I Sentences, Distinction 3, Question 1
Concerning Man's Knowledge of God

ARTICULUS III
Utrum Deus possit cognosci ab homine per creaturas.
Third Article
Whether God can be known by man through creatures.
Ad tertium sic proceditur. 1. Videtur quod Deus possit cognosci per creaturas ab homine. Rom. I, 20 : Invisibilia Dei a creatura mundi per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta conspiciuntur. Creatura autem dicitur homo secundum expositionem Magistri. Ergo per creaturas ab homine potest cognosci.We proceed thus to the third issue. 1. It seems that God can be known by man through creatures. For, in Romans 1:20, it is stated: The invisible things of God are seen, having been understood from the creation of the world by means of the things that have been made. According to the exposition of the master, however, man is called a creature. God can, therefore, be known by man through creatures.
2. Item, videtur quod ab angelo. Cognitio enim Dei per creaturas fit per hoc quod videtur divina bonitas relucens in creatura. Sed angelus cognoscens res in proprio genere, videt divinam bonitatem in ipsis. Ergo cognoscit Creatorem ex creaturis.2. Moreover, it seems that God can be known by angels. For knowledge of God through creatures arises from the fact that the divine goodness is seen shining forth in creation. But an angel, knowing things in their own kind, sees the divine goodness in them. An angel, therefore, knows the creator from creatures.
3. Item, videtur quod etiam bruta. Nulli enim fit praeceptum nisi ei qui cognoscit praeceptum. Sed Jonae, IV, dicitur, quod praecepit Dominus vermi, quod percuteret hederam. Ergo vermis potest cognoscere divinum praeceptum, et ita potest etiam cognoscere praecipientem.3. Again, it seems that God can be known even by animals. For a command is given only to one who knows the command. But in Jonah 4, it is said that God gave a command to a worm that it would kill the ivy. A worm, therefore, can know a divine command, and thus, it can also know the one giving the command.
4. Item, videtur quod etiam a peccatoribus possit cognosci: dicitur enim Rom. I, 21 : Cum cognovissent Deum, non sicut Deum glorificaverunt. Tales autem peccatores fuerunt. Ergo, etc.4. Furthermore, it seems that God can be known even by sinners. For, in Romans 1:21, it is said: Although they knew God, they did not give him glory as God. Such people, however, were sinners. Therefore, God can be known even by sinners.
5. Contra, omnis effectus ducens in cognitionem suae causae, est aliquo modo proportionatus sibi. Sed creaturae non sunt proportionatae Deo. Ergo ex eis non potest homo in suam cognitionem venire.5. On the contrary, every effect leading to knowledge of its cause is in some way proportionate to its cause. But creatures are not proportionate to God. From them, therefore, man cannot come to knowledge of God.
6. Item, videtur quod nec angeli. Quod enim per se cognoscitur, non cognoscitur per aliquid aliud. Sed Deum cognoscunt angeli per se, videntes ipsum in sua essentia. Ergo non cognoscunt ipsum per creaturas.6. Moreover, it seems that God cannot be known by angels. For what is known through itself is not known through something else. But angels know God through himself, seeing him in his essence. They do not, therefore, know him through creatures.
7. Item, videtur quod nec etiam a brutis. Nulla enim potentia affixa organo habet virtutem ad cognoscendum nisi speciem materialem, eo quod cognitio sit in cognoscente secundum modum ipsius cognoscentis. Sed bruta non habent virtutes cognoscitivas, nisi sensitivas, quae sunt affixae organo. Ergo nullo modo possunt cognoscere Deum, qui omnino est immaterialis.7. Again, it seems that God also cannot be known by animals. For any power that is attached to an organ has the power to know only a material kind of thing, because knowledge exists in the knower according to the mode of the knower. But the only powers of knowing animals have are sensitive powers, which are attached to an organ. In no way, therefore, can they know God, who is altogether immaterial.
8. Item, videtur quod nec etiam a peccatoribus. Ambrosius enim dicit, Super illud Matth., V, 8: Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt, lib. I In Luc.: Si qui mundo corde sunt, Deum videbunt, ergo alii non videbunt; neque enim maligni Deum videbunt, neque is qui Deum videre noluerit, potest videre Deum.8. Furthermore, it seems that God also cannot be known by sinners. For commenting on Matthew 5:8 - Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God - Ambrose says in Book I of Commentary on Luke: If the ones who are clean of heart will see God, then the others will not see God. For neither will the wicked see God, nor will he who will not wish to see God be able to see God.
SOLUTIO. Respondeo dicendum, quod, cum creatura exemplariter procedat ab ipso Deo sicut a causa quodammodo simili per analogiam, ex creaturis potest in Deum deveniri tribus illis modis quibus dictum est, scilicet per causalitatem, remotionem, eminentiam.Solution: I respond that it should be said that, since a creature proceeds from God himself in an exemplary way as from a cause that is, in a certain measure, similar by analogy, knowledge of God can be reached from creatures, as was said, by three ways, namely, by causality, remotion, and preeminence.
Ad hoc autem quod aliquis ex creaturis in Deum deveniat, duo requiruntur: scilicet quod ipsum Deum possit aliquo modo capere, et ideo brutis non convenit talis processus cognitionis; secundo requiritur quod cognitio divina in eis incipiat a creaturis et terminetur ad Creatorem; et ideo angelis non convenit Deum cognoscere per creaturas, neque beatis hominibus, qui a Creatoris cognitione procedunt in creaturas. Sed convenit iste processus hominibus, secundum statum viae, bonis et malis.Two things, however, are required for someone to reach knowledge of God from creatures. First it is required that he can understand God himself in some way, and for this reason, such a method of knowledge does not befit animals. Second it is required that the divine knowledge in them begins from creatures and is completed with the creator. And for this reason, it does not befit angels to know God through creatures, nor does it befit the blessed human beings in heaven, who proceed from a knowledge of the creator to creatures. But, according to the condition of this life, such a method befits good and bad human beings.
Primum ergo concedimus.We therefore concede the first argument.
Ad secundum dicendum, quod quamvis angelus cognoscat divinam bonitatem relucere in creatura, non tamen ex creatura venit in Creatorem, sed e contrario.To the second, it should be said that, although an angel knows that the divine goodness shines forth in creation, an angel does not nonetheless come to a knowledge of the creator from a creature but in the reverse way.
Ad tertium dicendum, quod praeceptum Dei non devenit ad vermem, ita quod intentionem praecepti apprehenderet, sed quia divina virtute mota est ejus aestimativa naturali motu ad complendum illud quod Deus disponebat.To the third, it should be said that God's command did not come to the worm in such a way that the worm understood the intention of the command, but because by the divine power the worm's sentient power of judgment was moved by a natural motion in order to complete that which God arranged.
Quartum concedimus.We concede the fourth argument.
Ad quintum dicendum, quod creatura est effectus non proportionatus Creatori; et ideo non ducit in perfectam cognitionem ipsius sed in imperfectam.To the fifth, it should be said that a creature is an effect that is not proportionate to the creator, and therefore, it does not lead to a perfect knowledge of him but to an imperfect knowledge.
Sextum et septimum concedimus.We concede the sixth argument and the seventh argument.
Ad octavum dicendum, quod Ambrosius loquitur de visione Dei per essentiam, quae erit in patria, ad quam nullus malus poterit pervenire. Similiter etiam ad cognitionem fidei nullus venit nisi fidelis. Sed cognitio naturalis de Deo communis est bonis et malis, fidelibus et infidelibus.To the eighth, it should be said that Ambrose is speaking about the vision of God's essence, which will occur in heaven and to which no bad man will be able to attain. Similarly, no one comes to the knowledge of faith except a faithful one. But the natural knowledge of God is common to good and bad, faithful and faithless men.

© John Laumakis
(jlamakis@hilltop.ic.edu)



The Aquinas Translation Project
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