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Divine Causation and Human Freedom in Aquinas by Brian J. Shanley, O. P. Neen el Ina previous paper I argued that creation was the key to understanding Aquinas’s view of the relationship between eternity and time.' Such an approach has a strategic advantage insofar as it allows fora comprehensive account of divine omniscience: because God’s creative causation is all- pervasive, so too is God’s knowledge. Yet a causal-practical view of God’s knowledge immediately raises the troubling specter of divine determinism: if God knows our actions by in some sense causing them, then how can we truly be free? For many it is axiomatic that a causal account of divine knowledge entails a denial of human freedom because it is usually assumed that human freedom requires causal independence from God; any kind of divine causation of human action is automatically coercive and determinative. Even in the eyes of those willing at least to entertain the possibility that some form of divine causation is compatible with human freedom (for example, contemporary Molinists like William L. Craig), Aquinas’s view of divine causation simply goes too far in the direction of divine determinism;’ this is especially so for those who identify the Bafiezian praemotio physica with Aquinas’s position. In the face of these prima facie powerful and plausible criticisms, it probably comes as a bit of a surprise to a contemporary reader to find that \“Etemal Knowledge of the Temporal in Aquinas,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 71 (1997): 197-224. 2See his account of Aquinas in The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge and Future Contingents from Aristotle to Suarez (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), 99-126. His concluding sentence is: “In maintaining that God’s knowledge is the cause of everything God knows, Thomas transforms the universe into a nexus which, though freely chosen by God, is causally determined from above, thus eliminating human freedom.” Copyright 1998, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. LXXII, No. | 100 AMERICAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY Aquinas is quite confident that his position does not entail divine determinism. Aquinas squarely faces the problem in numerous contexts and always concludes that there is no incompatibility between divine causation and human freedom. When Aquinas’s confidence on this point is contrasted with the corresponding confidence of his critics, it becomes clear that each side brings a quite different set of assumptions to bear upon its assessment of the issue. What this reveals is that ultimately it is the background understanding of the metaphysical relationship between God and the world that determines how the issue of divine determinism is resolved. It is the aim of this paper to explain Aquinas’s confidence about the compatibility of divine causation with human freedom by elucidating the background assumptions about God and God’s relationship to the world that underlie Aquinas’s position. Specifically, it will be argued that once again Aquinas’s view of God as Creator is the key to his treatment. As Creator, God utterly and uniquely transcends the categorical order of mundane causes (for example, necessary and contingent) so as to be no threat to created causes but rather their enabling origin. The same God who transcends the created order is also intimately and immanently present within that order as upholding all causes in their causing, including the human will. The Creator God is not a rival in danger of overpowering human agency, but rather the one who generously creates us to be genuinely free in imitation of God’s own freedom. The first step in getting Aquinas’s picture into focus is to set his account of God’s causal relationship with the human will within the larger context of his understanding of God’s causal activity in the being of all beings and the causing of all causes. It is vital to see Aquinas’s treatment of God’s causal influence on the human will as a corollary to his treatment of God’s causal influence on all created causes. Aquinas’s assertions about God’s causal influence on the human will aré not meant to account for some peculiar feature in human action and, most importantly, must not be construed as an attempt to account for something in the psychology of human action. It is rather that Aquinas’s metaphysical understanding of God as Creator and unique causa esse requires that God be actively present in the causing of all causes, including human agents. Hence this paper will begin with an overview of Aquinas’s general account of God’s operation in all created causes as the necessary background to God’s operation in the human will. What will emerge from this is a proper understanding of the relationship between God’s primary causation and created secondary DIVINE CAUSATION AND HUMAN FREEDOM IN AQUINAS 101 causation such that the latter’s dependence upon the former does not compromise its genuine efficacy. With this background in place, it can be shown how Aquinas understands the relationship between divine causation and the human will. It will then be possible to turn to the specific context of divine providence wherein the divine will is not a threat to human freedom but rather its originative and enabling ground. We are free because of God, not despite God. It will be vital throughout to attend carefully to Aquinas’s texts and terminology in order to distinguish his position from that of his subsequent interpreters. For as Freddoso has noted, “both Bafiezianism and Molinism are probably best regarded as alternative attempts to compensate for what many Catholic thinkers, especially in the light of the Reformers’ influential writings on these very matters, took to be a lacuna or at least a lack of explicitness in St. Thomas’s work.” It is not my intention here to rehearse the old debates between Bafiezians and Molinists; although my sympathies lie with the former, I cannot endorse the traditional “Thomist” position for reasons which will become clear in the course of this paper. Rather than take up the post-Reformation scholastic challenge to fill in the gaps and so provide an exhaustive account of the mechanics of divine causation, I shall argue instead that Aquinas’s refusal to say more than he does is not a weakness in his position but rather a strength. Like Wittgenstein, Aquinas knew that we must not presume to speak about what lies beyond our ken: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, dariiber muss man schweigen.”* To go any further than Aquinas does in trying to explain divine creative causation, as the Bafiezians do, is inevitably to lose sight of its transcendence. And to do that is to betray the central premise of Aquinas’s resolution of the apparent conflict between divine causation and human freedom. I, God the Creator of Causes: Aquinas works out his account of the relationship between divine causation and created causation in response to various theological and philosophical currents either denying or severely 3{ntroduction” to Luis de Molina, On Divine Foreknowledge (Part IV of the Concordia), trans. Alfred Freddoso (Ithaca: Comell University Press, 1988), 8. “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 7.