Neo-Platonic influence of Thomas’s [double] predestinarianism…

Now it is necessary that God’s goodness, which in itself is one and undivided, should be manifested in many ways in His creation; because creatures in themselves cannot attain to the simplicity of God. Thus it is that for the completion of the universe there are required different grades of being; some of which hold a high and some a low place in the universe. That this multiformity of grades may be preserved in things, God allows some evils, lest many good things should never happen, as was said above (22, 2). Let us then consider the whole of the human race, as we consider the whole universe. God wills to manifest His goodness in men; in respect to those whom He predestines, by means of His mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of His justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others.

Summa Theologica Ia. Q.23 A.5 ad.3

4 Responses to Neo-Platonic influence of Thomas’s [double] predestinarianism…

  1. Charlie says:

    Excellent post Perry.

  2. Dave,

    It depends on what you mean by “double” predestination. Per the 2nd Council of Orange, Augustinians were precluded from saying that God predestined people to hell through no fault of their own.

    For Thomas, each person who is damned is so through their own fault, though this serves God’s good purposes. The person does the act “freely” for Thomas in so far as they are the cause of their act even though they could not have done otherwise, but God orders or purposes the act in that he determined the end or goal that their evil acts aim at. All acts of agents in so far are they are in act aim at the Good, which is God.

    The irony is that Thomas is an Augustinian as are the vast majority of scholastic theologians. The Reformed complaint that Rome is semi-pelagian simply has no real historical traction. To think that semi-pelagianism is the idea that we contribute to our justification is to convict Augustine of being semi-pelagian since that is exactly what Augustine teaches. What constitutes semi-pelagianism is roughly the idea that we move ourselves to faith apart from the influence of grace and under our own natural power.

    There are plenty of people who have detailed accounts of Predestination long before Calvin or Luther ever came on the scene. Calvin’s account by comparison is rather simple and at times simplistic. This is why is funny that Calvinists today frame the issue as if the only available positions are Calvinism or Arminianism when actually there are a whole host of possible positions far more sophisticated than their own. A casual reading of say Thomist or Scotistic thinkers bears this out. But most Calvinists don’t understand or have even really tried to understand scholastic thinkers on their own terms and pretty much read back into them their own ideas.

    Another irony is that Calvinism is by and large constructed on semi-pelagian, pelagian and nominalistic views and assumptions which historically were the enemies of the Augustinians during the previous scholastic period. The notion for example of human agents laying hold of the merits of Christ through the virtue of faith is a distinctly pelagian and semi-pelagian view. The idea that we are imputed with moral credit irrespective of our standing is a nominalist idea that has no real basis in Augustine or for that matter any major pre-reformation thinker making sola fide in the words of Alister McGrath a theological novelty in the history of Christiant theology.

    Like the Enlightenment stories of the “Dark Ages” Protestant readings and understanding of scholastic theology are more propaganda than fact.

  3. David,

    I don’t think Thomists would call Thomas’s doctrine DOUBLE predestination, but I do think that this passage highlights the neo-platonic hiearchy of being–which is grounded in the simplicity of God–that fixes one’s eternal state.


  4. David Richards says:

    Wow. I thought the doctrine of double predestination was accepted in Christianity only after Calvin; I didn’t realize Aquinas taught it too. Of course, I’m greatly ignorant of scholastic theology. :-/

    I’d be interested in hearing what you guys have to say about the idea of corporate election…

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