Other objections to our position on
God's general concurrence are refuted

1. There has been no shortage of those who argue in the following way against the position laid out in Disputation 26:

"If God's general concurrence with the fire in heating the water were not an action of God's on the fire by which the fire was directed by God and rendered able to heat the water, but were instead an action of God's along with the fire on the water, then even though if God were to withhold His universal concurrence, the fire would not be able to heat the water, it would still be able to transmit to the water its action and effort, which would not be sufficient to do the heating without God's influence. In the same way," they claim, "if, because of the resistance of a door, the effort and action of two men were required in order to open the door, then certainly if one of them alone were to push the door and if he alone were unable to open it, he would still be transmitting his action and force onto it. For it is not the case that if one agent is unable to do something without the help of another, then it follows that he does not even transmit his action and force to the subject, as is clear in the case of a wrestling match; for whoever is wrestling with someone by whom he is unable to be beaten and thrown still experiences in himself the action and force of his adversary. Therefore, in like manner, even though the fire could not heat the water without God's influence on the water, it would nonetheless be able to transmit its action and force to the water--though this action would not suffice to produce any heat in the absence of God's action. But to assert that the fire would be able of itself, without God's general concurrence, to transmit anything at all is dangerous from the point of view of the faith, since without God's general concurrence nothing at all can be brought about."

2. In response to this argument it should be denied that, given our thesis, the fire is able to transmit its action and force to the water. For I do not see what this action of the fire on the water might be other than an action of heating, insofar as it is from the fire. Likewise, besides (i) the natural power of the fire to produce heat and (ii) the heat of the fire, which is a certain natural inclination or propensity such that if the other conditions required for acting are present, then it will produce heat--besides these, I repeat, I do not see what the force of the fire on the water might be other than the heating itself. Therefore, if the heating by which the fire heats the water cannot exist without the cooperation and universal concurrence of God on the water, then neither the action of the fire nor the fire's effort to produce heat can exist without that same concurrence on God's part. But those who argue in this way seem to be claiming that the action and effort of the fire to heat the water is something distinct from the heating and that the heating is an effect of it, for as long as the action and effort of the fire is greater than the resistance of the water--as seems to be implied also by the examples and proofs which they adduce. But it seems ridiculous to assert that (i) if a hot thing is unable to heat some cold thing because it cannot overcome the resistance of the coldness, then it still impresses some action or effort on the cold thing, or to assert that (ii) when a hot thing heats some cold thing and overcomes its resistance, earlier in nature it impresses on the cold thing an action and effort from which the heating later follows because the power of such an effort and action is then greater than the resistance of the coldness; yet this is what the authors of the proposed argument seem to be claiming. But even if we were to concede this for the sake of argument, their objection would have no force at all against us. For in that case the antecedent effort and action in question would be an action of the fire's on the water which is distinct from the heating that follows; and that action would sometimes be able to occur without the heating. But since a separate universal concurrence on God's part is required for each action and effect, it would certainly be the case that just as the heating which followed upon such an action and effort required a separate concurrence on God's part in order to exist, so too that antecedent action and effort on the fire's part would require another general concurrence on God's part in order to be impressed upon the water by the fire.

As for the proofs and examples which they adduce, it should be said that things are far different in the case of the wrestling match as well as in the case of pushing the door. For in these cases many distinct actions intervene, each of which requires its own distinct universal concurrence on God's part with the secondary cause from which the action proximately emanates.

For besides the act of will by which the man wills to open the door, there is at the same time the act of the sentient appetite by which the same thing is desired and by which the movement of the limbs is commanded, and there is an application of the moving power to the intervening movement of the vital or animal spirits, nerves, muscles, etc., and finally there follows the application and pressing of the limbs against the door by the internal force of the man; each of these actions requires a spearate and distinct universal concurrence on God's part in such a way that even if God has concurred in the preceding actions, still, were He now to withhold His concurrence from the next action, it would in no way follow. Again, from the pressing of the limbs against the door and from the force of this pressing, there is produced in the door a force and impression on the part against which the door is going to be opened, a force similar to that by which a rock that has been thrown is carried upward after leaving the hand. But a greater or lesser force and impression is produced, depending on whether the impelling force is greater or lesser. Now that force impressed on the door is a quality whose production, though it had its source in the local motion of the limbs and their pressing, is nonetheless an alteration really identical with the quality produced; and for that production, as for an action distinct from the preceding actions, another universal concurrence on God's part is required. But if a quality and impression of this sort overcomes the resistance which prevented the door from being opened, then there results a local motion of the door efficiently produced by that force as by an instrument; it is clearly necessary for this latter motion that there be another distinct universal concurrence on God's part, a concurrence which is such that if God did not grant it, then that force impressed upon the door would not bring about the opening of the door.

The same holds for the wrestling match or for a case in which a stone is held in the hand; for a downward impulse and force is produced in the hand by the weight of the stone, an impulse and force by means of which, if it overcomes the resistance of the hand, the hand is moved downward by a motion distinct from that impression.

Now even though for a local motion, especially a violent one, it is necessary that there be an antecedent force or impulse through a previous action, nonetheless for alterations made through the four primary qualities, no previous action is required to precede (in either time or nature) these alterations, i.e., heatings, coolings, etc.; rather, by the very fact that the activity of the agent is greater than the resistance of the patient, alterations of this sort emanate from the agent into the patient and are received in it without any antecedent action or effort or influence.

3. They also argue in this way: "It is a principle in philosophy that secondary causes and all created agents are more perfect when they are in second act, i.e., in operation, than when they are only in first act, i.e., when they only have the power to operate and are in potency to operate. Therefore, when the agent actually acts and operates, it acquires a thing or perfection through which it is perfected. But in a fire which is heating water this perfection cannot be the heating itself, since the action is not in the agent but is instead received in the thing acted upon, and to act is not to receive a perfection in oneself, but is rather to "pour out" one's own perfection and to communicate it to the thing acted upon; nor can it be anything other than a divine influence by which the fire is moved and acquires the energy to be able to produce heat. Therefore, God's general concurrence with the fire to heat the water is (i) an influence of God's on the fire by which the fire is rendered capable in itself to produce the heat and (ii) an influence which is prior in nature to the heating."

4. As for this argument, it should be said that the principle is such that philosophers neither extend it to nor understand it to apply to every agent whatsoever, but only to those agents which act by an immanent action and in relation to which both the principle of operating and the operation itself are acts, i.e., forms found in the agents themselves. Now the act which precedes the other is called a first act, i.e., the prior form in the agent by which it is actuated and informed, whereas the act which follows is called a second act, i.e., the posterior form. And among these principles of operation the soul is a first act in relation to the intellect, and the intellect is a first act in relation to the intelligible species by which it is informed in order that it might understand, and the species itself is a first act in relation to the intellection which, since it is an immanent operation, is the act and posterior form of the intellect itself and is for that reason called its second act. But in agents which act by transeunt action it is unheard of among philosophers that their operation and action should be called their second act. Therefore, since (i) an immanent operation is the proper perfection of the agent, through which perfection the agent is actuated, informed and perfected, and since (ii) each agent of this sort, at least vis-a-vis the principle and potency by which it exercises an operation of this sort, is in passive potency to being perfected by its own operation, agents of this sort are justifiably said by philosophers to be more perfect when they are in second act than when they are only in first act. But since agents which act by transeunt action, even though (according to De Caelo 2, chap. 3) they exist for the sake of their proper operations, still do not thereby exist in order to be perfected by those operations, but rather in order to perfect other things and to serve the various purposes of human beings--since this is so, those things are not said by philosophers to be more perfect in themselves while they are operating than they are before their operation, nor is their operation called their second act. In fact, it is ridiculous to think that philosophers have asserted that agents are more perfect while they are in second act than while they are in first act because of some energy and influence which they are then receiving from God in order to operate--an energy and influence of God's which never even entered the minds of these philosophers--rather than because of the operation itself which is the perfection of agents which act by immanent action.

5. It can also be argued, first, that, as the authors of the contrary opinion concede, the movement or energy in question is something created and is a proximate principle of the production of heat, co-producing with the fire's proper power the act of heating as well as the heat in the water. Therefore, it is a secondary cause and not a primary cause, and hence it stands in need of a new general concurrence. For not even God can create a secondary cause--be it natural or supernatural, proximate or remote--which is able to produce an action or actions without God's general concurrence, since this implies a contradiction.

6. Second, anything composed of (i) the innate and proper power of the fire and of (ii) the motion and energy transmitted from God to the fire is a kind of finite, delimited and determinate power to act, since it is something created. Hence, what is there to prevent God from conferring on some agent an equal or greater power to act in such a way that is power is innate and proper to that agent? Thus, such a natural agent would be able to produce its effect without the cooperation of God's general concurrence, if God's general concurrence were an action on the agent and not rather an action along with the agent on the subject--and this by reason of the fact that nothing at all could exist which does not depend for its conservation as well as for its first production, on God, who confers being immediately on that thing along with the secondary causes.

7. Third, if God's general concurrence with the fire to heat the water were an energy transmitted by God to the fire, then certainly after that energy had once been transmitted and was afterwards persisting in the fire, it would itself be a natural agent acting by a necessity of nature, no less so than the very heat of the fire, and thus just as it heats water without a new general concurrence on God's part, so too it would heat any other thing brought close to it at the same time. Thus it would follow that God is not able to withhold from the fire or from any other natural agent His general concurrence with respect to its action on any one thing without also withholding it with respect to its action on all other things as well; but this, it seems, should not be conceded.

Translated by
Alfred J. Freddoso
University of Notre Dame