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Prima Pars

Question 4: The Perfection of God

Article 1: Is God Perfect?

 

Structure of the Argument:

 

“Be you perfect as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

 

If God was a being made of matter than he would be imperfect since matter is always in potential to the form that activates it.  E.g.: bronze is less than perfect than the bronze statue that has the form from the artisan’s imagination.

 

God is the first principle and thus can’t be dependent on anything.  There can be nothing passive or anything in potential in Him.  We have the potential to be musicians, teachers, grow taller and so forth.  In God, He is perfect in every way with nothing lacking, nothing potentially there, and nothing not completely in act. 

 

A thing is most perfect when it is most in its state of actuality.  A man is most perfectly a musician when he is actively playing and using his skills.  “Perfect is whatever is not wanting in actuality.” God is always always acting and is thus, in this way, the most perfect a substance could be.

 

Family Take Home:

 

If we take perfect in the sense that we need to be actualized as much as possible, then we need to be like the man, in our Lord’s parable, who received a 100 talents.  He didn’t bury them, but multiplied them.

 

Us parents have been gifted children.  It is our job,

our sacred duty to activate their minds, educate

them, train them, develop them to a place a

self-mastery so they can give themselves fully to be

an honorable vessel for God. 

 

Hence, there is no room for laziness. 

As fathers, we are to continually

be edging and pushing and making our children

uncomfortable so that they are constantly growing.

Q4. Article 2:  Are the Perfections of all things in God?

 

Structure of the Argument:

 

All perfections of creation are in God and He is perfect, lacks nothing, and since He is the cause of all, things couldn’t even be if they weren’t first in the mind of God. 

 

St. Thomas argues this in two ways:

 

1.  Something can’t be the cause of something it is not.  Man can’t reproduce a cow.  Cauliflower can’t cause a whale.  The potential for the perfection of man is in man and is passed onto his son.  However, the perfection can also be in the cause in an even more eminent and diverse way.  With God, the perfections that we find in nature are finite and as they exist first in God as First Cause, they are eminently greater in God.  Thus, wisdom in man is perfection.  Wisdom is also a perfection in God, but infinitely greater than our finite wisdom.

2.  God is existence Himself and gives the gift of existence to all that is created.  Thus, He must have all of the perfections of everything that exists because He is the one that is giving each thing its existence.  A plant exists because God has given it the gift of existence.  Everything that the plant can be and become and do is done because it exists in a certain way.  It is God who defines its mode of existence and thus must have its perfections in Himself in the first place in order to place it into something else.

 

Family Take Home:

 

I have used this argument a number of times to prove that

God must be a person.  If the first principle is simply that

“You cannot give what you don’t have.”  Then God couldn’t

create persons, if He was not a person first of all to begin

with. 

 

So everything in us that points to our perfection as

persons, namely, the ability to love, know, learn, show

justice, be merciful and so forth must be in God as well.

 

If God is a person, He is able to love.  If He is able to love, His love must ipso facto be perfect.  God’s love for us is perfect without any hidden selfishness.  He loves us for our own sake.  Now, it is our job to try and comprehend this great love and to return it with our own lives.

Q4. Article 3: Can any creature be like God?

 

Structure of the Argument:

 

There are different ways of looking at ‘likeness’.

 

1.  Two things are perfectly alike if they share the same form to the same degree like two walls both painted the same colour white.

2.  Two things can be imperfectly alike when they are both white, but not white to the same degree. 

3.  Two things can be like each other, having the same form, but not in the same way as son is like his father.

4. Two things can be a like each other not having the same form, but because the effect of one thing acting on the other is in the other.  We can say that the art is like that of the artist because his effect is in the art even though they are not of the same species.  This likeness is analogous. 

 

It is in this fourth way that creatures are like God.  We have the gift of existence from the being who is existence Himself.  In this way, we are like Him in an analogous way.  Insofar as we are beings we are like God who is the principle of all being.  There is a relationship of similarity, but there is not a relationship of identity.

 

We can say, thus, that we are like God, but in no way can we say that God is like us.

 

Family Take Home:

 

This article is important in understanding our

relationship with God.  When Scripture tells in

II Peter 1:4 that “we participate in the Divine nature,”

or in Psalm 82:6 “You are gods,” it is not saying that

we will become Divine.  We will participate in the

Divinity in the same an iron sword participates in

the fire when being forged and at times is

indistinguishable from the fire.  However much the

sword may look like fire, it keeps its nature and its

nature is not obliterated by the fire. It remains a

sword.

 

If we, by God’s grace, enter Heaven then we will be like God in the way the sword is like the fire. 

 

This is important when talking with children about eternal life.  What will Heaven be like? As sons of God, we will participate in, be a part of, the author of all beauty and life and joy and happiness and in this we will desire for nothing else because our will will be at rest.  All our desires here on earth are desires for what is good and ultimately for the ultimate God, which is God.  So when we’re tempted with a sin that looks ‘good’, we must recognize that desire to possess that good is actually a desire for God Himself who is the only one who can fulfill our desires perfectly.