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CHAPTER XXXIThat it is not necessary for Creatures to have existed from Eternity244244   St Thomas’s position in these eight chapters, XXXI-XXXVIII, is that the existence of creatures from eternity can neither be proved nor disproved by philosophy. He considers it certain from revelation, and from revelation only, that creation has not been from eternity. This excited the surprise and indignation of some, who were confident that their a priori arguments, which see in Chap. XXXVIII, proved to a demonstration the impossibility of any creation from eternity. Against them St Thomas directed one of his Opuscula, n. xxiii, De Æternitate Mundi, contra Murmurantes.
   The eternity of creation was a leading principle with that master of thought in St Thomas’s day, and for many succeeding centuries, Averroes the Commentator, of whom we shall have much to say presently.

IF either the entire universe or any single creature necessarily exists, this necessity must arise either from the being itself or from some other being. From the being itself it cannot arise: for every being must be from the first being; and what has not being of itself, cannot necessarily exist of itself. 97But if this supposed necessity arises from another being, that is, from some extrinsic cause, then, we observe, an extrinsic cause is either efficient or final. Now an effect necessarily arising from an efficient cause means that the agent acts of necessity: when the agent does not act of necessity, neither is it absolutely necessary for the effect to arise. But God does not act under any necessity in the production of creatures (Chap. XXIII). So far therefore as the efficient cause is concerned, there is not any absolute necessity for any creature to be. Neither is there any such necessity in connexion with the final cause. For means to an end receive necessity from their end only in so far as without them the end either cannot be at all, or cannot well be. Now the end proposed to the divine will in the production of things can be no other than God’s own goodness, as has been shown (B. I, Chap. LXXV): which goodness depends on creatures neither for its being nor for its well-being (B. I, Chapp. XIII, XXVIII). There is then no absolute necessity for the being of any creature: nor is it necessary to suppose creation always to have existed.245245It is now generally recognised that the stellar universe, inconceivably vast as are its dimensions, nevertheless is limited in space: whence it may plausibly be argued to be limited in duration also, in the sense of not having existed from eternity. Where there is no matter, neither is there any place, nor any marked out extension: but there is an unfulfilled extensibility, or absolute space, which is founded upon the immensity of God. In like manner, when as yet creatures were not, there was no time, as there was no motion, nor any body to move. There was only a potentiality of time, founded upon the eternity of God. Creatures have been from the beginning of time, as Plato saw (Timaeus 37, 38), but they cannot be argued to have been from eternity, eternally coexistent with God, unless they be argued to be necessary to God, in which case they cease to be creatures.

3. It is not necessary for God to will creation to be at all (B. I, Chap. LXXXI): therefore it is not necessary for God to will creation always to have been.246246This argument, which is indeed the whole argument of the chapter, does not bar the possibility of a ‘consequent,’ or hypothetical, necessity, that God wills creatures to be at all, He must will then always to have been.


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