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CHAPTER LXXXVIThat Reason can be assigned for the Divine Will166166Reason is absolutely assignable for the volitions of God regarding the universe: but relatively to us, we can assign it but vaguely, and, revelation apart, with much uncertainty. By aid of the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmogonies, mediaeval writers had much to say of “the perfection of the universe,” over which sayings the modern astronomer stands amazed, murmuring low to himself, if he is a pious man, Nimis profundae factae sunt cogitationes tuae (Ps. xci). A characteristic of the Middle Ages is idealisation of unity, permanence, and systematic completeness in the social, political, religious, and even in the cosmic order. To us “the perfection of the universe” is a less obvious ground of argument, There is such a perfection, doubtless, as the Creator is wise and good; and much of the wisdom and beauty of His work is manifest to our eyes; but the entirety is beyond us. We cannot comprehend it, as we cannot comprehend Him.

THE end is a reason for willing the means. But God wills His own goodness as an end, and all things else as means thereto: His goodness therefore is a reason why He wills other things different from Himself.


2. The good of a part is ordained to the end of the good of the whole, as the imperfect to the perfect. But things become objects of the divine will according as they stand in the order of goodness. It follows that the good of the universe is the reason why God wills every good of any part of the universe.

3. Supposing that God wills anything, it follows of necessity that He wills the means requisite thereto. But what lays on others a necessity for doing a thing, is a reason for doing it. Therefore the accomplishment of a purpose, to which such and such means are requisite, is a reason to God for willing those means.

We may therefore proceed as follows. God wishes man to have reason, to the end that he may be man: He wishes man to be, to the end of the completion of the universe: He wishes the good of the universe to be, because it befits His own goodness.167167So St Thomas’s autograph, Quia decet bonitatem ipsius. The same proportion however is not observable in all three stages of this ratiocination. The divine goodness does not depend on the perfection of the universe, and receives no accession thereby. The perfection of the universe, though depending necessarily on the good of some particular components, which are essential parts of the universe, has no necessary dependence on others, although even from them some goodness or beauty accrues to the universe, such things serving solely for the fortification (munimentum) or embellishment of the rest. But any particular good depends absolutely on the elements that are requisite to it: and still even such goods have adjuncts that go merely to better their condition. Sometimes therefore the reason of the divine will involves mere becomingness, sometimes utility, sometimes also hypothetical necessity, but never absolute necessity, except when the object of God’s volition is God Himself.

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