How We Talk About God Evaluation of Aquinas’ Summa


In question 13 of the Summa, Thomas argues about how we talk about God. He intends to distinguish the manner we talk about God which is right and wrong. In essence, he claims that the words that we are using are not the same to the manner that we utilize them in whenever we are talking about God (Aquinas 938). That is when talking about God the creator of everything on earth, we cannot use the same words when talking about created things and neither are they used in an absolutely different manner. Literally, a talk about God utilizes words in analogy prerequisite to the manner that we utilized them when we talk regarding created things. Thomas’ religious arguments about God talk have always been debatable for a long time. His position about God talks has received mixed reactions and criticism from different people both from the religious perspective and the political perspective. Thomas has made a number of positions in regarding what should or not be said about God (Aquinas 938). However, I find some of his positions he has taken to be clear and persuasive. Therefore in this paper, I will make my evaluation of the positions made by Thomas about God talks that I find to be clear and as well as discuss the positions that seem to be debatable.

In article 1, Thomas argues that the wording that we utilize in describing things and the manner in which they are combined in language would seem to divert mainly from our insights of established reality (Aquinas 939). The emphasis of this article centers on the diverse functions which words contribute to a language as well as make an argument that these functions are not sensible when someone tries to relate them to God. Precisely, each in terms of verbs, pronouns, abstract as well as concrete nouns like they are ordinarily utilized in language, it is not, however, possible to be utilized in describing God (Aquinas 939). Just like Aristotle, Aquinas denotes that we utilize words in designating thoughts and such thoughts are designating things too, thus rendering words to be referring to the thing that is acknowledged. In response to the objections, Aquinas focuses on the reality that we acknowledge God through his creations. In essence, we utilize concrete nouns when referring to concrete objects made of matter. Nonetheless, when we utilize nouns when talking about God we utilize them in a manner that is analogous to this. In the same way, Aquinas has tactfully expressed his argument by going through other sections of the speech specifying the senses that are utilized to God.

In article 3, Aquinas’ arguments still focus on the using of words when talking about God. He claims that we are capable of talking about God by use of words; literally, we are capable of saying things which are true about God, through our use of language when talking about God shall always not be perfect (Aquinas 944). In this article, Aquinas queries extensively into the way language functions whenever we are talking about God. Here, Aquinas concern is to determine if we are actually trapped in the demesne of metaphorical whenever we are talking about God or if we literally say things about God.  Here, the position of Aquinas is elusive. When asserting that “God is good” we speak the literal true virtue about God (Aquinas 944).  Nonetheless, our understanding of good is obtained from the goodness we view the in creatures, though the God’s goodness is much more than that. Therefore, whenever we are describing God to be good, literally the word good that we use cannot efficiently denote God’s goodness. It is like the sentence on it’s on is true though the words within the sentence are simply obscurities of they are supposed to be (Aquinas 945). Actually, words such as good are common properly related to God and partially related to creatures and we have a small understanding of the meaning of these words.

In article 5, Aquinas argues that our words are obtained from the knowledge that we have about creatures. Also, we tend to utilize a term univocally whenever the term possesses a single meaning (Aquinas 948). Therefore we utilize it equivocally whenever it possesses different meaning in terms of the setting. Suppose we talk in an equivocal manner about God, definitely it will appear that the resemblance would be lacking between God and his creations which can controvert reality that we acknowledge God through his creations (Aquinas 948). Therefore, it appears that we must talk about God in a univocal manner. Nonetheless, we do not utilize words in a similar manner about God like we do when talking about creatures, so that indicates that we must be speaking about God in an equivocal manner. However, these two statements of reasoning are contradicting each other.

    Moreover, Aquinas further asserts that the use of words is inexhaustible by equivocal and univocal. He claims that we often used words analogically, for instance, when describing diet as healthy. Essentially, the usage of words analogically is acquired from certain primary use as some order and connection among them exist (Aquinas 949). Whenever we utilize words about God and about His creations, Aquinas asserts that utilize them analogically. Meaning that words that we use in describing creatures are similarly utilized in describing God in a manner that reflects the depiction between God and his creatures that is not perfect.

However, in his response to the initial objection, Aquinas proceeds to extend the notions of equivocal, analogical and also univocal to the situation of causes. Generally, a univocal cause transfers its nature to its impacts (Aquinas 949). For instance, a mother transfers human nature to her child. Alternatively, non-univocal cause differs in nature from its impacts. For instance, life’s cause on earth is the sun though we are not hydrogens. Nonetheless, we regard God to be a universal cause of all creations; therefore we have not to consider Him being an equivocal cause since we resemble Him to some extent. Therefore, it is more sensible considering God as being an analogical cause since He has a resemblance with his creatures, though they are not perfect.

    In article 7, we get the notion that God never exists in time, but instead, he exists eternally. Aquinas begins by using an example of when we say “God is Lord of all” actually we may conclude that there have to be some certain aspects to meet so that God can be Lord of all (Aquinas 954).  Such things are God’s creation and come into existence at a certain point in time. Some might quit existence after some time. Aquinas’ point simply seems to be setting up some sort of relationship between God and His creations which change with time. Actually, this might tend to confuse use and the same time make us nervous since it seems to be inflicting change to something regarding God (Aquinas 954). Therefore, we may opt to say God is Lord of all in point of fact relates from eternity thus not implying temporal succession. Therefore, to answer this query, Aquinas had to begin with a technical argument regarding what seems to entirely a different subject; in fact, he takes into consideration the idea of a relation. He has no other option but to do so since temporal statements regarding God are actually regarding the relationship existing between God and creatures in time.

Aquinas has dedicated this discussion to the initial question regarding time. Essentially, it is applicable to be talking about God’s relationships with His creations involving change as well as temporal structure, though not since there exists somewhat change in Him but since there are changes in the creations (Aquinas 955). This is meaning that such talks regarding God are constant with God being unalterable. The objections made undergo a series of examples that illustrate the way are understating this idea of the temporal relationship about God. For instance, “God is Lord” may be understood like a temporal statement given that the relations that exist with the creations are understood effectively. It is also sensible to have an understanding of it as an eternal truth since it describes something regarding what God fundamentally so that He could be referred to as Lord of all.

In article 10, Aquinas turns back to analogical and univocal uses to express his point since he has appropriately discussed the metaphorical usage of God’s name (Aquinas 964). In an instance whereby an individual has a good understanding of the name “God” is having an argument with another one having a fallacious understanding is their use of the word “God” univocal? To answer this, Aquinas asserted that the term “God” is utilized in an analogical manner. In the initial instance, the individual with a fallacious understanding about God is utilizing the term “God” in an analogical manner with regards to the real meaning of the word (Aquinas 964). Reflecting by to the sixth article, the usage of analogical terms is established on the basis of the connection of the analogic usage to the central use (Aquinas 965). Therefore, in this situation, the central usage of the word is referring to the deific substance thus concluding that not all uses of the word refer to the deific substance tend to be analogical uses.

In article 11, Aquinas has focused on Tetragrammaton, a word that means He who is when translated. Actually, this word is used to refer to God in Exodus. Aquinas questions this name whether it an appropriate name for God (Aquinas 967). He further argues that this name is appropriate to refer to God and gives some reasons for it. To begin with, this name does not point any specific thing and just to existence. Suppose we assume that Aquinas has already poised God as a self-subsistence being, then we find that this name is the most precise for God. Second, Aquinas notes that this entails how general a name can be and thus restricting its subject in a small manner as possible (Aquinas 967). Since we are not capable of understanding God in Himself, then such a name like this is precise for God. Finally, this name suggests the present moment thus giving us an indication that God is eternal (Aquinas 968).

In article 12, Aquinas refers back to the theme of the way we are capable of saying things regarding God whenever the words that we utilize in our assertions originate their meanings from formed reality that is quite differing from Him (Aquinas 969). In essence, faith-based affirmative sentences exist which to be have considered being meaningful and true. Aquinas recognizes the difficulty though keeps insisting that these sentences can be regarded as being true since they enable us to regard God via different concepts. Therefore it is as bantering as the subject which enables us to represent diverse methods of thinking of God.


In essence, I think what is clearest about the whole position about God talk subject is that we cannot use the same words to talk about God and as well to talk about His creation. This is because that God is a supreme being and he created the creatures and therefore, He cannot be compared to the creatures that he created. God is a supreme being that deserves great honor and therefore it is inappropriate to refer to God or talk about Him using the exact words that are used when talking about His creatures. Saying that God is good we speak the literal true virtue about God.  Nonetheless, our understanding of good is obtained from the goodness we view in creatures, though God’s goodness is much more than that. The most debatable thing here is the words that we use when talking about God then similarly use also when talking about His creatures. This is because God is Supreme Being who has authority over His creatures and therefore he cannot be compared with His creations.