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.