Thursday, November 16, 2017

Predestination and Grace in Catholic Theology

Imagine two individuals: Sarah and Suzie.  Both of them are humans, descendants of Adam and Eve, inheritors both of human nature in general and of original sin in particular.  Of themselves, therefore, considered apart from the grace of God, they are in a state of mortal sin and can only end up in hell for all eternity in the righteous justice of God, for this is the condition original sin has brought all men into.  However, God has sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to redeem it, and Christ has given the world grace through his sacrifice and merits, redeeming men from the curse of sin.  This salvation is made available and offered to all the world through the preaching of the gospel by the Church.  Sarah and Suzie, during their lives, both heard the message of salvation.  Sarah, at some point in her life, made a decision to gladly accept it and was baptized, taking Christ upon herself and washing away her sins in his blood.  She also chose to persevere to the end of her life in a state of grace, and then died and went to heaven, and she will be blessed in the presence of God for all eternity.  Suzie, however, refused to accept the gospel, and died in a state of mortal sin.  When she died, she went to hell, and she will suffer God's wrath and the privation of the blessed vision of God for all eternity.

Now I want to ask a very important question:  What, ultimately, made the difference between these two women?  Of course, the divergence of their ultimate courses came about because of the different decisions each of them made, particularly Sarah's decision to accept the gospel and continue in it until the end of her life (with all that that means and implies) and Suzie's decision to reject it.  But this is not the end of the matter.  What is it that made it so that Sarah would accept the gospel and Suzie would reject it?

SCENARIO 1

One answer might go something like this:  God in every way and sense equally willed the salvation of Sarah and Suzie, and he gave them all in every way and sense the same graces, but Sarah made a good use of her resources and Suzie made a bad use of them.  In this scenario, the ultimate source of the difference between Sarah and Suzie is within these two women themselves.  What God gave both of them was exactly the same in all relevant respects, but out of that same set of opportunities and graces Sarah produced a right response to God's grace and Suzie produced a wrong response.

SCENARIO 2

But there is another answer that could be given, and it goes like this:  Sarah and Suzie are both human and descendants of Adam and Eve, and so both are inheritors of original sin.  Both would therefore be doomed to hell apart from God's grace.  However, God has sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to redeem it, and Christ has given the world grace through his sacrifice and merits, redeeming men from the curse of sin.  This salvation is made available and offered to all the world through the preaching of the gospel by the Church.  Thus, God has provided sufficient grace to both Sarah and Suzie, and both can freely avail themselves of it if they will.  There is no hindrance to the salvation of either of them outside the potential refusal of their own free will.  From all eternity, God has ordained everything that has come or will come to pass in time, including all events both good and evil.  Good (like light) is a positive thing, produced by God's positive power and working, while evil (like darkness) is a negative thing.  God positively brings about all good but permits or allows evil, as he has determined to use both to fulfill his glorious purposes in history.  Therefore, nothing happens which defeats his ultimate goals or purposes for the creation.  Evil is a thing displeasing to God in its own nature, but its presence in history is not a defeat of his sovereignty, for it only exists at his sufferance to the extent and in the form that he has wisely and freely determined to permit in every detail.  God's free ordination of all things includes who will and who will not be saved, as it includes every other detail of history.  From all eternity, God freely decided that, in addition to making sufficient grace available to both Sarah and Suzie, he would give Sarah a special efficacious grace that would move her will to accept the gospel and persevere in that acceptance to the end of her life and so arrive at ultimate salvation, while he determined not to give that particular gift to Suzie.  In other words, God chose to give Sarah a good will but not to give that gift to Suzie.  He predestined Sarah to salvation by his grace.  He did not predestine Suzie to damnation, in the sense of forcing her to reject the gospel or infusing into her evil that caused her to reject the gospel.  He simply refrained, of his own free and wise will, for his good purposes, from moving Suzie's will to accept the gospel, allowing her to continue to reject it of her own free will until her death.

Why would God do this?  He did not elect Sarah to salvation because she was any better than Suzie, for both were equally in need of grace due to original and actual sin.  He did not refrain from moving Suzie's will to salvation out of any malice or hatred or lack of compassion, but rather because he saw that it would be better, all things considered, to give a grace to Sarah that he did not give to Suzie.  (This issue, then, is simply part of the larger question of why God allows evil and suffering to exist in his creation.  He does not do so because he loves or approves of evil, or because he is incapable of keeping evil out of his creation, but because he sees, in his infinite wisdom, that it is ultimately better overall to allow certain evils to happen than to stop them from happening or to arrange things so they don't happen.  As Pope Leo XIII put it in his encyclical Libertas, "God Himself in His providence, though infinitely good and powerful, permits evil to exist in the world, partly that greater good may not be impeded, and partly that greater evil may not ensue.")  God did not do any injustice to Suzie in not granting her the same efficacious grace that he gave to Sarah, for he granted her sufficient grace for salvation which she could have availed herself of if she had wished to do so.  Nothing outside of her will was impeding her acceptance of salvation.  In rejecting it, she acted with full freedom of will--as did Sarah, who was moved and inspired but not forced to accept the gospel by God's efficacious grace.  Nor did Suzie (or Sarah) do anything to deserve or merit God's efficacious grace.  All human beings since the Fall deserve God's damnation rather than his grace, and any grace received is an unmerited gift rather than something owed to us.

Catholic doctrine accords with Scenario 2 but not with Scenario 1.  This is because Catholic doctrine teaches that God is the creator of all things and is therefore sovereign over all things, and it also teaches that all good that we have relative to salvation is a gift of God coming from his grace through the sacrifice and merits of Christ.

GOD IS SOVEREIGN

First of all, the Catholic Church teaches that God is the creator of all things and therefore sovereign over all things:

The Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. He is called the "Mighty One of Jacob", the "LORD of hosts", the "strong and mighty" one. If God is almighty "in heaven and on earth", it is because he made them. Nothing is impossible with God, who disposes his works according to his will. He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will: "It is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #268-269--footnotes removed) 
The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." And so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens". As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established."  (Catechism #303--footnotes removed) 
The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  (Catechism #308) 
St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: "Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best." (Catechism #313--footnotes removed)

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Predestination" puts it this way:

 According to the doctrinal decisions of general and particular synods, God infallibly foresees and immutably preordains from eternity all future events (cf. Denzinger, n. 1784), all fatalistic necessity, however, being barred and human liberty remaining intact (Denz., n. 607).

Regarding moral evil:

God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it: . . . 
For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself. . . . (Catechism #311--footnotes removed)

The Catechism of St. Pius X talks about God's permission of moral evil in this way (in the section on "The First Article of the Creed"):

10 Q. Does God take any interest in the world and in the things created by Him?
A. Yes, God takes an interest in the world and in all things created by Him; He preserves them, and governs them by His infinite goodness and wisdom; and nothing happens here below that He does not either will or permit. 
11 Q. Why do you say that nothing happens here below that He does not either will or permit?
A. We say that nothing happens here below that He does not either will or permit, because there are some things which God wills and commands, while there are others which He simply does not prevent, such as sin. 
12 Q. Why does not God prevent sin?
A. God does not prevent sin, because even from the very abuse man makes of the liberty with which He is endowed, God knows how to bring forth good and to make His mercy or His justice become more and more resplendent. 

If God ordains all that comes to pass, and if all good comes from him and all evil is permitted willingly by him, and if all saving moral goodness that we humans can possess is a gift of grace through Christ (as we will see more later), and if some end up saved and others end up damned, it follows that those who are saved are saved by the election and mercy of God and as a gift of his grace, and that those who are damned are permitted to be damned by God, who decided not to give them the same gift of salvation he gave to his elect.  Accordingly, this is what is affirmed by Catholic doctrine.  Ludwig Ott, in his well-respected and widely-used book on Catholic doctrine, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 {orig. 1952}, 242-245), explains (capitalization removed) that it is Catholic dogma that "God, by his eternal resolve of will, has predetermined certain men to eternal blessedness."  Ott goes on:

This doctrine is proposed by the Ordinary and General Teaching of the Church as a truth of Revelation. The doctrinal definitions of the Council of Trent presuppose it . . . The reality of Predestination is clearly attested to in Rom 8:29 et seq: . . . cf. Mt 25:34, Jn 10:27 et seq., Acts 13:48, Eph 1:4 et seq. . . . Predestination is a part of the Eternal Divine Plan of Providence. (found here--ellipsis in original)

While Catholic theologians do not entirely agree with regard to all aspects of how to articulate the doctrine of predestination, they agree on certain things.  They agree on the utterly gratuitous nature of predestination, in that we have nothing good which is not a gift of God.  Ott puts it this way:

Only incomplete Predestination to grace is independent of every merit (ante praevisa merita), as the first grace cannot be merited. In the same way, complete Predestination to grace and glory conjointly is independent of every merit, as the first grace cannot be merited, and the consequent graces, as well as the merits acquired with these graces and their reward, depend like the links of a chain, on the first grace . . . [ellipses in original]

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, in his book Predestination [(Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2013), p. 10], which is pretty universally regarded as a modern classic reference on Catholic theology regarding predestination, makes the same point:

But in any case, from this minimum admitted by all we get three propositions to which all Catholic theologians subscribe. They are: (1) Predestination to the first grace is not because God foresaw our naturally good works, nor is the beginning of salutary acts due to natural causes; (2) predestination to glory is not because God foresaw we would continue in the performance of supernaturally meritorious acts apart from the special gift of final perseverance; (3) complete predestination, in so far as it comprises the whole series of graces from the first up to glorification, is gratuitous or previous to foreseen merits. These three propositions are admitted by all Catholic theologians.

In the early medieval Church, the doctrine of predestination was dealt with in a number of councils which have informed the development of Catholic thinking on this subject.  Two of these councils were the Council of Quiercy (853) and the Council of Valence (855).  Here is a selection from the canons of Quiercy [Guido Stucco, God's Eternal Gift: A History of the Catholic Doctrine of Predestination from Augustine to the Renaissance (Xlibris, 2009), 350-351--footnotes removed]:

     Almighty God created man without sin, righteous and endowed with free will.  He placed man in paradise, and wanted him to dwell in the sanctity of justice.  Man, by making bad use of his free will, sinned and fell (from this state of justice), becoming the 'mass of perdition' of the entire humankind.  However, the good and righteous God, according to his foreknowledge (secundum praescientiam suam), chose out of this mass of perdition those whom he predestined through grace (Rom 8:29 ff; Eph 1:11) to eternal life, and likewise, he predestined eternal life for them.  He foreknew that everybody else, whom he abandoned in the mass of perdition according to his just decree, was going to perish, though he did not predestine them to perish; rather, being just, he predestined eternal punishment for them.  Because of this, we speak of only one divine predestination, which pertains to either the gift of grace or to the retribution of justice. . . . 
     We lost the freedom of will in the first man, but got it back through Christ our Lord.  We have free will to do what is good, which is preceded and helped by God's grace; we have free will to do what is evil, as it is abandoned by God's grace.  We [can say] we have free will because it is freed and healed from corruption by grace. . . . 
     Almighty God wants "all men to be saved" (1 Tim 2:4) without exception (sine exceptione), even though not all will be saved.  The fact that some are saved, is the gift of the saving God; the fact that some perish, is their own fault.

Here is part of Canon 3 from the Council of Valence (Stucco, 363-364):

     In regard to God's predestination, we wished in the past and still faithfully wish to claim in the present, on the basis of the apostolic authority, that: "Does not the potter have a right over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one?" (Rom 9:21), and also according to what immediately comes next: "What if God, wishing to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction?  This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory" (Rom 9:22).  With confidence, we profess the predestination of the elect to life and the predestination of the impious to death: in the election of those who are to be saved, the mercy of God anticipates their good merit; in the damnation of those who will perish, their guilt anticipates just judgment.  "By means of predestination, God has only established what he is going to do either out of gratuitous mercy, or out of just judgment," as we read in the Scriptures:  "He has done what will be," (Is 45:11 LXX).  In the case of evil people, he has foreknown their malice, which originates from themselves, but has not predestined it, because it does not stem from him . . . [as the] Second Council of Orange said: "That some people have been predestined by the divine power," meaning that they could not be otherwise, "not only we do not believe, but if there are some who wish to believe something so evil, we anathemize and detest them."

In the year 785, Pope Hadrian I articulated briefly and succinctly the Catholic teaching on predestination in a letter to the bishops of Spain, where there was apparently some confusion on the topic.  Some were asking what the point of doing anything is if everything is predestined, and others were asking what the point of asking God for help is if we can make our own choices.

    As for that, however, which some of these say, that predestination to life or to death is in the power of God and not in ours; they say: "Why do we try to live, because it is in the power of God?"; again others say: "Why do we ask God, that we may not be overcome by temptation, since it is in our power, as in the freedom of will?"  For truly they are able to render or to accept no plan, being ignorant . . . [of the words] of blessed Fulgentius [against a certain Pelagius]:  "Therefore, God in the eternity of His changelessness has prepared works of mercy and justice . . . but for men who are to be justified He has prepared merits; He has prepared rewards for those who are to be glorified; but for the wicked He has not prepared evil wills or evil works, but He has prepared for them just and eternal punishments.  This is the eternal predestination of the future works of God, which as we have always acknowledged to be taught to us by apostolic doctrine, so also faithfully we proclaim. . . ."  (Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, tr. Roy J. Deferrari [Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2001], a translation of "the thirtieth edition of Enchiridion Symbolorum by Henry Denzinger, revised by Karl Rahner, S.J., published in 1954, by Herder & Co., Freiburg", p. 120--ellipses and brackets in original)

In short, God is the source of the good works of the saints as well as of their eternal reward, but he is not the positive source of the evil works of the damned, though he ordains their eternal punishment.

1 Timothy 2:4 says that God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."  How does this square with the fact that God has only predestined some, not all, to salvation, choosing to grant the efficacious grace that creates the good will and perseverance in good only to his elect?  God wills all men to be saved by what Catholic theology calls his "antecedent" will, but not by his "consequent" will.  Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, in Predestination, pp. 74-75 (footnotes retained in square brackets), in the context of describing the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas on these matters, articulates this distinction:

     What metaphysical definition shall we give, then, of the consequent and antecedent wills?  St. Thomas gives us in substance the answer to this question.  He points out that good is the object of the will; now goodness, unlike truth, is formally not in the mind but in things as they actually are.  Hence we will, truly and simply, what we will as having to be at once realized, and this is called the consequent will, which in God is always efficacious.  As St. Thomas says:  "The will is directed to things as they are in themselves, and in themselves they exist under particular qualifications.  Hence we will a thing simply, inasmuch as we will it when all particular circumstances are considered; and this is what is meant by willing consequently. . . .  Thus it is clear that whatever God simply wills, takes place." [Ibid., Ia, q.19, a.6 ad 1um]  As we shall see later on, this principle concerning the will is of supreme importance for St. Thomas as constituting the foundation for the distinction between efficacious and sufficient graces.
     If, on the other hand, the will is drawn to what is good in itself regardless of the circumstances, not to a thing as it actually is, then this is called the antecedent will, which of itself and as such is not efficacious, since good, whether natural or supernatural, easy or difficult to acquire, is realized only with its accompanying circumstances.  As St. Thomas says:  "A thing taken in its primary sense, and absolutely considered, may be good or evil, and yet when some additional circumstances are taken into account, by a consequent consideration may be changed into the contrary.  Thus that a man should live is good, . . . but if in a particular case we add that a man is a murderer . . . to kill him is good." [Ibid., q.19, a.6 ad 1um]  Thus the merchant during a storm would will (conditionally) to retain his merchandise, but he wills to cast it into the sea so as to save his life. [Ibid., Ia IIae, q.6, a.6, c.]  Thus again, God wills antecedently that all the fruits of the earth become ripe, although for the sake of a greater good he permits this not to happen in all cases.  He also wills antecedently that all men should be saved, although, in view of a greater good, of which He alone is the judge, He permits that some commit sin and are lost.

In short, in itself considered, God loves the salvation of all men and hates their damnation, but in his wise providence, all things considered, he sees that it is better not to predestine all to receive the grace that efficaciously leads to salvation.  With regard to Christ having died for all men, of course his atonement was of infinite value and so was sufficient for all men and is truly offered and available to all (thus providing sufficient grace to all), and yet only those who, moved by grace, receive it have its benefits actually applied to them in such a way as to move them from a state of sin into a state of grace (and, with the elect, moving them to persevere in a state of grace to the end of their lives).

SALVATION IS ENTIRELY OF GRACE

This has already been spelled out above quite clearly in the context of what we have said about God's sovereignty and predestination, but it bears emphasizing in its own right.  Catholic doctrine is crystal clear that all good that we have relative to salvation is a gift of God coming from his grace through the sacrifice and merits of Christ.  It is not only the completion of good actions that comes from God, but also the very beginning of our good actions all the way down to the basic good will itself.  If we have a good will, it is entirely a gift of God's grace.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it (#2001--footnotes removed):

The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:"

Then follows a quotation from St. Augustine:

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.

This was a major point emphasized by the Church in its opposition to the heresy of Semipelagianism, which affirmed the necessity of God's grace for salvation (unlike pure Pelagianism) but which wanted to attribute some part of salvation--such as the very beginnings of a good will--to ourselves apart from the grace of God.  The Church made its response to this back in the year 529 at the Second Council of Orange, the canons of which were confirmed by Pope Boniface II.  As the Catechism says (#406--footnotes removed), "[t]he Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529) and at the Council of Trent (1546)."  Here is Canon 5 from the Canons of Orange:

If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers. 

Canon 22 puts it this way:

No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it is from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.

St. Augustine elaborates upon the point:

Men, however, are laboring to find in our own will some good thing of our own, -- not given to us by God; but how it is to be found I cannot imagine.  The apostle says, when speaking of men's good works, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?  now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"  But, besides this, even reason itself, which may be estimated in such things by such as we are, sharply restrains every one of us in our investigations so as that we may not so defend grace as to seem to take away free will, or, on the other hand, so assert free will as to be judged ungrateful to the grace of God, in our arrogant impiety. . . . 
Unless, therefore, we obtain not simply determination of will, which is freely turned in this direction and that, and has its place amongst those natural goods which a bad man may use badly; but also a good will, which has its place among those goods of which it is impossible to make a bad use:—unless the impossibility is given to us from God, I know not how to defend what is said: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?”  For if we have from God a certain free will, which may still be either good or bad; but the good will comes from ourselves; then that which comes from ourselves is better than that which comes from Him.  But inasmuch as it is the height of absurdity to say this, they ought to acknowledge that we attain from God even a good will.  It would indeed be a strange thing if the will could so stand in some mean as to be neither good nor bad; for we either love righteousness, and it is good, and if we love it more, more good,—if less, it is less good; or if we do not love it at all, it is not good.  And who can hesitate to affirm that, when the will loves not righteousness in any way at all, it is not only a bad, but even a wholly depraved will?  Since therefore the will is either good or bad, and since of course we have not the bad will from God, it remains that we have of God a good will; else, I am ignorant, since our justification is from it, in what other gift from Him we ought to rejoice.  Hence, I suppose, it is written, “The will is prepared of the Lord;” and in the Psalms, “The steps of a man will be rightly ordered by the Lord, and His way will be the choice of his will;” and that which the apostle says, “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His own good pleasure.”  ("On the Merits and Remission of Sins, and On the Baptism of Infants," found in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 1st Series, Vol. V: Saint Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, (1887); Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, reprinted 1987], 56 [footnotes removed])

God efficaciously draws his people to Christ.  Because he does so, they will certainly come.  But they also come completely freely.  Grace does not subvert or destroy their will or intellect but rather works by persuading them effectively to do the right thing.

But can they do otherwise, or are they drawn by irresistible power against their will?  The Council of Trent (Sixth Session, Chapter V) says that the sinner who is the subject of the inspiration of divine grace is not "utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it."  The Catholic view holds that when God converts us, we are not converted as blocks or stones but as human beings with free will, and so our will must cooperate with grace.  Grace does not destroy or subvert human will but rather perfects it by bringing it to function properly.  But it is imperative that it not be forgotten that man's cooperation with divine grace is itself a fruit of divine grace.  There is no idea here of any independent contribution from man.  The idea that man makes an independent contribution to salvation is precisely the idea of the Semipelagianism that the Catholic Church has condemned so thoroughly time and time again.  No, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2011) says, "[t]he saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace."  And because even our good will is in its entirety a gift of divine grace, grace must be efficacious.  If God gives a person the gift of a good will, that person will have a good will.  God's grace does not need to be met with some independent contribution from the will, without which grace remains ineffective.  Grace itself provides the very assent of the will that cooperates with it.

Fr. John Hardon, in his Course on Grace: Part IIA - Grace Considered Intensively, Chapter XV, comments on Catholic dogma regarding efficacious grace:

It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that there exists a truly sufficient but inefficacious grace, and also that there exists a truly efficacious grace which, however, is not necessitating. 
A truly sufficient grace is sufficient for placing a salutary act. It carries with it the power of producing such an act. . . .
By a truly efficacious grace is meant one that will be (is) infallibly followed by the act to which it tends, e.g. contrition. If you receive such a grace, even before your will consents to it, that grace is infallibly “sure of success;” it will infallibly procure your consent, produce that act – of contrition. But although it infallibly procures your consent, it does not necessitate you to consent: it leaves you free to dissent. Your will will infallibly say "yes" to it, but it is free to say "no.”

God gives sufficient grace to all, so that there is no obstacle to a person coming to Christ outside his own free refusal to avail himself of the opportunity presented to him by the offer of salvation through Christ.  God commands us to return to him in reliance on his grace.  In order for us to be able to fulfill this command, God must make divine grace available to us upon condition that we will choose to make good use of it.  This is why Catholic doctrine insists that God has provided "sufficient grace" to all men.  All obstacles external to the will have been removed.  However, no one will choose to avail himself of the opportunity to return to God unless God gives him the gift not only of the ability to come to Christ if he will, but also the willingness itself, and it is efficacious grace which provides this willingness to those whom God has chosen.

WHY NOT SCENARIO 1?

With all of this in mind, look back at Scenario 1 at the very beginning of this article, which we rejected in favor of Scenario 2.  It is evident now why Scenario 1 is contrary to Catholic doctrine.

First, it contradicts the Catholic doctrine that God is the creator of all things and is therefore sovereign over all things.  If God's contributions to both Sarah and Suzie are truly exactly the same in all relevant respects, then Sarah, in producing her good will to embrace the gospel, has brought about the existence of something out of nothing.  She has produced something which does not in any way have its root in God.  She has exhibited a First Causal power not ultimately traceable to God, the one First Cause.  "But God gave her the ability to choose," one might say, "and so her choice did come from God."  Yes, that would explain Sarah's general ability to make choices; but it would not explain why she made the particular choice she did.  It would explain Sarah's general will, but not her good will.  A good will (that accepts the gospel) and a bad will (that rejects it) are two significantly different things--so different as to result in exactly opposite eternal consequences.  If God's contribution explains why Sarah had a will but not why she had a good will rather than a bad one, then all the aspects of Sarah's will that differentiate it from Suzie's would not be in any way traceable back to God, but would be created ex nihilo by Sarah herself apart from God.

Also, if God in every way and sense wills salvation equally to Sarah and to Suzie, then God's will is defeated when Suzie rejects the gospel and ends up in hell.  On the whole, the universe will not turn out exactly as God wants it to be.  We must picture God, observing the whole of space and time, and concluding, "I got some of what I wanted, but not everything.  My ideal and what actually happened are not the same.  They are different in some very significant ways, in that some people have gone to hell when I wanted everyone to go to heaven."  But if the universe is not ultimately completely in accordance with God's will, then God is not the creator of all of reality.  There are aspects of reality, laws governing it, causes at work in it, that aren't traceable to God and which defy him and win.  Instead of the idea of one supreme God who is the creator of all things and rules over all in accordance with his sovereign will, we end up with the idea of a universe partly uncreated by God, ruled partly by God and partly by forces beyond his control which can thwart his desires and ideals.  We have abandoned monotheism for a polytheism in which God is merely one god in the midst of other ultimate realities that are at the root of existence.

Secondly, Scenario 1 contradicts the Catholic doctrine that all good that we have relative to salvation is a gift of God coming from his grace through the sacrifice and merits of Christ.  In Scenario 1, as I noted above, since God's contributions to Sarah and Suzie are exactly the same, Sarah's good will (at least the particularly good aspects of that will) is not ultimately traceable to God, and therefore cannot be conceived of as a gift of God's grace.  Rather, it is something Sarah has produced from herself, and the difference between her and Suzie is that Sarah did produce from herself and Suzie didn't produce from herself a good will.  But, as St. Augustine indicated in our quotation earlier, our very justification is ultimately rooted in our good will.  It is our good will which allows us to be reconciled to God and therefore makes the difference between heaven and hell.  To say, then, that the part of a good will that distinguishes it from a bad will is not ultimately attributable to God's grace but fully and ultimately to ourselves is to blaspheme God by taking to ourselves the highest credit for our salvation.  This is the heresy of justification by works that St. Paul so strenuously argued against in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians and which the Church so strenuously resisted in its battles with Pelagianism and Semipelagianism.

I will close this article with one of my favorite summary statements of the doctrines of grace and predestination, from St. Isidore of Seville, a 7th century Doctor of the Church.  I like this statement because he puts all the pieces of the puzzle together so clearly--God's sovereignty over all things, salvation by God's grace alone, God's permission of evil according to his eternal plan, the freedom of the will, etc.:

Between the infusion of divine grace and the faculty of the human will there is the following element: the decision stemming from a human choice, which is capable of spontaneously desiring good or bad things. Grace is the free gift of divine mercy, through which we evidence the beginning of a good will and its fruits. Divine grace anticipates man, so that he may do what is good; human free will does not anticipate God's grace, but grace itself anticipates an unwilling person, so that he may want what is good. Because of the burden of the 'flesh,' man finds it easy to sin, though he is slow to repent. Man has within himself the seeds of corruption but not of spiritual growth, unless the Creator, in order to raise him up, stretched his merciful hand to man, who is prostrated as a result of the Fall. Thus, through God's grace human free will is restored, which the first man had lost; in fact, Adam had free will to do what is good, even though he did it with God's help. We obtain our will to do what is good and embrace God perfecting us, thanks to divine grace. We receive the power to begin and to perfect what is good from God, who gave us the gift of grace; as a result of that, our free will is restored in us. Whatever good we do, it is God's, thanks to his prevenient and subsequent grace; but it is also ours, thanks to the [God-made] obedient power of our wills. But if it isn't God's, why do we give him thanks? And if it isn't ours, why do we look forward to the reward of good works? Insofar as we are anticipated by God's grace, it is God's; insofar as we follow prevenient grace to do what is good, it is ours. Nobody anticipates God's grace with his merits, thus making him almost indebted to us. The just Creator chose in advance some people by predestining them, but justly abandoned the others to their evil ways. Thus, the truest gift of grace does not proceed from human nature, nor is the outcome of our free will, but is bestowed only in virtue of the goodness of God's mercy. In fact, some people are saved by a gift of God's mercy which anticipates them, and thus are made "vessels of mercy;" but the reprobates are damned, having been predestined and made "vessels of wrath." The example of Jacob and Esau comes to mind, who, before been [sic] born, and again, after being born as twins, shared the bond of original sin. The prevenient goodness of divine mercy drew one of them to itself through sheer grace, but condemned the other through the severity of divine justice. The latter was abandoned in the mass of perdition, being 'hated' by God; this is what the Lord says through the prophet: "I loved Jacob but hated Esau" (Mal 1:3). From this we learn that grace is not conferred on account of any pre-existing merits, but only because of divine calling; and that no one is either saved or damned, chosen or reprobated other than by decision of God's predestination, who is just towards the reprobates and merciful towards the elect ("All the paths of the Lord are faithful love" Ps 25:10).  [The quotation is from St. Isidore of Seville, Libri Duo Differentiarum, chapter XXII, found in God's Eternal Gift: A History of the Catholic Doctrine of Predestination from Augustine to the Renaissanceby Guido Stucco (Xlibris, 2009), pp. 317-319--first set of brackets in original.]

For an earlier version of this article, which mostly overlaps in content but is arranged a little differently and has a few additional quotations scattered throughout, see here.  For a more basic overview of the Catholic doctrine of salvation in general, see here.  For those who are wondering how the Catholic school of thought known as Molinism fits into all of this, see here and here.  For a look at the heresy of Jansenism and the Catholic Church's response to it, which sheds further light on the issues discussed here, see here.  And finally, for those who are interested in how all of this relates to Calvinism, see here.

Published on the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude

55 comments:

Eric Bean said...

For a correct view on Free will and Grace, Read St Irenaeus of Lyons who was taught by the Apostle John. Here is his teaching on Free-will and grace: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103437.htm

It is exactly what I believe as a Deacon in the Orthodox Church. Read it carefully and attentively. God bless.

Mark Hausam said...

Hi Deacon John! Thanks for this!

I agree with everything St. Irenaeus says in the selection. (Good day to bring this up, too, since in the Latin church today it is the feast day of St. Irenaeus!)

All men have free will. People have the ability to accept or reject God's grace. God does not coerce anyone to heaven or to hell. Sufficient grace has been given to all men to accept God's grace. If anyone reject God's grace, he does so of his own free choice when it was possible for him to do otherwise. Any denial of any of these things would be heresy.

But it is also true that these things do not give us the whole story. There are other truths as well regarding the sovereignty of God and salvation by grace alone that need to be held, which complement these other truths. The Church developed its teachings on these matters through the centuries. In the earliest centuries, not a lot was said about predestination, efficacious grace, etc., because the Church was mainly opposed in these areas by Stoics and others, the the Fathers were concerned to guard against fatalism. When Pelagius came along, however, the Church had to defend in the opposite direction. Then, later on, with the Reformation and with Jansenism, the Church had to defend back in the other direction yet again.

So I don't disagree at all with what St. Irenaeus says, nor do I see any conflict between what he says and anything else affirmed in the article.

You might find this article interesting as well - http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2016/06/what-was-wrong-with-jansenism.html In it I address the Catholic Church's rejection of Jansenism (at least with regard to the Five Condemned Propositions).

Again, thanks for the link! I always enjoy our discussions! Have a great day!

Mark

Eric Bean said...

Irenaeus taught an "independent" free will which is in the power of the one possessing it i.e libertarian free will. I see huge differences in his notion of free will and the one expressed in your paper. I don't think He agrees with your notion of Grace "alone" in the Subjective aspect of Conversion. His view is true synergy. I would contend that Not a lot was said about Unconditional Individual Election and Efficacious grace in the early centuries because these are not doctrines of the Church. Even though you use synergistic language at times, your view of Grace "alone' is monergism due to the doctrine of the Eternal Decree which hides in the background. One cannot hold to a Doctrine that God had decreed before creation all reality, everything that comes to pass without exception including thoughts, feeling, inclinations etc without any of it being based on foreknowlege. (Instead foreknowledge is based on the Eternal decree itself)and ALSO hold that man has an independant free will within his own power at the same time. Irenaeus view is the same as St John Cassians view which is opposed to Augustinian Determinism.I haven't read any of the fathers speak of salvation by Grace "alone", The human side doesn't take from the divine side. The doctrine of Synergy is based on Incarnational Theology e.g that THe Incarnate word is 100 percent Divine and 100 percent human with neither subtracting from the other. This argument that if the difference in why one is converted and another is not rest only with God alone and this is the only way to affirm salvation by grace is contradicted by St Irenaeus. He argues the opposite premise! " 2. But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally]. But since all men are of the same nature, able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it—some do justly receive praise even among men who are under the control of good laws (and much more from God), and obtain deserved testimony of their choice of good in general, and of persevering therein; but the others are blamed, and receive a just condemnation, because of their rejection of what is fair and good. And therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness, as I have so largely demonstrated, because it is in our power so to do, and because by excessive negligence we might become forgetful, and thus stand in need of that good counsel which the good God has given us to know by means of the prophets."

Your argument in your paper was that our that all of our acts have to be traced back to God for God to be truly the creator of all things. St Irenaus is saying that God gave us abilities but our acts come from US. Our deeds are not under the category of God's creation, like you posited. He is arguing against you in that respect and his view of the nature of man post fall is the Orthodox one not the Augustinian one.

I enjoy our discussions as well.

Have a great day!

Deacon John

Mark Hausam said...

I think St. Irenaeus's words could be interpreted along the lines of what you want to say and also along the lines of what I am saying. He doesn't get specific enough to tell. For example, he says our free will is "independent," but what does this mean? I believe our free will is "independent" in the sense that we are acting truly from our own volition when we make choices, as opposed to being dragged along by some kind of necessity that circumvents or opposes our own volitional power and activity. My choices are truly mine. But our choices are not "independent," if this means that they occur outside the overall nexus of God's causality. What is St. Irenaeus's view? I'm not sure he really had one. His writing gives the impression that he may not have thought this issue through thoroughly. That's my impression of many of the earlier Fathers on this subject. But Irenaeus does not say anything that must be taken to be in conflict with St. Augustine's views, so far as I can tell.

I talk about how if our choices do not come from God (the positive-being aspects of them created and held in being by God, the negative-deficiency aspect of them being willingly permitted by God--as one permits a cart to stop rolling by ceasing to exert power to push on it), then we have being that is not traceable to God, and this is problematic since God must be the source of all reality as the monotheistic First Cause. You try to escape from this by saying that our choices are not "beings" and so do not need to be explained by a sufficient cause. But this is wrong, because our choices are indeed "beings." Choices are modes or "shapes" the will can take, and thus they are states of being, just as the shape of a rock is an aspect of the being of that rock and requires an explanation just as much as the existence of the rock does. "Being" never exists in the abstract, but always takes particular form, whether the "being" be a rock, a will, an apple, or whatever. The particularities of its form are inseparable from its existence and are a part of its existence. (Think, for example, how absurd it would be to say that God created some "entity" in a general sense, but it was not owing to him that that entity ended up being an elephant instead of a chair. The being of the elephant was created by God, but its "elephantness" requires no explaination. Of course this is not true, because "elephantness" and "being" in this case cannot be separated, because the "being" is not just a "general being"--an impossible idea--but an elephant-being in particular.) To allow that any aspect of any being can be explained without reference to a larger causal nexus ultimately traceable back to God is to neglect to take a particular aspect of reality and trace it back to God, the First Cause, which is the same as to explain it by reference to chance, or to some other ultimate cause--and this is inherently polytheistic.

To be continued . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"The human side doesn't take from the divine side. The doctrine of Synergy is based on Incarnational Theology e.g that THe Incarnate word is 100 percent Divine and 100 percent human with neither subtracting from the other."

There is nothing irrational about a person being 100% God and 100% man. But there is something irrational about the idea of something entirely coming from God and entirely coming from us considered as two independent sources. It would be fine to say, as I would indeed say, that when we make a choice everything comes from God and everything comes from me in the sense that God is the First Cause of my choice and I am the secondary cause of it. But you cannot have the same product be the result of two independent sources, because this would really result--if both sources truly achieved their natural results--in two products. Your analogy with the incarnation is faulty, because the two things are not actually analogous in the relevant sense. Faulty analogies do not make up for violations of logic.

Also, notice that you don't really want to attribute our choices 100% to ourselves and 100% to God. You don't want synergy here, but monergy--my choice is independent, which for you seems to mean that it is not caused by God but only by me. I think your view, then, is that God has created a will in me, but all the good choices of that will are entirely from me and not at all from God. That is, God contributes the will, and I contribute the good choices the will makes. That makes all our goodness entirely from ourselves and not at all from God. If this is what "synergy" means, then I think it is a deeply problematic concept (to put it mildly). St. Augustine talks about "synergy" as well, but his synergy is (ironically) actually closer in form to the incarnational analogy you made. He taught that our good choices are 100% from God and 100% from ourselves. As St. Paul put it, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you to will and do according to his good pleasure." (By contrast, the "badness" of our bad choices is not from God, because "badness" is a deficiency of being, not positive being. The aspects of a bad choice which express positive being come from God, but not the negative deficiencies. But even the latter do not escape God's causality in every way, because they can only occur if God wills them to occur by deliberately allowing them, just as I deliberately allow darkness to occur by ceasing to shine my flashlight into a room.)

To be continued . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally]. But since all men are of the same nature, able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it—some do justly receive praise even among men who are under the control of good laws (and much more from God), and obtain deserved testimony of their choice of good in general, and of persevering therein; but the others are blamed, and receive a just condemnation, because of their rejection of what is fair and good."

St. Irenaeus is simply saying--interpreting his words in the best light--that if our "nature" made us good and bad, so that goodness and badness were merely automatic results that did not flow from our free, voluntary choices, then we could not be praised or blamed. And this is correct. Even the Calvinistic Westminster Confession acknowledges this: "God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil." We choose good and evil voluntarily, when we could do otherwise if we wanted to. On the other hand, if we take Irenaeus to be saying that we cannot be praised or blamed unless our choices happen out of nowhere, with no cause, and are not at all connected to or flowing from any aspect of who we are, then that is nonsense. It violates the law of causality, logic, and psychology. But I see no reason to read St. Irenaeus in that way. But, as I said above, it seems likely to me that he simply wasn't thinking about the issue on that level.

Mark

Eric Bean said...

Apparently, My language was very unclear. I apologize. Simply Put, Our choices are OUR own choices. Thus we are accountable for them.We are not just infallibly and unchangeable working out God's choices with the inability to do otherwise because he pre-set our very desires and everything else that went into that choice.So to say that we could do otherwise than what we actually do"if we want to", is irrelevant if God meticulously pre-determined in a causative way (and not in a foreknowing and permissive way) all of our desires and when they occur. God would be unjust to hold us personally accountable if they are HIS choices ultimately. What I meant to say was that anything that we do in regards to salvation which is pleasing to God, it was with the assistance, inspiration etc. of his uncreated Divine energies(Grace) both to will and to accomplish it. We are not independant of him. Synergy means to "work with".... There is no "alone" in synergy at any time. Jesus said, "Without me ye can do nothing." The Spirit helps us in our weakness, as St Paul Says. The Holy Ghost is another Paraclete for us.Jesus sends him to us in the divine economy of our salvation. We are dependent on the grace of the Holy Spirit. A study of the word "Paraclete" and "synergy" in New Testament Greek usage and what these words really mean scripturally would be a fruitful study.

Eric Bean said...

God provides prevenient and assisting grace and we provide our assent to that grace and choose a good act by our free will or we choose to not do the good act.It is up to us. When we give our assent, God provides particular grace to further help us.When we act humbly on the grace we've been given, God gives more grace. Indeed, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble". Plain and simple. This discussion, of course, in Dogmatic Theology only applies to the subjective aspect or the personal economy of salvation. There is no comparison between Sanctifying/Deifying grace and our measly, feeble co-operation....but both aspects must be present as two energies working together. This is God's dispensation based on incarnational principles. Otherwise we end up with a incarnational theology of salvation that more resembles an implicit Monophysitism than Chalcedonianism.( Or Palagianism which is more like Nestorianism.

Thanks for the dialogue. Always a pleasure.

Deacon John

Eric Bean said...

of course, We can't give our selves life...that is why God's work is an unspeakable gift which we just thank God for. " Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!" as St Paul says. Like I say, there is just no comparison between God's uncreated energies(graces) and our created energies. Speaking of initial Justificaation through God's Sanctifying/ Deifying grace in Baptism, given to us personally without any meritorius works of our own St Paul Writes" Not by works of Righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." and in Romans 4 "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness". Salvation is of the Lord! We co-operate with him in our life of conversion but he does the saving. and in Ephesians 2 "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God: Not OF works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus, unto Good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." What a wonderful Salvation...and this is just the personal economy of Salvation...We haven't even begun to speak of the General or Objective economy!!

Mark Hausam said...

"We are not just infallibly and unchangeable working out God's choices with the inability to do otherwise because he pre-set our very desires and everything else that went into that choice."

There is no inability to do otherwise, speaking most accurately, because we are not forced to choose anything. There is an apple on the table. I can eat it, and I can refrain from eating it. If I choose to eat it, I could have chosen not to eat it. It is true that it is certain that I will choose what I most want, all things considered, but I do not have to choose what I most want. I am free to choose what I least want if I wish, but I won't, because I don't want to. All the things that go into my experiences and awareness and which thus guide my choices are certainly put there or allowed to be there by God, but none of these things makes me do anything or gives me any inability, so there is no problem here. You might find this article interesting as well, where I look at some issues regarding Molinism - http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2016/05/clearing-up-some-concerns-about-molinism.html - and discuss the inability issue a bit.

(Because this format won't let me write as much as I want in each comment box, I'm just going to post after each part so that I can be sure it will go through, and then write the next part and then post it, etc.)

Mark Hausam said...

"What I meant to say was that anything that we do in regards to salvation which is pleasing to God, it was with the assistance, inspiration etc. of his uncreated Divine energies(Grace) both to will and to accomplish it. We are not independant of him. Synergy means to "work with""

Good, I have no problem with this. (Of course, I did know that this is your view.) But let's go back to the two scenarios in my article. If we imagine that God has done all of the same things relevant to producing a good will in both Sarah and Suzie, we have a problem. While God does not force use to choose (which is an oxymoron), yet he is the producer of the good will. But if God does the same things for both Sarah and Suzie, then the difference in their wills does not stem from him, and so we cannot say Sarah's good will is a gift from God or a product of his agency/influence. When you have two events, and cause A is exactly the same in both events, but the events are different, the difference cannot be owing to cause A. (If the word "cause" messes you up here, feel free to choose a different word, so long as we retain the idea that something comes from something else.) But if God is not the cause of Sarah's good will, then there is being in the world that does not come from God, contrary to God being the First Cause of all being. This amounts to polytheism. Also, if Sarah's good will is not attributable to God--which it is not if God's contribution to Sarah and Suzie is the same in all relevant respects--then it is not a gift of God, contrary to the Christian view that our righteousness is a gift of God. This amounts to Pelagianism.

You seem to want to have your cake and eat it too. on the one hand, you want to say that it is owing to "divine influence" and with "divine help" that we choose right, so that you can say our good will is a gift of God, but, on the other hand, you don't want to disown my scenario one where the difference between Sarah and Suzie comes ultimately from themselves and not at all from God. These positions are inconsistent with each other. In the end, the only real choice is Pelagianism or Augustinianism. Either our good will is a gift of God's grace, implying that it comes from God and is produced by him, implying that those who do not have a good will have not been given the same gift, or God gives the same relevant gifts both to the one who has a good will and the one who doesn't, implying that our good will is owing ultimately to ourselves as a first-causal production that does not at all come from God, because if God's contribution is the same in both cases, the difference in the cases cannot be owing to God. So is our righteousness, our good will, a gift of God to us, or is it something we have produced without God's help--that is, a contribution ultimately from ourselves that does not come from God and is not attributable to him? That's the key question.

I'm out of time for today, so I plan to write more tomorrow. It would probably be best if you don't respond until I've had a chance to finish responding to what you've already said, or else this conversation will become too complex! :-)

Have a good evening!

Mark Hausam said...

Good morning!

I wanted to make few more comments about what I said yesterday about the logical implications of what you seem to be saying inclining towards Pelagianism. (First, note that I am not saying that you are a Pelagian. You don't necessarily hold the logical implications of some of what you seem to be saying. I just think that's where some of what you have said would take us if we followed it out further. Also, I don't mean to be offensive by using strong language like "Pelagianism." I think we both understand the importance of speaking clearly--but still respectfully--about such important matters, and so I speak freely.)

The real question is whether the capacity to produce a good will, or moral goodness, is of the essence of the human will. In the Augustinian view, I am always able to choose the right, because it is a legitimate option before me which I can choose if I wish to do so. However, without grace coming from the merits of Christ, I will certainly not choose the right. My will, being inclined to evil, does not have it in it to choose the right. That is why we need grace in the first place. We are sinners, and we need to be made righteous. That's what the atonement does for us. So the command that God gives to all of us sinners is to repent and turn back to God in reliance on the grace of God in Christ. If God did not provide Christ's atonement for us, it would be impossible for us to return to him in reliance on a non-existent atonement. But through the sacrifice of Christ, God has provided an atonement which is offered to all men, and so all human beings are enabled, given the objective possibility, of turning to God in reliance on his grace. (This is "sufficient grace".) However, in order to have not just the potentiality but the actuality of turning to God, the will must be given by God an efficacious grace as well that produces that actuality. And this grace is not given to all men, as is evidenced by not all men choosing the right. All men have sufficient grace, but not all men are given efficacious grace. Therefore, all men have the possibility of turning to God, but not all men have the actuality of turning to God. It is evident, then, that in the Augustinian view, the capacity to produce the actuality of turning to God (which is distinct from the possibility of turning to God if I should want to) is not of the essence of the will, for not all have this and yet they are still morally responsible for not turning to God.

Mark Hausam said...

But what if we say that the capacity to produce the actuality of turning to God is of the essence of the will? In that case, if I do not possess that capacity, I do not have a truly free will, and so I am not morally responsible. Therefore, in order for God to blame anyone for their sins, they must have that capacity. That capacity, then, is not a super-added gift of grace but a mere part of our human nature, essential to our basic humanity. It is a gift of nature, not of grace, because it is not something added to our basic human essence but simply part of our creation as human beings (for free will is essential to human nature). In this view, then, it must be said that all human beings, by virtue of being essentially human, have the innate capacity within them to produce the actuality of a good will. But if this is the case, then there is no need for Christ's atonement. We don't need to be given the gift of righteousness, for we already have the capacity to produce its actuality within ourselves in our own human nature. We can say that righteousness is a gift of God, but only in the sense that God has created us and made us human beings and so made us essentially able to actually produce righteousness. But this is pure Pelagianism. This is why I think that Semipelagianism, followed out to its logical conclusions, is really just Pelagianism. When the Church addressed Semipelagianism at the Second Council of Orange--which affirmed that the good will is in its entirety a gift of God's grace and therefore that God is the one who makes the difference between the righteous and the sinner--it was really just mopping up the last vestiges of Pelagianism which had already been condemned.

So the real key question (at least with regard to the salvation issues involved in this) is: Is our righteousness something we do not possess and cannot produce from ourselves and our own human nature but must be given to us as a gift of God's grace, produced by him, or is our righteousness something we can produce for ourselves from our own human nature and therefore not something that needs to be given to us from the outside by God and his supernatural grace?

Mark Hausam said...

"God provides prevenient and assisting grace and we provide our assent to that grace and choose a good act by our free will or we choose to not do the good act.It is up to us."

Of course it is up to us, in the sense that we must choose it using our own free will. But if by "it is up to us" you mean that we are the ultimate producers of this assent so that it is not a gift of God to us, then this is Semipelagianism. If the idea is that God gives the same grace to Suzie and to Sarah, and the only explanation of the difference between them is not that God has given something to Suzie he does not give to Sarah but that Suzie's good will is not a gift of God but her own contribution, her own ultimate invention, as a first cause, then this is Semipelagianism and violates Catholic doctrine as well as Scripture and reason (which requires all being to be attributed to God as the only First Cause).

Mark Hausam said...

"There is no comparison between Sanctifying/Deifying grace and our measly, feeble co-operation....but both aspects must be present as two energies working together."

But this is precisely the problem. You want to attribute righteousness ultimately to God's grace and not to our "measly, feeble cooperation"--which is great!--but if you say that Sarah and Suzie have the same grace and that the goodness of Suzie's will that Sarah doesn't have comes ultimately not from God's grace but from Suzie herself (because, as is evident in the case of Sarah, in this view it is not God's grace which produces goodness, for that is among the effects not attributable to the common cause influencing both Suzie and Sarah), then you are attributing goodness not to God's grace but to human free will ultimately.

"This is God's dispensation based on incarnational principles. Otherwise we end up with a incarnational theology of salvation that more resembles an implicit Monophysitism than Chalcedonianism."

If we want to make this analogy to incarnational theology, I think it is your view which most closely parallels the Monophysites and my view the Chalcedonian, because you want to say that my good choice comes from me and therefore not from God, while I am saying that my good choice comes from me and from God--from God as a First Cause and from me as a second cause.

Mark Hausam said...

"Salvation is of the Lord! We co-operate with him in our life of conversion but he does the saving."

But I think this is not so in the logical implications of what you seem to be saying, for in that view our free will is created by God, but it is ultimately from our free will and not from God that our good will--our righteousness--comes. Whatever makes Sarah different from Suzie comes not from what God has done but ultimately solely from Suzie's contribution, for God gave them both the same things.

(Of course, there is even more absurdity in this view than that. Ultimately, what you seem to be saying requires that the good will be a First Cause itself, because the good choice and the bad choice are said to be produced by the same free will. Why does Suzie choose right and Sarah choose wrong? A tree is known by its fruit. There must be something different in Suzie and in Sarah which explains their different choices. But where does that difference come from? Ultimately, all being comes from God, so the difference must be that God has given Suzie some characteristic that he has not given to Sarah. But you don't want to say that, so your view requires that at some point we have a break in the chain of causes and effects, and that break seems to be at the point of the choice itself. So the choice is not produced from something different in Suzie and Sarah; it just comes out of nowhere for no reason. But if that is so, then Suzie and Sarah are not the source of their own choices, and so cannot be held morally responsible for them. Nor would they even be choices, for choices are expressions of human will, not first-causal things coming from nowhere. So, in the end, I think your view destroys the nature of "choice," destroys moral responsibility, destroys the law of causality and so logic, destroys salvation by grace, and destroys monotheism. [But, again, I don't believe you yourself embrace all of this, of course, only that if we followed the logic of your positions through we would have to end up here.])

Mark Hausam said...

Let me say something more briefly about the nature of the will in my view. Our free will is a part of our being, and so must be explained by being created by God. Any shape that will takes (that is, any preference or choice it inclines to or makes) is an aspect of its being and so must be traced to God. If I choose well, this is owing to positive virtue and so to God's positive action. If I choose badly, this is owing to defect and so to God's refraining from positive action and allowing defect to exist. Therefore, the acts of the will are not exempt from the general laws of causality that are an essential component of all being. It is no more possible for a choice to exist without God than for an elephant to exist without God.

However, this does not mean that my choices are not free. If I have two options in front of me, I can choose either of them. Of course, the whole event is not exempt from being a part of the world created by God and so subject to the laws of causality, but the event is truly taking place nonetheless. God's causal activity does not disable my free will, but it enables it. It is the ground of its being (as God is the ground of all being in general). It is true that my choices do not happen out of nowhere. Choices are expressions of preferences which exist in the mind of a person and which come to be there through the experiences of that person which make him what he is, and all those experiences are a product ultimately of God's causal activity (both negative and positive). But it is not essential to choice that it happens out of nowhere; it fact, it is rather antithetical to the notion of choice to rip it from its causal nexus in the context of the psychology, states of being, and experiences of the person making the choice.

Mark Hausam said...

In order to be free, I must have options at my disposal and be able to choose among them. If I have options A and B before me, I must be able to choose either A or B. That is, I must be able to deliberate upon both options and then come to a settled preference--a choice--between them. I cannot be hindered from being able to consider either option, or from being able to settle on either option if that is where the pathway of my decision-making process leads. But none of this requires that my choices be free from prior causes or not a product of prior causes, or that it must be possible that it could happen that a choice could occur contrary to the natural outcome of the decision-making process (for such a "choice" would not really be a choice at all, because a "choice" just is the natural product of a decision-making process), or that the decision-making process can run independently of or contrary to the ideas, perceptions, and experiences that make it take the shape it takes in any particular case.

So, in short, in every choice I am free to do otherwise, even though it can never happen that I will in fact choose otherwise than makes sense given the decision-making process that gave birth to my choice or the influencing factors that determined the course of that particular decision-making process. The idea of a choice being free yet being a product of prior causes is not at all a contradiction, but rather both components are essential to the very definition of a choice.

OK, I think I'm done now. :-)

Eric Bean said...

Here are some excerpts from an article addressing your contentions.

It is called "Against Compatibilism: Compulsion, Free Agency and Moral Responsibility by
William Ferraiolo"

http://www.sorites.org/Issue_15/ferraiol.htm

Hear is just one of the quotes..." If determinism is correct, the claim that I could have behaved otherwise if I had chosen otherwise, is vacuously true because I never could have chosen otherwise given the actual causal antecedents of my choice. The claim that I should have chosen that which I cannot have chosen (not to mention the moral blame attending that claim) is indefensible. It is no different than suggesting that I should have been born with blue eyes and blaming me for my brown eyes.

I am gonna post a comment concerning your susan vs suzie question as well in just a little bit...

Eric Bean said...

Pope Benedict speaking in a Lecture about St Symeon the New Theologian reveals the true approach to theology.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090916.html

Eric Bean said...

Here is a quote from Leighton Flowers, who wrote a great book on Romans 9. He gives what I believe is a good answer to your question concerning the Susan and suzie scenario.

The effectiveness of election and salvation is NOT ultimately dependent upon the will of man. You are confounding two separate choices. For instance, there is the choices of the prodigal son to leave the pig sty and return home to beg for a job and then there is a SEPARATE choice of the Father. The choice to either give the son what he deserved, OR the choice to mercy him (not punish him) and the choice to grace him (give him reward) by throwing him party and restoring him as a son. The fact that the father, in his grace, has decided beforehand to forgive and throw a party for whoever humbly comes home does NOT mean the choice of mercy/grace is not the father’s alone. Grace and salvation depend on the father’s choice alone. Our choice is whether or not to remain in our pride thinking we can earn righteousness on our own or humbly admit we can’t earn righteousness and trust in Him instead.

As to your hypothetical…didn’t Enoch, Noah, Lot, Moses and all those after them who did believe in the promise still need a savior to pay for the sins he overlooked for all those years? Noah, for example, found favor in the eyes of the Lord not because he was without sin (obviously we all agree with that), so why did he? God, from the beginning with Lucifer has ‘opposed the proud, but given grace to the humble.’

James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

2 Kings 22:19: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”

2 Chronicles 12:7: When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak.

2 Chronicles 12:12: Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.

2 Chronicles 34:27: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.

Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Proverbs 3:34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Zephaniah 2:3: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.

Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 1:52: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

James 4:6: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:6: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
--------------------------
What does God himself attribute the difference between the converted and the unconverted?
I think his answer is reliable.

Eric Bean said...

Read Saint John of Damascus treatment of this whole subject of free will grace and predestination. He discussed it in depth in BOOK 2 of his Exact exposition of the Orthodox Faith beginning in about the 9th paragragh of chapter 22 till the 3oth chapter which completes the 2nd book. Here is the Link: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/33042.htm

Eric Bean said...


The Biblical language is one of INFLUENCE AND RESPONSE not cause and effect. Responsiveness implies authentic interaction with another person, not a cause and effect situation where a change is conferred on a person by a divine fiat so that the desired response is made certain by God's power alone. This destroys mutuality. The Orthodox view upholds real freedom. Freedom to do or not do. No grace is irresistible or "efficacious" in and of itself independant of human response to it. Scriptural language is always prescriptive and persuasive not descriptive and factual as it would be in your system, if it were true. The scriptures that I included in an earlier post show the "influence and response" language clearly( see 2 chron 32 :26, 2 chron 34:27, 2 kings 22:19)

Mark Hausam said...

"The claim that I should have chosen that which I cannot have chosen (not to mention the moral blame attending that claim) is indefensible. It is no different than suggesting that I should have been born with blue eyes and blaming me for my brown eyes."

Two things are often confused in discussions of this issue. We have to distinguish between the question of the possibility that I will choose what I don't prefer vs. the question of whether that which I don't prefer is still available to me to choose and I could indeed freely choose it. If I have option A and option B in front of me, and, upon consideration, I come to prefer, all things considered, option A, then I am certainly going to choose option A. There's no way I'm going to choose option B, because choice is always an expression of preference. But, at the same time, I could choose option B if I wanted to. It is truly an option. Nothing is blocking me from doing whatever I want to do. To say, in this kind of case, that I "can't" choose option B is misleading language because it suggests that something outside of my will is preventing me from choosing option B when that is in no way the case. I certain can choose option B; it's totally up to me. But I won't do it, simply because I don't want to.

If someone blamed me for having (in my case) blue eyes, that would be absurd. Why would it be absurd? Because my having blue eyes is not something dependent on my will. It is not owing to my will that I have blue eyes. It is not an option available to me to have (naturally) brown eyes. To compare what we are talking about to this kind of example is to fall into complete inaccuracy. What you are really concerned about here is to make sure that it is really up to me what I choose, that my choice reflects my actual will, what I truly want and prefer. You are right to have that concern. I share it. And it is completely consistent with the Augustinian view of things, and indeed required by it.

Mark Hausam said...

"The fact that the father, in his grace, has decided beforehand to forgive and throw a party for whoever humbly comes home does NOT mean the choice of mercy/grace is not the father’s alone. Grace and salvation depend on the father’s choice alone. Our choice is whether or not to remain in our pride thinking we can earn righteousness on our own or humbly admit we can’t earn righteousness and trust in Him instead."

The problem with this is that it ignores or forgets what a "good will" is. We are not talking about the choice to eat a pickle or a potato chip--an a-moral choice (generally speaking). We are talking about the decision to turn to God or away from him--the ultimate moral decision. This choice determines our basic moral character, whether we are going to be (on our part) at enmity with God or in friendship with him. Our eternal destiny depends appropriately on this choice, because eternal life, by its nature, must be a reward for goodness while eternal damnation cannot be anything but a punishment for badness. That is, there is an intrinsic connection between moral goodness and eternal life and between moral wickedness and eternal death. (That is one of the main points in my justification articles as well. The Protestant doctrine on that point, at least interpreted one way, ignores the importance of internal moral wickedness and moral goodness.) So if we attribute the choice to turn to God to ourselves and not to God, we are attributing not just some random, unimportant thing to ourselves, but that which determines our eternal destiny--the most important thing. God shows his greatness in giving us righteousness and saving us from our sins. If we attribute our righteousness to ourselves, we rob God of a chief aspect of his glory. That's why justification by works (that is, the idea that our eternal destiny of acceptance with God is determined by a righteousness we produce from ourselves rather than receiving as a gift from God) is so condemned in Scripture and has been so condemned by the Church.

Mark Hausam said...

"As to your hypothetical…didn’t Enoch, Noah, Lot, Moses and all those after them who did believe in the promise still need a savior to pay for the sins he overlooked for all those years?"

If they had been able to turn to God on their own, they would not have needed Christ, because our sanctification frees us from sin. Our sanctification is our dying and rising with Christ, putting to death sin and becoming holy. This is the outworking in our lives of the atonement of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. But if it is of the essence of human will that we can turn to God on our own, then there is no need for Christ. There can be no separating justification and sanctification into two different things that can even be at odds with each other. If we can turn to God, and we do so, and we put to death sin, we will reap the fruit of that--eternal life. We will not be cast into hell as perfectly holy people because of past sins. He who has died to sin has been justified from sin, as St. Paul says.

Mark Hausam said...

"What does God himself attribute the difference between the converted and the unconverted?
I think his answer is reliable."

Precisely. God receives the humble and rejects the proud. Why? Because the humble honors him, and the proud rejects him and tries to take his place. That's why it is so important that we not attribute our humility to ourselves ultimately but receive it as a gift of God!

Canon 6 of the Council of Orange (emphasis added):

"Canon 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10)."

Why was Sarah humble and Suzie not? If you say Sarah's humility was something that came from her and was not a gift of God, then your saying falls under the condemnation of this canon. But if God gave the same gifts in all relevant respects to both Sarah and Suzie, but Suzie wasn't humble, it is clear that God did not give humility as a gift to Sarah. She produced it herself, because if it came from God Suzie would have had it too. When it came down to it, when faced with the ultimate options, Sarah chose to be humble and Suzie didn't. Why? Where did Sarah's humility come from? I say it was a gift of God. God intended to give Sarah humility, and he did so. But Suzie wasn't humble. If God had chosen to give Suzie that gift, Suzie would have been humble. But he didn't, so she wasn't. It was completely her free choice, but completely free choices do not occur in vacuums; like all created being, they reflect what God chooses to do (both in terms of what he chooses to produce positively and what he chooses to permit negatively).

Mark Hausam said...

"The Biblical language is one of INFLUENCE AND RESPONSE not cause and effect."

This is a false dichotomy, not reflected in Scripture.

Ezekiel 36:27:

"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." I could duplicate this in many other places in Scripture. God is often portrayed as the cause of the good works of the faithful. "Influence" is also a kind of "cause" anyway. Sometimes it can be a sufficient cause, sometimes a partial cause (that is, one that contributes towards an effect but does not fully bring it about). I fully agree that we turn to God because of his influence--and that influence is efficacious because it truly does convince us to turn to God. It accomplishes our persuasion.

Don't get hung up on the word "cause." You are thinking that if God "causes" to me to choose, that must mean that he is using some kind of force to push me into an action in such a way as to circumvent or overpower my will. But that is now what I mean by "cause" in this context. God "causes" me to turn to him not by pushing past my will but in what is called a "moral" way--that is, by influencing me to see things in such a way that I am infallibly persuaded to turn to him of my own free choice.

Mark Hausam said...

" Responsiveness implies authentic interaction with another person, not a cause and effect situation where a change is conferred on a person by a divine fiat so that the desired response is made certain by God's power alone. This destroys mutuality."

The problem is that you are imagining a situation in which God overpowers or circumvents our will using some kind of non-moral force. But this is not my view, so your shot completely misses. I join with you in condemning any such idea.

God does make certain our response, but not by circumventing our will. He makes certain our response by an effectual persuasion that fully works with and doesn't overpower the nature of the decision-making process he himself created. As Catholics like to say, grace doesn't destroy nature but perfects it. Perhaps we confuse ourselves here because we recognize that our human attempts to persuade are rarely certain. That is because we cannot always get another person to see things the way we do, because we don't have full access to all their influences and internal thoughts. Sometimes we can come close, though. You can imagine situations in which you know that if you were to say a particular thing to a particular person at a particular time, it would almost certainly produce a certain responsive choice in that person. You know that because you understand the relevant dynamics that influence choice in such a case. But remember who God is! He not only knows all the relevant factors, but he is the one who has created them all (by positive action and by permission). If God intends to persuade you of something, he can do it! And without trouncing over your natural decision-making process. The Bible is chock-full of comments about how God has brought about various good and bad choices and actions of others by means of his providence, grace, etc.

There is real mutuality between us and God. But we have to remember who God is. He's not just some random guy we're talking to on the street. He is the First Cause and Sustainer of all things. He's going to have a kind of influence we don't have. That doesn't destroy mutuality, but it puts it in a unique context. If mutuality can only be preserved by making God basically just another Bob or Joe on the street, so we can meet him as an ontological equal where neither of us are dependent on the other, it's a sad state. I've dialogued with a lot of Mormons, and this is one of the main things they emphasize (thinking of the more philosophical types). They hate the doctrine of creation ex nihilo because they say it destroys true mutuality between us and God. If we are completely dependent on God, it destroys our basic ontological equality and independence and so ruins true mututuality. I always respond to them the same way I am responding to you here--by pointing out that there is a difference between destroying mutuality and putting it into a broader unique context in which one party is not the ontological equal but the ontological ground of the other.

Mark Hausam said...

"The Orthodox view upholds real freedom. Freedom to do or not do."

Again, you are confusing freedom to do or not to do with the possibility that I will choose to do what I don't prefer to do. I discussed this earlier. If you confuse these two things, nothing will make any sense. You will have to choose between real freedom in creatures and the First-Causal sovereignty of God and the graciousness of salvation. But this is a false choice created merely by metaphysical confusion. In reality, we can be truly free and God can be truly First-Causally sovereign over all things. Grace can be efficacious and our response can be truly free.

"No grace is irresistible or "efficacious" in and of itself independant of human response to it.'

This is ambiguous. Of course no grace is efficacious independent of human response, for the two are intrinsically linked. God does not cause our assent without our assent, obviously. But his grace does cause our assent, and that efficaciously.

Mark Hausam said...

These are complicated issues. I think it is good at times to take a step back and remind ourselves what is most important. My crucial concerns are that we preserve God's First-Causal sovereignty over the universe and that we preserve the idea that all our righteousness is a gift of God in entirety. If you share these concerns and ideas, then we're on the same page here, even if we have trouble with how the other person tries to understand how this all works out on the level of deep metaphysical exactness. On the other hand, you are concerned about preserving the true freedom of our will, the true mutuality of our relationship with God, the idea of human moral responsibility, etc. I share all these concerns and ideas fully (even if you think I do badly at preserving them with my detailed metaphysics). If we share all of these things, I think this is the most important thing with regard to this discussion. But, at the same time, that doesn't negate the value of hashing out the deeper metaphysics. I just wanted to take a step back, though, and put the discussion in its broader context.

By the way, I'm no longer convinced this issue is really a problem with Orthodoxy. I still think this is a crucial issue, but I'm not convinced there really is any official Orthodox view of it. That is because the more I learn about Orthodox epistemology, the more it seems to me that there is no agreement among the Orthodox about how even to define what Orthodox theology is, at least beyond basic stuff settled in the Seven Ecumenical Councils (which we both fully accept). You refer me to the Orthodox council in Jerusalem in (I believe) the seventeenth century, but other Orthodox criticize that council for being too "western" in some ways. As I recall, for example, it affirms a strong view of purgatory, and perhaps some other things. Who knows how authoritative that council really is? Even with the Seven Councils, all Orthodox accept them but it seems that no one knows how they know they should accept them, since there no official or fully-agreed-upon answer among the Orthodox as to how to tell when the Church is speaking infallibly. If the Orthodox were to come into full communion with Rome, I don't think that would require any formal change to Orthodox theology in the area of grace and predestination, for there is no specific formal, official, universal viewpoint on these matters (though there are widespread opinions, such as the strong tendency to go with language like that of St. Cassian). What do you think? Do you agree with me here?

Thanks!

Mark

Mark Hausam said...

Continuing to think about how to articulate the issues here . . .

In the viewpoint you seem to be advocating, what God does is give Sarah and Suzie the capacity of will to choose good or evil, but the goodness of Sarah's good choice comes entirely from Sarah. God doesn't give her the gift of a good will, but only the gift of a will. It is as if someone gives you pen and paper, but you have to write the poem. The pen and paper may have made the writing of the poem possible, but the poem came from you and not from the person who gave you the pen and the paper. You might very well have chosen to throw the pen and paper in the garbage rather than writing a poem. God's gift, then, is simply to make us full human beings capable of moral choices. If we use this to become good, this is not God's contribution but our own.

This is exactly what the Council of Orange was attacking in the Semipelagian views. It is also what St. Augustine was talking about in one of my quotes from him in the article:

"Men, however, are laboring to find in our own will some good thing of our own, -- not given to us by God; but how it is to be found I cannot imagine. The apostle says, when speaking of men's good works, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" . . . Unless, therefore, we obtain not simply determination of will, which is freely turned in this direction and that, and has its place amongst those natural goods which a bad man may use badly; but also a good will, which has its place among those goods of which it is impossible to make a bad use . . . I know not how to defend what is said: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” For if we have from God a certain free will, which may still be either good or bad; but the good will comes from ourselves; then that which comes from ourselves is better than that which comes from Him. But inasmuch as it is the height of absurdity to say this, they ought to acknowledge that we attain from God even a good will. . . . Since therefore the will is either good or bad, and since of course we have not the bad will from God, it remains that we have of God a good will; else, I am ignorant, since our justification is from it, in what other gift from Him we ought to rejoice."

In the Catholic view, on the other hand, our good choices do indeed come from ourselves, but they are also gifts of God which come ultimately from him. Why did Sarah choose the right while Suzie did not? She surely did make a free choice, but there is more to say. Sarah's good choice was a gift of God, a gift that God did not give also to Suzie, as is evidenced by their different choices. God gave Suzie the option, opportunity, and capacity to choose good if that is what she wanted, but he did not give her the actuality of a good will. But, again, we get into some deep metaphysics here. Even if we talk past each other on some of these things, and we can't get our metaphysics lined up, hopefully we can both recognize that our righteousness is a gift of God, that God is sovereign, and that man is free.

Eric Bean said...

You seem to be downplaying my emphasis on Divine Grace in the working of what is Good.God abundantly graces us in the working of what is good in a multitude of ways. To those who do not do good, it isn't because God didn't give them a grace to make a good beginning or they received a lesser grace . Rather it is that they received the grace of God in vain as St Paul speaks of in
his epistle to the corinthians. When one makes use of this initial grace, God gives more grace. So yes the Converted person at the end of their lives received immeasurable more grace than the unconverted person, but God would have given more graces to them as well had they been using what they had already received. Jesus parable of the Talents teaches this principle. If one really wants to understand the Orthodox view one must read St John Cassian's Conference 13 and St John of Damascus Book 2. The Orthodox view of man both before and after the fall is different than in Augustinianism. Here is an article that discusses this in the Context of St John Cassian's 13th Conference with lots of good comments. I gave you this link at the beginning of our dialogue but I think it will be more helpful now. https://benedictseraphim.wordpress.com/2005/03/31/st-john-cassian-on-grace-and-free-will/

Mark Hausam said...

"You seem to be downplaying my emphasis on Divine Grace in the working of what is Good."

I'm not downplaying any emphasis you have on grace. I recognize the various ways you think God's grace helps us be righteous. But I've bee focusing on one way you don't think God's grace helps us--and that is by giving us the actual good will. In your view, it seems, God gives us the capacity to will good (and evil). He gives us encouragement, motivation, inspiration, etc., to choose good. He gives us further helps along the way once we've chosen good. Etc. But he doesn't actually give us a good will. According to you (so far as am understanding correctly), the good will itself comes from us and not from God. Suzie and Sarah had all the same gifts from God, but Sarah choose right while Suzie chose wrong. In your view, God did not give Sarah something he did not give to Suzie, but it is evident that Sarah ended up with something Suzie didn't end up with--a good will. Where did she get that? From herself, not from God. That's the idea I'm labeling Semipelagian. That's the view that was condemned by the Catholic Church at the Council of Orange.

Now, again, I have hope that we can make a distinction between basic doctrine and deeper metaphysics in these matters. Perhaps you want to say that our good will is indeed a gift of God, and it's simply that I don't think your metaphysics can preserve that--just as I say that man is truly free when he accepts or rejects God, even though you don't think my metaphysics can preserve that. In this case, we may agree doctrinally on the central matters and differ mostly by one (or both) of us being confused in our thinking with regard to deeper metaphysics. I choose to give the benefit of the doubt in such matters whenever I can. (But, again, this does not mean it is necessarily useless to try to hash out the deeper metaphysics.)

Perhaps we ought to read and talk through the paper on St. John Cassian when we get together. That might be productive.

Thanks again!

Eric Bean said...

When speaking of salvation, there is the general or objective economy and the personal subjective economy. In the objective economy it is a one sided work. Christ is rescuing us. He redeemed Human nature. He bridged the gap between God and Man.He destroyed death and hell through the cross.He descended into hell and loosed the captives. He expiated the sins of the whole world and reconciled mankind objectively to God. He removed all barriers to communion with God. Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb, bestowing life.
In his ascension he enobled Human nature and deified it by his session at the Father's right hand And Re-opened the gates of paradise to all mankind. Christ saved all in his incarnation by assuming all of Human nature. This is the Good news. Christ gave his life a redempion For all.He saved us. This is the Gospel. In the objective economy you can say with Saint Paul "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation. To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself,not imputing their trespasses unto themmand hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation"2 Cor 5:18-19

In the subjective economy in which salvation is applied to us personally we have a part to play. God wants our participation.If God Just gave out Good wills everyone would get one as his antecedent will is for all to be saved.He also wills that we use our God given free will.He wants a real relationship with his creatures. Think about it.. If God controls both sides in the relationship meticulously, relationship is meaningless. Our good will, our faith and repentance is jointly enacted by a synergy between God and Man.God grace is absolutely necessary.we are never without the grace of God preceding and assisting.That is Just our response to the Good news... This is not even mentioning the work he is doing in our souls to conform us to the image of his son. Salvation is a gift through what he has objectively accomplished in securing our salvation and his abounding grace toward us in our life of conversion. His part is overwhelmingly more important than our part. Our conversion would be impossible without him. There would be no Gospel without him.

Semi-palagianism is the false doctrine that we initiate our conversion without grace and grace comes later. Synergy is what the Fathers teach in the personal economy of salvation. The scriptures are clear on this as well. Augustinian want to make both economies to be grace alone essentially which is monergism. I will post some thoughts about the council of Orange and some other things in a little bit.

Eric Bean said...

The council of Orange, although there is much that is commendable in it, has never been received in the east. It is Rome absolutizing Blessed Augustine's novel viewpoints as they evidently became convinced that it was the only possible alternative to Palagianism. Someone else I know has expressed this idea :)

The Decrees of the Council of Jerusalem(1672) have great authority in the Church, as they were signed by all 5 Patriarchs including Russia. When the Anglicans wanted to unite with us, our Bishops made it a requirement that they accept the Decrees of the council of Jerusalem 1672. So we do have a definite view on these issues. All  of TULIP is rejected.

All Christians believe in God's sovereignty(I hope) but there is disagreement on how he exercises it.Jerry Walls, a Wesleyan, who often debates Calvinists said that John Piper gave a teaching on "How can a sovereign God love?" Jerry said a better question would have been. "How does the God who is Love exercise his sovereignty." 

God's governs through three modes of willing: Antecedant, Consequent, and Concessional/permissive. These are all exercises of his Sovereignty. 

How can Jesus have two natural wills with the Human will responsive with the Divine will, in your determinist view? I think monothelitism is what you would be left with.With God controlling both sides of the divine/human relationship, there can be only monergism/monothelitism.This is what the 5th and 6th Ecumenical councils were about.

2.)"All our righteousness is a gift of God in entirety". 

If by this you mean, that humans participate (but actually contibute nothing) toward their own conversion to God, then I disagree.  This notion would be  against numerous scriptures and the Apostolic faith. our personal consent is not effected through grace "alone" but rather through grace working with us. The Divine Scriptures always speak of one humbling HIMSELF...it is something THEY do as God is working with them through grace. It is in RESPONSE to God's gracious initiative toward them. It never says they were made humble. They humbled themselves. This is synergy. When Jesus healed the sick, he would give them something to do e. g go to the pool and wash etc. There was nothing in their acts which created worthiness in them or healed them. He wanted their co-operation in what he was doing. The healing came from Christ but they did something too.

He gave us the Sacraments, the Holy Mysteries to apply to us personally what he accomplished objectively. Now God commands all everywhere to repent and believe the Good News.This we cannot do without the grace of God preceding us (prevenient grace)and remaining with us. 

God set up the conditions required to participate in his salvation plan.  Saint Paul writes in Romans 4. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace and the promise made sure to all the seed.... " He also says that "We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand...."

Salvation is from God's uncreated divine energies. Our co-working  doesn't confer anything on us except what He gives us as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. When one thinks there is intrinsic worthiness in their own works and that they have earned salvation or that they deserve it they have become guilty of self righteousness and have fallen from grace. We receive salvation through union with Christ by which union we become partakers of the divine nature in order to regain the likeness of God which we lost in the fall. (2 Peter 1:3-11)We are in the image of God and are called to grow into the likeness through communion with Christ(theosis).This is the healing of the human person. This is personal salvation in the Church.

Mark Hausam said...

"When speaking of salvation, there is the general or objective economy and the personal subjective economy."

The problem is that we can't truly separate these. What did Christ's objective work of salvation do? It brought us out of darkness to light, made us children of God from enemies. Our subjective change from sin to righteousness is an inherent part of this. If I am the one, and not God, who contributes the change from darkness to light--as would be the case if I, not God, am the source of the good will--then Christ's objective work didn't really save me; I saved myself.

"If God Just gave out Good wills everyone would get one as his antecedent will is for all to be saved."

His antecedent will is for all to be saved--meaning that, in itself considered, he prefers the salvation of all. But his consequent will is not for all to be saved--for, all things considered, he chooses not to grant a good will to all. If you say that, all things considered, God would prefer all people to be saved, then you have to say that God's highest ideal for how he would like creation to turn out is not how creation actually will turn out, which is to create a fundamental and ultimate dichotomy between God and reality, allowing God to be thwarted by ultimate reality, which implies that God is not really God but merely one power in the midst of a universe of conflicting powers. This is polytheism.

Mark Hausam said...

"Think about it.. If God controls both sides in the relationship meticulously, relationship is meaningless."

I have thought about it, and I don't grant your point. I don't see your point. I think you are imagining God invading another person's personal space, circumventing and conquering his will, and pushing himself on the person without his consent. But this is an image of your own imagination, not the viewpoint of Augustinians. As humans, we know we cannot orchestrate another person's choices and actions entirely unless we destroy his will and turn him into a puppet without a will. But we must not forget that God is not just another human! All being is under his control, which means that nothing can happen that is not part of his eternal plan. Everything that occurs in the world occurs because God specifically caused or allowed it to occur. God creates each new moment in time. This follows from the fact that if God were to cease to maintain the world, it would vanish. The past, by itself, is not enough to produce the future. It is God who is the Creator of past, present, and future. So everything that exists and occurs in each moment in time is either something God positive produced (positive being, like light) or negatively permitted (negative "being," like darkness).

In light of this, it follows necessarily that God has meticulous control over everything that happens, including the free choices of men. These choices are not First Causes that happen in a causal vacuum, and so they are under the control of God just as much as everything else. There is no incompatibility between the idea that God meticulously controls what occurs and the idea that we are real beings with real wills who can have real relationships. We just have to get over the fallacious idea that only independent being or First-Causal being is "real" being. In effect, that idea amounts to the position that there can be no such thing as created being at all, that the only real being is God. Created being is real being too, but it is created--which includes the idea of complete dependence or contingency. So yes, everything I do is under God's control--because of the simple fact that I am not God. But, at the same time, I am a real being and I have real freedom and relationships. God's control in my life does not come through his circumventing or overpowering my will. When he brings me to himself, he does so through moral means--that is, through means consistent with the nature of will. He uses persuasion, not coercion. But he's an excellent persuader, to put it mildly! Of course he is, if you think about who he is!

Mark Hausam said...

"This is not even mentioning the work he is doing in our souls to conform us to the image of his son."

In your view, this work cannot include actually turning us from evil to good, for God cannot do that, for that would destroy the independence of the will as you have construed things.

"His part is overwhelmingly more important than our part. Our conversion would be impossible without him."

This is a kind of division that we need to get over. The more I think about, the more ironic I think it is that you chose to present your view as similar to incarnational theology. For in actuality, your view is much more analogous to Nestorianism or Monophysitism. It is my view that says that the very same things that I do in salvation God does as well. I will and work, because my willing and working is also God's willing and working. It is both myself and God 100%, but my willing is a result of God's willing. But in your view, you can't stand for it to be that way, but you feel you must say that what God does I don't do and vice versa. God has his part, and I have mine. You can't conceive of putting my part under the category of his part as well. For you, if God does something, then I can't be doing that thing; I must be inactive, passive. So when I say that God does everything, in your mind that translates into "I don't do anything at all, I have no part to play, I'm not even a real being." In your view, where God is, he must squeeze me out. We must occupy separate spaces, like humans walking together down the street. I cannot say of that other person walking down the street that "in him I live and move and have my being," but St. Paul says that about our relationship with God. That's what makes our relationship with God unique. Where my human neighbor is, I am squeezed out. But where God is--everywhere--I have ample space for myself. One of the fundamental flaws in your viewpoint is that ultimately you picture God and me as two independent beings walking down the street of life together, working together, each of us occupying our own space. Where God comes to an end, I begin, and vice versa. But to think this way is to make God a mere creature like us. I am continually reminded of my dialogue with philosophical Mormons, because they grasp this. They have the same view of our relationship with God that you are presenting, and they absolutely hate creation ex nihilo because they recognize that it is utterly at odds with their view. They know very well that creation ex nihilo leads right to Augustine, and they hate it!

Mark Hausam said...

I'm using strong language, but let me temper it by saying that of course I don't think you are a Mormon (or a polytheist). But I do think that you've got elements foreign to Christianity in your thinking that are causing you to argue with the Augustinian view that you don't even realize are there. I'm using strong language partly to put them as strongly as I can in front of your viewpoint so you can see them for what they are. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you to will and to work for his good pleasure." My part is God's part, because I exist in the context of God and all the good I have comes from him.

Please tell me if you think I'm being too offensive here with how I say certain things. My intention is not to be offensive, but to do the best I can to get you to see what I see. Sometimes speaking very bluntly seems the best way to do that, but it makes me uncomfortable and I want you to feel free to tell me if you think I've crossed any lines. I hope I don't come across as sounding too arrogant either. I don't mean to, but I do think for sure that I'm right about this, and that is reflected in how I say things. I am always open to correction, and you have helped to correct me in the past (I'm not a Presbyterian anymore, for example!). If I'm wrong about any of this, hopefully I'll come to see it. But I don't think that's the way things are in this case. :-)

Mark Hausam said...

"Semi-palagianism is the false doctrine that we initiate our conversion without grace and grace comes later."

That's part of it, but the real heart of Semipelagianism is the idea that our good will comes from us and not from God. This is clear from reading the Canons of Orange. It's great to say that grace is with us, helping us from the beginning, but if we still say that our own good will is from ourselves and not from grace, who cares really whether we say that we have it before grace starts or after grace starts helping us? The real issue is whether we have our good will as a gift of grace or not.

Mark Hausam said...

"The council of Orange, although there is much that is commendable in it, has never been received in the east."

Well, it should have been, because the Apostolic See approved it. But that's another issue. :-)

"Someone else I know has expressed this idea :)"

Indeed, and Rome was right (as usual)! :-)

"The Decrees of the Council of Jerusalem(1672) have great authority in the Church, as they were signed by all 5 Patriarchs including Russia."

That's great, but I'm sure you are well aware that the authority and validity of various aspects of this council's conclusions are widely debated in the Orthodox world. Even Wikipedia knows about it - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Jerusalem_(1672) I've read a number of times Orthodox complaining about the "western" influence on the synod's formulations. For one example, many Orthodox today complain about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, but much that they complain about is affirmed in that council. (I'll quote from it in the next post.)

"So we do have a definite view on these issues."

But Orthodox admit that they have no clear way of knowing even how to tell whether a council is ecumenical or not. There is no agreement on even how to define Orthodoxy. It is true that Orthodox in general hold certain views, particular views defined in the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and many or most of them hold other things, like the viewpoint on free will you are defending. Some of them, possibly, may even hold to the Jerusalem council's viewpoint on purgatory, though you certainly don't get that impression from listening to Orthodox polemics about Rome! :-) But every Orthodox I have talked to or read on this subject admits that there is no universal, agreed-upon, formally-decided viewpoint on how to tell when the Church is teaching in such a way as to be infallible and authoritative. So, maybe at this time the pendulum swings against Augustine. Perhaps in the future it will swing back. Formally speaking, I don't see that you have the authority to define your views on this subject to be the official views of Orthodoxy, though you certainly seem to be in the vast majority.

Mark Hausam said...

Here's the Jerusalem council's statements regarding purgatory, from Decree XVIII:

"We believe that the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each hath wrought; — for when they are separated from their bodies, they depart immediately either to joy, or to sorrow and lamentation; though confessedly neither their enjoyment, nor condemnation are complete. For after the common resurrection, when the soul shall be united with the body, with which it had behaved <151> itself well or ill, each shall receive the completion of either enjoyment or of condemnation forsooth.

And such as though envolved in mortal sins have not departed in despair, but have, while still living in the body, repented, though without bringing forth any fruits of repentance — by pouring forth tears, forsooth, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and in fine {in summation ELC} by shewing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbour, and which the Catholic Church hath from the beginning rightly called satisfaction — of these and such like the souls depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from thence, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers <152> of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice availing in the highest degree; which each offereth particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offereth daily for all alike; it being, of course, understood that we know not the time of their release. For that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment we know and believe; but when we know not."

Wow, if this really could be agreed upon by the Orthodox as their official theology, polemics against Rome would certainly change! And in other areas addressed by this council as well. These statements have "scholasticism" written all over them!

Mark Hausam said...

"How can Jesus have two natural wills with the Human will responsive with the Divine will, in your determinist view? I think monothelitism is what you would be left with.With God controlling both sides of the divine/human relationship, there can be only monergism/monothelitism."

You say this because you can't conceive in your view of a real will that is not independent. If God ordains my choices, in your view this must mean that I don't really make any choices at all. But I don't accept your premise of "where God is, I am not," because I recognize that "in him we live and move and have our being."

"It never says they were made humble. They humbled themselves."

There's your false dichotomy again. I say it's both. The Bible all over the place speaks of our conversion as our own work and as God's work.

"There was nothing in their acts which created worthiness in them or healed them."

But a good will is the essence of righteousness. We cannot escape from the dilemma here by trying to portray the act of conversion as an unimportant thing. It is the heart of the matter. A bad will is a fundamental problem, and a good will is our fundamental salvation, for Christ came to turn us from darkness to light, from enemies to children. We can't trivialize our good will: "God does just about everything! Sure, I do a teensy little bit, like turning from sin to righteousness, but he does everything else!"

Mark Hausam said...

"When one thinks there is intrinsic worthiness in their own works and that they have earned salvation or that they deserve it they have become guilty of self righteousness and have fallen from grace. We receive salvation through union with Christ by which union we become partakers of the divine nature in order to regain the likeness of God which we lost in the fall. (2 Peter 1:3-11)We are in the image of God and are called to grow into the likeness through communion with Christ(theosis).This is the healing of the human person. This is personal salvation in the Church."

Amen! My only clarification is that I would say that the good works God produces in us are indeed worthy of his praise, for they are works of the divine Spirit--but we cannot claim ultimate credit for them because they are gifts of God.

The key point is this: We are sinners, enemies of God. Left to ourselves, that's all we've ultimately got. What Christ does for us is turn us into righteous children of God. That turning is a gift of his grace. Again, we may argue over how this works out on the deeper metaphysical level, but so long as we agree with this, we're doing basically well on this issue.

Eric Bean said...

This is not a third place or purgatorial Fire. It is deliverance from Hades itself. The judgement has not injured yet and Hades will be thrown into Gehenna, the Lake of Fire. The difference is that Latins consider Hades to be the eternal final hell. We do not. Souls cannot cross into Paradise on their own initiative or ability. Christ has the power. he has the keys of Hades and death. Our prayers can help in many ways known to God. They can receive consolation or even deliverance. But it isn't heaven,hell and purgatory but Just Hades and heaven/paradise. The Final hell Will commence after the Last Judgement.

Mark Hausam said...

I don't see any difference between what the council says and Roman Catholic doctrine on the subject of purgatory. All Catholic doctrine teaches is that after death, those who are not adequately purged of sins though in a state of grace endure a kind of purging that is analogous to our process of sanctification on earth before entering the presence of God. There is no official Catholic teaching regarding exactly where purgatory is located, or other more minor issues. There may be differences of opinion between various Latin and Greek commentators through history, but there is nothing in what the council says here that disagrees with official Catholic teaching, and indeed it affirms pretty much the whole of what the Catholic Church affirms. Here's the Church's teaching on Purgatory from the Catechism (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a12.htm):

III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

Mark Hausam said...

With regard to the question of the literalness of the fire, listen to Fr. John Hardon commenting on the Council of Florence:

Theologically, there is less clarity about the nature of this pain of sense. Writers in the Latin tradition are quite unanimous that the fire of purgatory is real and not metaphorical. They argue from the common teaching of the Latin Fathers, of some Greek Fathers, and of certain papal statements like that of Pope Innocent IV, who spoke of “a transitory fire” (DB 456). Nevertheless, at the union council of Florence, the Greeks were not required to abandon the opposite opinion, that the fire of purgatory is not a physical reality.

http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Eschatology/Eschatology_006.htm

It is not a part of Catholic doctrine to affirm definitively the literalness of purgatorial fire.

Eric Bean said...



Trying to make our views fit into the paradigm of the other is like hammering a square peg in a round hole. I agree that we do share some common values because of Catholic Tradition, which is nice.

It seems to me that it would be more correct according to Biblical Verbage to make God primary in the Divine call and Man primary in the Human response. Mainly because man can resist God's grace,if they want to. No one can thwart God calling someone, so he is primary. But when the call is effectual in a positive response then it is 100/100 percent. I would add that it was effectual BECAUSE the resistance didn't occur, rather than saying the resistance didn't occur because the grace was a special kind called effectual grace not given to all. I think this is the more biblical perspective. I believe a person rejecting God has nothing to do with God declining to give them a grace that he gave to the converting one. I believe the person converting had everything to do with God enabling them through grace and calling them. We correspond to the grace given according Saint Paul. He says, " Neglect not the grace of God". "Stir up the grace of God."working together with him, I exhort you to receive not the grace of God in vain" and so on. Perhaps he works in us to choose conversion but he does not actualize the choice to heed the call to conversion. Without his potentializing the choice (with everything that includes e. g enlightening the heart, conviction of sin etc etc,) we could not actualize the choice. But we've gone round and round about that.

My main contention is that none of the eastern fathers have believed these uniquely Augustinian doctrines and none of the western ones before Augustine believed them or confessed individual unconditional election or efficacious grace . They are therefore contrary to Holy Tradition. They are human innovations based on speculation. None of them had the first cause of everything people do idea either. If you could prove otherwise that would be compelling.

We believe in the consensus of the Holy Fathers and that this consensus is guided by the Holy Spirit. These novel teachings,though well intentioned, are a break from this patristic consensus. Most of the Latin distinctives has a foundation in truth. They have just added layer upon layer upon layer of scholastic speculations that morphs what was once the pure truth into a divisive false doctrine.

When we use our philosophy to judge holy tradition instead of letting Holy Tradition judge our philosophy,that is a problem. One can have a very tight knit philosophical system that is logically consistent with the first principles of that system and the first principles can themselves be mistaken or seriously heretical.

I have a couple questions:

Can you produce ANY Holy Fathers that teach that God fore-ordained everything that comes to pass including all evil and filth and makes certain that the said things(including all filth and evil) comes to pass infallibly and unchangeably and not at all because he foresaw it in his foreknowledge but rather it exists in his foreknowledge because he so pre-ordained it?

Can you produce ANY Holy Fathers in the east at any time or in the west before Augustine that taught that God individually and unconditionally elected the individuals he planned to save and not at all based on his foreknowledge of their faith and good works and the rest would never be converted because he declined to give them an efficacious grace?

If the answer to these two questions are yes, I invite you to do so. These are reasonable questions for a Catholic Christian to ask,I would think.

My concern is that God may be so mischaracterized in this view that the deity presented may actually a philosophically contructed idol. May it never be.

I am on a vacation with my family and only have my phone to be online so I will be refraining from posting for a while.

It's been lively. Thanks for taking the time.



Deacon John







Mark Hausam said...

"Can you produce ANY Holy Fathers that teach that God fore-ordained everything that comes to pass including all evil and filth and makes certain that the said things(including all filth and evil) comes to pass infallibly and unchangeably and not at all because he foresaw it in his foreknowledge but rather it exists in his foreknowledge because he so pre-ordained it?

Can you produce ANY Holy Fathers in the east at any time or in the west before Augustine that taught that God individually and unconditionally elected the individuals he planned to save and not at all based on his foreknowledge of their faith and good works and the rest would never be converted because he declined to give them an efficacious grace?"

First of all, the biblical writers, Old and New Testament, teach God's predestination of all things as well as unconditional election many times. You've got my book, Why Christianity is True. In one of the appendices I laid out a good deal of this evidence, and it can be found many other places as well of course. The Apostle Paul teaches this doctrine a number of times in his writings, for example, particularly in Romans 9. I know you disagree with my interpretation of Paul in that chapter, but I've not found the alternative arguments compelling. St. Paul seems pretty clearly to be teaching unconditional election there.

When we get into the early Fathers after New Testament times, there is a bit of a shift, particularly as the Fathers begin interacting with Greek philosophy. During the period before St. Augustine, my impression from what I have seen thus far is that the Fathers did not work out anything like a clear system with regard to free will, predestination, etc. The main opponent in their thinking appears to be a kind of necessitarian Stoicism that would rule out free will and moral responsibility, so they tend to emphasize free will and moral responsibility. Sometimes they say things that sound a bit Semipelagian or even at times Pelagian, looking at their words from the vantage point of later clarity (just as many of the early Fathers say things at times that sound a bit off in terms of Trinitarian theology, the doctrine of the two natures in one person of Christ, and other things). Doctrine develops in the Church, and oftentimes it exists in an imprecise and somewhat unclear state until a serious challenge arises that motivates the Church to define something more clearly. It is with the writings of St. Augustine that we begin to get a clearer system worked out and Semipelagianism clearly rejected. The Pope affirmed these developments, and they were generally followed in the Western church, but you're right that the Eastern churches didn't pay as much attention to these matters or follow this development as much. I'm not aware of any clear, unified, or formal rejection of St. Augustine's thought by Eastern churches, at least until after the split between the Eastern churches and the Catholic Church was more fully completed and recognized (and even to this day, as I said a few posts ago, I'm not sure there is any formal, authoritative response).

Mark Hausam said...

My sense is that it is unlikely I will find any clearly-developed articulation of an Augustinian-style presentation of predestinarian doctrine in the Fathers before St. Augustine (outside of Scripture). However, I would add that I suspect you would be hard pressed to find clear formulations of your own position either. What you will find are articulations that are less clear and that you will assume support your view because your assumptions about the logical implications of Augustinianism. Your quotation from St. Irenaeus is a good example of this. I did not disagree with anything in that quotation, but you interpreted it as being against me because you assume I deny freedom, etc.

So, in short, I don't make the claim that I can find a clear Augustinian system in the Fathers before St. Augustine. But I don't think you will be able to find much in support of your view either that is clearly worked out. You have to remember that my view is actually quite broad and allows a number of ways of formulating it. If you read my article on Molinism - http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2016/05/clearing-up-some-concerns-about-molinism.html - you know how complex these things can be. Or my article on Jansenism - http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2016/06/what-was-wrong-with-jansenism.html. I would be interested to see how much you could find in the pre-Augustinian Fathers that would actually be clearly and definitively opposed to my viewpoint. For example, perhaps you'll find some statements that oppose necessity and the idea that the will is determined by nature to good or evil. Well then, you'll just prove that the Father is in the company of the Westminster Confession (Chapter 9), which won't help your case very much:

"God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil."

Now, if your ideas about the logical implications of my views are correct, then the Fathers are diametically opposed to me, and that will be easy to show. But I won't grant that my views deny freedom, affirm necessity of such a sort that circumvents free will, make God the positive creator of evil, etc. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly agree with all the Fathers in rejecting these ideas.

So, in short, my sense is that the Fathers before St. Augustine were in a very early period of development on these ideas because they had not yet faced the Pelagian controversy and were occupied with other matters. But I deny that the universal consensus of the pre-Augustinian Fathers was against St. Augustine, and I certainly deny that the Church ever definitively repudiated St. Augustine's ideas or affirmed contrary ones before or after St. Augustine.

Mark Hausam said...

"When we use our philosophy to judge holy tradition instead of letting Holy Tradition judge our philosophy,that is a problem."

Quite true, so long as we also recognize that reason is a true source of authoritative truth. If the Tradition of the Church taught that 2+2=5, then that would simply prove the that the Tradition was not infallible and would probably logically drive us into Sola Scriptura. It would be foolish to agree with Tradition in such a case and affirm that 2+2=5. (I'm assuming, of course, that the terms are clear, etc.) Ultimately, speaking on the level of intellectual motivation (which is only one aspect of the whole thing, of course, so don't get me wrong here), we are Christians, hopefully, because we think the objective evidence points to Christianity. If we don't think it does, then we are liars if we are Christians, for it is inherently dishonest to affirm a position without or contrary to objective evidence. Therefore, it is evident that we must ultimately rely on our reason. God gave it to us, and it is evident that we are to use it, so when we examine evidence and come to conclusions and embrace those conclusions we are acting in obedience to God and to his honor. Yes, we have to be careful in our reasoning. Yes, we have to take all facts into careful consideration, listen to everyone, etc., but none of this negates that reason is a source of truth. I say all of this to emphasize that we cannot simply put the rational arguments aside when we think about these issues. We can't check our brains at the door when we do theology. It is not respectful to Holy Tradition if we do so, but rather it is disrespectful to God, who is the author both of Holy Tradition and of reason. So if I have logical reasons to hold certain views of predestination, free will, etc., which I do, then it would be dishonest of me simply to dismiss these out of alleged "respect for Holy Tradition," even if I was convinced (as I am certainly not) that Holy Tradition was against what I believed reason was telling me. I am not infallible, so I must always check my work and be careful; but I cannot deny what God seems to be saying through any source, whether Scripture, reason, Holy Tradition, or whatever.

Mark Hausam said...

"My concern is that God may be so mischaracterized in this view that the deity presented may actually a philosophically contructed idol. May it never be."

I understand and respect your concerns here. I believe, however, that they are based in philosophical confusion. But so long as you think that my views deny freedom, moral responsibility, make God evil, etc., you cannot but fight against them if you would follow your moral duty as you understand it, nor would it be charitable for you give me the impression my views are OK if you truly think they are not. So I respect and appreciate your attempts to get me to see what you think you see on these points. Of course, my intentions are similar in the other direction.

"It's been lively."

Yes, it has been. :-) I find the conversations productive and I am happy that we can be friends and talk about these things.

Our conversations are so often focused on areas of disagreement that it may create the impression that we are more at odds than not. Because we are in different churches, it is necessary for us to have reasons for our respective positions, and those reasons must involve reasons why we are not on the other side, and so polemics are unavoidable. However, my problems with your theology are very few overall. On the whole, I love Orthodoxy and share the vast majority of its positions and beliefs. I also love the Eastern liturgy. I just wanted to say that. :-)

Have a good vacation!

Eric Bean said...

It was a great vacation. I got to meet some clergy and re-connect with some that I had not seen in a while. That was fun. Spokane Washington was a fun town to visit. We all enjoyed our stay there.

Thanks for the kind remarks about Orthodoxy and the Eastern Rite Liturgy :) I hope when you move to NC you will make your way back to SLC for a visit sometimes. If you do, maybe we can get together.

I am glad you all came to our 4th of July party. It was good times.

God Bless,
Deacon John

"Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it".Psalm 127:1 DRB



Eric Bean said...


I have your book which I printed out and had spiral bound. It is very well organized and presented! I have lots of hand written notes all over it. I will give it to you before you go so you can read my impressions.

I think the following Scriptures in Jeremiah disprove that God antecedently foreordained all things that come to pass. However all the Divine Scriptures fit perfectly with St John Damascene's Teaching on Free will and Predestination, even the ones you present in your book to support your thesis. St John's teaching is found here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/exact_freewill.aspx)God is sovereign but the way he excercises his sovereignty is very different that what is presented in a determinist system. The issue is the very Character of God.


Jeremiah 19:3-6 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

3 You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon this place that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle.

4 Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by burning incense in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents,

5 and have built the high places of Ba′al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba′al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind;

6 therefore, behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called To′pheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter.


Jeremiah 32:33-35 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

33 They have turned to me their back and not their face; and though I have taught them persistently they have not listened to receive instruction.

34 They set up their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it.

35 They built the high places of Ba′al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

(If these statements were meant to support the theory of the Open Theists who deny divine foreknowledge, it would have been worded differently. For example, it may have said that it didn't enter his heart that they would have done xyz. I agree that God foreknows all things but he did not antecendently pre-determine all things. All things are subject to God's governance through his antedendent, consequent or permissive willing. Nothing happens outside of his will. All three forms of God's will have to be taken together as God's Sovereign governance.

Here is an example that comes to mind of these three modes of willing:

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!{ PERMISSIVE WILL} How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,{ANTECEDENT WILL} and you would not{PERMISSIVE WILL}! 38 Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. {CONSEQUENT WILL} 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.{CONSEQUENT WILL}’”

I am a big fan of Saint John of Damascus

I am gladly supportive, by the way, of all that Rome does around the world in support of life, social justice and morality. I dont want to sound all negative about western Christendom. I am just focusing in on these particular teachings that we are discussing.

I look forward to meeting with you before you go.

God Bless,
Deacon John