Summary Against Modern Thought: God Wills His Being But Not Necessarily You

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.

A milestone today, the answer to an infinite regress sometimes posed by doubters, at least those who demand to know who or what created God. The answer is: no thing and no body.

Chapter 80 That God Wills His Being And Goodness (alternate translation)

[1] FROM what has been proved above it follows that God wills necessarily His being and His goodness, and that He cannot will the contrary.

[2] For it has been shown that God wills His being and goodness as principal object, which is the reason of His willing other things. Wherefore in everything willed by Him He wills His being and goodness, just as the sight sees light in every colour. Now it is impossible for God not to will a thing actually, for He would be only potentially willing; which is impossible, since His willing is His being. Therefore it is necessary for Him to will His being and His goodness.

[3] Again. Whoever wills, of necessity wills his last end: thus man of necessity wills his own happiness, nor can he will unhappiness. Now God wills Himself as last end, as stated above. Therefore He necessarily wills Himself to be, nor can He will Himself not to be…

[5] Again. All things, in as much as they are, are like to God, Who is being first and foremost. Now all things, in as much as they are, love their own being naturally in their own way. Much more therefore does God love His own being naturally. Now His nature is per se necessary being, as was proved. Therefore God necessarily wills Himself to be.

Notes And there we have the answer—the proof—to the perpetual question “Who created God”?. No thing “created” God. God wills His own being. God’s existence is necessary. He must exist.

Chapter 81 That God Does Not Necessarily Will Other Things Than Himself(alternate translation)

[3] …Moreover. God, by willing His own goodness, wills other things to be, in as much as they partake of His goodness. Now, since God’s goodness is infinite, it can be participated in an infinite number of ways, and in other ways besides those in which it is participated by those creatures which now are. If, then, through willing His own goodness, He willed of necessity the things which participate it, it would follow that He wills an infinite number of creatures partaking of His goodness in an infinite number of ways. But this is clearly false: for if He willed it, they would exist, since His will is the source of being to things, as we shall prove further on. Therefore He does not necessarily will those things also that are not.

[4] Again. A wise man, through willing the cause, wills the effect which follows necessarily from the cause: for it would be foolish to will that the sun exist above the earth, and that there be no brightness of day. On the contrary, it is not necessary for one through willing the cause to will an effect which does not follow of necessity from the cause. Now other things proceed from God not necessarily, as we shall show further on. Therefore it is not necessary that God will other things through willing Himself.

Notes Regular readers of this blog will know there is a discussion ongoing whereby some people, by causing themselves to strike the keys of their computer keyboards in a particular order, seek to convince others there is no such thing as cause. This proves, or rather proves the opposite, what the first (quoted) article in this chapter proves: man’s thoughts can err in an infinite, or at least a rather large, number of ways.

That first argument should also give a thrill: “since God’s goodness is infinite, it can be participated in an infinite number of ways”. Since God is infinite, heaven, if we make it, will never get boring, even though we’ll be there for an infinite time. As I’ve been saying all along, infinity is the trickiest of all mathematical business.

The main point here is that everything but God is contingent, as philosophers say. Contingent, in their thinking, means does not necessarily exist or is not necessarily true, and this is so. But we now know—and this is science, or should be—what everything is contingent upon, and that is God’s will. The converse is also true: everything that is necessarily true or necessarily exist must be part of God. That leads to the idea that all the words and concepts we use to describe the ineffable—good, true, beauty, etc.—are attempts at describing what God is like. And that, if we’re interested, brings us to the concept of transcendentals. But that’s too much for us, at least now, so here is one resource.

In sum, to understand the ground of all science, and also all ethics, morality, and the other subjects traditionally recognized as being part of religion, we must first understand what we can of God. But since God’s mind is infinite, we’re never going to reach our destination. And, given the human condition, this is a joyful thought. You, dear reader, are contingent, which should create in you a sense of gratitude. Here, just for the asking, you have a change to participate in this infiniteness. What a gift!


  1. Fr. John Rickert

    A precision here, thanks to one of my great teachers, Dr. Frederick Wilhelmsen. A distinction should be made between relative contingency, in the sense that a given being does not have to be as it is — e.g., water is potentially a solid, liquid, or gas, and thus in any one of these states could be in a different state — and radical contingency, in the sense that it does not have to be at all. The entire created order, however large or small, has radical contingency.

    Donoso Cortes, in his great Ensayo, says that by looking closely enough into any single creature, we can tell -that- it is a creation, because of its limitations, but yet, because of its perfections, -Whose- creation it is.

  2. Briggs

    Fr John,

    You were one of Wilhelmsen’s students? I am unspeakably jealous.

    The distinction is, of course, exactly right, and is related to first or primary and secondary causes. Everybody should read Wilhelmsen’s epistemology book.

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