Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We are going through the doctrine of God right now in Christian thought so we can learn all the more about the one who identified himself as “I AM”, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who revealed himself best in Jesus Christ. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. This can be read online at newadvent.org. We’re discussing the will of God and tonight, we’re going to discuss whether God wills what he wills necessarily.
There are some aspects to this that make it seem like it would be so. Mainly, isn’t God eternally doing all things and thus whatever he wills, he has been willing for all eternity? If that is the case, then he is willing necessarily. If he is eternally willing necessarily, then whatever he wills has been willed necessarily has it?
Not so fast.
Aquinas says that things can be said to be necessary absolutely or by supposition. Suppose you meet someone who is a bachelor. It is absolutely necessary that he be an unmarried male. If he is not an unmarried male, then he cannot be a bachelor. Suppose you want to draw a triangle. It is necessary that what you draw be an enclosed figure with three straight lines and three angels totaling 180 degrees.
The reason that these are necessary is that they are contained in the term itself. A bachelor is an unmarried male. A triangle is an enclosed figure with three straight lines and angles totaling up to 180 degrees. If you want to draw a figure that does not have those properties, it could be a figure indeed, but it is certainly not a triangle.
Thus, if you say “That bachelor is an unmarried male,” you are not saying anything about the bachelor that could not be known otherwise. If you say “That bachelor drives a Mercedes”, then you are saying something new. It is necessary to being a bachelor that one be an unmarried male. It is not necessary that one drives a Mercedes.
How about Socrates sitting? It is not necessary to the nature of Socrates that he be sitting. However, if Socrates is sitting, he necessarily sits. He cannot not be sitting if he is sitting. He can choose to stand up if he so desires, but he cannot stand up and be sitting at the same time.
God’s will is more that way. Whatever he wills, once he wills it, he wills it necessarily. However, it was not necessary to him that he will that. The only thing that he necessarily wills is his goodness. Aquinas says we can picture willing to go on a stroll. We do not have to will a horse to go on that scroll. We can go on a scroll without a horse, but riding a horse could be more pleasant.
God does not need to will anything else besides himself for his happiness. However, he can will other things in a way of diffusing his goodness that did not have to be. Once they are however, he wills them of necessity and cannot change that he wills something once he wills it.
We shall continue tomorrow.