William Paley Institute
Intelligent Design


Electronic Books


Natural Theology

Bernard Boedder, S.J.

Second Edition

Longmans, Green, and Co.
39 Paternoster Row, London
New York and Bombay





BOOK I. Of the Existence of God.

CHAPTER I. Views of Monotheistic Philosophers on the Natural Foundation of a
Reasonable Belief in God. Refutation of Ontologism and of the so-called
Ontological Argument.

SECTION 1. -- Explanation of the different opinions about God's existence
and the proofs for it.

SECTION 2. -- Refutation of Ontologism.

CHAPTER II. Proofs for the Existence of an Intelligent First Cause or
Personal God.

SECTION 1. -- Method of Proof.
SECTION 2. -- The Argument of the First Cause.
SECTION 3. -- The Argument from Design.
SECTION 4. -- The Moral Proof.
SECTION 5. -- Logical consequences of Agnosticism.

CHAPTER III. On the Fundamental Attributes of the Personal God and his
Fundamental Relation to Things Distinct from Him.

SECTION 1. -- The Unity of God
SECTION 2. -- The Simplicity of God.
SECTION 3. -- The Infinity of God.

CHAPTER IV. The Fundamental Relation of God to the World. Refutation of
Pantheism. Doctrine of Creation.

SECTION 1. -- Definition of Creation.
SECTION 2. -- Pantheism.
SECTION 3. -- The Contingency of the World.
SECTION 4. -- The Dependence of all things on God.
SECTION 5. -- Proof of an Immediate Influence of God.
SECTION 6. -- Proof of Creation.
SECTION 7. -- Possibility and limitation of the world accounted for by the
Divine Infinity.

SECTION 8. -- Proof that God alone can create.
SECTION 9. -- Proof that God is the immediate Author of Mind and Matter.
SECTION 10. -- Creation a free act of God's will.
SECTION 11. -- Creation not necessarily Eternal.
SECTION 12. -- On the possibility of Eternal Creation.
SECTION 13. -- The beginning of this World.

CHAPTER V. Solution of Difficulties against the Fundamental Truths of
Natural Theology.

SECTION 1. -- Arguments urged by Traditionalists in favour of the opinion,
that only by faith can we be certain of God's existence.
SECTION 2. -- Kant's difficulties against the proofs of God's existence.
SECTION 3. -- Difficulties of Spencer and Mill against the proof of a
First Cause.
SECTION 4. -- Difficulties of Mill and Lange against the Argument from
SECTION 5. -- Darwin's reasons for doubting the existence of God.
SECTION 6. -- Spinoza's proof that God is the only substance, and that
everything else is a mode of God.
SECTION 7. -- Remarks on the theories of Fichte, Hegel, and others.
SECTION 8. -- Aristotle's reasons for the necessity of eternal motion.
Similar modern arguments from the writings of Kant and Cousin.
SECTION 9. -- Mansel's arguments for the doctrine that all our attempts to
form to ourselves the idea of God involve us in contradiction.

BOOK II. The Divine Attributes.

CHAPTER I. The Immutability of God.
CHAPTER II. The Eternity of God.
CHAPTER III. The Immensity of God.
CHAPTER IV. The Divine Intellect.

SECTION 1. -- The perfection of the Divine Intellect contrasted with the
defects of the human.
SECTION 2. -- God's Knowledge completely determined by His Essence.
SECTION 3. -- The objects of Divine Thought.
SECTION 4. -- The manner in which God knows the free acts of His rational
SECTION 5. -- The Divisions of the Divine Knowledge.
CHAPTER V. The Divine Will.
SECTION 1. -- Necessity aud freedom of the Will of God.
SECTION 2. -- Holiness and other moral attributes of the Divine Will.
SECTION 3. -- The Will of God as supreme Life and Beatitude.
CHAPTER VI. The Omnipotence of God.
CHAPTER VII. The Metaphysical Essence of God.

BOOK III. The Action of God upon This World.

CHAPTER I. Divine Preservation and Concurrence.
SECTION 1. -- The Divine conservation of creatures.
SECTION 2. -- Simultaneous Concurrence of God in the actions of creatures.

SECTION 3. -- Controverted question about physical premotion and

CHAPTER II. Divine Providence and its Relation to Existing Evil.

SECTION 1. -- The existence of Divine Providence.
SECTION 2. -- The relation of Providence to existing evil.

CHAPTER III. Possibility of a Supernatural Providence.

SECTION 1. -- Miracles conceivable and possible.
SECTION 2. -- Miracles can be known as such.

APPENDIX I. St. Thomas and Premotion.
APPENDIX II. Examination of Propositions I. - VI. in Spinoza's Ethics.
APPENDIX III. Immediate Consciousness of God in the Patristic Writings.
APPENDIX IV. St. Thomas and the Idea of Indeterminate Being.
APPENDIX V. The Logical Connection between the Self-Existence, Unity, and
Infinity of God.
APPENDIX VI. On the Optimism of St. Thomas.


THE manual of Natural Theology which now makes its appearance before the
English-speaking public, existed in manuscript substantially ready for print in
the year 1889. Through a combination of untoward circumstances its publication
has been delayed till now. The delay in its appearance has not been without
advantage for the book itself. Its subject makes it most suitable to be the last
in order of publication among those volumes of the Stonyhurst Series which are
concerned about Speculative Philosophy; for though the utmost care has been
taken to make it intelligible even to those who have studied no other branch of
Philosophy, yet minds prepared for the reading of this manual by a careful
perusal of its companions in the department of Speculative Philosophy, will
arrive at a far deeper and fuller understanding of its contents. The better
readers are versed in the laws of right reasoning by the study of Logic, the
more thoroughly convinced they are of the absolute necessity for the human mind
to admit the existence, sources, and criteria of Certitude, as laid down in the
First Principles of our Series, the greater diligence they have bestowed upon
acquiring a firm grasp of the fundamental notions and principles treated of in
General Metaphysics, and the more solid the knowledge is they have gained of the
moral freedom, spirituality, and immortality of the human soul expounded in
Psychology, the greater will be their ability to appreciate and to turn to
practical account the doctrine about God which is explained and defended in the
present volume.

This manual embraces not only those questions which in our Latin compendia
usually are treated of under the heading Theologia Naturalis, but also those
which commonly are discussed as a part of Cosmologia. This was done in order to
give the necessary completeness to the treatment of my subject. Our English
volumes are in the first place intended to help those who do not intend to study
in detail Catholic Theology to a sound understanding of the most important
questions of Philosophy, and particularly to show them the way to judge
intelligently and to solve clearly modern difficulties against those natural
truths which form the basis of Christianity.

In the celebrated Catholic controversy about the manner of Divine foreknowledge
of and concurrence in human actions, it has been my endeavour to give a good
account of the opposite opinions and of my own position. I have purposely
avoided quotations, as often as I could conveniently without doing harm to the
cause of truth, in order to eliminate any element of prejudice or party strife.
B. BOEDDER St. Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst April 4, 1891.
Natural Theology: 00 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.


1. NATURAL THEOLOGY is the science of God, so far as God can be known by the
light of our reason alone. In order to make the meaning of this definition
clear, we have first to explain what we understand by Theology; then what
signification we attach to the compound term Natural Theology; and finally, what
right we have to call Natural Theology a science.

First, then, as regards the word Theology. It is derived from two Greek nouns,
theos and logos, and means literally speaking or reasoning about God. In this
sense the word occurs in both Plato and Aristotle.{1} By Natural Theology is
meant that kind of reasoning about God, which starts from principles, the truth
of which can be known to us by the light of our natural reason left to itself,
that is, to its innate capacity of perceiving and judging the facts as well of
common as of scientific experience, and of drawing conclusions from these facts
according to principles that either are self-evident or have previously been
proved. If this reasoning is carried on systematically, it results, as we shall
discover, in a system of truths about God, the First Cause of all things, and
may therefore be rightly called the Science of Natural Theology.

It is the object of this science to vindicate the existence and honour of the
one true God against the denial of Atheists, the doubts of Agnostics, the
misrepresentations of Pantheists, and the absurdities of Polytheists.
2. There is another system of truths regarding Almighty God which is called
Supernatural, or more commonly, Dogmatic Theology. Between this and Natural
Theology there is a wide difference.

(1) In the first place they differ in their foundation. For whereas Natural
Theology is based upon principles known by reason with human certainty,
Supernatural Theology has for its foundation principles accepted by faith which
rests on the authority of God Himself, who has declared them to us by Divine

(2) From this difference there results another regarding the method of
demonstration used in the two sciences. Natural Theology draws its arguments
from the intuitions of reason and from facts of experience; Supernatural
Theology finds the premisses of its conclusions in the sources of Christian
Revelation, which are the Canonical Scriptures and the documents of Divine

(3) Finally there is a vast difference between the achievements of the one and
the other. Natural Theology inquires into the existence, the attributes, and
works of the one infinite God, without being able to treat of the inscrutable
mysteries of the Blessed Trinity and of the Word Incarnate; whereas Supernatural
Theology, although it does not pretend to make these mysteries comprehensible to
reason, yet, guided by Divine revelation, which has established their reality,
analyzes their meaning, shows their consequences, illustrates their harmony with
known truths, and thus throws light upon the Divine beauty of Christian

Hence we see that the chief subject-matter of which Natural and Supernatural
Theology treat, is the same; but the aspect, under which they view it, is
altogether different, or to express this in the language of the schoolmen,
Natural and Supernatural Theology agree to a large extent in their material
object, but they differ in their formal object.

3. The very nature of Supernatural or Dogmatic Theology implies and demands that
Natural Theology should precede it and prepare its way. For it is the duty of
reason to prepare the minds of men for the acceptance of Divine revelation, upon
which Dogmatic Theology is built. Before an infidel can reasonably feel obliged
to acknowledge a creed as Divine, he must be convinced that there is a God, who
can communicate truths to men, and that men can accept these truths without
danger of deception. It is Natural Theology that opens the way to this.
conviction by strict logical reasoning. Christian Doctors therefore rightly call
the truths developed in Natural Theology the praeambula fidei; and the office
assigned to Philosophy in general, when it is. called the handmaid of (Dogmatic)
Theology, belongs especially to the particular branch of Philosophy now under

We may add that Dogmatic Theology taught under the supervision of the Infallible
Church, is for the Catholic philosopher a guiding-star even to his philosophical
reasonings about God. This is a most sound and intelligible proposition, but it
is one peculiarly liable to misrepresentation. We are far from claiming the
right to draw the course of philosophical reasoning away from its natural paths
in order to bring the results into fictitious conformity with those of
revelation. Such a procedure would be as foolish as it would be dishonest. Our
claim is to imitate the mariner to whom the star is a guiding-star, not because
it dispenses him from the due use of the compass, but because it enables him to
check the errors into which he may have fallen in his estimate of the records of
the needle. The Catholic philosopher is conscious that human reason,
particularly when it embarks on the difficult sea of philosophical speculations,
is liable to go astray through defective observance of its own laws. On the
other hand he has sure grounds for his conviction that the Church's teaching is
absolutely reliable. What more reasonable than that on finding a discrepancy
between the results of his philosophical reasoning and his Dogmatic Creed, he
should conclude the former to be in some point defective and should retrace his
steps to discover where the defect may lie?

4. In what we have said about the standpoint of a Catholic writer on Natural
Theology, we cannot reasonably expect to be fully understood by those outside
the Church. All that we ask for from non-Catholic readers is to judge our
conclusions in Natural Theology by the light of principles which must be
admitted by every reasonable man. Let them consider whether we ever make an
undue use of authority to establish a truth which should be proved by reason
alone; let them judge for themselves whether we meet our adversaries with solid
arguments or with empty phrases, and whether we enunciate any opinion which is
out of harmony with well-established scientific facts.

5. Approaching our subject in this spirit, we have a reasonable claim to the
sympathy and interest of our readers. For what subject of inquiry can be
compared with the first source of all things, the Infinite Majesty of God?
Moreover, if as reasonable beings we are irresistibly drawn to inquire into the
causes of things, must not all our researches suffer from want of solidity and
completeness, if we lack a true knowledge of God, the First Cause, of all
things, and of His relation to this world? Such knowledge throws light upon the
origin of the universe, upon the nature and destiny of man, upon the true
meaning of life, upon our duties here on earth, upon our prospects for the
future, upon the wonders as well as the woes of human history. Nay, there is no
department of knowledge which is not ennobled when viewed in the light of these
truths: because from God, and through Him, and in Him, are all subjects that can
possibly have a claim on man's attention.

What makes this study still more important is that without it we cannot hope
truly to estimate and solidly to refute the charges brought forward against the
reasonableness of Christian faith by atheists, agnostics, and pantheists, who
know well how to support their statements with an array of specious arguments.
If we wish to diminish the harm inevitably caused by the spreading of such false
opinions, we must be able to produce a good store of arguments by which the
existence of God, His attributes, and His relation to this world are proved, in
such a way, that their force may come home to the mind of every one who does not
obstinately prefer darkness to light.
For some of our readers it may be useful to call attention to the danger of
resting content with a partial knowledge of our subject, or thinking that a
thorough grasp of it can be obtained without patient study. Beginners who have
not perseverance enough to reason step by step, but who pick out one question or
another at random, must not wonder if they very soon find themselves hopelessly
confused, and utterly unable either duly to appreciate or clearly to solve the
difficulties of adversaries.

6. The order of our discussion is suggested by the three following questions:

I. Can we know for certain that there exists One first intelligent and
infinitely perfect Cause of all things, that is to say, One personal God of
infinite perfection, Creator of the world?

II. Granted that there exists One personal God of infinite perfection, what are
the special attributes of this One infinite Being?

III. If there be such a personal God, what can we know about His action upon
this world?

Following the line of thought suggested by these three questions, we shall
divide our treatise into three books: the first treating of the existence of
God, the second of the attributes of God, the third of the influence which God
exercises upon this world.

{1} Plato (Republ. 379 A) speaks of of hoi tupoi peri theologias, meaning the
forms in which tales about gods should be shaped. Aristotle (Meteorolog. Lib.
II. c. i.) gives us the opinion of hoi diatribontes peri tas theologias on the
sources of the ocean. He refers to the old poets, Orpheus, Hesiod, Homer, and
their fables about the gods. St. Thomas, in his commentaries on Aristotle, calls
them the poetae theologi; by Aristotle himself they are styled hoi theologoi.
(Metaph. Lib. XI. al. XII. c. vi.) According to Max Müller, Theos, Deus, is
connected with the Sanscrit Deva, signifying "the Brilliant," a very suggestive
denomination of the Supreme Being who, according to St. Paul, dwells in light
inaccessible (1 Tim. vi. 16), and according to St. John. is "Light" (St. John i.
5). (Cf. M. Müller, Science of Language. second Series, pp. 405, 449, and
Science of Religion, p. 269.)
Natural Theology: 01 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.


CHAPTER I. Views of Monotheistic Philosophers on the Natural Foundation of a
Reasonable Belief in God. Refutation of Ontologism and of the so-called
Ontological Argument.

SECTION 1. -- Explanation of the different opinions about God's existence and
the proofs for it.

7. THE chief object which we aim at in the first part of Natural Theology, is to
discover the true reasons why the existence of an intelligent First Cause of the
universe must be admitted as certain. To clear the ground, we first give a short
review and estimate of the different opinions held by philosophers who believe
in a personal God, concerning the natural relation of the human mind to that

8. The more noteworthy opinions on the subject in question may be reduced to
these four headings

(1). The opinion that we have naturally an immediate consciousness of God's
existence. This opinion is known under the name of Ontologism.
(2) The opinion that we can prove the existence of God a priori from the mere
concept which we form to ourselves of God. This kind of proof for the existence
of God is commonly called the Ontological Argument. The name is unfortunate, as
it suggests a connection of the argument so styled with the system of
Ontologism. In reality there is none.
(3) The opinion, that the existence of God, although it cannot be perceived by
us immediately, nor be proved a priori, can yet be proved evidently a posteriori
by reasoning from the contingent and finite things of this world to God, the
necessary, self-existing, infinite Being.
(4) The opinion, that it is reasonable and man's duty to believe in the
existence of God, but that it is impossible to prove by evident arguments that
the denial of that existence is an untruth.

9. Of these four opinions, the first has its most eminent representatives in
Nicholas Malebranche (1715),{1} Vincenzo Gioberti (1852), Antonio Serbati
Rosmini (1855), and Casimir Ubaghs (works published 1854-1856). The second can
boast of such great names as St. Anselm of Canterbury (1109), and in later
times, René Descartes (1650), and Leibnitz (1716). The third was generally held
by metaphysicians of all ages, from the bright dawn of metaphysical inquiry in
Plato's Dialogues up to the bold revolution attempted in the realms of
philosophical thought by Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason. That the human
mind is able to rise from the knowledge of the finite things which surround us
to a certain, though inadequate, knowledge of God, the first and the intelligent
Cause of the universe, was unanimously asserted by Plato (348 B.C.) and
Aristotle (322 B.C.), by St. Augustine (430 A.D.), by St. Thomas Aquinas (1274),
and the long series of the schoolmen, by Bacon (1626), and Locke (1704).
Moreover, although St. Anselm, Descartes, and Leibnitz thought the ontological
argument to be a very easy proof of God's existence, they were by no means of
opinion that it is the only one possible. On the contrary, in the writings of
all three we find also arguments for God's existence drawn from the
contemplation of finite things.{2} In recommendation of this third line of
argument, we may further say that it is supported by scientific men of the first
rank, such as Kepler, Newton, Faye, Sir John Herschell, Sir William Thomson,
&c.{3} But, notwithstanding the great authority of the third opinion, its hold
over the best minds of educated Europe was shaken considerably by Kant's
Critique of Pure Reason. In this work, the first edition of which was published
in the year 1781, the fourth opinion mentioned above was advocated as the only
reasonable defence of the belief in God. According to the author of the
Critique, convincing proofs for the existence of a Supreme Being are not
attainable by the Speculative Reason. In order to confute atheism, he therefore
appeals to what he calls the Practical Reason. Man, he says, feels himself under
the sway of an internal voice which categorically commands him to do good and to
avoid evil. He cannot despise this voice without violating his human dignity,
nor can he follow it consistently, unless he acknowledges a supreme Lawgiver and
Judge, to whom he is responsible for his moral conduct. Consequently it is man's
duty to believe in God's existence, although he is not able to show convincingly
that the denial of that existence contains an objective untruth.

10. The opinion of Kant has been adopted under various forms by many
philosophers of our century, who nevertheless have been far from committing
themselves to the whole of his theory of human knowledge. Thus Jacobi (1819)
maintained that God's existence can be known neither by reasoning nor by
immediate intuition, but is manifested to us by a kind of irresistible spiritual
feeling. On the Continent, De la Bonald (1840) found what he thought a
sufficient proof for God's existence in the necessity of a primitive Divine
revelation, without which, according to his views, the origin of intellectual
human knowledge cannot be explained. Lamennais (1854), in order to show how
unreasonable the denial of God's existence is, fled for refuge to the universal
consent of mankind, which he took to be the general criterion of truth and
certainty. In England, Hamilton and Mansel, urging that we necessarily entangle
ourselves in glaring contradictions as soon as we compare the attributes of the
Infinite with one another, deduced the obligation of faith in God, as He is put
before mankind by Christ and His Apostles, chiefly from the perfect harmony
between that faith and our moral instincts.

This last way of defending God's existence against atheism proved injurious to
the good cause on behalf of which it was undertaken. For the most striking of
the arguments, by which Mr. Herbert Spencer in his First Principles, tries to
prove that nothing definite can be known about the underlying cause of the
universe, are borrowed Irom Mansel's Limits of Religious Thought.
11. We shall now proceed to give our reasons for adhering to the third of the
opinions we have just mentioned, which maintains that man can come to a certain
knowledge of God by means of his natural understanding, not however by way of
immediate intuition, nor by reasoning a priori, but by arguments a posteriori
based on the essence and properties of the things comprised under the term

{1} The figures added to the names of philosophers in this section refer to the
year of their death, with the exception of Ubaghs.
{2} St. Anselm's Monolog. cc. i.-iv. inclusive; Descartes' Principia Phil. Part
I. pp. 57, 58; Leibnitz, Opera (Edit. Erdm.), p. 506.
{3} See below, § 40.
Natural Theology: 02 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- Refutation of Ontologism.

12. As we said above (§ 8), Ontologists are those philosophers who believe that
the mind of man, by its very nature, has a certain direct consciousness of God's
existence. They do not affirm that man by his natural faculties is able to see
God face to face, to perceive Him as He is in Himself, or to have a direct
intuition of His Essence. Indeed, they could not say so without exposing
themselves to ridicule, and to the charge of contradicting the Christian Creed
which they profess. What they mean is that man's knowledge begins by some dim
perception of God, considered not in His Essence, but in His relation to

13. A germ of Ontologism thus explained is found in Descartes' Principia
Philosophiae.{4} He says that the idea which we possess of an infinitely perfect
Being, could not be produced in us but by this Being Himself. Malebranche
developed this germ into a philosophical system. In his celebrated work,
Recherche de la Vérité, he tells us that the human mind knows all things save
its own existence, through the ideas it forms of them. These ideas are
occasioned by sense-impressions; but they are not the mere result of sensations,
nor are they the product of our mental activity. They are perceived in God, who
is immediately present to us. He is, so to say, the Sun in the midst of the
world of thinking created spirits, and only inasmuch as He pours out the light
of His eternal ideas upon our minds do we see truth in Him, who is the First
Truth, the Prototype of all things and of all thoughts that are true.

Since Malebranche, no one has defended Ontologism more vigorously than Gioberti
in his Introduzione allo studio della Filosofia. He represents the immediate
intuition of God, which he believes to be natural to man's mind, as a direct
perception of God's influence upon this world. Consequently the starting-point
of all human learning is this judgment: "Being creates existences." (L'Ente crea
le esistenze.) By Being he understands the self-existing Divinity; by
existences, creatures, which he does not call beings, because they have no
independent being of their own, but are dependent upon the creative act of their
first cause. His opinion consequently is, that our first intellectual act is a
direct intuition of God creating the world.

Another and milder form of Ontologism is to be found in Rosmini's Theosophia,
and in Ubaghs' Theodicea. Rosmini holds that the idea of being, which according
to his theory respecting the origin of ideas is innate in us, must be nothing
else but the idea of God, the Creative Cause of finite beings. Ubaghs thinks
that we are born with the idea of the Infinite God, and that this idea is in the
beginning unformed, but becomes formed by reflection, to which we are led by our
education in human society.

Similar views on our natural knowledge of God are defended by Maret in his Essai
sur le Panthéisme, by Gratry in his work De la Connaissance de Dieu, by Fabre in
his Défense de l'Ontologisme, and by others in France, Belgium, and Italy.
Notwithstanding the wonderful ingenuity which these authors exhibit in support
of their hypothesis, we must, in the interest of truth, lay down the following
thesis. Thesis 1. -- Immediate intuition of God, as held by ontologists, is
beyond the reach of man's natural understanding.

14. In stating this proposition we admit with the ontologists as a fact of
Christian revelation, that all men who die in the grace of God, shall in Heaven
see Him as He is. And they on their part admit that this Beatific Vision,
reserved for the servants of God, is not the natural endowment of our human
understanding, but the supernatural reward of living faith. Consequently, to
explain the possibility and truth of this Vision does not belong to the domain
of Philosophy. So far we are at one with our adversaries. What we have to prove
against them is, that God in His relation to creatures cannot be the object of
our direct intuition here on earth. The first reason for which we assert this,
is drawn from our internal experience.

15. If the direct intuition of God in His relation to creatures is a natural
endowment of the human soul, we certainly must be able to become with the
greatest facility perfectly convinced by mere reflection of the fact that we are
in God's presence, and no thought should be easier to us than the thought of
God. However, this is not so. Effort is required to raise our mind from things
visible to their invisible First Cause. Even those who are perfectly convinced
of God's existence, may live hours and days without thinking of Him. Nay, at
times doubts may arise in their minds against their faith in God, and how can
they put off these doubts? Not by mere reflection, but either by dwelling upon
the strong reasons from which God's existence is mediately evident, or by
calling to their minds certain practical maxims, the reasonableness of which has
been once understood, and with which the doubt about God's existence is
incompatible. Every well-instructed Christian knows that the existence of an
all-wise, all-powerful, and infinitely good God is a fundamental dogma of
Christianity. Moreover, he has satisfied himself about the reasonableness of
adhering to the truths of Christianity. After this it is a practical maxim with
him, that a wilful doubt about God and His attributes is a serious sin.
Appealing to this maxim, he rejects the doubts against God's existence as
unreasonable sophistries. This is a reasonable process, and corresponds to a
palpable need of the believing mind. But on the ontologistic hypothesis, such a
need would not arise.

16. If we examine a little more deeply into our subject, we find that the
conflict between experience and Ontologism has its root in the very nature of
the human soul. This soul is neither an outgrowth of matter, as materialists
would have us believe, nor is it a pure spirit, that is to say, a thinking and
free being altogether independent of matter in the exercise of its natural
functions. Man's soul is a spirit, organizing and quickening matter. The fact
that our soul cannot exercise its vegetative and sensitive energies except in a
material body and by the help of material organs, necessarily reacts upon its
spiritual faculties of understanding and free-will, albeit the acts of these
faculties considered in themselves are not organic acts. The conclusion drawn
from this state of things, the fuller discussion of which belongs to Psychology,
is this. Man's mind has for its immediate and direct object only such things as
can be perceived by the senses. It can arrive at the knowledge of immaterial
beings only by reasoning, and by faith in reliable authority. Convinced of this,
Aristotle uses language which implies that it is as impossible for man's mind,
left to its natural resources, to have a direct perception of spiritual things,
as it is for an owl's eye to find delight in the rays of the mid-day sun.{5}
Experience fully verifies this conclusion, for in order to explain things not
accessible to sense perception, we constantly have resort to illustrations drawn
from the objects of sense. If, then, no spiritual thing is directly accessible
to our mind, how can we have an immediate vision of God the Infinite Spirit? If
there were any truth in the Ontologist hypothesis, such a direct intuition of
God would be natural to us. For the ontologists say that we directly perceive
God's relation to creatures. Now it is evident that a relation between two terms
cannot be directly perceived unless each is the object of direct perception.
17. No wonder that a theory so inconsistent with experience and with human
nature is also inconsistent with itself. Ontologists say that we perceive
immediately something of God, yet do not immediately perceive His essence. In
this there is a contradiction. For in God, as the ontologists willingly grant,
there are no accidents. His essence is absolutely simple. It is therefore
impossible to see anything of Him immediately without seeing His essence. From
this conclusion ontologists recoil, and rightly, for it is opposed to Revealed
Truth; but it logically follows from their hypothesis, and therefore that
hypothesis must be rejected as false.

18. Nor can the reasons which ontologists bring forward to support their theory
move us to give a more favourable verdict on it. The more important of their
arguments are the following, to each of which we shall add its respective

A. We have an idea of the Infinite. This idea cannot be got by abstraction from
finite beings nor by reasoning about them. Therefore it must be admitted that it
was given to us together with our existence; in other words, that the direct
intuition of the Infinite is natural to the human mind. (Thus Malebranche,
Gioberti, Ubaghs.)

Answer. It is true that every Christian, nay, every monotheist who understands
his position, has a genuine idea of the Infinite. His idea of the Infinite is
not a merely negative one, as Sir William Hamilton would have it. He does not
only know that the Infinite is altogether different from the Finite; he knows
something positive about the attributes by which it is characterized. But from
this it in no way follows that the representation of the Infinite by the human
mind has its origin in direct intuition. On the contrary, from the fact that our
idea of the Infinite expresses its object not in a purely positive way, but by
the help of negation, it is evident that not the thought of the Infinite but the
thought of the Finite is most natural to our mind. Why is it that when we speak
of God, who is pure reality, or, so to say, pure affirmation without negation of
perfection, we speak of Him in such a way as to predicate of Him perfection, and
at the same time remove the limits of these perfections, calling Him infinitely
wise, infinitely powerful, and so forth? No other sufficient reason can be given
save this, that the power, the wisdom, and the other positive perfections of
creatures which we predicate of God, are directly known to us only within
certain limits. We first think of finite things according to their own being,
not paying attention to their limitation; then comparing less perfect finite
beings with more perfect, we become aware of their limitations; finally,
thinking of all possible finite perfections united in one Being, and denying all
limitations which are necessarily proper to them in finite beings, we form a
negativo-positive concept, as it is called, of the Infinite. In this manner we
do really think of the infinitely perfect Being, although we think of it in a
very inadequate way.

Now it is true that such an idea of the Infinite cannot be got from finite
things by mere abstraction, nor can it be arrived at by one step of reasoning,
but it can be reached by a chain of lawful reasonings from absolutely certain
premisses. And this is what we have to make clear in the course of our treatise.
For the present it may suffice to indicate the principal links in this chain.
Things produced suppose a first unproduced cause; an unproduced cause exists by
virtue of its own essence, or is self-existing; there can be but one
self-existing being; the one self-existing being must be the source of every
possible being -- in other words, it must be infinitely perfect; otherwise the
total first cause of all contingent being would be less perfect than the effects
which it can produce.

B. There must be harmony between the order in which things follow one another in
their real existence, and the order in which they are ideally expressed in our
minds; otherwise our mental representations would not be true. Now of all
existing beings God is the first. Consequently the first judgment of the human
mind must refer to God. (Thus Gioberti.)

Answer. For human cognition to be true, it is not requisite for antecedent to be
known before consequent, cause before effect. I may first come to know a book,
and thence proceed to learn by inference the existence and character of the
author. Or I may first come to know the author, and thence infer the nature of
his book. In either case my knowledge of the book and the author can be true. It
would only be false if it were to represent to me the book as the cause of the
author, instead of the author as the cause of the book. The requisite of truth,
alleged by Gioberti, is not the requisite of truth in general, but that of
perfect truth, which comprehends all possible truths. And this exists nowhere
but in the Divine intellect. To have truth in general, it is enough that
everything mentally affirmed to be real, really is what it is affirmed to be; it
is not necessary that the order of mental affirmation follow the order of real

C. The human mind is naturally directed to God as to its last end. Consequently,
as God is the first object of the human will, so must He be the first object of
the human understanding. (Thus Malebranche.)

Answer. From the fact that God is man's last end, it follows that the human soul
at some time or other (at least after death, in the case of one who dies before
attaining the use of reason), must come to some knowledge of God carrying with
it a natural tendency of the will towards God. But it does not at all follow
that man from the beginning of his existence must have the actual use of his
intellect; much less that the first acts of his intellect must have God for
their object.

D. As God alone exists by Himself, so He alone can be intelligible by Himself.
Therefore created things cannot be known except so far as God is known. (Thus

Answer. In a certain sense it is true, that God alone is intelligible by
Himself. His is the only existence which is essential, which cannot not be; or,
in other words, He alone has the reason of His existence in His own essence. In
all creatures actual existence is not essential, but only possible existence;
or, in other words, the essences of creatures considered in themselves are
merely possible things, only existing on the condition of God's creative act,
which is not necessary, but free. However, this truth is of no force to prove
that really existing creatures cannot be known but in God. A creature which
really exists is really distinct from a merely possible creature. It is not a
pure essence, but a created essence, and therefore has an existence of its own
distinct from God's existence, although it owes its existence to God's free
creation. Now as intelligibility results necessarily from existence, so from an
existence distinct from God's existence there must result an intelligibility
distinct from God's intelligibility, although God is the efficient cause of the
creature's existence, and consequently of the creature's intelligibility.
E. The universal attributes which we give to creatures, when we predicate, for
instance, that "John is a man," or that "Bucephalus is a horse," express
something necessary, eternal, unchangeable. But created things are contingent,
temporal, changeable. Therefore we cannot have drawn our universal ideas by
abstraction from created things; but they must be due to a direct intuition of
their uncreated cause. (Thus Vercellone, Milone, Fabre, Sans-Fiel, and other
modern ontologists.)

Answer. Properly speaking there is, as St. Thomas rightly affirms, only one
being which is necessary, eternal, unchangeable, namely, God.{6} If we say that
the universal attributes of created things are necessary, eternal, unchangeable,
we mean simply that God is the necessary, eternal, unchangeable source of all
kinds of possible things which we express by universal ideas, and that
consequently these things are understood by God necessarily, eternally,
unchangeably, as imperfect imitations of His own essence, and producible out of
nothing by His infinite power. Hence we may say that universal attributes, or,
in other words, the objects of universal ideas, are negatively eternal; but we
may not say that they are positively eternal. A thing is positively eternal, if
it exists by its own essence, unchangeable, without beginning and without end.
It is negatively eternal, if, as a thinkable, conditionally existing object, it
is not limited to a certain time. Thus the object of the universal idea "man" is
negatively eternal, because no possible time can be given at which by the power
of God that idea might not be verified in one or many individual men. The human
mind is obviously capable of forming such a negatively eternal idea. Perceiving
with our senses an individual thing, we at once grasp with our intellect that
which is, or at least may be, common to many such individual things. This we do
without penetrating into their individual constitution. It is therefore a
baseless assertion that the formation of universal ideas is conditioned by a
direct intuition of God.{7}

SECTION 3. -- Criticism of the Ontological Argument.

19. Having proved that the Ontologistic hypothesis, according to which all our
knowledge is based on a direct intuition of the Infinite, cannot be admitted, we
have now to explain our objection to the opinion of those who think they can
prove the existence of the Infinite from the idea of the Infinite. Their
argument is known among scholastic philosophers by the name of the "Ontological
Argument," a term which we must distinguish from the "Ontologistic Hypothesis."
It has three celebrated forms, of which the first was proposed by St. Anselm,
the second by Descartes, and the third, virtually at least, by Leibnitz.{8} We
give the substance of all three.

20. St. Anselm reasons thus: By God is understood the greatest Being which can
be thought of. But a Being which not only exists in the mind as an object of
thought, but has also actual existence outside the mind, is greater than a Being
which exists in the mind only. Therefore God actually exists outside the mind.
In Descartes the argument takes this form: Whatever is contained in a clear and
distinct idea of any object must be affirmed of that object. But a clear and
distinct idea of an absolutely perfect Being contains the notion of existence.
Consequently, we must say that there really exists an absolutely perfect Being.
Leibnitz remarks on the two forms of the Ontological argument just proposed that
the scholastics were wrong in rejecting them. He says they are not fallacious,
but only need completion. They do not, it is true, offer any reason for their
assumption that the idea of the greatest and absolutely perfect being is
possible and not self-contradictory. He thinks, however, we may safely assume
this possibility as long as no one proves the contrary. Thus according to his
mind the Ontological argument ought to be cast into this shape: God is at least
possible, for in the concept of Him no repugnance is discovered. But if He is
possible, He must exist, because the concept of Him implies existence.
21. It has been said in answer to St. Anselm and those who took up his argument,
that it only proves the existence of an infinite being in the world of ideas,
not in the world of realities; that it proves the ideal possibility of such a
being, but not its real existence. Even in St. Anselm's time this objection was
raised by a certain ingenious thinker named Gaunilo. After having first objected
to the validity of the premisses, this man argued thus against the conclusion:
"There are people who say that somewhere in the ocean there exists an island,
which certain men, because of the difficulty or rather impossibility of finding
what really does not exist, have surnamed the lost island. This island is by
fiction represented as possessing in incredible abundance all sorts of precious
and delightful things, far more than the celebrated Isles of the Blessed; nay,
as surpassing in riches all the countries inhabited by men, although no
proprietor or settler is living on it. If somebody were describing all this to
me, I should of course easily understand his explanation: there could be no
difficulty in that. But if he went on thus to argue: You cannot any longer doubt
but that the island I spoke of, the idea of which you admit without hesitation
to be in your mind, exists also in reality somewhere. Indeed, you cannot deny
it, if you only attend to what I now say: It is more excellent to exist not in
the mind only, but in reality, than to exist in the mind only. Therefore the
aforesaid island must really exist; for if it did not, any other real country
would surpass it in excellence, and consequently the island which you have
thought to be superior to all, really would not be superior to all. If the
speaker attempted thus to make me admit the real and undoubted existence of that
island, I should either believe him to be only joking, or I should not know
which of us to think the more stupid, myself, if I granted such a conclusion, or
him, if he really thought that he had proved the actual existence of that island
with anything like certainty. Assuredly, I should not yield to him, unless he
convinced me that its excellence was thought of by me as something really and
undoubtedly existing, and not only in the same way in which we can think of what
is false or uncertain."{9} Nevertheless, this mode of putting the objection is
not so strong as it may seem at first sight. St. Anselm answered it thus: "If
any one can find anything whatsoever, either really existing or only represented
by the mind, with the one exception of the greatest being conceivable, such that
he can reasonably apply to it the form of this my argument, I promise to find
him the 'lost island' with such success that it shall never be lost again."{10}
So far the Saint is perfectly right. Whoever grants as certain that we have a
true idea of an infinite being, cannot deny that existence is implied in that
idea without contradicting himself: for an infinite being cannot be otherwise
than self-existing. A being which is not self-existing is necessarily limited:
for it cannot possess anything but what it has received from its cause; and its
cause cannot give it the perfections of self-existence. Therefore, when there is
question of finite being, it may be granted that I can think of a finite being
better than any that really exists; and yet quite consistently with this
concession it may be denied that such a being as I think of does really exist.
For a finite being is contingent, and without internal contradiction can be
conceived as not existing. But if it be admitted as certain, that I really think
of an infinite being, the actual existence of such a being must be allowed; for
an infinite being cannot without internal contradiction be conceived unless it
be conceived as self-existing.

Thus far, then, we do not find any serious fault with the advocates of the
Ontological proof. Our reason for not admitting the demonstration as a valid
refutation of agnosticism is its failure to provide us with a warrant for the
absolute certainty of the assertion, that we have an idea of an infinite being.
We therefore state our objection thus:

Thesis II. -- In the so-called Ontological Argument the supposition underlying
the premisses that the idea of an infinite being is not self-contradictory, is
assumed without sufficient warrant. Consequently, that argument is not a perfrct
demonstration of God's existence.

22. Of course we readily allow that the idea of an infinite being is in fact not
self-contradictory. We only deny that this can be ascertained with certainty
otherwise than by the a posteriori argument. It must be established by
consideration of contingent things, and by inference from their existence of the
necessary existence of One First Cause. As long as this has not been shown, the
agnostic may justly reply to the Ontological proof: "Possibly there may be many
self-existent beings. In that case the idea of an infinite being is
self-contradictory. For none of the many self-existent beings would be the
source of the perfections of all other beings; and consequently none of them
could be really infinite; because a being which does not unite in itself all
thinkable perfections, must be finite. Of the many self-existent beings, then,
which I suppose there may be, none can be infinite. And as you yourself allow,
no contingent being can be infinite. But all being is either self-existent or
contingent. The conclusion is that an infinite being is absolutely impossible,
and consequently we can have no real idea of such a being."

To this objection the advocate of the Ontological argument has no satisfactory
answer. He can say nothing but what Leibnitz said: "We may safely suppose the
possibility of an infinite being, till it be disproved." Perhaps we may. But a
supposition made on these terms is no basis of certainty. In short, the
Ontological argument is a very strong argument ad hominem against one who does
not challenge the supposition of the premisses; but in no way an objectively
evident proof.{11}

{4} Part I. pp. 17, 18.
{5} Aristotle, Metaph. Lib. I. brev. c. i. Aristotle's words are: hôsper gar kai
ta tôn nukteridôn ommata pros to pheggos echei to meth hêmeran, houtô kai tês
hêmeteras psuchês ho nous pros to tê phusei phanerôtata pantôn. According to
this passage, our understanding is like the eyes of nightbirds for daylight, as
regards the beings most intelligible in themselves. Now spiritual beings are
more intelligible in themselves than material beings, inasmuch as the
pre-eminence of internal intelligibility follows the pre-eminence of natural
being. Cf. the beautiful remarks of St. Thomas on this passage of Aristotle.
Comment. in Metaph. Aristot. Lib. II. Lect. i. § "Ostendit causam praemissae
difficultatis," etc.
{6} Cf. Sum. Theol. i. q. 9. a. 2. and q. 10. a. 3. especially ad 3m. A more
full explanation of the eternity of all truth is given by St. Thomas, Qq. Disp.
de Veritate, q. i. a. 5.
{7} For further discussion of Ontologism, we may recommend Stöckl, Geschichte
der neuern Philosophie, Vol. I. pp. 123, seq., Vol. II. pp. 570, seq., 579,
seq., 621, seq.; Lepidi, O.P., De Ontologismo; Zigliara, O.P., Della luce
intellettuale e dell' Ontologismo; Kleutgen, Phil. Scholastique, nn. 377-490;
Liberatore, Psychol. Edit. I. nova formae nn. 200-206; Theol. Nat. n. 3 and n.
6; On Universals (Translated by E. H. Dering), pp. 64-95, and pp. 180-196.
{8} Cf. Opp. S. Anselmi, Proslogium, c. 2; Descartes, Principia Philosophiae,
Pars I. 14; Leibnitz' Opp. (Edit. Erdm.), pp. 374, seq.
{9} Opusculum pro Insipiente, inter Opp. S. Anselmi, c. 6.
{10} Liber Apologeticus, inter Opp. S. Anselmi, c. 3.
{11} St. Thomas Aquinas criticizes and rejects the argument of St. Anselm in I.
dist. 3. q. 1. a. 2. ad 4m.; Sum. Theol. i. 2. 1. ad 2dum, and Contra Gent. i. c
xi. § "Nec oportet ut statim cognita." An estimate of it is also given by
Kleutgen, Phil. Schol. nn. 937-942. The history of this argument, which may be
seen in the Life of St. Anselm, by Martin Rule, M.A., Vol. i. pp. 195, seq. is
very interesting.
Natural Theology: 03 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER II. Proofs for the Existence of an Intelligent First Cause or Personal

SECTION 1. -- Method of Proof.

23. THE object of the three following chapters is to prove not only that there
is a First Cause of all things else that exist, but also that this First Cause
has the attributes which are associated with the conception of a First Cause in
the minds of monotheists, especially of Christians. This is most necessary if we
are to make our ground sure. In a certain sense materialists and pantheists
maintain the existence of a First Cause. What else are the eternal atoms out of
whose combinations and movements the materialist believes the cosmos to be
composed? What else is the Absolute of the pantheists, alleged to be eternally
evolving itself under manifold aspects and conditions, and thereby creating the
world out of its own substance? In truth, what is denied, particularly in these
days, is not so much self-existence, as personal self-existence. We have to
prove the existence of a Personal First Cause, that is to say, of an intelligent
self-existing Being who is distinct from the Cosmos of which He is the ultimate
cause. 24. The proof of this position is three-fold. We have the argument of the
First Cause, the argument from Design, and the so-called Moral argument. The
argument of the First Cause draws from the simple fact that some things exist
the conclusion that there must be a First Cause, and then from the fact that
intelligent beings, namely, men, exist, the further conclusion that this First
Cause must be intelligent. It can thence proceed to the ultimate conclusion that
such a First Cause must be One and Infinite in all respects.

The argument from Design starts with the order observable in the world, and
infers the existence of a supra-mundane intelligent Designer. It then continues,
in accordance with the method of argument already pursued by the argument of the
First Cause, to argue for the self-existence, unity, and infinity of this

The Moral argument is that drawn from the general recognition of the existence
of an invisible Lawgiver, a superhuman Lord and Ruler. It contends that a
recognition of this character must be taken as the genuine voice of nature, and
not as the outcome of any of the deceptive influences to which nature is
subject. However, this argument, like that from Design, only proves the
existence of an intelligent, superhuman ruler of the world. It does not tell us
whether this ruler is self-existent or himself dependent on some previous Maker
or Ruler. For this we must again go back to the argument of the First Cause.
Thus it is seen that the argument of the First Cause is the only one which is
sufficient in itself. Absolutely, therefore, the others might be dispensed with.
Nevertheless, they have their useful purpose. The argument of Design brings out
more impressively the need of recognizing Intelligence in the First Cause, and
the Moral argument fortifies our minds in their grasp of the previous arguments,
for it shows them to be no mere outcome of an individual speculation, the
conclusion to which the minds of men are impelled in such numbers and under such
conditions that we are constrained to recognize in the impelling force the voice
of our intellectual nature.
Natural Theology: 04 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- The Argument of the First Cause.

Thesis III. -- Not all things are effects of causes, but there exists an
unproduced First Cause, endowed with intelligence and free-will, in other words
a personal God.

25. Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason,{1} acknowledges that the human mind
cannot divest itself of the idea that everything that has a beginning has a
cause. However, he demurs to the objective certainty of this principle when
applied to particular cases without limitation. According to him it is one of
those judgments which he was pleased to call synthetic a priori judgments,
judgments, that is to say, which we are constrained by a natural necessity to
accept as universally true, although they are neither self-evident nor
verifiable by experience.

26. Yet if we would not fall into the abyss of universal scepticism,{2} we must
admit the objective validity and universal range of the principle of causality
rightly understood. Our reason demands absolutely that we should say that
whatever does not exist of absolute necessity, cannot exist without a
proportionate cause. That this principle must be admitted as universally valid,
will become clear by showing its connection with the principle of contradiction.
We lose all hold on truth the moment we cease to acknowledge the principle of
contradiction, that is to say, as soon as we allow that the same thing under the
same aspect may be and not be at the same instant. But the principle of
contradiction stands or falls with that of causality. That which does not exist
of absolute necessity is of itself only contingent, depending for its existence
on a condition outside itself: otherwise, existing unconditionally, it would be
an absolutely necessary being. If we suppose that there was in any particular
case a beginning of existence without cause, in other words, that a violation of
the principle of causality took place: this could not happen without there being
an instant in which a mere possible thing -- a thing, that is to say, which
depends for existence on a condition external to itself -- really depended upon
itself as the condition of its existence; and this would be a manifest violation
of the principle of contradiction.

Moreover, this principle is not only violated if we admit a beginning of
existence without cause, but also if we admit such a beginning without a
proportionate cause; namely, without a cause which considered in its totality
contains a perfection at least equal to that of the effect. For if it did not,
the excess of the effect over its cause would really be without any cause, in
violation of the principle of contradiction.

27. By means of the same principle of causality we now go on to prove that there
must be something self-existing. For the present we do not inquire whether the
thing self-existiug be matter or mind, whether it belong to this world as a part
of it, or whether it be above this world. The only truth to be established is
this. Not all beings can be effects; there must be something which is a cause
without being the effect of another cause, and this something must be

Our argument is as follows: Everything in so far as it is an effect is indebted
for its actual existence to some other thing. But supposing there be no
self-existent being, then the totality of being must be an effect, no matter
whether it be a finite or an infinite series of various kinds of being.
Gonsequently in that supposition whatever falls under the concept of existing
being past or present, must be indebted to another being for its existence. But
this is evidently absurd; for it cannot be true without the existence of
something beyond the bounds of what falls under the notion of existing being.
Therefore the supposition that there is no self-existent being is unreasonable,
and the assertion of a self-existent being is demanded by reason.

28. A strong confirmation of this truth is to be found in the fact already
mentioned, that neither materialists, nor evolutionists, nor pantheists are bold
enough to give an explanation of the origin of the present world, without
supposing an eternal something, either "Matter," or the "Unknown," or the
so-called "Absolute," or the pure "Ego," or the "Idea" of Being, or the "Will,"
or the "Unconscious." What they all refuse to admit is the existence of an
intelligent and free self-existent being, a personal God, distinct from and
superior to this material world and to mankind. The task now remains to show
that the same principle of causality, which led us to acknowledge a
self-existent being, leads us further to the conclusion that this self-existent
Being is personal.

29. The human soul is an immaterial (spiritual) and free being. But the First
Cause of an immaterial and free being cannot be a material being, and one
constrained by an irresistible natural impulse to the production of its effects.
Consequently the First Cause of the human soul must be an immaterial free being,
which implies that we must consider a self-existent spiritual and free being to
be the first cause of man. But such a being is manifestly distinct from, and
superior to the material world and to man. Therefore the existence of a
self-existent being, immaterial and free, superior to the material world and to
man, cannot reasonably be denied; or what amounts to the same, the existence of
a personal God is evident.

30. Is there any flaw in this reasoning? Surely no one who admits the first
premiss upon which the argument is based, can reasonably object to the rest.
What it means is this. The human soul, that is to say, the inmost principle of
thought and will in man, differs altogether from everything material. We call it
therefore a spiritual being, by which we understand a being not composed of
parts, as matter is, but complete in its simple essence, and able to act and to
exist by itself without being united to matter. Freedom also we attribute to the
soul, by which we mean a power of self-determination existing in the will. The
human soul is free inasmuch as its will is able to choose or not to choose any
object presented to it by the understanding, as long as that object does not
appear desirable under every possible aspect.

But are we sufficiently warranted in making these assertions? Are they more than
an attempted answer to some of the deepest psychological problems, supported, it
is true, by the authority of mediaeval schoolmen, but directly opposed to the
tendency of modern thought? Can it then be reasonable to take for the basis of
the solution of the most important philosophical questions such a debatable fact
as that of the existence of a spiritual human soul endowed with free-will?
These are questions which no doubt suggest themselves to some of our readers,
and we are bound not to pass them by unanswered, although the complete answer
belongs to Psychology.{3}

31. The answer to the question, whether our soul be an outgrowth of matter or an
immaterial being, must not be given a priori, but must be based on facts. As the
tree is known by its leaves, its flowers, and its fruit, so does the human soul
manifest its nature by its ideas, its judgments, and its desires. It is to these
that we must give our attention in order to become convinced of the spirituality
of the soul.

There are two sorts of ideas in us, sense ideas (or phantasms, imaginations) and
intellectual ideas. A sense idea is an internal representation of a phenomenon,
or of a combination of phenomena, that have impressed themselves upon one or
more of the organs of sensation with which the human body is endowed. An
intellectual idea is the expression of being under a more or less general
aspect. The difference between the two will be best seen in concrete instances.
I have a sense idea of a circle, if I represent to myself a perfectly round
plane figure; I have an intellectual idea of a circle, jf I know what
constitutes the being, the essence of a circle, its "whatness," or what is
commonly called its definition. My sense idea of a circle is as variable as the
magnitudes of circles are, but in each representation it corresponds only to one
magnitude; my intellectual idea of a circle on the contrary is as invariable as
the definition of a circle considered not in its verbal expression, but in its
meaning; and at the same time it is applicable not to a limited number of
circles, but to all possible circles. In the same way the sensile idea or
phantasm of a man corresponds either to one particular man or to several men
perfectly resembling one another in external appearance, but the intellectual
idea of man or the mental expression of what is meant by the word "man" is
applicable to all possible men.

32. This premised, we admit readily that our sense ideas or imaginations are
caused directly by organic impressions, and require the immediate cooperation of
a material organ, the sensitive nerves and the grey matter of the brain.
Moreover, because of the substantial union between soul and body, the formation
of intellectual ideas and the rise of indeliberate desires connected with them,
is also largely dependent upon the imagination, and consequently upon the state
of the brain and the whole nervous system as acted upon by the external
corporeal world. We allow therefore that the human brain may be called the organ
of understanding inasmuch as it is the organ of imagination, the operation of
which in this our mortal state is a prerequisite to the working of the
understanding. To this must be added that we cannot by direct intuition get
intellectual ideas except of things represented by our imagination. The
consequence is that to a certain extent a change in the operation of the
imagination naturally carries with it a change in the operation of the
underatanding. There is thus some foundation for the expression borrowed from
mathematics, that the understanding is a "function of the brain;" since by
"function" mathematicians mean a quantity so connected with another quantity
that any change in the one is accompanied by a corresponding change in the
other. But the expressions referred to must not be taken to mean that our
intellectuai knowledge consists of sense impressions. Mr. Herbert Spencer is
therefore wrong in saying: "Feelings are in all cases the materials out of which
in the superior tracts of consciousness, Intellect is evolved by structural
comgination.{4} And again, he is wrong in speaking of our senses thus, "The
impressions received by these senses form the materials of intelligence which
arises by combination of them, and must therefore conform to their development."

33. Against theories such as these we maintain that our intellectual ideas, our
rational judgments. and our deliberate resolutions cannot possibly be the
effects of organic impressions either hereditary or acquired.
A man who knows what mathematicians mean by the word "circle," and what
philosophers understand by the term "rational being," has an intellectual idea
of the words "circle," and "rational being." No doubt he has also in his brain
the phantasms of circular figures seen before, and the phantasms of many
rational beings with whom he has conversed. Again, there are in his brain the
organic impressions of the words in which the explanation of "circle" and
"rational being" are given to him. But there is a vast difference between these
phantasms in whatever combination they may be taken, and the meaning of the
words, "circle" and "rational being." Organic impressions can only lead to the
representation of what has really affected our organs. But the meaning of a word
cannot really affect an organ; for it is not an existing particular thing which
can move and change, it is the term of an act of our mind, it is that which our
thinking mind manifests to us as something really belonging to those particular
things which, on account of their similar natural properties, are denoted by the
words in question. Consequently, the meaning of a word as known by our minds is
something which has no proportion to organic movements, and therefore cannot in
anyway be considered as the result of organic action. This holds good about the
meaning of any word, but especially of such terms as, "Being in the abstract,"
"Impossibility," "Causality," "Spirit," "Infinite perfection," "Consciousness,"
"Intellectual idea," "Infinitesimal," "Differential calculus," finally, "the
Unknown," as explained by Mr. Spencer himself.

34. Moreover, as intellectual ideas expressing things in general, by their very
applicability to an unlimited number of things, infinitely surpass the effects
which can reasonably be attributed to organic impressions, so neither can the
concomitant consciousness which we have of the existence of these ideas in us be
explained on the hypothesis of mere organic causation. I think for instance of
the signification of the word "spirit," and whilst I entertain this thought I
also know that I am entertaining it. Thus the thinking principle denoted by the
pronoun "I," is at once the thinking subject and the object of its own thought.
Assuredly this could not be, unless this principle is an immaterial being; for
in matter no particle acts upon itself, but one particle acts upon another.
Therefore the thinking principle in man which is called the soul, must be an
immaterial spiritual being.

35. If intellectual ideas and the reflection of the mind upon them are due to
quite another principle than matter, much more must this be said of intellectual
judgments and the concomitant reflection on them. Let us take the principle of
contradiction: "Nothing can be and not be at the same instant and under the same
respect." As often as we enunciate this principle, we affirm that there is
absolute opposition between any perfection and the negation of the same. We feel
certain about this opposition, not only with regard to the past and present, but
also with regard to all future time, and with regard to all possible perfections
to which the concept of being may be applied. How could the knowledge of the
unlimited value of that principle be attributed to an organic impression,
without admitting an effect infinitely superior to its total cause?

36. The spirituality of the human soul, following as it does from the preceding
considerations, is the foundation of that freedom of will by which man is
enabled to become master to a large extent, not only of the rest of the visible
creation, but of his own actions, so far as they are dependent upon his
deliberate resolutions. It is because we have a spiritual soul, that we are able
to consider one object under many aspects, and to weigh the motives which
recommend its choice or dissuade it. As our reasonable will is a property of the
same spiritual soul, which is the spring of our intellectual ideas and
judgments, we cannot be necessitated to the choice of any object, so long as
reasons against that choice present themselves to our mind. We often have to
decide whether we will follow the reasonable counsel of a friend, or stubbornly
and selfishly take our own way; whether for the sake of charity we will undergo
an inconvenience, or for the love of pleasure procure ourselves a superfluous
comfort; whether we will act upon an approved moral maxim, or yield to the mere
impulse of anger, pride, or other passion. In all these cases we are responsible
for our choice, unless the use of reason be so disturbed in us as to make
reflection impossible. Our own consciousness bears witness to the fact that
whatever we choose deliberately, we choose without being necessitated to the
choice. It is for this reason we experience remorse and self-reproach, when we
have chosen ill. And as we naturally hold ourselves responsible for our
deliberate volitions, so our very nature inclines us easily to forgive
indeliberate offences committed by others, however grave they may be; whereas
nothing provokes us more than deliberate malice. All these internal facts can be
explained only on the admission of the truth, firmly recognized by mankind taken
as a whole, that our deliberate resolutions depend upon the free choice of our
reasonable will. Whoever, with the pantheist Spinoza{6} and other monists or
determinists, denies this freedom of will, not only puts himself in glaring
opposition to the common good sense of mankind, but also implicitly denies the
essential distinction between praiseworthy virtue and blameable vice;{7} nay, he
teaches a doctrine which leads to absolute scepticism; for he cannot hold his
opinion without confessing a natural and indelible tendency of the human
understanding to accept what in his view is a mere delusion, the notion that man
in some of his actions is a deliberate, free, and responsible agent.

37. If man's soul were nothing more than a principle of growth, of individual
and specific bodily development, of sense-perception, and of animal appetite,
then, of course, he could strive after nothing but what is in harmony with
animal craving, or tends to individual organic comfort, or to the good of kith
and kin; and he would do even these actions with a certain specific uniformity,
at dumb animals do them, always in the same way. But man by his free-will rises
infinitely higher. He alone in the whole animal creation, sits down deliberately
to meditate how he may do things better than his ancestors have done for
centuries before him; he alone has invented and continually makes progress in
the arts; he alone cares for the study of nature; he alone utilizes it for
intellectual purposes. He alone is free either to yield to the immoderate
cravings of animal appetites, or to subject them to the demands of reason and
conscience; nay, he is able deliberately to struggle against sensible pleasure,
deliberately to mortify his passions, deliberately to aim at the "higher
things." The evidence of these facts has induced Mr. A. R. Wallace, who is
called by Mr. Mivart "the surviving chief of the encompassed and besieged
citadel of Darwinism," to throw in his lot with those who maintain the
spirituality of the soul. In his Exposition of the Theory of Natural
Selection,{8} after having shown that man's mathematical, musical, and artistic
faculties cannot be accounted for by the hypothesis of evolution,{9} Mr. Wallace
thus continues: "The special faculties we have been discussing clearly point to
the existence in man of something which he has not derived from his animal
progenitors -- something which we may best refer to as being of a spiritual
essence or nature, capable of progressive development under favourable
conditions. On the hypothesis of this spiritual nature, superadded to the animal
nature of man, we are able to understand much that is otherwise mysterious or
unintelligible in regard to him, especially the enormous influence of ideas,
principles, and beliefs over his whole life and actions. Thus alone we can
understand the constancy of the martyr, the unselfishness of the philanthropist,
the devotion of the patriot, the enthusiasm of the artist, and the resolute and
persevering search of the scientific worker after nature's secrets. Thus we may
perceive that the love of truth, the delight in beauty, the passion for justice,
and the thrill of exultation with which we hear of any act of courageous
self-sacrifice, are the workings within us of a higher nature which has not been
developed by means of the struggle for material existence."{10}

38. We have therefore a right to say that the fact affirmed in the major premiss
of our argument for the existence of a personal God, viz., the spirituality of
the soul (§ 29), cannot be reasonably doubted. But if we must admit this fact,
we cannot but allow its legitimate consequences. It is evident that there must
be a cause of the human race. Astronomers and geologists, palaeontologists and
historians agree, that man did not always exist. How then did the first man come
into existence? We pass over the question as to the origin of his body; but
whence came his spiritual freely-electing soul? A spiritual and free being
cannot be the outcome of a mere organic development. Therefore the cause of the
human soul must be an agent itself spiritual and free. And if you suppose this
agent to be not a self-existing but a created spirit -- which hypothesis we
shall discuss later on -- that created spirit must have a self-existing spirit
for its First Cause. This follows evidently from the impossibility of any series
of produced causes which is not dependent upon an unproduced First Cause; an
impossibility we have proved in § 27. The conclusion is that the First Cause of
the human race is a spirit, self-existent and freely-choosing, in other words, a
personal God.

{1} Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (Translated by M. Müller), p.8
{2} To understand fully the intrinsic absurdity of universal scepticism the
reader may consult The First Principles of Knowledge, by the Rev. John Rickaby,
especially c. viii. pp. 134-147.
{3} These questions, all-important as they are, do not belong to a treatise on
Natural Theology. For anything like a satisfactory discussion of them we must
refer back to the Manual of Psychology (Stonyhurst Series), by the Rev. M.
Maher, pp. 361-393, also pp. 443-467; and to the Manual of Logic (ibid.), by the
Rev. R. F. Clarke, pp. 105-120, also pp. 140-157. We shall, however, be
consulting the convenience of our readers by indicating at least the outline of
the argument of which the fuller development Is to be found in the books
referred to.
{4} Principles of Psychology, Vol. I. p. 192.
{5} Ibid. p. 388.
{6} Cf. Spinoza, Ethics, Part II. prop. 48, and Part I. Appendix.
{7} Spinoza denies this distinction explicitly: 'No action considered in itself
is either good or bad.' (Ethics, Part IV. prop. 59, towards the end of the
{8} London: Macmillan and Co., 1889.
{9} Pp. 466, seq.
{10} Ibid. p. 474; cf. ib. as far as p. 476; cf. Dublin Review, Jan. 1890,
"Darwinianism," by M. Mivart.
Natural Theology: 05 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- The Argument from Design.

Thesis IV. -- The manifold and beautiful order of nature is the work of a
designing mind of vast intelligence; and must be ultimately explained by the
existence of a personal God.

39. The argument from Design is built upon the fact that material things do
constantly and in a most complex way group themselves together into well-ordered
wholes and systems. This fact cannot be explained sufficiently otherwise than by
admitting an Intelligence presiding over nature's works, designing and adapting
means to ends with foreknowledge of eventual results. That the Intelligence we
speak of is self-existent, we cannot directly prove by this argument. We shall
have to supplement the deficiency in this regard by the argument of a First
Cause. Yet considered apart from it, the argument from Design is in itself a
striking refutation of materialism, whether in the shape of a fortuitous
mechanical concurrence of atoms, or in the monist's mystic vision of the
undifferentiated developing into the differentiated and individualized.

40. The order which prevails throughout the visible world has excited the
attention of thinkers from the very dawn of Philosophy. According to Cicero,{11}
Thales, the leader of the Ionian school, held God to be that Intelligence which
out of water forms all beings. Anaxagoras{12} believed likewise in a Superior
Reason pervading the whole of nature. Plato{13} attributed the harmonious order
of celestial and terrestrial bodies to a designing mind; and Aristotle, at the
end of the twelfth book of his Metaphysics, concludes from the unity of the
order in the physical world to the unity of its Ruler. The same argument was
treated more fully by the Stoics, a fine specimen of whose reasoning is
preserved by Cicero in the second book of the De natura Deorum.{14}

To say nothing of scholastic philosophers,{15} Bacon{16} held it for absolutely
certain, that the attributes of God, and particularly His wisdom and His ruling
providence, are traceable in creation. Leibnitz{17} expressed it as his
persuasion, that the material elements of the world, considered in themselves,
are capable of quite another order than that by which they actually are
connected; whence he concludes that the realization of this one order out of
many possible orders must be attributed to the determining mind of God. Kepler's
reverence for the Author of Nature is well known. Newton concludes his Scholia
with a scholion generale in praise of the Creator, whose infinite wisdom in
arranging the solar system had struck him with admiration. "This most elegant
contrivance, consisting of the sun, planets, and comets," he says, "could not
originate but by the design and power of an intelligent Being." What this great
astronomer saw so clearly, the great biologist of modern time, Charles
Darwin,{18} felt instinctively and "with overpowering force," although he did
not care to draw the conclusion suggested to common-sense by his own
observations. Let us add here that although John Stuart Mill doubted whether the
Darwinian principle of the "survival of the fittest" be not able "to account for
such truly admirable combinations as some of those in nature," he was
nevertheless of opinion, "that it must be allowed that in the present state of
our knowledge, the adaptations in nature afford a large balance of probability
in favour of creation by intelligence."{19}

Of far more weight, however, than Mill's timid admission of a large balance of
probability, is the firm conviction of many of the best scientific men of our
own century, that it is absolutely impossible io explain the adaptations we meet
with in all departments of nature, otherwise but by intelligence and design. St.
George Mivart tells us that the cause of the phenomenal universe "must be
orderly and intelligent, as the first and absolute cause of an orderly series of
phenomena which reveals to us an objective intelligence in the bee and the ant,
which is not that of the animals themselves, and which harmonizes with and is
recognized by our own intellects."{20} Dr. W. B. Carpenter, after having given
us in his Vegetable Physiology a highly interesting chapter on the Secretions of
Plants,{21} pauses to contemplate with his readers. "the important inferences
which may be drawn from the foregoing details, in regard to the Power, Wisdom,
and Goodness of the Almighty Designer."{22}

With the two great biologists just mentioned, A. R. Wallace, in the work already
quoted abover agrees at least to a certain extent. According to him, the "three
distinct stages of progress from the inorganic world of matter and motion up to
man, point clearly to an unseen universe -- to a world of spirit, to which the
world of matter is altogether subordinate."{23}

No less pronounced statements in favour of the existence of an intelligent
arranger of the universe, came from other quarters of modern science.
"Overpowering proofs of intelligence and benevolent design," said Sir William
Thomson some years ago,{24} "lie around us, showing to us through nature the
influence of a free-will, and teaching us that all living beings depend upon one
ever-acting Creator and Ruler." Two years later, Sir William Siemens repeated
the same judgment in these words: "We find that all knowledge must lead up to
one great result, that of an intelligent recognition of the Creator through His

At the same conclusion which English scientists drew from the order of nature,
the French astronomer, Faye, in his work Sur l'origine du monde (Paris, 1884),
arrived from the consideration of the human mind. After having stated that human
intelligence must owe its origin to an intelligence higher than human, he thus
continues: "Plus l'idée qu'on se fera de cette intelligence supreme sera grande,
plus elle approchera de la vérité."{26}

But what seems to us the best extrinsic evidence of the great strength of the
argument from design, is the fact that such a judge of the value of arguments as
Kant thinks it a blameable imprudence not to conclude from the order of nature
to an intelligent designer. "This proof," he says,{27} "will always deserve to
be treated with respect. It is the oldest, the clearest, and most in conformity
with human reason. It gives life to the study of nature, deriving its own
existence from it, and thus constantly acquiring new vigour. It reveals aims and
intentions, where our own observation would not by itself have discovered them,
and enlarges our knowledge of nature by leading us towards that peculiar unity,
the principle of which exists outside nature. This knowledge reacts again on its
cause, namely, the transcendental idea, and thus increases the belief in a
Supreme Author to an irresistible conviction. It would therefore be not only
extremely sad, but utterly vain, to attempt to diminish the authority of this
proof. Reason, constantly strengthened by the powerful arguments that come to
hand of themselves, though they are no doubt empirical only, cannot be
discouraged by any doubts of subtle and abstract speculation. Roused from all
curious speculation and mental suspense, as from a dream, by one glance at the
wonders of nature and the majesty of the cosmos, reason soars from height to
height till it reaches the highest, from the conditioned to conditions, till it
reaches the supreme and unconditioned Author of all." Later on,{28} Kant refers
to the objection that we must not argue from the need of foresight in human
workmanship to a similar need in nature. His answer is: "We cannot do better
than follow the analogy of these products of human design, which are the only
ones of which we know completely both cause and effect. There would be no
excuse, if reason were to surrender a causality which it knows, and have
recourse to obscure and indemonstrable principles of explanation, which it does
not know."{29}

It is true that Kant, while granting thus much, has nevertheless some
speculative difficulties against the argument from Design. We shall treat of
these later. For the present we are satisfied with knowing that one of the most
acute leaders of modern thought, forced by the voice of reason, bears testimony
to the great truth that "the heavens show forth the glory of the Lord,"{30} that
"by the greatness of the beauty and of the creature, the Creator of them may be
seen so as to be known thereby,"{31} and that "the unknown God"{32} "left not
Himself without testimony, doing good from Heaven, giving rains and fruitful
seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."{33}

We now proceed from authority to argument.

41. Order is the adaptation of diverse things to one definite result. Order of
simple coexistences is called statical; order of motions and activities is
called dynamical. Thus for instance, in a well-arranged library we have statical
order, in machinery not only statical, but also dynamical. These definitions
supposed, it cannot be doubted that the visible universe in all its parts bears
marks of a most varied and beautiful order. Darwin was so struck by this complex
final order, that he did not hesitate to pronounce "nature's productions far
truer in character than man's productions;" and to maintain that they are
"infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and plainly
bear the stamp of far higher workmanship."{34}

Any good popular treatise on astronomy and physiology will serve as a rich
source of illustrations bearing on the truth of these statements, nor is there
any one who will be foolish enough to dispute them. It must, however, be
carefully noted, that we do not as yet affirm that everything in this world is
well-ordered, nor do we say that there is a universal combination of things for
the fulfilment of one common purpose. Were we to claim all this, we should
indeed be claiming only what, if rightly understood, is most true. But so
far-reaching a proposition is not necessary for the argument from Design, nor
would it be sufficiently warranted until we have carried our inquiry further.
42. Confining, therefore, our attention to those manifestations of order which
are obvious to every one who cares for the study of the workings of nature, we
ask: How did these orderly arrangements, their harmony, beauty, and usefulness,
come to be? May we suppose, with Epicurus, that they are the effect of chance?
in other words, that they are owing to an accidental concurrence of atoms,
moving in infinite space, and meeting one another in such a way as to form,
after many failures, various kinds of inanimate and animate bodies? Such an
hypothesis would be not only inadequate to account for the laws and results of
chemical combinations, and for the origin of life; it would be intrinsically
absurd, conflicting with the universality of the Principle of Causation,
inasmuch as this fortuitous concurrence would be an uncaused concurrence.{35}
There must then have been a cause of the formation of the heavenly orbs and
their arrangement in systems: a cause again which, on our earth, grouped
together the elements into organized structures, moving, growing, repairing
themselves, and reproducing their kind according to definite laws. Where shall
we find this cause? It must either be inherent in the elements of matter, or it
must be something outside these. If it is outside matter, it can only be a mind,
understanding and designing the order of matter. But will not the inherent
forces of matter suffice to explain this complex order? Let us see.

43. In the first place, the inherent forces of matter cannot be appealed to as
the cause of the order prevailing in the inorganic world. We know that material
elements produce different effects according to their different collocations in
regard to one another.{36} Consequently, each effect is the natural outcome of a
previous disposition of the parts of matter. This being so, every orderly effect
is due to a pre-arrangement of particles suitable to the production of such an
effect. That is, the order which is worked out by the elements of matter,
presupposes order in the combination of the working elements. Thus the question
of order in the world of inanimate matter is thrown back to the origin of that
combination of elements which generated order.

Nor do we escape the necessity of seeking a cause external to the combinations
themselves, by pleading the possibility of an eternal series of combinations. In
the first place, eternal succession is a self-contradictory conception.
Succession implies links of a series, it is constituted by the continuous
addition of link to link. Now links added to one another are always numerable.
Links of a series must always be in some number, however immense the number may
be. But to be in some number, is to be finite: for every number is made up of
finite unities. Thus eternal succession would be essentially finite, because it
was succession, and yet infinite because eternal. In the second place, even if
eternal succession were possible, it would furnish no explanation of the
phenomenon of orderly combination which the world exhibits: any more than
infinite extension of a chain hung in air would supply the want of supports for
it. Consequently, although we have nothing to say against the assumption made by
astronomers, that our cosmic system resulted from the condensation and division
of a primitive rotating nebula; yet we cannot admit this nebula, without
observing that there must have been a first arrangement of the material elements
which constituted it, one which already contained in germ the present system, or
else the said system could never have resulted from it. Now this first
arrangement was neither the effect of the forces of matter, nor was it essential
to matter. Had it been the effect of material forces, it could not possibly have
been the first disposition of matter, but was rather the effect of a preceding
disposition of the elements. Again, had it belonged essentially to matter, it
could not have yielded to another disposition so long as matter existed, and
thus the present cosmic system could never have been formed. Therefore, if we
would explain the origin of that system without violation of reason, we are
forced to say that its first beginning, nebular or otherwise, is due to an
intelligent cause.{37}

44. If the forces of matter are inadequate to explain the order of the inorganic
world, much less can they account for the existence of life and the orderly
relations which exist between animate and inanimate beings.
Whence comes the adaptation of inanimate nature to the support of life? The
natural tendency of brute matter cannot explain it. The relation of brute matter
to life is accidental to its nature. Whence then did the relation originate? No
satisfactory answer to this question can be given except this that an
Intelligent Ruler of this world arranged the material elements of which the
universe is built up in such a way that they gradually became adapted to the
service of living beings whose existence he intended and foresaw. This answer
must be insisted upon all the more from the fact that man, the most noble being
on earth, finds it rich with an innumerable multitude of things accommodated to
his bodily and mental wants. As we have proved before (§ 32, seq.), the soul of
man is not the outgrowth of matter, but the work of an intelligent Creator only.
No evolution of matter, of plants, and of animals, could culminate in the
existence of man, composed of a human soul and a human body; and yet matter and
life inferior to man, conspire to furnish him what he needs for the maintenance
of his body, and to help him in the cultivation of his intellect. Certainly no
reasonable explanation of this great fact can be given but by recurring to an
intelligent mind, superior to man and the irrational world, which arranged the
latter, ere man was created, with a view to prepare him a fit

45. We have then seen hitherto that the adaptations to one another which connect
the various groups of beings in the macrocosm of the universe must be attributed
to a Designing Mind. The same conclusion we arrive at by pondering the order
prevailing in the microcosm of each living organism, from the tiniest
unicellular plant up to the most highly organized animal. Just as in scientific
inquiry, the further that it proceeds, the more it becomes evident that brute
matter by its own forces alone never developes into organized living structures;
so, when we look at the subject from a metaphysical point of view, we are forced
to maintain that the vast differences which separate the natural tendencies of
living bodies from those of lifeless matter, are a sufficient evidence of the
impossibility of a natural evolution of the latter into any species of the
former. And with this conclusion coincides the verdict of scientific experience.
Mr. St. George Mivart speaks on this point with authority. He says:
"That there is an absolute break between the living world and the world devoid
of life, is what scientific men are now agreed about -- thanks to the
persevering labours of M. Pasteur. Those who affirm that though life does not
arise from inorganic matter now, nevertheless it did so 'a long time ago,'
affirm what is at the least contrary to all the evidence we possess, and they
bring forward nothing more in favour of it than the undoubted fact that it is a
supposition which is necessary for the validity of their own speculative views.
There is, then, one plain evidence that there has been an interruption of
continuity, if not within the range of organic life, yet at its commencement and
origin. But we go further than this, and affirm, without a moment's hesitation,
that there has, and must necessarily have been, discontinuity within the range
of organic life also. We refer to the discontinuity between organisms which are
capable of sensation and those which do not possess the power of feeling. That
all the higher animals 'feel' will not be disputed. They give all the external
signs of sensitivity, and they possess that special organic structure -- a
nervous system -- which we know supplies all our organs of sensation. In the
absence of any bodily mutilation, then, we have no reason to suspect that their
nervous system and organs of sense do not act in a manner analogous to our own.
On the other hand, to affirm that the familiar vegetables of our kitchen-gardens
are all endowed with sensitivity, is not only to make a gratuitous affirmation,
but one opposed to evidence, since no vegetable organisms possess a nervous
system, and it is a universally admitted biological law, that structure and
functions go together. If, then, there are any organisms whatever, which do not
feel, while certain other organisms do feel (as a door must be shut or open),
there is, and must be, a break and distinction between one set and the

What then was it which gave birth to organic life? To say, it had no beginning,
but that from eternity there existed one or several series of living organisms,
would involve the postulate of succession without beginning, which we have
proved to be self-contradictory. (§ 43.) But, if organic life can neither be
considered as an effect of the forces of dead matter, nor have the source of its
own existence within itself, we cannot reasonably explain its origin except by
admitting that an intelligent Being, ruling over the matter of our earth, first
put into it the germ of life, although we are not able to point out when, and in
what way, this influence was exercised. Hence, the countless living organisms
that people our globe are the realizations of ideas conceived by an immaterial
superhuman Intelligence. This Intelligence drew the plans on which they are
built, foresaw the stages of evolution, through which they run with so
astonishing a regularity, furnished them with a multitude of skilfully-contrived
organs, and adapted their whole structure to the environment in which they are

46. That the Ruler in whose mind the order of the world originated is a
self-existing intelligence, and consequently a personal God, does not follow
immediately from the fact that the order of the world must be the work of a
superhuman Intelligence. What does, however, follow immediately is, that the
Intelligence which rules the physical world is so vast, that no human
understanding and wisdom can be compared with it. For many ages the cleverest of
men have been occupied in studying the relations that exist between the
different parts of living beings, and between these parts and their functions,
and yet there is no man who understands completely the mysteries hidden even in
one living cell. Far indeed then above human comprehension must be the
excellence of that Mind whose ideas were the models after which the universe was
fashioned, with its wealth of marvels and complexity of order.

If, however, we would show that the order of the world is due, not only to an
Intelligence far exceeding all intelligence of man, but ultimately to a
self-existent Intelligence -- in other words, to a personal God, we must go back
to the argument of the First Cause. Either the intelligent mind who designed the
order of our world is dependent upon a series of other minds without beginning,
or it depends upon a first mind, or it is itself the first mind. The first
alternative is absurd, because it implies a series of causes produced without a
self-existent cause to produce them (§ 38); therefore either the second or the
third must be admitted. But this is equivalent to an admission that the order of
the world depends upon an intelligent, self-existent cause; for the cause of the
cause of order must also, at least mediately, be the cause of order itself.{40}

{11} De Nature Deorum, i. 10. Cf. Aristot. De Anima, i. 5.
{12} Cf. Stöckl, Geschichte der Philosophie, p. 51; Ueberweg, History of
Philosophy, i. p. 63.
{13} Philebus, pp. 30 b, seq.
{14} Cf. especially the beautiful illustrations in c. xxxiv. and c. xxxvii.
{15} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. I. q. 2. a. 3. c. "Quinta via."
{16} Bacon de Verulam, De dignitate et augmentis Scientiarum, Lib. III. c. ii.
pp. 207, seq. Cf. Stöckl, Geschichte der neuern Phil. I. p. 21.
{17} Leibnitz, Opera (Edit. Erdm.) p. 506.
{18} Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, by F. Darwin, Vol. I. p. 336, note.
{19} Three Essays on Religion, pp. 172, 174.
{20} Lessons from Nature, p. 358.
{21} Vegetable Physiology, c. x.
{22} Op. cit. n. 404, pp. 258, 259 in First Edition.
{23} Cf. Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection, pp. 475, 476.
{24} Presidential Address, 1882.
{25} See also statements made by Professor Stokes, Professors Stuart and Tait,
and Sir John Herschell, in The Month of January, 1889, pp. 39, seq., in "The New
Genesis," a criticism of E. Clodd's Story of Creation, by Rev. John Gerard.
{26} Op. Cit. 9. 114.
{27} Critique of Pure Reason (Translated by M. Müller), ii. p. 535.
{28} P. 537. {29} p. 538.
{30} Psalm xviii. 1.
{31} Wisdom xiii. 5.
{32} Acts xvii. 23.
{33} Acts xiv. 16.
{34} Origin of Species, c. iv. p. 65.
{35} On this point not only all sound metaphysicians, but also all true
scientists, are at one. "The one act of faith in the convert to science," says
Professor Huxley, "is the universality of order, and of the absolute validity,
in all times and under all circumstances, of the law of causation. This
confession is an act of faith, because, by the nature of the case, the truth of
such propositions is not susceptible of proof. But such faith is not blind, but
reasonable, because it is invariably confirmed by experience, and constitutes
the sole trustworthy foundation for all action." Then picturing, for
illustration's sake, the raging sea, he thus continues: "The man of science
knows that here, as everywhere, perfect order is manifested; that there is not a
curve of the waves, not a note in the howling chorus, not a rainbow glint on a
bubble, which is other than a necessary consequence of the ascertained laws of
nature, and that with a sufficient knowledge of the conditions, competent
physico-mathematical skill could account for and indeed predict every one of
these 'chance' events." (Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, by F. Darwin, Vol.
II. c. 5, written by Professor Huxley, p. 200.) We agree fully with all of this,
inasmuch as it implies that nothing happens without a proportionate cause, and
that consequently an accidental concurrence of causes is nonsense.
{36} "The last great generalization of science, the ConservatiOn of Force,
teaches us that the variety in the effects depends partly upon the amount of
force, and partly upon the diversity of the collocation." (Mill, Three Essays on
Religion, p. 145. Third Edit.)
{37} Professor Huxley supports our conclusion, when in defence of Darwin's
Origin of Species he writes: "The teleological and the mechanical views of
nature are not, necessarily, mutually exclusive. On the contrary, the more
purely a mechanist the speculator is, the more firmly does he assume a
primordial molecular arrangement of which all the phenomena of the universe are
the consequences, and the more completely is he thereby at the mercy of the
teleologist, who can always defy him to disprove that this primordial molecular
arrangement was not intended to evolve the phenomena of the universe." (Life and
Letters of Charles Darwin, by F. Darwin, Vol. II. pp. 201, 202, in Professor
Huxley's chapter on "Reception of The Origin of Species.")
{38} "A successively increasing purpose," says St. George Mivart, "runs through
the irrational creation up to man. All the lower Creatures have ministered to
him, and have, as a fact, prepared the way for his existence. Therefore,
whatever ends they also serve, they exist especially for him." (On Truth, p.
{39} Origin of Human Reason, pp. 10, 11.
{40} On the argument from Design, cf. Janet, Final Causes. Translated into
English by William Affleck. B.D. Second Edition. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark,
Natural Theology: 06 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 4. -- The Moral Proof.

Thesis V. -- Mankind has at all times believed in the existence of an
intelligent nature superior to the material world and to man. This universal
belief can only be explained as the result of the real existence of such a
nature. But to grant this much is to grant implicitly the existence of a
personal God.

47. When we have convinced ourselves by a train of reasoning that some
proposition is true, we are always anxious to know if our conclusion is
identical with that of other minds. Our own minds may have been the victims of
some lurking fallacy, but it is less likely that other minds should have been
simultaneously deceived in the same manner. Thus we gain confidence when we find
them to be in agreement with us, and our confidence becomes very great indeed
when these other minds are in immense number and belong to various classes of
persons acting independently of one another. It is natural therefore that now
that we have completed our proofs of the existence of God drawn from intrinsic
evidence, we should go on to inquire how far the Divine existence is universally
recognized, and that we should claim the result of the inquiry as a signal
corroboration of our position.

We claim more, however, than this in the present argument. We claim to find in
this universal recognition which we assert, not only a corroboration of what has
preceded, but an argument of absolute value in itself. We claim that a fact like
this of the consent of nations in the recognition of God must be deemed the
voice of universal reason yielding to the compelling evidence of truth. The
cause must be adequate to the effect. A universal effect must imply an equally
universal cause. But truth alone is such a cause. Error is always partial,
local, temporary; truth alone is everywhere the same.

48. This is the outline of the argument we now advance. Its force will become
more manifest when we have examined into its details.

First, about the fact. From the ancient writers, pagan as well as Christian,
many well known passages have been collected in which this universal recognition
of a Divine government of the world is attested. Thus Plutarch says: "If you go
round the world, you may find cities without walls, or literature, or kings, or
houses, or wealth, or money, without gymnasia, or theatres. But no one ever saw
a city without temples and gods, one which does not have recourse to prayers, or
oaths, or oracles, which does not offer sacrifice to obtain blessings or
celebrate rites to avert evil."{41} And Cicero has declared that "there is no
nation so wild and fierce, as not to know that it must have a God, although it
may not know what sort of a God it should be."{42} From among Christian
witnesses we may take Clement of Alexandria, who tells us that "all nations,
whether they dwell in the East or on the remotest shores of the West, in the
North or the South, have one and the same rudimentary apprehension of Him by
whom this government (of the world) has been established."{43}

One is prone nowadays to suspect passages like these of resting too little on
solid information, too much on the inferences and generalizations of oratory.
Still they have their value, and attest to us the results of such actual
experience as came within the reach of former generations. They have a right
also to be taken together with the results of modern inquiry which, if they are
found to agree with them, they can complete. And they do agree with the
discoveries of the most recent times. There are few tribes of the earth which
have not been scrutinized by the active-minded explorers of the present century,
and scrutinized on the whole with scientific care and skill. Out of the entire
number thus examined it is just possible that a few are altogether without
religious ideas. Sir John Lubbock has maintained that there are such. But it is
a task of no small difficulty to elicit from savages a true account of their
religious beliefs. They are shy in the presence of the white man, and they have
also often a superstitious fear of mentioning the names of their gods. Thus it
becomes likely that even this small residuum is not really as atheistic as it
has been alleged to be. This is the judgment of one who is in the front rank of
anthropologists, and is clear from any suspicions of undue partiality in favour
of the religion of theists. Mr. Tylor writes:

"The assertion that rude non-religious tribes have been known in actual
existence, though in theory possible, and perhaps in fact true, does not at
present rest on that sufficient proof which for an exceptional state of things
we are entitled to demand. . . . So far as I can judge from the immense mass of
accessible evidence, we have to admit that the belief in spiritual beings
appears among all low races with whom we have attained to thoroughly intimate

That the facts brought forward by Sir John Lubbock to prove the contrary, are
not really to the point, has been clearly shown by Gustav Roskoff.{45} The
conclusion at which he arrives is, that "hitherto no tribe has been found to be
without any traces of religious sentiments." In this he is fully borne out both
by the distinguished German ethnologist, Oskar Peschel,{46} who denies
categorically that any tribe has been met with without religious ideas, and also
by F. v. Heliwald, in his Natural History of Man.{47}

49. Even if there were a few races altogether without religion it would not
touch our argument. Our object is to ascertain the voice of nature, and of
rational nature. It is only to be expected that we shall find its tones affected
by an admixture of the tones of error in degraded races, and that the extent of
the confusion should follow the degrees of degradation.

Here, however, the very natural objection will occur to the reader's mind: Do we
not find an opposing voice at the other end of the scale of civilization? Do not
those who deem themselves and are perhaps deemed by the mass of men to represent
the acme of intellectual culture, proclaim themselves to be conscientiously
agnostic in reference to this important doctrine? That there are these apparent
exceptions to the general law must of course be admitted. But we must not allow
our adversaries to assume too much. Undoubtedly there is an increasingly large
number of persons who profess themselves to be agnostics. Still only a small
portion of these can be regarded as persons of special culture: and if there are
some such, it must not be forgotten that there are many more of equal culture
who are earnest theists. The fact thus alleged against us when reduced to its
proper proportions becomes this. In the present age there are many agnostics who
declare that they do not see grounds for admitting the Divine existence, and
some among them are in the front rank among the thinkers of the day. After all,
this is a fact not peculiar to the present age. It can be paralleled by similar
instances in the last century, and it can be paralleled also by similar
instances among the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome. Even the reasonings
on which modern agnostics rely are substantially the same with those which we
find in the writings of these ancient atheists.

If any one, certainly Professor Huxley must know, whether the scientific
progress of our age has really created new and formidable difficulties against
Natural Theology. Yet he says: "There is a great deal of talk and not a little
lamentation about the so-called religious difficulties which physical science
has created. In theological science, as a matter of fact, it has created none.
Not a solitary problem presents itself to the philosophical Theist at the
present day which has not existed from the time that philosophers began to think
out the logical grounds and the logical consequences of Theism."{48}
50. Thus we are able to state as generally true the fact with which we have to
deal. The acknowledgment of a superior and invisible intelligence governing the
visible universe is common to all ages and all regions, to civilized and
uncivilized tribes alike. We find a disposition on the part of some few
philosophers to dispute the validity of the belief; but nevertheless the belief
has proved to be persistent and indestructible in the mass of mankind. It is
this persistency among the mass of men, retained even in the teeth of sceptical
opposition, on which our argument is based.

Now for the interpretation of this important fact. How comes it that minds are
so accordant in their inference that the nature and movements of the visible
world imply the existence of an invisible over-ruling spirit? There must be
motives acting on the mind to induce it to draw this conclusion: and the motives
must have been the same everywhere, since the effect, the inference, is the same
everywhere. If the inference is of the character which we have investigated in
the previous theses, and if this inference is true; if it is true that the
universe bears upon its face the characteristic marks of an effect, and an
effect presupposes a proportionate cause, if the universe bears upon its face
the marks of design and purpose, and the only proportionate cause of design and
purpose is a cause endowed with intelligence, then the world-wide recognition of
such an intelligent ruler of the world is fully justified and explained. And
that this is the true explanation we may establish by way of elimination. What
other explanation is there in the field? Bayle in the seventeenth century
undertook to suggest other possible causes. He named the following:

(1) Ignorance of natural causes. Men observed the marvellous course of nature in
the midst of which they lived, and, unable as yet to detect the physical causes
from which they actually spring, attributed them to the action of invisible
beings which they anthropomorphically invested with form and qualities
resembling their own.

(2) Fear excited by the stupendous forces of nature, by the flash of the
lightning, the roll of the thunder, the fury of the waves, and the shock of the

Primus in orbe deos fecit timor ardua coeli
Fulmina dum caderent.

(3) The fraud of the ruling classes, of priests and kings, who played upon these
natural predispositions of the people by stamping them with the seal of their
own superior authority: so doing because they perceived that the tendency of the
beliefs was to exalt their own character as priests and kings by causing them to
be regarded as the Divine representatives and as the mediators through whose
instrumentality alone the Divine anger could be appeased.

Of these three reasons only the first is radical and need be considered. Given a
belief in the existence of a Divine ruler, fear would naturally ensue, and where
the idea of God was mingled with error, as it undoubtedly has been among
barbarous nations, this fear would take an unreasonable form. But fear alone
could not create a belief in God. In like manner, given belief in the existence
of God formed on other grounds, the natural consequence would be a conviction
that earthly rulers are His representatives holding authority under Him, and
this conviction might lend itself to the interested motives of unworthy rulers
where the people were sufficiently untutored to credit such fraudulent

What then is to be said of the first alleged cause of the belief in question?
And be it noticed, that this self-same cause which is said to have originated
the belief in God in past ages, is alleged to be sustaining it now among the
ignorant theists, who, according to our modern men of progress, shut their eyes
to the enlightenment of modern thought. You discover final causes, is the charge
against us, and you then infer from them the existence of an architect of the
universe, because you fail to see that the existing physical causes are quite
able of themselves to evolve the complicated system which we call the world.
This charge, however, is a little out of date now. Those who used confidently to
make it are beginning to realize what was seen by their adversaries all along,
namely, that the appeal to physical causes and even to a long course of
evolution under their action only results in pushing back the need of a designer
to an earlier stage, and indeed makes the need itself the more imperative.
However, this is a point that has already been sufficiently considered. All that
we are at present concerned to notice is, that if failure to regard physical
causes as containing within themselves an adequate explanation of the cosmos has
been the motive which has engendered this universal recognition of the Divine
existence, the failure is not one which can be confidently appealed to as
discrediting the recognition. We are merely reduced to this, that whereas a
certain argument seems to modern agnostics unsound and to modern theists sound,
the general consent of mankind is on the side of the theists, not of the
agnostics. And this is just what the theist appeals to as constituting an
independent argument in his favour. How explain, he says, this persistent
general belief without seeing in it the voice of rational nature ratifying the
truth of the conclusion and the validity of the inference?

51. Of course it must not be supposed that we deny that here and there some
among the thinkers of former ages have erred, just as barbarous tribes even may
err now, in attributing to the immediate action of the Divinity results of which
the immediate cause was the action of some physical agent. Errors in assigning
wrong causes to physical facts have no doubt been committed repeatedly, and have
been corrected by our superior information. Herein, in fact, we see, from the
opposite side, an illustration of the value of our principle that persistent
universal belief is an evidence of truth. The errors in question proved
themselves to be errors by dropping out with the march of discovery. They have
proved not to be universal and persistent. But these crude notions of immediate
Divine action in the movement of the storm or the flash of the lightning, are
not what we are appealing to. The question is not why some men multiplied their
gods, or attributed to them this action or that; but why mankind in general have
agreed in thinking that the world as a whole presupposes the existence of an
intelligent governor, and why this belief has shown itself, and continues to
show itself to be as persistent in the face of all attacks made upon it by the
agnostic thought of the various ages, as the other beliefs have shown themselves
to be yielding and transitory. Error, we know, cannot live for ever. It is
always in danger of destruction, because its foundations are insecure. Truth, on
the other hand, though it may lie for a time obscured, must persist, because its
foundation is on the rock of evidence.

52. It will help to render the force of our argument more distinct, if we bear
in mind the difference between what were once happily called by Cardinal Newman"
Implicit and Explicit Reason." To reason, that is to say, to be intellectually
moved by certain premisses to the adoption of the conclusion towards which they
point, is one thing. To give an accurate account of the nature of the premisses
grasped by the mind, is quite another. To quote the Cardinal's words:
"Let a person only call to mind the clear impression he has about matters of
every-day occurrence, that this man is bent on a certain object, or that man was
displeased, or another suspicious: or that one is happy and another unhappy; and
how much depends in such impressions on manner, voice, accent, words uttered,
silence instead of words, and all the many subtle symptoms which are felt by the
mind, but cannot be contemplated; and let him consider how very poor an account
he is able to give of his impression, if he avows it and is called upon to
justify it."{49}

The illustration is taken from one class of inference, but is applicable to
others. To give an accurate account of one's reasoning is a faculty confined
mainly to those who possess the art of reflection and analysis, born of the
discipline of philosophical training. To reason correctly is a faculty much more
widely found. It is noticeable that most men reason correctly concerning
practical matters which come within their special sphere of interest and
experience. All men who are in their right senses reason correctly concerning
those matters which are of fundamental importance for the conduct of life. And
thus it comes to pass that in a certain sense untrained minds are given to
reason more correctly than philosophers. The latter, although enjoying the power
to analyze their reasonings into its elements, do not always enjoy this power to
perfection. Accordingly they set down the premisses inaccurately, and then,
finding them insufficient to bear the weight of the inference, discard as
unsound conclusions which are really valid. Meanwhile the untrained mind,
undistracted by any such false notions, pursues its natural course, and arrives
with certainty at the true conclusion. Here, then, we have the justification of
the stress we have been laying on the appeal to the persistent universal consent
of mankind in recognizing the existence of a superior intelligence. The appeal
is from the mind caught in philosophical mazes through its inability to grasp
with sufficient accuracy the true premisses on which the arguments for God's
existence rest; and it is to minds free from this distracting influence which by
their concord in such number, variety, and persistency, prove themselves to be
dominated by the evidence of truth.

53. In the last clause of the thesis we are proving, we assert that to admit
this universal recognition of a superior intelligence governing the universe is
implicitly to admit the existence of a personal God. The word "implicitly" must
be carefully noticed. The argument from universal recognition is often
misapprehended, because it is understood to aspire to more than it really does.
Cicero, long ago, said, in words already cited: "No nation is so wild and fierce
as not to perceive that there must be a God, although ignorant what kind of God
it must be." The two questions, whether God exists, and what is the true nature
of God, are to be distinguished. As to the latter, the grossest and most absurd
of notions have prevailed, and it might be urged against us that if we desire to
take the beliefs of the mass of mankind as in itself an evidence of truth, we
ought in consistency to take their gross and absurd notions as an integral part
of the belief. What right have we to pick and choose? What right have we to cite
as valuable witnesses the polytheists and even the fetish worshippers, and at
the same time disregard as valueless their belief in polytheism and fetichism?
However, the answer is reasonable enough. The element of persistent universality
on which we lay stress is to be found in the belief in the existence of a
supreme intelligence. But as soon as men went beyond this, and sought to
conceive to themselves the form and manner of this overruling intelligence, they
fell into error, and their error is revealed as such by its want of universality
and its want of persistency. The forms which mythology has assumed among the
various tribes may resemble one another in certain general characteristics,
because even erroneous thought is an attempt to understand realities, and must
be governed to a certain extent by what it sees; still, on the whole, the
mythologies are characterized by their dissimilitude: they are racy of the soil
where they spring up.

We are content, then, to appeal to the consent of mankind for the rudimentary
conception of a governing intelligence (or intelligences) overruling the world.
But we contend that in this rudimentary conception is contained implicitly the
doctrine of a personal God. To show that this is the true inference from the
premisses is not the task of the present thesis. It has been partly demonstrated
already, and remains to be more completely demonstrated in the theses yet to

Such is the Moral proof, grounded upon the belief of the human race in the
existence of God. It is not absolutely conclusive, except when taken in
conjunction with the argument of the First Cause. That argument shows perfectly
the existence of a personal God; yet it gains much in practical value, when
accompanied by the other two (the argument from general consent and the argument
from Design), which appeal more directly to ordinary understandings. To confirm
our conclusion now indirectly, by evincing the untenableness of the opposite, we
will point out some of the practical consequences that flow from agnosticism.

{41} Adv. Coloten Epicureum.
{42} De Leg. I. c. 8.
{43} Strom. Lib V. n. 260.
{44} Primitive Culture, Vol. I. pp. 378 and 384.
{45} Gustav Roskoff's words are as follows: "Es ist bisher noch kein Volksstamm
ohne jede Spur von Religiösität betroffen worden." (Das Religionswesen der
rohesten Naturvölker. p. 178, Leipzig, 1880.)
{46} "Stellen wir uns die Frage, ob irgendwo auf Erden ein Volksstamm ohne
religiöse Anregungen und Vorstellungen jemals angetroffen worden sei, so darf
sie entschieden verneint werden." (Oskar Peachel, Völkerkunde, p. 260. Fifth
Edit. Leipzig, 1881.)
{47} "Mit Fug und Recht darf man von einer Religion der Wilden sprechen; deun
bisjetzt sind noch keine vollständig religionslosen Völkerstämme gefunden
worden." (F. v. Hellwald, Naturgeschichte des Menschen, p. 95. Stuttgart. 1883.)
{48} Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, by F. Darwin, Vol. II. c. v. p. 203.
{49} Sermons before the University of Oxford, p. 274. Third Edit.
Natural Theology: 07 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 5. -- Logical consequences of Agnosticism.

Thesis VI. -- The logical consequences of Sceptical Atheism or Agnosticism in
the practical order show clearly that the position of the agnostic is opposed to

54. The word atheist suggests the idea of a man living without regard for God.
If he does so, because he thinks that there is no sufficient reason for
believing in God's existence, he may be called a theoretical atheist; if on the
other hand, he admits that existence, but disregards the law of God in
regulating his free actions, he will then be called a practical atheist. In this
place we have not to treat of the consequences of practical atheism except in so
far as they are included in those connected with atheism maintained as a theory.
Confining ourselves to the theoretical atheists, we have again to distinguish
dogmatic and sceptical atheism. A dogmatic atheist is one who asserts without
doubt, "There is no God;" whereas a sceptical atheist, commonly called an
agnostic, maintains only that we can know nothing definite about the First Cause
of things.

If the logical consequences of Sceptical Atheism are disastrous, those of
Dogmatic Atheism will not be less disastrous, though they can hardly be more. We
may, however, limit our attention to the consequences of the former only.
Dogmatic Atheism is not very common now-a-days, at least among men of culture.
Agnostics, we know, are wont to protest very strongly against the designation of
atheists being applied to them, and the protest, whether reasonable or not,
proves at least this much, that in their estimation the intellectual position of
one who should claim to have demonstrated the non-existence of God is altogether
irrational. Under these circumstances it is not necessary to consider the
practical consequences of Dogmatic Atheism, but only those of Agnosticism. This
we call Sceptical Atheism, since the name is one that is founded on truth and
required by symmetry. The objection that may be raised to it by agnostics may
become less if they will observe that the name atheist taken by itself has been
defined to mean one who acts as if there were no God. Agnostics can hardly deny
that they do this. "Worship of the silent sort" has indeed been pronounced
fitting before the "altar of the Unknowable." But is such an evanescent homage,
whether it be fitting or not, really sufficient?

We assert then, in the present thesis, that the logical consequences of
sceptical atheism in the practical order are so opposed to reason as to involve
a condemnation of its tenets. There are pessimists in the world, and their
number is said to be increasing with the spread of "modern thought." But
although these may be cited as valuable witnesses to the force of the argument
about to be advanced, the thesis is not addressed to them. It is rather
addressed to those who cannot think that Nature is a fraud or a pest, but
believe its course to be stamped with the promise of a true hope.

In proof of our thesis, we will first invite attention to the moral paradox in
which the agnostic finds himself entangled, or rather would find himself
entangled if only he would reflect sufficiently. Few agnostics would deny that,
if the Christian assumption were correct and the existence of such a God as
Christians believe in were an ascertained truth, it would follow at once that He
must desire the worship of loving reverence. Just as it is inconceivable that,
if two persons hold towards each other the physical relationship of father and
son, the father should not desire to enter into the moral relationship of
intercourse with his son and have it reciprocated by loving and reverent
affection and obedience, so also, if there is a personal God from whom man, has
received his being, faculties, and all else that he can call his, it is
inconceivable that God should not desire to enter into moral relationship with
him and receive a loving and obedient service and worship. The conception of a
God who, at some past moment, made the world, set it spinning like a top, and
then ceased to care about it, has always been rejected by the larger part of
civilized nations, and at the present day has fallen into discredit. If,
therefore, God desires this worship, man ought to render it, and in the case of
his not rendering it, the requirements of natural equity are violated and an
indignity is offered to God.

So much as this will be generally conceded to us by agnostics. They do not
challenge the inference as to conduct and worship which Christians draw from
Christian premisses. They only challenge the premisses, that is, the certainty
of the existence of God. They do not go so far as positively to deny the
existence of God. They merely contend that it is uncertain. But in declaring it
to be uncertain most of them go farther, and admit with Darwin that it is more
probable than the opposite opinion. That is to say, it is probable that there
exists a God desirous of receiving love and worship from His creatures, and
therefore reciprocally probable that it is man's sacred duty to render it to
Him. This the agnostic, by the very fact that he protests against being called
an atheist, is bound to admit, and yet because he professes himself unable to go
farther and convert the probability into a certainty, he cannot render the
worship. Such is the moral paradox to which the agnostic is reduced.
And the paradox will be felt the greater if the agnostic will observe that, on
his own principles, the hypothesis of the existence of an intelligent ruler of
the world is not only probable, but even the most probable theory to account for
the facts. When he forgets his philosophy, and as a man of science, that is, of
physical science, adopts the attitude of the pure realist, he professes himself
agnostic on the ground that Evolution in its extremest form may account for that
order reigning through Nature which is the theist's foundation-stone. Now,
Evolution thus conceived, however it may be dressed up in modern fashions, is in
essence nothing but the old theory of the fortuitous concourse of atoms: the
theory that, given eternal atoms and eternal motion, eventually order will
result from their interaction, since order is self-sustaining and chaos is not.
Although in answer to this we have given clear reasons to show that neither the
theory of chance nor that of evolution can account for the orderly arrangements
of the universe (§§ 42-46); nevertheless let us grant again, for the sake of
argument, that either of the two is a conceivable explanation of the genesis of
the cosmos. Can it possibly be claimed as relatively probable, or anything but
relatively most improbable when set in competition with the rival theory of a
personal Designer?

If the agnostic puts on his philosophic cloak and becomes a transfigured realist
with Mr. Spencer, the existence of an "Infinite" is admitted, and all denied is
the lawfulness, in face of the relativity of knowledge, of attributing to the
Unknown Cause of the universe any attributes derived from the consideration of
the things of this world, man not excluded. The protest made against the
practice of assigning them to Him is made on the ground that they are likely to
be altogether beneath Him: that is to say -- if logically explained -- on the
likelihood that He may possess attributes which may go so far beyond even the
most noble qualities of the human mind, that the latter are nothing but a dim
and comparatively insignificant image of a First Mind, and that human
personality is but a dim and comparatively insignificant image of the
Personality of the First Cause. In other words, that the great "Unknowable" is
supereminently a person.

If the agnostic declines to be in any sense a realist, and shuts himself up in
some form of pure idealism, we will not attempt to press him with the statement
of the present thesis. The idealist is guilty of inconsistency in his every act
of intercourse with the outer world. With such a burden of inconsistencies upon
him, and all so easily borne, we cannot expect him to shrink from one more. But
we may say this, that for realists the hypothesis of the existence of a personal
God ought to count as the most probable of the theories in the field, and thus
the moral paradox which has been described as arising out of the agnostic
position becomes the more acute.

55. Such is the logical consequence of agnosticism as regards the duties more
properly called religious. Its logical effects on the observance of the moral
law in general are also fatal. We maintain that in the great mass of mankind,
were agnosticism ever universally accepted, its effects, moral and social, would
be most pernicious. Individuals of the average human type cannot lose the belief
in an all-seeing and infinitely holy and just God without being exposed to
commit many crimes, which they would not have committed if they had persevered
in that belief. If God does not exist, no one is able to point out any
sufficient principle of morality, which he can prove that man is absolutely
bound to abide by. Of course certain actions will be more becoming than others,
because more suited to rational nature. If a man is a man of good taste he will
so far forth abide by these actions and abstain from their opposites. But
suppose he does not care to be a man of taste, what is to oblige him to it? On
that supposition, no one has a right to blame his fellow-man for enjoying life
as he thinks fit. What is man, if you take God away? What else but a machine
made of matter, held together by material forces? What shall oblige me to have
more respect for that machine called man, than for another called ox or sheep or
monkey, which anatomy proves to be constructed on quite a similar plan and to be
made of the same organic elements? Why is it a greater crime to destroy a
man-machine than to destroy a monkey-machine? Unless there is an immaterial
Divine Spirit, there cannot possibly be an immaterial human soul, and if there
is not an immaterial human soul, our so-called freedom of will is an illusion.
But if our freedom is an illusion, moral responsibility is an empty name, and if
that is an empty name, nobody is to be blamed, however erroneous may be the
misdeeds by which, in the opinion of men, he sins against the dignity, as it is
called, of man. These and the like are the practical lessons which logically
follow from agnosticism. How can they be put into practice without giving free
rein to the most revolting vices in the mass of men?

Again, if agnosticism with these moral consequences, which objectively are
implied in it, were universally prevalent, all social relations would sooner or
later be in hopeless confusion. The good order of a commonwealth rests above all
upon a healthy family life. Where domestic relations, domestic authority,
domestic virtues are not respected, civil relations will constitute a very frail
machinery: civil authority will only rest upon changeable party-passions; civil
virtues will degenerate into hypocritical egotism. But if in the family God is
not acknowledged, if His fear does not check the impetuosity of vicious
cravings, the most sacred bonds of family life will soon be broken. A nation of
agnostics soon would suffer from so many evils that, to quote the saying of the
Roman historian, Sallust, "neither the evils nor their remedies would be
bearable." If such a nation did continue to exist for awhile, if agnostic
philosophers succeeded in stemming the deluge of universal disorder by the moral
principles of utilitarians and altruists, the reason could only be this, that
human nature is too good to suffer a universal application of the moral
principles which strict logic would recommend as the consistent outcome of the
agnostic theory. To sum up, Agnosticism is a hypothesis which in its logical
consequences leads to the destruction of the most fundamental principles of
reason, and to the moral and social ruin of mankind. Therefore it must be out of
harmony with human reason, it must be altogether untrue and unreasonable.
No doubt it will be objected to this reasoning, that agnostics are numerous
now-a-days, and are found to be as respectable as Christians in their moral
conduct. If by agnostics are meant select individuals of that body, mainly
persons in comfortable circumstances, no imputation on their moral conduct is
intended. Their probity is quite recognized, and is consistent with our
argument: although it must be admitted that agnosticism has yet to show that it
can scale the moral heights on which Christian heroism is so much at home. The
question is as to logical consequences: and these must be sought, not in
individuals, but in masses. Moreover, a sufficiency of time must be allowed for
the tendencies to work out their natural results. If agnosticism and
Christianity are compared in their effects on the masses of men, already the
baneful tendency of the former is disclosing itself in a growing corruption of
morals wherever it prevails.

This, we may infer, is only the beginning. Centuries of recognition of the
Christian sanctions of the moral law have bequeathed a strong hereditary bias in
favour of morality which will hold out for awhile against the adverse forces.
But this bias must abate, if the world continues to drift away from the only
sound form of theism, which is Christianity. Mr. Spencer, we know, anticipates a
blissful age when the feeling of moral constraint, of the "ought," will die of
atrophy, because the path of right and the path of pleasure will, under the
influence of more suitable education, have been made to coincide. We can only
say that the present outlook, if we go by observation, not by questionable a
priori inferences, offers no anticipations of any such eventual coincidence.
Natural Theology: 08 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER III. On the Fundamental Attributes of the Personal God and his
Fundamental Relation to Things Distinct from Him.

Introductory Remarks.

56. THERE exists a personal God, that is to say, a self-existing, intelligent
Being, upon whom the material world and mankind depend. This statement is the
outcome of the proofs given in the preceding chapter. Against it and the
evidences for it several difficulties have been advanced, which it is our duty
to weigh and to solve. However, to do this with greater clearness, it will be
useful first to treat of the most fundamental attributes of the personal God,
His unity, simplicity, and infinity; and then to state the fundamental relation,
in which all things distinct from God stand to Him; in other words, to show that
there is no being besides God, which does not owe its origin to creation out of
nothing by God's power.

SECTION 1. -- The Unity of God

Thesis VII. -- There can be but One personal God.

57. When we say that God is One, we mean that the Divine Nature exists
undivided, and consequently is not something belonging to several Beings. From
what Christian Revelation teaches about the incomprehensible mystery of the
Blessed Trinity, the Christian student is acquainted with the dogma that God is
One and Three; that there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost, each of whom is the same One God. Therefore if we say the Father is God,
the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God, we do not wish to be understood as
predicating the Divine Nature of the Divine Persons in exactly the same sense in
which we predicate the human nature, when we attribute it to three human
persons, Peter and Paul and Andrew. By the affirmation that one human nature is
common to three human persons, we do not mean that really one and the same
existing human nature belongs equally to the three, for, as St. Thomas expresses
it, in three individuals of the human nature there are three humanities{1} that
is to say, three human persons are not rightly spoken of as having one human
nature, but as being perfectly similar to one another, in regard of those
attributes, which, being contained in our general idea of human nature, are
predicable of each of them. But quite another meaning is to be given to the
statement that One Divine Nature is common to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
It means that the three Divine Persons are One real Divine Existence, One
undivided Divine Essence. In the language of St. Thomas we may thus express the
difference between the meanings of the terms "one" and "common" in the two
phrases mentioned: "The unity and community of the human nature is not an
objective reality but a subjective conception of objective reality, . . . but
the actuality signified by the name 'God,' that is to say, the Divine Essence,
is in its objective reality both one and common."{2}

58. The mystery of the Blessed Trinity and its relation to the Unity of God is
in our thesis neither affirmed nor denied. Its truth transcends human reason,
and is to be believed on the authority of that personal God whose unity and
infinity we can prove, and whose infinite perfection guarantees His veracity.
The Divine character of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity is to be vindicated
by Dogmatic Theology, whose task it is also to show that there is no manifest
contradiction between the two statements, God is One in Essence, God is Three in
Persons. We have to prove only the former of these statements.

59. We may commence by appealing to the unity of the universe as testifying to
the unity of its author. It is true that a two-fold objection may be taken to
the validity of such an appeal. It may be urged that in addition to the universe
in which we are placed, there may possibly be other universes, one or more, in
the remotest regions of space, so far off as to enter into no relations whatever
with any even the most distant of the constellations which belong to our cosmos.
Whatever unity we discern in our own cosmical environment, however it may point
to a single Creator of itself, is quite consistent, it may be urged, with the
co-existence of other self-existing creators for other universes of the kind
suggested. This is the first objection. Another is that unity of result need not
imply more than unity of action in the cause. Thus the unity even of our own
universe might be satisfied by the hypothesis of several self-existing Gods
acting in friendly combination.

It must be conceded that in view of these objections an appeal to the unity of
our universe as evidence of the oneness of God falls short of absolute validity.
In other words, it can only establish a presumption, predisposing our minds to
the acceptance of the metaphysical arguments presently to be propounded. The
presumption, however, is entitled to be regarded as exceedingly strong. The two
possibilities mentioned as depriving it of full certainty are not of a very
solid character. Only captiousness could accept them as in themselves probable
solutions of the problem of cosmical unity. On this point we may hear Mr. John
Stuart Mill, a man not too given to assent to the conclusions of Natural
Theology. He says:{3}

"The specific effect of science is to show by accumulating evidence, that every
event in nature is connected by laws with some fact or facts which preceded it,
or in other words, depends for its existence on some antecedent; but yet not so
strictly on one as not to be liable to frustration or modification from others:
for these distinct chains of causation are so entangled with one another, the
action of each cause is so interfered with by other causes, though each acts
according to its own fixed law, that every effect is truly the result rather of
the aggregate of all causes in existence than of any one only, and nothing takes
place in the world of our experience without spreading a perceptible influence
of some sort through a greater or less portion of Nature, and making perhaps
every portion of it slightly different from what it would have been, if that
event had not taken place. Now, when once the double conviction has found entry
into the mind -- that every event depends on antecedents; and at the same time
that to bring it about many antecedents must concur, perhaps all the antecedents
in Nature, insomuch that a slight difference in any one of them might have
prevented the phenomenon, or materially altered its character -- the conviction
follows that no one event, certainly no one kind of events, can be absolutely
pre-ordained or governed by any Being but one who holds in his hand the reins of
all Nature and not of some department only. At least if a plurality be supposed,
it is necessary to assume so complete a concert of action and unity of will
among them that the difference is for most purposes immaterial between such a
theory and that of the absolute unity of the Godhead. . . . The reason, then,
why monotheism may be accepted as the representative of theism in the abstract,
is not so much because it is the theism of all the more improved portions of the
human race, as because it is the only theism which can claim for itself any
footing on scientific ground." We agree fully with Mill's last statement, and
would refer the reader to Ch. Pesch,{4} who argues that the result of the best
modern archaeological researches is to show that monotheism and not polytheism
was the primitive form of religious belief.

60. Let us now pass on to the metaphysical argument, for which we must claim
certainty, although it has to be acknowledged that it is somewhat subtle and
requires careful reflection for the perception of its full force. But this,
after all, is only what must be expected when we have to deal with so sublime a

With St. Thomas we may introduce the argument thus: If the reality expressed by
the concept of Socrates did not comprise more notes than the reality expressed
by the concept of man, the extension of both concepts would be the same: in
other words, there would be only one man, as there is only one Socrates. Now the
reality corresponding to the concept of this God does not contain more notes
than the reality corresponding to the concept of God or of Divine Nature:
because God has not a nature produced by another being, but is His nature, being
a cause without cause.{5}

In other words, when there are diverse beings sharing the same common nature, as
there are distinct men sharing the common nature of man, there must be a
principle of diversity as well as a principle of unity. The diversity cannot be
without its raison d'être any more than the unity. In the case of God there is
not this double principle.

It will help to the understanding of this argument, which we acknowledge to be
very abstract, if we put it also in another way. If there are several
self-existing beings, the reason of the distinction between them must either be
self-existence as such, or something necessarily connected with self-existence
as such, or something accidentally connected with it. Manifestly, however,
self-existence as such cannot be the ground of the distinction in question. Nor
can the distinction proceed from anything necessarily connected with
self-existence as such; for that must be wherever self-existence is. Nor can
anything accidentally connected with self-existence be said to constitute a
reason for the said distinction; because a self-existent being is necessarily
unchangeable, change implying the possibility of successive states of existence,
and such possibility is incompatible with self-existence, which must be as
constant as the essence with which it is identical.{6}

{1} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 39. 3. "In tribus suppositis humanae naturae sunt
tres humanitates."
{2} St. Thomas, i. 39. 4. ad 3m. "Unitas autem sive communitas humanae naturae
non est secundum rem sed solum secundum considerationem. . . . Sed forma
significata per hoc nomen, Deus, scilicet essentia divina est una et communis
secundum rem." Neither St. Thomas nor we ourselves must be understood to mean
that there is no objective foundation for the oneness of our conception of human
nature. There is indeed an objective foundation for it; but it does not consist
in the real identity, but in the real similarity of human nature as considered
in many human subjects. It is this which St. Thomas teaches (Sum. Theol. i. 13.
9), saying: "Natura humana communis est multis secundum rem et rationem." He
implies thereby that the meaning of the abstract term "human nature "is really
verified in each of many human individuals. Yet as each individual verification
of that term differs from any other individual verification considered as
individual, there is no objective identity, but only objective similarity. For
further information on this subject, cf. Clarke's Logic, pp. 140-162.
{3} Mill, Three Essays on Religion, pp. 532, seq. We give Mill's words in full,
without committing ourselves to every statement he makes on the subject.
{4} Cf. Ch. Pesch, Der Gottesbegriff, i. and ii. Freiburg: Herder, 1885 and
{5} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. II. 3. "Si ergo Socrates per id esset homo
per quod est hic homo, sicut non possunt esse plures Socrates, ita non possent
esse plures homines. Hoc autem convenit Deo: nam ipse Deus est sua natura. . . .
Secundum igitur idem est Deus et hic Deus. Impossibile est igitur esse plures
{6} See another way of proving the Unity of God in Appendix V. pp. 465, seq.
Natural Theology: 09 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- The Simplicity of God.

Thesis VIII. -- God's Being is physically and metaphysically simple.

61. What is one is undivided in so far as it is one; what is simple, is not only
undivided but indivisible. Oneness does not exclude composition, although it
excludes division; with simplicity all composition is incompatible. Every man is
one natural being, but he is not one simple being, because he consists of two
substantial principles, body and soul, united with one another. Man therefore is
composed of substantial parts; in him there is substantial composition. If we
consider the immaterial soul of man alone, we have a being not composed of
substantial parts, and therefore rightly called a simple substance.

Nevertheless, even the soul is not exempt from all composition. It is liable to
accidental composition. For it is changeable in regard to its thoughts and
volitions, so that we can distinguish these and it as component parts of a
whole. Both these kinds of composition are found in existing things, and we call
them real or physical composition. In God neither of them exists, consequently
He is physically simple in the strictest sense.

The proof of the physical simplicity of God rests upon His self-existence.
Whatever is substantially compounded, depends in its essential constitution upon
the union of parts, each of which differs from the compound substance. But since
the self-existent owes nothing to what is different from itself, its essential
constitution cannot depend upon the union of parts different from itself.
Therefore God, being self-existent, cannot be substantially compounded. Nor is
accidental composition conceivable in the Divine Being. How could it be? An
accident is a perfection or modification added to the nature of a substance. But
to the nature of the Divine Substance no perfection or modification can be
added. Any addition made could not be the addition of anything self-existent,
because what falls under the conception of self-existence belongs to the Divine
Nature itself. Nor, again, could it be the addition of anything not
self-existent: because what is not self-existent cannot be found in the Divine

The same follows from the infinity of God which, as we shall see, is a corollary
of God's self-existence and unity. This infinity supposed, we argue thus: What
is infinitely perfect can receive no addition. But every accident is an addition
to the substance in which it inheres. Therefore a being infinitely perfect, as
God's Being really is, can receive no accident.

62. Moreover God is not only physically simple, but also metaphysically. As
physical simplicity excludes physical composition, so metaphysical simplicity
excludes metaphysical composition. The difference between physical (real) and
metaphysical (virtual) composition may be thus expressed: Physical composition
means union of diverse realities completing one another to constitute one really
existing being, as for instance, man is a physical compound of body and soul;
metaphysical composition means union of diverse concepts referring to the same
real being in such a way that none of them by itself signifies either explicitly
or even implicitly the whole reality signified by their combination; man, for
instance, is a metaphysical compound of animal and rational. This metaphysical
composition belongs to all creatures, even to such as are physically simple. The
reason for this assertion is obvious enough. That which is signified by the
definition of a created thing, its essence as we call it, depends for its
existence, not upon itself, but upon its creating cause. Without the influx of
the creating power of God the creature is nothing but an objective idea of the
Divine Mind, something known only as capable of existing under the condition
that God wills its existence. In other words, the essence of every creature is
in itself a mere possibility; not a real, but a conditional existence. In
conceiving its essence, or the contents of its definition, we thereby neither
express nor imply its existence. Consequently the objective concept of the real
existence of a creature is metaphysically compounded of the two concepts of its
essence and existence.{6} That this first kind of metaphysical composition
cannot be predicated of God is evident; for its only foundation is the
contingency of created being; therefore it must be alien to the Divine Nature,
which exists with absolute necessity.

63. Another sort of metaphysical composition in creatures is that contained in
the objective concept of their specific nature. The species man or rational
animal includes what is meant by the two concepts animal and rational. As the
former is equally applicable to irrational beasts and to men, it evidently
neither expresses nor implies the meaning of the concept rational. Therefore we
say that human nature is metaphysically composed of the genus animal and the
specific difference rational. Now this sort of metaphysical composition is
incompatible with the Divine Nature; because God cannot be included in any genus
of beings. Beings can be classed as one genus, only so far as under some one
aspect their essences are perfectly similar, occupying in this respect a
perfectly equal position in the scale of beings. But God cannot be perfectly
similar to any order of beings diverse from Himself under any aspect whatsoever;
because all other beings are dependent upon Him; they are, as it were, an
outflow of His unchangeable simple self-existence. His justice cannot be
perfectly similar to any sort of created justice, nor His mercy to any mercy
belonging to any of His creatures. Borrowing a beautiful, although necessarily
inadequate illustration from the Angelic Doctor,{7} we may say: As the sun by
his light and heat is the unapproachable principle of millions of forms of life
and growth, so God by His wisdom and power is the unapproachable principle of
all kinds of beings, surpassing in His simplicity the manifold perfections of
all and each of them by an infinite distance. It is this which Mr. Herbert
Spencer has in view when he rightly maintains that those who admit a first
self-existing unconditional Being must admit that this Being cannot be
classified. "Between the creating and the created," he says,{8} "there must be a
distinction transcending any of the distinctions existing between different
divisions of the created. . . . The infinite cannot be grouped along with
something that is finite; since, in being so grouped, it must be regarded as
not-infinite. It is impossible to put the absolute in the same category with
anything relative, so long as the absolute is defined as that of which no
necessary relation can be predicated. . . . There cannot be more than one First
Cause. . . . The unconditioned therefore as classable neither with any form of
the conditioned nor with any other unconditioned cannot be classed at all." So
far so good. But when the same author goes on to say of the unconditioned First
Cause: "To admit that it cannot be known as of such or such kind, is to admit
that it is unknowable," he certainly is wrong. It is true, from the
impossibility of classifying God with any creatures, it follows that no creature
can know Him adequately as He is knowable and known by Himself; that no creature
can comprehend Him. But our inability to comprehend God does not imply that we
cannot predicate of God whatever real perfection there is in creatures. Later on
we shall give reasons to show that we have a real and true knowledge of God,
however utterly inadequate it may be.

64. For the present we may add that not only the metaphysical composition
mentioned above, but any conceivable sort of metaphysical compositions are all
inapplicable to God. The general reason for this may be stated thus: Concepts
which in their application to objective reality are absolutely inseparable, so
that none of them can have a real foundation different from the real foundation
of the rest, cannot be metaphysically compounded. For though none expresses what
is expressed by the others, yet each of them implies all the rest. But the
concepts which we form of the Divine attributes are in their application to
objective reality absolutely inseparable. Each of the Divine attributes in its
objective reality coincides with the one self-existing Divine substance, which
we have proved to be a simple unchangeable essence. Consequently none of the
Divine attributes has any objective foundation except in so far as it is one
with the rest; which is evidently the same as to say that the Divine attributes
are absolutely inseparable in their application to objective reality. Divine
justice, for instance, without Divine mercy is impossible; and so is Divine
power without Divine wisdom. Therefore these attributes are not metaphysically
compounded, although they must be said to be metaphysically or virtually
distinct; the concept of justice does not express what is expressed by the
concept of mercy, although it implies the same.{9}

{6} St. Thomas and the scholastics expressed this briefly by saying that in no
created thing are essence and existence the same; and that every created thing
is composed of essence and existence, or of potentiality and actuality (potentia
and actus).
{7} Sum. Theol. i. q. 4. a. 2. ad 1m.
{8} First Principles, p. 81.
{9} Real distinction does not necessarily mean real composition, nor does
virtual distinction necessarily mean virtual composition. For things to be
compounded they must first be distinct; but, given the existence of distinct
things, it is not necessary that they should be compounded together into a
unity. Catholic Theology recognizes a real distinction between the three Divine
Persons, because They are, as "substantial" relations within the One Godhead,
opposed to one another; but it is not constrained in consequence to admit that
the Godhead is really compounded of Them, because it teaches that each Person is
not really distinct from, but really identical with, the Essence of the
Divinity. Again, Catholic Theology recognizes a virtual distinction between the
Divine Essence and each Divine Person, but it does not teach us that the Divine
Essence is virtually compounded of the three Persons, because the concept of
each Divine Person does not prescind from, but involves the concept of the
Divine Essence. These observations show us that the mystery of the Blessed
Trinity is opposed neither to the physical nor to the metaphysical simplicity of
Natural Theology: 10 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- The Infinity of God.

Thesis IX. -- God is infinitely perfect.

65. Infinite, according to the etymological meaning of the word, is that which
has no limits. Now a thing may be said to have no limits, either because we are
not able to assign its limits, or because it is really unlimited. We speak, for
instance, of an infinite number, of infinite space. These expressions do not
imply that number and space do or can exist without limit. That is repugnant to
reason. For what is number in reality but a collection of units, all of which
are equally conceivable by one general concept? But no collection of such units
can be so great that the addition of another unit would be inconceivable; on the
contrary, however much it may be increased, it must remain a limited number. If
it ever became really unlimited or infinite, the taking away of one unit would
make it finite; and its infinitude would be made up of a finite number and a
finite unit, which is evidently absurd.{10}

66. Nor can space be actually unlimited, because its real foundation consists in
the dimensions between the extreme surfaces of one body, or of many bodies taken
together, or of all bodies forming the one universe, as we call it. Now such
dimensions cannot become so large as not to allow of a larger one. If space ever
were actually infinite, a certain part of it, say a cubic inch, would be
contained in the whole a really infinite number of times, the impossibility of
which is clear from what we have said about infinite number.{11}

67. A so-called infinite number, therefore, can only be a number so great that
every number assignable by us is next to nothing in comparison with it. In the
same way, infinite space can exist only so far as there can exist a space so
great that any corporeal magnitude assigned by us is next to nothing when
compared with its dimensions.

These remarks about infinite number and space will serve to illustrate the
meaning of the word "infinite" when applied to God. We do not intend thereby to
suggest the idea of a being containing infinite extended parts, or compounded of
any sort of infinite entities. Such notions not only suppose the possibility of
infinite extension and number, but are also opposed to the simplicity of God, as
already proved.

68. Infinity, then, when predicated of God, means that He is unlimited in His
perfection, that is to say, that every perfection conceivable belongs to Him.
The proof of this statement, is based on the truth that God alone is
self-existent, and everything else contingent. This truth supposed, we may argue
thus: All perfections conceivable fall either under the heading self-existent or
under the heading contingent, in other words, they are either uncaused or
capable of being caused. The former class God possesses formally, that is, He
possesses them as they are in themselves according to their own proper nature.
The other class, since He, as the only First Cause, is able to produce them, He
must have equivalently and eminently: that is, in some manner superior to the
manner in which they exist outside Him, and at the same time enabling Him to
realize them in their own proper nature.

Thus God is infinite in all perfections. For it is no limitation to His
perfection that He does not contain contingent perfections formally. To contain
them eminently is more than to contain them merely formally. It is, in fact, to
contain them in an infinite instead of a finite manner.

69. This truth of the infinite perfection of God must be our guide in deciding
whether any given attribute can be predicated of God or not. There is a truth
underlying the error of the agnostic, namely, the fact that our knowledge of
God, although evidently true as far as it goes, must necessarily be inadequate.
From this, however, it by no means follows that no name expressing a created
perfection can be given to the Most High. On the contrary, we say that all nouns
and verbs applied to creatures, so far as their objective meaning expresses pure
perfection without connoting imperfection, must be true of God before they can
be true of creatures. Indeed perfection, as such, signifies something actual;
and everything actual, so far as it can be conceived without the limitations and
privations which accompany its existence in created beings, must be eminently in
the Infinite Being.

70. The preceding observations enable us to lay down the following three canons
for the predicates to be given to God in common with creatures in general and
with man in particular.

I. Although no predicate given to creatures, and expressing a perfection,
attributes this perfection to them without limit; yet the meanings of some
predicates, taken by themselves, do not connote imperfection, whereas the
meanings of others always connote it. The former must be applied to God in the
proper sense of the words, the latter not. Thus we may say of God that He is
infinitely mighty, infinitely wise, has infinite knowledge, is infinitely just,
infinitely benevolent, and so on. But we cannot say that He is infinitely
extended like a body, that He reasons with infinite perfection, that He
possesses infinite courage, &c. To illustrate the difference by an example, let
us take the two adjectives wise and courageous. I may say and must say of God
that He is wise in the proper sense of the word. And why so? Because the word
wise denotes the perfection of knowing the causes of things, and this perfection
can be conceived without the addition of any imperfection. But it is quite
otherwise with the word courageous. This connotes the condition of having to
face danger, whereas a being which can be threatened with danger necessarily
must be limited in its perfection; only things weak and not wholly
self-sufficient can be brought into danger. And thus the infinitely perfect God
cannot be properly said to be courageous.

71. II. Although certain predicates are in the most proper sense applicable to
God and to creatures; yet they are true of God in an infinitely higher sense
than of creatures. In God they are found without limit and independently, in
creatures they are found under limitation, and with entire dependence upon the
power of God. Consequently, the relation of these predicates to God and to
creatures is not equal, but most unequal, although their meaning is realized in
both: and, in consequence, when we ascribe them to God, our intention is to
ascribe them to Him with the understanding, implied or expressed, that there is
this inequality of relation between the mode in which the reality signified
exists in Him and in creatures. This may be illustrated by our parallel
procedure when in propositions worded in exactly the same terms, we ascribe
beauty of countenance to a portrait and to its living original. In each case we
say, "What a beautiful face," and by employing in each case exactly the same
language, we signify that the same reality finds a truthful concrete expression
alike in the original and in the portrait; but we are quite aware of the great
difference between the mode in which beauty of countenance is realized and
predicable in the two cases. If we do not call attention to the difference by
the wording of our proposition, this is partly because when a reality is
predicated of a subject in a simple proposition, the predication asserts only
the fact of the subject possessing the reality, not the mode in which it is
possessed, partly because the difference of mode is sufficiently clear to the
persons addressed without formal statement, or at all events can be left to
stand over till another time, as one cannot be always explaining. As it is
always an advantage to have technical terms to fix distinctions like this,
predication is said to be univocal when the reality predicated is not only found
in all the subjects of predication, but found in each of them in the same
manner, and analogical when it is found in them, and thereby founds an analogy
between them, but is not in them all in the same manner.

To apply this doctrine to the case of God, we say that attributes like "being,"
"goodness," "power," "wisdom," &c., are predicable of God as well as of
creatures, meaning thereby that the meaning of these terms has a true
realization in Him, although we are quite aware, and on fitting occasions
explicitly declare, that the manner in which they are realized in Him differs
widely from the way in which they are realized in His creatures: that His Being,
Goodness, Power, Wisdom, &c., are necessary, uncaused and self-existent, and
without limit; whereas the being, goodness, power, wisdom, &c., of creatures is
contingent, caused, and finite. We say, therefore, that these terms are
predicable of God and creatures, not univocally, but analogically.{12}

From this second canon there follows the very important corollary:
The application of the same predicates to God and to creatures does not imply
co-ordination or classification of God with creatures.

Wherever two things are co-ordinated or classified together there must be not
only likeness, but, under one aspect at least, perfect likeness. Now creatures,
though imitations of the Divine Essence in all their perfections, are under no
aspect perfectly like that Essence. What we mean, when we speak of created
perfections, is in God really; but the way in which it is in Him, differs under
all aspects from the way in which it is in creatures, not only in degree but in

Thus, for instance, wisdom, or the knowledge of the nature of things and their
causes, is truly in God, and can to a certain extent be truly in man. But in God
it is identical with the simple and infinite Divine substance; consequently God
is His wisdom, and His wisdom is an eternal all-comprehensive act of knowledge,
including (as identical with it) an infinitely perfect Will, which never can act
against the practical corollaries of theoretical wisdom. In man, on the
contrary, wisdom exists as an acquired accidental quality, now as actual
knowledge, now as an habitual disposition to actual knowledge; and so far as it
is actual knowledge in the mind, it is composed of many successive mental acts,
all of which are more or less inadequate expressions of their objects. In a
word, a wise man is not his wisdom, but has wisdom, and has it only in a very
small degree.

72. III. Predicates, the meaning of which expresses perfection with connotation
of imperfection, though they cannot be true of God in their proper sense, may be
true of Him when used metaphorically.

As man belongs to the order of sensible things, he is fond of clothing his
thoughts in impressive imagery drawn from the objects of sense. A hero is a
lion; a discoverer a luminary of science; and so forth. This use of metaphors,
provided it be in taste and moderation, is a great aid to human language, even
in speaking of God Himself. Instead of naming a perfection of His directly, we
may suggest it indirectly by expressing something which bears a resemblance to
it at least under one or other aspect. Thus we may attribute eyes to God to
signify His knowledge, ears to express His acceptance of our prayers. We may
speak of Him as angry with sinners when we would point to effects of His

73. This subject of the application of terms of human thought to the Deity is
treated by St. Thomas,{13} whose doctrine is the doctrine of all Catholic
philosophers. It could therefore only be want of familiarity with their teaching
which led Mr. Herbert Spencer not to except them from the charge of
anthropomorphism which he launches against even the most civilized believers in
a knowable Deity. These are his words:{14} "From the time when the rudest
savages imagined the causes of all things to be creatures of flesh and blood
like themselves, down to our own time, the degree of assumed likeness has been
diminishing. But though a bodily form and substance similar to that of man, has
long since ceased among cultivated races to be a literally-conceived attribute
of the Ultimate Cause; though the grosser human desires have been also rejected
as unfit elements of the conception; though there is some hesitation in
ascribing even the higher human feelings, save in greatly idealized shapes; yet
it is still thought not only proper, but imperative, to ascribe the most
abstract qualities of our nature. To think of the Creative Power as in all
respects anthropomorphous, is now considered impious by men who yet hold
themselves bound to think of the Creative Power as in some respects
anthropomorphous, and who do not see that the one proceeding is but an
evanescent form of the other."

Certainly it would be great irreverence to entertain an anthropomorphous
conception of God, so as to attribute to Him human perfections, as such, in the
limited and imperfect way that those perfections exist in ourselves. But no
instructed theist will do so. It is true that we attribute to God what Mr.
Spencer seems to call the most abstract qualities of our nature, understanding,
free-will, wisdom, benevolence, love of justice, &c. Yet at the same time we
explain that only the abstract meaning of these perfections is objectively real
in God, not the dependence and limitation which attend the realization of that
meaning in man. Instead of coordinating God with man in any of these attributes,
we prove that all of them in Him are identical with His self-existing nature in
a way infinitely perfect, and therefore infinitely exceeding our experience and
our comprehension. But the fact that we are unable to comprehend God's infinity
is no proof that we can know nothing definite about Him. On the contrary, as we
have shown, His very infinitude compels us to predicate of Him whatever created
perfection is, by way of abstraction and exclusion of limits, conceivable
without including objective defect or imperfection. Moreover, after having
predicated all this, as far as we can, we must confess that all the predicates
by which we have tried to describe the infinite Majesty of the Most High, though
they express what is truly proper to His Being, nevertheless fall infinitely
short of an adequate representation of that Being.

The final practical conclusion, therefore, to which we are led by reasoning from
creatures to their First Cause, is not that of the agnostic who says, "We ought
to be silent about the attributes of God," but that of the Psalmist: "Great is
the Lord and exceedingly to be praised;"{15} "Magnify the Lord with me, and let
us extol His name together."{16}

{10} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 7. 4.
{11} Ibid. 7. 3.
{12} Quantum igitur ad id quod significant hujusmodi nomina, proprie competunt
Deo et magis proprie quam ipsis creaturis, et per prius dicuntur de eo. Quantum
vero ad modum significandi non dicuntur proprie de Deo." Sum. Theol. i. 13. 3.
c. Cf. ibid. ad 2dum.: 'Id quod significatur per nomen non convenit eo modo ei
Deo quo nomen significat sed excellentiori modo.'
{13} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. q. 13. Especially, art. 3. art. 5. and art. 6.
are to be noted.
{14} First Principles, pp. 109, 110.
{15} Psalm xlvii. 7.
{16} Psalm xxxiii. 4.
Natural Theology: 11 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER IV. The Fundamental Relation of God to the World. Refutation of
Pantheism. Doctrine of Creation.

Introductory Remarks.

74. OUR inquiries about the First Cause of things have led us to the conclusion
that there exists one self-existent, simple, infinitely perfect Being, the
personal God of monotheism. We now have to show that this personal God is the
First Cause of all that is not God, by creation of it all out of nothing. We
will first explain what is meant by creation out of nothing, and then show that
the world owes its origin to a Divine act of creation.

SECTION 1. -- Definition of Creation.

75. Creation, in the wider sense of the word, signifies a change produced in
things already existing, or in the relations between them. Thus we say, that men
of genius create works of art; that the Pope creates Cardinals, that a speech
creates a sensation. It is evident that in the production of every such change
something is originated which did not exist before; for if nothing at all
resulted but what there was already, there would be no change. On this ground we
might be tempted to say that every production is creation out of nothing.
However, this is true only in a limited sense, inasmuch as the result of the
change was previously nothing and has now become something. It is not true that
there was no substratum or subject pre-existing which underwent the change. More
strictly speaking, the change of a thing is not produced out of nothing, but out
of something changeable.

76. Creation in the strict sense may be defined as follows with St. Thomas:
"Creation is a production of a thing according to its whole substance, nothing
being presupposed, whether created or increate."{1}

In explanation of this definition we may remark:

(a) Creation is production. Consequently, what is created is not without cause,
but is the effect of an existing cause.

(b) Creation is the production of a thing according to its whole substance. In
other words, by creation is originated the whole of a thing existing in itself.
The phrase, "according to its whole substance," distinguishes creation from
accidental and substantial changes. An accidental change takes place when a
thing is modified and yet remains specifically the same thing. Thus a child is
accidentally changed by growing bigger, by receiving sense-impressions, by
moving about, by developing his intellectual faculties, &c. A substantial change
supposes a substance to be specifically changed. As simple immaterial substances
cannot change their kinds, only corporeal substances are capable of substantial
changes. We have a substantial change in an individual body, when it manifests
forces differing not only in degree but in kind from those which it had before.
Thus it is probable that every chemical composition involves a substantial
change of the elements combined, and it is certain that the change of inanimate
matter into a living plant or animal is a substantial one.

(c) The terms of our definition explained under (a) and (b), constitute its
essence; the rest is added by St. Thomas in order to illustrate the meaning of
creation out of nothing more fully by opposing it to certain false theories.
a. By adding that to the production called creation nothing uncreated is
presupposed, St.Thomas opposes the pantheistic error, according to which the
world is an emanation from the Divine Substance.{2} By the same addition,
creation out of nothing is contrasted with the Platonic notion of an uncreated
matter, an error which pervaded also the philosophy of the Ionians.{3}
b. By adding that creation is a production where nothing created is presupposed,
it is explicitly marked as something altogether different from the change of
existing things.{4}

77. Another scholastic definition of creation taken in the strict sense of the
word is the following, not easily expressed in English: Creatio est productio
rei ex nihilo sui et subjecti. We may perhaps paraphrase it thus: "Creation is
the production of a thing from a previous non-existence as regards itself, and
also as regards any being on which the creative act was exercised." After the
explanation we have given of St. Thomas' definition, this other will be
sufficiently understood, if attention be paid to these two points:

(a) That is said to be produced ex nihilo sui, which is really produced. Every
effect therefore is a productio ex nihilo sui, even if it consists only in the
accidental or substantial change of a pre-existing thing.

(b) That is said to be produced ex nihilo sui et subjecti which is not merely
the result of a change, but a whole new being, a whole substance, which exists
by the power of an efficient cause, and of which nothing existed before. We have
now to prove that the world originated through creation in the sense explained,
and we commence by excluding the alternative suppositions.

{1} St.Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 65. 3. c.: "Creatio autem est productio alicujus
rei secundum suam totam substantiam, nullo praesupposito, quod sit vel increatum
vel ab aliquo creatum"
{2} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. q. 90. art. 1.
{3} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. q. 44. art. 2: De Potentia, q. 3. art. 5.
{4} Cf. Contra Gent. ii. 17; De Potentia, q. 3. art. 2.
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Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- Pantheism.

78. Thesis X. -- The world and its component elements are not affections of the
Divine Substance and inherent in it, but are altogether distinct from it.
Pantheism, therefore, is repugnant to reason.

This assertion is directed against the pantheists or monists, who maintain that
the assemblage of things which we call the world is really the one Divine
Absolute Being under various aspects; these aspects they are pleased to call
sometimes moments, sometimes determinations, sometimes modes. We are not here
concerned with the semi-pantheistic theories of emanation, according to which
creatures are particles separated from the Divine Substance.{5} Our proposition
is directed against Pantheism in its perfect form. We shall consider it only in
its most general outlines, as it manifests itself in some fundamental theorems
common to the well-known pantheistic systems of Spinoza,{6} Fichte,{7}
Schelling,{8} and Hegel.{9}

These authors, though starting from very different principles, agree with one
another in these two assertions:

I. Properly speaking, there exists only one Being. This one Being is called
Substance by Spinoza, the Pure Ego by Fichte, the Absolute by Schelling,{10} the
Logical Concept by Hegel.

II. The one Being evolves itself by a necessity of fate into forms of being,
diverse from and opposed to one another, inasmuch as they are so many several
determinations under which the First Being manifests itself; and yet at the same
time all one and the same, inasmuch as it is the same First Being that manifests
itself under all these diverse determinations.

79. Against these assertions we say:

(a) The attributes of the First Being, demonstrated by us in the preceding
theses, compared with our external and internal experience, forbid us to admit
that the same being is really common to God and to the things of this world.
We have seen that the First Being, called God, is one undivided essence, in no
way composed of parts, and that He unites all perfections in the identity of His
unchangeable existence. On the other hand, external and internal experience bear
witness to the fact that the world round about us, and human beings themselves,
form not really one undivided substance, but many separate individuals, each
complete in its own being, differing from and not seldom opposed one to another
in natural or voluntary tendencies. Is it not ridiculous to say that a cat is
the same real being with the mouse which she devours, and with the dog that
worries her, and that cat and dog alike are the same being with the master who
with his whip restores peace between them? Is it not absurd to maintain that the
criminal to be hanged is really the same being with the Judge who pronounces
sentence of death against him, and with the executioner who carries out this
sentence? And who can accept the statement that the atheist is substantially the
same Being with God, whose existence he denies and whose name he blasphemes?
Moreover, experience tells us that there is nothing in the material world known
to man which is not either composed of parts, or a part itself; and that,
consequently, nothing is complete and perfect in its simplicity. How then can
this world be really one Being with God, of whom we have proved that He is in
the highest degree simple?

Finally, reason based on experience teaches us that the purely corporeal world
lacks altogether the faculties of understanding and free-will, and that these
faculties, even in the most gifted of the human race, are in a state of
imperfection and perfectibility. It is therefore absolutely impossible that
either the corporeal or the spiritual world known to men should be one with God,
who, as we have proved, is infinitely perfect, and therefore under all aspects
without defect, and incapable of evolving new perfections or new modes of
perfection in His own Being.

80. (b) The evolution of the Deity, as stated by pantheists, is not only opposed
to God's attributes, it also involves a contradiction. There is nothing by which
it could be caused but the internal activity of the First Cause. Now an
activity, by which the First Cause should produce in itself what it does not
already possess, is inconceivable. Such production would result in effects
contained in their total cause neither formally nor eminently: that is to say,
neither in the same way in which they exist when produced, nor in a higher way
more than equivalent to the existence of them all. The total cause of the
determinations of being into which the pantheistic Deity evolves itself, is
supposed to be this Deity itself, without the determinations to be evolved. For
these cannot be in that Deity formally, before their evolution takes place,
otherwise there would be no evolution. Nor can they be said to exist in it
eminently, before they are formally actuated; because on this supposition the
First Being, so far from tending by its evolution to unfold its own essence, as
pantheists would have it, would tend rather to corrupt that essence and to make
a monster of it.{11}

Consequently, on the pantheistic hypothesis, the First Cause is less perfect
before it determines itself than it becomes by such determination: and yet this
lower perfection suffices to effect the determination and raise it to a more
perfect state. In other words, it is in itself the total cause of successive
advancements in perfection, without previously possessing those superadded
perfections either formally or eminently. Thus the pantheistic God continually
violates the inviolable principle of causality. Either the principle of
causality must go or pantheism.

81. (c) Finally, what becomes of morality in the pantheistic hypothesis? Is
there still room for a distinction between actions really good and really bad?
If pantheism be true, all actions are good. The coward and the hero, the miser
and the philanthropist, the tyrant and the martyr, all are deserving of praise;
for they all do what the supreme law, which rules the evolution of the Absolute,
inexorably demands: their actions are nothing but a manifestation of the
pantheistic God as He necessarily must be according to a law of fate inherent in
His nature.{12}

{5} Concerning these theories, see § 84 below.
{6} Ethica, Pars I. Prop. vi.
{7} Grundlinien der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre (Leipzig. 1794). pp. 10, seq.
{8} Philosophie der Natur (1803), p. 67.
{9} Encyclopädie, Band. i. §§ 9, 21.
{10} Schelling considerably modified his system in his later works.
{11} Indeed, Hegel says: "What kind of an Absolute Being is that which does not
contain in itself all that is actual, even evil included?" (Geschichte der
Philosophie, Werke XV. p. 275; cf. Mansel Limits of Religious Thought, p. 46.)
{12} Spinoza does not seem to shrink from a barefaced acceptance of this
necessary inference from his pantheistic system. Thus, for instance, he
expresses himself in his Ethics, Part IV. Prop. 59, at the end of the proof: "No
action considered in itself is either good or bad." And Part IV. Prop. 45,
Schol. 2, he bases upon the moral principle just mentioned this practical maxim:
"To enjoy ourselves -- in so far as this may be done short of satiety or disgust
-- for here excess were no enjoyment -- is true wisdom."
Natural Theology: 13 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- The Contingency of the World.

Thesis XI. -- Neither the matter of the universe, nor the human soul, nor
anything else except the one simple infinitely perfect God, can be
self-existent. Therefore all things except God are contingent.

82. The first two parts of this proposition are contained in the proposition
just established. If nothing in the world known to us is inherent in the Divine
substance, then neither matter nor human souls can be inherent in that
substance. But outside the Divine substance there can be no self-existent
substance, because self-existence is, as we have seen (Th. VII.-IX.), restricted
necessarily to one simple infinitely perfect substance. Therefore the matter of
the universe and human souls can have only conditioned existence, and are
contingent substances.

The same argument proves that nothing outside of God can be self-existent. For
if you assume anything else but God to be self-existent, for instance, if you
assume with the Manichaeans a supreme principle of evil, you thereby destroy the
unity, simplicity, and infinite goodness of self-existence clearly demanded by

We need only remark that by "things" we mean realities in some way complete in
themselves, endowed with an internal principle of action; such realities, for
instance, as men and every living being that leads its own distinct life. All
other realities diverse from the Divine substance are either parts of contingent
things or accidental determinations of the same. In this way the human body is a
part of the human substance, and the hands and feet of a man are parts of his
body, whereas his sensations, thoughts, and volitions are accidental
determinations. Since matter is contingent, and since only material substances
can consist of parts, it is evident that all parts of substances are contingent.
That accidental determinations of whatever contingent substances must be
contingent, is implied by the very term "accidental," and follows, moreover,
from their natural dependence upon contingent substances.
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Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 4. -- The Dependence of all things on God.

Thesis XII. -- All things in this world owe their origin either immediately or
mediately to an act of Divine power.

83. According to the preceding proposition, all things in this world are
contingent. Consequently there is no one among them which exists by its own
nature. They all demand a cause for their existence. For the present we will not
inquire whether this cause could not itself be a contingent substance, say a
spirit other than God and distinct from all things comprehended under the term
"this world." Whatever power of production may be communicable to a contingent
being, that power must be derived from the same source whence that contingent
being itself is derived, namely, from the self-existent First Cause.

Consequently, before any further inquiry, we are right in ascribing the origin
of all things in this world to the power of that Cause.
Natural Theology: 15 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 5. -- Proof of an Immediate Influence of God.

Thesis XIII. -- At least one substance distinct from God has been immediately
produced by God Himself.

84. From Thesis XI. it is evident that everything else save God is contingent.
In other words, nothing exists with absolute necessity but God alone; everything
which is not God exists only so far as He by His power originates its existence.
But God cannot have originated the existence of things merely possible in
themselves, unless at least one of all possible substances that ever came into
existence was immediately produced by Him.
Natural Theology: 16 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 6. -- Proof of Creation.

Thesis XIV. -- God's immediate action in the production of contingent being was
not a production out of His own substance; nor can it be, strictly speaking,
called change of possible being into actual being, but it is creation of actual
being out of nothing.

85. The first part of this thesis is directed against the semi-pantheistic
emanation theories now obsolete. According to these, creatures are as it were
particles emitted from the Divine substance. The absurdity of this opinion is
evident; for God, being simple, as we have proved (Th. VIII.), is absolutely
unchangeable. Therefore it is impossible that He should produce new substances
out of His own by causing particles to emanate from it.

The second part of the proposition is necessary in order to warn the reader
against a misconception easily arising from the way in which we imagine possible
things. Of course we cannot imagine them except by forming pictures of existing
things in our imagination. We fall into no error by forming to ourselves such
pictures, as long as we recognize them to be mere pictures of things which by
their own nature are nowhere until God causes them to exist. We must not,
however, forget this, and attribute to purely possible things some sort of real
existence distinct from God. If we look at pure possibility in the light of the
truth already demonstrated, that all being except God alone owes its reality to
the Divine action, we see that the interval traversed between possibility and
actuality is a purely imaginary interval, and that consequently no real change
takes place when a possible thing becomes actual. In every real change the thing
which changes passes from one state of existence to another. The purely possible
thing does not exist at all: it has no state of existence. Therefore it cannot
really pass from one state of existence to another; its actuation cannot be
called change in the proper sense of the word.

We shall have other occasions later on for showing that the existence of other
substances distinct from the one Divine Substance and created by it implies no
limitation of the Infinity of the Divine Substance. It is enough for the present
to observe that the infinity of an infinite being is not limited by the
existence of other finite beings derived from it and dependent upon it, provided
these do not contain, as they cannot contain, any perfection which is not in the
Infinite Substance equivalently and "eminently," with absolute unity and
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Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 7. -- Possibility and limitation of the world accounted for by the
Divine Infinity.

Thesis XV. -- From the infinite perfection of God it can be safely inferred that
(1) creation is possible, (2) that the successive or simultaneous creation of
all possible substances is not possible, (3) that the creation of an infinite
substance is impossible. Consequently the actually existing world is not
absolutely the best possible world, although it is certainly the relatively best
possible world.

86. (1) We have already explained the meaning of creation out of nothing, and
have, moreover, proved the fact of creation. But the way in which creation has
taken place we never can fully understand; we have nothing analogous in nature
by which to illustrate it; for all actions within our experience are changes of
existing things. However, though we cannot comprehend creation, we are able to
give some explanations which will serve to make belief in creation easier. We
have then to bear in mind that God is infinitely perfect (Th. IX.); and that His
Essence possesses the perfections of all possible creatures in a higher and
better way; and is therefore, as theologians say, "eminently" equivalent to an
indefinite number of possible substances. It follows that seeing His Essence as
it is, by His infinite Intellect, He knows by this act of cognition at the same
instant all possible things. Since also His Will is infinitely powerful, He can
by a mere act of will give existence to whatever possible substance He knows.
The same truth may be expressed also in the following way. An infinitely
powerful Will can by its sole act originate whatever is not intrinsically
repugnant. But no possible substance is intrinsically repugnant; otherwise the
concept of it would mean nothing. Therefore, every possible substance can be
originated by the sole act of an infinitely powerful Will. Now, as God is
infinite, His Will is infinitely powerful. Consequently, by an act of His Will
alone, He can call into existence any possible substance, that is, He can create
it out of nothing.{13} (2) Although God by His infinite power can create any
substance conceivable, yet He cannot create all intrinsically possible finite
substances so that they all should exist at the same time; nor can He exhaust
the category of possibilities by successive creations.

The successive creation of all conceivable finite substances would mean that
God's power of creating had at length become, or was destined at length to
become, exhausted. This is clearly incompatible with His infinity. A like
inference proves also the impossibility of simultaneous creation of the entire
category of possible substances. When that creative act was complete, God would
be in the position of being unable to go on creating. There is also a further
impossibility involved in simultaneous creation of all the possible substances;
for it would involve the existence of an infinite number. (Cf. § 66.)
(3) The creation of an infinite substance is no less inconceivable. To be
infinite and to be created are contradictory notions. The first involves the
most supreme and entire independence, the other is the most intimate and
absolute mode of dependence.

87. It follows that this world cannot be absolutely the best, if by "absolutely
the best" we mean "so perfect that nothing could be more perfect." Whatever God
may create is finite, and therefore infinitely distant from God Himself, the one
absolutely perfect Being. But it may be asked: Why cannot this world be
absolutely the best possible world in this sense, that no creatures can be more
perfect than those which exist in it? To understand the impossibility of such
optimism we must go back once more to God's infinite wisdom and power. Having
infinite knowledge, He cannot devise a creature, so perfect an imitation of His
immense perfection, but that possible imitations innumerable and indefinitely
more perfect should remain within the scope and view of His Essence. Having
infinite power, He never can create a being so perfect that the production of a
better one would transcend His power. Among all created beings, therefore, there
is to be found none which is absolutely the best possible.

88. Nevertheless, creation as a whole is relatively the best. For that is
relatively best, which is best for the end for which it is meant, so far as it
is meant for it. Now as God's wisdom is infinite, He cannot be unaware of
whatever means are best suited to the end, which He wills His creatures to aim
at in so far as He wills it. Moreover, being infinitely good, He cannot act but
in perfect harmony with infinite wisdom. Therefore His creatures must reach
their end in the most perfect way so far as He intends it. We add so far as He
intends it in view of the necessary distinction between what God wills
absolutely and what He wills only conditionally. A creature endowed with freedom
of will may not reach its end in that way in which God intends it conditionally,
namely, on the hypothesis of its co-operation with the benevolent intention of
its Creator. But it is evident that every creature must reach that end which has
been put before it absolutely, and to that extent must perfectly conform to the
standard fixed by God's infinite wisdom.

89. This doctrine, according to which the world is not absolutely but only
relatively the best, may be called Moderate Optimism. It is upheld by St.
Thomas{14} and his followers. It is opposed to the Exaggerated Optimism of
Leibnitz,{15} of Malebranche,{16} and of Rosmini.{17} According to Leibnitz this
world is the absolutely best possible; because if it were not, there would have
been no sufficient reason for God to prefer it to the rest. Malebranche believed
it to be the very best conceivable; because God would not have acted in the most
perfect way, as it behoves His infinite perfection to act, if He had produced a
world less perfect than it might have been. Rosmini thought that no world except
the existing one would have been worthy of God; because in this world alone the
greatest good is effected with the least means, and thus it alone is worthy of
God's goodness. We shall answer the reasons of these authors later.{18}
Having now explained how far creation is possible to God Himself, we shall pass
on to the question whether God alone can create, or whether a creature may
possibly be endowed by Him with the power of creating. The solution of this
question will enable us to state whether God is the immediate Creator of all
existing things.

{13} It is highly gratifying to find that two of the foremost champions of
modern thought have nothing to object against the possibility of creation. Mill
says: There is nothing to disprove the creation and government of nature by a
sovereign will" (Three Essays on Religion, p. 137.)

Professor Huxley is more explicit, and as his statement as this subject agrees
marvellously with the doctrine of St. Thomas and Catholic philosophers in
general, we will give it in full: "Some say that the Hebrew word bara which is
translated 'created,' means 'made out of nothing.' I venture to object to that
rendering. not on the ground of scholarship, but of common sense. Omnipotence
itself can surely no more make something out of nothing than it can make a
triangular circle. What is intended by 'made out of nothing,' appears to be
'caused to come into existence,' with the implication that nothing of the same
kind previously existed. It is further usually assumed that 'the heaven and the
earth' means the material substance of the universe. Hence the 'Mosaic writer'
is taken to imply that where nothing of a material nature previously existed,
this substance appeared. That is perfectly conceivable, and therefore no one can
deny that it may have happened. . . . It appears to me that the scientific
investigator is wholly incompetent to say anything at all about the first origin
of the material universe. The whole power of his organon vanishes when he has to
step beyond the chain of natural causes and effects. No form of nebular
hypothesis that I know of is necessarily connected with any view of the
origination of the nebular substance." (Nineteenth Century, Feb. 1886, pp. 201,

To sum up the Professor's view on creation. He asserts: 1. To conceive creation
as the change of nothing into something is tantamount to conceiving an
absurdity. 2. There is no objection to creation, if you conceive it as the
starting into existence of the whole of the material universe by competent
power. 3. Natural science has even in our nineteenth century nothing to say
against the possibility of creation. The first two of these assertions agree
perfectly with the doctrine St. Thomas expounds, Sum. Theol. i. 44. 2. and 45.
1. The third assertion has the approval of all sound metaphysicians. However,
the objection to the translation of 'bara' is not very strong, because the term
"to make out of nothing"is according to common parlance equivalent to "to make
something in such a way that it exists without having been made out of
anything." The reader may compare the phrase in question with phrases like
these: "I see nothing." "He knows nothing," &c.

{14} Cf. Sum. Theol. i. 25. 6.
{15} Cf. Opp. Leibnitz (Edit. Erdmann), p. 506.
{16} Cf. Malebranche, Traitté de la Nature et de la Grâce, 2, 51.
{17} Cf. Rosmini, Teodicea, n. 651.
{18} Cf. Appendix VI. pp. 467, seq.
Natural Theology: 18 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 8. -- Proof that God alone can create.

Thesis XVI. -- Creation out of nothing involves the exercise of infinite power.
Consequently God alone can create out of nothing.

90. It is evident that there must be a certain harmony between the natural
perfection of efficient causes and the perfection of their activity. In
proportion as the natural perfection of their substantial being is greater, must
their competence as efficient causes increase; for action is a manifestation of
being, and consequent upon it. Therefore, a being whose nature infinitely
transcends the nature of other beings must be able to produce effects in a way
infinitely transcending that in which other things produce their effects. Now
between the infinite perfection of God and the perfection of any creature
whatever, there is an infinite distance. God therefore must be able to produce
effects in an infinitely more perfect way than creatures.

Hereupon we argue thus: If we find in the series of effects one which is out of
proportion with all the rest, so that in it an efficiency is manifested with
which the efficiency manifested in others cannot be compared -- that effect is
the work of the infinitely powerful God alone. But a substance created out of
nothing is such an effect. All other effects are mere changes of substances
already created. All other effects are conditioned not only by the influence of
their efficient cause, but also by the nature of the subject in which they are
produced. This subject was originally a work of creation, wholly dependent upon
its creating cause alone. In other words, every effect which is not creation is
dependent upon creation for its support, whereas creation is not dependent upon
any other effect. Under this aspect creation appears as the primary action -- to
use the words of the great Aquinas -- and we must therefore conclude that it is
feasible to the primary agent alone.{18} Creation is the primary efficient
action, inasmuch as some creation precedes every other efficiency; as also
because no other efficiency can be compared with it in excellence. Therefore
that Being alone, with whose infinite excellence no other being can be compared,
is able to create substances out of nothing.

91. St. Thomas suggests to us another argument.{19} The greater the
disproportion between the state before the exercise of efficient causality and
the state after it, the greater must be the perfection of the causality
exercised. More skill is required to make a statue out of a piece of marble than
a tombstone, to make a cathedral out of building materials than a factory. To
make the letters of the alphabet subservient to the prosaic expression of daily
occurrences is an achievement incomparably easier than to weave them into the
tissue of a tragedy like Hamlet.

This being so, if between the state before the exercise of causality and the
state after it there is ever an infinite disproportion, then the causality
exercised must be infinitely perfect, and therefore can belong to God alone. Now
this is precisely the case in creation. The individual substance created out of
nothing is void of all actual existence before the Creator calls it into being.
It is nothing by its own nature; whatever it is, has been produced by the power
of the Creator. Now between nothing and any kind of existence there is an
infinite disproportion. The power, therefore, which creates things out of
nothing must be infinite; it must be the power of God alone.

92. But here it may be objected: True, the preceding arguments seem to prove
that no creature can have a power adequately proportionate to the creation of
another creature. This, however, does not show that a creature cannot co-operate
with God as His instrument in creation. How will you show that God cannot create
one creature by the instrumentality of another?

To solve this objection, we must distinguish between instrument in the proper
sense, and instrument in the wider sense. An instrument, strictly speaking, is
only that which produces the very effect in reference to which it is said to be
instrumental, under the guidance of a higher cause. In this sense, the brush of
the painter is his instrument in the production of a picture, and the
sewing-machine is the instrument of the tailor in the making of a coat. They
make the picture and the coat respectively, although under guidance from the
human hand. Moreover, it is the part of an instrument to concur in the action of
the principal agent by some action proper to itself which disposes something
already existing to the effect of the principal agent. Thus the saw cuts, which
is an action proper to itself and exerted on some already existing material, and
therefore concurs to the production of, say, a circular plate, which is the
effect after which the principal agent is striving. Hence only those effects can
be wrought with the help of instruments which consist in the gradual change of
some subject-matter, disposing it to a purpose. But creation, as we have seen,
does not consist in the change of a subject already existing; it is rather the
effecting of a subject by the power of will. Therefore instrumentality, properly
speaking, cannot come into play, when creation out of nothing is to take
place.{20} However, if we use the word instrument in a wider sense, to signify a
cause which produces an effect, intended by God to be the condition under which
He Himself will create a new substance that stands in a certain relation to the
effect produced: we may then say that a creature can be the instrumental cause
of a new creature. Thus parents may be said to be the instrumental causes of the
souls of their children, although these souls are created by Cod alone, as we
shall see in the following section.{21}

{18} Contra Gent. ii. 21. "Cum enim secundum ordinem agentium sit ordo
activorum, eo quod nobilioris agentis nobilior est actio, oportet quad prima
actio sit primi agentis propria. Creatio autem est prima actio, eo quod nullam
aliam praesupponit et omnes aliae paesupponunt eam. Est igitur creatio propria
Dei solius actio, qui est agens primum."
{19} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 45. art. 5. ad 2. et 3.
{20} Cf. Sum. Theol. i. 45. 5. c. § Sed hoc esse non potest.
{21} Cf. Sum. Theol. i. 118, 2. ad 3m.
Natural Theology: 19 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 9. -- Proof that God is the immediate Author of Mind and Matter.

Thesis XVII -- Every individual human soul, and every element of matter
considered in its original state, is an immediate effect of Divine creation.

93. As we have proved above (§§ 30-39), the human soul is an immaterial
substance, a spirit, although a spirit united to matter. Upon this we argue as
follows: If the human soul cannot be evolved out of matter, nor be taken from
the substance of a spirit, it owes its existence immediately to creation. But it
is evident that a material being cannot be changed into an immaterial being; and
it is absolutely impossible that a spirit should be divided. (§ 34.) We must
then conclude that every human soul comes into existence by creation out of
nothing, and as God alone can create things of nothing (Th. XVI.), every human
soul is immediately created by God Himself.{22}

94. As regards the origin of matter, in whatever state it may have been
originally, it is certain that its existence is due to an exercise of Divine
Power, for it is not self-existent, but contingent. (§§ 81, 82.) The question
still to be answered in regard to its origin is this: Was matter produced by
Almighty God immediately or mediately? Now it must have been immediately
created, because mediate production of matter is impossible. For on two
suppositions only could it be possible; first, that God could change a spirit
into matter, or secondly, that He could communicate to a spirit the power of
creating matter. But on the face of them, neither of these suppositions can be
held: it is incompatible with the simplicity and characteristic being of a
spiritual substance that a spirit should be transformed into matter, and it has
been proved already, that the power of creation belongs exclusively to God. (Th.
XVI. §§ 90, seq.) We see, then, that the origin of matter is due to immediate
Divine creation. In what state it was created, whether in tbe state of
elementary matter, or of substances compounded of elementary matter, our reason
cannot tell. We must be satisfied with knowing that at least every part of
matter considered in the most simple form in which it can exist -- in other
words, every element -- has been created by God immediately.{23}

Scholion. The doctrine of creation in its relation to the theory of evolution.
95. From the proof given above it follows that all creatures of the universe are
under a certain aspect the immediate handiwork of God. They are all made up of
material elements immediately created by Him. It is true, these elements are not
now in that state in which they were when they came forth from the abyss of
their nothingness. Under the influence of destructive and generative forces put
into matter by the Creator, its elementary parts

circulate through immeasurable space, and form the substratum now of this, now
of that, species of inanimate or animate matter. But however great may be the
changes which matter thus undergoes, its amount is neither diminished nor
increased, its original potentiality for the reception of various principles of
force (or forms, as scholastics call them), remains always the same. A part of
matter determined to a certain mode of being and action by an internal principle
of force constitutes a body, or an individual corporeal substance. Under the
influence of created forces, the state of matter in an individual body can be so
disturbed that the principle of force by which it is determined can no longer
continue to maintain its existence. Thus the body loses its existence as this or
that individual substance, but it never drops out of existence altogether. The
extinction of one principle of force is accompanied by the production of
another, the natural result of a new combination of matter. Each body, then,
considered in its basis, is God's work; whereas the principles of force, or the
forms, through which bodies now existing receive their specific character, are
due to the destructive and generative activity of created agents, with the
single exception of that principle from which the human body receives its
specific determination, namely, the rational soul, the source not only of the
intellectual, but also of the sensitive and vegetative, life of man.

96. How far observation has justified, or will justify the theory of evolution,
we leave it to biologists to decide. From a mere philosophical point of view we
are unable to discover anything in it which would be out of harmony with reason,
if only the following principles are kept strictly in view:

(1) There is no evolution but of matter created by God, through principles of
force set to work by Him originally, and working throughout all ages of their
operation according to laws determined by His infinite wisdom.

(2) A lower principle of force is never by itself alone the total cause of the
production of a higher one. Consequently the more perfect offspring of an
imperfect species of living beings is not due only to the generative force of
that species, but other causes must help to produce it.

(3) A human person is never the effect of evolution.

The generative power of a created agent can predispose matter for the reception
of a human soul:{24} but the soul being spiritual, God alone can create it, and
join it to matter, from which union there results a man.

These three principles, which are simple corollaries of the theses proved above,
contain the most fundamental truths about Divine creation as the cause of this

We shall now proceed to answer some questions connected with creation, the
solution of which will throw still more light upon the total dependence of all
things upon God. These questions are:

1. Is creation the result of a necessary, or of a free volition of God?
2. Could God have created without creating from eternity?
3. If eternal creation be not necessary, is it at least possible?
4. Can a world like ours exist from eternity?
What we have to say upon these questions will form the subject-matter of the
five following propositions:

{22} Cf. Sum. Theol. i. 90. 2. et i. 181. 2-3.
{23} Sum. Theol. i. 44. 2. et i. 65. 3. et Compendium Theologica, c. 95.
"Elementa secundum se tota non sunt ex aliqua materia praejacenti, quia illud
quod praeexisteret haberet aliquam formam . . . oportet igitur etiam ipsa
elementa immediate esse producta a Deo. {24} St. Thomas, Sum, Theol. 1a. q. 118.
art. 2. ad 4. "Homo generat sibi simile, in quantum per virtutem seminis ejus
disponitur materia ad susceptionem talis formae," i.e. of the "rational soul."
(Cf. ibid. art. 3. et q. 76, art. 1.)
Natural Theology: 20 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 10. -- Creation a free act of God's will.

Thesis XVIIL -- God has freely chosen to produce creatures.

97. Victor Cousin{25} says: Dieu s'il est cause peut créer; et s'il est cause
absolue, il ne peut pas ne pas creéer -- "If God is a cause, He can create, and
if He is an absolute cause, He must create."

According to this philosopher, the act of creation is under different aspects
both free and necessary. It is free, not because God could determine whether He
would exercise His creative power or not, but only because there is not any
external force constraining Him to the exercise of that power. The necessity of
creation, on the other hand, is to be sought in the nature of God Himself; it is
this nature which irresistibly impels Him both to desire and to produce
creatures. "The creative act is a necessary act, because it results from the
nature of a cause, which must needs act; and it is free, for it proceeds from
the proper, independent, primitive spontaneity of a cause which acts by itself,
which determines itself, so that its determination, though necessary, is
nevertheless entirely its own, and is not under any influence from without."{26}

Against these assertions we maintain that God has created only because He freely
willed the existence of creatures, being equally free not to will it had He
pleased; as again to will the existence of creatures other than those actually
created had that been His choice. This is the only legitimate inference from the
infinitude of the Divine perfection. Had God been compelled by necessity to
create, He must have been so compelled, because His infinitely perfect intellect
represented to His infinitely perfect will that creation was a necessity
required to supply some deficiency otherwise discernible in His Being. But
creation could not have this effect. To infinite perfection nothing further in
the way of perfection can be added, and again, to view the same truth in a
different light, created perfection is derived perfection. It is derived from
that of God in which it is precontained eminently.{27}

Wbat is here meant will be more easily realized by the reader if he considers
the relation of the supreme to the subordinate authorities in the body social.
Under the absolute monarch many lower officials are constituted, each endowed
with a measure of power and authority derived from his. Now their authority
cannot be added to his so as to form a total authority of larger dimensions than
his is by itself. Whatever they have they hold under him, and he possesses it in
a higher and more independent manner. Substitute God for the absolute monarch,
creatures for the subordinate powers, perfection for authority, and then we have
set before us exactly the relation of the Divine perfection to that imparted by
creation to creatures. And we see clearly that creation adds nothing to the
Divine excellence which it did not already possess. There can, then, be no
motive presentable to the perfect will of God necessitating creation. On the
other hand, although creation is seen to be an act which does not increase the
Divine perfection, it is also seen to be an act good in itself, and therefore,
though not necessary, still worthy of election should God so please. For
creatures, as being imitations of the Divine perfection, are worthy of existence
and consequently of love.{28} Their existence need not be, but it may be if it
please God to choose it.

{25} Introd. à l'Histoire de la Phil. Leçon 5.
{26} "L'acte cr&eecute;ateur est un acte nécessaire, puisqu'il resulte de Ia
nature d'une cause, qui ne peut pas ne pas agir; et il est libre, parcequ'il
émane de la spontaneit&ecute; propre, independante, primitive, dune cause, qui
agit delle mème, qui se d&ecute;termiue elle même, sans que sa détermination
nécessaire, mais toute sienne, subisse aucune influence du dehors." (T. E.
Allaux, La Philosophie de M. Cousin, pp. 19, 20.)
{27} This technical term has been explained already. See pp. 100, 101.
{28} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 20. 2. c. et ad 2dm et 4tm.

Natural Theology: 21 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 11. -- Creation not necessarily Eternal.

Thesis XIX. -- The decree to create is necessarily eternal, but its effect, or
the resulting existence of creatures, is not necessarily eternal.

98. The way in which an eternal and yet free decree can exist in God is
incomprehensible to our limited intellects; nevertheless we can understand the
reason why the free decree to create must be eternal. A free choice cannot be
reasonably delayed without a sufficient motive. But in God there was no
sufficient motive to delay the decree to create. The reason for which free
beings reasonably suspend their choice is either the fact that for the present
they are not in need of an action, which later may be useful to them, or the
Consciousness that choosing at once may cause them unforeseen inconveniences.
But God could not suspend His decree for either of these reasons.

He is by His very essence independent of creatures; they never can be useful to
Him, nor augment His infinite perfection. Moreover, whatever motives there may
be to create or not to create, these motives are always and fully perceived by
His infinite intellect. In the same instant in which He sees them, He sees also
the result of whatever line of action He may choose. It is, therefore,
inconceivable that He ever should have existed without the decree to create.
99. As to the second part of our thesis, we do not state therein that God cannot
create anything from eternity; we say only that it cannot be proved that
anything has been created from eternity. Our proof of this statement is as
follows: The reason for which God is said to have necessarily created from
eternity must lie either in the nature of His essence, or of His free decree, or
in the nature of creatures, or in some combination of these motives one with

In God's own essence there cannot possibly be a reason why He must create from
eternity if He chooses to create at all, since His essence is quite sufficient
for His infinite love of good without the addition of any creatures -- a
fortiori, without the addition of them from eternity. Nor can it be admitted
that the existence of creatures must have the same eternity as the Divine
decrees by which it is determined. As the power of Divine volition is the only
efficient cause of their existence, they must exist with all the determinations
and assignments with which God from eternity wills them to exist. Suppose a
sovereign to make a decree ordaining that certain authorities shall come into
being at certain fixed times, one a week hence, another a year hence, &c., then
they would come into being according to their assignments, and not at the date
of the decree. Consequently it cannot be inferred from the eternal decree of
creation that the existence of creatures is from eternity, unless it be proved
that God in His eternal decree has resolved to grant to creatures an existence
coeternal with His decree. But this cannot be proved.

Is there, then, anything in the nature of creatures to require that their
existence, if realized at all, should be eternal? None can be given. All
creatures are of themselves nothing; their existence or nonexistence makes not
the least alteration in God's infinitely perfect Being. It depends, therefore,
upon the free choice of God to fix the limits of their duration as He pleases.
Nor does the necessity of eternal creation arise out of the relation of the
Divine essence to the creative fiat or to the nature of creatures or to both.
In the relation of this decree to the Divine essence we find a reason for the
eternal existence of the decree itself, but not of the creatures decreed; in the
relation of the nature of creatures to the Divine essence we have a reason for
affirming that God must love creatures if they exist, but no reason for the
necessity of their eternal existence. If, however, we turn to the relation
existing between the creative fiat and the nature of creatures, we may be
tempted to think that here there is really a reason for the necessity of eternal
creation. We might seem justified in arguing thus: The total cause of every
creature is the free decree of God, which free decree has existed from eternity.
But the total cause of an effect cannot exist without the simultaneous existence
of the effect. Every creature, therefore, which really is a creature in the
strict sense of the word -- that is to say, every being immediately produced out
of nothing, must have existed from eternity. However, it is not at all evident
that in every case without distinction the total cause of an effect cannot exist
without the simultaneous existence of the effect. It is true that a cause as
such bears a necessary relation to an effect. It is also true that a cause from
which an effect proceeds, according to a natural law to which the cause is
subjected, cannot be in the state sufficient for the production of the effect
without producing it at once. But, given an infinite will able by the mere
expression of its purpose to call things out of nothing into existence, it is
not at all evident that it cannot remain unchangeable, and yet freely determine
when the effects shall begin, of which its own infinite power is the only
efficient cause. Certainly no one can discover an intrinsic contradiction in
this proposition: Although the free decree to create, which is the only
efficient cause of the existence of creatures, has existed from all eternity,
nevertheless the creatures decreed from eternity have had a beginning, because a
beginning has been fixed from eternity by this free decree.
Natural Theology: 22 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 12. -- On the possibility of Eternal Creation.

Thesis XX. -- It is not evident that no creature whatsoever can exist from

100. The great doctors of the middle ages agreed that eternal creation was not a
necessity; they differed from one another on the less important point whether
eternal creation is or is not intrinsically impossible.

St. Thomas Aquinas considered the controversy hopeless, at least in its most
general form not descending to the particular inquiry whether this or that given
creature -- man, for instance -- could possibly have existed from eternity.{29}
We say only that the impossibility of a creature which had no beginning cannot
be demonstrated. In order to prove this statement, it will be enough to show
that the arguments against the possibility of eternal creation are by no means
decisive. The most forcible are the following four, to each of which we will
reply --

101. First Argument. Every efficient cause must exist before its effect. But if
eternal creation is admitted, God, the efficient cause of the being created from
eternity, does not exist before His effect. It is, therefore, against reason to
admit eternal creation.

Answer. It is not to be denied that an efficient cause which produces its effect
gradually must exist before its effect exists; whence it follows that the
existence of all effects produced by corporeal substances is posterior to that
of their causes. It is also to be granted that an efficient cause, which is not
by its very existence always ready for the production of an effect, must exist
before its effect. But it is in no way evident that cause and effect cannot be
simultaneous, when the cause by its mere existence is ever ready to act. Now
creation is an instantaneous effect, and God by His unchangeable and infinitely
powerful Will is always able to produce every effect conceivable. The
conclusion, then, of this first argument cannot be granted as evident.
102. Second Argument. Creation is production out of nothing. But a creature
which exists from eternity has been always something. Consequently such a
creature cannot be said to have been produced out of nothing; in other words, it
cannot really be a creature.

Answer. The meaning of the phrase, "Creation is production out of nothing," is
this: the created being is nothing in itself, but owes its whole existence to
the will of its Creator, who has not produced it by the change of any
substratum, but has called it into existence by a free act of His omnipotent
Will. From this it does not follow that the created being cannot have been
called into existence from eternity. If a creature has existed always, it has
always been something through the exercise of creative power, but it has never
been something in virtue of its own essence.

103. Third Argument. Every finite being must be under all aspects infinitely
distant from the perfection of God, the one infinite Being. But on the
hypothesis of an eternal creation this is not true, because a creature produced
from eternity is equal at least in duration to God.

Answer. We grant the major, but deny the minor of this argument. By the very
fact that the duration of a creature is contingent and continually dependent
upon God's free-will, it is infinitely less perfect than the duration of God,
who continues in existence with absolute necessity by virtue of His own essence.
104. Fourth Argument. Succession from eternity is impossible. But succession
belongs to the nature of every creature. Every creature which exists in the
moment A can cease to exist in the following moment B. This could not hold if
the duration of the creature in the moment B were not really different from its
duration in the moment A. But really different durations following one another
constitute a succession of durations.

Answer. We grant that succession from eternity is impossible. We do not deny
that succession belongs to the nature of every actually existing creature; but
we say that it is not evident that it must belong to the nature of every
possible creature. Though great scholastic philosophers, St. Bonaventure,{30}
the Conimbricenses,{31} and others, held that even in the duration of a created
spiritual substance there is succession, by reason of the contingency of all
created being; still that position is open to doubt. The full reason why a
spirit existing now can presently cease to be is not any tendency to nothingness
inherent in the spirit itself, but it is the absolute dependence of the creature
upon the power of God, who preserves it in being, and who by withdrawing His
preserving influence could, if He pleased, let it fall back into nothingness. We
have, therefore, no clear evidence that in the substance of a spiritual creature
there is succession.

But it may be asked, Is there not necessarily succession in its operations? Or
is any created spirit possible which can operate without change in itself? If
that is an impossibility, every created spirit must necessarily have a
beginning, for a spirit cannot be wholly without operation. This reason goes a
long way to show that the creation of a spirit from eternity, and a fortiori the
creation of matter from eternity, is absolutely impossible, because an existence
from eternity can hardly be other than a changeless existence; and we cannot
conceive either matter or spirit to have existed from eternity without change.
We are not inclined to think that such a created existence is possible; but
neither have we a certain reason for saying that it is intrinsically repugnant.
We must, then, conclude by saying that the impossibility of eternal creation is
not certainly proved.

{29} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 46. art. 2. To understand St. Thomas
properly, the reader must ponder what he here says in answer to the eighth
{30} In l. 2. dist. d. 2. a. 1. q. 3.
{31} In l. 4. Phys. c. 14. p. 2. Cf. Pesch, Phil. Nat. n. 502.
Natural Theology: 23 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 13. -- The beginning of this World.

Thesis XXI. -- The universe, considered in its chief processes, had a beginning.
105. Having stated our opinion about the possibility of eternal creation in the
abstract, another question remains to be answered. Can the particular world in
which we live have existed from eternity?

The meaning of this question is not whether the innumerable species of creatures
which constitute the world known to man can have been created without a
beginning. Even the conclusions of natural science indicate that all living
beings which people the earth, if considered not in the germ of their species,
but in their specific nature itself, had their origin long after the creation of
matter. We intend only to ask: Was it intrinsically possible, and consequently
in the power of the Almighty, to decree that the chief processes of nature
should go on without ever having had any beginning? This question may be
resolved into the following three:

1. Can there have been motion of matter without a beginning of motion?
2. Is evolution of vegetable and animal life possible without a beginning of

3. Can the generations of mankind have succeeded one another for all ages
without there being any first parents or first children?

To each of these questions we answer in the negative.

106. And first as regards motion of matter. Motion is not an instantaneous act,
but involves really different successive phases. There is no motion of matter
without continuous changes of position of material particles. The concept of
motion and the concept of succession are inseparable from one another. But
succession cannot have existed from eternity. In it a "sooner" and a "later" are
necessarily involved. Every "later" had evidently a beginning, and consequently
every "sooner," which is essentially related to a "later" -- in other words,
every "sooner" which constitutes a part of succession must have had a beginning.
Bearing now in mind that succession is involved in motion so as to be
necessarily connected with the movements of material particles, we must
pronounce it metaphysically impossible that motion of matter should have been
without a first start or beginning of motion.

This conclusion opens the way to the other, that evolution of life, the
processes of assimilation and decomposition, of generation and corruption in
animate matter, are inconceivable unless they have had a beginning. They all
imply succession, and consequently can have had but a limited duration.
107. Coming now to the human race, it must have had a beginning not only for the
reasons just given, but also because the number of human souls that possibly can
exist can never be actually infinite. Such a number is intrinsically impossible,
as we have shown in our chapter on infinity. (§ 66.) But if mankind had existed
from eternity, the number of human souls that existed at any given moment, if we
suppose that none of these naturally incorruptible beings is annihilated by the
absolute power of God, would really be actually infinite. Whatever therefore may
be our opinion on the absolute possibility of an eternal creature, there can be
no doubt that a universe like ours, in which there is motion and organic life,
and in which one generation of men follows another, cannot have existed from
eternity, considered even in its most fundamental features.{32}

We have treated here the question of the duration of our world only from a
metaphysical point of view. So far as the existence in the past of the present
state of our solar system, of organic life and of man is concerned, the theories
of modern astronomers, of geologists and paleontologists support our

On the other hand, Aristotle opposes them inasmuch as they rest upon the
impossibility of motion without a beginning. The arguments by which he
endeavoured to prove that motion must be without a beginning, together with
modern arguments in favour of eternal creation, will find their solution in the
following chapter.

{32} Our thesis is supported by Cardinal Zigliara, who arrives at the same
conclusions in a way somewhat different. His words are: "Existimo autem mundum
uti nunc est, non potuisse ab aeterno creari. . . . Etenim ci creatio ista foret
possibilis, consequi videtur quod in successione ab aeterno usque ad praesens
forent, in facta hypothesi, actu infinitae successiones vel in tempore, vel in
moto, vel in generatione, vel saltem in cogitationibus alicujus mentis creatae."
(Summa Philosophica, Vol. II. pp. 38, 39.)
Natural Theology: 24 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER V. Solution of Difficulties against the Fundamental Truths of Natural

SOME of the difficulties urged against the conclusions at which we have arrived
have already been partially considered. It was indispensable to the course of
our argument not to pass them by unnoticed. But it is necessary to examine them
more fully in the present chapter.

SECTION 1. -- Arguments urged by Traditionalists in favour of the opinion, that
only by faith can we be certain of God's existence.

108. (1) First Traditionalistic Argument. -- The existence of God is an article
of Christian faith. But articles of Christian faith must be believed on the
authority of God -- they cannot be proved by natural reason alone. Consequently
the existence of God is indemonstrable.{1}

Answer. The term "article of faith" may be taken both in a wider and in a more
restricted sense. In a wider sense, every truth revealed by God is an article of
faith, even if it is demonstrable by reason. In a more restricted sense, only
those dogmas, which, even after their revelation, cannot be proved by reason
alone, are articles of faith. Such dogmas are the Mysteries of the Incarnation,
of the Blessed Trinity, and others. Many truths of Natural Theology are articles
of faith in the wider sense; they form part of the revelation made by God to His
Church; but they are not articles of faith, if this term be taken in its more
restricted sense. To this class belongs the great fundamental truth of the
existence of a Personal God.

If it be urged that from the solution just given it would follow that God had
revealed to us His existence and attributes without any need, we answer with St.
Thomas,{2} that the revelation even of those truths concerning God and His
perfections which can be discovered by reason alone, is a great benefit to
mankind. To say nothing in this place of the supernatural graces attached to it,
there are three great wants clearly discernible from which, had not these truths
been revealed, the human race as a whole would have suffered.
First, without this revelation few men would have a proper knowledge of their
Creator. Some would not arrive at it on account of their natural incapacity to
inquire into recondite truths, and others could not undertake a satisfactory
search on account of the multitude of their occupations. Moreover, a large
number would shirk the patient consideration and reasoning without which a more
accurate knowledge of the First Cause of all things cannot be attained.
Secondly, if that revelation were not given, the comparatively few, who could
and would speculate about Divine things, would take a long time to reach any
large or valuable results on account of the difficulty of the speculation. And
thus a considerable part of human life would be spent in arduous study of Him,
whom we are not created to study so much as to know and love and obey from the
dawn of reason.

Finally, on the same hypothesis there would be far more room for erroneous views
about God, than there is now, as we may infer from comparing the theories of
philosophers with the truths possessed by any child that knows its catechism.
109. (2) Second Traditionalistic Argument. -- It is impossible that the
contemplation of finite things should lead to any certain knowledge of the
Infinite God.

Answer. It is true that we cannot leap from finite to infinite by one argument.
But we can by a chain of arguments. We have to commence by proving that there is
a First Cause, and that this First Cause can be but One. After that, it is to be
shown that no perfection conceivable is wanting in that Cause which we call God.
Thus it appears that one Infinite God really exists, although the notion we have
of Him can only be partially positive.{3} That is to say, we cannot express the
fulness of God's perfection by mere affirmation; but having affirmed it under a
certain aspect, we must signify the rest by excluding all limits from what we
have affirmed, saying for instance, God is wise without limit, He is infinitely
wise, and the rest.

{1} St.Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 2. art. 2. obj. 1. {2} Contra. Gent. i. c. 4.
{3} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 2. art. 2. ad 3m.
Natural Theology: 25 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- Kant's difficulties against the proofs of God's existence.

110. Kant, in his celebrated work, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure
Reason), discusses at length the Ontological Argument, the Argument of the First
Cause, and the Argument from Design. He finds fault with each of them, and
arrives at the conclusion that speculative reason is unable to come to a
satisfactory result in the matter.

Answer. 1. What Kant alleges against the ontological proof, we may pass over, as
we ourselves do not admit that proof; although we do not approve of all that
Kant says in refuting it.{4}

2. Against the Argument of the First Cause, Kant has two principal difficulties.

First, he considers that we are not certain of the universal value of the
"Principle of Causality," upon which the proof of the existence of a First,
Self-existing Cause entirely turns.{5} The answer to this objection is fully
given in our proof. (§§ 25, 26.) It was there shown that Kant's opinion must
lead to the denial of the principle of contradiction itself, and to universal
scepticism. But he is armed with another weapon. He says that those who use the
Argument of the First Cause really fall into the fallacy of the ontological
proof, while appearing to avoid it. They first demonstrate a posteriori a first
cause, a self-existing being; and then from the concept of self-existence they
infer the existence of an Infinite Being. This conclusion he deems to be
invalid. Were it valid, he says, it would be equally lawful to infer by a
converse process the existence of an Infinite Being from its concept -- and this
is the line of the ontological proof.{6} This objection at first sight seems
formidable: but in reality its whole force is due to a want of distinction
between unlawful and lawful reasoning a priori. It is unlawful to reason a
priori from a concept, the internal truth of which may reasonably be doubted by
those whom you would convince. So long as they may reasonably say, we do not
know whether an intrinsic contradiction may not be hidden in that concept, your
conclusion must remain suspected of error. But should you argue from the concept
of a thing, the existence of which you have already proved, no one can
reasonably demur to your conclusions. Now those who defend the Ontological
Argument follow the former unlawful line of reasoning; while the latter, the
lawful line, has been observed by us in the development of our Argument of the
First Cause. Those who use the ontological proof, begin with the assumption that
the concept of an infinitely perfect being is not self-contradictory. This they
have no right to do, as we showed when discussing their argument. Very different
is our mode of reasoning. We first prove a posteriori that an intelligent,
self-existing Being certainly exists. This established, we have a right to
maintain that the concept of self-existence is not self-contradictory; for what
must exist, can exist. We are, therefore, entitled to argue from that concept,
and to assert as absolutely true everything that is evidently connected with the
truth of self-existence, to wit, that a self-existing being is evidently One,
Simple, and infinitely Perfect.

3. The Argument from Design is held in higher respect by Kant.{7} He objects,
however, to its conclusiveness for two reasons.

(a) By itself alone it does not lead us to the knowledge of a Self-existing,
Infinite God and Creator, but only to the persuasion that there exists an
intelligent Architect of this world. To know something definite about the nature
of this Architect, we must fall back upon the unsound ontological proof; for, in
trying by means of the Argument of a First Cause to bring the Argument from
Design to a full issue, we commit ourselves to the ontological proof, inasmuch
as we reason a priori from self-existence to Infinity.

To this we answer: it is true that the Argument from Design does not carry us
the whole way. We completed it on the lines of the Argument of the First
Cause.{8} But we deny that this mode of completing it can be justly condemned as
a falling back upon the ontological proof; and the reasons for this denial we
have just given.

(b) Kant again doubts whether the supposition underlying the Argument from
Design is valid, "that well-ordered effects of nature no less than well-ordered
effects of human art, can only have been produced by the pre-arrangement of an
intelligent mind.{9}

Regarding this difficulty we remark that the analogy between order in works of
nature and order in works of art by itself alone is not an absolutely solid
foundation, although, as Kant himself admits, it is very Persuasive.
Consequently, to anticipate Kant's objection, we went deeper down, and laid
another foundation, which is solid enough. (Cf. §§ 42-45.)

{4} See discussion of Ontological Argument in c. I.
{5} Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 637 (Dritte Auflage). In the translation by
M. Müller, p. 523.
{6} Ibid. p. 639. Apud M. Müller, ibid. p. 525.
{7} Ibid. p. 651. Apud M. Müller, ibid. p. 535.
{8} C. ii. § 46, and throughout the whole of cc. in. iv.
{9} Ibid. p. 654. Apud M. Müller, ibid. p. 537.
Natural Theology: 26 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- Difficulties of Spencer and Mill against the proof of a First

111. (1) Mr. Herbert Spencer{10} grants that regarding the origin of the
Universe three verbally intelligible propositions may be made: the atheistic,
the pantheistic, and the theistic, but he maintains that further consideration
shows them all three to be inconceivable. The atheist postulates a self-existing
actual universe, the pantheist a self-existing potential universe, the theist a
self-existing Creator of the universe; consequently all the three theories rest
upon the assumption of self-existence. Self-existence, however, is
inconceivable, and accordingly none of the three theories can be admitted as a
conceivable explanation of the world's origin.

To prove that self-existence is inconceivable, be argues thus:{11} "It is clear
that by self-existence we especially mean, an existence independent of any other
-- not produced by any other; the assertion of self-existence is simply an
indirect denial of Creation. In thus excluding the idea of any antecedent cause
we necessarily exclude the idea of a beginning -- to admit that there was a time
when the existence had not commenced, is to admit that its existence was
determined by something, or was caused: which is a contradiction.
Self-existence, therefore, necessarily means existence without a beginning; and
to form a conception of self-existence is to form a conception of existence
without a beginning. Now by no mental effort can we do this. To conceive
existence through infinite past time, implies the conception of infinite past
time, which is an impossibility."

Answer. It is at least consoling to have in this passage a recognition of the
old truth that the human mind is forced to admit something selfexisting. Mr.
Spencer also in another passage says:{12} "We cannot think at all about the
impressions which the external world produces on us without thinking of them as
caused; and we cannot carry out an inquiry concerning their causation without
inevitably committing ourselves to the hypothesis of a First Cause." In these
words he himself gives us a clue wherewith to extricate ourselves from the
labyrinth of his arguments about self-existence. He confesses in this latter
passage that we cannot do without self-existence; and in the very passage which
we have quoted above, and in which he has declared self-existence to be
impossible, he has given a tolerably clear explanation of self-existence; how
then can he uphold his assertion that self-existence is inconceivable? We cannot
explain anything without really conceiving it, unless indeed we try to explain
what involves an intrinsic contradiction. Can any intrinsic contradiction be
suspected in the notions from which we form the concept of self-existence? Far
from giving any reason for such a suspicion, Mr. Spencer adduces the strongest
motives possible for not entertaining it. He states that the human mind cannot
explain the most obvious daily experiences without falling back upon a First
Cause. This granted, we must either admit the existence of a First Cause, or
assert that our minds have an essential tendency to obtrude upon us a notion
that is wholly visionary.

Mr. Spencer's inability to take in the idea of self-existence seems to arise
from the views which he holds -- erroneous views, we should call them -- on the
human intellect, and on time, and also from his failing to make any distinction
between comprehending a thing thoroughly and conceiving it at all. Were the acts
of the human understanding the effects of organic impressions, and were all
thinking consequently reduced to the association of pictures in the imagination,
the concept of self-existence in that case would be, as Mr. Spencer says,
"literally unthinkable," as would also be all other universal and immaterial
concepts. We have argued already for the existence of such concepts in
expounding the argument of the First Cause.{13}

Mr. Spencer says that the idea of self-existence involves the concept of
infinite time. But why? The concept formed by men of a Being uncaused and wholly
independent is in reality a concept of self-existence. This concept does not
explicitly express the infinite duration of that Being, and is so far forth
inadequate; it is not a comprehensive concept; God alone comprehends His
self-existence and infinite duration. This duration is, however, not infinite
time, as Mr. Spencer thinks it should be. In God there is no kind of succession;
and where there is no succession, there is no time.

Moreover, actually infinite time is self-contradictory; there can be finite
actual time, and indefinite possible time, but not actually infinite time. God's
duration is eternity, the unchangeable continuance of His self-existing Essence
without possible beginning or end. Being eternal in Himself, He is the source of
all existences capable of change, and consequently the real ultimate foundation
of all possible time, which He comprehends by knowing fully His own eternity. We
can have a true concept of indefinite possible time, but not an adequate
concept. We conceive indefinite possible time, past or future, when we conceive
the possibility of an indefinitely long series of successive changes before or
after the present moment.

112. (2) Mill, in his Essays on Religion,{14} objects against the Argument of a
First Cause thus: "The Argument for a First Cause admits of being, and is
presented as a conclusion from the whole of human experience. Everything that we
know (it is argued) had a cause, and owed its existence to that cause. How then
can it be but that the world, which is but a name for the aggregate of all that
we know, has a cause to which it is indebted for its existence?

"The fact of experience, however, when correctly expressed, turns out to be, not
that everything which we know derives its existence from a cause, but only every
event or change. . . . That which in an object begins to exist is that in it
which belongs to the changeable element in nature; the outward form and the
properties depending on mechanical or chemical combinations of its component
parts. There is in every object another and a permanent element, viz., the
specific elementary substance or substances of which it consists and their
inherent properties. These are not known to us as beginning to exist: within the
range of human knowledge they had no beginning, and consequently no cause;
though they themselves are causes or con-causes of everything that takes place.
Experience therefore affords no evidences, not even analogies to justify our
extending to the apparently immutable a generalization grounded only on our
observation of the changeable."

Answer. The proof which Mill here puts before his readers as the common proof
for a First Cause, is certainly not the proof given either by us or by St.
Thomas, or any Catholic author of weight and reputation.

The observations which Mill makes on the proof, as he has stated it, deserve
attention. It is true that by mere reasoning from the facts of experience we
cannot convince ourselves that the elements of matter are created out of
nothing. But we arrive at that conviction, if we begin with facts of experience,
and from them reason out the conclusion, admitted even by Mr. Spencer, that
there must be a First Cause of changes, and thence inquire into the nature of
this First Cause and its relation to the elements of matter. Such was our mode
of reasoning in chapters ii. sect. 2, iii., and iv.

113. (3) Mill brings a second objection against the necessity of searching for a
First Cause. He says:{15} "It is thus a necessary part of the fact of causation
within the sphere of our experience, that the causes as well as the effects had
a beginning in time and were themselves caused. It would seem, therefore, that
our experience, instead of furnishing an argument for a First Cause, is
repugnant to it; and that the very essence of causation as it exists within the
limits of our knowledge, is incompatible with a First Cause."

Answer. Mill in this passage fails to see a distinction between the
circumstances of causation to which our experience witnesses and its essence.
The natural causes of which we have experience have each its own cause; but the
dependence of each cause upon another preceding it is neither of the essence of
causation nor a necessary adjunct of it. The essence, of causation consists in
the fact that one being is in some way the reason why something else exists.
Whether the cause which acts is itself caused has nothing to do with the essence
of causation; it is a circumstance accompanying the causation of the beings that
come under our experience. But from this it does not follow that every cause
must be caused. On the contrary, it can be shown that this hypothesis is against
evident first principles.{16}

114. (4) Mill objects to the argument by which from the existence of the human
mind we prove the existence of a self-existing intelligent Being. He says{17}
"We are then entitled to ask, Where is the proof that nothing can have caused a
mind except another mind? From what, except from experience, can we know what
can produce what -- what causes are adequate to what effects? That nothing can
consciously produce mind but mind is self-evident, being involved in the meaning
of the words; but that there cannot be unconscious production must not be
assumed, for it is the very point to be proved. Apart from experience, and
arguing on what is called reason, that is, on supposed self-evidence, the notion
seems to be that no causes can give rise to products of a more precious or
elevated kind than themselves. But this is at variance with the known analogies
of nature. How vastly nobler and more precious, for instance, are the higher
animals and vegetables than the soil and manure out of which and by the
properties of which they are raised up! The tendency of all recent speculation
is towards the opinion that the development of inferior orders of existence into
superior, the substitution of greater elaboration and higher organization for
lower, is the general rule of nature. Whether it is so or not, there are at
least in nature a multitude of facts bearing that character, and this is
sufficient for the argument."

Answer. This objection of Mill rests evidently on two suppositions: 1. Only from
experience can we know what sort of causes we must assume in order to explain
given effects. 2. Experience bears positive evidence that effects are sometimes
more perfect than their causes.

To the first of these suppositions we must reply by distinguishing between the
determination of the sort or quality of cause required to produce the effect
under consideration, and the identification, from among the number of those
possessing the required qualities, of the particular individual, by which the
effect has in fact been produced. The latter point can, as a rule, only be
determined by experience; but the former can be determined by inference from the
nature of the effect, and, in fact, can be determined in no other way. It is
only in virtue of a previous inference which gathers from the nature of the
effect wrought the necessary qualities and conditions of the agent which
produced it, that experience is enabled to detect the actual agent out of the
number of others which may happen to fall under observation. Moreover, if study
of the effect leads to the conclusion that the adequate cause is one which from
the nature of its essential attributes must be the only one of its kind in
existence, in that case no further recourse to experience is necessary, and we
are entitled at once, on the sole basis of the inference, to identify the actual
individual agent.

To the second of Mr. Mill's fallacious suppositions we must give an answer on
similar lines. Experience may seem to a superficial observer to bear positive
evidence, that effects are sometimes more perfect than their causes: as, for
instance, that a mature tree with its foliage and fruit is more perfect than the
seed whence it sprang. Nevertheless, more solid investigation is aware that it
must be guided to its results not by bare observation, but by observation based
on the principles of reason. The principle of causality demands that the cause
shall always precontain what it communicates to the effect. The seed, so far
forth as it is less perfect than the tree that grows out of it, must be the
partial not the total cause of the tree, and accordingly observation proceeds to
discern what are the other contributing factors out of whose union and
co-operation the total cause is composed. In the seed itself is a latent virtue
which only reveals itself by a gradual process. In order to the evolution of
this latent power, nutritive elements must be supplied in due time and manner
from without. When all these contributory agents are considered, we discover
that the principle of causality has in no sense been violated. Each contributor
precontains what it communicates, in equal or higher measure than its
correlative portion of the effect; and the assemblage of them all precontains
adequately the entirety of the effect.

Thus our reasoning to the existence of God is quite justified. Throughout we
keep in view the principle of causality, and find it leads us safely to the
conclusion drawn. Applying it to the assemblage of visible things which surround
us and are stamped with the characteristics of effects, we conclude that there
must be a self-existing Being which is their Cause. This determines the kind of
cause postulated. Further study of the idea of self-existence shows that there
can only be one self-existent Being; and we are thus, without recourse to
experience, enabled to identify our First Cause. The next stage has led us to
discern the necessity of creation; since, on any other hypothesis, we should be
having two first causes. And lastly, we were able to argue from the nature of
the human mind on the one hand, and analysis of the notion of infinite being on
the other, to the conclusion that the human soul must have been created by a
free act of divine volition.

115. (5) Mill objects further:{18} "If mind, as mind, presents intuitive
evidence of having been created, the creative mind must do the same; and we are
no nearer to the First Cause than before."

Answer. It is not mind as mind, but the human mind as human mind, that presents
evidence of having been created. This human mind manifests itself to us as
contingent and finite. From the conclusion, then, that the human mind must have
been created, it in no way follows that the creative mind similarly owes its
origin to creation. On the contrary, the irrationality of seeking an explanation
of the existence of created things in a processus ad infinitum, showing that
there must be a First Cause, shows likewise that the First Cause could not have
been created, but must be self-existent.

{10} First Principles, pp. 30-35.
{11} First Principles, p. 31.
{12} Ibid. p. 37.
{13} See also the articles, "An Examination of Mr. Herbert Spencer's Psychology"
by Professor Mivart, Dublin Review, October 1874 till January 1880.
{14} Pp. 142, 143.
{15} Essays on Religion, p. 144.
{16} Cf. Argument of First Cause, c. ii. Sect. 2.
{17} Essays on Religion, p. 152.
{18} Essays on Religion, p. 153.
Natural Theology: 27 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 4. -- Difficulties of Mill and Lange against the Argument from Design.

116. (1) Having applied the Argument from Design to the case of the human eye,
Mill thus objects to its force:{19} "Creative forethought is not absolutely the
only link by which the origin of the wonderful mechanism of the eye may be
connected with the fact of sight. There is another connecting link on which
attention has been greatly fixed by recent speculations, and the reality of
which cannot be called in question, though its adequacy to account for such
truly admirable combinations as some of those in nature, is still and will
probably long remain problematical. This is the principle of the survival of the

Answer. Only if accepted in its most extreme form can the Darwinian theory be
urged as an objection against the Argument from Design; whereas, on the other
hand, the extreme form of this theory is losing in public favour just because it
attributes so much to chance and is absolutely exclusive of finality. If
evolution be the true explanation of the existing order of the cosmos, and this
evolution is due to the gradual working out to their final issues of laws
inherent in matter from the commencement, then the question whether this
existing order be due to intelligence or not, is not solved, but merely pushed
back. In the achievements of human industry, a self-constructing machine would
be taken to imply not comparative absence of skill and contrivance in its maker,
but a higher exercise of these qualities; and the same will have to be said of
the machine of the cosmos. The more its order is due to an evolution which is
the outcome of the action of fixed laws inherent from the first and tending
definitely towards the final result, the more striking is the manifestation of
intelligence which it bears upon its face. However, the essence of extreme
Darwinism lies in this, that it seeks to attribute the course of evolution
ultimately to chance. Accidental varieties spring up among individuals, and out
of the vast number of these, those which are advantageous in some line to their
possessors, are said to perpetuate themselves in the struggle for existence.
They go to form the fittest, and the struggle for existence being severe and
consequently destructive, the fittest of those born are naturally the survivors,
and surviving, transmit their acquired advantages to their offspring, and
thereby fix them.

Such a system, no doubt, is directly opposed to the Argument from Design. If the
order of the world can be explained by chance, there is no need to refer its
origin to intelligence. But then this hypothesis of origin by chance is just
that which has to be rejected as inadmissible, because it offends against the
undeniable truth that order presupposes finality in the immediate cause and
intelligence at all events in the ultimate cause. It is not necessary, again, to
justify this statement, as we have done so already (Cf. §§ 42, seq.), when we
dealt with the hypothesis of a fortuitous concourse of atoms. There is, in fact,
no essential difference, from a metaphysical point of view, between that ancient
theory and the modern theory of Natural Selection when taken in its extreme
form. However, it is precisely on the ground that it attributes the magnificent
order of nature to sheer chance that this extreme form of Darwinism is going out
of favour.

We may here notice, without associating it with Mr. Mill's name, another
prevalent mode of meeting the Argument from Design, which in some respects is
the opposite of that just considered. The Argument from Design, it is said,
proceeds from the supposition that the cosmos is like Paley's watch, a machine
in which the component parts have no natural tendency towards one another, but
have their motion and unity impressed upon them from without. In other words,
the ordering impulse is here without the machine, and it is just on this account
that the inference to the existence of a designing mind is just. But by what
right is it assumed that the ordering impulse in nature generally is of this

"The thought or design which is at work in the growth and development of
organized structures is not a mere mechanical power or cunning acting from
without -- shaping, adjusting, putting together materials prepared to its hand,
constructing them according to an ingenious plan after the manner of a maker of
machines. Here, on the contrary, the idea or formative power goes with the
matter, and constitutes the very indwelling essence of the thing. Instead of
coming in as an after-thought, to give to existing materials a new use and
purpose not included or presupposed in their own original nature, the idea or
design is present from the very beginning, inspiring the first minute atom or
cell with the power of the perfect whole that is to be. Nor for the building up
and completing of the structure, is there any call for the interposition of
external agency. From first to last it is self-formative, self-developing: the
life within resists all merely outward interference and subordinates all outward
conditions to its own development. In this case, therefore, we do not need to go
beyond or outside of the thing itself in seeking for the explanation of it. The
thought or reason that explains it is within the thing itself, nay, is its very
self: so that to perceive or know the thing at all is to perceive or know the
reason and ground of its existence."{20}

If we find this to be so in the organisms around us, may we not extend the same
idea to the whole finite world and regard its order and the finality of its
movements as throughout proceeding from a directing force which is immanent
within it rather than from one outside it like the God of Paley?

This objection is easily answered. It is of no consequence, in the first
instance, whether the directing principle which imparts finality to the
movements of the cosmos be external or internal to it, except, indeed, in so far
as the internal principle of vital movement and growth in organisms supplies us
with evidence of a much more elaborate and far-reaching finality than we find in
the mechanical achievements of human industry. But as long as there is finality,
there must be intelligence. For finality involves an operation of the future on
the present, determining the course and direction which the present movements
are to take in order that they may reach the future goal, and operation of the
future on the present is inconceivable except in so far as the future is
apprehended by an intelligence which can set the physical forces in
corresponding motion and prescribe to them their lines of movement.{21}

Thus it matters not, in the first instance, where we place the thought whence
the design and finality of the cosmos proceeds, whether within it as an immanent
principle, or without it as a God distinct from it and transcending it.
Ultimately, however, the hypothesis of thought immanent in the cosmos, of an
anima mundi in fact, is excluded. For the argument of the First Cause leads us
to a First Intelligence which is self-existent, and the analysis of the idea of
self-existence causes us to perceive that the First Intelligence must be a Pure
and Infinite Spirit, whereas the cosmos is finite and material. Only on the
hypothesis that cosmical monism or pantheism was irrefutable, would an objection
like that just remarked upon, be really strong. We have, however, given ample
proof to show the futility of pantheism and any other form of monism. (Cf. c.
iv. sect. 2). And if the reader bears still in mind what we have said there, he
cannot fail to see that every appeal to immanent teleology against an
intelligent Designer is as futile as Mill's appeal to the "survival of the
fittest." Indeed it is still more obviously opposed to reason than that appeal,
inasmuch as its foundation is more directly repugnant to the attributes of a
self-existing Being.

117. (2) Mill thinks that design and omnipotence are incompatible. "It is not
too much to say," he maintains,{22} "that every indication of design in the
cosmos is so much evidence against the omnipotence of the Designer. For what is
meant by design? Contrivance: the adaptation of means to an end. But the
necessity for contrivance -- the need of employing means -- is a consequence of
the limitation of power. Who would have recourse to means, if to attain his end
his mere word was sufficient? The very idea of means implies that the means have
an efficacy, which the direct action of the Being who employs them has not.
Otherwise they are not means, but an incumbrance. A man does not use machinery
to move his arms. If he did, it could only be when paralysis had deprived him of
the power of moving them by volition. But if the employment of contrivance is in
itself a sign of limited power, how much more so is the careful and skilful
choice of contrivances? Can any wisdom be shown in the selection of means, when
the means have no efficacy but what is given them by the will of Him who employs
them and when His will could have bestowed the same efficacy on other means?
No one purpose imposes necessary limitations on another in the case of a Being
not restricted by conditions of possibility."

Answer. By this way of arguing Mill proves nothing more clearly than that he has
a wrong notion of omnipotence. Omnipotence is not an ability to effect things
which are intrinsically impossible, but it is the power to effect whatever is
intrinsically possible. A power to produce what is intrinsically impossible, for
instance a philosopher without a reasonable soul, would be a power for non-sense
in the strictest meaning of the word; it would be no power at all. Mill thinks
that an omnipotent Being is not "restricted by conditions of possibility." This
is true enough if it merely means that God can do or make everything which is
not intrinsically impossible; but it is not true, as Mill suggests, that an
omnipotent Being can by His free-will make the intrinsically impossible become
intrinsically possible. Now it is intrinsically impossible for all means to
suffice for all ends indiscriminately. If God will, for instance, that the sun's
action on the earth should be precisely what it is now, and in accordance with
the same physical laws as now obtain, He could not possibly accomplish this end
by putting the earth where Jupiter is and Jupiter where the earth is. If He
willed that the innumerable species of living beings that people the earth
should live on nourishment naturally suited to their organisms, He could not
reach this end by providing food for only a few of them. Finally, if He willed
that men should merit their final happiness by faith, obedience, and patience,
He could not remove all difficulties and sufferings from their path through

If these considerations are borne in mind, it becomes clear that in selecting
certain means rather than others as being necessary or appropriate to the
accomplishment of certain ends, God displays no want of power. The necessity or
appropriateness of the means for the ends is determined by the laws of intrinsic

However, Mr. Mill's objection is not yet fully answered. Why, he may still urge,
require any means at all? Why, if God is omnipotent, can He not create, for
instance, full-grown living beings at once, by a mere exercise of will? The
question seems specious enough, but it proceeds from failure to see that the
freedom of God is not less infinite than His omnipotence. Of course, an
omnipotent God could create straight off all the trees in the world in a state
of maturity, and could maintain them in the perfection of their nature without
the agency of nutritive elements and processes. But He may also prefer a system
such as that in actual existence, in which results are worked out gradually by
an evolutionary process, various agents combining and co-operating according to
their natures and properties. Surely the present age, which is so much in love
with evolution, ought not to deny that this latter is in itself an attractive
system: one, therefore, which may reasonably be selected by a God desirous to
manifest the excellences of His creative power in a high degree. As an
absolutely best world is intrinsically impossible (Th. XV.), the manifestation
of God's omnipotence in the world can in no system be exhaustive. Precisely
because Omnipotence is infinite power, its effects cannot reflect it adequately.
How far it shall be manifested, depends entirely upon God's free choice. God can
choose no system in which the dictates of infinite wisdom and goodness would be
violated. But among the indefinite number of systems that may be in harmony with
the requirements of absolute wisdom and goodness, there is none of which the
preference was not entirely open to the freedom of the Creator. The answer,
then, to the question, Why require any means at all? is briefly this: Because
God in His infinite freedom has chosen a universe consisting of beings which
cannot manifest His power, wisdom, and goodness in that degree which He freely
intends without the adaptation of means to ends in such excellency and such
profusion as. our experience witnesses.

118. (3) Lange{23} argues against design from the great waste of living germs
recurring constantly in nature. "It cannot possibly be doubted that nature
proceeds in a way which has no resemblance with human adaptation of means to
ends; nay, that its most essential modus operandi, judged by the standard of
human understanding, is such as can only be compared with the blindest chance. .
. . From the pollen of the plant to the fertilized seed-corn, from the seed-corn
to the germinating plant, from the latter to the mature plant which again bears
seed, we see a constant repetition of a mechanism which preserves life so far as
it is preserved in the present order of things, only by the generation of
thousands of beings to destroy them immediately, and by availing itself of
fortuitous coincidences of favourable conditions. The destruction of living
germs, the failure of what has begun, is the rule; the 'connatural '
(naturgemässe) development is a special case among thousands; it is the
exception, and this exception is made by that nature which the purblind
teleologist admires for its self-preservation brought about by adapting means to
ends. . . . What we call chance in the preservation of species, is of course no
chance in regard of the universal laws of nature, the grand machinery of which
calls forth all those effects; but it is chance in the strictest sense of the
word, if we take this term as an expression of what is opposed to the results
obtained by an Intelligence calculating in a similar way to men." Similar
lamentations about nature's "clumsiness" and "cruelty" occur repeatedly in
Mill's Essays on Religion.{24}

Answer. We have to acknowledge that the eloquent writer of the History of
Materialism does not advocate blind chance quite so openly as the Epicureans of
old. According to him, the preservation of the actually existing world of
animals and plants is due to the grand machinery of the laws of nature. Be it
so. Where, then, shall we search for the origin of these laws? Proximately, of
course, they are founded on definite combinations of the forces of diverse
natural beings. But those combinations themselves -- whence did they proceed? To
this we have given a full answer. (Cf. §§ 43, seq.) After all, therefore, even
if we allow for argument's sake that apparent failures result from the collision
of various natural laws -- as Lange evidently supposes -- it must nevertheless
be admitted that these laws are designed by an intelligent Mind.

But, it may be asked next: Is it reasonable to believe that this Mind is
infinitely perfect? If so, whence so many failures in nature's working? Should
not a Creator of infinite perfection have taken care that every one of His
creatures reached the end for which it was intended? This evidently is not the
case in the present order of things; for what can be the end intended by the
production of living germs but that they shall grow and bear seed. Instead of
that, the greater part of them is wasted. Does not this one fact alone suffice
to justify fully Lange's inference that nature is not subject to the government
of a directing Mind in any way similar to human minds? The answer to this
question is not too difficult. Before we can reasonably pronounce that there are
failures in nature, we must first be certain that nature's ends go no farther
than we suppose them to go. The weak point in Lange's argument lies precisely in
his taking for granted that living germs are good for nothing unless they become
full-grown living beings. This, however, is evidently not the case, and Lange
himself practically denies it as often as he eats a piece of bread or an egg.
Who will say that all the germs of life that are destroyed to furnish a savant's
breakfast-table, are wasted? As we have demonstrated in chapter iii., God is
infinitely perfect, consequently, infinitely good and wise. The object of His
creation must be worthy of His goodness and wisdom. From this it follows, as we
shall see in the treatise on Divine Providence, that the absolutely last end of
all creation is the manifestation of God's goodness to His rational creatures,
and the relatively last end the happiness of the rational creatures themselves.
The rest of the creation must serve as means to attain the last end, which
cannot be immediately reached but by the knowledge and love of God, whereof only
rational creatures are capable. Experience proves that the inferior creation is
useful for man in various ways, and that many of these ways, formerly unknown,
are revealed in the course of time. It is, therefore, unreasonable to say that
creatures are useless because we cannot find out how far they are useful. After
it has been demonstrated clearly that an infinite Mind is the Author of the
universe, we cannot without rashness scrutinize the ways by which that one
infinite Mind of God leads His creatures to their respective destinies. It is
enough or us that we can prove that there is an infinitely good God, who guides
His creatures to those particular ends which He conditionally intends, as often
as the conditions are put, and that in any case He guides them to those ends
which He absolutely intends, making all things contribute to the last general
end of creation.

Lange's objection appeared quite lately in a new form. "I am not saying," says
Mr. Mallock,{25} "that the theory of evolution has disproved the existence of a
designer, but that it has destroyed the traditional evidence that the designer
is good, or indeed that he is even wise and skilful. How it has done this can be
explained briefly as follows. Suppose we were told of a certain marksman that
every one of his rifle-shots, no matter at what distance, invariably hit the
target in the very centre of the bull's-eye, we should say that this was
evidence of unrivalled skill. Supposing, however, we were to discover
subsequently that for every shot that hit the bull's eye he had fired a thousand
that hit the rim of the target, and fifty thousand that hit the neighbouring
haystacks, instead of thinking him skilful for having hit the bull's-eye
occasionally, we should be inclined to think him skilful if he contrived always
to miss it. Now the old idea of creation was that everything was created
suitable to the conditions of its existence; in other words, the bull's-eye was
hit each time. The scientific theory is the precise opposite -- that most things
were created unsuited to the conditions of their existence; and those only have
survived which happened accidentally to suit them. In other words, for each time
the bull's-eye is hit, it is missed thousands of times; and as the God we are
assuming is, ex hypothesi, firing eternally, the fact of his hitting the target
is no proof of his having aimed at it. If the discoveries of science amount to
anything, they amount to this -- that the successes of nature are the siftings
of innumerable failures; and if there is any force in the argument, that the
successes show skill, there is equal force in the argument that the failures
show want of it. . I am granting that the existence of a designer is not only
not disproved by science, but proved by it. The one thing on which I am here
insisting is that science does not indeed disprove that the designer is good and
wise, but assuredly does destroy every proof that he is."

Answer. We beg our reader not to mistake the proper meaning of this difficulty.
Mr. Mallock is far from upholding the cause of agnosticism. All be contends for
is that, in the face of modern scientific discoveries, God's goodness and wisdom
cannot be proved by reason, although they can be certified by faith.
For the present we are only concerned about the wisdom of the Designer of
Nature. By what arguments does our objector think that science has destroyed the
evidence for it? He refers us to the theory of eternal evolution. Science, he
considers, has made it certain that evolution has been an eternal process in
nature, and upon this assumption his argument is manifestly based. Is, then,
this basis solid? If "eternal" evolution is to mean evolution without beginning,
it is certain that no cautious thinker would venture to maintain that it has
heen established with any degree of probability on the grounds of scientific
facts. Moreover, we have had occasion to prove that eternal evolution in this
sense is intrinsically repugnant (pp. 146, 147). Perhaps by eternal evolution
Mr. Mallock only means evolution throughout countless ages. Even if thus
explained, can evolution be taken for more than what Mr. Huxley takes it for --
viz., "a workable hypothesis"? Whether the true answer be negative or
affirmative, we will at all events start from the assumption that evolution
existed and went on through unmeasurable geological periods, after the manner in
which Darwinians conceive it. On this assumption, if with a view to consider the
tenability of the hypothesis, we suppose the laws of evolution to have been
instituted by a Personal God, the comparison he makes between a marksman and the
arranger of the universe is intelligible enough. As the marksman aims at the
target in such a way as to hit, if possible, the bull's-eye, so God, in laying
down the laws of evolution for inanimate and animate things, has a certain aim;
and if He is to be taken as wise in any considerable degree, He must reach His
aim not only in some cases, but at least in most cases; He must reach it in each
case not only approximately, but with precision. Otherwise He would be like a
marksman who misses the target a far greater number of times than he hits it,
and who when hitting it strikes only the rim, not the bull's-eye.

But now if we are to judge from the appearance of nature whether God does hit
the bull's-eye to this extent, we must first be certain what is the bull's-eye
at which He is aiming when He lays down and maintains laws of evolution for
matter and life. Mr. Mallock seems to think that according to our doctrine God
has intended that every living being should be in complete harmony with its
surroundings, and should always be placed in such conditions as would foster and
not hinder its connatural development. It is quite true that if this had been
the object of the Creator, scientific facts might be said to have destroyed all
our evidence for His wisdom, and laid us open to the attacks of agnosticism. But
the advocates of the design argument have never imagined that the Divine
intention in framing this world was to disregard the inherent tendencies to
corruption, and to secure to each form of organic life the completion of its
natural development and the fulness of comfort and enjoyment. This has not even
been supposed of man, the highest among living organisms. If indeed man's life
as a whole to the inclusion of the life to come were meant, we should have to
speak differently. But as far as that portion of his life is concerned which is
led here below, it was acknowledged many thousand years ago by one whose theism
is beyond suspicion that, "Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is
filled with many miseries."{26} And the very Founder of Christianity deemed the
conditions of life so inadequate to assure absolute happiness and development
that among the reasons for which He wished His disciples not to be over-anxious
for the future, we find this, "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof."{27}
Under the heading "Divine Providence" we shall show that God has created the
world for the manifestation of His goodness to rational creatures, and for the
happiness of the latter, who alone are capable of true happiness. Consequently,
in so far as evolution with the restrictions laid down above (pp. 133, 134) may
be admissible, this is the final goal towards which its whole course must be
directed. And the final goal must be reached only and precisely in that degree
of perfection which the Creator intends.

We conclude, then, by saying that the target at which the Designer of Nature is
aiming is not the prosperity of corporeal life, and the bull's-eye in the target
is not the perfect adaptation of each individual life to its surroundings. The
true target is God's glory and the final happiness of those rational creatures
who obey the voice of their conscience, and the bull's-eye in the target is
precisely that degree of God's glory and man's final happiness which the Creator
in the light of His infinite knowledge has fixed absolutely. It will be hard for
the champions of natural science to show either that the end of creation thus
explained is asserted without sufficient evidence or to prove that it will not
be reached finally.

{19} Essays on Religion, p. 172.
{20} Caird's Introductions to the Philosophy of Religion, pp. 146, 147.
{21} Cf. §§ 43-45, where the full proof of this statement is given
{22} L.c. pp. 176, 177.
{23} Geschichte des Materialismus (2te Auflage). Vol. II. pp. 246, 247.
{24} Pp. 28, 29, 30, 35, 36, &c.
{25} Fortnightly Review, November, 1890, p. 766.
{26} Job xiv. 1.
{27} St. Matt. vi. 34.
Natural Theology: 28 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 5. -- Darwin's reasons for doubting the existence of God.

119. As appears from the Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, edited by his son
Francis,{28} that great observer of Nature never denied the existence of God.
The arguments brought forward to prove that there is a God, seemed to him
sometimes quite overwhelming; and in such moments he was forced to be a complete
theist. Yet, after he had lost his faith in the Gospels, he lost also the
habitual conviction, formerly so strong in him, that the universe is ruled by a
wise God. His attitude towards monotheism became that of a non-aggressive
agnostic. Most of the reasons by which he tried to justify his position, are
closely connected with his biological theory of evolution. On account of the
great influence which this theory exercises over many minds, we think it well to
give these reasons in full with Darwin's own words and to test their force

The value of the Argument from Design is called in question by Darwin chiefly
for three reasons, each of which we will state in Darwin's own words.
(a) In his autobiography, written in 1876, he says:{29} "The old argument from
design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive,
fails, now that the law of Natural Selection has been discovered. We can no
longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must
have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There
seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the
action of Natural Selection, than in the course which the wind blows. I have
discussed this subject at the end of my book on the Variation of Domesticated
Animals and Plants; and the argument there given has never, as far as I can see,
been answered."

The argument to which we are referred in this passage is as follows:{30} "Are we
to believe that the forms are preordained of the broken fragments of rock which
tumble from a precipice and are fitted together by man to build his houses? If
not, why should we believe that the variations of domestic animals or plants are
preordained for the sake of the breeder? But if we give up the principle in one
case, . . . no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations .
. . which have been the groundwork through Natural Selection of the formation of
the most perfectly adapted animals in the world, man included, were
intentionally and specially guided."

The doubt expressed in the preceding lines is dwelt upon also in a letter to
Miss Julia Wedgwood (written July 11, 1881){31} He owns in this letter that "the
mind refuses to look at this universe being what it is, without having been
designed." Yet he finds it too difficult to believe that all variations of
organic structures should have been designed, for instance, "each variation in
the rock pigeon." It seemed to him that to care about such was scarcely worthy
of a Being who is the Maker of a universe. "Do you consider that the successive
variations in the size of the crop of the pouter pigeon which man has
accumulated to please his caprice have been due to "the creative and sustaining
powers of Brahma?" In the sense that an omnipotent and omniscient Deity must
order and know everything, this must be admitted; yet in honest truth, I can
hardly admit it. It seems preposterous that a maker of a universe should care
about the crop of a pigeon solely to please man's silly fancies. But if you
agree with me in thinking such an interposition of the Deity uncalled for, I can
see no reason whatever for believing in such interpositions in the case of
natural beings," &c.

In the same sense Darwin expresses himself in a letter to Dr. Gray:{32} "An
innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of lightning.
Do you believe (and I really should like to hear) that God designedly killed
this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can't and don't. If you
believe so, do you believe when a swallow snaps up a gnat that God designed that
that particular swallow should snap up that particular gnat at that particular
instant? I believe that a man and a gnat are in the same predicament. If the
death of neither man nor gnat are designed, I see no good reason to believe that
their first birth or production should be necessarily designed."

We may put Darwin's argument in concise form as follows: If some adaptations of
certain antecedents to certain consequents are explained by design of the
Creator, all must be explained so, however trifling they may appear. But not all
can reasonably be explained so; for instance, it cannot be reasonably referred
to creative design that pieces of rock tumbling from a precipice are found fit
for building houses, or that man turns rock pigeons artificially into fantail
pigeons, or that a flash of lightning kills an innocent man, or that a swallow
snaps up a gnat. There is consequently no sufficient reason for admitting design
at all.

What shall we answer to this? At first sight it might seem reasonable to doubt
whether it is necessary to admit design everywhere in nature, if you admit it
anywhere. There is indeed no immediate appearance of intrinsic contradiction in
the idea of a universe in which only the more important operations should be
guided by design.{33} Considering, however, that the first Designer of the world
is self-existent and infinitely perfect, He must know from eternity not only in
general, but in detail, all conditionally future results of any plan possible.
Moreover, His infinite wisdom necessarily prevents any event from happening, the
occurrence of which would in no way serve His plan. From this it follows that
every effect in the universe has been designed by God inasmuch as He has
foreseen it, and has from__eternity decreed not to prevent its happening, but to
make its occurrence serve the end of all creation.{34} Granting then Darwin's
assertion that we cannot be consistent with ourselves, unless we admit that all
effects in nature have been foreseen and preordained, we deny altogether that
there is anything repugnant to reason in this admission. Reason forbids us
indeed to admit that each particular event has been designed by a particular act
of the Divine mind distinct from the act by which the whole of the universe was
planned. Such an assumption would clash with God's simplicity and infinite
perfection. But there is nothing intrinsically repugnant in the statement that
God by one act of His infinite intellect foresaw all events, and by one act of
His infinite will subordinated each of them to a particular good purpose. On the
contrary, this cannot be denied, without denying what is logically connected
with God's infinite perfection, as will appear in our treatises on Divine
knowledge and providence.

120. (b) Another doubt against the conclusiveness of the design argument arose
in Darwin's mind from the consideration of the so-called "rudimentary organs in
man. He thus expresses it in a letter to Asa Gray (December 11, 1861):{35} "With
regard to Design I feel more inclined to show a white flag than to fire my usual
long-range shot. I like to try and ask you a puzzling question, but when you
return the compliment I have great doubts whether it is a fair way of arguing.
If anything is designed, certainly man must be: one's 'inner consciousness'
(though a false guide) tells one so; yet I cannot admit that man's rudimentary
mammae . . . were designed."

The difficulty in conceiving "rudimentary" organs as designed, expressed in the
above passage, has often been repeated by Darwinists. Tt rests upon their not
seeing the particular purpose those organs should serve. But from the fact, that
the immediate object of an effect in nature cannot be discovered by us, it
certainly does not follow that such an effect was not designed for some
immediate object. As we have remarked already, when solving Lange's difficulty,
there are many things apt to further the attainment not only of one but of
several particular ends. Granting then for argument's sake, that a "rudimentary"
organ may be useless to the organism in which it is found, this In no way
justifies the inference that it is altogether useless; or that it is out of
harmony with the final end an infinite Creator must intend by decreeing the
existence of the universe. We have touched upon this final end above (§ 118). We
have explained there that God creates in order to manifest His perfection to His
intellectual creatures. But does it follow from this that each fact in nature
must be understood by man? No one can reasonably deny the possibility of the
existence of intellectual creatures whose minds are far more penetrating than
the mind of man. Supposing then that there exists a world of created spirits, is
it not very probable that they see perfectly the rationale of the rudimentary
organs, and recognize in them a vestige of supreme wisdom? And even apart from
this, the puzzle caused by the discovery of "rudimentary" organs seems to
resemble much the amazement naturally arising from the sight of any complicated
arrangements of which we only know the final outcome. For instance, a man of
common sense who knows no more about the mechanism of a watch than that by
turning the key properly, it can be made to measure time, enters the shop of a
watchmaker well furnished with all sorts of instruments and materials. What the
particular purpose may be which each of them answers in the construction of
watches, his ignorance prevents his knowing; but it does not hinder him from the
exercise of a reasonable belief that there is none among them all that is
useless for the work of the watchmaker. Thus he knows the common remote end of
all the things he sees, without understanding anything about the particular
proximate end through which each must pass in order to reach the common remote

What such a man knows about the instruments he is looking at and what he does
not know, seems to illustrate well both the knowledge we are able to attain
about natural events and the ignorance in which we must remain. By logical
reasoning based upon undeniable premisses, the certain conclusion can be arrived
at that the whole universe is under the sway of one supreme infinitely wise
Lord, that He penetrates with one act of His infinite Mind the essences and
actions and mutual relations of all things, that He intends them all for a final
end worthy of His Infinite Wisdom, and that He cannot fail to direct them
rightly to this end. On the other hand, comparatively little can be known by man
about the proximate object of particular things and events, although he may be
sure that in some way or other they must lead up to the attainment of the final
end. Even when he does catch a glimpse of the usefulness of things in
particular, he never can grasp it fully, because he never comprehends the nature
of any natural being, nor does he comprehend its relations to other beings,
although he may know a great deal about both. Consequently, no solid doubt as to
the wise guidance of nature can be based upon our not seeing the "why and
wherefore" of things in particular. it is abundantly sufficient that the "why
and wherefore" in general can be proved evidently.

Moreover, in the particular case of rudimentary structures, is it so certain
that we can form to ourselves no conception at all of some possibilities of
their utility? Mr. Mivart suggests that they may perhaps be useful in aiding the
physiological balance of the organism. His whole passage may be appropriately

"As to rudimentary structures we may content ourselves with asking, in the words
of Buffon, 'Why is it to be considered so necessary that every part in an
individual should be useful to the other parts and to the whole animal? Should
it not be enough that they do not injure each other, nor stand in the way of
each other's fair development? Moreover, such rudimentary structures may have a
certain utility, may aid the physiological balance of the organism after all! It
cannot yet be shown to be so, but neither can it be shown that it is not so.
They are parts of a great whole, which to be adequately understood must be
surveyed in its entirety. But any one of us can as little judge the scope of the
whole universe, as a fly perched on a pinnacle of York Minster, can perceive the
plan, pressures, and bearings of the stones of that glorious pile."{36}
Buffon's suggestion that it is sufficient if a rudimentary structure is not
harmful to the individual, might perhaps seem open to the reply that if the
world were designed by God, we ought to find not mere harmlessness but positive
utility in each one, even the minutest of its parts. We are of the same opinion.
But from that alone it does not follow that Mr. Mivart was wrong in supporting
to a certain extent Buffon's view. To say that a part of an animal is not
positively useful to that individual animal, to its vegetative and sensitive
operations, is assuredly not the same as to say that it is of no use. The whole
animal with all its parts is to be considered not only as an individual being,
but also in relation to the whole species; and the usefulness of each part is
not only to be estimated from its appropriateness to physiological functions,
but also from its value as contributing to the external expression of that idea
of the Creator of which each organic type is a realization. It is from this
standpoint that the celebrated physiologist Carpenter quotes with approval the
following words of Mr. Paget: "These rudimental organs certainly do not serve,
in a lower degree, the same purposes as are served by the homologous parts which
are completely developed in other species or in the other sex. To say they are
useless is contrary to all we know of the absolute perfection and all-pervading
purposes of creation; to say they exist merely for the sake of conformity to a
general type of structure is surely unphilosophical, for the law of Unity of
organic types is, in larger instances, not observed, except when its observance
contributes to the advantage of the individual. No: all these rudimental organs
must, as they grow, be as excretions, serving a definite purpose in the economy
by removing their appropriate materials from the blood, thus leaving it fitter
for the nutrition of other parts, or adjusting the balance which might otherwise
be disturbed by the formation of some other part. Thus they minister to the
self-interest of the individual; while, as if for the sake of wonder, beauty,
and perfect order, they are conformed with the great law of Unity of organic
types, and concur with the universal plan observed in the construction of
organic beings."{37}

121. (c) A third difficulty of Darwin against the Argument from Design arose
from the consideration of the vast amount of suffering in sentient beings. It
seemed to him that a benevolent Creator could hardly have predestined His
creatures to so much misery, whereas Natural Selection might sufficiently
account for it. He says{38} "That there is much suffering in the world no one
disputes. Some have attempted to explain this with reference to man by imagining
that it serves for his moral improvement. But the number of men in this world is
as nothing compared with that of all other sentient beings, and they often
suffer greatly without any moral improvement. This very old argument from the
existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent First Cause seems
to me a strong one, whereas the presence of much suffering agrees well with the
view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and Natural
Selection." The way in which he thinks to explain the sufferings of men and
animals by Natural Selection he thus sums up: "Such suffering is quite
compatible with Natural Selection, which is not perfect in its action, but tends
only to render each species as successful as possible in the battle for life
with other species in wonderfully complex and changing circumstances."
A particular sort of suffering which caused Darwin to have misgivings in regard
of design is mentioned by him in a letter to Asa Gray.{39} "I cannot persuade
myself," he says, "that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly
created. the ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within
the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. Not
believing this, I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly
designed." In the same letter, however, he admits that such suffering proves
nothing conclusively against an omniscient Creator.

We answer to all this: An omnipotent and benevolent Creator cannot design
sufferings merely for suffering's sake; He cannot find His delight in the
sufferings of His creatures. But there is no argument to prove that He cannot
will physical sufferings as a means for the bringing about of a real good
connected with the final end of creation. It is not necessary that each
suffering of a sentient being should have been proximately designed with a view
to man's moral improvement. It may immediately have regard to something else,
and may mediately serve the bringing about of a state of things of which man
finally can make use for his moral improvement. In any case it will serve to
reveal either to man or to other intellectual creatures higher than man the
wonderful ways of God's. wisdom. That there is no Divine attribute with which
the sufferings and moral disorders of this world can rightly be said to clash,
we shall prove conclusively in the treatise on Divine Providence. "But," a
Darwinian may object here, "after all it has not been shown that Darwin was
wrong, when he thought that the sufferings which make life so bitter, are far
more satisfactorily explained by the hypothesis of Natural Selection than by
that of design." A sufficient answer to this objection is obvious enough.
Whatever truth there may be in the theory of Natural Selection, certainly such
process of selection could not begin before the existence of living organisms
capable of struggling for the maintenance of their lives. But it has already (§§
45, 46) been demonstrated that Natural Selection, even if it be a true cause of
the habits and interests of living beings, cannot be their ultimate cause.
Intelligence must even then be inferred to lie behind and to have established
the evolutionary system in which Natural Selection plays so prominent a part.
Granting then, for argument's sake, that Natural Selection can account for the
prevalence of happiness with the addition of an unavoidable measure of
suffering, as Darwin believed,{40} it certainly is not the chief cause either of
happiness or of suffering, but is only instrumental in working out the plan
conceived by the First Intelligent Cause, as Darwin himself once rightly
conjectured. when he wrote to Dr. Asa Gray as follows: "I can see no reason why
a man or other animal, may not have been aboriginally produced by other laws,
and that all these laws may have been expressly designed by an omniscient
Creator, who foresaw every future event and consequence."{41}

122. Against the proof of theism drawn from the common belief of mankind, Darwin
makes this remark: "This argument would be a valid one if all men of all races
had the same inward conviction of the existence of God; but we know that this is
very far from being the case."{42}

There is no point in this objection unless the argument, which it attacks, takes
this form: "All men have always believed in one God. But this belief would never
have spread so universally if there were not really one God. Consequently we
must he certain about the existence of God."

Of course such an argument is open to the objection made by Darwin. But this is
not the argument we have given above. (Cf. c. ii. § 49.) We argue thus: There
has always existed in the majority of men a persistent belief in a Nature of
some kind or other, superior to the material world and to man; a belief against
the reasonableness of which, considered in its universal character, nothing can
be said; a belief, moreover, the origin whereof can only be satisfactorily
explained by taking the belief to be well-grounded and true. Consequently, it
must be admitted that there exists a Nature, superior to the material world and
to man.

Any doubts that might arise against the soundness of this argument have already
been solved in the passage quoted above. (C. ii. § 49.) In that place attention
was also called to the inability of the moral proof to stand by itself alone as
an unassailable foundation of monotheism. Nevertheless, its value must not be
under-rated. Although, without support from the argument of a First Cause it
cannot convince us of the existence of One, Infinite God; yet it is strong
enough to satisfy every reasonable thinker that atheism and agnosticism are not
congenial to human reason, and must, therefore, be abandoned by every one who
would not come into the predicament in which Darwin confessed himself to be{43}
in "a hopeless muddle."

123. We come next to Darwin's difficulty against the argument of a First Cause.
He thus expresses it in his autobiography:{44} "Another source of conviction in
the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings,
impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme
difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful
universe, including man, with his capacity of looking far forwards and far into
futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I
feel impelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree
analogous to that of man, and I deserve to be called a theist. This conclusion
was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the
Origin of Species, and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with
many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt, Can the mind of
man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that
possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand
conclusions? I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse
problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us, and I
for one must be content to remain an agnostic." In this passage Darwin confesses
that the premisses which lead to the conclusion of a first Intelligent Cause are
undeniable, and that the connection of that conclusion with its premisses is so
close that the human mind cannot help seeing it. Such a conclusion is, according
to all sound logicians, the enunciation of an objective truth. And yet Darwin
stops short of being satisfied. And why? Have his careful biological
observations led to the discovery of any fact incompatible with the existence of
God? Assuredly not.{45} The only reason alleged by Darwin for the abandonment of
his previous convictions is that a mind developed from that of the mind of the
lowest animals is not competent to form an opinion on so grand a problem. This
kind of false humility which refuses to accept the conclusions of logic and the
evidence of reason because, forsooth, we are developed as Darwin imagines from
the amoeba, does not need refuting. Even if our minds had the origin which he
ascribes to them, it would be worth nothing as an argument. A mind derived
through generation from brutes would be utterly unable to draw any conclusion at
all. The soul of a brute is a substantial principle "entirely immersed in
matter," altogether without power of reasoning.{46} Between an imaginary soul
developed from the soul of an amoeba and the real soul of man there is an
infinite difference. Man's soul, as we have seen, is a spiritual being, the
origin of which is due to immediate Divine creation. (Th. XVII.) Considering
this truth, Darwin's objection simply disappears.

As we have already shown, no natural law can be reasonably explained without
reference to a first Intelligent Cause. If, therefore, progressive development
and Natural Selection are laws of nature, they must, like other laws, imply
belief in an "all originating, all fore-ordaining, all regulative intelligence
to determine the rise and the course and the goal of life as of all finite
things."{47} It is, therefore, quite natural that men who are both acquainted
with the results of scientific inquiry and grounded in solid philosophical
principles prove to be among the first champions of monotheism. And why is
Darwin not among them? Because he believes fully in the development of the human
mind from what he calls the "mind of the lowest animals." Is, then, this belief
grounded on fact? Not at all. A consideration of the facts to which our own
consciousness continually bears witness has led us to the evident conclusion
that the mind of man is a spiritual substance. (§§ 31-37, incl.) In this
conclusion we are supported not only by the most subtle philosophers of all
ages, but also by one of the most prominent and thoughtful biologists of our own
time. "The soul," writes Professor St. George Mivart, "though existing amongst a
constant succession of changing conditions, can think of an eternal unchanging
absolute. The soul knows itself as looking before and after, and as that which
both thinks and endures -- persisting thus for years, or, in other words, as a
spiritual substance. Above all, the soul can appreciate right and wrong, and now
and then freely choose its motive, and so dominate and control the chain of
physical causation by its free-will. All these considerations show that its
nature is far more widely removed from that of the active principle of the ape
than is the latter from a magnet. And as the soul or active principle of an ape
differs from the activity of a magnet by a difference of kind, so the soul of a
man differs yet more in kind from that of an ape."{48} Dr. Carpenter, also
another distinguished biologist, tells us that the enunciations, "I am," "I
ought," "I can," "I will," are "firm foundation-stones on which we can base our
attempt to climb into a higher sphere of existence."{49} He considers the human
will as "something essentially different from the general resultant of an
automatic activity of the mind" as "a self-determining power;"{50} and
consequently that "the death of the body is but the commencement of a new life
of the soul."{51}

Darwin's doubts prove nothing more clearly than that the entertainer of them had
a right appreciation of his capacity for philosophy when he wrote, "I have had
no practice in abstract reasoning, and I may be all astray."{52} Our attention
will now be occupied with the arguments of men who pushed their power of
abstract reasoning to such lengths as to construct the whole universe a priori.
These are our modern pantheists, leader and chief of whom is Spinoza.

{28} Vol. I. viii. "Religion."
{29} Ibid. p. 309.
{30} The Variation of Animals and Plants, Vol. II. p. 433.
{31} Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1. p. 314.
{32} Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I. pp. 314, 315.
{33} In a letter to Asa Gray, dated November 26, 1860, the great biologist
himself inclines to take this view. He writes: "I am inclined to look at
everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or
bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at
all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for
the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let
each man hope and believe what he can." (Life and Letters, Vol. II. p. 312.)
{34} Cf. the solution of Lange's difficulty, § 118.
{35} Life and Letters, Vol. II. p. 382.
{36} On Truth, pp. 478, 479.
{37} Paget, Lectures on Surgical Pathology, p. 31; quoted by Carpenter, Human
Physiology, p. 281.
{38} Life and Letters, Vol. II. p. 311.
{39} Life and Letters, Vol.1. p. 311.
{40} Life and Letters, Vol. I. p. 310.
{41} Darwin to Asa Gray, May 22, 1862. Life and Letters, Vol. II p. 302.
{42} Life and Letters, Vol. I. p. 312.
{43} Darwin wrote to Asa Gray, Nov. 26, 1860: "I grieve to say that I cannot
honestly go as far as you do about design. I am conscious that I am in an
utterly hopeless muddle. . . . Again I say I am and shall ever remain in a
hopeless muddle." (Life and Letters, Vol. II. p. 353.)
{44} Life and Letters, Vol. I. pp. 311, 312.
{45} Even Professor Huxley acknowledges this: "The doctrine of Evolution is
neither anti-theistic nor theistic. It simply has no more to do with theism than
the first book of Euclid has. . . . There is a great deal of talk and not a
little lamentation about the eo-called religious difficulties which physical
science has created. In theological science, as a matter of fact, it has created
none. Not a solitary problem presents itself to the philosophical theist at the
present day which has not existed from the time that philosophers began to think
out the logical grounds and the logical consequences of theism." (Life and
Letters, Vol. II. pp. 202, 203, in c. v. written hy Huxley.)
{46} Mivart, Nature and Thought, p. 226; Maher, Psychology, pp 550-554.
{47} Flint, Theism, p. 209.
{48} Nature and Thought, p. 266.
{49} Mental Physiology, p. 376.
{50} Ibid. p. 392.
{51} Human Physiology, p. 1120, § 888.
{52} Letter to Asa Gray in Life and Letters, Vol. I. p. 315.
Natural Theology: 29 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 6. -- Spinoza's proof that God is the only substance, and that
everything else is a mode of God.

124. According to the pantheistic theory, expounded in Spinoza's Ethics, there
is only one substance, unproduced and infinite -- God.{53} Besides God, no
substance can exist or be conceived to exist: consequently, whatever is, is in
God; it is a mode or affection of the Divine Nature.{54} God is not the
transient or external cause of all things, but their immanent cause;{55} they
are all determined by the necessity of the Divine Nature to exist and to act in
a certain definite manner{56} Hence it follows that so-called freedom of will is
a chimera,{57} and that things could have been produced by God in no Other way
or order than as they have been produced.{58}

These are the leading tenets of the thirty-six propositions, in which Spinoza,
in the first part of his Ethics, explains his views about the primary cause of
all things. From the general refutation of pantheism given above (Th. X. § 78),
it is evident that these propositions contradict external and internal
experience, and contain a virtual denial of the first principles both of
speculative and of practical reason. Yet they are worked out with a show of
exactness which has captivated while it has imposed upon many minds. It becomes,
therefore, worth while to deal with them in some measure. We shall, however,
confine ourselves to the one underlying fallacy on which the entire system is
based. This is his misuse of his ambiguous definition of substance, which we
shall examine briefly, and then pass on to the principles by which the German
pantheists Fichte and Hegel, in spite of the unpopularity of their systems, have
led the way to more modern forms of monism.

Spinoza rests his proof that God is the only possible substance on the
proposition that one substance cannot be produced by another substance,{59}
which is a virtual assertion of pantheism. This proposition is proved by a
series of previous propositions,{60} all of which are based on the definition of
substance with which he starts. Substance is defined by Spinoza as "that which
is in itself and is conceived by itself alone, that is to say, that of which the
concept can be formed without involving any other concept."{61}

This definition is patently ambiguous, and in order to make sure whether
Spinoza's sixth proposition is really implicitly contained in it, we must
inquire into the different ways in which the definition may be understood. Its
meaning depends upon the interpretation of the phrase, "that which is in itself
and is conceived by itself." This may signify (1) a complete individual,
physical being, as distinguished from its natural properties and accidental
modifications; it may also signify (2) a self-existing being, a being under all
aspects independent of any other being, whether as an underlying subject in
which it inheres, or as a cause from which it proceeds. On the first
interpretation, Spinoza's definition of substance is almost identical with the
scholastic definition; on the second, his definition is not applicable to any
but the first Being, the Divine Essence, and as this Essence cannot be
multiplied, Spinoza's Prop. vi., "One substance cannot produce another
substance," follows from it, and this involves Pantheism. Yet the absurdity of
pantheistic monism (Th. X.) proves fully that nobody can interpret substance in
the second meaning of Spinoza's definition without committing himself to sheer
nonsense. Now as to the steps of reasoning by which Spinoza reaches his famous
Prop. vi., it will be enough to remark on the first. His Prop. i. runs thus:

"Substance is prior in nature to its affections."{62} In proof of it he says
nothing but that it follows from his definitions of substance and of mode. We
have said enough about the former. The latter is as follows: "By mode I
understand an affection of substance or that which is in something else by which
also it is apprehended."{63} This may signify a substantial principle imparting
to the whole its specific character, or a natural property really distinct from
the being of which it is predicated, or an accidental modification of a being.
Thus the soul of a dog is in the matter of its body as a specifying principle
(forma substantialis): the faculty of understanding, considered in its
operations, is in the human soul as a natural property really distinct from the
soul; and the derangement of mind is in the lunatic as an accidental

If, then, we take Spinoza's definition of substance in the first of the two
senses given above, and his definition of mode in the first of the three senses
just explained, his first proposition is false. It is not true, for instance,
that a dog is prior in nature to the specifying principle called his soul.
Taking the same interpretation of the definition of substance along with the
second and third interpretations of the definition of mode, we find the first
proposition to be evidently true; for it is undeniable that natural properties
and accidental modifications of a particular being cannot be conceived, except
as following the existence of that being. In so far as they do not follow its
existence in the order of time, they at least follow it in the order of nature,
that is to say, their existence cannot be conceived but on the supposition that
the being exists of which they are predicated. Finally, if we take Spinoza's
definition of substance in the second sense given above, and his definition of
mode in any of the three senses explained by us, it appears at once that his
first proposition is altogether false. We have proved that God is physically and
metaphysically simple. He is therefore not a substance like matter, which can be
raised to diverse substantial degrees by the reception of diverse specifying
principles. Nor are there in Him natural properties to be conceived as something
under certain aspects really distinct from His essence, and following that
essence, in the way that an act of our understanding is really distinct from and
follows the essence of the soul. Much less can God be the subject of merely
accidental modifications.

But in what sense does Spinoza take his two definitions? Explicitly he does not
tell us. Yet in the arguments by which he supports his following
propositions{64} there is not any force, unless substance be taken in the second
sense; and, as he declares creatures to be affections or modes of the One
infinite substance,{65} mode is taken in the third sense explained by us. Hence
it is evident that in Spinoza's very first proposition there are hidden two
false suppositions, the one that substance is synonymous with self-existence,
the other that self-existence is changeable. The first of these two assumptions
we have refuted in Th. X., the other will explicitly be refuted in Th. XXII.{66}

{53} Ethics, Part I. Prop. vi. vii. viii. xi.
{54} Ibid. Prop. xiv. xv.
{55} Prop. xviii.
{56} Prop. xxix.
{57} Prop. xxxii.
{58} Prop. xxxiii.
{59} Prop. vi.
{60} Prop. i-v. incl.
{61} "Per substantiam intelligo id quod in se est et per se concipitur, h.e. id
cujus conceptus non indiget conceptu alterius rei, a quo formari debeat."
{62} "Substantia prior est natura suis affectibus."
{63} "Per modum intelligo substantiae affectiones sive id quod in aijo est, per
quod etiam concipitur."
{64} Prop. ii-vi.
{65} Prop. xiv. xv. 66.
{66} See also Appendix II. pp. 449, seq.
Natural Theology: 30 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 7. -- Remarks on the theories of Fichte, Hegel, and others.

125. According to Fichte the Ego is the embodiment of all reality. All
individual things, to the existence of which consciousness and experience
testify, are nothing but different aspects of the infinite reality of the Ego,
bound by fatal necessity to oppose itself to itself. Whatever therefore man
perceives is properly speaking in himself, inasmuch as his own being is one
reality with the many-sided infinite Ego.

The foundation upon which this pantheistic idealism rests is the belief that
knowledge of existences separate from that of the person knowing transcends the
bounds of possibility.

"Whatever you are looking at as outside yourself," says Fichte, "is always your
own self; whatever you are conscious of in it, you are really contemplating
yourself."{66} This opinion grew upon him by reading the first edition of Kant's
Criticism of Pure Reason. Following out logically what Kant had said about the
impossibility of giving a satisfactory account of the objectivity of our
knowledge by speculative reason, Fichte did away with the object, and thus
converted the world into a necessary illusion of the One Infinite Subject. The
general refutation of pantheism given by us above (§§ 78-81, inclus.) suffices
abundantly to show how utterly Fichte's system is opposed to sound reason. And
we may add that those who like Fichte consider the entire world to be but a
series of interesting games played by consciousness with its subjective
phenomena, are quite unreasonable in challenging their opponents to point out a
bridge by which they may pass from real subject to real object. Either they
believe that they have opponents or they do not. If they do not, why ask the
question? If they do, therein is the acknowledgment that in their own cognitive
faculties they possess a bridge which is sufficiently safe.{67}

126. In a quarrel between the followers of Fichte and those of Hegel, the latter
may claim for their master the distinction of greater dialectical skill, but it
will be impossible to show that the Hegelian system considered in its essence is
more in harmony with reason than that of Fichte.

Hegel calls the Divine Essence the Idea, and explains it so as in reality to
signify by the term the abstract concept of being. Thought and Being are one in
his system. If he had said this of the Divine Nature distinct from and above the
world, he would have been perfectly right. God is at once Infinite Being and
Infinite Thought. What is thus true of God, Hegel affirms of the Idea of Being,
under which our mind conceives whatever is and can be. This Idea of Being, as
Hegel regards it, is something infinite, something generating within itself by
natural evolution all finite things, opposed as they are to one another, and
persevering in its own reality as the unity of these opposites.{68}

The basis of this theory is the fiction, that not the singular, but the
universal is properly real. Hence it follows that as there is one concept which
expresses the most universal object, i.e., Being as such, that concept must be
the foundation of all reality, so much so, that all existing things are but
determinations of abstract Being, evolving itself into finite beings opposed to
one another. This fiction has its origin in the confusion of the real order of
things with the ideal order; in other words, in the confusion of the beings
conceived by us with our way of conceiving them. Though our external and
internal experience bears witness that there are many finite beings altogether
distinct from one another, and though by reasoning we arrive at the knowledge of
one Infinite Being, really existing apart from all finite beings, yet with our
intellect we can abstract from all the differences between Finite and Infinite,
and from all the differences between various finite beings, and come to consider
whatever is, simply in so far as it is not nothing.

Thus we form one indeterminate concept of Being, applicable to all beings,
however vast the difference between them. But from this abstraction producing
the concept of universal Being, it does not follow that there is in reality one
universal Being, of which all particular beings are modes or determinations. On
the grounds which moved Hegel to maintain that all being is properly one being,
we should have just as much right to say that all Englishmen are properly one
Englishman, and that the English race dies out as often as an Englishman
breathes his last, and nevertheless lives on as precisely the same Englishman in
another shape.

127. The system of Schopenhauer, who takes the world to be the evolution of an
underlying "will," and that of Hartmann, who makes the "unconscious" answerable
for the multitude of creatures, exhibit the self-evolution of the First Cause in
a form more offensive not only to Christian but also to human Sentiment.
Another form of monistic error is the materialistic evolutionism according to
which "material and mental groupings have gradually advanced from the simple to
the complex, until the extraordinary complexity of the human brain and human
thought processes have been reached."{69} Such hypotheses spring from erroneous
opinions on the nature of intellect and causality, and they suppose the
possibility of eternal succession. These subjects have been sufficiently dealt
with, partly in the present volume and partly in other of the series.
The adherents of these various systems like to be called "monists," and they are
wont to apply the name of God to their One Reality, into which they profess to
resolve all existence. But the true name for them is "atheists," and we must
protest against the practice of giving to the name of God a meaning distinct
from that which it has hitherto borne, and even opposite to it in all that gives
to the idea of God its special value as the basis of moral conduct and

{66} Fichte, Die Bestimmung des Menschen, p. 228.
{67} The idealism contained in Fichte's system has found a fuller refutation in
the treatise of this series entitled First Principles.
{68} Cf. Encyclopädie, Band. i. §§ 79-82.
{69} Nature, October 28, 1886. In a review of Sidgwick's Outlines of Ethics, by
C. LL. M.
Natural Theology: 31 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 8. -- Aristotle's reasons for the necessity of eternal motion. Similar
modern arguments from the writings of Kant and Cousin.

128. Aristotle was a monotheist, but he did not understand the dependence of the
universe upon the free-will of its Creator, and therefore fell into the error of
advocating the necessity of eternal motion. By motion he means not only local
change, but every change in bodies, and it is his opinion that God, the
self-existent immoveable mover of all things, if He caused the existence of a
universe in motion, must have caused it from eternity. In support of this
position, Aristotle brings forward three arguments, of which the second and
third are repeated in another form by Kant and Cousin.

129. His first argument is this:{70} Before a body can be changed, it must
exist. But it cannot come into existence except in virtue of a change, and this
change supposes another change, and so on to infinity in the past. Consequently
matter has been changing from eternity.

Answer. Granting the major of the argument, we deny the minor. A changeable body
can originate by creation out of nothing, a mode of origin which does not
contain a process of change, as proved above. (Cf. Th. XIV. § 84.)

130. Second Argument of Aristotle. -- Where time is, motion is. But time had no
beginning; for every moment of time is the end of past and the beginning of
future time. Consequently there was no first moment.

Answer. Again we have no objection to the major, but we must deny the minor. The
truth underlying the statement made in the minor is this, that there must always
have been duration. But there is a great difference between duration in general,
and that special form of duration called time. Duration is a general term simply
denoting persistency of existence. Time is a particular kind of duration of
which the characteristic is succession; a new phase of being ever succeeding in
the place of another which ceases to be. Time, therefore, supposes things liable
to change. So far as it signifies the common measure of the durations of
transitory existences and actions in our globe, it is in reality nothing else
but the continual rotation of the earth round its axis, which by the observing
mind of mankind has been divided into its natural parts, each consisting of one
day and one night, of which all our artificial divisions of time are either
parts or multiples. From this it is evident that time must have had a beginning
no less than succession, as we have shown above. (p. 146.) The only duration
which must have been without heginning is the unceasing existence of the one
infinite Godhead.

Bearing this in mind, we can meet the turn by which Aristotle tries to
strengthen his second argument. He says: If there was a beginning of time, then
there was no time before the first moment of time. But this cannot be allowed;
for he who says "before" indicates time past. It is therefore impossible that
time had a beginning.

The answer is this: You can only say "before the first moment of time," if you
mean to use the phrase in reference to an imaginary backward prolongation of it,
devised by the mind as an aid to language: or else it denotes only the eternal
duration, the unchangeable persistency in existence of the Divine Being.
Ordinarily speaking, the first of these alternatives is that which is actually
present to the mind of the speaker who uses the expression "before the first
moment of time," or "before the first moment of the existence of created things
liable to changes."

Similar to that of Aristotle is the following reasoning of Kant: "Let us assume
that it (the world) had a beginning. Then as beginning is an existence which is
preceded by a time in which the thing is not, it would follow that antecedently
there was a time in which the world was not, that is, an empty time. In an empty
time, however, it is impossible that anything should have its beginning, because
of such a time no part possesses any condition of existence or non-existence to
distinguish it from another."{71} We answer, that empty time is no time. There
was no real time before the beginning of the world. God alone existed, and made
the beginning of time by creating the world. But God's duration is unchangeable
eternity. Therefore the beginning of the world was preceded by eternity, not by

131. Third Argument of Aristotle. -- The origin of all motion is ultimately due
to God, the first absolutely unchangeable cause. But the first absolutely
unchangeable cause cannot produce motion except from eternity to eternity: for
otherwise He would undergo change Himself. It is therefore impossible that
motion if existent should ever have had a commencement.

Answer. The proposition that a cause which continues unchanged cannot have an
effect now, unless it has had the same effect before and will have it
afterwards, holds good only on the supposition that the cause produces its
effect by natural necessity. It is in no way applicable to God, who calls His
creatures into existence by an eternal free decree of His will, and by the same
decree determines the limits of their existence and motion, both in time and
manner. We have already suggested as a help to realize this compatibility of the
creative exercise of Divine free-will with the non-eternity of the effects, the
analogy of the relation of the exercise of the human free-will to its effects in
the moral order. The decrees of the sovereign, though all made together, come
into effect at various times, some sooner, others later. There is no need of any
contemporaneousness between the commencement of the effects and the
determinations of sovereign will by which they are caused. We do not propose
this illustration as an argument, but rather as an analogy which enables the
mind to conceive to itself under some concrete form the mode of action which we
are led by due course of reasoning to attribute to the Divine exercise of
free-will. From this illustration we are entitled to gather at least this much,
that, if the Divine will is able to produce physical realities of itself, by its
sheer exercise, and if the decree of that will persists unchangeable, as it was
conceived from eternity, then no further difficulty arises from the
non-contemporaneousness of the commencement of the effect with a corresponding
commencement of the Divine decree which is its cause.{72} That the Divine will
is thus effective, we prove from the infinity of the Divine Nature.
With the argument of Aristotle may be compared the assertion of Victor Cousin,
that God is the one absolute and infinite substance, and as such is essentially
a cause. Consequently, argues this author, He cannot abstain from producing

To this our reply is, that God is essentially a cause only inasmuch as by virtue
of His essence He can cause, but not as though His essence determined Him
irresistibly to create finite things. As we have proved in the fourth chapter,
God chose freely from eternity the act of creation, being able not to choose it.
And as He has chosen the act itself, so He has freely fixed the moment of the
beginning of His creatures.

{7O} We give here Aristotle's reasons in a compendious form. See the text in
Aristotle's Physics, Lib. VIII. cc. i. vi. and St. Thomas in his commentary in
Lib. VIII. Physicorum, Lect. 2, especially from n. 16 to the end, and Lect. 13,
n. 8 towards the end.
{71} Cf. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, by M. Müller, Vol. II. p. 369.
{72} Cf. pp. 138, seq.
{73} Cf. Cousin, Cours de 1828, Leçon v. p. 26.
Natural Theology: 32 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 9. -- Mansel's arguments for the doctrine that all our attempts to form
to ourselves the idea of God involve us in contradiction.

132. Among the defenders of the groundwork of Christian faith against atheism in
England some twenty or thirty years ago, not the least conspicuous was Dean
Mansel. His Limits of Religious Thought went though several editions. There is a
great deal of valuable matter in the work, entitling the author to be regarded
as one who has in some respects done good service. Yet it is to be regretted
that some passages betray a want of sound principles, and contain statements
which in the hands of an acute adversary can serve as weapons for attacking the
very cause they are meant to uphold. They have been taken advantage of by Mr.
Herbert Spencer in his advocacy of agnosticism.

Mansel's work consists of eight lectures. In the second of these he tries to
prove that when we compare the attributes of God one with another, though each
of them seems to be brought home to us by lawful reasoning, yet our intellect
cannot help seeing contradictions between them. At the same time he is of
opinion that man has sufficient grounds for ignoring these contradictions, and
for supposing that they are not objective but only subjective, owing to the
weakness and ineptitude of our minds for dealing with a Being so immense as God.
This is the escape by which he saves his religious convictions, as he declares
in the third lecture.

His final conclusion he states as follows: "It is our duty, then, to think of
God as personal; and it is our duty to believe that He is infinite. It is true
that we cannot reconcile these two representations with each other; as our
conception of personality involves attributes apparently contradictory to the
notion of infinity. But it does not follow that this contradiction exists
anywhere but in our own minds; it does not follow that it implies any
impossibility in the absolute nature of God. The apparent contradiction, in this
case, as in those previously noticed, is the necessary consequence of an attempt
on the part of the human thinker to transcend the boundaries of his own
consciousness."{74} Mr. Herbert Spencer, after giving in his second and fourth
chapters on the Unknowable long extracts from Mansel's argument, refers in his
fifth chapter to Mansel's conclusion in the following terms: "That this is not
the conclusion here adopted, needs hardly be said. If there be any meaning in
the foregoing arguments, duty requires us neither to affirm nor deny
personality. Our duty is to submit ourselves with all humility to the
established limits of our intelligence, and not perversely to rebel against
them. Let those, who can, believe that there is eternal war set between our
intellectual faculties and our moral obligations. I, for one, admit no such
radical vice in the constitution of things."{75}

The "eternal war" and the "radical vice," of which Mr. Spencer speaks here, are
certainly to be deprecated by any reasonable man. But is either the one or the
other a necessary consequence of true monotheism? Let us judge for ourselves by
examination of the extracts from Mansel to which Mr. Spencer appeals.
133. Mansel thus reasons about the metaphysical idea of the Infinite: "The
metaphysical representations of the Deity, as absolute and infinite, must
necessarily, as the profoundest metaphysicians have acknowledged, amount to
nothing less than the sum of all reality. 'What kind of an absolute Being is
that,' says Hegel, 'which does not contain in itself all that is actual, even
evil included?' We may repudiate the conclusion with indignation; but the
reasoning is unassailable. If the Absolute and Infinite is an object of human
conception at all, this, and none other, is the conception required. That which
is conceived as absolute and infinite must be conceived as containing within
itself the sum, not only of all actual, but of all possible modes of being. For
if any actual mode can be denied of it, it is related to that mode, and limited
by it; and if any possible mode can be denied of it, it is capable of becoming
more than it now is, and such a capability is a limitation."{76} Mr. Spencer
seems to suppose that against this explanation of the notion of the Infinite
nothing can be said; yet there is everything to be said against it. It is not
true that the Absolute and Infinite Being must contain whatever is actual, and
whatever mode of being is possible. In so far as that which is actual contains
an imperfection, and a fortiori in so far as it contains a privation, it cannot
possibly be conceived as belonging to the Infinite: for the Infinite is an
embodiment of all perfections without admixture of imperfection. Created
perfections exist in God, as we have explained, not formally with their
limitations, but eminently as in one undivided unchangeable Essence. If the
perfections of creatures are in God without limit, they are in Him certainly
without the presence of any evil whatsoever, for evil is more opposed to
perfection than mere limitation; it is a privation of the perfection that is due
to a being. To say with Mansel that the exclusion of any possible mode of
existence from the Infinite would be to put a limit to its nature, is against
reason. There is no possible mode of created existence without limit, because,
as we have proved. only one Being unlimited in perfection is possible.
Consequently, not merely one or another possible modes of created existence, but
all possible modes of created existence, must, as such, be alien to the Divine
Being. Nevertheless, as we have shown in treating of the Infinity of God, whilst
the modes with which created perfections exist cannot be in God, the reality
expressed by the abstract concept of each perfection is in the most proper sense
of the word included in His simple and infinite Essence. Creatures are distinct
from this Essence, but put no limit to it, because their nature is infinitely
below the Divine Nature. Created beauty does not suffer in any way from its
being represented by artists, now in stone, now in metal, now on canvas; because
all these representations are only imperfect imitations of the original. How,
then, should God cease to be infinite by being distinguished from a multitude of
creatures, each of which is only a very imperfect copy of His simple Being,
though it may excel among its fellow-creatures?

134. Another argument of Mansel against the intelligibility of the First Cause
is based upon a comparison of the idea of Cause with that of the Absolute. Both
must be predicated of God, and yet they seem to exclude one another. "A Cause,"
says he, "cannot, as such, be absolute: the Absolute cannot, as such, be a
cause. The cause, as such, exists only in relation to its effect: the cause is a
cause of the effect; the effect is an effect of the cause. On the other hand,
the conception of the Absolute implies a possible existence out of all relation.
We attempt to escape from this apparent contradiction, by introducing the idea
of succession in time. The Absolute exists first by itself, and afterwards
becomes a Cause. But here we are checked by the third conception, that of the
Infinite. How can the Infinite become that which it was not from the first? If
causation is a possible mode of existence, that which exists without causing is
not infinite; that which becomes a cause has passed beyond its former

To the first part of this argument, we concede that a cause cannot be absolute,
if it causes under the pressure of necessity; for in this case the existence of
the cause is dependent on the existence of its effect, inasmuch as it requires
it as its essential complement. Nor can it be absolute and infinite, if it does
not produce an effect without undergoing internal change. But there is no reason
for saying that the nature of a Being cannot be an absolute and infinite cause,
if its causation is both free and conducted without any internal change. The
possibility of such a way of causation is, as we have already urged, not only
not opposed to the Divine attributes of Absoluteness and Infinity, but is a
necessary consequence of them. God being absolute and infinite, must be
infinitely powerful, infinitely free in His volition regarding the existence of
creatures, and at the same time immutable. His causation is consequently a free
act of His will, which, on account of its infinity, is capable of such an act
without being changed. Such causation is incomprehensible, but it is not
inconceivable. We know perfectly what we mean by asserting it, and we see clear
reasons for asserting it, though on account of our finite nature we cannot
fathom the manner in which it exists.

135. The proposition, that our mind sees contradiction between God as a Cause
and God as Absolute, is argued by Mansel also in another way. Supposing rightly
that creation must be thought of as an effect of God's free volition, he says:
"Volition is only possible in a conscious being. But consciousness again is only
conceivable as a relation. There must be a conscious subject and an object of
which he is conscious. The subject is a subject to the object; the object is an
object to the subject; and neither can exist by itself as the absolute. This
difficulty, again, may be for the moment evaded, by distinguishing between the
Absolute as related to another and the Absolute as related to itself. The
Absolute, it may be said, may possibly be conscious, provided it is only
conscious of itself. But this alternative is, in ultimate analysis, no less
self-destructive than the other. For the object of consciousness, whether a mode
of the subject's existence or not, is either created in and by the act of
consciousness, or has an existence independent of it. In the former case, the
object depends upon the subject, and the subject alone is the true absolute. In
the latter case, the subject depends upon the object, and the object alone is
the true absolute. Or if we attempt a third hypothesis, and maintain that each
exists independently of the other, we have no absolute at all, but only a pair
of relatives; for co-existence, whether in consciousness or not, is itself a

This whole argument is based upon a wrong hypothesis regarding the nature of
knowledge. Mansel, like many modern authors, labours under the false impression
that knowledge essentially supposes a plurality of terms; and that consequently
no knowledge is possible, unless there exist a subject knowing and an object
known, really distinct from one another. This is true of sense perception only;
it cannot be applied to intellectual self-consciousness. If you apply it to the
latter, you never can explain how a man knows that he exists and thinks and
wills. An intellectual being is spiritual, and of such a nature that it cannot
know anything different from itself without knowing itself as the knowing
principle. In so far, therefore, as we apprehend ourselves as thinking
principles in all acts of our intelligence, we are at the same time subject and
object of our knowledge. Now God, the Absolute, Infinite, unchangeable Being,
does not only know that He knows, but He is essentially a Being knowing Himself.
There is no real difference between His Essence and the act of His

In answer, therefore, to Mansel's difficulty, we deny that his three hypotheses
to explain the self-consciousness of the Absolute exhaust the possibilities of
the case. He has left out precisely that alternative against which no solid
reason can be brought forward, and which is an evident consequence of the
infinity of God. God does not know Himself by creating a mode of existence in
His Essence, or by having such a mode really distinct from His Essence in
Himself. He knows Himself in virtue of His Essence alone, which is both infinite
Being and infinite Thought, the one not really distinct from the other.
136. In the simplicity of God, Mansel finds another source of apparent
contradiction in the Divine attributes. "The almost unanimous voice of
Philosophy," he says, "in pronouncing that the Absolute is both one and simple,
must be accepted as the voice of reason also, so far as reason has any voice in
the matter. But this absolute unity, as indifferent and containing no
attributes, can neither be distinguished from the multiplicity of finite beings
by any characteristic feature, nor be identified with them in their

This argument proceeds from a wrong conception of God's simplicity. God is not
one and simple in this sense, that He is an indeterminate substratum underlying
all existences; but He is one and simple inasmuch as His Essence in virtue of
its self-existence contains without division and composition, equivalently and
supereminently, all conceivable perfections.

137. Not less unsound than the preceding arguments are those by which Mansel
labours to show a contradiction between other Divine attributes. "How," says he,
"can Infinite Power be able to do all things, and yet Infinite Goodness be
unable to do evil?" This difficulty falls to the ground when we consider that
omnipotence does not mean infinite liability to defects, but infinite power of
calling into being any conceivable reality, not in the omnipotent Being itself
but distinct from and dependent upon it. He who commits sin allows himself to be
overcome by wrong motives of action. The malice of sin does not consist in the
production of a physical effect, but in the voluntary neglect of a rule of
conduct which reason prescribes as inviolable. The question, therefore, "How can
God be omnipotent if He cannot sin?" betrays either a wrong notion of
omnipotence or a wrong notion of sin.

Mansel's next question is: "How can Infinite Justice exact the utmost penalty
for every sin, and yet Infinite Mercy pardon the sinner?" We may allow this
question to stand over till we come to treat of the Divine will. A right
conception of justice and mercy in God will put an end to the difficulty.
Our author proceeds: "How can Infinite Wisdom know all that is to come, and yet
Infinite Freedom be at liberty to do and to forbear?"
To this we reply: God's free decrees are as eternal as His knowledge of the
future. Whatever He freely does or forbears to do in time, that He does or
forbears to do, not in consequence of a new decree, but in harmony with His
eternal decrees.

The rest of Mansel's reasonings are virtually solved by the preceding answers.
The most important among them is the old difficulty against God's perfection
drawn from the existence of evil. This difficulty deserves a special treatment,
which it will receive in our disquisition on Divine Providence.

138. After having dwelt in his second lecture on the contradictions contained in
the idea of God, Mansel in the third tries to explain their origin. As a
believer in Christian revelation, he endeavours to show that they are a
necessary consequence of the limitations of our human understanding, and ought
not, therefore, to be assumed to have objective validity. If, however, it is
possible that the contradictions may not really exist, it is worth inquiring
whether we can find any grounds for believing that they do or do not. From the
position thus taken up he passes afterwards to the conclusion that the belief in
God, as He is revealed to us by Christ and His Apostles, may, in spite of all
contradictions enumerated before, find a reasonable foundation in the positive
evidences by which it recommends itself to the needs of our nature. Following
this line of argument, he has drawn down on himself a storm of agnostic
criticism, against which his idealistic theory of knowledge leaves him no

The argument by which this theory is supported, and which consequently is the
second chief proof of the impossibility of conceiving the Infinite and Absolute,
rests upon the relativity of human knowledge. "To have consciousness of the
Absolute as such," says Mansel, "we must know that an object, which is given in
relation to our consciousness, is identical with one which exists in its own
nature, out of all relation to consciousness. But to know this identity we must
be able to compare the two together; and such a comparison is itself a
contradiction. We are, in fact, required to compare that of which we are
conscious with that of which we are not conscious; the comparison itself being
an act of consciousness, and only possible through the consciousness of both its
objects. It is thus manifest that, even if we could be conscious of the
absolute, we could not possibly know that it is the absolute; and, as we can be
conscious of an object as such only by knowing it to be what it is, this is
equivalent to an admission that we cannot be conscious of the absolute at all.
As an object of consciousness, everything is necessarily relative; and what a
thing may be out of consciousness no mode of consciousness can tell us."{80}
This argument proves too much. We might conclude from it that Mansel could not
be conscious of the paper on which he was writing his lectures, of the audience
before whom he delivered them, and of the existence of atheists, of whose
impiety he complains. All these things were known to him only as related to his
consciousness; and his consciousness being in its real existence limited to his
individual soul, he could not possibly know whether beyond his consciousness
there was any paper to write on, or any persons to talk to, or any adversaries
to fight against. All may have been a part-creation of consciousness deceiving
itself with idle phantoms. But this conclusion is revolting to common sense, and
leads to universal scepticism.

139. A third reason why Mansel thinks it impossible for man to form a positive
idea of God is expressed thus: "It is impossible that man, so long as he exists
in time, should contemplate an object in whose existence there is no time. For
the thought by which he contemplates it must be one of his mental states; it
must have a beginning and an end: it must occupy a certain portion of duration
as a fact of human consciousness. There is, therefore, no manner of resemblance
or community of nature between the representative thought and that which it is
supposed to represent; for the one cannot exist out of time, and the other
cannot exist in it."{81} If Mansel merely meant to say that a temporal being
could not have a comprehensive knowledge of an eternal being, this is manifest
from the diversity of nature between the two.{82} But he means more than this;
he means that a temporal being can form no distinct trustworthy notion whatever
of an eternal being. We can reply that our proofs do not lead up to a
comprehension of the eternity of God, but they make us sure of the existence of
God as an eternal Being, inasmuch as we have a clear and distinct, though
inadequate, concept of this Being as an Infinite Substance, existing without
beginning and without end, and without any change in the way of its existence.
140. A similar answer must be given to the last reason by which Mansel
endeavours to prove the purely negative character of our idea of God. He says
rightly that we can conceive the various mental attributes of God only as
existing in a personal being. "But," he continues, "personality, as we conceive
it, is essentially a limitation and relation. Our own personality is presented
to us as relative and limited, and it is from that presentation that all our
representative notions of personality are derived. Personality is presented to
us as a relation between the conscious self and the various modes of his
consciousness. There is no personality in abstract thought without a thinker;
there is no thinker, unless he exercises some mode of thought. Personality is
also a limitation; for the thought and the thinker are distinguished from and
limit each other; and the several modes of thought are distinguished each from
each by limitation likewise. If I am any one of my own thoughts, I live and die
with each successive moment of my consciousness. If I am not any one of my own
thoughts, I am limited by that very difference, and each thought as different
from another is limited also. This too has been clearly seen by philosophical
theologians; and accordingly, they have maintained that in God there is no
distinction between the subject of consciousness and its modes, nor between one
modc and another. 'God,' says St. Augustine, 'is not a Spirit as regards
substance, and good as regards quality; but both as regards substance. The
justice of God is one with His goodness and with His blessedness; and all are
one with His spirituality.' But this assertion, if it be literally true (and we
have no means of judging), annihilates personality itself in the only form in
which we can conceive it. We cannot transcend our own personality, as we cannot
transcend our own relation to time; and to speak of an Absolute and Infinite
Person, is simply to use language which, however true it may be in a superhuman
sense, denotes an object inconceivable under the conditions of human

In this passage Mansel himself carries us so far on the way as this, that if
there be no distinction in God between the conscious self and the modes of
consciousness, as again between the modes of consciousness among themselves,
there is no foundation for conceiving of His Nature as in this particular
respect implicated in relations and limitations. And although he says here that
we have no means of judging whether this absence of internal distinctions really
exists in God, he has previously remarked with much justice, in words already
quoted, that "the unanimous voice of Philosophy, in pronouncing that the
absolute is both one and simple, must be accepted as the voice of reason also,
so far as reason has any voice in the matter." Nor can the qualification in the
last clause be allowed to explain away the force of this admission. If reason is
to have a voice in creating the contradictions, she has certainly a claim to be
heard when she represents that the contradictions are not really of her
creating, but arise from a misconception of the true nature of her utterances.
There remains then but one outstanding point in Mr. Mansel's passage to be
considered. Do we by identifying in God the conscious self and the modes of
consciousness, "annihilate personality in the only sense in which we can
conceive it"? This depends on the sense in which we do conceive it. Speaking in
the name of Catholic Philosophy and repeating the utterance of all true thought
and self-introspection, we understand by personality the "subsistence of a
rational nature." Let us explain this technical term. Subsistence is what
characterizes the existence of a natural whole as distinguished from the
existence characteristic of the component parts of a natural whole. The arm of a
man exists not in itself, but in the man, as a part in the whole; so also does
the body, and so again does the soul, though here one has to speak more
carefully, the soul being able to exist apart and exercise by itself the
principal functions of the whole. On the other hand, the man exists in himself
and in nothing else as in a containing whole that is, in a containing natural
whole, for of course things can be taken together as component parts of a system
of aggregates like the universe. For anything to subsist then is to exist in
itself and not as a natural part of something else. Personality we have defined
to be subsistence of a rational nature. That is to say, when the being which
subsists has a rational nature and therewith consciousness, we call it person,
and its subsistence personality. Accordingly, when we say that God is a personal
God, we mean that He exists in Himself and not as a part of some whole, and that
He possesses Mind and Consciousness. This is the only concept of Personality we
can consent to deal with, when we claim it for God. We cannot accept the
description given by Dr. Mansel, that personality is merely a "relation between
the conscious self and the modes of his consciousness."

Do we, then, virtually deny the personality of God in the only form in which we
can conceive it, when we deny of Him relation and limitation by asserting that
the perfections which we represent to ourselves by distinct concepts as His
attributes and modes are objectively in Him as a single and absolutely simple
reality? Clearly not. it is true, we do not attribute to Him the perfections
which we find in ourselves as existing in Him in the same "formal" manner as
they are in us, just because in us they are characterized by attendant
imperfections and limitations. We take the perfections found in ourselves as a
nucleus; we divest it of its accompanying imperfections and limitations by an
act of negation; we then enlarge the measure of the perfection to infinity by
affirming that not only those limits are excluded from it which are inseparable
from human perfection, but all limits whatsoever. In this way out of the
original nucleus furnished by direct observation we form to ourselves by
affirmation and negation a composite concept, and then led by just inference we
proceed to take this as a valid and valuable though inadequate representation of
the Divine Nature under some one or other of its aspects. This doctrine has
already been propounded. But no apology is needed for the repetition, since the
failure to bear it in mind lies at the root of the imagined contradictions which
form the unsolved problem of Dr. Mansel's philosophy.

Let us now apply the doctrine explained to the point immediately under
consideration. Although personality is not consciousness, yet, as we have
stated, it implies consciousness as an attribute of the person, and it is the
nature of consciousness which Mansel considers to involve an essential relation
and limitation. That there is any real relation and consequent mutual limitation
between the subject and object of consciousness -- inasmuch as intellectual
consciousness comes under consideration -- we have denied even in regard to our
own created consciousness, maintaining on the contrary that in consciousness the
subject and object are essentially one. But there is in man the distinction,
with its admitted consequences of relation and mutual limitation, between the
self-conscious subject and the modes of his consciousness, and again between the
latter among themselves. This distinction appears, therefore, in the original
concept which we form to ourselves of consciousness. It appears then, however,
only as incidental, not as the central and direct element in the concept. This
central element, therefore, we can take as a nucleus, since in itself it is pure
perfection. We then by negation and affirmation represent to ourselves a
consciousness which is realized not by the passage of the subject from the
potential into the actual state, but is ever actual: a consciousness which
embraces in its vision the entire being of the subject; a consciousness which is
not realized by even an abiding act distinct from the conscious subject itself,
but is realized inasmuch as the subject is in virtue of its infinity Infinite
Consciousness as well as Infinite Being.

Thus, then, we arrive at an inadequate indeed, but nevertheless a distinct and
true, idea of God, an idea not purely negative, but negativo-positive. And thus,
for all the apparent contradictions in the monotheistic idea of God, which Mr.
Spencer has drawn from Mansel's famous work, it remains true that "we adore that
which we know."{84}

{74} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition), p. 89.
{75} First Principles, p. 108.
{76} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition), p. 46.
{77} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition), p. 47.
{78} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition), pp. 48, 49.
{79} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition), p. 50.
{80} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition), pp. 74. 75.
{81} Limits of Religious Thought (Third Edition). p. 81.
{82} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 12. 4.
{83} Mansel's Limits of Religious Thought, pp. 84, 85.
{84} St.John iv. 22.
Natural Theology: 33 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.



141. THE origin of the universe, though neither an object of immediate intuition
nor of pure a priori demonstration, is nevertheless knowable; and that, not on
authority only, but also by reason.

From the causality of things surrounding us, from the thoughts and volitions of
our own mind, from the orderly arrangements visible everywhere in Nature, from
the universal belief of mankind in some sort of Deity, and finally from the
logical consequences of atheism and agnosticism, we arrive by lawful reasoning
at the conclusion that the universe is not an effect of the forces of matter,
nor of the evolution of some Unknowable being, but has started into existence at
the will of a self-existing Mind, through the power of a personal God, whose
Essence is one, simple, infinite, and who is the cause of all finite things, not
by self-evolution, as pantheists would have it, but by creation out of nothing.
His decree to create was a free act, and had no beginning; but there is nothing
to prove that the effect of that decree must have been without beginning. On the
contrary, creation from eternity is hardly admissible, even if its absolute
impossibility is not demonstrable. Moreover, as regards the existence of the
universe known to us, we have in its changes and generations an evident proof of
its limited duration, and in this its limited duration an additional argument
for its dependence upon the good pleasure of the one, infinite, personal God.
These are, in short, the conclusions proved and defended in the previous book.
We now pass on to the further and fuller investigation of the nature of the
attributes of God. The basis on which throughout we shall have to build is the
doctrine of the Divine Infinity, which itself rests on the doctrine of the
Divine Unity and Simplicity. In carrying it out we shall be guided by the three
canons of Divine attributes laid down already. (§§ 70-72 inclus.)

According to these canons those names of created perfections must be predicated
of God, the meaning of which by abstraction and total denial of limits can be
conceived without their implying any imperfection. They cannot indeed be
predicated of God and of creatures univocally, but they can analogically, as we
have explained in the place just referred to. We have also seen that names of
created perfections which necessarily connote imperfection, cannot be predicated
of God save in a metaphorical sense.

142. It may be interesting to note how these canons were expressed by the
ancient writer who goes under the name of St. Dionysius the Areopagite. Among
his works there is one, De Divinis Nominibus, held in high esteem during the
middle ages, and explained by St. Thomas.

In this book the attributes of God are said to be established in three ways,
which are named, the way of removal, the way of affirmation, the way of

(1) The way of removal we may call also the way of negation. -- By this way what
are termed the negative Divine attributes are found. We "remove" from God in
thought any name of created perfection, the meaning of which cannot be conceived
in the abstract without connoting a defect. Thus we say, by the way of removal,
that God is incorporeal, i.e., cannot be formally extended according to three
dimensions; that He is simple, i.e., not composed of parts; that He is
immutable, i.e., cannot pass from one state of existence to another. These
negative attributes, whilst explicitly denying certain imperfections of created
beings to exist in God, affirm thereby implicitly the opposite perfections to be
in Him.

(2) The way of affirmation. -- By this is predicated of God whatever created
perfection can be conceived in the abstract without connotation of imperfection.
Thus we state that God is powerful, wise, truthful, benevolent, &c. Power,
wisdom, veracity, benevolence, are perfections conceivable without necessarily
connoting a defect. In affirming them of God we must however be on our guard not
to apply to Him the limitations encompassing their abstract meaning, in so far
as the latter is verified in creatures. The expedient open to us in order to
guard ourselves against this error is called,

(3) The way of eminence. -- We have recourse to this way when we affirm positive
attributes of God in such sort as to deny at the same time that the perfection
affirmed is limited in Him. Thus we say by way of eminence that God's wisdom,
power, goodness, benevolence, are boundless or infinite.

143. We have also to hear in mind the mutual relations of the attributes among
themselves before we can thoroughly grasp the explanation to be given of them.
In treating of the Divine simplicity (§§ 61-64 inclus.) we have seen that God is
not only physically simple but also metaphysically, which means that no two
concepts can be formed of His Essence without the one overlapping the other.
Consequently, as the physical simplicity of God forbids us to admit accidental
perfections in Him (§ 61), the significations of any two Divine attributes must
implicitly cover one another. From this it does not, however, follow that the
names of different attributes of God convey the same knowledge to our mind. The
term, "Divine Mercy," differs explicitly in its meaning from that of "Divine
Justice." We say, therefore, that both attributes (and the same holds good of
any two Divine attributes taken together), are distinct from one another
metaphysically, though they do not combine in metaphysical composition. They
express the idea of One Incomprehensible God inadequately under different
aspects. For this reason St. Thomas well says that the names of God are not
"synonymous." "Though the names given to God signify the same thing, yet they
signify it under many different mental aspects, and consequently are not
synonymous," for "those words are said to he synonymous which signify one and
the same thing from the same point of view."{1}

144. We now proceed to treat of the Divine attributes in particular, developing
more fully what has been established in the first book.

In the second chapter of that hook we proved that there exists a self-existent,
intelligent Being, rightly called a personal God; and in the third chapter we
demonstrated that unity, simplicity, and infinity are proper to Him. These
fundamental truths are the basis upon which our further speculations on the
Divine attributes must rest. Having established that God is infinitely perfect,
we see at once that we are to deny of Him whatever attribute necessarily
involves an imperfection, and to affirm whatever attribute can be conceived
without connotation of a defect. Consequently, the Divine attributes are partly
negative, partly positive. We shall treat in the three first chapters
respectively of God's immutability, eternity, immensity; in the next three, of
His infinite knowledge, His infinitely perfect will, and His infinite power.
After this we shall add a special chapter on the metaphysical essence of God.
Since the chapters on the knowledge and will of God are of higher importance
than the rest, we shall treat of them at greater length.

CHAPTER I. The Immutability of God.

Thesis XXII. -- The Divine Being is absolutely immutable.

145. Change is a passing from one state of being to another. If a thing passes
from one species to another, it is said to be substantially changed. Thus,
according to the scholastic view, oxygen and hydrogen change substantially when
transformed into water. Food is changed substantially by assimilation into a
living body. If the specific being of the thing is not affected, the change is
called accidental. Instances of accidental change are mechanical motion in a
body; in a living being, growth and sensation; in a human mind, a new set of
thoughts and volitions.

God is not liable to any of these changes. This truth some scholastic authors
express by saying that God is physically immutable. They distinguish between
physical and moral mutability, understanding by the former a liability to change
of physical being, by the latter a liability to change of will. Thus men are
morally mutable, because they can form new resolutions, and abandon those
previously adopted. In human beings such a moral change cannot go on without a
physical change accompanying it; but it is not immediately evident that every
moral change of God would also be a physical change. The infinite Being is
adequately sufficient to choose and not to choose from eternity, as we have
explained in the chapter on creation. Why, then, should He not be able to choose
at one time one thing, at another another, without change in His Being? Why must
He be not only physically, but also morally unchangeable? This question we shall
treat of in the chapter on the perfection of God's will. For the present we are
only concerned about proving that the Being of God cannot be changed in any way.
146. In proof of this we appeal first to God's simplicity.

By every change a thing must either lose or acquire some quality or affection of
its being. On the former supposition, it must consist of at least two really
distinct realities before it changes; otherwise it would lose nothing. On the
latter, it is composed of at least two distinct realities after the change. In
neither case can it be a necessarily simple Being. But, as we have shown (Th.
VIII. §§ 61, seq.), God is necessarily simple to the exclusion of all real and
even of all virtual composition. Consequently He must be absolutely

The same conclusion may be drawn from the infinite perfection of God. As has
been proved above (Th. IX. §§ 65, seq.), God is infinitely perfect. But
evidently He could not be so if He were liable to any change; for by this He
must either become more or less good. If we take the first alternative, and
suppose Him to be bettered by the change, He could not have been infinite before
it. The other alternative is still more obviously untenable. If He became less
good by the change, His infinity would evidently cease to be.

147. It is, indeed, very difficult to see how the immutability of God thus
proved can be consistent with His supreme freedom of choice, but we shall treat
of this subject in the chapter on the Divine will. Here we shall merely call
attention to the difficulties which arise from the fact of creation and the
revealed mystery of the Incarnation.

(1) Difficulty. -- God of His own free choice created the world out of nothing.
He was not necessitated to create it, and if He had not done so, He would not be
the Creator. Consequently the attribute Creator has been added to His Being. But
it could not be added without causing a change. Therefore God has undergone a

Answer. To solve this difficulty, we are to explain what is meant by the
statement, God created the world. It means that God by an eternal free decree
resolved to produce the world out of nothing, and fixed the moments of its
commencement and the term of its duration. He then in harmony with that decree
originated it by His infinite power. Both the decree of creation and the power
by which it was executed are truly in God, but not as entities really distinct
from His Essence. His Essence is infinite, and in virtue of its infinity is
sufficient for forming and executing any decree without internal change. From
this it follows that the attribute Creator is not an intrinsic denomination
signifying some intrinsic affection or state accruing to the Essence of God, but
an extrinsic denomination, signifying the dependence of the world on God as
regards its origin.

The same must be said of the attributes, Preserver of all things, Ruler of the
universe, and the like. They are extrinsic denominations signifying different
respects under which creatures depend upon God's will and power.
The difficulty, then, is solved by denying the statement that the attribute of
Creator has been added to the Being of God. The truth is, that by creation God
has produced things outside Himself, and from this production, by which in
Himself He is in nothing changed, God is extrinsically denominated the Creator.
(2) Difficulty. -- Any difficulty drawn from the mystery of the Incarnation,
strictly speaking, has no place in a philosophical treatise. Still it is
convenient to give it a place, as it is one likely to occur to the minds of
readers. The Son of God, who is really one Being with the Divine Essence, became
Man an at a definite moment of time. Since that moment He has had not only a
Divine Nature, but also a Human one. But it would seem that the union of a Human
Nature with a Divine Person could not be accomplished without a change in the

The answer to the difficulty is that the infinite God does not need any
self-adaptation for any work which He pleases to perform. Consequently the Son
of God needed not to adapt Himself for the assumption of a human nature. Without
change of Himself, He was able to assume humanity at any moment, on the
supposition that a human nature existed in such a state as to be fit for
assumption by the Divine Person. Consequently the mystery of the Incarnation
neither denotes nor connotes any change in the Son of God; but it denotes the
creation of a particular human nature supernaturally raised to union with the
Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and it connotes the absence of human
personality in that nature, on account of its being taken up into the
personality of the Son. It was not, so to speak, the Divinity moving towards the
Humanity, but the Humanity moving towards the Divinity.

{1} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 13, 4. "Nomina Deo attributa, licet significent
unam rem, tamen quia significant eam sub rationibus multis et diversis non sunt
synonyma." . . . "Nomina synonyma dicuntur quae significant unum secundum unam
Natural Theology: 34 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER II. The Eternity of God.

Thesis XXIII. -- God is eternal in the strict sense of the word.

148. The word "eternal" taken in a wider sense signifies endless existence,
though that existence may have a beginning, and may run through various
successive phases. Thus, the life of men after the day of the general
resurrection will be eternal, though not without successive mental acts and
bodily movements. It is called eternal simply because it will never cease.
In its strict sense the word eternity implies an existence which is essentially
without beginning, and without end, and without any successive phases of being.
We beg the reader not to overlook in this definition the word essentially. If we
imagine a spirit created by God from eternity, and preserved by His infinite
power for ever without any internal change, the existence of such a spirit would
be indeed without beginning and end, and without successive phases of being, but
it would not be eternal in the strict sense of the word. And why not? Because
the essence of that spirit would have no existence of itself, but would be
indebted for its existence and its boundless duration to the free choice of the
omnipotent God.

From the definition of eternity just given it is evident that the term, if
predicable at all in its strict sense, is predicable of God alone. No creature
can be essentially without beginning and end and internal succession. Not
essentially without beginning, for there is no reason why any creature must be
created from eternity. Not essentially without end; for God may withdraw from
the creature His preserving power. Not essentially without internal succession,
for at least the infinite power of God can cause in it a new phase of existence.
149. Is then God Himself eternal in the strict sense of the word? Yes; because
as the First Cause, and the only source of all possible being, He must exist
with absolute necessity, and therefore can have no beginning. Absolute necessity
of existence must be identical with His essence, on account of His simplicity,
which we have proved to be not only physical but metaphysical (Th. VIII. § 61,
seq.); and therefore it is impossible that He should cease to be. His existence
is unchangeable (Th. XXII.); therefore it cannot contain any different
successive phases or modes of being.

Boëthius, who flourished about A.D. 500, in his work, De Consolatione
Philosophiae, thus defines eternity{1} "Eternity is a simultaneously full and
perfect possession of interminable life." What in our definition was implied by
the terms "existence essentially without beginning and without end," is
expressed by Boëthius more explicitly in the phrase, "possession of interminable
life." Indeed, as eternity proper belongs to God alone, it is identified with
the highest life conceivable, the self-activity of infinite Intellectual Will.
This life is "interminable," or boundless, because it endures of absolute
necessity. It is "simultaneously possessed" in its fulness and perfection,
because, being infinite, it is neither capable of development nor liable to
defect. As it is now, so it has been always in the past, and will be always in
the future. Coexisting with all assignable moments of time, the eternal God is
above any of our measures of the contingent duration of created being. In Him,
therefore, is neither present, nor past, nor future. As Boëthius expresses it,
Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatem -- " The passing now
makes time, the standing now makes eternity."{2} In other words, the duration
proper to the eternal Being must be conceived as one everlasting state, whereas
the duration of temporal being is liable to a succession of states really
distinct from one another.

150. Between temporal and eternal duration there is a duration intermediate,
which, for the sake of distinction, is called by the scholastics, aeviternal
duration, or aevum. It is the duration of created spirits. Both time and aevum
are contingent durations, dependent upon the freewill of the one eternal Being.
But while time is made up of successive states or phases of being, aevum does
not imply any succession. A created spirit may be annihilated, but the specific
spiritual being proper to it cannot be changed; consequently there is no
succession in it, as regards its substantial perfection. Nevertheless, spirits
are not quite above time, or succession of states in their existence; for,
though the specific perfection of their substantial being is unalterable, they
can still pass from one thought and volition to another, and the creator may
cause in them now one, now another accidental perfection. Their essential being
is above time, but they are liable to accidental modification of temporary
duration. The duration, called time, belongs most properly to matter, which
changes as well in its substantial as its accidental perfection.

St. Thomas expresses the difference between time, aevum, and eternity briefly in
this way: "Time has an 'earlier' and a 'later'; aevum has no 'earlier' and
'later' in itself, but both can be connected with it; eternity has neither an
'earlier' nor a 'later,' nor can they be connected with it."{3}

In other words: Time is made up of a series of changes in a substantial stratum,
or in the accidental state of a complete substance; aevum is not itself a series
of either substantial or accidental changes, but in the finite incorruptible
substance, of which it is the duration, there may be accidental changes;
Eternity is the duration of a Being above all change, whether substantial or
accidental. As the duration called eternity is nothing really distinct from the
Eternal God Himself, we are right in saying that all and each of the successive
events which happen in this world are coexistent with the whole of eternity
considered in itself. But none of them is coexistent with the whole of eternity
in so far as eternity is considered in its relation of coexistence with
preceding or following events, for the simple reason that each temporary event
is a passing reality, whilst eternity is, so to speak, a standing reality, the
everlasting Being whose Essence is Existence, abiding always the same with
absolute necessity. The works of His hands are the heavens. They shall perish,
but He shall continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment, and as a
vesture shall He change them, and they shall be changed; but He is the

151. Hence we gather the solution of difficulties against the eternity of God,
such as the following:

Two things, the duration of which wholly coincides with the whole duration of a
third thing, must coexist with one another. But the Deluge and the Franco-German
War are two things, the duration of which according to the exposition given,
wholly coincide with the whole duration of God. Consequently, whilst the Germans
were fighting against the French, the earth was covered with the waters of the

This difficulty, though commonly urged, need not detain us long, after the
explanations given of the strict contents of the meaning of time as
distinguished from duration. Both in God and in created things there is
duration, for duration in itself is pure perfection. But the Divine duration,
since it is a changeless persistency in existence, does not in itself offer any
means of distinguishing before and after. When, however, substances are created
whose being is liable to successive phases of existence, they, at each period of
their existence, coexist with God, they last, whilst the entire being of God is
persisting. But this clearly does not cause them all to be contemporaneous with
one another, since although coexisting with the entire being of God, they are
not coexistent with the entire duration of God.

The same difficulty and the same solution will present themselves when we
compare the Divine immensity with the localization of bodies. Since God is
everywhere, and everywhere whole and entire, wheresoever any extended substance
is placed it is in the same place with the whole of God: but it would be absurd
to conclude therefore that all bodies are coincident in point of place.

{1} "AEternitas est interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessia." (V.
Prosa vi.)
{2} De. Trin. c. iv.
{3} Tempus habet prius et posterius; aevum autem non habet in se prius et
posterius, sed ei conjungi possunt; aeternitas autem non habet prius neque
posterius, neque ea compatitur." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 10. art. 5. in
{4} Cf. Heb. i. 10-12.
Natural Theology: 35 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER III. The Immensity of God.

Thesis XXIV. -- God is immense.

152. The word "immense," explained according to its etymology, signifies a state
of things not capable of measurement, or of reference to another thing taken as
a rule or standard. Things of this world are measured chiefly under one of three
aspects, either according to their extension in space, called simply extension;
or according to their extension in time, called duration; or according to their
extension in being, called perfection. Under none of these aspects is God
measurable. In so far as no created perfection can be applied as a measure to
His infinite perfection, we call Him infinite; in so far as His duration is
beyond the measure of any created duration, we call Him eternal; and in so far
as He is so present to all things in space, that His presence cannot be measured
either by parts of space or by the whole of it, we assign to Him the attribute
of immensity.

In virtue then of this perfection God exists everywhere in space, without
consisting of parts corresponding to parts of space, and without being limited
to any extension of space. To understand more fully what this means, the reader
must bear in mind what space properly is, and in what different ways things can
be conceived to exist in space.

As time is not a particular enduring reality existing in itself, but an object
of thought, which is formed by collecting mentally and reckoning together the
successive states of changeable things; so space is not a thing having its own
individual being different from the corporeal beings which are said to exist in
it, but it is an object of thought, formed by thinking about the extension of
bodies under a peculiar aspect, namely, by thinking of the relation of distance
between their surfaces, which distance involves three dimensions, and may
therefore be called volume. Representing to ourselves the volume between the
surfaces of one or several particular bodies, we form the idea of a space, or
place within the world; and thinking of the volume between the extreme surfaces
of the whole material world, we conceive the whole of actual space. Space,
therefore, is only actual in so far as extended bodies exist.

Beyond the corporeal world there is, however, infinite possible space, inasmuch
as by the power of God the extension of the world can become larger, and exceed
any assignable limit.

The whole of actual space coincides with the whole of the corporeal world,
considered as included within the extreme surfaces of the extreme bodies. Each
particular body has its own particular space, which means that it is extended
according to three dimensions between the surfaces surrounding it. In so far as
it is included in its own surfaces it is sometimes said to have an internal
space or place; whilst the surfaces of other bodies surrounding it are called
its external space or place.

153. We have next to consider and discriminate the way in which things can exist
in space. A thing is said by the scholastics to exist circumscriptively in
space, if it be divisible into parts corresponding to the parts of the surfaces
surrounding it. As only bodies are thus divisible, they alone can exist in space

A thing is said to exist in space definitely, if its presence be limited to a
certain part of space, and its whole substance be everywhere within the bounds
of that part of space. Thus the human soul is said to exist definitely in the
body, because its existence is conterminous with the body in such a way, that
its whole substance exists whole in the whole body and whole in every part of
it,{2} and on the other hand is found nowhere outside of the body. A thing which
exists in space circumscriptively is said to be formally extended. The definite
existence of an indivisible substance in space is called virtual extension.
By the immensity of God we understand a mode of existence in corporeal things or
space, which is neither circumscriptive nor definite. It is not circumscriptive,
because in God there are no parts assignable corresponding to the parts of
space. And it is not definite, because there is no space real or possible where
He does not exist in His entirety, or in other words, because no limit of
possible space can be given beyond which He would not be present to created
things, if the world were extended thus far by His power.

154. Is then the way of existence we are speaking of really proper to God? That
He must exist without having parts corresponding to the parts of space, is
evident from His simplicity. But how shall we prove that His essence must extend
its presence to every possible space that may be created, and is not confined to
any fixed limits of corporeal magnitude?

For our first argument again as ever we may appeal to the infinity of God. On
account of this attribute we have to predicate of Him whatever perfection can be
conceived without connotation of defect. But the perfection of being indivisibly
and unlimitedly present to any possible created being, and of surpassing by an
extension which we may call infinitely virtual, the formal extension of every
conceivable corporeal magnitude is evidently a perfection without defect.
Consequently it is in God, that is to say, He is immense.

A slightly different way of arriving at the same conclusion is opened by the
consideration that the creative power of God is infinite. God can create any
number of worlds outside the present, and God alone can do it. If, therefore, He
will create them, He must create them by the immediate application of His own
power.{3} Now it is inconceivable that any efficient cause should immediately
apply its power there, where it is not by its substance. Consequently the Divine
substance is such that it would be present to any possible world supposing that
world to start into existence. This presence would not be anything new in God:
or He would not be immutable. Therefore we must say that the Divine substance
has an existence eminently equivalent to any possible extension whatever of
corporeal worlds, i.e., that God is really immense.{4}

It is gratifying to see this great truth accurately stated by Newton in Scholion
Generale, added to the third book of his Principia, where he says: "God is
present everywhere, not only by His power, but also by His substance; for power
cannot subsist without substance."{5}

155. To express more fully how God is in all His creatures, scholastic
philosophers are wont to say that He is in each of them "by essence, presence,
and power." St. Thomas{6} illustrates the meaning of this phrase by some
instances taken from human life. "A king is said to be in his whole kingdom by
his power, though he is not present everywhere. A thing is said to be by its
presence in all things which are in view of it, as all things that are exposed
in a room are present to a visitor, who nevertheless is not in substance in
every part of the room. Finally, a thing is said to be according to its
substance or essence in that place in which its substance actually is to be

St. Thomas proceeds to apply this doctrine to three forms of error not at all
too antiquated to deserve mention in our day. The first found an eloquent
advocate in John Stuart Mill,{7} the second was partly at least adopted by some
of the deists of last century;{8} and the third is, to say the least, not
opposed with enough decision by some Christian authors who have written on the

These are St. Thomas's explanations: "There have been some, to wit, the
Manicheans, who have said that spiritual and incorporeal things were subject to
the Divine power, but visible and corporeal things to the power of a contrary
principle. Against these then we must say that God is in all things by His

"There were others who believed indeed that all things were subject to the
Divine power; yet did not extend Divine Providence to the things here below.
Their mind is well expressed in the words of Scripture: 'He walks about the
poles of Heaven and does not consider our things.'{10} Against these we must say
that God is in all things by His presence. Again, there were others who granted
that in some way all things are under the sway of Divine Providence, but at the
same time made the assertion that not all things were immediately created by
God. According to them He created immediately only the first creatures, and
these created the rest. Against them we must maintain that God is everywhere by
His essence.

"Thus then He is in all things by His power, in that all depend upon Him, and by
His presence, inasmuch as all things are 'naked and open to His eyes;'{11} He is
in all by His essence, because He is with all as the cause of their existence."
In order to prevent any misunderstanding of the phrase, "God is in creatures by
His essence," St. Thomas presently remarks that it does not mean that His
essence is an ingredient of created essences, but only that His substance is
with them all as the cause of their existence.

And, in the same place, he tells us that the being of God in creatures by His
essence signifies a closer proximity than His being in them by His presence. It
signifies His being, not at a distance from His creatures, as one who sees them
from afar, but at their side, sustaining them by His power. Or, to quote the
words of the Saint: "God is in all things so as to surround them on all sides
with His Being"{12} and, "Nothing is distant from God, as though He had it not
in Himself."{13}

{1} St. Thomas is wont to speak of this circumscriptive existence in space as
esse in loco.
{2} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 76. art. 8.
{3} Cf. Bk. I. c. iv. Th. XVI. § 90.
{4} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 8. art. 1.
{5} "Deus omnipaesens est non per virtutem solam sed etiam per substantiam; nam
virtus sine substantia subsistere nequit."
{6} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 8. art. 3. in corp.
{7} Essays on Religion, p. 116.
{8} Thomas Chubb (1679-1747) taught that since creation God has never acted
immediately upon His creatures, and does not care whether man lives well or
badly. Viscount Bolingbroke (1672-1751) held that God did not care for men as
{9} Crombie, Natural Theology, i. p. 64, disapproves of Newton's saying that God
is everywhere by His substance.
{10} Job xxii. 14.
{11} Cf. Hebrews iv. 13.
{12} "Deus est in rebus sicut continens res." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 8.
art. i. ad 2.)
{13} "Nihil est distans ab eo quasi in se illud Deus non habeat." (Ibid. ad 3.)
Natural Theology: 36 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER IV. The Divine Intellect.

156. THE Divine attributes of which we have thus far treated do not explicitly
suggest to us anything about the action of God. We come now to others which
represent Him in His Divine activity.

The first of them is the Wisdom of God, which we shall consider under five

(1) The perfection of the Divine Intellect contrasted with the defects of the
(2) The knowledge of God completely determined by His Essence.
(3) The objects of Divine Thought.
(4) The way in which God knows the free acts of rational creatures.
(5) The knowledge of God distinguished according to the diversity of its

SECTION 1. -- The perfection of the Divine Intellect contrasted with the defects
of the human.

Thesis XXV. -- The knowledge of God is not capable of progressive improvement;
but whatever a human intellect can understand by compounding together dsfferent
ideas in affirmative and negative judgments and by the processes of inductive or
deductive reasoning, is grasped "eminently" and with absolute perfection by one
simple unchangeable act of the Divine Intellect.

157. This proposition, being intimately connected with the doctrine of the
intellectual nature and infinite perfection of God as proved in the First Book,
needs rather explanation than demonstration.

We say, then, first that there is no progressive development about the Divine
knowledge, no gradual growth of information. The various things of this world
which fall under the experience of a child, are in the beginning represented by
his mind under very general and confused ideas. Only in the course of time does
he become aware of their particular properties, and is able to form judgments
affirmative or negative concerning them. Years pass by before he properly begins
to reason, whether by the ascent of induction from particular facts to general
principles, or by the descent of deduction applying universal truths to
individual cases. What the reader has here to notice is that this method of
procedure involves the multiplication of ideas in the human mind. Ideas are
formed in vast numbers of the various objects of consideration. Judgments,
another kind of idea, and reasonings, which are still another kind, have to be
formed in vast numbers so as to arrange and classify these innumerable ideas
according to the exigencies of the objective order. Yet to the end man remains
ignorant of the greater portion even of those truths which are accessible to
human understanding. The more facts he tries to master, the less attention can
he devote to each. If we consider even the whole treasure of human knowledge,
stored up through countless generations, by multitudinous mental acts of
innumerable men, how imperfect is it all! How are the greatest geniuses baffled
by unsolved problems! How many centuries shall mankind still wait for philosophy
and science to be complete? But in vain do we wait for such a consummation. The
human mind is unable to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of even one of the
innumerable species of creatures that surround us. And as regards spiritual
things, man left to his natural faculties will never proceed beyond an analogous
conception of their nature.{1}

With the Divine mind there is none of all these shortcomings. The Divine
knowledge is infinitely perfect In its embrace of every conceivable object of
thought, and it is infinitely perfect from the first, or rather from eternity.
And this infinite perfection of knowledge is attained not by any succession of
ideas, not by any compounding of predicates with subjects, nor again by any
passage from premisses to conclusions. It is attained by one all-embracing act
of intuition. And this one act what else can it be but the Divine Essence
itself? If it were anything really distinct from it, God's essence would neither
be simple, nor infinite, nor immutable nor eternal, as we have proved it to be.
We must then conclude with St. Thomas, "It must be affirmed that God's knowledge
is His substance."{2} He, the infinite Being, is unchangeable, infinite, actual

{1} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 88. art. 1.2.3.
{2} "Est necesse dicere quod intelligere Dei est ejus substantia." (St. Thomas.
Sum. Theol. Ia. 14. 4. c.)
Natural Theology: 37 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- God's Knowledge completely determined by His Essence.

Thesis XXVI. -- The Divine Mind does not need any determination from without to
enable it to know all truth. God's mere Essence is determination sufficient for
Him to comprehend whatever there is to know. Hence His Essence is the "species
intelligibilis" by which He understands all things different from Himself as
well in general as in particular.

158. The mind of man is in communication with that which it knows; nay, it
possesses it in a certain way within itself. This truth is implied by the
terminology of common language, as when people say: "I have grasped it; I
comprehend it," in order to signify that they have understood something. As
often as the object understood is not one and the same with the mind by which it
is understood, the union between the two cannot be such that the actual reality
of the thing known shall be in the knowing mind, but a representation only will
be present there. This representation is a certain property or quality in the
mind, in Virtue of which it is determined to know a certain object. Intelligible
Species is the name by which scholastic philosophers call this mental
representation, whereby the human mind is determined to grasp and understand the
object. As is explained in the Psychology of this series, there is a special
spiritual power of the human soul called by scholastics intellectus agens. By
this are formed the intelligible species that afford a direct mental intuition
of material things, after they have been perceived by sense. Before
sense-perception and the action of the intellectus agens following it, the human
understanding is quasi tabula rasa, a blank tablet on which nothing has as yet
been written. Stimulated by sensitive representations, the soul may form
intelligible species of countless material objects, and ascend by steps from the
cognition of things sensible to that of things spiritual; but considered in its
essence alone, the soul is not determined and adapted to the knowledge of
anything whatsoever. It needs intelligible species.

159. Now the question arises, Is there in God anything corresponding to the
"intelligible species" determining the Divine mind to the possession of an
intellectual representation of the object: and if so, how are we to explain it?
Some among the scholastic philosophers were inclined to believe that the term in
question is not predicable of God in its proper sense. St. Thomas, however, and
others are of a contrary opinion; and we go with them. It is true that in the
concrete an intelligible species of the human mind is not a pure perfection, but
has a very limited and imperfect being. Yet this does not prevent us from
affirming it of God, if only in the abstract it can be conceived without
connotation of defect. And it can be so conceived by fixing our attention on
this feature alone, that an intelligible species is a perfection by which the
mind is adapted to know something different from its own being.

Doing so, we conceive neither beginning nor multiplicity, nor change, nor
limitation; and thus do not connote any defect mixed up with its perfection. At
the same time the perfection thus conceived is not denoted by any other term
accurately except "intelligible species" or its synonyms. Consequently we must
predicate this term in its proper meaning of God. Let us now hear what St.
Thomas has to say on this subject.{3} "As God can have no potentiality for
further perfection, but is pure actuality, there cannot be in Him any difference
between intellect and intellectual representation. Consequently He is neither
without an intelligible species, as our intellect, before it understands
something actually; nor is His intelligible species different from the substance
of the Divine Intellect, as is the case with our intellect when it has actual
understanding. On the contrary, the intelligible species (of God) is the Divine
Intellect itself."

This comes to the same thing as saying that the Essence of God is the
intelligible species of His Intellect; for we have seen in the preceding thesis
that His Essence is His Intellect. Let us set forth the same truth in other
words, so far forth as it applies to the knowledge God has of the actual world.
Since all things else save God are so many adumbrations of Himself which He has
called into existence, His Essence bears to each and all of them the character
of a pattern in which whatever perfection they have has its archetype and its
perfect representation. He needs, therefore, no other determination by which to
know them adequately. To compare great things with small, He beholds them all
adequately in His Essence as the architect beholds the building he has set up in
the plan which he has in his own mind and which he has faithfully copied. The
Divine Essence exceeds indeed all creatures infinitely by its own Infinite
Being; nevertheless, it expresses all and each of them distinctly, in so far as
its Infinite Being is identical with Infinite Thought, and God's creative power
realizes accurately His conceptions of creatures chosen for Creation.

{3} "Cum igitur Deus nihil potentialitatis habeat, sed sit actus purus, oportet
quad in eo intellectus et intellectum sint idem omnibus modis; ita scilicet ut
neque careat specie intelligibili, sicut intellectus noster cum intelligit in
potentia; neque species intelligibilis sit aliud a substantia intellectus
divini, sicut accidit in intellectu nostro, cum est actu intelligens; sed ipsa
species intelligibilis est ipse intellectus divinus." (St. Thomas, Sum.Theol.
Ia. q. 14. art. 2. in corp.)
Natural Theology: 38 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- The objects of Divine Thought.

Thesis XXVII. -- God has not only a comprehensive knowledge of Himself and of
the essence of each possible thing and each possible event; but He sees also
from eternity all His creatures, before they exist, knowing adequately whatever
is knowable about their existence and activity, so much so that He foreknows
distinctly all future free acts of His rational creatures, even those which are
only conditionally future.

160. The general reason why God must know all things knowable is again the truth
repeatedly mentioned in the two preceding sections, that His Intellect is
infinitely perfect. This reason alone suffices to convince us that He knows with
absolute perfection all those things which are at least imperfectly knowable to
us. But in order to show how it follows that He knows things of which we know
nothing, some further explanations are wanting; for it must be shown that there
do exist objective truths perfectly hidden from created intellect, which are
evident to the uncreated mind. Thus it appears that the proof of the subjective
infinity of the Divine Intellect given above, does not supersede a detailed
exposition of the objects of His knowledge. Even as regards those truths, the
Divine knowledge of which can be inferred from human knowledge, it is not
superfluous to explain carefully their relation to the mind of God. The effect
of this explanation will be that we shall be struck more forcibly by the
infinite wisdom of our Creator, and filled with deeper admiration of His
Majesty. At the same time it will enable us to solve more clearly the
difficulties raised against the knowledge of God.

161. First, then, we affirm that God knows Himself by a comprehensive knowledge,
that is to say, by a knowledge which comprises absolutely every point knowable
about Him, whether as He is in Himself or as He is in relation to other things.
This much will hardly be disputed. The Divine intellect must evidently know with
comprehensive knowledge what ever object of knowledge is intimately present to
it. But the Divine Essence is intimately present to the Divine intellect so much
so that it is even identical with it.

Now every finite perfection possible and actual pre-exists eminently in God; so
that when anything comes to be created, its actually existing essence is
necessarily an imperfect imitation of the infinite Essence of God. Consequently
the Essence of God is necessarily imitable by creatures, though its actual
imitations are due to the free act of Divine creation. This being so, God in
comprehending Himself must know all the different ways in which His Being is
susceptible of imperfect imitation by finite beings. Such a knowledge involves
an actual comprehension of the essences of all possible creatures, with all the
perfections they may acquire, and all the defects and privations conceivable in
them. Consequently it implies a knowledge of their faculties, their possible
acts, their relations to one another and to their Creator, and all manner of
combinations, states, and alterations incident to them. Briefly, God seeing
Himself has an adequate knowledge of all possible creatures and of all possible
events. With one act of comprehensive intelligence He so represents the whole of
them that each is known to Him fully and distinctly. Consequently, whatever God
now knows as actual for any given period of time, He would know it as distinctly
as He knows it now, even if He had never created. The difference would be that
then He would judge the same things to be not actual which now He judges to be
actual, and thus distinguishes from the indefinite multitude of purely possible
things and events. Indeed that He cannot fail to make this distinction is
readily understood, if we consider the dependence of all creatures and all the
incidents of created existence upon the decrees and power of the Creator.
Whatever exists and whatever happens cannot exist or happen, unless God has
decreed that it should exist or happen, or, as regards moral evil, that He would
not prevent its existing or happening.

As we shall prove later on, God does not form new decrees in the course of time,
but His decrees are eternal, and are now what they were from eternity.
Consequently from eternity He foresaw whatever actually exists or happens in the
course of time. Otherwise how could He have decreed it? Therefore all actual
creatures past, present, and future, all their actions and all circumstances of
their existence, were present to the mind of God from eternity. He foreknew them
all without any exception, even the free actions of His rational creatures.
162. To prove this still better we will abstract here from the immutability of
the Divine decrees. We will also distinguish the existence of creatures and
events, according as they are independent of or in any way dependent upon free
choice on the part of men.

As regards the former, the perfect knowledge of them is included in the
comprehensive cognition which God has of Himself and all possible things.
Knowing Himself and all possible things, He knows which of these according to
His will must become actual, and what facts will be necessarily connected with
their creation. Thus He knows the history of His creatures, so far as it depends
upon His decrees and His creative power alone.

Of His knowledge of the rest of their history, there can be no doubt, if only we
are able to demonstrate that He foresees the free volitions of His rational
creatures. Everything except free volitions runs its course according to certain
laws pre-established by God. The efficacy of created freedom with regard to
these laws does not extend beyond initiating by free choice either of two
alternatives. The natural consequences of the alternative thus initiated are to
be set down to the freedom of the creature only inasmuch as they were implicitly
contained in the act of choice. If a man yields to a propensity for liquor and
becomes a drunkard, the consequences which drunkenness carries with it for his
health, his mental faculties, his fortune, his good name, and the future of his
offspring, &c., are not controllable by his free-will. He is, however,
answerable for them, not because they are wished by him, but because he did not
prevent the cause by which they are produced, when he was free and obliged to
prevent it. Let us take another instance. A sinner who feels moved by the
inspiration of Divine grace to blot out his sins by due penance, is free to
follow the lead of grace or to neglect it. On the supposition that he follows
it, he will receive a full pardon for his sins, according to a law of the
supernatural order pre-established by God; if he resists grace up to his death,
he will die in his sin, and according to another supernatural law never reach
his last end.

These explanations presupposed, it is evident that an eternal knowledge of all
free volitions of rational creatures would enable God to foresee everything from
eternity. No one can deny that God has a knowledge of free volitions, at least
at the time when they are actually elicited. Such a denial would be an impugning
of the Divine intellect, representing it as falling short of understanding all
objective truth, that is to say, as being limited. God therefore, whose
intellect has no limits, comprehends all volitions elicited by His creatures at
the moment when they are elicited. But if He knows them, each in its turn, when
they become actual, He must have known them from all eternity; otherwise His
knowledge would have grown, He would have learned something which He did not
know before, an hypothesis manifestly incompatible with His infinite intellect.
It follows, then, that He foreknows from eternity whatever happens in the course
of time, even the free actions of His rational creatures.

163. But how shall we prove that God must know from eternity what a free
creature would do, if it were placed in this or that situation, in which it
really never will be placed? How could He foreknow from eternity that the
inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon would have done penance, if amongst them Christ
had wrought those miracles against which the citizens of Capharnaum, of
Corozain, and Beth.saida hardened their hearts?{4} How could He foreknow the
detailed course of action which Napoleon III. would have taken, if he had
conquered the Germans at Sedan, and made the German monarch his prisoner?
Without entering upon the "How" which in this as in many other cases is an
insoluble mystery to us, we can prove evidently that the knowledge of God must
extend even to those hypothetical cases.

God certainly knows the possible lines of action open to a free creature, who
finds himself with the full use of his freedom in a certain situation, in which
he is able to attend to and consequently to choose, among a limited number of
possible alternatives. Of each of these possible ways of action open to the
person so circumstanced, two propositions can be formed, contradictorily opposed
to each other. A type of the one is this: Put in the situation C, Peter will
choose the alternative A. A type of the other is this: Put in the situation C,
Peter will not choose the alternative A. Every one knows from his own experience
how limited is the number of alternatives to which he really can attend under
given circumstances, and which really move him, although they do not force him.
We grant much, if we say that sometimes ten alternatives together may be open to
a man. But whether it be ten or any other number n, of each there can be formed
two propositions of the type given above. If we have, then, n alternatives, we
get n pairs of propositions contradictorily opposed to each other. In every pair
there must be a true and a false proposition; for we know from Logic that two
propositions contradictorily opposed to each other, never can be both true or
both false, but one must be true, the other false. But God, from whom no
objective truth can be hidden, must know which is the true one and which the
false one. Knowing this, He knows thereby the course which any free creature
really would take under any given condition.

The belief in this truth is beautifully expressed in the Collect which the
Catholic Church makes use of on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: "O God,
whose Providence in its arrangements is never deceived, we humbly ask of Thee to
take away all hurtful things, and to grant whatever will be useful for us."{5}
Every Christian knows that "hurtful" and "useful" in the language of the Church,
are spoken of with reference to our last end, our future beatitude. Now, whether
in view of this any set of circumstances, in which we may be put, will prove
hurtful or useful, depends, under Divine grace, upon the use of our own freedom.
If, then, the Church beseeches God to take away all hurtful things and to grant
whatever will be useful to us, she evidently supposes that He knows under what
conditions we shall make a good or excellent use of our freedom, and under what
others we shall use it less well, or even abuse the same to our ruin. We must
now answer one or two objections.

164. (1) Mr. Herbert Spencer says in his Principles of Psychology:{6} "A thing
cannot at the same time be both subject and object of thought." But evidently on
the supposition that God comprehends Himself, He is at the same time both
subject and object of thought. Consequently, in attributing to God a
comprehensive self-consciousness, we have put ourselves in opposition to the
conclusions of psychological science.

Answer. We have had already occasion to make some reference to this author. That
the subject and object of thought cannot be identical, is a proposition which
Mr. Spencer does not support by any argument, nor can any be given unless we
admit the materialistic hypothesis and reduce all activity to the pulling and
pushing of material particles. On the other hand, Mr. Spencer's assertion is in
glaring contradiction to the evidence of consciousness, and incompatible with
moral freedom. Who doubts that at the moment when he has knowledge of anything
he knows himself to be knowing? Were it otherwise, how could he know afterwards
that he knew the thing before, though meanwhile he may have forgotten it? Again,
how can I be morally free and answerable for my actions, unless at the moment
when an eligible object is presented to my intellect, my conscience tells me
whether I am right or wrong in choosing it? Yet if my conscience tells me this
at the moment, it follows that I myself am at the same time subject and object
of my thought.

We must then dismiss as false this piece of Spencerian psychology even in its
application to the human soul. Much less can it be admitted in regard to God,
who comprises eminently in the simplicity of His Essence whatever is conceivable
as an intellectual perfection, not however possessing it by any act really
distinct from His Essence.

165. (2) We have stated that God sees all possible things by comprehending His
Essence as imitable. But among other possible things evils are to be found, and
accordingly we are compelled in consistency to affirm that God knows evil as
well as good, inasmuch as He comprehends the imitability of His Essence. This,
however, seems to involve us in the Hegelian absurdity of supposing the Infinite
to contain in itself everything, evil not excepted.

Answer. This objection rests upon the wrong supposition that evil is a thing
existing in itself, and consequently knowable in itself. The truth is that evil
consists in the absence of some perfection due to a substance. The want of a
physical perfection which the nature of the substance concerned requires is a
physical evil; and the want of moral rectitude in the will of a rational
creature is a moral evil. Neither physical nor moral evil can be in God.
Nevertheless God knows all possible physical and moral evils by knowing, in
virtue of the comprehension of His own Essence, all possible finite essences.
For the perfect knowledge of these involves a knowledge of all their natural
requirements, and so far as rational creatures are concerned, their moral
obligations. It involves also an adequate knowledge of all possible actions of
free creatures, and of the relation of those actions to the requirements of
their nature, physical and moral. Consequently it carries with it a
comprehensive understanding of all the ways in which the activity of creatures
can come into collision either with the integrity of their own natural being or
that of their fellow-creatures. Thus all possible physical evils are known. And
inasmuch as an adequate knowledge of all possible rational creatures, of their
faculties and of the relation of those faculties to their last end, is
inconceivable without an insight into all the possible abuses of their
free-will, by which they can miss the narrow path of duty, God cannot fail to
know all those possible abuses: which is equivalent to His knowing all possible
moral evils.

166. (3) Against the foreknowledge which God has of our free actions, there is
the obvious difficulty which has been raised repeatedly in various forms. If God
foreknows from eternity what men deliberately are doing now and will do in
future, their actions must necessarily be in harmony with the cognition that God
has of them. If men could act otherwise than as God foresees, they would be able
to make the infallible knowledge of God fallible, which is absurd. They act
therefore of necessity as God has foreseen that they will act. But actions which
of necessity agree with the judgment God has formed of them from eternity,
cannot be free actions. Consequently, admitting Divine prescience of free human
actions, we must deny the freedom of the human will.

Answer. The apparent strength of this difficulty gives way as soon as a
distinction is made between the necessity of affirming an action as future, and
the necessity of affirming the same action, not only as future, but also as
necessary. He who admits that God foreknows the future actions of men is
logically compelled to allow that these actions will certainly take place, but
Logic by no means constrains him to affirm that they will be performed as
necessary and not as free actions. The foreknowledge of God is a truth from
which we must logically infer that the event foreseen by Him will happen
precisely as He has foreseen it. But does it follow that He cannot foresee
events, unless they are the outcome of natural necessity and not of free choice?
True, if God's foresight did not reach farther than to the causes of free
actions, and consequently could foresee them only by comprehending the nature of
His free creatures and all the impelling motives which precede their
resolutions, He never could be absolutely and adequately certain about their
particular free acts. Whatever object may be put before a rational creature that
enjoys the full use of its faculties, it remains at liberty to choose or not to
choose until the choice is made. However, the knowledge of the Infinite Mind
extends beyond causes; it has a direct vision also of actions and effects; it
expresses all objective truth to whatever time it may belong. Of the two
propositions, "The free creature A under the circumstance B, in which the action
C will be possible to it, will, by the exercise of its freedom, perform this
action," and again, "The free creature A under the circumstance B, in which the
action C will be possible to it, will, by the exercise of its freedom, not
perform this action," the one must be necessarily true, the other necessarily
false. That which expresses really what A, under the circumstance B, will do as
regards the action C, is formally true, because it is really the expression of
an objective future fact. Consequently the Infinite Intellect of God must
represent it as future. Moreover, that proposition, inasmuch as ex hypothesi it
is the enunciation of a choice both really future and really free, expresses a
fact which is out of all necessary connection with any preceding fact. Therefore
God knows it as it is, out of any such necessary connection. His knowing it as
it will happen before it actually happens does not change the nature of the fact

God necessarily foresees from eternity what men will do in the course of time,
but His foresight does not force them to act the one way or the other. If the
drunkard had chosen otherwise, God, without any change in Himself, would have
seen a free act of abstinence where He now sees a free act of intemperance.
Nevertheless, if the creature chooses now, for instance, to write rather than to
read, God has foreseen this choice from eternity, because He represents
objective truth as it is or will be under any given circumstance.
Tourists who are walking through an Alpine valley may be seen easily by one who
is at the top of a mountain bordering on it. Whilst they are walking there, it
cannot be true that they are not doing so, though it depends upon their free
choice to walk or not to walk. Consequently their passing by cannot be hidden
from the spectator within the range of whose eyesight they are coming. And if he
were able to see with his eyes future events as clearly as he can see those that
happen at a short distance, he would see the excursionists coming before they
were actually on the way. Yet his foresight would not be the reason of their
coming; it would be nothing but an anticipated announcement of a future event.
In a similar way God looks, as it were, from the summit of His Eternity down
upon the course of future times, and sees the free actions of His rational
creatures. Their future resolutions are expressed by His infinite mind exactly
as they will come about; consequently, not as natural consequences of habitual
or actual impulses, but as self-determinations, as events which will come to
pass at the bidding of rational creatures, making use of that power of accepting
or rejecting any particular good which He Himself will grant them. This is well
expressed by St. Thomas: "God is altogether outside the order of time. He is
standing, as it were, upon the high citadel of unalterable eternity. Before Him
is spread out the whole course of time, which He takes in by one simple
intuition. Consequently, by one act of vision, He sees everything that happens
in the course of time; and each fact He sees as it is in itself, not as some
thing that is to be present to His gaze in the future, and is for the present
involved in the sequence of causes on which it depends; at the same time He does
also see that sequence of causes. He sees every event in a manner altogether
proper to an eternal being. Each fact, to whatever period of time it belongs, He
sees even as the human eye sees Socrates seated. The sitting itself, not its
cause, is seen by the eye. But from the fact of a man seeing Socrates seated, it
must not be inferred that the sitting is an effect flowing from its cause
necessarily. On the other hand, the human eye sees most truly and infallibly
Socrates seated whilst he really is seated, because everything, as it is in
itself, is a fixed and determined fact. Thus, then, we must admit that God knows
with absolute certainty and infallibility whatever happens at any time.
Nevertheless temporary events do not happen of necessity, but are the effects of
causes that might have acted otherwise."{7}

We may now state the difficulties in their usual form with compendious answers,
applying the doctrine just expounded.

(a) An act which God foresees will necessarily take place. But an act which
necessarily takes place cannot be a free act.

Answer. There is a fallacy in the use of the word "necessarily." In the minor it
denotes the physical necessity under which a certain class of causes produce
their effects. When there is this necessity, of course, by force of terms,
freedom is excluded. In the major the necessity denoted is logical necessity;
the Divine mind being infinitely perfect, necessarily sees the truth wherever
and however it is, past, present, or future. It is impossible for the thing to
be without God foreseeing it, and by necessary consequence the Divine
foreknowledge is an infallible evidence of what it will be.

(b) An act the omission of which is impossible cannot be a free act. But the
omission of an act which God foresees is impossible. Thus such an act cannot be

Answer. Again the same fallacy. The omission of such an act is logically
impossible, but not on this account physically impossible. The act and its
omission cannot both exist. The one is necessarily exclusive of the other. And
in that sense, if the act is really future, its omission is impossible, but in
no other sense is it impossible; and in no other sense is any necessity on the
part of the event the basis of the infallibility of the Divine foreknowledge.
(c) That act is necessary and not free which necessarily follows upon something
else that does not rest with the free choice of the agent. But an act foreseen
by God follows necessarily upon the Divine foreknowledge, which foreknowledge
does not rest with the free choice of the agent.

Answer. The major is correct, if the necessary following upon "something else"
is because that something is a necessarily acting cause, but not if the
"something else" is only a necessarily truthful spectator or seer.

(d) If God were to foresee the free actions of creatures His foreknowledge would
be dependent on their choice, for it would depend upon their choice whether it
should be framed in this way rather than in that. But it is absurd to make an
attribute of the Infinite God dependent on the action of His creatures.

Answer. The alleged dependence can only be called dependence in a broad and
mitigated sense. True dependence is the relation by which the effect is bound to
its physical cause, not that by which truthful knowledge is necessitated to
conform itself to its object. The former, so far forth as it is dependence, is
an imperfection. It is a perfection indeed to possess being, but an imperfection
to have it in dependence on the causality of an external agent, and the greater
the dependence the greater the imperfection. The latter is pure perfection, and
the fuller the conformity with the object, the greater the perfection.

{4} Cf. St. Matt. xi. 20-23.
{5} "Deus, cujus providentia in sui dispositione non fallitur: te supplices
exoramus, ut noxia cuncta submoveas et omnia nobis profutura concedas."
{6} Principles of Psychology, i. p. 148.
{7} "Deus est omnino extra ordinem temporis, quasi in arce aeternitatis
constitutus, quae est tota simul, cui subjacet totus temporis decursus secundum
unum et simplicem ejus intuitum. Et ideo uno intuitu videt omnia, quae aguntur
secundum temporis decursum et unumquodque secundum quod est in seipso existens
non quasi sibi futurum quantum ad ejus intuitum, prout est in solo ordine suarum
causarum, quamvis et ipsum ordinem causarum videat: sed omnino aeternaliter sic
videt unumquodque eorum quae sunt in unoquoque tempore, sicut oculus humanus
videt Socratem sedere in seipso, non in causa sua. Ex hoc autem quod homo videt
Socratem sedere non tollitur ejus contingentia quae respicit ordinem causae ad
effectum; tamen verissime et infallibiliter videt oculus hominis Socratem sedere
dum sedet, quia unumquodque prout est in seipso, jam determinatum est. Sic
igitur relinquitur, quod Deus certissime et infallibiliter cognoscat omnia quae
fiunt in tempore, et tamen es quae in tempore eveniunt non sunt vel fiunt ex
necessitate, sed contingenter." (In Perihermeneias Aristotelis, Lib. I. Lect.
Natural Theology: 39 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 4. -- The manner in which God knows the free acts of His rational

Thesis XXVIII. -- 1. Whereas God infallibly knows what any given rational
creature would do if left to exercise its freedom under given circumstances and
in regard of a given object, this infallible knowledge must not be traced to any
Divine decree predetermining the creature to act in that way.

2. Nor must it be traced to the adequate comprehension which God has of the
nature of the creature, and of all the influences which under the circumstances
would bear upon its free will previously to its actual choice.

3. The true reason why God has a distinct intuition of conditionally future free
actions is because His infinite intellect must represent those truths which
pre-exist in their causes contingently only, no less than other truths which
follow from their causes by natural necessity.

4. Hence the infallibility of the Divine foreknowledge of free acts, as not
merely conditionally future, but really future, is to be explained thus: Knowing
what use the creature would make of its freedom under certaIn circumstances, God
has decreed to allow those circumstances to come about. Thus He knows the free
act as absolutely future, because knowing it as conditionally future, He further
knows that He has decreed to realize the condition.
167. In the preceding section we have proved that God knows not only all that is
possible, but also whatever either is actually existing, or will be actually
existing, or would be actually existing under certain circumstances. We have
seen that even the future free acts of rational creatures, whether they be
absolutely or only conditionally future, are objects of the Divine Intellect.
Now the question arises: In what relation do the objects known by God as
distinct from Himself stand to the knowledge He has of His essence and His
free-will? The answer to this question is easy enough, so long as we confine our
consideration to things and events purely possible, and to those actual things
and events which depend upon His will alone, so that the free-will of rational
creatures does not interfere with them. If God did not know whatever is
possible, He could not have a comprehensive knowledge of His essence; and again,
if He were unable to discern the natural effects of the causality of creatures
who owe their existence to His decrees alone, He would have an imperfect
knowledge of what He decreed. So far there is no special difficulty about the
explanation of the Divine knowledge. The difficulty begins with the free
volitions of rational creatures. Much labour has been spent upon this question
by Catholic philosophers, especially since the latter half of the sixteenth
century. In the three first parts of the thesis we are concerned about the
explanation of the knowledge which God has of free actions as conditionally
future, and in the fourth about the explanation of His knowledge, inasmuch as it
represents free actions as really or absolutely future.

168. We say then in the first place that the knowledge God has of the
conditionally future existence of free actions cannot be explained by saying
that He knows them by reason of His decree to predetermine creatures under
certain circumstances to the performance of them. By this assertion, we express
our disagreement from an opinion which has every claim to our respect on account
of the renown of its author and of the many illustrious and learned theologians
who have adopted it. Bannez, who was the first who taught explicitly the opinion
we reject, was the founder of a distinguished school of theology. The
predetermination which they allege is called physical premotion. According to
the explanation given of this premotion by those who follow Bannez, it
influences the free-will previously to the self-determination of the latter, and
in such a way that by the very nature of its influence the free-will is
infallibly drawn to the predetermined choice, which, nevertheless, is genuinely
free. This explanation supposes God's knowledge of the conditionally future free
act to be contained in the comprehensive knowledge which He has of His decree of
physical premotion.

The defence of free-will in this hypothesis becomes extremely difficult.
"Predetermination," writes Cardinal Pecci, "includes a determination which
precedes human deliberation. But a determination made by the Divine will must be
fulfilled. Consequently necessity precedes human deliberation. Such deliberation
can no longer be free."{8} The solutions that are offered of this difficulty
seem to us by no means clear.{9} And we shall argue later (in Bk. III.), that
the reasonings upon which the assertion of a physical predetermination of free
acts is based are not more convincing.

169. The earliest opponent of Bannez was Molina. The explanation of the way in
which free acts are knowable to God, is found by Molina in what he calls the
supercomprehension which the Divine intellect has of the free creature.{10} By
this supercomprehension he understands the adequate knowledge of the nature and
faculties of the free created being, and of all the attracting and repelling
impulses to which it will be subjected previously to its choice. That there is a
knowledge of all this cannot be denied; but it does not appear how we can
thereby explain the knowledge God has of the free choice itself. As it seems
repugnant to the nature of free acts that they should be foreseen in the
comprehension of predetermining decrees, so neither does it harmonize with their
nature that God should know them from eternity by supercomprehending the created
beings from whom the free acts proceed. Nothing that is seen by God as preceding
the free act, can imply an infallible knowledge of the free act itself. Neither
the nature of the creature nor its faculties, nor any attractive or repellent
motives brought to bear upon its free-will, can prevent this will from choosing
or refusing a given object. Consequently an infallible cognition of its choice
is in no way implied in the cognition of anything preceding it. But the
knowledge God has of the conditionally future choice must be infallible.

Therefore it cannot be based upon a supercomprehension of the creature in the
sense of Molina. Molina had the merit of pointing out that a Divine knowledge of
free acts must be admitted independently of predetermining decrees. But the
positive explanation he gives of this knowledge only takes us from Scylla into
Charybdis. On these grounds those who are called Molinists, as following Molina
in the rejection of predetermining decrees, commonly do not follow him in
admitting what he substitutes in their stead. They might, in fact, more properly
be called Suarezians, for Suarez is the great representative of the teaching
they defend, and which we shall advocate in the third and fourth part of our

170. We maintain in the third place that God sees the conditionally future free
actions of creatures, because they are objective truths and His infinite
intellect sees all objective truth. If a truth is predetermined in its cause,
God sees it by comprehending that cause. But if it has no predetermining cause,
as a free act really has not, God sees it nevertheless. But He sees it as
something which is, or will be, or would be, caused in fact, though it is in no
necessary connection, but only in a contingent connection with its causes.
Saying this we do not commit ourselves to the statement that God foresees a
conditionally future free action as an event out of all connection with His
decrees. On the contrary, we hold most firmly with Suarez that a conditionally
future use of freedom supposes a Divine decree to grant the use of freedom,
which decree by the scholastics of the three last centuries is commonly called
"the decree of immediate Divine concurrence." But this decree is a decree not to
predetermine the creature to the acceptance or rejection of a certain object,
but simply to render it perfectly able as well to reject as to accept. Thus the
free choice of the creature, inasmuch as it is the act of choosing between two
alternatives, depends upon God; but inasmuch as this act of choosing is a
self-determination of the creature to accept rather than to reject, it depends
upon the creature. We shall say more on this subject in the Third Book.
171. Hence it is readily inferred that God foreknows those free actions that
will in fact be future, in that He comprehends His actual decrees. These decrees
are formed in the light of the knowledge which He has of the conditionally
future. For instance, God knows that a man, whom we will call Peter, under such
and such circumstances would give an alms to a poor man, if He granted him the
actual use of his freedom of will as regards this object. In the light of this
knowledge He decrees either not to grant Peter the requisite use of his freedom
or to grant it. If the decree is not to grant it, He will see the omission of
the free act of almsgiving as really future and its performance only as
conditionally future. But if He decrees to grant it, He will see the omission as
conditionally future and the performance as really future. In other words: The
free act, which will be really future, God knows as really future, because He
knows it as conditionally future, and He further knows that He has decreed to
realize the circumstances under which it will be really future. This is just
what we have stated in the fourth part of our thesis.

{8} Lehre des heiligen Thomas über den Einfluss Golles auf die Handlungen der
vernünftigen Geschöpfe, &c. (Translated from the Italian by G. Triller, D.D.),
Part II. § 16, pp. 39, 40.
{9} Cf. Zigliara, Summa Phil. ii. p. 391, at the bottom of the page.
{10} Molina in Part I. Divi Thomae, q. 14. a. 13. d. 15. p. 257.
Natural Theology: 40 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 5. -- The Divisions of the Divine Knowledge.

172. Though the Divine knowledge is one undivided act, not really distinct from
the Divine Essence, we may nevertheless divide it according to the diversity of
the objects to which it extends. Such a division is useful, inasmuch as it is
based upon the different relations of the objects of Divine knowledge to God
Himself, and thus recalls to us in few words what we have explained fully in the
preceding section.

First, then, if we take the whole body of truths which God knows concerning
Himself and concerning finite things, His knowledge may be said to be partly
necessary, partly free. It is necessary, inasmuch as on no supposition could it
have been in any other relation to its objects than it is now; it is free,
inasmuch as things are now known as actual, which might not have been known as
actual under a different use of the freedom of the Creator and of His creatures.
Therefore God has a necessary knowledge of Himself, and of all finite things and
actions in so far as they are purely possible. And by a free knowledge He knows
His own decrees, and whatever in consequence of the exercise of His own freedom
or that of His rational creatures has been actual, is actual, will be actual, or
would be actual under certain circumstances, considered precisely in its past,
present, future, absolute, or conditional actuality.

At first sight it might seem that such a division is inconsistent with God's
immutability. Yet it is not so. In saying that the knowledge which God has of
His own decrees and of existences outside Himself might have stood otherwise
towards its objects than it does stand, we do not say that His act of knowledge
could have changed internally, or that the range of His knowledge could have
extended further or less far: we state only that He now sees things as actual
which He might have seen as merely possible. If God had created neither matter
nor spirit, He would nevertheless have distinctly seen material bodies with all
their vicissitudes and all finite spiritual beings with all their actions and
states; yet all these things He would have seen as purely possible, whereas He
sees now as actual at one time or another the things which He has decreed from
eternity to bring into existence, together with their necessary and free actions
and the results of both. Yet in no case is His knowledge determined from
without: He has it in virtue of His unchangeable essence. Nor would His
knowledge of the exercise of created freedom be less, strictly speaking, than it
now is, even though He had created no rational creature. The only difference
would be that the actions, which now His Intellect represents as really future
free actions, would in that case have been represented as conditionally future.
And the reason of this difference would be the absence of the free decree to
create rational creatures and to provide the circumstances under which they use
their freedom as they use it in the present order of things.

173. There is another division of Divine knowledge which has regard only to
things distinct from God. These are said to be known by God partly through the
scientia visionis (knowledge of vision), partly through the scientia simplicis
intelligentiae (knowledge of simple intelligence). The nature of this
distinction is clearly explained in the following words of St. Thomas: "A
difference must be marked as regards things which are not now actually existing.
Some of them, although they are not existing now, yet have existed or will
exist, and all these are said to be known by God through the knowledge of
vision. For since God's understanding which is His being, is measured by
eternity, and eternity is something which, unchangeable in itself, embraces all
time, it follows that the intuitive vision of God, as it is at the present
moment, takes in all time and all things that are at any time whatever, and He
sees all this as distinctly as if it were really present. But there are other
things which are in the power of God or of creatures, but which never exist, nor
will exist, nor have existed, and of these we do not say that God has a
knowledge of vision, but only that He knows them through the knowledge of simple

From this passage of the Angelic Doctor it appears that, according to his
terminology, the knowledge of vision comprises whatever is actual outside God at
whatever time, whereas to the knowledge of simple intelligence everything is
relegated which, though never actual, is in the power either of God alone or of
creatures under God. Of conditionally future free actions, St. Thomas did not
treat ex professo. These actions cannot be said to be merely possible, and yet
they are never actual, if the circumstances under which they will happen are
never realized. Hence the question arises: Are they seen by the knowledge of
vision or by the knowledge of simple intelligence? We might refer them to the
knowledge of simple intelligence, by saying that to it belongs whatever is seen
as possible, and yet not actual, whether not actual simply (purely possible), or
not actual except under certain conditions (conditionally future). We might also
refer conditionally future free actions to the knowledge of vision by saying
that to it belongs whatever is at any time either really or conditionally
actual. Those Catholic philosophers who reject the notion of physical
predetermination, say commonly that conditionally future free actions are seen
by what they call scientia media (middle knowledge), as having for its object
something neither purely possible nor really actual, but between the two. We
ourselves hold strongly to what is meant by the term scientia media, without
insisting upon the necessity of retaining this term as such. We conclude then by
defining the scientia media as the knowledge that God has of the conditionally
future existence of the free actions of His rational creatures, without having
decreed physically to predetermine the said creatures to the said actions.

{11} "Horum quae actu non sunt est attendenda quaedam diversitas. Quaedam enim
licet non sint nunc in actu, tamen vel fuerunt, vel erunt, et omnia ista dicitur
Deus scire scientia visionis. Quia cum intelligere Dei, quod est ejus esse,
aeternitate mensuretur, quae sine successione existens totum tempus
comprehendit, praesens intuitus Dei fertur in totum tempus, et in omnia quae
sunt in quocumque tempore, sicut in subjecta sibi praesentialiter. Quaedam vera
sunt, quae sunt in potentia Dei vel creaturae, quae tamen nec sunt, nec erunt,
neque fuerunt, et respectu horum non dicitur habere scientiam visionis, sed
simplicis intelligentiae." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. i. 14.)
Natural Theology: 41 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER V. The Divine Will.


174. IN every being on this earth we find a natural tendency to follow a certain
way of action that suits its nature, and to avoid other ways out of harmony with
or altogether repugnant to its nature. Thus every element of matter has a
certain chemical affinity and atomicity, which it satisfies in all combinations
as well as circumstances will allow. Every plant works upon the nourishment
which it takes up from the soil in such a way as serves its specific evolution.
The instinct of animals leads them with astonishing accuracy to the food they
stand in need of, to arrangements for their future offspring, and to avoidance
of danger.

In man, the head of the visible creation, there is not only a longing for things
that suit the physical organism, as in brute animals, but an insatiable appetite
for truth.

That which in one way or another is in harmony with the nature of a thing is
called its good. The tendency of a thing to obtain what suits its nature is in
scholastic language called its natural appetite (appetitus naturalis), although
this appetite is not always a desire or craving in the strict sense of the word,
but often only a natural tendency in some sense analogical to a desire or
craving. Where this natural appetite is directed by knowledge, its scholastic
name is elicited appetite (appetitus elicitus), because it is roused to action
(elicited) by the knowledge of good. Of elicited appetite there are two
varieties which essentially differ from one another -- organic or sensitive
appetite (appetitus organicus vel sensitivus), which is an inclination to good
as apprehended by mere sense-perception, and spiritual or rational appetite
(appetitus spiritualis vel rationalis), which tends towards good as presented by
intellectual knowledge. This rational appetite is what is commonly called will.
175. It is evident that in God there can be no merely natural appetite or
appetite without knowledge, nor any sensitive appetite or appetite following
organic perception; for He is essentially Intellect, and therefore cannot be
without knowledge; He is also essentially simple, and therefore without the
composition of material parts involved in sense-perception. He is the most pure
Spirit in which being and knowledge are really one. The question then arises,
Shall we predicate "will" of Him? The answer to this depends upon whether "will"
denotes a pure perfection or not. If it does, God must be infinite Will. But
there can be no doubt that "will" in its abstract meaning signifies nothing but
perfection. It is love for good consequent upon knowledge of it. We cannot
conceive that intellectual being as other than imperfect which should know good
and yet not approve it as good. Some love of good is inherent in every
intellectual nature. Intellect is by its very nature directed towards truth.
Truth, therefore, is the good of intellect, being in harmony with its essence.
From this it follows that there is no act of intellect which does not carry with
it an act of will. And as God is infinite Intellect, so also He must be infinite

The truth that God is endowed with will, not merely metaphorically, but in the
strict sense of the word, may also be indirectly shown from the fact of
creation. Creation is production out of nothing, and such production is
inconceivable, unless it be conceived as the effect of infinitely powerful
volition. Thus the Psalmist expresses it, comprising the whole history of the
origin of the universe within the compass of these few words: Ipse dixit et
facta sunt: ipse mandavit et creata sunt -- " He spoke, and they were made; He
commanded, and they were created."{2}

It will now be our duty to explain the truths which by the light of natural
reason can be ascertained concerning the Divine will.

Our investigation will fall into three branches; we shall have to consider the
necessity and freedom of the Divine will, its holiness and other moral
attributes, and, lastly, its quality as supreme life and beatitude.

SECTION 1. -- Necessity aud freedom of the Will of God.

Thesis XXIX. -- God loves Himself with absolute necessity, infinitely, and for
the sake of His own goodness. His love towards creatures is an outcome (or
outpouring) of the love which He bears to His own Being. He loves them with a
love not absolutely necessary, but generous and free; and His decrees about them
are at once free and irrevocable.

176. Self-respect is not self-conceit, and there is a well-ordered love of self,
quite a distinct thing from selfishness. The self-conceited man, over-estimating
his own importance, assumes a position of superiority or authority not due to
him. The selfish man cares for nothing but his own satisfaction and enjoyment.
But the man who is possessed by a noble self-respect will not stoop to anything
incompatible either with his dignity as a man or with the post assigned to him
by Providence. A well-ordered love of self leads a man to utilize all his
faculties and all his surroundings for the perfection of that in himself which
is noblest in human nature.

177. Now ascending from the image of God to its original, we see at once that in
Him there can be no self-conceit nor selfishness. It is impossible that He
should over-esteem His own being or His authority, for He is infinitely perfect
and the only Lord of all. Neither can there be in Him an inordinate and
exaggerated seeking after His own advantage. In His essence He finds the source
and fulness of everything grand and excellent, loveable and enjoyable. He finds
it there established on the immoveable rock of His eternity, not liable to decay
from within nor open to aggression from without. Consequently, care for Himself
in the proper sense of the word, care for His own aggrandisement or for the
increase of His own happiness, is as inconceivable in God as the loss of His
existence. And as all selfishness is the outcome of such care, nothing is more
remote from the Creator of all things than selfishness. Yet well-ordered esteem
and love of self belong to Him in an infinite degree. If He did not value His
nature in proportion to its goodness, if He did not esteem and love Himself in
proportion as He is worthy of esteem and love, He would be wanting in knowledge
of or due affection for good. His nature is infinitely good, and therefore
infinitely worthy of esteem and love. Hence God has necessarily an infinite
esteem and love of Himself for His own goodness.

178. From this it follows that His love for creatures is an outcome (or
outpouring) of His love for Himself. It is necessarily so, for no creature is
loveable of itself. All its goodness is based upon the being that it has, and
that being is a free creation of God. The creature, then, is indebted to the
Creator for whatever it possesses worthy of esteem and love. Again, the grounds
on which rests the creature's claim for love consist either in its natural
perfection or (in the case of a rational creature) in its moral goodness. Its
natural perfection is the handiwork of the Creator; and its moral goodness,
though in a certain sense due to the exercise of the creature's own freedom, is
worked out after the ideal set before the creature's mind by the natural or
supernatural law of God, manifested in the voice of conscience or through the
teaching of revelation. In any case, God sees no perfection in any creature
which is not derived from Himself, the source of all good. Now a created
rational being, however enlightened about this dependence of creatures upon
their Creator, may wilfully withdraw its understanding from paying attention to
the fact. Hence men who have learned much about God sometimes do not rise to His
love, but make a creature the centre of their affections. No such inordination
can possibly exist in God, whose intellect and will are infinitely perfect.
Hence all the love He bears to creatures must be based upon His love towards
Himself. This truth is compatible with another, of which we shall say more in
the Third Book, that He loves His rational creatures in a certain sense for
their own sake, inasmuch as He wills their happiness on condition that they
co-operate with His benevolent intentions.

179. As the Divine mind cannot abstract from the natural relation in which each
finite nature stands to its infinite prototype, and as the Divine will can nevei
1)e displeased with His own production, God necessarily loves everything He has
created, and is pleased with its natural goodness. How far this love must lead
Him to take care of the well-being of His creatures, we shall see later on. For
the present we wish to show that the love of God for creatures, though necessary
in a certain sense on the supposition of their existence, nevertheless is to be
called a free and not a necessary love. God being infinite has no need of any
creature, nor would He be less good if He had created none. He has given
existence to finite beings because He freely willed so to do. He willed to give
them a share in His goodness, though He knew that He might be infinitely happy
by Himself alone. This has been proved in Book I. Thesis XVIII. § 97. Hence it
follows that the love God bears to creatures does not suppose any attraction or
loveableness belonging to them independently of the exercise of Divine freedom.
On the contrary, if they possess anything to attract God to love them, it is due
to His free decree of creation. But for this decree all creatures would have
been eternal nothingness, unworthy of being loved. In the free volition by which
God chose to produce beings different from Himself, there is included the free
decree of all the natural and supernatural good that creatures ever enjoy.
Consequently, all and each of them are indebted to their Creator for everything
good they are and have. We may justly put to every creature St. Paul's question:
"What hast thou that thou hast not received?"{3}

180. Having thus proved that the love God bears to His handiwork is an overflow
of pure generosity, and not a constraining natural affection, we are still to
show that His decrees regarding creatures are at once free and irrevocable. In
saying that the decrees by which God rules the fate of His creatures are free,
we by no means wish to imply that they are not referred to any standard
whatsoever. Certainly they are. The standard to which they are necessarily
referred is the infinite wisdom and righteousness of the Creator. It is
impossible that He should decree anything about His handiwork that would appear
unwise or unjust in the light of the eternal truth of His understanding. But of
the many ways by which He may lead the creature without acting against wisdom or
justice or any other of His Divine perfections, He chooses one way or another
according to His good pleasure without any necessity from within or without.
Such necessity would betoken either dependence upon the good of creatures or
want of supreme power over them, defects inconceivable in the infinite and
absolute Lord of all things.

181. The exercise of Divine freedom we are speaking of, is necessarily an
eternal act. God could not delay any decree without a wise reason. But no such
reason could exist for Him. A resolution cannot be reasonably put off to a later
date, if he who is to approve or reject it, knows already beforehand which side
he will take. God knows this of necessity. Consequently He cannot delay His
resolve: such delay in Him would be setting Himself against His own wisdom. Nor
can He retract the course once settled by His eternal decrees. They are
irrevocable. A decree cannot be repealed without a motive, nor wisely repealed
without a reasonable motive. But for God there can be no reasonable motive ever
to recall what He has once decreed. A reasonable revocation of a decree is
always based upon a better knowledge or a fuller consideration of the matter and
circumstances. Neither the one nor the other is conceivable in God, whose
essence is identical with infinitely perfect intuition of all truth. Hence in
God there is properly speaking but one free decree abiding for ever. This one
decree, however, is equivalent to an innumerable multitude of decrees, which
according to our way of thinking are contained in it. It is formed in the light
of infinitely perfect knowledge of all possible contingencies. Consequently in
it God has also regard to the free volitions of His rational creatures. It
abides in the Divine will, not only in this sense that it never is retracted;
but it is an eternally-lasting, never-changing, actual determination of that
will. In other words, what God has decreed from eternity, that He approves now
and wills now actually, and that He will approve actually throughout the future.
182. Against this doctrine the following objection is often made.

If my fate has been settled once for all, why should I trouble myself about the
performance of religious and moral duties, since no performance of mine can move
God to arrange anything for me better than that which He has already decreed?
Those who raise this difficulty forget that the decrees of God are not formed
without regard for human freedom. God does not settle the fate of a reasonable
creature without paying attention to the way in which that creature will use the
freedom of its will. As His decrees cannot violate justice, He certainly has not
decreed that the faithful observance of the moral law which He has stamped upon
your heart, should lead you to final misery. On the other hand, if you reason
rightly, you must conclude from the common consent of mankind; from the desire
of happiness craving for fulfilment in the breast of every man, and never
perfectly satisfied in this life; and finally, from the necessity of a
sufficient sanction of the moral law, that there is another life to follow
beyond the grave. As your soul is spiritual and incorruptible, you have reason
to believe that this future life will last for ever. A little reflection shows
you, moreover, that it would be absurd for an infinitely just and holy God to
have decreed that it should not make any difference throughout all eternity,
whether a man had finished his time of probation here on earth in a state of
rebellion against his Creator, or in humble submission to His will.

Consequently, even if you were not favoured with the light of Christian
revelation, under the guidance of reason alone you might know enough about the
nature of the eternal decrees of God to become convinced that the only safe
course a man can take is to comply as accurately as possible with the law of
God, manifested by the voice of his conscience, and to bear in his heart and to
express by his whole external behaviour those feelings of reverence, of trust
and love, which it behoves a reasonable creature to entertain with regard to a
Creator of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. As God from eternity would not
but decree to lead every rational creature who freely and perseveringly obeys
the voice of conscience, to final happiness, so He decrees it now at this very
moment, whilst you are anxious about your final fate; for His decrees are now,
as they were from eternity. From this undeniable truth it follows evidently that
it depends upon your free co-operation with the benevolent intentions of your
Creator, whether eternal happiness or final misery will be your lot. If against
this conclusion the objection suggests itself: How can I be free, if God
foreknows my future actions, we beg the reader to ponder again what was said in
answer to this objection, § 166. Although Philosophy, as such, does not rest on
the teaching of revelation, it is as well here to remember that Christians have
that other source of knowledge to confirm them in their philosophical belief
that they possess a true liberty, upon the right exercise of which their future
depends. According to the Christian doctrine, it is an eternal decree of God
that every one shall receive his reward according to his works, that God will
render "to them indeed who, according to patience in good works, seek glory and
honour and incorruption, eternal life:" but also that there shall come
"tribulation and anguish upon every man that worketh evil."{4} According to the
same doctrine, it has been decreed by God that every prayer made with confidence
for really "good gifts" shall be heard, that Heaven shall rejoice over the
conversion of a sinner, that the ministers of Christ shall have power to forgive
all sins, however grievous and numerous: that after death judgment shall follow,
and the wicked shall be condemned to everlasting punishment and the just be
rewarded with never-ceasing glory.{5}

Whether, then, we consider the eternal decrees of God from the standpoint of
reason or from the standpoint of Christian faith, they in no way favour
indolence and indifference. To him who does not allow himself to hold as true
every vagary of thought that can suggest itself, but takes suggestions for what
they really are, the very irrevocability of these decrees, far from offering an
excuse for idleness or bad morals, will rather be the strongest stimulus to
guard against sin and to practise diligently prayer and good works. Such a one
knows that, according to the unchangeable will of God, it depends upon the use
of his moral freedom during life, whether after death that misery is to befall
him which is the unavoidable doom of those who end their days in obstinate
wickedness, or whether he shall have a share in the happiness held out by
unfailing promises to those who die in loving submission to the laws of their
183. Still another difficulty concerning the eternal decrees of God is to be
discussed here. How can God, being immutable, have any free volition at all? If
He cannot change, His will remains always in the same state in which it is by
virtue of His essence. How then can He will anything but with absolute

To this difficulty we may answer in the first place that a puzzling how is never
a solid reason for doubting an evident that. We have proved that God is both
immutable in Himself and free in His decrees. Nay, a denial of Divine freedom
would lead us logically to a denial of our own moral liberty, indeed to a denial
of virtue and truth itself.

However, we further submit the following considerations.

Volition is an immanent action in the strictest sense of the word. What we
express when we say, "I will this or that," is not a change either in ourselves
or outside ourselves, but an actual state of our mind bearing a definite
relation to a certain object, a relation the nature of which can only be
understood by him who knows from self-consciousness what it is to will. Thus the
most competent philosophers, from St. Thomas down to those of our own age,{6}
are of opinion that the action of volition considered in its essence does not
imply any change added to the actuality prerequired in the subject in order that
volition may become possible. This holds good of all volitions of all rational
beings whatsoever. It is true that in us men there is no volition without change
going before and coming after. We cannot will anything without actual knowledge
of the object willed. This actual knowledge is not included in our essence, but
is acquired through a series of changes. Again, in consequence of our volition
of any object, our mind is necessarily modified by being, as it were, bent upon
that object -- to say nothing of the accompanying changes in the nervous system.
However, these changes do not touch the essence of volition. They do not prove
that volition precisely as volition adds anything to the internal state in which
a reasonable being exists when it is perfectly able to decide whether it wills
or refuses a certain object. If I am now perfectly able to accept or to reject
the object A with my free-will, the act of self-determination proceeds in one
direction or the other without any further physical change. If it did not, there
would be no truth in the saying that I am now perfectly able to embrace either
of the two alternatives. Nevertheless, my self-determination, as it proceeds,
does carry a physical change with it; yet not because it is self-determination
or free volition, but because it is free volition having a place in a being
essentially changeable, and unable to persevere in its self-determination
without undergoing some modification of its being.

Let us now apply these observations to the solution of our difficulty. God is
infinite. By virtue of His essence He possesses whatever actuality is required
for any volition compatible with His perfection. As we have explained, volition
does not imply change essentially. Consequently, God can will any object without
any real modification of His being. Does it follow from this that whatever He
wills He wills with absolute necessity? By no means. It follows only that the
internal act of His will, which is really identical with His essence, can
without change either involve, or not involve, that relation to an object which
we call choosing and willing. Whether God wills the object with absolute
necessity or not, depends therefore only upon this, whether He understands it to
be on every supposition loveable for its own sake. But apart from His decree to
create, no finite being is loveable in itself. The conclusion is that without
any internal change, God can will or not will any finite existence: consequently
all finite beings are indebted for their existence to the free choice of His
eternal unchangeable will. To express this shortly in scholastic terminology:
The will of God in its relation to creatures is absolutely necessary in its
entity (i.e., in its internal actual state), but not in its term (i.e., it does
not necessarily bear to creatures that relation which we call volition).

{1} Cf. St. Thomas, Contra Gentes, i. c. 72, § "Ex hoc enim quod Deus est
intelligens, sequitur quod est volens," &o.
{2} Psalm cxlviii. 4.
{3} 1 Cor. iv. 7.
{4} Romans ii. 7, 9.
{6} Cf St. Thomas, disp. De Veritate, q. 8. a. 6.; Suarez, Metaph. disp. 48,
sect. 2. n. 2. et sect. 4. n. 14. "Dico quarto;" Kleutgen, Phil. Schol. n. 21;
Natural Theology: 42 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- Holiness and other moral attributes of the Divine Will.

Thesis XXX -- On account of the infinite rectitude of His will, God is to be
called perfectly and absolutely holy, benevolent, and merciful, just, faithful,
and true in His threats and promises.

184. The word "holy," as used of creatures, has a wider and a more restricted
sense. In the wider signification it means "being removed and distinguished from
other things, or persons, by a sort of special dedication to the Divinity." In
this sense we speak of churches as holy places; we call altar-plate and priestly
vestments holy things; we say that bishops, priests, and others specially
consecrated to God, are to be revered as holy persons and we give the visible
Head of the Church the title of "Holy Father," and "Your Holiness."

The word "holy" predicated thus does not denote any distinction in the line of
morality. Pope Alexander VI., in that he was the representative of the Divine
Founder of the Church, had so far forth as much right to the title of Holy
Father as St. Peter himself; although in point of moral excellence Peter as far
surpassed the common standard of human virtue as Alexander fell short of it.
In a more restricted sense, holiness is predicated of men alone, to signify
perfection of moral character; in other words, perfect agreement of the free
volitions and actions of a man with the moral law. The moral law itself is the
eternal law of God, prescribing the line of action to be followed by rational
creatures in the pursuit of their last end. The moral character of a man is
perfect, if he does his duty with unfailing integrity. His duty as a reasonable
being is to use his freedom reasonably. One of the first demands of reason in
him is that he should submit freely to the will of his Creator as soon as he
knows it. Doing so, he renders his actions in complete accordance with the
dictates of infinite wisdom; for as God's will is really one with His infinite
intellect, it is impossible that God should impose any duty upon us otherwise
than in absolute harmony with His supreme reason. Hence we may define a holy man
to be a man who uses his free-will constantly in such a way as to comply with
the rule of action that infinite wisdom has laid down for him from eternity.
185. This definition, derived as it is from the common acceptation of the word,
enables us to see that the attribute "holy," taken in its stricter sense, may be
predicated of God. His free-will is not only united with His infinite wisdom,
but in its subjective aspect is identical with it. It is, therefore, absolutely
impossible that any free volition of God, any decree of His, any Divine action,
or ordination, regarding creatures, should be different from what it ought to be
according to the judgment of infinite wisdom. Independently of any other being,
in virtue of His essence, God has an infinitely perfect knowledge of the way in
which it behoves Him to use His freedom of will. Out of the purest love to His
own infinite goodness (which is the spring and source of whatever is good), He
wills and works according to that knowledge. Hence He is perfectly and
absolutely holy, Holiness itself,

186. This holiness is the standard by which we must judge of the rest of God's
moral attributes. The first of these attributes is the love and benevolence God
bears towards His creatures. He loves all inasmuch as He wills they should all
have some natural good. But in a stricter sense of the word God is said to love
His rational creatures. Towards them He has a love of benevolence or friendship.
On the other hand, strictly speaking, we cannot say that He is benevolent to
irrational creatures; the reason whereof is simply this, that benevolence is
either joy over, or a wish for, another's happiness; and only rational beings
are capable of happiness. Love of friendship towards irrational creatures can
only be based upon a misapprehension of their true nature. In view of the traces
of the Divine goodness which they exhibit, and the generic similarity which they
bear to the inferior part of our nature, we may call them our friends, or even,
with the pious exaggeration of St. Francis, our brothers and sisters; we may be
much opposed to reckless hurting of their sentient organism. All this accords
perfectly with reason. But as soon as we begin to represent them to ourselves as
self-conscious, as reflecting upon their state, and consequently, as capable of
happiness and misery in the proper sense of the words -- as persons, and not as
things only -- our behaviour becomes unreasonable, and borders on morbid
sentimentality. It would be blasphemy to suppose such a violation of reason in
God. In conclusion, as regards the benevolence of God towards His rational
creatures, we know from reason alone that that benevolence is ample enough
perfectly to satisfy the demands of infinite wisdom. From Revelation we are
certain that God on His part is ready to make each of His rational creatures in
a certain sense infinitely happy in a future life, and that only abuse of
freedom on their own part can thwart and frustrate the benevolent intention of
their Creator.

187. Light is thrown upon the benevolence of God by another of His moral
attributes closely connected with it -- Divine mercy. Mercy, as it is a virtue,
and not blind feeling, consists in the efficacious will to remove the misery of
others to the extent approved of by rightly enlightened reason. In men the
practice of this virtue is frequently attended with a sort of tender emotion
caused in our sensitive organism by the sight or imagination of misery. And just
as benevolence is not seldom misapplied by us, so we may also err in the
exercise of mercy. In those who are called to govern others, for instance, mercy
may degenerate into a vice, if they allow themselves to be drawn away from
preventing public danger by compassion for individual criminals, who experience
pain and hardship if laws against crime are laid down and enforced.

Not a shadow of these and similar defects, which disfigure human mercy, can
exist in the absolutely perfect mercy of God. In it there is nothing of blind
emotion. It is purely spiritual, and the rule of its application is benevolent
wisdom. For this reason the mercy of God must manifest itself here on earth in
nothing so much as providing means by which men may deliver themselves from
moral misery. In fact, as men alone of all visible creatures are able to attain
happiness, so men alone can fall into that state which is properly termed
misery. It is shown in Ethics that the final happiness of man must consist in
union with God by perfect knowledge and love, a union to be expected in a future
life. According to Christian revelation, this happy possession of God will be a
supernatural one, an immediate intuition and fruition of the infinite beauty and
goodness of our Creator, carrying with it a complete and never failing
satisfaction of all our longings and desires without the least admixture of
satiety or disgust.

From this it must be inferred that man is to be called substantially happy, in
this mortal life, so long as he is on the right path to his future union with
God, and really miserable, so soon as he goes astray from it. Here, then, there
arises the question: Which is the true way to that union? Reason answers
clearly: Compliance with the law of God in the use of moral freedom.
Christianity stamps this judgment of human reason with the seal of Divine
authority; and assures us, moreover, that nothing is able to endanger man's
final happiness but a deliberate breach of the law of God.

This being so, God cannot show His mercy in this world more splendidly than by
leading men to the knowledge of Himself and to the observance of His law, and
offering to those who transgress it a remedy against the evil consequences of
their transgression.

188. Different from but not opposed to the effects of Divine mercy are the
manifestations of another moral attribute of God -- His justice. By this term we
do not signify commutative justice, or that moral disposition which inclines us
to render to others what they have a right to ask. This virtue cannot belong to
God, who is the First Cause of all rightful claims, and against whom, strictly
speaking, no one can have a right, as He is the only Lord of all. However,
besides that kind of justice there is another kind, called by writers on Ethics
distributive justice. This term denotes a virtue proper to rulers of a
community, a virtue which consists in a constant will to treat every subject
according to his dignity and merits. Such a will is a moral excellence which
does not connote any imperfection, and therefore cannot be wanting in God, whose
absolute dominion extends over the whole of creation. Being possessed of
infinite knowledge, He thoroughly comprehends the natural and supernatural
dignity of each of His rational creatures, and estimates exactly its merits or
demerits. Knowing, moreover, how many ways of treatment there are applicable to
a concrete case without violation of wisdom, He is free to choose between those;
but He cannot choose any way forhidden by His wisdom.
These few statements embrace almost everything that can be said on the subject
of Divine justice a priori. To determine accurately the way in which creatures
are to be dealt with in harmony with their natural dignity and merit, is the
work of God alone, whose judgments man has not to criticize, but in all humility
to accept. Created reason rightly used cannot be opposed to the reason that is

189. From the identity of this uncreated reason with the will of God we argue
that He possesses two other moral attributes, veracity and fidelity. God is
truthful, that is to say, He never can utter falsehood, nor approve of any such
utterance on the part of His creatures. The reason is obvious. He is essentially
infinite Intellect and infinitely righteous Will. Under the former aspect His
essence is the expression of all objective truths in such a perfect way that He
is constantly conscious of each of them; under the latter aspect He loves
Himself necessarily as an infinitely complete representation of truth. His
dealing with creatures must be in conformity with this love which is essential
to Him. But an utterance made with the intention of leading into error would
evidently be opposed to this essential love of truth. Such an intention would
necessarily be involved in any false utterance coming from God: for Infinite
Wisdom cannot tell an untruth by mistake. It follows then from God's very nature
that His every utterance must be true.

But can God'ever approve of a lie told by one of His rational creatures? To
solve the question, we have only to weigh the fact that lying is directly in
conflict with the natural desire for truth proper to rational beings. The good
of a creature endowed with intellect is truth. Its final happiness is in the
possession of God, the Infinite Truth. The preparation to be made for this
happiness must be the direction of the creature's free-will towards God by the
way of true knowledge and true love. For these reasons man feels himself
instinctively repelled by the suggestion of deliberate insincerity. The child's
first lie is told with remorse and confusion and sense of moral disorder. How
could it be otherwise? The intention to tell a falsehood is a stain on the
natural image of Eternal Truth stamped upon the human heart. God Himself has an
infinite detestation of uttering what is false, and necessarily wills that His
rational creatures should in all free acts conform their will to His will, and
consequently to the exigencies of their nature. It is therefore altogether
inconceivable that God should ever approve of the deliberate spreading of
falsehood. Every deliberate lie must be condemned by Him as something
intrinsically bad: and all the more condemned, the more it tends to draw men
away from God the Truth. Before all others therefore those liars must be held in
special abhorrence by God who under the false pretence of Divine authorization
try to lead others into error as regards religion and morals. Their endeavours
cannot possibly be favoured by evident marks of Divine approval, as are true
prophecies and true miracles. No false religion can be supported by such marks.
God's veracity is the light which guides the Christian safely along the narrow
paths of faith. Another moral attribute of God, His fidelity, guarantees the
attainment of the goal of happiness to which living faith leads.

"God is faithful," writes St. Paul.{7} To prove this, we need but to consider
the veracity along with the physical and moral immutability of God. Being
truthful, He does not reveal that He will punish or bless, without at the time
of the revelation intending to award punishment or blessing, either absolutely
or under certain conditions. This intention, in virtue of His physical and moral
immutability, remains unchangeable. Consequently, when the time arrives to which
the threat or promise is attached, and the condition fulfilled under which it
was uttered, He is as determined to keep His word as He was when He first
uttered it. As we shall see in the next chapter, He is also omnipotent.
Therefore nothing can prevent Him from doing what He wills. Consequently, He is
faithful. He will never be mocked by the sinner who despises His warnings, nor
will He ever disappoint the just man who relies upon His promises.
Note. -- Difficulties against the moral attributes of God will be solved in the
chapter on Providence.

Natural Theology: 43 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- The Will of God as supreme Life and Beatitude.

Thesis XXXI. -- God lives an infinitely perfect intellectual life, and enjoys an
infinite beatitude; consequently sadness, anger, and repentance are not to be
predicated of Him except in a metaphorical sense.

190. There are three principal kinds of life in this world: vegetative,
sensitive, and intellectual. Vegetative life is carried on by the processes of
nutrition, growth, and reproduction.
Sensitive life manifests itself in organic perception, imagination, organic
instinct and craving, and in locomotion.

Intellectual life consists in acts of understanding and will.

As is proved in Psychology, plants have only vegetative life, brutes vegetative
and sensitive but not intellectual life, whilst man unites in himself all three
lives. God cannot have vegetative and sensitive life, for these involve a
material organism, and God is a pure Spirit. But He must have intellectual life,
which does not involve any essential dependence on matter, and is a pure
perfection. His life is therefore essentially intellectual; and as His intellect
and volition are infinitely perfect, He must be said to live an infinitely
perfect life.

xvi. Even without the light of Revelation we can understand that the life of God
must be infinitely blissful, a state of supreme beatitude. Beatitude is defined
in scholastic language as the bonum perfectum intellectualis naturae, i.e., the
fulness of everything really desirable to a rational being. Such a being has a
natural longing for truth. Consequently, beatitude must attend the full
possession of truth. This full possession is to be found in God, and in God
alone. From this it follows that beatitude is greater in proportion as the union
with God through knowledge and love increases. But God comprehends Himself with
absolutely perfect knowledge, and has an infinite love for His own infinite
goodness. He is therefore infinitely happy in virtue of His infinitely perfect

As He is unchangeable, so His beatitude can undergo no change. Neither the
material universe, with its countless beauties and wonders showing forth
everywhere traces of God's power, wisdom, and bounty, nor the world of created
spirits, reflecting in legions of incorruptible beings the image of the Divine
Majesty, nor the blessed in Heaven, praising their Creator day and night, nor
the just on earth serving Him under trials and temptations, can augment His
beatitude in the least. Nor does the rebellion of Lucifer and his wicked band,
the indifference and ingratitude of mortals, the never-ceasing obstinacy of the
damned in Hell, mar in any way the happiness of Him whose essence is the centre
and the only source of all happiness. He is the Lord who embraces His servants
with a care and love infinitely more pure and generous than that of the
tenderest mother, but without anxiety and sorrow. His Justice sentences the
impenitent to everlasting misery, but without anger and excitement, and without
wishing them evil as evil, out of love to the order demanded by His infinite
Wisdom. "He was," to use the words of Cardinal Newman, "from eternity ever in
action, though ever at rest; ever surely in rest and peace, profound and
ineffable: yet with a living present mind, self-possessed, and all-conscious,
comprehending Himself and sustaining the comprehension. He rested ever, but He
rested in Himself; His own resource, His own end, His own contemplation, His own

192. It is then evident that no affection of will implying want of perfect peace
and serenity of mind is compatible with the infinitely blissful state proper to
the Divine Existence. Sadness, therefore, especially that sort of sadness called
envy, which finds a reason for grief in the prosperity of others, and which by
the heathens of old was attributed to their false gods, is altogether alien to
the Divine Nature. It follows from this also that anger and repentance, which
have their root in some sadness, cannot be predicated of God properly.
Notwithstanding all this, there is a deep truth in the Scriptural expressions by
which on certain occasions sadness, anger, and repentance are attributed to God.
But they must be explained as metaphors, as Catholic Doctors have always
explained them.{9}

God is said to be angry, because He decrees to inflict penalties on sinners; and
thus deals with them as a king on earth might deal with a subject who had
provoked his anger. But while the earthly potentate may be really angry, and act
out of passion, God is neither liable to the passion of anger, nor can He
inflict punishment for the sole object of causing pain. He does not punish save
for justice' sake, and that in absolute calmness. Infinite, therefore, is the
difference between what is metaphorically called the anger of God, and what is
really the anger of man. The one resembles the other, not in its essence, but in
its effects.

The same holds good of repentance, attributed to God metaphorically, and
existing in man really. Repentance taken in its proper meaning is essentially
sorrow and dissatisfaction arising from the consciousness of having done
something evil, or omitted something good which should have been done. Such
sorrow cannot be genuine, unless it includes the wish and resolution to undo the
past mistake as much as possible. This purpose of following another line of
action for the time to come is marked by special firmness and determination in
the case of true repentance. For this reason the term "repentance" is a very apt
metaphorical expression, to signify that God in virtue of His eternal decrees
will henceforth either withdraw certain blessings and inflict certain penalties
on account of the sins of men, or will cease to punish and pour out favours in
consideration for sinners being sincerely converted to Him. In the former sense
repentance is attributed to God in the Book of Genesis:{10} "It repented Him
that He had made man." This phrase means that God foreseeing the spread of vice
among the contemporaries of Noe, had decreed from eternity to destroy them off
the face of the earth. The same term is used also to denote God's eternal decree
to stay the infliction of penalties, on condition of true conversion. Thus God
orders the Prophet Jeremias to speak to the cities of Juda, all the words which
He had commanded him: "If so be they will hearken and be converted every one
from his evil way, that I may repent Me of the evil that I think to do unto them
for the wickedness of their doings."{11}

There are in Scripture other terms applied to God which signify disgust and
sadness at the doings of others. This language metaphorically denotes the
extreme hatred that the Divine will bears to sin, especially to those sins which
are committed after the reception of special favours, or which imply want of
faith and confidence in the word of God. Thus we read in reference to the
ingratitude of the chosen people: "In those days the Lord began to be weary of
Israel."{12} The want of faith in the unbelieving King Achaz, the representative
of the house of David, calls down the reproach: "O house of David, is it a small
thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also?"{13}
So long as men remain sensitive-rational beings -- they will continue thus to
express spiritual truths in metaphorical language. And the more they contemplate
the infinite perfection of the Creator of matter and spirit, and the more their
heart is set on fire with love for "the First Author of beauty,"{14} the more
impressively will they speak of Him in language rich with imagery. Those who at
once suspect anthropomorphism when they hear the language of metaphor used of
the First Cause, are as unreasonable as he would be who should accuse men of
anthropomorphizing nature when they seek a shelter against the rage of a
snowstorm, protect the sensitiveness of a delicate instrument, disport
themselves in the smiling meadows, or watch the sun sinking to his couch.

{8} Discourses addressed to Mixed Congregations, p. 289. (Seventh Edit.)
{9} Cf. St. Thomas, Contra Gentes, i. 89, and 91. § "Sciendum tamen."
{10} Genesis vi. 6.
{11} Jeremias xxvi. 3.
{12} 4 Kings x. 32.
{13} Isaias vii. 13.
{14} Cf. Wisdom xiii. 3.
Natural Theology: 44 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER VI. The Omnipotence of God.

Thesis XXXII. -- God is able by the infinite efficacy of His will to effect
whatever is not intrinsically impossible; wherefore He is all-powerful or

193. Power is ability to effect. In created agents there is no ability to effect
anything beyond changes in things that are already existing in virtue of God's
creative act, as we have proved in Book I. Even this power of producing changes
in already existing things is in many ways imperfect, as creatures possess it.
In inanimate matter, plants and dumb animals, the power is exercised without the
agent being able to control it. The magnet has no choice, but must communicate
its mysterious power to the iron that comes near it; the oak-tree of necessity
pushes its roots beneath the earth to obtain nourishment; nor can the dog help
running to the food that tempts his appetite, or turning against another animal
which has provoked his anger. It is evident that such blind power is essentially
defective, and therefore altogether inconceivable in God.

Let us now turn to the consideration of the power of man. In him, as in the
lower animals, there are material forces, vital power, sensitive perception,
animal instinct, and the faculty of locomotion. But in him there is, besides all
this, intellect and free-will; and in virtue of the intellectual life sustained
by these two faculties, he has the power of producing an effect freely chosen.
He alone therefore among all beings of the visible world has a power which can
properly be predicated of God. No production of any effect can be a
manifestation of pure perfection, unless it be controlled by free-will. Yet not
all production thus controlled, when considered in the concrete, is pure
perfection. It is enough to glance at the exercise of man's power in order to
see the truth of this statement. Man has the power of choice and of carrying out
what he has chosen, only on certain conditions independent of his free-will.
There is, moreover, in him a real distinction between the faculty of choosing
and the faculty of carrying out the effect chosen. The former resides in his
will, the latter in the faculties subject to the rule of his will. If he chooses
something for which these faculties are unfit, his faculty of choice is not
borne out by the faculty of execution, as in the case of a paralytic resolving
to walk. In this case choice is not only distinct from execution, but is
altogether divorced from it. Choice thus void of efficiency is not power. That
power alone is absolute perfection which essentially involves at once the
faculty of choosing and the faculty of carrying out the choice: and this is the
exclusive privilege of the power of God. God is essentially Free-will in His
relation to everything distinct from His own unchangeable essence. Whatever He
chooses to effect, that He carries out by the efficacy of His will. "Power,"
says St. Thomas, "is not attributed to God as something really different from
His knowledge and will, but as something expressed by a different idea; as power
means the principle which carries out the command of the will and the advice of
the intellect. These three (viz., intellect, will, power), coincide with one
another in God."{1}

194. The power of God, being absolutely perfect and really one with His
intellect and will, and consequently with the simple, infinite, Divine essence,
must be infinite; that is to say, it must suffice of itself to produce whatever
is not intrinsically impossible. Hence it follows that God can, by His will
alone, produce things out of nothing. This truth we have proved in Book I., by
showing that no other hypothesis than that of creation can account for the
origin of matter and mind, in accordance with the nature of God and of material
and spiritual things. The explanation just now given of God's power, and of its
identity with His will, is calculated not only to bear out the fact of creation,
but also to show how the possibility of creation is necessarily attached to the
essence of God.

It further follows that the range of Divine power infinitely surpasses its
actual productions. These are regulated by irrevocable eternal decrees. Once
such decrees are made by Him, God can apply His power only in agreement with
their import.

Therefore we have to distinguish between the absolute and the regulated power of
God (potentia Dei absoluta et ordinata). By His absolute power He can do
everything which is not intrinsically repugnant. By His power, however, as ruled
by His decrees, or by His regulated power, He cannot carry out anything but that
which He has decreed. Thus, for instance, God has the absolute power to preserve
man altogether from death: but He cannot do so in the present order, because He
has decreed otherwise. To express this technically, scholastics say: God can
preserve man from death, potentia absoluta; He cannot do so potentia ordinata.
195. Against the omnipotence of God thus explained the following difficulties
are often raised.

(1) God cannot commit a sin. But the commission of a sin is something
intrinsically possible. Therefore God cannot do everything intrinsically

Answer. In answering this difficulty we have first to remark that the essence of
sin does not consist in the production of an effect, but in the opposition of
free-will to the eternal law of God. If a sin carries an effect with it, as in
the case of blasphemy, theft, murder, and other crimes, such an effect is sinful
only inasmuch as it is brought about by the abuse of moral freedom to the
neglect of the Divine law. Sin therefore is intrinsically possible only in a
being whose will can neglect the law of God, and whose faculties can be used in
opposition to that law.

But the will of God cannot be opposed to the law of God, because that law
considered under its subjective aspect is really identical with the act of the
Divine will. Nor can any Divine faculty be used in opposition to the Divine law,
because none is really distinct from its source, the unchangeable Divine
essence. Although, therefore, sin in a created being is intrinsically possible,
yet the proposition, "God can sin," is intrinsically contradictory. Nor can it
be said that this intrinsic repugnance between the nature of God and the nature
of sin implies any defect of power in God. It would do so indeed, if sin
considered precisely as sin consisted in the production of something really
distinct from the free self-determination of the will to neglect a line of
thinking, judging, desiring, acting, sufficiently manifested by the voice of
conscience as prescribed by the Creator. The perfection underlying the action of
self-determination is the faculty of free-will; and this faculty, of course, is
in God formally and eminently. The action of self-determination itself, as we
have repeatedly remarked, is not a production of any reality distinct from the
free choice of the will, but it is the will itself, inasmuch as it approves, or
rejects, or neglects an object presented by the understanding as eligible. When
a being endowed with free-will and capable of sinning, enjoys the use of its
freedom, it does not want more power to commit sin than to abstain from sin, but
its power in that state suffices for either of the two alternatives. On the
other hand, the ability to commit sin involves liability to be overcome by
false, unreasonable motives, and this liability is rather weakness and
imperfection than power and perfection. Consequently, if God could commit sin,
he would not possess more active physical power, but would be exposed to moral

(2) God can produce no other God. But if His power were infinite, He should be
able to do so; because infinite power must suffice for the production of an
infinite Being.

Answer. As we have seen in Book I., it is repugnant to the nature of a
self-existing being that it should exist in several separate individuals.
Hence another God is something intrinsically impossible. Infinite power,
precisely because it is infinite, cannot be fully manifested, whether in a
particular effect or in a series of effects; it is essentially inexhaustible

For this reason it also excludes the possibility not only of another God, but
even of an absolutely best world or best creature, as we have explained in Book
I. chap. iv.

{1} "Potentia non ponitur in Dea ut aliquid differens ab scientia et voluntate
secundum rem sed solem secundum rationem, in quantum scilicet potentia importat
rationem principii exequentis id quod voluntas imperat et ad quod scientia
dirigit; qum tria, Deo secundum idem conveniunt." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia.
q. 25 art. 1. ad 4.)
Natural Theology: 45 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER VII. The Metaphysical Essence of God.

Thesis XXXIII. -- The metaphysical essence of God, or that Divine attribute by
which the human intellect must principally distinguish Him from all created
beings, is the attribute of self-existence. In other words, God is best defined
by saying that He is the self-existing Being, or "He who is." Consequently, the
transcendental attributes, "Truth," "Goodness," "Beauty," belong most properly
to God, who is to be called the first and supreme Truth, the first and supreme
Goodness, the first and supreme Beauty.

196. The essence of a created thing is that in virtue of which it is what it is
(id quo res est id quod est), or that which constitutes its inmost being, and
without which it could not possibly be what it is said to be. Using the term in
a wider sense, we apply it not only to natural substances, but also to
artificial things, to accidental determinations of substances, and even to
defects. Thus we speak of the essence of a machine, of the essence of colour, of
the essence of a disease, of sin, &c. But primarily the word "essence" is used
of natural substances.

Under this aspect of the meaning of "essence" a distinction is to be drawn
between the essence of a thing as existing and as conceived by a human

There are in the order of existence as many essences as there are different
substances; for each particular substance has its peculiar being, and is in
virtue thereof one particular substance and no other. As St. Thomas expresses
it: Esse proprium cujuslibet rei est tantum unum -- " The proper being of each
thing is only one."{1}

If a particular individual thing could be conceived by us adequately and
according to its proper being, our knowledge of its essence would be complete;
in other words, we should have grasped what some among modern scholastics call
the physical essence of the thing.{2}

But no substance is fully known by us according to the inmost constitution of
its being. Consequently of none do we know exactly its physical essence. Such
distinction as we are able to draw between one individual thing and another, is
based upon a difference of accidental determinations, or individual marks (notae
individuantes). Thus we tell one man from another by his figure, gait, size,
countenance, voice, &c.

The essence of created things as conceived by us does not contain all, but only
some of the realities of which its physical essence is made up, to wit, such as
are found in other things of a similar, though not really the same, physical

Conceiving for instance the essence of an individual man as a sensitive rational
being, I conceive it in no way adequately as it is existing, but only
inadequately according to those notes which I conceive as obtaining in all
individual men. These individuals differ from one another precisely in virtue of
their different physical essences, whilst at the same time they resemble one
another on account of the similarity of those essences. The notes which form the
basis of such a resemblance constitute the metaphysical essence of each member
of the group.

The metaphysical essence is consequently an inadequate mental expression of the
physical essence of a thing. That expression may be of various shades of
perfection. It may express only the remote genus to which a thing belongs, or
its proximate genus only, or its proximate genus together with the specific
difference, by which the lowest species of which it is a member, differs from
other species. Thus I express the metaphysical essence of my friend very
inadequately by saying that he is a substance, more to the point by giving him
the name of living being, still better by affirming that he is an animal, and
best of all by deiaring that he is a rational animal.

What we have said about physical and metaphysical essence, is based upon the
doctrine laid down by logicians that the universal as such has no existence, but
exists only inasmuch as it is realized in particular things resembling one
another. Hence it is readily understood that the metaphysical essence of a
created thing is a true but imperfect mental delineation of the physical
essence; and that consequently the distinction between metaphysical and physical
essence, in so far as both are verified in one individual thing, is not a
distinction existing as such objectively, but in thought only. Yet as it is
based upon the objective similarity of physical essences, it is not a mere
fiction, but founded on a real fact.

The limitations of the human intellect prevent our having any more accurate
conception of the essence of a created being than is obtained by putting
together those notes which constitute its lowest species. We say accordingly
that we know the essence of a thing, when we are able to express the realities
intelligible in each member of its lowest species. For the same reason the
definition of a thing is supposed sufficiently to express its essence, when it
gives a good account of its specific nature, as is done by indicating the
proximate genus and the specific difference of that nature. Here then the old
principle of St. Thomas is verified, that our way of speaking imitates the
inadequacy of our conceptions. Although the metaphysical essence of a thing
expresses its real physical essence but very imperfectly, yet it is simply
called "essence." "Essence or nature," says St. Thomas, "comprises only those
notes of a thing which fall under the definition of a species, as for instance
humanity comprises only those notes which are contained in the definition of
man; for by these man is man."{3}

"Essence is properly that which is signified by a definition. But a definition
comprises only the constituents of a species, not those of an individual."{4}
"The essence of each thing is that which is signified by its definition."{5}
197. These remarks about "essence" may suffice to explain the sense in which
Catholic philosophers speak of the Divine Essence. Sometimes they use the term
to express what would correspond to the physical essence of creatures. We meet
for instancv with passages like the following: "Although the existence of God
and some of His attributes are knowable, yet His Essence cannot be known by us,
so long as we are in this life." In such phrases "Essence" means the Being of
God as it is in itself. Thus considered, it is hidden from our direct and
immediate intuition. Our natural knowledge about it is altogether inferential,
analogical, and inade~ quate. And, indeed, so it must be. Experience testifies
that we are unable to grasp adequately the physical essence of even the meanest
of creatures. How then shall we fathom that of the Creator?

The question then arises: Is there among the attributes of God any one attribute
that may rightly be called His metaphysical Essence? This attribute, if such
there be, must distinguish God from all species of finite beings after the
manner in which the metaphysical essence of creatures of a certain species
distinguishes them from those of another species of the same proximate genus.
And as the metaphysical essence of a creature is for our intellect the root of
its specific properties, so the metaphysical essence of God should furnish a
foundation for our mind to construct thereupon in systematic order the rest of
the Divine attributes.

To this question different answers have been given by different schoolmen.
Scotus thought that the attribute of infinity was aptly called the Essence of
God; Billuart held that the Divine intelligence, inasmuch as it is
self-existing, deserved that name.

Neither of these two opinions satisfies the explanation of metaphysical essence
given above. To human reason, unaided by revelation, infinity is not the root of
all the attributes of God; for we cannot understand why God must be infinite,
before we have understood that He is self-existent and one.{6} Nor again is the
attribute of intelligence, considered as self-existent, the starting-point from
which our intellect proceeds in order to establish the rest of the Divine
attributes. Moreover, this attribute of intelligence contains more than is
necessary to distinguish God from all creatures. For this purpose it is not
requisite to affirm that He is a self-existent Intelligence; it is enough to say
that He is self-existent; for a self-existent being must be infinitely
intelligent, as our previous arguments have shown.

It is then in the attribute of self-existence alone that we find these
properties which make a Divine attribvte correspond to what we call in creatures
metaphysical essence. In this attribute there is expressed as well that which is
(analogically) common to God and to creatures, as also that by which He is
distinguished from them all. God exists really and creatures exist really. God
has His proper being, or, rather is it, and so has every creature its proper
being. Inasmuch therefore as "being," conceived in the highest possible
abstraction, means nothing more than opposition to nothingness, we say truly:
God is and the creature is. Yet the Divine being and the created being differ
infinitely from one another in that the former is independent, the latter
dependent; the former uncaused, the latter caused; the former has all things of
itself, the latter has absolutely nothing of itself, but is itself an effect
produced out of nothing according to a preconceived idea derived from the Divine
essence. This infinite difference is indicated by saying, that God not only is,
but is of Himself, in virtue of His own essence; in a word, He is self-existent.
From this concept of self-existence we have unfolded the unity and infinity of
God and established rules for determining whether any given created perfection
is to be affirmed or denied of the Creator and in what sense.{7} Following these
rules we found the chief negative and positive attributes of God, as expounded
in the six previous chapters of this Book.

Self-existence is consequently, for a logically reasoning human intellect, not
merely a distinctive excellence of the Divinity, it is the one fundamental
excellence from which all others are to be explained. Therefore it deserves the
name of Divine Essence.

198. The only objection worthy of consideration against this view is this, that
self-existence does not sufficiently mark off the one true God from the
fictitious deity of pantheists and the uncreated atoms of materialists. It would
seem that monotheists, pantheists, and materialists agree with one another
perfectly in that they suppose a self-existent source of all being. Monotheists
believe in a self-existent personal and infinite God, who created all things
other than Himself out of nothing by His omnipotent will. Pantheists, at least
our modern Spinozists and Hegelians, assume a self-existent substance or idea
developing into various spiritual and material things as so many modes or
determinations of its proper being. Materialists imagine self-existent atoms
driven by inexplicable laws to evolve out of their innermost potentiality life
and sense and reason.

If then self-existence is predicated both of fictitious first causes and of the
one true First Cause, how can we say that it expresses the essence of God?
To understand fully the answer to this question, the reader must bear in mind
what has been proved in Book I. chap. iv. against the pantheistic and
materialistic hypothesis. It has been shown there{8} that both the self-existent
and self-evolving deity of pantheists, and the self-existent atoms assumed by
materialists, are intrinsically absurd. Now definitions are not made to
distinguish the thing defined from intrinsic absurdities, but to point out its
difference from realities. The definition of God must therefore contain that by
which God is clearly and primarily distinguished from all real things that are
not God. And from all these He is clearly and primarily distinguished by the
definition: God is the self-existent being. If, therefore, according to the
common way of speaking, the essence of a thing is the import of its definition,
self-existence must be the essence of God.

The truth underlying the difficulty which we have solved amounts to this, that
the phrase, God is the self-existing being, is not a definition, which in an age
like our own should be put forward without proper explanation. Yet this does not
prevent it from being a good definition in itself. All definitions need
explaining according to the circumstances of those to whom they are propounded.
199. Comparing the definition given with the name under which God revealed
Himself to Moses: "I am who am. . . . Thus shalt thou say to the children of
Israel: He who is hath sent me to you;"{9} we see that the phrase, He who is, is
identical in meaning with the self-existent being. The term, " self-existent
being," denotes that actual essence which alone is incapable of being rightly
conceived otherwise than as existing in itself. Every other actual essence can
be conceived as not existing in itself, as a mere term of the Divine intellect,
a purely possible imitation of the Divine essence. But this is exactly what is
meant by the Scriptural phrase, "He who is." God is accurately defified to be
the self-existent being, ipsum esse in se subsistens,{10} and He is equally well
defined, He who is, Qui est.

For the appropriateness of this name revealed by God Himself, St. Thomas{11}
gives three reasons.

(1) This name suggests to us that God is not a being made according to a
preconceived eternal idea, but a necessarily existing essence."{12}
(2) This name, as it is of the widest universality, does not, like other names,
such as Mighty, Wise, Just, connote a certain class or classes of beings.
Consequently, when used with emphasis as the proper name of the Divine Being, it
suggests to us that that Being is not limited in His perfection to the reality
conceivable in one or more genera of finite things, but unites in Himself
eminently whatever outside Himself can be conceived as being, in opposition to
privation or defect."{13} (3) The name He who is, as it contains the substantive
verb to be in the present tense, connotes the essence of God to be unalterable
eternity, an unchangeable standing "now" in the midst of transitory created

200. The metaphysical essence of God naturally suggests His three transcendental
attributes: Truth, Goodness, Beauty. We call them transcendental, because they
transcend all the genera and classification of substances inasmuch as they are
not properties of a certain class or classes of substances, but are, to a
certain extent, verified in every creature. They express the perfection of all
being whatsoever, as bearing certain relations to intellect and will.{15}
Every being, in so far as it is conceivable as a positive reality, is true; in
so far as its perfection is matter of approval or desire to a rational will, it
is good; and in so far as its perfection involves an excellence which the
intellect cannot contemplate without the will, if duly disposed, being moved to
a certain complacency and delight, it is beautiful.{16}

As then God unites in His self-existent essence all conceivable perfections, He
must stand in such a relation to every intellect and will as to deserve in a
most proper sense the denominations of Truth, Goodness, Beauty. A short
explanation and proof of this will aptly conclude this chapter.

201. (1) Truth. We must distinguish objective truth, intellectual truth, moral
truth. A thing is objectively or essentially true, in so far as it deserves the
name of thing, and is not a mere chimera. Every conceivable possible or actual
substance is consequently objectively true. Besides this properly transcendental
meaning of truth, there are two other senses in which truth is found only in
rational beings. A rational being apprehending and judging a thing in harmony
with its possible or actual existence, and not confounding the one with the
other, has formal or intellectual truth; its intellect is formally or
intellectually true. Intellectual or formal truth is the conformity of the
knowing intellect with the object known (adaequatio intellectus cum re).
A rational being when it addresses itself to other minds by speech or equivalent
modes of expression, is said to be truthful or not according as it manifests or
not what it takes to be objective truth. This sort of truth or truthfulness is
generally called moral truth. The speaker is under a moral obligation to be
truthful in this manner.

In each of these three meanings truth is proper to God without limit. He is
infinitely perfect objective Truth; for He is not only a really conceivable
Being, but He is the only Being the acknowledgment of whom explains all
realities, as He is the principle of all possible being and the First Cause of
all actual being outside Himself. Being possessed of an infinite intellect,
which is really identical with His essence, He is the first intellectual Truth,
not liable either to the shadows of ignorance or to the depravations of error.
Moreover it has been proved in our exposition of His moral attributes that His
veracity and faithfulness are absolutely perfect. Each revelation He makes is
therefore morally true; and as the manifestation of infinitely perfect wisdomr
altogether infallible.

202. (2) Goodness is distinguished as absolute and relative. Absolute goodness
is the perfection. of a being, in so far as it cannot be considered in itself
without eliciting the approval of a rational and righteous will. Relative
goodness is the perfection of a being, considered in its aptitude to satisfy the
natural tendencies of other beings.

From these definitions it appears easily that God is supreme goodness both
absolute and relative. He is supreme absolute goodness by virtue of His
infinitely perfect essence, which contains without any defect everything worthy
of approval and love. He is supreme relative goodness, for, as we shall see in
Book III., no creature can reach the goal of its existence unless it be
preserved and directed by Him, who alone is the First Cause of its goodness;
and, as we see in Ethics, no rational being can find the happiness for which it
has been made, save through union with Him by perfect knowledge and love. Nay,
just as being, when taken as a necessary attribute, cannot be predicated except
of God, so goodness is predicable with absolute necessity of God alone. In this
sense our Saviour said, "None is good but God alone."{17}

St. Thomas gives a fuller explanation of this truth in the following words: "God
alone is good by His essence. For the goodness of everything is based upon its
perfection. Now there is a threefold perfection of a thing to be distinguished.
The first is that which constitutes its existence. To this a second perfection
is added, in that the thing existing receives some accidental qualities
necessary for its perfect operation. Its third perfection consists in attaining
something outside itself as the end of its existence. . . . But of these three
perfections none belongs to any creature in virtue of its essence. God alone
possesses them in this way. Indeed of Him alone can it be said that His essence
is His existence; He alone cannot receive accidental qualities, but possesses as
identical with His essence what is predicated of others accidentally -- for
instance, power, wisdom, &c. He also has no end to reach, but is Himself the end
of all things. It is consequently evident that God alone is essentially perfect
in every respect, which is tantamount to saying that He alone is good in virtue
of His essence."{18}

In the following article the Angelic Doctor explains thus the relation of God's
goodness to that of creatures: "Everything is said to be good in virtue of the
Divine goodness, inasmuch as this is the prototype, the first efficient cause
and last end of whatever is good. Nevertheless everything is good in itself, in
so far as it is a sort of copy of the Divine Being, from the resemblance to
which it is formally denominated good. Thus under one aspect there is one
goodness of all, under another aspect there are, if we may say so, many

Note. -- Goodness in a more limited sense signifies reasonable benevolence. That
this must be predicated of God in regard to His rational creatures we have
proved when treating of the moral attributes.{20}

203. (3) Beauty is the inseparable companion of perfect goodness. By the
beautiful we mean that which, when intellectually perceived, excites by its mere
contemplation feelings of satisfaction and delight in the well-disposed will.
This idea is happily expressed in the old saying, Pulcrum est splendor veri --
"Beauty is the lustre of truth."

The description given applies equally to a beautiful edifice, a beautiful
statue, a beautiful sermon, a beautiful saying, beautiful music, and to a
beautiful idea, a beautiful way of acting, a beautiful character, a beautiful
soul.{21} As our intellect in this life can have no direct intuition but of
sensible things, it is impossible for mortal men to contemplate beauty
intuitively unless it appears under sensible forms. Yet its essence is in no way
sensible, but purely intellectual. The most essential note of beauty in
corporeal things is proportion of parts to a whole and to one another. Now
proportion as such is evidently an object not of sense-perception, but of
intellectual apprehension, whether it exists in the region of colour or of sound
or of ideas, in the harmony of the animal body, limb with limb, or in the
fitness of moral action to the rational nature of the doer. It follows from this
that a brute beast, although it may have an attraction for bright colour, has no
true taste for beauty; and that the ability of a man to judge of its presence or
absence increases with the power of his intellect to strike a comparison between
phenomenal appearance and ideal type. Pulchra dicuntur quae visa placent,{22}
says St. Thomas. "Things beautiful are those of which the mental intuition
causes delight." The more comprehensive the mental intuition of the beautiful,
the greater is the spiritual delight produced by it. Things of which we can have
no direct intuition are to be judged beautiful if it can be shown that on the
supposition of immediate contemplation spiritual satisfaction would naturally
arise. This being so, God must be infinitely beautiful. In the section on Divine
Life{23} we draw the conclusion that the comprehensive knowledge which God has
of this His perfection necessarily involves in Him a state of infinite
happiness. How much more must this infinite perfection of the Creator suffice to
make finite minds happy if they are allowed to behold it. As God is the final
end of man, even the knowledge of Him as He is reflected in the mirror of
creatures would, as is proved in Ethics, become so perfect in our final state as
to cause in us a perfect natural happiness, supposing us not to have been raised
to a supernatural state, nor ever to have forfeited the attainment of our last
end by sin not pardoned. Indeed, the millions of infants who die without baptism
every year will rejoice throughout eternity over the Divine beauty as it is
reflected in creation. Yet their knowledge of God and the happiness resulting
from it cannot be compared with what Christian faith leads us to live and to
long for. By this faith we are certain that all those who believe in the Word
made Flesh with that living faith which works through charity are children of
God by adoption. As such they are destined to see God face to face, and to find
a torrent of delight in the vision of His eternal and unchangeable beauty. The
hope of coming to the enjoyment of this beauty of beauties has guided and
strengthened the Apostles and martyrs of all ages in the midst of persecutions
and torments. They reckoned with St. Paul "that the sufferings of this time are
not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in
us,"{24} when we shall see "the Blessed and only Mighty, the King of kings and
Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, and inhabiteth light inaccessible"{25}
to the intuition of mortals. The same hope forms even at the end of our
materialistic nineteenth century an inexhaustible source of consolation for
millions of Christians, who experience in the practice of Christianity the
fulfilment of the Divine promise: "He shall know of the doctrine whether it be
of God."{26} It is they who truly can rejoice in the thought of their Creator
even here on earth, whilst His essence is not seen by them. If all around seems
dark, in Him they find light. If everything else be lost, in Him they recover it
abundantly. "Wearied with the never-ceasing din of the world, wearied with the
monotonous bustle of commerce and of trade, wearied with the hollow pretensions,
the duplicity, the jealousies of political parties, wearied yet more with the
trivialities of social intercourse, and with the solemn littlenesses of
individual self-assertion as it jostles its way among the crowd to gain its own
wretched hillock -- what a joy and consolation to pass by contemplation (if only
for an hour) into the bosom of our ever-tranquil God."{27} It was during an hour
of this sublimest of all contemplations that St. Augustine exclaimed "Too late I
loved Thee, O Thou, Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! too late I loved

{1} Contra Gentes, i. c. 42.
{2} Cf. Grand-Claude, Breviariam Philosophiae, ii. n. 355. What here is called
physical essence corresponds in natural substances to the esse of St. Thomas as
distinguished from essentia.
{3} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 3. art. 3. in corp. "Essentiae vel natura
comprehendit illa tantum quae cadunt in definitione speciei; sicut humanitas
comprehendit in se ea quae cadunt in definitione hominis; his enim homo est
{4} "Essentia proprie est id quod significatur per definitionem. Definitio autem
complectitur speciei principia, non autem principia individualia." (St. Thomas,
Sum. Theol. i. 29. 2. ad 3.)
{5} "Essentia enim uniuscujusque rei est illud quod significat definitio ejus."
(Compendium Theol. c. x.)
{6} Cf. Bk. I. p. 100.
{7} See the rules laid down in Bk. I. pp. 101, seq.
{8} Bk. I. c. iv. § 78, seq. and §§ 93, seq.
{9} Exodus iii. 14.
{10} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 4. art. ii. in Corp.
{11} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 13. art. xi. in Corp.
{12} "Primum quidem propter sui significationem. Non enim significat formam
aliquam sed ipsum esse," &c.
{13} "Secundo propter ejus universalitatem . . . Quolibet enim alio nomine
determinatur aliquis modus substantiae rei; sed hoc nomen Qui est nullum modum
essendi determinat, sed se habet indeterminate ad omnes, et ideo nominat ipsum
pelagus substantiae infinitum."
{14} "Tertio vero ex ejus consignificatione. . . . Significat enim esse in
praesenti; et hoc maxime proprie de Deo dicitur, cujus esse non novit
praeteritum vel futurum."
{15} This is the original meaning of the word "transcendental," as it was
employed for centuries by scholastic philosophers. Since Kant it has been
employed with another meaning in quite a different connection. According to
Kant, the transcendental is what surpasses our experience.
{16} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 5. art. 4. ad 1.
{17} St. Luke xviii. 19.
{18} "Solus Deus est bonus per suam essentiam. Unumquodque enim dicitur bonum
secundum quod est perfectum. Perfectio autem alicujus rei triplex est. Prima
quidem, secundum quod in suo esse constituitur; secunda vero, prout ei aliqua
accidentia superadduntur ad suam perfectam operationem necessaria; tertia vero
perfectio alicujus est per hoc quod aliquid aliud attingit sicut finem. . . .
Haec autem triplex perfectio nulli creato competit secundum suam essentiam, sed
soli Deo, cujus solius essentia est suum esse, et cui non adveniunt aliqua
accidentia; sed quae de aliis dicuntur accidentaliter, sibi conveniunt
essentialiter, ut esse potentem, sapientem, et alia hujusmodi; ipse etiam ad
nihil aliud ordinatur sicut ad finem, sed ipse est ultimus finis omnium rerum.
Unde manifestum est quod solus Deus habet omnimodam perfectionem secundum suam
essentiam; et ideo ipse solus est bonus per suam essentiam." (St. Thomas, Sum.
Theol. i. q. 6. a. 3.)
{19} Unumquodque dicitur bonum bonitate divina, sicut prima principia exemplari,
effectivo et finali totius bonitatis. Nihilominus tamen unumquodque dicitur
bonum similitudine divinae bonitatis sibi inhaerente, qum est formaliter sua
bonitas, denominans ipsum. Et sic est bonitas una omnium, et etiam multae
bonitates." (Ibid. a. 4. c. fin.)
{20} Cf. Bk. II. c. v. sect. 2, § 186.
{21} Cf. Goethe's Aus den Bekenntnissen einen schönen Seele.
{22} St.Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 5. art. 4. ad 1. From the context it appears
clearly that it is not the intention of the Angelic Doctor to confine the
province of the beautiful to things visible by the eyes of the body. He says
expressly, "Pulcrum et bonum in subjecto quidem sunt idem . . . sed ratione
{23} Bk. II. c. v. sect. 3, § 191.
{24} Romans viii. 18.
{25} 1 Tim. vi. 15, 16.
{26} St. John vii. 17.
{27} Harper, Sermon on Spiritual Life, p. 1.
{28} "Sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi." (St.
Aug. Conf. X. 27.)
Natural Theology: 46 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.




204. IN Book I. we showed that the visible universe and the minds of men are
indebted for their origin to one personal infinitely perfect God, who created
matter and mind by the potency of a sheer exercise of volition. Thus the
Christian idea of God is justified before the tribunal of reason under a twofold
aspect; for it became evident that logical reasoning from the deliverance of our
senses and consciousness leads to the acknowledgment of what Christian
monotheists believe both about the fundamental attributes of God and about His
fundamental relation to this world as Creator of all things.

A fuller explanation and defence of the truths implicitly contained in the most
fundamental attributes of God (His self-existence, unity, simplicity, infinity),
formed the subject-matter of Book II. During the course of it we saw first that
the infinite Divine Being is placed above all internal changes by His
immutability, above all limits of duration by His eternity, beyond all
boundaries of space by His immensity. From these three negative attributes we
passed on to the consideration of the intellect and the will of God, those two
positive attributes which constitute the Divine life. It appeared clearly that
the Creator with an all-comprehensive intellectual grasp comprehends both the
infinite depths of His Divinity, and the innumerable multitude of finite beings,
possibilities that shall never turn to actualities, and also the whole of past,
present, and future existences, including even the future free volitions of
rational creatures. Next it was proved that God, knowing that He is infinitely
perfect, must love Himself with absolute necessity, whilst He is free to grant
or not to grant existence to things distinct from His essence. It was then shown
that the exercise of Divine freedom must be one eternal irrevocable choice, and
reasons were given for the compatibility of such a choice with the unchangeable
state of the Divine Nature. Having after that expounded the holiness of God and
the chief moral attributes comprised in it (benevolence, mercy, justice,
veracity, and fidelity), we concluded the treatise on the intellectual life of
God by demonstrating that He not only lives in the most proper sense of the
word, but lives also an infinitely happy life.

From the consideration of the internal perfection of the Divine will we next
proceeded to weigh its relation to possible finite beings, and arrived at the
conclusion that under this aspect Divine volition implies infinite power, or
omnipotence. The particular attributes of God thus established were in the last
chapter of Book II. compared with one another; and it was found that the most
fundamental of them all for the purposes of human thought, is the attribute of
self-existence; that this attribute therefore deserves the appellation of
"Divine Essence;" and that the name most appropriate to the Creator in
opposition to His creatures is that revealed by Himself, "Jahveh," or "He who
is." The fulness of being implicitly signified by this name led to the final
conclusion, that God stands in such a relation to every competent and
well-disposed intellect and will as to be, in the most proper sense of the term,
supreme truth, supreme goodness, supreme beauty.

The reader sees from this short recapitulation that the whole of Book II. aims
at bringing out logically and distinctly the import of the first fundamental
truth established in Book I. viz., that "there exists a personal God, one,
simple, infinitely perfect Being." It remains now to draw the logical
consequences from the second fundamental dogma proved in Book I. viz., that "God
is the Creator of the universe."

205. The first question suggested by the great fact of creation is this: How far
do existing creatures continue to be dependent on God both as regards the
continuance of their being and the exercise of their activity? It will appear
from the answers to be given to this question that under a certain aspect God
continually preserves all finite beings and operates immediately in all their
operations. These answers call forth at once another query: What is the final
goal prefixed by the Creator to the existence and actions of creatures? Is the
activity He exerts in their regard such as to deserve the name of Divine
providence and government? How shall we reconcile the affirmation of Divine
providence and government with the evils of this world, and with what Christians
believe about the eternal punishment of the wicked in the life to come?
Moreover, it is an historical fact that monotheistic nations of ancient and
modern times have believed and are believing still, not only in a Divine
government through the means of natural laws, but also in a supernatural
interference by special Divine revelations confirmed by prophecies and miracles.
What is the judgment of right reason on such a belief?

CHAPTER I. Divine Preservation and Concurrence.

SECTION 1. -- The Divine conservation of creatures.

Thesis XXXIV. -- Even after it has been created, created being cannot continue
to exist without continuous action on the part of God to preserve it in
existence. This Divine action is called "conservation."

206. We may begin by considering how far our created being can be affected in
regard to its continuance in existence by other created beings. To preserve a
thing is to be in some way or other the cause of its not ceasing to be what it
is. In this sense we speak of preserving health, life, good name, innocence,
virtue, peace, and so on. Now, as we have proved in Book I., the being of matter
as matter, and the individual being of each created spirit, human souls
included, must be attributed to immediate Divine creation out of nothing. From
this it follows that there is something in every creature which lies altogether
beyond the domain of created causality, whether to destroy or to continue its
existence. For the substance in question is either a purely corporeal thing of a
lower or higher order (a piece of inanimate matter, a plant, a dumb animal), or
it is a man, or it is a spirit. In the first case the basis of its individual
being is matter, as matter; in the second case matter joined to spirit: in the
third case spirit alone. Now the production of matter and spirit is production
out of nothing, and production out of nothing, as has been previously shown,
requires infinite and therefore Divine power. Such an effect manifestly cannot
owe its continuance in existence to the action of any creature. The power of
every creature and of all creatures together is finite, and finite power is
unable to destroy what has its existence in virtue of infinite power. Therefore
no creature and no multitudes of creatures can destroy even the smallest piece
of matter, or the most degraded of human souls. If they cannot destroy the being
of these things, evidently the preservation of such things cannot be ascribed to

Hence the preserving influence of creature upon creature is limited to the
substantial species of material things, and to the accidental states of
substances both material and spiritual. For instance, a sportsman may for a time
preserve his dog as a dog by taking care of its health, he may also destroy it
by a pistol-shot; but the matter of which the dog is made up cannot be destroyed
either by him or by any other creature; it is, so far as created power of
destruction goes, absolutely indestructible. An artisan may preserve by practice
his acquired skill in his art; yet it does not belong to him to preserve the
internal foundation of that skill, his own spiritual soul, and the elementary
matter of which his organism is formed.

In their own sphere creatures may preserve a thing either directly or
indirectly. Direct preservation is an influence without the continuation of
which the thing upon which it is exercised can no longer last. Thus through the
action of a source of light upon the organ of vision of sensitive beings,
colours are directly preserved as actually visible; for they exist under this
aspect only so long as that action lasts. For a blind man the phenomenon of
colour exists only potentially, nor can the quality denoted by the term "colour"
pass from potential to actual visibility in a room perfectly dark.
A thing is preserved indirectly, in that the causes are warded off which would
effect its destruction. An example of indirect preservation would be the rescue
of a man from drowning.

207. No created being then can preserve in existence either directly or
indirectly the underlying entity of any other created being. And now the
question arises: Does God preserve all things? And in what sense? The answer
given in our thesis is: God preserves all things directly.

That He does not preserve all individual things indirectly is evident both from
experience and reason. In mankind and in the other living beings of this world,
a continual corruption and generation of specific existence is witnessed. And
reason tells us that human souls and pure spirits are incorruptible substances,
consequently not liable to the influence of dissolving causes, and therefore, in
so far as their specific being is concerned, not capable of indirect

But we say that He preserves all things directly, and that without direct Divine
preservation no created being can continue in existence. As St. Thomas says:
"The existence of all creatures depends upon God in such a way that they could
not last even for a moment, but would return into nothing, if the influence of
Divine power did not keep them in being."{1}

And why so? For the following reasons: Since every created being consists
ultimately either of matter or of spirit or is a combination of the two, and
neither matter nor spirit can have their origin except in an immediate Divine
act, viz., that of creation, it follows that the very basis of the being of each
created substance depends for its origin exclusively on the power of God. Such a
dependence is manifestly an essential one. It is like the dependence of the
daylight on the sun, not like that of the offspring on its parent. But an
essential dependence must last so long as the dependent object retains its own
proper essence. Thus we arrive at the conclusion that every created essence
depends upon the power of God so long as its existence lasts; in other words,
that each creature, so long as it exists, is directly preserved by God.
The same inference may be drawn from this consideration: Every creature depends
upon the free volition of God for the existence of its inmost being, in that God
is free to grant or not to grant existence to finite things. But God can
withdraw what depends upon His free-will, a withdrawal not to be conceived as
the making of any reality, but only as a subtraction of preservation.
Hence God preserves all creatures continually and directly by not ceasing to act
upon them as the cause of their being.

The last italicized phrase is meant to prevent a wrong conception of Divine
preservation. It would be false and childish to conceive it with Bayle as a
reiterated creation, postulated by the continual sinking back of creatures into
nothingness, from which abyss they must be saved by the continual causation of
their being through Divine power. If this opinion were true, there would be
properly no preservation at all, but only renewal by Divine creation of
interrupted existences. The relation in which Divine preservation stands to
creation may be shortly put in this way: Creation is the omnipotent free
volition of God conceived as causing the starting into existence of finite
beings; preservation is the same omnipotent free volition of God conceived as
causing the continuance of the existences already produced. It is therefore
right to say: By preservation the creature receives nothing which it has not
already got by creation. It would, however, be wrong and false to assert:
Creatures are indebted to God immediately indeed for the first beginning of
their existence; yet its continuation depends only mediately upon the Creator.
This statement is to be rejected, for created beings are all under some aspect
continually and immediately dependent upon God alone. For the rest it is true
that under other aspects, explained above, creatures preserve creatures, but
only on the supposition that the basis of their own being, the very root of
their "esse," and likewise the basis of the things which they are said to
preserve, be kept in existence immediately by Divine power alone.{2}
208. These explanations will throw light upon the following difficulties:
(1) Angels and human souls are incorruptible beings, and consequently cannot
lose their existence as individuals of a certain species. But such incorruptible
beings do not need preservation. Consequently angels and human souls need no
preservation, and the doctrine that God directly preserves all creatures is

Answer. In this argument incorruptibility of individual existence is taken for
absolute necessity. It is true that human souls and angels cannot be dissolved
into component parts, and thus give rise to individual existences of other
species. But nevertheless their existence is an effect of free Divine volition,
and therefore is contingent, and, absolutely speaking, might cease to be. Faith
supported by reason makes us infallibly sure that God will never annihilate
either angels or men, and we have also good reason for thinking with St. Thomas
that He will not annihilate the elementary matter which forms the basis of all
corporeal beings.{3} Yet we have proved above that He could do so by withdrawal
of His preservation, if He willed. To express this in the technical terms
already explained in the chapter on Divine Power: God can annihilate them
potentia absoluta, not, however, potentia ordinata. Hence without His
preservation they would be nothing.

(2) The Creator should be able to produce effects superior in stability to those
of creatures. But if no effect of God's power can last without being preserved
by God, His productions are inferior to those of His creatures: for many
productions of creatures, monuments of art for instance, last for centuries
without any continuous action of the causes that produced them.
Answer. The apparent strength of this difficulty rests upon its attributing to
the causality of creatures what really is due to the power of the Creator. All
effects of creatures are modifications or transformations of subjects that owe
their existence to Divine creation. After the active influence of a created
cause has ceased, its effect continues only on the condition that the subject in
which it exists has a natural aptitude for its retention. A chemical compound
artificially produced is more or less stable in proportion as it satisfies the
affinities of the elements. A machine, the maker of which has violated the laws
imposed upon him by the attractive and resisting forces of its materials, is
sure soon to get out of working order. The impress of a seal, which lasts in
wax, is lost upon water. In a word, the durability of effects produced by
creatures is altogether dependent upon the nature of the created subject in
which they are produced. This subject itself has no other subject for its
support, and therefore would be nothing, if the free Divine volition that
produced it out of nothing, withdrew its omnipotent influence. Consequently the
assumption that on the hypothesis of Divine preservation created causes would
produce effects superior in stability to those produced by the Creator, is false
for two reasons: first, because all stability of effects of creatures is due,
not to the efficiency of the creature, but to the subjects produced by the
Creator; and secondly, there is no parity between these subjects and the effects
of created causes, as the former are productions out of nothing, the latter
changes of pre-existing created things.

{1} "Dependet enim esse cujuslibet creaturae a Deo, ita quod nec ad momentum
subsistere possent, sed in nihilum redigerentur, nisi operatione divinae
virtutis conservarentur in esse." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 104. art. I.
{2} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 104. art. 2. "Utrum Deus immediate omnem
creaturam conservet."
{3} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 304. art. 4. The holy Doctor teaches in
this article that God could annihilate creatures by overruling their natural
aptitude to persevere in existence. But this would be a sort of miracle, not
adapted to the spread of the knowledge and love of God, and therefore not to be
Natural Theology: 47 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- Simultaneous Concurrence of God in the actions of creatures.
Thesis XXXV. -- God concurs simultaneously in the actions of finite beings.

209. Hitherto we have treated of the continual direct action of God whereby He
sustains creatures in their existence. Now we are to consider His operation
regarding their activity. This subject is known in the schools of Catholic
Philosophy under the name of concursus divinus, or Divine concurrence. Instead
of "concursus" the Angelic Doctor uses constantly other terms. He denotes the
Divine co-operation with the actions of finite beings by the general term
"operation" (operatio); and he specifies it by saying that God moves creatures
to action (Deus movet res ad operandum), by which he means that this motion to
action is exercised inasmuch as God directs, as it were, the active principles
and forces of created natures, to their operation (quasi applicando formas et
virtutes rerum ad operationem), and that, inasmuch as the created activity being
thus influenced by Divine motion, all things act in virtue of the Divine power,
so much so that He is the cause of all the actions of every agent (secundum hoc
omnia agunt in virtute ipsius Dei; et ita ipse est causa omnium agentium).{4}

It is difficult to say which of the two modes of expression is better. Whether
we use the modern term "concursus" or whether we follow the terminology of St.
Thomas, and say that God's influence upon the activity of creatures is a sort of
motion or application exercised upon their faculties, that He operates in their
operation, and that creatures act in virtue of Divine power: all these technical
terms may be easily misunderstood unless accurately explained. Misunderstanding
of terms is here the more to be guarded against, because there is something in
the dependence of finite activities upon the action of God, which has become a
subject of controversy among Catholic philosophers, although they agree with one
another up to a certain point. That all actions of creatures, simultaneously
with their dependence upon created causes, have also a certain dependence upon
the action of the Creator, nobody denies. The difference of opinion is about the
nature of the dependence.

To the best of our ability we shall first put before the reader the doctrine
held by ourselves on this subject, and afterwards the controversy about the
necessity of what is called physical premotion or predetermination.
210. Let us begin by distinguishing various Divine operations or concurrences
regarding the activity of creatures.

(a) Natural and supernatural concurrence.

By the concurrence which is merely natural God helps creatures to act and work
in harmony with their natural faculties; whilst by supernatural concurrence He
elevates them to a way of acting to which their nature with its faculties is
inadequately proportioned, although it may be raised to the same by a special
Divine operation. Thus God concurs naturally with material things, in that they
act in agreement with the chemical, mechanical, and biological laws which rule
the energies of their nature. He concurs also naturally with the spiritual
faculties of man, intellect and will, as often as their operation is
proportioned to the psychological laws inherent in the human soul. But He
concurs supernaturally with the forces of His creatures, when He makes use of
them as ministerial or instrumental causes for the extraordinary Divine
operation known by the name of miracle, which we shall consider in chapter iii.
We may remark also by the way -- though this is a truth which lies beyond the
cognizance of reason and is only guaranteed by revelation -- that God exercises
a supernatural concurrence in those actions which, according to Christian
revelation, are performed under the influence of His actual grace, which
consists in supernatural illumination of the intellect, and comfort,
encouragement, and strength of the will. Thus a good preparation for and devout
reception of the sacraments of the Church, an effectual prayer, in fine every
action by which a reasonable creature positively prepares itself for final union
with God (and a fortiori, every good work meriting reward in Heaven) requires a
supernatural concurrence of the Divinity.

(b) Mediate and immediate concurrence.

By mediate concurrence God prepares the creature for a certain action: by
immediate concurrence He causes it to act really either with necessity or with
freedom according to its nature. In mediate concurrence several stages are
discernible, which we may best illustrate with reference to a particular free
action, say an alms bestowed by a charitable person on a man in need who has
offended him. To this action God has concurred mediately (alpha) by creating
that man, (beta) by preserving him, (gamma) by helping him to acquire the habit
of kindness and generosity, (delta) by directing through supernatural or natural
causes his attention to the reasons for which he should practise charity
precisely just now. The last sort of mediate concurrence is called moral
concurrence, and thus we arrive at a third distinction:

(c) Moral and physical concurrence.

Moral concurrence is only possible with regard to free acts. It consists in the
suggestion of motives to good actions, and in making such actions appear
desirable. Thus by moral concurrence God draws the will, but He does not force
it. We may distinguish a natural moral concurrence, exercised through the medium
of rational creatures, and a supernatural exercised immediately by God Himself.
By natural moral concurrence God causes those influences of created beings, for
instance of parents, teachers, good friends, upon our intellect and will, which
incline us naturally to choose what is right and to reject what is wrong. But
incomparably more excellent is the supernatural moral concurrence, known to
Christians under the name of Divine illuminations and inspirations, by which the
Holy Ghost moves our souls to saving actions, in such a way that it depends upon
the free-will of man whether he chooses to follow his Heavenly Guide or "to kick
against the goad."

In contrast with this moral concurrence, God's immediate influence upon the
creature in the moment of its action, and precisely upon its faculties
considered as acting, is called physical concurrence.

To signify that all capabilities of creatures for action must be reduced to
Divine creation and preservation, and that the exercise of these capabilities
can never take place but with dependence upon Divine volition, scholastics say
that God concurs with His creatures in action as the first cause, whilst the
creatures are second causes.

211. To prove the existence of a supernatural concurrence of God belongs to
apologetic and dogmatic Theology. We shall show its possibility and harmony with
reason in chap. iii. when treating of miracles. As regards natural concurrence,
it is enough to prove that every action of every creature depends immediately
upon God. From this it will follow that all the influences by which one creature
impels another to action must be considered as a mediate Divine concurrence;
which concurrence will be moral, if the influence exerted proceeds immediately
from a rational creature and consists in the suggestion of motives to a good

But what of suggestions to evil? Why cannot the harangue of a disloyal demagogue
exciting people to rebellion against their lawful sovereign be held as a
suggestion made to them under mediate moral concurrence on the part of God?
In order to give to questions like this a satisfactory answer, we have to weigh
carefully the relation of God to moral evil. We shall do this in chapter ii.,
and from the explanations given there it will become evident that God neither
intends sin, nor approves of sin, nor helps to sin, nor in sustaining the
natural activity of creatures, does anything which He should omit in order to
prevent sin.

These explanations presupposed, we may answer in short to the question proposed,
no man is rightly held responsible for suggestions to evil which in some way
arise out of his action as out of their mediate cause unless he either intends
to bring about the suggestion by his way of acting, or shows his approval of the
suggestion, or does not hinder it, although he not only could but also should do
so. Now, no one of these conditions is realized in God when He concurs with
rational creatures in their suggestions to evil. Therefore He cannot be said
mediately to suggest it.

212. As appears from what we have said, our task of proving the existence of
Divine concurrence philosophically, reduces itself to the demonstration of an
immediate or physical influence of the Creator upon the action of His creature.
When we speak of an immediate influence we do not mean to say that the action of
the creature depends under all aspects immediately upon God. This assertion
would be a virtual denial of created activity, and particularly of that activity
known under the name of free volition.

In order that the reader may understand under what aspect we argue the action of
a creature to depend mediately upon God, and under what aspect we say it depends
immediately upon God and the acting creature together, we must recall some
truths regarding action already touched upon in Book II., when we were occupied
in showing the harmony of Divine freedom with Divine immutability, and again
when we treated of the life of God.

What we do assert is that, although under one aspect the action of a creature is
truly its own action depending on its own activity, under another aspect it is
at the same time dependent upon God, and this not only mediately but
immediately. In other words, the creature in action depends upon a causal
exercise of the omnipotent Divine Will, not only for the existence and
preservation of its nature and faculties, but also for the actual exercise of
those faculties; so much so that it can use none of them unless the Creator in
the very moment when the faculty is used, supports it with the efficacy of His
Divine power. To this power the creature owes not only its faculties as
applicable for action, but also as applied to act.

If the former of these two different ways of dependence existed without the
latter, Divine concurrence would only be mediate. It then could be likened to
what a watchmaker does for his watches. His concurrence with the continual
motion of the watch is manifestly only mediate. Whether he wakes or sleeps,
whether he thinks of the watch or not, the watch goes for as long as the laws of
mechanics and dynamics will allow. But neither can the watch go, nor the
watchmaker work in its construction, nor any creature do anything whatsoever,
unless in the very moment in which the action takes place God wills that the
faculty from which it flows be really exercised.

213. This it is what we mean by immediate Divine concurrence. But no sooner is
the position stated than we feel obliged to guard it against misunderstanding.
We said just now that God by the power of His will, is a true cause of every
action at the very moment when it proceeds from the faculty of His creature.
Above we said, and every Christian believes, that God cannot approve of sin. How
are these two statements compatible? The answer involves a fuller explanation of
our position.

In every action that proceeds from a morally free faculty two characteristics
are to be distinguished. The first is the use of liberty or the act of choosing.
This act considered precisely as such is not due to the exercise of created
freedom, but it is that very exercise itself, and follows necessarily from the
free nature of the creature, so long as God wills that that nature shall have
its proper play and field of action. The free creature is not free to exercise
its freedom or not to exercise it, it is only free to exercise it with regard to
any particular object proposed as eligible, either accepting or not caring to
accept that object. It is then clear that the free act of the creature, in that
it is an exercise of freedom, can depend immediately both upon God and the
creature, and can nevertheless depend immediately upon the creature alone, in
that it is rather acceptance than neglect of a particular object. God willing
the exercise of freedom at the moment when it is exercised, implicitly wills
that there be a choice made by the creature. This choice is not a change, but an
immanent act of the will, consisting in what we may call the fixing or clamping
of one or other of two alternatives, namely, the refusal or the acceptance of
this object, this thought, this desire, this deed, this word, here and now
eligible to me. By the fact that God grants the actual use of freedom, He grants
the action of choice without determining its issue. So St. Thomas teaches
expressly when he says: "The act, as determined to be this or that, is from no
other agent than from the will itself."{5}

These explanations will enable the reader to understand how far the free
volition of a rational creature is due immediately both to God and to the
creature, how far it is immediately due to the creature alone, how far that
which is the creature's own doing is approved of by God, and how far it is
disapproved of by His will without being prevented by His power.

Inasmuch as free volition is the use of a faculty natural to rational creatures,
or, as scholastics are wont to say, an actus physicus, it is the immediate
effect both of God willing the use of the free-will, and of the creature having
this use actually under God, as a natural result of its faculty of freedom.
Inasmuch, however, as the use of freedom with regard to a certain object, say an
alluring imagination, is acceptance and not refusal or vice versa, it is a
self-determination immediately due to the creature alone. If the acceptance or
refusal the free creature makes is in harmony with the moral law laid down by
the Creator, it is approved of by Him. If it is against that law, He disapproves
of it, and cannot be said to will it, unless by this phrase be signified that He
wills not to impede it. In other words, at the moment of the free choice He
wills positively that His creature shall have the actual use of freedom; and
willing this, He leaves it to the creature to determine whether this use shall
be such or such with regard to the object in question, whether eventually it
shall be virtuous or sinful. The creature determines this, not by producing a
reality independently of God -- this would be absurd -- but simply by immanent
volition or nolition, neither of which means production, in the sense of the
effecting of a new physical actuality. Both volition and nolition are only
productions in the sense of causing a definite relation of will to a certain
object apt to be chosen, and at a moment in which the will has sufficient
actuality for choosing. The will itself alone causes immediately this its
relation to the object; in other words, it alone is the proximate cause of its
free self-determination, but only in virtue of an actuality, upon the bringing
about of which God as Prime Cause has immediate influence. (Cf. pp. 266 and

Thus it remains true that there is no actual being in the creature independent
of God, at the same time the free action of the creature, considered precisely
as self-determination to one alternative out of two or more, depends immediately
upon the creature alone as a consequence of moral freedom.

Having cleared away the danger of misunderstanding as regards the immediate
concurrence of God to all operations of creatures, we may now proceed to prove
that there is such concurrence.

214. In the preceding section on Divine preservation it was shown that no
created being can last even for a moment without being kept in existence by the
continuation of the same omnipotent Divine volition that caused it to be. As
Father Faber has beautifully said: "The home of the creature is the hand of the
Creator." From it there is no escape, so long as the creature exists. The pen
may drop from the hand of the writer, it does not lose thereby its existence,
though it be no longer applied to the work of writing; but the creature is so
absolutely under the sway of Divine omnipotence, as to have no being at all
apart therefrom. Now the omnipotence which preserves the creature is not a blind
force. No, God knows from eternity the nature of every creature that He
preserves, from the tiniest piece of matter up to the loftiest spirit. Decreeing
its existence and its preservation, He foresees what will naturally follow, if
He chooses to preserve the creature in a state harmonizing with its nature. He
sees that such a state is impossible without actual operation on the part of the
creature. Moreover, He comprehends perfectly the relation between nature and
action, and thus He foresees that under certain conditions of existence a
certain natural action of the creature will either be inseparably connected with
its existence or not. In the former case{6} He knows that decreeing its
existence implies decreeing its action; in the latter case He sees that it
depends upon Him to prevent, if He will, the natural outpouring of the activity
of the creature, at the same time that He preserves the creature in being. In
either case He cannot decree the existence of a creature for a certain moment,
together with the existence of the natural conditions prerequired for action,
and the existence of its unchecked natural activity, without decreeing thereby
the actual use of the faculties of the creature, or in other words the action
itself considered precisely as actual exercise of created activity.
Let us now call to mind what we have proved in Book II., that the decrees of God
stand unchangeable, and that His Will is by itself infinite power. In virtue
then of the same omnipotent volition by which God from eternity has decreed the
existence of the unchecked activity of the creature, He causes that activity at
the moment when the creature operates, not as a Divine operation, but as an
operation natural to a finite faculty. Therefore we say that He causes it
simultaneously with the creature as the primary cause, whilst the creature is
the secondary cause of the same. Seeing and willing beforehand any given natural
operation of any creature, He forms what we call technically the decree of
simultaneous concurrence with the action. When the creature comes to exercise
this activity, God sees what this exercise means, and wills at the same time
that it shall take place. This is His simultaneous concurrence with the creature
to its action, in so far precisely as that action is an outcome of the natural
being which the creature possesses at the time.

Evidently, therefore, there is no action of any creature independent of the
Divine Will, or that would take place at all, if that Supreme Will did not
intend the action efficaciously and simultaneously, inasmuch as it is an
exercise of a natural faculty.

The efficacious intention of the Divine Will which influences the created agent
is not directed merely to the existence of the agent with its faculties and
habits, but to its existence precisely as acting in harmony with its natural
exigency of action. In other words, the action of the creature is not only
mediately dependent upon Divine volition, but immediately, because not only in
its source, but in its own reality, it is foreseen and decreed by God from
eternity; and as it has been decreed, so it is willed and produced in time by
God as the first cause and by the creature as the second cause. Thus one of the
schoolmen, Durandus, who will only admit a mediate concurrence of God to the
actions of creatures, does not express the full truth. On the other hand, the
Divine concurrence is mediate in this sense, that between God (who efficaciously
wills the action of the creature, not as His action, but as the action of a
finite being) and the actual action of a created faculty, there exists really
the creature with its faculty as proximate cause of the same action which is
attributed to God as its First Cause. He is its First Cause, in that the
creature owes the actual exercise of its faculty to the fact that God, at the
very moment when the faculty acts, intends (what indeed He has intended from
eternity) that it shall not only have a potential or habitual fitness for actual
application, but shall really proceed to that actual application. St. Thomas
expresses this truth in the words: Omnia agunt in virtute ipsius Dei, et ita
ipse est causa omnium actionum agentium -- " Every being that acts is in the
exercise of its action dependent upon an influence proceeding from God Himself,
and thus He is the cause of all actions of active beings."{7}
215. Against the doctrine of immediate Divine concurrence thus explained and
proved, two difficulties occur.

(1) If the action of the creature is also God's action, it would seem that
nothing remains for the creature to do. For God does what He does sufficiently
well, and consequently we may reason thus: If God concurs in the operation of
the creature, this operation is sufficiently explained by His causality alone.
But what is sufficiently explained by one causality, is not to be attributed to
another. Therefore what is called the action of the creature is properly not
attributable to it, but to God, which is equivalent to saying that the creature
does not act at all.

Answer. God could, of course, produce without the intervention of any created
agent the same physical effects which He enables them to produce by His
concurrence with their activity. He could for instance thus make a steam-engine,
but in that case the steam-engine would not have been the work of man, whereas
this latter is what, on the supposition of creation, God wills, and what is in
itself a worthy object of Divine volition. If, however, He chooses to have
created agents, He must "concur" with them in their activity in such a way as
not to suppress the application of it, but rather to grant this application by
the nature of His concurrence.

(2) The statement that there exists no action of any creature, unless supported
by an efficacious Divine volition which has for its term that very action,
implies that even sinful actions are efficaciously willed by God, which is
absurd, as being in evident contradiction with the Divine holiness.

Answer. All that the said statement implies is that God wills to grant the
actual use of freedom with regard to the objects by which creatures are tempted
to sin; not that He efficaciously draws them into sin or helps to sin as sin.

{4} Cf. St. Thomas, Sum Theol. Ia. q. 105. art. 3. 4. 5; Ia. 2ae. q. 10. art. 1.
and 4.; De Potentia, iii. a. 7; Contra Gent. iii 67-70.
{5} "Quod determinate exeat in hunc actum vel in illum, non est ab alio agente
sed ab ipsa voluntate." (Sent. II. d. 39. q. 1. a. 1.)
{6} We put this case only hypothetically. We do not state that there is really
any individual action of a finite being, not only continually and connaturally,
but inseparably connected with its existence, though perhaps the
self-consciousness of an angel may be such an action. See St. Thomas, Sum.
Theol. Ia. q. 56. art. 1. in corp. etc. ad 3.
{7} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol, Ia. q. 105. art. 5. in corp. De Potentia q. 3 art.
Natural Theology: 48 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 3. -- Controverted question about physical premotion and

Thesis XXXVI. -- The theory of physical predetermination in the sense in which
it is understood in the Catholic schools is not supported by any cogent reasons,
and it makes the explanation and defence of moral freedom unnecessarily

216. Whilst all Catholic philosophers and theologians assert unanimously that
every action of creatures depends simultaneously upon God, they differ in their
explanation of the nature of that simultaneous dependence. The doctrine
enunciated in the thesis is that of Molina. The opposite doctrine is generally
called Thomism, on the plea that it is that of St. Thomas, although we are by no
means prepared to admit that the Saint is rightly interpreted by those who
impute to him this sense.{8} It is necessary to give an outline of this famous
controversy, because it appertains to a question concerning which some
conclusions must be reached in any treatise on Natural Theology which aims at
being complete. We must be understood, however, in advocating our own
conclusions, to speak with all becoming deference of the views of our opponents,
many of whom bear names worthy of the highest honour among Catholic

What, then, is meant by physical predetermination? It does not signify Divine
"premotion" in general -- that is to say, any sort of Divine moral or physical
help towards action which precedes the action, but it denotes quite a particular
sort of Divine premotion. As we shall explain below, Divine premotion in general
cannot he denied by any Catholic. Not only does God premove His creatures
morally, He premoves them also physically. At least He exercises such an
influence upon them as may rightly go by this name. But physical
predetermination, as upheld by its advocates, is a transitory impulse to action
produced immediately by God in the faculty of a creature as often as the latter
is to act, an impulse so perfectly adapted to the nature of the agent that a
certain particular action will infallibly result. And so far is this said to be
the case that God, as the adherents of this doctrine explain, knows the future
action of a creature by knowing the premotion that He has decreed for it.
Nevertheless, while maintaining thus much, they are far from denying the moral
freedom of rational beings.

According to them the physical predetermination, which draws the free-will of a
man to a particular choice, causes this choice infallibly, but not necessarily.
Our self-determination, they say, is both the certain result of Divine
predetermination and the outcome of the use of moral freedom granted by that
very predetermination. God predetermining the creature does not lead it to a
necessary, but to a free self-determination, and at the same time He leads it
infallibly to that choice to which His predetermination, taken together with the
disposition of the creature that receives it, naturally tends. Nevertheless God
does not predetermine any one to a sin. True, His predetermination causes the
free choice which is sinful, but He does not cause it as sinful. Its sinfulness
is caused by the bad disposition of the created will in which the Divine
predetermination is received.{8a}

If we object to this that it is exceedingly difficult to understand how a
creature thus predetermined can possibly have the actual use of its freedom, our
opponents do not deny that there is some mystery in this. But they refer us to
the incomprehensibility of Divine causation at once most sweet and most
efficacious. Its sweetness manifests itself in this, that the predetermining
Divine premotion causes the creature to act, not anyhow, but only in such a
manner as is in keeping with its nature. Therefore in an irrational creature God
causes a necessary action, but in the rational will of angels and men He causes
free actions, as often as the use of freedom is due to their nature.
217. But why insist upon this predetermination? Why refuse the doctrine stated
in the thesis? Chiefly, they reply, for these reasons:

(1) Without physical predetermination the supreme dominion of God over His
creatures and the infallibility of His Providence cannot be sufficiently
explained. The Molinists, who teach only a simultaneous concurrence, and do not
admit that God premoves free creatures otherwise than morally, by showing them
certain actions in a pleasing or displeasing light, make the Creator a simple
co-operator with His creatures -- nay, in a certain sense they subordinate His
action to the action of the creature; for, if God does not predetermine the
action of the free creature, then the free creature must predetermine the Divine
concurrence, as the latter in itself does not tend to this or to that free
volition. How, then, can it remain true that God is the first free cause?{9}

(2) As Catholic Philosophy has for its guiding star Catholic Theology, a
philosophical opinion which agrees less well with the teachings of the Fathers
of the Church and with common Catholic doctrine should not be favoured, although
the Church has not condemned it. But the teaching of the Molinists on Divine
concurrence does not well agree with the doctrine of St. Augustine, who teaches
expressly: Deus de voluntatibus hominum, quod vult cum vult facit{10} -- "God
makes of the wills of men what He wills, when He wills it." And does not the
Church represent to us the special benefit of efficacious grace as a physical
predetermination when she directs her priests to pray: Ut Deus nostras etiam
rebelles compellat propitius ad se voluntates; ut convertat nos, &c. -- "That
God may compel our wills, even when they are rebellious, to Himself; that He may
convert us," &c.{11}

218. We hope the summary given here of the view of our opponents is a fair one.
Let us, then, now give our answer, which will be done best by following the
tenor of our thesis.

First of all, we admit that God in more than one sense premoves all His
creatures to action, inasmuch as premotion designates a direction to a certain
kind of activity, and the actuation of created faculties in harmony with the
eternal decrees of Providence. Is not the very fact of creation and preservation
a sort of Divine premotion? No creature can perform any other species of action
than that for which it has faculties from the Creator; and on the supposition of
its preservation, it needs must act in harmony with the natural tendency of its
faculties so far as natural actions are concerned. If we turn to those which are
supernatural, the creature can perform none of them save in agreement with the
supernatural powers added to its nature by the Creator. All this is true
premotion, and no Molinist denies aught of it.

Nay, as appears from our exposition in sect. 2, Molinists do not shrink from
saying with St. Thomas -- Deus est causa nobis non solum voluntatis sed etiam
volendi -- "God causes in us not only our faculty of will, but even our actual
volition." And again: Deus est causa omnis actionis -- "God is the cause of
every action."{12}

But all these phrases are easily explained without physical predetermination.
God's concurrence at the moment of our free volition consists in our opinion
precisely in this, that His power grants us not only the faculty of choosing,
but the actual exercise of free choice. By His causality our will is impelled to
the desire of good in general, whenever our intellect represents any particular
good either real or apparent; but He causes this desire in such a way that we
ourselves alone determine whether we will accept or reject this or that
particular thing which seems good to us.

The issue of our choice is from eternity known to Him, simply because it is one
of the objective future truths, all of which must be present to the intuition of
His eternal infinitely perfect intellect. This knowledge, inasmuch as it
represents the action of the creature conditioned by the decree of simultaneous
concurrence under any given circumstances, we have called in Book II. scientia
media.{13} The simultaneous concurrence of God with acts of free-will coincides
with the causation of the actual longing for good in general, which longing is
included in every volition of a particular good, as the genus in the individual,
or as "animal" is included in "Peter."

It is not therefore true that in the Molinist system God does not cause the
creature's action, especially not the actual volition of free creatures. All
that can be said is that, according to Molinists, God does not cause free action
under such an aspect as to make it imperative on the creature by its very

219. We return to the objections of the adherents of physical predetermination.
Their first objection was that with the negation of a predetermining premotion
the guidance of created activity, essentially belonging to the supreme Lord of
all things, is denied to Him. From the explanations already given it appears
that this objection lacks weight. It was started in the Thomist schools on the
occasion of Molina's celebrated but perhaps not very dignified comparison of the
simultaneous concurrence of God with creatures, to two men towing a boat or
carrying a burden. Molina's aim was to show that creatures, especially rational
creatures, exercising their natural activity, are in their own order really
principal causes of those effects to which their faculties are proportioned.
Let us show this in a concrete instance. God concurs with the action of the
writer, He concurs also with the action of the pen. Is not the writer then a
principal cause in the order of secondary causes, and the pen an instrument?
True, compared with God the First Cause, the writer himself may be likened to an
instrument, in so far as in the exercise of his activity he depends altogether
upon the supporting power of His Creator. Yet He certainly cannot be said to
receive from God an impulse for action perfectly like that given by a writer to
his pen. To say that would be to deny human freedom. It is idle, therefore, to
appeal with Goudin{14} and others to this illustration of Molina, as a proof
that Molinists conceive the Divine concurrence as a sort of help collateral and
co-ordinate with the operation of the creature. Nor can it be shown that our
doctrine is opposed to St. Thomas on the ground that he rejected the same
illustration which Molina used. His rejection was based upon the well-grounded
anticipation that it might easily be misunderstood. Molina made use of it
because he thought that his meaning would be sufficiently gathered from the
context. But if you will have it to mean that God causes one part of the action
and the creature another part, just as two men towing a boat cause each a part
only of the total motion, the illustration does not hold. And thus St. Thomas
took it. If, however, you apply it to free creatures, to indicate that the
action of a creature really depends upon two causes, neither of which is
physically predetermined, the illustration cannot be considered as a mark of a
false conception of Divine concurrence.

That in this sense it was not rejected by the Angelic Doctor, is to us quite

220. And now as to the objection that in our system the creature must
predetermine the concurrence of God, because that concurrence is in itself
indifferent. This difficulty would have force, if we affirmed the simultaneous
concurrence of God without asserting at the same time the scientia media. By
this knowledge God foresees from eternity which choice any rational creature
under given definite circumstances would make on the hypothesis that He on His
part decreed simultaneously to concur with it in the actual exercise of its

In the light then of this knowledge God freely decrees from eternity to grant
the use of freedom requisite for the creature to act and make its choice. He
comprehends also from eternity the alternatives that are open to the choice of
the created free being. Moreover, by virtue of the scientia media, He foresees
the choice, in so far as it depends proximately upon the creature alone, or in
other words, is an actual preference of one alternative to the other, based upon
the actuality necessary for choosing, which actuality is granted by the free
decree of the Creator.

Nor can it be said that Molinism mars Christian humility and leads men to
neglect to pray for efficacious graces for the performance of saving and
meritorious actions. Molinists teach that every salutary and, a fortiori, every
meritorious action we perform is due to a premoving, though not predetermining
grace of the Almighty, which by the scientia media He foresaw that we would use.
He could have granted another grace perfectly sufficient for the performance of
the good work, but one which He knew we would freely despise. Why did He give us
the one rather than the other? Because He loved us with a special love.
A Molinist then has the strongest motives to ask for those graces of which God
foresees he will make a good use. Such a prayer would be equivalent to that of
Holy Church: Converte nos Deus salutaris noster -- " Convert us, God our
Saviour." Nostras etiam rebelles compelle ad te voluntates -- "Compel to Thee
our rebellious wills."

It would seem, therefore, that there is nothing in the supreme dominion of God
and the Catholic doctrine of efficacious grace to make us shrink from Molinism.
Let us see now whether the harmony between human freedom and Divine concurrence
be indeed as apparent on the theory of physical predetermination as upon that of
scientia media and simultaneous concurrence. Let us take a concrete instance,
and imagine a human being making the first free choice in his life, and that a
choice deliberately sinful. How this could come about in the system we defend is
clear enough. In the moment of choice the free creature owes to God the actual
use of freedom. But the determination to the one alternative rather than to the
other, included in that use of freedom, is, according to Molinists, not
predetermined but only foreseen in the case of a sinful choice. In the case of a
good choice, it may have been absolutely intended, but was not physically
predetermined. How does the same choice come about in the system of the
Thomists? Whether it be a good or a bad one, it is physically predetermined. And
yet they say, and must say, that God does not predetermine a man to sin as sin.
Whence then, we ask, does the first sin a man commits take its rise? We ask
about the first, in order to preclude at once the evasion, that a man by his sin
might have deserved to receive a predetermination to a choice that would
infallibly be sinful, although it would always be sinful through the man's own
fault. Such a solution of the difficulty we are proposing is in itself very
obscure, and certainly not applicable to the first sin. If it be true that the
sinful choice must infallibly follow from the combination of the physical
predetermination with the disposition of the will that receives it, at the
moment when it receives it, the reality of the use of freedom under such a
predetermination is indeed an insoluble mystery.

{8} Cf. Appendix I. pp. 439, seq.
{8a} See Goudin in Philosophia, Pars IV. q. 4 (Edit. Parisiensis, 1851, pp.
224-283, especially pp. 228-239 and pp. 264-267.
{9} Goudin. Ibid. pp. 263, 264, § 11, "Probatur ultimo praemotio ex
{10} De Correptione et Gratia, c. xiv. Cf. Prov. xxi.: Sicut divisiones aquarum,
ita cor regis in manu Domini est, quocumque voluerit, inclinabit illud -- "As
the divisions of waters, so the heart of the King is in the hand of the Lord;
whithersoever He will He shall turn it."
{11} Cf. Goudin, Ibid. pp. 245, 246.
{12} Contra Gent. 1. 3. c. 89.
{13} We here beg the reader to remember that in the positive explanation of the
scientia media we do not stand by Molina, but against him with Suarez. (Cf. pp.
282, seq.)
{14} Philosophia, Pars. IV. p. 232.
Natural Theology: 49 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER II. Divine Providence and its Relation to Existing Evil.

SECTION 1. -- The existence of Divine Providence.

Thesis XXXVII. -- All things created are under the sway of Divine Providence,
and none of them can frustrate the final end absolutely intended by the Creator,
or move towards it in a way and under circumstances not foreseen by His
intellect, or not freely either approved or at least tolerated by His most holy
will. The final end of creatures consists in the first place in a certain degree
of manifestation of the Divine perfections in the created likenesses of God, and
in the second place in the perfect union of rational creatures with their
Creator by knowledge and love. This is technically expressed by saying that the
end of creation is God's external glory both objective and formal and the
happiness of rational creatures.

221. Providence as well as prudence (which is its doublet), considered in its
etymological meaning, is equivalent to foresight. This etymological
signification of the word coincides pretty well with the real import of what we
call prudence in a man and providence in God. We say that a man is prudent when
the whole tenor of his life justifies the supposition that in his undertakings
he has a definite object in view, and uses constantly the means fit for the
attainment of his purpose. In a similar sense we attribute providence to God;
for this predicate is given to Him in order to imply that He has settled from
eternity the final goal toward which the whole of His creation and each
particular creature is to be directed, that He has ordained the means by which
the end shall be reached, and that He rules in the course of ages all events so
perfectly as that nothing shall occur to bar His final and absolute intention.
It was this idea of Providence that suggested to the deep Christian philosopher,
Boethius, the following definition of it, which was adopted by St. Thomas:
"Providence is the all-regulating and stable plan of God, the supreme Ruler of
the universe."{1}

To be more explicit, we may give the definition another form and say:
"Providence is God the supreme Lord of the universe Himself, inasmuch as He
directs all things to an end fixed by Him, in harmony with His eternal plan.
The verification of this definition supposes the existence of two Divine
operations with regard to creatures:

(1) The assignment of an end to all things and of ways by which they shall reach

(2) Actual direction of all things to that end.

222. Can it be proved that Providence thus explained really exists? Or shall we
say with the artisan-philosopher Chubb and other more recent deists, that the
existence of a Creator cannot be denied, but that His influence upon this world
does not extend beyond laying the foundation of it, which being laid all things
go on as best they can without their author watching their course or interfering
in any way? Against this deistic position we enunciate our thesis in its several

First we say that God has prefixed a final end to everything created, and that
He allows nothing to frustrate that end or move towards it otherwise than as He
foresees and either approves or at least tolerates.

We call attention to the phrase, approves or at least tolerates. Why do we not
say simply: Whatever happens is God's will? Because this expression might be
taken to mean that even the sins committed by rational creatures are willed by
God, at least as means to an end. This of course would be inconsistent with
God's holiness. Although He can tolerate sin, and can turn the misery following
it into an occasion of good, He never can approve of or wish for sin in order to
reach His end. We express this in scholastic terms shortly by saying that God
wills sin, not positively but permissively. The term permissively does not imply
that God gives permission to sin, but means only that for good reasons He does
not hinder those sins which rational creatures commit through the abuse of their
free will. Having thus made clear the meaning of our statement, we may proceed
to prove its truth.

It has been demonstrated in Books I. and II. that the one self-existing personal
God has created all things, and that He is infinitely wise and powerful.

Moreover, we have shown in chapter i. of this Book that the being of each
creature depends continually upon Him for its existence, and that no action of a
creature can come about except under His concurrence. Now it is evident that an
infinitely wise and good Being cannot act without intending a good end, nor in
His actions lose sight of that end. It is also evident that all effects of
Divine action are decreed from eternity. It follows that the origin, the
duration, the various phases of existence and action of each particular creature
were from eternity willed by God, either positively or permissively, with a view
to a certain end. Moreover, it follows that the influence which He continually
exercises upon the activity of creatures is in harmony with His eternal plan,
and involves the continual intention of the end.

As we have seen in Book II., God is really identical with an intellect of
Infinite Wisdom and a will of Infinite Goodness. By His Infinite Wisdom He
understands from eternity the end to be reached by creation, and the various
ways in which by His omnipotence He might reach it. His will of infinite
goodness embraces the end He has in view and fixes by irrevocable decree the
ways in which it shall be reached. Abiding in Himself by His absolutely perfect
essence, He watches and directs in the course of time the exercise of every
faculty of His creatures. He watches and directs it without any toil or labour,
paying equal attention to the whole and to the minutest details. As by one
eternal glance of His infinite understanding He comprehends the dimensions of
space, and calculates the distances and orbits of the heavenly bodies, and by
one omnipotent volition keeps the whole machinery of the universe in motion,
with a continual regard to the final goal it is to reach; so by the same eternal
all-penetrating intuition does He read the most secret thoughts of every mind,
observe the most minute oscillations of every organic cell, and count the most
insignificant vibrations of every atom of matter, ruling by His omnipotent will
all things so that there is no thought of any mind, no oscillation of any cell,
no vibration of any atom, which is not in some way or other duly subordinated to
the end He intends.

223. And this end -- wherein does it consist? Evidently it must be an external
manifestation of His internal perfection; not a manifestation in the pantheistic
sense, as though God evolved Himself, as it were, into the visible and invisible
universe, but a manifestation by the production of finite created likenesses of
the infinite Divine essence. That the end of the world created can be nothing
else is evident from a truth demonstrated in Book II. We showed there that God
loves Himself with absolute necessity, and cannot love anything else but with
reference to His own infinite goodness. Now the external manifestation of the
Divine perfection through created likenesses is called in scholastic language,
God's external glory, just as His internal perfection as known to Himself alone
is called His internal glory. Moreover, scholastics distinguish between external
objective and external formal glory. By the external objective glory of God they
mean created things in so far as they are adapted by their very existence and
activity to bear witness to the Divine perfection, on the supposition that
somewhere in creation there are intelligent beings, who can intellectually
perceive them and form a judgment on their nature. The external formal glory of
God is the acknowledgment of His perfection produced in the minds of
intellectual creatures by the contemplation of His works.

Supposing these definitions, it is so evident that the Creator of the world
intends His external objective and formal glory, that without such an intention
we cannot even conceive creation to be possible. For it is repugnant to reason
that a finite being should exist, the nature of which is not a copy, however
imperfect, of the essence of the One infinite Being; consequently God, producing
creatures, intends the production of likenesses of His own essence, as so many
mirrors in which His infinite goodness is reflected under some aspect or other.
If He did not intend this, He would be acting without any knowledge or intention
at all -- a supposition absolutely alien to His wisdom. But if He intends it,
His intention is directed to what we have defined as His external objective
glory. Moreover, as He cannot love anything but with reference to His own
goodness, so He must will that the activities of created intellects and wills
shall be related to that goodness according to their natures. But they cannot be
related to it rightly save by the acknowledgment that God is what He is, the
supreme Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. To this acknowledgment all rational
creatures must finally arrive. If they are not impeded in the right use of their
reason, they will arrive at it in the course of this life, unless through their
own fault they prefer darkness to light. If it be impossible for them to know
God before they leave this life, as in the case of the innumerable multitudes of
children who die before the use of reason, at their entrance into the next life
the Creator will manifest Himself to their immortal souls, draw them to His
love, and thereby make them happy. Not indeed with the supernatural beatitude of
which we learn from revelation, but with an enduring natural happiness.
Those who wilfully shut their mind against the knowledge of their Creator, at
all events will be undeceived in the moment when they depart from this life. As
so many other delusions vanish when death puts an end to our earthly existence,
so before all others that delusion of delusions will disappear, which makes man
believe that there is no personal God who rules the world.

The Monotheist and the Agnostic will then agree perfectly in the recognition of
that God, whose eternal power and divinity St. Paul{2} declares to be clearly
visible in His works. They will both recognize their God, but with very
different feelings.

The one will then be forced to acknowledge Him as infinitely good, albeit he
still refuses to love Him; the other, if indeed he perseveres till the end of
his days in acknowledging his Creator both in theory and practice according to
the lights received, will know and love Him, and thus reach what is called in
our thesis, the secondary end of creation, the beatitude for which rational
creatures are destined. This secondary end God does not intend absolutely, but
conditionally. He says as it were to every rational creature with reference to
eternal salvation or final misery: "I have set before you life and death,
blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life."{3} If man, by either expressly
denying or practically ignoring his dependence upon God, obstinately refuses to
choose life, it is not so much his Creator that condemns him, as his own malice,
which changes him from a vessel of Divine mercy into a victim of Divine justice.
God has implanted in the heart of man a nature longing for perfect happiness. In
vain does man strive to quench his thirst for happiness with the perishable
goods of this world. He possesses them only for a short while, and whilst he is
enjoying them, the better part of his being does not cease to crave
instinctively for the fulness of truth and goodness and beauty, which is to be
found nowhere but in God alone. Now if the nature of man is thus naturally
driven towards God as the source of its beatitude, it follows evidently that it
is the intention of our Maker to cause our happiness by perfect knowledge and
love of Himself, at least on the condition that we co-operate with His
benevolent designs.

No human being, however wretched he may be, is excluded by God from final
happiness, unless through his own fault he makes himself unworthy of it, by
persevering in a state of rebellion up to his last breath. St. Paul's words are
in harmony with our rational inference when he says that "God will have all men
to be saved."{4} How could it be otherwise?

224. Here, no doubt, many a reader is tempted to say: "All well and good; but I
am at a loss to see how you can affirm that even the uncivilized savage is under
the influence of the Divine light, which you say, guides every human being to
his last end who does not deliberately turn away from it? To this grave
difficulty which in theology meets with a deal of attention, we may be content
to give a compendious answer in a philosophical treatise. It is clearly God's
arrangement that men should depend largely upon one another for their
instruction and progress in knowledge of all kinds, religious knowledge
included. The necessary consequence of this is that through the neglect and
malice of some who should be the natural teachers and leaders of their
fellow-men, the latter should suffer. But God can rectify the evil.

225. But what about the secondary end of the irrational creation? Shall we say
that the elements, plants, and dumb animals are destined also to glorify God
formally by knowledge and love, and thus to become happy through Him? Evidently
this would be absurd. Even the highest among irrational creatures, the dumb
animals, are unable to form a rational judgment on anything, to have a rational
desire of anything, to reflect upon happiness, to wish for happiness, or to
grieve for its absence. Their knowledge is but a reaction of their sensitive
organism upon impressions produced in them by material things. Their cravings
are blind emotions, resulting from the combination of the innate instinct proper
to their species, with impressions made upon them. It is impossible that such
beings should know and love God, or be happy in Him. Shall we then say that
their end is not to glorify God formally, but only objectively, to be
realizations of Divine thoughts, to be, as it were, books written by infinite
wisdom? This is true as far as it goes, and there are those who think that it
was in no sense necessary for God to go further and place a crown on His
creation by the creation of rational creatures. But at all events, the objective
praise which they render Him would have far less meaning, if there were no
beings who could read the Divine ideas expressed in their existence. Those
beings are the rational souls of men; and in a far higher degree, the pure
spirits called angels. It is to them and through them that the heavens tell the
glory of God, and the firmament announces the works of His hands. Yet we cannot
say that the material world below men is properly meant for the use of angels.
These do not need to be roused by sensible impressions to the evolution of their
intellects. Being altogether independent of matter, they are endowed with innate
ideas, and therefore able to know and love God, without going first through a
process of intellectual development aided by material impressions. Only those
rational beings who are compounds of matter and spirit, stand in need of such
helps. Man, therefore, must be the favoured creature, for whose utility the
Divine Majesty has created the visible universe that surrounds us. And indeed
everywhere we find irrational creatures supplying the wants of human nature.
They serve mankind partly by providing nourishment, clothing, shelter, and other
bodily conveniences; partly by stirring up their intellects and wills to the
pursuit of arts and sciences, and by leading them through the knowledge of
creatures to that of the Creator; and last but not least, by affording
opportunities for the practice of moral virtues, patience especially, and
resignation to the inscrutable ways of their Creator.

226. From the doctrine of Providence thus proved and explained, two important
corollaries are to be drawn. The first is this: God does not intend the final
well-being of any individual living creature of this world except man. And man
himself is to be perfectly happy, not here on earth, but hereafter.
It is therefore quite intelligible, that God should allow millions of irrational
creatures to be sacrificed for the sake of man, to serve his eternal welfare
remotely or proximately. No less reconcilable is it with Divine Providence, that
under certain conditions mortal men should be wasted by contagious diseases,
emaciated by famine, or fall in the flower of their age on the battlefield. In a
word: God cares more for one immortal soul that does not resist Him, than for
the whole of the material universe.

God must rule His creatures with a wise regard for their natural dignity,
according as that is greater or less. Now the human soul stands by its nature in
an infinitely nearer relation to God than the most perfect of dumb animals. It
is an image of the Creator, whilst every other living creature of this world
exhibits only some trace of His Majesty. It owes its origin immediately to His
creative power; whilst a dumb animal is a living erection made by secondary
causes on the groundwork laid by God in the creation of matter and life. The
rational soul alone is able and destined to know and love God, and thus to be
personally happy, whilst everything else is made to reveal the Creator to His
rational creatures, and to promote their eternal welfare during a short period
of time, till that day shall come of which St. Peter says, that on it "the
heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted
with heat, and the earth and the works in it shall be burnt up."{5}

The other corollary we are to derive from the great truth of Divine Providence
may be thus formulated: Every man, however low his social position, ought to be
treated with reverence by his fellow-man, as a personal being destined for an
eternal exaltation and happiness infinitely greater than all the aims of
temporal ambition. On the other hand, dumb animals must be left in their own
sphere, and be treated as things, not cared for as persons, not accepted as
subjects of right against whom injustice can be committed, but as living
instruments which man may utilize in every reasonable way.

{1} "Providentia est ipsa divina ratio in summo omnium principe constituta, quae
cuncta disponit." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 22. art. 1.)
{2} Rom. i. 20.
{3} Deut. xxx 19.
{4} 1 Tim. ii. 4.
{5} 2 St. Peter iii. 10.
Natural Theology: 50 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- The relation of Providence to existing evil.

Thesis XXXVIII. -- Neither from the evils which exist in this world, nor from
those which, according to Divine revelation, await the wicked in the life to
come, can any lawful inference derogatory to Divine Providence be drawn.
227. One of the most harassing questions which have ever wearied the brains of
philosophers, and stimulated the zeal of Christian apologists, is as to the
possibility of such an enormous amount of evil in a world created by an
infinitely good God, and continually under the sway of His Providence.
Absolutely speaking, this difficulty against the moral attributes of the Creator
is sufficiently solved by an appeal to the arguments by which we have proved to
demonstration the existence of one personal, infinitely perfect, and infinitely
wise God. These arguments are built on evident premisses, according to the rules
of sound Logic. The opponent of the doctrine proved has first to show a want of
internal soundness in our arguments before he can hope to destroy them by
difficulties. No puzzling doubt, however great, can overthrow evident
conclusions. A man charged with a crime, who has manifestly proved his alibi,
cannot possibly be the perpetrator, although from accidental circumstances grave
suspicions may have arisen against him. In a similar way, when once it has been
evidently proved that God exists, and is infinitely good; the evils of this
world cannot be attributed to the absence of a wise and benevolent Providence,
even if the existence of those evils remain to a large extent a riddle to us. A
man who waited to render homage to his Creator till he had solved all the
problems, to the solution of which his curiosity might urge him, would act far
more absurdly than a child who refused to honour and obey his parents till they
had justified to his mind all the details of their housekeeping. The distance
between a child's mental capacity and that of his parents is, after all, finite:
but God's mind is infinitely above ours.

228. Yet this answer, though substantially adequate, it is clearly desirable to
supplement by a detailed account of the relation in which evil stands to the
infinitely good will of God. Such an account we must now endeavour to render,
and before all things it is necessary to fix accurately the sense of the term
evil. Some modern philosophers take evil to be any absence of good in a thing.
They distinguish, consequently, three sorts of evils, metaphysical, physical,
and moral. Metaphysical evil is understood by them to be the absence of a
certain perfection in a being, the nature of which is incompatible with such a
perfection. Thus, for instance, the absence of feeling in a stone, the absence
of reason in a dumb animal, and the absence of learning in an infant, are in
this view metaphysical evils. By physical evil they mean a defect which mars the
natural integrity of a being, or interferes with a proper development of its
activity. Thus, under the category of physical evil come, bodily diseases of
whatever kind, mental imbecility, liability to great fits of passion preceding
the use of free-will, want, destruction of property by drought or inundations,
violent death, &c. Under the term of moral evil they comprise the deviation of
the free-will from the moral law, and the actions proceeding from a will thus
gone astray, as lying, theft, murder. In order that such volitions and actions
may be considered as moral evils in the strict sense of the word, their source
must be a will deliberately malicious. Otherwise, we have only what moralists
call material sin, not formal.

In this explanation of evils nothing seems to be objectionable but that the term
evil is taken in a wider sense than its usual application allows. Men commonly
do not call every imperfection an evil, especially where the imperfection is the
mere absence of a perfection not due to a thing. Everything is good, inasmuch as
its state of existence harmonizes perfectly with its nature. A nature of a lower
order is in itself less good than a nature of a higher order. Yet the essence of
that lower nature does not involve what is properly called evil. The word evil
signifies not the mere absence of a perfection, but its absence in a being to
which under a certain aspect it is due. Therefore, only physical and moral evils
are evils in the strict sense of the word.

229. What are called metaphysical evils cannot possibly militate against the
infinite goodness of the Creator. To abolish them would mean to annihilate all
creatures. A created being, either infinitely perfect, or at least so perfect
that none more perfect could be created, is a contradiction in terms. The
hypothesis of an infinitely perfect creature would involve the existence of two
infinite beings, disproved in the First Book. The hypothesis of a creature so
perfect that none more perfect could be, would amount to an implicit denial of
the infinite power of the Creator. We have already shown in Book I. that an
absolutely perfect world is impossible. The world of an infinitely good God can
only be relatively perfect, that is to say, perfectly adapted to its end as
intended by the Creator. In Section i of this Book, we have seen that God
intends by creation the manifestation of His goodness, or His external glory,
and the beatitude of rational creatures. Neither the one nor the other can be
intended in an infinite degree. In other words, God can neither intend that any
particular creature, or any multitude of creatures, should adequately represent
His unbounded perfection; nor can He intend that any purely finite creature
should enjoy a happiness of infinite intensity. He must, therefore, intend both
the primary and the secondary end of creation to be realized within certain
limits. Now, every finite degree of external glory of God falls infinitely short
of an adequate expression of the infinite Divine goodness. Comparing, therefore,
finite degrees of external manifestation with the adequate expression of the
Divinity, we may say that the difference between, 1, 100, and 1,000,000 degrees
vanishes. Which of these degrees shall God intend in creation? Surely, whichever
He pleases. The selection depends entirely on His free-will. He does not need
any creature. He may, therefore, choose among the indefinite multitude of
possible beings without violating any of His perfections; yet so that He shall
always attain His own glory, both objective and formal; subordinate the course
of things perfectly to the end He has in view, and conduct to final happiness
those rational creatures who obey the voice of their conscience. With these
restrictions, we affirm that no amount of imperfection in created natures can be
adduced as an exception against the statement of the monotheist: "An infinitely
good and wise God rules this world."

230. Supposing, then, that God creates a world filled with creatures of a nature
under many aspects very imperfect -- an hypothesis doubtless verified in this
world of ours, the possibility of moral evil, and the natural necessity of
physical evil, is sufficiently explained. Man has a free-will. By his very
nature he is such that he can commit sin. Again, both man and the rest of the
living creatures of this world, in consequence of their imperfect nature, must
be liable to many physical sufferings, unless God is continually to work
miracles for their deliverance. Does, then, the infinite goodness of God require
that by supernatural interference He should prevent all physical and moral
evils? The answer is evidently to be given in the negative.

231. First, as regards physical evils, God cannot, indeed, intend them for their
own sake. He cannot delight in the misery and sufferings of His creatures. But
there is no reason whatever to prove that He may not allow these evils, with the
intention to compensate them by some good occasioned thereby. Nay, He may even
intend them as means to an end. It is not necessary that He should lay open to
our view the particular final cause of every disease and every misfortune; it is
enough for us to know that He is infinitely good, infinitely wise and just.
Knowing thus much, we are certain of two truths which must satisfy every
reasonable thinker. The first is, that an infinitely good, and wise, and just
God must draw some good out of every evil He allows, and cannot allow any
without a reason worthy of His infinite wisdom. The second may be formulated
thus. A human mind, though able to get a true knowledge of God amply sufficient
to guide the man on his way to his last end, is manifestly unfit to comprehend
the eternal counsels of the Almighty. Add to this, that in many cases experience
and history show to the faithful Christian distinctly, how in the hand of
Providence physical evils become instruments of great boons in the moral order.
Poverty and sickness teach man most forcibly his nothingness, and open his mind
to the consolations of religion. The blood of the martyrs became the fertile
seed of Christianity, whilst the ignominious death of Christ our Saviour
enhanced the glory of His Resurrection, brought out the Divine origin of His
Church, and opened to fallen mankind the road that leads to the Heavenly City,
where "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no
more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more."{6}

None can understand this fully, unless he believes that God became Man, that as
Man He died upon the Cross, and afterwards ascended glorious into Heaven. The
belief in these truths makes it easily conceivable that through many
tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of God. An acquaintance with the
life and doctrines of Christ and His Apostles goes far to reconcile the believer
in Christianity with the hard lot of the poor, and the promiscuous distribution
of temporal goods, and of merely natural mental gifts among just and unjust. A
Christian knows that there is another life, in which both the unbridled
sensuality and supercilious cruelty of Dives and the patient resignation and
heroic suffering of Lazarus will be duly rewarded. And reflecting how vastly the
natural endowments of Lucifer surpass the most splendid human genius, he no
longer wonders at beholding at times among men the spectacle of great abilities
thrown away in a bad cause.

232. But this reflection involves another difficulty far greater than that drawn
from mere physical evils. God foresaw from eternity the fall of Lucifer and the
evil angels. He foresaw all the sins of man. Why did He not hinder them?
Let us first see in what relation God stands to moral evil. Moral evil in the
strict sense of the word consists in a free turning away of the created will
from the law laid down by God. God necessarily loves His own goodness and
everything else in relation to it. He can, therefore, never approve of a created
free being deliberately ignoring its true position to Him. But sin manifestly
involves a deliberate refusal of the creature to stand to God in that attitude
of subject to ruler, which is the proper posture of a creature before its
Creator. No sin, therefore, can be pleasing to God. He manifests His disapproval
of it to every man who commits sin, and that in the very moment when he is about
to commit it. For sin in the strict sense of the word is not committed without
disobedience to the voice of conscience, which re-echoes the will of the Supreme
Lawgiver. But it is one thing to disapprove of sin, and quite another thing not
to impede it. God does not impede sin; although, absolutely speaking, this was
possible for Him. Yet we must not forget that He is infinitely free as well as
infinitely powerful. He can, therefore, tolerate sin, if this toleration is not
opposed to His Divine perfections. But it is not opposed to any one of them; as
will easily appear on comparing it with those perfections which at first sight
it would seem to violate, namely, His wisdom, His holiness, His justice, and His

233. First, then, it may be argued as an objection, that God does not attain the
end He intends by tolerating sin; for the sinner does not glorify God as he
ought to do, and forfeits his own happiness, if he dies in the state of grievous
sin. We reply that the end which God intends is His own glory, and that on such
terms as to leave it to the choice of the free creature to become throughout
eternity a living monument of His beatifying love or of His rigorous justice. As
regards the happiness of the free creature, He intends that happiness only on
condition that the creature prepares for the same before the time of probation
expires with the close of this earthly life.

234. But is the toleration of sin compatible with the sanctity of God? No sin
can be committed, unless God concurs to the sinful action. But in doing so He
seems to approve of sin; for there is nothing which could necessitate Him to
lend the sinner His aid. In answer to this difficulty, let us repeat briefly the
solution already given in the chapter on Divine concurrence. (pp. 364 seq. and
370.) We there showed that God does not concur in the sin itself, nor does He
encourage the sinner to abuse his free-will. The concurrence of God, which the
sinner abuses, consists in this, that God grants him the use of the moral
freedom that belongs to his nature. To do so He has reasons worthy of His
infinite wisdom, although incomprehensible to human minds.

235. But scarcely is this answer given, when another difficulty arises: God puts
one man in circumstances in which it is very easy to avoid sin, and He places
another in positions which make sin, apparently, unavoidable. Is such an unequal
treatment of two creatures of the same human nature not against Divine justice?
Is it not acceptance of persons? Compare the case of a well trained child of
good Christian parents with that of a youth who grows up in the surroundings of
vice and impiety.

We answer in the first place that God's justice does not oblige Him to treat
creatures of the same nature exactly in the same way. The justice of God is not
commutative, but distributive. It is not manifested by paying to creatures what
they have any right to ask of Him, but in granting them what He cannot refuse to
their nature and their merits without denying His own goodness, wisdom, and
benevolence. If then He grants thus much to all men, the objection against His
justice ceases, although He may make the grant to one in a sufficient, to
another in an abundant degree. Certainly nobody can prove that poor, ignorant,
and badly educated people fall into or are punished by God for really grievous
sins, the avoidance of which was not made morally possible for them, either
naturally or supernaturally by special internal graces. Their acts often do not
involve that malice which prompts better-endowed minds to similar excesses.
Ignorance frequently excuses them from grievous guilt, when they do things
objectively very serious. From reason and revelation we must conclude that no
man is ever necessitated to violate the law of God culpably, and that every sin
imputable to man is caused only by abuse of freedom against the voice of
conscience. Add to this, that throughout the Old and New Testament God calls
Himself with a sort of preference the protector of the poor; and indicates that
their human frailties will be judged with great mercy. For what else is the
meaning of these passages of Scripture: "He that despiseth the poor reproacheth
his Maker; "{7} "He that hath mercy on the poor lendeth to the Lord;"{8} "He"
(the Messiah) "shall judge the poor of the people and he shall save the children
of the poor;" "He shall spare the poor and needy and He shall save the souls of
the poor;"{9} "He" (the Messiah) "shall judge the poor with justice;"{10} "To
him that is little, mercy shall be granted; but the mighty shall be mightily
tormented," &c.;{11} "The prayer out of the mouth of the poor shall reach the
ears of God;"{12} "The Lord will not accept any person against a poor man;"{13}
and the poverty of the Word Incarnate, His perpetual companion during life, what
else does it signify than that the poor are dear to God? If they are dear to
Him, it is impossible that any one of them should perish finally unless by his
own grievous fault. What we have said of poor and uninstructed men may be
applied to all those who without their own fault are in great danger of sin.
Experience proves that they are often protected in quite an astonishing way, if
they use those precautions which Providence has placed within their reach.
236. But how is it consonant with the mercy of God, to grant the sinner moral
freedom, when He foresees that the wretched man will abuse it and ruin himself?
A father surely should not hand his son a loaded pistol, at a time when the
latter shows himself overcome by disgust of life and ready to get rid of it at
the first convenient opportunity. Really, however, there is an infinite
disparity between the two cases. The father is bound by human and Divine law to
follow another line of action. He is the head of a family and not the ruler of
the universe. It is not with him to draw out the fundamental laws of his
domestic government. Through the voice of his conscience he is informed of the
will of his Maker. And his conscience tells him that he does grievous wrong by
thus occasioning the death of his son without any sufficient reason. No motive
can be made out for putting the temptation in his way but wanton cruelty and
desire of the suicide of his charge. God, on the contrary, in granting moral
freedom does not intend that the sinner shall abuse it. By warning him through
the voice of conscience He manifests clearly that He wishes him to turn away
from the temptation. His foreseeing that the free creature will go wrong could
only obscure His mercy, if it were not easily understood that He has quite
sufficient reason for allowing the use of freedom, although this use becomes
mischievous through the fault of the creature.

We may insist upon the natural harmony between a free creature and the use of
freedom; we may call attention to the truth that God can and will elicit good
from evil, that He is free to grant or not to grant those special privileges of
grace by which He preserves saints at times, that sufficient grace to avoid
formal sin is offered to every one. Considerations like these suffice to show
that the argument raised against the mercy of God from the existence of moral
evil is unsound, although they do not unveil the mystery of Divine wisdom that
shrouds from our view the reasons for which, in particular cases, moral evils
are not prevented. We are only allowed to see some of the Divine artifices by
which our incomprehensible Creator raises upon the spiritual ruin caused by sin,
the most splendid edifices of virtue and true greatness, or causes the malice of
the wicked to be one of the many rungs in the ladder by which His faithful
servants ascend to the height of Divine charity and intimate union with God.
Thus the fallen Peter becomes the immoveable Rock of the Church, the strength of
his brethren, the model of pastors, the undaunted hero whom nothing can separate
from his crucified Master. On the other hand, the rage of unbelievers causes St.
Stephen to practise heroic charity, makes St. Lawrence exult upon the gridiron,
and peoples Heaven with an innumerable multitude of martyrs.

237. "Yet," continues our objector, "according to Christian belief, eternal
punishment is the lot of him who dies in grievous sin. Why should this be? Why
should those who refuse grace up to death lose for ever all chance of

Before answering, let us formulate one principle. It is this: What Infinite
Wisdom deems just must a priori be approved by a finite understanding. But we
have proved the First Cause of all things to be infinitely perfect and wise, and
may we not reasonably expect that among the arrangements of Infinite Wisdom
there will be many beyond the grasp of our limited faculties? However, let us
see what human reason makes of the arguments of our opponent.

First, then, it is alleged that according to justice there must be proportion
between the magnitude of a crime and the punishment inflicted for it, and that
this does not seem to be the case if a grievous sin committed in the twinkling
of an eye is to be expiated by never-ending torments.

This reasoning rests manifestly on the wrong supposition that the magnitude of
crime is to be measured by the time required for its perpetration. If this were
the case, the boy who plays truant for half a day would be a far greater
criminal than the ruffian who in half an hour commits a dozen murders. Common
sense does not take this view of the matter. Whilst committing the boy to the
cane, it delivers the murderer to the gallows. Every one agrees that by the
crimes committed within the space of thirty minutes, the murderer has forfeited
twelve times over all the benefits which he might have enjoyed in human society
on earth for forty or fifty years. It is evident then that time cannot be the
standard by which punishment is to be determined. Not the duration of a bad
deed, but its internal wickedness, must be the measure of the expiation due to
it. But its wickedness increases in proportion as the obligation is sacred which
is deliberately violated. Now it is evident that no obligation of man towards
man can stand comparison for a moment with the obligation of man to obey God.
The right of God to the obedience of His reasonable creature is absolute and
infinite. No right can be more strict; and every other right is based upon it. A
wilful violation, therefore, of this right implies a malice which opposes itself
to the foundation of all orders. It is, in comparison with social disorders,
considered as violations of merely human rights, an infinite moral disorder.
Hence it is justly punished with an infinite penalty But a finite creature
cannot suffer a penalty infinite in intensity. The duration, therefore, of the
penalty must be infinite. This must be insisted upon all the more emphatically,
because the soul of a man who dies in mortal sin leaves this world in a state of
opposition to its Creator. The distortion of the human understanding and will,
caused by a deliberate refusal to acknowledge God as Supreme Master, cannot be
repaired when the time of preparation for man's last end has passed. Death puts
a term to that time. Consequently, the free-will of man remains for ever in the
same relation to God in which it is in the moment of the separation of soul and
body. The will of one, therefore, who dies impenitent, after having committed
grievous sin, remains for ever averted from God, refusing to embrace lovingly
the only Being in which the created spirit can find his beatitude. Happiness is
incompatible with such a state. On the contrary, it must be a state of the
deepest dissatisfaction and misery; for it is impossible that a rational and
spiritual nature should ever find rest and peace unless it be united with God,
the source of all goodness, and beauty, and truth. The misery of the dying,
impenitent sinner lasts then as long as the perversity of his will. His will is
incorrigible; hence his misery must be irremediable.

Accordingly, there is perfect harmony between Divine justice and the most
essential feature of eternal punishment as proposed by Catholic doctrine.
Catholic theologians agree that Hell would cease to be Hell, if the damned could
only enjoy the Beatific Vision of God. Whatever may be the nature of the fire of
Hell and its effects upon the damned, it is certain that the pain which it
causes is nothing in comparison with the distress and despair produced by the
consciousness of having for ever forfeited access to the only true source of
peace and happiness. It is, however, a connatural consequence of this greatest
of all penalties, that the damned should suffer positively through the
intervention of creatures. He who has refused to make use of creatures as
instruments in the service of his Creator, is justly punished by experiencing
pain through their influence. Hence our reason sees how congruous it is that,
according to the law of God, rebellion against Him should be punished in the
next world through the instrumentality of a real, material being, bearing some
similarity to earthly fire. The "fire" of the sun has remotely a share in all
the benefits God grants us through His creatures for our salvation. A contempt
of those benefits is appropriately avenged by a substance similar to that by the
aid of which the benefits were conferred, that is, by fire.

In what way this will be done is irrelevant to our discussion here. Readers may
consult St. Thomas.{14}

238. Let us now turn to the objection against Divine mercy based upon the same
doctrine of eternal punishment. "Whatever may be the demands of justice!"
exclaims the unbeliever, "infinite mercy requires the final extinction of all
punishment, all the more so because eternal punishment is useless, and
consequently its infliction real cruelty!"

Let us judge of the relation between mercy and punishment, not according to
blind sentiment, but in the light of reason. First as regards the infinity of
Divine mercy. To place limitations to the Divine mercy as it is in itself, one
must show that that mercy somehow falls short of the standard required by
Infinite Wisdom. But how shall the infidel show this? Not certainly by pointing
out that the effects of God's mercy are limited. In fact it seems intrinsically
repugnant that creatures should act according to their nature, and yet evil be
removed from them without any limit. To answer, however, more positively we may
solve the difficulty thus. As Divine Mercy is infinitely perfect because it is
in perfect harmony with Infinite Wisdom, so Divine Justice is infinitely perfect
for the same reason. Consequently, a priori, there is no ground why, in the
relation of God towards His reasonable creatures, either one or other of these
two attributes should be manifested exclusively. It would appear more proper
that both should shine forth in their effects. Of course, God owes it to His own
goodness that the joint glorification of these two attributes should be in
harmony with the final happiness of all reasonable creatures, on the supposition
that none of them refuse to fulfil the conditions laid down for the attainment
of that happiness. But if some submit to their Creator, and others rebel against
Him, it behoves the dignity of God to make a final irrevocable distinction
between loyal subjects and obstinate rebels. This distinction may be made in
such a way that the everlasting punishment of the wicked shall itself be a
manifestation both of justice and of mercy, -- of justice in point of duration,
and of mercy in point of intensity. According to St. Thomas, this is what is
actually done. He says: "In the damnation of the reprobate, mercy manifests
itself, not by putting a stop to the penalty inflicted, but by alleviating it
somewhat, so as to exact less than what is really due."{15}

239. From this discussion on Providence, in respect of the permission of evil
and the infliction of eternal punishment, it is, we hope, evident that the
Christian philosopher, after having proved on philosophical grounds the
existence and attributes of God, may face boldly any difficulty by which
adversaries try to undermine his conclusions. To do more than dispel the
fallacies with which unbelief opposes the evidences of reason and the
testimonies of Christianity in favour of an infinitely wise and good Providence,
is a task neither necessary nor possible. It is not necessary; because after the
truth of Divine Providence has been established, man knows enough for taking a
proper view of life. Under such a Providence as Natural Theology discloses to
our reason, and Christian revelation proposes to our faith, life is certainly
worth living, in obedience to the voice of conscience and in opposition to the
impulse of blind passion. All the duties imposed upon us by the voice of
conscience can be fulfilled without investigation of the secret counsels and
hidden ways of the Supreme Being. No need to lose time in such investigations.
When once we clearly understand that we are essentially servants of an
infinitely good Master, it behoves us to pay Him adoration, confidence, and
love, and to be anxious rather about a complete knowledge of the duty of the
creature to its Creator than about the ways by which the Creator guides His

{6} Apoc. XXI. 4.
{7} Prov. xvii. 5.
{8} Prov. xix. 17.
{9} Psalm lxxi. 4, 13.
{10} Isaias xi. 4.
{11} Wisdom vi. 7.
{12} Ecclus. xxi. 6.
{13} Ecclus. xxxv. 16.
{14} St.Thomas, Sum. Theol. 3a; Suppl. q. 70. a. 3. § "Et ideo dicendum;" and
Ibid. q. 97. art. 5.
{15} "In damnatione reproborum apparet misericordia non quidem totaliter
relaxans sed aliqualiter allevians dum pout citra condignum." (St.Thomas, Sum.
Theol. Ia. q. 21. art. 4. ad 1.)
Natural Theology: 51 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER III. Possibility of a Supernatural Providence.

SECTION 1. -- Miracles conceivable and possible.

Thesis XXXIX. -- Miracles, as believed in by Christian monotheists, involve
nothing self contradictory or absolutely impossible, nor are they in any way
opposed to the existence of physical law. Consequently, they are intrinsically
and extrinsically possible, and by no means effects unworthy of a wise Governor
of the Universe.

240. In the present section we are only concerned with the possibility of
miracles; in the next we shall discuss whether they come within the range of
human knowledge. Our thesis says, first that miracles are not
self-contradictory, or that the proper notion of a miracle does not involve any
union of mutually inconsistent ideas.

To prove this it will be necessary to inquire what is meant by "a miracle." In a
wider sense, we call "a miracle" anything astonishing. Thus, we may speak of
"miracles of beauty," "of learning," "of virtue." And we may call any effect of
an unknown cause "a miracle." But the Christian, theological sense of the word
miracle is far more restricted, and very definite. In this sense no event is
called a miracle, unless it be due to quite a special interference of God. Yet
not even every such event is a miracle. Something must be added, as will appear
from the two following definitions of miracle, the first of which is given by
St. Thomas, the second adopted by modern theologians.

241. According to St. Thomas, "miracles are effects wrought by the power of God
alone in things which have a natural tendency to a contrary effect, or to a
contrary way of producing it."{1}

In explanation of this definition we have to make the following remarks:
(a) St. Thomas requires for the existence of a miracle that the effect in
question should be attributable exclusively to Divine power. It appears from the
context of his doctrine that he means to say: The principal cause of a miracle
is God alone; a creature can only be instrumental in its operation, either by
disposing the matter in which, by virtue of the Divine volition alone, the
miracle is produced, or by obtaining miracles from God through prayers or good
works, or by commanding in the name of God that a miracle shall take place. Such
a command supposes a special Divine inspiration, through which the person who
works the miracle is made sure that his command will be efficacious.{2}
To some readers the objection may occur: You say, God alone is the principal
cause of a miracle. But God is the principal cause of every positive effect.
Therefore, according to your explanation, every positive effect is a miracle?
The answer to this objection is that God is the principal cause of a miracle,
not merely in the sense of prime cause, but inasmuch as principal cause denotes
a cause endowed with natural faculties proportioned to a certain effect, and is
thus opposed to instrumental cause, which by itself alone has no perfect natural
aptitude for the effect in which it is said to be instrumental, but is raised to
that aptitude by a special impulse and direction proceeding from the principal
cause. Thus, in the action of painting, God is the prime cause; the artist is
the principal cause; and his brush and pallet are the instrumental causes of the
picture. The action of painting is, therefore, a human action depending upon
ordinary Divine concurrence; but it is not a Divine action. Though God be the
prime cause, human faculties are proportioned to such an action, and therefore
the painter is the principal cause of it. But a miracle is an effect which,
considered in the concrete with all its circumstances, is manifestly
proportioned to the Divine power alone. Elias prayed, and the wet wood caught
fire miraculously, not because the natural conditions prerequired for this
effect were present, but because God willed it so on account of the prayer of
the Prophet. The man born blind, who washed himself in the pool of Siloe by the
command of our Lord, was cured, not because the washing was proportioned to the
cure, but because the Incarnate Son of God willed it so on condition of this act
of obedience. The man born blind was to a certain extent the principal cause of
his going to the pool and washing himself there; but the Son of God was not only
the prime, but also the sole principal and proper cause of the miracle.{3} (b)
By the additional words, "in things which have a natural tendency to a contrary
effect, or to a contrary way of producing it," St. Thomas implies that the
effect of a miracle is either something which in the ordinary course of nature
never happens, or something which in the ordinary course of nature does not
happen in this way. Of the first kind is the raising of a dead man to life
again, of the second kind the cure of a very serious disease by a simple

242. After having given his definition, the Angelic Doctor, by way of further
explanation, indicates two series of facts, which at first sight would seem to
be miracles, but are not miracles in the sense in which Catholic theologians use
the term.

The first series is formed by the hidden effects of nature -- (ea quae natura
facit nobis tamen vel alicui occulta). There are natural effects, the natural
cause of which is unknown. That cause may be either some hidden force or forces
of nature acting by themselves, or it may be forces of nature applied by the
natural faculties of man in an artificial way, or it may be forces of nature
utilized by pure spirits, supposing they act only with their natural faculties.
All these effects are wonderful and marvellous, but not miracles.
The second series is made up of actions which are Divine, but occur regularly in
the ordinary natural or supernatural course of things -- (ea quae Deus facit nec
aliter nata sunt fieri nisi a Deo). Such actions are: (1) The creation of each
individual human soul, which takes place through purely Divine power as often as
the substratum of a human body has been duly prepared by natural causes. As we
have shown in Book I., no human soul can come into existence otherwise than
through immediate Divine creation. But this creation follows a certain rule,
laid down by God from eternity to be followed regularly; and moreover it follows
a rule which must be observed, if God wills mankind to continue to exist in
agreement with the exigencies of their nature. The creation of a human soul,
then, though a purely Divine action, is neither a miracle nor a supernatural
action in the strict sense of the word. It is not a miracle, because it is in
harmony with the ordinary course of things: it is not a supernatural action,
because it is necessary for the completion of human nature. Also the first
creation of pure spirits and of matter, though most marvellous, does not come
under the category of miracles, because by that creation the very foundation of
created nature was laid. Christians believe also in other actions, transcending
not only the faculties of creatures, but even the exigencies grounded on their
nature and their faculties; and therefore strictly supernatural actions, yet not
miracles. Such actions are the infusion or increase of sanctifying grace through
the sacraments of the Church, and through acts of perfect contrition. Such are
also all illuminations and inspirations of the Holy Ghost, by which men are
prepared and helped to the performance of saving and meritorious works. These
actions are not miracles, because they follow the ordinary course of constant
supernatural influence of God upon rational creatures, in accordance with the
general direction of His Providence in the present order of things towards a
supernatural beatitude.

The conversion of St. Paul no doubt was preceded and accompanied by miracles in
the strict sense of the word. The conversion itself may be rightly called a
miracle of grace; but it was not a miracle in the ordinary sense, because it was
not a supernatural and extraordinary change produced by God in Saul as in a
living, corporeal being; but the change was made in his spiritual faculties.
Miracles, as understood by St. Thomas and Catholic theologians, are
extraordinary Divine operations in nature, that is to say, in the sphere of
sensible corporeal things.

243. To express this clearly, modern theologians define a miracle to be a
sensible, unusual, Divine, and supernatural work.{4} (a) A miracle is defined "a
sensible work," because the definition does not extend beyond those
extraordinary supernatural facts which imply changes perceptible through the
(b) A miracle is defined "an unusual work," because it is opposed to the
ordinary course of nature, or to the ordinary way in which corporeal things
under similar circumstances act and react on one another. The mere frequency of
a miracle in comparatively few spots of the globe does not take away its
character of being "an unusual work." To use the words of St. Thomas: "If daily
some blind man were made to see, this would nevertheless be a miracle, because
opposed to the ordinary course of nature."{5}

(c) A miracle is called "a Divine work," because it is due to a special positive
agency of God. The co-operation of even the holiest and most wonderful of the
saints in the miracles which they are said to work, does not extend beyond
acting as impetrators, or as instrumental and ministerial causes, as explained

(d) A miracle is called not only a Divine, but also a supernatural work, because
it is not one of those Divine works which complete the natural existence of
corporeal things, man included. To these works belong the first creation of the
world and the continual creation of individual souls.

Note. -- In the language of Scripture miracles are often called signs,
prodigies, virtues. The word sign refers to the intention God has in working
miracles. He wills thereby to speak to man in a sensible way. The name prodigy
points to the wonder excited in human minds by the sight of miracles; whilst the
word virtues implies that they are manifestations of power, supreme and Divine.
244. Against the definition of miracles just explained, a difficulty may be
raised from a division of miracles very common in Catholic schools, and
mentioned repeatedly by St. Thomas. Miracles are divided into miracles above
nature, beside nature, and against nature -- (miracula supra naturam, praeter
naturam, contra naturam). Above nature are those miracles which are worked in
material subjects, in which in the ordinary course of nature similar effects
never occur. Thus, it never happens naturally, that a dead and decomposing body
rises to life again. Therefore, the resurrection of Lazarus was a miracle above

Beside nature are those miracles that occur in material subjects, in which
through the forces of nature, either left to themselves or artificially applied,
similar effects do occur. Here an effect is known to be miraculous by its
occurring at a prophesied time, or simply upon the word of a thaumaturgus, and
that in cases in which similar effects could not have been obtained through
natural forces otherwise than gradually and with no certainty about the success.
Thus, the fact that in Egypt, upon the word of Moses, all the first-born of men
and beasts died in one night, whilst the Israelites were spared, was a miracle
beside nature. Such a miracle also was the sudden withering of the hand of
Jeroboam, when he stretched it out against the Prophet of God; and the blindness
of the sorcerer Elymas, caused upon the prediction of St. Paul.{7}

Against nature are the miracles which happen in material subjects that naturally
tend to a contrary effect, and are not prevented from producing their effect by
any natural cause. Thus, the preservation of the three companions of Daniel was
a miracle against nature; also the going back of the shadow upon the sun-dial of

This is the division of miracles which is substantially to be found in St.
Thomas.{9} The term "nature," which is taken as the standard of this division,
means the whole of corporeal substances and their forces acting under ordinary
Divine concurrence, either by themselves alone, or under some artificial
direction of rational creatures. We must note that the miracles which are said
to be against nature, are in no way against the essence or against the final end
of natural substances, but only against the course of action these substances
would take, if God had not from eternity decreed for special reasons to
interfere with it.

But how to combine the division with the definition? The definition says, that
every miracle is supernatural, or above nature. In the division, on the
contrary, only one class of miracles is marked as being above nature. The
solution is to be found in the fact that in the definition the miraculous effect
is considered as it exists in the concrete, with all its circumstances, knowable
to a diligent observer. When thus viewed, every real miracle must be pronounced
to be supernatural, or a Divine effect. But a miraculous effect, though
manifestly Divine when viewed adequately, may be taken into consideration
inadequately and the question asked: How does this effect stand to the
efficiency of mere natural forces, abstraction being made from all particular
circumstances? This consideration leads to the result that some miracles are
above nature, others beside nature, others against nature. Therefore, the
definition is not opposed to the division; because in the definition the
miraculous effect is viewed as happening under all the peculiar circumstances
under which it does happen: whilst the division of miracles is made by comparing
the effect with the forces of nature, abstracting from concrete circumstances.
And thus far of the definition and division of miracles.

245. That miracles are conceivable and not intrinsically absurd, is easily
shown. They are by hypothesis extraordinary effects of Divine power in corporeal
things, beyond the powers of creatures. There is certainly nothing in this
concept approaching to self-contradiction. The power of creatures is finite. It
is, therefore, conceivable that God should work in created things in a way
impossible to creatures; and that not in the ordinary way, which the
continuation of created existences and activities implies, but in a manner quite
extraordinary. Again, as we have seen, God is infinitely powerful and free. If
He is infinitely powerful, He certainly can produce effects in corporeal things,
which no created activity left to itself could produce under the circumstances.
And if He is infinitely free, He cannot be said to have been necessitated from
eternity so to order the course of created activities as to leave no room for
His own immediate interference further than was altogether necessary for the
continuance of the world. Miracles are consequently conceivable as works of
God's absolute power.

246. It remains to be considered whether they can be combined with the eternal
decrees of God. God, it may be urged, cannot contradict Himself. Now, universal
experience leads to the conclusion that the material substances of the universe
follow natural laws, or certain uniform ways of action, so that under the same
circumstances the same effects occur. These natural laws must have been decreed
by God from eternity. If so, what room remains for extraordinary interference?
Some such train of reasoning seems to have been in Dr. Carpenter's mind, when he
penned the following lines: "In regard to the Physical Universe then, it might
be better to substitute for the phrase, 'Government by Laws,' 'Government
according to Laws': meaning thereby the direct exertion of the Divine Will or
operation of the First Cause, in the forces of Nature, according to certain
constant uniformities which are simply unchangeable, because -- having been
originally the expression of Infinite Wisdom -- any change would be for the
worse."{10} There is much truth in these words, but not the whole truth. God's
decrees are indeed irrevocable, and the course of nature is at least generally
uniform. Were it otherwise, mankind would be held in a state of perpetual
suspense by the unavoidable and insoluble question: What will happen next? There
would be no stimulus to labour where no fruit could be counted on; and human
life, if possible at all, would be in a condition of abject misery.

But the one concession, that God governs the world according to natural laws,
does not involve the other, that in every particular case the general law is
applied. There are exceptions made in human legislation, where it is foreseen
that a general enactment would bear too hard upon a particular case. So the
Creator may foresee from eternity that in this case and that an exception to the
general course of nature will serve His purpose better than the maintenance of
the uniformity; and He may decree that exception accordingly from all eternity.
Let us suppose, at least for argument's sake, that it is God's eternal design to
raise some of His rational creatures to a union with Himself in knowledge and
love, far more intimate than any that their nature could lay claim to. This
being so, God could no doubt decree to communicate His benevolent designs to
particular chosen legates, and to commission them with the promulgation of those
designs to mankind. In order now to give these His legates an incontestable
authority, He could decree to make known to them what they could not possibly
know by natural means, namely, the future free actions of men with all their
particular circumstances. Such a decree itself would be a decree to interfere
with the psychological law of the natural dependence of the human mind upon
ideas gathered from experience or elaborated by reason. It would be a suspension
of a psychological law for a higher end and in a particular case only. There is
nothing repugnant in all this. If, then, God can thus inter fere with a
psychological law on behalf of a Prophet whom He sends, why should He be unable
to give His Prophet still more authority, by decreeing that in particular cases
a prayer, a command, a touch, or even a mere volition of that Prophet should be
followed by an extraordinary effect in a corporeal thing? There is again nothing
unworthy of God in this supposition. No decrees are repealed, but from eternity
the rule and the exception from the rule are settled with one act of Divine
volition in the light of infinite knowledge and with an intention not to help
nature to that for which as a work of God it is competent by its natural forces,
but to raise it to a higher level out of pure generous love.

247. Once we understand that God is infinite intellect and will, and acts by
mere volition according to eternal decrees, we can have no difficulty in solving
modern arguments against the possibility of miracles. Almost all are variations
of those of Spinoza.{11} This author starts from the supposition that God must
from eternity will everything He knows, a supposition disproved by us in Book
II., where we treated of the free-will of God. (Cf. pp. 295, seq.) We showed
there that God wills nothing with absolute necessity but His own existence.
Arguing in particular against those miracles which the scholastics called
against nature, Spinoza says{12} that such miracles would involve either the
absence of general laws of nature, or the supposition that God could act against
the laws of His own nature. This difficulty is done away with by what we have
shown in Book I., that the self-evolving God of Spinozism exists only in the
imagination of pantheists. The phrase, "against nature," means, as we have seen,
no more than this, that the natural tendency to action proper to a corporeal
being in a particular case remains potential, instead of becoming actual, as it
would have become had not God decreed to make this case an exception to the
general rule.

"But," continues Spinoza, "if miracles are, strictly speaking, all above nature,
then you must admit a break in the necessary and immutable course of nature;
which is absurd. It would follow also that the principles of reason are
violable; for after all they are but laws of nature. In that case we are unable
to trust them, unable to prove the existence of God; and thus miracles, far from
being a help to the knowledge of God, prove a total impediment to that

This argument confounds in the first place the course of nature as decreed by
the Divine mind from eternity with the course of nature as it commonly occurs in
human experience. Under the former respect it is absolutely immutable, not under
the latter; and this suffices for the possibility of miracles, as has been shown
in the proof of our thesis. If in a particular case the common rule is not
followed, if, for instance, water changes miraculously into wine, it does not
follow that equally well in another particular case two and two might become
five, and thus a principle of reason be violated. If Spinoza had studied St.
Thomas, he would have found the solution of his difficulty.{13} St. Thomas says,
that if we speak of an action against principles of nature (or more accurately,
against the natural tendency of physical forces), we imply thereby that such an
action surpasses created agencies, from which it does not follow that the
Almighty Creator cannot effect it, supposing it to be in keeping with His
justice and wisdom. But the principles of reason are not tendencies of physical
forces, but enunciations of inviolable truths, which cannot be set aside by any
rational being without the ruin of all certainty, much less be over-ruled by
God, Who is the First Truth and the Source of all truth.

Spinoza's difficulty regarding the perturbation of order by miracles has been
repeated by Voltaire, Strauss, and others, and seems to be a chief
stumbling-block for many, because they forget the distinction between order as
conceived by God and order as manifested in the uniformity of nature. Order
under the first aspect reigns everywhere; order under the second aspect is the
normal thing, but there are exceptions for wise reasons. Such exceptions are no
more perturbations of the laws of nature than in human society privileges
modifying the tenor of a general, civil, or criminal law, granted by the
lawgiver at the same time he establishes the law, and granted with wise
limitations, can be called abrogations of the law itself.

{1} "Illa quae sola virtute divina fiunt in illis rebus, in quibus est naturalis
ordo ad contrarium effectum vel ad contrarium modum faciendi, dicuntur proprie
miracula." (De Potentia, q. 6. De Miraculis, art. 2. in corp.).
{2} Cf. St. Thomas, ibid. a. 4.
{3} Cf. 3 Kings xviii. 30-39; St. John ix.
{4} "Opus sensibile, divinitus factum, insolitum, supernaturale" (Cf. T. Pesch,
Instit. Phil. Nat. p. 711.) Whilst agreeing in the substance, different modern
representatives of Catholic Theology and Philosophy vary in the form of the
definition. To our mind the form adopted l.c. recommends itself for great
{5} Sent. ii. dist. 18. q. 1. art. 3. ad 2.
{6} Cf. St. John xi. 43, 44.
{7} Cf. Exodus xi. xii.; 3 Kings xiii.; Acts xiii. 8-12.
{8} Cf. Daniel iii. 21-24; 4 Kings xx.
{9} St. Thomas, Sent. ii. dist. 18. q. 1. art. 3. solutio; De Potentia, q. 6.
art. 2. ad 3m.
{10} Mental Physiology, p. 706.
{11} Tract. Theol. Polit. c. 6.
{12} Loc. cit.
{13} De Potentia, q. 6. art. i. obj. ii. As this passage is one of the many in
which Aquinas anticipated modern difficulties, we will give it in full. The obj.
ii runs thus: "Sicuti ratio humana a Deo est, ita et natura. Sed contra
principia rationis Deus facere non potest, sicut quod genus de specie non
praedicetur, vel quod latus quadrati sit commensurabile diametro. Ergo nec
contra principia naturae Deus facere potest." His answer is: "Ad undecimum
dicendum, quod logicus et mathematicus considerant tantum res secundum principia
formalia; unde nihil est impossibile in logicis et mathematicis, nisi quod est
contra rei formalem rationem. Et hujusmodi impossibile in se contradictionem
claudit, et sic est per se impossibile. Talia autem impossibilia Deus facere non
potest. Naturalis (i.e. the physicist and biologist) autem applicat ad
determinatam materiam; unde reputat impossibile etiam id quod est huic
impossibile. Nihil autem prohibet Deum posse facere quae sunt inferioribus
agentibus impossibilia."
Natural Theology: 52 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 2. -- Miracles can be known as such.

Thesis XL. -- By careful inquiry the extraordinary Divine operations called
miracles can be sufficiently distinguished from the wonders of nature and art,
and from the operations of created spirits.

248. Affirming in our thesis that miracles are knowable, we do not maintain that
every particular miracle is sufficiently open to all inquirers. All we hold is,
that those in whose favour God works miracles, and to whom He wishes thereby to
manifest Himself in an extraordinary way, cannot fail to discover Him as the
Author of those effects. Our argument is simply this. God never works miracles
but for an end worthy of Himself. He works them in order to draw men nearer to
Himself by extraordinary manifestations of His Divine attributes, of His power,
wisdom, benevolence, mercy, justice. His miracles are intended to be a solid
comfort to men of good-will, and an earnest and terrifying warning to those who
revolt against the voice of their conscience. They are, as it were, a Divine
speech, expressed, not by Divine words, but by Divine deeds. Now, is it possible
that God should thus address men without offering them sufficient means to
ascertain that He has spoken? To suppose this would involve the denial either of
God's power or of God's wisdom. The supposition in fact amounts to this, either
that God cannot make Himself known as the Author of these special works, or that
He does not care to do so. Take the first alternative, and you deny God's power;
take the second, and you deny His wisdom. In both cases you think of the Creator
in a way altogether incompatible with His perfection. Men are able to stamp
their works with such indisputable signs of their individuality as that nobody,
on sufficient inquiry, can see any reason for suspending his judgment as to
their origin. And should the Creator be powerless to manifest Himself by equally
clear evidences? Men of common sense do not annoy their fellow-men with
ambiguous communications, the proper meaning and origin of which nobody can
discover; and shall the infinitely wise God speak the language of signs and
wonders in such a way that no amount of reasonable inquiry can throw light upon
the real speaker? Such suppositions cannot be entertained for a moment. But to
acknowledge them as absurd is equivalent to the statement that miracles are
really knowable if duly inquired into.

249. This last-mentioned condition must be added. Otherwise we may take for
miraculous what are really no more than hidden effects of nature, artificial
tricks of men, or operations of created spirits, surpassing men in their
acuteness of intellect and in their power of applying the forces of nature to
ends of their own. The first and second of these cases is possible, and has
happened often enough. The third case is of course put down as impossible by
materialists, extreme evolutionists, and agnostics. If there are any other
thinkers, not in this class, who still do not believe in rational beings higher
than man, and yet infinitely distant from the Creator, then, we must say, their
stand-point is not conformable to reason and history, and is besides opposed to
a fundamental truth of Christianity. Reason a priori finds it far more probable
that between the one infinite spirit and human souls not purely spiritual, there
should exist created pure spirits, than that they should not exist. History
testifies that the belief in such spirits among civilized nations is as old as
mankind. The history of magnetism and spiritualism countenances this
supposition, that some purely spiritual creatures do at times make their
influence sensibly felt in this world. Such is the judgment of many Catholic
theologians, who have studied the history of spiritualism with great

250. It appears then that created rational beings higher than man, or at least
other than human, influence this visible world. Shall we then call their
influence miraculous? According to the definition of a miracle we cannot do so,
unless they act not by mere natural power but as instruments of God. Now St.
Thomas, speaking from the stand-point of Christian Revelation, and consequently
taking for granted that there are good spirits (holy angels) and evil spirits
(demons or devils), lays it down as an evident corollary of revealed doctrine
that God, whilst using good angels as moral instruments for miraculous effects,
never grants to evil spirits greater power than they have by nature, but on the
contrary, often restrains their natural energy.{15}

Whatever such spirits do, is done, as the Angelic Doctor says, "by skilfully
utilizing through motion the potential energies latent in nature " -- adhibendo
corporalia semina per motum localem.{16} This they do with an incredible
velocity, and an insight into possible combination of natural forces of which
man can form no idea.

251. Thus for a due inquiry into miracles, we need a double series of criteria;
the first to guard us against taking for miracles mere natural effects, caused
by physical forces left to themselves or artificially applied by men; whilst the
second helps us to distinguish miracles from the effects of evil spirits. As the
good angels never go about to deceive men by their artifices, we do not want a
series of criteria to mark off their natural operations from true miracles.
Before the application of these criteria, the historical truth of the fact
itself must first be tested. Inquiry must be made as to "Who reports the fact?"
"Could such a witness know the truth, or is it likely that he was deceived?" "Is
the veracity of the witness above suspicion?" If the answer to these three
questions is favourable, we are morally certain of the existence of the fact, as
reported by one or more immediate or mediate witnesses, according to the
ordinary rules of testimony.{17} When this certainty has been reached, the
criteria of the miraculous character of the fact come into application.
252. (1) Criteria by which we may judge whether a well attested fact apparently
miraculous, is or is not to be assigned to hidden physical causes, either left
to themselves or applied by men.

(a) An effect, which of its very nature is out of proportion to the efficacy of
physical forces however combined by human ingenuity, must be due to a cause
transcending physical nature and the will of man. Such an effect would be the
raising to life again of a human body dead and buried and in a state of

(b) If an effect be within the competence of physical and human causes under
certain conditions, but not under the conditions present in this particular well
attested instance, such an effect must be attributed to an agency above that of
nature and man. The sudden cure of leprosy or blindness by a mere form of words
would be such an effect.

(c) As often as a well attested effect is produced after physical means have
been applied, which according to the judgment of experts are not quite out of
proportion to the production of the effect, yet not likely to produce it, we are
not sufficiently warranted to put the effect down to a superhuman cause. Of this
sort are cures of certain nervous diseases by such influences upon the
imagination as naturally cause considerable shocks to the system, and might thus
have remedied the disorder.

253. (2) Criteria by which miracles are distin -guished from wonders worked by
evil spirits.

Note. -- For the application of these criteria it is supposed that those of the
first series have been applied, and that there is no longer any doubt about the
superhuman character of the effect.

(a) A well attested effect of such a nature that it could not have been produced
by any physical forces. however well arranged must be Divine. By certain
material unseen influences, guided by created spirits, diseases may be cured;
and even hidden things may be revealed. But it seems inconceivable that any such
influence should bring back the soul of a dead man to a body already in a state
of decay.

(b) However marvellous and well attested an effect may be, yet if by its very
nature it tends to discredit beliefs, which can be proved to rest upon a Divine
foundation, and to have been confirmed by real prophecies and true miracles, it
is certainly not Divine, but attributable only to fallen spirits opposed to God.
Such were the effects produced through the instrumentality of Simon Magus,{18}
of Elymas,{19} of Apollonius of Tyana,{20} and of various so-called idols.{21}
We have been warned beforehand that "many false prophets shall arise and shall
seduce"{22} many, and that a time shall come "when that wicked one shall be
revealed . . . whose coming is according to the working of Satan in all power
and signs and lying wonders."{23}

(c) Superhuman effects which contain anything manifestly unworthy of the
Creator, cannot in reason be put down to Divine influence. Therefore St. Thomas,
attributing certain magic arts of the middle ages to superhuman influences,
brings this argument among others to show that evil spirits are concerned in
them. "To favour things which are contrary to virtue is not the work of a good
spirit, but these arts favour such things; for they result in adultery, theft,
murder, and other evil deeds. . . . Therefore," &c.{24}

(d) If neither the nature of a superhuman effect, nor the human person who is
instrumental in producing it, nor the object for the attainment of which it is
produced, nor the circumstances under which it occurs, show anything to excite
reasonable suspicion of demoniac influence, the effect must be considered as a
Divine work. A fortiori must it be considered such, if with increasing inquiry,
made with a humble and sincere desire to know the truth, evidences from all
sides concur to prove that God alone can be the author of the wonder in

Objections against the knowableness of miracles, as distinguished from the
possibility of them, may be reduced to the two following, the first of which is
Hume's celebrated argument as restated by Mill, the second has frequently been
brought forward by various unbelievers.
254. (1) Mill, repeating Hume's argument,{26} reasons thus: "The evidence of
miracles consists of testimony. The ground of our reliance on testimony is our
experience, that certain conditions being supposed, testimony is generally
veracious. But the same experience tells us that even under the best conditions
testimony is frequently either intentionally or unintentionally false. When
therefore the fact to which testimony is produced is one, the happening of which
would be more at variance with experience than the falsehood of testimony, we
ought not to believe it. And this rule all prudent persons observe in the
conduct of life. Those who do not are sure to suffer for their credulity.
"Now a miracle (the argument goes on) is in the highest possible degree
contradictory to experience; for if it were not contradictory to experience, it
would not be a miracle. The very reason for its being regarded as a miracle is,
that it is a breach of the law of nature, that is, of an otherwise invariable
and inviolable uniformity in the succession of natural events. There is
therefore the very strongest reason for disbelieving it that experience can give
for disbelieving anything. But the mendacity or error of witnesses, even though
numerous and of fair character, is quite within the bounds of common experience.
That supposition, therefore, ought to be preferred."

Answer. This sort of reasoning manifestly begs the question. It is said that it
is an invariable experience that miracles never occur; therefore they never
occur. But that is just the question, whether the experience against miracles is
really invariable? According to most trustworthy sources of historical knowledge
there never has been such an invariable experience. Nor is this unbroken
uniformity demonstrable a priori by any argument available to show that God
cannot work miracles. We have proved that He can. Therefore the assertion of
invariable uniformity is not borne out either by testimony or theory.

Nor can the interruption of the uniformity of the course of nature in
comparatively few cases, and those settled from eternity by infinite Wisdom,
reasonably be called a breach of law. As well call every limitation included in
the tenor of a law a breach of the same. Then it is said that witnesses are
never free from the suspicion of mendacity. Foolish and unreasonable suspicion,
granted. But can we reasonably suspect all witnesses, however numerous and
however fair their character may be, even when they attest their experiences on
oath, as is done in the processes of beatifications and canonizations in the
Catholic Church?

255. The second objection may be thus stated in its general form: "Even the best
attested facts alleged as miraculous may be due to some hidden physical causes
of which we do not know; for who can know all the forces of nature?"
Answer. Of course we cannot be certain that the event is miraculous, before
reasonable inquiry has been made, what has been done in the case, and what has
not been done. But such an inquiry may surely show that no physical forces,
competent to that effect, have been applied, though they may exist in nature.
For instance, a man who suffers from a disease, say a malignant tumour,
pronounced fatal by several good physicians, is cured on a sudden and perfectly
by addressing a short prayer to God through the intercession of a Saint. It is
absolutely certain that his cure is a Divine effect. If he will not be satisfied
about this, he might as well doubt whether his thirst to-day is quenched by the
liquid that he drinks to-day.

Thus not only the natural Providence of God, in which every monotheist believes,
but also His supernatural Providence, the great consolation and strength of the
Christian during life and at the hour of death, stands perfectly in conformity
with reason.

{14} Not long ago the Spectator wrote as follows: "He the writer would assert
that no one who has studied what are now called euphemistically the phenomena of
hypnotism, and the various states of distinct personal consciousness which the
French physicians elicit in their hypnotic patients, should doubt that the old
doctrine of one spirit over-riding another in the same organism is as good an
explanation of the facts as any other which can be suggested; indeed, a great
deal better, in his opinion -- he speaks only of himself -- than Mr. Myers
theory of different strata of consciousness. Though the writer speaks only for
himself in saying what he does, the present generation has, in his opinion,
ample and absolute evidence, if it will only bear patiently with fools and
knaves and impostors of all kinds in seeking it, that alien intelligences not
acting through any human body -- and sometimes intelligences of a very mean
order -- do produce definite physical effects on this world, and do sometimes
induce aberrations of mind in men and women which rise to a point of virtual
insanity." (Spectator, Feb. 9, 1889, "Professor Huxley and Agnosticism," p.
195.) {15} Cf. Sum. Theol. I. q. 110. art. 3. et art. 4. and De Potentia, q. 6.
art. 3. art. 4. art. 5. In the last place he says distinctly: "Sicut Angeli boni
per gratiam aliquid possunt ultra naturalem virtutem, ita Angeli mali minus
possunt ex divina providentia eos reprimente, quam possint secundum naturalem
virtutem. . . . Cum operatio miraculosa sit quoddam divinum testimonium
indicativum divinae virtutis et veritatis; si daemonibus quorum est tota
voluntas ad malum, aliqua potestas daretur faciendi miracula, Deus falsitatis
eorum testis existeret; quod divinam bonitatem non decet."
{16} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 110. art. 4. ad 3.
{17} See the First Principles of this series, c. vii.
{18} Acts viii. 9.
{19} Acts xiii. 8.
{20} Lactantius, Instit. Div. v. c. 3.
{21} See St. Augustine, De Civit. Dei, Bk. XXII. cc 9, 10. Cf. also Euseb.
Eccles. Hist. iv. c. 3, a passage quoted from the Christian apologist.
Quadratus. Cf. the excellent work, System der göttlichen Thaten des
Christenthums, by Professor Dr. F. X. Dieringer.
{22} St. Matt. xxiv. ii.
{23} 2 Thess. ii. 8, 9.
{24} 'Praestare enim patrocinium aliquibus quae sunt contraria virtuti non est
alicujus intellectus bene dispositi. Hoc autem fit ex hujusmodi artibus; fiunt
enim plerumque adulteria, furta, homicidia, et alia hujusmodi maleficia
procurantur. . . . Non est ergo." etc. (St. Thomas, Contra Gent. iii. c. 106.)
{25} "Non pertinet ad providentiam Dei, non permittere falsa signa quae ad
probationem et profectum electorum prosunt.; sed pertinet ad providentiam Dei,
dare auxilium ac modum quo possint dijudicari et cognosci, quia non est divinae
bonitatis et sapientiae ut permittat hominem tentari ultra id quod potest." (Cf.
Suarez, De Mysteriis vitae Christi, d. 31, sect. 2.)
Natural Theology: 53 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX I. St. Thomas and Premotion.

WHEN treating of physical predetermination,{1} we remarked that we were by no
means prepared to admit that St. Thomas is rightly interpreted by those who find
it laid down in his works, and we now submit our reasons for taking him to
sanction the Molinists rather than the so-called Thomist teaching. Our object in
doing so is to satisfy those of our readers who are specially interested in the
views of the great Doctor. In order to prove our point we have only to refer to
his doctrine on the way in which God moves the human will, on the nature of
moral freedom, on the origin of free volitions and on the Divine foresight of
these volitions.

A. And first, as regards the Divine motion by which human wills are influenced,
the Angelic Doctor discusses this subject under the heading, "Utrum voluntas
moveatur a Deo solo sicut ab exteriori principio."{2}

There he teaches that the human will is moved from without, and that the
external principle by which it is moved, is no other than God, and this for two
reasons: first, because He is the Creator of the rational soul; and secondly,
because He is the universal good.

Against this doctrine he puts the following objection: "God does not cause
anything but what is good, according to Gen. i. 31, 'God saw all the things that
He had made, and they were very good.' Therefore, if the human will were moved
only by God, it never would be moved to anything bad; and yet, as St. Augustine
says, 'it is the will that sins and it is the will that acts rightly.

In answer to this difficulty 5±. Thomas says: "God moves the will of man as
universal mover to the universal object of the will, which is good taken in
general; and without this universal motion man cannot will anything; but man
determines himself under application of his reason to the volition of this or
that thing, which is really or apparently good. Nevertheless, sometimes God
moves some to a determinate particular volition of something good. This is the
case with those whom He moves by His grace." Comparing these clear words of
Aquinas with the expositions of those who defend physical predetermination, we
are struck by a considerable difference.

On the one hand St. Thomas teaches that God commonly does not cause the acts of
the human will except in so far as they involve a craving for something good.
The determination, which particular good shall be chosen to satisfy that
craving, is, according to him, not due to God but to man, who by a free consent
to a particular practical judgment of his reason, moves his will, now to this,
now to that object.

Those on the contrary who maintain physical predetermination, tell us that the
motions of the human will towards precisely those particular goods which we
choose, are predetermined by God, and therefore come about infallibly. Again,
St. Thomas teaches indeed that God sometimes premoves men to some particular
good, but the holy Doctor does not specify how this is done. He leaves it
therefore open to us to explain that motion, as we have explained it, in solving
the Thomistic difficulty drawn from the nature of efficacious grace. (Cf. p.

B. If we now turn to the idea of freedom as explained by St. Thomas, we find him
again opposed to the predeterminists.

Contra Gentes, iii. c. 112. -- St. Thomas is explaining the different relations
of rational and irrational creatures to Divine Providence. God, he says, governs
rational creatures for their own sake, the irrational for the sake of the
rational. His first reason for this doctrine is the existence of freedom of will
in the rational, and the absence of it in the irrational world. In what then
consists that freedom? These are his own words: "Free is that being which can
rule its own action; for free is he who is the cause of himself; whereas that
which by a sort of necessity is driven to action, is in a state incompatible
with freedom."{3} As regards this passage, we know very well that the adherents
of physical predetermination say explicitly that the predetermined creature
really rules its own action under God, and that the predetermining motion of God
by no means necessitates the creature to a certain action, but only draws it to
the same infallibly. Let all this pass, however difficult it may be to
understand. But we beg leave to ask one question: In what sense does St. Thomas
say that the free being is the cause of himself? We all know that he does not
mean to imply that man, on account of his freedom of will, must have in himself
the principle of his existence. Nor can his saying be explained in this sense,
that the free rational creature causes its own action independently of God; for
he teaches expressly that God operates in all operations of His creatures. Is it
then his meaning that the free creature causes its action in dependence upon
God? No, because thus understood, he would say nothing of the free creature that
would be at all peculiar to a free creature as such. All creatures depend upon
the Creator in their actions. There remains, then, only this interpretation,
that the free creature, whilst dependent upon God for action, depends
proximately upon itself alone as regards its determination to this or that
action. This interpretation thoroughly agrees with another saying of the Angelic
Doctor: "It is peculiar to the rational nature that it tends to an end in such a
way as to move and lead itself thereunto, whilst an irrational creature must
tend to it as moved and led by another."{4} Who this other is, St. Thomas says
clearly immediately before, in the words: "The whole of irrational nature stands
to God in the relation of an instrument to its principal cause."{5} The
inference to be drawn from this is, manifestly, that rational creatures, acting
as rational creatures, that is to say, using their freedom of will, are not set
in action by God as instruments by their principal causes. On the contrary, he
represents them as principal causes of their own self-determination, on the
supposition that they actually enjoy the use of freedom.

C. If we now ask the Angelic Doctor to explain himself more fully, and name the
agency that carries the free-will to one alternative rather than another, he
answers quite frankly that it is none other than the free-will itself. The
passage to which we refer is Sent. ii. d. 39, q. 1. art. 1. in corp. St.Thomas
teaches there that the human will, through man's own fault, may fall into sin.
He adds that in the will we must distinguish between the faculty and the act.
"The will as a faculty," he says, "is not from ourselves, but from God, and
therefore cannot be sin in us, but the act of that faculty may be sin, because
it is from us."{6} He wishes, however, to make us understand that the act of
which he here speaks is not the actual use of freedom as such (this no doubt is
also from God), but the actual use of freedom inasmuch as it means the actual
preference of one alternative before another, when the creature is actually free
to choose either. To leave not a shadow of doubt regarding this his real
meaning, he adds expressly, "That the will embraces this or that determinate
particular action, is not owing to any agency other than the will itself."{7}

It would seem that this passage of St. Thomas is not only implicitly but
explicitly opposed to physical predetermination. For the predeterminists
maintain that each particular determination of the free-will is predetermined by
God, and that the knowledge God has of the infallible future existence of the
free acts of men is involved in the knowledge of the decree by which He has
settled the exercise of His predetermining influence upon human wills.
D. In the latter part of this statement we find another contradiction between
so-called Thomism and St. Thomas. Aquinas teaches that the reason why God knows
future free actions is this, that they in themselves are present to Divine
intuition, not only in their causes. "Further, events considered in their
individual future existence, can only be known by God, to whom they are present
even then, when in the course of things they are still future, inasmuch as His
eternal intuition extends itself by one act over the whole course of time."{8}

Of course this must in the first place be true of those future events which do
not follow necessarily from their causes; consequently, of free actions. These
actions are in the most proper sense of the word contingent effects, and
therefore it is certain that, according to St. Thomas, future free actions of
creatures are known by God directly, not in the decrees by which they are

Nay, he goes so far as to exclude the possibility of the latter knowledge, when
he says: "A contingent event may be considered inasmuch as it has pre-existence
in its cause; and thus it is considered as something both future and not
determined as yet to one definite issue (because a cause which acts not
necessarily may turn to this or to that of two alternatives opposite to each
other); and under this aspect a contingent event cannot be known for certain by
any knowledge whatsoever."{9}

Then the Angelic Doctor goes on to say that God knows nevertheless future
contingent events, because not only their causes, but their future particular
existences are open to His eternal intuition. The reader will remember that this
doctrine coincides with the teaching of the Suarezian Molinists given by us in
Book II., who advocate the scientia media, which is nothing else than an
immediate intuition of the conditionally future existence of free actions. St.
Thomas certainly does not seem to hold that the future free actions of rational
creatures are known by God in His predetermining decrees, as in the real and
infallibly operating causes of those actions.

E. Among all the passages which Thomists love to quote from St. Thomas in favour
of predetermining premotion, there is none which really proves physical
predetermination to be his doctrine, although there are many which prove
premotion in general, and even in particular, inasmuch as it can be conceived
without physical predetermining influence. We are the last persons to deny that
this sort of premotion, which we have explained and approved (p. 374, § 218),
was before the mind of St. Thomas, when he compared the operation of God in
created agencies to the motion by which an artist applies his instrument to cut
something.{10} The truths really contained in this simile may be stated thus:
1. As the natural aptitude of an instrument for cutting is without effect unless
it is applied by the artist to some material, so the natural faculties existing
in creatures to produce changes in other creatures are of no avail, unless God
by His Providence brings them mediately or immediately into relation with matter
to act upon. What is, for instance, the best orator without an audience, the
best master without pupils?

2. As the artist can freely drop the instrument, and thus put a stop to its
cutting, so God by His absolute power could, save for His free decree to act
otherwise, efface any creature from the order of existing things, and thus
abolish its activity. He can also make creatures cease to act without
subtracting their preservation, simply by not willing that they shall be in a
state fit for certain actions. Thus, for instance, He destroyed the influence of
Elymas by striking him on a sudden with blindness.{11}

3. As the action of the instrument is directed by the artist's intellect and
will to the end that he intends, so every action of creatures is turned by
Divine Providence into a means to the last end of all creation, the external
manifestation of God's perfections.

We should have good hope of harmony between Molinists and Thomists, if Molinists
would bring their true doctrine regarding premotion more explicitly to the
front, and if Thomists would distinguish carefully between premotion to free
action in general, and premotion to this or that particular free election; and
again between the Divine knowledge of a particular future free action, as
possible to the will under a certain condition, and the Divine knowledge of the
same action, as infallibly to come about under that condition. It is true, in
order that a free volition under a given condition may be really and adequately
possible to us, God must have decreed from eternity to concur with us by
granting us the actual use of freedom. But the decree to grant this actual use
is not a decree to influence the free-will in such a way that by the physical
nature of the said influence our free choice in one direction is predetermined.
On the contrary, according to reason and to St. Thomas's teaching, it is a
decree, physically thus to influence the free-will (naturally or supernaturally)
that in virtue of its actual physical state it must exercise its freedom, that
is to say, must accept, or omit to accept, any object proposed by the
understanding as eligible.

{1} Natural Theology, p. 371.
{2} St.Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. 2ae. q. 9. a. 6. ad 3m. "Deus movet voluntatem
hominis, sicut universalis motor, ad universale objectum voluntatis, quod est
bonum; et sine hac universali motione homo non potest aliquid velle; sed homo
per rationem determinat se ad volendum hoc vel illud, quod est vere bonum vel
apparens bonum. Sed tamen interdum specialiter Deus movet aliquos ad aliquid
determinate volendum, quod est bonum, sicut in his quos Inovet per gratiam."
{3} "Quod dominium sui actus habet, liberum est in agendo; liber enim est qui
sui causa est; quod autem quadam necessitate ab alio agitur ad operandum,
servituti subjectum est."
{4} "Proprium est naturm rationalis, Ut tendat in finem, quasi se agens vel
ducens ad tinem, naturm vero irrationalis, quasi ab alio acta vel ducta." (Sum.
Theol. Ia. 2~. q. s. a. 2. in Corp.)
{5} Tota irrationalis natura comparatur ad Deum sicut instrumentum ad agens
principale." (Ibid.)
{6} "Voluntas potentiae, cum a nobis non sit, sed a Deo, in nobis non potest
esse peccatum, sed actus ejus qui a nobis est."
{7} "Quod determinate exeat in hunc actum vel in illum, non est ab alio
determinante, sed ab ipsa voluntate."
{8} "In se ipsis quidem futura cognosci non possunt nisi a Deo, cui etiam sunt
praesentia, dum in cursu rerum sunt futura, in quantum ejus aeternus intuitus
simul fertur supra totum temporis cursum." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 86.
art. 4. in corp.)
{9} "Potest considerari contingens ut est in sua causa et sic consideratur ut
futurum, et ut contingens nondum determinatum ad unum (quia causa contingens se
habet ad opposita); et sic contingens non subditur per certitudinem alicui
cognitioni." (St. Thomas. Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 54 art. 13. in corp.)
{10} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 505. art. 5. in corp. et ad 3; De Potentia,
q. 3. art. 7. in corp. § Sciendum namque." et ad 7.
{11} Acts xiii. 11.
Natural Theology: 54 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX II. Examination of Propositions I. - VI. in Spinoza's Ethics.

THE pantheistic system of Spinoza, embodied in his Ethics, is worked out with so
much simulation of mathematical exactness, that to some authors, particularly to
the German philosopher, Frederick H. Jacobi, it appeared to be theoretically
irrefutable. We have already argued the absurdity of the two fundamental dogmas
of Spinoza's monism.{1} Moreover, we have set forth the ambiguity of two of his
most important definitions, and pointed out the paralogism introduced by their
use in the very first step of his reasoning.{2} This, however, we could not do
without referring to the connection between the first six propositions of the
Ethics. In order now to enable our reader to see this connection, and to judge
for himself as to the safety of the road cut by Spinoza to his famous
Proposition VI., "One substance cannot be produced by another substance," we
will examine thoroughly into the first six propositions of his Ethics.

Let us begin by singling out of the eight definitions and seven axioms with
which the Ethics open, those which form the groundwork of the propositions we
are concerned about. They are Definitions III., IV., V., and Axioms I., IV., V.
Our comment on these fundamental principles will show that all of them are more
or less ambiguous, and may therefore be applied in a true or in a false sense.
As regards Definitions III. and V. in particular, we shall sum up here what we
have said on them at greater length in Bk. I. c. v. sect. 6.

Definition III. "By substance I mean that which is in itself and is conceived by
itself." (Per substantiam intelligo id quod in se est, et per se concipitur.)
Comment. This definition may signify either (1) A substance is a natural whole,
a complete individual being, in opposition to parts, properties, or
modifications of such a being; or (2) a substance is a self-existing being.
In the first sense the definition is true, in the second arbitrary and false. (§

Definition IV. "By attribute I understand that which the understanding
apprehends in substance as constituting its essence." (Per attributum intelligo
id quod intellectus de substantia percipit tanquam ejus essentiam constituens.)
Comment. The definition does not cover all attributes, but only the attributes
of God, the one self-existing Being. Of course the Divine attributes are
identical with the simple Divine essence. Each of them may therefore be said to
constitute that essence, although self-existence is said to do so with most
propriety.{3} Of the attributes of creatures we cannot say this. Some of them
complete one another to constitute an essence (e.g., animality and rationality
in man); others are conceived as flowing from the essence of a being (e.g.,
understanding and free-will); others again are accidental modifications added to
substance (e.g., learning in man).

We have then to choose between two alternalives. Either we must pronounce
Spinoza's definition of "substance" to be taken in the second, false sense
explained above, or we must reject his definition of attribute as altogether

Definition V. "By mode I mean the affections of a substance, or that which is in
something else, by which also it is apprehended." (Per modum intelligo
substantiae affectiones, sive id quod in alio est, per quod etiam concipitur.)
Comment. This definition allows of three interpretations: (1) A mode is that
which gives to anything its specific character (e.g., the principle of life to a
dog). (2) A mode is a property accompanying a being, so to speak, by its acts
(e.g., understanding, moral freedom). (3) A mode is an accidental modilication
(e.g., skill).

Only in its second or third interpretation does Spinoza's definition of "mode"
harmonize sufficiently with common parlance; perfectly in the third alone.
And now as to the three axioms:

Axiom I. is thus worded: "All that is, is either in itself or in something
else." (Omnia, quae sunt, vel in se, vel in alio sunt.)

Comment. According to the different meanings that may be attached to the phrase,
"in itself," this axiom signifies either, (1) everything is either a subject or
a determination of a subject, which determination may be substantial or
accidental (a substantial or accidental form); or (2) everything is either
self-existent or inherent in self-existence.

In the first sense the axiom is true, in the second intrinsically contradictory,
because in self-existence there can be no inherent determinations really
distinct from it. (Th. VIII. and Th. XXII.)

Axiom IV. "Knowledge of an effect depends on knowledge of a cause, and involves
the same." (Effectus cognitio a cognitione causae dependet, et eandem involvit.)
Comment. This means either (1) an effect as an effect cannot be known without
the conception of a cause; or (2) a thing which is an effect cannot be known,
unless it be conceived together with its cause.

In the first sense the axiom expresses a self-evident truism; in the second it
is manifestly false. A child knows his home, his parents and relations, his
toys, &c., before he in any way reflects upon the causes of these things. And
accurate self-introspection will convince any one that his first conception of
things is an apprehension of their existence and of some of their attributes
(extension, colour, &c.), involving no notion of cause.

Axiom V. "Things that have nothing in common one with another cannot be
understood through one another, or the conception of one does not involve the
conception of the other." (Quae nihil commune cum se invicem habent, etiam per
se invicem intelligi non possunt, sive conceptus unius alterius conceptum non

Comment. This axiom may be explained in two ways: (1) Things really diverse
cannot be explained by means of one another, unless under some aspect they are
conceivable by a common idea. (2) Things really diverse can under no aspect be
conceived by a common idea, because they have really nothing in common.
The first sense is true, the second false, involving, as it does, the absurd
position of nominalism, that there are no universal ideas based upon the
objective similarity of diverse essences.

Now let us see how Spinoza proves his first six propositions by the help of the
ambiguous principles just explained. We give a translation both of his
propositions and of his demonstrations, omitting nothing; and add our respective
comments to each.

Proposition I. "Substance is prior in nature to its affections." (Substantia
prior est natura suis affectibus.)

Demonstration. "This is comprised in Definitions III. and IV."

Comment. We have already fully commented on this first step of Spinoza's
reasonings. (Bk. I. c. v. sect. 6.) Therefore it will suffice to remark here
shortly that Proposition I. is true, if you take Definition III. in the first,
and Definition V. in the second or third sense explained above. In other words,
if you suppose that substance signifies any natural whole, and mode either a
natural property or an accidental modification of such a whole, Proposition I.
cannot be denied. If you, however, take Definition III. in the second and false
sense to mean a self-existing being, and Definition V. in any of the three
meanings compatible with its ambiguity, Spinoza's Proposition I. means that "a
self-existent being is prior in nature either to its specific determination or
to its natural properties or to its accidental modifications," an assertion
which involves the absurdity that self-existence is a changeable subject. (Cf.
Th. XXII.) In Spinoza's system there is no room for Proposition I. but in its
second false sense, as will appear from the following:

Proposition II. "Two substances having different attributes have nothing in
common with one another." (Duae substantiae diversa attributa habentes, nihil
inter se commune habent.)

Demonstration. "This too appears from Definition III.; for each must be
comprised in itself and conceived by itself; or, the conception of the one does
not involve the conception of the other."

Comment. If to signify any being complete in itself as a natural whole
Definition III. is taken in its first (true) meaning, Proposition II. is false,
because diverse natural wholes, of however different attributes, may
nevertheless, under one or other aspect, resemble one another, and on account of
this similarity have the same attribute in common, inasmuch as its import is
realized in each of them. Thus, for instance, a man and his dog have the same
attribute, "animality," in common. Of either of them I say, with perfect truth,
"This substance is an animal." And I say also rightly, "The substance which is
really identical with the animal dog is other than that which is really
identical with the animal man." If, however, Spinoza's Definition III. is taken
in its second (false) meaning, so as to make substance identical with
self-existence, there is no raison d'être for Proposition II.; because
self-existence can only be one substance. (Th. VII.)

Proposition III. "Of things that have nothing in common, one cannot be the cause
of another." (Quae res nihil commune inter se habent, earum una alterius causa
esse non potest.)

Demonstration. "If the things have nothing in common, neither can they (by Axiom
V.) be understood one from the other, and so (by Axiom IV.> they cannot be
causes of one another: q.e.d"

Comment. If the phrase, "to have something in common," is applied in a sense
quite usual, so as to mean, "to have the same predicate," Proposition III. is
based on a false supposition, because there are no things which would not have
at least the predicate "being" in common.

If, however, the phrase, "to have nothing in common," shall mean "to exist as
diverse realities," Proposition III. is false, and the proof given by Spinoza
does not really support it, unless each of the two ambiguous Axioms V. and IV.
be taken in its second false meaning, pointed out above. Indeed, Spinoza's
conclusion would only follow if it be supposed that Axiom V., "Things that have
nothing in common one with another cannot be understood through one another," is
true if you take it to mean, "Diverse things under no aspect can be conceived by
a common idea;" and that the truth enunciated by Axiom IV., "Knowledge of an
effect depends on knowledge of a cause, and involves the same," is no other but
this manifest falsehood, "The idea of an effect, however the latter may be
viewed, involves necessarily the idea of its cause."

Proposition IV. "Two or more different things are distinguished from each other
either by diversity of the attributes of substances, or by diversity in the
affections of these same substances." (Duae aut plures res distinctae vel inter
se distinguuntur ex diversitate attributorum substantiarum, vel ex diversitate
earundem affectionum.)

Demonstration. "All that is, is either in itself or in something else (by Axiom
I.), that is to say, there is nothing out of or beyond the understanding except
substances and their affections (by Definitions III. and V.). There is
consequently nothing out of the understanding by which individual things can be
distinguished from each other except substances, or -- and this comes to the
same thing -- their attributes and affections (by Definition IV.)"

Comment. Different things are in the first place distinguished from one another
by their different substantial being, and secondarily by their attributes and
affections. In commenting upon Definition IV. we have given reasons to show that
there is a difference between the substantial being of created things, or what
we may call their physical essence, and the attributes of that essence.
Moreover, while the essential attribute remains the same, the affections of an
individual thing may vary indefinitely. The same man of whom I have to predicate
constantly moral responsibility may attach his heart now to money, now to
pleasure, now to virtue, &c.

It appears then that Proposition IV. is altogether false, and based upon a false
application of the inadequate Definition IV. In order to be in harmony with
truth, Proposition IV. must be thus worded: "Two or more different things are
distinguished from each other by their different undivided substantial being;
from this primary difference there follows a difference in their attributes, and
in their affections, or accidental modifications, if they are capable of any
such." The restriction, "if they," &c., is added with reference to the Divine
substance, which is immutable.

Proposition V. "In the order of existence there cannot be two or more substances
of the same nature or attribute." (In rerum natura non possunt dari duae aut
plures substantiae ejusdem naturae sive attributi.)
Demonstration. "Did several distinct substances exist, they would be
distinguished from each other either by diversity of attributes or by diversity
of affections =modes= (as appears by the proposition immediately preceding); if
by diversity of attributes only, it were then conceded that there is but one
substance of the same attribute; if by diversity of affections, then inasmuch as
substance is prior in nature to its affections (by Proposition I.), if we set
aside its affections, and consider the substance in itself, which is to consider
it truly (by Definitions III. and V.), the substance in that case could not be
conceived as distinct from anything else; so that, as stated in the preceding
proposition, there cannot be several substances, but one substance only."
Comment. First of all, Spinoza appeals in vain to his Proposition IV. as a firm
basis of that under consideration; for we have shown above that Proposition IV.
is false, and based upon false reasoning.

In development of his proof of the present proposition, Spinoza adds another
piece of false information by telling us that, setting aside affections of
substances, and considering them "in themselves, or truly," there is no longer
any distinction of substances. This false statement he bases upon Definition
III. and Definition V. Yet it does not follow from these definitions, unless we
take Definition III. in its second, false sense, so as to define substance to be

We see then that Proposition V., which has been sometimes termed the Argumentum
Achilleum of Spinoza, deserves that name in that it is really vulnerable, like
Achilles, if only you strike at the vulnerable spot.
The truth underlying Proposition V. amounts to this, that two different
substances cannot have the same physical attribute in common. But nobody wishes
to signify this, when he says that two substantial beings, say Peter and Paul,
have the attnbute "rationality" in common. The meaning is that, as regards the
import of this attribute, they resemble each other perfectly, and that there is
consequently in their different physical substantiality a real foundation for a
logical identity of attribute.

Proposition VI. "One substance cannot be produced by another substance." (Una
substantia non potest produci ab alia substantia.)

Demonstration. "In the preceding proposition we have seen that there cannot in
the order of existence be two substances of the same attribute, or that have
anything in common (by Proposition II.); and so (by Proposition III.) one cannot
be the cause of, or be produced by another: q.e.d."

To the demonstration Spinoza adds by way of corollary, "Substance cannot be
produced by anything else." And in order to make this corollary, which on the
hypothesis that Proposition VI. was really proved, is evident enough, still more
plausible, he supports it by the reductio ad absurdum in this manner: "If
substance could be produced by something else, the knowledge of substance would
have to depend on a knowledge of its cause (by Axiom IV.), in which case it
would not be substance (by Definition III.)."

Comment. As appears clearly from the demonstration of Proposition VI., it rests
entirely on Proposition V., Proposition II., and Proposition III., all of them
ambiguous, and only applicable to support Proposition VI., if they are taken in
a sense manifestly false, and sophistically supposed by Spinoza as really

For the demonstration of this Proposition VI. to hold, we must assume that (a)
there cannot be several substances of the same logical attribute, grounded on
their physical similarity (false sense of Proposition V.); (b) two substances
having physically different attributes, have nothing logically in common, based
upon real physical similarity (false sense of Proposition II.); (c) things that
have nothing physically in common (or that are, considered in their physical
existence, not one thing, but many things), cannot be cause and effect (false
sense of Proposition III.).

Only, I say, by assuming all these false interpretations of ambiguously worded
propositions, can any connection be made out between the premisses and the
conclusion of the demonstration by which Spinoza proves Proposition VI.
Consequently this proposition, which is the whole foundation of his pantheistic
monism, must be pronounced to be a miserable sophism.

The same verdict must be given on the accessory proof contained in the
corollary. A simple appeal to Axiom IV. and Definition III., so Spinoza thinks,
is enough to show that "substance cannot be produced by anything else." Indeed,
if you interpret Axiom IV. to mean that an effect under no aspect is conceivable
without the conception implying the conception of its cause; and if you take
Definition III. to imply that "substance" is synonymous with "self-existence,"
the conclusion in due course runs that no effect can be a substance, and that
consequently there is only One substance effecting changes in itself. But such a
process of reasoning, taken for what it is really worth, evinces no more than
that from two absurd premisses there follows as usual an equally absurd

{1} Natural Theology, Th. X. pp. 112, seq.
{2} Loc. cit. Bk. I. c. v. sect. 6, pp. 200, seq.
{3} Cf. Bk. II. c. vii.
Natural Theology: 55 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX III. Immediate Consciousness of God in the Patristic Writings.

SEVERAL distinguished scholars of our own century have been of opinion that in
the writings of the early defenders of the Christian faith, particularly in
those of St. Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and St. Augustine,
passages were found which showed that their authors, in opposition to
scholasticism, believed in an immediate natural knowledge of God. Thorough
information on this subject is given by Kleutgen, Philosophie Scholastique
(translated from the German), nn. 427-489. He shows that the meaning of the
sayings alleged in no way disagrees with the common teaching of the schoolmen.
The passages to which our opponents appeal. may aptly be divided into two
classes, inasmuch as in some of them the knowledge of God is spoken of as
belonging to human nature, whilst in others man is said to know truth in God,
the First, Unchangeable Truth.

Careful examination shows, however, that the first class of passages do not
imply any belief in an innate idea of God, or any direct intuition of Him in His
relation to finite beings. They are only designed to express strongly that human
reason, connaturally developed and applied, cannot fail to arrive at the
knowledge of the Creator.

As regards the other statements, which affirm that we know truth in God, their
real import is that the natural light of our reason, by which we perceive truth,
is in its existence and activity a sort of faint copy of God, the self-existing
Infinite Truth, and caused by Him. We say in common parlance that we see things
of this world in the light of the sun. By this phrase we imply indeed a
dependence of our actual vision of things round about us upon the influence of
the sun. Yet we do not imply a gazing at the sun as the reason why we are able
to see things. In a similar way, St. Augustine says in answer to the question,
Where we see the truth of our affirmations? that we see it neither in ourselves
nor in other men, but in God, the Unchangeable Truth.{1} By this assertion he
impresses upon us the dependence of our ability for discerning truth upon Divine
creation and concurrence; but he can in no way be said to advocate an immediate
consciousness of God, as is well shown by Kleutgen, loc. cit. n. 472, seq.

{1} Confess. Lib. XII. C. 25.
Natural Theology: 56 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX IV. St. Thomas and the Idea of Indeterminate Being.

A DISTINGUISHED student of Rosmini's philosophy called some years ago our
attention to these words of St. Thomas: "Anima semper intelligit se et Deum
indeterminate."{1} He found in them a support of Rosmini's hypothesis that we
are born with a dim perception of God as being. (Cf. p. 14.) Assuredly an
interpretation like this would upset the whole of St. Thomas's psychology as
contained in his commentaries on Aristotle's De Anima, and in Sum. Theol. I. qq.

But what does St. Thomas mean by those words? Considering the whole context in
which they occur, and comparing it with the doctrine of Aquinas on the
Intellectus agens, especially with the remarkable assertion, "Intellectus agens
est agens tantum et nulla modo patiens,"{2} and with the more explicit teaching
laid down in ii. Sent. dist. 17. q. 2. a. 1. § "Et ideo remotis omnibus
praedictis erroribus," we have arrived at the following interpretation, which
the reader may kindly consider and examine: In virtue of its spiritual nature
and of the spontaneous activity of the intellectus agens flowing from it, the
soul possesses habitually all needful capacity for being awakened to
self-consciousness and for ascending by degrees to the knowledge of its Creator.
So far forth we may say, then, that the soul always knows its own existence and
God indeterminately; that is to say, such is the natural sympathy between the
organic faculty called imagination, and the spiritual faculty called intellectus
agens, that immediately upon due determination of the imaginative faculty, the
soul will arrive in the first place at the intellectual perception of material
things; concomitantly, in the second place, at self-consciousness, inasmuch as
it knows its own knowing; and finally, in virtue of its natural tendency to
investigate the causes of things perceived, by degrees it will arrive at the
knowledge of the First Cause, or God.{3}

{1} In i. Sent. dist. 3. q. 4. a. 5.
{2} Sum. Theol. Ia. 2a. q. 50. a. 5. ad 2.
{3} Cf. St. Thomas, Qq. Disp. De Veritate, q. x. a. 8. et Sum. Theol. q. 88. a.
1. et a. 3.
Natural Theology: 57 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX V. The Logical Connection between the Self-Existence, Unity, and
Infinity of God.

IN Book I. (n. 60) we have shown that God, because of His self-existence, is
necessarily One undivided Being, and thence we have inferred that this One
self-existent Being must be infinite. (n. 68.) The same conclusion, viz., that
God is One and Infinite, may be reached in an inverse order by evincing first
that self-existence involves Infinity, and then arguing from the Infinity of the
self-existent to its Unity. To bring out the absolutely necessary connection of
Infinity with Self-existence, we may choose one or other of the following two
methods of proof:

(1) A self-existent nature is manifestly incapable either of development or of
diminution of its actual perfection. For as it is uncaused being, the manner of
its existence must be as constant as its unchangeable essence. Consequently,
whatever perfection can be conceived as compatible with its essence, must
actually and for ever be contained in that essence. Otherwise, we should be
bound to conceive in it a perfection as possible which at the same time was
absolutely not realizable, and consequently intrinsically contradictory.
This much granted, it is evident that the concept of self-existence, expressing
as it does absolute positive being, is not opposed to any perfection whatever,
for every perfection is positive being. It follows then that every perfection is
actually contained in a self-existing Nature, in other words, such a nature is
infinitely perfect.

(2) It has been proved (n. 29, seq.) that the soul of man has for its First
Cause a self-existent intelligent Being. Now the human soul is naturally adapted
to the knowledge of Truth and the love of Goodness, and may be improved
indefinitely in both these perfections. Consequently its First self-existent
Cause cannot lack either of them. Neither can it possess them as perfections
capable of improvement. To admit this would be tantamount to granting that its
way of existence was not due to its essence alone -- a concession that destroys
the very notion of Self-existence. Hence it is evident that the capability of
indefinite improvement in the knowledge of Truth and the love of Goodness innate
in the human mind has its ultimate sufficient reason in a self-existent Mind
which knows all Truth, and loves all Goodness, without being determined thereto
by any influence from without. But actual and unbounded knowledge of objective
Truth, and unbounded love of objective Goodness cannot belong io the Nature of
Self-existence, unless the latter coincides with the real source of all
objective Truth and Goodness, and consequently is infinitely perfect.

Having thus shown that Self-existence involves Infinity, it is easy to convince
ourselves that Infinity cannot belong to more than One Self-existent Being, for
if there were several such beings, none of them would be the source of all
reality, because none of them would possess the actual perfection by which the
rest differed from it. Consequently none of them would unite in itself all
conceivable perfections.
Natural Theology: 58 Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard
Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX VI. On the Optimism of St. Thomas.

IN Bk. I. Th. XV. we laid down the tenet that Creation is not only good, but
even very good, nay, in a certain sense, best, inasmuch as in all its
departments there is a perfect adaptation of means to such ends as are
absolutely intended by the Creator.

Let us in this place test briefly the reasons which have led three distinguished
monotheistic philosophers, Leibnitz, Malebranche, and Rosmini, to maintain that
our world is not only the best of worlds, in the sense just explained, but the
very best world possible.

(A) Leibnitz argues thus: "If among all possible worlds there were not one which
is best, God would not have created any of them. . . . There is an infinity of
possible worlds, and of these God must have chosen the best, because He does
nothing but in agreement with His supreme Reason."{1}

Answer. We agree with the assumption that there is an infinity of possible
worlds, that is to Lay, an indefinite number of possible systems of finite
things, or, as we are accustomed to say, of possible universes. But from this it
in no way follows that God must have chosen the very best of them for creation.
In fact, as no universe is rightly called possible, unless it can he produced by
Omnipotence under the guidance of Infinite Wisdom, it follows from the
assumption of an infinity of possible worlds that there are in the Divine Mind
worlds without number, each of them good enough for creation. Consequently there
is neither any possible world which, when created, would not be relatively the
best, nor is there any which ought to be called the very best of all. If there
were any world really possible which would not be relatively best, infinite
Wisdom would fall short of its absolute aims. On the other hand, if there were
any world absolutely best, Infinite Power, i.e., power not exhaustible, would he
exhausted by its creation.

(B) Malebranche's reason for exaggerated optimism is equally weak. He thought
that any world not the very best possible was incompatible with the end of
creation, inasmuch as this end is the external glory of God, or, what comes to
the same thing, the manifestation of His goodness, and the making that goodness
to be acknowledged by rational creatures in the highest degree possible.
Besides, it seemed to him that infinitely perfect Wisdom necessarily produces a
work so perfect as that none can be more perfect.{2} Answer. Although God owes
it to His own perfection to aim at the manifestation of His goodness in His
works, and thus seek what is commonly called His external glory, yet we should
be wrong in asserting that He must seek that glory in the highest degree
possible. To say so is to put bounds to God's supreme freedom, and to ignore His
omnipotence, which cannot be limited to any degree of created perfection.
Malebranche seems to have overlooked the fact that an adequate manifestation of
God's power and wisdom is intrinsically impossible; whilst for an inadequate
showing forth of both of them there suffices the creation and perfect adaptation
to ends of any system into which rational creatures enter.

(C) Rosmini considered this world to be the only one in harmony with the
goodness of God, inasmuch as in it the greatest good was produced by the
smallest means.{3}

Answer. This assertion seems to extol the wisdom of God, while really it
depreciates it. Must not Infinite Wisdom be capable of arranging systems of
creatures for the manifestation of God's goodness in endless many ways? Of
course we do not mean to say that there is an actually infinite number of
possible worlds, but we contend that the multitude of possible worlds transcends
any given number. Out of such an endless multitude, which cannot be gathered
together in the form of a number, God chooses freely a particular universe. Yet
this choice is not exercised by successive comparison of the terms at choice.
Such a comparison, as Rosmini says rightly, would be impossible. Rather, the
Divine choice is made upon a comprehensive view of the Divine Essence, involving a clear insight into all possibilities of finite essences and their
combinations, inasmuch as the Divine Essence is the prototype of an endless
multitude of contingent beings.{4}

The moderate optimism advocated by us against Leibnitz, Malebranche, and
Rosmini, is in perfect harmony with the doctrine of St. Thomas, as the reader
may see for himself by reading Sum. Theol. q. 25. a. 5. and a. 6. Very clear is
also the following statement of his: "God necessarily wills His own goodness,
and therefore naturally intends its manifestation by the production of
creatures. Yet the things actually created do not stand in such a correspondence
to His goodness, as though without them the Divine goodness could not be
manifested. For as it is manifested by the things that are and by the present
order of the world, so it might be manifested by other creatures and by another
arrangement of creatures. From this it follows that, without contradicting His
goodness, justice, and wisdom, God could create other things than those
created."{5} No less pronounced is this remark of the Angel of the School: "Over
and above the things created, God can create things of quite different
qualities, new species, new genera of creatures, in fine, other worlds; and no
Creation. can exhaust the power of the Creator."{6}

{1} "S'il n'y avait pas le meilleur (optimum) parmi tous les mondes possibles,
Dieu n'en avait produit aucun . . . il y a une infinité de mondes possibles,
dont il faut que Dieu ait choisi le meilleur, puisqu'il ne fait rien sans agir
suivant la supreme Raison." (Opp. Edit. Erdmann, p. 506.)
{2} Cf. Recherche de la Vérité, Lib. IV. c. i.; Traîtê de la Nature et de la
Grâce, 2, 51.
{3} "Alla dimanda: perchè (Iddio) volle creare questo mondo. anzichè un altro,
dee respondersi: perchè questo mondo era degno della somma bontà come quello che
col minimo mezzo produceva il mazzimo bene, e perciò fu il solo possibile."
(Teodicea, n. 651.)
{4} "Medium illud quo Deus cognoscit, scilicet essentia sua, est infinitorum
similitudo quae ipsum imitari possunt." (St. Thomas, Qq. Disp. De Veritate, q.
2. a. 9.) Cf. the deep explanation given by St. Thomas throughout the whole of
Sum. Theol. Ia. q. 14. a. 12.: "Utrum Deus possit cognoscere infinita." Upon
many disputes about this subject great light is thrown by the following saying
of St. Augustine: Quamvis infinitorum numerus nullus sit numerus, non est tamen
incomprehensibilis et cujus scientiae non est numerus -- "Although an infinite
multitude cannot be gathered in any number, yet it is not beyond the
comprehension of Him whose knowledge is not limited to things that can be summed up in numbers." (De Civitate Dei, Lib. XII. c. 18.) Mark, however, the
difference between "infinite" or "indefinite multitude," and "actually infinite
multitude of actually existing things." The former is incomprehensible to us,
but really comprehended by God; the latter is intrinsically contradictory, as
may be seen, pp. 55 and 98, seq., where we deny the possibility of an actually
infinite multitude of things and events, either having existed successively, or
now existing simultaneously. But whilst such a multitude is impossible,
multitudes ever increasing and never complete are not only possible but actual
in the minds of rational creatures, as St. Thomas, loc. cit. rightly remarks.
{5} "Finis naturalis divinae voluntatis est ejus bonitas, quam non velle non
potest. Sed fini huic non commensurantur creaturae ita, quod sine his divina
bonitas manifestari non possit; quod Deus intendit ex creaturis. Sicut enim
manifestatur divina bonitas per has res quae nunc sunt et per hune rerum
ordinem; ita potest manifestari per alias creaturas et alio modo ordinatas. Ft
ideo divina voluntas, absque praejudicio bonitatis, justitiae et sapientiae,
potest se extendere in alia quam quae fecit." (Qq. Disp. De Potentia, q. 1. a.
{6} "Super omnia quae Deus fecit. adhuc possit alia dissimilia facere, et novas
species et nova genera et alios mundos; nec unquam id quod factum est, facientis
virtutem adaequare potest." (Qq. Disp. De Veritate, q. xx. a. 4. § "In

Promoting an Understanding of the Intelligent Design of the Universe