Honor The Fallen

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. While here, we have been lately going through the doctrine of God, I’m going to take a break from that for today. Here in America, it’s Memorial Day. We are remembering those who have fallen in combat so that our country could be free. I admit that I don’t do as much as I should for Memorial Day, but I do hope my one blog here will suffice for a tribute.

Go by and graveyard and think about what you see. There are caskets underground. Sure, a lot of them have decayed and no doubt the bodies inside have as well, but each of those is there because of a person. A person has left this world. He will not be heard again to greet his family or make love to his wife or play with his children or greet you in the marketplace.

Some people leave this world pre-emptively. Some do so knowing the possibility of that happening. They’re the ones that put their lives on the line because they think their country is worth dying for. They will kiss their wives and children as they head onto a plane to go to another nation and do so knowing that they might never see those people again.

For them, there is something worth dying for. They are prepared to face death so their wives and children won’t have to. They are willing to die for complete strangers. Some will one day go out on a battlefield and they know that they are walking to certain death and will never come home again and yet they walk anyway. They leave with their comrades a request that they simply let their families know that they love them.

What are we doing to honor them? Do we consider how serious death is? If we do not, it could be because we do not take life itself seriously. If you do not have something worth dying for, it is quite likely that you also do not have something worth living for. Is there anything out there that is greater than you are that you are willing to say “Yes. For this I will live my life and die if need be.”

I live in America and I wake up free. I can read my Bible without fear of the government coming in and arresting me. I can go to a house of worship and enjoy the freedom of worship. I can speak as I fit. I can write this blog and not do so with fear. I have property and I can buy and sell in the marketplace. I am allowed to hold the opinions that I hold.

Why can I do this? Someone thought that freedom was worth dying for. Before you go to bed tonight, say a prayer to God to give thanks for those who came before us. It is because of the sacrifice of good men and women that you are free today. They were also people just like you and I. The only difference is in what they believed. They believed something truly good is worth dying for.

God bless those who are left behind. Today, your loved ones are saluted! Thank you for giving them to us.

Does God Know Singular Things?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters as we continue our dive into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas in our goal to understand the doctrine of God in Christian theology. Spurgeon called this the highest thought any Christian could ponder and he was right. What could be pondered that could be greater than God? In Anselmian thought, that would be God, to which I could agree. If you want to follow along with us, we’re in God’s Knowledge on question 11. A copy of the Summa can be found at newadvent.org. Tonight, we’re asking if God knows singular things.

The reason this question is asked is that God is pure actuality and is in no way material. Matter is the individuating principle however that separates holders of essences. The reason I am not you is because the matter that makes me up is not the same as the matter that makes you up.

Someone might ask “Well what about angels? Aren’t there individual angels? Angels aren’t material.” To that, we agree. However, angels are also different by essence. Each angel is its own essence. Michael is Michaelness. Angels are simply existence + whatever their essence is. They can all be spiritual beings, but they are all of a different essence.

Aquinas of course says that God does know singular things. All perfections of creatures pre-exist in God. Some of these exist actually and some virtually. The ones that exist in actuality are the ones that are not limiting principles by nature. I would include under this ones like goodness, truth, beauty, knowledge, wisdom, love, etc. Perfect “Deeper Waters Bloggerness” however does not exist in God actually since I am limited by matter and God has no limitations in him. However, the idea of who I am meant to be when I truly fulfill the role of the person God has in mind for me exists in his mind eternally.

For Aquinas, the knowledge of God extends as far as his causality extends. We spoke when we talked about the omnipresence of God that God is the cause of the existence of place. God exists in an omnipresent way not as if he was extended across space, but rather as he is the cause of every place entirely. There is no place you can go that he is not there as the full cause of that place.

God’s knowledge extends the same way in that as he is the cause of all things, including matter, he has knowledge of those things and he has knowledge of material beings simply because he knows all the ways matter can be. It is because of his being what he is that he can know all that he knows.

Our application for today? God knows you. God knows the singular you out of all the people on Earth and not only does he know you, God eternally knows you. God has known you throughout eternity and because he must know all, he cannot not know you. Rest assured if you are in difficulty, it is not because God has forgotten you.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Does God Know Evil?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I thank you all for your faithfulness in prayer and I ask that you keep it up. Myself and those around me are convinced God will provide. We are looking at the doctrine of God now and we are using the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas as our guide. Those of you who do not have a copy can find one at newadvent.org. The topic for tonight in our look at the knowledge of God will be the question of if God knows evil. Let’s see.

There are some problems with the idea of God knowing evil. For instance, does God know what it is like to sin? How does God know evil if he knows all things through knowing himself? Especially since there is nothing evil in himself. How can he know that which is directly opposed to him? Can evil be known since it is basically that which is not?

To begin with, we should define evil as the last question did. Evil is not really a substance in itself in Thomistic thought, which goes back to Augustine who answered the question on the problem of evil. Evil is not a thing in itself but rather it is the privation of the good that ought to be there. It is not an evil if a rock does not have eyesight. That is expected. It is one if a person doesn’t. That is not to say the person is evil, but to say that there is a lack that is there when one should be there. As one who is disabled myself, I would never say the disabled are evil.

God knows all the ways the good can be. In knowing this, he also knows all the ways the good can be corrupted to be that which it is not meant to be. However, if evil is also that which is not, there can never be a total corruption. The fallen angels still have goodness in ontology. Existing is a good. It is what they have done with their existence that is twisted and evil. We should make sure we apply the same idea to our fellow man. While he may be evil in his actions, in his being, he is good. The problem is he’s not measuring up to the being that he is supposed to be.

God does not know evil firsthand or by experience in the divine essence. Thus, when we are tempted with sin or do evil, God does not know what that experience is like. It is not my contention that omniscience refers to knowledge of experience but rather knowledge of truth claims. This would also further reinforce the post from recently on if God is the cause of all things. Aquinas does not consider evil a thing so God is not the cause of evil but he is the cause of the goodness through which evil eventually came.

What we can get from this is that God knows all that there is to know about us including how it is that we can be corrupted as well as knowing this about the world he created. Let us not close it there however. He also knows what it will take to change that and is bringing it about.

Isn’t that good news?

We shall continue tomorrow.

Does God Have Knowledge Of That Which Is Not?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters as we are continuing our dive into the ocean of truth. We’re studying the doctrine of God right now and we’re using the Summa Theologica as our guide. This work of Thomas Aquinas can be read for free at Newadvent.org. Right now, we’re on the topic of the knowledge of God and tonight, we’re going to be discussing the question of if God has knowledge of that which is not.

Does God have knowledge of what is not? How could this be since God is said to have knowledge of the true and true is convertible with being? For Aquinas, God’s knowledge however is not just of things that are currently true, but also knowledge of things that could be true.

This would have to be true we realize because there was a time when there was nothing but God and then there was something. Obviously, there had to be knowledge of something in the mind of God in order for him to create that something. God had knowledge of what it was he was to create.

This also means that God has knowledge of you before you exist. He knows who you are and he knows who you will be and he knows who you are meant to be. All of this is a reality to him even if it is not present. God has knowledge of things not just that exist at the moment but that did exist and that will exist.

God also has knowledge of what it is that you will think even if it will never be. Your favorite fictional TV series, book series, movie, or video game was already known in the mind of God before it was ever thought of by the creator that. However, Aquinas does make a distinction in the knowledge of God here. God knows the things that will be and have been and are by knowledge of vision. He knows the others by simple knowledge.

Aquinas tells us that God sees all of time in one moment and so the vision knowledge will encompass all that is. The simple knowledge will not however because those only exist in potentiality. They do not actually exist and a lot of them we can be sure will never exist in actuality.

What about truth being convertible with being? These things do have being in some way. Your favorite series has being in the sense that it’s an idea in the mind of someone and in the case of your having viewed it in some way, it has an existence outside the mind. However, even if it only exists in the mind, that is in some way a kind of existence and so God can have knowledge of it.

What we can get out of it is the blessing that God does indeed know our thoughts. We can look at what we are thinking today and even though we don’t like it and in many cases we shouldn’t, we can know that God already knew about it and yet he loves us anyway.

That is good news.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Is God’s Knowledge The Cause Of Things?

Hello everyone and welcome to Deeper Waters. I would like to give thanks to a kind reader who donated to the work being done here and offered support in a difficult time, and thanks to my church. I’ve found out today they’re making a very generous offering. I am thankful that God has indeed provided. We’re going to continue now our look at the doctrine of God in Christianity. Our source for this will be the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas which can be read at newadvent.org. We are on the topic of God’s knowledge and we are asking if God’s knowledge is the cause of things.

This can be a very difficult one because as soon as I answer yes, as Aquinas does, then one can get in a very difficult position. Am I advocating determinism? Am I saying that God’s knowledge is also the cause of all of our actions? I am not saying that. I am saying however that we do work with him in whatever we do and even our rebellion against him is dependent on him. Of course, I am avoiding the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. I leave that for my readers.

When the medievals spoke about transcendentals, they meant attributes something has by virtue of being. These were one, other, good, true, beautiful, and thing. By virtue of being, something can be called a thing. However, this would only refer to a substance, that is, an essence that could have properties.

An event or an action does not fall under the category in the same way and thus I do not believe Aquinas is speaking of God as the cause of our actions, though I do affirm that we cannot do our actions without the power of God. Even the action of rebelling against God relies on having the power of God. Of course, it is still debated amongst philosophers how exactly one defines an event or an action.

Of course, we know that knowledge in God precedes the things that exist. If things were the source of knowledge in God, then God would be dependent on something else for his knowledge and would be growing in knowledge and the systematic theology that has been prior would have to be totally rethought.

We can however say with no problem that God’s knowledge is the cause of things in that these things have to exist in the mind of God before they can exist outside the mind of God. Aquinas uses the example of a painter painting a picture. It must exist in the mind of the painter before it can have actuality and brought to the canvas. In this way, existence precedes essence, however there must be an essence that can be given existence. Something must exist to actualize the essence, but in order to be actualized, that essence must first exist. Existence is added to the essence.

This will get further on into areas that will be more prone to disagreement and already we do have some perhaps. I might write in response to some comments. I might not. Keep in mind however that I welcome readers to comment on this blog and interact with one another. It makes it all the more fun when iron sharpens iron.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Is God’s Knowledge Discursive?

Hello all and welcome to Deeper Waters. I thank you all for your prayers as while I am still unemployed, I have heard news today about income coming in from another place, reminding me of Esther. God does provide in his providence. I do still seek your prayers however. We’re talking tonight about the doctrine of God further and our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. We’re studying the topic of God’s knowledge. If you’d like to read in the Summa for yourself, you can do so at newadvent.org. For now, let’s get to our question of the night.

Is God’s knowledge discursive? First off, what do we mean? Well we mean by this that it is first this and then that. God knows one thing and then he knows another thing. I throw a stone into a pond, I know where the stone hits, ripples will come out, but I do not know where the stone will hit. Once the stone hits, it is then that I know where the ripples will come out.

For those in the sciences, the effects are often seen first and then one reasons back from the effects to the cause. This happens in medicine often. A patient comes in to see the doctor with a condition. He describes it to the doctor and the doctor reasons from the symptoms, the effects, to the cause.

The other way we can think like this is also when we go from one thing to another thing in our thinking. There are some of us who can quite easily be distracted when we do something. I, for instance, am watching a forum I participate in right now as well as having IMs going. When I return, my mind is on the blog, but it is too easy to be distracted. Many of us would love to not be distracted from God, who Jesus says we need to keep in mind implicitly in Matthew 6:25-33.

This is not the case for God however. Why? God knows all things by knowing himself, the one. He knows the effects as they are in the cause. He also does not switch from one to another. This has been established because we’ve already seen that God is eternal and to have knowledge discursively would be for God to go from the unknown to the known.

God then knows all things in one eternal now. Because of this, he cannot know something discursively as he would then have to come to knowledge that exists outside of him, which would mean he could not be his knowledge and could not be simple, but we have already shown that he is. This is once again the importance of building our doctrine of God on other prior doctrines. Aquinas did not put this together accidentally. He had an order. We make a mistake if we try to question one part without considering the ramifications for the other parts.

We conclude then that God knows all that he knows in the eternal now.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Does God Know Things Other Than Himself By Proper Knowledge?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. I am thoroughly enjoying our look into the knowledge of God and I hope that you are getting a lot of knowledge out of it. The reason we’re doing this is we’re seeking to understand the Christian concept of God and I have chosen to use the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas as a guide. If you are wanting to follow along, you can read the Summa for free at newadvent.org, though I have no problems whatsoever, and I highly encourage it in fact, with you purchasing a copy of the Summa for yourself.

Tonight, we’re going to ask if God knows things other than himself by proper knowledge. What is meant by proper knowledge? A comparison could be by looking at your English grammar when you were growing up. You were taught about two types of nouns, common and proper.

A common noun would be that which could be general and held by many. A proper noun would be that which referred to a unique one. For instance, you could speak of blogs. We all know what blogs are. However, if you speak of the Deeper Waters blog, you are speaking of a specific blog. Blog is a common term but Deeper Waters is a proper term.

So what about God? It has been said that God knows all things seeing as he knows being, but does he only know a general idea of being? Does he know them as a particular being? The relevance of this question is that while God may love the world as John 3:16 says, do we have any reason to believe that he loves you in particular? He loves humanity, but does he love the human you?

Aquinas answers that God does have proper knowledge. It has already been said that God’s understanding is absolute, but if God did not understand you or I absolutely, then it could not be said that his knowledge is absolute. God cannot then just know us as being, but he must know us as these particular beings. He knows me not as a human being alone but as the particular human being that I happen to be.

We can hear of the Mormon doctrine of pre-existence. While we did not pre-exist as living consciouses before we came here, we certainly pre-existed in the mind of God. In fact, there has never been a time when you have not been on the mind of God. God could not be God if he was not thinking about you. His knowledge would not be complete otherwise.

Let us be careful to not too individualize this however. God still knows himself as the greatest good, but he does know us as good. He also knows you as good. Of course, whether you choose to allow him to shape you into the good that he knows that you can be is up to you. However, you can rest assured you are not an accident. There is a God who eternally knows and loves you.

Isn’t that good news?

We shall continue tomorrow.

Does God Know Things Other Than Himself?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through the doctrine of God and the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas has been our guide. You can read it at newadvent.org for free. We’re going to be looking further at the knowledge of God tonight and the fifth article there. I do ask for your continued prayers for me. Most readers know I did lose my job a few weeks ago and I have some major expenses coming up and sometimes, it’s easy to get depressed in this case. Well, you have to have faith at the times things seem the most hopeless. I’d just appreciate the prayers of my readers. For now, let’s get to the question.

This comes largely from Aristotle in fact. Aquinas and Augustine both highly valued Aristotle and Plato respectively. However, when they came across something that went against what was plainly taught in Scripture and what was philosophically in error, they were quick to abandon their heroes on that point. Because they were an Aristotlean and a Platonist respectively, it does not mean that they were so blindly.

Aristotle believed in a god, but his god was not the God of Scripture, though in many ways it was close. Aristotle’s god did nothing but think for all eternity about himself. Why? Because for Aristotle, for his god to think about anything else would be to think about something that was less than perfection and that was not befitting for the most perfect being of all.

However, Aquinas does say that God does know himself perfectly and we would have no problem saying that the highest thought in the mind of God is himself. However, God knows himself perfectly and in order to know himself perfectly, God must be able to know all it is that he can do perfectly.

Thus, God must have in his mind all the ideas of things that he could bring about. In this way, we are told that all things exist virtually in God. For instance, does the idea of catness exist? It exists in God not in actuality but virtually. It is something in the mind of God that he knows what is essential to the nature of a cat.

God’s knowledge of these things comes about also by knowing himself. In looking at himself, he sees all other things in himself. He sees that cat that he can create and he also sees you and I that exist. God does not know things through another medium for if he did, that would mean that his knowledge would be dependent on something else and God would not be simple then.

In conclusion then, you can rest assured that the God who exists is not that of Aristotle. This God really is thinking about you. Of course, we will look more at this when we get to the section on the love of God. For now, we will leave it at the point that God thinks about us and if his knowledge does not change, he never stops doing so.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Is The Act of God’s Intellect His Substance?

Hello readers. I bid you welcome to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through the doctrine of God and right now we’re studying the topic of God’s knowledge. This one is very important in many Christian circles today and before we get to the more controversial aspects, it’s important that we make sure we have these opening parts right. That will prevent us from having error later on. Our guide for this journey has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. That can be found at newadvent.org. Let’s look at the question tonight of if the act of God’s intellect is his substance.

It is important to understand that in Thomistic thought that first off, God is a being of pure actuality. Therefore, in God there will not be found any potential understanding. There will only be found true understanding and not just understanding but comprehension. God could not understand any more than he does or comprehend any more than he does.

For we humans, when we understand something, we come to grow in knowledge of that which we did not know. This is not the case in God for Aquinas tells us that form follows being. There must be a form of something for that something to be. However, for something to understand something, it must be intelligible. In this sense, I could say there are things that God does not know, such as not knowing something greater than himself or not knowing a contradictory truth or not knowing another way for forgiveness apart from Christ.

Of course, this is not for ignorance on the part of God but simply because those things are things that cannot be. God certainly knows that they cannot be. However, whatever is intelligible, God does understand. Of course, this will come up more later on when we discuss what exactly is intelligible and what falls under the parameters of things God understands. In essence, whatever it is, it must be in some way.

As for God’s understanding in himself however, his form is not different from his being, as is the case with everything else in the universe, including the angels. For us, we have to have form and then we can have being added to that form. Until then, the form is only a potentiality, an idea in the mind of God that does not have actuality for us yet. (Whether things that do not yet exist have actuality to God in some way will be covered later on.)

In the same way with God as form and being, the intelligible and the one who knows are one and the same. There is no distinction in God in this area. In Thomistic thought, what is important for understanding God is realizing what separates him from his creation. If God is not absolutely simple, then he has derived being as well and thus is a creature. If, however, he is simple, then there are no parts and his act of intellect is his substance.

We shall continue tomorrow with the fifth question.

Does God Comprehend Himself?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. I thank you all for your prayers. A job opportunity has opened up again and while it will be a change, I do have hopes that it’s a position I can get. God in his sovereignty will work things out for his good. To get to our topic tonight, we are going through the doctrine of God and our guide is the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which can be read at newadvent.org. We are asking the question tonight of if God comprehends himself.

Aquinas says a thing is comprehend when it is known insofar as it is knowable. This is part of his doctrine of truth as well. For Aquinas, a thing is true insofar as it is knowable, which means God is the most true of all for he is the one who is the most real of all. There is more to know about God than any other being for God is not limited by anything. While it would be difficult, it is possible to know ourselves perfectly and we can expect that we will do this in Heaven where we will know as we are known, and we are known perfectly.

A thing can only be known however insofar as it is actual. Thus, an argument from demonstration cannot rely on maybes. When we hear of demonstration today, we can be tempted to think of demonstration as if it would be something that would be done in a science lab. That is a type of demonstration, but that is not what Aquinas necessarily has in mind.

Consider the classic syllogism.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal.

This would be considered a valid approach to demonstrating that Socrates is mortal. Some might think there is some induction involved in that. Thus, let’s use another argument.

Bob is taller than Mary.
Steve is taller than Bob.
Steve is taller than Mary.

If you see this argument and you do not agree with the conclusion, there is really nothing I can do for you. It becomes self-evident at this point. In this case, we have an argument that is demonstrated and thus the conclusion can be known with certainty.

Now let’s suppose for the sake of argument that history had no miracles that had ever happened. We could make this argument.

God has never worked any miracles in history.
Therefore, God will never work any miracles.

Now you could say it would be something probable maybe, but you could not make a case that it is actual knowledge. That doesn’t mean that it’s true however. God is not like the laws of the universe in that he must act a certain way. (I would even say that on the grounds of science alone you cannot know that the laws of science will act a certain way tomorrow)

Thus, something must be actual to be truly known. Aquinas has demonstrated earlier that God is a being who is pure actuality and he is his own intellect. Thus, God knows himself entirely as his intellect is not limited by anything and so his knowledge is not limited. God is infinitely knowable but only God can infinitely know himself for only God is infinite.

We shall continue this tomorrow with the fourth question.