Are Men Predestined by God?

Hello everyone and welcome to Deeper Waters. Normally, we don’t go into secondary issues much here, but right now in looking at the doctrine of God, we’ve come to such a situation. We’re using the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas as our guide which can be read at This can be read for free at Tonight, we’re going to start looking at predestination which is included in the doctrine of God. While we can be tempted to view this as telling us something about salvation, we should instead look to see what it can tell us about God.

Our question tonight will be if God predestines men. In this case, Aquinas refers to directing them towards an end. He uses a favorite illustration of his that he used when he gave the fifth way of an arrow heading for a target by an archer. The arrow does not have within its own nature the power to hit the target. It needs the archer to do so. For us, we are directed towards happiness to be found in the beatific vision. We cannot reach that on our own, as Aquinas explains in the very first question in the Summa. Therefore, we need God to direct us to that end.

An objection raised is that all creatures are guided by divine providence. This was covered when we discussed providence and shows us again that Aquinas is going in a specific order. One cannot come straight to this section to understand predestination in Aquinas’s view without first understanding what has come before that.

For Aquinas, animals cannot be properly said to be predestined for they do not possess the capacity to enjoy the beatific vision. For those who are wondering what this says about animals in the after-death, I really can’t say for sure. This is a question that I move back and forth on and often it can be in relation to my own experiences with animals.

But what about angels? There was never any unhappiness in them and they are not predestined. Augustine is quoted as saying that predestination is a work that shows mercy. If angels can avoid predestination, why not men?

Aquinas disputes however the idea that predestination does not apply to angels. He says that it does even though they have never been unhappy. It matters not to what an angel is predestined insofar as he is predestined. Some could be predestined to beatitude and some to misery, but it is still predestination anyway.

The interesting final objection is that predestination is a benefit given to men and man is benefited by knowing. 2 Cor. 2:12 is cited saying that we may know the things given to us by God. If all men were predestined, they would all know what they were predestined to.

Aquinas says this is not so because it would not benefit all. If some knew they were predestined, they could be lazy in their security and grow negligent. If some knew they were meant to be reprobate, they could stay there. God does not reveal our destinies even though he knows them to bring about good in those who love him and give a chance to bring about goodness in those who do not.

My position? I don’t have one firmly on this doctrine. For now, I am merely stating Aquinas’s position.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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