God's Impassibility, Immutability, and Eternality

Brian Leftow

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

God's Impassibility, Immutability, and Eternality

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  • History of Western Philosophy
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The article discusses Aquinas's views on God's impassibility, immutability, and eternality. Aquinas argued that God has no passions and God's perfection rules out his negative emotions, such as sorrow, fear, envy, or anger. He mentioned that God cannot be angry because he cannot feel sorrow and he cannot be injured. Aquinas believed that the emotional side of impassibility is a minor detail in the doctrine of God. God's causal impassivity is a consequence of a fundamental, far-reaching claim that Aquinas makes about God. A passive potency is an ability to ‘move’ (change), or rather be moved, with respect to having an attribute. According to Aquinas the ‘motion’ is as such the actualization of potency. Any item that passes from potency to act has the potency temporally before it has the actuality. The claim that God is causally impassive plays a large role in Aquinas's accounts of God's knowledge and providence. Aquinas argued that the doctrine of divine immutability (DDI) rules out only change in quality such as color, intelligence or quantity such as size and shape. Aquinas believed that DDI entails that God is eternal. Aquinas argued that the concept (ratio) of eternity is a consequence of immutability. Aquinas also argued that God is wholly without motion so he is not measured by time.

Keywords: eternality; immutability; God's perfection; God's impassibility; motion; doctrine of divine

Article.  7003 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Religion

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