A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben's “Dogmatik”
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
With A Preface By Cardinal Manning

Vol. 1. The Sources Of Theological Knowledge, God, Creation And The Supernatural Order
Third Edition, Revised, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Lt.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Benziger Bros.

[Pp. 203-213]




SECT. 72.—The Unity of God.

I. God, by reason of the perfect simplicity of His Substance and Being, is one in a supreme and unique manner: “maxime unus,” as St. Thomas says, or “ Unissimus” according to St. Bernard. He is the primarily One; that is, not made one, but eminently one by His own Essence, immeasurably more one than anything beneath Him. And this Oneness of God has a particular excellence from its being on the one hand infinitely comprehensive, and on the other hand perfectly immutable and always the same. Hence the Fathers call God, not only one, but “The Unity,” Ipsa Unitas, [Greek words omitted].

II. In virtue of the absolute perfection of His Unity, God is absolutely unique; there can be no other being above or beside Him; He necessarily stands alone above all other beings. His absolute simplicity excludes especially the possibility of multiplication of His Essence. “I am Jehovah, and there is none else; there is no God besides Me” (Isai. xlv. 5). The proofs of this Unicity or Uniqueness are best given by St. Thomas, Contra Gentes, 1. i., c. 42. Of these we may mention one; viz. that from the Divine Infinity God exhausts the plentitude of being; no being independent of Him can be conceived or can exist. If there were another God, neither would be the highest being, and so neither would be God at all.

III. God, by His eminent and all-perfect unity, is the foundation and highest ideal of the unity of all other beings. He is at the same time, by the plenitude and richness of His unity, the principle and ideal of multiplicity and variety. By His eternal immutability He is the centre round which other beings gravitate, and by which they are held together. He is at once the Alpha and Omega of all things.

SECT. 73.—God, the Objective Truth.

I. As God is essentially the most simple, infinite, and immutable perfection, He possesses the attribute of ontological or objective truth in an infinite degree. The act by which the Divine Essence knows itself is not merely a representation of the Divine Essence to the Divine Mind: it is identically one and the same with His Essence. Hence God is the clearest and purest truth. Again, as the perfection of the Divine Essence is infinite, it is also infinitely knowable, and fills the Divine Mind with a knowledge than which no greater can be conceived; wherefore God is the highest and completest truth. Moreover, the Divine truth participates in the immutability of the Divine Essence, and therefore God is the immutable truth. Lastly, as God is His own Being, so is He also His own truth, and truth pure and simple; that is, He necessarily knows Himself as He is, and His knowledge is independent of everything not Himself.

This doctrine is but a repetition, in another form, of the doctrine on the Divine Essence. It is implicitly contained in John xiv. 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and I John v. 6, “Christ is the truth ([Greek words omitted]).”

II. God is, further, the First Truth (prima veritas). No truth is before Him or above Him. As First Cause He is the foundation of the objective truth of all things existing, and also of the possibility of all things possible. He is the prototype, the ideal, of all things, and consequently the measure of the truth they contain. He is, as it were, the mirror or the objective light, in which all things can be known better than in themselves, although not necessarily by us. Hence it follows (1) that we can know nothing as true except by some influence of the First Truth on our mind; (2) that the affirmation of any truth implies the affirmation of the First and Fundamental Truth; and (3) that the negation of God implies the negation of all objective truth, thus not only making all knowledge uncertain, but changing it into falsehood and deception.

SECT. 74.— God, the Objective Goodness.

I. Whatever creatures are or possess, comes to them from without; hence they are not sources of goodness, but rather subjects capable of being made good by the accession of new perfections. Creatures never contain in themselves all their goodness; their internal goodness is but part of their total goodness, or is a means of acquiring and enjoying external goods. God, on the contrary, being essentially the fulness of perfection, appears to our mind as good, — containing eminently all that is worth desiring or possessing. He is not perfectible by the accession of external goodness. All extra-Divine goodness is merely a communication or outflow from the Divine abundance of perfection. He is not a good of some kind or class; He is the Good pure and simple, the essential Goodness.

II. The infinite Essence of God is not only the good of God Himself, wherein He finds all He can desire and possess, but is, besides, the good of all other things; that is to say, it is the inexhaustible source from which all other things draw their goodness, and which all other things, because of their self-insufficiency, desire to possess. The Divine Goodness is the good of all others, because it contains more than the equivalent of all others, and produces all others, and is what we desire, or tend to, when we desire all other goods. It is, moreover, the only necessary and all-sufficient good, and the sovereign and highest good; it is the first and fundamental good, and the end and object of all good; all other goods must be desired as coming from God, and must be possessed as a participation of the Divine Goodness itself.

III. It is especially in relation to His intelligent creatures that God appears as the highest Good, and as the end of all goodness. He is the good of irrational creatures, inasmuch as He communicates to them existence and its concomitant created perfections; whereas to reasonable creatures He communicates Himself to be possessed by means of knowledge and love. In this capacity God is the highest good of His reasonable creatures, standing out above all their other goods, surpassing them all in perfection, and alone able to gratify all the desires and to realize all the aspirations of the created mind. He stands out as the end of all other goods because these either are not objects of enjoyment or are not merely such, but at the same time means for attaining the fruition of the Divine Good. The Schoolmen express this doctrine by saying that God is bonum fruendum, “the Good to be enjoyed;” whereas creatures are bona utenda, “goods to be used.”

The classical texts from the Fathers on the Divine Goodness are St. Augustine, De Trinitate, 1. viii., n. 4, 5; Dionysius (Vulg.), De Div. Nom., c. iv., esp. § 4; St. Anselm, Proslog., cc. 23—25.

IV. God is also eminently good and lovable, because He actually possesses in an infinite degree whatever, is good and lovable, and because nothing outside Him is good and lovable except in as far as it partakes of the Divine Goodness.

SECT. 75. — God, the Absolute Beauty.

I. God is the highest Good, and consequently the most beautiful good. This implies that God is not desired merely as a means to an end, but as desirable in Himself, on account of His essential perfection; that God is not merely lovable on account of the benefits He bestows, but lovable in Himself and for His own sake; and that He is admirable not merely on account of His works, but on account of His internal perfection.

II. God is, moreover, the absolute Beauty, and the self-subsisting Ideal of all that is beautiful, because in His infinite perfection He contains eminently whatever can make creatures the object of pleasurable contemplation. To Himself God is the object of eternal joy, and the delight which He finds in the contemplation of Himself moves Him to impress beauty upon His external works. To His intellectual creatures He is the only beauty which can fully satisfy their craving, the ideal of which all created beauty is a faint copy. The Divine Beauty, however, is not the result of the harmony of parts or of anything that presupposes composition. God's Beauty resides in the absolute simplicity of His perfection, in virtue of which each clement of it is refulgent with the beauty of all. Holy Scripture usually mentions the Divine Beauty as Glory. Cf. Wisd. xiii. 3, and also vii.,viii; Ecclus. xxiv. Among the Fathers, see St. Basil, Reg. Fus., Disp. interr. ii.; St. Hilary, De Trin., 1. i.; Dion. (Vulg.), De Div. Nom. c. iv., § 7.

III. The Divine Beauty contains the type of all that is beautiful in creation. We find it copied with various degrees of perfection in every work of God's power and wisdom. It appears most faintly in the beauty of mathematical proportions, which contain a certain unity in multiplicity, but abstracted from all reality. The inorganic substances, especially the nobler metals and gems, represent more of the Divine prototype. But the best image of the Divine Beauty, in the inorganic world, is light. Light not only has its own beauty, it also lends beauty to all other material things. Its rarity is the nearest approach, as far as our sensitive knowledge goes, to the Divine-simplicity. Organic beings represent the Divine Ideal of beauty in the manifold energies proceeding from the unity of their organization. Created spirits reflect the Divine Beauty in their life and motion, knowledge and love.

The Divine Beauty shines most perfectly and sublimely in the Blessed Trinity, which is the highest development of Divine perfection; in It we can easily detect all the elements of beauty, viz. unity and multiplicity, the splendour of perfection and life, the resemblance of the image to the ideal or prototype. In fact, there is no greater unity in multiplicity than the perfect identity of the Three Divine Persons; no more perfect unfolding of essential perfection and life than the trinitary fecundity in God, wherein the whole Divine Essence is communicated — the whole wisdom of the Father uttered in His Word, the whole love of the Father and the Son poured forth in the Holy Ghost; and there is no greater resemblance of any image to its prototype, than the resemblance of the Divine Word to the Eternal Father. By appropriation, beauty is especially attributed to God the Son, because He is the splendour of the glory of the Father, the perfect expression of the Divine perfection.


SECT. 76.— The Omnipotence of God.

I. The possession of absolute power is necessarily included in the infinite perfection of God. As this power immediately flows from the Divine Essence, its attributes correspond with those of the Divine Essence. Hence it is without beginning, independent, necessary, self-sufficient, self-subsisting and essential to God; absolutely simple, that is, purely active and communicating perfection, without any composition in itself; infinite, including all conceivable power; perfectly immutable; present in all space at all times. All this is contained in the words, “I believe in God the Father Almighty ([Greek word omitted]).

II. The Creeds, the Fathers of the Church, and Theologians, following Holy Scripture, consider creation out of nothing as the specific work of the Divine Omnipotence. Created causes, which receive their being from without, can only act on something already existing; they never are the total causes of the effects produced. The power of God, on the contrary, not only modifies pre-existing things, but brings things forth out of nothing as to their whole substance, and maintains them in existence in such a way that they depend on Him not only for the first, but for every, moment of their existence. Without the Divine Being no other being would even be conceivable as existing. This doctrine is condensed in the Greek word [Greek word omitted], which, in the Septuagint, the New Testament, and the Greek Creeds, takes the place of the Latin omnipotens. This latter implies a power to or above all things, whereas the former designates a power holding and supporting all things (omnitenens), and hence ruling all things and penetrating all things.

III. God possesses the power to give existence to whatever is possible — that is, to whatever does not involve contradiction. Things intrinsically possible become possible extrinsically on account of the Divine Power, which is able to transfer them from non-existence to existence. “I know that Thou canst do all things” (Job xlii. 2); “With man this is impossible: but with God all things are possible” (Matt. xix. 26). As to the intrinsic possibility of things, which results from the compatibility of their various elements, the Divine Mind alone can grasp its extent; for many things must appear feasible to an infinite intellect, which to the finite mind seem simply impossible, or indeed have never entered it. “Who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. iii. 20).

The Divine Omnipotence is infinite in itself or subjectively, and also externally or objectively. Its interior infinity is evident; its objective infinity must be understood in the sense that no greater power is conceivable than the Divine Omnipotence, and that no number, however great, of finite productions can exhaust the Divine Power. Although the effects produced are finite, still the Power which produces them manifests itself as infinite for the creation and preservation of things suppose in the Creator an infinite fulness of being or perfection, which is also, at the same time, the foundation of the inexhaustibility of the Divine Power. Thus the production of the smallest creature points to a Force which rules the very essence of things, and on which, therefore, all being depends for its existence.

Omnipotence does not imply the power of producing an infinite being, because the notion of a being at once infinite and produced is self-contradictory. Although, however, God cannot create the infinite, He can and does manifest His Omnipotence in communicating His own infinity. Such a communication takes place, within, to the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity; without, to the humanity of Christ, which, through the Hypostatic Union with the Divine Person, acquires an infinite dignity; likewise to spiritual creatures who, by means of grace and glory, are made participators of the infinite beatitude of God Himself. Again, God cannot undo the past, because to do so would involve a contradiction; but He can prevent or annul all the consequences of actions done, e.g. the consequences of sin. Furthermore, Omnipotence does not imply the power of committing sin, because sin is something defective. In like manner the power to suffer, or to perform actions involving motion or change in the cause, is not included in Omnipotence.

IV. The Divine Omnipotence is the source, the foundation, the root, and the soul of all powers and forces outside God. It is the source from which they spring; the foundation upon which they rest; the root which communicates to them their energy; the soul co-operating immediately with them, and intimately permeating their innermost being. Thus the Divine Force appears in the inorganic world as the principle of all motion; in the organic world as the principle of vital activity; and, above all, in the spiritual world as the principle of intellectual and spiritual life. Spirits alone receive their being immediately from God; their life alone cannot be made subservient to a higher life; they alone are able to be so elevated and ennobled as to have a share with God in the fruition of His own Essence.

V. The power to produce every possible thing is manifestly a perfection proper to God alone, and cannot, even supernaturally, be communicated to creatures. Not only is the power to create all things peculiar to God, but also the power to produce one single thing out of nothing; because such power presupposes in its possessor the infinite fulness of being. That, as a matter of fact, no creature has co-operated, even as an instrument, in creation is, according to the common teaching of theologians, of faith ; that no creature can so co-operate is theologically and philosophically certain, although many difficulties of detail can be brought against this doctrine. See, on this special point, Kleutgen, Phil., diss., ix., chap. iv., 1005; St. Thomas, Contra Gentes, 1. ii., c. 21; and Suarez, Metaph., disp. 26.

SECT. 77.— The Omnipresence of God.

I. God, the absolute cause of the innermost essence of created things, is present to them in the most intimate manner. He is not only not separated from them by space, but He penetrates, pervades, and permeates their very substance. The Divine presence in spirits has a character exclusively proper to itself. As spirits have no parts and fill no space, presence in them necessarily means more than coexistence with them in the same place; it implies a penetration of their substance possible only to the simple substance of the infinite Author of things. So much is of faith. A controversy, however, has arisen as to the manner in which God is present in creatures. Theologians of the Thomist School, starting from the principle that a cause must be in the place where introduces its effect, maintain that the contact of God with creatures consists formally in creative action. On the other hand, the followers of Duns Scotus and others, admitting the possibility of action from a distance, maintain that God is not necessarily present to creatures because He is their Creator; and, consequently, these theologians describe the Divine Omnipresence as formally consisting in the absence of local distance between the substance of the Creator and that of the creature. The Thomist view is more logical and attractive; the Scotist view reduces the existence of God in creatures to a simple coexistence.

The existence of God in creatures must not be conceived as a mingling of the Divine and the created substances, for this would be opposed to the Divine Simplicity; nor as an inclusion of the Creator in the creature, for this would be against His Immensity. God's presence in the existing world is not a limit to His Omnipresence, for He embraces all possible worlds. As God is in all things, so all things are in God, — not, indeed, filling and pervading or even touching the Divine Substance, but upheld by it as their first principle. Things are contained in God because by His virtual Immensity He fills all space, and because by His Omnipotence He actually upholds all existence.

II. Holy Scripture insists more on the extension of the Divine Omnipresence, which corresponds to the Divine infinity and immensity, than on the intensive presence above described. Still, this also is clearly pointed out in many places, especially in Eph. iv. 6: “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all ([Greek words omitted]). Cf. Rom. xi. 36, and Col. i. 16, 17; Heb. iv. 12, 13.

Since the power of penetrating the innermost substance of spirits is an attribute proper to the Divine Omnipresence, the Fathers insist particularly upon this point. In the controversy with the Arians and with the Macedonians, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost or of the Son in created spirits is often brought forward as an evident proof of the Divinity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (see Petav., De Trin., 1. ii., c. 15, n. 7 sqq.; Thomassin, De .Deo, I. v., c. 5). Many Fathers and Theologians touch upon this point when dealing with the question how far the devil can penetrate the human soul (Peter Lomb., II. Sent., dist. 8, p. ii.). They hold that the innermost recesses of the soul are a sanctuary to which God alone has access, into which the devils cannot introduce their substance, and which is accessible to them only in as far as the soul conforms itself to their evil suggestions.

III. The whole doctrine of the Divine Omnipresence has been summed up by St. Gregory the Great in the formula, “God is in all things by essence, power, and presence “ — Dens est in omnibus per essentiam, potentiam, et praesentiam (Mor. in Job, I. ii., c. 8), — which St. Thomas expounds as follows: “God is in all things by His power, inasmuch as all things are subject to His power; He is in all things by His presence, inasmuch as all things are bare and open to His eyes; He is in all things by His Essence, inasmuch as He is in all things as the cause of their being” (I., q. 8, art. 3).

IV. Just as the soul, although present in all parts of the body, does not act with the same energy in every part, so also God, though present in all creatures, does not fill them with the same perfection nor act in all to the same extent. The supreme degree of Divine presence is attained the supernatural life of the soul and of the blessed. The indwelling of God in the sanctified soul fills it with a new life, of which God Himself is the soul: the creature participates in the life of the Creator. God is present in the rest of the world as in His kingdom, but in the sanctified soul as in His temple, where He manifests His glory and majesty (I Cor. iii. 17). Creatures not so filled with the Divine presence, e.g. the souls of sinners and the damned in hell, appear, as it were, far from God, cast out and abandoned, although even in them also God exists and manifests His power and sovereign dominion.

V. The active presence of God in all things created extends, of course, to all space and every place. Created spirits, who are not bound by the limits of space, occupy a portion of space, inasmuch as they are not distant from it; but the space is not dependent on them. God, on the contrary, is not only not far from any space, but so fills it that its very existence is dependent on His active presence. The Divine presence so encompasses all things and all space that it is impossible for God to act at a distance, while, at the same tune, His presence enables distant things to act upon each other. God, the unchangeable, is the principle of all change; and God, the immovable, is the principle of all motion. From the nature of the presence of God we gather that it must extend to all times as well as to all things. If the possibility and existence of creatures depend on the active power of God, their continued duration or time depends on it also, so that whenever a thing exists or is possible, God is present. Holy Scripture calls God “the King of ages” (I Tim. i. 17), distinguishing him from the kings of this world, who rule but for a time, and to whose power time is not subject, as it is to the power of God.