Is it God's Sovereignty on our death, or Causality by His permissive will?!

I have wondered about this for a long time, with almost no answers to be found except statements affirming the assumption of God’s Sovereignty on death, without investigations. We have 1 Samuel 2, Deuteronomy 32:39, and most famously, Job 1 all seeming to state it’s God who decides we die. But…WHAT ABOUT THE FALL? From the Fall as revealed in Genesis, it seems reasonable to understand that death is the result rather of Causality, that death is our natural reality since the banishing from Eden, which God warned us of hence it was not His will although He permitted it. Yet even the angelic doctor St Thomas Aquinas agrees with the notion of God’s Absolute Sovereignty over everything that happens?

COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JOB
by Thomas Aquinas
The Fourth Lecture: Job’s Submission
(Chapter 1: verse 21)

<<Second, he shows the same thing from divine action saying, “The Lord gave; the Lord has taken away.” Here his true opinion about divine providence in relation to human affairs must first be considered. When he says, “The Lord gave,” he confessed that earthly prosperity does not come to men accidentally either according to fate or the stars, or as a result of human exertion alone, but by divine direction. When he says, however, “The Lord has taken away,” he confesses also that earthly adversities also arise among men by the judgment of divine providence. This leads to the conclusion that man does not have a just complaint with God if he should be despoiled of his temporal goods, because he who gave freely could bestow them either until the end of his life or temporarily. So when he takes temporal goods away from man before the end of life, man cannot complain.
Third, he shows the same thing from the good pleasure of the divine will saying, “As God pleased, so it has been done.” For friends will and do not will the same thing. Thus if it is the good pleasure of God that someone should be despoiled of temporal goods, if he loves God, he ought to conform his will to the divine will, so that he is not absorbed by sadness in this consideration.>>
dhspriory.org/thomas/SSJob.htm

So my question is, what is the explanation to death in regard to the Fall and on the other hand to the other Old Testament chapters mentioned? Because, the reality to me seems that if someone dies of colon cancer, it’s because that person ate nothing but genetically modified constipating overly acidic junk their whole life, not because “God did it”…! Or, if a woman’s child died by being shot by a hoodlum or by a hit and run, they didn’t die because “God did it”,they died because an unrepentant sinner killed them…! Et cetera…

What is the answer?

Reverend Haydock’s Commentary had no sufficient answer either.

Many aspects can be involved - yet all within Providence.

But including secondary causes …free choices of the person…of others …etc.

In any case if we live - we are to live in the Lord and if we die (here) let us die in the Lord…

"On Easter day the Church tells us that Jesus Christ made that journey to the ends of the universe for our sake. In the Letter to the Ephesians we read that he descended to the depths of the earth, and that the one who descended is also the one who has risen far above the heavens, that he might fill all things (cf. 4:9ff.). The vision of the Psalm thus became reality. In the impenetrable gloom of death Christ came like light – the night became as bright as day and the darkness became as light. And so the Church can rightly consider these words of thanksgiving and trust as words spoken by the Risen Lord to his Father: “Yes, I have journeyed to the uttermost depths of the earth, to the abyss of death, and brought them light; now I have risen and I am upheld for ever by your hands.”

But these words of the Risen Christ to the Father have also become words which the Lord speaks to us: “I arose and now I am still with you,” he says to each of us. My hand upholds you. Wherever you may fall, you will always fall into my hands. I am present even at the door of death. Where no one can accompany you further, and where you can bring nothing, even there I am waiting for you, and for you I will change darkness into light."

~ Pope Benedict XVI Holy Saturday, 7 April 2007

Again:

“I arose and now I am still with you,” he says to each of us. My hand upholds you. Wherever you may fall, you will always fall into my hands. I am present even at the door of death. Where no one can accompany you further, and where you can bring nothing, even there I am waiting for you, and for you I will change darkness into light."

~ Pope Benedict XVI

(w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en/holy-father/benedetto-xvi.html)

To me, this question is like “Is it salmon on my plate, or fish?!” As salmon is an example of fish, so causality is an example of God’s Sovereignty. God created causality. Its effects are His effects.

the reality to me seems that if someone dies of colon cancer, it’s because that person ate nothing but genetically modified constipating overly acidic junk their whole life, not because “God did it”…!

Suppose someone summarizes the last portion of your sentence by the phrase “Toxic foods did it.” Does that seem fair? Now suppose someone says that toxic foods Didn’t give Jimmy colon cancer, but rather chemical imbalances in his diet did it. You might say, But those chemical imbalances are an effect of toxic foods! But now suppose someone else comes along and says chemical imbalances weren’t the “real” cause of the cancer either, instead, it was the fact that the genes in his colon cells got modified by acids. You might say, But those acid were an effect of chemical imbalances! All this exercise is doing is going down the chain of secondary causes.

Behind every low-order secondary cause you can find a higher-order cause – usually another secondary cause but just higher up the ladder. Colon cancer is caused by genetic modification in colon cells, and that is caused by acids, and acids are caused by chemical imbalances, and chemical imbalances are caused by toxic foods, and toxic foods are chosen by free will, and God is responsible for sustaining us in our free will. So it all goes back to God. If you decide to stop the chain at toxic foods and say That is the cause, that is an arbitrary place to stop the causal chain. It is just as reasonable to say God did it as it is to say toxic foods did it, because both were involved. I hope that helps. Please let me know.

Not that it doesn’t help, but, it still leaves me at the same loss as every other commentary. Because…how are we going to think a widowed wife or mother who’s lost a child will be able to hear this? :frowning: (Thank you for asking me to let you know btw, brother.)

She could answer the same way Job did: “the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

Depending on your pastoral approach, you could also discuss this in the way St. John Damascene discusses God’s permissive will: “We are in accord that none of us can rise or be moved without God, and that God does not want us to rob, fornicate, or murder. Therefore if I should rise up and go and rob or fornicate or murder, what do you call that? Is it God’s ‘will,’ or would ‘permission,’ ‘subsistence,’ and ‘forbearance’ be better words? The truth of the matter is that God, although He could have intervened, agreed to the Crucifixion, and used it, by permitting it, against sin.” source

According to St. John, there is a sense in which it is sometimes appropriate to say that God does not cause death, but only permits it for some reason. Therefore there is one sense in which God causes death and one sense in which he does not. Job uses the one sense and St. John uses the other. Take your pick for your given situation. I know I’m not giving much detail here, but the truth is that I don’t know a lot about this. Please don’t assume that my word is definitive. Something tells me I’m missing something important. I hope that helps, though.

I think what dmar is alluding to is that your question proposes two things as an incompatible either/or, when in fact they are both/and.

God is sovereign, and, we fully participate in life, and our participation has consequences.

How can we conceive of these two things being compatible?
A starting point is to accept that God is not like us. He is timeless.

God knows all things, yet we have completely free will and we act in time.
A lot of mystery in God.

St John of Damascus’ dialexis was terrific! :smiley: I’ll remember this.

Amen, there we go!

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