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powering sense of mission, and their willingness to intervene in royal and political affairs, (d) The prophetic speeches at Mari and in the Old Testament utilize the messenger form of address, contain oracles of salvation and conditional judgment, and show parallel usage of oracles against the nations, (e) Israelite prophetism's proclamations of unconditional judgment and high ethical and theological concerns are not to be found in the Mari texts, but these were scarcely present in early Israelite prophecy either.

ST. T H O M A S A Q U I N A S ON P R O V I D E N C E AND PREDESTINATION LEE H. YEARLEY The idea of providence/predestination is one of the most perplexing and important of all Christian ideas. The nature of each and the distinction between them are difficult to specify. Speaking generally, providence signifies God's control as efficient cause and as the exemplar of the created order of actualization. Predestination is based in providence but relates solely to intellectual creatures, their end of union with God, and the special care needed to bring them to that end. The idea is closely connected with almost all Christian doctrines and also has wide philosophic implications. In fact, in the sense that providence/predestination specifies the relation of God to the world, the concept becomes the most crucial and farranging human idea or question about the nature of God. In its simplest form, the question providence/predestination raises is: "Does God control the actual happenings of the world?" Seem-


ingly there are insurmountable problems whichever way the question is answered. If it is held that he does not, then his lack of control in the world makes him irrelevant to great sec tions of life, imperils the traditional doctrines of Creation and the Incarnation, means he is not omnipotent as there are powers he cannot control, and radically changes the sense of justification and one of its corollaries, the theological virtue of hope. How ever, if it is held that he does, then large problems also arise. For if God rules effectively, free will appears to be a myth and moral responsibility a delusion; God causes evil and personally damns the reprobate; the Incarnation is demeaned; nearly insolvable problems are raised about the nature of and reason for the Creation; and, as all things happen of necessity, the ob viously contingent causality of the world is denied. Obviously, put in this form the problem can only lead to a series of dilemmas: faith demanding some kind of effective re lation of God to the world; the obvious construction, nature, and moral activity of the world demanding some form of contingency, some kind of freedom. And so the problem becomes how to describe the nature of God's control over the world without deny ing the insights of either faith or reason. H o w then does God act in the world? In what manner? By what means? And why has he chosen those means and that manner? Thomas' attempt to describe "how" and "why" God works is one of the most ambitious, complete, and perceptive in the Christian tradition. Moreover, for two reasons Thomas is par ticularly relevant to our age. First, he had an awareness, some thing like our own, of both the integrity of natural processes and the good naturally attainable by man. One of the most significant and original strands in his theology concerns the meaning of Creation. Creatures are dependent yet real, beings with a par ticular kind of life and meaning, not mere negative limitations of a universal. And so grace presupposes nature and perfects rather than destroys it. But, second, he also judges much contemporary



thinking by his insistent emphasis on the transcendent power and perfection of God, and the centrality of the supernatural end to which man is called. The "exit from" and "return to" God the underlying form of the Summais the essential fact of life.1 Maintaining and relating both these perspectives was one of his central theological concerns, as is shown clearly in his work on providence and predestination. Before ending these general remarks, four notes on my manner of interpreting Thomas' work on this subject: First, I will focus directly on the question of "how" and "why" God acts in the world. As with any other basic theological problem, numerous other questions are directly related to it: theological ones such as the nature of miracles, more philosophic ones such as the possibility of an a se Being acting outside himself. These questions are relevant and can shed much light on Thomas' position. But once entered, the labyrinth is endless and usually contains the fabled bull as well. Second, my main emphasis will be on the relation of God to man, not God to the natural world, the former being the more comprehensive and significant problem. Third, I will be stressing the distinctive characteristics of providence and predestination. The differences between the two are real, reflecting the unique position of man in the created world and the transcendent nature of the goal to which he is called. But the form of the paper and the necessity of separating the two for clear analysis may accentuate the differences. Unfortunately
^ a r i e Dominique Chenu has analyzed the exitus-reditus theme in Thomas; for a short account see his The Scope of the Summa (Washington, 1958) On the general interpretation of Thomas, Etienne Gilson's works, particularly ^ his The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas (New York, 1956), remain basic starting points, whatever particular objections to them there may be. Toseph Pieper's books on Thomas, particularly his Introduction to St. Thomas (New York, 1963), show a somewhat different side of Thomas, one some may find more congenial. On translations of material relevant to this topic: The Anton C. Pegis edition of The Basic Writings of St. Thomas (New York, 1945) has many of the important texts. Providence and Predestination: Questions 5 and 6 from Truth ("Gateway Paperbacks"; Chicaeo, 1061) is a translation of an early, though essential, text from De Ventate. Finally, Thomas Gilby's, St. Thomas: Theological Texts^ (Oxford, 195, has an interesting compilation of texts on the subject (pp. 96-109) in a lively translation.



the balance that is so characteristic of Thomas is difficult for his interpreters to grasp, much less emulate. Fourth, and perhaps most important, I will discuss Thomas from a twentieth-century perspective by asking him our questions. In some cases these questions are different from those he himself asked, so that his writings do not contain direct answers. T o answer these questions I will attempt to articulate the basic considerations and perceptions behind his position. Hopefully this is to use Thomas as a resource rather than a period piece. It is also to run the risk of doing a disservice to Thomas and of indulging in "glorious sophistry," to use Acton's phrase about Newman. I In Thomas' writings one sees two distinct aspects of providence: God acting through form and as end, and God acting as efficient cause. " I n providential activity God controls things by the form of their nature toward an end and through efficiency"* In the first sense of providenceGod acting as end and through formprovidence can be defined as "the exemplar of the order of things toward an end existing in the divine mind" 8 ; that is, the eternal structural disposition of the world. As all beings are structured, they must follow their structure or nature to achieve fulfillment or actualization. God controls them through end and form: through end, as every agent acts toward some preordained good, and through form, as every agent is efficaciousable to do what it desires and achieve its goodonly through its preordained form. Thus the immediate, providential omnipotence of God is that he has established the rules of the game; if one chooses not to play by them, one will really not be able to play at all. Disobeying these rules leads to destruction, that is, to nonattainment of one's goalshappiness, actuality, the good. "Hence what seems to depart from the
a 8

^vmma Theologicae S.7\, l;22,i.

(henceforth " S T . " ) , 15105,5.



divine will in one order returns to it in another; as does the sinner who by sin falls away from the divine will as much as it lies in him, yet falls back into the order of that will when by its justice he is punished."* The second aspect of providence is the causal execution of that exemplar of orderusing causal in the limited sense of agency. This aspect has two distinct sides. The first is God as the universal and therefore inescapable cause. Everything is under the control of God in so far as he is the universal agent cause. "It is possible for an effect to happen outside the order of a particular cause but not outside the order of the universal cause . . . for anything happening outside of a particular cause happens because of some other cause which can be reduced to the universal cause."5 The "abstract" quality of this control is shown by one of Thomas' examples: a thing may fail to be a man or a living being, but it cannot fail to be a being and, since the will of God is the universal cause of all being, that will always produces its effect. The second aspect of God as agent cause is his actual government. Here God utilizes the realm of secondary causes. Therefore, "the effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either necessarily or contingently."6 "God who governs the universe intends to establish some of his effects by way of necessity and others by way of contingency. . . . Though the divine providence is the per se cause of a particular future event,... it does not follow . . . that this particular effect necessarily will be; for the divine providence is the per se cause that this event will happen contingently."7 Thus a major mode of God's government will be through contingent secondary causality.8
*S.7\, 1 ; 19,6. "Punishment" here probably also refers to God's judgment after death. 6 S.7\, 1:103,7. e ST., i;22,4, ad I. 7 Summa Contra Gentiles, Chapter 94. s The principle of metaphysical economy (oikonomia) has traditionally expressed the idea that God intervenes in the world sparingly and with discretion. As characterizing the divine style, the divine idiom, to use C. S. Lewis' phrases, and as underlying



The implications of this are incredibly far reaching, for it means that, in general, when acting providentially God specifically ordains events only via form, end, and universal causality. As an operating cause he can be "hindered" by deficiencies in secondary causes or by possible conflicts among different causes. Therefore, God does not directly control all particular happenings in the world, having ordained most of them to occur contingently. The question immediately arises why God has chosen to exercise his providential control only through secondary causality and a structure which brings destruction if flaunted. Though Thomas never raised the question in its peculiar modern form and realized that it is tied to the mystery of Creation, there are two implicit answers in his writings. The first is his belief that the beauty and order of the whole justify it. "The principal good in things themselves is the perfection of the universe."9 This means that all grades of being must be found, for only the great diversity of the whole could even begin to manifest God's na^ ture. Thus the shortcomings of any particular part must be seen in their relation to the whole. God aimed to "make what is better in the whole, not what is better in every single part, except in relation to the whole."10 "A wise craftsman is not obsessed with the particular advantage of this part or that; he takes them all as subordinate to the whole."11 This principle not only justifies a great variety of beings, it also, and more importantly, justifies the conflicts among these various imperfect beings. For "something can operate against a particular system without being against nature as such . . . [for it will be] in accordance with nature taken in its most universal sense which includes the relationship of the whole cosmos to him [God]."13 Real justice
the argument from convenience, it is a central aspect of Thomas' thought. Few words are so pregnant with meaning; for the numerous senses of the word in Patristic literature see G. L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought (London, 1964), chap ; 3. Erich Przywara, Polarity (London, 1935)a strongly criticized but, to my mind, highly original and exciting bookis particularly illuminating on this subject. S.T., 1522,4. 10 S.T., 1548,2, ad 3. ^Disputations: de Anima, 7. ^Disputations, 6: de Potentia, 1, ad 1.



lies in the relation of the whole to God, though particular justice lies in the relation of part to part. The latter may be thwarted; the former never can be. "The order of creatures to himself in which justice consists"13 can never be overcome. The second aspect of Thomas' answer is his recognition that in the actual worldthe world we move in and knowgoods and bads are inextricably intertwined. To ask for a world with out evil is also to ask for a world of diminished good. Genera tion involves corruption, the glory of the martyrs involves the horror of their persecutors, the atoning death of Christ is tied to the perfidy and blindness of his accusors. It is a situation of constant tensions in which good must purify itself in evil flames, in which construction and destruction are inextricably intertwined, in which death begets life, and evil, good, on all levels, in all ways. "Gain to one is loss to another; coming to be spells dying away. The lion must eat so the kid is killed; the patience of the just supposes persecution from the unjust. Take away evil and much good would go with it. God's care is to bring good out of the evil which happens, not to abolish them."1* "God permits evil in order to bring forth a greater good."15 The complexity, cross purposes, and destructive potentialities of the world can be salvatory. They are not to be avoided through Stoic withdrawal or "Neo-Platonic" mysticism, but gathered up and completed. As the Incarnation shows, it is only in the dayby-day living of regenerate and unregenerate, good and bad existence that one finally attains one's end. One calls that Friday "good" because, by passing through it, what did come, could come. God could have chosen other means for redeeming
^Ibid., , ad 3. All Thomas' statements concerning the primacy of intellectual creatures must be read in this "context. Though traditional Christian ^ thought has stressed the unique place of man more than many traditionsthe Buddhist ahimsa or the Taoist Tao-ming are really "anti-individual" concepts, for instanceits outlook is different from our contemporary one. Augustine, for example, counsels that if locusts should eat one's field, one's proper response is to praise the beauty of the whole and the locusts fulfilling their locustness. ^Compendium Theologiae, 142. *S.T.f 3 ; i , 3 , ad 3.



man, but the complex involvement of the Christ was the most fitting. Growth, movement, life, and diversity demand conflictthe good as well as the evil. A world that causes suffering is also a world that finally confers salvation. The innocent piety of the one who uses God's will to explain all catastrophes is of a lesser order than the wisdom of the one who recognizes that the ordained governance of contingency is the one which leads to final holiness.10 II In moving from providence to predestination all the questions relating to theodicy, all the problems in understanding the nature and form of God's will are heightened. But before discussing the differences between these ideas, it is important to note their similarities, for there is a continuity between providence and predestination. As providence is the structure of human nature, the natural form, the telic cause that must be followed if there is to be actualization, so predestination is the movement to fulfillment as seen in rational creatures. In this part of Thomas' analysis, in these verbal formulations, predestination like providence is an exemplar of order in the divine mind. It does not raise one beyond one's natural possibilities nor involve more certain direction than does providence. "For predestination is a part of providence, . . . [and] not all things subject to providence are necessary} for at times some things happen from contingency according to the disposition of proximate causes."17 Seen from this perspective, predestination is being incited to love by an already existing object.0 It almost seems to signify the ability of some to see and act upon the good.
ie The felix culpa idea in Thomas is always in tension with his sense of the goodness of the created pre-Fall world, the infinite variety of worlds God could have created, and the numerous ways he might have responded to the Fall. He recognizes the idea as both carrying a profound truth and yet being very treacherous.

"ST., 1523,8. W S.T., l; 2 3 ,2.




From this point of view Thomas can speak of reprobation as being a conditional, rather than an absolute, inability to be saved, for one is not theoretically disallowed from seeing the good and acting on it. However, finally, predestination is of a much different com plexion than providence. For example, though it is true that the predestined man sees the structured good (providence), acts upon it, is pleasing to God's eyes, and is thereby saved, one must note that he is able to do this because God loved him and in so doing created his ability to see and act. For while we are incited to love by a good which already exists, in God it is the reverse. " F o r his will, by which in loving he wishes good to someone, is the cause of that good.'*1* God elects one before all time rather than responding to the goodness one develops. Election from love illustrates the particular characteristic of predestination. For although "providence means ordering to an end, in a general sense, . . . predestination is concerned only with that end which is possible for a rational creature, namely, eternal glory. Consequently it concerns only men, and only with refer ence to those things that are related to salvation."20 Moreover, "in ordering two things must be considered, the ordering itself and the outcome or result. [Providence is concerned only with the ordering] . . . but predestination with the outcome or result 21 of that ordering." So although by providence all men are ordered to eternal beatitude by predestination, only some reach it." Obviously this election before time, this concern with results
19 S.T., 15234. ^Disputations, 6: de Ventate, . "Ibid. ^Ibid. The relation of nature and grace is the general problem underlying ques tions about the relation of providence and predestination; in fact the latter is a key instance of the former. For excellent "Thomistic" discussions of nature and grace see E. L. Mastall, Via Media (London, 1956), pp. 132-165; and Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations (Baltimore, 1963), volume one, essays nine and tena less technical account appears in his book Nature and Grace (New York, 1964). In The Mystery of the Supernatural (London, 1967) Henri de Lubac traces, from a particular perspec tive, the modern debate on one aspect of this problem.



will involve some sort of direct control on God's part. His par ticular elective decree could never be fully thwarted by contingent secondary causality as could his providential one. This does not mean that the proximate cause of salvation, one's free choice, is not contingent and cannot fail in some sense. I t can, but the first cause, God's decree, cannot. Nor does God just arbitrarily save one despite one's choices. God works so as to fulfill both his decree and preserve one's free will. In an early work Thomas describes this as happening by " G o d p r e p a r i n g ] so many other helps for one who is predestined that he either does not fail at all or if he does, he rises again. T h e help that God gives a man to enable him to gain salvation is exhortations, the support of prayer, the gift of grace and similar things." 23 In later works he generally describes it as occurring by God causing the human will to pass from potency to act by a physical premotion which by its own inner nature produces a free choice. God by decreeing the premotion knows by the agent's intrinsic nature what will be freely done. At this point the modern mind tends to balk, feeling free will is imperiled. Admittedly, Thomas' "solution" to the free will dilemma is imperfect at best. There is some cogency in the idea that the will remains free when moved according to its nature by a higher cause and more in the idea that the will re mains free in choosing its ordained good when that good becomes obvious as the goal one has been seeking. But other questions generate less satisfying answers: Exactly how can God generate both the act and the act's quality of freedom? In what manner does the goal become obvious so as not to destroy free choice? How does God's prevision of one's response not determine that response? It is doubtful if anything resembling a satisfactory answer can ever be offered; obviously we cannot begin to analyze the
**Disputations, 6: de Ventate, 3. See . P. Williams, The Grace of God (London, 1966), for a historical account of this idea particularly as it occurs in Augustine (especially pp. 37-48 and 108-114).



problem here. But in passing it is important to note that Thomas seemed to feel that it was absurd to deny free will or for that matter contingent causality 5 they are "empiric" givens. T h e theologian's problem is to attempt to give some idea of how they relate to divine causality. One can only make preliminary sketches, for the question is tied to two of the central mysteries of life: the character of God's knowledge and the relation of in finite and finite being. Thomas is always clear both that the predestined never know they are predestined and that this ignorance is ordained by God.84 This points up the fact that the question of predestination is one of man's most heroic and potentially most prideful attempts to probe into the character of God. Any attempt to solve it com pletely is doomed either to fail or to create an idol. In a sense, the idea of predestination is an idea that should not concern a man, since he is willed by God to an ignorance of his own and any other's state.20 But it is a theological question, and the knowledge we do have arises almost as a "deduction" from two sources. First is the idea that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and good and that he must exercise a particular care to bring men from sin and to lead them to a supernatural end. And second is the fact that "in 2 the common course and tendency many fall short." It has been argued that the fact of some seeming to fall short does not imply they are damned, for, first, we can never know the actual spiritual state of a man and, second, God's mercy may be such that he will restore his whole creation (afccatastasis).
^Disputations, 6: de Ventate, . I t is important to realize the role of mystery and its correlate negative theology in Thomas. For mystery is not so much a defective form of human knowledge as a positive reality eliciting a specific religious and philosophic response. See Joseph Pieper The Silence of St. Thomas (Chicago, 1965), and for more general treatments, Henri de Lubac The Discovery of God (Chicago, 1967), chap. 5, and Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations (Baltimore, 1967), Vol. 4 Austin Farrer's Faith and Speculation (London, IQ67) is a verv interesting attempt to relate the idea of mystery to this very problem (see particularly pp. 52-68). "ST., i;2 3 ,7, ad 3.



For Thomas the first assertion clearly flies in the face of facts, even given our ignorance about the exact nature of predestination. Men do sin; they do die unreconciled to God. To say otherwise is not to see clearly the tragic state of things. The second idea, for Thomas, does not recognize the seriousness of the choices one makes on earth, the freedom that man has to make himself. The integrity of the created world, the importance of actions upon it is such that there can be neither a complete conversion after death"When their life is over, . . . human beings remain fast. . . . Unalterableness and immobility mark the end of a process"27nor a just forgiving of the worst, unrepented sins. Four key ideas underlie and inform Thomas' deduction about the predestinaran activity of God. Presenting them may mediate somewhat the strangeness of the idea and the inhumanity we sense in the reprobation of the damned. First is Thomas' belief that the Bible clearly stated that God predestined. Without attempting to discuss Thomas' attitude toward, and exegesis of, the Bibleso perceptive at times, so bewildering at othersone can note there is much evidence to substantiate this view. That evidence must remain a major consideration in any discussion. Second is the "fact" seen in both traditional sources and personal experience that somehow one is both made and saved by forces beyond one's control. There is a superhuman matrix working for one's salvation. The fact of the Incarnation, the existence of the Church and its sacramental system can be truly seen only if they are realized to be blessed gifts. And in one's personal life, the half-understood congruences of events, the sudden crystalizations of understanding, the unexpected offerings of love and forgivenessall point, however inchoately, to divine intervention. These are ambivalent phenomena, explainable by other means and often only partially understood. They are, however, important considerations and form part of the life^Compendium Theologiae, 145.



blood of any piety, particularly of one as profound and sensitive as that of a man who is not only a doctor but also a saint of the Catholic Church. It is this whole complex of factors that can lead Paul to that amazing statement Thomas quotes so often: " I n everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Or as Thomas himself writes: "Nothing will happen to them that is not for their own good and everything that happens will be to their advantage."28 Third is the condition of man: it demands a direct intervention of God if salvation is to be accomplished. Man must be saved both "from" and " t o " 5 he must be saved from sin and to a state beyond his "pure" nature. Both movements require the direct aid of God. Man's sin is such that God could justly condemn him. If man declares God's reprobation of some unjust and demands that God deal justly with all, he would find that justice would require the reprobation of all.29 As God must act to save man from sin, he must also act to lead man to his ultimate end, personal bodily immortality and an enjoyment of the beatific vision. If man is to become a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), if he is to fulfill his fotentia obedientialis, he must go beyond his natural state. Even the perfection of "pure" nature, the natural beatific vision, does not attain to the entitive elevation necessary for union with God. The fourth idea, which underlies the third and almost the whole of Thomistic piety, is that the predestined man is saved by the sheer bountifulness and mercy of God. The cause of pre^Disputations, 5: de Ventate, 7. ^Riht or wrong, this attitude is no longer ours, at least to the degree it was once held There is hardly a more striking difference than this between our age and much of the Christian tradition It was this attitude that led men of a former age to accept and even welcome predestination where we tend to find it destructive of what we consider most important.



destination is nothing other than God's goodness.30 Like all that man has, even his very act of existing, it comes directly from God as a free gift. Since salvation is given out of liberality, it does not belong to the realm of justice, the rendering of due through the repaying of a debt.81 "Mercy lays the foundation of all divine works 5 nothing is owing to creatures except what God gives them without title on their part."83 There can be no really just relation with God, for man can never render him his due; the debt is too immense. "God is not unfair if he renders unequally to men not unequal. It would be against justice were the effect of predestination a debt and not a gift. But without prejudice to justice you can give presents just as you please, here more, here less, so long as no one is deprived of what is owing to him."33 Ill At many points in Thomas' writings the relation of God to the world seems almost that of a deistic or "philosopher's" God, though the preservative action is always emphasized. The integrity of the natural world with its web of interacting secondary causes and its fundamental structure is upheld. In fact, it is maintained to the degree that God seems only able to work through them, and thus be thwarted by them. God seems to have ordained the world and then stood aside, exercising his sovereignty only insofar as punishment comes from misuse of his ordained natural structures. But when Thomas is specifically considering the complex nature of man and the revelation of God, other relations, other ideas become prominent. Man's constitution, his unique potentiality for union with God, and his sinful separation from him show specific needs and possibilities. And God's revelation show him

Disputations, 6: de Ventate, 2. ^Ibid., ad, 2. 'Disputations, 22: de Malo, 2. W S.T., 1523,5



to be more involved and concerned, as well as more sovereign and free than the general nature of the world would lead one to suppose. From these considerations arise the idea of predestination. And from predestination arise both the philosophic difficulties and the essence of the Christian message. In considering these two areas, in working at the problems of providence and predestination, Thomas has neither exhaustively analyzed either sphere nor solved all the problems of their workings and relations. H e has, however, taken account of the two basic realms a theologian must deal withconsistency of rational discourse coupled with regard for our basic natural experience, and honesty to the traditional and personal sense of Christianity. One cannot deny the demands of rational coherence or the empiric givens of contingent causality, natural structure, real particularity, and free will. Nor can one deny the Bible's witness, the tradition's ideas, the human fotentia obedientialis, or one's own religious intuitions. Thomas' account is coherent, understandable, and fairly demonstrable at the level of providence as a structure of realization allowing for better and worse use. In the realm of predestination the coherence and understandability become strained and the general demonstrability almost disappears. For at the point of predestination Thomas is attempting to articulate some highly particular experiences and facts, to probe the character of God, and to understand the nature of his relation to man. They fit imperfectly into the general construction of nature and are unamenable to easy understanding because they arise from and represent a different mode of existing and acting, a different realm of the potential. Finally the manifestations of this realm judge rather than are judged by the nature they arise from. For they point to a control and transcendence of nature that nature and its language can only hint at.

^ s
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