The Early Aquinas on the Question of Universal Salvation, or How a Knight May Choose Not to Ride His Horse

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Abstract

This article considers how the young Thomas Aquinas treats the question of universal salvation by examining his reading of 1 Timothy 2.4, God wills that all humans should be saved, in two of his early works, the Scriptum on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and the sixth Disputed Question on Truth, both dated to the period 1252–1257. Drawing on John Damascene's distinction between God's antecedent and consequent will, Thomas here teaches that whereas God wills antecedently in a unimodal way that all humans should be saved, He wills consequently in a bimodal way based on foreknown merits. Though foreknown merits are not a cause of predestination itself, they are a cause of glory, one of predestination's temporal effects. On Thomas's account, then, reading 1 Tim 2.4 as a straightforward statement of what God has done eternally—namely, predestine or save every individual human—would undermine the freedom of the human will that is necessary in order to attain to beatitude.

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