Thomas Talbott: The Inescapable Love of God (part 6)

God does not coerce! Without question, this is the most popular, and perhaps most powerful, objection raised against the universalist hope, at least in those circles where the retributive construal of damnation does not hold sway. God has given human beings the faculty of free will, and the exercise of this faculty requires genuine independence and autonomy. St John Chrysostom articulates the traditional Eastern understanding:

Beloved, God being loving towards man and beneficent, does and contrives all things in order that we may shine in virtue, and as desiring that we be well approved by Him. And to this end He draws no one by force or compulsion: but by persuasion and benefits He draws all that will, and wins them to Himself. Wherefore when He came, some received Him, and others received Him not. For He will have no unwilling, no forced domestic, but all of their own will and choice, and grateful to Him for their service. Men, as needing the ministry of servants, keep many in that state even against their will, by the law of ownership; but God, being without wants, and not standing in need of anything of ours, but doing all only for our salvation makes us absolute in this matter, and therefore lays neither force nor compulsion on any of those who are unwilling. For He looks only to our advantage: and to be drawn unwilling to a service like this is the same as not serving at all. (Hom. in John 10.1)

Arminians would no doubt like to see some mention of prevenient grace, but the essential point is ecumenically affirmed—God does not coerce. God has made humanity in his own image, bestowing upon him free will. He so respects the freedom of the human being that he will allow any and every individual to reject him—eternally, irrevocably, absolutely. God does not determine human choice in any way. He persuades and seduces, but he does not force; he does not manipulate; he does not violate.

Philosophers call this libertarian freedom or the power of contrary choice: if I choose to do A, I must also have been able to do B. I am only free if I could have acted otherwise. Robert Kane specifies two conditions for libertarian freedom:

1. The existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, or acting “of one’s own free will.”

2. Determinism is not compatible with alternative possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise).

An action cannot be simultaneously free and the product of sufficient external causes. Or as Thomas Talbott formulates the libertarian position: “a rational agent chooses freely in a given set of circumstances only when the agent categorically could have chosen otherwise in the exact same circumstances” (The Inescapable Love of God, p. 190).

Given this understanding of human freedom, many Christian philosophers conclude that God does not cause free human actions. Human self-determination and divine agency are mutually exclusive:

I do something freely in this libertarian sense … only if it is within my (unexercised) power, at the time of acting and in the very same circumstances, to refrain from doing it; and I refrain from doing something freely only if it is within my (unexercised) power to do so. It is within my power to refrain some something I do, moreover, only if, first, it is logically possible that I should refrain from doing it, and second, nothing outside my control should causally determine (or necessitate) my doing it. Accordingly, if my act of writing this page is free in the relevant sense, then it must have been possible for me not to write it; and if it was possible for me not to write it, then there is a possible world in which I do not write it. That world—call it W—might be the same as the actual world (at least in certain relevant aspects) up to the time of my writing, but in that world I choose to spend my time in another way. But though W is truly a possible world (a way things might have been), it is a world that God was powerless to create; had he tried to make it actual, he would have failed. He could, of course, have caused me to refrain from writing, but then I would not have refrained freely. In the exact circumstances that obtained, only I could bring it about that I freely refrain from writing. Since I could have chosen not to write, W is indeed a possible world; but since I did not make that choice and God was powerless to bring it about that I did so freely, he was also powerless to create W. If free will (of the libertarian kind just described) is even possible, therefore, there may be infinitely many possible worlds that God, however omnipotent he may be, no more has the power to create that he has the power to produce a sufficient cause for an uncaused event. (pp. 160-161)

Talbott’s argument presupposes divine causality as extrinsic to creaturely agency—only thus can it be said that the two are mutually exclusive. Talbott is aware that providing a rigorous account of “external sufficient causes” is a challenging task. “But,” he comments, “if I am to exist as a distinct agent, then something must qualify as being external to myself, and this would presumably include causes that existed back in 1500 A.D. as well as causes that lie in eternity itself” (p. 156, n. 7).

If the above account of human action is true, then the universalist hope—specifically, hope as lively expectation—is false, so at least free will theists claim. There must be a world where a person freely holds out indefinitely against the divine offer of mercy and reconciliation. Perhaps this is that world. Perhaps this is a world where many or even most human beings irrevocably choose exclusion from the beatific vision.

Talbott has some very interesting things to say about libertarian freedom, such as the necessity of libertarian freedom for the emergence of creaturely personhood and its eventual replacement by perfect freedom in the Eschaton, when the Good is perfectly and unambiguously apprehended. But in this article I simply wish to discuss the alleged incompatibility between divine agency and free human choice. Have libertarian theists taken the transcendence of God and his free creation of the world from out of nothing fully into account? Or have they, to put it crudely, inadvertently reduced the Deity to a being within the universe? They will vehemently deny the suggestion, yet the absence of any sense of mystery in the incompatibilist formulation of free will has me wondering. It’s as if libertarian theists really believe they know what they are talking about.

I would like to succinctly, crudely, incompletely, and probably inaccurately present St Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of divine agency and human freedom, as articulated and interpreted by Herbert McCabe, Brian Davies, and Denys Turner. I do not claim that their interpretation of Aquinas is correct—that is for Aquinas scholars to decide—but for purposes of this article that is the assumption I am making. Nor do I claim that my presentation of McCabe, Davies, and Turner is accurate, though I have certainly tried to make it so. I welcome correction. The Thomist Triumvirate do disagree at various points in their respective construals of Aquinas, but I have muted these differences, again for purposes of this article.

1) God has created the world from out of nothing. Aquinas does not believe that we can conceive what this means. We certainly should not reify nothingness as some kind of undifferentiated metaphysical stuff which the Deity then shapes into beings. God has not made the world out of any preexisting anything. Nor is nothing to be conceived as the space into which God places the things he makes. The point, rather, is that everything owes its existence to God; everything receives its esse from God. Finite being is totally dependent upon infinite Being.  The creatio ex nihilo thus stipulates a clear metaphysical distinction between God and everything he creates through his Word by the Spirit.

We immediately note the inconceivability of divine creation. Creaturely making always involves a making from out of something. We take something and change it into something else. We make a difference to it. But divine creation does not involve any kind of changing, as McCabe explains:

To make something, in Aristotelian terms, is to actualise the potentialities inherent in some material. These tomatoes and mushrooms and bits of can can be made into a stew; making a stew is realising this capacity. When something has been made it always makes sense to ask what it is made of or what it is made out of (the two correspond roughly to making by accidental and making by substantial change)—what was it that had the potentiality of being this thing, what did you make a difference to in order to produce this? Now in these terms we can make no sense of the notion that God made the whole universe. There is evidently nothing for the universe to be made of or made out of. In other words creation could not have made any difference to anything—there was nothing for it to make a difference to. If God created the world he operated at a different level, or in a different dimension, from making as we understand it. To bring it about, in this sense, that something should exist is not to make any difference to it or to something else, it is not to change it in any way. It is just for this reason that Aquinas denies that creation is a change (Ia, 45, 1, ad2). But what sense can we make of a making that does not change anything? (God Matters, p. 147)

2) Because he has created the world from out of nothing, God does not exist alongside the world. He is not one existent among a host of existents. God plus the world does not equal two. If God is the creator of everything, there is nothing he is alongside or next to. Nor is it the case that Deity and creatures belong to different genera. Divinity is outside every genus and is the uncreated source of every genus. God can be “compared to other things,” says Aquinas, “only as transcending them” (ST Ia, q6 a2 ad3). God is not a god:

God must be incomprehensible to us precisely because he is creator of all that is and, as Aquinas puts it, outside the order of all beings. God therefore cannot be classified as any kind of being. God cannot be compared to or contrasted with other things in respect of what they are like as dogs can be compared and contrasted with cats and both of them with stones or stars. God is not an inhabitant of the universe; he is the reason why there is a universe at all. God is in everything holding it constantly in existence but he is not located anywhere, nor is what it is to be God located anywhere in logical space. When you have finished classifying and counting all the things in the universe you cannot add: ‘And also there is God.’ When you have finished classifying and counting everything in the universe you have finished, period. There is no God in the world. (McCabe, God Still Matters, p. 37)

This apprehension of the radical metaphysical difference between God and the world grounds Aquinas’s reflections on divine and creaturely agency.  Any philosophical formulation that does not acknowledge this difference and its implications for construing the relationship between divine agency and creaturely agency profoundly misrepresents the Christian God and can only lead to the idolatrous conception of the Deity as an all-powerful being who stands over against all other beings.

3) Divine causality is unique and does not interfere with creaturely causality. Just as God radically transcends the world he has brought into being, so he radically transcends the network of creaturely causes. God is primary cause in that he causes everything to be. McCabe suggests that we think of divine agency along the same lines that we think of divine omnipresence. As I put one apple after another into a basket, there is less and less room for the oranges that I also want to put into it. Each fruit competes with the others for available space. But God does not take up space. No matter how many apples and oranges I toss into the bin, the divine presence remains undiminished. “The apples do not have to shift over to make room for God,” remarks McCabe. “The presence of God does not leave less room for the apples.  On the contrary, it is because of the presence of God that the apples are there at all” (Faith Within Reason, p. 74).

Just as God causes apples and oranges and everything to be, so so he causes the activity of every creature. His causal activity does not compete with creaturely causality, for the same reason that his presence in the world does not compete with the spatial presence of his creatures—namely, because of the divine transcendence.  Wherever something is, God is; whenever something acts, God acts. Thus Turner:

For as to any natural causation, it is true that no natural cause can cause an effect unless God sustains the whole action in existence through his creative power. It is true of anything at all that exists, as the creed of Nicaea puts it, “visible and invisible,” that unless God causes it to, it does not exist; unless God causes it to, it does not act. But when God is said to cause a natural cause to effect what it does, this is not as if to say that God suspends the natural law governing that cause’s efficacy—on the contrary, God’s action in virtue of which heavy objects fall is effective because of God’s sustaining the laws of gravity that are alone sufficient to explain why they do so. So, Thomas concludes, you could say that God brings about natural effects by means of natural agents effecting what it is in their nature to do, as if those natural causes were instruments of his will, unfreely acting as “servants” of their master’s will—natural causes are God’s tool kit. (Thomas Aquinas, pp. 158-159)

We must posit a simultaneity of and concurrence between divine causing and creaturely causing. God’s creative operation does not make a difference to creaturely activity and being. When we try to think of how something makes a difference to another thing, we might imagine two or more existents coming into contact and changing some aspect of reality. When the cueball impacts the other billiard balls on the table, they go all over the place. The physicist can explain the hows and whys and accurately predict the directional vectors of each ball. The transcendent Creator, however, does not make a difference to his creatures … he makes all the difference. He is the reason why anything and everything exists to begin with.  Yet as McCabe observes, we understandably find this notion of causal concurrence nearly impossible to imagine:

It is, of course, our image-making that deceives us here. However hard we try, we cannot help picturing God as an individual existent, even an individual person, making the world or controlling it like the potter making a pot or as an artist makes a statue. But the pot is in the same world as the potter, the statue shares a studio with the sculptor. They interact with each other. Or, to put it the other way, the potter is outside the pot he makes, the sculptor is outside the statue. But when we come to the creator of everything that has existence, none of that could be true. God cannot share a world with us—if he did he would have created himself. God cannot be outside, or alongside, what he has made. Everything only exists by being constantly held in being by him. (God Matters, p. 14)

4) God is the transcendent cause of free human choices and actions. Here is where things really get interesting. When free will theists talk about libertarian freedom, they assume the incompatibility of divine determinism and free creaturely determinism. As Alvin Plantinga writes: “Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely” (God, Freedom, and Evil, p. 30). Thus we may speak of a logical limitation of the divine omnipotence. Just as it is logically impossible for God to create square circles, so it is logically impossible for him to determine the free choices of his rational creatures. An action cannot “be both free and the product of external sufficient causes” (Talbott, p. 156).

The Thomist understanding of human freedom may be construed as self-determination: I act freely if, and only if, I am the cause of my actions, independent of other creaturely agents or forces. If my action is determined by someone else (I have been hypnotized or brainwashed) or by something else (I am under the influence of a mind-altering drug; my genes made me do it), then it is not a free action. Free actions are self-determined and uncoerced, determined by the agent himself and not by any other creature. We may even speak of them as “uncaused,” if we mean by this that they are not generated by a created power or agency external to the acting person. This does not mean, however, that a free action is unmotivated.

Free actions are always motivated: they are done for reasons. They may be good reasons or bad reasons, but they are reasons. “Why did you not go to work today?” you might ask me. “Because,” I honestly reply, “the roads were icy and slippery.” Whether you assess my explanation as weighty or not, it is the reason I judged compelling at the time and the reason why I decided to stay home and watch “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The reason did not determine my action. I freely made it the decisive motive for my one day holiday. “Free actions, then, are uncaused [by external factors] though they are motivated and done for reasons,” McCabe avers; “and these motives and reasons do not take away from freedom but rather are essential to it” (God Matters, p. 13).

The Thomist understanding, therefore, may be described as a qualified libertarianism. But—and this is a huge but—Aquinas also insists that a free human action is simultaneously caused by God, as Davies explains:

God is the Creator, the source of the existence (the continued and total existence) of everything other than himself. If God is this, however, then my making a choice has to be something that God is making to be. If everything that exists owes its existence to God, then God must be the source of my free actions, not someone who merely observes them, permits them, or somehow merely supports (what could that mean?) a context in which they are caused by me and not by God. To think otherwise, it seems to me, can only stem from the conviction that God is really an item in the universe, something able to distance itself from its fellows so as to let them act independently of its causality. Yet God, I have argued, is not an item in the universe. As making the world to be, his causality extends to everything that exists, and free choices are as real as anything else in the world. If you think that Mount Everest needs God to account for its being as opposed to not being (for as long as it is), then you ought to think that all human choices need God to account for them being (and therefore being what they are) as opposed to not being. There can be no such thing as a creaturely reality which is not produced or creatively made to be by God. (The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil, p. 122; also see Davies, Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil, chap. 7)

This analysis, though, must be pushed a bit further.  “The proposition,” comments Turner, “that God’s agency could stand in a disjunctively exclusive ‘either/or’ relationship with human freedom is, for Thomas, inconceivable” (p. 157).

God cannot cause my acts of free choice by means of any natural cause as his instrument, because, as we have seen, if any natural cause other than my own will brings about my action then it follows that that action is not free. Hence God’s creative power exerts itself upon my free actions only directly, that is, as unmediated by any natural cause: or, as one might put it in the more appealing language of Augustine, God’s action is too intimate to me, too within me, too close to my deepest freedom, to stand in any kind of coercive relationship to it. For God is more within me even than I am to myself—which is, after all, but another way of saying what Thomas himself says, namely, that God is the cause of the freedom with which I consent to his infallible agency. Therefore, of my free actions only God and I can be the cause, and in every case both God and I are the cause of them. … You cannot say that insofar as God caused my free action I did not: for God is the cause not only of the action itself, so that the action is his. God is the cause of the free choice that makes the action also mine. (p. 159)

Oh my. Now we are treading upon grounds that analytic philosophers fear to tread. Is Thomas here proposing one of those antinomies that offends reason? McCabe thinks not: “God is not a separate and rival agent within the universe. The creative causal power of God does not operate on me from outside, as an alternative to me; it is the creative causal power of God that makes me me” (God Matters, p. 13).

I have quoted McCabe, Turner, and Davies at some length because I do not feel confident expressing in my own words their understanding of the relationship between divine and creaturely agency. Let me close with this long but illuminating passage from McCabe:

I am free in fact, not because God withdraws from me and leaves me my independence—as with a man who frees his slaves, or good parents who let their children come to independence—but just the other way round. I am free because God is in a sense more directly the cause of my actions than he is of the behaviour of unfree beings. In the case of an unfree creature its behaviour is perhaps its own (in the case of a living thing—for this is what we mean by a living thing), but is also caused by whatever gave it its structure and whatever forces are operating on it. We can give an account of the behaviour of the dog (or we would like to be able to give an account of the behaviour of the dog) in terms of such causal factors. And maybe we could go back and explain these causal factors in other more general terms of physics and so on. It is only at the end of such a long chain that we come to the end of this kind of scientific explanation and ask the most radical question of all: yes, but how come any of this instead of nothing? God does bring about the action of the dog, but he does so by causing other things to cause it.

God brings about my free action, however, not by causing other things to cause it, he brings it about directly. The creative act of God is there immediately in my freedom. My freedom is, so to say, a window of God’s creating; the creativity of God is not masked by intermediate causes. In human freedom we have the nearest thing to a direct look at the creative act of God (apart, says the Christian, from Christ himself, who is the act of God).

We are free not because God is absent or leaves us alone, we are free because God is more present—not of course in the sense that there is more of God there in the free being, but in the sense that there is nothing, so to say, to distract us. God is not acting here by causing other things to cause this act, he is directly and simply causing it. So God is not an alternative to freedom, he is the direct cause of freedom. We are not free in spite of God, but because of God. (pp. 14-15)

This analysis of freedom by Aquinas and his disciples raises many questions, yet it seems very right to me (on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). I invite Dr Talbot and others to engage Aquinas’s arguments and help me to come to a better understanding of what I presently consider to be an unfathomable conundrum—the interaction of divine and creaturely causality, sometimes referred to as double agency. The libertarian position makes perfect sense, yet I just cannot get away from St Thomas’s explication of the doctrine of creation.

(Go to Part 7)

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52 Responses to Thomas Talbott: The Inescapable Love of God (part 6)

  1. Mike H says:

    Did I miss part 6?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      There was a interdimensional modal event and part 6 was swallowed up into some other possible world.

      (Thanks for catching the mistake.)

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  2. Thank you for that, Fr. Aidan (you must have quoted Alvin Plantinga before and somehow that’s how I got “Fr. Al” in a couple of my comments elsewhere–at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!).

    Given the Orthodox doctrine of God and of creation “ex nihilo”, this makes some sense, insofar as I can wrap my mind around it (not very far, to be honest!). I’m sure this must have hopeful implications for the meaning of Christ becoming “all in all” at the end of all things, but I’m not smart enough to articulate them.

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  3. Jeremy says:

    “But—and this is a huge but—Aquinas also insists that a free human action is simultaneously caused by God”

    It seems to me there is a difference between a specific free choice being caused by God, vs. the capacity of a human to choose being caused by God. The latter makes sense to me. The former does not.

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  4. tgbelt says:

    Listening. Watching.

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  5. tgbelt says:

    OK I’ll bite.

    I don’t know how to distinguish between a “causal power of God” (as internally and transcendently determinative of created agents) which brings about every event within the creator order (on the one hand)—and which does so timelessly—and pantheism (on the other hand). Functionally speaking, they’re the same, for to the extent that B is determined by A, B just is A over again. This just reduces to occassionalism. To reply that no ‘A’ or ‘B’ or any concept or category we possess can render this (double-agency) view of freedom false because the transcendent determiner of finite agencies in this case (God) is not just another item or cause or agent within the created order renders your view unfalsifiable. It’s so insulated as not to be amenable to criticism. Any argument I make against it bounces off the divine transcendence behind which your view is located.

    However, transcendence goes both ways when it comes argumentation. If divine transcendence renders those categories and concepts and forms of reasoning libertarians use to argue their case inapplicable because God transcends them as you’ve described, then the same ought to be true for the argument you’re making. The very logic, reasoning, concepts/categories you’re employing to argue double-agency (‘concursus’, compatibilism or what have you) are as transcended by God as are the libertarians. Hence, no truly transcendent transcendence could tell you that compatibilistic views of freedom alone respect transcendence while libertarian views violate it. How could we know THAT about transcendence?

    I mean, why shouldn’t we assume transcendence is comfortable with libertarian agents? And if we prefer mystery, then go with libertarianism. It certainly makes for a more mysterious providence and postmortem context in which to hope all are eventually won. Could it be, Father Aidan, that you’re looking for less mystery, not more? One could also suggest that it’s a mere projection of human presuppositions to assume that an absolute divine transcendence precludes libertarian freedom. Why should we think that such a transcendent being would want or need or require the kind of compatibilistic alignment between his desires and ours, his actions and ours? Why must it be that everything agents will to do they do because God wills them to will it? (And our ‘willing’ evil IS an event of agency that, on your view, God concurrently ‘wills’—i.e., it’s all, including the details, equally embraced in a single, timeless act of divine willing.) Shouldn’t we conclude then that God is responsible for evil? But here the argument takes cover behind transcendence. This seems entirely ad hoc. Those forms of reason that lead to libertarianism are absorbed within the fold of an inscrutable transcendence and rendered false while those reasons that lead to compatibilism (or concursus, or double-agency), when brought within the fold of the same transcendence, are rendered true and because of it.

    In the end, I don’t think there’s any way we can use ‘transcendence’ itself to decide this debate. Purely in terms of how arguments approximate the truth about a transcendent God who created ex nihilo, compatibilistic and libertarian views of freedom are equally compatible.

    TomB

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    • Jeremy says:

      TomB wrote:

      “I mean, why shouldn’t we assume transcendence is comfortable with libertarian agents? And if we prefer mystery, then go with libertarianism. It certainly makes for a more mysterious providence and postmortem context in which to hope all are eventually won. Could it be, Father Aidan, that you’re looking for less mystery, not more? One could also suggest that it’s a mere projection of human presuppositions to assume that an absolute divine transcendence precludes libertarian freedom. Why should we think that such a transcendent being would want or need or require the kind of compatibilistic alignment between his desires and ours, his actions and ours? Why must it be that everything agents will to do they do because God wills them to will it? (And our ‘willing’ evil IS an event of agency that, on your view, God concurrently ‘wills’—i.e., it’s all, including the details, equally embraced in a single, timeless act of divine willing.) Shouldn’t we conclude then that God is responsible for evil? But here the argument takes cover behind transcendence. This seems entirely ad hoc. Those forms of reason that lead to libertarianism are absorbed within the fold of an inscrutable transcendence and rendered false while those reasons that lead to compatibilism (or concursus, or double-agency), when brought within the fold of the same transcendence, are rendered true and because of it.

      In the end, I don’t think there’s any way we can use ‘transcendence’ itself to decide this debate.”

      Well said!

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Tom, you lost me at pantheism. Thomas Aquinas a pantheist, really? 😉

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      • tgbelt says:

        The argument that divine determinism reduces to pantheism (functionally speaking) isn’t mine. I’ve run into it in others. But never mind that. I don’t wanna press it as a main point. More importantly I’m suggesting that transcendence itself doesn’t incline to any particular view of human agency/freedom. Take the Greek Fathers (you quoted St. John C). You can’t find a more robust view of transcendence. But they were by in large (actually I don’t know of any exceptions) libertarian with respect to human choice.

        One other thing though. Libertarian freedom doesn’t entail the freedom to ‘irrevocably’ choose against God, i.e., to foreclose upon one’s self all possibility of moving in God’s direction. Given creation’s ontology as grounded in God (as you noted from Maximus and others some time ago), our existence as sustained by God already entails a certain openness to God as our end/goal. Metaphysically speaking, there’s only one ‘irrevocable’ end for human nature—theosis.

        TomB

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        • Tom, I was actually thinking the same as you in your second paragraph here, so thanks for bringing that up. My understanding is that the conventional view of hell would deny the revocability of the human will vs God after a certain point. Do I have that right?

          I have also heard the criticism of this view’s “pantheism” (or “panentheism”). For the record, technically, I believe what this view is proposing is an Orthodox panentheism (God is in everything in a fully Orthodox sense), not pantheism (everything is “God”). Perhaps a good question would be what constitutes a fully Orthodox panentheism and what distinguishes it from a non-Orthodox panentheism?

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          • Jeremy says:

            Good questions, Karen. Panentheism certainly resonates with me to an extent.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            I honestly have no idea how Christian panentheism differs from the classical Christian understanding of God.

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          • tgbelt says:

            Pantheism and Panentheism are definitely distinct. Panentheism falls along a wide variety of views I think (at least if ‘In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being’ [Clayton/Peacock, eds] is correct; I think they describe a dozen variations of it). Kallistos Ware and Alexi Nesteruk each have a chapter in that book articulating possible Eastern forms of panentheism—but nothing close to pantheism obviously. I’d agree with Fr Aidan, panentheism is basically the Orthodox view. (It’s interesting to see Hartshorne, for example, the Uncle Sam of panentheism in its Process form, appeal to the Fathers at several points.)

            My sense is that the both the traditional view of hell as irrevocable torment and annihilationism can be successfully avoided without any appeal to libertarianism or compatibilism simply on the basis of the metaphysical impossibility of both (trad. hell & annihilationism). All that has to be assumed is that God loves all equally and unconditionally (which will be a lot for many Christian believers to embrace). Given such love, both annihilationism and the tradition view of hell have to argue that the God-given capacities of human nature can become irrevocably fixed or foreclosed upon themselves in their rejection of God. Both views require humans to have crossed some irrevocable metaphysical line of no return. It’s purely belief in the impossibility of such a ‘line of no return’ that I’d focus my attention on. I say let’s forget questions of freedom for now and just focus on what it is that makes irrevocable solidification of the human will against God impossible. It’s not the kind of freedom we possess but the unconditionally benevolent nature of the sustaining ground of our being. Once such irrevocability is conceded, what’s left is God as ground of our existence constituting the minimal and irrevocable openness of our natures to Godward movement. So union with God is the only ‘irrevocable’ state of human being. Only God can be a point of no return for those who bear his image. HOW God relates to human beings to secure his desired end, i.e., how open-ended the assumed post-mortem context is (compatibilistic or libertarian?) would be effectively beside the point. I (as a libertarian) wouldn’t invest much energy in debating compatibilists at point if what’s needed—viz., good arguments against annihilationism and hell as irrevocable torment—were already agreed to.

            TomB

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        • “The argument that divine determinism reduces to pantheism (functionally speaking) isn’t mine. I’ve run into it in others. But never mind that.”
          Do you/they mean panentheism (God is in all)? Perhaps you misread their arguments? I’m aware of an orthodox version of panentheism and a non-orthodox version of panentheism. I do not see how divine determinism results in pantheism though (that God is all). I can see how it might make us puppets of a sort though.

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          • tgbelt says:

            I have pantheism in mind. Hartshorne argued that to the extent A determines B, B just is A over again. If the determinism is exhaustive, then ‘functionally’ speaking you’ve got pantheism.

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          • I see. So let me give this scenario…suppose I am using a marionette in a play. Obviously, the marionette does not determine where it goes. I control the marionette via the strings attached to it. Would I actually be the marionette? And more importantly, would the marionette be me?

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Daniel, the marionette analogy does not apply here. Aquinas (and McCabe, Davies, and Turner) are insistent that human beings are genuinely free. We are not automatons. That is the mystery that Aquinas is posing to us. If it were a matter of an easy determinism, which one sometimes hear our of some Calvinist circles, I wouldn’t be interested in the Thomistic position either. McCabe, in fact, makes a distinction between predestination and determinism. See his article “Predestination” in God Still Matters.

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          • I wasn’t necessarily referring to the Thomistic position in that comment–just to determinism in general. I think that the Thomistic position would end up avoiding the pantheistic accusation though by acknowledging that humans do have independent free will. Such that an analogy for a Thomistic position might be the father pushing his son on the bicycle–the son does not have to pedal in order to move but he pedals any way because it increases the speed. The father pushing is not the son pedaling. I’m just questioning how accurate it is in general to paint any level of determinism as pantheistic.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            I think the pantheism criticism, while perhaps interesting in its own right, has pushed our discussion off-track, and I’d like to bring us back to the article. No one thinks St Thomas Aquinas is a pantheist, not even Tom Belt. 🙂

            I suggest the article poses this question to us: Is Aquinas’s strong affirmation of divine causality compatible with his equally strong affirmation of libertarian freedom?

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  6. Andrew says:

    Ive never understood this-if God simply let’s individuals go there own way and choose to create their own little “hells” (like for instance in The Great Divorce) then why are the Lord’s parables filled with warnings of the specific kinds of suffering that come from rejecting his call? It seems to me that the Lords parables prohibit this kind of interpretation. The suffering is terrible and avoidable, which is the point of the parable. Yet, the state of suffering was ‘conceived of in its essence’ to be a ‘matter of mercy’ according to St Isaac.

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  7. Grant says:

    One of things behind some of the differences above from a number of current theistic proponents of libertarian free will as indicated above with say someone such as Herbert MaCabe is due to very different conception of what is meant by God, that is between classical theism (which is the main view of what it means to talk of God rather than a god, even one within maximum superb qualities such as all-powerfull, all-knowing, morally perfect etc, not a being alongside others or alongside the universe but beyond Being and Being Himself, the reason anything else exists at all) such as the above authors or David Bentley Hart and has been the view of all Christian confessions, Judaism and Islam until recently and remains the view of Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, the Anglican communion (I think at least officially 🙂 ) and the Reformed churches, and a newer conception ‘theistic personalism’ advanced by such Christian philosophers such as the mentioned Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig for example.

    Edward Feser (a Thomist philosopher) advances a blog post for classical theism in regards to theistic personalism here:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/classical-theism.html

    That gives some idea of the divide.

    In many respects, if people are thinking of a very different concept of what they mean by God, then talk of free will and divine and creaturally causality and their interaction will be talking past each other. Without a shared framework and grid of reference people will be talking about different things with the same words, the familiarity disguising the major differences.

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  8. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I’m surprised that no one has yet asked, Does Aquinas believe that God is responsible for sin? Answer: absolutely not. He’s not a Calvinist. 🙂

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  9. Here’s my question…
    what is the difference between compatibilism and soft libertarianism? In terms of divine determinism, I’m willing to state that God definitely supplies us with the desire for the good but in our fallen nature, we can distort these desires as we become restored to our original nature and to deifying grace (theosis). In that sense, I would classify myself as a Thomistic compatibilist. But soft libertarianism seems to me to suggest the same things. I haven’t reviewed much in free will other than a handful of free will positions. I agree that determinism and free will aren’t incompatible though.

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  10. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I have added a lengthy quotation from McCabe which I had planned to include in the article but which I forgot. It can be found under point #3. Tom Belt, McCabe is speaking to you from the Paradise. 🙂

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  11. tgbelt says:

    Fr Aidan: Daniel, the marionette analogy does not apply here. Aquinas (and McCabe, Davies, and Turner) are insistent that human beings are genuinely free. We are not automatons. That is the mystery that Aquinas is posing to us.

    Tom: This is where appeal to mystery (something I don’t deny absolutely) gets tricky. I think Daniel’s analogy is valid. But it bounces of Aquinas here just because Aquinas is calling his view mystery, not because he’s successfully argued why we should adopt this particular mystery (the mystery of double-agency/compatibilism). And once it becomes mystery, no analogy and no argument can penetrate it. It’s unfalsifiable.

    I’ll check out the McCabe quote! If he’s speaking to me from Paradise, I got questions!
    Tom

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    • tgbelt says:

      Good McCabe quote! Agreed. My point is that transcendence thus understood doesn’t seem to me to entail the kind of compatibilisitc determinism of creation you’re describing. And I think the Eastern Fathers are on my side here. They didn’t think such transcendence requires thinking God determines things in this way.

      I wonder if what drives that conclusion for McCabe is the belief that since the world has no independent existence and has to be sustained on a moment-by-moment basis, there’s no opportunity in there for creation to determine itself in response to God; all you ever have is God essentially recreating the world in the unceasing act of sustaining. When is “how the world is they way it is” ever not already what God has done to sustain it? In this case God’s sustaining the world reduces to occassionalism (the world in all its occurrences is just the occasion of God’s own self-determined will for the world).

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I agree that the Eastern tradition agrees with you, Tom, but the question is why. It might be that Eastern theologians have not yet reflected sufficiently on the question.

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        • tgbelt says:

          On this point I think they just conceded the logic. If our choices are (logically) preceded by a divine determination to bring about the world (or, let us say, to continually sustain the world) exactly as it unfolds in time and not any differently, it seems there’s no attributing responsibility for those choices to us (at least so far as the logic goes).

          I think your (McCabe’s) view actually is more consistent if God is absolutely timeless, for what other way can a timeless God relate to a temporal creation except timelessly (which means all God’s determinations to sustain the world as it unfolds from our perspective are convertible with God’s very existence as such). There can no more be a world other than this world in fact is any more than there can be a God who is essentially other than he in fact is. I think this destroys any meaningful notion of divine freedom with respect to God’s creating the world, but as such the view is unfalsifiable so long as it’s proof is an inscrutable transcendence.

          TomB

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          • With regard to your first paragraph, does it make a difference whether God’s “determination” is seen as prescriptive or permissive in this construct (or must those “logically” ultimately be collapsed into ontological meaninglessness)? What about David Bentley Hart’s critique of theodicy (especially in its more Calvinist construals) in his book, The Doors of the Sea (if you have read it) where he argues the classical Christian understanding of both God’s perfect goodness and true creaturely free will means God’s infinity genuinely “makes room for” the temporal operation of wills other than His own and, thus, for a temporary and contingent “dualism” of good and evil?

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Tom, you have pushed me into waters I cannot navigate. Heck, I even had to do an internet search to find out exactly what occasionalism is. What I discovered is that Aquinas’s concurrentism is a historic alternative to occasionalism: see “God’s General Concurrence with Secondary Causes” by Alfred Fredosso. Where do you fall on Fredosso’s map? My guess: mere conservationism.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Karen, thanks for bringing Hart into the discussion. It’s been a good while since I read Doors of the Sea. I recall two things: (1) he insists on a clear distinction between God’s ordaining and permissive wills and (2) his dualistic language sometimes made me feel a bit uncomfortable. But my memory here may be off.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Tom and Karen, here’s another article on Aquinas and causality that may be of interest. I have featured Carroll a couple of times here on EO: “Creation, Evolution and the Catholic Tradition.” Thomas’s robust account of secondary causes, so it seems to me, puts him in a different category than Calvin & Company.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Karen, here’s a citation from David Hart’s essay “Providence and Causality“:

            “If providence is in any way a meaningful concept—if, that is, it means something more than simple determinism—it must concern a species of divine action towards creatures that truly remains a work of primary causality while also truly permitting secondary causality a real (if utterly contingent) autonomy. If in any measure this boundary is breached, however—if in any way the autonomy of contingent causes must be denied, qualified, evaded or mitigated, in order to avoid any ‘conflict’ with the infinite sufficiency or absolute sovereignty of the primary cause—then all talk of providence is rendered perfectly otiose. The minimal—if not yet sufficient—condition for any coherent account of God’s providential activity in time must be something like Thomas’s distinction between what God directly and of his nature wills, on the one hand, and what he does not will but nevertheless permits, on the other. Without such a distinction, one if forced to image the drama of divine and creaturely freedom as in some sense a competition or rivalry between divine and human wills—though, of course, a competition that, through the sheer mathematics of the infinite and the finite, God has always already won. Thus, for instance, one cannot grant that John Calvin had any authentic doctrine, however often he may have spoken of it; for he quite explicitly and peremptorily denied the distinction between divine will and permission, and so cannot be said to have understood by ‘providence’ anything other than absolute divine determinism. It is therefore a matter of indifference, really, that Calvin and his Reformed colleagues were able and willing to draw some kind of distinction between primary and secondary causality; for apart from any proper doctrine of divine permission, secondary causality appears as nothing but a modality of primary causality, by which the sole determining cause of all events works out its positive decrees among creatures” (p. 36).

            I do not know what McCabe & Company would say to this. They clearly see Thomas’s understanding of providence as different from the determinism of Calvinism. Perhaps they would adopt the language of permission when speaking of sinful acts, because they emphatically deny that God wills evil in any way whatsoever (see Michael Liccione’s blog article “On Evil and Omnipotence“; TomB, you need to look at this article, too!).

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Tom, I do not know if Aquinas calls his understanding of divine agency “mystery” or not—that’s my language. But I do think it is all mystery, given the radical difference between God and his creatures. It is this difference which allows us to speak of God as both beyond his creation and present within his creation. We do not know how this can be, but I think we see that it must be, given the creatio ex nihilo. The early Fathers understood at least this, which is why they insisted that we do not comprehend the divine essence, which ultimately means that when we talk about God, we really do not rationally know what we are talking about.

      You write: “And once it becomes mystery, no analogy and no argument can penetrate it. It’s unfalsifiable.” Yes, I suppose this is true, though I do think we can demonstrate, or at least attempt to demonstrate, where the mystery lies and why we cannot comprehend it. I am not a Thomist and have no commitment to a particular metaphysical system. My metaphysics, such as it is, is totally ad hoc. For example, does God make unconditional promises in the gospel? I think he does, so reality must be such that it is possible for him to fulfill his promises. Is faith a gift of the Spirit? I think it is, so reality must be such that God can efficaciously bestow this gift without violating the personal integrity of human beings; etc., etc.

      So my question to you is: if we do not and cannot comprehend the nature of God and thus cannot comprehend the interaction of divine causality and creaturely causality, how can we assert that free human actions cannot be determined by God? How do we know that?

      You have suggested that Aquinas’s position is vulnerable to occasionalism. But when I read your account of things, all I can think of is deism, punctuated by occasional invasions of divine revelation. Does your position make possible faith in divine providence? How?

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  12. tgbelt says:

    I broke down…my first McCabe purchase is on the way.

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  13. Jonathan says:

    The question about a possible incompatibility in Aquinas seems to me to matter urgently only if we think he had a good conception of secondary causation. In other words, do his psychology and physics hold up? Is his idea of free will the right idea? I think many would answer No. We are today deeply imbued with the notion that human action on any scale is overdetermined and that the physical cosmos is probabilistic but indeterminate, and possibly infinite. Our metaphysics, just like Aquinas’ or anyone’s, must be intimate with our physics. But our physics is very different from his. Our social sciences, too, would be alien to him. We have at our disposal ideas of human agency as collective, unconscious and continuous that Aquinas wouldn’t recognize. For that matter, most Christians would probably be hard put to say they really feel ecclesial belonging, or partake of the eucharist, as Aquinas and some of his contemporaries did (or as they seem to have done). There’s no bracketing the experience of being a modern.

    Of course Aquinas’ work still possesses enormous insight for us, and one could argue that there is a purely intellectual value in examining the consistency of his thought in its totality or with regard to a specific matter such as the operation of the will. Insofar as truth is ontologically prior to discourse (I’m not going to say how far I personally think that is), whatever Aquinas got right must be transposable into the language of modern thought. The reverse, obviously, is not the case: if we have hit upon truth in our own time, it is not necessarily also to be found in Aquinas. There are definitely some people even still– typically members of an ecclesial body here to go unnamed — who will not admit this. It is a weird aspect of Thomism I’ve never understood. But anyway, the point is a universalist conviction doesn’t stand or fall depending on whether it can be expressed in Thomist terms any more than does, say, the general theory of relativity.

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  14. tgbelt says:

    Karen,

    I think it makes a big difference whether God’s determinations are prescriptive or permissive. And I think (contra Calvin) God’s wills both types of action. Prescriptive would be something like, “Let this happen this way….” Permissive would be “If this, then that.” But that’s just the problem. Given Aquinas’ view, there are no creaturely occurrences to fill in the “this” to which God responds—because God doesn’t “respond” in that sense on Aquinas’ view. Calvin saw this and excluded such ‘conditionality’ from God entirely. An Arminian tries to get around it be saying God timelessly sees what creatures do and then bases his determinations on that. But that’s obviously impossible since whatever creatures do is, by definition (even timelessly), already the result of whatever God did or didn’t do to bring it about or prevent it. I think once we posit a truly ‘permissive’ determination by God we’ve opened pardora’s box so to speak. I’m already there, but I don’t know about the Orthodox. ;o)

    But I don’t think God’s permissive will is made up on the spot in time as things unfold. I actually agree God’s will is in an important sense unchanging. God eternally knows all possibilities—including what we might do and what providential responses would bring about the greatest good. I think God eternally knows all the possible scenarios and so ‘wills’ such “If this, then that” determinations. He concedes to sustain a world that freely falls into evil, for example. So is God sustaining evil persons in the doing of their evil. I think so, certainly. They too only exist by God’s gracious sustaining presence. Satan included. So in this very qualified sense God ‘wills’ evil; i.e., he wills to sustain evil doers in the doing of their evil. This might be the sense in which Hart means to say God “makes room for us.” But this is different than the kind of ‘willing’ that a compatibilist supposes is the case. The compatibilist says God eternally decides ‘that’ we do the evil we do. There’s no IF predicated to God, as in “IF Hitler decides to pursue genocide [something I don’t want him to do, nor do my plans for creation require him to do!], I’ll sustain his existence in the carrying out of it.” The whole matter here comes down to the meaning of that little word “If.” In what sense is it predicated to creatures, and in what sense is it predicated to God?

    Fr Aidan, I’ll check out that article by Freddoso. I’m familiar with him (a big proponent of Molinism, or the theory of Middle Knowledge).

    Tom

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Tom, I think you’ll enjoy this quote from McCabe regarding Molinism and middle knowledge: “Of this I will say nothing at present except that it seems to me to possess the unique merit of denying simultaneously both divine omnipotence and human freedom” (Faith Within Reason, 72). 🙂

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  15. tgbelt says:

    Thanks for the link to Freddoso’s article. This isn’t an easy subject. I’ve struggled with it off and on for sometime. And it does have to do with the question of what kind of ‘agency’ (freedom or determinism) we have. If creation has no independent existence whatsoever, doesn’t it follow that God is the sustaining ground of its ongoing existence, every moment? And if that’s true, doesn’t it then follow that creation always is by definition already the result of what God does to sustain it in existence? And if that’s true, doesn’t it then follow that ‘occasionalism’ is true (i.e., that created realities cannot be efficient causes because reality has no abiding causal powers; creation reduces to being merely the ‘occasion’ for the manifestation of God’s will).

    On one end of the spectrum you’ve got ‘occasionalism’. On the other you’ve got ‘conservationism’ (the view that created realities have enduring causal powers which, though they are sustained by God, bring about their effects “all by themselves” (to use Ed Feser’s def). Not sure what “all by themselves” means. And Ed is not an occasionalist, because (I had to smile at this!) “[o]ccasionalism threatens to collapse into pantheism insofar as if it is really God who is doing everything that creaturely things seem to be doing, it is hard to see how they are in any interesting way distinct from him,” precisely as I earlier alluded to. This kind of determinism is functionally equivalent to pantheism. Thank you Ed!

    But conservationism, (Ed feels [http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/01/metaphysical-middle-man.html]), reduces to deism. Let’s grant that. There is a position out on the other extreme that is deism. But what I’ve read of the debate here (a couple years ago quite a bit, but I got a headache so I gave up!) populates the distance between these two extremes with a lot of qualifying positions—not just a single mediating concurrentism. Ed’s a concurrentist, which is Aquinas’ mediating position between the two extremes. Created realities have no independent existence, so (with occasionalism and contra most conversationist views) we have to posit the ‘concurrent’ reality of God’s sustaining the world—God’s willing us to exist as we exist. But with conservationism and contra occasionalism we also have to posit causal powers proper to created things sufficient to ground a REAL distinction between God and creation. Now, Ed (with Aquinas) says ‘concurrentism’ succeeds at doing just this.

    I agree that the truth is that mysterious middle ground. I agree the two extremes (pantheism and deism) are to be avoided. I don’t think creation endures for some short temporal span on time independent of God’s sustaining presence, a time long enough for it to be ‘free enough from God’ to do its thing. But I also vehemently deny occasionalism. Created nature has to possess enduring causal powers sufficient to stop the line of attribution for its choices from reaching God THE SAME WAY it reaches created beings. That’s the trick. Now, can I be a libertarian and a concurrentist? Well, Freddoso is (pretty sure; he’s a Molinist, and 99.9% of Molinists are libertarians). So if the middle ground is that mysterious space where we just say “This is where the truth is that avoids the extremes,” then I’ll stand in its shade along with Ed and Aquinas.

    My problem with Ed’s analogy of concurrentism is that that it comes out looking exactly like occasionalism. I write on the board with chalk (he describes). Both “I” and the “chalk” ‘concurrently’ (together) do the writing. I can go with this if what’s being said is just that God sustains created causal powers on a moment by moment basis. But my understanding is that what’s being said is more than this, namely, that our willing/choosing is (like the chalk) merely the instrumentation of a divine willing/choosing that (like the teacher who writes with the chalk) uses it to express her will. She decides WHAT to write. The chalk is the means by which she gets it done. That’s a problem.

    I don’t have any answers, except to say (apart from the titles attached to these different positions) that I think we are more than ‘instruments’ in God’s hand. That sort of instrumentation looks like occasionalism to me. But I don’t think we ever exist independently of God either. I don’t know what the causal nexus there in ‘no man’s land’ actually looks like, but I agree it avoids both extremes!

    TomB

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    • Tom, without your knowledgeability of others’ positions directly (e.g., Aquinas, Fredosso, etc.), I inhabit much the same position you stake out here as your own. I’m playing around a bit with the chalk analogy (and, of course, no analogy is going to be perfect). Here’s what I’m thinking might more truly image concurrence. Imagine the chalk in the hand of a little child learning to write. The teacher/parent both supplies the chalk and blackboard and holds the child’s hand supporting/guiding her to achieve whatever she purposes to write or draw with the chalk. The teacher/parent may also supply models and suggestions for what to draw or write, which the child is free to attempt or disregard. The hand of the writer as God with the chalk symbolizing the secondary causal agent seems to me not to be able to describe other than Calvin’s collapsed determinism. Positing a person (the child) as the secondary causal agent is more true to the Scriptural spiritual reality because a child, though ignorant, weak, dependent and immature compared to the teacher/parent is still a person made in the image of God, and the type of “synergy” required between teacher/parent and child is a fully personal interaction. I think anytime in an analogy we posit an object (and especially a non-living object) to symbolize created personal agency vs. God’s agency, we are going to end up teaching heresy. No way are we merely instruments in the hands of God in this objectified sense!

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  16. Thanks, Fr. Aidan, for that quotation from Hart. Yes, he makes some good distinctions there and offers much the same argument in The Doors of the Sea. I didn’t have any problem with his “temporary and contingent dualism”–it was very well qualified in the the context of his book. I love the wonderful hopefulness in what he says in the quote you offered about the “mathematics” of our finite wills vs. God’s infinity. That quote, though, is yet another reminder for me that The Doors of the Sea is probably the longest work by Hart I will ever be able to read. Did I mention I, having graduated a major Evangelical institution of upper learning with high honors, had to read Hart with a dictionary at my side? (I recently attempted to read The Beauty of the Infinite. My attempt lasted about 30 seconds because it took me only that long to realize I was in way over my head on the amount of philosophical terminology and background one would have to have to be able to pick up easily on what Hart is saying in that book!) Even in the short quote you offered, I had to look up “otiose” in the online dictionary (though it meant more or less what I would have predicted from the context). 🙂

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  17. tgbelt says:

    Another very comforting thought in all this is the fact that every single view on the nature of choice and causality is bailing water.

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  18. As something of a Thomist–though not dogmatic about it–I agree with Feser’s concurrentism both as interpretation of Aquinas and as the metaphysical truth of the matter, as far as it goes, which is cannot be far enough to satisfy wholly. The difficulty seems, as TomB puts it, to be this: “If creation has no independent existence whatsoever, doesn’t it follow that God is the sustaining ground of its ongoing existence, every moment? And if that’s true, doesn’t it then follow that creation always is by definition already the result of what God does to sustain it in existence?”

    To the first question I answer yes; to the second, no. From the fact that God concurrently sustains the esse or “to-be” of creatures and all their actions in being, it does not follow that he causally determines all free actions precisely as free. What he causally determines is not the putative self-determination of the rational creature in a free action; that would be a logically incoherent idea. What God causally determines in this case is the free action’s ability to exist and be effective, inasmuch as he causes the being of the creature as a whole at every moment.

    Can we say how that can be? No–for the reasons Fr. Kimel gives. Must we say that it is the case? Yes. It is the middle position that even TomB recognizes must be where, or close to where, the truth lies.

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  19. tgbelt says:

    Regarding my earlier claim that theological determinism is effectively indiscernible from pantheism (which several questioned), I ran across this paragraph in DBH’s ‘The Doors of the Sea’ (p. 90f). Commenting on Calvin, Hart says that such determinism “threatens effectively to collapse…transcendence into absolute identity – with the world, with us, with the devil. For, unless the world is truly set apart from God and possesses a dependent but real liberty of its own analogous to the freedom of God, everything is merely a fragment of divine volition, and God is simply the totality of all that is and all that happens: there is no creation, but only an oddly pantheistic expression of God’s unadulterated power.”

    Interesting.

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    • Tom, yes. Glad to see you are reading Doors. I reread parts of it every so often just for the thrill of it when I need a lift–it leads me to fall in a grateful heap at the feet of our Risen Lord! Hart waxes positively lyrical in some of his most profound passages.

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