Monday, March 21, 2011

Our causation as an aspect of God's final causation

"The agent tends to make the patient, not only in regard to its act of being, but also in regard to causality. . . . 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." [1]

Is it enough for God to create and sustain us? A deeper look into our relationship with God strongly suggests that many of the things we do are an analogy or an imperfect reflection of the divine likeness. Given that we have been created in the image of God, there is an inclination within each of us to become more and more like God. One of the ways we do tend toward the divine likeness is in our causing other things to exist.

Which is more splendid: a man who builds a house, or the God who made the man who builds the house? It is only on our knowledge of God, implicit or explicit, that we desire to cause things, which sublimely shows how much we want to be like our Creator.

[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Three: Providence, Part 1, translated by Vernon J. Bourke, University of Notre Dame Press edition 1975, ch. 21.


  1. Walter Van den AckerMarch 23, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    I don't know whether you realize this, Doug, but what you are saying here actually disproves your own argument from desire.
    I once said that if it's true that innate desires can be fulfilled (like the desire to live forever could be fulfilled in the hereafter), it should also be true that our innate desire to be like God can be fulfilled in that we will becaome completely like God some day.
    Your reply was that 'becoming God' was not an 'innate desire'

    Yet, now you say that we 'desire to cause things, which sublimely shows how much we want to be like our Creator.' This sure looks like a very profound innate desire to me.
    So, when do you expect we will be completely like God? (a rough estimate wil do)

  2. I believe we're already like God insofar as we reflect the divine image, as manifested in our ability to reason, cause things, and ultimately live forever. The desire to be like God is an innate desire, but that is distinct from the desire to be God Himself.

  3. Walter Van den AckerMarch 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    That's a pretty weak reply, Doug.
    We are already happy, the desire for happiness is an innate desire, but the desire for is distinct from the desire to be perfectly happy.
    Therefore, the desire for perfect happiness, which could only be met in heaven , is not an innate desire

    So, your argument from desire fails.

  4. I don't recall bringing up the argument from desire in this post. By the way, your conclusion doesn't follow from the premise that we are already happy.

  5. By the way, Walter, do you notice the surreptitious nature of your latest objection? You started out by claiming that my reflection "disproves" the argument from desire. Your objection hinged on a confusion between being God and being like God. When I responded to this, you called my response "weak" and then proceeded to assert that the desire for perfect happiness is not an innate desire (not just that we have inadequate evidence for the premise), which comes completely out of left field.

  6. Walter Van den AckerMarch 24, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    My objection does not hinge on any confusion. If you want to make an artificial distinction between being completely like God and being God, that's your problem.
    And if you don't understand my objection, that's your problem too.
    Anyway, that's all I want to say on this.

  7. Walter, I'm not going to be responding to you anymore unless and until I see some evidence that you're willing to dialogue more seriously.

  8. I think SCG 1, 34 might help here. Keeping in mind also that theosis––divinization––is integral to the Christian faith.

  9. Walter Van den AckerMarch 25, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    Fine, if all you can do is attack strawmen of my objections, there is not point in discussing anyway.

  10. Codgitator, you're absolutely right to point us to SCG Book 1, ch. 34. As the Angelic Doctor says, "the power to heal, which is found in all health-giving things, is by nature prior to the health that is in the animal, as a cause is prior to an effect; but because we know this healing power through an effect, we likewise name it from its effect."

    There is, then, an analogy in being and essence between an effect and its cause, the cause having priority. Do we desire to be like God? Absolutely, but we're not trying to take the place of God.

  11. Another consideration from SCG which seems apt Esp. at the end of cap. 49. Best, in Christ,