Summary Against Modern Thought: God Preserves All Things In Being

Previous post.

Being didn’t happen for no reason, and the so-called laws of physics, or whatever is being claimed to be at base, such as quantum “fluctuations”, cannot account for themselves.


1 Now, from the fact that God rules things by His providence it follows that He preserves them in being.

2 Indeed, everything whereby things attain their end pertains to the governance of these things. For things are said to be ruled or governed by virtue of their being ordered to their end. Now, things are ordered to the ultimate end which God intends, that is, divine goodness, not only by the fact that they perform their operations, but also by the fact that they exist, since, to the extent that they exist, they bear the likeness of divine goodness which is the end for things, as we showed above. Therefore, it pertains to divine providence that things are preserved in being.

3 Again, the same principle must be the cause of a thing and of its preservation, for the preservation of a thing is nothing but the continuation of its being. Now, we showed above that God, through His understanding, and will, is the cause of being for all things. Therefore, He preserves all things in being through His intellect and will.

4 Besides, no particular univocal agent can be the unqualified cause of its species; for instance, this individual man cannot be the cause of the human species, for he would then be the cause of every man, and, consequently, of himself—which is impossible. But this individual man is the cause, properly speaking, of that individual man.

Now, this man exists because human nature is present in this matter, which is the principle of individuation. So, this man is not the cause of a man, except in the sense that he is the cause of a human form coming to be in this matter. This is to be the principle of the generation of an individual man. So, it is apparent that neither this man, nor any other univocal agent in nature, is the cause of anything except the generation of this or that individual thing. Now, there must be some proper agent cause of the human species itself; its composition shows this, and also the ordering of its parts, which is uniform in all cases unless it be accidentally impeded. And the same reasoning applies to all the other species of natural things.

Now, this cause is God, either mediately or immediately. For we have shown that He is the first cause of all things. So, He must stand in regard to the species of things as the individual generating agent in nature does to generation, of which he is the direct cause. But generation ceases as soon as the operation of the generative agent ceases. Therefore, all the species of things would also cease as soon as the divine operation ceased. So, He preserves things in being through His operation.

Notes What this means for evolution, especially of man, is obvious.

5 Moreover, though motion may occur for any existing thing, motion is apart from the being of the thing. Now, nothing corporeal, unless it be moved, is the cause of anything, for no body acts unless by motion, as Aristotle proves. Therefore, no body is the cause of the being of anything, in so far as it is being, but it is the cause of its being moved toward being, that is, of the thing’s becoming.

Now, the being of any thing is participated being, since no thing is its own act of being, except God, as we proved above. And thus, God Himself, Who is His own act of being, must be primarily and essentially the cause of every being. So, divine operation is related to the being of things as the motion of a corporeal mover is to the becoming and passive movement of the things that are made or moved. Now, it is impossible for the becoming and passive movement of a thing to continue if the motion of the mover cease. Therefore, it is impossible for the being of a thing to continue except through divine operation.

6 Furthermore, just as art work presupposes a work of nature, so does a work of nature presuppose the work of God the creator. In fact, the material for art products comes from nature, while that of natural products comes through creation by God. Moreover, art objects are preserved in being by the power of natural things; a home, for instance, by the solidity of its stories. Therefore, all natural things are preserved in being by nothing other than the power of God.

7 Again, the impression of an agent does not continue in the product, if the agent’s action ceases, unless the impression be converted into the nature of the product. Indeed, the forms of things generated, and their properties, remain in them after generation until the end, since they become natural to them. And likewise, habits are difficult to change because they are turned into a nature. But dispositions and passions, whether of the body or soul, endure for a little while after the action of the agent, but not forever, since they are present in a state transitional to nature.

Now, whatever belongs to the nature of a higher type of being does not last at all after the action of the agent; light, for instance, does not continue in a diaphanous body when the source of light has gone away. Now, to be is not the nature or essence of any created thing, but only of God, as we showed in Book One [22]. Therefore, no thing can remain in being if divine operation cease.

8 Furthermore, there are two positions regarding the origin of things: one, from faith, holding that things have been brought into being by God, at the beginning; and the position of certain philosophers, that things have emanated from God eternally. Now, in either position one has to say that things are preserved in being by God. For, if things are brought into being by God, after they were not existing, then the being of things, and similarly their non-being, must result from the divine will; for He has permitted things not to be, when He so willed; and He made things to be, when He so willed. Hence, they exist just as long as He wills them to be. Therefore, His will is the preserver of things.

But, if things have eternally emanated from God, we cannot give a time or instant at which they first flowed forth from God. So, either they never were produced by God, or their being is always flowing forth from God as long as they exist. Therefore, He preserves things in being by His operation.

9 Hence it is said: “Upholding all things by the word of His Power” (Heb. 1:3). And Augustine says: “The power of the Creator, and the strength of the Omnipotent and All-sustaining is the cause of the subsistence of every creature. And, if this power were ever to cease its ruling of the things which have been created, their species would at once come to an end, and all nature would collapse. For the situation is not like that of a man who has built a house and has then gone away, and, while he is not working and is absent, his work stands. For, if God were to withdraw His rule from it, the world could not stand, even for the flick of an eye.”

Notes A sobering thought and a hint, as we believe Peter, in what is to come. And also a proof that a physics which ignores the reason for physics, is a benighted physics.

10 Now, by this conclusion the position of the exponents of the Law of the Moors is refuted, for, in order to be able to maintain that the world needs God’s preservation, they took the view that all forms are accidents, and that no accident endures through two instants.

So that, in this view, the informing of things would be in continuous process, as if a thing would not need an agent cause except while in the process of becoming. Hence, also, some of these people are said to claim that indivisible bodies (out of which, they say, all substances are composed and which alone, according to them, possess stability) could last for about an hour if God were to withdraw His governance from things. Also, some of them say that a thing could not even cease to be unless God caused in it the accident of “cessation.” Now, all these views are clearly absurd.

Notes Amen.

Categories: Philosophy, SAMT

2 replies »

  1. “Being didn’t happen for no reason, and the so-called laws of physics, or whatever is being claimed to be at base, such as quantum “fluctuations”, cannot account for themselves.”

    God cannot account for himself either. At some level, things must “just exist” without any explanation. You say God is this deepest level, I say the universe is. My idea is simpler, so it wins.

    “1 Now, from the fact that God rules things by His providence it follows that He preserves them in being.”

    (The DRAM God!)

    Is God not capable of creating a self-sustaining universe? Also, Einstein’s special relativity establishes that we live in a block universe where all frames of reference are equally valid. It therefore exists ‘eternally’ as a static object, which doesn’t need to be sustained from moment to moment by a God.

    “4 Notes: What this means for evolution, especially of man, is obvious.”

    If God is sustaining everything in existence but allowing (or causing) it to behave in a way which is consistent with the laws of physics, then it has no implications for evolution.

    “8 For, if God were to withdraw His rule from it, the world could not stand, even for the flick of an eye.”

    This can’t be correct, because there is no absolute present moment in which God could stop preserving everything.

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