Welcome back everyone to Deeper Waters, a blog where we are going on a plunge into the ocean of truth! Right now, we’re going through the Christian doctrine of God and using as our guide, the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. If you wish to join in the reading of this work, you can go and read it for free at newadvent.org. Tonight, we’re continuing our look at the doctrine of predestination and asking if the number of the predestined is certain or not.
Aquinas speaks of the different ways that something can be required for something. For instance, stones and logs can be required to build a house. However, these are required for the sake of the house and not for any good in themselves. Thus, a builder will order a number of stones and logs, but he would not likely order an exact number and expect that every item that he orders would be used.
For the good of the universe, God has pre-ordained a certain number. Aquinas tells us that all things work together for the good of the predestined. Thus, the number of reprobates does not need to be certain as they are there in the long term simply for the good of the elect in some way which will bring about the glory of God. There was some speculation in medieval thought also that the number of men who are saved is to be equal to the number of angels that fell. Aquinas reminds us that it is better to simply say that God knows the number.
When the Bible speaks of a number increasing or decreasing, Aquinas says that it is to righteousness in this life. There are some who will enjoy blessings in this life but that does not mean that they are part of the predestined. This could be a case of what Paul spoke of when he said that not all those who are Israel are indeed Israel. God can raise up from stones children of Abraham.
An objection is that there is no reason why a certain number should be saved and God does nothing without a reason, therefore there is no fixed number. Aquinas tells us that the good of one is to be done in proportion to the whole. The reason for the number of stars in the universe for instance, is based on that which will bring about the most good in the universe, something that our scientists can better tell us about today.
What of passages that speak of the gate being narrow? Aquinas seems to relegate this to a certain kind of happiness that few will experience. My thoughts on this is that Jesus is referring to those who will accept him at the time of his mission. The Bible also speaks of a great multitude in Heaven that no man can number.
My conclusion on the matter? I do believe God does know how many people will be saved and that number is there fixed, but again, this is based on my view of predestination. I cannot say for certain where I stand entirely on the issue yet, but I hope I have presented the views of Aquinas faithfully.
We shall conclude this topic tomorrow.