Does God Have Immediate Providence Over All?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are continuing our dive into the ocean of truth. We’re going through the doctrine of God now in Christian thought. The text that we are using is the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. This can be read for free at Remember also readers that these posts are available for further discussion at in the Deeper Waters section. Tonight, we’ll be looking at whether God has immediate providence overall. Let’s go to the question.

Aquinas sets out two kinds of providence. One is the idea of guiding things towards an end and the other is the execution of that providence. For the second, that does not apply to God as God is not the primary efficient cause of everything in the sense that he causes all things directly. He acts through secondary means often. He allows others to take part in governing the universe out of the goodness of his abundance to give what Aquinas refers to as “the dignity of causality.” This is a term readers of Pascal and Lewis should recognize as spoken of in relation to what they say of prayer.

But does it not belong to the dignity of a king to have ministers under him in order to bring about what he desires? These ministers are the ones who have immediate providence over the areas that they rule. Since it is part of a king’s dignity to be this way, what of God who is much more dignified?

However, the reason a king has such ministers is because there is a deficiency in himself. He cannot be in all places at once and know all things. He must rely on His subjects due to a deficiency that He possesses in His finitude. God does not possess any such deficiency however and so He can rule over all things immediately and do so with dignity, however, as was said earlier, He grants some of us to be able to have some providence as well to give us the dignity of causality.

However, if God has immediate providence, wouldn’t there be no secondary causes? Not at all. The secondary causes are the executors of the order of God. God can act through these secondary causes still to bring about what He desires. Especially for the angels that are bound to Him, He can bring about what He desires.

We are also told that Augustine says it is better to not know some things, such as ignoble things. It would be better for us for instance to not know the evil that we are capable of lest we be tempted to bring about that evil. If such is better, then it follows God must not have providence over wicked and ignoble things.

However, this is only for us for we are finite. It is better for us to not know them because we do not possess true knowledge of the higher good and our wills are easily bent towards evil. This does not apply to God who is perfect goodness and cannot be bent towards evil.

Thus, we conclude with Aquinas that God does have immediate providence over the universe, something that should help us all sleep easier tonight.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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