Council of Orange: Calvinist?

Help me understand these declarations made at the council of Orange. When I read them, it seems like this council is teaching predestination. I’ve bolded some parts if you just feel like skimming.

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism – if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.
CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

Hi Binary,

This is standard Catholic doctrine from Jesus and St. Paul right down to the present day. It merely says that we need God’s grace to acceed to the means of salvation. We remain free to cooperate with God’s grace, so there is no “predestination” in the negative sense that you give it. There is predestination in the sense that God created a world where he knew that certain persons would not cooperate with God’s grace. Knowing is not forcing.

Does this answer your question?



That was my understanding until I read these passages. However, these passages seem to be in conflict with that. How can we have any choice when the council uses language like “…**we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life…”? **

I must not understand what is being said, because the plain reading of this text appears to say, “Anytime I make a choice regarding salvation, it is only because God gave me the grace to do so. Without this grace, I could not have made this choice.” This implies a de facto predestination, where God gives grace to some and withholds it from others, leading some to salvation and others to damnation.

And that was, in some form, the majority opinion for much of the history of Western Catholicism. Recently it has fallen out of favor, and many Catholics would like to forget about it.

However, it’s important to note that in the Catholic view God does not “lead” anyone to damnation (even Calvinists wouldn’t necessarily put it that bluntly). God permits some people to be damned. Just how that works is a matter of debate. As I said, the majority opinion for at least a thousand years of Catholic history was that God’s predestination is NOT based on foreknowledge of human actions, which implies that some are moved toward their final end based on God’s free choice, while others are allowed to act in such a way as to merit damnation. Allowed, not caused. Catholicism makes a much sharper distinction here than Calvinism.


That’s why you can’t take bits and pieces to try and see what is meant…see the entire part that you had bolded in the OP:

[quote=Binary]If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit,

What I have bolded is VERY important to the understaning of this. We Catholics do, and have always understood that we cannot do anything toward our salvation WITHOUT the Grace given to us freely by God. Our cooperation in His Grace can only be done by His Grace…

Predestination is not exclusively a Calvinist doctrine. In fact, the Catholic Church teaches predestination. The following three priinciples are accepted by all Catholic theologians:

We shall return to this point. But in any case, from this minimum admitted by all we get three propositions to which all Catholic theologians subscribe. They are: (1) Predestination to the first grace is not because God foresaw our naturally good works, nor is the beginning of salutary acts due to natural causes; (2) predestination to glory is not because God foresaw we would continue in the performance of supernaturally meritorious acts apart from the special gift of final perseverance; (3) complete predestination, in so far as it comprises the whole series of graces from the first up to glorification, is gratuitous or previous to foreseen merits. These three propositions are admitted by all Catholic theologians.

This is from:

Also, Catholic predestination is not mere Divine foreknowledge of man’s choices. That is the Arminian understanding of predestination, a Protestant theology. Catholicism affirms free will while maintaining the sovereignty of God. There are at least two basic explanations of the relationship between grace and free, Thomism and Molinism. Besides the above link, the following websites will help you understand Catholic predestination:

On predestination in general:

On Thomism:

On Molinism:

Thanks all. I know that “double predestination” was condemned elsewhere in the church’s history, and that’s really what I’m having a hard time with here. The difference between pushing a helpless person in front of a train and failing to remove a helpless person from a train’s path is a small one at best, and certainly it’s not a distinction that the helpless person would appreciate.

Mike, it will take some time for me to get through the links you posted. I’ll get back to you.

Sure! No rush. :slight_smile:

God Bless,

If you become more interested in this, I would also suggest getting Predestination by Garrigou-Lagrange (which you get a taste of with mikeledes summa link) with gives a good treatment of the doctrine within Catholicism’s history. As Edwin said, the dominant position of Catholicism for most of history has been the Thomist view; Jesuits and Molinism have gained the upper hand the past few centuries (actually just an aside, the Jansenists considered themselves compatible with Thomism and against Calvinism and perhaps could’ve been reconciled with the church with some caveats, but the Jesuits/Molinists opposed them greatly leading to their condemnation - Pascal’s letters to his Jesuit opponents are pretty interesting). Unfortunately the strong influence of Molinism/Jesuits and decline of the counterweight of Thomism in modern times seems to have caused much of the confusion and seemingly common view that ascribes too much to libertarian free will.

Well it took me awhile, but I finally got through all of those links. It didn’t actually click for me until I read the last one, which ironically was the first one you posted.

I think I’m guilty of equivocation here. The text that I bolded in the original post is talking about receiving the first grace that allows us to come to God, not (as I wrongly assumed) all the subsequent grace that sustains our relationship with God. My incorrect interpretation of the text precluded us from cooperating with God at all.

You answered my question very comprehensively, so thank you. This issue has really brought into focus some doubts I have about damnation and hell, but I’ll have to make another thread for that.

You’re welcome! :thumbsup: Just keep in mind that we are not going to fully understand the judgements of God, for His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Predestination is a great mystery.

God Bless,

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