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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K037-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

The doctrine of divine immutability consists in the assertion that God cannot undergo real change. Plato and Boethius infer divine immutability from God’s perfection, Aristotle from God’s being the first cause of change, Augustine from God’s having created time. Aquinas derives divine immutability from God’s simplicity, his having no parts or attributes which are distinct from himself. All of these arguments finally appeal to aspects of God’s perfection; thus, the doctrine of divine immutability grew from a convergence of intuitions about perfection. These intuitions dominated Western thought about God well into the nineteenth century.

The doctrine’s foes argue that God’s power, providence and knowledge require its rejection. Their arguments contend that since the world does in fact change through time, this must entail change in God. If God responds to changing historical circumstances and to prayers, that would seem to require some sort of change in him (from not responding to responding). And if he does not intervene to prevent a war, for example, then after the war, he will have lost the power to prevent it (assuming, as many do, that God cannot alter the past), so again there is a change of state. Finally, it is argued that God’s knowledge of tensed truths (for example, ‘it is now noon’) must change as what time ‘now’ is changes. Some responses to these arguments appeal to the claim that God is in some sense outside time.

Citing this article:
Leftow, Brian. Immutability, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K037-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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