The Divine Processions and creation

St. Thomas says that the revelation of the Trinity destroys certain errors about creation, most of all the error that creation was necessary. What does this mean?

Without the revelation of processions in the divine nature, as far as we know the first procession is the procession of creatures from God. This procession would have to be either necessary or not. If necessary, creation would have a certain equality to God (for creation would be just as eternal, imperishable, subsistent, and permanent as God himself); but if free, it could not be an imitation or participation in any prior procession, and so it would be absolutely arbitrary. The first position was that of the Latin Averroists, the second seems very much like the common Islamic position about creation.

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2 Comments

  1. humblesmith said,

    November 17, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    How is it that if it proceeds freely, it has to be absolutely arbitrary? Could it not proceed freely from God, yet still be determined that it would do so?

  2. a thomist said,

    November 17, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Perhaps one could make it work, but I don’t think it would be the most reasonable option without a prior knowledge of the interior processions in God. For the Christian, God’s free act of creating is a certain way in which creation is made to take part freely in a procession that happens by nature within the divine. A free processon is modeled after a natural one. If we say that creation was done freely, then without the Trinitarian procession the first procession is free in such a way that it is made from no pre-existing natural procession. This strikes me as making it by definition arbitrary.

    A mystery still remains in creation whatever one says, but I think the Trinitarian processions at least save us from the idea that the free procession of creatures from God was the first procession absolutely speaking, made apart from any natural model of the process.

    But I don’t have a great deal of confidence about this post. I thonk there’s something right about it, but I wouldn’t want it to be taken in such a way that I would be saying that in lieu of the Trinitarian revelation, we could have demonstrated that the universe must be either necessary or arbitrary.

    One might counter that St. Thomas never uses the Trinitarian processions in defending the idea of the freedom of creation. This is right. I might answer by saying that the argument from simplicity (or some attribute of the divine nature) to arbitrariness of creation simply hadn’t come up yet, or at least not as a widespread and serious objection. But all this would lead to a rather large argument again.


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