St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province

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Question: 104 [ << | >> ]


Deinde considerandum est de effectibus divinae gubernationis in speciali. Et circa hoc quaeruntur quatuor. We next consider the effects of the Divine government in particular; concerning which four points of inquiry arise:
Primo, utrum creaturae indigeant ut conserventur in esse a Deo. (1) Whether creatures need to be kept in existence by God?
Secundo, utrum conserventur a Deo immediate. (2) Whether they are immediately preserved by God?
Tertio, utrum Deus possit aliquid redigere in nihilum. (3) Whether God can reduce anything to nothingness?
Quarto, utrum aliquid in nihilum redigatur. (4) Whether anything is reduced to nothingness?

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Question: 104 [ << | >> ]
Article: 1  [ << | >> ]

Whether creatures need to be kept in being by God?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod creaturae non indigeant ut a Deo conserventur in esse. Quod enim non potest non esse, non indiget ut conservetur in esse, sicut quod non potest abscedere, non indiget ut conservetur ne abscedat. Sed quaedam creaturae sunt quae secundum sui naturam non possunt non esse. Ergo non omnes creaturae indigent ut a Deo conserventur in esse. Probatio mediae. Quod per se inest alicui, necesse est ei inesse, et oppositum eius impossibile est ei inesse, sicut necessarium est binarium esse parem, et impossibile est eum esse imparem. Esse autem per se consequitur ad formam, quia unumquodque secundum hoc est ens actu, quod habet formam. Quaedam autem creaturae sunt, quae sunt formae quaedam subsistentes, sicut de Angelis dictum est; et sic per se inest eis esse. Et eadem ratio est de illis quorum materia non est in potentia nisi ad unam formam, sicut supra dictum est de corporibus caelestibus. Huiusmodi ergo creaturae secundum suam naturam ex necessitate sunt, et non possunt non esse, potentia enim ad non esse non potest fundari neque in forma, quam per se sequitur esse; neque in materia existente sub forma quam non potest amittere, cum non sit in potentia ad aliam formam. Objection 1: It would seem that creatures do not need to be kept in being by God. For what cannot not-be, does not need to be kept in being; just as that which cannot depart, does not need to be kept from departing. But some creatures by their very nature cannot not-be. Therefore not all creatures need to be kept in being by God. The middle proposition is proved thus. That which is included in the nature of a thing is necessarily in that thing, and its contrary cannot be in it; thus a multiple of two must necessarily be even, and cannot possibly be an odd number. Now form brings being with itself, because everything is actually in being, so far as it has form. But some creatures are subsistent forms, as we have said of the angels (Question [50], Articles [2],5): and thus to be is in them of themselves. The same reasoning applies to those creatures whose matter is in potentiality to one form only, as above explained of heavenly bodies (Question [66], Article [2]). Therefore such creatures as these have in their nature to be necessarily, and cannot not-be; for there can be no potentiality to not-being, either in the form which has being of itself, or in matter existing under a form which it cannot lose, since it is not in potentiality to any other form.
Praeterea, Deus est potentior quolibet creato agente. Sed aliquod creatum agens potest communicare suo effectui ut conservetur in esse, etiam eius operatione cessante, sicut cessante actione aedificatoris, remanet domus; et cessante actione ignis, remanet aqua calefacta per aliquod tempus. Ergo multo magis Deus potest suae creaturae conferre quod conservetur in esse, sua operatione cessante. Objection 2: Further, God is more powerful than any created agent. But a created agent, even after ceasing to act, can cause its effect to be preserved in being; thus the house continues to stand after the builder has ceased to build; and water remains hot for some time after the fire has ceased to heat. Much more, therefore, can God cause His creature to be kept in being, after He has ceased to create it.
Praeterea, nullum violentum potest contingere absque aliqua causa agente. Sed tendere ad non esse est innaturale et violentum cuilibet creaturae, quia quaelibet creatura naturaliter appetit esse. Ergo nulla creatura potest tendere in non esse, nisi aliquo agente ad corruptionem. Sed quaedam sunt ad quorum corruptionem nihil agere potest; sicut spirituales substantiae, et corpora caelestia. Ergo huiusmodi creaturae non possunt tendere in non esse, etiam Dei operatione cessante. Objection 3: Further, nothing violent can occur, except there be some active cause thereof. But tendency to not-being is unnatural and violent to any creature, since all creatures naturally desire to be. Therefore no creature can tend to not-being, except through some active cause of corruption. Now there are creatures of such a nature that nothing can cause them to corrupt; such are spiritual substances and heavenly bodies. Therefore such creatures cannot tend to not-being, even if God were to withdraw His action.
Praeterea, si Deus conservat res in esse, hoc erit per aliquam actionem. Per quamlibet autem actionem agentis, si sit efficax, aliquid fit in effectu. Oportet igitur quod per actionem Dei conservantis aliquid fiat in creatura. Sed hoc non videtur. Non enim per huiusmodi actionem fit ipsum esse creaturae, quia quod iam est, non fit. Neque iterum aliquid aliud superadditum, quia vel non continue Deus conservaret creaturam in esse, vel continue aliquid adderetur creaturae, quod est inconveniens. Non igitur creaturae conservantur in esse a Deo. Objection 4: Further, if God keeps creatures in being, this is done by some action. Now every action of an agent, if that action be efficacious, produces something in the effect. Therefore the preserving power of God must produce something in the creature. But this is not so; because this action does not give being to the creature, since being is not given to that which already is: nor does it add anything new to the creature; because either God would not keep the creature in being continually, or He would be continually adding something new to the creature; either of which is unreasonable. Therefore creatures are not kept in being by God.
Sed contra est quod dicitur Heb. I, portans omnia verbo virtutis suae. On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 1:3): "Upholding all things by the word of His power."
Respondeo dicendum quod necesse est dicere, et secundum fidem et secundum rationem, quod creaturae conservantur in esse a Deo. Ad cuius evidentiam, considerandum est quod aliquid conservatur ab altero dupliciter. Uno modo, indirecte et per accidens, sicut ille dicitur rem conservare, qui removet corrumpens; puta si aliquis puerum custodiat ne cadat in ignem, dicitur eum conservare. Et sic etiam Deus dicitur aliqua conservare, sed non omnia, quia quaedam sunt quae non habent corrumpentia, quae necesse sit removere ad rei conservationem. Alio modo dicitur aliquid rem aliquam conservare per se et directe, inquantum scilicet illud quod conservatur, dependet a conservante, ut sine eo esse non possit. Et hoc modo omnes creaturae indigent divina conservatione. Dependet enim esse cuiuslibet creaturae a Deo, ita quod nec ad momentum subsistere possent, sed in nihilum redigerentur, nisi operatione divinae virtutis conservarentur in esse, sicut Gregorius dicit. I answer that, Both reason and faith bind us to say that creatures are kept in being by God. To make this clear, we must consider that a thing is preserved by another in two ways. First, indirectly, and accidentally; thus a person is said to preserve anything by removing the cause of its corruption, as a man may be said to preserve a child, whom he guards from falling into the fire. In this way God preserves some things, but not all, for there are some things of such a nature that nothing can corrupt them, so that it is not necessary to keep them from corruption. Secondly, a thing is said to preserve another 'per se' and directly, namely, when what is preserved depends on the preserver in such a way that it cannot exist without it. In this manner all creatures need to be preserved by God. For the being of every creature depends on God, so that not for a moment could it subsist, but would fall into nothingness were it not kept in being by the operation of the Divine power, as Gregory says (Moral. xvi).
Et hoc sic perspici potest. Omnis enim effectus dependet a sua causa, secundum quod est causa eius. Sed considerandum est quod aliquod agens est causa sui effectus secundum fieri tantum, et non directe secundum esse eius. Quod quidem contingit et in artificialibus, et in rebus naturalibus. Aedificator enim est causa domus quantum ad eius fieri, non autem directe quantum ad esse eius. Manifestum est enim quod esse domus consequitur formam eius, forma autem domus est compositio et ordo, quae quidem forma consequitur naturalem virtutem quarundam rerum. Sicut enim coquus coquit cibum adhibendo aliquam virtutem naturalem activam, scilicet ignis; ita aedificator facit domum adhibendo caementum, lapides et ligna, quae sunt susceptiva et conservativa talis compositionis et ordinis. Unde esse domus dependet ex naturis harum rerum, sicut fieri domus dependet ex actione aedificatoris. Et simili ratione est considerandum in rebus naturalibus. Quia si aliquod agens non est causa formae inquantum huiusmodi, non erit per se causa esse quod consequitur ad talem formam, sed erit causa effectus secundum fieri tantum. This is made clear as follows: Every effect depends on its cause, so far as it is its cause. But we must observe that an agent may be the cause of the "becoming" of its effect, but not directly of its "being." This may be seen both in artificial and in natural beings: for the builder causes the house in its "becoming," but he is not the direct cause of its "being." For it is clear that the "being" of the house is a result of its form, which consists in the putting together and arrangement of the materials, and results from the natural qualities of certain things. Thus a cook dresses the food by applying the natural activity of fire; thus a builder constructs a house, by making use of cement, stones, and wood which are able to be put together in a certain order and to preserve it. Therefore the "being" of a house depends on the nature of these materials, just as its "becoming" depends on the action of the builder. The same principle applies to natural things. For if an agent is not the cause of a form as such, neither will it be directly the cause of "being" which results from that form; but it will be the cause of the effect, in its "becoming" only.
Manifestum est autem quod, si aliqua duo sunt eiusdem speciei, unum non potest esse per se causa formae alterius, inquantum est talis forma, quia sic esset causa formae propriae, cum sit eadem ratio utriusque. Sed potest esse causa huiusmodi formae secundum quod est in materia, idest quod haec materia acquirat hanc formam. Et hoc est esse causa secundum fieri; sicut cum homo generat hominem, et ignis ignem.. Now it is clear that of two things in the same species one cannot directly cause the other's form as such, since it would then be the cause of its own form, which is essentially the same as the form of the other; but it can be the cause of this form for as much as it is in matter—in other words, it may be the cause that "this matter" receives "this form." And this is to be the cause of "becoming," as when man begets man, and fire causes fire. Thus whenever a natural effect is such that it has an aptitude to receive from its active cause an impression specifically the same as in that active cause, then the "becoming" of the effect, but not its "being," depends on the agent.
Et ideo quandocumque naturalis effectus est natus impressionem agentis recipere secundum eandem rationem secundum quam est in agente, tunc fieri effectus dependet ab agente, non autem esse ipsius. Sed aliquando effectus non est natus recipere impressionem agentis secundum eandem rationem secundum quam est in agente, sicut patet in omnibus agentibus quae non agunt simile secundum speciem; sicut caelestia corpora sunt causa generationis inferiorum corporum dissimilium secundum speciem. Et tale agens potest esse causa formae secundum rationem talis formae, et non solum secundum quod acquiritur in hac materia, et ideo est causa non solum fiendi, sed essendi. Sometimes, however, the effect has not this aptitude to receive the impression of its cause, in the same way as it exists in the agent: as may be seen clearly in all agents which do not produce an effect of the same species as themselves: thus the heavenly bodies cause the generation of inferior bodies which differ from them in species. Such an agent can be the cause of a form as such, and not merely as existing in this matter, consequently it is not merely the cause of "becoming" but also the cause of "being."
Sicut igitur fieri rei non potest remanere, cessante actione agentis quod est causa effectus secundum fieri; ita nec esse rei potest remanere, cessante actione agentis quod est causa effectus non solum secundum fieri, sed etiam secundum esse. Et haec est ratio quare aqua calefacta retinet calorem, cessante actione ignis; non autem remanet aer illuminatus, nec ad momentum, cessante actione solis. Quia scilicet materia aquae susceptiva est caloris ignis secundum eandem rationem qua est in igne, unde si perfecte perducatur ad formam ignis, retinebit calorem semper; si autem imperfecte participet aliquid de forma ignis secundum quandam inchoationem, calor non semper remanebit, sed ad tempus, propter debilem participationem principii caloris. Aer autem nullo modo natus est recipere lumen secundum eandem rationem secundum quam est in sole, ut scilicet recipiat formam solis, quae est principium luminis, et ideo, quia non habet radicem in aere, statim cessat lumen, cessante actione solis. Therefore as the becoming of a thing cannot continue when that action of the agent ceases which causes the "becoming" of the effect: so neither can the "being" of a thing continue after that action of the agent has ceased, which is the cause of the effect not only in "becoming" but also in "being." This is why hot water retains heat after the cessation of the fire's action; while, on the contrary, the air does not continue to be lit up, even for a moment, when the sun ceases to act upon it, because water is a matter susceptive of the fire's heat in the same way as it exists in the fire. Wherefore if it were to be reduced to the perfect form of fire, it would retain that form always; whereas if it has the form of fire imperfectly and inchoately, the heat will remain for a time only, by reason of the imperfect participation of the principle of heat. On the other hand, air is not of such a nature as to receive light in the same way as it exists in the sun, which is the principle of light. Therefore, since it has not root in the air, the light ceases with the action of the sun.
Sic autem se habet omnis creatura ad Deum, sicut aer ad solem illuminantem. Sicut enim sol est lucens per suam naturam, aer autem fit luminosus participando lumen a sole, non tamen participando naturam solis; ita solus Deus est ens per essentiam suam, quia eius essentia est suum esse; omnis autem creatura est ens participative, non quod sua essentia sit eius esse. Et ideo, ut Augustinus dicit IV super Gen. ad Litt., virtus Dei ab eis quae creata sunt regendis si cessaret aliquando, simul et illorum cessaret species, omnisque natura concideret. Et in VIII eiusdem libri dicit quod, sicut aer praesente lumine fit lucidus, sic homo, Deo sibi praesente, illuminatur, absente autem, continuo tenebratur. Now every creature may be compared to God, as the air is to the sun which enlightens it. For as the sun possesses light by its nature, and as the air is enlightened by sharing the sun's nature; so God alone is Being in virtue of His own Essence, since His Essence is His existence; whereas every creature has being by participation, so that its essence is not its existence. Therefore, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. iv, 12): "If the ruling power of God were withdrawn from His creatures, their nature would at once cease, and all nature would collapse." In the same work (Gen. ad lit. viii, 12) he says: "As the air becomes light by the presence of the sun, so is man enlightened by the presence of God, and in His absence returns at once to darkness."
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod esse per se consequitur formam creaturae, supposito tamen influxu Dei, sicut lumen sequitur diaphanum aeris, supposito influxu solis. Unde potentia ad non esse in spiritualibus creaturis et corporibus caelestibus, magis est in Deo, qui potest subtrahere suum influxum, quam in forma vel in materia talium creaturarum. Reply to Objection 1: "Being" naturally results from the form of a creature, given the influence of the Divine action; just as light results from the diaphanous nature of the air, given the action of the sun. Wherefore the potentiality to not-being in spiritual creatures and heavenly bodies is rather something in God, Who can withdraw His influence, than in the form or matter of those creatures.
Ad secundum dicendum quod Deus non potest communicare alicui creaturae ut conservetur in esse, sua operatione cessante; sicut non potest ei communicare quod non sit causa esse illius. Intantum enim indiget creatura conservari a Deo, inquantum esse effectus dependet a causa essendi. Unde non est simile de agente quod non est causa essendi, sed fieri tantum. Reply to Objection 2: God cannot grant to a creature to be preserved in being after the cessation of the Divine influence: as neither can He make it not to have received its being from Himself. For the creature needs to be preserved by God in so far as the being of an effect depends on the cause of its being. So that there is no comparison with an agent that is not the cause of 'being' but only of "becoming."
Ad tertium dicendum quod ratio illa procedit de conservatione quae est per remotionem corrumpentis; qua non indigent omnes creaturae, ut dictum est. Reply to Objection 3: This argument holds in regard to that preservation which consists in the removal of corruption: but all creatures do not need to be preserved thus, as stated above.
Ad quartum dicendum quod conservatio rerum a Deo non est per aliquam novam actionem; sed per continuationem actionis qua dat esse, quae quidem actio est sine motu et tempore. Sicut etiam conservatio luminis in aere est per continuatum influxum a sole. Reply to Objection 4: The preservation of things by God is a continuation of that action whereby He gives existence, which action is without either motion or time; so also the preservation of light in the air is by the continual influence of the sun.

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Question: 104 [ << | >> ]
Article: 2  [ << | >> ]

Whether God preserves every creature immediately?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod Deus immediate omnem creaturam conservet. Eadem enim actione Deus est conservator rerum, qua et creator, ut dictum est. Sed Deus immediate est creator omnium. Ergo immediate est etiam conservator. Objection 1: It would seem that God preserves every creature immediately. For God creates and preserves things by the same action, as above stated (Article [1], ad 4). But God created all things immediately. Therefore He preserves all things immediately.
Praeterea, unaquaeque res magis est proxima sibi, quam rei alteri. Sed non potest communicari alicui creaturae quod conservet seipsam. Ergo multo minus potest ei communicari quod conservet aliam. Ergo Deus omnia conservat absque aliqua media causa conservante. Objection 2: Further, a thing is nearer to itself than to another. But it cannot be given to a creature to preserve itself; much less therefore can it be given to a creature to preserve another. Therefore God preserves all things without any intermediate cause preserving them.
Praeterea, effectus conservatur in esse ab eo quod est causa eius non solum secundum fieri, sed etiam secundum esse. Sed omnes causae creatae, ut videtur, non sunt causae suorum effectuum nisi secundum fieri, non sunt enim causae nisi movendo, ut supra habitum est. Ergo non sunt causae conservantes suos effectus in esse. Objection 3: Further, an effect is kept in being by the cause, not only of its "becoming," but also of its being. But all created causes do not seem to cause their effects except in their "becoming," for they cause only by moving, as above stated (Question [45], Article [3]). Therefore they do not cause so as to keep their effects in being.
Sed contra est quod per idem conservatur res, per quod habet esse. Sed Deus dat esse rebus mediantibus aliquibus causis mediis. Ergo etiam res in esse conservat mediantibus aliquibus causis. On the contrary, A thing is kept in being by that which gives it being. But God gives being by means of certain intermediate causes. Therefore He also keeps things in being by means of certain causes.
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut dictum est, dupliciter aliquid rem aliquam in esse conservat, uno modo, indirecte et per accidens, per hoc quod removet vel impedit actionem corrumpentis; alio modo, directe et per se, quia ab eo dependet esse alterius, sicut a causa dependet esse effectus. Utroque autem modo aliqua res creata invenitur esse alterius conservativa. Manifestum est enim quod etiam in rebus corporalibus multa sunt quae impediunt actiones corrumpentium, et per hoc dicuntur rerum conservativa; sicut sal impedit carnes a putrefactione, et simile est in multis aliis. Invenitur etiam quod ab aliqua creatura dependet aliquis effectus secundum suum esse. Cum enim sunt multae causae ordinatae, necesse est quod effectus dependeat primo quidem et principaliter a causa prima; secundario vero ab omnibus causis mediis. Et ideo principaliter quidem prima causa est effectus conservativa; secundario vero omnes mediae causae, et tanto magis quanto causa fuerit altior et primae causae proximior. I answer that, As stated above (Article [1]), a thing keeps another in being in two ways; first, indirectly and accidentally, by removing or hindering the action of a corrupting cause; secondly, directly and "per se," by the fact that that on it depends the other's being, as the being of the effect depends on the cause. And in both ways a created thing keeps another in being. For it is clear that even in corporeal things there are many causes which hinder the action of corrupting agents, and for that reason are called preservatives; just as salt preserves meat from putrefaction; and in like manner with many other things. It happens also that an effect depends on a creature as to its being. For when we have a series of causes depending on one another, it necessarily follows that, while the effect depends first and principally on the first cause, it also depends in a secondary way on all the middle causes. Therefore the first cause is the principal cause of the preservation of the effect which is to be referred to the middle causes in a secondary way; and all the more so, as the middle cause is higher and nearer to the first cause.
Unde superioribus causis, etiam in corporalibus rebus, attribuitur conservatio et permanentia rerum, sicut philosophus dicit, in XII Metaphys., quod primus motus, scilicet diurnus, est causa continuitatis generationis; secundus autem motus, qui est per zodiacum, est causa diversitatis quae est secundum generationem et corruptionem. Et similiter astrologi, attribuunt Saturno, qui est supremus planetarum; res fixas et permanentes. Sic igitur dicendum est quod Deus conservat res quasdam in esse, mediantibus aliquibus causis. For this reason, even in things corporeal, the preservation and continuation of things is ascribed to the higher causes: thus the Philosopher says (Metaph. xii, Did. xi, 6), that the first, namely the diurnal movement is the cause of the continuation of things generated; whereas the second movement, which is from the zodiac, is the cause of diversity owing to generation and corruption. In like manner astrologers ascribe to Saturn, the highest of the planets, those things which are permanent and fixed. So we conclude that God keeps certain things in being, by means of certain causes.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod Deus immediate omnia creavit, sed in ipsa rerum creatione ordinem in rebus instituit, ut quaedam ab aliis dependerent, per quas secundario conservarentur in esse; praesupposita tamen principali conservatione, quae est ab ipso. Reply to Objection 1: God created all things immediately, but in the creation itself He established an order among things, so that some depend on others, by which they are preserved in being, though He remains the principal cause of their preservation.
Ad secundum dicendum quod, cum propria causa sit conservativa effectus ab ea dependentis; sicut nulli effectui praestari potest quod sit causa sui ipsius, potest tamen ei praestari quod sit causa alterius; ita etiam nulli effectui praestari potest quod sit sui ipsius conservativus, potest tamen ei praestari quod sit conservativus alterius. Reply to Objection 2: Since an effect is preserved by its proper cause on which it depends; just as no effect can be its own cause, but can only produce another effect, so no effect can be endowed with the power of self-preservation, but only with the power of preserving another.
Ad tertium dicendum quod nulla creatura potest esse causa alterius, quantum ad hoc quod acquirat novam formam vel dispositionem, nisi per modum alicuius mutationis, quia semper agit praesupposito aliquo subiecto. Sed postquam formam vel dispositionem induxit in effectu, absque alia immutatione effectus, huiusmodi formam vel dispositionem conservat. Sicut in aere, prout illuminatur de novo, intelligitur quaedam mutatio; sed conservatio luminis est absque aeris immutatione, ex sola praesentia illuminantis. Reply to Objection 3: No created nature can be the cause of another, as regards the latter acquiring a new form, or disposition, except by virtue of some change; for the created nature acts always on something presupposed. But after causing the form or disposition in the effect, without any fresh change in the effect, the cause preserves that form or disposition; as in the air, when it is lit up anew, we must allow some change to have taken place, while the preservation of the light is without any further change in the air due to the presence of the source of light.

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Question: 104 [ << | >> ]
Article: 3  [ << | >> ]

Whether God can annihilate anything?

Ad tertium sic proceditur. Videtur quod Deus non possit aliquid in nihilum redigere. Dicit enim Augustinus, in libro octoginta trium quaest., quod Deus non est causa tendendi in non esse. Hoc autem contingeret, si aliquam creaturam redigeret in nihilum. Ergo Deus non potest aliquid in nihilum redigere. Objection 1: It would seem that God cannot annihilate anything. For Augustine says (Questions. 83, qu. 21) that "God is not the cause of anything tending to non-existence." But He would be such a cause if He were to annihilate anything. Therefore He cannot annihilate anything.
Praeterea, Deus est causa rerum ut sint, per suam bonitatem, quia, ut Augustinus dicit in libro de Doct. Christ., inquantum Deus bonus est, sumus. Sed Deus non potest non esse bonus. Ergo non potest facere ut res non sint. Quod faceret, si eas in nihilum redigeret. Objection 2: Further, by His goodness God is the cause why things exist, since, as Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 32): "Because God is good, we exist." But God cannot cease to be good. Therefore He cannot cause things to cease to exist; which would be the case were He to annihilate anything.
Praeterea, si Deus in nihilum aliqua redigeret, oporteret quod hoc fieret per aliquam actionem. Sed hoc non potest esse, quia omnis actio terminatur ad aliquod ens; unde etiam actio corrumpentis terminatur ad aliquid generatum, quia generatio unius est corruptio alterius. Ergo Deus non potest aliquid in nihilum redigere Objection 3: Further, if God were to annihilate anything it would be by His action. But this cannot be; because the term of every action is existence. Hence even the action of a corrupting cause has its term in something generated; for when one thing is generated another undergoes corruption. Therefore God cannot annihilate anything.
Sed contra est quod dicitur Ierem. X, corripe me, domine, verumtamen in iudicio, et non in furore tuo, ne forte ad nihilum redigas me. On the contrary, It is written (Jer. 10:24): "Correct me, O Lord, but yet with judgment; and not in Thy fury, lest Thou bring me to nothing."
Respondeo dicendum quod quidam posuerunt quod Deus res in esse produxit agendo de necessitate naturae. Quod si esset verum, Deus non posset rem aliquam in nihilum redigere; sicut non potest a sua natura mutari. Sed, sicut supra est habitum, haec positio est falsa, et a fide Catholica penitus aliena, quae confitetur Deum res libera voluntate produxisse in esse, secundum illud Psalmi, omnia quaecumque voluit dominus, fecit. Hoc igitur quod Deus creaturae esse communicat, ex Dei voluntate dependet. Nec aliter res in esse conservat, nisi inquantum eis continue influit esse. Ut dictum est. Sicut ergo antequam res essent, potuit eis non communicare esse, et sic eas non facere; ita postquam iam factae sunt, potest eis non influere esse, et sic esse desisterent. Quod est eas in nihilum redigere. I answer that, Some have held that God, in giving existence to creatures, acted from natural necessity. Were this true, God could not annihilate anything, since His nature cannot change. But, as we have said above (Question [19], Article [4]), such an opinion is entirely false, and absolutely contrary to the Catholic faith, which confesses that God created things of His own free-will, according to Ps. 134:6: "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, He hath done." Therefore that God gives existence to a creature depends on His will; nor does He preserve things in existence otherwise than by continually pouring out existence into them, as we have said. Therefore, just as before things existed, God was free not to give them existence, and not to make them; so after they are made, He is free not to continue their existence; and thus they would cease to exist; and this would be to annihilate them.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod non esse non habet causam per se, quia nihil potest esse causa nisi inquantum est ens; ens autem, per se loquendo, est causa essendi. Sic igitur Deus non potest esse causa tendendi in non esse; sed hoc habet creatura ex seipsa, inquantum est de nihilo. Sed per accidens Deus potest esse causa quod res in nihilum redigantur, subtrahendo scilicet suam actionem a rebus. Reply to Objection 1: Non-existence has no direct cause; for nothing is a cause except inasmuch as it has existence, and a being essentially as such is a cause of something existing. Therefore God cannot cause a thing to tend to non-existence, whereas a creature has this tendency of itself, since it is produced from nothing. But indirectly God can be the cause of things being reduced to non-existence, by withdrawing His action therefrom.
Ad secundum dicendum quod bonitas Dei est causa rerum, non quasi ex necessitate naturae, quia divina bonitas non dependet ex rebus creatis; sed per liberam voluntatem. Unde sicut potuit sine praeiudicio bonitatis suae, res non producere in esse; ita absque detrimento suae bonitatis, potest res in esse non conservare. Reply to Objection 2: God's goodness is the cause of things, not as though by natural necessity, because the Divine goodness does not depend on creatures; but by His free-will. Wherefore, as without prejudice to His goodness, He might not have produced things into existence, so, without prejudice to His goodness, He might not preserve things in existence.
Ad tertium dicendum quod, si Deus rem aliquam redigeret in nihilum, hoc non esset per aliquam actionem; sed per hoc quod ab agendo cessaret. Reply to Objection 3: If God were to annihilate anything, this would not imply an action on God's part; but a mere cessation of His action.

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Whether anything is annihilated?

Ad quartum sic proceditur. Videtur quod aliquid in nihilum redigatur. Finis enim respondet principio. Sed a principio nihil erat nisi Deus. Ergo ad hunc finem res perducentur, ut nihil sit nisi Deus. Et ita creaturae in nihilum redigentur Objection 1: It would seem that something is annihilated. For the end corresponds to the beginning. But in the beginning there was nothing but God. Therefore all things must tend to this end, that there shall be nothing but God. Therefore creatures will be reduced to nothing.
Praeterea, omnis creatura habet potentiam finitam. Sed nulla potentia finita se extendit ad infinitum, unde in VIII Physic. probatur quod potentia finita non potest movere tempore infinito. Ergo nulla creatura potest durare in infinitum. Et ita quandoque in nihilum redigetur. Objection 2: Further, every creature has a finite power. But no finite power extends to the infinite. Wherefore the Philosopher proves (Phys. viii, 10) that, "a finite power cannot move in infinite time." Therefore a creature cannot last for an infinite duration; and so at some time it will be reduced to nothing.
Praeterea, forma et accidentia non habent materiam partem sui. Sed quandoque desinunt esse. Ergo in nihilum rediguntur. Objection 3: Further, forms and accidents have no matter as part of themselves. But at some time they cease to exist. Therefore they are reduced to nothing.
Sed contra est quod dicitur Eccle. III. Didici quod omnia opera quae fecit Deus, perseverant in aeternum. On the contrary, It is written (Eccles. 3:14): "I have learned that all the works that God hath made continue for ever."
Respondeo dicendum quod eorum quae a Deo fiunt circa creaturam, quaedam proveniunt secundum naturalem cursum rerum; quaedam vero miraculose operatur praeter ordinem naturalem creaturis inditum, ut infra dicetur. Quae autem facturus est Deus secundum ordinem naturalem rebus inditum, considerari possunt ex ipsis rerum naturis, quae vero miraculose fiunt, ordinantur ad gratiae manifestationem, secundum illud apostoli I ad Cor. XII, unicuique datur manifestatio spiritus ad utilitatem; et postmodum, inter cetera, subdit de miraculorum operatione. I answer that, Some of those things which God does in creatures occur in accordance with the natural course of things; others happen miraculously, and not in accordance with the natural order, as will be explained (Question [105], Article [6]). Now whatever God wills to do according to the natural order of things may be observed from their nature; but those things which occur miraculously, are ordered for the manifestation of grace, according to the Apostle, "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit, unto profit" (1 Cor. 12:7); and subsequently he mentions, among others, the working of miracles.
Creaturarum autem naturae hoc demonstrant, ut nulla earum in nihilum redigatur, quia vel sunt immateriales, et sic in eis non est potentia ad non esse; vel sunt materiales, et sic saltem remanent semper secundum materiam, quae incorruptibilis est, utpote subiectum existens generationis et corruptionis. Redigere etiam aliquid in nihilum, non pertinet ad gratiae manifestationem, cum magis per hoc divina potentia et bonitas ostendatur, quod res in esse conservat. Unde simpliciter dicendum est quod nihil omnino in nihilum redigetur. Now the nature of creatures shows that none of them is annihilated. For, either they are immaterial, and therefore have no potentiality to non-existence; or they are material, and then they continue to exist, at least in matter, which is incorruptible, since it is the subject of generation and corruption. Moreover, the annihilation of things does not pertain to the manifestation of grace; since rather the power and goodness of God are manifested by the preservation of things in existence. Wherefore we must conclude by denying absolutely that anything at all will be annihilated.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod hoc quod res in esse productae sunt, postquam non fuerunt, declarat potentiam producentis. Sed quod in nihilum redigerentur, huiusmodi manifestationem impediret, cum Dei potentia in hoc maxime ostendatur, quod res in esse conservat, secundum illud apostoli Heb. I, portans omnia verbo virtutis suae. Reply to Objection 1: That things are brought into existence from a state of non-existence, clearly shows the power of Him Who made them; but that they should be reduced to nothing would hinder that manifestation, since the power of God is conspicuously shown in His preserving all things in existence, according to the Apostle: "Upholding all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3).
Ad secundum dicendum quod potentia creaturae ad essendum est receptiva tantum; sed potentia activa est ipsius Dei, a quo est influxus essendi. Unde quod res in infinitum durent, sequitur infinitatem divinae virtutis. Determinatur tamen quibusdam rebus virtus ad manendum tempore determinato, inquantum impediri possunt ne percipiant influxum essendi qui est ab eo, ex aliquo contrario agente, cui finita virtus non potest resistere tempore infinito, sed solum tempore determinato. Et ideo ea quae non habent contrarium, quamvis habeant finitam virtutem, perseverant in aeternum, Reply to Objection 2: A creature's potentiality to existence is merely receptive; the active power belongs to God Himself, from Whom existence is derived. Wherefore the infinite duration of things is a consequence of the infinity of the Divine power. To some things, however, is given a determinate power of duration for a certain time, so far as they may be hindered by some contrary agent from receiving the influx of existence which comes from Him Whom finite power cannot resist, for an infinite, but only for a fixed time. So things which have no contrary, although they have a finite power, continue to exist for ever.
Ad tertium dicendum quod formae et accidentia non sunt entia completa, cum non subsistant, sed quodlibet eorum est aliquid entis, sic enim ens dicitur, quia eo aliquid est. Et tamen eo modo quo sunt, non omnino in nihilum rediguntur; non quia aliqua pars eorum remaneat, sed remanent in potentia materiae vel subiecti. Reply to Objection 3: Forms and accidents are not complete beings, since they do not subsist: but each one of them is something "of a being"; for it is called a being, because something is by it. Yet so far as their mode of existence is concerned, they are not entirely reduced to nothingness; not that any part of them survives, but that they remain in the potentiality of the matter, or of the subject.

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