God and Theology
So far, we have seen God pop up as an unmoved mover who changes and moves determinate beings through being the object of the soul’s desire (and so both the sustainer and ground of final causation, and thereby the initiator of efficient causation).
But what kind of being would God have to be? The four aspects of soul (Nutritive, Sensitive, Motive, Intellective) are found together in humans, and higher aspects always include the lower. But could intellective soul exist by itself? Aristotle says "yes" though this is not unproblematic. As pure intellective soul, God must be eternal (as you might expect an unmoved mover to be), and this makes God an exception to the rule that all actual beings are hylomorphic: a mixture of matter, form (and a principle of unity).
Granted that the idea of God is an exception to Aristotle’s metaphysical system in this one respect, what would the properties of God be? God would be eternal, pure form, pure structure, perfect, changeless, and so pure actuality and no potentiality. God’s activity would consist in beholding the divine self, which is the only perfect object.
Remember Aristotle’s reasons for thinking there is a God answering to this description:
efficient causes don’t go all the way down, so motion implies there must be an unmoved first mover; and
everything has a natural state toward which it tends, and the entire universe ultimately tends toward God; God is the ultimate final cause.
Note that the question about the contingency of the whole universe is not being asked here; motion and the order of nature is being explained. Though Aristotle is not asking the question about the ontological dependence of the universe, he is setting up this question for later thinkers. The theological "next step" would look something like this:
If everything has a purpose, then the world has a purpose. Aristotle thought that the world was eternal and God a component of what was, approximately, a vast organism. Christian thinkers, however, were willing to think of purposes on the analogy of human purposes: the world’s purpose requires someone to "have it," even as human purposes are the possession of human minds. The world, therefore, is the purpose of God, and was created.
This step was taken in middle Platonism, and in Platonic rather than Aristotelian terminology. The key figure is Philo, a Jewish thinker, who regarded Plato's forms as the ideas of God in creating the world. Later, Christian theologians will intensify this vision of creation by insisting that God created not by forming matter but from nothing (ex nihilo). The first theologians to advance this idea appear to have been Tatian (famous for the Diatesseron, a harmonization of the gospels) and Theophilus (Bishop of Antioch), in the late second century CE.
The influence of Aristotle on theology is immense, especially in the middle ages, but also (and more anonymously) in the period of the formation of the key Christian doctrines. In fact, Aristotle was arguably the philosopher who was to exercise the greatest influence on Christian theology (recall that this same statement was made with reference to Plato). Aristotle's influence on theology can be summarized in fairly colorless fashion as follows:
God: Introduces the main themes of a profoundly influential idea of God
Creation: Paves the way for asking the question about creatio ex nihilo
Metaphysics: Furnishes philosophy with many of the distinctions that theologians will later use to discuss such basic issues as Christology and Trinity.
Ethics: Here the influence was very mixed.
Positively: introduces ideas of Natural Law and Golden Mean
Negatively: provides first great rationalization of patriarchy and slavery
Society: Chain of Being provides a new way of understanding church and society in the middle ages (everything has "natural" position in social hierarchy)
Medieval Scholastic Theology: Furnishes many of the distinctions, problems, and tools for medieval scholastic theology, including proofs for the existence of God, theory of the Eucharist, ecclesiology, social policy, natural law, etc.
|LAST UPDATE: 2012.03.11 - 22:51|
220.127.116.11 - Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0; SLCC1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; Media Center PC 5.0; InfoPath.2; .NET CLR 3.0.30618; .NET CLR 3.5.30729)