JMC : Logic and Mental Philosophy / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Chapter II.
The End or Purpose and the Perfection of the World.

112. To understand the end or purpose for which anything has been made, we must distinguish between the purpose of a work and the purpose of the workman who produced the work. For instance, the purpose of a watch is to show the time, the purpose of the watch-maker may be to earn money. We must, therefore, consider two questions with regard to the world: 1. What purpose did God intend in His own creative act? 2. What purpose is the world to accomplish?

113. What purpose did God intend in His creative act? He cannot be said to have acted without any purpose; for it is the part of wisdom to act for an end and even for a worthy end. Now, God alone is worthy of Himself: therefore He created for Himself.

Had God, then, anything to gain by creating? He had, of course, to exercise His free will; but He could do this equally well by choosing to create or by choosing not to create. Why did He prefer to create? He had nothing to gain for Himself; for He possessed all perfection. But He could benefit others by creating, and thus exercise His goodness or bounty. It was not necessary for Him to do good to others; yet it was worthy of Him. In this double sense, therefore, God created for Himself, viz.: to exercise His liberty and His bounty. This purpose of God cannot, however, be called the final cause of His action; for a cause produces an effect which is really distinct from itself, while in God there is no real distinction of any kind; His bounty is His will, not the cause of His will; yet it may be called the reason or motive of His choice. Inasmuch as God wished to exercise His bounty, He created in order to bestow happiness on His creatures; but He intends this end as worthy of Himself, and thus the happiness of the creatures is subordinate to the exercise of His bounty, which is truly God's ultimate purpose.

114. What is the purpose of the work? Or what purpose is the world meant to accomplish? Since it was created to exercise God's bounty, the world is certainly intended to make creatures happy, especially the chief creatures, i.e., rational creatures. But this is not its ultimate purpose. For to know the ultimate end for which anything intended by a wise maker, we have only to consider the highest good which it is capable of accomplishing, and not some inferior good which it may also attain. Thus, a watch may indeed be used as a mere toy or an ornament of dress; but it is fit for something better, viz.: to indicate the time, and this is its primary end. Now, the world is capable of doing more than making creatures happy; it can glorify the Creator; and this is, therefore, its ultimate or primary purpose.

115. Glory is the recognition of exalted excellence. God recognizes all excellence in Himself, and this recognition constitutes God's intrinsic glory. The world manifests to intelligent creatures the goodness, power, wisdom, etc., of the Creator; their recognition of God's perfection constitutes His extrinsic glory. It is the highest purpose that this world can answer; it is therefore the primary purpose for which the world exists, the happiness of men being subordinate to it, as an inferior end must ever be subordinate to a superior end.

While the happiness of men is truly and proximately intended by the Creator, it is fitting that the happiness of intelligent creatures should be made to depend on their own free choice. Therefore men are left free to work out their own happiness; and, as a natural consequence, they are free to fail in that choice by preferring something else; thus moral evil is possible, though not intended by the Creator. But it is not fit that the work of an all-wise God should fail to attain the primary purpose that it was created to accomplish, which is the extrinsic glory of God. Therefore free creatures cannot deprive God of His extrinsic glory. Man can only choose his own manner of glorifying God; either he can reach happiness, and thus glorify His bounty, as God invites him to do; or he may spurn this invitation and command of his Master, and, by incurring deserved punishment, glorify the justice of the Creator.

116. Hence it is evident that God's will to punish a guilty creature is consequent on the free acts of that creature; it is therefore called God's consequent will; but His will to make all men happy is antecedent to their free choice, and is called His antecedent will. Hence it is also clear that the doctrine which maintains that God predestines some men to eternal loss is as directly opposed to Philosophy as it is to Revelation.

117. Thesis V. The world is not absolutely but relatively perfect.

Proof. 1st part. Not absolutely perfect. A thing is absolutely perfect if it attains perfectly the best possible end; but the end which the world attains is not the best possible; for it manifests God's perfections in a finite degree, and its end would be better if it manifested those perfections in a higher degree. Therefore it is not absolutely perfect.

2d Part. Relatively perfect. A thing is relatively perfect if it attains perfectly the exact end for which it is intended; but God must make the world do so; for a wise being makes his works as suitable to their ends as he can, and God, Who is infinitely wise and powerful, must therefore make all His works attain exactly the end for which He intended them.

118. Objections: 1. The work of the absolutely perfect Being must be absolutely perfect. Answer. No creature can be such that an infinite Creator could not produce a better one.

2. At least an infinitely wise and good God could have produced a much better world than this; therefore this world is not relatively perfect. Answer. He could have made one suited to procure a much higher manifestation of His perfections, but not one better suited than this to procure just such an amount of that manifestation as He wishes; relatively to this end the world is perfect.

3. The end of the world is the happiness of men. Answer. The happiness of men is their own intrinsic end -- i.e., their end as far as their own tendencies are concerned; but it is not their extrinsic end, which is the glory of God.

4. To be relatively perfect the world should manifest the goodness of God; but a world in which most creatures are ultimately unhappy does not manifest His goodness. Answer. If this reasoning were correct, it would only follow that most of God's free creatures will ultimately be happy, which we do not deny, because reason and Revelation leave us in ignorance on this matter; for all we know, men may be a small portion of free creatures. Still, it is clear that the reasoning of the objection is not conclusive, for the minor proposition is not capable of proof.

5. God does not attain the extrinsic glory intended; for many men, instead of honoring, dishonor Him. Answer. God will draw good out of evil; the creature will either repent and glorify His mercy, or be punished and glorify His justice for ever. St. Thomas writes: "The defect of doing is made up by suffering, inasmuch as they (the wicked) suffer what the eternal law prescribes for them to the extent to which they fail to do what accords with the eternal law" (1a 2ae q. 93, art. vi.). And St. Anselm: "God cannot possibly lose His honor; for either the sinner spontaneously pays what he owes, or God exacts it of him against his will. Thus, if a man chooses to fly from under the will of God commanding, he falls under the same will punishing" (Cur Deus Homo, Nos. 14, 15).

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