Whether the sacraments of the New Covenant
are effective causes of grace
. . .
. . .
Third, for an understanding of the things that are going to be said
it should be noted that a cause is commonly defined as follows: A cause
is "that whose being is followed by another", i.e., a cause is
a thing which is such that when it is posited in being, some other thing
is posited in being.
It should be added: "... and such that when it is not posited,
the other thing is not posited in the way in which it is in fact posited."
This is added, because otherwise when any two things were produced at the
same time, one of them would be a cause of the other, and so if two infants
were generated at the same time from different mothers, then one would
be a cause of the other.
Now perhaps you will say: "The ablative construction, viz., 'once
it is posited in being', has the force of a consequence, and because of
this it connotes some sort of necessity, so that it should be understood
as follows: '... when it is posited, the other thing necessarily follows.'
(This would take care of the counterexample involving the two infants,
since when the one is posited in being, it is not the case that the other
is necessarily posited in being.)"
Response: If that were so, then no secondary cause would be a
cause, since no effect necessarily follows the positing of any secondary
cause. For it is not the case that heat or combustion necessarily follows
the positing of fire, as is clear from the case of the young men in the
fiery furnace. Hence, every effect follows purely contingently from a secondary
cause, since when a secondary cause is posited, the effect is able not
to follow if God does not concur.
The words "... in the way in which it is in fact posited"
are added because if the same heat is produced simultaneously by a fire
and by the sun, then even though the heat would still be produced if one
of these causes were removed, still it would not be produced in the way
in which it is produced by both of them, since either it would not be equally
intense or else it would not be produced in such-and-such a stretch of
time; for it would be produced more quickly by the two of them than by
one of them alone.
Perhaps you will object: "It follows further that if the heat were
produced by the fire along with the First Cause and were conserved by the
First Cause alone, then the fire would not be a cause of the heat, since
in that case the heat would not be removed when the fire was removed."
One should reply that the fire is in that case a cause of the production
of the heat (since without the fire the heat is not produced), but it is
not a cause of the conservation of the heat. But if, once the fire were
directed to a thing able to be heated, God were to suspend the action of
the fire and were to produce the heat by Himself in the thing able to be
heated, then the fire would not be a cause of the heat produced in this
way; for even if the fire had not been so directed, the heat would still
have been produced by God.
You might object: "In that case the fire present to the thing able
to be heated, even if not suspended, would not be a cause of the heat generated
in the thing able to be heated, since that very heat was able to be produced
by God alone in the absence of the fire; therefore, etc."
I will respond by denying the last inference, since the definition of
a cause does not say "... when it is not posited, the effect is
not able to be posited ...", but instead says only "... is
not posited ...", so that the actuality is denied but not the
potentiality. But now in the case at hand, if the fire were removed, the
heat would not be produced, since God has decided not to produce heat regularly
without a secondary cause present; and not suspending a fire which is present
is the same as acting in the presence of the fire in accord with the ordained
and normal determination of His will, which determination is not to act
in the absence of a secondary cause. And so understood, the definition
of a cause seems to be convertible.
From this it is obvious that for one thing to cause another is no different
from the second thing's being produced or existing when the first thing
is present; for instance, for a fire to cause heat in water brought close
to it is nothing other than for the heat to be in the water when the fire
is present. Nor should anyone imagine that between an immediate cause and
its effect there is some middle thing by reason of which the cause is said
to cause, or that the cause itself transfers something from itself into
the effect, or anything of the sort. Rather, for a thing to be a cause
is for another thing to begin to exist or to exist at the mere presence
of the first thing.
Now this happens in two ways, as the Doctor [Ockham] notes and, following
him, Peter D'Ailly in Sentences IV, q. 1, a. 1. In the first way,
"when because of the nature of the things the existence and presence
of the first thing are naturally followed by the existence of the
second thing." In the second way, when the existence of the one thing
"is followed by the other solely by the will of someone" who
produces that second thing when the first thing is present. For instance,
if a king were to decree that anyone who has a lead coin inscribed with
the king's insignia may receive 100 florins from the king's vault, then
the coin, when presented at the king's vault, is a cause of the acquisition
of the 100 florins--not because of the nature of lead, but solely because
of the king's will.
The first is called a cause properly, since it is a cause by
its own power, i.e., by the power which is in it or which is the thing
itself or its nature. The second, however, is called a cause sine qua
Hence, Peter of Palus, dist. 1, q. 1, in singling out the sine qua
non cause, says: "A sine qua non cause is one such that
when it is posited, another is posited from somewhere else, etc.,"
even though according to him a sine qua non cause seems to be the
same as a per accidens cause. From this it follows that among natural
causes there cannot be a sine qua non cause, whether mediate or
immediate, with respect to any effect, but there can be such a cause only
among voluntary causes, viz., when a voluntary cause decides to produce
a given effect in the presence of something (something which is not naturally
productive of that effect) and not to produce the effect when that thing
is not present.
But against this one could argue as follows: The power to cause any
effect whatsoever is fully and sufficiently in the First Cause and fully
and sufficiently in no created thing, except to the extent that the First
Cause itself, which is God, freely and contingently willed and decided
to produce such an effect in the presence of such a thing. For example,
the fact that fire or heat is a cause of heat stems from the fact that
God has determined that in the presence of heat He is going to will to
produce heat in another subject. And so it is not the case that heat is
a cause of heat because of some other power that exists in it; rather,
it is a cause of heat solely because God has so determined Himself that
in the presence of heat--and not unless it is present--He regularly wills
to produce heat. And if He had not so decided, then the very same heat,
which would in that case exist without any change, would be heat and yet
would not be a cause of heat. Hence, God does nothing through a secondary
cause without its being the case that He does it through Himself just as
principally and no less so than if He were doing it alone. Indeed, as Lord
Peter D'Ailly puts it in the place cited above, "God does more when
bringing about some effect by means of a secondary cause than He would
if He were to bring about the same effect by Himself alone," since
when He brings about "some effect by means of a secondary cause, He
not only brings about that effect, but also brings it about that the secondary
cause is a cause of that effect." Hence, in the act by which He brings
about something by means of a secondary cause, there are more termini of
the divine action than there would be if He were bringing it about by Himself.
For in the former act one terminus is the effect produced de novo and the
other terminus is the secondary cause itself in its being as a cause; but
in the latter act there is just one terminus, viz., the effect produced.
And because of this any sign whatsoever, if God should decide to produce
the thing signified when that sign is present, is a cause just as truly
as heat is a cause of heat. And, therefore, the division of causes into
causes properly speaking and causes sine qua non seems not
This argument seems strong to me and sufficiently plausible for us to
conclude that if God were to decide that from this day forward He is going
to will to send rain at the utterance of some word pronounced by someone,
then that word, once uttered, would be just as properly a cause of the
rain brought about by God at its utterance as heat is a cause of heat.
And this seems altogether true. For a creature has nothing except from
God's will alone, which grants it to the creature freely and contingently.
And so it could easily be claimed that the sacraments are truly and
properly the causes of the sacramental effect, an effect which God, because
of His covenant with the Church, produces when the sacraments are dispensed.
And in this way all of the passages from the saints are preserved, and
none of the arguments from reason would militate against this position.
For there is nothing absurd in the claim that what is lesser or what is
corporeal should be a cause of what is more noble and spiritual because
of God's ordination and covenant. Nor is this any different from saying
that in the presence of a less worthy and corporeal thing God by His free
will produces a more noble and spiritual effect. Nor does it cause in a
way other than that in which any natural secondary cause causes.
Now in order to preserve what was said above and in order to preserve
the distinction among causes, it can be said that God in the first creation
of things decided to produce effects regularly in the presence of, and
not in the absence of, certain things and each thing of the same species.
And it belongs to these things to be a cause by their nature, i.e., by
that nature in which they were constituted at their creation. And the term
'regularly' is used because God did not tie His power down to the creatures.
For all the things that He is able to bring about in conjunction with a
creature in the genus of efficient cause He is able to bring about by Himself
alone; still, certain things he does not do as frequently in the absence
of a creature. But He has at times decided to produce an effect in the
presence of certain things, not from the time of their creation or constitution,
but rather for a certain stretch of time after their creation. And these
are not called causes properly or by their nature, since they were not
causes from the time of the establishment of their nature, but instead
had their own proper nature before they were instituted as causes.
So the sacraments had the same nature--e.g., the water of baptism (among
others) had the same nature which it now has--but they were not causes
or signs or sacraments of a spiritual effect before Christ's institution
of them, which was accomplished after His incarnation; rather, they are
called causes sine qua non.
And so it seems that the problem lies more in the terms than in the
things, as far as concerns the difference between a cause properly speaking
and a cause sine qua non.
And this seems to be what Lord Peter D'Ailly meant in the place cited
above, proposition 7, when he said: "Even though in the presence of
a secondary cause properly speaking the effect follows not only from God's
will but also from the power of the cause itself and from the nature of
the thing, still the fact that in the presence of some secondary cause
some effect follows by the power of the cause or by its nature--this fact
is from God's will alone. For things are this way only because God wills
to assume such-and-such a cause in order to bring about jointly such-and-such
an effect, an effect which ... he would be able to produce without it."
And in proposition 8: "Although every secondary cause properly so
called causes the effect by the nature of things, still the fact that it
is a cause properly speaking derives not from the nature of the thing but
from the divine will alone." This cannot be interpreted otherwise
than as claiming that the fact that a secondary cause is a cause of the
thing derives not from any superadded natural property, but from the will
of God alone, who has decided to assist the thing's nature in producing
Lastly, it should be noted that according to the common way of speaking
causes are divided into instrumental and principal. Now a cause is called
instrumental as opposed to principal, and so 'instrumental'
is said of causes in as many ways as 'principal'.
According to Scotus (q. 1 and q. 4 of the present distinction), a cause
is called principal in four ways:
In the first way, by the exclusion of a higher agent cause; and in this
sense to act principally is to act independently. And only the First Cause
is a principal cause in this way, and every secondary cause is instrumental.
In the second way, a principal cause is said to be a suppositum acting
by means of some part of itself, and the part by which the whole acts is
called an instrumental cause. And in this sense a whole human being is
said to be the principal cause of seeing, whereas the eye is said to be
an instrumental cause.
In the third way, a principal cause is said to be a cause which brings
about the principal effect in accord with some antecedent disposition.
In this sense heat is called an instrumental cause with respect to fire,
assuming that it does not effect the form of the fire to be generated,
but only the heat.
In the fourth way, a cause is said to be principal which acts through
a proper intrinsic form, whether or not it is subordinate to a higher agent
in so acting. And an instrumental cause is one which does not act through
a proper form but only through the motion of some other agent; an example
is the knowledge of an art, or a saw or axe. And it is in this sense that
"every disposition which necessitates a form and which is not passive
can be called an instrumental cause that is in some sense active."
In this sense, "merits are an instrumental cause of the reward."
For, properly speaking, "through the merit the reward is acquired,
and yet merit does not cause the reward ... nor does it cause any mediating
disposition, but it is simply by itself an antecedent disposition"
because of divine ordination, "a disposition toward the reward, yet
not a passive disposition."
. . .
. . . .
The second doubt concerns what was said above in the proof of conclusion
3, viz., that a creature does not concur effectively with respect to the
terminus of creation. The doubt is whether it is absolutely repugnant to
a creature to create.
And it seems that it is repugnant, since creating belongs to God alone;
therefore, etc. The antecedent is proved by blessed Augustine (De Trinitate
III, c. 8 and 9), who shows that God alone is a creator. And many passages
from the Saints seem to echo the same position.
For the opposite view: The power of creating in conjunction with God
is able to be communcicated to a creature; therefore, it is not repugnant
to a creature to create. The consequence is obvious. The antecedent is
proved as follows: Communicating the power to create does not involve any
contradiction; therefore, it should not be denied to God. The antecedent
is proved as follows: Many have tried to prove this incompatibility by
various arguments, and yet all of these arguments are ineffectual and refutable.
Among those who have tried are blessed Thomas, whose arguments were refuted
by Scotus, who himself adduced still other arguments to prove the same
claim, arguments which were in turn refuted by Ockham, whose own arguments
Lord Peter D'Ailly (in the place cited above, art. 2) tried to support
in part. Thus, the conclusion is that evidently a contradicition cannot
be proven; therefore, etc.
For the response it must be kept in mind that this question was posed
in II, dist. 1, where we responded, following our Doctor, that a creature
cannot create, taking 'create' to include a subjective non-cooperating
cause, i.e., insofar as to create is to produce something from nothing,
which is to say, not from the potency of a subject and with no concurring
subject in its own genus of causation. This is also the way the term is
understood by those who have discussed this question.
This response is proven by an argument taken from experience. From this
it is obvious that the response presupposes the natural order of causes.
And because of this it will not be a sufficiently general response to the
question. And thus Peter D'Ailly notes in the place cited above, art. 2,
that "just as it is said that God can do something by His absolute
power that He cannot do by His ordained power," so too a creature
is able to do some things by an ordained power, i.e., a power which is
possible according to an order now instituted by God; and it is also able
to do some things by an absolute or obediential power, according to which
it is able to do whatever God is able to do by means of it, not only according
to the order which is now in fact instituted, but also according to an
order which it is possible to institute. And in this way a nature is capable
of effects which are contrary to the effects it is now capable of. For
example, consider the lump of figs applied to the wound of King Ezekiah
by the prophet Isaiah, a lump of figs by which he was made well, as we
read in 4 Kings 20. The commentators say that according to their proper
nature the figs were opposed to the healing of the wound, and yet they
induced the contrary effect by a special miracle and by a special divine
ordination. Thus, there seems to be no contradiction involved in a fire's
feeling cold by virtue of a new divine institution. For God could ordain
that coldness should be produced in a nearby subject when fire is present,
even while the form of fire remains.
Given these premises, we will now respond to the dubium via the following
(1) It is repugnant to a creature to create, given the order and course
of nature now instituted by God.
This proposition I leave to be proven from what is to follow.
(2) Creating is not repugnant to a creature, in the sense that a creature
is able to produce supernaturally an effect which is not from a subject.
This proposition is proved as follows: Just as God has ordained that
fire produces heat in a nearby subject, so too He could ordain that fire
should produce heat but not in a subject or patient. For this involves
no contradiction. For the first ordination was purely contingent; therefore,
it was able and is able to be changed.
Furthermore, God is able to produce a new corporeal or spiritual creature
and to will that the creature cooperate with Him to produce such-and-such
an effect as a whole, both in itself and in everything belonging to it;
for this involves no contradiction. But if the creature were to do this,
then it would be creating.
Again, as D'Ailly argues in the place cited above, "Even though
God conferred a natural law on things such that one angel does not produce
another, still there seems to be no contradiction involved in assuming
that this is possible, absolutely speaking, in the same way that fire produces
fire. For it is a mark of perfection to be able to produce something similar
to oneself, and an angel is much more perfect than fire."
Likewise, it seems that even now fire de facto produces heat
without a subject, and as a consequence creates it.
The antecedent is obvious from the Sacrament of the Altar. For if fire
is directed to the consecrated chalice, then it produces heat, as is evident
to the senses, and this heat is not in a subject.
Nor does Ockham's answer help here, when he says that the heat is created
in the presence of the fire by God alone and not by the action of the fire.
"For in the Christian faith that which is evident to a sensory power
that is naturally well disposed should never be denied, except when the
express authority of the faith or a compelling argument taken from what
is essential to the faith forces us to do so." But it appears to the
senses that the applied fire produces heat after the consecration as well
as before the consecration. Nor is any authority of faith opposed to this,
since even though, because of the determination of the Church, it is denied
that there is bread in the sacrament of the Eucharist despite the fact
that it appears that there is bread after as well as before the consecration,
still nothing forces us to say that after the consecration the fire does
not produce the heat in the same way as before the consecration.
However, this argument seems easy to refute. For one can reply (as Ockham
claims) that all changes in the appearances of the Sacrament are brought
about immediately by God.
And as for the disproof, one can say that according to the faith no
appearance should be denied, etc., unless a miracle supra naturam accompanies
it; for example, in the proposed case it is miraculous that an accident
should subsist and likewise be produced without a subject. But as regards
a miraculous effect, a creature does not cooperate in bringing it about.
Further, it appears to the senses that in the presence of the fire the
heat begins to exist. And this is not denied. But it is not apparent to
the senses whether that heat begins to exist through the action of the
fire or through the action of God alone. And because of this someone who
denies the action of the fire is not denying anything which is apparent
to the senses.
And so it is clear that this argument of Lord Peter D'Ailly's is deficient
and does not sufficiently disprove Ockham's argument.
And this proposition is what the Master has in mind in IV, dist. 5,
last chapter, when he says, "God could have created certain things
through a thing, not 'through' it as 'through' an author, but rather as
'through' a minister with whom and in whom He operates."
Third, there is a doubt concerning the last conclusion: The sacraments
are not sine qua non causes of grace; therefore, that conclusion
The antecedent is proved as follows: The sacraments are causes of grace
as truly and properly as fire is the cause of the fire produced by it and
as heat is the cause of heat; but fire and heat are causes properly speaking
and not causes sine qua non; therefore, the same holds for the sacraments.
The consequence is obvious, since there is no reason why there should be
a difference. The minor is conceded by everyone. The major is proved as
follows: The same reason--and not some other--for which fire is a cause
of fire and heat a cause of heat is the reason for which the sacraments
are causes of grace and of the sacramental effect; therefore, they are
causes just as properly and truly. The consequence is obvious. The antecedent
was proven in article 1.
Objection: Now someone might object that fire is not similar
to the sacrament; the following threefold argument can be made for this
First, that which was said above: Natural causes received the character
of being a cause simultaneously with their first creation, by which they
received their existence, and for this reason the character of being a
cause is inseparably joined to their nature; but the sacraments were not
causes in their first creation, but long afterwards, as was said in that
Second, a natural cause has in itself a natural power, through which
it produces its effect; but this is not so with the sacraments, just as
conclusion 4 says.
Third, it is essential to a natural cause that it produce its effect
in a disposed subject, given the absence of impediments, so that it cannot
happen that the effect not follow. This is why in the definition of a cause
it is said "... whose being is followed by another ...". But
a sacramental effect is not of the essence of the sacraments, nor does
it follow from their essence. For the essences of the sacraments (viz.,
the matter, the words, the intention) were able to exist before the institution
of the sacraments, and at that time they did not have any sacramental effect.
Therefore, it is not the case that the sacramental effect follows from
their essence; rather, it follows from the divine action alone. And this
is what Hugo means in De Sacramento I, pt. 9, c. 3, when he says,
"It is not their first nature, but rather the institution that brings
it about that the the elements are sacraments.
Refutation of the objection: In response, the first difference
has nothing to do with the proper notion of a cause. For whatever is a
cause is such that its being a cause, i.e., its being such that its existence
is followed by another, is a character it receives from God. But it makes
no difference as far as the notion of a cause is concerned whether the
thing receives this character at the time it is first produced or at some
time after it has been produced. For even if it receives it after it has
been produced, then after its institution as a cause the other thing follows
upon its existence just as truly as if it had received the character of
being a cause when it was first produced. For a hot thing which receives
heat after it has been produced is just as truly hot as it would be if
the heat had been produced in it from the beginning.
Nor is the second difference able to stand. For not every natural cause
acts through a power which exists in it and is really distinct from it.
This I prove as follows: For the sake of example, I name this heat 'A'.
Now I ask whether A, in producing heat, acts through itself or through
a power added to it. If the first, then I have what I set out to prove,
viz., that there is a natural agent which does not act through a power
existing in it. If the second, I ask concerning that power whether it acts
through itself or through another. And either there will be an infinite
progression of actually existing things, which is impossible, or there
will be one power which acts by itself and not through some added power.
And that one will be a cause most properly. Therefore, there is no difference.
The same goes for the third difference, the one according to which it
is essential to a natural cause to cause, etc. We have to distinguish:
Either what is called essential is so understood that it is impossible
that that thing should exist without causing in a disposed subject, etc.;
or it is called essential because whenever it in fact exists, it is a cause,
given that the divine ordination remains in effect and given that the subject
is sufficiently well disposed and sufficiently close at hand.
If we understand it in the first way, then it is not essential to any
secondary cause to cause, since each secondary cause is such that it is
possible for it to exist and yet not cause. For God is able to conserve
any such cause in its essence without its being a cause, and He is able
to do this by suspending His own cooperation, which is not of the essence
of the creature.
This is proven as follows: The order of nature, according to which it
belongs to a creature to be a cause, has been instituted contingently by
God and is able to be revoked and changed while the natures of the things
remain the same. For God is able to produce each positive thing by Himself
alone and to remove all causality from every creature, and He is able to
do this forever as well as temporarily, as He did with the fire in the
If it is understood in the second way, then it is just as essential
to the sacraments to cause a sacramental effect, at least after their institution,
as it is essential to heat to cause heat; for given that the divine ordination
remains in effect de facto, whenever the sacraments are dispensed to a
disposed subject, grace begins to exist in the soul of the one receiving
Response to the matter of the objection: In responding to these
points, I first posit a certain picture which I offer for the reader's
examination without asserting it and which seems to me extremely plausible
and in its position not in disagreement with the position of the others,
even though they differ terminologically to a certain extent.
First, then, I say that all the causality of a secondary cause belongs
to a creature solely because of the free will of God, who contingently
decides that when one creature is present or posited, He will produce another
Second, if a cause sine qua non is said to be a cause such that
its existence is followed by the existence of another solely because of
someone's will, then every secondary cause is a cause sine qua non,
since every secondary cause is such that when it is posited, the other
thing follows solely because of the will of God, who decides to produce
that other thing when the cause in question is posited. For were it not
for the divine will acting contingently, that other thing would never follow
when the secondary cause is posited. The explanation of these points is
sufficiently clear from the first article.
From this a third point seems to follow, viz., that after their divine
institution sacraments are just as properly causes of grace and of the
gratuitous effect as any natural cause is a cause of its effect. This is
clear, for in both cases the causes are causes sine qua non, and
among causes sine qua non there is no diversity as far as the notion
of a cause is concerned, as is clear from the refutation of the differences
which were proposed above just a while ago.
Fourth, the sacraments bring about the sacramental effect in just the
way that heat brings about heat and the sun brightness. This is obvious,
since each of them brings about its effect in the sense that, once it is
posited, God produces the effect; nor is there any other way in which the
secondary causes bring about their effects in the one case or the other.
Fifth, although the sacraments cause grace as causes sine qua non,
nonetheless they do not create grace. This is clear, since they do not
cause grace, nor would they cause it, except in a subject susceptible to
it, viz., an intellective soul. God, on the other hand, creates grace,
since in producing it He does not rely on a subject. For He could produce
it outside a subject in the same way that He produces it in a subject.
Nor is there anything absurd in the same effect's being created by God
and being produced by a creature or being produced from a subject--as was
held in II, dist. 1, q. 1, art. 3.
This picture celebrates the active power in God, since it holds that
God alone, through the proper act of His free will, principally and properly
causes every positive effect, in itself and in everything belonging to
it. On the other hand, it holds that a creature only concurs, because of
the determination of the divine will, as a cause sine qua non in the way
And this fits in well with Scripture and with what the Saints say. For
the Apostle says, "We are not sufficient to think anything from ourselves,
as though it came from us, but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians
3). And 1 Corinthians 13: "God does all in all."
And, in keeping with this, the doctors commonly deny that a creature
concurs with respect to the effect or terminus of the creation of, say,
the soul or grace, etc., as a cause properly speaking, but not as a cause
sine qua non. For they concede, with respect to (i) a fitting disposition
vis-a-vis grace and (ii) merit vis-a-vis glory and (iii) the disposition
of a human embryo vis-a-vis an intellective soul, that these are causes
sine qua non, even though all the effects in question (grace, glory, the
soul) are properly created by God.
Still, there are strong counterarguments against this picture. For from
what has been posited it would follow that the intellective soul is educed
from the potency of the matter and as a result is not truly created; for
it would not be produced from nothing. The same would hold for grace. But
the consequent is false.
The consequence is proved as follows: The form in question would be
educed from the potency of the matter for the very same reason that the
form of a material substance is. This is proved as follows: In both cases
there is causality sine qua non and so the very same notion of causation,
and in both cases there is an equal dependence of the secondary cause on
the matter itself, i.e., on the subject. For just as fire depends on a
subject in producing the form of fire (for it presupposes a subject and
would not be able to produce the form except in a subject which receives
it), so too the qualitative disposition of the embryo, which is a cause
sine qua non of the production of the soul, would not concur (in its genus
of causality) in the production of the soul unless there were a subject,
viz., an embryo which receives into itself the soul that is produced.
The same holds, mutatis mutandis, for the sine qua non
causes of grace.
In response to this objection one could imagine a threefold argument:
First, one might claim that natural causes educe the forms which they
effect from the potency of the matter (whereas the qualitative dispositions
do not educe the intellective soul and the sacraments do not educe grace)
because of some hidden way in which they are related to their natural effects
and in which the other causes are not related to the soul or to grace--a
way, moreover, which cannot be expressed verbally, but which rests on the
authority of the Saints, who deny that the intellective soul and grace
are educed from the potency of matter or of the subject, but who concede
this in the case of natural forms (e.g., Augustine in De Trinitate
speaks of the seminal powers of the elements); for in many matters the
authority of the Saints is relied on without a conclusive argument.
Or perhaps, along different lines, one could say, more in keeping with
what was said above, that properly speaking no effect is educed from the
potency of matter, but that instead every effect is immediately, truly
and properly created by God alone. For a secondary cause is, on the picture
in question, only a cause sine qua non. And whatever philosophers
have said about the causality of secondary causes all has to be reduced
to talk of causes sine qua non. And it is only in the case of the
First Cause that there is true and proper causality, because it is this
cause alone that by the act of its will properly and truly calls a thing
from non-existence into existence. And if it brings this about in the presence
of a secondary cause, it does so purely voluntarily--not as though the
secondary cause is required or as though the secondary cause does something
without which the effect could not be produced by the First Cause. And
this is why it is merely a cause sine qua non. But God produces
nothing from the potency of a subject, since He needs no such thing in
Or, third, it could be said that the expression 'to be educed from the
potency of the matter' is obscure and not much used among the original
doctors, and for this reason it can harbor I know not what hidden dangers,
and it is difficult to understand, as Lord Peter D'Ailly points out.
Thus, if 'to be educed from the potency of the matter' is for a cause
(extending the term 'cause' to include a cause sine qua non) to
rely, when it is causing, on matter or on a subject, i.e., to require a
subject for the effect which it causes--in the sense that if there were
no subject, then it would not cause--then there is nothing absurd in the
following claim: The soul or grace is produced by certain causes sine
qua non from the potency of the subject, i.e., in such a way that the
cause sine qua non would not concur effectively if there were no
subject receiving the soul or receiving grace. For this interpretation
is reasonable and Catholic.
Nor does it follow from this that the intellective soul exists because
it is "handed down" in the sense that this is denied by blessed
Jerome and by Augustine in Ecclesiastica Dogmata. For more on this
point, see II, dist. 17, q. 1.
Now this interpretation is conceded by everyone. For they concede that
the cause would not concur unless there were a subject receiving the soul;
indeed, the power in question disposes and organizes [the subject] for
the reception of the soul.
The same holds, mutatis mutandis, for the sacraments with respect
On the other hand, if 'to be educed from the potency of the matter'
means something else, then let the signification of the phrase be expressed
clearly and let the response proceed accordingly by conceding what is true
and rejecting what is false. I confess that I am ignorant of the force
this expression has as understood by different people.
I am not writing these things in any way to assert them, but only to
recite them, hoping to provide an opportunity for the more learned, whose
instruction in these matters I seek and look forward to. In the meantime,
I will not shrink away from the manner of speaking common among the doctors,
according to the conclusions set forth in article 2.
Response to dubium: Accordingly, as far as the doubt is concerned,
I respond that natural causes, according to the usage of the doctors, are
called causes properly but that the sacraments are sine qua non
causes of grace.
And the major of the argument is denied, viz., that the sacraments are
causes of grace in the same way that natural causes are the causes of natural
effects. And the First Cause is assumed to be the cause of the difference.
The response to the disproof is as follows: Even if it makes no difference
to the notion of a cause, as far as the thing itself is concerned, whether
the power to cause is received at the time of creation or only after a
thing has been produced, it does make a difference as far as our manner
of speaking is concerned, both because the masters liked to speak in this
way and also because the signification of the term derives from this oral
usage. For the terms exist at the pleasure of those who use them.
And, therefore, because it pleased them to call a cause a natural and
proper cause if it receives its character of being a cause along with its
nature from the first moment of its creation, and to call a cause a cause
sine qua non if it receives this character later on, the conclusions
asserted above will stand.
There is still another difference that can be specified between a natural
cause and a cause sine qua non. For it belongs to a natural cause
to cause in accord with a whole species, so that each of the things in
which such a nature is found is able, in accord with its species, to bring
about a similar effect; but this is not the case with a cause sine qua
non. For even if a layman had the matter of the Eucharist, and had
the intention of consecrating it, and pronounced the official words, he
would still not consecrate it; and yet the specific nature of the bread,
the words and the intention is the same in the case of the layman and in
the case of the priest, I believe. (Now this difference would not suffice
in the case of a natural cause which caused by virtue of a non-specific
indivisible property. But it is valid as far as it can be.)
We will look in greater detail at the intellective soul in book II.
In Sentences IV, dist. 1, q. 1, Peter of Palus seems very clearly
to argue for and defend the above-stated position regarding causality.
You will find there many things which argue well in favor of the proposed
view. So much for this question.
Alfred J. Freddoso
University of Notre Dame