« Prev Chapter C. That the things which God does beyond… Next »

CHAPTER CThat the things which God does beyond the Order of Nature are not contrary to Nature702702Does ‘nature’ mean anything definite and fixed at all? Because, if it does not, nothing can be contrary to nature. Does ‘nature’ mean merely ‘what God wills?’ If so, nothing that God wills can be contrary to nature. But the question recurs in another form: ‘What can God will? Any fantastic and bizarre combination that we choose to name?’ Certainly not. There are then restraints upon God’s willing, restraints in the eternal nature of things, which, in the last reduction means God’s own nature. His will may be said to be conditioned by His nature. He is not a merum arbitrium, an absolute, arbitrary will. Then there must be something definite and fixed, which may be called ‘nature,’ against which God can have no will.

SINCE God is prime agent, all things inferior to Him are as His instruments. But instruments are made to serve the end of the prime agent, according as they are moved by Him: therefore it is not contrary to, but very much in accordance with, the nature of the instrument, for it to be moved by the prime agent. Neither is it contrary to nature for created things to be moved in any way whatsoever (qualitercunque) by God: for they were made to serve Him.703703This would be a pretty argument, were all instruments alike capable of all things, and not limited in efficiency each by its own nature. As it is, the word qualitercunque seems to have crept into the conclusion without being in the premises. Instruments have their several natures and capacities, and cannot be used indifferently one for another. A looking-glass will not serve for a drinking-cup. Even God could not set an ox to govern a State, nor make a three pound weight in a fair balance, without interference natural or preternatural, outweigh five pounds. Miracles are not wrought in that way, which indeed, so far as words go, is the very thesis of St Thomas in this chapter.

4. The first measure of every being and of every nature is God, seeing that He is the first being and canse of being to all. And since everything must be judged by its measure, that must be called ‘natural’ to a thing whereby it is conformed to its measure, or standard. That then will be natural to a thing, which has been put into it by God. Therefore, though something 264further be impressed upon a thing, making it otherwise than as it was before, that is not against nature.704704   Provided it be not essentially incompatible with what was ‘put in’ originally. But if bovine nature be the original endowment, civil status and capacity cannot possibly ‘impressed’ upon that.
   I hope I may insist upon this without disrespect to St Thomas, — nay, without departure from his further and inner mind (Chap. XCVII), here not so clearly expressed, bent as he was for the nonce upon explaining the Augustinian quotation with which he concludes. In these days, when the great philosophic difficulty against theism is the prevalence of evil, it is of the first importance to beware of any theistic statement which seems to represent God as mere Will, arbitrary, unconditioned, and untrammelled by any regard to the eternal fitnesses and possibilities of nature. In the presence of evils such as we daily experience, to ally such sheer, imperious, overruling and overwhelming Will with Goodness, is a task which one shrinks from contemplating. Happily, it is not the task of the philosopher and the Christian. No lord paramount θυμὸς or βούλησις can run counter to the εἴδη. If we might put words into the mouth of our Creator, words suggested by our great dramatist, we might fancy God saying:
I can do all that doth become a God: Who can do more, is none.
   That alone ‘doth become a God,’ which is consonant with the εἴδη, or fixed intelligible natures of things, which are the expression of His nature as imitable beyond Himself God is “the first measure of every being and of every nature” by virtue of what He is in Himself in His own being and His own nature, not by mere virtue of His will.

5. All creatures stand to God as the products of art to the artist (B. II, Chap. XXIV). Hence all nature may be called an artistic product of divine workmanship (artificiatum divinae artis). But it is not contrary to the notion of workmanship for the artist to work something to a different effect in his work, even after he has given it the first form. Neither then is it contrary to nature if God works something in natural things to a different effect from that which the ordinary course of nature involves.

Hence Augustine says: “God, the Creator and Founder of all natures, does nothing contrary to nature, because to every creature that is natural which He makes so, of whom is all measure, number and order of nature.705705Contra Faustum Manichaeum, XXVI, Chap. iii. St Augustine goes on to explain himself in apt accordance with text and notes preceding: “We call ‘nature’ the course of nature, that we know and are accustomed to. When God does anything contrary to this course, such doings are called extraordinary, or marvellous. But against that supreme law of nature, which is hidden from the knowledge as well of the wicked as of others who are still weak, God is as far removed from ever doing anything as He is removed from doing anything against Himself.”


« Prev Chapter C. That the things which God does beyond… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |