Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. I hope you’re enjoying our blog series. If you are someone who regularly enjoys, I hope you will also be willing to make a donation. Right now, I am in a tighter financial spot than I’d like to be in and any help would be appreciated. If not that, your prayers are greatly desired. For our study now, we’re going through the doctrine of God in Christian thought and our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. This can be read for free at newadvent.org. We’re on the topic of the will of God and we’re asking if the will of God is changeable. Let’s go to the text.
There is truly nothing new under the sun. In debates on open theism today, the verses that are used are two of the verses that Thomas Aquinas replies to. We have the account of the flood in Genesis where God repented of making man and then that of Jeremiah where is told that if he wants to destroy a nation and the nation repents, he won’t, and if he wants to bless a nation and the nation strays, he won’t.
For Aquinas, the first is to be understood metaphorically. God does not literally repent but his actions seem to be that of a man who repents. This is the same thing that is said about emotions like angry. God is not literally angry but he is acting like a man who is angry.
For the second, God is not changing his will but different things are falling under his will in different ways. If one does good, it is God’s will to bless that one generally. If one does evil, it is God’s will to punish that one. Aquinas wants us to know that because God wills a change in a thing, that does not mean the thing has somehow brought about a change in the will of God.
The will of God could only change if something in God changed. That would be his disposition would have to change or his knowledge would have to change. His disposition would refer to his goodness and his goodness cannot change. His knowledge cannot change either and both of these have been established in past blogs. Thus, since the source of the will does not change, his goodness, then his will cannot change in that way. He cannot get new knowledge so he decides to will something other than what he had willed before, so his will cannot change in that way. In either case, God’s will cannot change.
This again is the fascinating aspect of the medieval philosophers. They took these questions seriously. I believe that, for instance, Thomas Aquinas refuted the Mormon doctrine of God long before Mormonism ever came along. The apologists of the past were prepared in advance for the heresies that were coming by having a thorough knowledge of God. May we learn to be prepared in advance for the challenges coming our way today so we are not merely responsive but are proactively making a difference.
We shall continue tomorrow.