Of God and His Creatures

Reasons 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 upon 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.* 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 has 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).* 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.*

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.* 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.* 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.* 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 duration rather than in that other instant preceding or following. God brought into being creation and time simultaneously.* 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.* 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.*

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.* But the divine goodness 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.

2.31 : That it is not necessary for Creatures to have existed from Eternity
2.33, 36 : Reasons alleged for the Eternity of the World on the part of Creatures, with Answers to the same