Thursday, November 29, 2007

A comment on Presbies and predestination

A reader left a comment on my post called "Differences between Catholicism and Presbyterianism":

The part about Catholics believing in Predestination is false. As a Catholic I understand what St. Thomas Aquainas [sic] was saying and it really isn't predesitination [sic]. We determine our own fate. For example all of us can choose sin or rightousness [sic] freely. But because we are human and we sin, we must rely on the grace of God to get to heaven. Nothing to do with predesintation[.] [sic]

In that post I said Catholics "believe in the absolute necessity of God’s grace alone for our salvation prior to any of our own efforts." As a Catholic I differentiate between (Calvinist) 'predetermination' and (Thomistic) 'predestination'. Calvinism denies any freedom of the will (aside from 'free agency' among predetermined options, based on predetermined proclivities), so it can only argue for a 'one-to-one' correspondence between God's absolute decree and a person's ultimate destiny. By contrast, the Catholic Church teaches that God predestines all of creation **in conjunction with actual human freedom**. The central issue is the primacy of grace, not the absence of human freedom, which is why 'grace' for Calvinists is really more a default necessitarianism rescue from or consignment to perdition, given the lack of human freedom.

The Church officially ended dogmatic debate about the issue in the Congregatio de auxiliis under Pope VIII, which means predestinarian Thomism, versus Molinism, is a legitimate theory, if not construed as the only adequate doctrine and a rule of faith. "The pope's decree communicated (5 September, 1607) to both Dominicans and Jesuits, allowed each party to defend its own doctrine, enjoined each from censoring or condemning the opposite opinion, and commanded them to await, as loyal sons of the Church, the final decision of the Apostolic See. That decision, however, has not been reached, and both orders, consequently, maintain their respective theories, just as any other theological opinion is held." Cf. the Catholic Encyclopedia at .

No one is predestined to damnation without the complicity of their own free will. No one is predestined to eternal glory without the grace-enabled synergy of their own free will. Both claims are not only in accord with the Catholic teaching on predestination but in fact integral to it. I will quote from a number of sources to support my claim that predestination is not a non-Catholic doctrine.

"The causality of reprobation is unlike that of predestination. For predestination is the cause both of what is awaited in the future, namely glory, and of what is received in the present, namely grace. Whereas reprobation is not the cause of present fault, but of future result, namely, of being abandoned by God. Fault is born of the freewill of the person who deserts grace."

-- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, 23, 4, as cited in "Do Catholics Believe in Predestination?" at

"[Predestination] is every Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will. … Between these two extremes [i.e., of Calvinism/Jansenism and Semipelagianism] the Catholic dogma of predestination keeps the golden mean, because it regards eternal happiness primarily as the work of God and His grace, but secondarily as the fruit and reward of the meritorious actions of the predestined."

-- The Cath. Enc. at

"1. God knows all things, including those who will be saved (THE ELECT). 2. God's foreknowledge does not destroy, but includes, free will. 3. God desires all men to be saved. 4. Jesus died to redeem all men. 5. God provides sufficient grace for all men to be saved. 6. Man, in the exercise of his free will, can accept or reject grace. 7. Those who accept grace are saved, or born-again. 8. Those who are born-again can fall away or fall into sin. 9. Not everyone who is saved will persevere in grace. 10. Those who do persevere are God's elect. 11. Those who do not persevere, or who never accepted grace, are the reprobate. 12. Since we can always reject God in this life, we have no absolute assurance that we will persevere. 13. We can have a moral assurance of salvation if we maintain faith and keep God's commandments (1 John 2:1-6; 3:19-23; 5:1-3,13)."

-- Cf. "PREDESTINATION, SALVATION, AND DAMNATION: Calvinism and Catholicism Contrasted", from an article by Jim Burnham (edited by Phil Porvaznik) at

"The Catholic Church, following St. Augustine (e.g., Grace and Free Will, 1,1; Sermon 169, 11,13), accepts predestination of the elect to heaven, but also affirms the freedom of the human will, thus staking out a position distinct from Calvinism. Predestination to hell, in Catholicism, always involves man's free will, and foreseen sins, so that man is ultimately responsible for his own damnation, not God (double predestination is rejected). The Catholic Church affirms predestination as a de fide dogma (the highest level of binding theological certainty), while at the same time affirming free will and the possibility of falling away from the faith. But, there is no official teaching on how exactly this comes into play."

-- Cf. "Predestination and the Catholic Church" by Adam C. Kolasinski at

I also refer the reader to James Akin's "A Tiptoe through TULIP" at


Dave Armstrong's "Molinism, Middle Knowledge, & Predestination: Suarez, Congruism, & the Elegantly Ingenious Solution of Fr. William G. Most" at .

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