On God's concurrence with secondary causes
with respect to each of their actions and effects

1. Now that our freedom of will has been established, we have to discuss both (i) the general concurrence by which God concurs with all the secondary causes and hence with free choice with respect to every action and effect, and also (ii) the particular concurrence by which our will is further divinely aided with respect to its supernatural works. For these two types of divine concurrence are very different from one another, and they are not related to our will in the same way. And, doubtless, unless we have the manner of both types of concurrence in clear view, we will not be able to understand (i) how our freedom of choice with respect to both natural and supernatural works can remain intact, and thus too the contingency of things we are trying to establish along with it, or, likewise, (ii) how that same freedom of choice fits together with God's grace, foreknowledge, will, providence, predestination and reprobation. Finally, an understanding of and explication of many grave difficulties depends upon a knowledge of both modes of concurrence.

2. And so beginning with the first kind of concurrence, we will speak first of God's general concurrence with all secondary causes, and, next, of that same concurrence with free choice as regards natural actions and effects. Then, further, we will demonstrate from the manner of His concurrence that it is not God but we who are, through our free choice, the cause of our sins. Lastly, we will examine whether or not it is the case that if God were to act from a necessity of nature and yet were to concur with free choice and the other secondary causes with precisely the sort of general concurrence by which He now acts, the contingency of things would remain intact.

3. Now as far as the present disputation is concerned, in addition to those whom St. Thomas refers to in Summa Theologiae 1, q. 105, a. 5, in Sentences 2, dist. 1, q. 1, a. 4, in De Potentia, q. 3, a. 7, and in Contra Gentes 3, chap. 69, Gabriel (in Sentences 4, dist. 1, q. 1, a. 1, [notabile 3], and a. 3, dubia 2 and 3), following Peter D'Ailly, is of the opinion that secondary causes bring about nothing at all, but that God by Himself alone produces all the effects in them and in their presence, so that fire does not produce heat and the sun does not not give light, but instead it is God who produces these effects in them and in their presence. Hence, in dubium 3 cited above he claims that secondary causes are not properly causes in the sense of having an influence on the effect; for it is only the First Cause which he affirms to be a cause in this sense, whereas secondary causes, he claims, are to be called causes sine qua non, insofar as God has decided not to produce the effect except when they are present. Also, in the first article, cited above, he asserts with Peter D'Ailly that when God produces an effect in conjunction with a secondary cause, e.g., heat in conjunction with fire, He contributes no less than He would contribute were He to produce the same effect by Himself--in fact, He brings about more, since not only does He produce the heat with a concurrence just as great as if the fire were not present, but He also brings it about that the fire too is in its own way a cause of the heat.

4. He supports this position (which he takes to celebrate the divine power to the greatest possible extent, since it holds that all effects are from God not just partially, but totally and properly) by citing 1 Corinthians 12:6, ". . . who works all in all," and 2 Corinthians 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient to think of anything by ourselves, as if it came from us; but our sufficiency is from God."

5. Nonetheless, everyone rejects this position, and St. Thomas (in Sentences 2 and Contra Gentes 3, in the places cited above) justifiably calls it stupid. For what can be more stupid than to deny that which is obvious from experience and sensation? Yet it is obvious to the senses that secondary causes elicit and exercise their own operations.

Now if this view were understood to apply to all causes in general, even to the will and to free choice, as its authors seem to intend, then certainly not only is it incompatible with the experience by which each of us experiences in his very self that it is within his power to will and not to will, but clearly it must also be judged as an error from the point of view of the faith; for it completely destroys our freedom of choice and thus robs our works of every vestige of virtue and vice, of merit and demerit, of praise and blame, of reward and punishment. For if it is not the will which operates, but God alone who elicits in it the good and evil operations, then, I ask: What sort of freedom remains in it? Or what sort of merit and praise or sin or blame can be attributed to it by reason of the fact that it acts in one way or the other?

But even if the position in question were understood to apply only to secondary causes which are not endowed with free choice, it would doubtless still be insufficiently safe from the point of view of the faith.

For, indeed, Sacred Scripture attributes operations of this sort to secondary causes in such a way as to signify that these operations are truly effected by their causes. Mark 4:28, "For of itself the earth bears the crop, first the blade, then the ear, etc." Luke 21:29-30, "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; when they now produce of themselves their buds . . .". Thus in De Civitate Dei 7, chap. 30 Augustine says, "God administers all things which He has created in such a way that He also allows them to exercise and perform their proper acts."

6. Next, the position is refuted by arguments. Given this position, the following proposition would be false: 'The sun gives light', 'Fire produces heat', etc., since it would not be the secondary causes which bring about these things, but rather God in their presence. But this consequent is contrary both to the common way of speaking and also to the common sense of human beings. Furthermore, since according to Aristotle in De Caelo 2, chap. 3, each thing exists for the sake of its proper operation, it would follow that all things exist in vain, since the things themselves would not be doing that for which they were instituted, but rather God would be doing it in their presence. Likewise, since God is just as able to make a given thing cold in the presence of fire and to make it hot in the presence of water as vice versa, fire could just as easily be the cause of cooling and water of heating as vice versa. Indeed, since God could create an angel or some other thing in the presence of a rock, a rock could be a cause of creation--which, even though Gabriel concedes it, is obviously as absurd as can be. Again, that which experience attests to should not be denied in the absence of a compelling reason; but not only is there no compelling reason, there is not even a plausible reason which might recommend the claim that created things do not truly exercise the actions which experience teaches originate from those same causes. Again, one extols God's power more by claiming that He can bring about the operations of all things both by Himself and through the powers He confers on secondary causes than by claiming that He alone is able to bring them about.

7. As for the first passage from Paul for the contrary (# 4 above), it should be said that he is talking here about the operations of grace, as is plainly obvious if the things which precede and follow are taken into consideration; and those operations are from God, though with our cooperation.

8. To the second passage (# 4 above) it should be replied similarly that this passage has to do with a sort of cogitation which is sufficient for someone to be a deserving minister of the New Testament, as will be clear enough to anyone who carefully looks at Paul's context; but for that the grace and concurrence of the Holy Spirit are necessary. Yet even if both passages had to do with natural operations, they would still not imply anything contrary to our position, since all operations are from God through a universal concurrence, with simultaneous cooperation on our part.

9. Durandus' position in Sentences 2, dist. 1, q. 5, is exactly the opposite of the position just impugned. For he contends that secondary causes act and produce their effects in such a way that God concurs with them by no action other than that of conserving their natures and the powers he has endowed them with.

10. He argues for this claim as follows: First, the effects of secondary causes are said to be from God by means of secondary causes. Therefore, they are not immediately from God, but from the secondary causes alone, whereas they are from God only mediately, inasmuch as He, as the First Cause, has conferred on the secondary causes their existence and power to act and has conserved this power in them.

11. Second, if God operated immediately with secondary causes in the production of their effects (e.g., with fire in the production of heat), then he would act either by numerically the same action by which the fire acts, or by a different action. Not by the same action, because, first of all, since that action does not exceed the power of the species fire, the fire is capable of effecting it without any concurrence on God's part, given the conservation of the fire's nature and active power; therefore, God's concurrence would be superfluous. Second, numerically the same action cannot be from two causes in such a way that it is completely and immediately from each of them unless they act by means of numerically the same power--in the way in which the Father and the Son completely and immediately spirate the Holy Spirit, since they produce Him by numerically the same spirative power. But the generation of fire is completely and immediately from the fire, since this generation is not beyond the power of the species fire itself. Therefore, it cannot at the same time be immediately from God, since God and the fire do not act by means of the same power or active potency. Nor does God act by an action numerically distinct from that by which the fire acts. This is proven both from the fact that one of the two actions would be superfluous, and also from the fact that the actions could not be different from one another, because actions are distinguished by their termini and in this case the terminus or effect produced is the same.

12. Third, the order of agents corresponds to the order of ends. But there cannot be two immediate and complete ends for one thing. Therefore, neither can there be two agents, unless perhaps they take the place of one complete agent, in the way that two people dragging a boat constitute one total and sufficient and complete cause; in the same way, there can also be many partial ends of the same thing.

13. Most judge this position of Durandus' to be erroneous, and this point is intimated by Soto in Physics 2, q. 4, concl. 1. I, however, judge it to be at the very least false and less than safe. For when Paul (Acts 17:28) shows that God is not far away from any of us not only because we exist in Him but also because we "move in Him", he is openly intimating that God concurs immediately in our every movement; for the presence of an agent by its substance is not correctly inferred from a mediate concurrence and action. Again, when the kingly prophet (Psalm 138: 7-10) shows that wherever one might go off to, God would still be present there, because one would have to be led there and held by the hand of God, he is obviously affirming that God concurs immediately in every local motion. See Job 10:8: "Your hands have formed me and you fashioned me whole," and a while later at 10:10, "Did not you pour me out like milk . . . ?", where the effects of secondary causes are attributed also to God as a co-operator. Likewise, at Isaiah 26:12 we read, "You do all of our acts in us, Lord"--and at Wisdom 8:1, "She reaches from end to end mightily, and governs all things smoothly." See John 5:17: "My Father works even until now, and I work." See Augustine, In Genesim ad Litteram 4, chap. 12 and 5, chap. 20, where in accord with this passage from John he teaches excellently that on the seventh day God rested from all the work of the creation of the world and from producing new species in such a way that He nonetheless never ceases to conserve those same things and to cooperate with secondary causes in the production of their effects.

14. Durandus' position can also be shown to be false from reason. First, no effect at all can exist in nature unless God by His influence in the genus of efficient causation immediately conserves it. For it would be strange if an angel and other substances depended in that way on God (as was shown in q. 8 of Part I), whereas actions and the other accidents which are in those substances did not likewise depend on God. For in that case it would follow that if God wished to destroy the actions and accidents while preserving the substances, it would not enough for Him to take away the influence by which the former are conserved by Him, but rather He would have to perform some additional contrary action--which cannot be truly maintained. For what other contrary action can be imagined for, say, extinguishing the light of the sun while preserving the substance of the sun, since there is no contrary either to the light or to the action by which it emanates from the substance of the sun? Indeed, unless you claimed that the light can be extinguished by the mere subtraction of a divine action, you would have to acknowledge that the light cannot be extinguished by God in any way as long as the substance of the sun is preserved. Thus, it should be said that all created things are entirely dependent on the immediate influence of the Source from which they emanate. But since that which is necessary for the conservation of a thing is all the more necessary for the first production of the thing, it surely follows that nothing at all can be produced by secondary causes unless at the same time the immediate and actual influence of the First Cause intervenes. So it is proper to the First Cause alone to depend on the influence of no other cause in the production and conservation of its effects, whereas other causes depend upon the assistance and general influence of the First Cause in both producing and conserving their effects.

15. Second, if God did not cooperate with a secondary cause, He surely would not have been able to bring it about that the Babylonian fire did not burn the three young men, except by, as it were, opposing it or by impeding its action either (i) through some contrary action or (ii) by placing something around the young men or (iii) by conferring on them some resistant quality which might prevent the fire's impressing its action upon them. Therefore, since this derogates both the divine power and also the total subjection by which all things submit to and obey God, it should be claimed without doubt that God cooperates with secondary causes, and it was only because God did not concur with the fire in its action that the young men were not consumed by the fire.

16. As for Durandus' first argument, it should be said that the effects of secondary causes are said to be from God by means of secondary causes, not because God acts through a universal concurrence, but rather because He brings about effects through those very causes as through ministers or instruments which receive the power to act from Him.

17. The refutation of the second argument will be clearer from what is going to be said in the next disputation. In the meantime it should be said that God acts by numerically the same action, which, insofar as it is from God, is called an action of God's and His universal concurrence, but which, insofar as it is from the fire, it is called an action and concurrence of the fire's; still, it is from the fire that the action has the character of being a burning--and not from God, except via the determination of the fire, which concurs simultaneously in that action.

18. In response to the first proof to the contrary, it should be denied that it does not exceed the power of the fire for that action to be done without the assistance of God's universal concurrence. For to act with nothing else assisting is proper to God and exceeds every created power; for every created power, insofar as it depends on another for its nature, depends on that other for its operation as well--especially since, as has been shown, all effects depend upon God in such a way that even after they have been produced, they are not able to exist at all unless God conserves them by His influence.

19. In response to the second proof (# 11 above) it should be said that an action of this sort is not completely and totally from the fire, if we are speaking of an absolutely total cause, but is rather partly from the fire and partly from God; on the other hand, it is wholly and totally from each of them in its own order, i.e., from the fire in the order of particular causes and from God in the order of universal First Causes, as will be explained in the next disputation.

20. In response to the third proof (# 12 above) it should be said that God and the secondary cause constitute one agent which is altogether complete as regards the effect to be produced, even though each of them is complete in its own order, as will be explained in the next disputation. So understood, there is nothing incongruous in two agents concurring simultaneously in the same action, as Durandus himself acknowledges.

Translated by
Alfred J. Freddoso
University of Notre Dame