APOLOGIA (15) – Can we talk of a living God?


Objection 1: It seems that we cannot say that God is living, because things that are alive move, transform and die but He is not like that.

Objection 2: We talk of living things when they were properly brought to life. But if God is eternal, cannot be considered as “living” under these premises.

On the contrary, in the Scripture God is called the “living God” in numerous occasions, in both the Old and New Testament. Some examples: “For you will no longer remember the oracle of the Lord, because every man’s own word will become the oracle, [for as they mockingly call all prophecies oracles, whether good or bad, so will it prove to be to them; God will take them at their own word]; and you have perverted the words [not of a lifeless idol, but] of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God” (Jeremiah 23, 26); “I issue a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to [reverently] fear and tremble before the God of Daniel, For He is the living God, enduring and steadfast forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever” (Daniel 6, 26); “Yet the number of the sons of Israel Shall be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” It will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.”” (Hosea 1, 10); “Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of the living God.”” (Matthew 16, 16);  “You show that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3, 3). And these are just few examples of the passages from the Holy Scripture.

I answer that we should avoid to think of life just as a consequence and think more about life in itself. If life has to be created, has stated before, it is necessary that there is a long chain of lives been created. But also: it is a necessary condition for life to be created? So how to explain the first life been born when no other forms of lives were around. Indeed, we can recur, as always, to Saint Thomas Aquinas to give another good explanation about that: “Life is in the highest degree properly in God. In proof of which it must be considered that since a thing is said to live in so far as it operates of itself and not as moved by another, the more perfectly this power is found in anything, the more perfect is the life of that thing. In things that move and are moved, a threefold order is found. In the first place, the end moves the agent: and the principal agent is that which acts through its form, and sometimes it does so through some instrument that acts by virtue not of its own form, but of the principal agent, and does no more than execute the action. Accordingly there are things that move themselves, not in respect of any form or end naturally inherent in them, but only in respect of the executing of the movement; the form by which they act, and the end of the action being alike determined for them by their nature. (…) Other things have self-movement in a higher degree, that is, not only with regard to executing the movement, but even as regards to the form, the principle of movement, which form they acquire of themselves. (…) Hence a more perfect degree of life is that of intelligible beings; for their power of self-movement is more perfect. This is shown by the fact that in one and the same man the intellectual faculty moves the sensitive powers; and these by their command move the organs of movement. Thus in the arts we see that the art of using a ship, i.e. the art of navigation, rules the art of ship-designing; and this in its turn rules the art that is only concerned with preparing the material for the ship. But although our intellect moves itself to some things, yet others are supplied by nature, as are first principles, which it cannot doubt; and the last end, which it cannot but will. Hence, although with respect to some things it moves itself, yet with regard to other things it must be moved by another. Wherefore that being whose act of understanding is its very nature, and which, in what it naturally possesses, is not determined by another, must have life in the most perfect degree. Such is God; and hence in Him principally is life. From this the Philosopher concludes (Metaph. xii, 51), after showing God to be intelligent, that God has life most perfect and eternal, since His intellect is most perfect and always in act”.

Reply to objection 1: It is of course in a different sense that we can conceive the movement of God, not in the sense that we give to our human actions.

Reply to objection 2: As we have said, God is life in essence and the creator and source of it. So God has not a corruptible nature, but an incorruptible one.

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