Summary Against Modern Thought: God’s Intelligence Is His Essence

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

He is risen! If you doubt that, see this.

Chapter 45 That God’s Act of Intelligence is His Essence (alternate link)

[1] FROM the fact that God is intelligent it follows that His act of intelligence is His essence.

[2] For intelligence is the act of an intelligent being, existing within that being and not passing on to something outside of it, as heating passes into the thing heated: for the intelligible suffers nothing through being understood, but the one who understands is perfected. Now whatever is in God is the divine essence.[1] Therefore God’s act of intelligence is the divine essence, the divine existence, and God Himself: since God is His essence and His existence.[2]

Note The obvious joke, understood by teachers everywhere, suggested by the first sentence, must be resisted. But another way to say it is that my teaching you gives you something while taking nothing from me. I don’t grow dumber while you gain smarts. We already know that God’s essence and existence are equivalent, and that God is intelligent, therefore intelligence is part of, or is, this essence.

[3] Further. The act of intelligence is compared to the intellect as existence to essence. But God’s existence is His essence, as proved above.[3] Therefore God’s act of intelligence is His intellect. Now the divine intellect is God’s essence, otherwise it would be accidental to God.[4] Therefore the divine act of intelligence must needs be His essence.

Note Don’t forget an accident need not be there. I can wear a hat or not, but either state is accidental to my humanity. Etc.

[4] Moreover. Second act is more perfect than first act, even as consideration is more perfect than knowledge. Now God’s knowledge or intellect is His very essence, if He is intelligent as shown above:[5] since no perfection belongs to Him by participation, but by essence, as already proved.[6] If, therefore, His act of consideration be not His essence, something will be more noble and perfect than His essence. And thus He will not be in the summit of perfection and goodness:[7] and consequently He will not be first.

Note First and second act? Here, para 10:

There are two types of acts in creatures, first act and second act. First act is the form and the act of existence that a form gives. Form is called the primarily first act, existence, the secondarily first act. Second act, however, is operation. Now, the first act of corporeal things comes directly from God. Therefore, their second acts are also caused directly by God. But the only way in which one thing governs another is by being in some manner the cause of its operations…

[5] Again. Intelligence is the act of the intelligent. If then God being intelligent is not His act of intelligence, He must be compared to it as potentiality to act: and so there will be potentiality and act in God; which is impossible, as we have proved above.[8]

[6] Again. Every substance is for the sake of its operation. If therefore God’s operation is other than the divine substance, His end will be other than Himself. And thus God will not be His own goodness, since the good of a thing is its end.[9]

[7] If, however, God’s act of intelligence is His existence, His act of intelligence must be simple, eternal, unchangeable, existing only in act, and all those things which have been proved about the divine existence. Wherefore God is not in potentiality to intelligence, nor does He begin to understand a thing anew, nor is His act of intelligence subject to any change or composition whatsoever.

Note A word about God’s unchanging nature. God acts, which appears to us who are stuck in time, to be changes in time. But God is outside time, and all is available to him. Therefore His acts are not potentialities becoming actualities, as they are with us. The analogy that God has already acted, and we’re just living out the consequences of these acts, must fail. There is no way for us to understand, truly comprehend, what it means to be outside time. God is simple (in the technical meaning of that term): He exists. I Am that I Am: I Will Be What I Will Be. We’ll come back to this subject in time (get it? get it?).


[1] Ch. xxiii.
[2] Chs. xxi., xxii.
[3] Ch. xxii.
[4] Cf. ch. xxiii.
[5] Ch. xliv.
[6] Ch. xxiii.
[7] Cf. ch. xxviii.
[8] Ch. xvi.
[9] Cf. Chs. xxxvii., xxxviii.


  1. Sander van der Wal

    but God is outside time, and all is available to him.

    This is of course *a* kind of being outside time. One can be as well outside time, and none of it being available to you.

    Not being able to comprehend something is way too “Feely”. You either can reason about it, or you cannot. Here you claim one cannot reason about being outside time.

    But the original premises of the series is that it is possible to proof that God exists. Which means that it is possible to understand what it is to be outside time.

  2. Ye Olde Statistician

    The proof that God exists was a long time ago in this series. Briggs is now exploring the consequences.

    It is possible to reason about a being outside time — it’s what we’ve been doing this whole time. But it is not possible to fully understand it. Similarly, we can reason about what it is like to be a bat, but we can’t really know what it is like.

  3. OzWizard

    Is not time a human invention? The past a memory; the future, a hope, a wish, a dream.

    All that is, is NOW. We are already IN eternity.

  4. Gary

    Play is how children learn …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *