God’s Permissive Will

Friends in Christ,  
In Question 165[i] of the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas asks:  whether ‘it is fitting that man was tempted by the devil.  Some people ask, ‘why IS there temptation’ wouldn’t it be nicer if there were no temptations or problems? No one would sin, and there would be no evil.  

St. Augustine says: ‘ “It seems to me that man would have had no right to any special praise, if he were able to lead a good life simply because there was no one to persuade him to lead an evil life.’  

God ALLOWS us to be tempted, by Satan, and by our own weaknesses. He allows it, but he himself does not tempt us to evil.   

St. James says in his Epistle today:  ‘No one experiencing temptation should say, I am being tempted by God; for God is no tempter to evil, he himself tempts no one.     

It is God’s permissive Will, which allows us to be tempted; tempted by the Devil, or by others, or by our own concupiscence. God allows this to happen.   St. Augustine is really saying, God can’t make us great – there can be no real merit or glory in man, if we do not have to overcome anything.   

If the Chicago bears play a farm-team from England and win big, easily, it really is no glory to the Bears at all.  The question is, what happens against a difficult team? And if, after an epic-struggle and much adversity, they are able to win, then this is worthy of glory.   

For this reason, St. James writes: ‘Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been tried, he will receive the crown of life.’  
It is not wrong, when tempted, to say ‘It is God’s will, I must endure this,’ because ultimately, everything is part of God’s plan.  The evil and temptations and all the results of free-will are taken into account.  But God does not desire evil. His Antecedent Will desires only that all do good, but his Permissive Will allows everything to unfold, in a plan which takes into account free-will.  

In the Book of Job, we see that Job was a just man, and life was good for him.  But Satan told God that of course Job will be good when everything is going well for him! But let me AT him, and then he will curse you to your face. And God allowed it. Why?   Because it is in difficult times, under suffering and temptation, that we are able to be great.  Meet someone who has had an easy life and no problems, and you will not meet a person of good character. You must meet someone who has suffered or wrestled with temptation, in order to find virtue.  

‘Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been tried, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.    

[i] In the 2nd part of the 2nd part.  

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