QUESTION 6: THE GOODNESS OF GOD
We next consider the goodness of God; under which head there are four
points of inquiry:
(1) Whether goodness belongs to God?
(2) Whether God is the supreme good?
(3) Whether He alone is essentially good?
(4) Whether all things are good by the divine goodness?
Article 1: Whether God is good?
Objection 1: It seems that to be good does not belong to God. For goodness
consists in mode, species and order. But these do not seem to belong to
God; since God is immense and is not ordered to anything else. Therefore
to be good does not belong to God.
Objection 2: Further, the good is what all things desire. But all things do
not desire God, because all things do not know Him; and nothing is
desired unless it is known. Therefore to be good does not belong to God.
On the contrary, It is written (Lam. 3:25): "The Lord is good to them
that hope in Him, to the soul that seeketh Him."
I answer that, To be good belongs pre-eminently to God. For a thing is
good according to its desirableness. Now everything seeks after its own
perfection; and the perfection and form of an effect consist in a certain
likeness to the agent, since every agent makes its like; and hence the
agent itself is desirable and has the nature of good. For the very thing
which is desirable in it is the participation of its likeness. 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; and hence
Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv) attributes good to God as to the first efficient
cause, saying that, God is called good "as by Whom all things subsist."
Reply to Objection 1: 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 in their cause.
Reply to Objection 2: 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; as appears from what is said above (Question , Article ). And so of those things which desire God, some know Him as He is
Himself, and this is proper to the rational creature; others know some
participation of His goodness, and this belongs also to sensible
knowledge; others have a natural desire without knowledge, as being
directed to their ends by a higher intelligence.
Article 2: Whether God is the supreme good?
Objection 1: It seems that God is not the supreme good. For the supreme good
adds something to good; otherwise it would belong to every good. But
everything which is an addition to anything else is a compound thing:
therefore the supreme good is a compound. But God is supremely simple; as
was shown above (Question , Article ). Therefore God is not the supreme good.
Objection 2: Further, "Good is what all desire," as the Philosopher says
(Ethic. i, 1). Now what all desire is nothing but God, Who is the end of
all things: therefore there is no other good but God. This appears also
from what is said (Lk. 18:19): "None is good but God alone." But we use
the word supreme in comparison with others, as e.g. supreme heat is used
in comparison with all other heats. Therefore God cannot be called the
Objection 3: Further, supreme implies comparison. But things not in the same
genus are not comparable; as, sweetness is not properly greater or less
than a line. Therefore, since God is not in the same genus as other good
things, as appears above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ) it seems that God
cannot be called the supreme good in relation to others.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. ii) that, the Trinity of the
divine persons is "the supreme good, discerned by purified minds."
I answer that, God is the supreme good simply, and not only as existing
in any genus or order of things. For good is attributed to God, as was
said in the preceding article, inasmuch as all desired perfections flow
from Him as from the first cause. They do not, however, flow from Him as
from a univocal agent, as shown above (Question , Article ); but as from an agent
which does not agree with its effects either in species or genus. Now the
likeness of an effect in the univocal cause is found uniformly; but in
the equivocal cause it is found more excellently, as, heat is in the sun
more excellently than it is in fire. Therefore as good is in God as in
the first, but not the univocal, cause of all things, it must be in Him
in a most excellent way; and therefore He is called the supreme good.
Reply to Objection 1: The supreme good does not add to good any absolute thing,
but only a relation. Now a relation of God to creatures, is not a reality
in God, but in the creature; for it is in God in our idea only: as, what
is knowable is so called with relation to knowledge, not that it depends
on knowledge, but because knowledge depends on it. Thus it is not
necessary that there should be composition in the supreme good, but only
that other things are deficient in comparison with it.
Reply to Objection 2: When we say that good is what all desire, it is not to be
understood that every kind of good thing is desired by all; but that
whatever is desired has the nature of good. And when it is said, "None is
good but God alone," this is to be understood of essential goodness, as
will be explained in the next article.
Reply to Objection 3: Things not of the same genus are in no way comparable to
each other if indeed they are in different genera. Now we say that God is
not in the same genus with other good things; not that He is any other
genus, but that He is outside genus, and is the principle of every genus;
and thus He is compared to others by excess, and it is this kind of
comparison the supreme good implies.
Article 3: Whether to be essentially good belongs to God alone?
Objection 1: It seems that to be essentially good does not belong to God
alone. For as "one" is convertible with "being," so is "good"; as we said
above (Question , Article ). But every being is one essentially, as appears from
the Philosopher (Metaph. iv); therefore every being is good essentially.
Objection 2: Further, if good is what all things desire, since being itself is
desired by all, then the being of each thing is its good. But everything
is a being essentially; therefore every being is good essentially.
Objection 3: Further, everything is good by its own goodness. Therefore if
there is anything which is not good essentially, it is necessary to say
that its goodness is not its own essence. Therefore its goodness, since
it is a being, must be good; and if it is good by some other goodness,
the same question applies to that goodness also; therefore we must either
proceed to infinity, or come to some goodness which is not good by any
other goodness. Therefore the first supposition holds good. Therefore
everything is good essentially.
On the contrary, Boethius says (De Hebdom.), that "all things but God
are good by participation." Therefore they are not good essentially.
I answer that, God alone is good essentially. For everything is called
good according to its perfection. Now perfection of a thing is threefold:
first, according to the constitution of its own being; secondly, in
respect of any accidents being added as necessary for its perfect
operation; thirdly, perfection consists in the attaining to something
else as the end. Thus, for instance, the first perfection of fire
consists in its existence, which it has through its own substantial form;
its secondary perfection consists in heat, lightness and dryness, and the
like; its third perfection is to rest in its own place. This triple
perfection belongs to no creature by its own essence; it belongs to God
only, in Whom alone essence is existence; in Whom there are no accidents;
since whatever belongs to others accidentally belongs to Him essentially;
as, to be powerful, wise and the like, as appears from what is stated
above (Question , Article ); and He is not directed to anything else as to an end,
but is Himself the last end of all things. Hence it is manifest that God
alone has every kind of perfection by His own essence; therefore He
Himself alone is good essentially.
Reply to Objection 1: "One" does not include the idea of perfection, but only of
indivision, which belongs to everything according to its own essence. Now
the essences of simple things are undivided both actually and
potentially, but the essences of compounds are undivided only actually;
and therefore everything must be one essentially, but not good
essentially, as was shown above.
Reply to Objection 2: Although everything is good in that it has being, yet the
essence of a creature is not very being; and therefore it does not follow
that a creature is good essentially.
Reply to Objection 3: The goodness of a creature is not its very essence, but
something superadded; it is either its existence, or some added
perfection, or the order to its end. Still, the goodness itself thus
added is good, just as it is being. But for this reason is it called
being because by it something has being, not because it itself has being
through something else: hence for this reason is it called good because
by it something is good, and not because it itself has some other
goodness whereby it is good.
Article 4: Whether all things are good by the divine goodness?
Objection 1: It seems that all things are good by the divine goodness. For
Augustine says (De Trin. viii), "This and that are good; take away this
and that, and see good itself if thou canst; and so thou shalt see God,
good not by any other good, but the good of every good." But everything
is good by its own good; therefore everything is good by that very good
which is God.
Objection 2: Further, as Boethius says (De Hebdom.), all things are called
good, accordingly as they are directed to God, and this is by reason of
the divine goodness; therefore all things are good by the divine goodness.
On the contrary, All things are good, inasmuch as they have being. But
they are not called beings through the divine being, but through their
own being; therefore all things are not good by the divine goodness, but
by their own goodness.
I answer that, As regards relative things, we must admit extrinsic
denomination; as, a thing is denominated "placed" from "place," and
"measured" from "measure." But as regards absolute things opinions
differ. Plato held the existence of separate ideas (Question , Article ) of all
things, and that individuals were denominated by them as participating in
the separate ideas; for instance, that Socrates is called man according
to the separate idea of man. Now just as he laid down separate ideas of
man and horse which he called absolute man and absolute horse, so
likewise he laid down separate ideas of "being" and of "one," and these
he called absolute being and absolute oneness; and by participation of
these, everything was called "being" or "one"; and what was thus absolute
being and absolute one, he said was the supreme good. And because good is
convertible with being, as one is also; he called God the absolute good,
from whom all things are called good by way of participation.
Although this opinion appears to be unreasonable in affirming separate
ideas of natural things as subsisting of themselves---as Aristotle argues
in many ways---still, it is absolutely true that there is first something
which is essentially being and essentially good, which we call God, as
appears from what is shown above (Question , Article ), and Aristotle agrees with
this. Hence from the first being, essentially such, and good, everything
can be called good and a being, inasmuch as it participates in it by way
of a certain assimilation which is far removed and defective; as appears
from the above (Question , Article ).
Everything is therefore called good from the divine goodness, as from
the first exemplary effective and final principle of all goodness.
Nevertheless, everything is called good by reason of the similitude of
the divine goodness belonging to it, which is formally its own goodness,
whereby it is denominated good. And so of all things there is one
goodness, and yet many goodnesses.
This is a sufficient Reply to the Objections.