The Nature and Attributes of God: Part 2
From the perfection of the Divine Nature, reason deduces the Divine attributes which may be defined as absolutely simple perfections, existing necessarily and formally in God. Some attributes regard directly the being of God, and others His operation; Those which regard His being, are Unity and Simplicity, Truth, Perfection and Goodness, Infinity, Immensity, Immutability, and Eternity, while from the human standpoint God is invisible, incomprehensible, and cognizable.
1. Composition involves imperfection. The reason of the union of two things, A+B, is precisely because the compound A+B has some advantage which is not possessed by A or B separately. All such composition of imperfect parts is alien to the conception of God. There are no quantitative parts in God, no constitutive or logical elements, no distinction even between essence and existence.
2. Truth has been defined as the conformity between the intellect and the thing known. Truth from God's standpoint is the conformity of created natures to the eternal types in the mind of God. His own self subsistent nature is so much in conformity with the Divine Intelligence that there is no real distinction between them. Thus God, the First Truth, unchangeable and eternal, is the supreme cause and measure of created truth.
3. That God is infinite Goodness and Perfection follows from the truth that a perfection is a form of being. His Being possesses all perfections, and God can have no association with moral evil. He doesn't will it. He permits it, for He is able to draw good out of evil, for example, to exhibit the patience and heroic charity of the martyr under the trial and torture of persecution. God doesn't will directly even physical evil. He permits it as the condition of a greater good.
4. The immensity and ubiquity of God is a consequence of His infinite perfection. He is everywhere, by essence, presence and power. He is immanent in His creation. By His essence He preserves all things in being. By His presence, He is cognizant of all that takes place, even our most secret thoughts. By His power the countless myriads of agencies in Nature are obedient to His will. While God is immanent in Creation, He is also transcendent.
5. God is unchangeable. A change involves imperfection. The ascription of change to God, as for instance "God repented that He had made man," is but a human figure of speech, an instance of anthropomorphism. Nor is the unchangeable nature of God an argument against the efficacy of prayer. God foresees from all eternity the prayers of those who appeal to Him. And though His arrangements have been made from eternity, they have been made with the fullest prescience of every prayer and petition.
6. God uncreated is without beginning or end. He is eternal. The definition of eternity is the simultaneously whole and perfect possession of interminable life. That is, the full, perfect, and present possession of life without end or commencement. Since the idea of potentiality is inadmissible with regard to God, the fullness of Life and perfection must have existed continuously in the past, and must exist without change in the future. We are obliged to recognize a past, and a future, as well as the present time, but there is no past and no future to God. For Him succession of time is replaced by an eternal present.
Owing to human limitations, God is said to be invisible, incomprehensible, and yet cognizable.
a) His invisibility is due to two causes. He is Pure Spirit, and cannot therefore be seen by the eyes of the body. Furthermore, the object of a created intelligence is created being. Uncreated being can be perceived only "through a glass darkly." The "light of glory" is needed so that we may see God face to face.
b) Aided by the light of glory the blessed are able to see the Divine Essence immediately, but no created vision can be comprehensive. To comprehend implies more than to know. God alone comprehends Himself.
c) Though God is invisible and incomprehensible, there is a reflection of the Divine perfections in the works of creation. The created perfections of being, goodness, wisdom, power, etc., enable the human reason to reach to the conception of One who has analogous perfections in an infinite degree. Thus are known the existence and nature of the First Cause.
Apart from the attributes which have a relation to the being of God, there are certain attributes which regard the Divine Operation: Wisdom, Love (with its two characteristics of Justice and Mercy), and Almighty Power.
1) Under the general name of wisdom it is customary to include: a) Divine knowledge; b) Prescience of future contingent events; and c) Providence.
a) Regarding Divine knowledge which penetrates the being of God, and extends to all created things, it should be remembered that there is no duality of subject and object. It was the omission of this consideration which suggested to the minds of Fichte and Herbert Spencer the impossibility of reconciling the duality implied in human knowledge with the simplicity of the Absolute. God's knowledge is the cause of things. It isn't because things exist that God knows them, but because He knows them they exist. God's knowledge is the cause of things, according to what He has willed. The primary object of Divine Knowledge is the Divine Essence. There is no real distinction between the Divine Intelligence and Essence. The subject knowing, and the object known are one. The secondary object includes all existing creatures which are ascribed to the "vision" of God, while possible creatures are cognized by God's "simple intelligence."
b) The infinite perfection of God implies the prescience of future contingent things. Being eternal, God knows them in themselves not successively, but simultaneously. And it is necessary to remember that God's knowledge and God's foreknowledge doesn't interfere with the freedom of the rational creature. God can infallibly move the human will to come to a free decision, in which case our free will is the cause of the act, but not the first cause. God's action here is prevenient.