BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (33) – If God is eternal, does it mean that he is very old?

– Rev José Mario O Mandía
jmom.honlam.org

In Bite-Size Philosophy we have seen that change is the passage of something from potency to act, from “can-be-but-not-yet” to “already-is.” All creatures, including angels, have some potency, and thus are subject to change. Not so with God.

GOD IS IMMUTABLE – HE DOES NOT CHANGE

God is Pure Act. This is one of the conclusions of the proofs for his existence. He is Pure Act, and has not a bit of unactualized potential. Hence,  He never goes from potentiality to actuality (or vice versa). In God there is no change. What He was, is what He is, and what He will be. That’s why His name is “I am” (cf Exodus 3:14). There’s nothing else that can add to His perfection, and He cannot lose any of them because those perfections are identified with Him.

Saint Augustine explains, “Being is a name of unchangeableness. For everything that is changed ceases to be what it was and begins to be what it was not. Being is. True being, pure being, genuine being is possessed only by Him who does not change” (Sermons 7, 7).

“Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

“Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end” (Psalm 102:25-27).

GOD IS NOT MEASURED BY TIME – HE IS ETERNAL

Time is the measure of change according to a “before” and “after.” But in God, there is no change. And because there is no change, there is no “before” or “after,” no past or future. God is not bound by time, he is timeless! In God, there is only a never-ending “now.” God is always in the “present.” Thus we understand more why God’s name is “I am.”

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28).

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480–524 or 525), a Christian philosopher of the 6th century, defined eternity as the “total, simultaneous, and perfect possession of life without end” (tota, simul et perfecta possessio interminabilis vitae). Imagine having all the good things life can offer in one single and never-ending moment.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Spe Salvi (no 12), explains that “eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction…. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time – the before and after – no longer exists.”

The fact that God is eternal does not mean that he is very old, because aging implies change and change implies passage of time. But God is beyond change and time. God is, so to speak, always youthful and those who fill themselves with Him become youthful themselves: they are forever young.

God makes us young again especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where he renews us and the Sacrament of the Eucharist where he has promised that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54).

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).

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