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(Trans. Alfred J. Freddoso)


The Eternal Law



Are necessary and eternal things subject to the eternal law?


It seems that necessary and eternal things are subject to the eternal law:


Objection 1:  Everything reasonable (rationabile) is subject to a plan (ratio).  But Godís will is reasonable, since it is just.  Therefore, it is subject to a plan.  But the eternal law is Godís plan.  Therefore, Godís will is subject to the eternal law.  But Godís will is something eternal.  Therefore, even eternal and necessary things are subject to the eternal law.


Objection 2:  Whatever is subject to the king is subject to the kingís law.  But as 1 Corinthians 15:24 and 28 says, ďthe Son will be subject to God and the Father ...... when He has handed over the kingdom to Him.Ē  Therefore, the Son, who is eternal, is subject to the eternal law.


Objection 3:  The eternal law is the plan of divine providence.  But many necessary things, e.g., the endurance of incorporeal substances and of the celestial bodies, are subject to divine providence.  Therefore, even necessary things are subject to the eternal law.


But contrary to this:  Things that are necessary are such that it is impossible for them to be otherwise, and so they do not need to be restrained.  By contrast, as is clear from what was said above (q. 92, a. 2), law is imposed on men in order to restrain them from evil.  Therefore, necessary things are not subject to law.


I respond:  As was explained above (a. 1), the eternal law is the plan of divine governance.  Therefore, whatever is subject to divine governance is likewise subject to the eternal law, and whatever is not subject to eternal governance is likewise not subject to the eternal law.
Now the distinction between these two sorts of things can be understood on the basis of what we are familiar with.  For things that can be done by men are subject to human governance, whereas things that belong to manís natureóe.g., that a man has a soul or hands or feetóare not subject to human governance.  So, then, whatever exists in the things created by Godówhether it be contingent or necessaryóis subject to the eternal law, whereas whatever pertains to Godís own nature or essence is not subject to the eternal law, but is in reality the eternal law itself.


Reply to objection 1:  We can speak of Godís will in two ways.
First, we can speak of the will itself, and if we are speaking in this way, then since Godís will is His very essence, it is not subject either to divine governance or to the eternal law; instead, it is just the same as the eternal law.
Second, we can speak of the divine will in relation what God wills concerning creatures.  The things He wills concerning creatures are subject to the eternal law insofar as a plan for them exists in Godís wisdom.  It is in relation to these things that Godís will is called reasonable.  On the other, in virtue of its very self, Godís will should instead be called the plan itself.


Reply to objection 2:  The Son of God is not made by God, but is instead naturally generated by Him.  And so He is not subject to divine providence or to the eternal law, but, as is clear from De Vera Religione, is rather Himself the eternal law through a certain appropriation (cf. ST 1, q. 39, a. 7-8).  However, He is said to be subject to the Father by reason of His human nature, in accord with which the Father is also said to be greater than He is.


Reply to objection 3:  We concede the third objection, since it has do with necessary things that are created.


Reply to argument for the contrary:  As the Philosopher says in Metaphysics 5, certain necessary things have a cause of their necessity, and so they depend on another for the very fact that it is impossible for them to be otherwise.  And this in itself is a certain kind of efficacious restraint.  For things that are restrained are said to be restrained to the extent that they are unable to act differently from the way in which they are determined to (de eis disponatur).





I-II, q. 90, The Essence of Law

I-II, q. 91, The Different Kinds of Law

I-II, q. 92, The Effects of Law


Eternal law

I-II, q. 93, Eternal Law

Natural law

I-II, q. 94, The Natural Law

Human law

I-II, q. 95, Human Law

I-II, q. 96, The Force of Human Law

I-II, q. 97, Changes in Human Law

The old law

I-II, q. 98, The Old Law

I-II, q. 99, The Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 100, The Moral Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 101, The Ceremonial Precepts of the Old Law in Themselves

I-II, q. 102, The Causes of the Ceremonial Precepts

I-II, q. 103, The Duration of the Ceremonial Precepts

I-II, q. 104, The Judicial Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 105, The Nature of the Judicial Precepts

The new law

I-II, q. 106, The Law of the Gospel, called the New Law, in Itself

I-II, q. 107, The Relation between the Old Law and the New Law

I-II, q. 108, The Contents of the New Law