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The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions

"Pt. 4: Divine foreknowledge - Ch. 22: The opinion of St. Thomas on divine foreknowledge"

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A. Passages in which St. Thomas speaks of causality

458. The texts themselves:

1) 1 ". . . just as conclusions are known in [their] principles, so things made by art are known in the ends. It is evident, then, that God can have knowledge of some non-beings. Of some of these, He has as it were a practical knowledge, that is, [of those] that are, or were, or will be: which come forth from His knowledge according to His plan. But of others He has a speculative knowledge: [that is, of those] which neither have been, nor will be, nor are, which He has never planned to make. . . ."

2)2 "Thus God, in knowing His own essence, knows other things, just as by the knowledge of a cause, [its] effects are known. Therefore God knows all things to which His causality extends, in knowing His own essence. . . . However, the dominion that the [created] will has over its acts . . . does not . . . exclude the influence of the higher cause, from which it has being and operation. And there still is causality in the first cause, which is God, in respect to movements of the [created] will; so that thus God, in knowing Himself can know things of this sort."

3)3 ". . . there is a knowledge of God about all things, through [their] cause: for in knowing Himself, who is the cause of all things, He knows other things as His own effects. . . ."

4)4 "For the knowledge of God is related to all created things, as the knowledge of an artisan is related to the works of his art."

5)5 "But God is not the cause of all the things that are known by God; because evil things are known by God, but are not from Him. Therefore neither is the knowledge of God the cause of all the things that He knows. . . . We grant the fifth [objection]."

6)6 "Evil . . . is not known by God through a likeness of it, but through the likeness of its opposite; hence it does not follow that God is the cause of evils because He knows evils; but it follows that He is the cause of good, to which evil is opposed."

7)7 ". . . the knowledge of God is not the cause of evil; but it is the cause of the good, through which the evil is known."

459. Comments on St. Thomas’s texts on causality: In texts 1-4, St. Thomas compares the knowledge of God to the knowledge of artisan. Thus he seems to teach that God can know all good things through decrees. In text 2 he applies this even to movements of the human will. In texts 5-7 however he explains that God’s knowledge is not the cause of all things: for it is not the cause of evils.

The older Thomists wish to infer from these and similar texts not only that St. Thomas holds that God can know all things through decrees, but that he holds that God can know nothing except through decrees. But all the texts really prove is that God can know good things, beings, through His causality. They do not prove that God cannot know anything by any other way.

Actually, everything that St. Thomas says in all the above texts is found in tradition. Many of the earlier witnesses of tradition—among whom St. Augustine and St. Albert the Great stand out—said precisely the same things, and in almost identical language (cf. especially texts 1-3 of St. Augustine, and texts 1 and 3 of St. Albert. We note especially the words of St. Albert in text 3, on the artisan: ". . . it is in the power of free will to remain in a defect, or to obey the artisan [so as to attain] to perfect beauty. . . ."). Yet, as we have seen above, in spite of such statements as these, the same theologians taught equally that God can know not only through decrees, but also in another way, namely, through the transcendent divine intellect. Furthermore, St. Thomas himself places a limitation on causal knowledge in texts 5-7. In these, he teaches the same as the previous witnesses of tradition, beginning with St. Augustine, who wrote: ". . . He is able to foresee even the things that He does not do; such as all sins. . . ." As we saw above, St. Augustine did not intend by these words to imply a theory of infallible permissions of sinning, even though such a view would have fitted in wonderfully with his theory of the massa damnata. Instead, he frankly confessed that he did not know how God can foresee not only sins, but even things that are not free! Similarly St. Albert the Great, the teacher of St. Thomas, who spoke in the same way as St. Thomas about sins and about the artisan, taught as we have seen, that God can foresee through "the light of the divine intelligence, which is of infinite power." In these and similar other ways he showed that he believed that God can foresee not only through decrees, but also through His transcendent intellect.

Therefore, it is at least to be presumed that St. Thomas, who says the same things as tradition and in practically the same words, means the same. The presumption passes into certitude from the fact that we have already shown in chapter 18 that St. Thomas does not hold the theory in which all things are controlled by infrustrable decrees and infallible permissions to sin. We also have shown that the system of such decrees and permissions contradicts revelation.

Therefore even the words cited above from St. Thomas on causality do not presuppose the use of infrustrable decrees: for God can exercise His causality also through frustrable decrees which, in the present of eternity, suffice to foresee by way of causality. As we shall see presently, St. Thomas, in absolutely every text in which he treats ex professo of foreknowledge of future free contingents, has recourse to eternity.

460. In text 2, St. Thomas speaks specially about God’s knowledge through causality "in respect to movements of the [created] will." It is obvious that we must not interpret these words in such a way as to contradict what St. Thomas also says8 in the same work, namely, that God does not, regularly at least, move wills to positive consent except on the condition of non-resistance. So it remains true that God knows the movements of the human will by His causality within eternity: but logically before this kind of knowledge comes God’s knowledge by which, without the use of causality as a means of knowing but through His transcendent intellect, He knows the absence of resistance in the human will (in good acts). In bad acts of the human will, He knows through His transcendent intellect the evil specification (which comes before the exercise of the act of resistance), which He in no way causes. Just as in good acts God does not move the human will to positive consent until after man’s non-resistance, so in evil movements, God does not move to the exercise of resistance and of the complete evil decision until after the evil specification which comes from man alone.9 Otherwise, God would be the author of sin.

461. Nor is God passive in knowing things in this way, as we will explain more fully in chapter 23. For the present we might note briefly: God does not receive truth from the evil specification, nor from the absence of resistance (in the first part of the process),10 because truth cannot come from non-being. Nor is there an image of evil in God, but rather, the absence of a good image (cf. text 6 above). Rather, God by His transcendent intellect sees that the positive good which He has already produced in man either remains (if man does not resist) or is no longer present (if man resists) because of man’s defect, of which defect God is in no way the author.

462. It is good to note also that St. Thomas could have written texts 1-4 not to explain how God foreknows, but to prove the fact of His foreknowledge. We have already seen that St. Augustine speaks in this way, since he explicitly says that he does not know how God foreknows, even though he employs the comparison of the artisan. So Ferrariensis comments well on text 3: "Notice that in this passage there is being investigated not the manner of the knowledge of non-beings, but the fact of their knowledge. So the preceding reasons prove absolutely that God does know non-beings, whether He sees them in themselves, or in [their] cause."

We conclude therefore, that in the texts cited above, St. Thomas is merely holding traditional views. Thus, there is nothing to prevent him from holding what is also a traditional view, namely, that God can foresee also without the use of decrees as means of knowing. This conclusion will become much clearer from an analysis of the passages in which St. Thomas treats ex professo of the foreknowledge of future free contingents.

B. Ex professo texts on the foreknowledge of future free contingents

463. The texts themselves:

1)11 ". . . contingency seems . . . in a twofold way to escape the divine knowledge. First, because of the relation of the cause to the thing caused. For the effect of a necessary and immutable cause seems to be a necessary effect; hence, since the knowledge of God is the cause of things, and since it is immutable, it does not seem that it can include contingents. Secondly, because of the relation of knowledge to the thing known; for since knowledge is knowing certainly, from the very note of certitude, even excluding causality, [knowledge] requires certitude and definite determination in the thing known. Contingency excludes these. . . .  In regard to the first, the explanation is quite clear. For when there are many causes in ordered sequence, the ultimate effect does not follow the first cause in regard to necessity and contingence, but [it follows] the proximate cause. For the power of the first cause is received in the second cause according to the mode of the second cause . . . as is evident in the blooming of a tree, whose remote cause is the movement of the sun, but the proximate cause is the generative power of the plant. Now the blooming can be impeded by an impediment of the generative power, even though the movement of the sun is unchangeable. . . . But there remains a greater problem about the second. . . . For it cannot be that God would know that this one is going to run, and yet, at the same time, that he should fail to run; and this is because of the certitude of knowledge, and not because of His causality. We must recognize, therefore, that before a thing comes to be, it does not have being, except in its causes. Now there are some causes from which an effect follows necessarily. . . . But there are other causes which are not determined; and an effect that is to come in the future [while it still is] in these causes, has no certitude or determination. . . . But when these effects have already been produced in the nature of things, then they do have determination in themselves; and so, when they are in act, they can be known with certitude, as is evident in the case of one who sees Socrates running: for while Socrates is running, it is necessarily [true] that he is running and there can be knowledge with certitude about it. I say, therefore, that the divine intellect views from eternity each and every contingent thing, not only as it is in its causes, but as it is in its determined reality. . . . It is evident also that God from whose power the thing was going to be, from eternity not only sees His own relation to the thing, but He looks upon the very being of the thing. How this happens, Boethius clearly teaches towards the end of De consolatione. . . . Since then, God is eternal . . . His knowledge views all the things of time . . . as present to Him . . . as it were from the tower of eternity."

2)12 ". . . God knows all future things; but this does not prevent some things from happening contingently. To make this clear, we need to know that there are in us certain powers and cog- noscitive habits in which there never can be falsity, such as the senses, and knowledge, and understanding of principles; but [there are] certain ones in which there can be falsity, such as imagination, and opinion, and estimation. . . . Now a necessary thing, before it comes to be, cannot be impeded from coming to be, because its causes are immutably directed to its production. Hence through habits of this sort, that are always true, necessary things can be known, even when they are future. . . . But a contingent thing can be impeded before it is brought into being: for then [before it is brought to being] it exists only in its causes, and an impediment can befall them . . . but after a contingent has already been brought into being, it can no longer be impeded. And so there can be a judgment about a contingent, according as it is present, on the part of that power or habit in which falsity is never found, e.g., our senses judge that Socrates is sitting when he is sitting. From this it is clear that a contingent, as future, can be known by no knowledge that is not subject to falsity; hence, since divine knowledge is not and cannot be subject to falsity, it would be impossible for God to have knowledge of future contingents, if He knew them as future. . . . wherefore, since the vision of divine knowledge is measured by eternity, which is all at once . . . it follows that He sees whatever goes on in time not as future, but as present. . . . Hence just as our sight is never deceived in seeing contingents as present, and yet this does not prevent them from happening contingently; so God infallibly sees all contingents . . . since to Him they are not future, but He sees them when they are; so this does not prevent them from happening contingently. [Our] difficulty, however, occurs in this way [namely] that we are not able to depict the divine knowledge except according to the mode of our own knowledge. . . ."

3)13 "A contingent is incompatible with certitude of knowledge only according as it is future, not according as it is present. . . . So any knowledge that bears on a contingent as it is present, can be certain. Now the gaze of the divine intellect bears, from eternity, on each contingent thing that happens in the course of time according as it is present. . . . It remains then [to conclude] that nothing prevents God from having, from eternity, infallible knowledge of contingents."

4)14 "Thus, then, God, who views all things from the loftiness of eternity, looks in a present way over the whole course of time and all things that happen in time. Therefore, just as when I see that Socrates is sitting, my knowledge is infallible and certain, but yet no necessity is thereby imposed on Socrates as he sits; so God, seeing as present all things that are past or future or present to us, knows them infallibly and with certitude yet in such a way that no necessity of existing is imposed on the contingents."

5)15 ". . . our knowledge is in time . . . But the divine knowledge is above time, and is measured only by eternity; and so it does not know things as they are in time, but as they are in eternity, that is, as present. . . . Therefore, since even our intellect knows present things with certitude, much more does God know with certitude all the things that are present to Him: [yet] from this no necessity is imposed on the things that He knows, just as we see that someone who is situated in a lofty eminence, sees with certitude the order of those who are coming and going through the streets  . . . and yet no necessity is imposed on men thereby: for this is only from the fact that, being in a high place, he sees as present all the things that are past . . . present . . . and future to one who is going about on the ground. . . ."

6)16 "But if divine providence is of itself the cause of all the things that happen in this world at least of the good, it seems that all things happen by necessity. First, in regard to His knowledge: for His knowledge cannot be false; and so it seems that what He knows must necessarily happen. . . . in regard to His knowledge it is to be considered that a power of knowing that is in any way contained in the order of time is in a different situation towards knowing the things that happen according to the order of time, than [a power of knowing] that is entirely outside the order of time. . . . God is entirely outside the order of time, as it were, standing on the peak of eternity, which is all at once, beneath which lies the whole course of time in one simple gaze; and so at one gaze He sees everything that is done according to the course of time, and each thing as it is existing in itself, not as future to His gaze, as it is in the mere order of its causes (although He does see that order of causes) but altogether eternally. He sees each thing that belongs to any time, as the human eye sees Socrates sitting actually, and not [this sitting as it is] in its cause. Now from this fact that a man sees Socrates sitting, the contingency of his [sitting] is not destroyed . . . yet most certainly and infallibly does the human eye see Socrates sitting while he is sitting, because each thing as it is in reality [i.e., when it is present] is already determined. So then [the conclusion] remains, that God most certainly and infallibly knows all things that happen in time; and yet the things that happen in time are not and do not happen out of necessity, but contingently."

7)17 ". . . [God] has certain knowledge of contingents, because even before they happen, He sees them as they are actually in their reality, and not only as future, and virtually [contained] in their causes . . . For although contingents, as they are virtually future things in their causes are not determined to one [alternative], so that certain knowledge could be had of them, yet, according as they are actually in their reality, they are already determined to one [alternative], and certain knowledge can be had of them. For we can know through the certitude of sight that Socrates is sitting while he is sitting. Similarly God knows with certitude all things that happen throughout the whole course of time. [He does this] in His eternity: for his eternity touches the whole course of time as present, and goes beyond it transcendently, so that we should consider God in His eternity as knowing the flow of time, just as one who, being stationed on the height of a watch tower, sees in one gaze the whole line of passing travellers."

8)18 ". . . any contingent can be considered in two ways. In one way, in itself, according as it is already actual. And in this way it is not considered as future, but as present . . . as determined to one [alternative]. And so it can be the subject of infallibly certain knowledge, e.g., of the sense of sight, as when I see that Socrates is sitting. In the other way, a contingent can be considered as it is in its cause. And in this way it is considered as future, and as a contingent not yet determined to one [alternative]. . . . In this way, a contingent is not subject to any certain knowledge. Hence, whosoever knows a contingent effect only in its cause, has only conjectural knowledge of it. But God knows all contingents, not only as they are in their causes, but also as each of them is actually in itself. . . . For His knowledge is measured by eternity. . . . Hence all things that are in time, are present to God from eternity, not only in that way in which He has the reasons of things present before Him, as certain [writers] say: but because His gaze bears on all things from eternity, as they are present. Hence it is evident that contingents are known infallibly by God, inasmuch as they are subjected to His divine gaze as present: and yet they are future contingents, in relation to their causes."

464. Comments on St. Thomas’s texts dealing ex professo with foreknowledge: As we can see from the above texts, St. Thomas gives an ex professo treatment of the problem of foreknowledge of future free contingent acts in all his major works, and in several minor works. But in all these passages, he always solves the problem in one and the same way,19 namely: He presents the explanation of Boethius. This is clear both from the content of his teaching and from his explicit statement in text 1 that he is following Boethius. Therefore, St. Thomas’s explanation follows tradition in these texts, just as he also follows tradition in his texts on the knowledge of the artisan or causal knowledge, as we saw above. Therefore, it is at least to be presumed that St. Thomas, together with all tradition, holds that God can foresee in a different way than through the use of infrustrable decrees and infallible permissions. This presumption passes into certitude from the fact that, as we saw in chapter 18, St. Thomas does not hold that system of decrees. The presumption also passes into certitude from a more minute analysis of the text cited above.

Let us make such an analysis. We begin by noting that in the texts cited above, he explicitly considers only two alternatives: (1) An explanation through proximate causes, and (2) An explanation through eternity. Of these two alternatives, he at once rejects the first. He could have considered a third alternative, namely, the explanation through a system of infrustrable decrees and infallible permissions to sin. As we shall see, he implicitly rejects this third possible alternative.

465. 1) The first alternative: foreknowledge through proximate causes. In practically all the texts cited above, St. Thomas explains that God could not have infallible knowledge of future contingents through a knowledge of their proximate causes: such a knowledge would and could be only conjectural, because causes that are not necessary causes can be impeded before producing their effect. Therefore, the first alternative is insufficient.

466. 2) The second alternative: explanation through eternity. Therefore St. Thomas always, without exception, has recourse to the second alternative, that is, to the explanation by way of eternity. This explanation starts with a principle that St. Thomas took from Boethius and Aristotle, namely:20 ". . . in [statements] about present and past things, it is necessary that one of the alternatives be definitely true, and the other false, in any subject matter; but in the case of singular [statements] about the [contingent] future, it is not necessary that one be definitely true and the other false." From this principle, Boethius and St. Thomas deduce that:21 "a contingent, as future, can be known by no knowledge that is not subject to falsity; hence . . . it would be impossible for God to have knowledge of future contingents, if He knew them as future." This principle, being metaphysical, suffers no exception, not even in God, as St. Thomas says in text 2.

467. To clarify this last point, we need to ask: What does it mean to say that a contingent is unknowable "as future"? St. Thomas himself gives the needed explanation, in text 8: ". . . any contingent can be considered in two ways. In one way, in itself according as it is already actual. And in this way it is not considered as future, but as present . . . as determined to one [alternative]. . . . In the other way, a contingent can be considered as it is in its cause. And in this way it is considered as future, and as a contingent not yet determined to one [alternative]. . . ." So it becomes clear that the distinction, according to St. Thomas, is not only not a distinction in the temporal order (which is not in God) nor is it only in the order of knowledge, but it is in the ontological states. That is, that which is not yet actual, in act, and which has not yet definitely gone to one particular alternative, is a thing that is to be considered as future. That which is actual, or is in act, and so has settled on one particular alternative, is to be considered as present. St. Thomas speaks similarly elsewhere:22 "Even though a contingent is not yet determined as long as it is future, yet once it has been brought forth in the nature of things, it does have determined truth. . . ." And again:23 ". . . each thing is knowable according to this: inasmuch as it is in act."

Therefore a contingent as future is unknowable, because it is not yet determined, that is, no decision has yet been taken that settles it on one alternative rather than on another. But even God cannot know that which is in itself unknowable.24 Therefore, in order that God may be able to know the future contingents, it is necessary that He know them not as future but as present. He can do this because He is eternal, for in eternity all things are present.

468. It is evident that eternity is a condition of knowability, but not a means of knowing. St. Thomas simply assumes, as does all tradition, that if anything is knowable and is present, the transcendent divine intellect knows it.

469. 3) The third alternative: foreknowledge through infrustrable decrees: Already in chapter 18 we saw an absolute proof that St. Thomas does not accept this third alternative, for there we showed that St. Thomas does not hold the system in which all things are controlled through infrustrable decrees and infallible permissions to sin (even though St. Thomas does not deny that God at times, by way of exception,25 does move men infrustrably to good. Of course, when God actually does move a man infrustrably, He obviously can know the future through such a decree).

But we can show in many other ways that St. Thomas does not accept the third alternative:

470. a) Because St. Thomas always has recourse to eternity, he shows that he does not explain foreknowledge through the system of decrees proposed by the older Thomists. For, the reason why he has recourse to eternity is precisely in order that the future contingents may become knowable: as future, they are not knowable, since, as we have seen, they are not yet settled towards one alternative, and so are indeterminate.26 But, if God controlled everything through the system of decrees proposed by the Thomists, then future contingents would be knowable even as future, i.e., before they actually came to be, things would be determined in the First Cause. Thus it would not be necessary to have recourse to eternity to make things knowable.

The older Thomists generally reply that eternity is required so that foreknowledge may be intuitive. But the explanation is insufficient, because St. Thomas, as his very argument shows, has recourse to eternity to make things knowable, not so that foreknowledge may be intuitive.

Bañez himself frankly teaches that eternity would not be required in his system of decrees:27 "The infallibility and certitude of the divine knowledge of future contingents is judged not only from the fact that they are known by God as they are present in eternity, but also according as they are known in their causes according to the sense explained in the preceding conclusion ["inasmuch as the particular causes themselves are subject to the determination and disposition of the divine knowledge and will, which is the first cause"]. And so even if God did not know the future contingents as present in His eternity, but only in their causes, His knowledge would be certain and infallible."

It is obvious that Bañez is right in saying that eternity is not required for foreknowledge in his system of infrustrable decrees. But it is equally obvious that Bañez is flatly contradicting St. Thomas. For St. Thomas says that future contingents as future are unknowable: but Bañez says they are knowable even as future, for he writes that they would be knowable, "even if God did not know the future contingents as present in His eternity." The reason why St. Thomas did not arrive at the same conclusion as Bañez is clear: St. Thomas did not admit that all contingents are controlled by such infrustrable decrees ( though he did admit that God can and does use such decrees at times, by way of exception, as we saw in chapters 14 and 18).

There is another way to show that St. Thomas’s recourse to eternity excludes the system of infrustrable decrees. St. Thomas says that future contingents are not knowable and so are not known by God—before a determination is made. Now it is clear that he thinks this determination is made by the creature.28 (Were it not, there would be no need of eternity to make things present: God could previously determine to premove a creature by an infrustrable decree, and could so determine before the creature made a determination.) So, in St. Thomas’s explanation, this determination made by the creature is logically prior to God’s knowledge. But, if foreknowledge were explained by the infrustrable decrees, the determination made by the creature would be logically posterior to God’s knowledge, because He would have had knowledge by the decrees prior to the determination made by the creature. Of course, St. Thomas holds that,29 ". . . the knowledge of God is prior to natural things. . . ." This prior determination made by the creature is only a negative (the evil specification in resistance, or non-resistance). These negatives are non-beings. Therefore, no being is logically prior to God’s knowledge.30 The positive determination is not made by the creature until after the divine movement, so that it comes logically after God’s knowledge. (We will deal with the objection of passivity in God later, in chapter 23).

471. b) Because St. Thomas never has recourse to infrustrable decrees to explain foreknowledge, he shows that he does not accept the third alternative. The older Thomists try to contradict this statement in three ways:

1) They say that St. Thomas, in other passages, chiefly those which we cited above31 on causal knowledge, gives a fundamental principle according to which we ought to understand what he says when he treats of foreknowledge of future contingents.—But, as we have shown above, in such passages, St. Thomas says no more than did previous tradition. Similar statements, both as to content and as to wording, are found in earlier witnesses. Yet, in spite of such statements, absolutely all the earlier witnesses of tradition—including St. Augustine and St. Albert the Great, the very teacher of St. Thomas—still teach that God can know and foreknow without the use of decrees as means of knowing: He can know through His transcendent intellect. Therefore St. Thomas, who in all passages—both in those on causality and in those on eternity—makes absolutely no assertion that is not found in at least many witnesses of tradition, but rather, always follows tradition, is not proved to have departed from tradition on a point in which he never says anything against tradition, but instead always repeats traditional statements. Actually, in the explanation he gives through eternity, St. Thomas always supposes, as we have seen,32 precisely that which all tradition asserts, namely: God can know, through His transcendent intellect, whatever is present.

Of course, we do not deny that St. Thomas held, with many witnesses of tradition, that God knows many things also through causality: He knows what He does. But to see how St. Thomas understands this, let us do what the older Thomists ask, that is, let us join a presupposition of causality to the explanation through eternity (we do this merely for the sake of argument: we do not admit that St. Thomas really presupposes the use of causality as a means of knowing in his explanation through eternity). It would run this way: In the present of eternity, God knows that He is causing the things that He is causing. He knows this not only through His transcendent intellect, but also through causality. But, even in knowledge through causality, eternity is required, for before God can know anything, that thing must be knowable. That it may be knowable, it must be determined to one alternative. God Himself, as Bañez says,33 could have made the determination by an infrustrable decree and so could have foreseen future contingents even as future. But St. Thomas supposes that God does not act this way, for if He did, eternity would not be needed. So, since God acts without infrustrable decrees, there is no determination made until it is made in the present, by the creature, in a negative way,34 that is, through the evil specification in resistance, or through non-resistance (before a good act). Now since God, according to St. Thomas,35 does not exercise His causality to move a creature as far as positive consent except after the creature’s non-resistance, therefore, before the creature makes this negative determination, God does not exercise His causality to move the creature to consent. And, if God does not yet exercise His causality to this extent, He cannot yet know the consent through causality. Hence, in St. Thomas’ view of causal knowledge, both eternity and causality are needed. We conclude: if we do join causality and eternity, there is knowledge by way of causality, but not by infrustrable causality.

2) The older Thomists also assert that in text 8, cited above, from the Summa, St. Thomas proposes an explanation for foreknowledge through a system of infrustrable decrees in these words: "Hence all things that are in time, are present to God from eternity, not only in that way in which He has the reasons of things present before Him, as certain [writers] say: but because His gaze bears on all things from eternity, as they are present." The system of decrees is implied, these Thomists say, in the words "in that way in which He has the reasons of things present before Him."

472. In regard to these words of the Summa, even Garrigou-Lagrange does not dare to say more than that36 ". . . in our article, St. Thomas alludes to the decree of the [divine] will."—But: Can we really believe that St. Thomas intended to propose a new theory, totally unknown to all previous tradition, through a mere allusion (even if we add the traditional assertions of St. Thomas on causality), and that he intended to do this in a work which he wrote for beginners in theology? Actually, in these words, St. Thomas was not presenting his own view, but was rejecting the view of others. First of all, we can gather this from the very way he speaks, since he says "as certain [writers] say." He is not accustomed to propose his own view in such a way—and especially this is hardly the way to present a new opinion, unknown to previous tradition (since it is unknown, who could the certain writers be?). But especially, the source of this statement is quite clear; for, as the Dominican Fathers of Canada, in their splendid Ottawa edition of the Summa indicate in their commentary, in these words St. Thomas is rejecting the opinion of Avicenna and Algazel, who held that God does not know particular futures except in a general way.37

473. 3) The older Thomists also assert that St. Thomas presents the new opinion in part of text 1, cited above: ". . . God, from whose power the thing was going to be, from eternity not only sees His own relation to the thing, but He looks upon the very being of the thing."—But, in these words, St. Thomas says nothing beyond what tradition says. He does not say that God knows all things through causality. He does not say that the causality is exercised in infrustrable decrees. And, most certainly, he does not say that God cannot know in any other way than by infrustrable causality. If he really is thinking of causal knowledge in this passage, nothing indicates that he has in mind a causal knowledge such that eternity would not be needed with it for the knowledge of free contingents. But if he is thinking of causality within eternity, then a frustrable causality is enough, as we have already shown.38

The context confirms our interpretation. For in this article he wants to solve two difficulties. He had said that, ". . . contingency seems . . . in a twofold way to escape the divine knowledge. First, because of the relation of the cause to the thing caused. For the effect of a necessary and immutable cause seems to be a necessary effect; hence since the knowledge of God is the cause of things, and since it is immutable, it does not seem that it can include contingents. Secondly . . . because there can be a first necessary cause even though there is a defect in the second cause, but the knowledge of God cannot coexist with the failing of the second cause [to do what God foresees] . . . and this is because of the certitude of knowledge, and not because of His causality." Therefore, if St. Thomas really had wanted to propose a new explanation of foreknowledge by causality, the suitable and opportune place would have been in his solution of the first part of the difficulty, in which he is expressly treating causal knowledge, and not in the second part where the difficulty of reconciliation is "because of the certitude of knowledge, and not because of His causality." Yet, the words to which these Thomists point come from the second part. In the first part, where he explicitly takes up causality, it would have been easy to solve the difficulty he had proposed by saying that the divine causality, since it is transcendent, transcends the order of necessity and contingency,39 and that God can know and foreknow through such infrustrable causality. Yet, he not only does not say such a thing, but, on the contrary, he proposes a comparison in which he says that the movement from the First Cause is like the movement from the sun, which is invariable, so that the failure of blooming in a tree in no way comes from any difference in the causality of the sun, but from an impediment in the tree. As we have seen above,40 this comparison does not fit with the system of infrustrable decrees; it supposes instead a different explanation, the one we gave in chapter 18.

Furthermore, it is hardly to be supposed that St. Thomas would intend to propose a new theory, completely unknown to previous tradition in a few words, said in passing,—and to do this in a place where the context is unsuitable, right after passing up a very suitable context.

474. c) From the summaries St. Thomas gives on foreknowledge, we have a confirmation of the fact that he does not accept the third alternative, i.e., he does not explain foreknowledge by the system of infrustrable decrees. In these summaries, which he gives while treating of various topics, he always has recourse to eternity, and not even once alludes to foreknowledge through infrustrable decrees:

1) De veritate 12.6.c.: "For this reason it is proper to God to know the future with certitude, as present, as Boethius says: because His gaze is measured by eternity, which is all at once, so that all times, and the things that happen in them, lie beneath His gaze."

2) Contra gentiles 3.154: ". . . future contingents . . . are subject to divine knowledge alone, because He sees them in themselves, since they are present to Him by reason of His eternity. . . ."

3) De malo 16.7.c.: ". . . future things can be known in two ways: one way in themselves; the other way, in their causes. Now they can be known in themselves by no one except God. The reason is that futures, as futures do not yet have reality in themselves . . . whence . . . it is impossible for any knowledge that looks on future things as future to know them in themselves. . . . but [to know futures in themselves] is proper to God alone, whose knowledge is elevated above the whole order of time . . . the whole course of time and the things that are in all time lie under His gaze . . . as present . . . to know the future in its cause, is nothing other than to know the present inclination of the cause. . . ."

4) ST 1.57.3.c.: ". . . a future thing can be known in two ways. In one way, in its cause . . . not with certitude but by conjecture. . . . In the other way . . . in themselves. And so it is proper to God alone to know future things . . . because God sees all in His eternity. . . ."

5) ST 1.86.4.c.: ". . . future things can be known in two ways: one way is in themselves, the other way, in their causes. Future things can be known in themselves only by God, to whom they are present . . . inasmuch as His eternal gaze bears all at once over the course of time. . . . But as they are in their causes, they can be known even by us . . . through a certain conjecture. . . ."

6) ST II-II, 171.6, ad 1: "The certitude of divine foreknowledge does not exclude the contingency of particular futures, because it bears on them according as they are present and already determined to one [alternative]."

475. d) From the way in which St. Thomas solves objections, we have a confirmation that he does not accept the third alternative, i.e., he does not explain foreknowledge through a system of infrustrable decrees. For many times, in giving the solution to an objection, he could have had an easy answer by appealing to the system of infrustrable decrees, particularly in contexts in which he is speaking of divine causality. Nevertheless, in all passages, he always gives the same solution by way of eternity—never by the decrees. We will not cite all passages in which he does thiobjection 1 and solution: [objection] ". . . in singular future contingents there is no determined truth. . . ." [answer] ". . . once it has been brought forth in the nature of things, it does have determined truth; and the gaze of the divine knowledge is borne over it in this way."—It would have been so easy to say: "It is not determined in its proximate causes, but in the transcendent will of God it is determined, in such a way, however, that liberty will not be destroyed, but produced by the very divine motion."

2) De veritate 2,12, objection 10 and solution: [objection] ". . . a future contingent is in no way determined, neither in itself, nor in its cause. Therefore in no way can there be knowledge of it." [answer] ". . . the future is present to God, and in this way is determined to one alternative; but while it is future, it is undetermined."—How easy it would have been to reply to the words "[it] is in no way determined" by the distinction: "It is not determined in its proximate cause, but it is determined in the First Cause, inasmuch as God, even before it is produced in reality, intends to send an infrustrable decree to produce it." In fact, St. Thomas really owed it to his readers to make this distinction, if he had it in mind, so as not to lead his readers into error by the flat statement "[it] is in no way determined, neither in itself, nor in its cause." He should have distinguished at least the last expression saying: "not determined in its proximate cause, but it is determined in the First Cause."

3) ST I. 14. 13. objection 3 and solution: [objection] ". . . everything that is known by God must necessarily be [so]: because even everything that we know is necessarily so. . . . But no future contingent is necessarily so. Therefore, no future contingent is known by God." [answer] ". . . those things which are reduced to act in the course of time, are known by us successively in time, but they are known by God in eternity, which is above time. Hence, they cannot be certain to us, because we know future contingents inasmuch as they are such: but [they are certain] to God alone, whose intelligence is in eternity, above time."—Could not St. Thomas have easily said, if he had held the system of infrustrable decrees, that which he actually did say elsewhere (for a different purpose, not to propose the system of decrees):41 "The divine will is to be viewed as existing outside the order of beings, as a certain cause that pours forth all being and its differences. Now ‘possible’ and ‘necessary’ are differences of being. . . . the first cause . . . transcends the order of necessity and contingency." But, this transcendence of the divine will could explain foreknowledge of future contingents only if God always worked through infrustrable decrees and infallible permissions to sin. As we have seen,42 St. Thomas does not hold that God works in this way always (though he does hold that God uses infrustrable decrees, for good, at times, by way of exception). Hence we can see why St. Thomas did not make such a statement to solve the objection 3 of ST I.14, 13.

476. e) From the fact that St. Thomas does not appeal to the transcendence of the divine will even in contexts in which he speaks of both that transcendence and of foreknowledge, we have a confirmation of the fact that he rejects the third alternative, and does not explain foreknowledge through the older Thomists’ system of decrees. In some passages, such as those in texts 4, 5 and 6 above, immediately after giving the solution of the problem of foreknowledge by way of eternity, St. Thomas takes up the transcendence of the divine will. At such a point he could have easily applied that transcendence of the will to foreknowledge, if he held these Thomists’ system of decrees. But even in such contexts, he does not do so. For example, in his In Peri hermeneias43 (cf. text 6 above), he proposes a twofold difficulty about divine providence: "But if divine providence is of itself the cause of all the things that happen in this world, at least of the good, it seems that all things happen by necessity. First, in regard to His knowledge: for His knowledge cannot be false; and so it seems that what He knows must necessarily happen. Second, in regard to His will: for the will of God cannot be inefficacious; it seems, therefore, that everything He wills, happens necessarily." After these words, he first takes up the difficulty in regard to God’s knowledge, and solves it in the way we have already seen above in text 6. Then he takes up the difficulty in regard to the will, and solves it in the words we cited above, at note 41. It would have been so easy at such a point to add that foreknowledge can be explained by the transcendence of the divine will, if he had held these Thomists’ system of decrees. But he did not.

477. f) From the interpretations of early Thomists, we have a confirmation of the fact that St. Thomas rejects the third alternative, that is, he does not explain foreknowledge by a system of infrustrable decrees. For the interpretation we have given of St. Thomas’s views was rather general in the Dominican order before Bañez. We quote the principal examples:

1) Didacus Deza:44 "If anyone should object that, even though the strength and power of God, in itself and absolutely, does not have a necessary relation to the realization or non-realization of future contingents, yet, considering the disposition and determination of the divine knowledge and will, from eternity, in regard to producing the future contingents, it seems that there was from eternity a necessary and determined order in the strength and power of God for their realization and production: from which it follows that future contingents could be known in their first causes, with certitude and determination, from eternity, by the divine intellect. But to these things we reply, that just as the will of God has determined from eternity that some future contingents should be produced in reality, so it also determined that they were to be produced contingently and fallibly, and so it provided for them contingent, impedible, and defectible proximate causes. . . . Now from such a determination as from their cause, no other knowledge can be had than that the future contingents will happen contingently and uncertainly and fallibly. From such a [divine] determination, only contingent and fallible causes are prepared for them. For the power and causality of the first cause is not received in the second cause except according to the mode of the second cause. . . ."

Comments: Deza begins by proposing an objection. The objection is practically a statement of the system of infrustrable decrees as a means of knowledge. But he considers it only an objection. He says that God really sends only such a motion that the "contingents will happen contingently and uncertainly and fallibly." Such a motion is obviously a frustrable, not an infrustrable motion. He obviously does not hold that God knows (and can know) only through infrustrable movements and infallible permissions.

2) Melchior Cano:45 ". . . there is no other way to retain the knowledge of God, the infallibility of the knowledge of God about future contingent things, except by supposing the existence of things. And this St. Thomas holds. In De veritate 2.12 he shows that there is no other way in which we could retain the infallibility of the knowledge of God about future contingent things, except by supposing that things are present in God. . . ."

Comments: If "there is no other way" except by the fact that things are present in eternity, then Cano implicitly denies that there could be another way, a way through the system of infrustrable decrees and infallible permissions to sin. For such a system, as Bañez himself explains,46 would suffice even if things were not present in eternity.

3) Mancio:47 ". . . certainly, one could hold such an opinion [i.e., that they could be explained through infrustrable decrees, as Scotus does] about the contingents that are produced by God alone, but about those [contingents] that He produces with free [human] will, it is not so easy to understand [how such an opinion could be true]. For why does the divine will determine itself to concur with you and not with me, except because He knows that you will will that He concur with you, but I will not. For the concursus of God does not necessitate, but it is in my control that God should concur with me or not."

Comments: Mancio takes up and rejects the opinion of Scotus about the use of infrustrable decrees to explain foreknowledge. Contrary to such a view, Mancio holds that I can decide whether or not God will move me.

4) Bartholomew de Medina:48 ". . . as it is in power to use or not to use the general concursus [of God] in fact, it is even in my power that God should give me concursus or not. And yet God would not be frustrated, because He gives concursus only to him who He knows will use it. So also we must say about special concursus. . . . It is in your power to be moved or not to be moved by God, [and it is in your power] whether God gives you concursus or not."

Comments: It is obvious that Medina, like Mancio, rejects the system of infrustrable decrees.

478. Conclusions on the opinion of St. Thomas: In general: It is obvious that St. Thomas followed tradition with great fidelity. He reaffirmed every assertion that was sufficiently founded in previous tradition; he made no assertion that was not found in previous tradition. Again, like the previous witnesses, he did not attempt to put all points on foreknowledge into one synthesis. This appears, for example, from the fact that he said nothing at all about the futuribles. Similarly, although he affirms, with several previous witnesses of tradition, that the knowledge of God can be compared with the knowledge of an artisan, yet he never explicitly makes use of this affirmation in passages in which he explains foreknowledge of future free contingents ex professo. Therefore, it is impossible to suppose that he who never said anything except what tradition had already said, really not only proposed a new theory (foreknowledge through infrustrable decrees) that was unknown to tradition, but that he simultaneously also deserted the view that all tradition held, namely, that God can foreknow through the transcendent divine intellect, without the use of any decrees, frustrable or infrustrable, as means of knowing.

479. In particular, therefore:

1) He held that God can foresee through His transcendent intellect, even without the use of any decrees, frustrable or infrustrable, as means of knowing. (Of course, he taught that divine causality is required for the existence of beings, though not for the occurrence of non-beings as such). This conclusion is divinely revealed, as we have already shown.49

2) He holds that God can know through causality the things that He does. But nowhere does he explicitly apply this point to foreknowledge of future free contingents. Doubtless, however, He knew that God could foresee even through frustrable causality the things He does in the present of eternity. Doubtless also, He knew that God could foresee through infrustrable decrees, whenever He actually uses them. However, he held50 that God does not regularly use infrustrable decrees.

3) Always, without exception, both in passages in which he treats it ex professo, and in summaries, St. Thomas explains the foreknowledge of future free contingents through eternity. However, he does not hold that eternity is the medium quo or medium in quo of foreknowledge. Rather eternity is a condition needed to make things knowable by making them present. For St. Thomas holds that future contingents, as future, are altogether without determination, and so are metaphysically unknowable even to God. Therefore the explanation through eternity, since eternity is not a medium, always presupposes that God can, through His transcendent intellect, know all things that are knowable and present.—In the explanation through eternity, St. Thomas explicitly follows Boethius. Therefore this explanation is philosophical, not revealed.


END NOTES

1 De veritate 2.8.c.
2 CG 1.68. cf. 3.56.
3 CG 1.66.
4 ST I.14.8.c.
5 1 Sent. d. 38, q. 1, a. 1, obiect 5 and ad 5.
6 De veritate 2.15 ad 1.
7 ST I.14.10 ad 2.
8 CG 3.159-61. Cf. cap. 14.
9 Cf. §§ 344-45.
10 Cf. §§ 82, 346-48.
11 1 Sent. d. 38. a. 1, a. 5. c.
12 De veritate 2.12.c.
13 CG 1.67.
14 De rationibus fidei 10. § 1025.
15 Quodlibet XI. q. 3, a.3.
16 In Peri hermeneias 1.9.14.17-21.
17 Compendium theol. 1.133. § 272.
18 ST I.14.13.c.
19 Below, in § 472, we will investigate whether in ST I. 14. 3 the words "reasons of things" could imply another explanation.
20 In Peri hermeneias 1.9.13.6.
21 Cf. § 463, text 2.
22 De veritate 2.12 ad 1.
23 ST I.5.2.c.
24 Cf. ST II-II.171.3.c.: "future contingents . . . are not knowable in themselves. . . ."
25 Cf. §§ 121-22.
26 Cf. n. 24 above.
27 Scholastica commentaria in Primam Partem Angelici Doctoris D. Thomae, Romae, 1584. In I.14.13. Conclusio 4a, Col. 313.
28 Cf. Cajetan on I. 14. 13: ". . . it is one thing for the knowledge of God to receive certitude from the sitting of Socrates, another thing for the sitting of Socrates to be incapable of being the term of certain divine knowledge except inasmuch as it is certain in itself. For the first is unsuitable, but the second is necessary."
29 ST I. 14. 8 ad. 3.
30 We note that these non-beings are not prior to the action of God by which He creates, conserves, and begins to move the creature.
31 § 458.
32 § 468.
33 § 470.
34 Cf. § 470.
35 Cf. chapter 14.
36 De Deo uno, Desclee de Brouwer, Lutetiae Parisiorum, 1938, p. 357, n. 2. (emphasis mine).
37 St. Thomas rejects their view in ST I.14.11 and in 1 Sent. d.36, q. 1, a.1.c.
38 § 471.2. a.
39 Cf. § 475.3, the citation of n. 41 and § 476.
40 Cf. §§ 325-327.
41 In Peri hermeneias 1.9.14.22.
42 Cf. §§ 121-122.
43 Ibid, 1.9.14.17.
44 Novaram defensionum doctrinae . . . B. Thomae de Aquino quaestiones, Sevilla, 1517. p. 274. v. Cited from: F. Stegmuller, Francisco de Vitoria y la. Doctrina de la Gracia en la Escuela Salmantina, in: Biblioteca Historica de la biblioteca Balmes Serie II, vol. X, Barcelona, 1934, p. 12. n. 9. Cf. also: Defensiones doctrinae doctoris beati Thomae Aquinatis, Hispali, 1517, In 1. d. 38, q. 1, a. 3: ". . . a future contingent in its causes does not have necessary or determined and infallible being, and hence, [it follows] that it cannot be known in its causes with certitude and determinately and infallibly. And, according to the mind of St. Thomas, this is true not only in regard to the second and proximate causes of the future contingent, but also in regard to the first cause, which is God." Cited from Lennerz, De Deo uno., Univ. Gregoriana Romae, 4a ed., 1948, pp 218-19.
45 Cited from Stegmuller (cf. n. 44), p. 28, n. 51 (Ottob. lat. 286. 217 r).
46 Cf. § 470
47 Cited from Stegmuller (cf. n. 44), p. 31, n. 59 (Ottob. Iat. 1058. f. 56 v.).
48 Cited from Stegmuller (cf. n. 44), p. 113. n. 94.
49 Cf. § 457. 1.
50 Cf. §§ 121-22.
END

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