Aquinas’ fourth argument in favor of Scotus’ position, and his response to the contrary:
Objection 4. Further, God’s predestination is eternal. But it is said of Christ (Romans 1:4): “Who was predestined the Son of God in power.” Therefore, even before sin, it was necessary that the Son of God should become incarnate, in order to fulfil God’s predestination.
Reply to Objection 4. Predestination presupposes the foreknowledge of future things; and hence, as God predestines the salvation of anyone to be brought about by the prayers of others, so also He predestined the work of Incarnation to be the remedy of human sin.
While we could argue with the Angelic Doctor that it is possible that God predestined Christ to be “the Son of God in power” solely on account of man’s sin, that certainly is not an argument in favor of Aquinas’ position. At best this possibility only shows that there are two principal opinions regarding the Incarnation: either Christ was predestined first and prior to any consideration of sin (and thus Mary, the Angels and the Saints were predestined in Christ “before the foundation of the world” regardless of sin cfr. Eph 1:4); or sin was foreseen first and prior to any consideration of Christ’s predestination (and consequently the predestination of Mary and the Saints in Christ was based on a foreknowledge of sin).
Yes, both Aquinas and Scotus know that God is outside of time; but to speak intelligently about a well ordered plan (namely, God’s plan in creation), one has to speak of a priority. They differ on what that priority is in God’s design. Scotus speaks amply of this in his writings on the subject (see Scotus’ writings); I have dealt with this several times on this website – one can see, for example, the section on Col 1:15-20 (scroll down to “priority in God”). Here’s the video link on the subject:
For the Angelic Doctor the priority looks like this: First God knows and loves Himself from all eternity; then He wills to create Angels and men (under the economy of gratia Dei); God foresees Adam’s sin; God wills to remedy sin by sending His Son as a propitiation; God predestines the Humanity of Christ to glory; God predestines men (including Mary, but not the Angels) to grace and glory in Christ the Redeemer (a new and better better economy of grace, the gratia Christi, thanks to Adam’s fall).
For the Subtle Doctor the priority looks like this: God is God and He first knows and loves Himself; secondly, He wills to share His goodness in creation; thirdly, He wills “to be loved by Him who can love Him with the greatest love—speaking of the love of someone who is extrinsic to Himself. And fourthly, He foresees the union of that nature that must love Him with the greatest love even if no one had fallen” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4). From here God predestines His Immaculate Mother, then all of the elect (the “celestial court” – men and angels) in Christ before the foundation of the world (for Scotus there is only one economy of grace, the gratia Christi, for the entire celestial court of Angels and Saints, and this before any consideration of Adam’s sin); then He foresees the fall and its remedy.
We repeat that both Scotus and Aquinas acknowledge that this priority in the divine intentions is outside of time. God is utterly simple and He does not will by a succession of moments, but all at once. In one deliberation He wills creation with all of its order and beauty. Where they disagree is what that priority is in this orderly and beautiful plan of the Creator. Does God predestine Christ primarily, and foresee secondarily that He will redeem the human race? Or does God foresee the sin of Adam and predestine Christ based on Adam’s need for Redemption? Both Doctors are speaking about a priority, outside of time and with complete foreknowledge; both Doctors are speaking about the actual economy of grace (and not a hypothetical, counterfactual “what would have happened if…”).
The Angelical Doctor holds that God, foreknowing future things, “predestined the work of Incarnation to be the remedy of human sin” (cfr. above). Christ’s coming was occasioned by man’s need for Redemption.
The Subtle Doctor maintains an absolute predestination of Christ, that is, in immutable decree willed by God which is not relative to sin or anything else that might accrue to man through the Incarnation. The Incarnation, according to Scotus, is simply not occasioned by anything, but is a free act of God and the ‘top priority’ in His creative design. He writes:
“It is said that the fall of man is the necessary [in the sense of decisive] reason for this predestination. Since God saw that man would fall, He saw that he would be redeemed in this way, and so He foresaw [Christ’s] human nature to be assumed and to be glorified with so great a glory. I declare, however, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination. In fact, even if no man or angel had fallen, nor any man but Christ were to be created, Christ would still have been predestined this way” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4).
Fr. Maximilian M. Dean