Of God and His Creatures

This common Hegelian position is that the world is necessary to God, and the whole arrangement of the universe likewise an a priori necessity, nothing else being possible: in fact that the term 'actual being' includes at once all that is and all that ever could be, while the terms 'possible,' 'necessary,' 'contingent,' express nothing whatever but certain limitations of our field of view. Neither Hegel, nor any sane man who believes in a God at all, could ever suppose that there were things, producible in themselves, which could not be produced because God did not know of them. One wonders what opponents St Thomas could have met guilty of this absurdity. Ex hypothesi God is a Being whose mental vision extends everywhere; so that what God has no idea of, must be blank nonsense, and impossible as nonsensical. To Hegelians, however, God is exhausted in the production, or evolution of the universe: He gives being, and that of necessity, to all things whatsoever to which He possibly can give being: nothing realisable, or actualisable, remains behind, nothing potential. St Thomas meets this by insisting that God is infinite, and therefore inexhaustible; ten thousand such worlds as this would not exhaust His capacity of production; and over them all He would still remain, immeasurably exalted, distinct, independent, supreme. There is however something, -- we cannot call it a limitation, but we may call it a condition of divine intelligence and creative power, -- a condition less regarded by St Thomas, but forcibly commending itself to us, upon six centuries longer experience of the prevalence of evil on earth. Fewer combinations, far fewer perhaps, than St Thomas thought possible, and our short-sighted impatience might crave for as remedial, may be really possible at all. The range of intrinsic impossibilities may extend considerably, beyond the abstract regions of logic and mathematics, into the land of concrete physical realities, one reality, if existent, necessarily involving, or necessarily barring, the existence of some other reality. Such necessity, such there be, is no limitation of divine power or divine intelligence. God still discerns endless possibilities, and can do whatever He discerns as possible; but much that men take for possibility is rendered on this hypothesis sheer absurdity, -- as impossible, let us say, as a 'spiritual elephant.' We wonder why God does not mend matters, as we would mend them, had we His power. Had we His power, we should also have His intelligence, and discern that there is no riding out of our troubles on the backs of spiritual elephants. There is some hint of the matter of this note in Chapp. XXIX, XXX following.

Of God and His Creatures: 2.26