The Transcendentals

The doctrine of the transcendentals is amazing, and most Christians don’t know it. As Thomas Aquinas put it in the Summa theologiae I, q. 16, a. 3:

As ‘good’ has the ratio of the desirable, so the ‘true’ has an order to knowledge. Now everything is knowable insofar as it has being. For this reason it is said in the third book of De Anima that ‘the soul is in a sense all things,’ through the senses and the intellect. And therefore, as good is convertible with being, so is the true. But as good adds to being the notion of desirable, so the true adds a relation to the intellect.

This means that God is Good, True, and Real, because these things are convertible to each other. Truth is Goodness. Reality is True. In God, who is One, and perfectly unified, these aspects are all the same. We merely perceive them as distinct.

This idea matters quite a lot. This idea contains within it the ideas that:

  • Reality is good. “God saw that it was good.” This created world has intrinsic value. It is better that there is something than that there be nothing.
  • Truth is good. The first thing the devil did was lie, and pervert the Truth.
  • Truth is reality. A lie is is thus a distortion of reality.

Lies are a direct attack on the Good, from the direction of truth, just like murder is a direct attack on the Good, from the direction of life (which is a key part of reality.) To ignore reality, or to distort it is fundamentally, intrinsically bad.

 

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