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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article One Whether Men are Predestined by God

Whether Men are Predestined by God

We proceed to the first article thus:

1. It seems that men are not predestined by God. For the Damascene says: |We ought to know that God foreknows all things, but does not predetermine all things. He has foreknowledge of all that is in us, but does not predetermine it| (2 De Fid. Orth.30). Now human merits and demerits are in us, since free will makes us master of our actions. It follows that whatever has to do with merit or demerit is not predestined by God. But this makes the predestination of men impossible.

2. Again, it was said in Q.22, Arts.1 and 2 that all creatures are directed to their end by divine providence. Yet other creatures are not said to be predestined by God. Neither, then, are men.

3. Again, angels are capable of blessedness no less than men. But predestination does not apply to angels, apparently because they have never known misery and because predestination is the decision to have mercy, as Augustine says (De Praed. Sanct.17). Neither, therefore, does it apply to men.

4. Again, the benefits which God bestows on men are revealed to the saints by the Holy Spirit, according to I Cor.2:12: |Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.| Hence if men were predestined by God, their predestination would be known to those who were predestined, since predestination is a benefit which God bestows. But this is obviously untrue.

On the other hand: it is said in Rom.8:30: |whom he did predestinate, them he also called.|

I answer: it is rightly said that God predestines men. We have shown that all things are ruled by divine providence (Q.22, Art.4), and that providence ordains things to their end (Q.22, Arts.1 and 2). Now the end to which God ordains creatures is twofold. There is, first, the end which exceeds the proportion and the capacity of created nature. This is eternal life, which consists in the vision of the divine essence, which is beyond the nature of any creature, as we said in Q.12, Art.4. There is, secondly, the end which is proportionate to created nature, which a created thing may attain by means of its own natural power. Now when a thing cannot attain something by its own natural power, it must be directed to it by another, as an arrow is directed to its mark by an archer. Properly speaking, then, although a rational creature is capable of eternal life, he is brought to this life by God. The reason why he is brought to eternal life must therefore pre-exist in God, since the reason why anything is ordained to its end lies in God, and we have said that this is providence. The reason which exists in the mind of an agent is, as it were, a pre-existence in him of the the thing which he intends to do. We give the name of |predestination| to the reason why a rational creature is brought to eternal life, because to destine means to bring. It is plain, then, that predestination is a part of providence, if we consider it in relation to its objects.

On the first point: by predetermination the Damascene means the imposition of a necessity such as occurs in natural things predetermined to a single end. His next words make this clear -- |God does not will malice, nor compel virtue.| This does not make predestination impossible.

On the second point: irrational creatures are not capable of the end which exceeds the capacity of human nature. Hence they are not properly said to be predestined, although we do speak loosely of predestination in relation to other ends.

On the third point: predestination applies to angels as well as to men, even though they have never known misery. A movement is defined by its terminus ad quem, not by its terminus a quo. To be made white means the same thing whether one who is made white was formerly black, pale, or red. Predestination also means the same thing whether or not one is predestined to eternal life from a state of misery.

On the fourth point: their predestination is revealed to some by special privilege. But to reveal it in every case would be improvident. Those who are not predestined would despair, and security would engender negligence in those who are.

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