Does God Understand Himself?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we continue our dive into the ocean of truth studying at the moment the deepest topic of all that we can, the doctrine of God. On this journey, we have had as our text the excellent work of Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Theologica. If you wish to read it for yourself and do not own a copy, simply go to We’re studying the topic of the knowledge of God and we’re asking the question tonight of if God understands himself.

This question is different from the question of if God comprehends himself. Most of us understand ourselves to some degree, though none of us comprehend ourselves. We all wonder why it is we do the things that we do or why is it we don’t do the things that we want to do.

This ultimately gets to the question of knowing. We know sensible things through our senses. For instance, I look outside the window and I know that it is dark. I can tell that by looking through my eyes. If I was asked to give an argument for why I think is is dark I do not know where I would begin.

Now let us suppose you are watching a crime drama. One of my favorites was Monk. Let’s suppose then that Monk walks into a crime scene and says “It was a wife who murdered her husband in this case.” Now that is not apparent to every officer who is on the scene. They may see the husband’s corpse and know he’s dead and some may suspect the wife, but how is it that Monk knows that that is what happened?

In this case, since the sense data is all the same, there is something else going on. That is intelligible data. The rational mind is taking the data that has come through the senses and is drawing conclusions based on that. This is one question we have about animals. Animals do not reason in this way as they are driven by their senses without an intellect capable of grasping ideas about ideas. Animals have thoughts but not thoughts about thoughts.

So how about God? How does he know things? Well he doesn’t know them through sense experience. God does not know the experience of eating something or touching something. One could argue that Jesus does, but that is only in his humanity. This will be important when we come to the question of if God knows evil.

Since God’s nature is his existence, God understands things by understanding being. Since he can understand being and he is his own being, then it would follow that he understands himself. Once again, this is a separate question from if he can comprehend his own being which is something we will discuss later on.

For us, we can understand things about God, but it would be hard to say we understand him. This would seem to be what Paul is saying in fact in his doxology at the end of Romans 11. Who can really understand him? We can apprehend him though however based on how he has revealed himself, and for that we should be thankful.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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