Today’s Aquinas: Begotten, Not Made

Today’s Aquinas: Begotten, Not Made August 10, 2015

ThomasAquinas We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.

In the past two weeks, Thomas has shown how the Word is not distinct from God in time or in species; finally, he shows that the Word is not distinct from God in nature: that is, the nature of God and the nature of the Word are identical.

Lastly it is impossible for the Word to differ from God according to nature, since it is natural for God to understand Himself. Every intellect has some objects which it naturally understands. Thus, our intellect naturally understands first principles.  Much more does God, whose intellectual activity is His existence, naturally understand Himself.

By “first principles,” I presume that Thomas means the principles that underly basic reasoning, like the principles of Non-Contradiction and of Sufficient Reason.  I also presume that our understanding of the things around us—this is a stone, this is a desk, that is the sky—is equally natural.  Thomas might say that our minds are naturally proportioned to certain things, much as our eyes are proportioned to those things that are neither too small nor too far away.  But there are things we cannot understand without considerable efforts, and other things we simply cannot understand.  But Thomas showed previously that God and His intellect are one with His very existence, identical to it; He is Intellect itself.  Nothing is unintelligible to Him, though it may be to us, and so naturally He understands Himself perfectly.

Therefore His Word proceeds from Him naturally, not in the way that things proceed otherwise than by natural origin, that is, not in the way that artificial objects, which we are said to make, take shape from us.

There are things that proceed from us naturally, and things that proceed from us artificially.  I write software; but I father a son.  But the Word proceeds from God naturally.

On the other hand, whatever proceeds from us naturally we are said to generate, for example, a son. Accordingly, to preclude the error of thinking that the Word of God proceeds from God, not by way of nature, but by the power of His will, the phrase is added: “Begotten, not made.”

And hence we say that the Word is “begotten not made.”


photo credit: Public Domain; source Wikimedia Commons

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