Predestination


#1

This is one for those with a much better understanding of Scripture and doctrine than myself. Would it be accurate to say that God knows what will happen to us, but we still have a choice to make? That is, God isn’t pulling our strings per-se, but he does know what choices we will make. Am I just splitting hairs or does that help finesse the co-existence of predestination and free-will?


#2

That looks fine to me.


#3

[quote=m4dc4p]This is one for those with a much better understanding of Scripture and doctrine than myself. Would it be accurate to say that God knows what will happen to us, but we still have a choice to make? That is, God isn’t pulling our strings per-se, but he does know what choices we will make. Am I just splitting hairs or does that help finesse the co-existence of predestination and free-will?
[/quote]

Since God is existant in all places at all times simultaneously, yes, He knows the choices we make before we make them. It does not mean that He makes the choices for us though. That is the perspective of the staunch Calvinistic predeterminst. He believes that God calls out some, and that His grace is ireesistable. You cannot refuse or resist God’s grace. You have no choice in the matter.


#4

[quote=Scott_Lafrance]Since God is existant in all places at all times simultaneously, yes, He knows the choices we make before we make them. It does not mean that He makes the choices for us though. That is the perspective of the staunch Calvinistic predeterminst. He believes that God calls out some, and that His grace is ireesistable. You cannot refuse or resist God’s grace. You have no choice in the matter.
[/quote]

Hm, and keeping in mind that He is supposed to have knowingly created all this, I fail to see the difference between both positions.


#5

[quote=AnAtheist]Hm, and keeping in mind that He is supposed to have knowingly created all this, I fail to see the difference between both positions.
[/quote]

That’s where I wonder if I’m splitting hairs. However, is “knowing” the same as “willing” in God’s case? I’ve just started reading a book about Aquanis and he had the idea of “contingent will” (or a similiar term). The analogy used by the book is if God is playing Monopoly, could he ‘will’ the dice to roll naturally or would his knowing the outcome predetermine the roll of the dice? The “contingent will” allows the dice to roll “naturally” even if the outcome is known, according to the analogy.


#6

I’ve heard 2 explanations on the church’s understanding of predestination.

One is from Tim Staples’ tape series on Justification, and it sounds similar to what you have below - God foreknows what we will do because we have free will, therefore he predestines based on what he foreknows. Romans 8:29 says '‘for whom he foreknew, he also predestined…’ But, there are also some people he deliveberately predestines and gives an over-abundance of grace too. However, God does not predestine people to hell. I hope I’m paraphrasing Mr. Staples correctly.

The other theory is from Scott Hahn’s tape series on the book of Romans (Romanism in Romans). If I understand him correctly, Dr. Hahn says that the church believes in predestination, but we also know that ‘God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2:4). He seems to take a slightly different slant than Tim Staples and says that how free will and predestination work together in God’s plan is a mystery. We just know they both exist.


#7

[quote=m4dc4p]Would it be accurate to say that God knows what will happen to us, but we still have a choice to make?
[/quote]

Yes. :thumbsup:

[quote=AnAtheist]Hm, and keeping in mind that He is supposed to have knowingly created all this, I fail to see the difference between both positions.
[/quote]

God knowingly created all of this because He loved us, even if we were ultimately going to make the choice to not love Him in return. He freely chose to give us His love, and asks us only to do the same in return to Him. But even if we ultimately choose not to, He’s never going to stop loving us in the least possible bit, no matter how much we might want Him to. :cool:


#8

[quote=m4dc4p]This is one for those with a much better understanding of Scripture and doctrine than myself. Would it be accurate to say that God knows what will happen to us, but we still have a choice to make? That is, God isn’t pulling our strings per-se, but he does know what choices we will make. Am I just splitting hairs or does that help finesse the co-existence of predestination and free-will?
[/quote]

Well, St. Thomas Aquinas would say that God’s knowledge is causative. God’s knowledge is not caused by the fact that things happen–rather it causes those things to happen. The catch is that only good is a “thing” for Aquinas. So evil happens because God does not act to bring about a certain good. Creation, left to itself, falls short of the end for which it was created, which is what evil is (for that matter, if creation were really left to itself it would vanish altogether). Aquinas thinks that this means that God is not responsible for evil (such as the damnation of the wicked). I’m not so convinced.

Aquinas also thinks that this does not violate free will. God’s activity doesn’t replace human action. Rather, humans only have free will precisely because God is acting in them.
The most pertinent passage is Summa Theologiae Part 1, Question 23, Art. 5.

In the 16th century there was a big debate over how predestination could coexist with free will. The “Thomists” tried to explain Aquinas’s position further by distinguishing between “sufficient grace” given to everyone and “efficient grace” only given to some. But IMHO this isn’t a very convincing distinction. The Jesuit theologian Molina suggested that God knows hypothetically how people will act in certain circumstances, and so puts them in the circumstances in which they will or will not respond to grace, according to whether or not He has chosen them for final salvation. The Pope ordered both sides to stop calling the other side heretical, and that’s the state of the question to this day. But most Catholics these days seem to be “Molinists.” Not only that, but they appear to believe that God’s election is based on how He knows people will respond to the circumstances in which He puts them. (This is identical with what Protestants usually call “Arminianism.”) That is not what Molina actually taught, but these days it seems to be accepted as orthodox Catholicism, and many think it is the one and only Catholic position.

I myself find the whole issue incredibly complex and don’t see any of the answers as terribly convincing.

In Christ,

Edwin


#9

this is such an interesting topic for me!

i havven’t studied St. Thomas that much yet, but from what i’ve gathered, i think i’m leaning towards what he says about the whole thing.


#10

[quote=m4dc4p]The analogy used by the book is if God is playing Monopoly, could he ‘will’ the dice to roll naturally or would his knowing the outcome predetermine the roll of the dice? The “contingent will” allows the dice to roll “naturally” even if the outcome is known, according to the analogy.
[/quote]

There is no “natural role”. God has created nature knowingly in a way, that the known outcome must occur.
To let a dice roll naturally or to call a will really free, God must not have any influence on it. Since He is supposed to have created it in the first place, there’s the influence, hence dice do not roll naturally and will is not free.


#11

[quote=AnAtheist]There is no “natural role”. God has created nature knowingly in a way, that the known outcome must occur.
To let a dice roll naturally or to call a will really free, God must not have any influence on it. Since He is supposed to have created it in the first place, there’s the influence, hence dice do not roll naturally and will is not free.
[/quote]

I am not sure if I totally understand your definition of free will. My understanding is that I have a world of options to choose from, all with natural consequences. When I choose an action, I get the consequence. God puts life and death before us and lets us choose. There is a grand difference between knowing the outcome and affecting the outcome. Did God know from the foundations of the earth who would be His and who would not - YES. Does God predetermine who will be His and who will not - NO. There is the grand distinction between precognizance and predetermination. By your distinction there is no such this as true, unfettered free will. Our choices are all influenced to some degree by our surroundings.


#12

[quote=Scott_Lafrance]I am not sure if I totally understand your definition of free will. My understanding is that I have a world of options to choose from, all with natural consequences. When I choose an action, I get the consequence. God puts life and death before us and lets us choose. There is a grand difference between knowing the outcome and affecting the outcome. Did God know from the foundations of the earth who would be His and who would not - YES. Does God predetermine who will be His and who will not - NO. There is the grand distinction between precognizance and predetermination. By your distinction there is no such this as true, unfettered free will. Our choices are all influenced to some degree by our surroundings.
[/quote]

Of course they are. First you cannot choose anything you wish. You are limited to your capabilities. Second, your choices are influenced by your former experiences. As your experiences are stored somewhere in your brain, they contribute to the current state of the universe, which generally influences your coices (the surroundings, as you said).
I do not deny the existance of free will, i.e. (my definition) an act of will that is completely uninfluenced by the surroundings (current state of the universe). Quantum physics allow for such uncaused acts, quantum effects are described as wave functions, which tell us about the probability of an event, but only an observer (or a classical interaction, the “observer” needs not to be necessarily concious) will decide the outcome.
Now - an omnipresent observer, already knowing the outcome, forces the related wave functions to settle for that particular event. Then there is no room for uncaused events, thus no free will.
Free will can only exist, if an omnipresent and omniscient god does not.
A god being the omnipotent creator of everything on top of that makes things even worse. He chose to create a universe in which you make choice 1. He could have chosen to create universe B, in which you make choice 2.


#13

Consider, perhaps, that free will is relativistic, like time and space and gravity.

From my point of view, I have nothing controlling my decisions except for whatever consequences I expect or fear from that decision. From the point of view of my own conscious mind, I have free will and can make any given decision either way.

From God’s point of view, since God is outside of time, the distinction whether something happens in the past or future is invalid. Therefore, there are no surprises for Him and the concept of whether human souls believe they have free will is irrelevant from that point of view. To the degree that our human minds grasp, we confuse “no surprises” with “predestination.”

In other words, do we have a free will? If you ask a human, yes. If you ask God, then you are in a different ballpark. Who knows the mind of God?

Alan


#14

I like your quantum physics point of view.

If I read you right, then free will could be just a construct in the mind of man. Thus man may have the sense of perfect freedom, it is only because of his limited knowledge of the universe.

May we conclude, then, that we can thank our own ignorance for what seems to us like – for all worldly intents and purposes – as free will?

Could that be one of the reasons God made us limited but in His image – to watch us enjoy (or despise) the game of chance and mystery we call “life” since He cannot honestly play it by himself?

Alan


#15

[quote=AlanFromWichita]I like your quantum physics point of view.

If I read you right, then free will could be just a construct in the mind of man. Thus man may have the sense of perfect freedom, it is only because of his limited knowledge of the universe.

[/quote]

If the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics (uncertanty is a fundamental principle of nature and not just due to our limited capabilities regarding measuring things) is correct, the freedom is real. Otherwise - exactly.

May we conclude, then, that we can thank our own ignorance for what seems to us like – for all worldly intents and purposes – as free will?

Could that be one of the reasons God made us limited but in His image – to watch us enjoy (or despise) the game of chance and mystery we call “life” since He cannot honestly play it by himself?

Alan

Wow, interesting point! :thumbsup:
Never thought of it that way.


#16

[quote=AnAtheist]… Quantum physics allow for such uncaused acts, quantum effects are described as wave functions, which tell us about the probability of an event, but only an observer (or a classical interaction, the “observer” needs not to be necessarily concious) will decide the outcome.

[/quote]

Interesting that you bring up quantum physics. This may be totally off the wall, but I think the “many universes” interpretation could allow for both true free will and omnipotence. In the “many universes” interpretation, each wave function collapses in all possible ways. Thus, every choice can and does happen. Therefore, if God knows the state of every wave function, and all possible solutions to those, then he by definition knows the future - in all possible states.

The kicker is that, at least to our perception, the wave function only collapses one way. The coin lands heads or tails, not both. When I measure the photon, it goes through the left slit or the right slit, etc. God knows all possible solutions, therefore he knows all possible futures, but we also have a choice in how we “collapse” the wave function.

That also makes me wonder if God is constantly updating his “plan” according to our choices. In that case there is no predestination. But I think that would limit him and thus ends in contradiction … Still, its a fun excercise :slight_smile:


#17

I haven’t seen anyone on this post yet who appears to have a well informed knowledge of predestination in the Calvinistic, Arminian,Thomistic and Molinan traditions. I have only read enough to know that this is not a topic for lightweights and include myself in the category just described. It will leave your head spinning and has caused some to believe they can do whatever they want with their life because whatever they do they have been “predestined” to do. It can be a dangerous topic. I think Augustine basically agrees with this sentiment when he said: ‘Why he draws one, and another he draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish to err.’" One such error that I have contemplated is that prayer would be entirely meaningless in a world of predestination, yet we are called to pray unceasingly.

James Akin wrote an excellent summary of the Catholic and Protestant views of predestination in his article, A tiptoe through TULIP. Here’s the link:
catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9309fea1.asp

Just remember: predestination may or may not be a reality, but are not privy to such knowledge. Therefore, predestined or not, we have to approach each moral choice we make as if our eternal salvation were affected by that choice. That’s my take home…

Phil


#18

The whole problem with the Calvinistic/Jansenist approach to predestination is that it makes God the author of sin.

If we have no free will, then God is the only being responsible for sin. Sin is called disobedience and rebellion, and neither of which can apply to someone who is placed in an unavoidable necessity of sinning by divine decree.

It also denies that Christ is the cause of our salvation, by making Him only a secondary cause of a salvation which has already been foreordained.

These are among the reasons that Jansenism (lack of human free will) was declared heretical by the Church in the 17th Century.


#19

Catholicism condemns the idea that man’s free choices and responses play no part in our salvation. To quote the Council of Trent.

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

CANON V.-If any one saith, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON XVII.-If any one saith, that the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.


#20

I’m going all the way back to this post:

[quote=AnAtheist]God has created nature knowingly in a way, that the known outcome must occur.
[/quote]

Yes. But He didn’t decide that outcome. He simply knows it.

[quote=AnAtheist]To…call a will really free, God must not have any influence on it.
[/quote]

And He doesn’t. Why is this such a difficult concept?

[quote=AnAtheist]Since He…created it in the first place, there’s the influence.
[/quote]

How is that an influence? Creating a rational human soul with free will, because He loved it infinitely even though He knew that it would ultimately never return that love to Him, is not limiting or influencing the free will of the person to make that choice.

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Consider, perhaps, that free will is relativistic, like time and space and gravity.
[/quote]

Consider, instead, that our concept of predestination is actually relativistic… :rolleyes:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.