The Thought of Thomas Aquinas

By Brian Davies | Go to book overview

4 Talking About God

We Have Now Seen That Aquinas Thinks Of God As Incomprehensible. We Know Something About God, He Says. We Know That God Exists and Is the Cause Of His Creatures. We Also Know That He Is Simple. and Yet, Aquinas Adds, 'We Cannot Know What God Is'. 1 Only God Can 'Know Subsistent Existence Itself', and 'No Created Mind Can See the Essence Of God Unless He By His Grace Joins Himself To That Mind As Something Intelligible To It'. 2 Or, As Aquinas Writes In the De Potentia: 'Human Intelligence Is Not Equal To the Divine Essence' and 'One Reaches the Highest Point Of One's Knowledge About God When One Knows That One Does Not Know Him.' 3

In that case, however, how can we think or say anything about him? Does our talk of God make sense? Does it convey information? It may be all very well sharply to distinguish between God and his creatures. It may not seem strange to insist that God is mysterious. But are we therefore to conclude that God eludes us entirely? Do we have no positive notion of him at all?


Background to Aquinas

Christian theologians earlier than Aquinas adopted apparently conflicting answers to these questions. Some, for example, said that, though God is indeed transcendent, we still have quite a positive knowledge of him. St Augustine, for instance, spoke of the mind as

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The Thought of Thomas Aquinas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Thought of Thomas Aquinas iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Abbreviations xvi
  • 1: The Shape of a Saint 1
  • 2: Getting to God 21
  • 3: What God is Not 40
  • 4: Talking About God 58
  • 5: Perfection and Goodness 80
  • 6: Ubiquity to Eternity 98
  • 7: Oneness to Knowledge 118
  • 8: Will to Mercy 139
  • 9: Providence and Freedom 158
  • 10: The Eternal Triangle 185
  • 11: Being Human 207
  • 12: How to Be Happy 227
  • 13: How to Be Holy 250
  • 14: The Heart of Grace 274
  • 15: God Incarnate 297
  • 16: The Life and Work of Christ 320
  • 17: Signs and Wonders 345
  • Select Bibliography 377
  • Index 385
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