He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES
IT is not the purpose of this book to give a complete and systematic exposition of natural theology, and only those points have been dealt with in detail which are directly relevant to its main theme. It seems worth while, however, to devote a chapter to some brief remarks on some points to which so far little or no reference has been made.It has already been said that, in spite of his assertion that natural theology is competent to demonstrate not what God is, but that he is, St. Thomas Aquinas deduces from the fact of God's existence a remarkably large number of facts about him.1 He assumes that, although we cannot obtain by the exercise of reason an essential or quidditative knowledge of God, we can know certain of his attributes, by establishing first of all the fact that in God essence and existence are identical and then deriving the consequences of this identity. This has already been discussed; here we shall merely offer some observations upon the problem of the divine attributes.The divine attributes have been defined as "those absolutely simple perfections, unmixed with imperfection, which exist necessarily and formally, though in a higher mode, in God."2 For the sake of clearness it will be well to comment on some of the terms contained in this form of words.
i. "Absolutely simple perfections, unmixed with imperfection." Perfections are indeed found in created beings, but they are always limited. Creatures are good, but their goodness is finite; they may know, but they are not omniscient. God, on the other hand, is not merely good, he is Goodness itself; he is not merely true, but is the Truth.
ii. "Which exist necessarily." The attributes of creatures are, at least for the most part, contingent; they can be increased and diminished, they can even be acquired and lost, without the being which is their subject ceasing to be the same being. I can have
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1
p. 69 f. supra.
2
Phillips, Modern Thomistic Philosophy, II, p. 307. We shall not discuss the distinction between the entitative and operative (metaphysical and moral) attributes of God (op. cit., ad loc.).

-116-

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He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Preface vii
  • ERRATA. xiv
  • Chapter I - INTRODUCTION 1
  • Chapter II - THE MEANING OF "GOD" 8
  • Chapter III - EXPERIENCE AND REVELATION 14
  • Chapter IV - THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH 30
  • Chapter V - THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH 40
  • Chapter VI - THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH 57
  • Chapter VII - INTELLECT AND INTUITION 83
  • Chapter VIII - GOD AND THE WORLD: ANALOGIA ENTIS 95
  • Chapter IX - THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES 116
  • Chapter X - TRANSCENDENCE AND IMMANENCE 126
  • Chapter XI - THE COSMOLOGY OF WHITEHEAD 150
  • Chapter XII - THE COSMIC TELEOLOGY OF TENNANT 161
  • Chapter XIII - CONCLUSION 191
  • Bibliography 200
  • Index 208
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