Thomas Aquinas on the Incomprehensibility of God

St Thomas AquinasIt’s good to be reminded that God is beyond us – that what makes him God.  It’s even, says St. Thomas, a way of knowing God: to know him as the one you cannot fathom.

 It’s also good to be reminded that someone like Thomas Aquinas glories in God’s unknowability.  That is, you don’t have to be anti-intellectual in order to rejoice in the unfathomable depths of God.  To say either you like to think or you appreciate mystery is a false dichotomy.  Indeed, I think St. Thomas would say we can appreciate God’s unfathomable depths best when we try to fathom them.

Here’s St. Thomas, in the midst of talking about different ways to know God:


But some come to knowledge of God by the incomprehensibility of the truth.  For every truth which our intellect can contain is finite – for, as Augustine says, everything known is within the limits of the knower’s comprehension.  Thus it must be that the first and highest truth, which is above every intellect, would be incomprehensible and without limits: that is, God.

So in Psalm 8 it says, your magnificence is lifted up above the heavens, that is, above every created intellect, angelic or human.  And this is because, as the Apostle says, he dwells in inaccessible light (1 Tim 5:16).  Isaiah says, I saw the Lord setting upon a thrown, high and lifted up.  By lifted up he means, above all knowing of created intellects.

And John reminds us of this incomprehensibility when he says, No one has ever seen God.

-From the commentary on the prologue to John’s Gospel


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