I believe great arguments can be made by both Augustinians and Arminians from the Bible, and having read the earliest church fathers, I agree with Arminians that the early church did tend to focus on free will (although I’m not sure they ever did address WHY a person ultimately makes the free will choice.)
One of the great flaws I see in free will, however, is that it ultimately boils down to an arbitrary choice. If all people can choose, by God’s grace, to reject or accept Him in faith, then why does one person have faith while the other does not? If it’s because of some positive quality in the one who chose faith, or some circumstance in life, or really anything at all, then couldn’t it easily be said that God is in fact ultimately behind the decision? In other words, if there is a reason one person chooses and another doesn’t, then isn’t that reason also ultimately foreseen and foreknown at the time of creation? If God knew this particular external force would keep people from faith, why did God create a universe with that external force within it?
I just don’t see how a person can honestly escape God’s sovereignty in all things at the end of the day.
St. Thomas Aquinas reasoned that our free will is the ability to choose, called today, soft determinism or theological compatibilism (Theological determinism is true and free choice is possible). Our faith is a supernatural gift. Vatican I Council (III, iii):“faith is a supernatural virtue by which we with the inspiration and assistance of God’s grace, believe those things to be true which He has revealed”. God always makes the first move towards us, and we do not have the capability to be saved by our human nature. Catechism: 2008 … The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration.
On Free Will, Catholic Encyclopedia has:Free will does not mean capability of willing in the absence of all motive, or of arbitrarily choosing anything whatever. The rational being is always attracted by what is apprehended as good. … Much the larger part of man’s ordinary life is administered by the machinery of reflex action, the automatic working of the organism, and acquired habits. … It is especially when some act of a specially moral complexion is recognized as good or evil that the exertion of our freedom is brought into play. With reflective advertence to the moral quality comes the apprehension that we are called on to decide between right and wrong; then the consciousness that we are choosing freely, which carries with it the subsequent conviction that the act was in the strictest sense our own, and that we are responsible for it.
I’m not sure how theological compatibalism can be true for this reason: If man can choose God with God’s assistance but not all people who receive God’s assistance choose God, then there must be some reason why some people choose God with His assistance and others do not, even when they have received God’s help. Whatever that reason is, whether it be personal qualities or personal experience or something else, that factor was ultimately determined by God. If man is, by God’s grace, given the ability to choose faith, there still must be some reason why one man chooses and another does not.
One of the great flaws I see in free will, however, is that it ultimately boils down to an arbitrary choice. If all people can choose, by God’s grace, to reject or accept Him in faith, then why does one person have faith while the other does not? (That’s because one person accepts the gift of faith, the other does not as both were free to do.)If it’s because of some positive quality in the one who chose faith, or some circumstance in life, or really anything at all, then couldn’t it easily be said that God is in fact ultimately behind the decision? (I have seen all ‘‘types’’ in the Church, all kinds of gifts and impediments. No, God does not make the decision, He judges us based for what we knew of Him and what may have been in our way, but the decision to accept His love and grace is ours, and is not mitigated by personality traits or adversity.)In other words, if there is a reason one person chooses and another doesn’t, then isn’t that reason also ultimately foreseen and foreknown at the time of creation? For God, all time, past present and future exists as the present. God knows the choice we will make not because He makes it or us but because He is all knowingIf God knew this particular external force would keep people from faith, why did God create a universe with that external force within it? It’s not eternal forces keeping people from faith, it is the choice people make. Have you ever noticed how Europe with all its wealth and centuries of Christianity is almost godless, while countries like Vietnam, Burma, Philippines grows daily rich in faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s say all people have the ability to have faith. Fine! But not all people say “yes.” Why? Why do some people say “no”?
Imagine, to make a better illustration, two people who grow up in the same household, with the same experiences at church, etc. and yet, one has faith and one does not. Why? If they both have the ability to have faith and one chooses faith and one does not, there must be some reason for it, right? If not, isn’t it just an arbitrary decision then that could have gone either way? There must be some reason people who have faith choose God, at least, that’s what makes sense to me.
There is no reason behind the failure to be saved. Catechism: “1872 Sin is an act contrary to reason. …” The sources of sin are ignorance, passion, and malice. You phrase it as “if both have the ability to have faith and one chooses faith and one does not”, but neither are born with faith. There must first be God’s gift of it. So you would have to phrase it as “if God has given faith to both and one has final penitence and the other does not”.
The Catechism states that:1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
I really like how the Thomists answer this conundrum.
They teach that grace always comes in pairs: sufficient grace and efficacious grace.
Think of how we act. Before we can act, we must have the power to act. But so that you act, you have to will to act. If you want to raise your arm, you must first have the strength to do so. But no matter how strong you are, even if you have the strength of Superman, you will not raise your arm until you decide to do so.
So it is with grace. Sufficient grace is the “power” or “strength” to do a holy act, for example to have faith. Everybody is given sufficient grace, because God desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Efficacious grace, then, is the “deciding grace”, the grace that makes one say “yes” to God and do His will.
Efficacious grace is always offered with sufficient grace. However, it is only given when one does not use his free will to say “no” to sufficient grace; if this happens, then only sufficient grace remains and efficacious grace is withheld. It is only when the recipient does not say “no” that efficacious grace is given, which not only makes the holy work be done but also makes the recipient say “yes” in the beginning.
You will note then that, in the Thomist system, free will seems to be diminished in holiness, because it is active only in the saying “no” to sufficient grace. And yet because of this man solely has the blame of not receiving saving grace, while God is the sole source of good, even that of consenting to good.
Consider the following:
"Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)
“It is God who workers in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will” (Phil. 2:13)
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy (Romans 9:14-16)
“I will cause you to walk in My commandments, and to keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
“But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.” (Exodus 9:12 and other places)
Second Council of Orange: “Whatever good we do, God acts in us and with us that we may act” (can 9); “No one has anything of his own but sin and lying” (can. 22); “Man does nothing good which God does not enable him to do” (can. 20).
Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 13, Denz., no. 806): “For unless they [men] neglect His grace, God perfects a good work as He began it, operating both to will and to accomplish” (Phil. 2:13).* Likewise canon 22 (Denz., no. 832): “If anyone should say either that it is possible to persevere, without the special help of God in accepted justice, or that with it, this is impossible, let him be anathema.”
St. Augustine: “It is certain that we will when we will, but God causes us to will; it is certain that we act when we act, but God causes us to act, supplying most efficacious forces to the will.”
Again, St. Augustine: “It is not to be doubted that human will cannot hinder the will of God, which did whatever it willed in heaven and on earth, from doing what it wills, when as a matter of fact it does what it wills, when it wills, with these very wills of men. . . . Having, beyond any doubt, the most omnipotent power of inclining human hearts to what it pleases.”
Oh yes, I totally agree…the OP brings up a good point, it would seem we only really have ‘true’ free will, right upon our birth, at a time, we are not able to use it…after that, its all about conditioning and life experiences, as to what kind of person we will become and the types of choices we make.
This does seem to imply ‘predestination’ to a certain degree…right?
Yes, but upon what do we make our choices? That’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter if you can make free choices or not. The REASONS you make free choices are not determined by you but are ultimately determined by God. Thus, even if you’re acting freely, it’s based on factors from God, who knew from the foundation of the world how all people would act in all situations. Thus, God’s will is always accomplished, even if you have free will, and because God’s will is ultimately more powerful, your “free will” isn’t really what you think it is.
This is as clear an example as I can give on this. God truly gives us the ability to make choices or He wouldn’t give them to begin with. We can know which choices He wants us to make, but It doesn’t mean we will choose them, nor does it mean He will FORCE us to go AGAINST our will. Otherwise He would give us no choices at all.