The reason is explained why it is not God but
created free choice alone which is the cause of sin

1. Concerning the matter under discussion there is no doubt among Catholics; still, they ask for an explanation of why, even though God as the First Cause has an immediate efficient influence on the bad actions of created free choice in such a way that the whole action in question is from God and the whole action is from free choice, nonetheless the viciousness and deformity of that action is attributed not to God but to created free choice.

. . . .

10. Unless I am mistaken, a justifiable and clear explanation is gathered from what was said in the preceding disputations about God's general concurrence. For since (i) God's general concurrence is a concurrence of God's not on the secondary cause but on the action of that cause, and (ii) is of itself (de se) indifferent in such a way that it is because of the diversity of the influence of the secondary cause that an action of this species rather than of some other species follows (indeed, it is a concurrence which does not determine the influence of the secondary cause but is rather determined by that influence to a species of action), when free choice concurs with it, it is because of the varying influence of [free] choice that there follows a willing rather than a willing-against and a willing of a just object rather than of a shameful object. It follows that the actions of free choice (as also of any other secondary cause) have it not from God's general concurrence but rather from free choice itself that they are such-and-such actions in particular and hence that they are upright or vicious.

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11. But there are not wanting those who object as follows to the opinion just proposed:

First objection. God's general concurrence with secondary causes is called general not because (i) in the real esse which it has outside of God it is numerically or specifically one and the same thing, common to all secondary causes and indifferent with respect to each of their effects, but because (ii) by a common and general law God has decided to concur in diverse modes and yet as the nature of each [secondary cause] requires. For the concurrence by which God concurs with a fire is distinct in species from the concurrence by which He concurs with a horse, since God's concurrence with the fire is nothing other than the very effect produced insofar as it is from God, under which aspect it is counted as a type of external divine action in relation to that effect; and God's concurrence with the horse is nothing other than, once again, the effect produced insofar as it is from God, under which aspect it is again counted as a different species of external divine action in relation to such an effect. And since (i) these effects are distinct in species from one another and (ii) the actions are distinct in species because of the diversity of their termini, it follows that these general concurrences of God's are distinct in species, and it follows further that the specifically distinct effects that emanate from the secondary causes have such-and-such esse not only because of the diverse influences of the secondary causes but also because of the diverse modes of divine influence on those same effects.

12. Second objection. Even though God is determined by the secondary causes to concur by means of this species of concurrence rather than another, still, granted that He concurs by numerically this concurrence by which He concurs with the fire, it must necessarily be said that the effect produced is numerically such-and-such not just because of the concurrence of the secondary cause but also because of numerically this concurrence of God's--even though we admit that God would not have used this particular concurrence if he were not concurring with such-and-such a secondary cause.

13. Third objection. This concurrence of God's is a cause of the total being which is found in the effect, as everyone admits, even of that being through which the effect is such-and-such in species and number. Therefore, it is not only from the secondary cause but also from God's general concurrence that the effect is such-and-such; and, consequently, there is no reason why that which follows the effect, insofar as it is such an effect, should not be attributed to God, who concurs by a general concurrence with respect to that effect.

14. These arguments arise from a false understanding on the part of [our] adversaries. For even though they agree with us that God's general concurrence is not an influence of God's on the cause but rather an influence of God's with the cause on the effect, an effect which they claim the concurrence is identical with, still they think that God's universal concurrence is an action numerically distinct from the concurrence of the secondary cause--even though there is nothing but a single action which, insofar as it from God, is called God's concurrence and, insofar as it is from the secondary cause, is called the concurrence of the secondary cause, as was explained in the previous disputations. Otherwise, if they were distinct actions, then since the secondary cause's concurrence is from the secondary cause alone, it would have to be conceded that there is some action (or formal and real type of action) which is not from God as an efficient cause but only from the secondary cause--which is not to be conceded in any way.

15. So to the first argument (§ 11 above) one should reply that it posits something false, viz., that God's general concurrence has in reality some real esse that is either numerically or specifically distinct from the concurrence of the secondary cause. For there is nothing in reality--either the action or the action's effect--which is from God influencing through His general concurrence and not from the secondary cause simultaneously influencing through its own particular influence. Nor can there be any such thing; for these two causes influencing in this way unify both the effect and the action in reality, and for this reason they mutually depend on one another in acting in such a way that the influence of the one cannot, even by the divine power, exist by itself without the influence of the other. And these influences cannot be distinguished in reality except by comparing numerically one and the same action to different causes which in diverse modes have an influence on the whole of that action. Even though, of these two causes, the one which is a universal cause confers the total esse on the action as a partial cause, still it is not from this cause's mode of influence that the action has it that it is an action of such-and-such a species. On the other hand, from the other cause, as from a particular cause and similarly partial cause, the action has its total esse; but just as the action has it from the mode of influence of this latter cause that it is the proper and peculiar action of that same cause, so too it has it that it is such-and-such an action, distinct in species from other actions. Hence it should be denied that by His general concurrence God concurs in diverse modes with diverse secondary causes.

In reply to the proof that is added to this argument, we concede that God's concurrence with the fire is distinct in species from God's concurrence with the horse. But we deny that this follows from the fact that God, just on His own part, has diverse modes of influence with the fire and with the horse. Rather, it follows from the conjunction of the influence of each of these two particular causes on an action which is numerically and specifically one and the same as God's influence; it is from these particular causes, as from an efficient cause, that those universal concurrences of God's have that distinctness in species.

16. To the second argument (§ 12 above) one should reply that since the numerical unity of an action and an effect varies when a variation is made in any part of the cause and in any other circumstance that contributes to the effect, as was shown in Metaphysics 5, certainly just as the effect's being numerically such-and-such depends on the secondary cause's having influence here and now, so too, speaking naturally, it depends on God's having influence here and now and on the other circumstances. Therefore, just as, if the secondary cause were to have its influence at another time or with other circumstances intervening, a numerically different action would follow, so too, if God had His influence at another time or under different circumstances, a numerically different action would follow. Nonetheless, it is not the case that God's concurrence here and now is numerically distinct from the secondary cause's concurrence; rather, they are numerically one and the same concurrence which is the resulting action itself and which they are united in, and they are a single concurrence of both causes, as has been explained. What's more, moral actions have their moral goodness or badness not from their individuating difference but from their specific difference and circumstances, which, if they were absolutely the same in species (albeit numerically different) in any other action of the same species in the genus of nature or of morality, would render that action just as morally good or just as morally evil.

17. To the third argument (§ 13 above) one should reply that the [following two claims] are different: It is also from God's having influence through His universal concurrence, as from a partial cause, that the effect has that by which it is such-and-such; and It comes from God's influence that it is such-and-such. The first of these we concede, but the second we deny; for it has been shown that [the effect's being such-and-such] comes only from the mode of influence of the particular cause, whose proper and particular cause it is. However, since (i) a deformity of fault follows upon an act only in relation to a cause which, in acting, deviates from its norm, and since (ii) this is the secondary cause alone, it follows that even though the being of the act is simultaneously from God as a universal cause, the deformity follows upon the act as the fault of the particular cause alone. For it should be carefully noted that formal notions (e.g., sin, merit, to perceive, etc.) which in their own intrinsic nature include their being from the secondary cause can in no way denominate God as their cause--as if God qua God might sin or merit or perceive. And when formal notions of this sort not only fall completely outside of God's influence but also (as with fault and sin) fall completely outside of God's intention when He confers on a secondary cause His general concurrence along with powers for acting, God is not called a universal cause of them--even though He is called a universal cause of the action that is materially denominated a sin; for by His influence he attains to this action as a universal cause, a point which will become clearer in a moment.

18. From what has been said we have it only that our morally evil actions are not attributed to God as to a positive cause who has an influence on them. This is in accord with the example of the workman who produces swords. For just as the deeds which are done by those who do not use the swords rightly are not imputed to the workman (for the swords are indifferent with respect to good or bad use), but are instead imputed to the free choice of those who use the swords badly, so too, since God's general concurrence is indifferent with respect to good and evil actions, the evil actions should not be attributed to God, but should rather be attributed to those who abuse God's general concurrence in order to do evil.

19. But someone might object: "Just as one finds fault with a workman when he hands a sword over to someone whom he knows will probably abuse it, so too, since God foreknows who is going to abuse His general concurrence, why won't the fault be attributed to Him for not withdrawing His concurrence, since in the same way He is able to impede the sin in question and yet does not will to impede it?"

Nonetheless, one should reply that the story is different with human beings and with God. For since God is the Lord of all and for a justifiable reason exposes his creatures, who are empowered with free choice, to examination and test, so that if they make good use of their free choice, aided by His grace, they will attain eternal life by their own merits, whereas if they use it badly, they are subjected to just punishment--since this is so, He is not obligated to prevent sins but can justifiably permit them. And it pertains to His providence not to deny to singular entities those things which are necessary in order for them to operate in accord with their natures, even if there are some such things which they will use both well and badly. But human beings, who are subject to God and to divine laws, are obligated by divine natural law (i) to prevent the sins of their neighbors, if they are able to do this appropriately, and (ii) not to cooperate in the defect of another. For just as they are obligated by the natural law to love their neighbors as themselves, so too by that same natural law God commands each one to have care for his neighbor. From this it follows that our sins should not be attributed to God as to a cause that could have prevented them and did not prevent them, in the way that a shipwreck is attributed to a sailor if he could have avoided it and yet did not avoid it. For in order for something to be ascribed to someone as to a negative cause, it is necessary that he be obligated and able to prevent it and not prevent it. But God is not obligated to prevent our sins.

Translated by
Alfred J. Freddoso
University of Notre Dame