“Con-creating” the possibles with the actual

Anselm’s Theology of the Possible, part 7

If it requires an actual creation for the relation of supremacy to come into being, would this not also apply for all the other possible relations that are God’s alleged divine ideas? According to the conventional understanding of the divine ideas, what the latter represent are the infinite ways in which God’s essence or nature can be imitated by his possible creatures. In other words, the divine ideas are God’s knowledge of his own essence as relatable to by his possible creatures. In knowing his own essence, God knows all the relations to that essence capable of being had by his possible creatures. This means that, for God to be and know himself as God, all possible relations must be said of him. God is necessarily, essentially, and substantially related to the possibility that is creation. For Anselm, by contrast, relations to God only obtain if and when God actually creates, yet as he hastens to explain, had God not created “he would not on that account be any less good, and his essential greatness would in no way be diminished.” Relations to God only come into being with God’s act or at least intention to create (they are, as Aquinas might say, “con-created” with the substance that is the creature), yet when they come into being, because they are relations to God, and not God’s relation to the thing created or to be created, God remains unaffected or unchanged. As he illustrates the point later,

Take someone who is going to be born next year. At the moment I am not taller than him, or smaller than him; nor the same height as, or similar to, him. When he is born, however, I will be able to have, and to lose, all these relations, without my changing at all, insofar as he grows and changes through different qualities.[1]

Until the person born to be born a year later now actually exists, Anselm is not able to be related to that person in any way at all. Although Anselm does not go into this here, one primary reason this is the case is the fact that, until the prospective person actually exists, there of course is nothing there to be reciprocally related back to Anselm. Yet when this person comes into being, Anselm himself, that is, in his substance, will be unchanged. So for God there are and can be no relations of imitability for “things” that God never does create, and if there are no relations of imitability, then there are no divine ideas of things he supposedly knows himself as capable of creating but never actually does create. This is what it means for God to exist a se, “in himself,” and to contend otherwise is, for Anselm, to deny the very aseity of God that it portends to defend.

[1] Monologion ch. 25.