Thomist Predestination

QUOTE=LumenGent;8087210]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.

I’m not sure if we agree on this point or not. The Catechism statement is skillfully worded so that it can fit any of the major Catholic schools of thought on the subject. It is not meaningless though. For example, its use of the word “free” with regard to our response to grace would be impossible to reconcile with the rejection of any sense whatsoever in which the response to grace is free. In this particular case I could imagine an argument a Calvinist could make to possibly reconcile this particular statement to his belief, though ultimately Calvinism, unlike Thomism, is not among the options allowed by Catholic teaching as a whole.

What would be an abuse of the statement would be to insist it rules out certain theological positions it is in fact compatible with.

Very Arminian. Not very Catholic, in its language that is. If predestination is synonymous with foreknowledge, then God predestines the reprobate to hell in exactly the same way (knowing “in advance” that it will happen) that He predestines the elect to heaven. That predestination formula was condemned by the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, but only because the word “predestination” was not used to mean “foreknowledge” in the Catholic Church, nor I believe in Protestantism at the time of the Council. Anyway, why even speak of predestination (etymologically, to appoint/determine beforehand) if all you mean is to know beforehand?

I’m not saying your underlying idea is heretical, but we really do need to keep our definition of predestination distinct from our definition of foreknowledge if we are to avoid total confusion. If your own preference is to reject the opinion (which the Magisterium has not rejected or affirmed) that predestination comes logically before free choices, then the position for you would be to say predestination comes logically after those choices and, therefore, logically after God’s foreknowledge of those choices.

If you choose to adopt a personal policy of only affirming what the Church has formally defined on this subject and staying neutral on the various schools of theological thought on it, that is perfectly respectable. But that does not seem to be what you have done, from this debate. You seem to be trying to advance certain tolerated theological opinions (like predestination logically after previous merit) against other tolerated theological opinions (like predestination logically prior to previous merit). In fact, as I recall you specifically said St. Thomas Aquinas got this issue wrong.

If you wish to take a particular theological position on this subject, that’s fine. If you wish to just stick to the doctrines without taking sides on controversial matters of theological interpretation, that’s also fine. But please don’t take a particular theological position and then claim that it is simply the Catholic teaching on the matter, when it is really only one of many schools of thought, none of which has been defined as the correct one.

Basically I agree. Evil, if defined as a lack of due good, came into Creation through the free decisions of men and angels. In creating us with free will God gave us the ability to commit moral evil, and He foreknew that we would in fact do this. The problem of evil is more multifaceted than this, though.

I have to go grab some lunch (well, I want to go grab some lunch) so I’ll leave the rest of your responses for another time.

Is God’s act of creation a mystery? Sure. But why He permits evil is also a great mystery. Yes, there are answers we can provide that have a kind of accuracy and may even cover each case of evil in some way, such as that God only permits evil in order to bring about a greater good or that all evil (aside from certain obscure and debatable definitions of it) results in one way or another from the sinful choices of creatures. But if you really confront a particular great evil, like Auschwitz, or simply the death of a child, the incompleteness of these answers is an inescapable fact. The explanations just don’t explain.

Probably the best answer I’ve heard comes from our current Holy Father, in something he wrote before he was Pope. As I remember it, he speculated that the General Judgment would be more than just the public judgment of each human being. It will also be in some sense a judgment on God Himself, on how He has chosen to run the universe, on why He allowed such terrible things to happen. And he speculated that the answer would finally be seen clearly and indisputably by the whole world, in the physical wounds of Christ.

No, freely chosen good is the natural consequence of free will. Evil is in a real sense unnatural. It is disorder arising from a willful injustice committed by the sinner. Sin is an abuse of freedom, not a natural consequence of it. Someone that chooses only good, such as Jesus, Mary, and the good angels, is just as free as one that has sinned. In some senses more free (we speak of “slavery to sin”).

With your last sentence there I agree.

It seems to me all this works to help explain temporal punishment, but not eternal punishment. What lesson learned could possibly be of use to us in hell? What good learned from the experience of evil could possibly make up for eternal damnation?

We may not know for an absolute fact that there will be damned human souls, but the New Testament, including the words of Jesus Himself, definitely make it sound like there will be. Also, in any case there will be (already are) damned angels, so we cannot escape the question of “why?”

So do we agree there must be some good God brings about from damnation, besides solely free will itself? The idea that the primary goodness gained from the damnation of the reprobate is the manifestation of God’s Justice is very Augustinian, but is an example of the kind of speculation I personally would rather not get into while still on this side of the Pearly Gates (or of the Styx). On this point at least it seems we may be in basic agreement.

You seem to have misread the statement about choosing to love and serve God that you quote here, or made some typographical error. In the world God created we do not all consistently choose to love and serve Him. Many of us in fact sometimes choose to sin. Me for one. I assume what you mean is that God created a world in which people had, in some sense, the natural ability to consistently choose to love and serve Him. This is true in a special sense when you consider the ability Adam and Eve had to resist temptation. That they chose to give into temptation anyway and that we do the same is indeed our own choice, but I think there is more to the question than that.

Agreed. My point in bringing up Mary is to show that sin is not the *necessary/I] consequence of free will. Since I lean towards the idea that predestination in some sense determines free choices we actually make (without taking away their free nature) and you clearly reject this idea, it is no surprise that this fact does not strike you with quite the same implication it does for me. The fact is, though, that a world in which everyone has free will and no one sins is logically possible, and if God could have created any logically possible world, it opens up the question of why God created a world in which people not only can potentially sin, but actually sin.

For the most part I agree with this, though again I’d be inclined to quibble about your use of the words “ordaining” and “permissive.” And of course I don’t think I would adhere to everything you presumably mean to imply by these statements.*

I would like to bring your attention to the following book,

“The Mystery of Predestination According to Scripture, the Church and St. Thomas Aquinas”.

Give it try I think it is an excellent look at predestination!

Available at Amazon or Tan Books.

Author is John Salza

Enjoy :thumbsup:

Hi Aelred Minor :),

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

Thanks for the advice. I have yet to condemn anybody or to derail from the Church’s teachings. FWIW, I only went by the Catechism, you OTOH, have tried to reconcile the what the Catechism contains to a particluar school of thought. Secondly, in so much as the Church has never officialy approved any of the interpretations offered by the various schools, I wouldn’t be so confident about them. That is why I restrain from advocating the various interpretations.

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).

FYI, there is no confusion on my part. Your second parragraph makes no apparent sense. Perhaps it would be much clearer to you if the terms ordaining and permissive were dropped in favor of antecedent and subsequent. What God wills antecedently, he wills relatively ie: The Salvation of both St Paul and Judas. What God Wills subsequently, is dependant upon the co-operation with his Graces (as taught by the Catechism) and it is to this end that one is saved and the other isn’t. Notice that the permission to sin is no guarantee that a person will sin ie: It does not impose anything upon the person.

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.

It isn’t that man is permitted by God to reject Grace as much as it is belonging to him to choose. The Thomist definition would say that Grace is efficacious on the part of God alone, there is absolutely nothing on the part of man that makes it efficacious. It is no surprise that this definition stems from St Augustine’s treatment of Pelagianism, and so would render human’s no less than spectators. Thus, for St Thomas, efficacious Grace is a delivered package to the elect and requires nothing more than a ceremonial acceptance of it. The more appropriate approach is to emphasize the power of great Grace to appeal to the wilhttp://forums.catholic.com/editpost.php?do=editpost&p=8099605l, yet the will still retains the power to reject it.

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.

This goes back to the Antecedent and Subsequent will of God. What is Antecedent, is universal, what is subsequent is particular and conditional upon the individual.

I’m not sure if we agree on this point or not. The Catechism statement is skillfully worded so that it can fit any of the major Catholic schools of thought on the subject. It is not meaningless though. For example, its use of the word “free” with regard to our response to grace would be impossible to reconcile with the rejection of any sense whatsoever in which the response to grace is free. In this particular case I could imagine an argument a Calvinist could make to possibly reconcile this particular statement to his belief, though ultimately Calvinism, unlike Thomism, is not among the options allowed by Catholic teaching as a whole.

I guess we don’t. The Catechism’s statement is simply so as to assign to God the cause of our Salvation and our co-operation with him in the attainment of that end. This upholds the gratuitousness of the gift, but also takes into account our efforts in attainting that Salvation. Had the Catechism intended to reconcile the various schools, it would have done so. Had it intended to put favor a particular school, it would also have stated that in explicit terms. The fact that it didn’t, suggests something very important: The Church does not support the interpretations of any of the schools.

What would be an abuse of the statement would be to insist it rules out certain theological positions it is in fact compatible with

No, the abuse is promoting or reading something in the statement that is not there. Why can’t you just take it for what it is?

Trust me it is no less Catholic what it is than what you want to to be :wink:

Very Arminian. Not very Catholic, in its language that is. If predestination is synonymous with foreknowledge, then God predestines the reprobate to hell in exactly the same way (knowing “in advance” that it will happen) that He predestines the elect to heaven. That predestination formula was condemned by the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, but only because the word “predestination” was not used to mean “foreknowledge” in the Catholic Church, nor I believe in Protestantism at the time of the Council. Anyway, why even speak of predestination (etymologically, to appoint/determine beforehand) if all you mean is to know beforehand?

That is not what Arminianism taught. Maybe you need to go back and read the formulations of Arminian. Notice how I made mention That God does not determine fate without co-operation with Graces. You are confusing Molinism and Arminianism together. In any case, my comment that foreknowledge and predestination are synonymous still hold. God knows exactly what he is doing, and he knows exactly how humans will respond. That does not mean that he only saves those who he knows will co-operate with his Graces and reject the rest who don’t.

If your own preference is to reject the opinion (which the Magisterium has not rejected or affirmed) that predestination comes logically before free choices, then the position for you would be to say predestination comes logically after those choices and, therefore, logically after God’s foreknowledge of those choices

.

I never said that predestination is subsequent to free choices. I always held that it is gratuitous.

If you choose to adopt a personal policy of only affirming what the Church has formally defined on this subject and staying neutral on the various schools of theological thought on it, that is perfectly respectable. But that does not seem to be what you have done, from this debate. You seem to be trying to advance certain tolerated theological opinions (like predestination logically after previous merit) against other tolerated theological opinions (like predestination logically prior to previous merit). In fact, as I recall you specifically said St. Thomas Aquinas got this issue wrong

If you pay close attention, you would realise that I have not favored any Catholic schhol of thought. I have only put forward what the Church has specified for us to accept. You on the other hand, have soley advanced the Thomistic argument. I never advanced any argument stating predestination logically after merit. Sow me where I mentioned that and I’ll concede? My only advances are that God’s plan includes our free response to his Graces and that must presuppose an act on his part in predestining and one pn our part in free co-peration. In essence, St Thomas’s core principles are correct, where he errs, is in his explanation and execution of these principles. If you go back to my first response, notice how I said that St Thomas wanted to prove that predestination is on the part of God not man. His main focus (as with St Augustine), was to demonstrate that Salvation comes from God alone. If you pay close attention to the teachings of both Saints, you will find a commonality beween the two, insomuch as predestination: a) belongs to providence, b) part of God’s goodness and c) is gratuitous. In agreement with St Augustine, St Thomas teaches that it belongs to God’s goodness that some are Saved and others are damned, as this is manifests his Justice and Mercy. He departs from St Augustine by rejecting the underlying value of the massa damnata, yet arrives at the same conclusion in that God wishes to demonstrate Mercy in the saved and Justice in the damned. St Thomas is also clear that God loves certain people more than others. His definition of Love is the willing of good to another. He is also clear that God does not desire a particular good for another, namely the gift of Salvation. Therefore, the elect are willed a particular good which he does not will for the damned. Since the predestination of the elect is efficacious, they must be saved. However, St Thomas says that their is a conditional part on their account. Now the reprobates are clearly not willed the good of Eternal Life given to the elect, yet the angelic doctor holds that it belongs to providence
that some fall away from their end (Eternal Life) just as it is neccessary that some will attain it.

What is clear from St Thomas, is that the order of Providence requires that some are saved and other’s damned. The manifesting outcome of God’s mercy and Justice are the reason why this should be so. He is also clear that God loves some more than others and this is why he desires for those who he loves a particular good which he denies to others. According to St Thomas, since Eternal Life is not owing by nature to any creature, it is a gift which is conferred freely by the giver to anyone as he pleases, so long as he does not deny what is naturally due to a person. Finally, his interpretation, reduces God’s universal will to nothing other than a mere ceremonial gesture. The above reasons are enough in highighting my disagreement with his interpretation.

If you wish to take a particular theological position on this subject, that’s fine. If you wish to just stick to the doctrines without taking sides on controversial matters of theological interpretation, that’s also fine. But please don’t take a particular theological position and then claim that it is simply the Catholic teaching on the matter, when it is really only one of many schools of thought, none of which has been defined as the correct one.

Read carefully, I haven’t advocated any theological position. All I mentioned was that the Thomist and Augustinian interpretation contain errors in them.

s God’s act of creation a mystery? Sure. But why He permits evil is also a great mystery. Yes, there are answers we can provide that have a kind of accuracy and may even cover each case of evil in some way, such as that God only permits evil in order to bring about a greater good or that all evil (aside from certain obscure and debatable definitions of it) results in one way or another from the sinful choices of creatures. But if you really confront a particular great evil, like Auschwitz, or simply the death of a child, the incompleteness of these answers is an inescapable fact. The explanations just don’t explain.

That is the whole point I was making all along. Many principles are correct, but the explanations and the interpretations are not. This is also why the Catechism limits it’s treatment of the topic to what is contained. Keep in mind that what is provided in the Catechism is consistent with all the Defide teachings on Grace and the Beatific Vision. All that is important, is that nobody is saved against their will, neither is anybody damned against their will.

No, freely chosen good is the natural consequence of free will. Evil is in a real sense unnatural. It is disorder arising from a willful injustice committed by the sinner. Sin is an abuse of freedom, not a natural consequence of it. Someone that chooses only good, such as Jesus, Mary, and the good angels, is just as free as one that has sinned. In some senses more free (we speak of “slavery to sin”).

Read my comment carefully. It is natural for man to exercise his freedom, by implying that it is “natural consequence of the abuse of free will”, It suggests that goodness is the natural consequence of free will when not abused.

It seems to me all this works to help explain temporal punishment, but not eternal punishment. What lesson learned could possibly be of use to us in hell? What good learned from the experience of evil could possibly make up for eternal damnation?

That is why all will be revealed at the General Judgement. But for now, the evil that is permitted by God must be beneficial for the person whilst still on earth. That some benefit and others don’t is beyond the scope of the discussion.

So do we agree there must be some good God brings about from damnation, besides solely free will itself? The idea that the primary goodness gained from the damnation of the reprobate is the manifestation of God’s Justice is very Augustinian, but is an example of the kind of speculation I personally would rather not get into while still on this side of the Pearly Gates (or of the Styx). On this point at least it seems we may be in basic agreement.

There has to be otherwise God wouldn’t have allowed it. It could just be that St Augustine and St Thomas were correct stating that it belongs to his goodness manifested in his Justice that some are damned. The error might not be in the principle as much as it is found in their explanation of how it comes about, Namely that God does not desire Eternal Life for some people.

You seem to have misread the statement about choosing to love and serve God that you quote here, or made some typographical error. In the world God created we do not all consistently choose to love and serve Him. Many of us in fact sometimes choose to sin. Me for one. I assume what you mean is that God created a world in which people had, in some sense, the natural ability to consistently choose to love and serve Him. This is true in a special sense when you consider the ability Adam and Eve had to resist temptation. That they chose to give into temptation anyway and that we do the same is indeed our own choice, but I think there is more to the question than that.

I don’t like to delve into contigencies of what could have and couldn’t have been. Whether God could have created a world where everybody loved him unceasingly would undermine the significance of free will. In any case that world would be impossible given that there will always be people that will abuse their freedom, the same way Adam and Eve did.

Agreed. My point in bringing up Mary is to show that sin is not the necessary/I] consequence of free will. Since I lean towards the idea that predestination in some sense determines free choices we actually make (without taking away their free nature) and you clearly reject this idea, it is no surprise that this fact does not strike you with quite the same implication it does for me. The fact is, though, that a world in which everyone has free will and no one sins is logically possible, and if God could have created any logically possible world, it opens up the question of why God created a world in which people not only can potentially sin, but actually sin.

Acually sin is a consequence of Free will, the same way that goodness is, he former being unnatural, the latter is natural. I don’t reject the idea that predestination places something in the predestined, otherwise how could the predestination of the person be effected. What I don’t hold with such certainty, is whether what is contained in the predestined is efficacious in and of itself without any part of the person. I would tend to say that so long as free will is a “real power”, it can be possible to reject what is contained in the predestination. St Thomas would disagree because according to him, God desires the salvation of the particular person irrespective of their free choice. He advances his theory by stating that what is contained in the predestined, compels the person to co-operate and thus secure their predestination. In a way he is correct, since the begining of Faith is a gift from God, so is the abiding and subsistence of Faith. But there are other issues which are well beyond the human scope and it is that reason why the Church would never advance his theory. :shrug:

As for your claim of a world where no sin is logically possible, It is like saying that there is a logically certainty of having a squared circle. I wouldn’t exactly subscribe to that. If the Angels fell, What chance do humans stand. When you consider that Adam and Eve were created in a state of Grace, you can see that sin is always possible if freedom is abused (and that is always possible, excpet in Heaven). As to why God created the world in the state that it finds itself in, you can find an answer with St Thomas who says that God created the world in a state of journeying towards and ultimate perfection to be attained. That humans actually sin is as I have constantly repeated a consequence of the abuse of free will. I guess the only way that sin would be impossible, is if man did not have free will.

Allow me to quote from your first post in this thread:

"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."

The idea here seems to be that St. Thomas’ opinion on predestination is contradicted by the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

You asserted that the Catechism has defined that predestination is dependant on our cooperation with God’s graces, and that this is in contrast to the views of Augustine and Aquinas. By this I take you to mean that the Catechism has defined predestination as coming logically subsequent to the free decision to cooperate with grace. In fact, the Catechism quote you provided did nothing of the sort. I assume the mistake was an honest one, but it was a serious one nonetheless, and I would appreciate it if you explicitly recanted the statement (or clarified that this is not what you meant).

For my part, I have tried to make clear that I am ultimately undecided on this matter. While I have not hidden in what general direction I “lean” (though I have yet to give my personal, very tentative theory, which BTW doesn’t fully match up with any of the traditional schools) and while this general viewpoint has informed some of my comments on particular issues, my main purpose here has been to defend the supporters of the various schools against the implication that they clearly contradict Church teaching. There may be no other area of theology in which the Magisterium has so conspicuously declined to make a binding judgment as this one (the other that comes to mind is the question of the six days of creation, evolution, etc.). In this context, I will on principle defend the Molinist or Augustinian just as much as the Thomist against charges or implications of contradicting Church teaching, whatever my own tentative ideas may be.

See above, but also allow me to say this. While you have not advocated any of the major schools of Catholic theology, you have advanced your own personal position on this issue. I support your right to do this, even though my own thoughts on the subject happen to run in a somewhat different direction. What I object to is the way you tend to treat your personal interpretation of Church teaching as if it were Church teachings itself. If a Thomist did that, being just as convinced of his interpretation as you are of yours, what would you think and feel? I suspect you would ask the Thomist to make a distinction between the Magisterial teaching itself and his controversial interpretation of it. This is ultimately all I’m asking of you.

For now I’ll stick to this theme and skip some of the material on the substance of the theological debate itself, though I may get back to it later.

In a sort of grammatical sense (not sure if that is a proper use of the word “grammatical”) I agree with this, but I’m worried about what you seem to be implying. I’m especially worried about the last sentence. Yes, in the Catechism and in Magisterial teaching as a whole (as far as I know) there is nothing definitively backing any one of the various Catholic schools of thought in this subject (Thomism, Molinism, etc.). Nor is there anything condemning them. That the Church “does not support the interpretations of any of the schools” doesn’t mean it disapproves of much less condemns any or all the schools. It refrains from making a judgment on the matter. Why it so refrains is a matter for idle speculation or historical research. The fact is a Catholic may hold to any of these schools, or to none, and should be free from implications from laypeople or lower clergy of being unfaithful to the Magisterium because of his or her opinion on the subject.

To demonstrate that a Magisterial statement is compatible with a theological theory is not an abuse of the Magisterial statement. It is, in fact, very important that a theologian (whether professional or amateur) check his theories against Church teaching on the subject to make sure the theory is compatible. He need not find his own theory explicitly laid every, or even any, time the Church has taught on the subject to recognize whether his theory is compatible with Church teaching.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what is an abuse of a Magisterial statement is to assert that it rules out theological opinions you personally disagree with when it is in fact compatible both with your theory and with theirs.

I wrote a response just to the Catechism line of argument, planning on going on from there, but had to delete it because part was based on the assumption that you believed predestination comes logically subsequent to free will (based on, among other things, your apparent equating of predestination and foreknowledge), which I then noticed you have now explicitly denied believing.

I’ll get back to you when I can, but in the meantime let me mention that I think this conversation is suffering because we’ve been giving our positions piecemeal rather than as a connected whole, and also we clearly don’t have a fully agreed upon theological language in which to speak either.

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.