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A Defense of Double Agency – with a Goldilocks account of divine sovereignty
I just re-read Fr. Aidan’s revised article, Predestination, Grace, and the Fear of Determinism, the latest in his series of explorations, which test for coherence Matthews Grant’s account of divine causality and dual sources.
Since Grant’s extrinsic libertarianism, Fr Rooney’s intrinsic libertarianism & O’Neill’s compatibilism are all consistent with predestination & efficacious grace, however their conceptions of freedom might otherwise vary, universalism wouldn’t violate freedom in any of their models. See theo-anthropo- note at the bottom.
Still, each of their models, in some way, must be employing impoverished conceptions of freedom & rationality, since they all ostensibly presuppose that one could freely & rationally, finally & definitively, reject God.
Each of them must, in some way, also be employing an impoverished conception of love, which only has recourse to a logical greater good defense that relies on a skeptically theistic mysterian appeal, which, to me anyway, incredulously, implies that God, for now, must remain substantially unintelligible, morally (as well as repugnant, aesthetically; abhorrent, parentally; & absurd, common-sensically).
Still, stipulating that we could fix those conceptions of human freedom & divine love, which theory of God’s causal sovereignty & human freedom, above, might most recommend itself?
On the surface, I’d go with Grant’s account. That’s because it seems to me to better fit the approaches of Maritain, Lonergan, McCabe, McCann, Burrell & that ilk.
First, to place my interpretation of the conversation in context –
On page 71 of _Free Will & God’s Universal Causality_, Grant cites Brian Davies’s characterization of Aquinas’s position, a position presumably shared by Davies himself:
(1) Some things or processes in the world come about of necessity; (2) some do not; (3) yet both come about because of God’s creative activity, which is not to be thought of as like that of a creaturely cause that renders its effect inevitable (or determined or necessitated).
In footnote 51, Grant includes – among other contemporary representatives of that tradition as described by Davies – Burrell, Lonergan, McCabe & McCann. He suggests that McCann makes moves closest to ones made in Chapter 4, Free Creatures of the Universal Cause.
The most salient commitment these thinkers seem to share, in my view, is, at least, an implicit repudiation Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s “God determining or determined: there is no other alternative.”
DBH dismantled this axiom of RG-L’s in “Impassibility as Transcendence: On the Infinite Innocence of God,” in The Hidden and the Manifest: Essays in Theology and Metaphysics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017), 168.
As for the Báñezian tradition, Grant charitably remains agnostic as to whether or not it can adequately accommodate the divine transcendence. I don’t have the philosophical chops to say whether or not it’s consistent with Dual Sources or with libertarian freedom more generally. I have been following Fr Rooney & Taylor O’Neill’s Nova et Vetera exchange, where Fr Rooney offers a neo-Báñezian account that avoids compatibilism. Indeed, in Freedom, even if God decrees it, Fr Rooney writes: Pace Grant, I take two classical theories of grace associated with Domingo Banez and Luis de Molina and argue that these are exempt from Grant’s attack on intrinsic models of divine causality. The classical theories of grace can remain libertarian in just the same sense Grant’s account is.
For those who’d appreciate an accessible back & forth between Báñezians, like O’Neill, and the approaches of other thinkers like Grant, Lonergan & Maritain, I recommed the blogging & podcasts of Pat Flynn. For example, follow the links, below, as well as the many links embedded within these articles:
God’s Impassibility and Knowledge of Sin
In response to Trent’s “resistible efficacious grace that infallibly effects its intended goal,” Bañez & Molina articulated competing theologies of efficacious grace, including its metaphysical foundation. In my points, below, I suggest that the manner in which they even formulate their questions runs afoul Hart’s “Impassibility as Transcendence.” As noted above, Grant takes a more agnostic stance toward how the Bañezian stance would fare in that regard.
Any strengths in Grant’s account come from any of his concordances with that DBH criterion as well as with his convergences with the approaches of Maritain, Lonergan, McCabe, McCann, Burrell & that ilk.
An apparent weakness in Grant’s account is that it does not in the end comport with DBH’s definition of perfect freedom, neither with respect to our terminal nor our historical freedom, which only ever exists in direct proportion to the rational competency of the agent.
Within classical theism, not all conceive sovereignty in all or nothing terms, as if it must be only general or only meticulous. Among classical theists are those for whom divine motion is general. Even within Thomism, interpretations of divine motion have varied on a spectrum from inflationary to deflationary. There are, then, diverse approaches to how it is that we & God synergistically concur.
Our speculations regarding the nature & extent divine sovereignty are not idle. And they’re not just about issues regarding moral culpability or navigating Pelagianism vs Calvinism. We all have a practical stake in appropriately conceiving divine sovereignty. While I don’t generally rely on logical defenses & evidential theodicies to get God out of the dock, for many, a logical defense of evil is important and its degree of plausibility may very well turn on the coherence of any given conception of divine sovereignty. More ubiquitously, various conceptions may be more versus less actionable, existentially, for our diverse spiritualities, our lives of prayer & service. They will color our communal worship and approaches to prayers of petition, intercession & thanksgiving, as well as nurture our hopes for miracles. Whether or not we conceive divine sovereignty in a sufficiently robust way can impact our affective dispositions vis a vis divine intimacy. Finally, a plausible & coherent account of freedom is indispensable to our post-mortem anthropology & eschatology. Universalists are concerned that our children are susceptible, formatively, to being spiritually deformed by perditionism.
I am seldom the designated hitter, pedagogically, especially for what can be arcane theological realities. What I sketch out below represents my attempt to defend a Thomist-inspired Double Agency.
My contention is that dual agency needn’t be conceived as one size fits all. Accounts can vary in terms of variously inflationary vs deflationary stances of divine sovereignty. In terms of plausibility, I aspire below to articulate a Double Agency Account with a Goldilocks View of Divine Sovereignty.
In order to be fully accessible, I’d have to flesh out my abstractions with concrete examples. In the meanwhile, I’ll place it here, storyboard-like, on the outside chance it might help another soul.
1) The way Burrell, McCabe, McCann & their ilk understand freedom is not really a direct over against Calvin, Bañez, Molina, et al.
2) Bañez & Molina are answering a question that makes no sense to those who otherwise properly understand freedom and who otherwise properly employ a single-storey theo-anthropology.
3) Following a proper understanding of freedom within a single-storey theo-anthropology, with DBH we might say that Providence knowingly provides suitably limited scopes of possibilities for any given choice. In so doing, Providence thereby shapes the free course of secondary causation & leads it to a universally good end with no violation of rational creatures’ freedom.
4) That DBH-approach would be more or less consistent with Burrell, McCabe, McCann, Talbott et al?
5) It would be more or less sympathetic to Lonergan & Maritain, who didn’t press their own logics quite far enough, eschatologically?
6) Per what I’m suggesting, above, it may be helpful to inquire how any given thinker might approach the De Auxiliis controversy vis a vis Bañez & Molina, divine & human freedom, freedom & grace, nature & grace, physical pre-motion & moral predestination, etc
7) By approach, I don’t mean “solve” it. Rather, I mean to ask does one
a) choose a side?
b) consider the choices a false dichotomy? or
c) consider the contretemps, itself, a pseudo-problem?
8) Maritain properly sensed that neither choice yielded a good answer, but he, regrettably, still tried to work with the question as framed.
9) Lonergan realized that the controversy was grounded in a bad question.
10) Indeed, Maritain & Lonergan’s best insights regarding what constitutes rational freedom comport much better with the single-storeyed accounts of Blondel, de Lubac & Hart, and not the two-tiered Thomism of RG-L.
11) Maritain & Lonergan knew a surd when they saw one, sin. The notion of a fully free, fully rational, definitive rejection of God would ergo be totally absurd. So, any infernalist residue in their accounts could only have been fideistic? It certainly wouldn’t follow from their theoanthropo-logic?
12) Clearly, many universalists subscribe to the proper conception of freedom, i.e. as per DBH, Burrell, et al. Also, they accept the single-storey Lubacian theoanthropology?
13) At this conceptual juncture, we have merely established a definition of freedom & theoanthropo-grammar, which reflects that we the divine & human are mutually constituted. We have not further stipulated, metaphysically, precisely where the divine causal joints are located and how the divine-human interactions occur?
14) And I’m saying that we haven’t yet fully specified these interactions in the vaguest of causal terms, even, i.e. existential, essential, efficient, material, formal & final, as well as regarding the manner of reduction of limiting potencies by acts, which are variously synergistic.
15) Let’s return, now, to how Providence knowingly provides suitably limited scopes of possibilities for any given choice. Is it not here that we will locate certain impasses and debate degrees of plausibility? How might different folks define that degree of limitation which would be suitable?
16) This might be to ask how inflationary or deflationary one’s view of divine soveriegnty might be in terms of those degrees of limitation, e.g how many metaphysical items one’s ontology of divine motion might include?
17) This might be to ask, also, despite how many metaphysical items one’s ontology of divine motion might include, what view might one have regarding the frequency of any given divine motion on any given subset of metaphysical items?
18) Further, is there no room for divine attenuations of both the frequency & the amplitude of divine interventions, especially as would pertain to any given subset of metaphysical items? Yes, I’m thinking of all manner of efficacious gracings, e.g. healings, infused prayer, myriad consolations, purgative graces, transitory beatific visions, etc.
19) Properly conceived as suitably divinely attenuated, dual agency, alone, needn’t be unsavory? It needn’t entail an inflationary divine sovereignty, e.g. either a comprehensive physical premotion or thoroughgoing moral predestination? It certainly couldn’t entail a wholly deflationary account either, at least, not without discarding indispensable theotic synergisms?
20) This is all just to say that I’ve never concluded that every account of double agency is necessarily tantamount to some type of Bañezian universalism or inverted Calvinism.
21) Many do seem to take great comfort in hyperinflationary accounts of divine sovereignty. They find it deeply consoling to include far more metaphysical items in their ontology of divine motion. I sympathize with that. I just believe the Spirit’s presence is ordinarily high frequency – low amplitude, only extraordinarily low frequency – high amplitude. This Goldilocks account of divine sovereignty has profound practical implications for my life of prayer & Charismatic sensibilities, also for vigilantly remaining on the lookout for those consolations that will strengthen me that I may better serve (the water, said Teresa, is for the flowers). I’m ever on the lookout for signs in the heavens above & wonders on the earth below. Those will mostly be manifested in earthen vessels, in the wealth untold of my interpersonal relationships and as further revealed in my own & my loved ones’ ongoing theotic transformations & Lonerganian conversions. Confer, too, Joe Bracken’s The ‘Contemplation to Attain Love’ as an Experience of Pentecost: Theological Implications, where he employs the universal dynamic of intersubjectivity to explain the Spiritual Exercises.
22) Let me clarify (or obfuscate) why how one employs these causal terms might matter in terms of degrees of coercion vis a vis existential, essential, efficient, material, formal & final causes, as well as regarding the manner of reduction of limiting potencies by acts, which are variously synergistic.
23) By dual agency, those of us who employ the right definition of freedom in a single storey anthropology could believe that all creatures are being sustained by a creatio continua as well as constitutively indwelled, whereby the Spirit’s presence affects us as form to matter.
24) Even transitory beatific visions would affect volition by acting on – not the will, but – the intellect. All that we learn via general revelation by experience & all that we learn via special revelation by faith involves the reduction of final theotic potencies by formal acts of the intellect (epistemic closures).
25) Our volition, as informed by the intellect (in each epistemic closure), then, integrally engages the will in a manner that’s always non-necessitating. The will, for its part, may ignore, refuse, assent or even remain quiescent (e.g. absence of refusal) as any given grace (type or intensity of presence) is gifted.
26) For each & every given type or degree of im/mediate divine presencing, Providence will knowingly provide suitably limited scopes of possibilities for any given choice. In so doing, Providence will thereby shape the free course of secondary causation & lead it to a universally good end with no violation of rational creatures’ freedom.
27) The difference between a sufficient & efficacious grace does not necessarily inhere in a particular gracing or presence, itself. Rather, it often lies in whether or not & how a particular rational agent will respond to a particular presence, manifestation or sign. An efficacious grace elicits a response where a rational agent will infallibly & freely follow his natural inclinations given a particular limitation in one’s scope of possible choices. That overall scope may have been preordained while any particular limitations remain variously open.
28) Thus we are free even in an everlasting beatific vision. Thus we remain free even in an historical, transitory beatific vision. But any time one’s scope of possible choices gets limited in various ways & to different extents, there is no question that one’s autonomy (a richer experience of freedom) will get sacrificed to some degree.
29) So, in terms of divine coercion, while there is never a violation of a rational agent’s will per se, there can be a broadening or narrowing of her range of options via all manner & degrees of divine determination. Everyone is adequately determined & sufficiently free. How could one not say yes to being the Mother of God? Who will, in the end, not finally say: “Be it done to me according to Your Logos & logoi!“
30) All of the above applies only in that context within which I believe that, constitutively, we are already fully equipped ontologically with a nature proportionate to, ergo furnished epistemically with a noetic identity adequate for, the beatific vision.
31) Enter the Calvinists who believe we are totally depraved or the Bañezians who imagine that we aren’t constitutively indwelled & lack a nature proportionate to or even an intrinsic desire for the beatific vision. We are no longer talking about formal causes & intellects but are talking about efficient causes concerning superadditions to the ill-equipped will, itself.
32) When it comes to divine interventions regarding secondary causes, there’s nothing in them, in & of themselves, that need be conceived as repugnant to our free will. Whether in the God-winks of rainbows or the miraculous cures of Lourdes, unquestionably, there are efficient causes in play. Such could, logically, even include a new & improved will, though I otherwise don’t believe, empirically, that’s necessary or happens to be how epistemic closures take place.
33) What does seem totally implausible is a divine economy so bereft of interdeterminacies that Providence must be busying Himself with actively & efficiently reducing the limited material potencies of every butterfly in each flap of its wings.
34) Whether one believes our epistemic closures are brought about synergistically via formal acts that reduce final potencies vis a vis the intellect as would infallibly influence the will or by efficient acts as would outfit us with new epistemic equipment — what does seem repugnant is the thought that God would eventually efficaciously purge some but not all vicious natures, even though such purgative graces would do no violence to anyone’s freedom.
35) The above represents my attempt to differentiate dual agency accounts in terms of deflationary vs inflationary accounts of divine sovereignty. I have elsewhere set forth my logical defense of divinely attenuated efficacious presencings as are always ordered toward globally optimizing (even when locally sacrificing) the autonomy of rational creatures toward the end of the greater glory of God, AMDG, theophanically, and as realized in our expanded scopes of divine intimacy, beatitudinally.
36) This has been a follow to
For the Greater Glory of God
It does seem to me that the whole back & forth between JDR & TPO (and Grant, for that matter) results from their commitment to a two-tiered Thomism (concrete natura pura) and would paradigmatically dissolve (not dialectically resolve) in the single-storeyed account, where the human & divine are co-constitutive, where the human person is constitutively & mutually indwelled, although we’re only aware of the divine presence in a fallible, yet progressive, way, thus always acting with some degree, however meager, of human-divine synergy (which includes, for example, our natural inclinations, our non-culpable defects, our jointly sufficient divine-human acts, etc).
JDR gives a nod in this direction using a reasonable conception of joint sufficiency vis a vis the divine dwelling & efficacious grace. But because his grace-nature account is two-tiered, it leaves us as rational creatures contingently rather than constitutively indwelled.
What should be contingent, it seems, is not the fact of our indwelling but, rather, our degree of awareness of all manner & degrees of multiply-incarnate divine presencings, intrinsic & extrinsic. Such requires the journey of epistemic closure & fosters our autonomous soul-crafting self-determinations. Such is theosis.
Similarly, certain other false dichotomies will dissolve & conflations will disambiguate with the proper conceptions of human freedom & divine love, and proper nature-grace relationship: internal vs external models, efficient vs formal acts, material vs final potencies, ontic vs moral evils, fallible vs culpable defects, etc
JDR makes another move in response to the infamous RG-L maxim: “God is either determining or determined, there is no other alternative.” He agrees with Stump’s denial that knowledge of some fact about what a creature freely does requires that God be causally acted upon by the creature. He agrees that “God can be eternal and know the free actions of creatures, then, without causing them or without being causally affected by those actions.” And he expands on Timpe’s point that “contemporary accounts of truth-making, the relation holding between a true proposition and whatever that makes or necessitates the truth of that proposition, is not a causal relation.”
JDR rejects theological determinism as “the view that God’s decisions are individually and totally sufficient to account for all the contingent truths about creaturely actions.”
JDR analyzes Grant’s account of concurrence, regarding effects where it seems that God would be a sufficient cause of one’s choosing & we would be a sufficient cause of our choosing, suggesting that these must be only jointly sufficient, not individually so. But how so? God can be both eternal & responsive to creatures in time without being causally affected, without violating simplicity.
Even a neo-Báñezian-libertarian could advance a universalist account, wherein – what would be monergic would be each person’s creatio ex nihilo with a divine-human co-constitution & indwelling (contra any concrete natura pura). What’s would be synergic is 1) how that co-constitutive indwelling works, gifting us those free natural inclinations that we’ll infallibly follow when efficaciously graced, as well as 2) how every act is a human-divine reality, its effects ensuing from causes that are jointly, not individually, sufficient.
Most understand that it would be wrong to characterize Aquinas vs Scotus as a thoroughgoing intellectualist vs voluntarist. While one may emphasize the intellect & the other the will, neither ever wholely negates the other aspect of volition. e.g. Scotus is, then, moderately voluntarist.
It seems to me that something similar is in play in competing accounts like Grant’s extrinsic libertarianism, Fr Rooney’s intrinsic libertarianism & O’Neill’s compatibilism. Those stances aren’t as far apart as many suppose.
On a close read, it seems to me that they’re often using differently defined terms & applying them to different categories, e.g. creation vs motion. So, they’ll end up variously interpreting patterns of divine-human interactivity by moreso emphasizing particular aspects of freedom or determination, as influenced interiorly or exteriorly, transcendently or temporally, etc
Those competing stances, in my view, are best characterized as moderately libertarian or moderately compatibilist. And any of them could be co-opted by universalists, who’d employ proper understandings of freedom, both terminal (beatific vision) & historical (epistemically distanced), while eschewing any concrete natura pura.
For the universalists, conceptions like election, predestination & efficacious grace would apply to all manner of mystical realities even while perdition, itself, would not even refer.
Indeed, almost every metaphysical idiom or divine sovereignty model would work more seamlessly, theologically, and with fewer contrivances, philosophically, if it didn’t have to bite the perditionism bullet, when modeling predestination & efficacious grace together with freedom.
What all of those competing accounts have (or could have) in common is that strategies like decrees & premotion have more to do with divine epistemology than human freedom. They have more to do with properly accounting for divine acts & avoiding passivity and with grounding counterfactuals (or not) and nothing to do with creaturely necessitation. They have more to do with preserving divine simplicity than conserving or violating creaturely autonomy.
I think that most of the confusion surrounding strategies like premotion come from conflating notions as popularly conceived regarding natural determinism with those that would pertain to a valid theological determinism. Such causal terms do not apply univocally between those otherwise analogical determinisms. Eternal causes interact with creatures in our realm of determinate being in a manner that’s wholly non-necessitating vis a vis our rational wills, precisely because nature, as divinely created, is permeated with contingencies. Whichever model one chooses to ground counterfactuals (or not), to preserve simplicity & respect human freedom, our patterns of divine-human interactivity vis a vis jointly sufficient motions (&, in some sense, perhaps even jointly sufficient co-creation?!) will remain inalterably synergistic, even as that synergism may vary in degrees of divine-human a/symmetry.