He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview
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THE foundation of the argument for the existence of God which has been built up in the preceding chapters is the existence of finite beings which demand the existence of an infinite Being as their ground. Indeed, the argument has been little more than an elaboration of the Pauline thesis that "the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made";1 to adapt the title of a famous book by Cardinal Bellarmine, we have made an ascent to God by a ladder of created things. We have proceeded from that with which we are immediately acquainted to that which is less familiar; we have started from the evident fact of the existence of the world of which we ourselves are part, and have ended with the God who infinitely transcends it.

Once, however, we have been led to affirm God's existence, our whole perspective changes, and we see that it is not God's existence that requires explanation but the existence of anything else. "This proposition 'God exists'," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "of itself is self-evident," but "because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature--namely, by effects."2 The real miracle is not that God exists but that the world does. God--the self-existent, perfect, changeless Being, the Pure Act in whom all that supremely is is comprised--how could he not exist? The self-existent cannot but be; but that he in whom nothing is lacking should confer existence on us--that is the wonder which may well stagger our minds.

In the words of a modern theologian, "the relation between God and his creatures is a wholly one-sided relation, in that while the creation depends absolutely upon God, God in no sense depends upon his creation. God would be neither more nor less perfect if the creation dissolved into utter nothingness. The

Rom. i 20.
S. Theol., I, ii, 1c.


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