If good is God's identity, how can created things be good without being identical to God?

If good is God’s identity, how can created things be good?

How can creation be good without being identical to God?

You are not far from the truth.

In fact, everything good is a reflection of God, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and especially man, the only creature that steps beyond instinct into complex reasoning and can truly choose between doing good and not doing good has a soul that was created "in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). Which is why the Holy Trinity said in Gen 3:22:

And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

The Incarnation of Christ, second divine Person of the Trinity, fulfills God’s grand design for man, as all the Fathers of the Church have written:

"[T]he Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God.

Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us, for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh. For He was made man that we might be made God.

These are just a few quotes out of a 20-century sacred tradition. The Church currently summarizes this teaching as follows:

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

On this matter, the Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the top theologians who ever lived, wrote:

Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.

Thus you are very right and wise when you say: how can a creature be good without being identical to God?

However, this identity, this partaking of the divine nature, does not cancel the fact that the Creator is an infinite, eternal living God, while all creatures are necessarily finite and imperfect, as well as of limited wisdom and very small capacity to do good, that is, to act on the grace.

This is a very complex and deep topic, though, perhaps one of the most profound topics of Christian theology. This by no means does not imply that all men are automatically partaking in the divine nature: we describe this partaking to the degree of full communion with the mystical body of Christ, the Church. Even non-Catholics and non-Christians who do good, that is, do God’s will, are in mysterious ways partaking in the divine nature, though not being “formal” members of the mystical body of Christ.

I’m not sure that good is G-d’s whole identity. G-d’s identity encompasses many aspects: love, mercy, justice, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, as well as goodness or benevolence. In addition, G-d is regarded as separate from his physical creation, being extra-spatial and extra-temporal. In Judaism, G-d is often defined in terms of what He is not, cannot be, according to His nature. Therefore, I don’t see a problem with G-d’s creation of good beings in His image, meaning that we humans all contain the spark of G-d’s love, which can be transformed into a flame, while at the same time we are not identical to G-d’s nature, which includes unchangeable, perfect, infinite goodness.

All creation is good but its goodness is limited and caused by God. The goodness of creation is not a part of God’s goodness.

We say that God is Good because he caused the goodness of creation. But His Goodness is His very Existence. All the attributes we give to God are identical to His Existence since He is One and therefore Simple, having no parts or divisions, having no potency to be more or less than Pure Existence, Ipsum Esse Subsistens.

The attributes we give to God are by analogy only since He is Ineffable and we cannot know with any exactitude the nature of His Essence. We know him only by reason, through analogy and through Revelation. :thumbsup:

Everything that is is good. God is absolute being, therefore absolute good. Creation is grounded in the absolute origin, it is therefore not the absolute origin and ultimate ground of reality, but relative. Creation is therefore relatively good.

It is impossible for something to exist that identical to God, who is the first cause. God cannot cause something identical to himself, whatever is caused has at least the property of being caused and exists conditionally.

A question Meltzer, why do you not spell God? Im just curious!!!

Writing G-d’s name in full is not typical for Jews for fear that it may be intentionally or unintentionally deleted. Further, in speech as well, G-d’s name is abbreviated as a sign of reverence and awe.

Oh, very interesting. Thank you Meltzer.

Anything created is, by definition, not identical with the Creator.

I am not sure that you and the other people who posted have fully appreciated the logical problem that I have posed.

Of course, anything created is by definition not identical with its creator. However that does not answer my question. The question I pose is a logical problem that concerns calling creation “Good”.

If God is identical to what good essentially is, then it would appear to be a logical contradiction to say that created things are good, unless the good of their being is identical to God.

We must also take into account that “existence” is identical with “good”. How can anything exist that is not identical with Good.

We often enter into such debates based on “logic”. They are usually complex mazes that we construct and lose ourselves into.

There is absolutely no contradiction whatsoever in your argument, which in fact stands perfectly correct: all goodness comes from God, and without God there is no goodness. Literally the good in living beings is God: “Everything good comes from God and God is the source of all good things”.

I suggest you read some of the writings of the Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo on this matter, in order for you to be able to appreciate just how this apparent contradiction simply rests upon an imperfect understanding of the divine nature and of the divine presence in the soul. I insert one small quote from Confessions, but there is an extensive lot, not only from St. Augustine, on this topic.

…] my conjecture …] was untrue. For in this way a greater part of the earth would contain a greater part of thee; a smaller part, a smaller fraction of thee. …] And this would make the portions of thyself present in the several portions of the world in fragments, great to the great, small to the small. But thou art not such a one. …] is it not rather that thou art wholly present everywhere, yet in such a way that nothing contains thee wholly? …] For thou, O Most High, and most near, most secret, yet most present, who dost not have limbs, some of which are larger and some smaller, but who art wholly everywhere.

Perhaps now you can see why s. Paul wrote on this matter, in Acts:

in him we live and move and have our being

What does it mean for a thing to be relatively good? Isn’t a thing either essentially good or not good at all? Is it logically possible for there to be an act of existence that is relatively Good? It seems to me that the act of existing is absolutely good, not relatively good. If existing is absolutely good then what sense does it make to speak of creation as being good and yet say that its “act of existence” is not identical to God.

If we say that creation is like good but is not goodness itself, then we fall in to the logical problem of understanding how an “act of existence” cannot be absolutely good and yet at the same time still exist.

In other words, how can anything that is not good exist, if existence and good are synonymous.

Assuming that in this topic like in real life, there is no negative but only absence of positive, one may argue indeed that a complete absence of good would imply nonexistence, just like the fullness of good is the fullness of existence (and thus God states that He is). However, not all creatures can do perfect good acts, nor are they perfectly good (being finite beings). Think of it in terms of probability: if it’s not 1, it’s not necessarily 0. Many other examples, but I’m a bit in a rush.

Are you suggesting that I should just accept things without reason?

I cannot accept that. I thought the philosophy forum was here for a reason. Surely it is not a forum for dictating dogma is it?

I think there is an apparent contradiction. There maybe be a rational explanation for it, but I don’t see any point in pretending that it doesn’t look like a contradiction.

If God is what makes created things truly “good”, then how is it logical possible without God becoming identical with the “act” of creations existence. How can any act of existence exist without being identical to God.

I suggest you read some of the writings of the Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo on this matter, in order for you to be able to appreciate just how this apparent contradiction simply rests upon an imperfect understanding of the divine nature and of the divine presence in the soul. I insert one small quote from Confessions, but there is an extensive lot, not only from St. Augustine, on this topic.

You are assuming that I haven’t already read Augustine on this matter. I have not found this topic sufficiently dealt with. But feel free to pass the buck. Its just a shame that you feel the need to insult my intelligence when you do it.

You are taking a very personal stance, and acting as if I had offended you. Not good. I usually refrain from discussing, on such premises.

I am just reacting to what you have said. Perhaps i was mistaken about what you intended to say. I think it is not really relevant whether or not people use logic to attack God. If people are true to logical thinking and God is distinct from his creation in some way, then that truth will be revealed by thinking logically about the matter. Sometimes it takes two people debating the issue in order for that truth to be revealed. If i had no intention of getting to the bottom of the issue i would not be having this discussion at all. However, reason is a handmaid of God only if God is real, and there is no self-evident reason to assume God is real from a purely philosophical position. Its much more valuable to come to knowledge of God without circular assumptions. Also this is not about whether i believe in God or not, this is about whether or not i can make rational sense of what is said about God, and i simply disagree that you must first have faith in God before you can make rational sense of the concept.

I do not suggest just accepting things without reason (that would be irrational!), but I don’t suggest you leave faith out of the equation (which coexist as perfectly as the physical and the spiritual do).

Faith is a personal choice, and is irrelevant to this discussion. You have faith that there is a rational explanation but that does not mean that you have no responsibility to speak rationally about God’s nature to those who do not have faith. Its really besides the point.

The issue that I have witnessed is that quite a few people do not reach understanding of certain topics in theology because they craft extremely subtle and seemingly truthful logical arguments to their denial, working not on being open to understanding, but on trying to use all their brainpower to dismiss something. I am speaking of what I have seen, and I am not referring to you. However, having read your post, I saw a certain similarity with those stances and thus my remark on the maze.

I could equally assert that Catholics will craft the prerequisite of faith in order to dodge the issues that arise when speaking rationally about God’s nature. But that is not getting us anywhere. I would simply like to have an honest discussion about Gods nature and existence, and you have no goood reason to assume otherwise. You cannot accuse me of misrepresenting your intentions if you are willing to do the same to me.

There is no point indeed, just like there would be no point for me to pretend that there is a contradiction, given that I know there isn’t one. Am I able to explain why? Perhaps not.

If you cannot explain why there is no contradiction, then you have failed to explain why there is no contradiction; much less do you know if Augustine has a rational answer to my question. If you don’t know, then surely you should have the humility to say that you don’t know. You accuse me of pride, but you blindly point me to a source which you have no real guarantee of answering my question since you admit that you don’t know. I didn’t come here to find sources and it does irritate me when people pass the buck because the chances are i am being sent on a wild goose chase just so my opponent can avoid being honest about his knowledge of the issue while showing of a false sense of rational authority that i supposedly lack. I came here in the hope that i can have a discussion with somebody who has a rational understanding of Gods nature; nothing more. I am sorry if that offends you. But it should not if you truly have faith.

I’d like to point out something I already said but that perhaps was overlooked:

St. Augustine: you are wholly present everywhere, yet in such a way that nothing contains you wholly.

That indeed means that creatures, created intrinsically good, partake in the divine nature, but none is God (due to their finite and imperfect nature). This is as best as I can phrase it right now.

This is a statement of faith. That created things are finite and God is infinite doesn’t explain to me how it is logically possible for created things to be truly good and yet not identical with God.

I’d like to say that I agree with you in that there is an apparent contradiction (and there are more of these, but they are only apparent). However, I have learned that in this field one can only seek understanding, not oppose the revealed truth. If we seek to understand the revealed truth, we will. If we oppose it, we will hardly ever get anywhere. That is not a thought of mine, but something I recall Galilei stating:

I think that this is hardly relevant to the discussion since you are assuming that i might not be seeking understanding simply because i am asking for a rational explanation of Gods nature and existence. I don’t see the point of bringing this up accept that you are being presumptuous of my intentions. When truly seeking understanding, you have to be unflinchingly critical of an idea when speaking rationally of it. I cannot make compromises for my faith or yours.

When a good artist creates a good artifact, we do not suppose for a minute that the good artifact is the artist, but rather a reflection of his goodness as an artist.

It seems to me you are looking for a difficulty that doesn’t really exist.

So their existence is not truly good. So how can they exist? The act of existence is absolutely good; not a reflection of good or gradient of good.

Ha, Ha, right;); how can a painting by a smiling painter contain a smile without being the painter himself?:hmmm:

Having an attribute that another person has is not the same as being the other person.

This is a flawed analogy. Copying a smiling face is not the same thing as creating an object that is essentially good by its nature. You don’t seem to understand. Only God is good by nature. Anything outside of God is not good. God is identical to “Good”. He is not simply a being that chooses to do Good. He is goodness itself. Also, the act of existence is identical to good. Therefore how can we make rational sense of saying that creation is ontologically good without making the act of its existence identical to God. We can say that creation is not goodness itself, but then we are left with an act of existence that is not essentially good. We are then left with trying to make sense of how it is logically possible for an act of existence to exist without being identical to good. Good is ontological, it is not like a privation such as evil.

It cannot be objectively true to say that an object has a privation of good unless its existence is not essentially good. If it’s act of existence is not essentially or intrinsically good, then what is it? And if good is what it means to exist, then how can that which is not good exist?

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