Thomas on God’s being and providence

Thomas argues for the possibility of expansion over time in the articles of faith (e.g., from less to greater clarity), because “omnes articuli implicite continentur in aliquibus primis credibilibus” (“all the articles are contained implicitly in some of the first things to be believed”). On its own, this is good — it’s much of what Newman would have to say in the Development, though without his helpful organic metaphors.

However, Thomas illustrates this principle with a troubling distinction. “In esse enim divino includuntur omnia quae credimus in Deo aeternaliter existere, in quibus nostra beatitudo consistit, in fide autem providentiae includuntur omnia quae temporaliter a Deo dispensantur ad hominum salutem, quae sunt via in beatitudinem” (IIaIIae.1.7). Implicated in the sheer fact of God’s existence are all the necessary corollaries of that existence, which itself, in its sheer abundance, constitutes human beatitude. God’s being — his immanent life — can be distinguished from his providence — his economic life — which constitutes humanity’s “way into beatitude.”

Doesn’t formulation introduce an untenable distinction between God’s immanence and economy? After all, how do we know which God to worship except by his timely interventions as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Does Thomas’s formulation make the “real God” a monad, austerely removed from his temporal identifiers?

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This entry was posted in Being and beings, Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas, Trinity, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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