As indicated by the nature of God and by many commandments and admonishments in Scripture, we are to submit our wills to God’s in all things. Yet, the order of Charity, as I understand it, according to the Church, commands us to value, above all else, the spiritual good of our neighbor (anyone we come into contact with). Yet, if God reprobates people, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches in the Summa, should we not desire and pray for the reprobation of those whom He has damned just like the saints pray for the inevitable predestination of the elect?
In a word, no. Why? Because we cannot know who are the reprobate and who are the elect. We pray for all men equally and leave their final judgment to God. We can see evidence that some people live holy lives and others show little to no sign of it. Still, we cannot judge anyone’s heart/intentions. That is for God alone to determine. Our duty is simply to pray for the good of all men, on earth and after death.
So, ours is to pray for the good of all men even though the good of all men is not what God wants? Therein lies the problem. We are commanded to do something that involves desiring something God does not. To obey the commandment to pray for the salvation of every individual is to put our wills at odds with God’s.
Again, no. God does not wish that any man be lost–Jesus’ life, death and resurrection redeemed all mankind. This is where free will comes into play as to our salvation. We must remember that redemption is not salvation. All who are redeemed (that’s all men) have the free will to accept or reject God’s universal law. In justice, God would have no right to judge anyone’s behavior and inner disposition if we did not have free will. We decide to follow God’s universal law, written on everyone’s hearts, or we don’t. Certainly God knows who will do this and who won’t, but he does not decide beforehand who will be lost and who will be saved. Such an idea is not the teaching of Christ’s Church. The Church does not teach double predestination. God created us in love, not in anger. He wishes everyone to come to him in love and obey him in that same love, not just some he has prechosen with no chance of salvation.
God wills that all men be saved. Why else did He send His Son to die on the cross for our sins? This gift of salvation remains that, a gift. It is a gift that we first must be willing to accept and open for ourselves. Once we have opened this gift, we are to free share what we have been given. Indeed, we are impelled by Christ by the Spirit living within us to do so.
As Della has already stated, nobody is forced to accept or open the gift that Christ has so graciously given us.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Because all have sinned, all are in need of God’s grace and salvation.
Take a look at the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Thy will be done…”
We are to pray not for specific outcomes for people, but for God’s will to be done.
St. Thomas says (ST IIb, Q25)
Objection 3 position he argues against] … Now the saints, out of charity, desire evil things for the wicked, according to Psalm 9:18: “May the wicked be turned into hell.” Therefore sinners should not be loved out of charity.
… On the contrary … sinners do not cease to be men, for sin does not destroy nature. Therefore we ought to love sinners out of charity. …
… it is our duty to hate, in the sinner, his being a sinner, and to love in him, his being a man capable of bliss; and this is to love him truly, out of charity, for God’s sake. …
Reply to Objection 3. … the desire of the wisher is not referred to the man’s punishment, but to the justice of the punisher, according to Psalm 57:11: “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge,” since, according to Wisdom 1:13, not even God “hath pleasure in the destruction of the wicked” when He punishes them, but He rejoices in His justice, according to Psalm 10:8: “The Lord is just and hath loved justice.” …
… in the sinner, we are bound, out of charity, to love his nature, but to hate his sin.
… it is impossible for us, out of charity, to desire the good of everlasting life, to which charity is referred, for those spirits whom God has condemned eternally, since this would be in opposition to our charity towards God whereby we approve of His justice.
… [however] we can love the nature of the demons even out of charity, in as much as we desire those spirits to endure, as to their natural gifts, unto God’s glory.
… In this life, men who are in sin retain the possibility of obtaining everlasting happiness: not so those who are lost in hell, who, in this respect, are in the same case as the demons.
God has predestined all people to be with Him in Heaven. He loves us all, and wishes us to be with Him. God IS love itself. He only reprobates people AFTER we have died - and ONLY if it is what the person himself/herself has chosen!
Unfortunately, John Calvin misunderstood this idea found in Aquinas’s Summa Theologica and believed that God specifically created some people to be damned from the time of their own conception. But this view sees God as vindictive and is a rejection of free will. As we, as Catholics, believe in free will, we believe that, after Jesus’s death and resurrection, each of us has the free will to choose whether or not to follow Jesus and do our best to live by His example.
Of course, we fail constantly, which is why Jesus gave us the great sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we can repent of every time that we fail to follow Jesus. If God had predetermined some to go to Heaven and some to go to Hell, there would be no need for the sacrament of Reconciliation, as God would not care if we repented or not - our fates would already have been sealed. But since there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than for 99 who have no need of repentance (see the parable of the Lost Sheep), God must not want anyone to end up in Hell.
In addition, Jesus commanded us to love those who hate us and to pray for those who persecute us. Since in order to love someone fully, one must do what we can to lead him/her to follow Jesus and enter Heaven, we must constantly pray for the conversion of those who, through their own choices, have rejected Jesus and His Church, so that they may come to their senses, and repent like the Prodigal Son. We must also pray for those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Jesus and His Church, so that they may find Him through following their consciences and by noticing our examples of faith perfected by love.
Mort Alz, why would the saints pray for the “inevitable predestination of the elect” if there is no possiblility they can be lost? It makes no sense. Only people who can fall away from God need such prayers. The saints pray for the salvation of all men, the preseverance in the faith of the good, and the restoration to grace of the bad without making any judgments as to who belongs in which group.
Thank you for this! This was very helpful. I was unable to find St. Thomas Aquinas’ dealings on this subject. I feel some Catholics misunderstand that the orthodox view of grace is closer to some of Calvin’s ideas than most Catholics understand.
So, once again, thank you. This sufficiently answers my question.
You’re welcome. When in doubt, Ite ad Thomam.