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CHAPTER XVThat God is Eternal

THE beginning of anything and its ceasing to be is brought about by motion or change. But it has been shown that God is altogether unchangeable: He is therefore eternal, without beginning or end.3434But all our experience of life involves change. Our experience lends itself more readily to the conception of eternal death than of eternal life. To our eye, the motionless and changeless is the dead, the effete and exhausted, or the inanimate. Yet we dare to predicate eternity of a living God! The difficulty is met in the next chapter, where it is argued that God is pure actuality, an activity and life so full as to be above change.

2. Those things alone are measured by time which are in motion, inasmuch as time is an enumeration of motion.3535“An enumeration of motion in respect of before and after,” says Aristotle, Physics, iv, 11 ult. The unit in this enumeration is one revolution of the earth on its axis. But God is altogether without motion, and therefore is not measured by time. Therefore in Him it is impossible to fix any before or after: He has no being after not being, nor can He have any not being after being, nor can any succession be found in His being, because all this is unintelligible without time. He is therefore without beginning and without end, having all His being at once, wherein consists the essence of eternity.

3. If at some time God was not, and afterwards was, He was brought forth by some cause from not being to being. But not by Himself, because what is not cannot do anything. But if by another, that other is prior to Him. But it has been shown that God is the First Cause; therefore He did not begin to be: hence neither will He cease to be; because what always has been has the force of being always.

4. We see in the world some things which are possible to be and not to be. But everything that is possible to be has a cause: for seeing that of itself it is open to two alternatives, being and not being; if being is to be assigned to it, that must be from some cause. But we cannot proceed to infinity in a series of causes: therefore we must posit something that necessarily is. Now everything necessary either has the cause of its necessity from elsewhere,3636In which case it is what Aristotle calls ‘not absolutely necessary, but following necessarily’ upon the existence of something else, which may or may not be. or not from elsewhere, but is of itself necessary. But we cannot proceed to infinity in the enumeration of things necessary that have the cause of their necessity from elsewhere: therefore we must come to some first thing necessary, that is of itself necessary; and that is God. Therefore God is eternal, since everything that is of itself necessary is eternal.

Hence the Psalmist: But thou, O Lord, abidest for ever: thou art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail (Ps. ci, 13-28).


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