Grace against the Human Will

Do Catholics believe God can or will save someone who does not want to be saved?

If it is up to us to be saved, as I heard in a recent homily, then God becomes powerless. I would retort that the gift of final perseverance is still a gift, not an human action.

If the number of the predestined is fixed, then people will be saved whether they want to be or not.

This, I think, is a critical and seminal difference between Catholic and Protestant thought. Protestants regard the human will as fallen; I get the impression Catholics think it somehow escaped the effects of the fall.

Our salvation lies in Christ, not in ourselves, not in our own will. I look at myself, for example, and acknowledge a zest for sin that all too often outpaces my love for God. If it is up to me to want to be saved, I am in serious trouble.

Grace perfects Nature.

When you’re in relationship with God, it purifies your desires and actions and constant repentance is always needed because we are weak. But the more you focus on God (and less on how big a schlub you are), the more you love God and trust in His mercy. You are a beloved son or daughter of the King. That’s what it’s all about.

I don’t get this dark double predestination stuff people go on about. If that’s how God is, yuck!!! Just yuck. Not a god worth worshipping IMHO. That whole total depravity-double predestination sounds like the mere ratiocinations of a fallen intellect, namely, a French lawyer. :o

I like the “grace perfects nature” statement.

However, I don’t think you’re response is clear. I think you are saying God is still sovereign over our free wills and He molds them to His purpose as He chooses. Or am I putting words in your mouth?

Calvin is irrelevant, as this thread is about Catholic doctrine concerning this. Predestination is found in Catholic thought, including Augustine and Aquinas - something I have discovered is news to many Catholics.

God will not save someone against their will. That would be spiritual rape.
I disagree that God becomes powerless…we don’t save ourselves, we just have to want God to save us.
Catholics regard the human will as fallen. Protestants regard the human will as depraved.
To your last paragraph…I’m not really sure what to say here. I strongly suspect you are mistaken in something, perhaps the definition of “want”, or too close a look at your “zest for sin”. Could you elaborate on this? (Without naming your sins?)

“Spiritual rape” is an interesting term. Augustine argued that unbelievers be forced into the church, where they would then learn how good it is, the consequences of which have had a long and sad history in the church: recantations under torture, inquisitions, bullyings, tyrannical domination by the cruel and insane in contrast to the love that God desires the church to be run by. The phrase drums up these images in the mind… But here I fear you may be dismissing something true by blowing it off with the term “spiritual rape” without close examination.

None of us, on our own, wants to be saved. We want to run the universe our way, or have the universe our way. Our wills are fallen. Or depraved. I don’t want to argue about meanings, unless the difference is significant to the discussion. You stress the difference - what is important here?

We cannot want God to save us. We need His help in changing our wills so we want to be saved. That change to our wills is part of grace - God causes us to change our free wills to conform to His, without violating our free wills, something only God can do. God is still sovereign over our wills. If He is not in control of our wills, then He is not Lord of all of His creation.

It is human nature that is is in a fallen state. Catholic terminology in reference to the will is more likely to speak of a “weakened” will. (Our fallen nature also includes a “darkened” intellect and “disordered” passions).

CCC #404 …By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve …but this sin affected* the human nature *that they would then transmit in a fallen state.

Altho fallen, Catholics do not consider human nature (any of its powers) as “totally corrupted” - but rather that "it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence.’ " (CCC #405)

If it is up to us to be saved, as I heard in a recent homily, then God becomes powerless. I would retort that the gift of final perseverance is still a gift, not an human action.

It is up to us to be saved in the sense that it is up to us to agree to believe, accept, and cooperate with God’s gift of grace. The “power” is God’s and from Him, but it will not benefit us if we refuse to accept it and cooperate with it.


But we can only accept it or cooperate with it by His power and in His grace. This does not negate the fact that not accepting it or cooperating is sin. We are responsible enough to answer for our sins, but not powerful enough to escape them.

Yes, you can escape them - but ONLY by/through the power of God’s grace strengthening our wills to resist temptation. Jesus became man, suffered and died precisely in order to save us from our sins. To think that we cannot escape them (be saved from them) would imply that, in us, sin is more powerful than God’s grace. As a matter of fact, we won’t be in heaven until we have escaped (soul completely free of) from all of the sin in us.

Your first statement that “we can only accept it or cooperate with it by His power and in His grace” reflects Catholic teaching also. God is truly a powerful, loving God.

Christ is our only escape from sin, yes. I think I would put it that in yielding our wills to His, we replace our weak and wishy washy wills with (how’s that for assonance!) His. But that yielding can only be done by His grace.

Catholics state that God is the First Actor in salvation - without His initiative no one would be saved. I agree. I see agreement at some level between Protestants and Catholics in the idea that God is the one we must rely on to bring us home, after that, but I have also seen the pressure put on the believer to the extent of it sounding like God does an initial salvific act and then turns us out in the wilderness to find our own way home. This may be the counterpoint to the other error, which is antinomialism.

If we have free will, then that free will is something that God made, and He is still sovereign over it. Some seem to deny that sovereignty. I think free will is an act of grace, and anyone freely choosing will choose good, just as if I have a free choice as to whether I will hit my head with a hammer, I will choose not to, because I know the consequences. But my fleshly will may decide, in its ignorance and blindness, that the new level of pain is worth it. Not so my free will, which is actually Christ’s will dwelling in me.

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