What is GOD?
LET’S THINK ABOUT HOW WE DEFINE THINGS
What is a dog?
A dog is an animal with four legs.
Not specific enough!
A dog is an animal that barks. Barking is what distinguishes dogs from non-dogs.
To define a dog, we needed to identify that one characteristic that distinguishes dogs from non-dogs.
Notice that we identified this dog-specific characteristic by looking at dogs and comparing them with non-dogs.
To “define” God, we need to identify that characteristic that distinguishes Him from non-gods.
But we CANNOT look at GOD and determine what about Him is not present in non-gods. We can only look at non-gods and then “move” from there to God in an indirect “negative” way.
We call non-gods, creatures. So what is the defining characteristic of creatures?
Or to put it another way, what is held in common by electrons, tables, dogs, angels, and galaxies?
The answer to this question cannot come from physics but metaphysics.
St. Thomas Aquinas proposes that in all creatures, what they are can be distinguished from that they are.
To put it another way, he proposes that in creatures, their essence can be distinguished from their existence.
What is a unicorn?
The essence of a unicorn is that it is a horse with a single horn.
What is a Harry Potter?
The essence of a Harry Potter is that he is a boy-magician imagined by JK Rowling.
Notice that we can understand unicorns, Harry Potters, and pencils even if they do not really exist.
We can understand their essences without knowing if they exist or not.
This is because their essence is different from their existence.
Essence ≠ Εxistence
If creatures are beings whose essence can be separated from their existence, then…
God is that being whose essence cannot be separated from His existence.
In other words, God is that being whose essence IS existence.
Better, God is that being whose essence IS existing.
Essence = Εxistence
A dog is that animal that barks. Barking is what distinguishes dogs from non-dogs.
God is that being whose essence is His existence. That His essence is His existence is what distinguishes God from non-gods.
God is the act of existing. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia 3.3)
God is existing. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia 3.3)
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO AM.”
God is a verb. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia 3.3)
Notice that defining God as the act of existing is conceptually mysterious.
Can you imagine the act of running without a runner?
Can you imagine the act of existing without an existing thing?
God is always beyond our imagination and our understanding.
If God created everything, then who created God?
Can a triangle have four sides? By definition, a triangle cannot have four sides. Nothing can make a triangle with four sides.
By definition, God cannot be made. No one made God.
Both involve logical impossibilities.
If someone asks you, why does God exist?
Existing is what God does. It is also what He is.
If someone asks you, why does a triangle have three sides?
Having three sides is what a triangle does. Having three sides is what a triangle is.
The Greek gods.
God is that being whose essence is His existence.
A god is that being who is more powerful than human beings.
The error of the Pagans/Polytheists:
God is defined not in contrast to creatures.
Instead, God is defined in contrast to human beings.
God is categorically distinguished, not from people, but all creatures.
Does God have parts?
To have parts, you need to distinguish one part from another.
Left hand from Right hand. The Head is on top. Feet are on the bottom.
Can we say a left act of existing and a right act of existing?
Or a top act of existing and a bottom act of existing?
There is only an act of existing.
God has no parts. God is simple. God is NOT complex.
This is why...
God is ONE.
God is SIMPLE.
God is PERFECT.
God is UNCHANGEABLE.
Many thanks to Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., PhD, S.T.D., ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY AND THEOLOGY. Back in 2017, he gave this talk to interested students. Without him, you would not be reading this today.
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