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Towards a Grammar of Love: Why God Loves Some More Than Others.

Does God love everyone the same? The short answer, for St. Thomas, is no. But God is love, right? And God cannot contradict who or what He is, so what He made, He loves. And because God is simple—which is for us a complex concept, as I’ll explain shortly—God who is love must love what He does and what He makes. But before one goes on to assume that this means God loves everything He made without distinction, which might imply that God is not free but compelled to love, we need to pause and lay out our language and concepts clearly. We need a grammar on how to speak about God, which St. Thomas Aquinas provides in his philosophical theology.

Consider the more basic question, is creation eternal? Was there always something created rather than nothing which existed apart from God? Aquinas’ answer is at first simple, based on Revelation: “nothing but God can be eternal, “for from Him and through Him and for Him all things are” (Romans 11:36). [1] God alone is self-subsisting; whatever exists apart from God does not have its own being but participates in existence by the will of God. Hence, it is axiomatic to say that God creates freely, and never under compulsion. Whatever exists does so in an “external” way, that is “not essential” but rather an expression of God’s own being. God is not compelled to “love” everything He can conceive into being.

For those comfortable with this answer, skip this paragraph which raises rather dense and complicated philosophical questions, although it changes nothing about the truth that creation from eternity is free. Whatever exists does so because it is created by God and participates in His existence. There is nothing apart from Him. It is true to say that the ideas, concepts, or “metaphysical forms” of what exists or can exist was always known by God, even before it was made. Otherwise, we’d have to conclude that creation adds something to God, which is not true. Aquinas notes that in His mind, which is infinite, God knew before creation what in fact He could create if He so chose to do so. His power is limitless, but what exists from Him is not. The idea of mankind, Satan, the Cross, Heaven and Hell and so on, all of that pre-existed with God and in God. But for Aquinas, ideas are only a latent form potentially in God, not yet made real until He actually creates. For instance, there are as yet no mermaids that sing so beautifully that if a human heard one, he would cease to exist. I cannot imagine why God could not create such a creature, but as yet it doesn’t exist, even though the idea does. Aquinas argues something to the effect that “What is potential is not necessarily made actual.” So, while it is true that the idea of mankind existed in God before mankind was created, that God actually chose to create means by His might and free will, He acted on what He already knew was possible and brought that possibility into reality. (Let it be noted that some things are not possible, though the idea may exist, such as “God can make a rock bigger than He can lift.” That notion pits what is possible in God with what God can actually bring about, which involves a convoluted contradiction of sorts that would prove God was not really all-powerful or all knowing.) What exists does so only with the free will and power of God.

Although God was aware of evil and sin before He created Lucifer, it was Satan who made himself evil after the fact of creation by his refusal to be what God freely made of him: an angel, a messenger, a servant in God's likeness. Satan’s grand fall came about with his “non serviam,” “I will not serve.” As a consequence of the freedom to which God gave His creatures, death, judgment, heaven and hell came about. Before creation, there was no hell; when His love was rejected, it now exists. (In a sense, hell is a creature as well.) Now, it is absurd to say that God loves the pedophile as much as the child being sexually abused. When one sins, a choice is made to act apart from God, which is displeasing to the Lord and damnable for the sinner. True, the creatures in themselves may be lovable, but their actions can make them other than lovable (as St. Augustine laments). When one rejects God’s ways, one rejects His love and the means to fulfill oneself in that love. For that reason, I cannot possibly fathom where some theologians like Bishop Barron get off thinking that hell will end when the world ends. To end hell would end the choices that grievous sinners made to separate themselves from God. Now that they exist outside time, their choice is who they are. To abolish that choice would destroy them, which God does not do because He respects that which He made, even if that creation chooses to live without Him.

And what can then be said of those that choose to live with God in love? Our Lady has reached the highest level of perfection because she responded fully and without reserve to the grace God gave her. She loves with all her being: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (the Magnificat). Those who love more are more like God, provided they love with divine love. In a twisted sense, one could say that Satan loves himself more than God, but this is in truth a lack of love, a formless confabulation, a fantastic fable that is really a lie because Satan has abandoned the ability to love. And so it is a lie to claim that God loves everyone equally, which would impart a lack of freedom on God’s part to relate to His creatures regardless of the way they relate to Him. Love, if anything, is mutual and reciprocal. God is close to the billions of humans he made as they respond to the image He made them in, whereby they share, more or less, in the fullness of His divinity. Mary was created in the fullness of grace. No human can love God more perfectly than her. And it is for that reason we are encouraged to love her, above all except for God. Unquestionably, Mary is but a finite creature; God is the infinite Creator. There is no comparison between them, really, save for the one reality which measures all that is: love. Mary, being the greater lover, sets the example and obtains for us the assistance to do as she does. No other creature can compare with her, and no other creature is as loved by God as she who loves God with God’s love.

[1] Summa Theologica, 1, Q. 44. 1.

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