Our Concept of Perfection

Are some terms a bit too vague? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A question came to me recently from someone wanting to show a Muslim about how grace is essential to get to be in the presence of God and started with saying God is perfect and cannot allow imperfection in His midst. When I saw this, I got a slight bit of concern here. Is it because I dispute God is perfect? Properly understood, no. My problem is I want to know what it means to be perfect because usually the term is too vague.

Let’s suppose we say God can only allow perfection in His presence. Okay. What about angels? All Christians would agree that some angels are in the presence of God, but are they perfect? In a sense, but we do not mean that they are perfect as God is, so they do indeed lack some perfections. If that is true, does that mean that they are imperfect? In a sense, we would have to say yes.

We also know some angels are not in God’s presence and so for that, I want to be clear what I mean by presence. When I speak of the presence of God, I do not mean omnipresence in that God holds all together by His being and His being fills everything. I mean by presence the idea of favor. Only those who are holy can dwell in the favor of God.

When I say God is perfect then, I mean that God lacks nothing in accordance with the nature of His being. As a Thomist, I contend that God’s nature is in fact being. God lacks nothing in the area of being. Whatever it means to be, then that is what God is. No other being can be like God then.

When we say that, then we can discuss the aspect of being, and this is something difficult to do, but it has been done. Most notably, it’s done at the start of the Summa Theologica by Aquinas. This is a way we can fill our concept of God with substance instead of relying on an idea that is often more subjective.

What about angels and us then? That would mean that we also lack nothing that would be fitting for us to have and this is something that is a gift from God of course. Angels have kept their standing before God and continually do so. We will do so by submitting to the grace of God that has been revealed in Christ. (In fact, I would contend one of the great problems of our age is that we no longer take concepts like virtue and holiness seriously. We have replaced them with a modern view of happiness.)

Theological thinking is difficult for all of us and we all have a theology. (Even the atheist has a theology. They have a very distinct idea of any kind of deity they think doesn’t exist and often argue against a specific being that doesn’t exist.) Perhaps my approach might be more difficult in some ways, but that could just make it more worthwhile. The more substance we pack into our concept of God, the clearer we can see Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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