Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thomistic vs. Molinist Predestination Part III

In the last post I discussed whether a Thomist could preserve both the efficacy of God's will and the libertarian freedom of our actions, and it seems to me that he can. Hence, the Molinist objection that God's causing a free action is impossible doesn't work, so we are left with the Thomist view which better preserves God's sovereignty.

The problem then, as brought up in the original post, is in how we can reconcile God's ability to cause anyone to freely choose him with the fact that God doesn't do so. For the teaching of Scripture is that God wills that all men be saved. Now, Aquinas distinguishes between God's antecedently willing that all be saved and his consequently willing that only some be saved, which I explained in the original post. The problem with Thomas' example is that God's will, unlike that of the judge example he uses, is intrinsically efficacious, even in the case of free action.

We can state the problem equivalently as follows. God wills that all men be saved, as we know from Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Since God's will is efficacious, it follows that all men are in fact saved. But it is false that all men are saved. So it seems we have a straight contradiction. Hence, we must understand the 'antecedent' will as willing in some other sense--according to Aquinas this would be a willingness rather than a simple willing--since it is clearly God's consequent will which is actually satisfied (some people are not saved and are damned). The problem is that I have difficulty understanding how God could have a "willingness" distinct from a simple willing if he is absolutely and most simple. Let me explain:

God should be construed as lacking any potentiality to be fulfilled. Now, the way I understand this consequent will, being a willingness, is as a sort of "background desire" to have everyone be saved. But a desire is something that can be fulfilled. So God has a potentiality to be fulfilled, which is false. Hence there is no such willingness.

Maybe the problem here is that we should reject this understanding of "willingness." I may simply be misunderstanding Thomas' notion here. This interpretation may be somewhat uncharitable anyway, since Aquinas explicitly argues that the order between antecedent and consequent is in God's effects and not in his absolutely simple will itself. So my question then is how this can be. One way I'm thinking of construing this willingness is as follows: God absolutely wills the existence of human beings; the natural end of each human being is union with God; so in some sense God wills their salvation just by willing their existence. So God wills their salvation in one respect, though by not willing their predestination does not will it in another respect. Hence, no contradiction. Another way might be to say that God gives men sufficient grace to choose him; (sufficient grace on the Thomistic view is grace which gives one the ability to choose God, but which does not entail one actually does); hence God wills that all men have the means to salvation; so in some sense God wills that all are saved. I am not so sure about either of these options, either as to whether they are what Thomas intended or whether they work.

The key then is to find some notion of 'antecedent will', distinct from God's simple and absolute willing. And this is where I'm stuck at. It appears that the Molinist view doesn't work since Thomism can preserve freedom and perfect sovereignty (not even mentioning the other problems with Molinism); the Thomist view seems inadequate insofar as it is not clear what God's antecedent will is, this being a willing apart from God's efficacious, absolute, and simple will. Is there some third way that I'm missing? I don't think Congruism can help here, since there is still the question of why God doesn't elect all people he creates, and from my reading Scotus's doctrine here is not much different from Thomas' or Augustine's. Maybe this is a good theological reason to accept a weaker version of God's sovereignty in favor of Molinism? Any thoughts?

2 comments:

Ken said...

Antecedent will is Gods consideration of the individual in isolation. His consequent will involves the whole picture. Imagine a man on trial for murder. If the Judge was asked "is it your will to execute this man (antecedent) he would say no. If asked "considering that this man is a murderer and will continue to murder is it your (consequent) will that this man be executed" he may then say yes.

awatkins69 said...

Thank you for commenting Ken. I am familiar with the distinction (though your explanation of it is admirably clear!) The problem is not so much that I don't understand the distinction itself, but rather I don't understand how, on a Thomistic picture, it could exist in God's will. In us our having a volition, or willing, to do something does not automatically entail that it happens. So I may will that this man not be executed, and yet I cannot control what actions he does and thus may have to execute him if he does something wrong. This does not hold in God's case, since his will is intrinsically efficacious on the Thomist picture (he can give an efficacious grace and we will freely do whatever action he wants). So if he really does, antecedently, will our salvation, since his will is always fulfilled as a matter of fact we actually will be saved, since his will is never perverted and he can make us do whatever salvific act is necessary for his antecedent will being fulfilled.

For what it is worth, this series of posts was written nearly a year ago, and I'm a Molinist now. I'll try to make a post on that soon.