Does God Have Speculative Knowledge?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. Here, we seek to go pass Sunday School material of most churches sadly and dive into the ocean of truth. It is my hope that leaving here, you will have a deeper knowledge of the faith handed down to all the saints. Right now, the aspect of that faith that we’re covering is the doctrine of God as discussed in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. Speaking of deeper knowledge, we’re going to wrap up tonight the topic of God’s knowledge. We’re asking tonight if God has speculative knowledge of things. Now if you want to follow along, a copy of the Summa can be found at NewAdvent.org. Let’s begin!

There are two kinds of knowledge being discussed in this case. A practical knowledge is a knowledge more of the use of things. A speculative knowledge is more at the truth of things. Speculative knowledge concerns realities like the good, the true, and the beautiful. In fact, any knowledge that relies on abstraction falls into this.

Consider a triangle. If you want, draw the triangles I describe. First, draw a scalene one. Next, draw an isosceles triangle. After that, draw an equilateral. If you’re not drawing, just try to picture one of each of these in your mind. Consider each of them. They all three are triangles though of quite different shapes.

Now what if I told you “Those are good pictures, but I want to know what makes a triangle? Can you draw a picture of triangularity?” At this point, you would be stumped. That is something that cannot be drawn as triangularity itself cannot be material. You can draw material representations of what a triangle will look like, but you cannot draw triangularity.

Some would say God would not have this knowledge because his knowledge is the cause of things and speculative knowledge is the end of things. Aquinas disagrees. Speculative knowledge is the end of things of course, but that does not mean that God does not possess that knowledge for not all of his knowledge has to be causal knowledge.

Practical knowledge refers to objects in so far as they can be operated on. In this, God does not have practical knowledge of himself as that would be impossible. He cannot be operated on. He does have speculative knowledge of himself however as he has knowledge of who he is and that he is the end of all things as well as the cause of all things. God also has practical knowledge of evil in the same way that a doctor has practical knowledge of sickness, as he can work to eliminate evil the way a doctor works to eliminate disease.

For our purposes, we can take a benefit in this. One of my favorite passages is Romans 8 where we find the verse that says all things work together for good to those that love the Lord. Here, we find both kinds. God has the speculative knowledge of the good that is to be reached. He also has the practical knowledge of how to get that good. We can be sure that he will do such for us.

Tomorrow, we begin a whole new section.

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