Sunday, June 22, 2014

God is Everywhere


1.  Having established in the previous article that God is present in all things, Thomas asks whether God is everywhere.  Though the subject of this article seems to differ from that of the previous article, in fact this one functions mainly to answer certain objections that arise from speaking of God as located.

2.  Against the claim that God is everywhere, he proposes three objections.  The first is from the fact that location is an accident of corporeal things, which God is not.  

3.  The second is from a rather convoluted bit of reasoning about the nature of place: since just as a moment in time cannot be present in multiple times, in the same way whatever is indivisible as regards its permanence must be fixed to one place.  Since God is permanent, he must be in only one place, and therefore not everywhere.

4.  The third is an improved version of the second objection from the previous article: whatever is wholly in a place does not exist outside of it.  But supposing God is in some place, then because God is simple, all of him must be in that place, which means that he cannot be in any other place, and therefore is not everywhere.

5.  His Sed Contra is taken from the words of God to Jeremiah in the 23rd chapter of that book: “I fill heaven and earth.”  The text is worth re-visiting in context.

6.  In the Corpus we find a peculiar abundance of the word “place” (locus), which makes the text somewhat difficult to read.  He distinguishes between two ways we can think about “place”: as the location of things, and as location in itself.  

7.  In the first case, God is in every place, because he is in all things (as established in the previous article), giving each thing existence, power, and operation.  In the second case, he is in every place by giving it its own potential to be a place (Thomas calls this the place’s “locative power” or virtus locativa).

8.  He gives a further argument, which is that a thing is said to be in a place if it fills it.  God fills every place, not in a corporeal way that excludes the presence of other things, but rather by giving existence  to the things that fill every place.

9.  In response to the first objection he distinguishes between location by dimensive quantity and location by power.  Material things have dimensive quantity, and this gives them place (the “where” of a material thing corresponds to the limits or dimensions of its matter), but incorporeal things, not having matter, are located by their power or their effects.

10.  The second objection, being convoluted, requires a great deal of clarification.  He solves the objector’s difficulty by distinguishing between kinds of indivisibility: indivisibility as the limit (by way of division) of a continuum, and the indivisibility of incorporeal substances.  The objector’s argument applies to the former, but God is an instance of the latter.  God is indivisible because he is immaterial, not because he is utterly determined as to place or time.  And he is permanent not because (as with points) his species excludes all other possible places, but because he is pure act and cannot change.  But God is located because he touches all things, great and small, by his power, and thus is everywhere, in everything.

11.  Since the third objection is concerned with what it means to be “wholly present”, Thomas offers an analysis of the different sorts of wholes.  A whole is always spoken of relative to its parts, and there are two kinds of parts: parts of an essence, and parts of a quantity.  Since the quantity of located things is always commensurate with the quantity of their place (i.e. place is relative to the matter of what is placed), what is quantitatively wholly in a place cannot be outside of it in any way.  But the same does not hold true of things in their essences, because the quantity of location is not commensurate with a thing’s essence.  He uses the example of whiteness: the essence of whiteness is fully present in every part of a white object’s surface, and yet it is also in other parts of the surface as well.

12.  He concludes by pointing out that since a whole is only spoken of relative to parts, incorporeal substances (e.g. Angels and God) have no totality, so there is nothing at all to exclude them from being in multiple places simultaneously.


- Only bodies are in places.
- What is permanent cannot be in multiple places.
- What is totally in one place cannot be anywhere else.

- God is in every located thing, giving it existence, power and operation.
- God is in every place, giving it the power to be a place.
- God fills all things, by his presence in everything that exists.

- Incorporeal things are located not by contact of matter but by contact of power.
- The indivisibility of a point on a continuum differs from the indivisibility of an essence.
- Totality of place is only commensurate with totality of matter, not with totality of essence.

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