Tuesday, July 1, 2014

God Alone is Eternal


1.  Having established that God is eternal, Thomas asks whether God alone is eternal.  This article serves to distinguish the different degrees of temporality in things.

2.  He gives three objections:  First, that the book of the prophet Daniel speaks of many eternities.  God is simple, so if God alone is eternal, then there should only be one eternity.  Second, that Christ speaks of hell as being "everlasting".  Third, that every necessary thing is eternal, and there are many logical necessities, so there must be many eternal things.

3.  For the Sed Contra he cites Jerome, who says that God alone has no beginning.

4.  The corpus is fairly straightforward.  He repeats again that eternity follows from immutability.  Different things are called eternal, then, to the extent that they participate in or approach the divine immutability.  He lists various degrees:  some things are not immutable at all, and therefore are not eternal at all, but others possess permanence as regards their existence (as was discussed in Q.9 A.2), though their operations are mutable.  And others are immutable as regards both their existence and their operations, though those operations may differ in their application to a particular object.

5.  His replies to the objections are brief:  To the first, there are "many eternities" insofar as many creatures participate to some degree in the one absolute eternity of God.  To the second, that the fire of hell is only called eternal because it is unending, though Scripture suggests that there is variation in its qualities.  To the third, he says that logical necessities exist only in the mind, and therefore participate in the eternity of whatever mind they exist in: so that supreme truths which exist in the mind of God, have, with God, true and absolute eternity (though their existence is not separate from God's existence, so that their eternity is not distinct from his).


- There are supposedly many eternities.
- Hell is called eternal.
- Logical necessities are eternal.

- True eternity belongs only to what is absolutely immutable.
- God alone is absolutely immutable.
- Other things have a participated eternity, to the extent that their immutability approaches God’s.

- There are many eternities by participation, but only one true eternity.
- Hell is everlasting, not eternal.
- Logical things exist only in the mind: they are eternal in the mind of God.

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