Thomas: Okay, so let’s use “transitive action” only in the complete sense. Before we continue, let me clarify something. To say that
(T13) For any transitive divine action A, A is formally extraneous to the divine essence
is not to say that
(T14) For any transitive divine action A, everything that is formally included in A is formally extraneous to the divine essence.
By definition, a transitive divine action cannot be reduced to the divine essence. In every such action there is something which is formally added to the divine essence, namely, the efficacy (being-at-work) of the divine essence/power in some creature or set of creatures. To be sure—and as I keep repeating—this “something extra” does not amount to a secondary act or perfection in God. Now it is wholly on account of this “something extra” on the side of creation that the transitive action is (formally) extraneous to the essence (as per T13). For once we remove this “something extra” from the transitive action, all we are left with is the essence itself—and this, obviously, is not extraneous to the essence. At the same time, we should recognise that for any transitive divine action A, A is not purely extraneous to the essence, because there is still “formal overlap” between A and the essence. That is to say, there is something (namely, the essence) which is both (1) formally included in A and (2) formally included in the essence.
(T15) X is purely formally extraneous to Y if and only if there is no P such that P is formally included in X and P is formally included in Y.
With each passing year, there is less rest in the world. As one controversial event after another incites a reaction and its counter-reaction, the spirit of restlessness gathers more momentum. As radical progressives are mobilised into action and society folds under the pressure of their utopian demands, the peace of God withdraws into oblivion. We descend further into cultural amnesia and even psychosis. We forget what it means to rest. We are cut loose from our true centre. We become enemies of God, strangers to the Logos. Our habitual way of being turns into a feverish hatred of the divine order – that order where alone there is peace. In Michael Ende’s fantasy novel The Neverending Story, “the Nothing” (das Nicht) threatens to destroy the entire universe. I find this to be a poignant illustration of our contemporary situation. As time goes on, the spirit of restlessness gains more territory, and more of the goodness in the world is threatened with destruction.
My hypothesis is that nothing will be saved if we forget the rest of God. Culture cannot be redeemed if we simply look outward at the enemy, adopting a stance that is primarily defensive or polemical. Where the Good is not desired and enjoyed for itself, where the True is not contemplated in itself, there is no humane “society” or “civilisation” worth defending. The spirit of restlessness can only be defeated if we rest in God. We must remember how to dwell, how to belong, how to be in harmony – which above all means being attuned to the eternal, divine harmony.
Thomas: God is simple. The divine operation is not something added to the divine essence or being, although we speak as if it were, since human thought and language are limited. Nor is the divine operation something added to the divine power. God simply is the divine operation, just as he is the divine being and essence and power.
Gregory: So on your view, the divine operation ad intra—the necessary, immanent operation of God (in and through the divine persons)—is really identical to the divine essence.
Thomas: Correct. But I also deny any real distinction in God between the divine essence on one hand, and the divine operations ad extra on the other hand. The act of God creating, the act of God revealing himself, the act of God redeeming, the act of God sanctifying (and so on) are all really identical to the one divine Act, and this one Act is the divine essence.
Gregory: How does that work? The divine essence is necessary, but the transitive actions of God—the operations ad extra—are all contingent. God might have refrained from all eternity from creating anything at all, and he might have created a different set of creatures. God might not have revealed himself to any creature, and he might have revealed himself in a different way. To be sure, on the supposition that God ordained, from all eternity, to create, it is impossible for God not to create. The same is true in respect to God’s revealing himself. For the divine will is unwavering.
© Brendan Triffett 2018-2019
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved.