Summary Against Modern Thought: Man’s Acts Are Punished And Rewarded By God

Summary Against Modern Thought: Man’s Acts Are Punished And Rewarded By God

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That God rewards everybody believes. That God punishes is impossible for many to now believe.


1 It is apparent from the foregoing that man’s acts are punished or rewarded by God.

2 For the function of punishing and rewarding belongs to him whose office it is to impose the law; indeed, lawmakers enforce observance of the law by means of rewards and punishments. But it belongs to divine providence to lay down the law for men, as is clear from the previous statements. Therefore, it belongs to God to punish and reward men.

3 Again, wherever there is a proper order to an end, this order must lead to the end, while a departure from this order prevents the attainment of the end. For things which depend on the end derive their necessity from the end; that is to say, this means is necessary if the end is to be attained—and under these conditions, if there be no impediment, the end is achieved.

Now, God has imposed on men’s acts a certain order in relation to the final good, as is evident from preceding statements. So, it must be, if this order is rightly laid down, that those who proceed according to this order will attain the final good, and this is to be rewarded; but those who depart from this order by means of sin must be cut off from the final good, and this is to be punished.

Notes This order is the natural law.

4 Besides, as things in nature are subject to the order of divine providence, so are human acts, as is clear from what was said earlier. In both cases, however, it is possible for the proper order to be observed or overlooked. Yet there is this difference: the observance or transgression of the due order is put within the control of the human will, but it is not within the power of things in nature to fall short of or to follow the proper order.

Now, effects must correspond in an appropriate way with their causes. Hence, just as when natural things adhere to a due order in their natural principles and actions, the preservation of their nature and the good in them necessarily follows, while corruption and evil result when there is a departure from the proper and natural order. So also, in human affairs, when a man voluntarily observes the order of divinely imposed law, good must result, not as if by necessity, but by the management of the governor, and this is to be rewarded. On the contrary, evil follows when the order of the law has been neglected, and this is to be punished.

5 Moreover, to leave nothing unordered among things pertains to the perfect goodness of God; as a result, we observe that every evil in things of nature is included under the order of something good. So, the corruption of air is the generation of fire and the killing of a sheep is the feeding of a wolf.

Hence, since human acts are subject to divine providence, just as things in nature are, the evil which occurs in human acts must be contained under the order of some good. Now, this is most suitably accomplished by the fact that sins are punished. For in that way those acts which exceed the due measure are embraced under the order of justice which reduces to equality.

But man exceeds the due degree of his measure when he prefers his own will to the divine will by satisfying it contrary to God’s ordering. Now, this inequity is removed when, against his will, man is forced to suffer something in accord with divine ordering. Therefore, it is necessary that human sins be given punishment of divine origin and, for the same reason, that good deeds receive their reward.

6 Furthermore, divine providence not only arranges the order of things, it also moves all things to the execution of the order thus arranged, as we showed above. Now, the will is moved by its object, which is a good or bad thing. Therefore, it is the function of divine providence to offer men good things as a reward, so that their will may be moved to make right progress, and to set forth evil things as punishment, so that their will may avoid disorder.

7 Besides, divine providence has so ordered things that one will be useful to another. But it is most appropriate for man to derive profit for his final good, both from another man’s good and another man’s evil, in the sense that he may be stimulated to good action by seeing that others who do good are rewarded, and that he may be turned back from evil action by observing that those who do evil are punished. So, it is proper to divine providence that evil men be punished and good men rewarded.

8 Hence, it is said, in Exodus (20:5-6): “I am Your God… visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children … and showing mercy… to them who love me and keep my commandments.” And again, in the Psalm (61:13): “For You will render to every man according to his works.” And in Romans (2:6-8): “Who will render to every man according to his works; to those indeed who, according to patience in good work, glory and honor… but to those… who do not obey the truth but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation.”

9 Now, by this we set aside the error of some people who assert that God does not punish. In fact, Marcion and Valentine said that there is one good God, and another God of justice Who punishes.


  1. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    Hey, William, excuse me, but I follow you since a few weeks ago (after your interview with Tim Kelley): might you tell me what work and what place of Saint Thomas’ this passage come from? I would appreciate it… thanks in advance

  2. Briggs


    Thanks. Link should be right at the top, under ‘THAT A MAN’S ACTS ARE PUNISHED OR REWARDED BY GOD’.

    I just changed the site this week and the highlights are too dark to see. Will change them to make it easier.

  3. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    Yeah, I could see it: CG, III, 140.Great, thank you… And it’s agood edition, too

  4. C-Marie

    Welcome, Carlos!!!

    In response to the article: Hell is real. Heaven is real. We pray that all will use their free will to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and God and go to heaven after death, but Jesus did say that some will go to Hell. That Jesus said that He will draw all men to Himself is of course true, but will all men use their wills to be His? Jesus has said, No, all will not choose Him.
    God bless, C-Marie

  5. Nate

    That God Punishes and Rewards may be logically true given Aquinas premises, but I think far too many people seem to think these rewards and punisments are *temporal*. If he’s only speaking of eternal ‘rewards’, perhaps. But far to many people that do many bad things seems to be ‘rewarded’ for them on this earth, while those who try to do ‘better’ seem to get the worse of it. And what about things like the child that dies of cancer.

    Far too many Christians today seem to act like if you don’t have any ‘serious problems’ then you are blessed by God because of your faith, but if you do, then you just ‘need to pray more’ or some other serious grade A Bullsh*t.

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