Monday, December 29, 2014

Dr. Rudi te Velde on the Concept of God

There is something in Thomas' conception of God as ipsum esse per se subsistens that does not fit very well into the picture of 'classical theism.' Classical theism, as it is usually understood, tends to view God as an absolute entity existing independently of the world. The theistic God looks more like a being, a 'self-contained substance' above and apart from the world, than the pure actuality of subsistent being itself. From Thomas' perspective, this would mean that the independence of God, as over against the world of finite beings, is conceived wrongly. It is as if the character of subsistence, attributed to a theistically conceived God, is a logical expression by means of which we think of God as separated from the world, as a distinct reality, while Thomas intends to express by subsistence that the being of God is separated through itself from all other beings. The difference is crucial. For Thomas, God is not 'separated' from the world as a subsistent entity conceivable apart from his causal relationship to created beings; it is as cause of all beings that God 'separates' himself from all his effects by distinguishing those effects from himself. In this sense the 'concept' of God is, in truth, the concept of the relationship of God and world, conceived as an ordered plurality of diverse beings, each of which receives its being from the divine source of being. For Thomas there is no way of thinking of God concretely outside this relationship. The independence, or absoluteness, of God characterizes the way He relates as cause to all other things; it is the independence of the perfect goodness of God, who is not under any obligation or necessity to fulfill himself by creating, but who acts out his own goodness, establishing all other things in being by letting them share in his own perfection.


Source: Rudi te Velde, Aquinas on God: The "Divine Science" of the Summa "Theologiæ" (Hants, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006), 85.

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