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Prima Pars

Question 8: The Existence of God in things (4 Articles)

 

Article 1:  Is God in all things?

 

Structure of the Argument:

At first glance the questions seems a bit silly insofar as Scripture tells that it is IN HIM that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Not the other way around.  However, God IS IN us.  He is in everything.  How?  First of all He is not in us as being actually a part of our essence.  We are not part God/part man.  Nor is God in us in an accidental way like our eye colour or hair style. 

 

God is IN us as an agent is to that which he acts upon. 

St. Thomas gives us a great example.  When the sun shines air is illuminated.  When the sun ceases to shine, we have dark air or darkness.  Air doesn't light up on its own.  It needs the sun.

God gives each of us being.  He gives everything alive

existence.  A rock exists because God gives it

existence.  If God removes this gift, the rock no longer

exists.  It is in this way that God is in everything.  "As

long as a thing has being (exists) God must be present

to it according to its mode of being."

The most intense part of the argument is that when

something is in something so deeply such as giving

that thing being, that something is there "innermostly"

.  Nothing is more deeply in you or the rock or the beetle than that being or existence which is given to you and held in you by God.

 

Family Take Home:

 

There are two family take-homes from this article. 

1.  The first St. Thomas addresses in his reply to the fourth objection, namely, the objection the smarty pants child would put forth: If God is in everything than He must also be in the demons!  Thomas' reply is 'Yes'.  Insofar as demons exist and they are not the author of their own existence, then 'yes' their being is there via God.  However, this does not mean that God is in the deformity of their nature, their acts, their sin - but simply through giving them being.

2.  The second take-home is the most comforting and the most disconcerting at the same time.  God, if He is in us innermostly, then He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows not only how my food digests, but how many blood cells I have, and also every thought I think.  He knows me from the inside out.  As a father, He desires only that which is good for us and because He knows me so well He knows what is better for me than I do.  It also means that when I go to Confession, He knows the sincerity of my contrition. 

Article 2:  Is God Everywhere?

 

Structure of the Argument:

God is everywhere.

1.  First of all, as we saw in the last article, God is innermost to each being.  If an atom is in existence somewhere, God is in there.  And being that there is no place where there is nothing, that would mean God is everywhere. 

n.b.: The idea that the universe is expanding into areas where there was formerly nothing maybe true, but not insofar as there is a place of nothingness.  If the universe is expanding it is simply displacing (pushing aside, compressing, etc.) that which is there.

2.  Secondly, all things take up a space.  The water bottle on my desk takes up space. It displaces the air that would be in that place.  It has its own space, boundary, and place.   God is immaterial and is thus not in a place a place in a material way.  Rather, all things are in Him.  God is everywhere and there is no place where He is not.  Thus, all things are in Him and yet don't displace Him for He is in them as well.

 

 

Family Take Home:

 

There are two family take-homes from this article. 

1.  The first St. Thomas addresses in his reply to the fourth

objection, namely, the objection the smarty pants child

would put forth: If God is in everything than He must also

be in the demons!  Thomas' reply is 'Yes'.  Insofar as demons exist and they are not the author of their own existence, then 'yes' their being is there via God.  However, this does not mean that God is in the deformity of their nature, their acts, their sin - but simply through giving them being.

2.  The second take-home is the most comforting and the most disconcerting at the same time.  God, if He is in us innermostly, then He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows not only how my food digests, but how many blood cells I have, and also every thought I think.  He knows me from the inside out.  As a father, He desires only that which is good for us and because He knows me so well He knows what is better for me than I do.  It also means that when I go to Confession, He knows the sincerity of my contrition. 

Article 3:  Is God Everywhere by Essence, Presence and Power?

 

Structure of the Argument:

When dealing with heretics it is important to be explicit in the understanding of the faith and of God.  Thus, it even though it may seem redundant to explain how God is present in these three ways, each one is important and shows a different aspect of God.

1.  By Essence

As a king is present in his throne room by physically being there, so God is present (as seen above) in every created being as the cause of their being.

2.  By Presence

As a king is in the presence of everything he see's so God is sees everything and is thus present to everything.

3.  By Power

As a king's presence is known by his power throughout the kingdom via restraint on behalf of those who would do crime or through his authoritative agents, so God is present by His power as all creation is subject to Him.

4.  By Grace

There is a forth way that God is present.  As my wife is present to me when I think about her (though she may not be physically present), so God is present in the intellect and will of those who love Him.  He is known by them and desired.  And this is by grace.

 

 

Family Take Home:

 

This argument is great when it comes to the question: Why do we bother to go into a Church to pray? Why can't we just pray at home or in bed or sitting in a rollar-coaster? If God is everywhere, should we confine ourselves to brick and mortar buildings in order to connect with Him?

The answer is that God is present in different ways and in various degrees. God is present in the stapler insofar as it exists and God is giving it being.  But we don't kneel and pray before the stapler.  That would be crazy.  God is even more present in living creatures insofar as they have the a soul and the inanimate stapler does not.  But again, we don't pray to cows (golden or otherwise).

God is everywhere.  We are in His presence at all times and He is most inwardly in us.  In this sense we can pray anywhere at any time and God will hear us.  The Psalmist writes:

Psalm 139

7 Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

God is most present, however, in the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist He is substantially present.  So we go into a Catholic Church to pray because it is akin to going home to talk to my wife.  I would rather hold her in my arms and talk tell her that I love her, than talking on the phone from the other side of the world.

Article 4:  Is God the only one that is everywhere?

 

Structure of the Argument:

The key here is understanding what is meant by everywhere.  When St. Thomas ask if there is something that is everywhere St. Thomas means there wholly.  Not as if God is a great big giant where his foot is over here and his head up there, but rather God is everywhere completely because He is one.  God has no parts.  So God is wholly everywhere.  And it is only proper to Him to be wholly, absolutely everywhere.  There is no place where He is not.

 

Family Take Home:

 

God is everywhere wholly.  So, even though we have pictures of God as an old man with a beard, we must continue to remind our children that God is not a Grandpa, but a spirit.  He is everywhere.  But I believe the better explanation is that we are in Him.  The old painting of God holding the wold in His hands demonstrates this well. 

 

Thus, when we speak with Him, pray to Him, worship Him, we have His full attention because He is wholly present to myself, and to you and to the man across the world.  Hence we can talk to Him personally.