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CHAPTER XXXVIIIThat God is His own Goodness7878It is possible, I fear, in any school of learning to pass examinations and take degrees, philosophical and theological, by consistent repeating of an accepted phraseology that one does not really understand. What is the meaning of the axiom that God is His own goodness, His own wisdom, His own power, and the rest? It means that goodness, wisdom, power, is inseparable from God; and that each of the divine attributes, could we but view it adequately, would be found to involve all the rest. On the other hand, any given man, as Dr Smith, is not inseparable from his own learning except hypothetically, if his learning is to be at all, inasmuch as Dr Smith’s learning has and can have no existence apart from Dr Smith. Formally speaking, the Doctor gives being to his own learning, so long as it lasts. But, besides that he might die and his learning with him — whereas God and God’s goodness cannot cease to be — he might also forget all that he knows, and still remain Dr Smith. Nor does his learning involve his other attributes, his stature, for example, or his irascibility.

EVERY good thing, that is not its own goodness, is called good by participation. But what is called good by participation presupposes something else before itself, whence it has received the character of goodness. This process cannot go to infinity, as there is no processus in infinitum in a series of final causes: for the infinite is inconsistent with any end, while good bears the character of an end.7979“The infinite is inconsistent with any end, while good bears the character of an end.” It may be urged that end does not bear the same sense in both these propositions. In the former it means limit (πέρας: in the latter it means, end in view, the perfection that crowns growth and effort (τὲλος). The answer is that the infinite is inconsistent with any end, if infinity has to be traversed before that end is reached: for infinity is untraversable. We must therefore arrive at some first good thing, which is not good by participation in reference to anything else, but is good by its own essence; and that is God.

4. What is, may partake of something; but sheer being can partake of nothing. For that which partakes, is potentiality: but being is actuality. But God is sheer being, as has been proved (Chap. XXII): He is not then good by participation, but essentially so.8080Whereas Dr Smith is not essential wisdom.

5. Every simple being has its existence and what it is, in one:8181That is, its existence and its essence are the same (Chap. XXII). if the two were different, simplicity would be gone. But God is absolute simplicity, as has been shown (Chap. XVIII): therefore the very goodness that is in Him is no other than His own very self.

The same reasoning shows that no other good thing is its own goodness: wherefore it is said: None is good but God alone (Mark x, 18; Luke xviii, 19).


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