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Prima Pars

Question 9: The Immutability of God (2 Articles)

 

Article 1:  Is God completely unable to be changed?

 

Structure of the Argument:

"I am the Lord and I change not." Malachi 3:6

St. Thomas gives three arguments for God being unchangeable.

1.  In everything that is able to change there is some element of potentiality.  I, being man, have the potential to grow my hair long, or learn a new skill, or memorize a poem.  This is true of all things created - there is potential for change.  God is uncreated.  He is also pure act, as we saw above.  Thus, if He is pure act and uncreated, there is no potentiality in Him and thus He is immutable.

2.  Everything that moves in some way moves from something to something in this way there is change.  As whiteness changes to blackness there is movement. As things that grow move they also change.  God is unmovable and is thus immutable.

 

3.  Since God is infinite there is nothing He an acquire to Himself. He can't become more perfect or learn something new or gain in virtue.  In this way He is also unchangeable.  

 

Family Take Home:

 

If God is unchangeable, how He can draw near to us and how can we draw near to Him as Scripture tells us (James 4:7,8)?

In reality, God is always near to us insofar as He is the

author of our being.  However, through our baptism, we

are participate in His divine nature.  We become His son. 

Our relationship changes because we receive grace.  

Thus, through grace, which is something we don't have

naturally, but is a gift of God, we can draw near to Him

and He does draw near to us.  This means that the more

often we receive grace through the Sacraments we have

more opportunity to draw near to Him.  

So ... go to Holy Mass often!!

Article 2:  Is God alone immutable?

 

Structure of the Argument:

There are a number of ways that created things are mutable:

1.  As all things are brought into existence by God, they can be brought out of existence by God as well.  In this way nothing is unchangeable.

2.  Every creature has the potential for change:

Passive Power (or a creature's potentiality) is that power that enables a creature to attain its perfection as a being and to attain its end.  

a.  In regards to attaining its perfection as a being, things can corrupt or perfect and thus are mutable. A carrot can rot or grow and reproduce.  A carrot is mutable.

b.  In regards to place, things change insofar as they are not always in the same place.  Even a mountain moves and grows and changes in the amount of space it engulfs.

c.  In regards to angels and demons, they change not in regards to their substantial being as they have no matter and are pure spirits.  However, they do change in regards to locality (they can't be everywhere at once) and in regards to their end (they make choices regarding good and evil).

Family Take Home:

 

Child: "Daddy, can God sin?"

Dad: "No son. God cannot sin because He is unchangeable. He is

perfect and cannot not be perfect. Sin is an imperfection.  It is

impossible for God to sin."

Child: "Well, can angels sin?"  

Dad: "Spirits can sin through their choices.  Demons were angels

that chose pride over God's directives.  Their choice, being that it

was done outside of time, is a continual choice, a perpetual choice.

Thus, they live out their choice to sin continually.  Angels, chose to

follow God and submit humbly to Him.  Thus, they too live out their

right choice.  St. Thomas tells us that because of their choice to

follow God, angels have an immutability in regards to choice. By grace, they cannot sin.  But they are still mutable in regards to location - they can't be in all places at all times.