Lessons in the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition:
– Creation as Gift of God’s Freedom and Love
All medieval theologians understood creation as an act that only God could perform. Creation meant bringing something into being from absolute nothing. The power over finite being and absolute nothing belongs to God alone… Often, however, the emphasis is on power – God has the power to create out of nothing. The Franciscan Intellectual Tradition does not start with God’s power. Rather, it starts with God’s absolute freedom.
In many ways, John Duns Scotus’s theology of God’s absolute freedom is fuller and more profound than any similar theology found in the Franciscan medieval scholars. In his De Primo Principio: A Treatise on God as First Principle, Scotus carefully speaks of God after a lengthy presentation on the First Principle. This comes when he treats the polar transcendentals and, in particular, the transcendental polarity of ‘finite-infinite.’ Richard Cross claims that Scotus makes infinity central to his understanding of God:
“Scotus uses the idea of divine infinity to demonstrate divine unicity and simplicity. His procedure is thus the opposite to that of Aquinas, who takes divine simplicity as basic, and thence infers infinity and unicity. Scotus expressly rejects Aquinas’ attempt to derive divine infinity from divine simplicity.”
Infinity is basically a negative word meaning not finite. When one asks Scotus what is without limit in God, he is very clear. From a philosophical point of view, it is God’s freedom that has no limit; and from the theological point of view, it is God’s love that has no limit. There is a clear connection between God’s absolute freedom and God’s love. A divine act of freedom is a divine act of love; a divine act of love is a divine act of freedom.
This position of Scotus exercises an enormous role in the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. Every single aspect of the created universe exists because of God’s absolute freedom and because of God’s unlimited love. All of creation is a gift. Nothing in creation is necessary. Everything, in this sense, is grace, an unmerited gift of God.
– Lucas G. Westman
**Taken From “The Franciscan Intellectual Tradition: Tracing Its Origins and Identifying Its Central Components, Pg. 65, 66