Summary Against Modern Thought: Free Will Is Still Subject To God

Summary Against Modern Thought: Free Will Is Still Subject To God

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God can bend the will. Why not? How He does so, is not given here.


1 It is clear, next, that even acts of human willing and choosing must be subject to divine providence.

2 For, everything that God does He does as a result of the order of His providence. So, since He is the cause of our act of choice and volition, our choices and will-acts are subject to divine providence.

3 Again, all corporeal things are governed through spiritual beings, as we showed above. But spiritual beings act on corporeal things through the will. Therefore, if choices and movements of the wills of intellectual substances do not belong to God’s providence, it follows that even corporeal things are withdrawn from His providence. And thus, there will be no providence at all.

4 Besides, the more noble things are in the universe, the more must they participate in the order in which the good of the universe consists. So, in Physics II, Aristotle accuses the ancient philosophers of putting chance and fortune in the make-up of the celestial bodies, but not in things below. Now, the intellectual substances are more noble than bodily substances. Therefore, if bodily substances, in their substances and actions, fall under the order of providence, so do intellectual substances, for a greater reason.

Notes I cannot help but to emphasize Aristotle’s accusation. Chance and fortune are not causes.

5 Moreover, things that are nearer the end fall more definitely under the order which is for the end, for by their mediation other things also are ordered to the end. But the actions of intellectual substances are more closely ordered to God as end than are the actions of other things, as we showed above. So, the actions of intellectual substances, by which God orders all things to Himself, more definitely fall under the order of providence than the actions of other things.

6 Furthermore, the governance of providence stems from the divine love whereby God loves the things created by Him; in fact, love consists especially in this, “that the lover wills the good for his loved one.” So, the more that God loves things, the more do they fall under His providence. Moreover, Sacred Scripture also teaches this in the Psalm (144:20) when it states: “The Lord keeps all those who love Him.” And the Philosopher, also, supports this view, in Ethics X [8], when he says that God takes greatest care of those who love understanding, as He does of His friends. It may, then, be gathered from this, that He loves intellectual substances best. Therefore, their acts of will and choice fall under His providence.

7 Again, man’s internal goods, which are dependent on will and action, are more proper to man than things that are outside him, like the acquisition of wealth or anything else of that kind. Hence, man is deemed good by virtue of the former and not of the latter. So, if acts of human choice and movements of will do not fall under divine providence, but only their external results, it will be truer that human affairs are outside providence than that they come under providence. But this view is suggested by the words of blasphemers: “He walks about the poles of heaven, and He does not consider our things” (Job 22:14); and again: “The Lord has forsaken the earth, and the Lord does not see” (Ez. 9:9); and also: “Who is he who will command a thing to be done, when the Lord does not command it?” (Lam. 3:37).

8 However, certain passages in Sacred Scripture appear to be consonant with the aforementioned view. It is said in fact (Sirach 15:14): “God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel”; and later: “He has set water and fire before you; stretch forth your hand to whichever you wish. Before man is life and death, good and evil; that which he chooses shall be given him” (Sirach 15:14, 17-18). And also: “Consider that I have set before thee this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). But these words are brought forward to show that man is possessed of free choice, not that his choices are placed outside divine providence.

9 Likewise, Gregory of Nyssa states in his book On Man: “Providence is concerned with the things that are not in our power, but not with those that are in our power”; and, following him, Damascene states in Book II, that “God foreknows the things that are within our power, but He does not predetermine them.” These texts should be explained as meaning that things in our power are not subject to determination by divine providence in the sense that they receive necessity from it.


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