My Time with the Monks

David Russell Mosley

26 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Lauren’s parents left us bright and early this morning at 4:45 after a tearful good-bye. It’s been a good visit with lots of time to relax. This trip did, however, mean for me no time to do a proper post on how I spent my weekend before my in-laws arrived.

From the 13 to the 15 of September I stayed at Mucknell Abbey down near Worcester, Worcestershire. There I lived and prayed with the monks and nuns. Mucknell Abbey is an Anglican Benedictine Monastery with about 12 Brothers and Sisters. I went there both to refresh my soul and to discern the Lord’s will for some things coming in our future. What I got, in many ways was so much more.

One of the first things I realised when I had spent just a few hours at the Abbey is that I’ve become too dependent on technology to fill the silences in my life. I tend to describe myself as a self-abnegating  neo-Luddite. IMG_0704Well I certainly despised myself for how often I would turn to my phone (having left my computer behind) during the silences in my room at the abbey.

I had brought a few books with me, two of them unnecessary as it turns out, as well as a couple of journals to record any thoughts or ideas I had while there. Nevertheless, having no one else there with me to talk to about these experiences made it difficult for me. I am most definitely a people person, but I need to learn to better appreciate disconnected solitude. In the end, I think I would have been better off bringing my computer so I could do some writing for my thesis or for fun. Equally, an option I did not take advantage of or perhaps should have, was to do some work with the monks and nuns of the abbey. I would have loved to work in the garden, but thought I should try for almost total seclusion. In the end, this was a bad idea for me.

The morning of the second day was perhaps the worst and the best. As I said, I went to discern the Lord’s will on some choices I had before me. In the silences of the abbey, my soul was laid bare. All the fears and doubts, all my trepidations were laid out before me. I could hear the voices telling me I wasn’t good enough, I was too sinful, this was too hard. I spent much of my time wandering about the grounds of the abbey, taking in the beauty, and arguing with myself, the tempters, and God.IMG_0713

 

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In the end, the main thing that saved me were the divine hours. These monks keep seven hours, or at least seven in which I was allowed to participate: Readings at 6; Lauds at 7; Terce at 8:45; Eucharist at 12; None at 2:15; Vespers at 5:30; and Compline at 8:30. IMG_0707I only had one full day of the hours, but it was so very moving. In the divine hours time and eternity meet in Liturgy. You begin to understand what time is in the hours. You learn that time is, like you, a creature of the Creator, longing for its own transfiguration, longing to more resemble Eternity in which it participates. In the hours you learn that time was made for us, not us for time. Time is our brother, not our master nor out slave. We work together with time to proclaim the Lord’s Incarnation, the Lord’s death, the Lord’s resurrection, and the Lord’s promised return. Both before and since my time at the abbey, I have tried to keep three of the hours, for me, Mattens, Sext, and Vespers. I’m not always successful, but I will continue to work at it.

My time at the abbey was difficult. It was perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a long time, but it showed me God. God’s glory, God’s will were in those brief moments I allowed myself of silence and in the longer moments when I read were made clear to me. In the weeks to come I will be able to divulge more about why I went to the abbey, but for now all I can is highly recommend going to a monastery if you have things you need to sort out with God, and to make sure that you work as well as pray while you’re there. Below are some more pictures from my time at the abbey.

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Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

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Faeriean Metaphysics: The Necessity of Poetry, Fantasy, and Faerie in Theology

David Russell Mosley

 

 

 

5 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

 

Gregory the Theologian (Fresco from Kariye Cam...

Gregory the Theologian (Fresco from Kariye Camii, Istanbul). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Dear Friends and Family,

 

Today I’m sitting outside, smoking my pipe, enjoying the wind on my face and my thoughts turned to my last post on the importance Faerie and Fantasy in the Christian Theology. I didn’t come to the importance of fantasy literature and today I’ll only touch on it lightly. What is more on my mind is the importance of poetry.

 

Writer

Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I think I’ve always associated poetry with faerie in my own mind, good poetry anyway. Poetry describes the world, ourselves, love, loss, pain, suffering, mystery, the supernatural, the philosophical, it, like Faerie, encompasses the whole world. Chesterton once wrote that while the Romantic poets wrote about Nature, describing their interactions with her, describing their impressions of trees, mountains, lakes, flowers, people it was the ancients and Medievals who truly understood nature. They peopled it with naiads and dryads, elves, fairies, giants, trolls, they saw that Nature, the sister she is to us, has a soul. They may have gotten it wrong from time to time, making it too much like us, fallen and broken in the same ways, but they understood that Nature is a creature just like us. Chesterton didn’t eschew the works of the Romantics, he merely pointed out that the Medievals and ancients also knew Nature even if they didn’t spend as much time describing their impressions of her.

 

In theology we need a return to poetry. Poetry as a word has its roots in a Greek verb, poieeo. It means to create. This is the kind of creation God does in creating our world. It is not inappropriate then, though perhaps anachronistic, to refer to God not only as Creator, but as Poet, the Poet and all our poets and poetry exist only insofar as they participate in the Poet and his acts of poetising, that is creating. Not only this, but God is also the Theo-poet, he is the god-creator, the deifier. He created this great Poem, Creation, in order to turn it into a Theo-poem, a created god. He does this through his coming into the Poem in the Incarnation and his Indwelling the Poem through the Holy Spirit in us in a special way and the rest of Creation in another. If all this is true we must have a return to poetry in theology.

 

Tolkien

Tolkien (Photo credit: proyectolkien)

 

The greatest theologian, or at least the only one outside of St John, who is called the Theologian in both East and West is Gregory of Nazianzus, or Gregory the Theologian. But Gregory the Theologian was also Gregory the Poet. Gregory understood the need for humans, theo-poems in the making, to create, to poetise. J. R. R. Tolkien also understood this when called humans sub-creators, and the writing of fantasy, which is the creation of little worlds of our own, sub-creations. This is an inherent part of our Tradition. We ignore it to our detriment.

 

We must return to Elfland, we must write poetry, we must create worlds because in doing so we participate in the Poet, we add to the Poem in a way that only we, human beings, theo-poems, can. It is through us that all Creation will be reunited to God. And while we cannot accomplish this task fully ourselves, while only Christ, who is both Poet and the first-fruits of the Theo-poem, can bring this about, we have our parts to play as well. Let us not neglect them. Let us write poetry once again.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

 

 

‘The Ancestral Sin’ by John S. Romanides: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

19 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of The Ancestral Sin by John S. Romanides. Hope you appreciate it.

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This book is a primarily unhelpful polemic from start to finish. Romanides main point seems to be to show how the West is woefully wrong concerning sin and death (sinfully wrong, perhaps) and how the East contains only the right vision. Romanides argues that the West’s understanding of created grace, evil as privation of the good, the analogia entis in Thomas, and God being love, good, etc. in his nature all lead to notions of original sin. The East, instead, sources evil and death in Satan, rather than in God (as he understands the West to do), and God is primarily free in his essence while attributes such as love are uncreated energies.

There are too many problems with this characterisation to go into here, but the one major problem I want to point out is this: Romanides desperately wants to make it clear that God did not create death as a punishment, that instead death is the dominion of the devil who is at war with God. The problem? Did not God create the devil? Is the devil capable of creating from nothing like God? Is this how God is not responsible for death? If so, then we fall into dualism, which Romanides would repudiate.

While in many ways I agree that we need to think of sin, death, and the Fall in ways other than original sin and man’s fall from perfection, Romanides’ attempt at this is inept and often glosses over areas where Eastern Fathers, whom he cites elsewhere often coincide with Western positions he repudiates. Chief among these would be how Athanasius writes about evil, what the Cappadocians write about the soul, and how Maximus understands the human desire for the supernatural.

I neither recommend this book nor don’t. Read at your own risk.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

‘Being Reconciled’ by John Milbank: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

 

 

Festival of King Oswald
5 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is review I wrote a few weeks ago after my second reading of John Milbank’s Being Reconciled. I hope you enjoy.

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This is my second reading of Milbank’s Being Reconciled and I must say I’m glad I read it again. While even after the first reading I determined that this was Milbank’s most comprehensible book, at least that I’ve tackled thus far, I still found more that I understood better this time around. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to gain some insight into the theology of John Milbank but does not yet have the fortitude to brave Theology and Social Theory.

I will give fair warning that there are, for me, a few areas where I simply disagree with John. The main one, and only one I will deal with in this review, comes in chapter 4 ‘Incarnation: the sovereign victim’. Here John is juxtaposing the views of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus on the purpose of the incarnation. For Aquinas, it is about forgiveness, but a forgiveness that does more than forgive, but exceeds that and gives also the chance for deification, though Milbank argues that is the possibility of deification that makes the incarnation possible. Scotus, on the other hand, sees the incarnation as the ontological completion of creation. This is based in Scotus’s understanding of univocity of being where Christ is not the fulness, necessarily, but is beyond what humanity is. My own view, and I believe that of the Fathers, is somewhere in between. The Incarnation cannot be a reaction to our sin or related only to the divine foreknowledge of the Fall. Nor, however, is it purely Christ completing creation as a human who is, by nature of also being divine, is simply better than all other humans. For me, if deification has always been the telos for creation, then the means by which this is accomplished must include the Incarnation. God must become man in order for man to become God.

This aside, however, John’s understanding of the crucifixion, the telos of Creation and the necessity for a liturgical understanding of the time, the state, education, etc., makes this book one most definitely worth reading.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extracts: Why We Need a Deifier

 David Russell Mosley

 

1 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here’s another extract from my second chapter on Deification Creation. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave comments below:

English: The Nativity of Christ

English: The Nativity of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Need for a Deifier

What is left, in the end, is a created order that is good, that has an end which is God, and which it cannot achieve on its own. The universe needs humanity to fulfil its end in God, for without humanity, there is no one to receive creation as a gift and to mediate between creation and God as recipients. In humanity, then, there is the given vocation of serving as icons and priests to the rest of creation, showing forth the attributes of God. However, even though humanity has an innate desire for the divine, for divinity, for God, but this mad desire, as de Lubac calls it, cannot be met or fulfilled by humanity. The desire may be natural, but its fulfilment must be super- natural. Creation needs a deifier, one alongside of whom it can work. As Vladimir Lossky writes, ‘Certainly man was created by the will of God alone; but he cannot be deified by it alone. A single will for creation, but two for deification. A single will to raise up the image but two to make the image into a likeness.’1 God can create in his image, but cannot make man a god, according to Lossky. Instead, man must also will this. Lossky will go on to argue that humanity, prior to the Fall, may have been able to deify itself.2 In fact, in commenting on the Fall, Lossky seems to suggest that hu- manity would have enacted its own deification which would have made bridgeable to the gap between Creator and creature: ‘The infinite distance between the created and uncreated, the natural separation of man from God which ought to have been overcome by deification became an impassable abyss for man after he willed himself into a new state, that of sin and death, which was near a state of non-being.’3 This, how- ever, seems unlikely given both Scripture and the Fathers. Instead, it seems more likely that God requires our cooperation in order to deify us. That is, even though humanity wills to be like God and God wills it for them, the two wills must work together. So far I agree with Lossky. However, it seems that more than this is necessary in order to deify.

It cannot be emphasised enough that deification is the intended end for crea- tion from the very beginning. As Andrew Louth writes, ‘[D]eification is the fulfil- ment of creation, not just the rectification of the Fall.’4 Elizabeth Theokritoff simi- larly writes, ‘The Incarnation is not primarily a remedy for something gone wrong; it inaugurates the union between God and his creation for which all things were created.’5 It would be wrong to picture deification as merely a response to human- ity’s sin. It is not simply the resolving of this issue, though it is that, it goes beyond, it is the intended goal for creation from the very beginning. This is not, however, a goal creation can complete on it is own.

Creation Incomplete on Its Own

Maximus has reminded us that created beings cannot reach their own ends. They cannot fulfil themselves.6 Even any deathlessness humanity may have possessed in the story of the garden was not by nature. Aquinas tells us that it was by grace ‘that man was deathless before sin happened’ (ST 1a. 76, 5, ad 1). Adam, while without sin and incorruption, was still subject to becoming.7 Just as creation was in- complete without humanity, incapable of attaining its own end, so too is humanity incomplete without a deifier, without someone to raise him up to the status of divinity by participation, by grace, by adoption. Anthony Baker again reminds us, ‘Perfection is God’s gift to creation––the gift, in fact, of creating––and in sharing this creative work the divine nature opens itself entirely to creatures, extending to us the gift of our true and ultimate telos.’8 This gift, however, must be received and even then, it must be given. And while it is partially given in the act of creation itself, even this is not enough. Creation is still incomplete for it is not perfected. As I argued above, creation is incomplete without humanity, but humanity as well cannot bring about its own end, it cannot complete itself. Something much more surprising must happen. If God were truly the divine watchmaker or deism, then it would stand to reason that the telling of time (the end for which a watch is made) would occur naturally and re- quire only maintenance, but not divine aid in reaching its end, it would have been created at its end, that is the moment it started telling time it would have accomplished its end. This, however, is not the understanding of creation or its end the Father’s had. Instead, it seems that something more is needed for creation to reach its telos.

Creator Must Cross the Creature-Creature Divide

‘Christ assumed an individual and concrete nature that was in no wise “the” human nature as such. Yet what is more, by means of this partial contact, he touched nature in its entirety, a nature that is indivisible and continuous. And by this vital unity, he transmits grace, resurrection, and divinization to the entire body, thus uniting all mean, and through them, all creation to himself.’

-Hans Urs von Balthasar 9

What Balthasar notes in the quote above perhaps takes us beyond the purview of this chapter, but necessarily so. As I argued above, creation is incomplete without humanity, but humanity too is incomplete on its own. The only way creation’s telos can be completed is if the creator crosses the divide that separates him from creation. Only in this manner can deification reach to all of creation. Just as humanity takes within itself all of creation, so Christ by becoming man takes on all of creation and unites to it his divinity. More on this, however, in chapter 4. De Lubac writes concerning Augustine:

[Augustine] also realized the great gulf in any circumstances between the creation and Creator, and the madness of the creature’s dream, inspired by the Creator, to raise himself up to him for everlasting union. And in the revelation of Jesus Christ what he could see was principally the declaration that this mad dream could become a reality because it corresponded to the entirely gratuitous plan governing creation.10

We have noted this before, but it bares repeating, while humanity desires its proper end, it cannot accomplish it for its proper end is well beyond what it could even dare to hope for, union with God. The entire second chapter of Balthasar’s A Theological Anthropology is dedicated to the notion that humanity cannot perfect itself.11 Again, as Thunberg writes concerning Maximus, there is a gulf between humanity and God which only the ‘will of God can overbridge.’12 This is explicitly not something humanity can accomplish on its own.

1 Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, translated by Ian and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 73.

2 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. members of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (London: James Clarke and Co., LTD., 1957), 136.

3 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. members of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (London: James Clarke and Co., LTD., 1957), 135.

4 Andrew Louth, ‘The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,’ in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Tradition, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 34-35.

5 Elizabeth Theokritoff, ‘Creator and creature,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, edited by Mary B. Cunningham and Elizabeth Theokritoff (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- sity Press, 2008), 69.

6 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 132.

7 Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 2nd Edition (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995), 144.

8 Anthony D. Baker, Diagonal Advance: Perfection in Christian Theology (SCM Press, 2011), 141.

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9 Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, translated by Mark Sebanc (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 134-35.

10 Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology, translated by Lancelot Sheppard. (New York: Crossroads Publishing, 2000), 17.

11 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Theological Anthropology, trans. by Benziger Verlag (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967), 43-72.

12 Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confes- sor, 2nd Edition (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995), 51.

 

Sincerely yours,
David

Thesis Extract: ‘Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways as Evidence of Deification’

David Russell Mosley

Festival of St Gregory of Nyssa and St Macrina
19 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today, I wanted to share another portion of my thesis. Sadly, this section neither features Gregory of Nyssa, nor his sister Macrina. Instead, it focuses on some work I’ve done concerning Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways or Proofs of God and their relationship to deification. I hope you enjoy.

Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways as Evidence of Deification

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas' proofs of God's e...

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas’ proofs of God’s existence was based on teleology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A. N. Williams in her work, The Ground of Union, suggests and demonstrates, ‘In seminal form, the Five Ways argue not only for God’s existence, but also the existence of a Thomistic doctrine of theosis.’1 For Williams, the Five ways do this first by creating a ‘deep ontological and conceptual divide,’ between Creator and creature.2 This provides safety from the danger that deification can have of appearing like pantheism. By showing how utterly other God is than his creation, the Five Ways not only disallow pantheism, but, in fact, allow for deification. This relates to one of our necessary categories for deification in the first chapter, namely, the Creator-creature divide. For Rudi A. Te Velde, ‘What Thomas is looking for [in the Five Ways] is not so much rational certainty as intelligibility; to wit the intelligibility of the truth expressed and asserted by the proposition “God exists.”’3 Thus, for both te Velda and Williams, the Five Ways are not intended as full blown proofs that God does in fact exist.4 The Five Ways show God’s connectedness and graciousness in sharing his own life, his very nature with his creation, especially the attributes, being, goodness, and perfection.5 Therefore, we shall take a brief look at the God described in the Five Ways to see the both the intelligibility of the God described and whether this God shows forth in this simple set of definitions is a God who deifies.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. (ST Ia. 2, 3)

In the first way, Thomas shows that change leads to God, that is, because things change, and change because of causes, there must be a ‘first cause of change not itself being changed by anything else’ (ST Ia. 2, 3). What Aquinas is doing here is, in one sense, showing the shortcomings of physics. Physics and natural science attempt to explain motion but cannot account for its existence.6 Thus Aquinas argues that for motion to exist there must be one who causes motion, is in fact, the first cause of all motion. As Te Velde notes, ‘The argument shows that being-in-motion, which is an essential feature of physical objects cannot be understood as being unless it is reduced to a first mover, which is itself not part of the domain of mobile being. As a consequence the domain of physics appears to be a finite domain, as being in motion cannot constitute the ultimate nature of reality.’7 This begins to build Aquinas’ implicit argument that there is a qualitative difference between God and creation. God is not merely a first or prime mover. If he were, then God would be just another thing within creation, even if greater than all other things in creation. Instead, at least as relates to motion, Aquinas posits God as being utterly different from all things that move/are moved.

This on its own is not enough to prove Williams’s point that the Five Ways show God as deifier, but this first way does show, as noted above, God as distinctly separate from creatures. Unlike all of creation, which is changeable, God is not changeable but is the first cause of all change. While not directly an argument for creation out of nothing, the first way shows forth a God that might create out of nothing. In fact, creation out of nothing would lead us to understand God as the first mover. As we saw in the previous chapter, for deification to work there must be a sharp distinction between Creator and creation. The first way leads us in that direction.

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

The second way is related to the first in that it focuses on causation. This time, however, Thomas wants simply to look at causation as such and not motion. Again, as with the first way, God is the source of all causation. If anything has a cause, it will be found ultimately in God. Here again, while all things in creation are caused and have effects, God is uncaused and is the source of all causation, creating a qualitative distinction between God and creation. The Creator-creature distinction is reiterated. The God described as both first mover and first efficient cause is a God utterly unique. It is a God that is not merely qualitatively different from creation. While we are not yet to the aspects of participation and analogy in Thomas’ thought at this point, clearly the God described in the first two of the Five Ways can lead toward the God in whom all things participate.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence––which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

The third way shifts emphasis to necessity. Thomas reasons that all created beings are not necessary. If they are not necessary, then at some point they did not exist, for it is not necessary that they exist. This leads Thomas to question why there is anything at all then, for if nothing is necessary then at some point there was nothing at all. Therefore, there must be a being whose being is necessary in order to bring into being all unnecessary being. This necessary being is, again God. Thomas has now, in the first three ways, firmly established that God is completely and ontologically other than all creation. He is the only one who causes change without changing, who causes causation without being caused, and whose very being is necessary in order to bring all other being into existence. This third way begins to evidence to us deification. God as necessary being and the cause of all being is a God who shares himself with all unnecessary being, which is all other being besides himself.

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

Then, in the fourth way we see God defined as the something from which all being receives its perfection. Here again we have the hints of deification. The fourth way shows us a God who is the source of all comparison. When we say something is beautiful, it is only insofar as it relates to God who is the source of beauty. This would perhaps not be enough to give us a notion of deification if Thomas did not say, ‘There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfection they have.’ Thus, God is not solely the source of comparison, he is also the cause of perfections in created beings. As both source and cause of perfection, the God described in the fourth way is a God who shares of himself with his creation. This is a God who would be likely to deify.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. (ST 1a. 2, 3)

Finally, in the fifth way we reach what is often called the teological argument, that is, everything in nature has a goal for which it is intended and God is the director who directs created beings to their telos, their end. While Thomas does not make it evident here, this end is God himself (cf. ST 1a. 44, 4). Thus not only does the fifth way describe a God who progressively perfects his creation to an end, but it suggests that the end described is God himself. Thus again, we see the evidence that the God described in the five ways is a God who would deify.

This skeletal depiction of God is one of a God who seems to desire to make creatures and then make them more like himself. By being truly distinct from his creations, God can make them more like himself. By being their mover, their first and final cause; indeed by making them partakers of himself, the God described in the Five Ways is a God who deifies, perhaps at varying levels, his creations at least in part because he created them.

1 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 41.

2 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 40.

3 Rudi A. Te Velde, Aquinas on God: The ‘Divine Science’ of the Summa Theologiae (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 39.

4 Despite Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969).

5 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 41.

6 Rudi A. Te Velde, Aquinas on God: The ‘Divine Science’ of the Summa Theologiae (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 51.

7 Rudi A. Te Velde, Aquinas on God: The ‘Divine Science’ of the Summa Theologiae (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 55.

Let me know what you thought.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Pentecost: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your love.’

Icon of the Pentecost

Icon of the Pentecost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Friends and Family,

Today we celebrate Pentecost. It is the fiftieth day since our Lord was resurrected and the tenth since he ascended to the right hand of the Father. May we be filled with the Spirit, our Sanctifier and Deifier, so that we can speak the truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Saviour and Deifier of the World, and come to greater knowledge of our Father.

Tomorrow begins Ordinary Time. Tomorrow we must go out into the world and seek God in the everyday and not simply in his great deeds done throughout salvation history. Read and pray today that you may be prepared for the time to come.

Pentecostal Prayer

‘Blessed are you, creator God,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As your Spirit moved over the face of the waters
bringing light and life to your creation,
pour out your Spirit on us today
that we may walk as children of light
and by your grace reveal your presence.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.’

Yours,
David