Sunday, 11 November 2012

The distinction between Eternal and Everlasting Life

I was very interested in your recent article in the Franciscan magazine and am confused as to the distinction between eternal life, as an attribute of the deity, and everlasting life, as referring to human beings. I can't help feeling that most Christians without a theological training, would not make such a distinction.

Response (from Nicholas): I haven’t read John’s article, but it seems to me that one clear distinction is that God’s eternal life has no beginning and no end and is an inherent attribute of God, whereas our everlasting life still begins at our birth and is something granted to us by God rather than something which we inherently possess.

John adds: In addition to what Nicholas has said about beginnings, I would like to add that all creaturely experience of time is characterised by change (as Augustine emphasised). Everlasting life will have this character, as through unending salvific process we enter ever more fully into exploration of the riches of the divine nature progressively revealed to us. The life of God, though it involves in some respects a changing relationship with creatures as they change, has also an eternal timeless dimension, for example the steadfast love of the Creator for creatures, from everlasting to everlasting.

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