RECAPITULATION AND SUPPLEMENT
I. WHETHER SANCTIFYING GRACE
IS A FORMAL PARTICIPATION IN DEITY AS IT IS IN ITSELF
(We here reprint an article which appeared in the Revue Thomiste, 1936.)
“Grace, which is an accident, is a certain participated likeness of the divinity in man” (St. Thomas, IIIa, q. 2, a. 10 ad I).
This question has been put to us in connection with recent debates and with reference to what we recently wrote in the Revue Thomiste on the subject of Deity.More precisely, the question was formulated as follows: Is grace a participation in Deity as it is in itself and as seen by the blessed, or only in Deity as imperfectly known by us? This latter aspect could be further differentiated: Is it a question of Deity as imperfectly known by the philosopher, or as known by the theologian-wayfarer?
State of the question. In order to grasp better the sense of the terms, let us recall what we have discussed elsewhere at greater length. The Deity as it is in itself remains naturally unknowable, and even cannot be known except by the immediate vision of the blessed. But among the divine perfections which it contains formally in its eminence, which we know by natural means, is there not one which has priority over the others, from which the others can be deduced, as the properties of man are deduced from his rationality?
The controversy on this subject, relative to the formal constituent of the divine nature according to our imperfect mode of knowledge, is well known. Even the Thomists themselves are not in complete accord on this point. Some maintain that this formal constituent is subsistent being itself, according to the words of Exod. 3:14: “I am who am,” because all the divine attributes are deducible therefrom. Others hold that it is subsistent intellection (intelligere subsistens). We have explained elsewhere why we accept the first solution, on account of the text from Exodus, of the radical distinction between subsistent being andcreated being, and because all the divine attributes are deducible from it. Does not St. Thomas accordingly delay treating of the divine intelligence until question fourteen of the First Part, after he has deduced several attributes from subsistent being itself?
Whatever may be the issue of this discussion, it remains true for all Thomists that Deity as it exists in itself is superior to all the absolute perfections which it contains in its eminence (formaliter eminenter).
This is evident from the fact that these perfections, which are naturally capable of participation by creatures, such as being, life, intelligence, are naturally knowable in a positive way, whereas Deity is not: it is the great darkness which the mystics speak of. It designates the very essence of God, that which is proper to Him, His intimate life. It is the object of the beatific vision itself, and, before that vision, it is the “obscurity from above” which proceeds from a light too intense for the weak eyes of our souls.
From this it can be inferred that subsistent being itself contains only in implicit act the attributes which are progressively deducible from it, but Deity as such contains them in explicit act, since, when it is seen, there is no longer any need of deducing these attributes. Deity can thus be represented as the apex of a pyramid the sides of which would represent subsistent being, subsistent intellection, subsistent love, mercy, justice, omnipotence, that is, all the attributes formally contained in the eminence of Deity. To adopt a less far-fetched symbolism, Deity in relation to the perfections inhering in its eminence is somewhat like whiteness in relation to the seven colors of the rainbow, with this difference: the seven colors are only virtually present in the whiteness, whereas the absolute perfections (being, intelligence, love, etc.) are in Deity formally and eminently.
Thereupon the question presents itself: Is grace a participation in the divine nature (or in Deity), the intimate life of God as it is in itself, or only in the divine nature as it is imperfectly conceived by us as subsistent being or subsistent intellection?
The theologians who have written on this subject generally concede that grace is a participation in Deity as it is in itself, objectively (inasmuch as it disposes us radically to see it). But some add that it is not so intrinsically or subjectively, for Deity is infinite and hence, as such, cannot be participated in subjectively. Furthermore, they declare that Deity is the intimate life of God, none other than the Trinity of the divine persons. Now grace cannot be a subjective participation in the Fatherhood, the Sonship, the Spiration which constitute the intimate life of God. These theologians deduce therefrom that grace is subjectively a participation in the divine nature as imperfectly conceived by us, as one (not as triune) and as subsistent intellection.
It is at once evident that this viewpoint can be interpreted in two ways, according to whether it refers to the divine nature imperfectly known by the philosopher or to the divine nature imperfectly known beneath the light of essentially supernatural revelation by the theologian, who knows God, not only under the nature of being and first being, but also under the nature of Deity, already known obscurely by the attributes of God, author of grace (as supernatural Providence) and, above all, by the mystery of the Trinity. (Before the revelation of this mystery of the Trinity, under the Old Testament, the super-natural providence of God, author of salvation, was known.)
Basis of a solution. To the question thus stated, we reply that, according to traditional teaching, sanctifying grace in itself is intrinsically (and not merely in an objective, extrinsic manner) a formal, analogical (and, of course, inadequate) participation in the Deity as it is in itself, superior to being, intelligence, and love, which it contains in its eminence or formally and eminently. As Cajetan says, Ia, q. 39, a. I, no. 7: “The Deity is prior to being and all its differences; for it is above being and beyond unity, etc.” The reasons which we are about to indicate are presented in progressive order, beginning with the most general.
I. There can be no question of a participation in the divine nature merely as conceived by the philosopher. He does, in fact, know God as first being and first intelligence, inasmuch as He is author of nature, but not as God, author of grace. This is the basis of the dis-tinction between the proper object of natural theology or theodicy (a branch of metaphysics): God under the reason of being and as author of nature, and the proper object of sacred theology: God under the nature of Deity (at least obscurely known) and as author of grace. This is the classical terminology employed by the great commentators on St. Thomas, Ia, q. I, a. 3, 7; cf. Cajetan, Bañez, John of St. Thomas, the Salmanticenses, Gonet, Gotti, Billuart, etc. Nowadays several writers make use of this classical terminology from force of habit, without apparently having pondered very deeply the difference between the proper object of theodicy, or natural theology, and that of theology properly so called. Nevertheless St. Thomas has expressed this difference in very precise terms, Ia, q. I, a. 6: “Sacred doctrine properly treats of God under the aspect of highest cause, for it considers Him not only to the extent that He is knowable through creatures (as the philosophers knew Him) but also with respect to what He alone knows of Himself which is communicated to others by revelation.” This is what later theologians referred to as “God, not under the general reason of being, but under the essential, intimate reason of Deity, or according to His intimate life.” Hence in the question which engages our attention, we are not concerned with the divine nature only as it is imperfectly conceived by the philosopher.
2. Moreover, only God can produce grace in an angel or in the very essence of the soul, and He does so independently of the conception which the philosopher or theologian holds regarding the divine nature, and independently of any natural effect which might be the source of these imperfect conceptions. Grace thus assimilates us immediately to God as such in His intimate life; it is therefore a formal, analogical participation in the Deity as it is in itself. In the natural order, a stone has an analogical likeness to God inasmuch as He is being, the plant inasmuch as He is living, man and angel inasmuch as He is intelligence. Sanctifying grace, which is far superior to the angelic nature, is an analogical likeness to God inasmuch as He is God, or to His Deity, to His intimate life, which is not naturally knowable in a positive way. This is why, above the kingdoms of nature (mineral, vegetable, animal, human, angelic), there is the kingdom of God: the intimate life of God and its formal participation by the angels and the souls of the just.
Therefore to know perfectly the essence or quiddity of grace, one would have to know the light of glory of which it is the seed, just as one must know what an oak is to know the essence of the germ contained in an acorn. But it is impossible to know perfectly the essence of the light of glory, essentially ordered to the vision of God, without knowing the divine essence immediately by intuition. Hence St. Thomas declares, in demonstrating that only God can produce grace, Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 2: “It must be that God alone should deify, communicating a fellowship in the divine nature by a certain participated likeness, just as it is impossible for anything but fire to ignite.” The word “deify” shows that grace is a participation in the divine nature, not according to the reason of being or intelligence merely, but by the essential, intimate reason of Deity.
3. But in that case, it will be objected, grace would have to be intrinsically a (subjective) participation in the intimate life of God. Now this is none other than the Trinity of the divine persons. There would therefore be in grace a participation in the fatherhood, the sonship and the spiration, which theory is a departure from traditional teaching.
The answer to this objection is that, according to traditional teaching, and particularly that of St. Thomas, the adoptive sonship of the children of God, ex Deo nati, is a certain likeness to the eternal sonship of the Word. In fact we find explicitly in IIIa, q. 3, a. 5 ad 2: “Just as by the act of creation divine goodness is communicated to all creatures by way of a certain similitude, so by the act of adoption a similitude of natural sonship is communicated to men, according to the words of Rom. 8:29: ‘Whom He foreknew . . . to be made conformable to the image of His Son.’” And further (ibid., a. 2 ad 3):
“Adoptive sonship is a certain likeness of eternal sonship; just as all the things that were made in time are, as it were, likenesses of those which were from all eternity. Man however is likened to the eternal splendor of the Son by the brightness of grace, which is attributed to the Holy Ghost. And hence adoption, although common to the whole Trinity, is appropriated to the Father as its author, to the Son as its exemplar, to the Holy Ghost as imprinting this likeness of the exemplar upon us.”
Likewise St. Thomas again in his commentary on Rom. 8:29 thus explains the words “to be made conformable to the image of His Son”: “He who is adopted as son of God is truly conformed to His Son, first, indeed, by a right to participate in His inheritance . . . ; secondly, by sharing His glory (Heb. 1:3). Hence by the fact that He enlightens the saints with the light of wisdom and grace, He makes them conformable to Himself. . . . Thus did the Son of God will to communicate to others a conformity with His sonship, that He might not only be the Son, Himself but also the first-born of sons. And so He who is the only-begotten by eternal generation (John 1:18), . . . is, by the conferring of grace, the first-born of many brethren. . . . Therefore we are the brothers of Christ because He has communicated a likeness of sonship to us, as is here said, and because He assumed the likeness of our nature.”
St. Thomas speaks similarly in his commentary on St. John’s Gospel (1:13), explaining the words, “who are born of God.” “And this is fitting, that all who are sons of God by being assimilated to the Son, should be transformed through the Son. . . . Accordingly the words, ‘not of blood, etc.,’ show how such a magnificent benefit is conferred upon men. . . . The Evangelist uses the preposition ‘ex’ speaking of others, that is, of the just: ‘Ex Deo nati sunt’; but of the natural Son, he says ‘De Patre est natus.’ ” Why? Because, as explained in the same commentary, the Latin preposition ‘de’ indicates either the material, efficient, or consubstantial cause (The smith makes a little knife of [de] steel); the Latin preposition ‘a’ always refers to the efficient cause, and the preposition ‘ex’ is general, indicating either the material or efficient cause, but never the consubstantial cause.
Now the objection raised was that grace cannot be intrinsically a (subjective) participation in the Deity or the intimate life of God, for that is none other than the Trinity of persons in which there is no participating. The participation is in the divine nature as one.
From what has just been explained, the reply may be made as follows: True, the participation is in the divine nature as one, however not merely such as conceived by the philosopher, but such as it is in itself, in the bosom of the Trinity. It is not only a question of the unity of God, author of nature, but of that absolutely eminent, naturally unknowable unity which is capable of subsisting in spite of the Trinity of persons. We are concerned with the unity and identity of the nature communicated by the Father to the Son and by Them to the Holy Ghost. Therein lies the meaning of the traditional proposition which we have just read in St. Thomas: “Adoptive sonship is a certain likeness of eternal sonship.” So has it always been understood.
From all eternity God the Father has a Son to whom He communicates His whole nature, without dividing or multiplying it; He necessarily engenders a Son equal to Himself, and gives to Him to be God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. And from sheer bounty, gratuitously, He has willed to have in time other sons, adopted sons, by a filiation which is not only moral (by external declaration) but real and intimate (by the production of sanctifying grace, the effect of God’s active love for us). He has loved us with a love that is not only creative and preserving, but vivifying, which causes us to participate in the very principle of His intimate life, in the principle of the immediate vision which He has of Himself and which He communicates to His Son and to the Holy Ghost. It is thus that He has predestinated us to be conformable to the image of His only Son, that this Son might be the first-born of many brethren (Rom. 8:29). The just are accordingly of the family of God and enter into the cycle of the Holy Trinity. Infused charity gives us a likeness to the Holy Ghost (personal love) ; the beatific vision will render us like the Word, who will make us like unto the Father whose image He is. Then the Trinity which already dwells in us as in a darkened sanctuary, will abide in us as in an illuminated, living sanctuary, where It will be seen unveiled and loved with an inamissible love.
The only Son of God receives the divine nature eternally, not merely as it is conceived by the philosopher (as being itself or even as subsistent intellection), but as it is in itself (under the reason of the Deity clearly perceived). Consequently He received the unity of that nature, not only as conceived by the philosopher, but as it is capable of subsisting in spite of the Trinity of persons really distinct one from another. He receives with Deity the essential intellection common to the three persons, which has for its primary object the Deity itself known comprehensively. He also receives essential love, not only as known by the philosopher, but that essential love which, remaining numerically the same, belongs to the three persons, since they love one another by one sole, identical act, just as they know one another by the same, identical intellection.
Now according to traditional teaching, as we have just seen, sanctifying grace makes us children of God by an analogical, participated likeness to the eternal sonship of the Word. Hence, in us, it is a participation in Deity as it is in itself, not only under the nature of being or under the nature of intellection, but under the nature of Deity, and not only a participation in Deity as known obscurely by the theologian through created concepts, but as it is in itself and seen as it is by the blessed.
Such is the true sense of these assertions, admitted by all theologians. But their profundity does not always receive sufficient attention. The mineral already resembles God analogically as being, the plant and animal as living, man and angel as intelligent; but the just man by grace resembles God precisely inasmuch as He is God, according to His very Deity or His intimate life as it is in itself. Thus the just man penetrates, beyond the human kingdom of reason, beyond the angelic kingdom, into the kingdom of God; his life is not merely intellectual but deiform, divine, theological: “it is deified,” according to St. Thomas, Ia IIae, q. 112, a. I.
That is truly the formal aspect of the life of grace, what is proper to it, unique, significant, and interesting. Thereby it is a formal, although inadequate and analogical, participation in the divine nature as it is in itself, or of Deity as such. This is found above all in con-summate, inamissible grace received into the essence of the soul, and also in the light of glory received into the intellect by the beatified soul, and in the charity received into its will.
4. It is, then, materially (in the theological sense of the term) that grace is a finite accident (an entitative habit received into the essence of the soul), that infused faith is an operative habit received into our intellect, and charity an operative habit received into our will. All of this is true by reaTon of the receptive subject. But these habits are a formal participation in the intimate life of God; otherwise they would not dispose us to see it as it is in itself by an immediate vision that will have the same formal object (objectum formale quod et quo) as the uncreated vision which God, one in three persons, has of Himself.
This distinction of what grace is either materially or formally, is similar to the one that is generally made in the natural order between intelligence and the created mode whereby it exists in us and in the angels, as a faculty (accident) distinct from the substance of the soul or of the angel, distinct also from the act of intellection. This is quite true and does not prevent intelligence as such from being an analogical perfection, the formal notion of which does not imply any imperfection, and which, consequently, is to be found properly and formally in God as subsistent intellection. In the same way, the perfection of wisdom is distinguished from its created mode whereby, in us, wisdom is measured by things, whereas in God it is the measure and cause of things.
From the same more or less material standpoint, when sanctifying grace is compared to faith and charity, it may be said that grace is a participation in the Deity as a nature, faith a participation in the Deity or intimate life of God as knowledge, and charity a participation in that intimate life as love. But it is always a question of formal participa-tion in the intimate life of God or in the Deity in its eminent unity, not such as it is known by the philosopher, but as it is in itself in the Trinity.
Moreover, sanctifying grace cannot be an objective participation in the Deity as it is in itself (and dispose us radically to immediate vision) without being intrinsically specified by it, that it, without having an essential (or transcendant) relationship to the Deity as it is in itself. Hence, in his reply to Father Menéndez Rigada, Father Gardeil recognizes, with reference to the passage from the Salmanticenses which we have just indicated in a note, that “it does not seem possible for the intuition of the divine persons to originate in sanctifying grace, if the latter is not a kind of exemplary participation in the divine nature inasmuch as it subsists in the divine persons. For, as the Salmanticenses declare (loc. cit.), the inclination toward an object should originate in some participation in the object aimed at.” Yes, for there is here, not an accidental, but an essential (or transcendant) relationship between grace and Deity seen immediately. This argument clarifies the last problem which we are about to propose.
6. In the light of what immediately precedes, it is apparent that subsistent intellection (intelligere subsistens), even considered subjectively, is no less infinite than subsistent being, or than Deity as it is in itself. Granted that sanctifying grace can be a participation in the divine nature as intellection, one should admit that it can be a participation in Deity as it is in itself.
If it is objected: but Deity as it is in itself is, like subsistent being, infinite and therefore cannot be participated in subjectively or intrinsically, the reply in the words of Father Gardeil is as follows: “That would be true if a participation could be adequate, but it could be only imitative and analogical.” The Salmanticenses (o.p. cit., no. 64) are in accord: “Therefore in the mind of St. Thomas it is perfectly consistent for grace to participate, that is, to imitate, the whole being as to its essence and infinity, although it does not correspond to it adequately in all its predicables but only partially.
Deity is thus identified with subsistent being itself (inasmuch as it contains being and the other absolute perfections formally and eminently), whereas in us the formal, analogical participation in Deity takes the form of an accident. This is the more or less material, not formal, aspect of sanctifying grace, just as in the natural order there is a difference between the perfection of intelligence and the created mode whereby it is in us a faculty distinct from the substance of the soul and the act of intellection.
Conclusion. For these various reasons, of which the first are more general and are presupposed according to our mode of cognition, we consider sanctifying grace to be a formal, analogical participation in Deity as it is in itself. Two important corollaries follow from this:
1. It can be seen manifestly, as we have established elsewhere, that reason alone is incapable (for instance, by the natural, conditional, inefficacious desire to see God) of demonstrating precisely the possibility of grace, the possibility of a formal, analogical participation in the Deity or intimate life of God which would be, materially, a finite accident of our souls. Of this possibility reason can give a proof of suitability, but not an apodictic proof, for, of itself, reason cannot know the Deity or intimate life of God positively. “This possibility of grace,” as is commonly taught, “is neither proved nor disproved apodictically, but it is urged by reason, defended against those who deny it, and held with a firm faith.”
2. With regard to the problem of the formal constituent of the divine nature, according to our imperfect mode of understanding, the solution which identifies it with subsistent intellection rather than with being itself is not confirmed by the sequence: grace would be a participated likeness, not of subsistent being but of subsistent intellection. This question of the philosophically formal constituent is of no importance here for the definition of grace, which is in reality a participated likeness in Deity, superior to both being and intellection which are contained in its eminence, that is, formally and eminently.
The doctrine we have just presented is found in St. Thomas, Ia, q. 13, a. 9: “This name of God is not communicable to any man according to the fullness of its meaning, but something of it is so by a kind of likeness, so that they may be called ‘gods’ who participate by such a likeness in something of the divinity, according to the words
of psalm 81: ‘I have said: You are gods.’ ” And the answer to the first objection: “The divine nature is not communicable except by the participation of likeness.” Likewise IIIa, q.2, a.6 ad I. Cf. Salmanticenses, De gratia, disp. IV, the quiddity and perfection of habitual grace, dub. IV, nos. 62, 63, 7072, where the participation by formal, analogical imitation is very well defined; also John of St. Thomas and Gonet, quoted in the same place.
NOTESUPERNATURAL AND NATURAL BEATITUDE
In his volume entitled Surnaturel (Etudes historiques, 1946), p. 254, Father H. de Lubac, having examined certain texts of St. Thomas on the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, writes as follows: “At any rate, nothing in his works declares the distinction which a certain number of Thomistic theologians would later concoct between ‘God the author of the natural order’ and ‘God the object of supernatural beatitude.’ . . . Nowhere, explicitly or implicitly, does St. Thomas refer to a ‘natural beatitude.’” It is evident that Father de Lubac has never explained theSumma theologica article by article.
St. Thomas says, Ia, q. 23, a. I, Whether men are predestined by God: “It pertains to providence to ordain a thing to its end. But the end toward which created things are ordained by God is twofold. One, which exceeds the proportion and faculty of created nature, is eternal life, which consists of the divine vision and which is beyond the nature of any creature as is shown above (Ia, q. 12, a. 4). The other end, however, is proportioned to created nature, such, that is, as a creature can attain to by the power of its nature.
Again in the De veritate, q. 14, a. 2: “The final good of man, which first moves the will as to its final end, is twofold. One good is proportioned to human nature, since natural powers are sufficient to attain it; this is the happiness of which the philosophers have spoken. It is either contemplative, consisting in the act of wisdom, or active, consisting first in the act of prudence and accordingly in the acts of the other moral virtues. The other good of man exceeds the proportion of human nature, since natural powers do not suffice to attain it, nor even to conceive or desire it; but it is promised to man by the divine bounty alone.” The whole article should be read; it affirms that “in human nature itself there is a certain beginning of this good which is proportioned to nature,” and further that infused “faith is a certain beginning of eternal life.”
St. Thomas also declares, Ia IIae, q. 62, a. I: “The beatitude or happiness of man is twofold. One sort is proportioned to human nature, that which man can attain by the principle of his nature. But the other is a beatitude surpassing human nature, to which man can attain only by divine power, by means of a certain participation in divinity, according to the words of St. Peter’s Second Epistle (1:4): ‘By these [the promises of Christ] . . . you may be made partakers of the divine nature.’ ” St. Thomas speaks similarly with reference to angels, Ia, q. 62, a. 2.
He even affirms, II Sent., dist. 31, q. I, a. I ad 3: “In the beginning when God created man, He could also have formed another man of the slime of the earth and have left him in his natural condition; that is, he would have been mortal, passible, and have experienced the struggle of concupiscence against reason; this would not have been derogatory to human nature, since it follows from the principles of nature. Nor would any reason of guilt or punishment be attached to this defect, since it would not be caused voluntarily.” This is indeed evident for, if sanctifying grace and likewise the gift of integrity and immortality are gratuitous or not due (as defined against Baius), it follows that the merely natural state (that is, without these gratuitous gifts) is possible both from the part of man and from that of God.
Is sanctifying grace a permanent gift in the just, like the infused virtues? Of recent years an opinion has been expressed according to which sanctifying grace is not a form or a permanent, radical principle of supernatural operations, but rather a motion. It is nevertheless certain that the infused virtues, especially the three theological virtues, are, within us, permanent principles of supernatural operations and meritorious as well; and it is no less certain that sanctifying or habitual grace is the permanent root of these infused virtues. It is not therefore merely a transitory motion, nor even a motion unceasingly renewed in the just man as long as he preserves friendship with God. The Fathers always referred to the theological virtues and to sanctifying grace which they presuppose as their radical principle.
The Council of Trent leaves no room for doubt on this point. Denzinger in hisEnchiridion sums up the definitions and declarations of the Church very correctly in the formula: “Habitual or sanctifying grace is distinct from actual grace (nos. 1064 ff .); it is an infused, inherent quality of the soul, by which man is formally justified (nos. 483, 792, 795, 799 ff., 809, 821, 898, 1042, 1063 ff.), is regenerated (nos. 102, 186), abides in Christ (nos. 197, 698), puts on a new man (no. 792), and becomes an heir to eternal life (nos. 792,799 ff .).
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF PREDILECTION AND EFFICACIOUS GRACE“
Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, nothing would be better than another were it not better loved by God” (St. Thomas, Ia, q. 20, a. 3).
One of the greatest joys experienced by the theologian who, for long years, has read and explained each day the Summa theologica of St. Thomas, is to glimpse the sublime value of one of those principles, often invoked but not sufficiently contemplated, which by their simplicity and elevation form, as it were, the great leitmotivs of theological thought, containing in themselves virtually entire treatises. The great St. Thomas formulated them especially toward the end of his comparatively short life, when his contemplation had reached that height and simplicity which one associates with the intellectual vision of the higher angels, who encompass within a very few ideas vast regions of the intelligible world, metaphysical landscapes, so to speak, composed not of colors but of principles, and illumined from above by the very light of God.
Among these very lofty, very simple principles upon which the contemplation of the Angelic Doctor paused with delight, there is one to which sufficient attention is not generally paid and yet which contains in its virtuality several of the most important treatises. It is the principle which we find thus formulated, Ia, q. 20, a. 3: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, none would be better thari another, were it not better loved by God.” In article 4 of the same question, the same principle is thus stated: “If some beings are better than others it is because they are better loved by God.” In short: no creature is better than another unless it is better loved by God. This may be called the principle of predilection, for principles derive their names from their predicates.
This is the principle against which all human pride ought to dash itself. Let us examine: 1. its bases, necessity, universality, 2. its principal consequences according to St. Thomas himself, and 3. by what other principle it should be balanced so as to maintain in all their purity and elevation the great mysteries of faith, particularly those of predestination and the will for universal salvation.
THE BASIS, NECESSITY, AND UNIVERSALITY OF
THE PRINCIPLE OF PREDILECTION
This principle, “no creature is better than another unless better loved by God,” seems at the outset to be manifestly necessary in the philosophical order. If the love of God is, in fact, the cause of the goodness of creatures, as St. Thomas affirms in the first text quoted, no one can be better than another except for the reason that it has received more from God; this greater goodness in it, rather than in another, obviously comes from God.
As will be seen, this principle of predilection is a corollary of the principle of effcient causality: “Every contingent being or good requires an efficient cause and, in the final analysis, depends upon God the first cause.” It is also a corollary of the principle of finality: “Every agent acts for an end”; consequently the order of agents corresponds to the order of ends, the first agent produces every good in view of the supreme end, which is the manifestation of His goodness, and hence it is not independently of Him or of His love, that one being is better than another, the plant superior to the mineral, the animal to the plant, man to the animal, one man to another, either in the natural order or in the order of grace.
It is also apparent from reason alone that this principle is absolutely universal, valid for every created being from a stone to the hightest angel, and not merely applicable to their substance, but to their accidents, qualities, actions, passions, relations, etc., for whatever is good in them and better in one than another, whether it is a question of physical, intellectual, moral, or strictly spiritual values.
The principle of predilection is also supported by revelation under various aspects in both the Old and New Testaments; it is even applied therein to our free, salutary acts. Our Lord tells us: “Without Me you can do nothing” in the order of salvation. St. Paul explains this by saying: “It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will”; “Who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” The principle in question is contained in many other texts cited by the Council of Orange: “Unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him”; “Being confident of this very thing, that He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus”; “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God”; Now concerning virgins . . . I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.” Again we find: “Do nottherefore, my dearest brethren. Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration”; “No man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost”; “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God.”
That is clearly the principle of predilection or of the source of what is better. St. Augustine often expresses it in commenting on the scriptural texts which we have just quoted together with several others from the Epistle to the Romans (chapters 8, 9, and 11). He applies it not only to men but to angels, regarding whom there is no question of the fact of original sin (by title of infirmity, titulus infirmitatis) but only of right, of the dependence (titulus dependentiae) of the creature upon the Creator, both in the natural order and in the order of grace. He observes that those angels who attained supreme beatitude received greater aid than the others, “amplius adjuti.”
St. Thomans discerned an equivalent formula of the principle of the origin of superiority in the Council of Orange and the scriptural texts cited by it. He writes, in fact, with reference to predestination, in rendering an account of the condemnation of the Semi-Pelagians who attributed the beginning of salvation to man and not to God: “But opposed to this is what the Apostle says (II Cor. 3:5), that we are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves. However no principle can be found anterior to thought. Hence it cannot be said that any beginning exists in us which is the cause of the effect of predestination.” The reader is no doubt acquainted with the texts of the Council of Orange (can. 4; cf. Denz., nos. 177-85): “If anyone holds that God waits upon our will to cleanse us from sin, and does not admit that even our willing to be cleansed is brought about by the infusion and operation of the Holy Ghost, he resists the Holy Ghost Himself . . . and the salutary preaching of the Apostle: ‘It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will’ (Phil. 2:13).” Canon 9 on the help of God asserts: “It pertains to the category of the divine when we both think rightly and restrain our steps from falsehood and injustice; for whatever good we may do, God operates in us and with us to enable us to operate”; and canon 12 on the quality in which God loves us: “God so loves us according to the quality we shall have by His gift, and not as we are by our own merit.” This text taken from the fifty-sixth Sentence of St. Prosper summarizes the one preserved in the Indiculus de gratia Dei, a collection of anterior statements by the Holy See wherein we read (Denz., nos. 133-4): “No one uses his free will well except through Christ”; “All the desires and all the works and merits of the saints should be referred to the glory and praise of God, for no one pleases Him otherwise than by what He Himself has bestowed.” This is essentially the principle of the origin of superiority in a formula almost identical with the one which St. Thomas was to give later (Ia, q. 20, a. 4). The same Indiculus preserves the following (Denz., nos. 135, 137, 139, 141, 142): “God so works in the hearts of men and in the free will itself, that a devout thought, holy counsel and every movement of good will is from God, since we can do some good through Him without whom we can do nothing (John 15:5)”; and likewise, no. 139: “The most devout Fathers taught the beginnings of good will, the growth of commendable desires, and perseverance in them to the end is to be referred to the grace of Christ . . .”;
“Hearkening to the prayers of His Church, God deigns to draw many souls from every kind of error, and once they are rescued from the power of darkness He transports them into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13), that from vessels of wrath He might fashion vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:22). All this is regarded as of divine operation to such an extent that gratitude may always be referred to God as effecting it.”
The end of this famous Indiculus is well-known: “Let us acknowledge God to be the author of all good dispositions and works . . . Indeed, free will is not taken away but rather liberated by this help and gift of God . . . He acts in us, to be sure, in such wise that nothing interior is to be withdrawn from His work and regard; this we believe to satisfy adequately, whatever the writings taught us according to the aforesaid rules of the Apostolic See” (Denz., no. 142). Is this not equivalent to saying: “In the affair of salvation everything comes from God”? “Nothing interior is to be withdrawn,” as the last text quoted declares. If, then, one man is better than another, especially in the order of salvation, it is because he has been loved more by God and has received more. This is the meaning of: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” quoted by the Council of Orange (Denz., nos. 179, 199). The sense in which the same Council speaks of God the author of every good, whether natural or supernatural, is explained by the definition contained in canon 20: “Nothing of good can exist in man without God. God does many good things in man which are not done by man; but man does nothing good which God does not grant it to him to do” (Denz., no. 193); and canon 22: “No one has anything of his own but lying and sin. But if a man possesses anything of truth and justice it comes from that fountain for which we should thirst in this desert, so that, refreshed, as it were, by a few drops from it, we may not faint on the way.” Cf. in the Histoire des Conciles of C. J. Héflè, translated, corrected, and augmented with critical notes by Dom. H. Lecleroq, Vol. II, Part II, pp. 1085-1110, the passages from St. Augustine and St. Prosper from which these canons of the Council of Orange are drawn, as confirmed by Boniface II; the most interesting, of course, are those concerning the beginning of salvation and final perseverance (“persevering in good works”) for both of which they affirm the necessity of a special, gratuitous grace (Denz., nos. 177f., 183). But the grace of final perseverance is that The Semi-Pelagians, reducing predestination to a foreknowledge of merits, held that from the height of His eternity God desires equally the salvation of all men and that He is therefore rather the spectator than the author of the fact that one man is saved rather than another. Is this true or not? Such was the profound question which confronted thinkers at the time of the Semi-Pelagian heresy, as anyone will recognize who reads St. Augustine and St. Prosper.
But did the Council of Orange leave it unanswered? It asserted the principle of predilection, affirming, as everyone admits, the necessity and gratuity of grace which is not granted to all in the same manner, and demonstrating that in the work of salvation everything, from beginning to end, is from God, who anticipates our free will, supports it, causes it to act without doing it any violence, lifts it up often, but not always; and therein lies the very mystery of predestination. So true is this that, heneceforth, to avoid Semi-Pelagianism it will always be necessary to admit a certain gratuity in predestination.
Is not the incontrovertible principle of all this teaching that all good without exception comes from God, and that if there is more good in one man than in another, it cannot be so independently of God? ‘“For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received ?” This text, according to St. Augustine, should cause us to admit that there is no sin committed by any other man that I am not capable of committing under the same circumstances, as a result of the weakness of my free will or of my own frailty (the apostle Peter denied his Master thrice); and if, in fact, I have not fallen, if I have persevered, it is no doubt because I have labored and struggled; but without divine grace I should have accomplished nothing. Such was the thought of St. Francis of Assisi at the sight of a criminal condemned to death. St. Cyprian had said (Ad Querin., Bk. III, chap. 4, PL, IV, 734): “We should glory in nothing, when nothing is our own.” St. Basil asserts (Hom. 22 De humitate): “Nothing is left to thee, O man, in which thou canst glory . . . for we live entirely by the grace and gift of God.” And St.’ John Chrysostom adds (Serm. 2, in Ep. ad Coloss., PG, LXII, 312): “In the affair of salvation everything is a gift of God.”
AND from Chapter One....
Finally 78, it must be observed that two contradictory propositions cannot be true at the same time or false at the same time; one is true, the other false. On the other hand, Pelagianism and predestinationism are doctrines simultaneously false; they are not contradictory in this, but in other respects. For instance, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism erroneously maintain that “God wills equally the salvation of all men, namely, the elect and the reprobate.” The contradictory proposition: “God does not will equally the salvation of all men,” is true. This indeed is what the predestinationists, Calvinists, and Jansenists declare and in so doing they do not err, but they do err by denying the will of universal salvation, which is affirmed by Augustine when he says: “God does not demand the impossible.”
Likewise these contradictory propositions: “Grace is intrinsically efficacious,” and “Grace is not intrinsically efficacious,” cannot be true at the same time or false at the same time; one is true, the other is false. The first is maintained by Thomism, the second by Molinism and likewise by the congruism of Suarez. Which, then, is true remains to be discovered.