Tuesday, July 1, 2014

God is Eternal


1.  Having established the definition of Eternity, Thomas asks whether God is eternal.  He proposes four objections.  First, he quotes Boethius and Augustine to the effect that eternity is made by God.  Since God is not made, God must not be eternal.  Second, he quotes the De Causis and Exodus to the effect that God is before and after eternity.  Therefore whatever measure there is of God in relation to time, it is not eternity.  Third, he points out that eternity is a kind of measure, but God is not measurable by anything.  Fourth, that Scripture speaks of God as being present, past, and future.  But in eternity there are none of these, since as discussed in the previous article to be eternal is to be simultaneously whole.

2.  His Sed Contra is from the Quicumque vult, or Athanasian Creed, one of the traditional Trinitarian creeds of the Church.

3.  In the Corpus he says briefly what we should have anticipated from the previous question: Immutability implies eternity, because to be immutable a thing must be utterly permanent and have the total simultaneous possession of its own perfection in being.  Since God not only has his own perfection totally and simultaneously (being without potency), but is his own perfection, he cannot be measured by anything else, nor is his being a participation in anything other than himself.  Thus Thomas points out that not only is God eternal, but also, being the measure of himself, he is his own eternity.

4.  The replies to the objections elaborate on the Corpus.  The the first objection he gives a twofold response.  To the quotation from Boethius, which says that “the now” makes eternity, he answers that it is by thinking of a now which is utterly unmoving that conceive of eternity.  Boethius’s “makes” is a making in the mind, and not a real making.  Secondly, to the quotation from Augustine, which says that God is the author of eternity, he explains that God is the author of every participated eternity, or age (aevus, translated “aeviternity” in the ordinary edition).  More will be said about this in the subsequent articles.

5.  He elaborates in his reply to the second objection, saying that the passages quoted do not refer to eternity properly speaking, but participated eternity, or an "age" (aevum).  God's eternity is before and after every age, even if there are some created things that are everlasting.

6.  To the third he says that eternity measures God not as a separate measure, but as God measuring himself by his own being, which is identical with his eternity.

7.  To the fourth he answers that "past", "present" and "future" are spoken of in God not because he changes in time, but because in him all times are together.


- Eternity is made.
- God precedes eternity.
- God cannot be measured.
- God is present, past, and future.

- To be perfectly immutable is to be eternal.
- God is not only eternal, he is his own eternity.

- Eternity is made logically as a notion in the mind, and really insofar as participatory eternities are created by God (i.e. the angels).
- God precedes the angelic aevum, which is not properly eternal, but approaches it.
- God is his own measure of himself.
- In God all times are simultaneous.

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