Can God cause a thing to not exist?

The answer, according to Aquinas, is “No.” As James F. Ross explains, for Aquinas

ceasing to cause existence in creatures would not be the same as giving them an active tendency toward nonbeing, because God does not cause nonexistence in them, but ceases to cause them to be, to “give them being.” (“Aquinas on Annihilation,” 181, citing De Potentia Dei 5.3 ad 1)

In other words, annihilation is not a “causing a thing not to be,” but is rather a “no longer causing a thing to be.” It matters where you put the “not.” Annihilation, in short, is not something God can do, but something that he can not do, namely continuing to create something once he has created it. Annihilation is God’s ability not to create.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s