Martinus Becanus Q.1 Whether the divine attributes are to be distinguished from the nature of the thing among themselves and from the divine essence? (Part 2)

Summa Theologiae Scolasticae (Lyon, 1620).

Part 1. [NB: I’ve noticed some mistakes in Part 1. I’ll go back and fix at some point. They generally do not strike at the main thrust.]

Original Latin. [Also, this is a new edition I’m using. The 1683 ed., which I used for part 1, had many small errors. This earlier edition is far more reliable.]

6.      Therefore, the real reason ought to be supposed from the difference between relations and the attributes of God. For although they agree in that they are really the same with the divine essence, nevertheless they differ in two ways. First, the relations are the same with the divine essence in such a way that, nevertheless, they contrast relatively among themselves. Yet, this relative opposition is not in the attributes. Second, the relations are the same with the divine essence in such a way that they, nevertheless, are not from the essence. But the attributes are not only the same with the divine essence, but are also from the divine essence. For they are essentially predicated of God. For you rightly say that God is essentially good, wise, and just; but not that he is essentially Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From the prior difference, we can see why relations, when they are the same with God’s essence, are nevertheless really distinguished among themselves. Namely, because they are among themselves relatively opposed. This does not have a place in the attributes; whence from that head, it is not necessary that they be really distinguished. But that they are not able to be really distinguished among themselves is inferred from the latter difference in the following way: One simple essence is not able to include many essential predicates, really distinct among themselves, otherwise it is not simple, but composed of many predicates really distinct among themselves. Yet, the divine essence is altogether simple, without all composition, as the following chapter will show. Therefore, the divine essence is not able to include many essential predicates, really distinct among themselves. But this includes goodness, wisdom, intellect, and will. Therefore goodness, wisdom, intellect, and will are not really distinct among themselves.

7.      Second Conclusion. The divine attributes, as they are in God, are not distinguished from the nature of the thing formally from the divine essence, nor similarly from themselves. This is the common position against the Scotists. It is first proved because if, by the nature of the thing, they were distinguished from the divine essence, then surely the divine essence per se and by its own nature would not be infinitely perfect. But it would be perfected by its attributes, which would be distinct from it, which is false. And this is confirmed by this dilemma: Either the divine essence per se and by its own nature is finite or infinite. If it is infinite, it is not perfected by something distinct from itself by the nature of the thing. If it is finite, it either therefore remains finite by the added attributes, or it is infinite. If it remains finite, how is God infinite? If it is infinite, it necessarily follows that the attributes are more perfect than the divine essence. For if the essence is by itself finite and through the addition of attributes it is infinite (seeing that it does not become infinite through something finite), it follows that the attributes are infinite and, hence, more perfect than the essence which by itself is finite. This conclusion is absurd; therefore, also what got us there.

9.      The latter part, which claims that the divine attributes are not formally distinct among themselves from the nature of the thing, is easily proved from the preceding conclusion in this way: The divine essence is altogether simple from the nature of the thing. Therefore, it does not admit of any composition from the nature of the thing: Therefore, the essential predications, which are included intrinsically in the divine essence, are not able to be distinguished amongst themselves from the nature of the thing, otherwise the divine essence would not be simple, but composite from the many essential predicates, distinct among themselves from the nature of the thing.

9.      Third Conclusion. Although the divine attributes are neither actually distinguished from the divine essence, nor amongst themselves from the nature of the thing as has thus far been shown, nevertheless virtually and eminently they are thus distinguished. At this point we should note that a distinction from the nature of the thing, which [distinction] is divided into real and formal, is able to agree with something in two ways: 1. Actually and formally. 2. Virtually and eminently. In the first way, the rational soul in a man, the sensitive soul in a horse, and the vegetative soul in a plant are distinguished among themselves actually from the nature of the thing. In the second way, the rational, sensitive, and vegetative soul in the same man is distinguished virtually or eminently from the nature of the thing, not actually. Keeping the analogy, we assert the same concerning essence, intellect, will, wisdom, and justice: For these all are distinguished actually from the nature of the thing in man; in God, not actually, but virtually or eminently. The reason for this is that although these in God are one most-simple thing, nevertheless it is as if they actually were distinguished among themselves.

10.      By these two modes, this is able to be explained. First thus: The divine essence, on account of its own infinite perfection, is of such a nature that it is able, on account of itself, to furnish everything which a created essence ought to furnish through many and distinct superadded qualities: For example, the human essence understands by way of the intellect, wills by way of the will, punishes by way of justice, is merciful by way of mercy: all of which are actually distinguished from the nature of the thing among themselves and from the essence. But the divine essence furnishes all of these things through itself, nor does it lack any [of these] superadded qualities. Whence it is that we are able to form diverse concepts about the same divine essence, like the concept of essence, justice, mercy, intellect, will, and so on. Moreover, this is itself, what we say: that in God there is a certain virtual multitude and distinction of attributes which are established in him, because his one and most simple divine existence, on account of its own perfection, is able to make all those things which come about by distinct created perfections.