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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • FIRST PART (FP: QQ 1-119)
      • Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] Out. Para. 1/1 - THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD (TWO ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] Out. Para. 1/1 - THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD (TWO ARTICLES)

We next consider God's immutability, and His eternity following on His
immutability. On the immutability of God there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether God is altogether immutable?

(2) Whether to be immutable belongs to God alone?


Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether God is altogether immutable?

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It seems that God is not altogether immutable. For whatever moves
itself is in some way mutable. But, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit viii,
20), "The Creator Spirit moves Himself neither by time, nor by place."
Therefore God is in some way mutable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, it is said of Wisdom, that "it is more mobile than all
things active [Vulg.'mobilior']" (Wis. 7:24). But God is wisdom itself;
therefore God is movable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, to approach and to recede signify movement. But these
are said of God in Scripture, "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to
you" (James 4:8). Therefore God is mutable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written, "I am the Lord, and I change not"
(Malachi 3:6).

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] Body Para. 1/1
I answer that, From what precedes, it is shown that God is altogether
immutable. First, because it was shown above that there is some first
being, whom we call God; and that this first being must be pure act,
without the admixture of any potentiality, for the reason that,
absolutely, potentiality is posterior to act. Now everything which is in
any way changed, is in some way in potentiality. Hence it is evident that
it is impossible for God to be in any way changeable. Secondly, because
everything which is moved, remains as it was in part, and passes away in
part; as what is moved from whiteness to blackness, remains the same as
to substance; thus in everything which is moved, there is some kind of
composition to be found. But it has been shown above (Q[3], A[7]) that in
God there is no composition, for He is altogether simple. Hence it is
manifest that God cannot be moved. Thirdly, because everything which is
moved acquires something by its movement, and attains to what it had not
attained previously. But since God is infinite, comprehending in Himself
all the plenitude of perfection of all being, He cannot acquire anything
new, nor extend Himself to anything whereto He was not extended
previously. Hence movement in no way belongs to Him. So, some of the
ancients, constrained, as it were, by the truth, decided that the first
principle was immovable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Augustine there speaks in a similar way to Plato, who said
that the first mover moves Himself; calling every operation a movement,
even as the acts of understanding, and willing, and loving, are called
movements. Therefore because God understands and loves Himself, in that
respect they said that God moves Himself, not, however, as movement and
change belong to a thing existing in potentiality, as we now speak of
change and movement.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Wisdom is called mobile by way of similitude, according as
it diffuses its likeness even to the outermost of things; for nothing can
exist which does not proceed from the divine wisdom by way of some kind
of imitation, as from the first effective and formal principle; as also
works of art proceed from the wisdom of the artist. And so in the same
way, inasmuch as the similitude of the divine wisdom proceeds in degrees
from the highest things, which participate more fully of its likeness, to
the lowest things which participate of it in a lesser degree, there is
said to be a kind of procession and movement of the divine wisdom to
things; as when we say that the sun proceeds to the earth, inasmuch as
the ray of light touches the earth. In this way Dionysius (Coel. Hier. i)
expounds the matter, that every procession of the divine manifestation
comes to us from the movement of the Father of light.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: These things are said of God in Scripture metaphorically.
For as the sun is said to enter a house, or to go out, according as its
rays reach the house, so God is said to approach to us, or to recede from
us, when we receive the influx of His goodness, or decline from Him.

(tm)Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether to be immutable belongs to God alone?

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It seems that to be immutable does not belong to God alone. For
the Philosopher says (Metaph. ii) that "matter is in everything which is
moved." But, according to some, certain created substances, as angels and
souls, have not matter. Therefore to be immutable does not belong to God
alone.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, everything in motion moves to some end. What therefore
has already attained its ultimate end, is not in motion. But some
creatures have already attained to their ultimate end; as all the blessed
in heaven. Therefore some creatures are immovable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, everything which is mutable is variable. But forms are
invariable; for it is said (Sex Princip. i) that "form is essence
consisting of the simple and invariable." Therefore it does not belong to
God alone to be immutable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Nat. Boni. i), "God alone is
immutable; and whatever things He has made, being from nothing, are
mutable."

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Body Para. 1/3

I answer that, God alone is altogether immutable; whereas every creature
is in some way mutable. Be it known therefore that a mutable thing can be
called so in two ways: by a power in itself; and by a power possessed by
another. For all creatures before they existed, were possible, not by any
created power, since no creature is eternal, but by the divine power
alone, inasmuch as God could produce them into existence. Thus, as the
production of a thing into existence depends on the will of God, so
likewise it depends on His will that things should be preserved; for He
does not preserve them otherwise than by ever giving them existence;
hence if He took away His action from them, all things would be reduced
to nothing, as appears from Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iv, 12). Therefore as
it was in the Creator's power to produce them before they existed in
themselves, so likewise it is in the Creator's power when they exist in
themselves to bring them to nothing. In this way therefore, by the power
of another - namely, of God - they are mutable, inasmuch as they are
producible from nothing by Him, and are by Him reducible from existence
to non-existence.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Body Para. 2/3

If, however, a thing is called mutable by a power in itself, thus also
in some manner every creature is mutable. For every creature has a
twofold power, active and passive; and I call that power passive which
enables anything to attain its perfection either in being, or in
attaining to its end. Now if the mutability of a thing be considered
according to its power for being, in that way all creatures are not
mutable, but those only in which what is potential in them is consistent
with non-being. Hence, in the inferior bodies there is mutability both as
regards substantial being, inasmuch as their matter can exist with
privation of their substantial form, and also as regards their accidental
being, supposing the subject to coexist with privation of accident; as,
for example, this subject "man" can exist with "not-whiteness" and can
therefore be changed from white to not-white. But supposing the accident
to be such as to follow on the essential principles of the subject, then
the privation of such an accident cannot coexist with the subject. Hence
the subject cannot be changed as regards that kind of accident; as, for
example, snow cannot be made black. Now in the celestial bodies matter is
not consistent with privation of form, because the form perfects the
whole potentiality of the matter; therefore these bodies are not mutable
as to substantial being, but only as to locality, because the subject is
consistent with privation of this or that place. On the other hand
incorporeal substances, being subsistent forms which, although with
respect to their own existence are as potentiality to act, are not
consistent with the privation of this act; forasmuch as existence is
consequent upon form, and nothing corrupts except it lose its form. Hence
in the form itself there is no power to non-existence; and so these kinds
of substances are immutable and invariable as regards their existence.
Wherefore Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that "intellectual created
substances are pure from generation and from every variation, as also are
incorporeal and immaterial substances." Still, there remains in them a
twofold mutability: one as regards their potentiality to their end; and
in that way there is in them a mutability according to choice from good
to evil, as Damascene says (De Fide ii, 3,4); the other as regards place,
inasmuch as by their finite power they attain to certain fresh
places - which cannot be said of God, who by His infinity fills all
places, as was shown above (Q[8], A[2]).

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] Body Para. 3/3

Thus in every creature there is a potentiality to change either as
regards substantial being as in the case of things corruptible; or as
regards locality only, as in the case of the celestial bodies; or as
regards the order to their end, and the application of their powers to
divers objects, as in the case with the angels; and universally all
creatures generally are mutable by the power of the Creator, in Whose
power is their existence and non-existence. Hence since God is in none of
these ways mutable, it belongs to Him alone to be altogether immutable.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: This objection proceeds from mutability as regards
substantial or accidental being; for philosophers treated of such
movement.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The good angels, besides their natural endowment of
immutability of being, have also immutability of election by divine
power; nevertheless there remains in them mutability as regards place.

Aquin.: SMT FP Q[9] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Forms are called invariable, forasmuch as they cannot be
subjects of variation; but they are subject to variation because by them
their subject is variable. Hence it is clear that they vary in so far as
they are; for they are not called beings as though they were the subject
of being, but because through them something has being.






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