Salvation controversy


#1

Dear friends,

I just read the Salvation Controversy published by Catholic Answers. Well…somehow I feel I have more questions than answers after that book, although as a whole I liked it.

The part that doesn’t give me peace is the part about predestination. I have thought that it is the Church’s teaching that God wants all to be saved and gives all the necessary and sufficient grace to be saved and the free will to accept or reject it. In his omniscience he knows who will accept that grace and the ones that he foresees to accept it, can be called the predestined ones, as St.Paul says (the ones he foresaw, those he also predestined or something like that). Now I thought we cannot believe that God predestines only some to heaven. However Mr.Akin’s book in the TULIP chapter explains that there are two schools of thought in the Church and the Thomist one is very close to Calvinism and basically allows the idea that God chooses some to salvation. The two schools of thought are forbidden to call each other heretics, both are ok Catholic thinking. I was surprised by this. I think the Thomist view presented in the book is in contradiction with the other view and also with the unconditional love and justice of God and free will. The arguments the book presents are the following: it doesn’t go against free will because the elect will freely want God&salvation and get it precisely because God chose them to do so. I don’t think this argument is valid…if God decided what you will “freely” decide, what freedom is that? Also the counter-argument to “God wants all men to be saved” sounds weak: a father can intend to punish his child without wanting to do so…thus God can want all men to be saved but not intend it. There is a good purpose in punishing, but how does leaving people outside salvation work for their good? This isn’t a loving God, our God…or is it? That’s what doesn’t give me peace. Doesn’t Paul’s comment about predestination (mentioned above) refute Thomism? He predestines the ones that freely choose him, not the other way around. If there are some Thomists out there among you, please clarify why one should believe as you believe. All comments are welcome from all, of course. I have never heard the Thomist view being taught by any faithful Catholics, is it really true that this view is acceptable, and is it really not in contradiction with the other view?

Gratefully yours and wishing you a holy yuletide
Emil Anton
Vantaa, Finland


#2

Dear Fineca,

Paul’s statement about Predestination needs to be understood in its historical context. For example, the 12 Apostels were indeed predestined to be Aposltes to fulfill the words of prophecy. Also, the Gospels were to be written by those who had personally known Jesus. So Matthew Mark Luke and John were predestined to write them.

Jesus said: “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out” John 6:37 Also, John 3:16 says that whosoever beleives in Christ will not perish but have everlasting life.

I you have come to Jesus, and abide in Him, He will in no wise cast you out. I don’t know too much about Thomism, etc. But I hope this helps you a little bit.

Peace in Christ,

-Herry


#3

[quote=fineca]Dear friends,

I just read the Salvation Controversy published by Catholic Answers. Well…somehow I feel I have more questions than answers after that book, although as a whole I liked it.

The part that doesn’t give me peace is the part about predestination. I have thought that it is the Church’s teaching that God wants all to be saved and gives all the necessary and sufficient grace to be saved and the free will to accept or reject it. In his omniscience he knows who will accept that grace and the ones that he foresees to accept it, can be called the predestined ones, as St.Paul says (the ones he foresaw, those he also predestined or something like that). Now I thought we cannot believe that God predestines only some to heaven. However Mr.Akin’s book in the TULIP chapter explains that there are two schools of thought in the Church and the Thomist one is very close to Calvinism and basically allows the idea that God chooses some to salvation. The two schools of thought are forbidden to call each other heretics, both are ok Catholic thinking. I was surprised by this. I think the Thomist view presented in the book is in contradiction with the other view and also with the unconditional love and justice of God and free will. The arguments the book presents are the following: it doesn’t go against free will because the elect will freely want God&salvation and get it precisely because God chose them to do so. I don’t think this argument is valid…if God decided what you will “freely” decide, what freedom is that? Also the counter-argument to “God wants all men to be saved” sounds weak: a father can intend to punish his child without wanting to do so…thus God can want all men to be saved but not intend it. There is a good purpose in punishing, but how does leaving people outside salvation work for their good? This isn’t a loving God, our God…or is it? That’s what doesn’t give me peace. Doesn’t Paul’s comment about predestination (mentioned above) refute Thomism? He predestines the ones that freely choose him, not the other way around. If there are some Thomists out there among you, please clarify why one should believe as you believe. All comments are welcome from all, of course. I have never heard the Thomist view being taught by any faithful Catholics, is it really true that this view is acceptable, and is it really not in contradiction with the other view?

Gratefully yours and wishing you a holy yuletide
Emil Anton
Vantaa, Finland
[/quote]

I think that the underlying truth of predestination and free will is a paradox that we may never fully understand on this earth. In other words, it is an apparent contradiction, but the possibility actually exists that both can simultaneously be true.

One thing to consider is the extent to which external factors influence our decisions. Every choice we make exists in the contexts of all of our previous experience (positive and negative), as well as the information we have available to us. The fact that we are influenced in a decision we make does not mean that we are not free in that decision. It may be that God can exercise His will to influence or even guarantee an outcome without violating our free will–sort of a butterfly effect.

The only caveat to this theory is any factors that truly diminish our free consent also diminish our culpability. Catholic teaching definitely asserts that free consent can be diminished, and the extent that it is, God does not hold us responsible.


#4

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him

recall John 14:15…“If you love me, you will keep my commandments”

…who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

Hello Emil, this is an issue which I had to wrestle with and I’ll share how I have resolved it in my mind.

From the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr Ludwig Ott, we find the following teachings of the Catholic Church to be De fide - that is: they are truths based on the Authority of God who has revealed them to be true and on the Infallible Teaching Authority of Christ’s Church which defines these truths as being part of “The Faith” we are to believe for salvation:

  1. God, by His Eternal Resolve of Will, has predetermined certain men/women to eternal blessedness (De fide)

This is known as “The Mystery of Predestination”. It is the truth affirmed in Romans 8:28-30 quoted above - and this salvation is truly a gift. It is not bestowed by God on the basis of any foreseen merit on the part of the ones God calls.

  1. God, by an Eternal Resolve of His Will, predestines certain men/women, on account of their foreseen sins, to eternal rejection. (De fide)

This is known as “The Mystery of Reprobation” but it is “negative reprobation” in that God’s rejection of the sinner is based on their foreseen sins. In other words, there comes a point in the life of an unrepentant sinner which God foresees as being the basis of His rejection of them.

This differs from what was taught by John Calvin of the Reformation era (Presbyterianism and some Baptist traditions) who proposed “positive reprobation” - the idea that God arbitrarily and positively predestines some to hell without reference to their foreseen demerits.

Predestination (to heaven) affirms that God has chosen some to salvation without reference to their foreseen merits thus salvation remains truly a gift from God and not “earned” - but Reprobation affirms that God withholds the gift of salvation and that this rejection of the sinner by God is “justly earned”.

Does this clarify? Jesus affirms that “many are called but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14) - that some of those who “are called” (the first stage of salvation - Romans 8:30) fail to reach glorification (the last step of salvation - Romans 8:30) is because “by their sins” they have merited reprobation.

Thus the seriousness of our Lord’s admonition to the woman caught in adultery: “sin no more” (Jn 8:11)

Hope this helps.

Keep the Faith
jmt


#5

The most basic doctrine of our Christian faith, that God is both Three and One, is a paradox.

The hypostatic union of the two natures of our Lord Jesus Christ is also a paradox.

So does it surprise anyone that there are more than two paradoxes in our Catholic faith? The fact that predestination and free will are both true fits into this category.

Our job is to persevere in faith and holiness, which paradoxically, we can only do through God’s grace.

Peace,
Gene


#6

fineca,

I have read The Salvation Controversy several times and I occassionally refer to it for brushing up on things. This book is certainly thought provoking and I would suggest reading it again several months from now. Exploration of complex theological questions usually triggers additional questions. You simply have more food for thought.

I agree with Petra. Our understandings of predestination may not be crystal clear until we reach heaven where we will no longer see through a glass dimly. Keep wrestling with this subject…it’s a good one.


#7

Dear friends, thanks for your answers. I am still not satisfied, though.

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma can say whatever but that is not the teaching of the Magisterium. Show me one document of the magisterium that states that God chooses certain men to heaven, I doubt you’ll find any. The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t teach anything like that, it says only that nobody is predestined to hell, nothing else.There is a distinction between prescience and predestination, of which the former is obviously true, the latter not in the sense that God arbitrarily chooses others to heaven and leaves others to their sin, which to me seems beyond reconciliation with God’s justice and love and also our free will. God’s knowing everything doesn’t mean he decides everything. The Bible seems to talk about prescience many times when it talks about predestination, and St.Paul says it, the ones he foreknew, those he predestined.
Paul also writes that God called the ones he predestined. But the Church teaches that all are called to holiness and that God provides the sufficient graces to all to be saved. God also wants all to be saved. This means that all are basically “predestined” to heaven, (if all who are predestined are called and God wants all in heaven) but some people refuse this offer by their sins and irrepentance. Do you agree? I don’t think I’m saying anything heretical here…but I’m interested in knowing what the magisterium officially teaches about this…I think it teaches what I’ve wrote, but I wonder if it really teaches all this arbitrary predestination stuff…let’s keep looking…
Emil


#8

[quote=fineca]Dear friends, thanks for your answers. I am still not satisfied, though.

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma can say whatever but that is not the teaching of the Magisterium. Show me one document of the magisterium that states that God chooses certain men to heaven, I doubt you’ll find any. The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t teach anything like that, it says only that nobody is predestined to hell, nothing else.There is a distinction between prescience and predestination, of which the former is obviously true, the latter not in the sense that God arbitrarily chooses others to heaven and leaves others to their sin, which to me seems beyond reconciliation with God’s justice and love and also our free will. God’s knowing everything doesn’t mean he decides everything. The Bible seems to talk about prescience many times when it talks about predestination, and St.Paul says it, the ones he foreknew, those he predestined.
Paul also writes that God called the ones he predestined. But the Church teaches that all are called to holiness and that God provides the sufficient graces to all to be saved. God also wants all to be saved. This means that all are basically “predestined” to heaven, (if all who are predestined are called and God wants all in heaven) but some people refuse this offer by their sins and irrepentance. Do you agree? I don’t think I’m saying anything heretical here…but I’m interested in knowing what the magisterium officially teaches about this…I think it teaches what I’ve wrote, but I wonder if it really teaches all this arbitrary predestination stuff…let’s keep looking…
Emil
[/quote]

I think that’s the point, fineca. What Akin was saying is that the Church doesn’t teach either the Thomist or the Molinist theory. It doesn’t teach any theory definitively or authoritatively. So, yes, you’re right that we won’t find an infallible pronunciation either way. The Church’s official view is this: We don’t know. Therefore, it allows both the views that Akin wrote about, as well as any view that doesn’t directly contradict those things which have been defined as matters of required belief. The Thomist view appears to, until you remember that he clearly believed that free will exists along with the idea of predestination, but in a way we cannot comprehend. If you are looking for an official Church pronouncement one way or the other you won’t find it any more than you will find an official Church pronouncement on literal creationism vs. intelligent design. You are allowed to hold the view that you prefer (consistent with Church teachings), so in this case, you seem to prefer the Molinist theory. Stick with that. You are perfectly allowed to believe that the Thomist theory is incorrect and be in line with the Church. Some things we aren’t meant to understand right now, and we are being presumptious (as the Church would be) by assuming that God’s master plan is completely accessable to our limited logic and knowledge.

As for you challenge to “Show me one document of the magisterium that states that God chooses certain men to heaven, I doubt you’ll find any”, the only document I could think of was Holy Scripture, which is one of our more important ones, wouldn’t you agree:

Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; AND AS MANY AS HAD BEEN APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.
a… Ephesians 1:5: HE PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.
a… Ephesians 1:11 Also WE HAVE OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE, HAVING BEEN PREDESTINED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE who works all things after the counsel of His will.
a… Romans 8:29-30: FOR WHOM HE FOREKNEW, HE ALSO PREDESTINED to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.


#9

Hello Emil, Predestination (which involves both God’s Foreknowledge and Immutable Will) is a teaching of the Church; I’ll see what other documentation I can find. Reading the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Predestination I note that it gives reference to the Council of Trent which "in order to emphasize how mysterious and unapproachable is Divine election…calls predestination “hidden mystery”.

newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm

Reading the above article I did come across two interesting juxtapositions:

Does the natural merit of man exert perhaps some influence on the Divine election to grace and glory? If we recall the dogma of the absolute gratuity of Christian grace, our answer must be outright negative (see GRACE).

I understand the above quote to affirm that God did not decide between who would be saved and who would be lost based on their foreseen natural merits…those good works which men and women are capable of doing without the aid of supernatural grace from God.

I know from my past reading that it is the heresy of Pelagianism (newadvent.org/cathen/11604a.htm) which taught that salvation could be achieved by human natural effort alone - without supernatural grace from God.

But compare the above quote with the article’s last paragraph:

St. Ambrose teaches in his paraphrase of Rom., viii, 29 (De fide, V, vi, 83)…“He did not predestine before He foreknew, but for those whose merits He foresaw, He predestined the reward.”

As I read this concluding section from the Catholic Encyclopedia article I thought I had found a contradiction but on further thought it occurs to me that the “foreseen merit” by which God decides who will be saved and who will be lost would be that merit gained by a man or a woman in “the state of grace” - ie., as a result of supernatural grace in line with Eph 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In other words, the “foreseen merit” is that merit which we gain by cooperating with God’s grace. It is not that merit which we might gain through our natural abilities - it is not “natural merit” but rather “supernatural merit” which God foresees. Those who cooperate with God’s grace receive their reward - based on God’s promises - and those who refuse to cooperate with God’s grace are lost through their own fault.

I’m not sure that this is an orthodox solution to the problem or not…I know my Presbyterian/Baptist friends would consider this heresy…but for now, I’m just thinking out loud and will gladly submit to whatever the Church affirms and reject whatever the Church rules against.

I have to say, this is not a Mystery of the Faith I care to wrestle with. I think it’s best to just cultivate within myself love for God and man - and detestation of sin - and leave the working out of everybody else’s salvation to God.

Keep the Faith
jmt


#10

John,
I read some of the article and found this:
“the Church answers with the doctrine that heaven is not given to the elect by a purely arbitrary act of God’s will, but that it is also the reward of the personal merits of the justified”. Now this is exactly the opposite of what Thomism says, for it states that God’s election has no other reason but the divine will (Summa). On the other hand Molinism says that God elects based on how he sees individuals accepting or rejecting his grace. Am I mistaken?

Awfulthings:
The Scripture you quoted proves predestination yes, but the question here is on what basis the predestined are predestined. Is it because God foresaw them to accept his offer or just because God arbitrarily felt like saving some and not others. Scripture doesn’t explicitly state the latter, but I think it states the former. Isn’t the difference between Molinism and Thomism exactly this point?

someone wrote in another post that the augustinian view is basically the same as the thomist. But didn’t the Church explicitly forbid the augustinian view in the first council after augustine?

Emil


#11

i believe this is one of the mysteries that
we will come to better understand when
all is revealed to us…

when i read scripture such as that found
in Romans 8:28-30, i try to do it remembering
that Paul and other writers of scripture, were
trying to express ideas for which words don’t
exist…

God, knows who will be converted… it’s
predestined because to God, it’s happened…
God is omnipresent… today, tomorrow,
yesterday… all the same to God…
Jesus is still on the cross… to
God, the final judgement has occured…

He knew these things before He created us,
because He was already there…

how is this possible and still have free will ??

1 + 1 always equals 2… does that mean it
has to? or that it just does because it ‘is’…

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if
any man hear my voice, and open
the door, I will come in to him, and sup
with him, and he with Me…

because He knows who will open the door,
doesn’t mean He won’t knock anyway…

or that’s how i see it…

:slight_smile:


#12

this is a tough one that I sturggle with too. I was in the car with my hubby the other day and some baptest was railing on this subject a lot of what he said made some snese to me, but I wanted to check with the churches teaching before having a conversation with my husband on my thoughts because I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to unknowingly speak out against the Church. I find it a miricle that I found this link two days later (My first visit back since I herd that guy on the radio)

One thing that I have maintaned is that we (the church) do not know who is going to heaven and to hell. God does and maybe he predestined them, but we are to act as though everyone were elegable. we can’t go to a man on the street and say, “well, you have a certain look in your eye and that means you are going to hell, weather you want to or not.” we need to offer the gift of salvation to everyone and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest. so if someone has not been “chosen” he/she will act acordingly and do whatever God wills them to do.

Gene C made a great point. it’s a mystory. I get stuck on all these things sometimes and I just have to let go. Trust God who made me and is infanately wizer than I. you ever sit in mass and wate for the exact moment for the bread and wine to change into the body and blood of Christ? how can he be bread and flesh at the same time? why do we have to pray when God already knows what’s going to happen? I don’t know. know onw does. we can only ponder such things. it’s a gret mystory and I look forward to understanding them more fully when I get to heaven :slight_smile:
hope this helps a little. Just trust Him and don’t get stuck going around in circles.


#13

Ok friends, it seems that the case was indeed the confusion between predestination and prescience. I agree that God knows everything that will happen (prescience) and all must happen like that. This is not in contradiction with free will since he knows all he knows because he sees in a big present picture(he has no past or future) all that we freely choose at any moment in our lives. If a person videotapes an event and later watches the video, he knows what will happen in it but his knowing it is not what makes them happen on the video. The same works with God just that he sees it all in one big present moment. But this doesn’t mean predestination in the sense that God predestined everything to happen in a certain way because then he wouldn’t have allowed evil and so on, that was the consequence of our free will.

Now, let me get the Thomist-Molinist conflict straight:
both are accepted by the Church but what is the difference in the end? IS it that Molinists say predestination is based on the free cooperation of people that God sees beforehand and Thomists say it’s based solely on God’s will? If so, then why is the Thomist view acceptable if the Catholic Encyclopedia clearly says that it’s a doctrine of faith that it’s not up to God’s arbitrary will.
Waiting for clarifications…
Emil


#14

I believe that there is a difference between God’s foreknowledge and our choices. He, being God, knows our choices, but guess what? They’re still OUR choices. I think that makes the difference here. WE are the determinators of our eternal destiny, but God created every human being to be a partaker of His Divine Nature, just like He chose to be a partaker in our human nature (In Christ). He didn’t have to do it, but in His foreknowledge He knew He would, and just like us, it’s HIS choice. Do not underestimate the power of free will. It’s one of the greatest attributes Our Creator made in us as a part of His image. True Love (which He is) involves choice. Foreknowlege simply knows the choice, but God remains Love and continues to love us, regardless of our choice to love or not love Him back. That is the difference between Heaven and Hell…It’s the diffference WE have the power to make.
God bless you all… :cool:


#15

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