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providence

With the idea of providence, Aquinas is telling us that God not only thinks us into existence, but thinks us into existence in a particular way and for a particular purpose. He does this by taking the idea of the goodness of actualization and applying it not only to people, but to the universe as a whole.

Through the practice of science, we have discovered that in our universe, in space and over huge periods of time, blobs of matter have resolved themselves into stars and planets and such, and on some of these planets (or on at least one), some of these blobs of matter have turned into lifeforms. These lifeforms have taken on stable and identifiable characteristics (e.g., genus, species) and have gradually evolved in distinct ways, with increasing complexity and order generating increasing consciousness. Now that's a pattern. And a key attribute of this pattern is of course the fact that it is increasing: the physical universe is driving itself towards greater complexity and greater consciousness. Whatever creates and sustains and evolves things in being does it in a precise way (through ordered complexity) and in a precise direction (towards consciousness). So if you imagine stepping back and looking at this whole process of increasing complexity and consciousness going on in space-time, you can get an inkling not only of what Aquinas thinks God is like (as the mysterious source of it all) but of where we are going. We are the vanguard (at least in our neck of the universe) of the universe's drive to complexity and consciousness, and Aquinas thinks that where we are aimed has everything to do with that characteristic of God that Christians call the Trinity.

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"He creates every goodness in things, as we have already shown. It is not only in the substance of created things that goodness lies, but also in their being ordained to an end ... . This good order existing in created things is itself part of God's creation. Since he is the cause of things through his mind ... the divine mind must preconceive the whole pattern of things moving to their end. This exemplar of things ordained to their purpose is exactly what Providence is."
(Ia.22.I)

 
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