A Cause Among Causes? God Acting in the Natural World

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Contemporary debates on divine action tend to focus on finding a space in nature where there would be no natural causes, where nature offers indeterminacy, openness, and potentiality, to place God’s action. These places are found through the natural sciences, in particular quantum mechanics. God’s action is then located in those ontological ”causal-gaps’ offered by certain interpretations of quantum mechanics. In this view, God would determine what is left underdetermined in nature without disrupting the laws of nature. These contemporary proposals evidence at least two unexamined assumptions, which frame the discussion in such a way that they portray God as acting as a secondary cause or a ”cause among causes’. God is somewhat required to act within these ”gaps’, binding God to the laws of nature, and placing God’s action at the level of secondary causes. I suggest that understanding God’s action, following Thomas Aquinas, in terms of primary and secondary causation could help dissolve this difficulty. Aquinas moves away from this objection by suggesting to speak of an analogical notion of cause, allowing for an analogical understanding of God’s causality in nature. With a radically different understanding of the interplay between secondary causes and God, Aquinas manages to avoid conceiving God as a cause among causes, keeping the distinctive transcendent character of God’s causality safe from objections.
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Archival date: 2018-03-14
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