Whether any Creature can be Like God
We proceed to the third article thus:
1. It seems that no creature can be like God. It is said in Ps.86:8: |Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord.| Now it is the most excellent of all the creatures that are said to be gods by participation. Still less, then, can other creatures be said to be like God.
2. Again, likeness implies that things can be compared. But there is no comparing things which belong to different genera, and consequently no likeness between them. We do not say, for example, that sweetness is like whiteness. Now no creature belongs to the same genus with God, since God does not belong to any genus, as was proved in Q.3, Art.5. It follows that no creature can be like God.
3. Again, we say that things are alike when they have the same form. But nothing has the same form as God, since nothing has an essence identical with its existence, save God alone. It follows that no creature can be like God.
4. Again, the likeness between similar things is reciprocal, since like is like to like. Hence if any creature were like God, God would also be like a creature. But this is contrary to the words of Isa.40:18: |To whom then will ye liken God?|
On the other hand: it is said in Gen.1:26: |Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,| and in I John 3:2: |when he shall appear, we shall be like him.|
I answer: there are many kinds of likeness, since likeness depends on agreement or similarity of form, and there are many kinds of similarity of form. Some things are said to be like because they agree in possessing a form which is similar both in nature and in measure. They are then said to be not only like, but equal in their likeness. Thus two things which are equally white are said to be alike in whiteness. This is perfect likeness. Again, some things are said to be alike because they agree in possessing a form of the same nature, but not in the same measure, being more and less. Thus we say that one white thing is like another which is whiter. This is imperfect likeness. Thirdly, some things are said to be alike because they agree in possessing the same form, but not according to the same nature. This is apparent in the case of agents which are not univocal. Every agent, as such, acts to produce what is like itself. It makes each thing after its own form, and hence the likeness of its form is bound to be in its effect. Consequently, if the agent belongs to the same species as its effect, that which makes and that which is made will have the same specific nature. Thus it is when a man begets a man. But if the agent does not belong to the same species, there will be a likeness, but not a likeness of specific nature. For example, things generated by the power of the sun have a certain likeness to the sun, although it is the likeness of genus, not of specific form. Now if there be an agent which does not belong to any genus, its effect will reflect its likeness all the more remotely. It will not reflect the likeness of the form of the agent by possessing the same specific nature, nor by having the same genus, but by some kind of analogy, since existence itself is common to all things. The things which God has made are like him in this way. In so far as they are beings, they are like the first and universal principle of all being.
On the first point: according to Dionysius, sacred Scripture does not deny that there is likeness when it says that something is not like God. For |the same things are like God and unlike him. They are like him, since they imitate him who cannot be imitated perfectly, so far as he can be imitated; they are unlike him, since they fall short of their cause| (9 Div. Nom., lect.3). They fall short not only qualitatively and quantitatively, as one white thing falls short of another which is whiter, but because they have no community either of specific nature or of genus.
On the second point: God is not related to creatures as things of different genera are related. He is related to them as that which is outside every genus, and the principle of every genus.
On the third point: when we say that a creature is like God, we do not mean that it has the same form according to genus and species. We speak by analogy, since God exists through his essence, whereas other things exist through participation.
On the fourth point: when we affirm that a creature is like God, we are not in any way compelled to say that God is like a creature. As Dionysius says (9 Div. Nom., lect.3), and as we shall ourselves affirm in Q, 42, Art.1, there may be mutual likeness between two things of the same order, but not between a cause and its effect. Hence we say that an effigy is like a man, but not that a man is like his effigy. Similarly, we can in a sense say that a creature is like God, but not that God is like a creature.