“The Christian philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas” by Etienne Gilson, the author devoted the book to the analysis of the teachings of Aquinas presenting the formulation of the Christian philosophy. This paper presents a summary of a chapter titled “The Creator” from the aforementioned book, addressing the analysis of the attributes of God, and specifically the act of creation.
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The chapter logically follows the previously mentioned attributes of God, in a way that it The works of Saint Thomas Aquinas covered many aspects in theology, religion and philosophy. Christian philosophy is a philosophy in which the basis is the truth of the revelation. The Christian philosophy of Thomas Aquinas is mainly concerned with the representation of God and His connection with the world.
It is concerned with the consequences of the divine nature, i.e. the creation. The creation can be defined as an act by which God creates, or the result of such an act. In that sense, the creation takes place when “there is absolute production of an act-of-being” (121), and a state of “entering into being and a relation to the creator from which it has being.”
The existence of a material cause is eliminated from such view, where the creation from nothingness, merely implies the order of the creation, rather than nonexistence as a preceding matter. That opinion contradicts the representation of philosophers as the view that opposes thinking stereotypes. These stereotypes are based on the fact that each action is a change of state, where changing that state assumes the existence of a subject with an initial state.
In that sense, the philosophers argue that if an initial state is absent then the idea of a change cannot be accepted. Aquinas’ response was that those arguments are applicable only when the change in state implies movement, where the creation is different in a way that it is an acquisition of existence that should not be imagined or represented.
Addressing creation Aquinas outlines existence as is., where the God out of nothingness produce the subjects into existence. Thus, the act of creation is a divine act, an act of God, and an act which Aquinas refused to relate its perception to a concrete figure of the divine trinity.
Aquinas stated, To create, indeed, is properly to cause or to produce the being of things. Since anything which produces, produces an effect resembling itself, we can see by the nature of an effect that of the action producing it. What produces fire is fire. This is why to create belongs to God according to His essence, created things must be His proper effect. (122)
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Aquinas responded to the arguments regarding the ability of the creatures to create, stating that the ability to create is incompatible with the created state, as the creatures do not exist by themselves. In that regard, Aquinas summarizes God’s attribute as the only one existing on His own, and accordingly the only one causing the existence of other subjects; “Creation is the action of God alone.”
Aquinas outlined three arguments based on which God produces creatures into existence without any natural necessity. These arguments can be summarized as follows:
- Nature does not know its purpose of existence, receiving it from the creator, and thus created not because of a natural necessity, but because of His mind and free will.
- If God acted on natural necessity, the produced nature would have acted similarly. As it does not, then the multitude of matters is originated from the infinite divine perfection as a multitude of his particular effects.
- What was planned to exist by the divine mind is related to the will, and accordingly the initial cause of all matters is divine will.
The act of will is an inclination for goodness which includes an understanding of that goodness. In that regard, the act of creation does imply any sort of relation of God to His creatures, as the relation is always one-sided. Accordingly, identifying the reason for God’s will is incorrect as the way God allows other matters to participate in His existence is a voluntary gift from God, which does not resemble necessity.
Divine will do not have a reason, as “[T]he existence of the universe and of creatures capable of enjoying their creator has no other cause than the pure and simple will of God.”(129)
The analysis of the act of creation is an analysis through the consequences of this act, where the first act of the creator is the act of existence itself, and all consequent assumes that act and are based on it. In that regard, God gave the ability to His creatures to acknowledge His essence through His creations. Human comprehends the unknown through own intelligence and intuitive principles, which serve as tools for this intelligence.
Gilson, Etienne. The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994.