Summary Against Modern Thought: Become More Godlike

Summary Against Modern Thought: Become More Godlike

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Review! We skipped a week because of Easter, and memories are short.

That things naturally tend to become like God inasmuch as He is a cause

1 As a result, it is evident that things also tend toward the divine likeness by the fact that they are the cause of other things.

2 In fact, a created thing tends toward the divine likeness through its operation. Now, through its operation, one thing becomes the cause of another. Therefore, in this way, also, do things tend toward the divine likeness, in that they are the causes of other things.

Notes Don’t get cocky. You become “like” God because you can cause things, and God is cause itself. But animals also cause things, and so do bags of rocks.

3 Again, things tend toward the divine likeness inasmuch as He is good, as we said above. Now, it is as a result of the goodness of God that He confers being on all things, for a being acts by virtue of the fact that it is actually perfect. So, things generally desire to become like God in this respect, by being the causes of other things.

4 Besides, an orderly relation toward the good has the formal character of a good thing, as is clear from what we have said. Now, by the fact that it is the cause of another, a thing is ordered toward the good, for only the good is directly caused in itself; evil is merely caused accidentally, as we have shown. Therefore, to be the cause of other things is good. Now, a thing tends toward the divine likeness according to each good to which it inclines, since any created thing is good through participation in divine goodness. And so, things tend toward the divine likeness by the fact that they are causes of others.

5 Moreover, it is for the same reason that the effect tends to the likeness of the agent, and that the agent makes the effect like to itself, for the effect tends toward the end to which it is directed by the agent.

The agent tends to make the patient like the agent, not only in regard to its act of being, but also in regard to causality. For instance, just as the principles by which a natural agent subsists are conferred by the agent, so are the principles by which the effect is the cause of others. Thus, an animal receives from the generating agent, at the time of its generation, the nutritive power and also the generative power.

So, the effect does tend to be like the agent, not only in its species, but also in this characteristic of being the cause of others. Now, things tend to the likeness of God in the same way that effects tend to the likeness of the agent, as we have shown. Therefore, things naturally tend to become like God by the fact that they are the causes of others.

6 Furthermore, everything is at its peak perfection when it is able to make another thing like itself; thus, a thing is a perfect source of light when it can enlighten other things. Now, everything tending to its own perfection tends toward the divine likeness. So, a thing tends to the divine likeness by tending to be the cause of other things.

Notes And this is why our saint can teach us so well.

7 And since a cause, as such, is superior to the thing caused, it is evident that to tend toward the divine likeness in the manner of something that causes others is appropriate to higher types of beings.

8 Again, a thing must first be perfect in itself before it can cause another thing, as we have said already. So, this final perfection comes to a thing in order that it may exist as the cause of others. Therefore, since a created thing tends to the divine likeness in many ways, this one whereby it seeks the divine likeness by being the cause of others takes the ultimate place. Hence Dionysius says, in the third chapter of On the Celestial Hierarchy, that “of all things, it is more divine to become a co-worker with God”; in accord with the statement of the Apostle: “we are God’s coadjutors” (1 Cor, 3:9).

Notes Do God’s will.


  1. Douglas Skinner

    When Aquinas says, “evil is merely caused accidentally”–and to tie this back to statistic–he does not mean, like we tend to mean, randomly, does he? So to say evil is caused accidentally is to say it is caused by an agent that does not, through the chain of causation, lead to God? That there is an agent outside of God which is the cause of evil which similarly propagates through subsequent causation? But what does Aquinas mean by “merely caused”? I.e., why not just say “evil is caused accidentally”? So, there must be something more to Aquinas’ argument than I was able to ferret out. I will have to consult Father Copleston.

  2. Joy

    There’s not a lot in it. Nothing to be cocky about.

    It’s all about credit and blame. The eternal fight. Who gets a pass *which they take for themselves, whilst holding others responsible and who takes the blame without question before and after the fact. None of those kinds of thing make a difference in the ultimate reality and to God who knows the truth.
    There is moral and natural evil and they are not necessarily clearly defined by our limited knowledge, however clever ‘we’ think we are.

    Evil entails from the state of freedom of movement or action. This includes the theft of freedom.
    It isn’t more complex than that.
    Evil can have a very long chain of command.

  3. Bryant Poythress

    Hi Douglas,
    In Chapter 10, (That Good Is The Cause of Evil), Aquinas expounds on evil as privation, and argues it is caused on accidentally due to defect or lack of good in the instrument or effect:

    [6] In fact, since evil and good are contraries, one of these contraries cannot be the cause of the other unless it be accidentally; as the cold heats, as is said in Physics VIII [1: 251a 33]. Consequently, the good could not be the active cause of evil, except accidentally.
    [7] Now, in the order of nature, this accidental aspect can be found either on the side of the agent or of the effect. It will be on the side of the agent when the agent suffers a defect in its power, the consequence of which is a defective action and a defective effect. Thus, when the power of an organ of digestion is weak, imperfect digestive functioning and undigested humor result; these are evils of nature. Now, it is accidental to the agent, as agent, for it to suffer a defect in its power; for it is not an agent by virtue of the fact that its power is deficient, but because it possesses some power. If it were completely lacking in power, it would not act at all. Thus, evil is caused accidentally on the part of the agent in so far as the agent is defective in its power. This is why we say that “evil has no efficient, but only a deficient, cause,” for evil does not result from an agent cause, unless because it is deficient in power, and to that extent it is not efficient.—And it reduces to the same thing if the defect in the action and in the effect arise from a defect of the instrument or of anything else required for the agent’s action; for example, when the motor capacity produces lameness because of a curvature of the tibia. For the agent acts both by means of its power and of its instrument.

    [8] On the side of the effect, evil is accidentally caused by the good, either by virtue of the matter of the effect, or by virtue of its form. For, if the matter is not well disposed to the reception of the agent’s action on it, there must result a defect in the product.

    As a practical matter, I think the apt summary is indeed ’Become More Godlike’ if, for humans, evil is defined as ‘not doing as God would do’ ie being perfect. This would seem to comport with Christ’s injunction “Therefore ?you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:28.
    Since this is impossible for us- we are fallen – we aim to have the ‘attitude’ of Christ (Phil 2) on a moment by moment basis, focusing on Christ’s character (v6-8), the awesome glory of God (v9-11), a reverential awe of God and His purposes, and a continually suspicious estimation of ourselves (v12-16)

  4. JH

    Become More Godlike

    What a horrifying thought!

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