Summary Against Modern Thought: On Immortality

Summary Against Modern Thought: On Immortality

Previous post.

Forever is a long time.


1 From this it is clear, also, that in the resurrection to come men will not so rise that they are to die again.

2 For the necessity of dying is a deficiency brought upon human nature by sin. But Christ, by the merit of His passion, repaired the deficiencies of nature which sin had brought upon nature. For, as the Apostle says: “Not as the offence, so also the gift. For if by the offence many died, much more the grace of God, and the gift, by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many” (Rom. 5:15). From this one gathers that the merit of ‘Christ is more effective for removing death than the sin of Adam for introducing it. Therefore, those who will rise by the merit of Christ, freed from death, will suffer death no more.

3 Furthermore, that which is to last forever has not been destroyed. Therefore, if the men who rise will still die again so that death lasts forever, in the death of Christ death has by no means been destroyed. But it is destroyed: right now in its cause, as the Lord had foretold in Hosea (13:14): “O death, I will be your death”; at the end it will be actually destroyed, according to the word: “The enemy death shall be destroyed last” (1 Cor. 15:26). One must, then, hold with the faith of the Church that those who rise will not die again.

4 An effect, moreover, is likened to its cause. But the resurrection of Christ is the cause of the future resurrection, as was said. But Christ so rose from the dead as to die no longer, in the Apostle’s words: “Christ rising again from the dead dies now no more” (Rom. 6:9). Therefore, men will so rise as to die no longer.

5 Moreover, if the men who rise are to die a second time, they will either rise again from that second death or they will not. If they do not rise, they will remain forever as separated souls—and this is awkward, as was said above In fact, to avoid this awkwardness, they were held to rise the first time; in other words, if after the second death they are not going to rise, there will be no argument for their rising after the first death.

On the other hand, if after the second death they do rise again, they will either rise to die again or they will not. If they are not to die again, the same reasoning will have to hold for the first resurrection. But, if they are to die again, the alternation of death and life in the same subject goes on to infinity—and this seems awkward, for the intention of God ought to have a determinate term. But the successive alternation of life and death is a kind of changing back and forth, so to say, and this cannot be an end, for it is essentially contrary to motion that it be an end; every motion tends toward another.

6 There is more. In action, the intention of an inferior nature bears on perpetuity. For every action of an inferior nature is ordered to generation, and its very end is safeguarding the perpetual being of the species; wherefore, nature does not intend this individual as ultimate end, but the conservation in him of the species. And nature has this end, in that it acts by the power of God who is the first root of perpetuity.

Hence, even the end of generation is held by the Philosopher [De gen. et corr. II, 10] to be this: that the generated share in the divine being by perpetuity. All the more, then, does the action of God Himself tend to something perpetual. But the resurrection is not ordered to the perpetuity of the species, for this could be safeguarded by generation. It must, then, be ordered to the perpetuity of the individual: but not in the soul alone, for the soul already had perpetuity before the resurrection; therefore, in the composite. Man rising, therefore, will live forever.

7 Again, the soul and body appear to be related in a different order in the first generation of man and in his resurrection. Now, in the first generation the creation of the soul follows the generation of the body, for, when the bodily matter is prepared by the power of the separated seed, God infuses the soul by an act of creation. But in the resurrection the body is adapted to the pre-existing soul. Of course, that first life which man acquires by generation follows the condition of the corruptible body in this: man is deprived of that life by death. Then, the life which man acquires by resurrection will be perpetual according to the condition of the incorruptible soul.

8 Again, if life and death succeed one another to infinity in the same subject, the alternation of life and death will in species be a kind of circular motion. But every circular motion in generable and corruptible things is caused by the first circular motion of the incorruptible bodies.

For the first circular motion is found in local motion, and in its likeness is transferred to other motions. The alternation of death and life, therefore, will be caused by a celestial body. And this cannot be, because the restoration of a dead body to life is beyond the capacities of an action of nature. Therefore, that there is such alternation of life and death cannot be asserted, and, consequently, that the bodies which rise may die.

9 Furthermore, whenever things succeed one another in the same subject they have a fixed measure of their duration in time. Everything of this kind is subject to the celestial motion on which time follows. But the separated soul is not subject to the celestial, for it exceeds the whole of bodily nature Therefore, an alternation of its separation from the body and union to it is not subject to celestial motion. Therefore, there is no circular motion in the alternation of death and life such as that which follows if those who rise are to die again. They will rise, then, never again to die.

10 Hence, we read in Isaiah (25:8): “The Lord shall cast death down headlong forever”; and in the Apocalypse (21:4): “Death shall be no more.”

11 Thus, of course, one avoids the error of certain ancient Gentiles, who used to hold that “the same periods and events of time are repeated; as if, for example, the philosopher Plato having taught at the school in Athens which is called the Academy, so numberless ages before, at long but certain intervals, this same Plato and the same school, and the same disciples existed, and so also are to be repeated during the endless cycles yet to come”; so Augustine describes the position in the City of God.

To this position, so he himself tells us in the same place, some like to refer the words of Ecclesiastes (1:9-10): “What is it that has been? The same thing that shall be. What is it that has been done? The same thing that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it has already gone before in the ages that were before us.” This is not, indeed, to be understood as though things numerically the same are repeated through various generations, but things similar in species. So Augustine explains in the same place. And Aristotle at the end of De generatione [II, 11], taught the same thing, speaking against the group mentioned.


  1. Vermont Crank

    Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy

    The common opinion, according to all men living, is that God is eternal. Let us therefore consider what is eternity. For eternity will, I think, make clear to us at the same time the divine nature and knowledge.’ Eternity is the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life. This will appear more clearly if we compare it with temporal 161things. All that lives under the conditions of time moves through the present from the past to the future; there is nothing set in time which can at one moment grasp the whole space of its lifetime. It cannot yet comprehend to-morrow; yesterday it has already lost. And in this life of to-day your life is no more than a changing, passing moment. And as Aristotle74 said of the universe, so it is of all that is subject to time; though it never began to be, nor will ever cease, and its life is co-extensive with the infinity of time, yet it is not such as can be held to be eternal. For though it apprehends and grasps a space of infinite lifetime, it does not embrace the whole simultaneously; it has not yet experienced the future. What we should rightly call eternal is that which grasps and possesses wholly and simultaneously the fulness of unending life, which lacks naught of the future, and has lost naught of the fleeting past; and such an existence must be ever present in itself to control and aid itself, and also must keep present with itself the infinity of changing time. Therefore, people who hear that Plato thought that this universe had no beginning of time and will have no end, are not right in thinking that in this way the created world is co-eternal with its creator75 162For to pass through unending life, the attribute which Plato ascribes to the universe is one thing; but it is another thing to grasp simultaneously the whole of unending life in the present; this is plainly a peculiar property of the mind of God.

  2. Bobcat

    “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.”

    -Book of Wisdom, chapter 2, verses 23 to 24.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *