Welcome back readers to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re going through the doctrine of God right now in Christian thought. 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 predestination and we’re going to be asking tonight if predestination is certain or not.
For Aquinas, predestination is absolutely certain. It will happen and it will happen infallibly. However, Aquinas at the same time believes that free will enters into this. He tells us that all that we’ve said about the will of God and the divine knowledge of God must be taken into consideration when discussing the topic. In other words, Aquinas is a believer that we must have the free will of man along with the sovereignty of God together. In many discussions today, we too often take one and then deny the other. In the doctrine of Aquinas, both must be taken together.
Aquinas does say that what will happen will happen of necessity however, but the freedom of man is the contingent aspect of it happening. Contingency is used to even bring about necessary events. What Pilate and Caiaphas did in nailing Jesus to the cross was done by their own free-will, but it was also necessary for our salvation that these events would take place.
Does the Bible say someone can lose a crown? If that happens, then it would seem that predestination is not certain. Aquinas says that if the crown is predestined, then that crown is not lost. However, it could be a crown got by the merits of grace. That is a gift and if it is lost, it is given to another in its place. Men can take the place of fallen angels and Gentiles the place of Jews, according to Aquinas.
But if God can will someone to be predestined, then can he not also will that person to not be predestined? I would hope that some readers of the blog regularly through our look at the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas will think back and be able to see the problem with such an idea.
When we spoke of the will of God, we said that the only thing that God wills necessarily is himself. He does not have to will anything else. Suppose however that he wills to create a universe, which in fact he did. If that is the case, since he has willed it, he necessarily wills it. He does not have to will things necessarily, but once he wills them, he wills them necessarily. It’s a fine distinction, but it is an important one.
Aquinas thus concludes that the one who is predestined is certain to reach the goal for which they were predestined for. My personal thought on this is to immediately think of Romans 8 and the comfort such a passage gives when it tells us that we will be conformed to the likeness of Christ. It is not a maybe. It is not a hope. (Although in the biblical sense, a hope can be spoken of as a sure thing) It is a certainty.
We shall continue tomorrow.