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CHAPTER IV

ANSWER TO OBJECTIONS: MAN’S FREEWILL AND GOD’S FOREKNOWLEDGE

Of objects that move, some have the cause of motion outside them. Such are objects which are lifeless and in passive motion simply by force of condition, and those which are moved by force of nature and of life in the same manner and not like things which move occasionally, for stones and stocks that have been quarried or cut off from growth, being in passive motion simply by force of condition, have the cause of motion outside them.

Such too are dead bodies of animals and movable parts of plants, which change position under compulsion and not as animals and plants themselves change their position but in the same manner as stones and stocks cut off from growth—although even these may be said to move in respect that, all bodies in decay being in flux, they possess the motion inherently attendant upon decay. Besides these a second class of moving objects are those which move by force of their internal nature or life, which are said by those who use terms in their stricter sense to move of themselves.

A third kind of movement is that in animals, which is termed spontaneous movement, whereas, in my opinion, the movement of rational beings is independent movement. If we withdraw from an animal spontaneous movement, it cannot be any longer conceived as even an animal; it will be like either a plant moving by mere force of nature or a stone borne along by some force external to it: Whenever an object follows its own peculiar movement, since that is what we have termed independent movement, it must needs be rational. Thinkers therefore who will have it that nothing is in our power, will necessarily assent to a most foolish statement, firstly that we are not animals, and secondly that neither are we rational beings, but that, what we are believed to do, we may be said to do by force as it were of some external cause of motion and in no sense moving ourselves.

Let anyone, moreover, with special regard to his own feelings, see whether without shame he can deny that it is himself that wills, eats, walks, gives assent to and accepts certain opinions, dissents from others as false. There are certain opinions to which a man cannot possibly assent though he puts them with innumerable refinements of argument and with plausible reasoning: and similarly it is impossible to assent to any view of human affairs in which our free will is in no sense preserved.

Who assents to the view that nothing is comprehensible, or lives as in complete suspense of judgement: Who that has received a sense perception of a domestic misdeed, forebears to reprove the servant? And who is there that does not censure a son who fails to pay the duty owed to parents, or does not blame and find fault with an adulteress as having committed a shameful act? Truth forces and compels us, in spite of innumerable refinements, to impulsive praise and blame, on the basis of our retention of free will with the responsibility in which it involves us.

If our free will is in truth preserved with innumerable inclinations towards virtue or vice, towards either duty or its opposite, its future must like other things have been known by God, before coming to pass, from the world’s creation and foundation; and in all things prearranged by God in accordance with what He has seen of each act of our free wills. He has with due regard to each movement of our free wills prearranged what also is at once to occur in His providence and to take place according to the train of future events. God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of all future events including those that are to have their efficient cause in our freewill guided by impulse.

Even though we should suppose God ignorant of the future, we shall not on that account be incapacitated for effecting this and willing that. Rather it ensues from His foreknowledge that our individual free wills receive adjustment to suit the universal arrangement needful for the constitution of the world. If, therefore, our individual free wills have been known by Him, and if in His providence He has on that account been careful to make due arrangement for each one, it is reasonable to believe that He has also pre-comprehended what a particular man is to pray in that faith, what his disposition, and what his desire.

That being so, in His arrangement it will accordingly have been ordained somewhat after this wise: This man I will hear for the sake of the prayer that he will pray, because he will pray wisely: but that man I will not hear, either because he will be unworthy of being heard, or because his prayer will be for things neither profitable for the suppliant to receive nor becoming me to bestow: and in the case of this prayer, of some particular person, let us say, I will not hear him, but in the case of that I will.

Should the fact of God’s unerring foreknowledge of the future disquiet anyone by suggesting that things have been necessarily determined, we must tell him that it is a real part of God’s fixed knowledge that a particular man will not with any fixed certainty choose the better or so desire the worse as to become incapable of a change for his good. And again I will do this for this man when he prays, as becomes me seeing that he will pray without reproach and will not be negligent in prayer: upon that man who will pray for a certain amount, I will bestow this abundantly in excess of his asking or thinking, for it becomes me to surpass him in well doing and to furnish more than he has been capable of asking.

To this other man of a particular character I will send this angel as minister, to cooperate from a certain time in his salvation and to be with him for a certain period: to that other, who will be a better man than he, that angel of higher rank than his. From this man who, after having devoted himself to the higher views will gradually relax and fall back upon the more material, I will withdraw this superior cooperator, upon whose withdrawal that duly inferior power, having found an opportunity to get at his slackness, will set upon him and when he has given himself up in readiness to sin, will incite him to these particular sins. So we may imagine the Prearranger of All saying:

Amos will beget Josiah, who will not emulate his father’s faults but will find his way leading on to virtue, and will by aid of these companions be noble and good, so that he will tear down the evilly erected altar of Jeroboam. I also know that Judas, in the sojourn of my son among the race of men, will at the first be noble and good but later turn aside and fall away to human sins so that he will rightly suffer thus for them. This foreknowledge, it may be in regard to all things, certainly in regard to Judas and other mysteries, exists in the Son of God also, who in His discernment of the evolution of the future has seen Judas and the sins to be committed by him, so that, even before Judas came into existence, He in His comprehension has said through David the words beginning “O God, keep you not silence at my praise.”—Knowing as I do the future and what an influence Paul will have in the cause of religion, ere yet I set me to begin creation and found the world I will make choice of him: I will commit him from the moment of his birth to these powers that cooperate in men’s salvation.

I will set him apart from his mother’s womb. I will permit him at the first to fall in youth into an ignorant zeal and in the avowed cause of religion to persecute believers in my Christ and to keep the garments of them that stone my servant and witness Stephen, so that later at the close of his youthful wilfulness he may be given a fresh start and change for the best and yet not boast before me but may say: “I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” and realizing the kindness that he will receive from me after his faults committed in youth in the avowed cause of religion may declare “It is by God’s grace that I am what I am”; and, being restrained by conscience by reason of the deeds he wrought while still young against Christ, he will not be excessively elated by the exceeding abundance of the revelations which in kindness I shall show him.

To the objection in reference to prayer for the rising of the Sun we may reply as follows. The Sun also possesses a certain free will, since he with the moon joins in praising God, for “Praise Him, Sun and Moon” it says: as also manifestly the moon and all the stars conformably, for it says “Praise Him all the stars and light.” As, therefore, we have said that God has employed the free will of individual beings on earth for the service of beings on earth in arranging them aright, so we may suppose that He has employed the free will, fixed and certain and steadfast and wise as it is, of sun, moon and stars in arranging the whole world of heaven with the course and movement of the stars in harmony with the whole.

If I do not pray in vain for what concerns any other freewill, much more shall I pray for what concerns the freewill of the stars which tread in heaven their world-conserving measures. It may indeed be said of beings on earth that certain appearances in our surroundings call out now our instability, now our better inclination to act or speak in certain ways: but in the case of beings in heaven what appearances can interpose to oust and remove from the course that benefit the world beings which have each a life so adjusted by Reason independently of them, and which enjoy so ethereal and supremely pure a frame?

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