I don’t know how many Calvinists there are on this forum, since it is a Catholic forum after all, but I thought I’d ask…
I have a Calvinist friend and I’m trying to understand his theology… I’m not an expert on predestination, since it is not really all that prominent in Catholicism, although I was quite fascinated by it a couple of years back and I had read about it, though I’ve forgotten much of what I’ve learnt.
I’m going to explain my understanding or misunderstanding of TULIP and my reservations, and I hope that you can correct me. I personally don’t intend to argue the Catholic point of view because I don’t know it well enough, though people with all views on predestination are welcome to contribute or argue their points. I’m only giving details of my objections so that you can better see how I’m understanding these things. Scripture is good - I like Scripture, so do use it if you think it’ll help.
Now, here’s TULIP in my understanding:
Man is sinful because of the fall. He needs God’s grace to please God.
This seems pretty much true - man through his free will has chosen sin and deserves eternal punishment. Faith is a gift of grace. I have doubts about the “Total” part. On one site it has also been described as man’s “freedom” so totally “enslaved” by sin that he can only “choose” what is evil. I have reservations about that. What about “free will”?
God has chosen those whom he will save based solely on His will.
Seems to make sense. Some people seem to be holy all their lives and reject God before death, whereas others repent moments before death. Therefore God’s foreknowledge of one’s deeds has nothing to do with election. God is, however, just, because all the people whom he does not elect deserve damnation as a result of their rejecting Him through their own free will, and God, being the Creator of all that is has the liberty to show mercy to whom He pleases.
I’m not all too sure on what the Catholic position is, tbh, though I think this might be where the Catholic objection to double predestination might come in. That the reprobate are actively predestined, implying that God plays an active role in their evil, and denies them their free will.
Christ died for the elect only.
My understanding is that God desires the salvation of all men, though not all will be saved. Christ’s sacrifice was infinite - he was the Son of God. It cannot be limited. A drop of His blood is sufficient to save all the humans who have ever existed times a million. But only the elect will be saved.
You cannot resist God’s grace. It enables your salvation because it is God’s will.
Too seems to infringe on “free will,” though I remember reading that God’s grace can change our predispositions in such a way that we infallibly accept it with our free will. This is how we can pray for others’ salvation. Though I also might have read that God may predestine with foresight of our prayers, though still not based on any sort of individual merit. i.e. Salvation is indeed a free and undeserved gift. This theological soup’s getting too thick for me.
Perseverance of the Saints
Once the elect have received grace, they must persevere to the end and can be assured of their salvation.
That’s true - the elect will by definition be saved. But how can you be assured? How do you know you are among the elect? What about “fear and trembling”? Can’t God give grace to those who are not among the elect and then withdraw it? He could also give grace to the elect, withdraw it and permit them to reject Him, but then give them the grace of final perseverance, no? I sin all the time, sometimes mortally. I may indeed not be among the elect, but I fail to see how I am different from a Calvinist who believes he is assured of his salvation. I could lose my faith, although I do not see that happening, but many people never do. So could the Calvinist. Many still come back to God later. I could also live a holy, faith-filled life all my life and sin towards the end and be unrepentant until death (this would mean refusing to confess for me). If God withdraws His grace, there is no reason why I should not be punished for the grievous sin I committed through my own free will. Is God incapable of doing so?