I'll be reading, glossing, and posting Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles, chapter by chapter, about twice a week, until the final Amen. Your comments, questions, and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Friday, December 10, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 29

Chapter 29: ON THE LIKENESS OF CREATURES TO GOD [CAPUT Veginti Novum: De similitudine creaturarum]

[1] In the light of what we have said, we are
able to consider [considerari potest] how a likeness to God is and is not possible in things.

[2] Effects that fall short of their causes do not agree with them in name and nature. Yet, some likeness must be found between them, since
it belongs to the nature of action that an agent produce its like, since each thing acts according as it is in act [de natura enim actionis est ut agens sibi simile agat cum unumquodque agat secundum quod actu est]. The form of an effect, therefore, is certainly found in some measure in a transcending cause, but according to another mode and another way [Unde forma effectus in causa excedente invenitur quidem aliqualiter, sed secundum alium modum et aliam rationem]. For this reason the cause is called an equivocal cause. Thus, the sun causes heat among these sublunary bodies by acting according as it is in act. Hence, the heat generated by the sun must bear some likeness to the active power of the sun, through which heat is caused in this sublunary world; and because of this heat the sun is said to be hot, even though not in one and the same way. And so the sun is said to be somewhat like those things in which it produces its effects as an efficient cause. Yet the sun is also unlike all these things in so far as such effects do not possess heat and the like in the same way as they are found in the sun [a quibus tamen rursus omnibus dissimilis est, inquantum huiusmodi effectus non eodem modo possident calorem et huiusmodi quo in sole invenitur]. So, too, God gave things all their perfections [Deus omnes perfectiones rebus tribuit] and thereby is both like and unlike all of them.

This post at The TOF Spot, concerning global warming and the Earth-Sun coupling, is a timely reminder of how the causal primacy of the sun in, say, this chapter, is not a metaphysical trifle, but also an ongoing scientific reality.

[3] Hence it is that
Sacred Scripture recalls the likeness between God and creatures [sacra Scriptura aliquando similitudinem inter eum et creaturam commemorat], as when it is said in Genesis (1:26): “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” At times the likeness is denied [aliquando similitudo negatur], as in the text of Isaiah (40:18): “To whom then have you likened God, and what image will you make for Him?” or in the Psalm (82:1) [Vulgate]: “O God, who is like You?”

[4] Dionysius is in agreement with this argument when he says: “The same things are both like and unlike God. They are like according as they imitate as much as they can
Him Who is not perfectly imitable [eius qui non est perfecte imitabilis], they are unlike according as effects are lesser than their causes [dissimilia autem, secundum quod causata habent minus suis causis]” [De div. nom. IX, 7].

[5] In the light of this likeness, nevertheless,
it is more fitting to say that a creature is like God rather than the converse [convenientius dicitur Deo creatura similis quam e converso]. For that is called like something which possesses a quality or form of that thing. Since, then, that which is found in God perfectly is found in other things according to a certain diminished participation [id quod in Deo perfecte est, in rebus aliis per quandam deficientem participationem invenitur], the basis on which the likeness is observed belongs to God absolutely, but not to the creature [illud secundum quod similitudo attenditur, Dei quidem simpliciter]. Thus, the creature has what belongs to God and, consequently, is rightly said to be like God. But we cannot in the same way say that God has what belongs to the creature [Non autem sic potest dici Deum habere quod creaturae est]. Neither, then, can we appropriately say that God is like a creature, just as we do not say that man is like his image, although the image is rightly said to be like him.

[6] All the less proper, moreover, is the expression that God is likened to a creature. For
likening expresses a motion towards likeness and thus belongs to the being that receives from another that which makes it like [assimilatio motum ad similitudinem dicit et sic competit et quod ab alio accipit unde simile sit]. But a creature receives from God that which makes it like Him. The converse, however, does not hold. God, then, is not likened to a creature; rather, the converse is true.

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