Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, we start a new section in our study of the doctrine of God and that will be a long one. It’s the study of God’s knowledge. Our guide is the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas which can be read at Newadvent.org. I thank my friend Joel for responding as I know this will be an area of debate. Open View Theists will have contention with much of what Aquinas says here. However, one aspect that needs to be kept in mind is that Aquinas’s doctrine of knowledge in God is built on the prior doctrines he’s established, like simplicity especially as well as perfection, immutability, infinity, and eternity. If someone wants to use my blog for interchange, feel free. Do note I rarely if ever respond. For now, let’s go to the text.
Is there knowledge in God? Once again, we are reminded that the medievals debated everything. For us we could argue “Well it’s obvious that there’s knowledge in God.” Perhaps so, but that does not mean we should not make a case for it. Many of the people in the world today find it obvious that God exists, but that does not mean it does not hurt to have some good reasons for believing in his existence for those who do not think so.
Knowledge for us is really a habit. It is based on a constant study and learning and research. However, there can be none of this in God for that would be a potential becoming actual. Aquinas has already said that God is a being of pure actuality. If the objection holds, there can be no knowledge in God.
However, readers should remember that for God, our talk of him must be analogical. God has knowledge but he does not have it the same way we do. We gain our knowledge through experience. God does not gain knowledge but seeing as he is simple, his knowledge is his substance.
Knowledge is also about coming to conclusions, but God cannot come to conclusions because that would point to a cause in God. Aquinas answers that what exists divided and multiplied in creatures exists simply in God. The knowledge of things, the cause of that knowledge, and the use of that knowledge all exist as one in God.
Aquinas also says that God alone can know things the highest way. The knowledge of a thing is found in the knower and not in the thing known. Knowledge is in the mind after all. The subject of that knowledge of course is independent often of the knower, aside from the case where something knows itself of course.
We are bound by matter and can only know things first through matter. I deduce from the existence of triangles the idea of a triangle, but I cannot produce the idea itself. I can only produce an example of triangles. You cannot show me a bunch of triangles and ask me to pull out the triangularity of them.
The intellect in Thomistic thought is free of matter although it can use matter to understand. However, the more free something is from matter, the more it can know something. God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as Aquinas says however, therefore, he has the highest place in knowledge.
What more can be said of his knowledge? We’ll find out tomorrow.