top of page

Whether Providence can Suitably be Attributed to God?

Thank you for subscribing to Annotated Thomist...check back each day for a new section of St. Thomas' corpus, annotated and summarized. (FREE TRIAL FOR NEW SUBSCRIBERS!!!)

AT is also available to donors of $10 or more on Patreon or SubscribeStar along with all of the other benefits (daily bonus videos, bonus articles, PDFs, etc.

If you need more personalized help reading the Summa, I am available for 1-on-1 sessions, here.

Now that we have treated the virtues of God that are said to be "of the will," we will now consider those that are both of the will and the intellect.

This "virtue of the will and intellect" is said to be prudence, which directs all the virtues towards their end, as St. Thomas says elsewhere, "Prudence gives orders: what must or what must not be done, this is its end" (Tabula.Prudencia.VIVIIIb) and "To be good without prudence, and to have prudence without moral virtue is impossible." (Tabula.Bonus.VIXf)

Analogously, this "prudence" in God is the directing of all things to His own goodness, which can either regard,

1. Things in general (and thus *Providence*)

2. Salvation in particular and thus,

1. Election/Predestination if towards salvation

2. Reprobation if towards damnation

The first of these is treated in Q. 22. We begin, in the first article, by asking *whether* God has providence. Then, in the second through fourth article, we will cover the scope and nature of this providence.

Here, the question is whether providence is something *properly* attributed to God, or *metaphorically* attributed to God.

In us and among creatures, there are three parts of providence. First, the remembrance of the past. Second, the understanding of the present. Third, the direction towards the future.

All these are formally present in God in an eminent manner, abstracting from the imperfections that come with time. For, as St. Thomas explains in the article, the direction of all things towards their last end (i.e., the Divine Goodness) is something that preexists in God in that he has created certain things.

It is important to note that this proof, proven here *a priori* from the concept of creation itself, can also be proven *a posteriori.* This *a posteriori* proof happens in the fifth of St. Thomas' five ways.

Further, it is also important to note the distinction that is given in the reply to the second objection between "providence" and "government." Government refers to the execution of providence in things. This becomes the subject of Q. 103-119 of Prima Pars.

Respondeo: It is necessary to attribute providence to God. For all the good that is in created things has been created by God, as was shown above (Q. 6, A. 4). In created things good is found not only as regards their substance, but also as regards their order towards an end and especially their last end, which, as was said above, is the divine goodness (Q. 21, A. 4). This good of order existing in things created, is itself created by God. Since, however, God is the cause of things by His intellect, and thus it behooves that the type of every effect should pre-exist in Him, as is clear from what has gone before (Q. 19, A. 4), it is necessary that the type of the order of things towards their end should pre-exist in the divine mind.

And the type of things ordered towards an end is, properly speaking, providence. For it is the chief part of prudence, to which two other parts are directed—namely, remembrance of the past, and understanding of the present; inasmuch as from the remembrance of what is past and the understanding of what is present, we gather how to provide for the future. Now it belongs to prudence, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 12), to direct other things towards an end whether in regard to oneself—as for instance, a man is said to be prudent, who orders well his acts towards the end of life—or in regard to others subject to him, in a family, city or kingdom; in which sense it is said (Matt 24:45), a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family. In this way prudence or providence may suitably be attributed to God. For in God Himself there can be nothing ordered towards an end, since He is the last end. This type of order in things towards an end is therefore in God called providence. Whence Boethius says (De Consol. iv, 6) that Providence is the divine type itself, seated in the Supreme Ruler; which disposeth all things: which disposition may refer either to the type of the order of things towards an end, or to the type of the order of parts in the whole.

12 views0 comments
bottom of page