Sunday, June 11, 2006

Comments on Mere Comments

In my last post on the important Bush / Beaumont summit, Flavis sent a link to an article on predestination. He asked for comments on it:

http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2006/06/being_and_causa.html

The author of this article is a (pontificator corrected me here, the author is a catholic) named Anthony Esolen. Let's start by giving some quotes from the Angelic Doctor himself that are relevant to what Esolen said.

Chapter 89 of SCG Book 3, Part 2, concerning "That the movement of the will is caused by God and not only the power of the will" Aquinas says,

“God not only gives powers to things but, beyond that, no thing can act by its own
power unless it acts through His power… man cannot use the power of will that
has been given him except in so far as he acts through the power of God. Now,
the being through whose power the agent acts is the cause not only of the power,
but also of the act… Therefore, God is for us the cause not only of our will, but
also of our act of willing.”

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles: Book 3: Part 2, (United States:
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1955.), 36.


In the next section Aquinas shows that mans will is subject to divine providence. In this context he says, "since [God] is the cause of our act of choice and volition, our choices and will-acts are subject to divine providence." page 37. Concerning "How human events may be traced back to higher causes" Aquinas says "Of course, acts of choice and movements of the will are controlled immediately by God." He continues, "So, the movement of all wills and choices must be traced back to the divine will, and not to any other cause, for God alone is the cause of our acts of will and choice." page 40-41.

Clearly, for Aquinas, God's causal power extended beyond the fact of free will to the very acts of free will. No choice is made independently of God's causality. Of course this raises a ton of questions, but Aquinas has a keen ability to see potential questions and answer them.

The reason God must be the cause is because He is simple. Since He is simple, He cannot be affected by creatures. Also, because he is simple, His knowledge is immutable and His knowledge cannot be affected by creatures. God is related to the world as Cause is related to effect. God knows the world because God is the cause of the world. God's causality, like His knowledge, does not stop at the power of free will.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange states Aquinas' definition of predestination as "The type of the ordering of some persons towards eternal salvation, existing in the divine mind... The number of the predestined is certain to God, not only by way of knowledge, but also by way of principal preordination" You CANNOT say of Aquinas that he thought that God was passive with regard to our free choices. NOTHING is outside of God's providence and control.

Calvinists who use Aquinas often times don't realize how far Aquinas goes. Many of the Calvinists that I have spoken with suppose that we have free will with regard to most of our choices. Of course they claim that we are free only to choose among evil options before God regenerates us, but I often hear them make distinctions between common choices and the "choice" of salvation. For them, we are free to make whatever choices we want before and after salvation, but salvation is marked by it's being uniquely caused by God. (And though they almost always deny it, God causes our salvation against our will because, on their view, we would never will it apart from God's causing it.) For Aquinas, no choice is made independently of God; whether it be the choice of salvation or the choice of eating a banana or a candy bar.

If that is the case, the most obvious question deals with whether or not man is free. I don't think Aquinas was a compatiblist. (Though I think my philosophy professor disagrees) I don't know if Aquinas was a liberatarian. However, it does seem that Aquinas believed that we had a genuine ability to make choices. Not independent from God, but free none the less. I think that most Aquinas scholars hold that Aquinas held to some kind of dual causality. Some think that man's choices involve two efficient causes, where God is the primary efficient Cause and man is the secondary efficient cause. Others think that God is the formal Cause of our actions and that we are the efficient cause of our action. I am not qualified to debate the issue either way.

The point is that there are ways of affirming, without contradiction, that God and man are both involved in mans acts of free will. It is difficult to respond to Dr. Esolen's post because he is speaking more in theological terms. I would be interested in seeing what he makes of this post.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'm the 100th post, I'm the 100th post!!!!

Uh . . . I guess I should say something thomistic or something.
Um . . .
OK, act in the order in which it is act is unique and unlimited unless cojoined to passive potency.
There, now doesn't that feel nice???

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