"The system of the world which provides that there shall be chances, is something permitted, willed and arranged by God." "Chance is wonderful, and it is positive". So concluded on Friday the professor emeritus of the University of the Holy Cross (Rome), and professor of the Austral University (Buenos Aires), Juan José Sanguineti, his speech at the VI Commemorative Lesson Mariano Artigas.
Organized by the Science, Reason and Faith Research Group (CRYF) of the University of Navarra, whose director is the researcher of the Culture and Society Institute (ICS), Javier Sánchez Cañizares, the event allowed the Argentine professor to emphasize, among other things, that "God has been present in many ways in the pandemic, bringing out good in each person, there are many stories of people who have approached God, or of people who have had something else. You can see it, and sometimes you will not see it".
Today we continue the conversation chatting about chance, prayers, God's favors, the 'coincidences' of life, miracles and natural laws... It is noticeable, as yesterday, that this is a colloquial interview, not a written one. The kind reader will know how to correct this fact. We begin by talking about chance.
-Not a few people now believe in chance, rather than in divine Providence. Can you briefly explain both terms, and why this phenomenon happens, if you share it?
This formulation presupposes that chance and Providence are opposed to each other, right? This happened by chance or this happened because God willed it... In reality, in the lecture I am going to give, what I want to say is precisely the opposite. God is involved in chance, chance is real, that is to say, God does not suppress it. Yes, there is chance, and I am not the only one to say this, it is not my idea, many authors say this... We are talking about the physical world, and much more about the human world. In the human being there is freedom, there is contingency. There are determined margins in which God can act, of course foreseen by God himself. Because if everything were causally determined, in a kind of total fatalism, then God could not intervene with his Providence, he would be the Creator of a deterministic world, but he could no longer touch anything because he has made such a world.
St. Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa Theologica that if the world were deterministic ̶ he thinks of the Stoics, he criticizes the Stoics ̶ , the prayers of the faithful would be useless. That is, if there are prayers, if we ask God for things, it is because we think that God can change them, can change the course of events. It means that things can be one way or they can be another. With prayers we ask for it to be this way, if God accepts those prayers, he makes it be this way.
If there are prayers, if we ask God for things, it is because we think that God can change them, he can change the course of events.Juan José Sanguineti
-You say that God gets into chance, that He does not suppress it....
Chance, as I was saying, to put it in a way that is perhaps not perfect, opens a field of possibilities first of all to human freedom itself, because in a deterministic world freedom can do nothing, but also, above all, to the action of the provident God. That is why I believe that chance, not just something like that, but the system of the world that foresees that there will be chances, is something permitted, willed and disposed by God. Not only permitted, but disposed by God.
In fact, it is enough to go out on the street and walk; the truth is that in the concrete, in the singular events, there are innumerable chances. Because I meet people by chance, but there are many more coincidences than one thinks, because one meets one person and another, and so on. If chance escaped God's providence, then it would not be God because there would be something that is not ordained by God, it would escape his causality.
Chance, not just a one-time thing, but the system of the world that provides for chance, is something permitted, willed and willed by God. Not only permitted, but willed by God.Juan José Sanguineti
The fact that God intervenes mysteriously, of course, in chance, does not mean that it is unreal, that chance is a kind of deceptive thing, because deep down God is causing it. Because if it were like that it would be a bit of an anthropomorphic way of thinking about God, we would have fatalism. This car accident happened to me because God arranged it and not because it was chance... What I am saying is that the accident is really a chance, and there are also good chances: finding money, or a good job (which sometimes happen by chance), but God is behind and God "plays", so to speak in quotation marks, with chance.. God creates a system in which there is a complex causal game in which randomness appears.
-And how does God intervene in the vagaries of life?
I would say the answer in three phases. First, God intervenes as the first Cause, because the casual event has been created by God, who intervenes in every second cause; then, whatever happens is caused by Him as the first Cause.
But then there is a special providence, and that would be God the Creator who takes care of everything by the fact that He is Creator. But the special providence is that God intervenes. This special providence can be ordinary or extraordinary. If it is ordinary, I will say more about that in the next question. If it is ordinary, it respects natural laws and cannot be verified, it responds to prayers or to God's initiative.
On the other hand, if it is extraordinary, it is about miracles, where God decides to intervene beyond the natural laws and in a way that man can verify. Can you verify why? Because when we find an event that we say is miraculous, we study it, the Holy See studies it with scientists, with doctors, for example a healing, and also for a long time, to see that it is really inexplicable from the point of view of natural laws. So, there is a verification, it is not a complete verification, but in the face of that, if we see it as the evangelists say, we have seen it, we have touched it, the miracles. In the case of favors, that is not so, that is why they are not miracles.
-You concluded your lesson on Friday by "sustaining the divine intentionality of creating a potential universe in which God's providence can act in the respect of natural laws and in a way that is not rationally controllable". Could you elaborate a bit on that idea?
Following the previous thread, I answer this question, which has much to do with the previous one and gives continuity to the previous ones. God effectively wants to create a rich, evolutionary world, with history, history of nature, the Big Bang, the formation of the Universe; where there are risks, because if there are chances there are risks, and also the human world, isn't it? A human world that is in a contingent world, as is the Earth, and also, because there is contingency for the freedom of all, of all people.
Why does God want such a world? Because God wants man to be active with his work. If everything were already given, if everything were deterministic and good, man would have nothing to do, he would just receive. God wants man to be active, a little like the parable of the talents, that he has to work. The Universe has many potentialities, and it can go in one direction, it can go in another, it is not a pure potentiality, it can go anywhere, because there are margins, but it can go in any direction.. This is opposed to deism, to maintain that God creates the Universe and is already disengaged, and it is also opposed to fatalism, which is similar to deism, which says that God acts by deterministic laws, and everything is already absolutely foreseen by God, and there is no margin not only for God to act but even for man to act.
God wants man to be active, a bit like the parable of the talents, that he has to work.Juan José Sanguineti
So, God acts, he is provident in evolution. In evolution it is more difficult to say how he acts. There are opinions on this, but here I do not enter into the question, because there are many who say that he intervenes at the quantum level, which is somewhat debatable. It is true that everybody is opposed (the specialists in these subjects), to God going with miracles making evolution go exposing from time to time: "let's do this miracle now"... Such a God is ridiculous.
-Earlier you referred to God's providence. How does God act in the face of prayer?
God's providence has plans, thinking above all of man on earth, has general plans for all mankind ̶ because the fact that there are world wars, pandemics, etcetera, does not escape God's providence ̶ , and he has particular plans for each man, for each man and woman, for the life of each one, with his successes, his failures, his work, his marriage, his illnesses, his death, everything.
So, in this plan that God has, God takes many things into account. He takes into account people's prayers. Once, a short time ago, someone asked, but through prayer, does man cause God? Yes, of course it causes God, because God wants to be caused by prayers. God hears the prayer, and says "ah well, I agree to this prayer, and I will do this favor". That's right, that's the way it is; otherwise prayer would have no place in human life.
Sometimes God takes into account human behavior, sometimes he takes into account human reactions, with thanksgiving and God's mercy always. And he takes all this into account in a sapiential way, because God always looks at the whole. He has the absolute vision of the whole.
-What does it mean that "God wants to be caused by prayers". You talk about God allowing himself to be "conditioned" by our prayers.
God agrees, so to speak, anthropomorphically, to allow himself to be conditioned by human prayers. If I had not prayed, perhaps this person would not have been cured. God wants to be provoked by prayer. That is why God urges us to pray. It means that he is attentive to our requests, because he wants to give them to us, that is in the Gospel.
As to whether or not miracles violate natural laws, I would leave that to a technical discussion, I don't see a problem. It does not violate them in an arbitrary and law-breaking way, but there is a higher causality. And that higher causality can affect a lower causality and change it. For that would be the miracle.
But then the most interesting thing is actually the favors.Because favors are continuous, miracles are very rare. Favors do not violate laws. I am thinking about the favors that are continuous. I pray that I will be well tomorrow, the day I am going to give the lecture that I will not catch a cold, and so on. I hope that God will grant my prayer. This does not violate any law, it is a favor that he sometimes does through the intercession of the saints or Our Lady.
There is a reasoning that I have seen in some theologians, even Protestants, who say "if we with technology go beyond nature and can change things without violating the laws, how can we not allow God to do the same and much more?
God is free to act on nature equal to us, not equal, more than us, and we do things that nature does not do, but that the potentialities of nature, which are open-ended, allow us to do, so technology makes sense. How does God do the favor, how does he do it, if causally that is mysterious? There are explanations that are debatable, because some say that God would set the initial conditions of the Big Bang... Personally, the truth is that I am a little bit refractory to think that. Others say that he supplies information and makes new information, he doesn't change the energy, but he changes the information. It is a technical answer that I am not going to go into. I prefer to stay with the fact that it is mysterious.
-Let's continue with favors. How does God act with favors? And what can he say when 'too many coincidences' happen?
Going back to favors, the most important sense is that favor that I ask God to do for me and that he may or may not do it. It is not foreseeable, that is, I cannot foresee it magically. Because if I could foresee it, it would be magic, it would be like I make a prayer, and I already know that God is going to attend to me, then I am already dominating God.
I believe that what God wants is that we trust in Him, and ask for things that He can do us the favor if He thinks it is convenient or not to do it, or to do us a better favor, because God is always good and merciful. What is not possible is to make concrete previsions, because then we would be controlling God rationally and that is opposed to what God is.
God acts in human favors, which are so many, especially from the person who prays, but sometimes also from those who do not pray, but God sees that they have a good disposition and then God helps them. God acts in a hidden way, but the one who has enough vision of God can realize it a little.
I believe that what God wants is that we trust in Him, and ask for things that He can do us the favor if He thinks it is convenient or not to do it, or to do us a better favor, because God is always good and merciful.Juan José Sanguineti
I think that any of us can count favors that God has done through intercession, because there have been too many coincidences, and yet we realize that it could be explained, because there can be so many coincidences, and then they would say: "this is explained naturally". However, sometimes there are too many coincidences, and we say "no, this is a favor", even though it is not a miracle. One does not say that it is a miracle because there are no elements to be able to say that this is miraculous.
In short, what God wants is that we are active and that we also put the second causes, and just because we have to pray it, we already say that God will help me about it and I do nothing, I do not act, I do not put the means to do things right... No, God will help you, but if you work, if you do things, and then maybe God will help you. so that this obstacle does not come, so that this obstacle is overcome, but provided that in general one has made an effort to achieve it.
In this sense, we are like God's co-workers. Another interesting thing is that God, as he is wise, when he does favors, those favors have multiple effects that we cannot know, not just one. God does one thing, and he favors us, but he will also favor or have effects on a number of people, events and things.