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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article One Whether Providence is Appropriately Ascribed to God

Whether Providence is Appropriately Ascribed to God

We proceed to the first article thus:

1. It seems that providence is not appropriately ascribed to God. For Tullius says that |providence is part of prudence| (2 De Invent.), and prudence cannot be ascribed to God. Prudence, according to the philosopher (6 Ethics 5, 8, 18), gives good counsel, whereas God is not subject to any doubt which could require good counsel. Hence providence is not appropriately ascribed to God.

2. Again, whatever is in God is eternal. But providence is not eternal, since it is concerned with existing things, which are not eternal, as the Damascene says (1 De Fid. Orth.3). Hence providence is not in God.

3. Again, there is nothing composite in God. But providence seems to be composite, since it involves both intellect and will. Hence providence is not in God.

On the other hand: it is said in Wisdom 14:3: |Thou, O Father, rulest all things by providence.|

I answer: we are bound to say that there is providence in God, since God has created every good that exists in things, as we said in Q.6, Art.4. Now there is good not only in the substance of things, but also in their ordination to an end, especially to the ultimate end, which is a divine good, as we said in Q.21, Art.4. God is therefore the source of the good which exists in the order which relates created things to their end. Further, since God is the cause of things through his intellect, the reason for every one of his effects must pre-exist in his intellect, as we explained in Q.21, Art.4, also. Hence the reason why things are ordained to their end must pre-exist in the mind of God. But the reason why things are ordained to their end is, properly speaking, providence, because it is the principal part of prudence. The other two parts of prudence, memory of the past and understanding of the present, are subordinate to it, helping us to decide how to provide for the future. As the philosopher says in 6 Ethics 12, prudence directs other capacities to an end, whether it be for one's own sake or for the sake of one's dependents in a family, state, or kingdom. Thus we say that a man is prudent when he directs his actions well in view of the end of life, and Matt.24:45 speaks of |a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household.| Prudence or providence of this kind is appropriately ascribed to God. There is indeed nothing in God which needs to be directed to its end, since God is himself the ultimate end. But what we mean by |providence| in God is the reason for the ordination of things to their end. Thus Boethius says (4 De Consol.6): |Providence is the divine reason which resides in the highest principle of all things, and which disposes all things.| We may add that this disposition is the reason for the ordination of things to their end, as well as for the ordering of parts in a whole.

On the first point: as the philosopher says in 6 Ethics 9 and 10, |prudence properly directs us in what good deliberation rightly advises, and in what sound judgment rightly judges.| God does not indeed take counsel, for this means to inquire into what is doubtful. But he does decree the ordering of things to their end, since the true idea of things lies in him. As Ps.148:6 says: |he hath made a decree which shall not pass.| Prudence and providence in this sense are appropriately ascribed to God. The reason for doing things may be called |counsel| in God, not because it involves inquiry, but because of the certainty of the knowledge of it, to which those who take counsel can attain only by means of inquiry. Thus it is said in Eph.1:11: |. . . who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.|

On the second point: there are two aspects of providential care. There is the reason for the order in things, which is called providence, and there is the disposition and execution of this order. The former is eternal, the latter temporal.

On the third point: providence does belong to the intellect, and also presupposes an end which is willed, since no one determines the means to an end unless he wills the end. Prudence likewise presupposes the moral virtues through which desires are related to the good, as is said in 6 Ethics 12. But even though providence should relate both to the will and to the intellect of God, this would not destroy the simple nature of God, since in God will and intellect are the same, as we said in Q.19, Arts.2 and 4.

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