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From antiquity philosophers have argued that we can know that there is a God and that we can know some things about him. In the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions one of the sine qua non things about God is that he is immovable (though that terminology is more Aristotelian than Platonic). To Aristotle in particular, if a thing is moveable it is not God at all (c.f., Physics VII, Metaphysics II). Like Aristotle, St. Thomas' proofs for the existence of God demonstrate not only that God exists, but also that he cannot be moved (see the Five Ways ST I.2. 3 s.c.). It is important to note here that movement does not imply only physical movement. It implies any kind of change, or, for a philosophically precise definition, movement is "the actualization of potential qua potential".

In the Catholic tradition we have clear and undeniable precedent for the efficacy of petitionary prayer. This precedent holds authority of the Gospels themselves (as Paul mentioned, we may list the Wedding at Cana in addition to several of Our Lord's own statements such as "Ask and it shall be given"). It is important to establish here that if, upon being petitioned, one changes one's mind, one has been moved, and precisely in the sense that St. Thomas means when he argues for the existence of God. That is, some potential in one's will has been actualized. So how does the efficacy of petitionary prayer preserve the immutability of God's will?

This is an extremely important problem for Catholics to be able to resolve, because the implications of classical philosophical theology are that if a thing can be moved it is not God.

St. Thomas thinks he resolves this apparent conflict in the Summa here, here, here.


Sorry to leave a cliff-hanger and dumping links, but this is all the time I have for now. Might have more time later tonight to summarize St. Thomas' thoughts, but those who want to read St. Thomas on their own are welcome. Nota bene, I have not linked to all the relevant places in the Summa; so if you do want to read it on your own, please read these links then browse the index to find the other relevant articles. I'll definitely summarize tomorrow if I don't have time tonight. The main purpose of this post was to explain the problem.
From  the Catechism of St Pius X - On Prayer 

11 Q. Which are the chief things we should ask of God?


A. The chief things we should ask of God are His own glory, our eternal salvation and the means of obtaining it.

12 Q. Is it not also lawful to ask for temporal goods?

A. Yes, it is lawful to ask God for temporal goods, but always with the condition that these be in conformity with His Holy will and not a hindrance to our salvation.

13 Q. If God knows all that is necessary for us, why should we pray?

A. Although God knows all that is necessary for us, He nevertheless wills that we should pray to Him so as to acknowledge Him as the Giver of every good gift, to attest our humble submission to Him, and to merit His favours for ourselves.
Jovan explained it well, quoting Pope St. Pius X. Just today, I came across an article written by Bishop Athanasius, two years ago today, that explains very why nicely we render prayer and adoration to God, citing St. Thomas. These things are for our sake, they elevate our minds and raise our hearts up to God, and deepen our love and appreciation for His Ever-Present Gifts.

"Certain sensible works are performed by man, not to stimulate God by such things, but to awaken man himself to divine matters by these actions, such as prostrations, genuflections, vocal prayers, and hymns. These things are done not because God needs them, for He knows all things, and His will is immutable, and the disposition of His mind does not admit of movement from a body for His own sake; rather, we do these things for our sakes, so that our attention may be directed to God by these sensible deeds and that our love may be aroused. At the same time, then, we confess by these actions that God is the author of soul and body, to Whom we offer both spiritual and bodily acts of homage.[1]" https://onepeterfive.com/acceptable-wors...-new-book/

God Wills to make the reception of some graces contingent upon our sincere efforts to obtain them. He doesn't change, but we do change.
(06-27-2019, 09:09 AM)XavierSem Wrote: [ -> ]Jovan explained it well, quoting Pope St. Pius X. Just today, I came across an article written by Bishop Athanasius, two years ago today, that explains very why nicely we render prayer and adoration to God, citing St. Thomas. These things are for our sake, they elevate our minds and raise our hearts up to God, and deepen our love and appreciation for His Ever-Present Gifts.

"Certain sensible works are performed by man, not to stimulate God by such things, but to awaken man himself to divine matters by these actions, such as prostrations, genuflections, vocal prayers, and hymns. These things are done not because God needs them, for He knows all things, and His will is immutable, and the disposition of His mind does not admit of movement from a body for His own sake; rather, we do these things for our sakes, so that our attention may be directed to God by these sensible deeds and that our love may be aroused. At the same time, then, we confess by these actions that God is the author of soul and body, to Whom we offer both spiritual and bodily acts of homage.[1]" https://onepeterfive.com/acceptable-wors...-new-book/

God Wills to make the reception of some graces contingent upon our sincere efforts to obtain them. He doesn't change, but we do change.

This is an argument for liturgical prayer, not individual supplication or intercession.
I'm beginning to understand from a new perspective why the Orthodox think Latins make too heavy a use of pagan philosophy in their theology.  It's good as far as it goes in helping to get a general grasp of how God relates to the world, but this "unmoved mover" train of thought seems, at least to me, more to place God in a box than it does to really help one relate to him.  If even God's will has no cause, and is thus immutable, then God, and his will, are essentially inanimate objects.  Brick walls are immutable, intellectually and volitionally.  Persons are not.  If God's intellect and will are immutable, then how can we be said to have been made in his image?

If God's will cannot be changed, then the objections to Catholic theology leading to Calvinism are hollow.  Everything would depend ultimately on God's will, including one's salvation or damnation.  I've argued in other threads why Catholic and Calvinist predestination are effectively the same thing.  Thomist apologists try to use efficacious grace as a crutch, but it doesn't work.  If a person is incapable of making a choice for good because God did not give them efficacious grace, then placing the blame on the sinner is a cop-out.  God actively withheld the grace necessary for them to choose good, as sufficient grace alone does not effect salvation in the sinner.  If God's will is immutable, then God willed to create a person who never possibly could have been anything but damned - this is Calvinism.  An immutable God is necessarily the same monster the Calvinists worship - there can be no other logical possibility.

Further, if God's will is immutable, and supplicatory prayer is effective because it is God's will that we should ask him for the things he already intends to give us, then this seems like a very easy way for a person to frustrate God's will.  What happens if we refuse to ask?  Will God give it anyway, because it is his will to give it?  Or will he withhold it because he wants us to ask, and even though we never do, he honors his will for us to ask and ultimately is not able to bring about the thing for us that he wanted (an affront to God's absolute sovereignty)?  Or maybe God's will is so impersonal to us that really the only thing he wills is that we ask, and he really cares not one whit whether we get the thing we asked for or not?  But if it is his will that we ask, again, is there really any choice, then, in us asking?

The efficacy of supplication and intercession from others can only be salvaged if one puts away immutable will theology.
(06-26-2019, 07:22 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]From  the Catechism of St Pius X - On Prayer 

11 Q. Which are the chief things we should ask of God?


A. The chief things we should ask of God are His own glory, our eternal salvation and the means of obtaining it.

12 Q. Is it not also lawful to ask for temporal goods?

A. Yes, it is lawful to ask God for temporal goods, but always with the condition that these be in conformity with His Holy will and not a hindrance to our salvation.

13 Q. If God knows all that is necessary for us, why should we pray?

A. Although God knows all that is necessary for us, He nevertheless wills that we should pray to Him so as to acknowledge Him as the Giver of every good gift, to attest our humble submission to Him, and to merit His favours for ourselves.

What good does it do God for us to pray for his own glory?  Why would God want us to pray just to acknowledge him as the Giver of every good gift?  What purpose does that serve?

If a human behaved in the same way, you would agree that they were a narcissist, right?  More importantly, in your personal experience of Christ, have you ever felt him desire your praise more than you felt his desire to simply fill you with his love?  Do the Gospels paint a picture of Christ as the former or as the latter?
(06-26-2019, 07:22 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]From  the Catechism of St Pius X - On Prayer 

13 Q. If God knows all that is necessary for us, why should we pray?

A. Although God knows all that is necessary for us, He nevertheless wills that we should pray to Him so as to acknowledge Him as the Giver of every good gift, to attest our humble submission to Him, and to merit His favours for ourselves.

(06-27-2019, 09:09 AM)XavierSem Wrote: [ -> ]Jovan explained it well, quoting Pope St. Pius X. Just today, I came across an article written by Bishop Athanasius, two years ago today, that explains very why nicely we render prayer and adoration to God, citing St. Thomas. These things are for our sake, they elevate our minds and raise our hearts up to God, and deepen our love and appreciation for His Ever-Present Gifts.

"Certain sensible works are performed by man, not to stimulate God by such things, but to awaken man himself to divine matters by these actions, such as prostrations, genuflections, vocal prayers, and hymns. These things are done not because God needs them, for He knows all things, and His will is immutable, and the disposition of His mind does not admit of movement from a body for His own sake; rather, we do these things for our sakes, so that our attention may be directed to God by these sensible deeds and that our love may be aroused. At the same time, then, we confess by these actions that God is the author of soul and body, to Whom we offer both spiritual and bodily acts of homage.[1]" https://onepeterfive.com/acceptable-wors...-new-book/

God Wills to make the reception of some graces contingent upon our sincere efforts to obtain them. He doesn't change, but we do change.

Yep, these are basically the answer St. Thomas gives. Sorry if I was totally patronizing in my posts here and in the other thread. That was not my intention. I had misinterpreted some people's posts in the other thread, too.
Quote:I'm beginning to understand from a new perspective why the Orthodox think Latins make too heavy a use of pagan philosophy in their theology.  It's good as far as it goes in helping to get a general grasp of how God relates to the world, but this "unmoved mover" train of thought seems, at least to me, more to place God in a box than it does to really help one relate to him.

The object of philosophy is to know truth, not to "relate", whatever that means.

The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle is either true or it's not. If it is, we have to make use of it in our theology, because the object of science is truth. If it's not, we should discard it. There is much pagan philosophy that does not find truth. The early church kept what was true, as is only reasonable. Truth can't contradict truth, so we have nothing to fear from what is good in the pagan philosophers.

 
Quote:If even God's will has no cause, and is thus immutable, then God, and his will, are essentially inanimate objects.  Brick walls are immutable, intellectually and volitionally.  Persons are not.  If God's intellect and will are immutable, then how can we be said to have been made in his image?

This is very bad theology.

Does God experience time? If yes, he didn't create it, and therefore isn't really God. If no, how can he undergo any kind of change?


Quote:If God's will cannot be changed, then the objections to Catholic theology leading to Calvinism are hollow.  Everything would depend ultimately on God's will, including one's salvation or damnation.  I've argued in other threads why Catholic and Calvinist predestination are effectively the same thing.  Thomist apologists try to use efficacious grace as a crutch, but it doesn't work.  If a person is incapable of making a choice for good because God did not give them efficacious grace, then placing the blame on the sinner is a cop-out.  God actively withheld the grace necessary for them to choose good, as sufficient grace alone does not effect salvation in the sinner.  If God's will is immutable, then God willed to create a person who never possibly could have been anything but damned - this is Calvinism.  An immutable God is necessarily the same monster the Calvinists worship - there can be no other logical possibility.

This is a very strong claim, but you don't really understand the arguments you're criticizing. Take a look at Aquinas' de Malo Article 2, if you really want to try and find an answer.

Aquinas' position on this issue is actually identical to Augustine's if that's worth anything.

I apologize in advance if this isn't the case with you; but most of the anti-Thomas-ers I've met aren't willing to actually do the reading and try to understand why St. Thomas says what he does before they dismiss him. In other words, they hear his conclusions and think that those conclusions sound wrong, and are unwilling to look at the premises.

Quote:Further, if God's will is immutable, and supplicatory prayer is effective because it is God's will that we should ask him for the things he already intends to give us, then this seems like a very easy way for a person to frustrate God's will.  What happens if we refuse to ask?  Will God give it anyway, because it is his will to give it?  Or will he withhold it because he wants us to ask, and even though we never do, he honors his will for us to ask and ultimately is not able to bring about the thing for us that he wanted (an affront to God's absolute sovereignty)?  Or maybe God's will is so impersonal to us that really the only thing he wills is that we ask, and he really cares not one whit whether we get the thing we asked for or not?  But if it is his will that we ask, again, is there really any choice, then, in us asking?

You didn't look at my links, did you? Which is fine, I didn't really expect anyone to. Just didn't want to leave the first post with no answers at all.

Paul hinted at this in the other thread when he said that God planned from the beginning to make the prayers of the faithful the efficient cause of whatever grace has been requested. And that's the answer.

If you don't like St. Thomas' answer, I suggest you look at Leibniz (paragraphs 40 and further) for an alternative (pages 3-4 in particular). This is not Thomistic; but he preserves the immutability of God's will and the efficacy of prayer.

Regardless, the west generally regards the immutability of God's will as a truth discoverable by natural reason and not reliant on revelation. If you want to get into the philosophical arguments we can.
(06-27-2019, 10:57 AM)Melkite Wrote: [ -> ]I'm beginning to understand from a new perspective why the Orthodox think Latins make too heavy a use of pagan philosophy in their theology.

Odd considering how much the Greek fathers used philosophy. I find the Greek fathers to tend towards more philosophical speculation than the Latins ones. 

Also, the language of pagan philosophy is used in the early councils, the result is that we really can't do theology without these concepts anymore.
(06-27-2019, 12:07 PM)Filiolus Wrote: [ -> ]
Quote:I'm beginning to understand from a new perspective why the Orthodox think Latins make too heavy a use of pagan philosophy in their theology.  It's good as far as it goes in helping to get a general grasp of how God relates to the world, but this "unmoved mover" train of thought seems, at least to me, more to place God in a box than it does to really help one relate to him.

The object of philosophy is to know truth, not to "relate", whatever that means.

But truth is the adequation of the mind to the thing, and adequation is one of the most famous examples of relation, so in an important sense, the object of philosophy is to relate!

I'm just being cheeky.  Big Grin
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