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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Eight Whether God Enters into the Composition of Other Things

Whether God Enters into the Composition of Other Things

We proceed to the eighth article thus:

1. It seems that God enters into the composition of other things. For Dionysius says (4 Coel. Hier.): |the being of all things, which transcends existence, is Divinity.| The being of all things enters into the composition of all things. Hence God enters into the composition of other things.

2. Again, God is a form. For Augustine says: |The word of God, which is God, is a form not formed| (De Verb. Dom., Sermo 33). Now a form is part of a composite. Therefore God is part of a composite.

3. Again, all things which exist, and which are in no wise different, are identical. Now God and primary matter exist, and are in no wise different. They are therefore fundamentally identical. But primary matter enters into the composition of things. Hence God also enters into their composition. The minor premise is proved as follows. Whatever things differ, differ by reason of certain differences, and must accordingly be composite. But God and primary matter are not composite in any way. Hence they do not differ in any way.

On the other hand: Dionysius says: |there is neither contact nor communion with God in the intermingling of parts| (2 Div. Nom., lect.3). It is also said in the Book on Causes (Interpretation of Aristotle, prop.6): |the first cause rules all things without mingling with them.|

I answer: there have been three errors on this question. Augustine writes of some who said that God is a world-soul (7 De Civ. Dei.6), and it is due to this that others have thought God to be the soul of the first heaven. Others again have thought that God is the formal principle of all things, as the Almaricians are said to have believed. The third error was that of David of Dinant, who very foolishly supposed that God was primary matter. But it is obvious that all these notions are false, and that God cannot possibly enter into the composition of other things in any way, either as their formal or as their material principle. In the first place, God is the first efficient cause, as we proved in Q.2, Art.3. Now an efficient cause is not numerically one with the thing made, but one with it in kind only. One man begets another man. The matter is neither numerically one with the efficient cause nor similar to it in kind, since it is potential, while the efficient cause is actual. Secondly, God is the first efficient cause, and therefore acts primarily and through himself. Now that which enters into the composition of something does not act primarily and through itself. Rather does the thing composed do so. Thus it is not the hand that acts, but the man who acts by means of it, and it is the fire that heats by means of heat. It follows that God cannot be a part of any composite thing. Thirdly, no part of any composite thing can be the first of all beings, not even its matter or its form, which are the fundamental parts of composite things. Matter is potential, and what is potential is subsequent to what is absolute and actual, as we explained in the first article. The form which is part of a composite thing is a participated form, and this is no less subsequent to what exists through its essence than is the thing which participates. Fire in that which is ignited, for example, is subsequent to what exists through its essence. Now we have proved in Q.2, Art.3 that God is the absolute first being.

On the first point: Divinity is said to be the being of all things as their efficient cause and example, not as their essence.

On the second point: the word of God is the exemplary form of a composite thing, not the form which is a part of it.

On the third point: simple things do not differ from each other by reason of differences, which is the way in which composite things differ. A man and a horse, for example, differ by reason of the difference between the rational and the irrational. But these differences do not themselves differ by reason of further differences. Properly speaking, we ought to say that differences are contrary, rather than different. As the philosopher says (10 Metaph., texts 24-25): |Contrariety is predicated absolutely, whereas things which differ differ in some way.| Properly speaking, then, God and primary matter do not differ. But they are contrary to each other. It does not then follow that they are identical.

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