The influence God exercises upon the activities of creatures; God not only creates and conserves creatures, but He also cooperates with their actions. The doctrine of divine concurrence is opposed to two extremes: deism, which admits creation by God as the origin of the universe at its first moment, but denies all subsequent influence of God on creatures, and occasionalism, which denies that creatures have any true causality of their own and holds that on the occasion of creatures' presence to one another, God as sole and total cause effects whatever comes into being.
Common Teaching. Just as creatures are never self-sufficient for existing, but owe the fact that they are actually existent to the creative and conserving causality of God, so likewise, creatures are never self-sufficient for acting, but owe the fact that they are actually agents to the concurrent causality of God. Still, just as creatures are not themselves parts or intrinsic elements of God's own being, but are substances that exist in themselves, likewise creatures are truly agents and exercise a causality of their own with respect to their own proper effects.
God's concurrence is a transcendent kind of causality; it is not additive to that of the creature, as though the creature produced half of the effect, and God produced the other half (see causality, divine). The real duality of causes justifies one's speaking of the cooperation of God with creatures; this is not a mechanistic juxtaposition of causes or equal distribution of labor, but rather a radical subordination of the created cause to the uncreated cause. There is a complete compenetration of created causes and their activities by the causality of the Creator. God's causality and creatural causality are an organic activity, constituting one principle of action. The activity is single, but it has a two-fold relation of dependence. The whole activity is attributable to God, and the whole activity is attributable to the creature. That the activity and what it produces are in the order of reality, or exist at all, is attributable to the activity of God; that this reality is of this or that nature or kind is attributable, under God, to the activity of the created cause. This latter is attributable "under God," for what God does is absolutely prerequisite for what the creature does; being is what is most interior to, most deeply within, most constitutive of, a thing, and being is what God first and foremost and indispensably produces as His own proper effect. Since being is radically presupposed by all the operations of the creature, the actions and effects of created agents depend even more on God than they do on these created agents. Concurrence is demanded not because of the lack of any natural power or disposition, but because of the radical dependence of secondary causes (created and finite) on the primary or first cause (uncreated and omnipotent). It is the relationship of creature to Creator extended to the realm of activity.
Common Distinctions. The divine concurrence that Christian theologians and philosophers commonly defend is something physical, not merely moral; that is, it is not a mere command on the part of God, or a threat, or some advice, or some other moral suasion; rather it is a physical influence affecting all created agents, whether these be rational beings or subhuman, and it is a cause of the objective physical entity of the effect and of the action, to the extent that this is an entity.
The divine concurrence may be universal, general, and natural; and it may be particular, special, and super-natural. General concurrence is given by God to every created agent in every one of its activities. Special concurrence is given only with regard to certain kinds of activities. Actual grace is a case of special and supernatural concurrence.
Divine concurrence is almost universally considered to be immediate. Here the common doctrine is opposed to that of durandus of saint-pourÇain, who defends only a mediate concurrence, since he holds that the divine creation and conservation of a thing's being and natural powers suffice for the creature to go ahead and act on its own. [For a different interpretation of Durandus, see J. Stufler, "Bemerkungen zur Konkurslehre les Durandus von St. Pourçain," Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters (Münster 1891–) Suppl. 3.2 (1935) 1080–90.]
The distinction is sometimes made between concurrence in first act and concurrence in second act. The former refers to God's own internal will act: the eternal, free, actual decision on the part of God to concur with created causes in the manner conforming with their nature. Concurrence in second act is a contingent reality, the actual terminus produced by the eternal decree, a quality received in the created cause itself (according to Thomists) or the action itself of producing an effect insofar as this action is due to God's simultaneously operating with the created cause (according to Molinists). Similarly, reference is often made to hypothetical concurrence, or the concurrence that God offers, i.e., that He is prepared to confer (concursus oblatus ), and to the actually conferred concurrence (concursus collatus, exhibitus ). These distinctions assume importance when one investigates the disagreements on the nature of divine concurrence and allied matters such as predestination and the efficaciousness of grace.
Disputed Area. St. thomas aquinas treats of divine concurrence especially in In 2 sent., 37.2.2; C. gent. 3.66, 67, 70; Summa Theologiae 1a, 105.5; and De pot. 3.7. In this last place Aquinas summarizes his teaching: "God causes the action of everything inasmuch as He gives to everything its power to act and conserves it in being and applies it to its action, and inasmuch as it is through His power that every other power acts. If we add to this the fact that God is His own power, and that He is present in all things not as an essential part of them but as maintaining them in their being, we should conclude that He acts in every agent immediately, but without eliminating the action of the will and of nature."
In the development of this doctrine, theologians and philosophers have divided into two main camps, although there are several subdivisions and even deviations. The divisions are traceable fundamentally to the differing ways thinkers view created causality, but they are especially accentuated in discussions about God's concurrence with man's free acts. The differences center on the meaning of God's "application of created agents to their actions," and on created agents' "operation in virtue of the power of God."
Molinists. The 16th-century Jesuit theologians Luis de Molina (Concordia, 14.13.25–35), Francisco suÁrez (Disp. meta. 22; Opusc. de concursu et efficaci auxilio gratiae Dei; De auxiliis gratiae, 3), and Leonard lessius (De perf. moribusque divinis, 11.3–7) teach that God's concurrence with creatures is a "simultaneous concursus" that, considered in first act and with regard to human free acts, is "indifferent," i.e., is not effective of some particular determinate act rather than some other equally possible one, but is requisite for the production of any action and effect. These authors and their followers (including many modern Jesuits, especially Spaniards and Germans) argue that secondary causes are complete in the order of causing, once they have been endowed with their natural active powers and have been properly disposed and applied to their subject matter, that these dispositions and applications are usually effected by other created causes, and that the transition from this naturally complete and aptly disposed capacity for acting to the status of actually acting is a transition requiring no further modification in the secondary agent itself. What is required is the simultaneous influence of God directly on the created activity itself and, through this, on the effect. The action and the effect thus proceed from two simultaneously operating causes. The created cause is not intrinsically "elevated" by God in order to "operate in virtue of the power of God"; rather God cooperates with the action that proceeds from the creature. The primacy in the order of causality is still God's, since the action as proceeding immediately from Him accounts for the fact that both the action and the effect are real beings rather than nothing at all, whereas the action, as proceeding from the creature, accounts only for why the action and effect are of such and such a kind. (see molinism.)
Thomists. In contrast with the Molinists, or defenders of "simultaneous concursus," there are the Thomists, who defend a concurrence that is a "physical premotion" of the created cause. This school includes especially the Dominicans, but also many others including numerous French and Italian Jesuits. The Thomists maintain that the divine concurrence is a strict motion, an intrinsic, transitory modification of the created cause itself, an accidental quality received immediately from God by the created cause prior to its actual operation, and needed for two major reasons: (1) in order that the finite cause may be "applied" to the act of operation, on the score that of itself the finite cause, even when all other natural conditions are fulfilled, is only in potency for operating, whereas to be actually operating implies that the cause is made more perfect; and (2) in order to elevate the created cause intrinsically so that, as an instrument permeated by the divine power, it may produce an effect not proportionate to its own native powers but surpassing them, namely, the being of the thing generated (see in strumental causality).
The Thomists are subdivided into two very different groups. There are those who, in general, follow the interpretation given to St. Thomas by Domingo bÁÑez (Comm. in S.T. 1.14.13; 1.19.8; 1.23.3) and who are sometimes termed "Bañezians" by their opponents. See, e.g., A. Goudin, Philosophia juxta inconcussa tutissimaque divi Thomae dogmata, 4.4; J. B. Gonet, Clypeus Thomisticus, 4.5, 9; and John of St. Thomas, Curs. phil., Phys. 1.25.2, 1.26. These teach that the physical premotion, or divine concurrence in second act, of its very nature physically predetermines the secondary cause to its individual actions, doing so even in the case of the free acts of men. Others, sometimes vaguely called Neothomists (or even Neo-Molinists) maintain physical prede termination for all nonfree actions, but claim that the divine concurrence in the case of the free-will acts of finite agents is an "indifferent" premotion of the secondary cause, moving it to actual operation, but not determining the specification of the act. Among these latter are L. Billot [De gratia Christi (4th ed., Rome 1928) 3–25, 124–139] and A. D' Alès [Providence et Libre Arbitre (2d ed. Paris 1927)].
In the Thomist doctrines the concurrence, though immediately affecting the created cause itself, also carries over into the action and effect, and in that sense partakes of the nature of a "simultaneous concursus" as well. (see premotion, physical.)
To the above divisions, one should add that there is a tendency among certain recent writers to reduce all premotion and simultaneous concursus to the transcendent "creative" activity of God. [See A. Van Hove, "De motione divina in ordine cum naturali tum supernaturali animadversiones," Divus Thomas, (Piacenza 1880–) ser. 3, 10 (1933) 248–264; also, J. H. Nicolas, "La Permission du péché," Revue thomiste 60 (1960) 9–13.]
Relation to Other Doctrines. The teaching on divine concurrence is especially relevant to other doctrines, particularly to those concerned with grace, sin, and human freedom.
Grace. Since the divine concurrence, according to the strict Thomists, contains the predetermining of an activity even to its individual details, it is easy to see why in this view concurrence in the supernatural order is an intrinsically efficacious grace, and how God has thereby a ready and infallible means of bringing about His ends, including the predestination of the elect. The Jesuits, holding that divine concurrence is intrinsically indifferent, so that, although it is a positive inclination, it is not an irresistible determination, have to explain the efficaciousness of supernatural concurrence or grace by appealing not only to the intrinsic nature of the grace, but also to God's knowledge of the hypothetical future (scientia media). With this knowledge, God knows the graces whose congruousness so tallies with the dispositions of the man's will in the particular circumstances in which the grace is bestowed, that the man infallibly and freely consents to it (see congruism).
Sin. As activities, sins have being and are positively caused in this being; hence they require God's physical and immediate concurrence for this, their material aspect. The malice, which is the formal element of sin, is attributable entirely to the bad will of the creature; it is a negative activity, a deficiency of causality, requiring no concurrence from God. For this element, the creature's moral malice is alone responsible. God's relation to the evil of the sinful act is not causative, but permissive: out of respect for human freedom God does not, although absolutely speaking and by an extraordinary intervention He could, prevent the sin.
Human Freedom. All Catholics agree that human freedom is not absolute self-sufficiency; like man's being it is something loaned, something dependent in its inmost nature and operations on the independent Being and, therefore, in need of divine concurrence if it is to act. The nature of the concurrence with free acts is debated consistently with the special doctrines of the various schools. The question at issue is one in which the paradox of the coexistence of the finite and the infinite is seen in its most acute form. All Catholics will admit the following teaching of St. Thomas: "Since the divine will is perfectly efficacious, it follows not only that those things are done, which God wills to be done, but also that they are done in the way that He wills. Now God wills some things to be done necessarily, some contingently, to the right ordering of things, for the building up of the universe. Therefore, to some effects He has attached necessary causes, that cannot fail; but to others defectible and contingent causes, from which arise contingent effects" (Summa theologiae, 1a, 19.8; cf. 1a2ae, 10.4).
See Also: conservation, divine; creation, 2; existence; free will.
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[a. j. benedetto]