristotle gave us with the two that were added by the medieval thinkers. The main one we want to see tonight is the exemplar cause. The exemplar cause is that after which something is made. The example would be blueprints being the exemplar cause of a building.

This is where the doctrine of analogy is so important. All that is here is based on that which is in God. For instance, we are told that he is the Father from whom all Fatherhood comes. Fatherhood that we see here is based on him. If you look in the mirror, that which you see in the mirror is like you. You are not like it. You are the primary object. It is the secondary and depends on you. If you go away, that which is in the mirror is no longer there. If the mirror was shattered however, it would not effect your existence.

In saying this, Aquinas avoids the error of pantheism. God is not entered into the world in that he takes part in its existence. He does not enter the composition of things for he cannot have any potential in his nature. This doesn’t present a problem for the incarnation however. The church was very clear to say tht the divine nature in Christ was never mixed with the human nature.

Thus, as we conclude the doctrine of the simplicity of God, we have seen that God is indeed altogether simple. However, what does this tell us? It tells us a way that he is unique in comparison to creatures in that he does not depend on anything else for his being but rather is his own being. Not even the angels can claim that. However, to say that God is simple is to only tell us one thing about God. While it is a big part, it is not the whole story. When we continue tomorrow, we shall start looking at the doctrine of his perfection.

Is God Altogether Simple?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. We are continuing our dive into the ocean of truth as we study the doctrine of God with the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas as our guide. You can read the Summa for yourself at Newadvent.org. We’ve been going over the doctrine of the simplicity of God for now. Before that, let’s cover prayer requests. I ask that you pray for me in my Christlikeness. It’s an area I really need to work on. Second, I ask that you be praying for my financial situation. Third, I ask for prayers for a third related area in my life. Now let’s get to the seventh question on simplicity. Is God altogether simple?

Aquinas offers a number of arguments. First off, he stresses everything that has been said before regarding the simplicity of God which is what we’ve spent the past few days covering. Aquinas is going to give a few more points on this issue however.

Aquinas says that every composite thing comes after its parts and is dependent on them. God is not dependent on anything however. God is his own being. Therefore, he is altogether simple.

Third, every composite thing has something that puts it together as nothing unites itself. However, God is the efficient cause of all and there is no efficient cause of him. Because of this, he is altogether simple.

Fourth, Aquinas also says that every composite has potentiality and actuality.  Either one of the parts actualizes another, or all of them work together to actualize the whole. This would apply even to angels whose being actualizes their form.

Fifth, when something has parts, none of the parts are the whole. For instance, I am a man, but my hands that are typing are not men in themselves. My legs are not men, and my head is not a man. It is only when all the parts are combined that we have a man.

The same works in reverse. Consider a substance like water. Let’s suppose you have a gallon of it. Now each part of that is water, but you cannot take a part and say this part is a gallon. It is when all the molecules of water come together that you have a gallon of water.

This is what’s so amazing when we think about an argument like Richard Dawkins’s 747 argument against God’s existence. It’s quite amusing since Dawkins thinks that he has refuted the five ways of Thomas Aquinas when he hasn’t even touched them. This one he could have learned the answer to however if he had simply read the very next chapter.

One of the great problems for many atheists today is that they don’t understand good theology. They don’t take the time to really understand the worldview they’re arguing against. As a Christian, I think it’s important to be able to argue for the resurrection and for the existence of God. I also think it’s important to be able to argue against them. Why? I want to know the arguments of my opponents and their position and I want to know it better than they do.

One such position is simplicity. Dawkins fails because he does not have a Christian understanding of God, but a materialistic one.

And coming from that view, we can always expect he’ll fail.

We shall continue looking at simplicity tomorrow

Are There Any Accidents in God?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re looking at the doctrine of God and using the Summa Theologica as our guide which can be found at newadvent.org for those who don’t own a copy of the Summa. We’re studying the doctrine of God’s simplicity. Before that though, I wish to present my usual prayer requests. First off, I sincerely hope you all are praying for my Christlikeness. I become more aware of my fallen nature every day. Second, I ask your prayers for my finances. Third, I ask prayers for the third related area in my life. For now, let’s look at Simplicity.

What is an accident? Many of us might think of two cars suddenly crashing when one loses control. Well in modern parlay, that can be considered an accident, but when it comes to philosophical language, the term accident means something different.

An accident is something that a thing possesses and it in no way affects the substance of the thing. It could lose that thing or have that thing taken away without changing the thing itself. So is there anything in God that he could lose and he would still be God? Is there anything that could be added to him and he could still be God?

One argument is that there are things that are in God that are also in us and they are accidents for us. Wisdom and power for us are accidents, but in God, they are attributes. The necessary idea is that they must be accidents in God as well.

Aquinas will expand on this later, but his main point is that these are not accidents in God because we are understanding them in a univocal sense, that is, in the same way. We do not possess wisdom the way God possesses it. It is not that we get more wisdom and eventually we have God-wisdom. God possesses wisdom by nature whereas we possess it by gift.

An accident is something that has potential as well. It can be or not be in the thing. For God however, there can be no potential. Because of this, it is the case for an accident makes something actual in the very substance of the thing. The accident of laughing makes man a creature capable of laughing.

If God has something added to his essential being, then he is being + something and that constitutes a change. If he has something that can be taken away, then that means he has something that is non-essential to his being. There would be parts of being and that has already been ruled out by saying that God is his essence and his own being. Being is absolutely simple and has no parts.

All that is God is essential to him and he possesses nothing non-essential. Well what about the incarnation? God did not take on human nature. The second person of the Trinity did, but the essence of deity did not. Jesus was and is a person who happened to be fully God and fully human as well without mixing the natures.

So is God altogether simple then? That’s what we shall ask tomorrow.

Is God In A Genus?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. We are going through the Summa Theologica and discussing the doctrine of God. For those who do not have a copy of the Summa, you can find one at NewAdvent.org. Before we continue our look at God’s simplicity, I ask you to remember my prayer requests. First, I ask for prayers in my continued Christlikeness as I am finding my own weakness growing many times. Second, I ask for prayers for my finances. Finally, I ask for prayers in a third related area of my life.

Is God in a genus? A genus is a class of things that share the same character but divide into different species. We could speak of angels for instance, but each angel is its own species. Man can be included in the genus of animal, but he is in the species of a rational animal.

God cannot be in a genus because a genus is that which is prior and nothing can be prior to God. God does not belong in categories because he is entirely unique to everything else. God is not just one type of being that is out there as it is. He is instead a being who is unique and is his own existence.

Why can’t being be a genus? Because there would have to be differences outside the essence. What differences can there be outside of being itself? Either something exists or it doesn’t. There are not two separate classes of existence although other things do participate in existence whereas for God he is his existence.

We do not have the case that we have existence here and this is God’s nature and then he creates a bunch of stuff that also exists and then over here, we have other things that exist as well but they do not derive their existence from God. If that were the case, they would both get their existence from something else beyond themselves.

Also, for everything else, their being differs from other beings. The being of the horse is not the same as the being of the man. There is a differentiation between them. This is not the case for God as his thisness is his thatness.

What does that mean? It means that I as I write this am this man. I am not another man, or that man. Thus, I can be this, that is a human male, without being human maleness. For God, there is no distinction between what he is and that he is so we cannot say that he is in a genus.

Why does this matter? It means God is above the categories that have been created. He is not one of a member of a group. He is altogether unique in who he is and this is something we have to realize about God. Whatever we think about God, it is a pale comparison to who he really is. We cannot begin to comprehend the awesomeness of his nature.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Is God His Own Being?

Hello and welcome back to Deeper Waters. We’re going quite deep now by studying the doctrine of God. The Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas is our guide and this can be found at newadvent.org. We are studying the doctrine of God’s simplicity right now. Before we get to that, I wish to give my prayer requests. I first off ask for prayer for my own Christlikeness to which I have been pondering much time today considering the reality of forgiveness. Second, I ask for help with my financial situation. Finally, I ask for prayer in the third related area of my life. For now, let’s get to the text.

This is the big one really. If you don’t get the fundamental idea of the blog tonight, you’re not going to understand simplicity. Last night, we got to the point where we realized angels are simple beings partially in that their form is their nature. However, what differentiates them from God then? The answer is that they have form plus being. We cannot subtract being from God and have him exist nor do we subtract form. What do we do then? We say his being is his form.

This is absolutely huge as when we can debate whether or not God exists, few people ever take the time to ask “What does it mean to be?” If we say something exists, what is this existence that we speak of? When we get to arguments like the topic of the moral law, this will be foundational as a doctrine of being can provide us with the basis for morality and other realities like beauty.

But is God his own being? What does that say for the rest of us? Are we partially God then since we have existence? The answer is no. God is being in that he does not receive his being from someone outside of himself. Furthermore, it is not caused by something within him. God is uncaused. He is not self-caused. To be self-caused would be a contradiction.

However, we are participating in existence. God allows us to have being based on his will. He is not just the giver of existence to us but he is the sustainer of existence, and of all else. This is in distinction to ideas of the origin of the universe such as brute fact theory. The universe is not a brute fact. If it were, there would be no reason for it to stay in existence and no reason to expect the laws of nature would hold sway and maintain the universe.

We do expect that the universe will maintain existence however and the laws of nature will hold because we believe in a rational God behind the universe and its laws. It is contingent, yes, but it is not as it were, an accident.

For God however, he participates in nothing. What Aquinas is saying is that God does not have goodness but he is goodness. He does not have beauty but he is beauty. He does not have truth but he is truth. All of what we call his attributes are just different ways of understanding being.

Is this difficult to understand? Yes. However, this was the teaching of Christians for several centuries even before Aquinas and several centuries afterwards as well. If God is not simple, he is being + something else and we can wonder where that other something else or where that being comes from. Who composed God? What separates him truly from creatures.

Difficult to understand indeed, but fundamental to make sure God is not another creature.

We shall continue the doctrine of simplicity tomorrow.

Is God The Same As His Essence?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been looking at the doctrine of God and the Summa Theologica and right now, we’re studying the Simplicity of God and chances are, a lot of you might not be finding it simple. That’s okay. Even for those of us who study theology professionally, this is nothing simple. Those who do not have a copy of the Summa are invited to go to newadvent.org and read the copy online. First however before we begin tonight, I have my prayer requests. I ask that you pray for my Christlikeness. There is much that needs to be taken care of and I am remembering that Chesterton said angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. I ask for prayers with my finances. I finally ask for prayers in a third related area of my life. For now, let’s get to the third question in the chapter on simplicity.

We all have a nature. I as a human being possess human nature. Christians believe Jesus was one person who had a divine nature and a human nature and still has both. A cat has the nature of a cat and a dog the nature of a dog. The ¬†same applies to angels as angels have their own natures as well, but that’s another topic.

What of God? The question we have before us tonight is if God is his nature. This is important for the question of if God submits to the good or if God is the good. Is the good that which is external to himself or is the good God himself? In order to avoid circular reasoning, I believe it’s best to establish what the definition of good is and then we end up realizing that that corresponds to God in the highest sense. In this case, the good is that which is desirable for its own sake. Everything desires the perfection of its being and God is the ultimate perfection of being so God is the greatest good.

Humans are differentiated because we have this matter or that matter. We do not have that matter as part of our form however. They are in our reality as it were, but this particular matter is not essential to my being. I will lose some matter of me throughout the next 24 hours and gain other matter.

Where this is not the case, since the possessors of the forms are not differentiated by matter, then each form must be identical to the one who has that form. This is one reason each angel is essentially its own species. As Peter Kreeft says, when they made Michael, they broke the mold. Angels have much in common, but Michael bears Michael-nature. No other angel can for there is no matter by which they can be differentiated.

The same applies to God. Since there is no matter but is only a form, whatever that form is, it must be equal to God. We can say this is in God, but Aquinas will tell us that we are speaking analogically, the only way we can. Now having said this, we can see that angels are in some sense simple. However, are angels as simple as God is?

We shall see about that tomorrow.

Is Matter In God?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through the Summa Theologica in an attempt to get at a deeper understanding of the knowledge of God. Those who do not have a copy lying around, though I wish everyone did, can read it at newadvent.org. First, I ask for your prayers for my Christlikeness. There are several facets of my person that need to be worked out. Second, I ask for prayers for my financial situation. Finally, I ask for your prayers for a third related area in my life.

We’re talking about the doctrine of God’s simplicity. We answered yesterday if God has a body or not and decided he doesn’t. Today, we’re going to be discussing if he has any matter in him at all. Interestingly, one of the points that is brought up is that God gets angry in Scripture. Anger, however, requires a body. It wasn’t until modern philosophy came along with Descartes that we began thinking otherwise. Anger is always a response to something. It is because of X, that one is angry.

Thomas gives an answer that surprises us today but we will touch on more later on. Thomas says that God doesn’t get angry but the outcome of his justice is likened to that of an angry person. The effects are similar so this is to be taken in a metaphorical way. This is the doctrine of God’s impassibility. It means that God does not experience emotions. I will warn readers in advance that this is a position that I hold to, but I will be speaking more on it later.

Also, Aquinas speaks of that which is composed of matter and form, which is the question. All such goods are composite goods and because they are composite, then they are received. For Aquinas however, God does not receive good. Rather, God is his goodness, which is something we will look to later. Aquinas has a section on goodness in general and goodness in God.

There are also all the objections that were raised based on the question of if God has a body and these all apply here. If there was any matter in God, then God would be a being who would have potential and would be capable of change. Now there are some Christians who do believe God can change. When we get to the topic of God’s immutability, another doctrine that I hold to, we will examine that further. One thing we’ll find as we go through this is that Thomas is very systematic in his thinking and arranges the doctrines in this order for a reason.

Now I can see one possible objection being raised also. Someone might say “You just did a whole series on the Trinity! Didn’t your God take on a body? How can he not be material then? I can understand where the objector is coming from, but I think he’s wrong on numerous accounts.

To begin with, it is not the Trinitarian claim that God took on a body. The second person of the Trinity who is fully God in nature took on human nature which includes having a human body. The Father has never been embodied nor has the Spirit.

Also, even for the second person of the Trinity, the body is not essential to his deity. If he is to become human and remain human, it is essential that he be embodied. I do believe we can be separated from our bodies, but we are not complete without our bodies, such as we have an inability to express emotions.

This also answers the objection of “God can’t die!” God never did. The second person of the Trinity was separated from his body. He never ceased to exist however, as Colossians says when it says that by him all things exist. If he ceased to exist, so would all things. Thus, the Son never ceased to exist even though he tasted death.

Thus, I don’t think that objection holds water.

We shall continue tomorrow looking at divine simplicity.