Causality and Theology

“In scholastic discussions on causality, one more cause is brought up to add to the four already mentioned. This is the instrumental cause (*causa instrumentalis*). The *causa instrumentalis* could be described as the subordinate efficient cause (*causa efficiens*). In Reformed theology, God is in many respects the *causa efficiens* of all that takes place in reality. Thus, in His providence God is the *causa efficiens* of all that happens in the world. God is also the efficient cause of the Holy Scriptures. In particular, however, God is the efficient cause of human salvation and also the *causa efficiens* of justification and faith. Yet, Reformed Scholasticism constantly insists that a person does not remain merely passive in these divine works and that God involves humanity as *causa instrumentalis*. Thus it was the human authors themselves who wrote and preserved the Scriptures as God’s instruments. It is also man himself who accepts the justification effected by God with a believing heart.

The *causa instrumentalis* received an important place in discussions Reformed Scholastics held with Roman catholics and Remonstrant theologians. The latter two groups consistently reproached the Reformed for taking away from humanity its freedom and responsibility by claiming that a person is in many respects merely the *causa instrumentalis* and not also the *causa efficiens*. However, for the Reformed, this is a matter of seminal importance. If a person were himself the *causa efficiens* of salvation, that salvation would depend on that person. Similarly, that person would be independent from God and able to resist God’s will. For that reason, the Reformed will go no further than to identify human action as the *causa instrumentalis*.

(T. Theo J. Pleizier and Maarten Wisse, “‘As the Philosopher Says’: Aristotle,” in Willem J. van Asselt ed. *Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism* (RHB 2011), p. 40.)


One comment on “Causality and Theology

  1. Yeah, I follow. My own personal discovery of reformed thought coincides with this post. Interesting stuff, Cyril.


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