Is it possible to be a Catholic and a determinist?


#1

As the title says. I’m really not clear on the RCC’s position regarding this.


#2

The simple answer is “no.” However, Thomism does not advocate a straightforwardly libertarian view of freedom (some other Catholic philosophies do). One Thomist friend of mine put it this way: for Aquinas, we have libertarian freedom with regard to second causes, but compatibilist freedom with regard to God.

Edwin


#3

Hi Thunder,

If determinism is the belief that we are not responsible for our actions because we can’t help ourselves, then it is certainly against Christian doctrine.

If it means that God created a world where certain actions will certainly happen, then it is not against Christian doctrine.

In other words God knows that we will make certain choices, but we still make them freely.

Verbum.


#4

I believe we are responsible for our actions, but that we “can’t help ourselves.” I understand determinism in the way most Calvinists understand it.

I know the RCC is against Perseverance of the Saints (which is, I think, the most difficult petal of TULIP to support from Scripture in any case), and I can handle giving it up, although it seems strange to me that God would go to the trouble of regenerating and justifying people only to give them up again.


#5

That would be “hard determinism,” I believe. “Soft determinism” or “compatibilism” is the view that we are responsible for our actions as long as our actions are caused by properly functioning faculties–intellect, will, etc. It’s what the Reformers referred to as “freedom from coercion” as opposed to “freedom from necessity.”

Edwin


#6

You need to study Thomism, which is similar to Calvinism in many respects, but in my opinion considerably more nuanced, balanced, and orthodox.

Edwin


#7

What do you think of these two articles on the Catholic position? Would you consider them accurate?

bringyou.to/apologetics/num21.htm
cin.org/users/james/files/tulip.htm

I found them interesting, and a little promising, but less consistent than the Calvinist position. It’s not clear what the author of the first article means when he says that God “immutably preordains from eternity all future events,” then adds that “this does not mean fatalistic necessity, for the destruction of human liberty”: is he advocating compatibilism, or just trying to have his cake and eat it too?

The second article was somewhat more consistent, and I liked it overall; but though the author refers to double predestination as “a doctrine Calvinists often infer from” unconditional election, it is a legitimate inference. His citation of Acts 7:51 against irresistible grace is also wrong: the Holy Spirit is being resisted, yes, but not the Spirit’s inner work of regeneration. The reference is to the Spirit working through the apostles and the early Christians (as is shown by verse 52).


#8

I think my friend was right in saying that Thomists are compatibilists with regard to God’s providence and grace, though not with regard to second causes. However, from a Thomist point of view distinction 3 would need to be clarified by the statement that while God’s electing choice does depend on His foreknowledge, it does not depend on foreknown human actions. For Aquinas, God’s knowledge is causative–things happen because God knows them, not the other way around. However, this applies only to good things, since evil is simply a privation and not a thing to be known in itself.

And yes, I agree that this is a highly paradoxical position.

The second article was somewhat more consistent, and I liked it overall; but though the author refers to double predestination as “a doctrine Calvinists often infer from” unconditional election, it is a legitimate inference.

It certainly appears to be a logical inference, but it is not a theologically legitimate inference.

His citation of Acts 7:51 against irresistible grace is also wrong: the Holy Spirit is being resisted, yes, but not the Spirit’s inner work of regeneration. The reference is to the Spirit working through the apostles and the early Christians (as is shown by verse 52).

Why make this distinction?

Edwin


#9

Very well, but is absolute compatibilism permissible, or is Thomism the closest one can get? What if one believes, say, that Adam’s sin was irreversibly predetermined?


#10

Predetermined by Adam’s genes and circumstances, you mean? That is what I am talking about. I think (though I should let the Catholics speak for themselves) that Catholics would have a problem with the idea that human behavior is irreversibly predetermined by “second causes”–i.e., by other created things. God is different, because God (at least in Aquinas’s thinking) can cause creatures to act freely. Other philosophers find this self-contradictory.

Edwin


#11

Hi Thunder and Contarini,

It is interesting that the word “predestination” occurs only once in the Catechism of the Catholic Church :

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness

.

This whole section on God’s plan of salvation is worth reading. Click
scborromeo.org/ccc/p122a4p2.htm#600

Verbum


closed #12

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