In Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, the question of God’s names and the ability to positively affirm his attributes versus a negative theology and only being able to describe God by saying what he is not comes is discussed and responded to directly, even mentioning Maimonides as a thinker of negative theology.
Aquinas begins with details of the negative theology. According to this belief, when something is said of God, even in the affirmative, it really is used to show what God is not. The example that is given is when we say that God lives, we are using that attribute to say that God is not like non-living, inanimate things (329). Also, the use of names for God are also used to how his relationship to others, his distance from others, or his relationship to another object. The example that is given is when we say that God is good, we mean to say that God is the cause of all good in other things, meaning we are still not actually affirming anything about God’s being.
Aquinas has a few points of this method of describing God that he does not agree with. First, Aquinas says that negative theology is unable to give a reason as to w...
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...s that divine perfects are what we know of God and we can use that as assurance that any lesser perfect that we see on Earth would be able to be attributed to him, only in its fullest form. When someone says that God is wise, they are able to affirm this because they are able to see or seek wisdom in the world and encounter people who would be called wise. Because of the existence of wisdom in creatures, it must be held that there is a perfect wisdom that can only be attributed to God.
In the faiths of both the philosophers in question, God is a transcendent figure, and therefore can only be imagined in minds and words. These words must include speech as well as the scriptures. The affirmation of God’s features is a presence that is necessary for the practitioners of faith, as well as the philosophical and theological study of religion and the concept of God.
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