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 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.

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