Hello everyone and welcome to Deeper Waters, a blog dedicated to diving into the truth of Christianity! We’re right now going through the doctrine of God in Christian thought. The guide that we are using for this fascinating study is the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, a work that can be read for free at newadvent.org. Tonight, we’re going to wrap up our look at the doctrine of the power of God and ask if God can do better than he does.
A lot of readers I think will be surprised and say “Of course he can’t! He’s God!” However, if you say that, Aquinas is in disagreement with you. Now there are some ways he does agree he can’t do better. For instance, if you say better refers to God’s activity rather than to what was created, then no, God could not have created in a better way. If you mean that the universe could be better than it is, then yes, Aquinas agrees with that.
There are exceptions. Four cannot be a greater number than it is. If it had something added to it, it would not be four. The reason is that in this case, it would change the substance. A man turned into an angel would no longer be a man as an example. (Hence, when people die, they do not become angels.)
There is an old joke that the optimist believes that this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist is afraid that this is correct. This was the position of Leibniz as well. When the humanist Voltaire wrote his Candide, he wrote it to mock the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds.
God has ways he could improve this world. For instance, do you think that humanity is good? If so, then God could have just added one more human. Space problems? Okay. Change the order of the universe and make everything correspond somehow. Still, you could add more. The same could be said of angels. If angels are good, then creating more of them would make things better.
Substances however do not become better by having more of them. Substances are good by virtue of what they are. We could always celebrate having more, but that won’t make them better by quality. It will simply be that we have more of a quantity of things that are better by quality.
When it comes to this with the problem of evil, a great mistake many atheists make is that they assume the world has to be perfect in every way for God to have created it. The mistake the Christian makes is that he gives in to this paradigm and just says “It will be better in Heaven.” Now no doubt it will be, but it is up to the one who is pushing the problem of evil to show that this was wrong on God’s part and that there is a necessary contradiction between a good God and the existence of evil in the world. So far, this has yet to be done.
The big question to ask for us now however is not what God could do. We should ask what are we going to do with what God has done. There is no doubt that we can do better and our God certainly deserves the best from us.
We shall start a new subject tomorrow.