Divine Providence, Predestination, and the Law of the Cross

Doug McManaman
Date: Winter, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

The Creation of Free Choices

The most mysterious problem in all of philosophy is the relationship between divine providence and the free choices made by human persons. It is typical of students of philosophy to ask the question: "How can I be free if God knows what I am going to choose to do tomorrow?" But providence is far more mysterious than this question tends to suggest. We can go further and ask: "How can man be free if God creates the free choices that he makes?" For this is, in fact, the case: God is the creator of everything that is. Human free-choices exist. Therefore, God is the creator of human free-choices. And if God creates our choices, He certainly knows what we are going to do tomorrow and the following day since He creates those very choices.

To explain this clearly is indeed possible, but to understand it "from within" is not. To understand this "from without", so to speak, we need to begin with the principles of essence and existence. As you know by now, essence and existence are really distinct (not separate). Knowing what a thing is does not tell me whether or not that thing really is. Apprehending the existence of a thing requires a different act of the intellect, namely, existential judgment, in contradistinction to simple apprehension, which grasps "what a thing is". "Essence" answers the question concerning "what" a thing is. Existence, on the other hand, is not "what" a thing is, rather, it is an act that a thing has. A being is a habens esse, or that which has an act of existing.

Whatever belongs to the essence of a thing belongs to it necessarily. Thus, a man is necessarily rational and risible, but he is not necessarily Italian, Jewish, or of large bone structure. And whatever belongs to a thing necessarily cannot be otherwise. A triangle cannot not have three sides, and an animal cannot not have the ability to sense.

But the act of existing does not belong to the nature of any being whose essence is distinct from its existence. You and I are human, but we have an act of existing. And if the act of existing was part of my nature, then existence would belong to me necessarily. And if existence belongs to me necessarily, then I could not not exist. Hence, I will have always existed.

But we know from within that our existence is received, that is, we came into existence. When it came to proving God's existence, we began by inquiring into the agent cause of the received act of existing of contingent beings (beings whose essences are distinct from their existence). To determine the cause, we ruled out two proposals: a) a contingent being brings itself into existence, and b) contingent beings bring other contingent beings into being. Regarding the first, it is impossible for a contingent being to bring itself into being. Existence is prior to activity, that is, one must first exist before one can do anything. To bring oneself into being, a thing would have to be prior to itself, that is, it would have to exist before it exists, which is absurd.

The second proposal, namely, that contingent beings impart existence, is also impossible. A contingent being has no dominion over being. A thing can only act according to the powers of its limited nature (plants grow, but they don't bark; dogs bark, but they don't reason; and human persons reason and will, but they cannot breath under water). The act of existing, though, is outside the nature of a contingent being otherwise it would not be a contingent being, but a necessary being (God). If it was my nature to exist, I could impart being. But existence is not what I am, but an act that I have. That is why the human person cannot bring something into being from nothing (creation), but can only make things from already existing material (production).

And so if nothing brings itself into existence, and if contingent beings have no dominion over being, then the efficient cause of the act of existing of contingent beings can only be a non-contingent being, that is, a being whose essence is to exist. This being does not have being; rather, it is its act of being. It's nature is to be. Thus, it cannot not exist. This non-contingent being whose nature is to exist is what we mean by God.

Note too that like begets like. It is of the nature of a cause to impart its likeness to its effect. For example, a moving thing causes movement. Offspring are of the same nature as the parent. Since it is God's nature to exist (He is His act of existing), God alone imparts a likeness of Himself, namely the act of existing, to contingent beings. Furthermore, God is the perpetual cause of a thing's act of existing; for I cannot perpetuate my existence any more than I can impart existence, for I have no dominion over being. If I did, Icould keep myself in existence perpetually.

Now a thing can only produce or reproduce on condition that God create it along with that which it produces. I can only produce a work of art on condition that I be made to exist, preserved in existence, and that the matter that I am working on be made to exist and is preserved in its existence through the making process. God is the first existential cause of whatever has being and the first perpetual cause of that existence. And what exists when a human being is made to exist, is precisely a person capable of making free choices. A person has intelligence and will, and a free choice is a self-determined choice, not a choice determined by instinct or by something in the environment.

I have options before me, and in each option, there are goods some of which are not contained in the other options. That is why I find something uniquely attractive about each option and why I find it difficult to make a decision. But I have to decide, so I begin to deliberate between alternatives. If any one option contained all the goods contained in the others, I will see no need to continue deliberating. If the University of Toronto option contained every benefit contained in the York, Queens, Waterloo, and McGill options, then I'd see no practical reason to deliberate further. I would inevitably and necessarily choose the University of Toronto option. But I deliberate only because there are finite goods in one option that are not found in the other options. Decision is an act of "cutting off" the deliberation process, from the Latin "de secare" (dissect). The will orders the intellect to impress upon the will (itself) a definite known good for the last time. Thus, the will, in deciding for alternative U of T, commands the intellect to present to the will the alternative U of T for the last time. Thus the will, by terminating the intellectual process, is actually determining the course of action to be followed, that is, which means is to be chosen.1

Hence, I determine myself, that is, I determine the option that I will pursue. No one else determines it for me. And in choosing that option, I determine my relationship to the human goods that are revered, or attacked, or impeded in that option. In other words, in choosing, I shape my own character or moral identity; I engage in a kind of self-production or self-making every time I make a genuinely free moral choice.

But like any other form of production, I can only produce something on condition that I be made to exist and am preserved in existence. Indeed, I bring my choice into existence, and so it is truly my own. But I do not bring it into existence from nothing. It is not possible for me to bring anything into being from nothing. I make my choice (produce), but the very existence of my free choices are created by God, even though they are really and truly my choices.

My morally evil choices are also mine, but they are evil to the degree that they involve a deficient will. A morally evil choice is good to the degree that it has being, but it is evil in so far as it involves a will that is incompatible with a will towards integral human fulfillment. In other words, an evil will is deprived of integrity, that is, deprived of an order towards the total integration of human goods.

Now a deficiency is a lack of something that should be there. It is a lack of due being. God, however, is not the cause of "non-being", but of being. A lack cannot, strictly speaking, be created, much less a lack that ought not to be there. Thus, God cannot and does not cause or create moral evil. There is nothing to create; for evil is precisely a privation, a kind of non-being. I am the cause of the deficiency in my character, because I freely choose a deficient option, one that establishes a deficient relationship between my will and basic intelligible human goods. Instead of choosing to tell the truth, to which others have a right, I choose the option of lying. Here I subordinate another human being to my own ends, preferring myself over that person without any rational basis. Hence, I have become, by virtue of my own free choice, an unjust and irreverent person. But God is not the creator of the deficiency in that choice; rather, I am the first deficient cause of that action. God is the first cause of whatever has being in that action, and thus whatever in it that has goodness.

And so God is the first existential cause of our good free choices. We are only a secondary cause of them. It follows too that God is the first existential cause of our good character, since we determine our character by the choices that we make. Therefore, it is primarily to God that we owe thanks for creating our good free choices. The lack or deficiency that defines a choice as evil is due primarily to us, to our own injection of "non-being" into the heart of being. It is primarily we who are to be blamed for the moral evil of our actions.

Divine Providence

The word "providence" is derived from the Latin providere, which is "to look forward to", or "to see at a distance". It means to foresee, or to provide for. One who forsees or "looks forward to" in order "to provide for" has conceived a plan. A plan is an exemplar of order. The execution of that plan is called government. Now God does not, strictly speaking, foresee. For He is eternal, and there is no before and after in eternity; for God does not change. He knows eternally, and His knowledge is the measure of things, and eternity is "the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life" (Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy, 5). Nonetheless, there remains a distinction between the exemplar of order and divine government. The exemplar of order is eternal, but you and I, who are part of the execution of that order, are not eternal.2

Now all things, every entity and the gradual realization of every existing event, are subject to the providence or government of God, because He is the first existential and perpetual cause of whatever is, including activity. Nothing happens outside of God's providence. Now it is not possible to know the mind of God. Nevertheless, we can deduce a great deal about divine providence through reason. We know that God is His act of existing, which means He is pure act without any admixture of potentiality. From this it follows that God contains within himself all the perfections found in created things.3 But these perfections exist in God as identical to His act of existing (for there is no complexity or composition in God). Hence, these perfections exist in God preeminently. Thus, God is His knowledge. And since justice is a perfection, God is subsistent Justice. Since good is a property of being, God is the supreme Good, or subsistent Goodness. Moreover, He is subsistent Truth, and subsistent Beauty. It follows that whatever God does is just, because God, who is Justice, does it. And whatever God does is good because God, who is the supreme Good, does it.

Now the ordering of things toward an end is what it means to provide. If God is infinite, subsistent, and perfect Justice and Goodness, then His ordering of all created things towards the final end of creation will be an ordering that is perfectly just and good.

God creates at all because God is subsistent Goodness, and goodness is self-diffusive (bonum est diffusivum sui). He does not create out of necessity, but freely out of love; for God cannot be compelled, for His will is His nature, unlike ours. Many things happen in us that are outside the control of our will, like digestion and growth. But since God's Will is not distinct from His Being, and there is nothing outside of God (who is His own Being), it follows that nothing happens outside of His will.

And so God's goodness is is the reason He creates anything at all. He is the beginning and the end. He freely chooses to create beings in order to communicate the goodness of being -- which He is most fully -- to things other than Himself, and thus He orders all things to Himself; for the good of anything consists in its being ordered to God.4 The entire order of creation, which includes both the physical universe and the invisible angelic order, exists ultimately to proclaim and manifest the divine wisdom and beauty. That is why creation is so varied, multiform and complex; for no finite creature alone can adequately manifest the infinite beauty of God.

As we said above, the exemplar of order and the execution of order both pertain to the care of providence. This plan includes the ordering of all aspects of creation in relation to the ultimate end, just as the providence of a parent involves the ordering of everything in his or her power towards a preconceived end, which is the good of the children. The household, for example, is ordered in view of their well-being. This parental providence might begin with a plan of the house itself, for example the ordering of each room in relation to the entire house, as well as the things in each room, such as kitchen utensils, tables, chairs, etc., not to mention the daily schedule that includes set times to rise, to eat, to study, to play, to retire for the evening, etc.,. Each day is the execution of an overall plan.

But unlike human providence, the divine plan is eternally conceived because God is eternal. God knows what we are going to do tomorrow and the day after because all that actually happens in time is simply the execution of the eternal plan of divine providence. But this does not rule out free-choice, because freely chosen actions are included as parts of divine providence. Intelligent and free human persons have a unique sharing in providence. They participate in it as really free agents. Human persons have imparted to them what Aquinas calls "the dignity of causality" (dignitatem causalitatis).5 Just as a king imparts to his ministers the dignity of executing his providence, so too does God employ secondary causes to execute his plan. God has brought into being real agents who have a genuine ability to determine themselves (free-choice) and freely cause real effects in the world. They participate, with knowledge and freedom, in the ordering of things to the ultimate end, which is the manifestation of the divine wisdom and beauty.

But free-choice does not mean being the first cause of one's actions. Only God can be a first cause, because being is first (primary), and only God can cause the act of being. In other words, man can only cause being (make or produce) on condition that God renders this possible through creation. In other words, man is only a secondary cause, and he can only be so on condition that God is the primary cause.

When the end has been achieved, when the execution of providence is complete, we will have, as a result of our free choices, placed ourselves within that order, an order that was eternally conceived.6 And so, no matter how we choose, we will never be able to act outside the order of divine providence.7 Nor can we succeed in forever disrupting the just order of providence. For no matter how we choose, those choices will always exist within a providence that is in the end perfectly just and good, even though our free choices may not be just and good. What is especially mysterious is that God employs every free agent to help in the execution of his plan, and not one free agent is capable of hindering that plan. We cannot ever, even once, be "one up on God". Evil choices only succeed in destroying the persons who make them, never the providence of God.

Perhaps we can compare this to a scenario that is part fantasy. I wish to build a house, and so I draw up blueprints and a plan of action. I then execute my plans by making time for the project, clearing the ground, laying the foundation, building and erecting the frames, the roof, etc. The end is eventually achieved. But those walls are free agents, and they participated in my providence by freely choosing to take their place as walls of the house. So too did the windows, the doors, the roof, etc. Some parts of the house, however, freely chose a less dignified place in the overall scheme of things. They chose to be underground pipes responsible for carrying away sewage. Their places were freely chosen, yet at the same time they were always included in the original blueprint.

Indeed, we ought to be aware of the limits of our analogies. When human agents plan something that includes evil, for example to frame someone for a good end, that planning implies the intention to do evil. And when human agents plan to do something good, there are all sorts of things that happen that are outside the intention of the agent, such as an accident. We accept this as inevitable and beyond our control.

But this is not the case when it comes to divine providence. The plan of divine providence does not involve God willing evil. Only the evil will evil, and God is not evil. But the plan of providence does include the permitting of evil. Once again, however, what God permits or allows is not at all beyond his control, as is often the case with us. Nothing is outside of God's control. And God has to permit evil if He creates free agents. If it is good that God creates free human persons capable of choosing good or evil, it is absurd to expect Him not to permit evil. But God's permission of evil is not a matter of something outside of His control. God does not permit evil for its own sake. Evil is never final. Only God, who is the supreme Good, is final. And so God does not plan, for instance, for a woman to be raped. The rapist does that. But what the rapist failed to understand is that his entire life which he carved out for himself is included within the larger framework of divine providence, and that the evil he intended and carried out would not have the final word over the victim's life. Revelation makes this clear. The Word (Logos) is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Rv 1, 8), and the Word is God (Jn 1, 1). He who is supremely good and omnipotent has the final word because He is the Final Word, and He loves her (the victim) and has the power to bring about her greatest good, if she allows Him to and chooses not to shatter the impetus of divine grace that moves her toward a greater and supernatural good. As St. Paul says: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rm 8, 28).8


Scripture makes known details of the plan of divine providence that are hidden from the grasp of reason; for it has been revealed in the Person of Christ. He revealed God as a Trinity of Persons and himself as the Son of the Father sent to save the elect.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Thus he chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before him in love, marking us out beforehand, to be adopted sons, through Jesus Christ. Such was his purpose and good pleasure, to the praise of the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight. He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, according to his good pleasure which he determined beforehand in Christ, for him to act upon when the times had run their course: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth. And it is in him that we have received our heritage, marked out beforehand as we were, under the plan of the One who guides all things as he decides by his own will, chosen to be, for the praise of his glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came. Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the Truth and the gospel of your salvation; and having put your trust in it you have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance, for the freedom of the people whom God has taken for his own, for the praise of his glory. (Eph 1, 3-14)

This text reveals that certain persons are predestined to eternal glory. These were "marked out beforehand", chosen in Christ before the world was made, "to be holy and faultless before him". However, eternal union with God in the Beatific Vision is an end that exceeds the powers of man's limited nature. Man cannot achieve eternal life on his own merits, whether his nature is wounded by original sin or not. Consequently, he must be empowered from above and directed to this end by another, as an arrow is directed to the target by the archer. This empowerment is divine grace, and the exemplar of this direction of a rational creature towards life eternal is precisely what is meant by predestination. To destine something is to direct it towards an end. The execution of predestination is calling and justification.

He decided beforehand who were the ones destined to be moulded to the pattern of his Son, so that he should be the eldest of many brothers; it was those so destined that he called; those that he called, he justified, and those that he has justified he has brought into glory. (Rm 8, 29-30)

But one is not destined for eternal life regardless of how one chooses. Free-choice is included in predestination, which is a part of providence.9 And one cannot choose to believe, to hope, and to love God without the supernatural quality of divine grace, which is given freely and gratuitously, without any prior merit on our part. I might choose to cooperate with divine grace and choose the morally good option for which I have been given sufficient grace. Or, I might choose not to cooperate with grace, that is, I might choose to break its impetus that renders it possible for me to achieve salvation by choosing an alternative that is contrary to God's will (sin). Should I die without grace, it is I who have chosen to empty myself of it. I am the first cause of that deficiency. Thus, I must do my part to make my call and election permanent.

Be solicitous to make your call and election permanent, brothers; surely those who do so will never be lost. On the contrary, your entry into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for. (2 P 1, 10)

But should I choose to cooperate with the impetus of divine grace, that cooperation is itself a grace, created by God. Grace elevates my freedom, rendering me capable of cooperating with it. Now God is always the first existential cause of everything that is, and so that really existing state of grace in which I am, which included my own really existing cooperation, is primarily caused by God. He is the first and ultimate cause of my salvation, the primary giver, and so it is my duty to thank Him for creating such choices in me that have made my call and election permanent. He called me, and He justified me, and He created those truly free or self-determined choices in me that were part of His eternal providence. And the thanks that I freely choose to render to Him is itself primarily caused by Him and is thus pure gift. That is why it is no exaggeration that "all glory and honour are His, forever and ever," and that none of that glory is primarily ours.

In sum, all those who are damned are damned primarily as a result of their own really free and deficient choice. Yet all those who are saved are saved primarily and ultimately through the love and mercy of God. This is the mystery that simply cannot be understood "from within," only from without.

The Law of the Cross

If we reflect deeply on this, it should be obvious that there really is nothing to fear other than our own frailty and inclination to sin. Outside of that, there is ultimately no basis for our fears. Indeed, fear is an important emotion that ought not to be suppressed, but moderated according to reason. Fear, like all the emotions, is meant to help us in the execution of reason's command. But to keep ourselves from being overcome by fear so as to violate the precepts of justice, we do well to keep in mind that evil cannot have the final word over our lives, unless of course we become that word. From a purely philosophical consideration of divine providence, we know that in the end, creation will definitively manifest the wisdom and beauty of God, and evil will take its place in that manifestation, adding to the beauty of the whole (as dark colors add to the beauty of a work of art). No sin and injustice will remain unpunished and unrectified -- otherwise the justice of God, which is beautiful, will remain undisclosed. In other words, something will have hindered the execution of God's providence, which is simply impossible, for nothing is prior to God.10

But the mystery of the cross fully and concretely manifests this truth of providence. The cross is His victory over sin and death. It is the definitive revelation that no matter how hard evil tries to overcome the execution of providence, its efforts recoil upon itself, ultimately destroying itself in the process and helping to establish precisely what it had intended to prevent or destroy in the first place.

For it was part of the divine plan, eternally conceived, that the Son would enter into darkness and accept death, "even death on a cross." (Ph 2, 8) The cross was originally a sign belonging to darkness, devised by evil to torture, humiliate, and destroy a human person created in the image and likeness of God. But whatever God does is law. Whatever He does becomes the measure of the good. The Son, who is "God from God, Light from Light", allows himself to be assaulted by evil. He descends into darkness (Incarnation) and He is crucified. By that very act, the cross becomes an instrument of light, and His descent becomes an ascent. That death on the cross, because it is God's death, becomes life and light, since whatever God does is life, light, and the measure of the good. Satan's very act of aggression, intended to destroy humanity, becomes the means of humanity's salvation. The symbol of his hatred and aggression becomes, by his own freely chosen aggression, the symbol of his own defeat. Christ's descent into death becomes our ascent into life. That is the New Law of the cross. To live in Christ is to be completely safe from the onslaught of evil. Every effort to destroy his body, the Church, or a member of that body, only recoils upon the aggressor and strengthens the Church in the end. It took three centuries for the early Roman Emperors to finally figure that out.

That is why the cross is the most powerful symbol against evil. Those who belong to evil cannot make the sign of the cross, or will do so very uncomfortably and unnaturally. They cannot descend into life, but like Satan will always choose to take the road of ascent and self-exaltation, ultimately to their own destruction: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:...I will be like the most high." (Is 14, 12-14)

That is why ultimately there is nothing for the believer to fear. To repeat, we need only fear our own frailty and tendency to sin: "...let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Co 10, 12). That is why we ought to pray daily for the gift of perseverance. Not only do we not create our free choices, neither do we perpetuate them in existence to the very end. Only God can do that.


1  "To say, Our free choices depend on God for their reality, is not to say, God settles which option we take when we seem to ourselves to be making a free choice. True, if God knows and wills something, it necessarily is in reality as he knows and wills it to be; but it does not follow that choices one thinks one is making freely really are necessary. That would be the case if God knew in advance what one was to choose and caused one to choose it. But since time is part of the created universe, God is not within time; thus, he does not know anything in advance \or simultaneously or afterwards. Moreover, his creative causality does not cause one to choose option A (which would mean one cannot choose option B). Rather, God creates one or another whole: (1) one's being able to choose option A or option B, and freely choosing A; or (2) one's being able to choose option A or option B, and freely choosing B.

So, if God infallibly knows and omnipotently wills that one has the options of doing A and of doing B and that one freely chooses to do A or freely chooses to do B, then one's options and one's free choice are in reality just as God knows them to be. But nothing is necessary in that created state of affairs except that one does have those options and that one freely chooses whichever option one chooses." Germain Grisez. The Way of the Lord Jesus: Clerical and Consecrated Life and Service, Volume IV, chapter 1. Unpublished Manuscript. p. 9 [Back]

2 "Two things pertain to the care of providence -- namely, the "reason of order," which is called providence and disposition; and the execution of order, which is termed government. Of these, the first is eternal, and the second is temporal." ST, I. 22. 1. ad 2. [Back]

3 A perfection is an act. The word "perfect" comes from the Latin "per" and "factum", to make through. When something is perfect, it is made through, or complete. The making process is a change from potentiality to actuality. One begins with matter, which is in potentiality to whatever form the artist wishes to impose upon it. Form is the principle of actuality, determining the matter to be the kind of thing it is. The making process is complete or perfected when the form is imposed upon the matter. Thus, perfection means "actuality" or actualization. Now God is pure act of existing. Thus, God is perfect. As first cause of whatever is, all perfections have their origin in Him as their first cause. Thus, they exist in God most perfectly; for the effect cannot have a greater mode of being than the cause, for it only has what it receives from the effect. It follows that God is perfect and contains within Himself all the perfections found in created beings. [Back]

4 "All things desire God as their end, when they desire some good thing, whether this desire be intellectual or sensible, or natural, i.e. without knowledge; because nothing is good and desirable except forasmuch as it participates in the likeness to God." ST, I. 44. 4. ad 3. [Back]

5 "Two things belong to providence -- namely, the exemplar of the order of things foreordained towards an end; and the execution of this order, which is called government. As regards the first of these, God has immediate providence over everything, because He has in His intellect the exemplars of everything, even the smallest; and whatsoever causes He assigns to certain effects, He gives them the power to produce those effects. Whence it must be that He has pre-comprehended the order of those effects in His mind. As to the second, there are certain intermediaries of God's providence; for He governs things inferior by superior, not on account of any defect in His power, but by reason of the abundance of His goodness; so that the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures." ST, I. 22. 3. [Back]

6 "The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow; but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the plan of divine providence conceives to happen from contingency." ST, I. 22. 4. ad 1. [Back]

7 "The order of divine providence is unchangeable and certain, so far as all things foreseen happen as they have been foreseen, whether from necessity or from contingency." ST, I. 22. 4. ad 2. [Back]

8 "When it is said that God left man to himself, this does not mean that man is exempt from divine providence; but merely that he has not a prefixed operating force determined to only the one effect; as in the case of natural things, which are only acted upon as though directed by another towards an end; and do not act of themselves, as if they directed themselves towards an end, like rational creatures, through the possession of free will, by which these are able to take counsel and make a choice. Hence it is significantly said: "In the hand of his own counsel." But since the very act of free will is traced to God as to a cause, it necessarily follows that everything happening from the exercise of free will must be subject to divine providence. For human providence is included under the providence of God, as a particular under a universal cause. God, however, extends His providence over the just in a certain more excellent way than over the wicked; inasmuch as He prevents anything happening which would impede their final salvation. For "to them that love God, all things work together unto good" (Rm. 8:28). But from the fact that He does not restrain the wicked from the evil of sin, He is said to abandon them: not that He altogether withdraws His providence from them; otherwise they would return to nothing, if they were not preserved in existence by His providence." ST, I. 22. 2. ad 4. [Back]

9 "It is, however, manifest that what is of grace is the effect of predestination; and this cannot be considered as the reason of predestination, since it is contained in the notion of predestination. Therefore, if anything else in us be the reason of predestination, it will outside the effect of predestination. Now there is no distinction between what flows from free will, and what is of predestination; as there is no distinction between what flows from a secondary cause and from a first cause. For the providence of God produces effects through the operation of secondary causes, as was above shown (22, 3). Wherefore, that which flows from free-will is also of predestination. We must say, therefore, that the effect of predestination may be considered in a twofold light -- in one way, in particular; and thus there is no reason why one effect of predestination should not be the reason or cause of another; a subsequent effect being the reason of a previous effect, as its final cause; and the previous effect being the reason of the subsequent as its meritorious cause, which is reduced to the disposition of the matter. Thus we might say that God pre-ordained to give glory on account of merit, and that He pre-ordained to give grace to merit glory. In another way, the effect of predestination may be considered in general. Thus, it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace. For neither does this happen otherwise than by divine help, according to the prophet Jeremias (Lam. 5:21): "convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted." Yet predestination has in this way, in regard to its effect, the goodness of God for its reason; towards which the whole effect of predestination is directed as to an end; and from which it proceeds, as from its first moving principle." ST, I. 23. 5. [Back]

10 "The reason for the predestination of some, and reprobation of others, must be sought for in the goodness of God. Thus He is said to have made all things through His goodness, so that the divine goodness might be represented in things. Now it is necessary that God's goodness, which in itself is one and undivided, should be manifested in many ways in His creation; because creatures in themselves cannot attain to the simplicity of God. Thus it is that for the completion of the universe there are required different grades of being; some of which hold a high and some a low place in the universe. That this multiformity of grades may be preserved in things, God allows some evils, lest many good things should never happen, as was said above (22, 2). Let us then consider the whole of the human race, as we consider the whole universe. God wills to manifest His goodness in men; in respect to those whom He predestines, by means of His mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of His justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others. To this the Apostle refers, saying (Rm. 9:22,23): "What if God, willing to show His wrath [that is, the vengeance of His justice], and to make His power known, endured [that is, permitted] with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction; that He might show the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He hath prepared unto glory" and (2 Tim. 2:20): "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver; but also of wood and of earth; and some, indeed, unto honor, but some unto dishonor." Yet why He chooses some for glory, and reprobates others, has no reason, except the divine will. Whence Augustine says (Tract. xxvi. in Joan.): "Why He draws one, and another He draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish to err." Thus too, in the things of nature, a reason can be assigned, since primary matter is altogether uniform, why one part of it was fashioned by God from the beginning under the form of fire, another under the form of earth, that there might be a diversity of species in things of nature. Yet why this particular part of matter is under this particular form, and that under another, depends upon the simple will of God; as from the simple will of the artificer it depends that this stone is in part of the wall, and that in another; although the plan requires that some stones should be in this place, and some in that place. Neither on this account can there be said to be injustice in God, if He prepares unequal lots for not unequal things. This would be altogether contrary to the notion of justice, if the effect of predestination were granted as a debt, and not gratuitously. In things which are given gratuitously, a person can give more or less, just as he pleases (provided he deprives nobody of his due), without any infringement of justice. This is what the master of the house said: "Take what is thine, and go thy way. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will?" (Mt. 20:14,15)." ST, I. 23. 5. ad 3. [Back]