Are Names Predicated Of God Predicated Primarily of Creatures?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re studying the Christian doctrine of God right now and seeing how it affects our lives. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas which can be found at We are on the section right now on the names of God. We’re going to be looking at the sixth questions tonight. Are named predicated of God predicated primarily of creatures?

What does that mean exactly? Well we say that God is good, but does that come primarily through what we see of creatures? The concept of goodness is primary in them and only secondarily applies to God? It could seem that this is the way because in Thomistic thought, we know the creator by knowing the creation.

However, we have a problem if we take this route. We do not then really know God. God can once again be said to be good simply because he is the cause of goodness in creatures. Because that could be the case, that does not mean that God is necessarily good. After all, God is the cause of bodies in creatures but he himself is not embodied. We could say God is the ultimate mixed bag then since he is the cause of chickens, humans, dinosaurs, whales, giraffes, etc.

The names are primarily applied to God however in that he is good before his creation is good. Creatures are said to be good insofar as they come to approach the goodness of God. However, for Aquinas, there is one sense in which names are applied primarily of creatures and secondarily to God.

This is when we speak in metaphor. When we say that God is a lion, we do not mean he is primarily a lion. We speak of the lion first and say the lion has a trait that we find in God. The lion is a fierce contender and is king over the area he surveys. In the same way, God is a fierce warrior and the area that he surveys is the entirety of creation.

As we saw when we discussed immutability, I would apply emotions to God in this way. God is not literally angry, but his actions are akin to what would be the actions of an angry person. This is the same when God is described as having a body. To those who have a problem, I will say I am consistent in my hermeneutic. It also works with the philosophical problems of an emotional God.

We should always be watchful for how we interpret Scripture as our ancestors in the faith were. Many people today do not treat the Bible as literature and treat metaphorical language as literal. There is much in the Bible that is literal, but there is much that is metaphorical as well. How do you know the difference? Well that’s part of being a good student of Scripture and literature and learning how to read the Bible as literature.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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