Commenting on Jacques Maritain’s statement that, for Aquinas, the human artist acts as “an associate of God in the making of beautiful works” who does not so much “copy God’s creation” as he “continues it,” Robert Miner suggests that the clearest example of Thomas’s “elevation” of human making occurs in his
treatment of the human participation in divine providence. Although there are no intermediaries in creation proper, ‘there are certain intermediaries of God’s providence, for he governs things inferior by superior… not on account of any defect in His power, but by reason of the abundance of His goodness; so that the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures’ [ST 1.22.3]. Providence ensures that creaturely causality will always be something more than it is for an Aristotelian or modern naturalist. All things are created at an instant, through God’s knowledge of his own essence and the diverse modes in which it can be imitated. But things also ‘come to be in time,’ as Thomas says [ST 1.14.16 ad 1; 1.15.3]. Humans do not create in the strict sense, but they are not denied a role in the temporal achievement or realization of the idea. This lends creaturely causality a dignity that it would otherwise lack…” (Miner, Truth in the Making, 9)
In summary, Aquinas denies human art or making any role in God’s own act of creation, of bringing things into being from nothing, but in so doing he reserves for them a role in God’s own work of providence, of bringing, that is, the things he alone has created to their predestined end. Put differently still, the significance of the “sub” in sub-creation is not the denial of human art and making of its ultimately divine significance, but of precisely investing them with such significance by locating them in God’s acts of post-creation. If sub-creation is not protological, it is for the simple reason that it is eschatological.