Thomist Predestination

According to my understanding, Aquinas and Augustine’s doctrines of predestination do not differ in any significant way from Calvin’s. Am I wrong?

I would not know. But I do know this. If they did differ then the difference is like

  1. Blue and Yellow. There is no difference between blue and yellow, yet each are unique elements in the system of colour.

  2. Good and Bad. There is an assymetric difference between good and bad, one is independent, the other is dependent.

  3. 6 and 4. The difference between 6 and 4 is 2. in this case “difference” is a subtraction.

Which one suits best?

This subject already made me suffer so much that I do not care.

Then, St. Augustin said, there were these 2 horses in the stable of the King, who, on the first floor above the stable, was eating a superb banquet.

The horses were hearing the cutlery, the laughter, the gaudy songs, and one turned to the other and said: “What an excellent straw must be eating our Lord”

So are we…let me be the horse…:thumbsup:

I highly recommend reading this classic article from This Rock Magazine.

catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9309fea1.asp

If i remember correctly, Ss Thomas and Augustine believed in a system of single predestination, in which God predestines us all for Heaven, however it is up to us to accept that, and abide by his will, if we reject God, we reject him at Judgement are we are given our just deserts for it, and sent to eternal damnation.

That is not how I would characterize their positions. Both, I believe, wrote that God infallibly predestines the elect to heaven and passes over the rest (the reprobate) who therefore go to hell.

In this classic Catholic position grace sufficient for salvation would be offered to all, but only those God has predestined to heaven will accept it. This view would also recognize the possibility that a person may be predestined to accept grace initially, but not to persevere in it to the end, and therefore they would be among the reprobate, not the elect, even though they initially came to salvation. This differs from classic Calvinism in that Calvinists have denied that grace sufficient for salvation is given to the reprobate and that anyone who initially comes to salvation ever subsequently looses it.

At one point, St Augustine held to double predestination, he did admitt his error later on. He also formulated his own theory of the Massa Damnata whereby on the account of original sin, God could cast all Souls to hell, however, he wanted to show Mercy and Justice and in doing so chose a small fraction of humanity for Salvation (Mercy) and abandoned the rest casting them to hell (Justice). The problem with such thinking is that while it affirms the gratuitousness of the Beatific Vision, it fails to consider God’s universal Salvific Will to save all mankind and God’s infinite Love and Mercy.

St Thomas while clearer, nevertheless focused heavily on the sovereignty of God’s will and free predilection. In other words, his main argument is establishing the cause of the Beatific Vision as a gift freely dependent upon God and outside the scope of our co-operation. For St Thomas, the Saints are not saved because of their deeds, rather their deeds are a result of their predestination which God has ordained from all eternity. This gets confusing because both St’s Augustine and Thomas are imbued in a legalistic or technical interpretation of the Scriptures which as explained above, reduces God’s Salvific Will to an abstract notion which fails to live up to it’s promise.

In contrast to both views of these great Saints (including the other theological schools of thought), the Catechism defines that predestination is dependant upon our co-operation with God’s Graces and this is exactly what it is.

Then how could the Angelic doctor be so…wrong? After all the babble of him being the greatest theologian who ever lived, how could he get something so important and simple wrong?

Could you provide an exact quote to back this statement up?

I would encourage you to look deeply into this subject before simply pronouncing St. Thomas wrong. I was raised with a very simplistic Wesleyan-Arminian understanding of grace and free will, and likely would have had an initial negative reaction to Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas had I known about their positions on this issue when I was younger. Looking into it further though I’ve realized that it is a very complex issue, and have leaned more and more towards a certain variation on the Thomist theory, though I’d still call myself ultimately undecided.

Anyway, the Church currently allows a great deal of theological diversity on this subject. I’m not saying this is necessarily what you are doing, but it would be a big mistake to reject the opinions of some of the greatest Doctors of the Church out of hand, just because they disagree with whatever preconception you have had on the issue prior to getting deeply into it. I would suggest you first learn about the various schools of thought and the arguments in favor of and against each, and only then consider taking sides or even developing your own alternate theory.

How complex could it get? Either God distributes efficacious grace according to merit or not. If it has nothing to do with merit, then God deprives certain individuals of efficacious grace for no reason other than His own arbitrary will. And since men, according to seemingly all parties involvedl, cannot avoid sin without God’s grace, those deprived have no means of avoiding sin. Therefore, God, through His denial of efficacious grace to those whom He chooses, is the Author of sin. Last I checked, this was heresy. Alas, it is also the logical conclusion of unconditional election favored by St. Thomas. The problem is not resolved by simply denying the logical conclusion, which is double predestination. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

And, if the former position is heresy, which it seems to be, how can the Church allow it to exist within Her walls?

I’m hesitating about whether to give a big explanation of how I see each of the major schools of thought and to provide my own thoughts on the matter. For now let me just pick apart your last statement a bit. :slight_smile:

Complex enough to occupy many of the greatest minds in the Church for centuries, without any real consensus ever being formed.

You neglected the questions of how exactly we should define “efficacious”, whether “efficacious grace” exists, and if it does in exactly what sense it moves the will. I would also add (this is my own quirky thought), is this efficacious grace natural or supernatural grace?

It is an irrational jump of logic to go from “When God does such-and-such, it is not for this particular reason” to “God’s decision to do such-and-such is arbitrary.” There may be another reason, either knowable or unknowable to us.

Don’t forget that all Catholic parties involved in this dispute accept some form of free will or another. Therefore all of them would argue, again in different senses, that the decision to sin is made by the sinner himself, not actively forced by God upon the sinner. Just because we know as a practical matter that someone will fall into sin without supernatural intervention does not mean that God positively caused the sin to happen.

It is a long way from permitting something to happen to being the author of that thing. Don’t forget the distinction between God’s permissive will and ordaining will. God ordains only good things to happen, but he permits evil to occur in order to bring about an otherwise impossible greater good. In this case we would have God permitting sin and damnation to occur, not necessarily ordaining it. Therefore we could retain a real sense in which God wills the salvation of the reprobate and hates that they will go to hell, but He permits it to happen for some mysterious reason.

To make God the author of evil would be heresy, but unconditional election is not, and unless you are secretly Pope Benedict you do not have the authority to unilaterally proclaim it to be.

See above. :smiley:

Several possibilities:

  1. Unconditional election is not an error
  2. Unconditional election is an error, but not one that contradicts the Deposit of Faith (that is, it ultimately not true but the body of revealed truth as a whole is compatible with either conditional or unconditional election.)
  3. Unconditional election is an error, and it does contradict the Deposit of Faith, but the Magisterium has yet to clearly discern and teach this, for whatever reasons.

In any case it would be presumptuous for a layperson or even a priest to declare something a heresy which the Magisterium has so conspicuously declined to, and which was championed by men the Church has canonized and declared Doctors of the Church.

Please don’t take any of this to be mean-spirited towards you. Debating/discussing on the internet can be tricky, since we don’t have voice inflections and facial expressions and such to go by, and generally we don’t know the person we are debating well at all. As far as I’m concerned this is a good natured, somewhat nerdy theological discussion among fellow orthodox, faithful Catholics.

[quote=“Pope Noah I”]Then how could the Angelic doctor be so…wrong? After all the babble of him being the greatest theologian who ever lived, how could he get something so important and simple wrong?
[/quote]

It is a difficult doctrine to grasp especially when you try to assign a cause to the Divine will (which we can’t). That said, we can only go by what Christ gave us and what the Church has taught. St Thomas was also wrong on other issues as well including the Immaculate Conception. No doubt he was the greatest theologian of his time, however he was also human and profundity of intellectual thought does not guarantee freedom from error.

[quote=“Aelred Minor”]Could you provide an exact quote to back this statement up?
[/quote]

600 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. CCC.

It is a long way from permitting something to happen to being the author of that thing. Don’t forget the distinction between God’s permissive will and ordaining will. God ordains only good things to happen, but he permits evil to occur in order to bring about an otherwise impossible greater good

The greater good here in most cases is for the benefit of the sinner. God’s “ordaining” will is not subordinate to his permissive will, neither does he will anything that is detrimental to the good of the individual. These two wills have to be reconciled with each other in a unity as follows: a) The giving of Graces to man in accordance with the ordaining will and b) the ability of man to either accept or refuse such Graces in accordance with the permissive will. The latter is not on account of God but on the part of man (free will).

In this case we would have God permitting sin and damnation to occur, not necessarily ordaining it. Therefore we could retain a real sense in which God wills the salvation of the reprobate and hates that they will go to hell, but He permits it to happen for some mysterious reason.

And that can never happen given that God ordained man to the Supernatural Order which entails giving himall what is neccessary for the attainment of that end. What he permits is never in frustration of his ordaining will ie: He can not will the salvation of a soul yet permit it’s damnation. If he does that for one person, he must do it for all. If a soul is damned, it is because it willing frustrated God’s Salvific will, not because God permitted it for some mysterious reason. The permissive will is no other than the giving to an individual the right to refuse grace, which is natural to all persons. By this, God does give all people the right to accept or reject his Graces.

Just to set the record straight, as I recall Aquinas’ error was primarily one regarding human biology, not regarding Mary’s freedom from Original Sin. He believed that in the first stage of pregnancy the embryo (as we would call it today) had a vegetative soul only. This vegetative being was then disolved (or something like that) and from its matter was formed a being with an animative soul. Finally this animate being was dissolved and from its matter was formed a being with a spiritual soul. In the case of Mary, she would only have received her immaculate soul at this later stage of development, many months after her conception, therefore Aquinas, though believing Mary was always free from both personal and Original sin, rejected the term “Immaculate Conception” to describe this. Today, we know that there is a continuous process of development from conception to adulthood, no periods of one organism ending and giving rise to another. Had Aquinas known this he presumably would have affirmed the Immaculate Conception.

But that’s besides the point. Certainly a saint and doctor of the Church can make mistakes. Different Church Fathers and Doctors have disagreed with each other on many points. You are free to reject certain non-doctrinal aspects of Aquinas’ theories on grace, free will, and predestination, not to mention Banez’s interpretation of Aquinas. What I would appreciate is if you would not claim that the Church Herself has rejected those ideas when the Magisterium has not in fact done so.

Ah yes, I’ve seen this used to in an attempt to support Molinism once. The thing is, I could use (or abuse) it to support unconditional election just as easily: “notice that God’s eternal plan of predestination includes each person’s free response to grace. How we will freely respond is predestined by God!” The reality is this passage is carefully worded to make room for a wide variety of interpretations. What does it mean to “include”? What is the exact relationship between this eternal plan of predestination and God’s foreknowledge? The Catechism doesn’t get into all that (unless there is a passage you and I are both missing), but goes for a statement Augustinians, Thomists, Molinists, and maybe even Arminians could all agree with, each interpreting it his own way.

This is your own position, but to my knowledge it is not Catholic doctrine.

Let me deal with it backwards, addressing the difference between God’s ordaining and permitting wills first, then looking at why God might permit sin.

Your position seems to be that God’s ordains everything he positively brings about and permits any actions, good or bad, done by a free creature. By this logic God only permitted, say, the conversion of St. Paul in the same way that He permitted the betrayal by Judas.

By contrast, this is how I’ve always understood the idea of God ordaining and permitting. God’s plan for history includes everything that will happen. In this plan two kinds of events occur. The first is good events, which being good are positively ordained by God. They are in God’s plan specifically because they are good things loved by God, things He wants in there for their own sake (as well as, perhaps, for other good things they will bring about). Then there are the evil things that occur in this same plan. How could evil occur in a good God’s plan for history? There can be many facets to this and it is ultimately a mystery, but one key point is that God would not permit evil to enter into His creation except in order to bring about a greater good from it. I would personally propose that this must be a greater good that would be logically impossible without the evil, since otherwise God would have had a way to bring about that good while preventing the evil. We call God’s single will “permitting” rather than “ordaining” in these cases, because He does not will but actually hates these evils in and of themselves, but He passively allows them to occur in order to bring about an otherwise logically impossible greater good.

Now, the next question would be what exactly is this greater good because of which God is permitting a certain evil? Obviously the answer likely varies according to exactly what evil we are talking about. In this conversation though, the primary evil in question is the damnation of certain souls. What is the [otherwise logically impossible] greater good that comes about from a person being damned? You suggest that the greater good for which God permits an evil is “in most cases for the benefit of the sinner.” But what benefit can make up for the loss of God for all eternity? Nothing, it seems to me. Anything next to God pales in comparison. Therefore I would suggest that the greater good for which the person’s damnation is permitted is something extrinsic to that individual. What that may be I won’t speculate on here.

I’ve heard it countered that the greater good is free will itself, but to me that argument does not seem to fly. Free will is a very good thing. It means the elect freely cooperated in their salvation and the reprobate are personally responsible for their damnation because of their own free choices. But God could just as well have created a universe in which everyone consistently freely chose to love and serve Him, much as He chose that to actually happen with Mary, so that Christ’s human mother should never be touched by any spiritual uncleanness. Therefore it seems to me there is another reason, extrinsic to the individual sinner, because of which God permits sin.

This is flabbergasting. It would mean God never permits damnation, yet you just said that God permits man to reject grace, which presumably you know would mean sin if done to the end of life. So which is it? The simple fact is we know that God does not positively ordain sin and damnation, yet permits it to happen. Why does He permit it to happen?

Again, if God has allowed a soul to act out of accord with God’s universal salvific will, He allowed this to happen for some reason. You almost seem to say He allowed it to happen, but had no reason at all for allowing it.

First of all, why would God merely permit that we have free will rather than ordaining that we have it? In what sense could something that God actively gives (as you say He does) be called merely permissively willed rather than ordained?

Second, this was probably just poor wording on your part, but we do not have a right to sin. We have a responsibility to love and serve God, and this requires accepting the graces He gives us to make us capable of doing so. What we have is the ability to reject this grace. On this point, that we have the ability to reject salvific grace, you will find every school of Catholic thought in agreement, thank God.

Just to set the record straight, as I recall Aquinas’ error was primarily one regarding human biology, not regarding Mary’s freedom from Original Sin. He believed that in the first stage of pregnancy the embryo (as we would call it today) had a vegetative soul only. This vegetative being was then disolved (or something like that) and from its matter was formed a being with an animative soul. Finally this animate being was dissolved and from its matter was formed a being with a spiritual soul. In the case of Mary, she would only have received her immaculate soul at this later stage of development, many months after her conception, therefore Aquinas, though believing Mary was always free from both personal and Original sin, rejected the term “Immaculate Conception” to describe this. Today, we know that there is a continuous process of development from conception to adulthood, no periods of one organism ending and giving rise to another. Had Aquinas known this he presumably would have affirmed the Immaculate Conception.

I’m all too well familiar with the subject and the arguments of whether he was wrong or not. The fact is that he did have a lack of knowledge and got it wrong exactly when Duns Scotus had the correct train of thought. Does that mean Duns Scotus was better? In any case, Like you said, it has no bearing on the discussion. However, we must affirm that St Thomas alone is not the sole authority.

This is your own position, but to my knowledge it is not Catholic doctrine

.

Actually it is grounded in Catholic doctrine, but not Thomistic. There is a big difference between the two, and to suggest that the two are synonymous would be a big mistake. Just to make my point clear, I do subscribe to much of what St Thomas taught. But I wouldn’t go so far as to state that his writings are infallible or inspired which is what many Thomists would hold to, even though they don’t admit it.

Ah yes, I’ve seen this used to in an attempt to support Molinism once

I don’t speak in defence of Molinism.

Your position seems to be that God’s ordains everything he positively brings about and permits any actions, good or bad, done by a free creature. By this logic God only permitted, say, the conversion of St. Paul in the same way that He permitted the betrayal by Judas.

My position is only that God ordains all people to salvation but permits people to choose to co-operate with the Graces he gives them. As for the example of St Paul and Judas, he would have willed the salvation of both and would also have given them the necessary Graces and gave them the choice to co-operate with such Graces. I wouldn’t go so far as saying that God willed the conversion of St Paul more than he did that of Judas. One responded the other didn’t.

The thing is, I could use (or abuse) it to support unconditional election just as easily: "notice that God’s eternal plan of predestination includes each person’s free response to grace.

You could abuse it, or use it to support whatever you wish. The statement means what it implies, that God’s plan includes our free response to his Grace. You can twist it to support your own advances, however, The fact remains that this is the limit that the Church has set for us to accept.

How we will freely respond is predestined by God!" The reality is this passage is carefully worded to make room for a wide variety of interpretations. What does it mean to “include”? What is the exact relationship between this eternal plan of predestination and God’s foreknowledge?

If predestination is synonymous with foreknowledge, then yes how we respond is predestined by God. What this implies, is that God does not determine your fate without recourse to your co-operation with his Graces.

The Catechism doesn’t get into all that (unless there is a passage you and I are both missing), but goes for a statement Augustinians, Thomists, Molinists, and maybe even Arminians could all agree with, each interpreting it his own way.

And that is precisely what the Church wants us to know. The rest is just theological speculation. The Church has never formally defined the Thomist, Augustinian, Molinist or any other position. The only definitions available are those concerning Grace, free will, and the Beatific Vision. The medieval theologinas took it upon themselves in a scholastic manner to try and explain the operation of the concept. The Church did not approve any of the theological schools.

By contrast, this is how I’ve always understood the idea of God ordaining and permitting. God’s plan for history includes everything that will happen. In this plan two kinds of events occur. The first is good events, which being good are positively ordained by God. They are in God’s plan specifically because they are good things loved by God, things He wants in there for their own sake (as well as, perhaps, for other good things they will bring about). Then there are the evil things that occur in this same plan

Evil is a lack of due good. That it exists is only because man’s freedom allows him/her to abuse goodness. If God permits evil, it is only because it is natural for man to choose and God knows that such deliberate decisions will bring about evil.

How could evil occur in a good God’s plan for history? there can be many facets to this and it is ultimately a mystery

The mystery is how goodness is brought about, not that it is there. I already explained that with the human exercise of free will, evil is possible.

but one key point is that God would not permit evil to enter into His creation except in order to bring about a greater good from it.

That argument must mean something and the greater good is as you mentioned below, would have been impossible without the evil.

I would personally propose that this must be a greater good that would be logically impossible without the evil, since otherwise God would have had a way to bring about that good while preventing the evil

:thumbsup:

We call God’s single will “permitting” rather than “ordaining” in these cases, because He does not will but actually hates these evils in and of themselves, but He passively allows them to occur in order to bring about an otherwise logically impossible greater good.

See above. Evil is a natural consequence of the abuse of free will. By permitting it, God gives humans the oppurtunity to excercise their freedom. The good part is that he brings about goodness from our weakness.

Now, the next question would be what exactly is this greater good because of which God is permitting a certain evil? Obviously the answer likely varies according to exactly what evil we are talking about. In this conversation though, the primary evil in question is the damnation of certain souls. What is the [otherwise logically impossible] greater good that comes about from a person being damned? You suggest that the greater good for which God permits an evil is “in most cases for the benefit of the sinner.” But what benefit can make up for the loss of God for all eternity? Nothing, it seems to me. Anything next to God pales in comparison. Therefore I would suggest that the greater good for which the person’s damnation is permitted is something extrinsic to that individual. What that may be I won’t speculate on here.

That is something left for God, however, we need not look specificly to the damnation of Souls (since we don’t know that there are damned Souls). Just look at it from a natural human perspective. We often learn from our mistakes and the knowledge and experiences we acquire would not have come about without it. If it applies to on a natural level, how much more profiatable is it on a Spiritual level?

Keep in mind that damnation is the fulfilment of obstinate rejection of Grace. It could just be that the goodness gained is Justice. The most appropriae answer would be that the Church does not know.

I’ve heard it countered that the greater good is free will itself, but to me that argument does not seem to fly. Free will is a very good thing. It means the elect freely cooperated in their salvation and the reprobate are personally responsible for their damnation because of their own free choices.

You seem to be echoing what I was saying the whlole time. :wink:

But God could just as well have created a universe in which everyone consistently freely chose to love and serve Him

I don’t know what you are implying here, since he already has created a world where “everyone consistently and freely chooses to love and serve Him”. That some don’t is soley their own choice.

much as He chose that to actually happen with Mary, so that Christ’s human mother should never be touched by any spiritual uncleanness. Therefore it seems to me there is another reason, extrinsic to the individual sinner, because of which God permits sin.

Our Lady was not forced to co-operate, she still retained her freedom to choose. She was conceived without sin, however it did not eliminate the use of her spiritual faculties.

This is flabbergasting. It would mean God never permits damnation, yet you just said that God permits man to reject grace, which presumably you know would mean sin if done to the end of life. So which is it? The simple fact is we know that God does not positively ordain sin and damnation, yet permits it to happen. Why does He permit it to happen?

Damnation is a result of man’s rejection of Grace. That he permits man to sin is nothing other than giving him the option to freely reject his Graces. God is in no way responsible for man’s rejection since he has provided him with a) Sufficient Grace b) the natural operation of free will (which includes the decision to co-operate or reject his Graces). The use of free will is natural to man. That is what God’s permissivness means.

Again, if God has allowed a soul to act out of accord with God’s universal salvific will, He allowed this to happen for some reason. You almost seem to say He allowed it to happen, but had no reason at all for allowing it.

Again, God allows you to choose, that is what is implied in his permissive will. God desires you to be saved, but “he won’t save you without you” (St. Augustine). That is why his “Ordaining” and “Permissive” will applies to all people.

First of all, why would God merely permit that we have free will rather than ordaining that we have it?

He ordains that we have free will, since it is proper to man. However, he permits you to use it as you please, you can freely reject what is good, and this is also proper to man.

Second, this was probably just poor wording on your part, but we do not have a right to sin. We have a responsibility to love and serve God, and this requires accepting the graces He gives us to make us capable of doing so. What we have is the ability to reject this grace. On this point, that we have the ability to reject salvific grace, you will find every school of Catholic thought in agreement, thank God

Perhaps I should have replaced right with choice. We have a right to do what is good, we also have the choice not to do it. It is our duty to Love and serve God, but God has also given us the choice of rejecting that. That is, he Ordains that man Loves and serves him, but he also permits man to reject that.

To summarize, permissive will is no other than allowing us to freely reject what he has ordained for us. It is no different than saying that God ordained that all humanity should be saved. Salvation is dependant upon our free co-operation with his Graces. God does not determine but knows how we will respond.

It is fine to think your own interpretation is grounded in Catholic doctrine. I hope all Catholics would honestly believe that about any position they took on these kinds of issues. But we have to be careful about equating our personal interpretation of that doctrine with the doctrine itself. In particular, we should not condemn other Catholics’ positions on this issue as contradicting Catholic doctrine when the Magisterium has so conspicuously declined to do this.

Of course there is a distinction to be made between Thomist theology and Catholic doctrine itself. There would be even if St. Thomas was 100% correct about everything, which he clearly was not.

If they deny believing Aquinas’ writings to be infallible or inspired, why would you claim that is what they believe? It reminds me of when some atheists insist no one really believes in God, or when some theists insist no one really disbelieves in Him. I think it is best to take people at their word when the profess belief or non-belief in something.

Good to know. :wink:

I try to keep myself ultimately undecided despite leaning this way or that on the issue, but really I greatly dislike the Molinist idea of scientia media as applied to human decisions.

It seems like maybe you are alternating between two different though related ideas with regard to ordaining/permitting, and this may be where some of the confusion is coming from.

On the one hand, there is the distinction between what God wills for its own sake (i.e. the salvation of both Paul and Judas) and what He permits for some reason despite the fact that it contradicts what He wills (the betrayal by Judas).

On the other hand, there is the distinction between the actions of God and the free actions of human beings. Thus, God positively gives human beings free will, and He also gives grace sufficient for salvation to all. The individual human being then freely chooses either to accept or reject this gift of salvation. Because of this you are evidently sometimes inclined to say the accepting of grace is “permitted” just like the rejecting of grace.

I personally like to keep things simple and just call things God wills as an actual good in and of itself something God “ordains”, and something God hates but allows to happen something He “permits.” Thus God ordained the conversion of Paul but merely permitted the betrayal by Judas, though both of these happened through the free will of the person involved. This usage is convenient because it allows us to make an important distinction between different ways in which any given thing is in accord with the will of God. If it is good (is according to the ordaining will of God), it is in accord with the will of God at least in part because it is good. If it is evil but still happens (is according to the permitting will of God), it is in accord with the will of God only in the sense that God has decided to allow it to happen for some reason, not because He likes in in and of itself.

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