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.