CT 7: The Everlasting Existence of God

In Chapter 7, Thomas takes up God’s eternity in more detail:

From all this it is evident that God exists always. For whatever necessarily exists, always exists; it is impossible for a thing that has no possibility of not being, not to be. Hence such a thing is never without existence. But it is necessary for God to be, as has been shown. Therefore God exists always.

I’m still not sure why it is necessary for God to be; but I’m reasonably convinced that if God did not exist, I would not exist to ask the question. So I suppose the point is moot. But given that it’s impossible for God not to exist, it’s reasonable that He should always exist.

Again, nothing begins to be or ceases to be except through motion or change. But God is absolutely immutable, as has been proved. Therefore it is impossible for Him ever to have begun to be or to cease to be.

OK. We’ve seen this point before.

Likewise, if anything that has not always existed begins to be, it needs some cause for its existence. Nothing brings itself forth from potency to act or from non-being to being. But God can have no cause of His being, since He is the first Being; a cause is prior to what is caused. Of necessity, therefore, God must always have existed.

I gather the point here is that if God had come to be, there would have had to be something already in existence of have caused Him to come to be; but as God is the first mover there can be no such thing. This, I guess, is a reductio ad absurdum: we assume that God hadn’t always existed, and we get to an absurd conclusion, that God was caused by something else.

Furthermore, whatever pertains to anyone in some other way than by reason of an external cause, pertains to him of himself. But existence does not come to God from any external cause, since such a cause would have to be prior to Him. Therefore God has existence of Himself, per se ipsum. But what exists per se exists always and necessarily. Therefore God exists always.

Something odd going on here. I am a man; my status as a man is per se to me. That doesn’t imply that I’m eternal. But what: “what exists per se exists always and necessarily”. I am always and necessarily a man. But existence is not per se to me. I did not exist prior to my conception. But existence clearly is per se for God, a defining characteristic of God. Therefore it’s a characteristic that God always and necessarily has, and therefore He must always exist. This almost begins to make sense.

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