Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Was the Fall Under God's Providence?

God is said to will a thing in one of two ways: absolutely or contingently. If God wills a thing absolutely, then it necessarily happens. So a thing which does not happen cannot be said to have been God’s absolute will. But we know per divine revelation that God wills some things to happen that do not, in fact, happen. Namely, God is not willing that any should perish,1 but some men perish.2 This is not a contradiction because God’s will is contingent in this case.

It is false to say that God absolutely wills all men to be saved; rather, He contingently wills all men to be saved. His will in this case is contingent upon men freely responding to His grace, which is, per His absolute will, a necessary condition for eternal life.

Now there is no force which is outside of God so we know that all things Fall under God’s providence. If God puts a thing into motion, it would seem that it cannot be stopped whatsoever because since no force outside of God exists, no other force is present to stop what God has put into motion. But things which were set in motion do stop; they are stopped by God Himself. This happens because one thing He wills contingently is stopped by another thing which He wills absolutely.

When God wills that an apple should Fall to the ground per His natural law, He wills it contingently. He wills it contingent upon whether or not He wills another thing to intervene. A branch below the apple may catch it and prevent it from Falling, but that branch prevents the apple from hitting the ground because God wills that a branch should have the power of stopping an apple – not that the branch has its own power outside of God. God’s contingent will is only hindered by other things which He wills. God’s motion is only stopped by His own power.

But there are agents with their own will. Do they upset the order of God’s providence? Certainly not. God may will that man shall not eat the apple that fell, but He wills it contingent upon whether or not man should will to eat it. But whatever caused man to will to eat it, and remember that man is not his own final cause, is also under God’s providence.

Did God will evil then? Far be it from us to suggest such a thing; it is impossible. At this point we need to look at the broader picture and see that God did not absolutely will that man should not Fall. Whatever God absolutely wills is true by necessity. God wills absolutely that squares should not be circles and that such a thing should not be possible. Whatever God wills contingently also happens unless something else which He wills absolutely causes it to not happen.

In this way, all things are under God’s providence. So we can know for certain that it was not in God’s absolute will that man should avoid the Fall. God willed contingently that man should not Fall, but in His wisdom, He willed absolutely that creation should be precisely as good as it is, and to achieve that, it was necessary per His absolute will, that the Fall should take place to bring about the greater good which resulted. We would not know the good of perseverance, for example, without the Fall. But God absolutely willed that the good of perseverance, again for example, should exist and be manifest, and so His contingent will of avoiding the Fall was stopped by His absolute will for a greater good. We must conclude that even the Fall of man was under God’s providence.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

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