The Summa Theologiæ: The Goodness of God

The Summa Theologiae, Season 7: Prima Pars Q6, A1: The Goodness of God

(21 November 2018).

Saint Thomas’ magnificent Summa Theologiae needn’t any longer seem intimidating to the average layman, now that Father Arnold Trauner walks us through it in the True Restoration series that makes it very accessible to all!

In Episode 6, for example, Father and our host Stephen Heiner unite in a lively discussion exploring the two objections relating to Saint Thomas Aquinas’ arguments for the goodness of God in Article 1 of Question 6 of Prima Pars (First Part) of the Summa Theologiæ. Listeners may especially appreciate such a variety of thoughts and resources so efficiently analysed and effectively referred to in a short interview, making it a very convenient clip to listen to. And readers may particularly enjoy the good humour between Father Trauner and Stephen Heiner – food for thought, literally!

The Lord is good to them that hope in Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.

Lamentations 3:25

Relating to the goodness of God, which is the focus of Question 6 and Article 1 of the Summa Theologiæ, Father Trauner poses the question: ‘Can one associate goodness with God?’ Yet firstly, Father considers it useful to raise the question: What is meant by ‘good’ and ‘goodness’?

In the first few minutes, Father here makes a distinction, which is an important feature as highlighted in the Analogia Entis, referring to the ‘analogy of things being.’ In this way he clarifies that ‘we don’t use the word ‘good’ the same way when we talk about created things and when we talk about The Creator, God.’

In recognising the omnipotence of God, Father Trauner states that when speaking of God, effectively ‘that which is good, is pre-eminently in God – all the good qualities, everything – every good quality that you can find in creatures are pre-eminently in God, Who is the source of all this.’ Which, when tied back to the Catechism, complements God being known as ‘The Infinite, the Infinite Good.’ However, Father clarifies, in a touch of light humour, that it does not mean conflating the goodness of God with the goodness of a meal! Therefore, it is necessarily understanding things, firstly, in the spiritual sense.

Since God is the primary operative cause of everything, goodness and desirability fittingly belong to Him… God is called God as the source of all subsistence. – Stephan Heiner

Father continues in helping listeners comprehend the difference between desirableness in good (in general terms), when compared to the good and desirability belonging (to God):

Therefore since God is the first effective cause of all things, it is manifest that the aspect of good and of desirableness belong to Him… God is called good ‘as by Whom all things subsist.’ – Saint Thomas Aquinas

Following this interesting introductory discussion, Stephen Heiner, with Father Trauner, then goes through the two objections Saint Thomas Aquinas skilfully answers. The first objection is especially significant as it deals with mathematical objections commonly posed and qualified by atheists:

One must not, it seems, associate goodness with God. For goodness consist in condition, form, and order, which seem out of place in a God Who is immeasurable and not subordinate to anything. So, goodness must not be associated with God. – first objection noted by Stephen Heiner

Listeners will enjoy learning this first objection is beautifully countered by Saint Thomas Aquinas, but Father Trauner cautions the Doctor-Saint’s reply does require re-thinking:

To have mode, species and order belongs to the essence of caused good; but good is in God as in its cause, and hence it belongs to Him to impose mode, species and order on others; wherefore these three things are in God as their cause. – Saint Thomas Aquinas (Reply to Objection 1)

Father Trauner notes that this is so, given what we accept, call, or see to be good usually suggests an ulterior cause. So, where one would question why is God good, the question should really be how good is God? To which, the answer is then that God is infinitely good! So, coming back to the corpus of the Article, Father Trauner concludes is ‘pre-eminence of goodness, which is in God.’

The second and final objection in Article 1 then deals with issues of desirability to goodness and God:

Moreover, the good is what everything desires, but not everything desires God because not everything knows Him, and one can only desire what one knows. Goodness, therefore must be not associated with God Himself. – second objection as noted by Stephen Heiner

Stephen Heiner ensues a fascinating exploration into how Saint Thomas Aquinas responds to such an objection, which again the Doctor-Saint beautifully addresses:

All things, by desiring their own perfection, desire God Himself, inasmuch as the perfections of all things are so many similitudes of the divine being. – Saint Thomas Aquinas

To assist in comprehending such a cognisant response, Stephen Heiner illustrates an analogy as the most apt way of understanding Saint Thomas Aquinas’ position: ‘If a plant, which has no immortal soul, knows to reach for the light in the darkness, how much more is it incumbent on us to do the same?’

Of course, listeners will enjoy the much more in-depth conversation between Father Trauner and Stephen Heiner in Episode 6, but readers are certainly encouraged to have recourse to the Summa Theologiæ, which is a fantastic resource to helping explain answers to questions others may have or pose, as well as it will assist with familiarity and reading along to the references made in this series.

Stephen Heiner also emphasises its versatility, admitting he will be looking forward to getting emails from readers sharing the news that ‘the Summa helped me to do my dishes better’!

Readers and listeners should be pleased to know that the following episode focuses on Question 7, Article 1 of the Prima Pars (First Part), which will hopefully further imprint the Doctor-Saint’s clarity in answering more objections to the holy Faith. The entire series is accessible to Annual Members only, so obtain your membership today!

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TR Staff

True Restoration Staff