One of the basic tenets of Divine Will teaching is this:
In order to possess the Divine Will, it is necessary to surrender one’s will to God completely.
But what is meant by this “surrendering”? What is the result of “surrendering” one’s will to God? The annihilation of the human will, understood literally and metaphysically? No. If that were the case, then the one who surrendered his will to God would no longer be a human person. There would no longer be a human “someone” to receive the gift of the Divine Will and live in It. For the human will is essential to the human person; one cannot be a human person if one does not have a human will.
As the Divine Will “takes over” the human person, It does not destroy anything that is proper to the human being as such. When God created us human beings, he gave each of us a soul—an individual soul dignified with the powers of intellect, memory and will, and therefore made in the image of God. Now if God were to destroy any of these faculties (intellect, memory and will), he would be undoing His work of creation, and going back on His covenantal promise to mankind. But God, who is faithful, and who is one, would not act in such a way. For good reason, then, Aquinas would always say that grace builds on nature and does not destroy it.
The Third Fiat of God, whose effect is the sanctity of living in the Divine Will, comes after the First Fiat (the act of Creation) and the Second Fiat (the act of Redemption) and builds on them. Indeed, the Third Fiat brings to completion the inner tendency at work in the first two Fiats. The Third Fiat should not be thought of as undoing the work of the First or Second Fiat, otherwise we would be attributing disorder to the Will of God.
St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – 662), who championed dyotheletism—the doctrine that Christ has a divine will and a human will (see here)—distinguished between the circumstance of the human will, and the essential nature or structure of the human will. I will draw on this crucial distinction below.
Imagine the human will as a grain of sand, and the Divine Will as a boundless ocean. Before the Fall, Adam’s human will was like a grain of sand completely surrounded and submerged in the ocean of the Divine Will. At no point on its surface was the grain exposed to the open air. After the Fall, Adam’s human will was like a grain of sand lying on the shore and exposed to the air. It was no longer surrounded and submerged in the ocean of the Divine Will. To be sure, it was still in contact with the water, either in the form of the waves crashing on the shore (and tending to pull the grain back into the ocean) or in the form of the sea mist in the air.
This was a new circumstance for the human will. While God foreknew this sorry circumstance of the human will, He never intended it. However, the human will had not changed in its essential nature or structure. In one sense, yes, the “nature” of the human person had changed—he was now crippled and corrupted with a disposition toward disorder and rebellion. But this was still accidental to the human person. The God-given first nature of the human person does not include corruption or disorder as such. It is proper to the human will to be able, at least in certain circumstances, to fall away from God and tend toward sin (the “actualisation” of this possibility does not represent the true fulfilment of the human person, but works against it). But the state of actually falling away from God, the state of actual disorder, does not define the human will and is not part of its basic structure. Otherwise we would have to say that Jesus and Mary were not truly human, given that they were not corrupted by original sin. Moreover, we would have to attribute our rebellious nature (which is actually second nature, an accidental circumstance affecting first nature) to God’s act of creation, whereas everything that God has made is “very good” (Gen 1:31). God would not create something which, by its very nature (that is, first nature) is in enmity with Him and repugnant to His holiness.
The physical structure of the grain of sand does not change as it passes from being submerged in the ocean, to lying on the shore in the open air, and back again. However, its circumstance does change. When the grain of sand is lying on the beach it is only in contact with a minimal amount of moisture, and its wetness varies over time. But when it is submerged in the middle of the ocean there is no point on the surface of the grain that is not in contact with water. Nor does the grain’s wetness vary over time, since it is immersed in an immense ocean.
What changes as the distinct grain of the human will emerges from the ocean of the Divine Will into the open air, and is washed up on the shore of fallen man’s history? It would be wrong to say that this emergence is the same as the production of the human will or person from the creative womb of God. It is one thing for something to “emerge” from the Divine Will as a creature distinct from God, with its individuality and proper nature. It is another thing for something to “emerge” from out of the Divine Will so as to be no longer united and co-ordinated with the Divine Will, no longer animated by It perfectly and continually. God is directly responsible for the first emergence, but not for the second. And to conflate Creation and Fall is a Gnostic error.
It would also be wrong to say that the emergence of the human will into the open air—this “emergence” being the Fall—was the moment when the human person first became self-conscious and free, or first took ownership of himself as a thinking individual. For individual (human) freedom, and the inner life of the (human) mind, do not depend on being separated from God’s Will (they do depend on being distinct from God’s Will, however). On the contrary, they find their true place and fulfilment only in perfect union with God’s Will. To conflate human freedom with autarchy (self-rule apart from God) is the error of the Enlightenment.
What changes as the human will passes from the ocean of the Divine Will to the shore of human rebellion—or passes back in the other direction—is this: How the human will is factually inclined, how the human will behaves, and the mode of its operation. For these are determined not simply by the human will as such, understood in its essential structure, but also by the dynamic circumstance in which that will is found.
A human will that is synergetically united with the Divine Will—such that the two act always together, each giving way to the other so as to effect one and the same co-ordinated movement of Will—is in a different dynamic circumstance than a human will that is not synergetically united with the Divine Will.
I am a cradle Catholic, husband, and father of three girls. My wife and I have long been convinced of the truth of the "new and divine holiness" as revealed to the Italian mystic, Luisa Piccarreta (1865-1947). I began reading Luisa's writings in the early 2000s. I hold a PhD in philosophy and specialise in metaphysics as applied to theological topics (Trinity, creation, grace and freedom).