We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.
So God is remains one and metaphysically simple, although multiple names can be applied to Him; and yet, though those names all refer to Him they don’t all mean the same thing. Thomas explains,
My wife calls me by name and my children call me “Dad”. Both are referring to me, but by different concepts. Similarly, the names Truth, Beauty, and Goodness all apply to God more than they do to any creature, and they truly describe God to us; thus, as names they signify God. But at the same time they are distinct concepts, each casting light on God in a different way.
In this connection three observations are in order. The first is that the various names applied to God are not synonymous, even though they signify what is in reality the same thing in God. In order to be synonymous, names must signify the same thing, and besides must stand for the same intellectual conception. But when the same object is signified according to diverse aspects, that is, notions which the mind forms of that object, the names are not synonymous. For then the meaning is not quite the same, since names directly signify intellectual conceptions, which are likenesses of things. Therefore, since the various names predicated of God signify the various conceptions our mind forms of Him, they are not synonymous, even though they signify absolutely the same thing.
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