WHETHER A BEING THAT IS "FROM ANOTHER" CAN BE
I. Arguments for the negative answer:
- Nothing that always exists needs anything in order to exist. But everything
that is from something needs that thing in order to exist. Therefore, nothing
that is from another is such that it always exists. (DP 3.13 #1)
- Nothing receives what it already has. That which always exists always
has esse. Therefore, that which always exists does not receive esse.
But everything that is from another receives from the thing from which
it is. Therefore, nothing that is from another is such that it always exists.
(DP 3.13 #2)
- That which [already] exists is not generated or made or in anyway brought
into being. Therefore, it must be the case that everything that is generated
or made or produced is such that at some time it does not exist. But everything
which is from another is generated or made or produced. Therefore, everything
that is from another is such that at some time it does not exist. But that
which at some time does not exist is such that it does not always exist.
Therefore, that which is from another is not everlasting (sempiternum).
(DP 3.13 #3)
- That which has esse only from another is such that, considered
in itself, it does not exist. But a thing of this sort must be such that
at some time it does not exist. Therefore, it must be the case that everything
that is from another is such that at some time it does not exist and thus
such that it is not everlasting. (DP 3.13 #4)
- Every effect is posterior to its cause. But that which is from another
is the effect of that from which it is. Therefore, it is posterior to that
from which it is. Therefore, it cannot be everlasting.
II. St. Thomas's response:
- St. Thomas's reply to this question centers exclusively on the Trinitarian
generation of the Son by the Father. Even though this is not a case of
efficient causality, it is a case of the communication of esse,
viz., the communication of the Father's very nature or esse to the
Son. In this sense, the Son is said to be from the Father. (As the Athanasian
creed puts it, the Son is not made or created but generated by the Father.)
This generation is a natural, as opposed to voluntary, operation of the
divine nature, and hence is (pace the Arians) necessary and eternal.
Further, it does not involve motion and hence it is not necessary (or indeed
possible) for that which proceeds to be posterior in duration to that from
which it proceeds. Hence, in this case we have an eternal asymmetric dependence
of the Son (and the Holy Spirit) on the Father.
III. Replies to objections:
- ad 1: If `need' implies a defect with respect to that which
is needed, then that which always exists does not need anything in order
to exist. However, if it implies only an order of origin with respect to
that from which it is, then nothing prevents that which always exists from
needing something in order to exist--since it has esse from another
and not from its very self.
- ad 2: That which receives soemthing does not have it before
the reception, but it does have it when it has already received it. Hence,
if it receives it from eternity (ab aeterno), then it has it from
- ad 3: The argument goes through in the case of a generation
that occurs through motion, since that which is moving toward esse
does not yet exist. And this is why it is that which has been generated,
rather than that which is being generated, that is said to exist. Hence,
in a case where there is no difference between being generated and
having been generated, it is not necessary that what is generated
be such that at some time it does not exist.
- ad 4: That which has esse from another is, when considered
in itself, a non-being if it is other than the very esse which it
receives from the other. However, if it is just is the esse which
it receives from the other, then it cannot, when in esse, be considered
a non-being--even though a thing can be so considered if it is other than
the esse. For that which is can have something other mixed in with
its [substantival] esse, but the esse itself cannot have anything
else mixed in. The former is the condition of a creature, the latter is
the condition of the Son of God.
- ad 5: The Son of God cannot be called an effect, since he is
generated and not made. For what is made is such that its esse is
diverse from the one making it. Hence, properly speaking, we call the Father
the source, and not the cause, of the Son/ Nor must every cause precede
its effect in duration.