Breaking the Free Will Illusion


… again, from St. Augustine:
reply can be made: “Man, in what you heard and kept, in that much you could have persevered if you had will” (Admonition and Grace, 7, 11)

God, therefore, gave man a good will, because He made him in that will when He made him upright (i.e., justified or regenerated). He gave man assistance (i.e. saving grace) without which man could not continue in the will even if he would; but that he would, God left to his free choice. Man was able, therefore, to continue if he would, because the assistance was not lacking whereby he was able, and without which he would not be able, to persevere in holding to the good that he might will. But because he willed not to continue, certainly the blame is his whose merit it would have been if he had willed to continue. (ibid., 11, 32)


Both Aquinas and Augustine both Contradict themselves. They teach that we don’t have free will in one place and then teach that we do in another.



I disagree. I think you are projecting a rather Calvinist interpretation into St. Augustine and St. Thomas’ very Catholic teaching.

See here for my article on that point:


Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

We do not seek God on our own.

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

No one can come to Jesus on their own.


Correct. Without the help of God’s grace, we cannot attain eternal glory. However, that is not the same as claiming we lack a free will. We must choose to cooperate with the grace of God, or choose to refuse God’s grace.


As for the traditional understanding of predestination, it is taught by the Catholic Church by the Council of Valence III, AD 855:

Council of Valence III, on predestination…

… faithfully we confess the predestination of the elect to life, and the predestination of the impious to death; in the election, moreover, of those who are to be saved,** the mercy of God precedes the merited good.** In the condemnation, however, of those who are to be lost, the evil which they have deserved precedes the just judgment of God. In predestination, however, (we believe) that God has determined only those things which He Himself either in His gratuitous mercy or in His just judgment would do… in regard to evil men, however, we believe that God foreknew their malice, because it is from them,** but that He did not predestine it**, because it is not from Him. (We believe) that God, who sees all things, foreknew and predestined that their evil deserved the punishment which followed, because He is just, in whom as Saint Augustine says, there is concerning all things everywhere so fixed a decree as a certain predestination. " (Denzinger 322)


Nope, neither Augustine nor Aquinas contradict themselves, nor is it the case that God “causes” our actions. God empowers us to act freely, thus underwriting our moral agency by making it ultimately possible. That does not imply God causes our choices, he causes our freedom to make free choices, but the choices themselves are completely ours to make.

The quote from John means that the Father draws us to him, but that does not imply we must follow that impulse. We can resist.

In fact, as long as God makes sufficient grace available to overcome the power of sin over us – i.e., that the Father’s “drawing power” towards him sufficiently balances out the drawing power of sin away from him – then the onus, responsibility and blameworthiness is completely upon us since we could equally have chosen to be drawn to the Father as to be drawn away from him by sin. By underwriting our capacity to choose, God does not necessarily cause our choices. He causes our choosing but not our choices.

Read both Aquinas and Augustine again. When Aquinas, for example, is speaking of God as “the cause of these in things” he clearly means God is the cause of the “operative powers” (i.e., the operative power of free will) in these created things (human beings, Angels, moral agents, etc.). And by “…Every operation, therefore, of anything is traced back to Him as its cause…” Aquinas means every free operation of the will as a free operation by the moral agent, not as causal determiner of the choices by that agent.


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