19 April 2005

no shadow of turning 10

Turning to the act of creation itself, we must insist that God’s act of creation as such is analogically contained in the processions within the Trinity, particularly within the eternal begetting of the Son in the Spirit. I say that this is true “analogically” for several important reasons. If we were to say that the act of creation is contained univocally in the processions within the Trinity, then we would be saying that the eternal begetting of the Son in the Spirit simply entails or is even identical with the creation of the universe. But the creation of the world is a free act of God creating something in addition to and distinct from himself. On the other hand, if we were to say that the act of creation is contained equivocally in the processions within the Trinity, then we would be saying that the eternal begetting of the Son in the Spirit bears no necessary relation to God’s creation of the world or that the act of creation tells us nothing of the true nature of God in himself.

The notion of an analogical relation, however, is that of a true similarity, but not an identity. Particularly it is a similarity, with regard to the relation between God and world, which is contained within an even greater and absolute difference (this notion of analogy was expressed by the Fourth Lateran Council in these terms: “inter creatorem et creaturem non potest tanta similitudo notari, quin inter eos maior sit dissimilitudo notanda”). Thus, Thomas Aquinas writes:

The divine Persons, according the nature of their procession, have a causality respecting the nature of things…Hence God the Father made the creature through his Word, which is his Son; and through his Love, which is the Holy Spirit. And so the processions of the Persons are the type of the production of creatures… (Summa Theologiae [ST] I, 45, 6.)

And so, the possibility of God’s relation to the created world is already pre-contained within the eternal life of the Trinity. Moreover, God’s knowledge of his creation is contained in the eternal begetting of the Son as the Word of the Father. Aquinas writes:

“Word” implies relation to creatures. For God, by knowing himself, knows every creature…Since, by one act, God understands himself and all things, his one and only Word expresses not only the Father, but all creation. (ST I, 34, 3)

Likewise, this knowledge is one borne in love since God’s love for his creatures is already contained in the eternal procession of the Spirit as the Spirit of love between the Father and Son. Again, Aquinas writes:

The Father loves not only the Son, but also himself and us, by the Holy Spirit…It is evident that relation to the creature is implied both in the Word [that is, the Son] and in the proceeding Love [that is, the Holy Spirit]…inasmuch as the divine truth and goodness are a principle of understanding and loving all creatures. (ST I, 37, 2, ad 3)

Aquinas adds,

When we say that in [God] there is a procession of Love, we show that God produced creatures, not because he needed them, nor because of any other extrinsic reason, but on account of the love of his own goodness. (ST I, 32, 1, ad 3)

Therefore, for the classical theism of Aquinas, God’s relation to, knowledge of, and love for his creation are already analogically provided for within the life of the Trinity so that God’s nature as Trinity is a necessary precondition for the possibility of creation at all.

This kind of analogical approach, rooted in the biblical revelation of God as a transcendent Trinity of Persons, provides us with the resources necessary for going further and to speak now of divine pathos, compassion, and even suffering as that is present within an unchanging and impassible God. In whatever manner we conceive these divine realities, it is clear from our discussion thus far that it will not involve God’s subjection to a cause that is external to his own being so that he suffers as one who is acted upon by an outside force. Rather, it is in the freedom of the Trinity as an interrelation of self-giving love that we will contemplate the passion of God. Divine pathos, then, will have the form of a fully active love that excludes any kind of deficiency or passivity, for even the responsiveness and vulnerability of God is one that expresses the power and fullness of God as pure actuality.