Of God and His Creatures

That the Divine Understanding is not limited to certain fixed Effects

NOW that it has been shown (Chap. XXIII) that the divine power does not act of physical necessity, but by understanding and will, lest any one should think that God's understanding or knowledge extend only to certain fixed effects, and that thus God acts under stress of ignorance, though not under stress of physical constraint, it remains to show that His knowledge or understanding is bounded by no limits in its view of effects.

2. We have shown above (B. I, Chap. XLIII) the infinity of the divine essence. Now the plane of the infinite can never be reached by any piling up of finite quantities, because the infinite infinitely transcends any finite quantities however many, even though they were infinite in number.* But no other being than God is infinite in essence: all others are essentially included under limited genera and species.* Howsoever then and to whatsoever extent the effects of divine production are comprehended, it is ever within the compass of the divine essence to reach beyond them and to be the foundation of more. The divine understanding then, in perfectly knowing the divine essence (B. I, Chap. XLVII), transcends any infinity of actual effects of divine power and therefore is not necessarily limited to these or those effects.

4. If the causality of the divine understanding were limited, as a necessary agent, to any effects, it would be to those effects which God actually brings into being. But it has been shown above (B. I, Chap. LXVI) that God understands even things that neither are nor shall be nor have been.

5. The divine knowledge stands to the things produced by God as the knowledge of an artist to the knowledge of his art. But every art extends to all that can possibly be contained under the kind of things subject to that art, as the art of building to all houses. But the kind of thing subject to the divine art is 'being' (genus subjectum divinae artis est ens), since God by His understanding is the universal principal of being (Chapp. XXI, XXIV). Therefore the divine understanding extends its causality to all things that are not inconsistent with the notion of 'being,' and is not limited to certain fixed effects Hence it is said: Great is our Lord, and great his power, and of his wisdom; there is no reckoning by number (Ps. cxlvi, 5) Hereby is excluded the position of some philosophers who said that from God's understanding of Himself there emanates a certain arrangement of things in the universe, as though He did not deal with creatures at His discretion fixing the limits of each creature and arranging the whole universe, as the Catholic faith professes. It is to be observed however that, though the divine understanding is not limited to certain effects, God nevertheless has determined to Himself fixed effects to be produced in due order by His wisdom, as it is said: Thou hast disposed all things in measure, number and weight (Wisd. xi, 21).*

2.25 : In what sense some things are said to be Impossible to the Almighty
2.28 : That God has not brought things into being in discharge of any Debt of justice