Serra, Scotus, and the Indians: Metaphysics on the Mexican Frontier

It is clear to me that the earlier friars embraced particular theological concepts and methods of application of pastoral theology with which they were familiar, and that, at least for Professor Junípero Serra, OFM, and his students, these were seen and understood through the lens of Scotist philosophy and theology.Let us turn then to some of the basic concepts of Scotist thought.

There is no freedom without contingency, that is, possibility. If one is forced to choose something, there is no freedom involved. However, there is one necessary choice if one is to act rationally, and that is to choose in light of the good.

Rationality is freedom to choose the good. This definition is highly important to remember, for it formed Junípero Serra’s approach to Native people.

While God did not need to create, God has freely chosen to create a universe full of contingencies and freedom. This creation needs to have freedom in order to be a means of natural revelation.

We can say that since it reveals what God is like, it has to share in God’s goodness. Part of God’s goodness is freedom from all restraint except being the highest good.

In Aristotelian and Arabic philosophy, it was common to develop the idea that God had to create in order to be God, the Creator. This led to the conclusion that we can know all about God from the study of the world around us. In such a model, there would be no need of divine revelation.