How do Thomism and Calvinism differ?

I know Aquinas is considered the model Catholic theologian and as such some of his views (like transubstantiation) flat out contradict reformed theology, but here I am asking specifically about Thomism, which (I think) is the same thing as “Augustinian soteriology.” As far as I can tell, he (Aquinas) taught at least 2 points of TULIP, namely unconditional election and irresistible grace. Can anyone explain to me how his views agree with or differ from the other 3 points of TULIP?


Careful, there is an position on the question of grace and free will called Augustinian, which was expounded by Giovanni Berti in the 18th century that is different from the Thomistic system. The difference is that the Thomists hold to a physical “pressure” in regards to the efficacious grace whereas the Augustininas hold to a moral pressure. It’s true that both Augustinians and Thomists hold to an unconditioned predestination. But so do most Scotists, and even some Molinists (such as Cardinal Bellarmine).

As to how Thomism differs from Calvinism, this is hard question, because not every Calinist is the same, and not every Thomist is the same. It would overly simplistic to say that Calvinists believe in double predestination, in that God predestines some to heaven and some to hell. That’s not really true (at least not for the majority of Calvinists). Also, some Thomists, alas, like John of St. Thomas, hold to a position that comes dangerously close in my and many others’ opinon to double predestination, since he holds that there is a positive, and not merely permissive, unconditional decree of non-election for the reprobate.

For a modern Calvinist view of predestination, you can see R.C. Sproul discuss it in four parts. Here’s the link to the first part (you can continue looking up for the other three parts).

For a Thomistic view of the controversy, I recommend reading Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s Grace, book. A link can be found to it here.

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but I think this should suffice.
Benedicat Deus,

One is a Catholic…the other is not…etc :wink:

You can find I think what your looking for from Jimmy Akin’s “A tip toe through tulip”

The two views are as different as night and day, even if similar language is used.
See this article A Trample Upon Tuilp:

One is a Catholic…the other is not…etc :wink:

You can find I think what your looking for from Jimmy Akin’s “A tip toe through tulip”

I wish people would stop posting “A Tiptoe Through Tulip.” That article is like 25 years outdated. The article has a lot of truth but it unfortunately gives the impression there is a Catholic version of Tuilp when there isn’t.

Protestant theology is Pelagian and Man-centered at its foundation, whereas Catholic theology is grace alone and God-centered at its foundation. These are two hugely different foundations by which to build one’s understanding of Salvation upon. You will come up with two very different structures, even if some thing appear the same on the outside.

In the Catholic view, Adam was originally elevated by grace and needed to cooperate with grace to love God properly and maintain communion. In sinning, Adam lost that grace, and thus was no longer elevated, but rather fell down to a merely earthly level of living and interacting. Salvation was about Adam maintaining communion with God.

In the Protestant view, Adam was never elevated by grace, but rather lived on merely an earthly plane, and thus when Adam sinned there was no elevated state to fall from. This is why some honest Protestant theologians have said we should avoid speaking of Adam as “falling,” because it is a Catholic notion. In this Protestant view, salvation is not about maintaining communion with God, but rather trying to live a life without sin by one’s natural abilities if one wants to be with God in Heaven someday.

This starting picture shows that Christ’s work of Redemption will be interpreted very differently, because Christ has to rescue man from two very different scenarios. In the Catholic view, Christ comes to re-elevate us back to communion with God. In the Protestant view, Christ comes to live a life of perfect obedience in our place because we are now unable to do so.

In the Catholic view, Jesus came to restore a broken relationship. In the Protestant view, Jesus came to replace our obedience with his. This is why Protestants don’t believe salvation can be lost, because it’s not about us maintaining a relationship with God, but rather about God overlooking out disobedience and instead focusing on Jesus’ obedience instead.

I refer you to Jimmy Akin -Senior Apologist of Catholic Answers. He can discuss with you your questions and give any updated version he may have.

Apologetics has come a lonnnnnnnng way over the past few decades. There’s a reason people like James White have basically gone silent the last 7 years and why Protestant apologetics has basically been dead for that same amount of time. It’s because a more robust Catholic apologetics has arisen and just demolishes Protestant theology at it’s roots. The old method of Catholic apologetics was to present the Catholic verses against the Protestant verses and try to make a better case. James 2 versus Paul’s Epistles is how things typically went. But now, it’s Catholicism ripping everything away from Protestants, getting to the heart of the matter, and from there showing the Protestant has zero Biblical support at all.

Please take it up with Jimmy and get any update.



I don’t know what Protestants you’ve been talking to, but they certainly aren’t typical ones.

Ok ,new question. I cant seem to find any references one way or the other, so can someone tell me (if they know) whether or not Thomists limit the atonement to the elect alone, like Calvinists, or if they believe anyone could be saved? Thanks

I really like this post. This is a very complex and nuance subject that would be impossible to describe in one post, and you have done very well. Whose Thomism and whose Calvinism are we talking about?

Both are highly nuanced and complex systems that should not be approached with a broad brush. They both have long critical histories and intellectual developments, with different things to look at along the paths that sometimes are parallel, sometimes cross, sometimes diverge. That said, I cannot begin to answer the OP, in all humility.:blush:

I will address my understanding of limited atonement, which is that all men COULD be saved by it, but the effects are only applied to the elect. Otherwise the effects are applied to all, which would make one a universalist, citing irreristable grace.

St Thomas did not teach that grace is irresistible although some later commentators of St Thomas interpret him to teach that grace is irresistible. I recommend an excellent book by Fr. William G. Most titled ‘Grace, Predestination, and the Salvific Will of God - New answers to Old questions’ . In this work, Fr. Most lays out much of what St Thomas taught as found in his works concerning the doctrines in question as well as what some Thomists interpreted him to teach. What St Thomas actually taught and wrote does not always equal the interpretation some Thomists give to him. Link to the book below:

I think the most important way in which they differ is that Calvinism, that is the original theology of Calvin, was conceived as being absolutely the true theology. It held itself up as the definitive systematic explanation. Thomists would have of course thought they had the right understanding, but they would have submitted the definitive truth of their theology to the Magisterium.

I think this is a quite good-and very general-overview of the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism regarding the Fall and OS and salvation while recognizing that Protestantism isn’t necessarily consistent on some of these points. But either way I think I’d modify/clarify that last sentence a bit: “This is why many Protestants don’t believe salvation can be lost, because it’s not about us becoming genuinely righteous via restored relationship with God, but rather about God overlooking our disobedience and instead focusing on Jesus’ obedience instead.” (aka imputed righteousness). God didn’t create us to be sinners after all, and He won’t be satisfied with us remaining that way. Our salvation is connected to our becoming truly righteous, with God’s help, apart from Whom we never could do anything, to paraphrase John 15:5 Protestants also believe in restoring the broken relationship. Many simply don’t understand the connection between it and man’s moral integrity-and that man must be made totally pure of heart before being capable of seeing God.

Good answer, except that Calvin himself did teach and vigorously defend double predestination.

It’s a second grade level, third rate strawman of the differences. There is not one ‘Protestant view’. This is a cartoon and not even worth replying to beyond that.

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