Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Permissive Will and Sufficient Grace

Random, but another thought or analogy on NFP I had, as it troubles me that so many people seem to view it as equivalent to contraception (because they apparently have a consequentialist understanding of morality) when to me they are clearly worlds apart.

Specifically, I thought today of the difference between God's indicative vs. His permissive Will.

God does not actively cause evil or suffering. Nevertheless, Providence is sovereign over all (even our free choices) and Providence sometimes "arranges" things in such a manner that He foresees evil or suffering will result (and even be instrumental or "intended" in some final sense) for the sake of the greater Good. Everything happens for a reason.

Yet this sort of passive Providential "allowance" for evil, this subtle arrangement of its place in the drama, as the result of some otherwise neutral or good thing He does (like giving us free will, etc) considered very different from God actively willing or causing evil. It is almost like God using "Double Effect" in the cosmos (it's just that God foresees all the consequences, good and bad, of all His acts).

Likewise, it is not always wrong to "arrange" events so that, due to something we are not actively causing, some good is excluded in the practical external circumstances, as long as the orientation of our Will is still ordered properly and intelligibly relative to that good in the internal moral sense.

I thought also of the difference, probably even more apt, between God giving sufficient vs. efficacious grace. God's grace can truly be called sufficient even if He infallibly foresees (and by His permissive Will even "intends" in some sense) it will infallibly fail. Deliberately not including the actual good of a good act of our Will doesn't change the fact that the grace is still sufficient in its potential, and is definitely very different than actively willing us to sin.

An act of the Will can still, internally, contain a good in potentia like that, can still be an act that sets the Will on the proper "trajectory" towards The Good, even before the consideration of external circumstances verifies whether there are obstacles (uncaused by the Will itself) that may block the path of that trajectory once it is "fired," as it were.

But morality doesn't primarily depend on the practical success of actualizing goods externally, it depends on the orientation of the Will itself towards the internal Form of the Good. God giving a grace He infallibly foresees will (given the circumstances external to His own will; ie, the person's free will), fail (and even perhaps, in the plan of Providence, "needs" to fail for the sake of the greater good) is not the same as actively causing someone to sin (even when He could have given an efficacious grace instead!) God's choice of merely sufficient-but-not-efficacious grace cannot be said to be disordered.

And from here, I think the analogy I'm getting at is rather clear. Far from being a loop-hole or scholastic complication, NFP (and the whole moral framework it is a part of) is a logical consequence of the very nature of our theodicy.

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