Does Providence Impose Necessity?

Hello everyone. Welcome back to Deeper Waters. We are continuing our look at the doctrine of God in Christian teaching. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. If you do not own a copy, you can read one for free online at Certain tools like Kindle, an Ereader, and an IPhone can provide a way for you to read as well. Of course, I think the best way is to go pick up the book and read it. We’ve come a long way and tonight we’re going to answer the question of if providence imposes necessity, which will wrap up our look at the providence of God.

What this means is that if all things are under the divine providence, then wouldn’t it follow that all things must happen the way they do and that all things are thereby necessary and not contingent. Aquinas will argue that this is not the case and some things are contingent.

Now some things are necessary. It is necessary that if anything exists, it participates in being. It is necessary that all things be ordered to the divine goodness by the providence of God. However, Aquinas does believe that there can be numerous ways to get to a necessary end.

Suppose we use this as an illustration. I wish to go to the store to purchase some items. I have a number of means at my disposal. I can walk if it’s close enough. I can drive if I need to. I can call a friend to pick me up. I can also call a taxi or take a bus to get there. It could be that reaching my end is necessary, but the means by which I choose to reach that end are contingent.

Divine providence has worked out that some things will happen necessarily, but these can also come about through different means. For instance, Christians will necessarily be conformed to the image of Christ. However, all that happens in their life is not necessary. God will still use these events that happen to bring about the goal that he has for us.

This also does work fine with the freedom of man. God does know what I will do for all time. He knows what will happen to me tonight and what will happen to me a year from now, but he also knows that I will freely choose to do whatever it is that I will do.

How this works with providence is the trust that if God has willed that something will necessarily happen, we can be sure that it will. Thus, if God has willed us to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, then this truly means that we can rejoice at all that happens in our lives. We can look and say that whatever it was, the master worker is capable of molding the clay in such a way that even this that has happened will be used to bring about his purpose. It’s all about trusting God and not trying to be God.

Tomorrow, we start a new subject.

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