Category Archives: Goodness

Triplism not dualism for God: matter, spirit, goodness.

God’s Efficient Freedom

God's material simplicity seems to apply to His 1st level;

His final happiness, to His 2nd;

and His formal goodness, to 3rd. (Thus, to the question, "What is God?" we reply, "Goodness.")

How does God's being efficiently free fit into this picture? It applies in different ways to both 1st and 2nd levels.

On the 1st level, we say that God is bound by no laws of operation even in respect to His simple matter. Nothing determines God to work one definite way yet not any other way.

On the 2nd level, we remove all limitations on God's ad intra omnipotence and therefore on His "pursuit" and enjoyment of happiness.

Efficient causation for God then has something to describe in regard to both 1st-level freedom and 2nd-level power. To be free is to have permission to act, and not even God's nature imposes any rules or prohibitions on God. To have power is to be able to bring about happy consequences of acting, and God can do so with perfect competence.

God then is free from any either internal or external obstacles to His beatitude.

Divine Economy; Angelic Rebellion

1. By tradition we say that God the Father concerns himself with the entire universe; the Holy Spirit, with mankind, especially with its multiple kinds of unions through charity; and the Son, with the salvation and happiness of each individual.

But we can also look at it this way: the Son died the first time so that the world could be created; the second time at birth to unite humanity to the Godhead; and the third time on the cross to save individual men. But I've written on this extensively already.

2. The reason for man's essential corruptibility and the inevitability of the Original Sin was the excess of potency in him. Angels are rational but have less potentiality in them and so are metaphysically safe; animals have plenty of potency but are innocent for being irrational.

As a result, man is a uniquely miserable creature. Blessed is the Lord for creating us anyway and providing an astonishing remedy for our inherent defects!

We can further see that the fall of the angels was a dispute between creatures and did not involve God. Lucifer was not so stupid as to rebel against the infinite and almighty God. His nature is and always has been intact. What happened rather was that the angels were given the grace of charity for men, as per the Holy Spirit's mission to the world, but Lucifer despised humans for their (future) foibles and refused the grace. He then decided to wipe us off the face of the earth, not directly but by inclining us to murder each other. It should please us that the world, though it is beset by conflict, is after all not insane.

Note also that the demons will not be "punished," as if they were part of our "civil society" of rational creatures and committed some crime. We are not cops who apprehended suspected criminals who will be granted all the requisite due process; if convicted in a court of law, "punishment" will be administered to some demons perhaps to deter others from harming men in the future. We are not a society disrupted by occasional sporadic disorderly conduct; we are at war which is total and merciless. The demons will be not punished by a civil authority by defeated in war and forced to surrender unconditionally.

Incompatible Properties, 3

7) Non-physicality vs. Personhood:

1. If God exists, then he is nonphysical.
2. If God exists, then he is a person (or personal being).
3. A person (or personal being) needs to be physical.
4. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1-3). (193)

My reply: First, God is not "non-physical." He has a 1st fully physical level which is materially simple and efficiently free. This "body" entails no potentiality in God.

Second, insofar as the opposition between non-physicality and personhood is an entailment from materialism, it suffers from all the problems of this doctrine.

Drange himself points out that "not all nontheists would accept 3. ... This argument turns on the issue of whether the idea of a 'bodiless person' is consistent and coherent. That is a difficult and highly controversial issue, and I shall not pursue it here..."

Well, alright then.

8) Omnipresence vs. Personhood:

My reply: I see no contradiction between omnipresence and God's personhood. As already stated, the former is not only material but spiritual, as well.

9) Omniscience vs. Freedom:

3. An omniscient being must know exactly what actions he will and will not do in the future.
4. If one knows that he will do an action, then it is impossible for him not to do it, and if one knows that he will not do an action, then it is impossible for him to do it.
5. Thus, whatever an omniscient being does, he must do, and whatever he does not do, he cannot do (from 3 and 4).
6. To be free requires having options open, which means having the ability to act contrary to the way one actually acts.
7. So, if one is free, then he does not have to do what he actually does, and he is able to do things that he does not actually do (from 6).
8. Hence, it is impossible for an omniscient being to be free (from 5 and 7). (194)

My reply: Once again, God ad intra is not free, or perhaps free vacuously, by virtue of not needing freedom to choose between satisfactions. He is perfectly and infinitely happy and wants nothing for Himself other than what He already has.

But ad extra, there is a problem of the seeming inevitability of the inference from God's foreknowledge to the nonexistence of God's own freedom of the will. The solution is the same as in the usual variant of this puzzle which deals with human freedom. As a matter of fact, Drange's version of the problem is even easier, because we don't need to know how God knows future contingents. God knows what He wills, because He wills it; if He had willed differently, then He would have known differently. In logical moment 1, God has decided to actualize the best possible world, but He does not yet know what that world is. He then crunches some numbers and finds this world. Having found the solution in logical moment 2, God wills it and in so doing learns what it is that He willed.

Regarding creation, the act of willing and the realization of what is being willed are of course "simultaneous" in God's eternity.

We thus deny the natural ad extra omniscience of God. But omniscience is restored to God in the form of complete free (as distinct from natural and middle) knowledge.

10) Justice vs. Mercy:

1. If God exists, then he is an all-just judge.
2. If God exists, then he is an all-merciful judge.
3. An all-just judge treats every offender with exactly the severity that he deserves.
4. An all-merciful judge treats every offender with less severity than he deserves.
5. It is impossible to treat an offender both with exactly the severity that he deserves and also with less severity than he deserves.
6. Hence, it is impossible for an all-just judge to be an all-merciful judge (from 3-5). (195)

My reply: St. Thomas' solution is that

God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than justice; thus a man who pays another two hundred pieces of money, though owing him only one hundred, does nothing against justice, but acts liberally or mercifully.

The case is the same with one who pardons an offense committed against him, for in remitting it he may be said to bestow a gift. ... Hence it is clear that mercy does not destroy justice, but in a sense is the fullness thereof. (ST, I, 21, 3, reply 2)

Rothbard, too, points out in Ethics of Liberty that forgiving offenses or debts is not unjust. (86; 89; 145)

Here's what seems to be the Christian view. Almost every human who reaches the age of reason will have done things in his life that are both good and evil. Now the effects of sin are threefold: corruption of nature, debt of punishment, and stain on the soul.

Regarding the first, God's mercy consists in having made human nature self-correcting and self-healing.

Regarding the second, God's shows mercy by forgiving the debt, because even a single unforgiven sin will prevent a soul from reaching heaven. Unless mercy is shown to a person, he is summarily executed and sent to hell, from which there is no salvation.

Regarding the third, God's mercy lies in graciously restoring the soul's beauty after sin.

In short, God is merciful in that for humans, unlike for angels, sins in this world do not fully bar their way to glory. In other words, mercy converts the infinite badness of a sin into merely finite badness, just as the sacrament of confession does. It gives you a second (and sometimes third, etc.) chance and lets your avoid hell; it cannot earn you heaven.

But God is just, insofar as when this life ends, so does forgiveness of sins, and each soul is then judged 100% according to its merits and character.

Hence we can ask God to "have mercy" on ourselves or friends including the dead, but it makes no sense to ask to "give glory," for the latter is guaranteed to be allotted objectively and precisely according to desert, nor can divine justice be swayed by impetration.

Incompatible Properties, 2

4) Immutability vs. Love:

3. An immutable being cannot be affected by events.
4. To be all-loving, it must be possible for a being to be affected by events.
5. Hence, it is impossible for an immutable being to be all-loving (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (190)

My reply: St. Thomas solves this problem in an exceedingly simple way: "a thing has existence, or any kind of good, only inasmuch as it is willed by God. To every existing thing, then, God wills some good. Hence, since to love anything is nothing else than to will good to that thing, it is manifest that God loves everything that exists." (ST, I, 20, 2) Clearly, no immediate threat to the immutability of God is present in this understanding.

However, Drange asks us to consider the concept of love as "agape, which is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others." (190) Such love must exist in God. But how is it manifested, and how is it compatible with immutability?

The proof is in the 3 sacrifices of God the Son. Each time a potency was introduced in Him which reduced Him to almost nothing, yet in actualizing this potency, the Son was reborn in glory.

The first death uplifted His intellect. The Son was blinded and yet upon choosing to take part in creation, He obtained in addition to His natural vision and full comprehension of God the free knowledge of the world that He could not have otherwise. The reason why the Son was in ultimate control, taking the natural and middle knowledge as inputs and directing both the Father and the Holy Spirit, was that the world was made for Him, and He is its ruler.

The second near-death occurred at His conception. The Son was reduced from God to a zygote. His power was thus dialed down to zero, yet upon His embrace of life and public ministry (perhaps at His baptism), Jesus grew up with the omnipotence equal to the Father's, as manifested by His subsequent miracles. That's the sense of "kenosis."

His final death and self-sacrifice occurred through the Christ's passion on the cross. He was tempted with hating mankind yet found us worthy at the end by rising from the dead, loving us with His will so much as to draw all unto Himself as branches to His vine.

God therefore is absolutely immutable by His 2nd-level nature, but can be made mutable by 3rd-level goodness. Since God is by nature pure act, any potency added to Him all but destroys His nature, but each time His nature was restored along with the world without end.

God's self-sacrificial agape for us has therefore been demonstrated in action 3 times. Each death and rebirth changed God, but having accomplished all, God's love for us now is once more immutable. "To sorrow, therefore, over the misery of others belongs not to God; but it does most properly belong to Him to dispel that misery, whatever be the defect we call by that name," says St. Thomas (ST, I, 21, 3).

5) Transcendence vs. Omnipresence:

1. If God exists, then he is transcendent (i.e., outside space and time).
2. If God exists, then he is omnipresent.
3. To be transcendent, a being cannot exist anywhere in space.
4. To be omnipresent, a being must exist everywhere in space.
5. Hence, it is impossible for a transcendent being to be omnipresent (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (191)

My reply: Drange himself points out that premise 3 is vulnerable: "a being could be partly inside space and partly outside." However, he finds this idea incoherent.

Let's then clarify both concepts. God is present in each point in space both materially and spiritually. For material omnipresence, see

God Causes Inertial Motion;
God As Unmoved Mover; and
Proof of God's Material Simplicity.

If God were omnipresent as simple 1st-level matter, then He would by that fact exclude all other bodies from space. It follows that He is omnipresent rather as rest energy.

This divine energy or wave-vibration permeates all things and all space. Its very universality within all created "fabric of reality" makes it ordinarily undetectable by us.

Regarding spiritual omnipresence, God is everywhere by "essence, presence, and power": by essence which is existence, "inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being." (ST, I, 8, 3) "But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing... Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly." (1) St. Thomas summarizes this point: "God is in all things by His power, inasmuch as all things are subject to His power; He is by His presence in all things, as all things are bare and open to His eyes; He is in all things by His essence, inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being." (3)

Transcendence means that God is not contained in the universe in any sense whatsoever, that He is not the world-soul, that He is "above all things by the excellence of His nature," (1, reply 1) yet, unlike in the philosophy of process theism, the world does not also transcend God, since all things pre-exist in God as in the first cause.

6) Transcendence vs. Personhood:

3. If something is transcendent, then it cannot exist and perform actions within time.
4. But a person (or personal being) must exist and perform actions within time.
5. Therefore, something that is transcendent cannot be a person (or personal being) (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, ...

My reply: The previous argument considered space; this one deals with time.

Now premise 4 is an unhappy one. God exists in eternity and would remain a person or rather the Trinity even without creation. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would each possess their own intellect, power, and will, and so would be persons.

Again, God does not exist "partly inside time and partly outside time," a straw man of an objection to his own argument that Drange considers (which I agree would be incoherent). God's eternity consists in "simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life," i.e., a package of past, present, future, and timelessness wrapped into a single moment in which God lives and is in pure act. See, for example,

God's Eternity, 1,
God's Eternity, 2.

What Drange probably means is that a transcendent eternal God cannot be related to by us, if He cannot come down to our human temporal level.

But one of the perks of being thus eternal or transcendent with respect to time is precisely the ability to inspect all 4 time periods from a vantage point. A being as absolutely superior as God can always communicate with His creatures.

Drange mentions a related argument that opposes transcendence and freedom. As already argued, God ad intra has a will, but no free will, because He does not need freedom, being perfectly happy. Freedom is needed to choose between pleasures, to pick one and for its sake reluctantly sacrifice all others. But as Mises argued,

For an [ad intra] all-powerful being there is no pressure to choose between various states of uneasiness; he is not under the necessity of acquiescing in the lesser evil. Omnipotence would mean the power to achieve everything and to enjoy full satisfaction without being restrained by any limitations.

But this is incompatible with the very concept of action. For an almighty being the categories of ends and means do not exist. ...

For the almighty being every "means" renders unlimited services, he can apply every "means" for the attainment of any ends, he can achieve every end without the employment of any means. (HA, 69)

But ad extra, in relation with the created universe, God is free by having chosen and created (again, as part of the Son's death and rebirth) the best possible world out of an infinitude of all possibilities, by issuing grace to the just, and by governing the communion of saints in both time in this life and aeviternity in the next according to His counsel.

Thus, God is both transcendent away from and immanent within the world.

God’s “Incompatible Properties,” 1

Drange presents for our consideration supposedly incompatible attributes of God.

1) Perfection vs. Creation:

1. If God exists, then he is perfect.
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.
3. A perfect being can have no needs or wants.
4. If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.
5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (186)

My reply: Premise 4 is false, since God created the universe according to neither physical nor teleological causation. God's nature is not dualist but uniquely triplist, with the 3rd level understood as "goodness." Therefore, God neither had to create as if a machine, nor wanted to create as if an imperfect dissatisfied spirit. God created through the overflowing of His goodness. I have of course dealt with this in great detail earlier.

2) Immutability vs. Creation:

1. If God exists, then he is immutable.
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.
3. An immutable being cannot at one time have an intention and then at a later time not have that intention.
4. For any being to create anything, prior to creation he must have had the intention to create it, but at a later time, after the creation, no longer have the intention to create it.
5. Thus, it is impossible for an immutable being to have created anything (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (187)

My reply: We can distinguish logically between ad intra and ad extra divine faculties. Regarding God the Father as Creator, since God is eternal, there is, however, no temporal distinction: the Father (unlike the Holy Spirit and the Son) has always been good, and the world was always meant to be. The Father's intellect, will, and power have always been adequate.

Regarding intention, I argue that as the human (1st-level) body moves, so the God's (2nd-level) spirit loves; that is, as the body moves without any external forces moving it, so the spirit loves by creating things and infusing being without any dissatisfaction felt by the lover -- without any external object, the non-possession of which causes God displeasure.

Nothing other than (3rd-level) goodness moves God's will. The Father chooses the state of affairs "2nd-level God + the world" over the state of affairs "God alone," but only by reason of His goodness, or mysteriously in order to show forth and communicate His goodness. The world for God is not a consumer good from which He derives utility.

Therefore, God never had an unsatisfied desire that vexed Him until He scratched His itch, either in time or in eternity. According to the First Vatican Council, God created "not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures." (Catechism, §293)

3) Immutability vs. Omniscience:

3. An immutable being cannot know different things at different times.
4. To be omniscient, a being would need to know propositions about the past and future.
5. But what is past and what is future keep changing.
6. Thus, in order to know propositions about the past and future, a being would need to know different things at different times (from 5).
7. It follows that, to be omniscient, a being would need to know different things at different times (from 4 and 6).
8. Hence, it is impossible for an immutable being to be omniscient (from 3 and 7).
9. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 8) (189)

My reply: Ad intra, without reference to the creation, God is both absolutely immutable and omniscient. Regarding His knowledge of "enunciable things," i.e., propositions, St. Thomas argues that God does not in His inner life think by forming propositions in His mind and contemplating them. He "knows each thing... by understanding the essence of each thing; as if we by the very fact that we understand what man is, were to understand all that can be predicated of man. ... Now the species of the divine intellect, which is God's essence, suffices to represent all things. Hence by understanding His essence, God knows the essences of all things, and also whatever can be accidental to them."

Yet he insists that God knows and at least is able to entertain propositions: "Since it is in the power of our intellect to form enunciations [thoughts expressing propositions], and since God knows whatever is in His own power or in that of creatures..., it follows of necessity that God knows all enunciations that can be formed." (ST, I, 14, 14)

The main puzzle concerns indexical propositions, i.e., those varying in reference with the individual speaker though words like I, now, here. If God knows (has a justified true belief) that today is Wednesday, then tomorrow he will cease to know that it is Wednesday. If God knows that Socrates is sitting, then His knowledge will change when Socrates stands up. St. Thomas is fully aware of this problem, himself raising the objection: "God knew that Christ would be born. But He does not know now that Christ will be born; because Christ is not to be born in the future. Therefore God does not know everything He once knew; and thus the knowledge of God is variable." (15, objection 3)

As a result, things are considerably more complicated regarding God's ad extra attributes. Now God the Son died at the hands of goodness not once but three times for the sake of the improvement of each of His faculties -- intellect, power, and will (from merely ad intra to ad extra). His first death allowed Him to choose which possible Father's and potential Holy Spirit's world should become actual. God's natural knowledge is ad intra and fixed from eternity; His middle knowledge is ad extra, generated upon the decision to create, but also fixed from eternity. The Father's creative act was a miracle; the Holy Spirit bestows grace; and the Son solicitude regards nature. Thus, the Son's first kind of free knowledge, concerning every action of both creatures and Himself as ruler of the communion of saints into their everlasting lives, became fixed upon the Son's free decision at creation. The resulting best actual world may be called the "Path." Once the Path has been fully mapped, God is mostly done.

(A possible caveat already mentioned elsewhere is that before His incarnation, the Son did not know what would happen afterwards and so was not ad extra omniscient.)

Further, God is easily able to distinguish between this world's present, past, and future by virtue of His atemporal eternity and superiority thereof. God does not exist "outside of time" but in time perfected and transcended. He is eternal, surveying all time. As a result, God does not absurdly attempt to change the past or interact with a future person, etc.

But God's second kind of free propositional knowledge, regarding what time it is now and what's happening now and what's in the past or future, is ad extra and variable in time.

Mystery of Salvation Statistics

I have discussed the problem of whether everyone will in the end be saved and found the evidence inconclusive as regards both reason and Christian faith. No near-death experience I am aware of resolves the matter, either. Nor any private revelation to any saint. Nor, again, does reincarnation, if it be real, guarantee it.

I have argued that the created universe was a gift from God the Father to the Son. It was the Son who chose both the possible world to be actualized by Father and along with that, the providential path through it by the Holy Spirit at the Son's greatest pleasure. Predestination of humans toward either hell or different degrees of glory occurred as an aspect of this choice: the world on the whole is best possible one, and its human potential as a one thing is best realized -- as judged by the Son but perhaps also "objectively," but perhaps some individuals through their sin destroy themselves, as per God's permission.

Thus, God the Father created nature which the Holy Spirit then may have labored on through intelligent design = grace, but God does not create individual humans; nature does. And nature is a mad scientist. Can we make an analogy that perhaps just as nature eliminates the physically unfit by killing their bodies, so perhaps God or even "spiritual" natural laws eliminate the spiritually unfit by throwing them into hell?

God then chose the world as a whole, but He did not directly decree that any particular Smith would be born or live; Smith's existence is foreseen but not thereby intended by any person of the Trinity. An analogy would be direct vs. representative democracy: in the former one votes for individual laws or policies; in the latter, one votes in a package deal for a congressman who will then according to his own counsel vote for many policies. God intended Smith directly only in the sense that He was influenced by the foresight that Smith would contribute his minuscule amount of goodness to the goodness of the world. Again it is also possible that Smith is good only indirectly and even if hell-bound, if his existence still is useful on utilitarian grounds as regards the welfare of the entire world.

Thus, perhaps God, in foreseeing Smith, his randomly generated self, and his future adventures, loved Smith and chose the world in a (very) small part because of him; then again, perhaps He hated Smith's guts and chose the world despite Smith's lamentable depravity but such that the world is still the best possible one on the whole.

Hence, Jesus' analogy with the divine judgment as applying to an almost randomly grown harvest which contains some good and some bad plants:

When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?" He answered, "An enemy has done this." His slaves said to him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" He replied, "No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Mt 13:26-30)

The parable asserts that an "enemy" sowed evil men, but we have to be careful here. Perhaps the enemy can corrupt the seeds morally as they develop and live, but all the seeds themselves must needs be metaphysically good, lest God be the direct author of evil or even a fetus could be judged evil by its very nature and burned even prior to committing any actual sins or wicked deeds. NABRE comments that "weeds" refer to "darnel, a poisonous weed that in its first stage of growth resembles wheat." So, at first, the weeds and wheat are indistinguishable but separate later in life which is a defensible idea. In short, as God did not create any individual, neither did the devil.

In this case, as already asserted, life of the soul is "survival of the saintliest." God takes each soul, evaluates its beauty, and unceremoniously consigns it to either heaven or hell. Just how exactly beautiful must my soul be in order to get to heaven? Where's the cutoff point? I don't know, but something like this would be true in an unredeemed world.

It follows that positive reprobation is false, since God directly predestines no one by virtue of not creating anyone. In addition, of course, it is generally unattractive. If God had created Smith evil and predestined him for the life of sin and self-destruction, perhaps in order to sacrifice him in some utilitarian fashion for the sake of those predestined for salvation, then we could take exception to such an objectionably callous divine decision. Whether anyone is saved would depend on one's luck, in particular on not being born Smith-like. Nor will it help to argue that "Smith drove himself into hell freely," because such a "choice" implies that Smith is enjoying hell which cannot be. Hell is by its nature always an explicit punishment and the worst one possible at that. It would then be much harder than it is now to insist on the absolute essential goodness of God.

But negative reprobation where Smith's sins are foreseen (though again not intended but permitted for the sake of some general welfare) and punishment is accorded on their account cannot be disposed of so easily. The world remains best possible and potential one, but God lacks the power to save everyone, though He makes the best out of a bad situation. (We may still wonder though why Smith would bother with attributing goodness to the Father and the Holy Spirit when the Son executes his soul.)

I am not making these questions up as though no one had asked them before; e.g., the Catholic Encyclopedia considers it a "hidden mystery," asking, "Why is it that this child is baptized, but not the child of the neighbor? Why is it that Peter the Apostle rose again after his fall and persevered till his death, while Judas Iscariot, his fellow-Apostle, hanged himself and thus frustrated his salvation?" These considerations once again suggest that the answer to the question "Who will be saved?" is a carefully guarded mystery.

God: Trinity and Unity

God is a trinity on the 2nd level, insofar as each person of the Trinity has His own unique separate and distinct intellect, will, and power.

God is a unity for 3 reasons. First, the 3 levels in God are united into a single "thing."

Second, each person's intellect is an aspect of the intellect of God. The same is true for the wills and powers of the persons.

In particular, for God, His love of concupiscence, love of self, and love of friendship are numerically identical to each other. God loves Himself as a "consumer good" or object of contemplation; He loves His own self, such that the lover, the beloved, and the love (understood as everything God approves of and enjoys about Himself) are God Himself; and God manifests His love for the other through the relations of the Trinity.

Thus, the Father and the Son love each other through the Holy Spirit. But the effects of love are, as per St. Thomas, union, mutual indwelling, ecstasy, and zeal: "when a man loves another with the love of friendship, he wills good to him, just as he wills good to himself: wherefore he apprehends him as his other self, in so far, to wit, as he wills good to him as to himself. Hence a friend is called a man's 'other self'..., and Augustine says..., 'Well did one say to his friend: Thou half of my soul.'" (ST, II-I, 28) The Father and Son then indwell in each other perfectly and wholeheartedly together with the Holy Spirit, making them one. Each person is "another self" to the other two persons.

This relation may be also approached as follows: the lover unites with the beloved, is completed through this union, and rests in peace therefrom. The divine mind (Father) that thinks and through one comprehensive thought (Holy Spirit) understands itself (Son), while maintaining an identity of these three as simple pure act achieves precisely this sort of completeness and as its consequence, beatitude or happiness.

Third, the acts of the divine intellect, will, and power are in fact self-same single act.

See also:

Mea Culpa on the Trinity;
One God, Many Distinctions;
Trinity: Ad Intra and Ad Extra.

First Cause As Last End

St. Thomas aims to prove that there is such a thing as "last end" for humans. He correctly identifies it as happiness. Further, he believes that it is specifically "the sole contemplation of God seen in His essence" that grants perfect pleasure. It's what puts the mind at ease and rest, what satisfies all desire: the vision and secure possession of all truth, even if God remains infinite and beyond full comprehension for any finite creature. Thus, "if man's happiness is an operation, it must needs be man's highest operation. Now man's highest operation is that of his highest power in respect of its highest object: and his highest power is the intellect, whose highest object is the Divine Good, which is the object, not of the practical but of the speculative intellect. ... Therefore the last and perfect happiness, which we await in the life to come, consists entirely in contemplation." (ST, II-I, 3, 5)

I have two objections to this.

First is that there is no such thing as "perfect happiness" even in contemplation. The object of vision, God, obviously cannot improve, but the understanding of a blessed soul or angel can, with time. There has to be continuous learning of new things, new insights, including even by the angels. The idea of a permanent changeless operation is repugnant to the nature of all rational creatures as potentially infinite.

Second is that the human body is not a disposable consumer good, as though "the very body is for the soul, as matter for its form, and the instruments for the man that puts them into motion, that by their means he may do his work." (II-I, 2, 5) The body is not like a shovel or granola bar but an essential aspect of humanity; and this is precisely how we differ from the angels. The embodied pleasures for humans in paradise will be equal in intensity and fun to the disembodied pleasure of contemplating God in heaven.

For example, St. Thomas is wrong in thinking that the "the fellowship of friends" is not necessary for happiness: "Perfection of charity is essential to happiness, as to the love of God, but not as to the love of our neighbor. Wherefore if there were but one soul enjoying God, it would be happy, though having no neighbor to love." (II-I, 4, 8, reply 3) He seems to contradict himself in (I, 106): even regarding contemplation, he argues that superior angels enlighten inferior ones in the celestial hierarchy and always will. Much more then do angels and greater saints enlighten the lesser souls in the state of glory.

Even if contemplation of God is a somewhat solitary activity, in paradise a solitary human would be rather miserable. Humans are highly social creatures, complementing each other in a vast variety of ways. To deprive us from the communion of saints is to harm us immensely and unjustly. Thus, Jesus' words to the crucified thief were not, "Today you will be with the Father in heaven," but "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:43) It seems therefore that in heaven the Holy Spirit will unite each man with the Father; and in paradise, He will unite us with each other and with the Son.

The whole reason for the enormous sacrifices God has made through the fall of angels and men and the death of His Son and massive human suffering on earth has been to unite the universe into a one thing through different types of love or charity. To turn around and blithely proclaim that the communion between humans, between men and nature, and so forth, as described earlier, is all of a sudden actually irrelevant or at most an afterthought is a major mistake. We can excuse St. Thomas only because in his times, neither economic science nor laissez-faire capitalism existed, and the idea of everlasting progress in man's active life was completely unknown and unentertained.

St. Thomas' proof that one's contemplative life is perfected by the vision of God in heaven is adequate: all intellectual wonder is satisfied by beholding the source and archetype of all things. That in addition to heaven, there is also paradise in which one's active life is perfected requires a different proof. Or rather, the idea of paradise can be developed a priori, but whether paradise actually exists is an empirical problem which can be resolved by considering the Incarnation of the Son. We know that the Incarnation occurred, that Jesus is God, that He was born so that His love for us could be tested by our ultimate injustice toward Him personally -- by following the evidence. Since we know that Jesus united human nature, soul and body both, to the divinity, we can deduce that the happiness in the embodied active life can be one of our rewards in the hereafter.

The passage, "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him," (1 Cor 2:9) is best interpreted as the promise of future enjoyments in paradise, since, contrary to it, we do know exactly what God has prepared for man's contemplation in heaven, and that is Himself.

Now we must make a distinction between our ability to conceive what will make a man happy and whether this happiness is reachable. Now regarding the contemplative life, St. Thomas argues in (I, 12, 4) that no created intellect by its natural powers can see the divine essence. And regarding the active life, reason tells us that humans not only fail to enjoy everlasting improvement and perpetual novel pleasures in paradise, but that they fail to secure life itself, since everyone dies including often in terrible pain. Therefore, that both kinds of happiness are attainable by man is a deliverance not of reason but of faith.

And with that, we have it that union with God is our last end for our both contemplative and active lives.

Re: Dillahunty Objects to the Arguments from Contingency

A speech by Matt Dillahunty was linked to for my edification from an atheist website on which I presented my arguments for the existence of God from "contingency."

At the beginning, Matt distinguishes between two kinds of contingency: "causal" and "sustaining." P may be dependent on Q for its coming to exist, but also for its continuing to exist. Thus, he argues that it is possible that some X caused or created the contingent universe and then disappeared. My own arguments are untouched by this distinction, because they all ask what ultimately sustains contingent things in being, such as the unions of (1) potency and existence; (2) act and existence; (3) potency and act.

There are three kinds of necessity relevant to this problem. The first type of necessity I call "imperishability." An object is necessary in this sense if, once it exists, it will never stop existing (and perhaps always has existed). Yet such an object is still contingent, because there will always be possible (though non-actual) ways to destroy it. There is no such thing as an ordinary indestructible object, because we can always postulate an irresistible force in some possible world that will smash it into smithereens. The proof begins with noting the perishability of numerous things and continues that there must be at least one thing that is imperishable or necessary in the first sense.

Matt appears to wonder what we can point to that is imperishable. I list three things: matter, in accordance with the law of conservation of matter and energy; certain forms, such as a stable elementary particle of some sort perhaps that is sure to exist forever; and the universe as a whole. Different arguments follow from each of these.

The second sense of necessity is illustrated by an X in which it's not the case that its essence and its existence are united by yet a third thing or force or what have you, but such that its essence and existence are numerically identical to each other, self-same. St. Thomas pronounces this astounding thing in particular to be "what all men call God." Imperishable matter and forms are such merely in this actual world; X is imperishable in all possible worlds. Matter and these imperishable objects are necessary in the first sense but not in the second sense. This time, it is not possible even logically to separate X's nature from its existence, because they are one and the same thing. However, the universe as a whole might indeed be necessary in the second sense, too, as far as we are concerned, and as Matt proposes. Must we then allow that the "cosmos" might be "God"?

Now let us not underestimate our achievement so far. We've already established that there must be some thing that is extremely and fantastically different from ordinary matter and objects in the fact that its essence is its own existence. We may stop here and call this "God." Matt objects to calling it God, because it may be the "cosmos as a whole," whatever it is, that may feature this very property. And I agree that there are further insights to be gained by following the argument to its final stage.

Note that even if it is possible for the cosmos to be necessary in the second sense, the cosmos cannot cause the necessity (in the first sense) of matter and imperishable forms. This is because all those are part of the cosmos, and the whole cannot give existence to its parts; rather the reverse. Whatever X is keeping things in perpetual existence must be distinct from the cosmos, even if both X and the cosmos are necessary in the second sense.

The third and last sense of necessity for us is modal logical necessity. In the X under our investigation, it has been revealed, there is a perfect (i.e., numerical) union of being and essence; but if the "cosmos," understood as everything that there is, consists in nothing but "being," then there may be possible worlds in which X does not exist at all. If God exists, then He is absolutely imperishable or necessary in the second sense. But He has not yet been demonstrated to be necessary in the third sense, as is evident from the ease with which His non-existence can be contemplated by the mind. Matt refuses to engage the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" apparently considering it nonsensical, but I urge him to change his mind. It is a perfectly reasonable query.

And as I therefore argue, the answer to it is that X is not really a "thing" at all; it is rather the Creator of things. Insofar as we (hopefully) are willing to consider the cosmos to be a good thing, its Creator would be the quintessence of goodness itself. This goodness is beyond being. For the sake of illustration only, and we are now going beyond our argument, the Father-Son-Holy Spirit would be perfectly and infinitely happy on the "2nd, spiritual" level. God on His ultimate and unique 3rd level of goodness does not seek happiness at all; but this goodness overflows and diffuses itself into things-that-seek-happiness, such as human beings. Even the Trinity is comparatively a mere attachment to God's essential goodness. As such, X-as-goodness transcends possible worlds and exists in all of them. Our X is now necessary in the fullest and most spectacular sense of this word.

Regarding the name of God, "goodness," I have a counter-argument. Imagine a world W of intelligent crystals who reproduce against their will, who live a long time, and who are always in agonizing pain. They long to die. Eventually, they develop the technology to commit suicide and actually all, as one, kill themselves. It is doubtful that even if the crystals reasoned their way to God's existence, they would concede His goodness. At the very least, W would clearly be incompetently and probably maliciously made. I submit that given the knowledge of God we've obtained in the course of this argument, it is more likely that W is an impossible world. It is conceivable, but there is a difference between what is conceivable and what is possible. W is only apparently possible and in fact not; hence, we are barred from using this example to argue against God's goodness.

Again, it is true that humans have on many occasions created a hell on earth, but very rarely to such an extent as to, through their crimes, cause their fellows to want to die.

Matt complains that the proofs under consideration do not supply us with the full understanding of God; they give us only a slice of God. Well, that is enough for these proofs. There are other proofs that reveal other aspects of the divine nature.

My methodology is that at the beginning of any systematic unveiling of the nature of "God," I deliberately forget so much as the common meaning of the term "God." I assume nothing. The most I allow myself is a question, "What is this God that other people occasionally mention in their speech?" Matt may object that I am still conditioned by my "culture" to use the word "God." True, but I do so only because I want to be understood rather than stew in my own solipsistic juices. Matt can hardly condemn a desire so innocent.

In sum, the argument from contingency succeeds at establishing a number of attributes of God; and moreover the use of the word "God" should cause the skeptic no offense, especially upon demonstration of how greatly God differs from creatures.

Arguments for God’s Existence from Contingency

St. Thomas begins his Third Way by saying that "we find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be." (ST, I, 2, 3)

Now if the universe began, then "at some point," to use this phrase loosely, there was nothing. If, on the other hand, the universe never began, then things in it must have existed forever, for an actual infinity of, say, years. (This isn't 100% intelligible in its own right, but let's suppose this for the sake of argument.) But if it is possible for an existing thing not to be, then the probability of its corrupting within some finite span of time is non-zero. But in infinite time, all probable events will occur, and an infinite number of times, too. Hence he goes on that "if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence." Either way, this is a problem, because "if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence -- which is absurd."

St. Thomas correctly concludes that "not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary." Here is where he and I part ways.

First, let's purge the argument of ambiguity: "necessary" here does not mean modal logical necessity but simply "imperishable." An imperishable thing is such that, once it exists, it will always exist and by extension, perhaps it always has existed.

Second, let's enumerate some of those imperishable things. They are:

  1. Matter, and as its limiting variant, prime or formless matter, ghostly pure potentiality; something which can become anything. Matter can change from one form to another and even to energy, but according to the law of conservation, it cannot die.

    We can understand prime matter as what remains if we take any real object and strip away all its distinctive characteristics. Prime matter has no essence; but neither is it non-existence. To say that prime matter exists is to say that it is potentially, given the appropriate agent, all possible things, but no actual thing.

  2. Certain forms may well be imperishable. For example, perhaps electrons can never corrupt. (Technically, they, too, can collide with positrons and be annihilated, but it may well be that some actual things are imperishable.)

    Note that an electron is considered to be an elementary particle, but it has a definite form; it is not a fully inert and property-less point of prime matter. An electron behaves in highly precise and unique ways. It knows what it is full well.

  3. The universe as a whole seems to be imperishable. For example, there are no "predators" outside it that may kill it. The universe does not seem to have the potential for disappearing. It is not beyond the pale to suggest that it will exist forever.

    There are a couple of other possibilities that we can list.

  4. Perhaps a certain object may change forms on a regular basis: say, one year on March 12, A changes into B, and then next year on June 5, B changes back into A, and so on forever. However, we can reduce this situation to one object P whose single essence includes in its definition the potential for all such changes.

    Thus, liquid water turns into snow and ice in winter, melts in spring, and evaporates into gas in summer. But it's still water.

    Finally, perhaps forms may change into novel and never-before-seen forms forever: A-∞ → ... → A-1 → A0 → A1 → ... → A.

    But we don't seem to have such forms in our universe.

Third, let's see what the first 3 things tell us, if anything, about God. St. Thomas outlines the procedure by concluding: "Every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another... Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God."

1. Prime matter makes all possible things potential. But what is possible and what is potential are two separate and distinct things that are united within prime matter. For example, it is easy for us to contemplate possible worlds and possible things. The fat man in the doorway has a partially specified essence, but he does not exist in reality. I form an idea of a lamp by abstracting the "essence" of the lamp from the singular object on my desk. This idea exists in the understanding as an ideal abstractum, but it may or may not exist really. Possibilities on their own are causally inefficacious and have no potential to exist.

Even prime matter, and therefore the union in it of the possible with the potential, then is contingent. It must be explained which means be reduced to a cause. Let a certain X cause prime matter. What can we assert about this X? Well, it causes possible things to become potential. If these are separated, then we are back to prime matter which cannot be a cause of itself. The inevitable conclusion is that in X, possibilities and potentialities are numerically identical with each other, self-same. They are not 2 separate things that need to be united by a 3rd object (as, e.g., (1) a man is united with (2) his life by (3) his self-love), because they are literally one and the same thing. That is what we mean by God: a thing in which everything possible is also potential, i.e., can be actualized. But that means that God possesses absolute and unlimited creative power.

This seems like an important first discovery in our investigation.

I am not proposing that the existence of prime matter entails the existence of the omnipotent shaper of prime matter directly. Oil has existed under the ground for far longer than there have been humans and for longer than humans have known how to transform oil into gasoline. At first glance, there may be formless matter with no one to use it. It is superficially conceivable that there is prime matter without God. But only because of the initial weakness of the human intellect. Such a thing is not possible.

It may be objected that God may have the power to create prime matter but lack any power to create anything further out of prime matter. God can make everything makeable but not necessarily makeable by Himself later on. Moreover, prime matter seems exceedingly simple. Perhaps it is easy for God to create it but impossible to create anything else with its assistance. In reply, I say that prime matter is simple actually but is infinitely complex potentially, since absolutely everything, from ladybugs to angels, can be fashioned out of it. Prime matter is inseparable from the art of using it. There is no way that a weak God could make a substance as infinitely versatile and wondrous as prime matter, unless His power to make reached everything which prime matter's power to be made also reaches. Hence God is ad extra omnipotent.

NB: Prime matter is a technical term for pure potentiality. Hence, even immaterial souls, including human and angelic, can be made out of it, too. There is no need to add "prime spirit."

2. This one is easier to unravel. An imperishable thing may nevertheless be contingent. That this is so can be established by the ease with which I can abstract the electron's essence from the singular thing. I can say that while I am contemplating this essence in my mind, the electron is an ideal abstractum; when instantiated, it becomes real. The essence of the election is a possible thing, and it may or may not be actual.

In the previous argument we considered the union of potentiality (matter) with existence. Now we proceed to the union of actuality (form) with existence.

This union must be effected through some "glue" that unites essence and existence which is not identical with either but is something super-added to both. The glue is probably some form of divine love which is the preeminent unitive force. Again then, even if the electron is imperishable, it is contingent, and the glue must be caused by something else.

But of course the cause must be a really existing object X, also, since ideal abstracta are causally inefficacious. (Nor is the electron's existence a proper accident of the nature of the electron, as the capacity to laugh is a proper accident of humanity. Nor, furthermore, can a thing cause its own existence.) Which raises the question of what united X's essence and existence. We cannot go to infinity, so the first cause of this union must be something in which essence and existence are numerically identical to each other, self-same. Again they are one, showcasing an aspect of divine simplicity. And that is God.

God then is "being itself subsisting," as St. Thomas expresses it.

3. Now that we have analyzed the consequences of the union of (potentiality + existence) and of (actuality + existence) in creatures, what remains is to see what the union of (potency + act) in them reveals about God.

As before, this union is artificial, contingent, and must be caused by something in which potency and act are entirely one. It does not make sense to say that whatever God is or is doing (act), He also can be (potency). But the reverse is quite meaningful: everything that God can be, He already is. And this signifies simply that God has no potentiality at all. Whatever God can extend to or do or enjoy, He already is in full possession of.

The conclusion is that God is pure act unmixed with any potency.

We have seen from argument 1) that in God, everything possible is potential. Argument 3) demonstrates further that in God, everything potential is actual. Hence, whatever is possible is actual in God. Therefore, all possible, and therefore all actually created, things pre-exist in God somehow as in their source of being, essence, and everything else.

Note that this argument does not preclude pantheism. Perhaps we are part of God, and all possible worlds are actual as constituent parts of God, especially if we argue that in God, the concrete and the abstract are self-same. More plausibly, however, creatures pre-exist in God as ideas in His mind, though this precise formulation may need a separate argument to be established. God is concrete as a self to be known as the Son, abstract as the thought knowing it as the Holy Spirit, which come together in a self-aware mind as the Father.

The identity of the abstract and concrete may be understood as that "2 + 2 = 4" is both an ideal proposition contemplated by God and a real component of the structure of the divine mind.

4. The argument from the contingency of the universe as a whole leads to a different conclusion. The question now is: Why is there something rather than nothing?

At first glance, the question seems befuddling. Why should there be nothing rather than what we have around us? Why privilege either "nothing" or "something"? Why cannot this world be everything that has ever been and will be?

On the one hand, we humans privilege nothing readily. We apparently come from nothing and go into nothing. In between we live for a little bit, always in danger, such that if we do not struggle with all our might, the nothing will arrive even quicker. All living things are born, thereby beginning to exist, and die, thereby ceasing to exist. But the inference from this human experience to the universe as a whole need not be taken.

Moreover, "something" is also privileged. The moment we are born, we are surrounded with stuff to use, enjoy, and manipulate. Disembodied existence, while not inconceivable, is not part of our human experience, though it may ultimately be natural in "heaven." But "nothingness" is inconceivable; one can't close his eyes and picture nothingness. However, that nothingness is inconceivable does not mean that it is impossible.

Let possible world Empty be defined as follows: ∀(x I can think of) [x does not exist in Empty]. Then

(1) Nothing = ∃[Empty]. We are dealing with "universes," uni = "one"; so, any possible world is a maximally consistent state of affairs. As a result, Empty swallows up every other reality; so, it is not necessary to say "there exists only Empty."

Let our actual world be called Terra. "Terra" is the name of the universe we live in, not of planet Earth. Then

(2) Something = ∃[Terra]. Neither is privileged, but just as before, (2) is only contingently true and demands an explanation.

Terra either has existed forever or was created. In either case, a physical cause of Terra is precluded from consideration, because it is situated before the effect. In the first case, infinite past cannot have a prior cause; and in the second case, time, too, began along with Terra, and it is meaningless to ask what happened "before" Terra began.

Since we are interested in the origin of the universe, neither teleological nor Aristotelian causation is applicable, either.

The cause of Terra joined the essence of Terra with existence by creating it. As a result, (2)'s being true has a "cause," and Terra's existing has a "ground" of its existence. This ground is called God. We have already seen the mode of causality of the first two grades: physical and teleological. An eternal grounding cause is the effecting of the 3rd grade, of goodness. Terra was united with its existence not at any moment in time but as a whole in eternity which "covers" merely everlasting existence (that we allowed for the sake of argument).

This is only half the task. Now we ask: What is this God? It cannot be another real thing, for then it, too, would stand in need of its own ground. It must then be "beyond" being. We conclude that God is not a thing at all but a kind of force, a primal principle that permeates all, that creates this world, so that its inhabitants might enjoy life or try to. That is what we mean when we say "God." God is not a thing but Creator of things. We may call it by the less ambitious and less potentially objectionable name, "creativity," or by the more ambitious one, "goodness," to the extent that one is inclined to consider Terra to be on the whole good and beautiful. But nothing is not a thing, either. So, in the beginning (of our story), we postulate nothing whatsoever (other than the 2nd-level God). It is a kind of clean slate, in which whatever is created (by goodness) can be made into a top-notch project or performance from ground up, with no need for backward compatibility.

Again, if goodness reigned, then in the beginning, there could not be anything, because only goodness creates good things, and nothing can exist whose existence goodness has not authorized. The choice goodness faced was: 2nd-level God + Empty or God + Terra.

To simplify: our options are: (a) goodness + nothing in the beginning and (b) a good thing, i.e., the world, in the beginning. Goodness implies "nothing," and "nothing" implies goodness; and now we see that their combination, i.e., (a), is also implied.

Note the difference between the last two arguments. The first establishes the identity of God's essence and existence. This is possible, because the essence of our electron can be fully comprehended. But it does not establish God's goodness, because there is no reason to hold that it is a "good thing" overall that a particular electron exists.

The second establishes God's goodness, because it is evident to any reasonably sane man that the universe as a whole is a very good thing. At the same time, it cannot prove the identity of the divine essence and His existence, because the universe as a whole is too big for me, not the least because I am part of it, and I cannot know myself fully, since in me the subject knowing is forever distinct from the object known. I cannot know the essence of the created universe. But I see that there may have been in its stead nothing at all.

These proofs relied on what I think is an uncontroversial principle that every contingent thing, including an actually imperishable one, must have a cause or perhaps "sufficient reason" which itself is necessary. We have by uniting in God what is diverse in creatures in the end demonstrated God's maximal creative power, an aspect of His simplicity, His pure actuality, that He is the archetype of all finite things, and His goodness.