Free will argument against OSAS


I’m starting a new thread for this so as not to hijack the thread on good arguments against OSAS. Since I think there are lots of good arguments against OSAS, but this isn’t one, I think the topic deserves its own thread.

I encourage you to study the matter for yourself. Augustine deals with the question in several places: the “Questions to Simplician” for one, the Enchiridion for another, and of course in the anti-Pelagian writings. Augustine would say that freedom consists in willing what is good. It is never a violation of free will when we choose the good, because that is what our wills were made for. The enslavement of the will occurs when we fall away from the good to something lesser. (This is Augustine’s mature position–his earlier view, as found in his treatise On Free Will, is more “libertarian,” though if I remember correctly the third book of On Free Will marks a shift.)

Aquinas is more complex, because he does teach a libertarian view of free will (i.e., that the will is free when it can either accept or reject a given possibility), but doesn’t seem to think that this makes it impossible for God to ensure that people will choose something good. One friend of mine who is a Thomist philosopher himself (Tom Osborne, professor of philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Houston) has suggested to me that Aquinas was a libertarian with regard to second causes, but not with regard to God’s action. In other words, nothing less than God can move the will effectively to one option rather than another without violating its freedom, but God can do this because He works within it. David Burrell, a philosopher at Notre Dame, appears to agree. Burrell insists that Aquinas didn’t think of the will choosing among several possible options, but of the will accepting or rejecting a particular good presented to it–for what difference that makes. For an overview of Aquinas’s position, I recommend Brian Davies, *The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. *

Bottom line - OSAS is impossible because God always allows us to reject him.

But obviously that is not true throughout all eternity. There comes a point at which the will is confirmed in one direction or the other. OSAS advocates unreasonably and heretically claim that the confirmation of the wills of the elect occurs at the point of regeneration (at least the more “Reformed” ones do–some Baptists seem to think instead that the choice of the will after regeneration is irrelevant, which is truly absurd as well as wicked). But your argument would imply that such a “confirmation” can never occur, which is (in the medieval scholastic sense) “inconvenient”!

As for the angels and saints in heaven - they have perfectly united their will to the Father’s, so yes, they still have free will, but it is now impossible for them to sin by turning their will against God.

And there is no a priori logical reason why this could not be true of all the regenerate. It’s just that Scripture, tradition, and experience lead us to believe that this is not so.

The doctrine of free will, I repeat, contains the easy way to refute ‘once saved, always saved.’

Of course it’s easy. It’s just not very convincing.

An all-loving God must allow people at all stages of their earthly life to reject him permanently.

I see absolutely no reason why this is so. What does God’s love have to do with it? And why should this be true “at all stages of their earthly life”? This is a completely unsupported assertion. (You may answer “because this life is a time of probation,” which I agree with, but which does not necessarily follow from the doctrine of free will. The OSAS view is that probation, at least as regards one’s final destiny, ends at the point at which one is born again. There are plenty of reasons to reject this view, but it doesn’t violate free will any more than the view that probation ends at the moment of death.)

The only way out, philosophically, is to hold that God allows only those people He knows who will be with Him eternally in heaven to make this salvific act.

I don’t think that’s a “way out.” It’s a necessary corollary of OSAS.

But this would act against justice (why is God going to let this ‘saved’ person, for example, Hitler, create incredible abominations)

First of all, I don’t know of anyone who claims that Hitler was saved (at the time he committed his abominations–of course we all know that he might have repented at the last minute). In the second place, those of us who don’t believe in OSAS believe that a person can be regenerate, commit horrible sins (thus losing his regenerate status), and then be finally saved (after repenting). (In fact, since we know Hitler was baptized as an infant, Catholics necessarily believe that he was at one time regenerate, whether or not he finally repented.) It is indeed against justice for God to save Hitler (or anyone else who deliberately sins against charity) without Hitler’s repentance. Those OSAS advocates who think this is possible are guilty of an abominable heresy. But OSAS doesn’t necessarily imply this–this is not the point in question here. Some believe that a regenerate person wouldn’t do the things Hitler did. Others think that if Hitler was regenerate God would ensure that he eventually repented. Neither of these are any more “sins against justice” than the view that you and I hold (that Hitler might be finally saved if he repented but was certainly not regenerate while committing genocide).

and against reason (why would God tell us to pray and do acts of charity if we know we’re going to be saved anyways - the reward is the same whether you do it or not).

No, this is not against reason. First of all, it is unworthy to pray and do acts of charity only for the hope of reward:

*]Cur igitur non amem te,
O Jesu amantissime,
Non, ut in cœlo salves me,
Aut ne æternum damnes me,
*]Nec præmii ullius spe;
Sed sicut tu amasti me?
Sic amo et amabo te,
Solum quia Rex meus es,
Et solum, quia Deus es.[/LIST]

In the second place, OSAS advocates argue that there are other rewards in heaven beyond the gift of eternal life itself (get Teflon talking about “jewels in the crown” sometime!).

And in the third place, the traditional Augustinian/Thomist view (held by Calvinists) is that when God predestines the end He also predestines the means. So one’s actions contribute to final salvation even though final salvation is assured by God’s electing grace. This is paradoxical but not contradictory, if you accept the basic premise that everything we are, including our free wills, is a gift of God. So when we act (for good–evil is more complex), God is acting in us. This is basic, traditional Christian teaching.



Appeals to authority?

Sure. What’s wrong with appealing to the authority of venerable Doctors of the Church on a Catholic forum? If I were talking to Baptists, now, I’d expect this. But I naively expect Catholics to have at least as much respect for the Fathers as Anglicans do (I should know better by now, I suppose, but hope springs eternal. . . .)

St Augustine was not infallible,

I never suggested that he was. I don’t think that Augustine and Aquinas are necessarily right. I’m simply pointing out that the view of free will implicit in this argument cannot be taken for granted within the Catholic theological tradition.

as his Manichaean beliefs amply demonstrate.

That’s silly. Augustine was a heretic, and then repented and was baptized. I am talking about works he wrote long after his baptism, and works that contributed toward his recognition as a Doctor of the Church. Same with Aquinas. Of course they might both be wrong. But it’s far more likely that a modern guy posting on an Internet forum simply hasn’t thought the issue through enough.

The question is what the Church teaches—where Augustine and Aquinas are in perfect alignment with it, they are correct. Where they are not, they are incorrect.

And on this issue (except for the question of angelic confirmation and the confirmation of the wills of the blessed in heaven), I don’t think the Church has spoken authoritatively one way or the other. But the Augustinian view is historically dominant within the Western Church. It may be incorrect, but it has to be taken seriously.

In Christ,


closed #3

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