« Prev Chapter XXXII, XXXV. Reasons alleged for the… Next »

CHAPTER XXXII, XXXVReasons alleged for the Eternity of the World on the part of God, with Answers to the same

ARG. 1. Every agent that is not always in action, suffers some change when it comes to act. But God suffers no change, but is ever in act in the same way; and from His action created things come to be: therefore they always have been.

Reply (Chap. XXXV). There is no need of God suffering any change for fresh effects of His power coming to be. Novelty of effect can only indicate change in the agent in so far as it shows novelty of action. Any new action in the agent implies some change in the same, at least a change from rest to activity. But a fresh effect of God’s power does not indicate any new action in God, since His action is His essence (B. I, Chap. XLV).

Arg. 2. The action of God is eternal: therefore the things created by God have been from eternity.

Reply. That does not follow. For, as shown above (Chap. XXIII), though God acts voluntarily in creation, yet it does not follow that there need be any action on His part intermediate between the act of His will and the effect of the same, as in us the action of our motor activities is so intermediate. With God to understand and will is to produce; and the effect produced follows 98upon the understanding and will according to the determination of the understanding and the command of the will. But as by the understanding there is determined the production of the thing, and its every other condition, so there is also prescribed for it the time at which it is to be; just as any art determines not only that a thing be of this or that character, but also that it be at this or that time, as the physician fixes the time for giving the medicine. Thus, assuming God’s will to be of itself effectual for the production of an effect, the effect would follow fresh from the ancient will, without any fresh action coming to be put forth on the part of God.

Arg. 3. Given a sufficient cause, the effect will ensue: otherwise it would be possible, when the cause was posited, for the effect either to be or not to be. At that rate, the sequence of effect upon cause would be possible and no more. But what is possible requires something to reduce it to act: we should have therefore to suppose a cause whereby the effect was reduced to act, and thus the first cause would not be sufficient. But God is the sufficient cause of the production of creatures: otherwise He must be in potentiality, and become a cause by some addition, which is clearly absurd.

Reply. Though God is the sufficient cause of the production and bringing forth of creatures into being, yet the effect of His production need not be taken to be eternal. For, given a sufficient cause, there follows its effect, but not an effect alien from the cause. Now the proper effect of the will is that that should be which the will wants. If it were anything else than what the will wanted, not the proper effect of the cause would be secured, but a foreign effect. Now as the will wishes that this should be of this or that nature, so it also wishes that it should be at this or that time. Hence, for will to be a sufficient cause, it is requisite that the effect should be when the will wishes it to be. The case is otherwise with physical agencies: they cannot wait: physical action takes place according as nature is ready for it: there the effect must follow at once upon the complete being of the cause.247247The eruption takes place the instant the volcano is ready for it. But the will does not act according to the mode of its being, but according to the mode of its purpose; and therefore, as the effect of a physical agent follows the being of the agent, if it is sufficient, so the effect of a voluntary agent follows the mode of purpose.

Arg. 4. A voluntary agent does not delay the execution of his purpose except in expectation of some future condition not yet realised. And this unfulfilled futurity is sometimes in the agent himself, as when maturity of active power or the removal of some hindrance is the condition expected: sometimes it is without the agent, as when there is expected the presence of some one before whom the action is to take place, or the arrival of some opportune time that is not yet come. A complete volition is at once carried into effect by the executive power, except for some defect in that power. Thus at the command of the will a limb is at once moved, unless there be some break-down in the motor apparatus. Therefore, when any one wishes to do a thing and it is not at once done, that must be either for some defect of power, the removal of which has to be waited for, or because of the incompleteness of the volition to do the thing. I call it ‘completeness of volition,’ when there is a will absolutely to do the thing, anyhow. The volition I say is ‘incomplete,’ when there is no will absolutely to do the thing, but the will is conditioned on the existence of some circumstance not yet present, or the withdrawal of some present impediment. But certainly, whatever God now wills to be, He 99has from eternity willed to be. No new motion of the will can come upon Him: no defect or impediment can have clogged His power: there can have been nothing outside Himself for Him to wait for in the production of the universe, since there is nothing else uncreated save Him alone (Chapp. VI, XV).248248The objection may take this form: God must act at once in the production of the universe; because, with blank nothingness before Him, and infinite power at His control, He has nothing whatever to wait for, no conceivable motive for delay. — But neither has He any constraining motive for action outside Himself; and therefore, if He acts outside Himself, He acts as and when He pleases: there is nothing to force His hand or anticipate His hour. It seems therefore necessary that God must have brought the creature into being from all eternity.

Reply. The object of the divine will is not the mere being of the creature, but its being at a certain time. What is thus willed, namely, the being of the creature at that time, is not delayed: because the creature began to exist then exactly when God from eternity arranged that it should begin to exist.249249St Thomas could scarcely accept the whole account, given by the opponent, of an ‘incomplete volition,’ notably the statement that a volition is incomplete, “when there is expected the arrival of some opportune time that is not yet come”: otherwise, antecedently to creation, God’s volition of creating would be incomplete. St Thomas’s use of ‘at that time’ (tunc), speaking of creation, has this difficulty, that time began only with creation. There is nothing to mark creation starting at one point of time rather than at another, looking at the eternal now of God. We can only measure the date of creation backwards, and say that infinite time has not elapsed since creation; and that doubtless is what St Thomas meant, as his next answer shows.

Arg. 5. An intellectual agent does not prefer one alternative to another except for some superiority of the one over the other. But where there is no difference, there can be no superiority. But between one non-existence and another non-existence there can be no difference, nor is one non-existence preferable to another.250250This is not altogether true. One non-existence may have a possibility at the back of it, another an absurdity. Possibilities differ from one another and even absurdities things being absurd in divers ways, as mathematics show. There is a calculus of negative quantities. This however does not make against the value of the objection. But, looking beyond the entire universe, we find nothing but the eternity of God. Now in nothing there can be assigned no difference of instants, that a thing should be done in one instant rather than in another. In like manner neither in eternity, which is all uniform and simple (B. I, Chap. XV), can there be any difference of instants. It follows that the will of God holds itself in one unvarying attitude to the production of creatures throughout the whole of eternity. Either therefore His will is that creation never be realised at all under His eternity, or that it always be realised.

Reply. It is impossible to mark any difference of parts of any duration antecedent to the beginning of all creation, as the fifth objection supposed that we could do.251251There seems to be some mistake here. Any careful reader of the Contra Gentiles will find in (e.g., Chapp. LXI, 1: LXXVI, note) indications of the want of the author’s final revision, a task much more difficult with a manuscript than with a printed work. Every modern author finds sundry small corrections necessary as he is going through the press. The fact that the objection is based upon the self-same principle which St Thomas invokes in his reply to it, namely that neither in nothingness nor in the eternity of God can there be assigned any difference of instants. From this admitted principle the opponent argues that God must have created from all eternity. St Thomas in reply allows that eternity affords us no means of fixing the date of creation: still, he contends, we have a measure of the date in the time that has elapsed since, which, even though we do not know it, is a knowable finite quantity. For nothingness has neither measure nor duration, and the eternity of God has no parts, no before and no after. We cannot therefore refer the beginning of all creation to any severally marked points in any pre-existing measure.252252Even so, going outside the whole universe, we cannot localise the universe as occupying any special place in space, as St Thomas presently remarks. Suppose the universe, as a whole, to be in rectilinear motion, there is nothing to measure the motion by. There are no such points for the beginning of creation to be referred to according to any relation of agreement or divergence. Hence it is impossible to demand any reason in the mind of the agent why he should have brought the creature into being in this particular marked instant of 100duration rather than in that other instant preceding or following. God brought into being creation and time simultaneously.253253Matter (in motion), time, and place all began together. Place (τόπος) to the schoolmen and Aristotle is the shell of space (χώρα) marking the outline of a body. If the body were suddenly annihilated, all but the indefinitely thin film of its outer surfaces, that film would mark the place which the body had occupied. In motion, bodies do not carry their place with them, but go from place to place. This conception of place is to be borne in mind in reading the words that follow immediately in St Thomas. There is no account to be taken therefore why He produced the creature now, and not before, but only why the creature has not always been. There is an analogy in the case of place: for particular bodies are produced in a particular time and also in a particular place; and, because they have about them a time and a place within which they are contained, there must be a reason assignable why they are produced in this place and this time rather than in any other: but in regard of the whole stellar universe (coelum), beyond which there is no place, and along with which the universal place of all things is produced, no account is to be taken why it is situated here and not there. In like manner in the production of the whole creation, beyond which there is no time, and simultaneously with which time is produced, no question is to be raised why it is now and not before, but only why it has not always been, or why it has come to be after not being, or why it had any beginning.

Arg. 6. Means to the end have their necessity from the end, especially in voluntary actions.254254That is to say, it is necessary to take the means, if the end is to be gained: otherwise there is no necessity. You must eat, if you are to live; but there is no absolute necessity of your doing either. So long then as the end is uniform, the means to the end must be uniform or uniformly produced, unless they come to stand in some new relation to the end. Now the end of creatures proceeding from the divine will is the divine goodness, which alone can be the end in view of the divine will. Since then the divine goodness is uniform for all eternity, alike in itself and in comparison with the divine will, it seems that creatures must be uniformly brought into being by the divine will for all eternity. It cannot be said that any new relation to the end supervenes upon them, so long as the position is clung to that they had no being at all before a certain fixed time, at which they are supposed to have begun to be.

Reply. Though the end of the divine will can be none other than the divine goodness, still the divine will has not to work to bring this goodness into being, in the way that the artist works to set up the product of his art, since the divine goodness is eternal and unchangeable and incapable of addition. Nor does God work for His goodness as for an end to be won for Himself, as a king works to win a city: for God is His own goodness. He works for this end, only inasmuch as He produces an effect which is to share in the end. In such a production of things for an end, the uniform attitude of end to agent is not to be considered reason enough for an everlasting work. Rather we should consider the bearing of the end on the effect produced to serve it. The one evinced necessity is that of the production of the effect in the manner better calculated to serve the end for which it is produced.255255The end to which creation is subservient as a means, is not the divine goodness absolutely, but the communication or diffusion of that goodness. This communication again is not exhaustive, but limited; and one of the limitations is the finitude of creation in point of time.

Arg. 7. Since all things, so far as they have being, share in the goodness of God; the longer they exist, the more they share of that goodness: hence also the perpetual being of the species is said to be divine.256256   Etymologically, species (in-spicere) is what εἶδος (ἰδεῖν) is in Greek. Species is scholastic Latin for εἶδος. Now εἶδος meant one thing in Plato, and another in Aristotle. Species labours under a similar ambiguity. In the objection now under consideration, the words of which are esse perpetuum speciei dicitur divinum esse, the language is rather Platonic than Aristotelian. Individual men, John, Peter, Martin, pass away: but the species, or idea, of ‘man’ is perpetual and divine, an abiding type of possible creation, founded upon the divine essence and known in the divine understanding eternally. These archetypical ideas, — intelligibilia St Thomas calls them, — have been discussed already (B.I, Chapp. LILIV). The following account of them will commend itself to all Christian lovers of Plato.
   “God contains in Himself in exuberant fulness that delights or can give pleasure. All the perfection that is divided among creatures, is found united in Him; and He is all things, He is the uncreated being of all things, inasmuch as He is the archetype and exemplar of them all. He had in His eternal knowledge the divine plans and ideas of the things that He made; and whatever was created by Him was for ever known by Him, has always lived in His mind, and always shall live there. Hence the Gospel says: What was made, in Him was life (John i, 3, 4, as read by many of the Fathers). Hence we too from eternity have had an ideal existence in God: in Him I say, we have been and are uncreated, in whom, or in whose knowledge, all things eternally live and are life. In the essence of God therefore there are exemplars of all things; and the same divine essence is the one exemplar and the one idea of all. For all the multiplicity of creatures is reduced to unity in the sheer, simple, and superessential essence of God; and all things in God are one. There are therefore in God most true and perfect exemplars of things, which remain incorrupt for ever: whereas the things that we see in this sensible world are mere symbols and signs of reality, that pass away with time and perish” (Blosius, i.e. Louis of Blois, O.S.B., Institutio Spiritualis, Opera Omnia, Cologne, 1571, p. 423).
But the divine 101goodness is infinite. Therefore it is proper to it to communicate itself infinitely, and not for a fixed time only.

Reply. It was proper for the creature, in such likeness as became it, to represent the divine goodness. Such representation cannot be by way of equality: it can only be in such way as the higher and greater is represented by the lower and less. Now the excess of the divine goodness above the creature is best expressed by this, that creatures have not always been in existence: for thereby it appears that all other beings but God Himself have God for the author of their being; and that His power is not tied to producing effects of one particular character, as physical nature produces physical effects, but that He is a voluntary and intelligent agent.

« Prev Chapter XXXII, XXXV. Reasons alleged for the… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection