Question 23. Adoption as befitting to Christ
Article 1. Whether it is fitting that God should adopt sons?
“He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children of God.” Ephesians 1:5
The objections given to this question seem to be those of taking the analogy too far. To be an adopted son is of God is similar in one way and not in another to that of worldly adopted sonship.
Men, then, are adopted by God as sons as far as they, in their created nature, can participate in the goodness of God. We become, as St. Peter says, partakers of the divine nature, and in as much as this is possible for a created being, it is the inheritance of sonship. Just as, by creation, there are more “beings” than before but no more “being,” likewise, by our sharing this inheritance, nothing is lost to God. Unlike material goods, its giving causes no loss in the giver.
Likewise, as we discussed in the doctrine of predilection, “God, by bestowing His grace, makes man whom He adopts worthy to receive the heavenly inheritance; whereas man does not make him worthy whom he adopts; but rather in adopting him he chooses one who is already worthy.”
Article 2. Whether it is fitting that the whole Trinity should adopt?
It may be objected that the Father alone can adopt, as it is “He who begets that may call someone his son,” but Thomas takes the position that references to God in ragards to our sonship must refer primarily to God as one, and thus, the whole Trinity is said to adopt us. So St. Thomas tells us that “although, in God, to beget belongs to the Person of the Father, yet to produce any effect in creatures is common to the whole Trinity, by reason of the oneness of their Nature: since, where there is one nature, there must needs be one power and one operation.”
It is pointed out that Christ call the Father “My Father,” and “Your Father” (John 20:17). In fact, He never calls God “our” Father in relation to us and Himself, for the Fatherhood of God is different for the Son than it is for the sons. The only place Jesus says the words “our Father,” is when He tells us what to say. We are adopted sons, and this is nothing small; but never are we exactly the same as Christ in relation to the Father.
Article 3. Whether it is proper to the rational nature to be adopted?
It is not said of all rational creatures, such as the angels, that they are adopted by God in the way we are. “Angels are called sons of God by adoptive sonship, not that it belongs to them first; but because they were the first to receive the adoption of sons.” Of course, a non-rational creature could not be adopted to the beatific vision. Nevertheless, we are adopted by God, made to conform to His Word, and to a certain oneness with God in as much as is possible in our created nature. We are always reminded that “grace perfects nature” (rather than destroying it).
Article 4. Whether Christ as man is the adopted Son of God?
Here we return to the all important question that, if properly understood, Thomas has answer back in Question 2. For sonship belongs to a person, and not to a nature. It is the person of Christ who is the natural, not adopted, Son of the Father, and therefore, it is not proper to call Him, even in His human nature, the adopted son of God. The Second Person is the Son, and no new person exists in the Incarnate Word than the eternal Person, the unadopted but begotten second Person of the Trinity.
Question 24. The predestination of Christ
Article 1. Whether it is befitting that Christ should be predestinated?
The Apostle says, speaking of Christ (Romans 1:4): “Who was predestinated the Son of God in power.”
The problem here is that it is hard to see how either the divine person or the human nature (“we do not speak of a person’s nature, but of his person, as being predestinated: because to be predestinated is to be directed towards salvation, which belongs to a suppositum acting for the end of beatitude”) can be the subject of predestination, for predestination is a Divine preordination of what is to be done by God’s grace within time, and this is done to a person.
The Incarnation, of course, is “in time,” and it is reflection on this that will help us comprehend the mystery. “The union itself of natures in the Person of Christ falls under the eternal predestination of God. For this reason do we say that Christ was predestinated.”
Article 2. Whether this proposition is false: “Christ as man was predestinated to be the Son of God”?
It would seem that, “Christ, as the Son of God, was predestinated to be man,” is truer than, “Christ, as Man, was predestinated to be the Son of God.”But Thomas pays close attention to the words of St. Augustine: “Forasmuch as God the Son was made Man, we say that the Lord of Glory was predestinated.”
In answering the objections, St. Thomas pays close attention to the manner of speaking and the types of cause that are referred to, be it the “material” or “efficient” most especially, but also the cause and effect considered antecedently and consequentially. We see again the importance of specificity in our speech, reminding us of the trouble Thomas Aquinas took in Question 16 in a similar regard.
In the end, it seems most fitting to say that “Christ, as Man, was predestinated the Son of God.”
Article 3. Whether Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours?
First, as we see in analogous terms as well, “the exemplate need not be conformed to the exemplar in all respects: it is sufficient that it imitate it in some.” Indeed, Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours.
I will expand on this in summary to article 4, as the concept behind understanding it applies there as well, but to quote Thomas briefly:
“Predestination may be considered in two ways. First, on the part of the act of predestination: and thus Christ’s predestination cannot be said to be the exemplar of ours: for in the same way and by the same eternal act God predestinated us and Christ.”
“Secondly, predestination may be considered on the part of that to which anyone is predestinated, and this is the term and effect of predestination. In this sense Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours.”
Article 4. Whether Christ’s predestination is the cause of ours?
Predestination, as an eternal decision of God’s, cannot be said to precede another act of predestination. However, in the order of first and second causes, God may predestine one to be the cause of another. In this regard, Christ’s predestination precedes ours, not in time, but in order of causality by the will of God.
“For eternal predestination covers not only that which is to be accomplished in time, but also the mode and order in which it is to be accomplished in time.”
As an aside, we may note here how, in soteriology, we are saved by grace alone, and yet, our faith and our works are required. God’s wills not only the ends but the means, and these means must be accomplished for the ends to do so. Thus, we “work out our salvation” for “it is God who wills in us” to work and merit this just as “it is by grace” that we are saved and “not of ourselves.” So it is in one eternal act that all is decreed, yet in decreeing the means, the means are necessary for God’s end to be reached, because He wills that they be necessary, just as He willed that Christ’s predestination be necessary for our predestination.