Free Will Fallen Will


#1

Do Catholics believe the will to be fallen?

In Catholic thought, is the will subject to the sovereignty of God?

Are Catholics saved by the strength of their will to persevere or by the grace of God?


#2

Weakened is the expression we use. The will is still present and can choose, but it is weakened in its ability to choose the good - especially when temptations are wreaking their havoc.

In Catholic thought, is the will subject to the sovereignty of God?

No. (I am assuming by sovereignty you mean control.) Our free will is the one area God leaves entirely in our control. He will not violate it.

Are Catholics saved by the strength of their will to persevere or by the grace of God?

Both - by free will choices for good **made possible **through the help/strengthening of God’s grace.

Are you still having a problem reconciling predestination and free will?


#3

:thumbsup: Just as the Council of Trent would have said it.


#4

I don’t have time to give a decent answer to this right now, but I want to bump the thread for reasons I hope to go into sometime later.


#5

Nita,

This seems contradictory.

You as a Catholic can only be saved if you choose to. But your will is weak. You will not choose the good. But God will not interfere with your weak will - He will allow you to fall, knowing the weakness of your will and your inability to choose the good?

This to me is no Gospel. We will not save ourselves, therefore God has to do the saving. I know I will, left on my own, choose evil most if not all the time. If my salvation is left to my own choice, I have no hope.

God is sovereign over the will, as displayed in many passages of Scripture. He guides the hearts of kings. We can pray that someone chooses a certain way: “Lord, let me find favor with my boss,” that clearly implies a belief in God’s interference with someone’s will.

We need the will of Christ operating in our lives. We cannot and will not choose that on our own. So to me there is some necessary subordination of the human will to the sovereignty of God. It is not some kind of independent creation; Catholics are not dualistic. and from what I have read, Catholics believe that God moves in the background, so to speak, so that while the will remains free, God may move circumstances so that someone freely chooses as God wills. God does not let the universe go its own way. He is still in control. The idea of an absolutely free will as you describe seems to be contradictory to Catholic teaching and also not in accordance with my experience.

You are very knowledgeable and thought out, so I don’t think you are really contradictory to Catholic teaching. So what am I missing?


#6

and from what I have read, Catholics believe that God moves in the background, so to speak, so that while the will remains free, God may move circumstances so that someone freely chooses as God wills. God does not let the universe go its own way. He is still in control.

Agreed. It is what I meant by my response - “Both - by free will choices for good made possible through the help/strengthening of God’s grace.”

The idea of an absolutely free will as you describe seems to be contradictory to Catholic teaching and also not in accordance with my experience.

Free will does not deny the existence of God’s activity, interior and/or exterior, to assist a person in making choices. It only says God will not take over control of the person’s will, forcing the choice so that it is no longer a free choice.

So what am I missing?

I think you may have misunderstood my words — “No. (I am assuming by sovereignty you mean control.) Our free will is the one area God leaves entirely in our control. He will not violate it.”

I certainly didn’t mean that we save ourselves!!! God is always active, bestowing graces to help us choose what is right. **His grace is the power **- It is only with the help of His grace that we can choose the good. But, we freely make the choice. Only God can do the saving, but we have to “choose” to cooperate with His saving activity. God assists but He doesn’t force.
You say “He guides the hearts of kings”. I agree. Guiding is not determining/controlling/forcing; it is what I would call assisting.

There would be no culpability for us if the decisions we make are not ours. One could blame God for everything, letting oneself “off the hook” for sinful acts. After all, if God is so sovereign that all decisions are controlled/determined by Him, then they are His decisions, not ours. What would be the whole purpose of creating a being with a will? What would be the whole purpose of our existence?

There are a couple points concerning Calvinistic sovereignty and predestination that I’m not clear on, and hope you’ll clear up for me:

  1. Do you believe that God forcibly controls all the choices a person makes? so that every human act can be considered an act that God willed and made sure happened? (In other words, impossible for person to have chosen and acted differently.)
    If not, then what do you mean by the “will being subject to the sovereignty of God”?

  2. Regarding the eternal state: Do the acts of the person have any bearing on whether they spend eternity in heaven or hell? If so, what is the relationship.

Nita


#7

There are a couple points concerning Calvinistic sovereignty and predestination that I’m not clear on, and hope you’ll clear up for me:

I’m not a Calvinist. at least not in the sense that a Catholic is a Catholic, in appealing to Calvin as an authority as Catholics appeal to the Catechism and the Magisterium as authoritative. So I don’t know that I am particularly representative of anyone else speaking on Calvinism, some of whom I probably would sharply disagree with me. And I am just posting off the cuff. Tomorrow I may shake my head at this.

  1. Do you believe that God forcibly controls all the choices a person makes? so that every human act can be considered an act that God willed and made sure happened? (In other words, impossible for person to have chosen and acted differently.)
    If not, then what do you mean by the “will being subject to the sovereignty of God”?

God does not forcibly control all the choices a person makes - He gives us free will. But at the same time He is absolutely sovereign over everything. To me, my free will is free, but when I look out on the world, I can only look out on it through Christ, and part of that is that He is in control of all of creation. You, for example, being part of that creation, are under His dominion and authority. Yet your will is free to you. We are all given free will as some sort of “second order of creation”. We are not robots. But for me, everyone else is under the sovereign will of God. Thus I can pray that God will cause someone else to repent.

But what is free will? God has so made me that there are some things I simply will not choose. Try as I might, I cannot will to grow another head. I don’t want to do it. Period. Likewise there are somethings I cannot help but want: the natural needs of “daily bread” as well as things like international recognition of How Great I Am and endless fame and fortune: a mixed bag of legitimate needs, a real desire to know God, and carnal wants.

So there is a battle of the wills. The will of the flesh battles the will of the spirit, and that spirit is one given by God. I argue that we have two wills, in conflict, and so we need the mercy of God to arbitrate.

And there is indeed a great, and under-appreciated, tension in theology between the free will of man and the sovereignty of God. Both seem to be fully true. Either seems unduly emphasized by it proponents to the detriment of the other, yet even the extremists seem to acknowledge the legitimate role of the other.

Someone I know says he prays like a Calvinist (emphasizing sovereignty) but acts like an Arminian (choice, especially in evangelism, is up to us).

  1. Regarding the eternal state: Do the acts of the person have any bearing on whether they spend eternity in heaven or hell? If so, what is the relationship.

Acts arise either from the flesh or faith. If from flesh, they are condemned. If from faith, they are by grace, and then it is God acting through us.

If we are saved, all the glory and honor and praise and action is God’s: He initiaties it, He continues it, He finalizes it. Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith.

At the same time, if we refuse to follow Him, it is our own fault and responsibility.

We are fallen enough to need the help of God to be saved, but not so fallen as to avoid responsibility for our actions.

A tree is judged by its fruit. A good tree will bear good fruit, a bad one bad fruit. Jesus looks for the fruit of faith (good works) in judging someone. While they are still alive, He also does a whole lot of pruning of bad branches in some cases, in hope of good fruit. In other cases it seems there is no pruning.

As for heavenly rewards, those are gifts, not payments for work done. God beginning, doing and ending the works in us, it is Him at work, not us. Cooperation is subordinate to His activity. I think cooperation is a gift as well, not something we can boast in as coming from us, but something He gives us, as He gives all things, including free will and moment-by-moment sustenance of our existence.


#8

Sort of continuing my muttering…

So to me the rallying cries of the Reformation are more encompassing than some make them out to be. “Grace alone” includes the grace given in cooperation, as cooperation does not occur by human action unaided. “Faith alone” does not happen without works floowing, and we do not believe without God giving us the gift of faith. All things are in Christ, all things come from Him, and He is the Center of all, being the way, the truth and the life. To Him belongs the glory and the honor and the power.

And we freely surrender our wills to Him. “Not my will, but Thine be done”.


#9

I think essentially, your belief is the same as Catholic belief. What causes a problem is more a matter of semantics, or different understanding of what a particular word encompasses. An example:

But what is free will? God has so made me that there are some things I simply will not choose. Try as I might, I cannot will to grow another head. I don’t want to do it. Period. Likewise there are somethings I cannot help but want: the natural needs of “daily bread” as well as things like international recognition of How Great I Am and endless fame and fortune: a mixed bag of legitimate needs, a real desire to know God, and carnal wants.

So there is a battle of the wills. The will of the flesh battles the will of the spirit, and that spirit is one given by God. I argue that we have two wills, in conflict, and so we need the mercy of God to arbitrate.

You seem to include desires as functions of the will. Thus, you speak of two wills since we experience both good desires and sinful desires.
I may be wrong, and I’ll have to get busy and do some searching, but I don’t think our desires are considered to be a constituent part of the will in Catholic teaching. Desires can have an influence - making it easier or more difficult - for the will to make the proper choice. Sinful desires can be very strong - to the point that our weakened will “chooses” to do the sinful act the disordered desires crave, even tho we know (intellect) it is against God’s command and generally desire to do God’s will. Two conflicting desires present and battling - and one will end up having a stronger influence that the other. But, only the choosing (of which desire to act on) is the will’s activity.

he following is a definition from “Modern Catholic Dictionary” by Fr. John A. Hardon S.J.:
FREE WILL: The power of the will to **determine itself **and to act of itself, without compulsion from within or coercion from without. …

The “determining” power is what constitutes the will.

Now, taking from that definition the words “compulsion” and “coercion”. It does not say that humans don’t experience such things, just that they are not part of the will. We may experience them “within” (thoughts/disordered passions) or “without” - external to our person (pictures, pressure from people,). Desires and compulsion come from other areas of our being - the flesh, the intellect, or most times a combo of the two.

If you accept Catholic doctrine on free will, intellect, concupisence, culpable sin, and the nature/power of God’s grace in our soul, Paul’s epistle to the Romans 7 & 8, makes sense. It makes sense not just as an isolated text, but also in connection with all his other teaching concerning our responsibility for our sinful acts/choices.

I think if you can make that separation between “choosing” (will) and “desiring” (flesh and intellect), you’ll find we’re saying the same thing. If you can’t make the separation, then our difference would only be in what we see as activities that should be considered functions of the will.

And we freely surrender our wills to Him. “Not my will, but Thine be done”.

I’d make only one small addition to that first sentence:
"And we freely choose to surrender our wills to Him."
Christ’s will present and acting in us is a result of our free will choice.

Nita


#10

Nita,

I think we are very close if not in actual agreement (how’s that for wiggle-ese?).

"And we freely choose to surrender our wills to Him."
Christ’s will present and acting in us is a result of our free will choice.

Your true-blue died in the wool Calvinist, to eliminate and snuff out the last possible vestige of human boasting, would argue that we can only choose freely when our wills are freed from sin: that is, it takes an act of grace for us to freely choose to surrender our wills to Him. I would agree that we need His help in surrendering our wills to Him - a central feature, it seems to me, of sanctification. I would vouch for obtaining His assistance with certain problems of the will. In some cases He goes the Hebrews 12 route, in others He simply seems to change what I want. I want Him, and Him alone. Nothing else matters, all other desires are carnal in comparison with Him. We are working on getting all of me to agree with that. Not there yet!

In any case I think we are given free wills so that we can give them back to Him. that, in it, like in everything, we go through a sacrificial death - and God gives it back to us, resurrected, cleaner, stronger, and more like His.

Some people on both sides of the Tiber may be so determined to demonstrate the error of the other position that they don’t realize the differences may be purely semantic. I’ve seen polarized threads where a staunch Calvinist comes off as so absolutist on sovereignty that the Catholics in opposition come off as absolutist on man’s free will as supreme. This may be a common error of our friendly neighborhood apologists. I’m going to start reading threads with this in mind and see if it is borne out or is just a wild thought.


#11

I also believe that it’s only with the help of His grace that we can surrender our wills to Him. All good comes either thru the assistance of His grace, or directly… Heavens, we depend on His grace not only to come into existence, but to remain in existence!

I would vouch for obtaining His assistance with certain problems of the will. In some cases He goes the Hebrews 12 route, in others He simply seems to change what I want. I want Him, and Him alone. Nothing else matters, all other desires are carnal in comparison with Him. We are working on getting all of me to agree with that. Not there yet!

I know what you mean about changing “what I want”. For me, it’s been a “thank you Lord” experience - as he helped do away with some of my most sinful wants. As I look back, its more like they just gradually faded away into oblivion as I became more absorbed in Him, spending time with Him (prayer), learning (Scripture, Church teaching), etc.

In any case I think we are given free wills so that we can give them back to Him. that, in it, like in everything, we go through a sacrificial death - and God gives it back to us, resurrected, cleaner, stronger, and more like His.

You’ve just described LOVE; total gift of self. God is always doing it, loving us. It’s perfect when it’s reciprocal - total and continual on our part as well as His. Like you, “I’m not there yet”.

God bless,
Nita


#12

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