An Apophatic View of God and Creation

Document Type: Research Paper

Author

Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK

10.22034/ri.2019.91133

Abstract

The English Dominican Herbert McCabe highlighted some ideas of Thomas Aquinas on the knowability of God and on creation, which can usefully challenge some widespread commonplaces. The purposes of this article are two: to present McCabe’s sophisticated doctrine on the knowability of God and on creation in a systematic way, and to put this doctrine into its historical context. In the scattered and meagre scholarship on McCabe, both points are missing. In fact, despite being highly praised by leading intellectuals such as Stanley Hauerwas, Alasdair McIntyre, Terry Eagleton, David Burrell, Rowan Williams, Denys Turner, and Eamon Duffy, McCabe has remained widely unknown. According to McCabe, both the American creationists and some atheist scientists believe that God—given that he exists—is a powerful entity within the universe, and thus both the atheist and the creationist expect exactly the same elements in the universe. However, according to McCabe, God does not act like natural causes; he is not an element within the universe and not even the most powerful of all the elements, because he created the universe from nothing and is not part of it.

Keywords


Benedict XVI. 2007. Spe Salvi. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Bonansea, Bernardino M. 1980. “The Human Mind and the Knowledge of God: Reflections on a Scholastic Controversy.” Franciscan Studies 40: 5-17.
Davies, Brian. 2016. “Introduction.” In The McCabe Reader, edited by Brian Davies and Paul Kucharski. New York: Bloomsbury, T&T Clark.
Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. New Delhi: Random House.
Emmet, Dorothy. 1945. The Nature of Metaphysical Thinking. London: Macmillan.

Garrigou-Lagrange, Réginald. 1914. God, His Existence and Nature: A Thomistic Solution of Certain Agnostic Antinomies. Saint Louis MO/London: B. Herder Book Co.

Gilson, Etienne. 1957. The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (1948). London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.
Kerr, Fergus. 2002. After Aquinas. Oxford: Blackwell.
Maritain, Jacques. 1921. Élements de Philosophie. Paris: Téqui.
Maritain, Jacques. 1952. The Range of Reason. New York: Scrinber.
Maritain, Jacques. 1958. Saint Thomas Aquinas. New York: Meridian Books.
McCabe, Herbert. 2005a. God Matters. London: Continuum.
McCabe, Herbert. 2005b. God Still Matters. London: Continuum.
McCabe, Herbert. 2006. “Appendix 3: ‘Signifying Imperfectly.’” In Summa Theologiae, Vol. 3, Knowing and Naming God. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McCabe, Herbert. 2007. Faith Within Reason. London: Continuum.
McCabe, Herbert. 2010. God and Evil in the Theology of St Thomas Aquinas. Edited and introduced by Brian Davies OP. London: Continuum.
McCabe, Herbert, and Brian Davies. 2013. “God and Creation.” New Blackfriars 94 (1052): 385-95.
Mercier, Desiré. 1917. “The Nature of God – The Metaphysical Essence of God.” In A Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy. London: Kegan.
Murphy, Francesca Aran. 2004. Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson. University of Missouri Press.
Nichols, Aidan. 1997. Dominican Gallery. Portrait of a Culture. Leominster: Gracewing Flower Wright Books.
Phillips, Richard Percival. 1934. Modern Thomistic Philosophy. London,: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd.
Ryan, Columba. 2007. “Homily at Herbert McCabe Funeral.” New Blackfriars 82 (965-966): 308-312.
ST = Aquinas. Summa Theologiae.
Turner, Denys. 2004. Faith, Reason and the Existence of God. New York: Cambridge University Press.
White, Victor. 1956. God the Unknown and Other Essays. London: The Harvill Press.