With the help Father Francisco Nahoi, Jeremy McNeil presented material on predestination in Rhiginni Hall at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in Reno Nevada. The discussion began with a heavy dose of quotes from Aristotle, St. Augustine, and The Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. In particular, the discussion began on the Summum Bonum, the Arista, the chief good of mankind. Jeremy quoted the Nicomachean Ethics Book 2 Section 2.
Εἰ δή τι τέλος ἐστὶ τῶν πρακτῶν ὃ δι᾽ αὑτὸ βουλόμεθα, τἆλλα δὲ διὰ τοῦτο, καὶ μὴ πάντα δι᾽ ἕτερον αἱρούμεθα (πρόεισι γὰρ οὕτω γ᾽ εἰς ἄπειρον, ὥστ᾽ εἶναι κενὴν καὶ ματαίαν τὴν ὄρεξιν), δῆλον ὡς τοῦτ᾽ ἂν εἴη τἀ ἀγαθὸν καὶ τὸ ἄριστον.
If, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake… this must be the Noble and the Arista.
Arista is the superlative form of τἀ ἀγαθὸν, the noble. Arista is also the base from which we get our word, “Aristocrat,” which means chief leader. Aristotle will go on to argue that politics is the Arista that or the most noble thing that he seeks, Arista being about the most noble, the most noble must be about the most noble thing which is the chief leader.
St. Augustine takes over this argument and Aristotle’s idea of the four causes, “Formal” “Material,” “Efficient,” and “Final Cause.” In Jewish thinking, Torah is the formal cause of the world. Torah is the frame of the Jewish house which holds the building together. For Aristotle and St. Augustine, the “Material Cause” is the atoms, the building stuff that God wraps around the frame using his blueprint, the “Formal Cause” to build his house.
The efficient cause is the hammering and cutting, the activity of building. The “Final Cause” is the final ideal of the building set down in the blueprint God uses to build the house. For St. Augustine, God is the “Final Cause”; the goal to which we all seek. For St. Augustine, God is also the “Efficient Cause” in that he is the active agent that molds the clay into who we are to be, the person God wants us to be.
For St. Augustine, we are the material, which God forms for his purposes. With this as the backdrop, Jeremy McNeil presented the question, “If God is all knowing and all powerful, he knows who is going to heaven and who is not. That being the case, where is there room for free will? The thought that came to mind is that of the parent who placed a plate of cookies on the kitchen table. This parent has a five-year old and a ten-year child. She goes to the kitchen and comes back a few minutes later to find all the cookies gone, crumbs on the table and the floor.
The question is, “What happened to the cookies?” Most would agree what happened to them. The five-year old ate them. It was pre-destined. The parent trained the ten-year old not to eat cookies, and the parent has not yet trained the five-year old. The five-year old is predestined to eat cookies at every chance. That is why parents put cookies out of the reach of five-year olds. All is pre-destined, but the five-year old has pre-will. In the same way, God as Abba, Father, and Ahabba, love, the one who is to come, Haba, knows what we are children are going to do before we do it. Children are very predictable; still, we have free will.
What we learn from this is that the Divine does not have to be divine to divine how we as his children will respond to discipline. For the predestined, God knows what discipline will work to bring them to the beatific vision of himself. For those who are not predestined, he knows the discipline will not work. His knowing in advance who will respond to reproof and who will not respond does not mitigate the free will of the children who will respond or not respond. In terms of scholastic philosophy, the potter knows in advance how the material cause will respond to his hand. All is foreknown, and there is free will.