Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Does God Change?


1.  Having concluded his discussion of God’s infinity as regards space, he proceeds to discuss his limitlessness as regards time.  Before the Divine Eternity can be adequately treated, though, he pauses to examine God’s immutability, which is the subject of the two articles of the 9th question.

2.  First, he asks whether God is altogether immutable.  Against this, he proposes three objections.  First, that whatever moves itself must be mutable, since the definition of motion involves the reduction of potency to act, which is a kind of transformation.  He supplies a quote from Augustine about the Holy Spirit moving itself.  Second, he quotes the book of Wisdom about the mobility of Wisdom, and observes that God is Wisdom itself.  Third, he cites Scripture talking about God approaching, which implies a kind of transformation or movement.

3.  His Sed Contra is from Malachi.

4.  In the Corpus he gives three arguments for the immutability of God.  First, from the fact that in God there is no potency (as was established in Q.2, A.3), and every change involves the reduction of a thing’s potency to actuality.  Since God has no potency he cannot change, and is therefore immutable.

5.  Second, because for a thing to change some aspect of it must pass away, and part of it must remain unchanged.  But this requires composition on the part of the thing changing.  God, however, is utterly simple (Q.3, A.7), and therefore he cannot change, but it is immutable.

6.  Third, because when a thing moves something must be added to it, and it becomes what it previously was not.  Since God’s being has in itself “all the plenitude of the whole perfection of being” it is not possible for him to become or acquire anything.  This means that change of any kind is impossible for him.  Therefore he is immutable.

7.  He answers the first objection by saying that God moves himself only in a manner of speaking, insofar as we speak of every operation as “self-motion”.  In reality, there is no motion in God, nor is there an efficient cause of any of his operations, since to suppose one would be to introduce composition into the divine essence, which is impossible, and to suggest that God’s power is somehow a potency which is reduced to act, which is likewise impossible.

8.  To the second objection he says that Wisdom is called “mobile” by way of likeness, because God’s wisdom is self-diffusive, and fills all things, so that there is nothing in existence which does not flow from the divine wisdom, or share some likeness to it.  He compares Wisdom to the idea of an artist, which informs the works of his craft.

9.  To the third he answers (as he has previously in Q.3 A.1) that this scriptural language about God is metaphorical.  God is said to approach or recede insofar as an influx of his goodness is received or removed in us.


- Augustine says the Holy Spirit moves himself.
- Wisdom is called mobile.
- God is said to approach and recede from things.

- There is no potency in God.
- In order for there to be change, something in the thing changing must pass away.
- In order for there to be change, something must be added to what changes.

- This is just a figure of speech, referring to the divine operations.
- God’s wisdom is called mobile because it is self-diffusive.

- Approaching and receding are used metaphorically to signify the influx of God’s goodness in creatures.

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