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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • FIRST PART (FP: QQ 1-119)
      • Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] Out. Para. 1/2 - THE PERFECTION OF GOD (THREE ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] Out. Para. 1/2 - THE PERFECTION OF GOD (THREE ARTICLES)

Having considered the divine simplicity, we treat next of God's
perfection. Now because everything in so far as it is perfect is called
good, we shall speak first of the divine perfection; secondly of the
divine goodness.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] Out. Para. 2/2

Concerning the first there are three points of inquiry:

(1) Whether God is perfect?

(2) Whether God is perfect universally, as having in Himself the
perfections of all things?

(3) Whether creatures can be said to be like God?


Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether God is perfect?

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It seems that perfection does not belong to God. For we say a
thing is perfect if it is completely made. But it does not befit God to
be made. Therefore He is not perfect.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, God is the first beginning of things. But the beginnings
of things seem to be imperfect, as seed is the beginning of animal and
vegetable life. Therefore God is imperfect.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, as shown above (Q[3], A[4]), God's essence is existence.
But existence seems most imperfect, since it is most universal and
receptive of all modification. Therefore God is imperfect.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written: "Be you perfect as also your heavenly
Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48).

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As the Philosopher relates (Metaph. xii), some ancient
philosophers, namely, the Pythagoreans and Leucippus, did not predicate
"best" and "most perfect" of the first principle. The reason was that the
ancient philosophers considered only a material principle; and a material
principle is most imperfect. For since matter as such is merely
potential, the first material principle must be simply potential, and
thus most imperfect. Now God is the first principle, not material, but in
the order of efficient cause, which must be most perfect. For just as
matter, as such, is merely potential, an agent, as such, is in the state
of actuality. Hence, the first active principle must needs be most
actual, and therefore most perfect; for a thing is perfect in proportion
to its state of actuality, because we call that perfect which lacks
nothing of the mode of its perfection.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: As Gregory says (Moral. v, 26,29): "Though our lips can
only stammer, we yet chant the high things of God." For that which is not
made is improperly called perfect. Nevertheless because created things
are then called perfect, when from potentiality they are brought into
actuality, this word "perfect" signifies whatever is not wanting in
actuality, whether this be by way of perfection or not.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The material principle which with us is found to be
imperfect, cannot be absolutely primal; but must be preceded by something
perfect. For seed, though it be the principle of animal life reproduced
through seed, has previous to it, the animal or plant from which is came.
Because, previous to that which is potential, must be that which is
actual; since a potential being can only be reduced into act by some
being already actual.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Existence is the most perfect of all things, for it is
compared to all things as that by which they are made actual; for nothing
has actuality except so far as it exists. Hence existence is that which
actuates all things, even their forms. Therefore it is not compared to
other things as the receiver is to the received; but rather as the
received to the receiver. When therefore I speak of the existence of man,
or horse, or anything else, existence is considered a formal principle,
and as something received; and not as that which exists.


Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the perfections of all things are in God?

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It seems that the perfections of all things are not in God. For
God is simple, as shown above (Q[3], A[7]); whereas the perfections of
things are many and diverse. Therefore the perfections of all things are
not in God.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, opposites cannot coexist. Now the perfections of things
are opposed to each other, for each thing is perfected by its specific
difference. But the differences by which "genera" are divided, and
"species" constituted, are opposed to each other. Therefore because
opposites cannot coexist in the same subject, it seems that the
perfections of all things are not in God.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, a living thing is more perfect than what merely exists;
and an intelligent thing than what merely lives. Therefore life is more
perfect than existence; and knowledge than life. But the essence of God
is existence itself. Therefore He has not the perfections of life, and
knowledge, and other similar perfections.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. v) that "God in His one
existence prepossesses all things."

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, All created perfections are in God. Hence He is spoken of
as universally perfect, because He lacks not (says the Commentator,
Metaph. v) any excellence which may be found in any genus. This may be
seen from two considerations. First, because whatever perfection exists
in an effect must be found in the effective cause: either in the same
formality, if it is a univocal agent - as when man reproduces man; or in
a more eminent degree, if it is an equivocal agent - thus in the sun is
the likeness of whatever is generated by the sun's power. Now it is plain
that the effect pre-exists virtually in the efficient cause: and although
to pre-exist in the potentiality of a material cause is to pre-exist in a
more imperfect way, since matter as such is imperfect, and an agent as
such is perfect; still to pre-exist virtually in the efficient cause is
to pre-exist not in a more imperfect, but in a more perfect way. Since
therefore God is the first effective cause of things, the perfections of
all things must pre-exist in God in a more eminent way. Dionysius implies
the same line of argument by saying of God (Div. Nom. v): "It is not that
He is this and not that, but that He is all, as the cause of all."
Secondly, from what has been already proved, God is existence itself, of
itself subsistent (Q[3], A[4]). Consequently, He must contain within
Himself the whole perfection of being. For it is clear that if some hot
thing has not the whole perfection of heat, this is because heat is not
participated in its full perfection; but if this heat were
self-subsisting, nothing of the virtue of heat would be wanting to it.
Since therefore God is subsisting being itself, nothing of the perfection
of being can be wanting to Him. Now all created perfections are included
in the perfection of being; for things are perfect, precisely so far as
they have being after some fashion. It follows therefore that the
perfection of no one thing is wanting to God. This line of argument, too,
is implied by Dionysius (Div. Nom. v), when he says that, "God exists not
in any single mode, but embraces all being within Himself, absolutely,
without limitation, uniformly;" and afterwards he adds that, "He is the
very existence to subsisting things."

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Even as the sun (as Dionysius remarks, (Div. Nom. v)),
while remaining one and shining uniformly, contains within itself first
and uniformly the substances of sensible things, and many and diverse
qualities; "a fortiori" should all things in a kind of natural unity
pre-exist in the cause of all things; and thus things diverse and in
themselves opposed to each other, pre-exist in God as one, without injury
to His simplicity. This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: The same Dionysius says (Div. Nom. v) that, although
existence is more perfect than life, and life than wisdom, if they are
considered as distinguished in idea; nevertheless, a living thing is more
perfect than what merely exists, because living things also exist and
intelligent things both exist and live. Although therefore existence does
not include life and wisdom, because that which participates in existence
need not participate in every mode of existence; nevertheless God's
existence includes in itself life and wisdom, because nothing of the
perfection of being can be wanting to Him who is subsisting being itself.


Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether any creature can be like God?

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It seems that no creature can be like God. For it is written (Ps.
85:8): "There is none among the gods like unto Thee, O Lord." But of all
creatures the most excellent are those which are called participation
gods. Therefore still less can other creatures be said to be like God.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, likeness implies comparison. But there can be no
comparison between things in a different "genus." Therefore neither can
there be any likeness. Thus we do not say that sweetness is like
whiteness. But no creature is in the same "genus" as God: since God is no
"genus," as shown above (Q[3], A[5]). Therefore no creature is like God.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, we speak of those things as like which agree in form.
But nothing can agree with God in form; for, save in God alone, essence
and existence differ. Therefore no creature can be like to God.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] Obj. 4 Para. 1/1

OBJ 4: Further, among like things there is mutual likeness; for like is
like to like. If therefore any creature is like God, God will be like
some creature, which is against what is said by Isaias: "To whom have you
likened God?" (Is. 40:18).

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written: "Let us make man to our image and
likeness" (Gn. 1:26), and: "When He shall appear we shall be like to Him"
(1 Jn. 3:2).

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Since likeness is based upon agreement or communication
in form, it varies according to the many modes of communication in form.
Some things are said to be like, which communicate in the same form
according to the same formality, and according to the same mode; and
these are said to be not merely like, but equal in their likeness; as two
things equally white are said to be alike in whiteness; and this is the
most perfect likeness. In another way, we speak of things as alike which
communicate in form according to the same formality, though not according
to the same measure, but according to more or less, as something less
white is said to be like another thing more white; and this is imperfect
likeness. In a third way some things are said to be alike which
communicate in the same form, but not according to the same formality; as
we see in non-univocal agents. For since every agent reproduces itself so
far as it is an agent, and everything acts according to the manner of its
form, the effect must in some way resemble the form of the agent. If
therefore the agent is contained in the same species as its effect, there
will be a likeness in form between that which makes and that which is
made, according to the same formality of the species; as man reproduces
man. If, however, the agent and its effect are not contained in the same
species, there will be a likeness, but not according to the formality of
the same species; as things generated by the sun's heat may be in some
sort spoken of as like the sun, not as though they received the form of
the sun in its specific likeness, but in its generic likeness. Therefore
if there is an agent not contained in any "genus," its effect will still
more distantly reproduce the form of the agent, not, that is, so as to
participate in the likeness of the agent's form according to the same
specific or generic formality, but only according to some sort of
analogy; as existence is common to all. In this way all created things,
so far as they are beings, are like God as the first and universal
principle of all being.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: As Dionysius says (Div. Nom. ix), when Holy Writ declares
that nothing is like God, it does not mean to deny all likeness to Him.
For, "the same things can be like and unlike to God: like, according as
they imitate Him, as far as He, Who is not perfectly imitable, can be
imitated; unlike according as they fall short of their cause," not merely
in intensity and remission, as that which is less white falls short of
that which is more white; but because they are not in agreement,
specifically or generically.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: God is not related to creatures as though belonging to a
different "genus," but as transcending every "genus," and as the
principle of all "genera."

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Likeness of creatures to God is not affirmed on account of
agreement in form according to the formality of the same genus or
species, but solely according to analogy, inasmuch as God is essential
being, whereas other things are beings by participation.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[4] A[3] R.O. 4 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 4: Although it may be admitted that creatures are in some sort
like God, it must nowise be admitted that God is like creatures; because,
as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. ix): "A mutual likeness may be found between
things of the same order, but not between a cause and that which is
caused." For, we say that a statue is like a man, but not conversely; so
also a creature can be spoken of as in some sort like God; but not that
God is like a creature.





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