The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions
"Pt. 2: Predestination and reprobation - Ch. 13: The teaching of the Fathers on predestination"
I. Criteria to Be Used in Interpreting the Fathers
183. The gradual clarification of revelation: From the very fact that the providential clarification of revelation is gradual, we must not expect that the Fathers found all the distinctions we know today. Nor did they find all the distinctions needed in their exegesis of Romans 8:28-9:24. However, if we investigate the words of the Fathers with great care, we will see that some Fathers found some portions of the solution, while others found other portions. Hence it seems that, by providential disposition, the full solution can be had if we take from each of the Fathers those components which providence gave them.
184. On adding distinctions to the words of the Fathers: Theologians have often judged it necessary to add certain distinctions to the words of the Fathers, lest the Fathers seem to teach error. Theologians have, in general, done this in two ways:
1) The older Thomists, in general, have thought that the Fathers do speak of the complete process of predestination, taken adequately (i.e., not only about predestination to glory considered separately), but they thought the Fathers, in many texts, speak only of the order of execution and not of the order of intention.
2) The Molinists, on the other hand, have thought that the Fathers are speaking of the order of intention, but they restrict the sense of the Fathers to glory considered separately, i.e., they do not think the Fathers speak of predestination in the adequate sense of the full process.
185. The order of intention in the teaching of the Fathers: As we have said, many theologians have thought that, in many passages, the Fathers spoke only about the order of execution and not also about the order of intention. To find the truth in this matter, we need to keep clearly in mind the nature of this distinction. Not all theologians speak in the same way about these two orders in this subject matter.
The older Thomists, in general, explain it thus:
1) In the order of intention: God first decides on the end, i.e., eternal glory for the predestined man. Then He decrees the merits needed for this end. Finally He decrees the graces needed for those merits.
2) In the order of execution: God, in eternity, decrees the execution in time of the decrees He has already made. First He decrees the graces needed for merits, then He decrees the merits, finally He decrees glory for the predestined man. For a reprobate however, He first decrees only sufficient graces (or, at least He does not decree efficacious graces to such an extent that the man would be saved), then He decrees the absence of merit after sufficient graces. Because it is metaphysically inconceivable for a man to perform a good work with such graces, sins infallibly follow, or rather, God moves the man to these.1 Because of the sins, He decrees eternal punishment.
And so all things in the order of execution are done in inverse sequence to that of the order of intention.
The Molinists admit the existence of the distinction of the two orders, but so arrange things that everything follows the same, not the inverse sequence in the two orders.
186. Of course, the Fathers did not know these distinctions of the two orders. How then can we find their true mind on these matters? It is not too difficult. For the Fathers put to themselves questions about reprobation and salvation, and gave answers to these questions. There are two reasons that show the Fathers did not intend to restrict the sense of their answers to the order of execution:
1) When we consider the individual answers, we see that, at least in many instances, the Fathers think they have given a full and adequate reply to the questions proposed. Now, a man who thinks he gives an adequate answer to a question about reprobation, necessarily intends his words to apply also to that part of the process in which alone adequate reply can be found-that is, the part of the process which we call the order of intention. This is the case precisely because otherwise he could not give an adequate response to such questions. For the fundamental and adequate answer to the question of why a man is reprobated cannot be found in the order of execution, since everything in the order of execution depends on decisions made in the order of intention, and presupposes those decisions. Therefore, from the very fact that the Fathers think they are giving adequate replies, it is clear that they do not intend to restrict their meaning to the order of execution.
2) There are two ways in which a man can restrict the meaning of his reply:
b) A man can also restrict his meaning to one part of a process if, at least in some way, he has a distinction in his mind. It is not required that the distinction be conceived in technical terms. But he must have at least the substance of the distinction, in some form. If he in no way perceives a distinction, he cannot restrict his sense. For the distinction is the instrument of restriction (unless, as we said above, a man is totally ignorant of the very existence of part of a process-but we have already dealt with that possibility). But the Fathers, as all admit, did not know the distinction of the two orders. And especially, they did not even dream of a distinction such that things would all go in inverse sequence in two orders, so that the explanation in the order of execution would be practically opposite to the explanation in the order of intention. E.g., the Thomists say that in the order of execution, God deserts men because of personal demerits; but that in the order of intention, personal demerits follow infallibly on desertion.
Therefore, because the Fathers could restrict their meaning in neither way, and, in addition, since they thought they were giving an adequate reply to questions (which reply could not be had in the order of execution), the Fathers did not restrict their meaning to the order of execution.
The situation will be clearer from a concrete example. St. Irenaeus, as we shall see below, raises the question about election to the faith. The acceptance of the faith is an external effect of a decree in the order of execution. But the decree in the order of execution presupposes and depends entirely on a decree in the order of intention. Therefore, no adequate reply could be given if the sense were restricted to the order of execution. St. Irenaeus asks why God does not choose some for the faith. He replies that God "left them in the darkness which they chose for themselves." Therefore two things are clear: (1) Because St. Irenaeus thought he had given an adequate reply, he thought he gave a reply which actually applied to that part of the process (which we call the order of intention) in which alone an adequate reply can be found; (2) Because St. Irenaeus did not know the distinction of the two orders, he lacked the instrument by which he could have restricted his sense to the order of execution. We conclude therefore that St. Irenaeus certainly did not restrict his sense to the order of execution. The conclusion is confirmed from the fact that if he really intended to teach the Thomists' opinion, he should have spoken somewhat as follows: "God first deserted2 these men, so that it was metaphysically inconceivable for them not to choose darkness. Then, because they chose darkness, God reprobated them." It is obvious that this is far from the sense intended by St. Irenaeus. Actually, the older Thomists propose the insertion of such a distinction in patristic texts, not as a result of scientific exegesis of the texts, but from the a priori needs of their system. (We shall speak below of the connection, in the mind of the Fathers, between reprobation from the faith and salvation.)3
187. Predestination to glory, considered separately, in the teachings of the Fathers: The Molinists wanted to defend the universal salvific will and human liberty. To do this, they thought it necessary to put predestination after prevision of merits. Still, because they know that predestination in the adequate and complete sense is gratuitous, it seemed necessary to restrict predestination after consideration of merits, to predestination to glory considered separately, i.e., to predestination considered as touching only one effect: glory. Hence, they said that the same distinction is supposed in the words of the Fathers.
The two reasons we explained above4 apply also in this question. For: (1) Because the Fathers thought they were giving the basic reply to questions about salvation, they could not have restricted their meaning to glory taken separately, since a basic reply would have been impossible in that way. For the reason for predestination to glory taken separately does not really decide the matter, since it presupposes the reason for the earlier stages of the whole process; (2) Because the Fathers did not know the distinction proposed by the Molinists. Actually, this distinction is very subtle, so much so that some modern theologians have tried to deny its validity. It makes it appear that a man can "distinguish himself" in regard to predestination. But actually, if a man can "distinguish himself" only if he receives that which God sometimes denies without any demerits, then basically, a man cannot5 "distinguish himself" in regard to predestination. Now such subtleties are readily enough found later on, in the scholastics. But in the Fathers they must be proved to be present, and not assumed for a priori reasons. Actually, the Fathers speak without distinction6 on a distinction that is in itself clearer, i.e., on the question of predestination to membership in the Church and predestination to eternal glory.
The situation will be clearer from a concrete example based on a text of St. John Chrysostom (to be cited fully below): "If, then, all have sinned, how is it that some are saved, but others perish? Because not all want to draw near. For as for His part, all have been saved: for all were called."
Now two points are clear: (1) St. John thought he was giving an adequate reply: therefore he did not mean to restrict his meaning to the stage in which an adequate reply cannot be found; (2) He was not able to restrict his meaning without the instrument of restriction, a distinction.
But furthermore: Would it really be possible to suppose that St. John meant these words to apply only to glory, taken separately, so that, in regard to the total and adequate process of predestination, the answer should be practically the opposite: "Why are some saved, but others perish? Because even though all are called, and abundant graces are provided in the redemption for all, yet God chose for this particular man only graces with which, by His foreknowledge, God knew the man would not do good, but would sin. If God had foreseen that this man, whom He did not wish to elect, would act well with the graces given, He would have chosen other graces: for otherwise, the man would be able to 'distinguish himself' in regard to salvation, which is contrary to the words of St. Paul, 'Who distinguisheth thee?' In the adequate sense, God alone distinguishes the predestined. Therefore, this man does not wish to approach. Because he does not wish to, he will not be saved." (This explanation is given according to the sense which, as we shall see in chapter 15, is the more general among Molinists).
188. Conclusion on inserting distinctions to avoid errors: As we have seen, the reason why many theologians have wanted to insert these distinctions into the words of the Fathers is not scientific exegesis of the patristic texts but the need of so interpreting the Fathers as to avoid error. However, we can avoid imputing errors to the Fathers in another way, without any aprioristic interpretation. It really would be a heretical error to say that man can actually merit predestination, in the adequate sense, in the order of intention. But it is quite a different thing to say that men can have in them some condition,7 at least a negative condition (the absence of resistance, in the sense explained above).8 A mere condition would not merit predestination, nor would it move God, nor determine God.9 Yet God, if He so wishes, can freely and wisely condition the whole process according to such a condition. As we shall see, the Fathers teach that man can in some way have a condition in him which conditions the whole process. Only in St. Augustine do we find a partial exception. And the exception is only partial, for, as we shall see, St. Augustine, in his striving to follow sound theological method, has two series of texts, as also does St. Thomas.10 In the second series, St. Augustine agrees with the other Fathers, as we shall also see.
In this way, at least if the condition is a negative, predestination can be truly gratuitous, and not given on account of merits, in spite of such a condition. Further, predestination can be decided before consideration of merits, but after taking into account a negative condition, and yet (as we saw briefly above11 and will see more fully later12) reprobation can be decided after consideration of demerits.
We conclude, therefore, that there is no need of aprioristically inserting the proposed distinctions. On the one hand, we can interpret the Fathers in a satisfactory sense without these distinctions. On the other hand, as we have seen, there are positive reasons for excluding the proposed distinctions.
189. The nature of the human condition according to the Fathers: The Fathers do not raise the question of the nature of this condition, nor do they inquire if it is a positive or a negative condition. Some Fathers speak only of the rejection of grace, on the negative side. Some, since they explicitly attribute the good act of will to God, leave the same implication as St. Paul.13 Others in a general way say that reprobation is decreed in consideration of acceptance or rejection of faith, but they do not investigate the precise human role in this.
But the question must be raised: In a line of reasoning like that which we followed in regard to the distinctions the Molinists and Thomists wanted to insert, should we reason that since the Fathers do not distinguish, they must refer to both positive and negative conditions?
We neither can nor may draw that conclusion here, for the two situations are not parallel.
Before, the Fathers showed they thought they were giving an adequate and fundamental answer to a question explicitly raised as to why some men perish. But in this matter, in regard to the positive or negative nature of the human condition, the Fathers do not think they are making a fundamental response precisely because the question is not raised at all.
Before, the Fathers gave what they considered a fundamental answer to a question whose fundamental answer would have been impossible if the meaning had been restricted according to the suggestions of the Molinists and Thomists. Here, the Fathers do not raise the question of whether the condition is negative or positive, and the question they do raise on salvation can be answered fundamentally even if we suppose that the Fathers meant only a negative or only a positive condition. This can be seen by recalling the examples cited above from St. Irenaeus and St. John Chrysostom-whether we suppose these Fathers had in mind only positive or only negative conditions does not affect the fundamental character of their answers. Further, we said above that the Fathers were unable to restrict their meaning to the order of execution or to predestination to glory alone because they did not know the means of making the restriction, namely, the needed distinction. But here, the distinction of positive and negative could not be unknown to them: First, since no one is ignorant of the difference between accepting, resisting, and omitting resistance, or between positive and negative in general; second because the Fathers knew well that St. Paul had excluded from our power all positive salutary good works: ". . . for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. . . ."14 "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us. . . ."15
Therefore, even though we see, in some Fathers, implications that they considered the condition to be a negative, we must say that the Fathers in general simply did not raise the question of whether the condition was positive or negative.
190. The external and internal economies in the words of the Fathers: We must still raise one more question about the interpretation of the Fathers. They almost always speak of predestination while commenting on passages of Scripture that refer to vocation or predestination to the Church, e.g., in the text on the banquet mentioned in the Gospels, and in Romans 8:28-9:24. Therefore: Must we conclude that the words of the Fathers apply only to vocation or predestination to full membership in the Church, and not also to eternal glory?
By no means. The Fathers knew at least implicitly that to predestine to membership in the Church is not the same as to predestine to eternal glory. For they knew that a man who is a full member of the Church can still fall. But, since revelation was to be clarified gradually, the Fathers do not seem to have explicitly thought through everything in this matter, nor to have seen all the problems. And so it happened that, although they knew that not all in the Church are saved, yet they did not clearly perceive that these two predestinations belong to two different economies, the external economy (in which God does not regulate the outcome according to merits) and the internal economy of personal salvation. So the Fathers, not seeing the existence of the two economies, also did not see that different principles applied to the two.16 But, precisely because they did not see that there are two different economies, ruled by different principles, the Fathers thought the same principles applied to both economies.
191. Now, since the Fathers confuse the two economies, and assume that the same principles apply in both, it is of great importance to know what principles the Fathers think apply in both, namely: Did they think that what we call the principles of the external economy apply also in the internal economy, so that even in the internal economy God does not decide the outcome in view of free human conditions? Or did they think that what we call the principles of the internal economy apply also in the external economy, so that even the call to full membership in the Church would be decided according to free human conditions? As we shall see from considering the individual texts below, all the Greek Fathers, and all the Latin Fathers before St. Augustine speak as though entry into the Church is also decided according the free human conditions. St. Augustine certainly held that the same principles apply in both economies. In most passages, he teaches that the outcome is not decided according to free human conditions. However, as we shall see,17 in some texts he teaches the opposite.
This view of the Fathers is especially clear when they are speaking of the negative side, of reprobation. For the Fathers thought, as we shall soon see, that men exclude themselves from the Church through their own fault. Now if someone through his own fault does not enter the Church, surely, they believe, there is no hope of salvation for such a man.18
192. At least this is clear: The Fathers, since they taught that even predestination to membership in the Church is given or denied according to human conditions, could not simultaneously hold that eternal reprobation is decided without consideration of human conditions, especially since, as we have often seen above, such an antecedent reprobation is excluded by many passages of Scripture.
193. St. Justin Martyr:19 "But I have already shown that it is not by the fault20 of God that those angels and men do become wicked who are foreseen as going to be unjust, but [rather that] by his own fault21 each one is such as he will appear [then]."
Comments: From the context we know that St. Justin is commenting on the words of Christ:22 "Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness." Now the children of the kingdom are, according to St. Justin, the Jews (as to racial descent). The question St. Justin asks himself is this: How can we explain the fact that the Jews are cast out of the kingdom? He asserts that the fault (aitia) is found in men, not in God.
It is obvious that St. Justin thinks he is giving an adequate and fundamental answer to the question he proposes when he says that this rejection happens by the fault of men, not by fault of God. Therefore, he does not intend to restrict his meaning to the order of execution, nor to reprobation from glory, taken separately. Hence, according to the criteria of interpretation explained above,23 we conclude that St. Justin teaches that God does not reject anyone except after and because of consideration of personal demerits. In other words: He teaches that the ultimate reason for the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the disposition of men themselves.24
St. Justin makes a similar statement a bit farther on:25 "But if the word of God predicts at all that some, both angels and men, are going to be punished, it predicts these things because He foreknows that they are going to be unchangeably wicked, but not because God made them such."
194. St. Irenaeus:26 "If therefore even now God since He foreknows all things, has handed over to their infidelity as many as He knows will not believe, and has turned His face away from such ones, leaving them in the darkness which they chose for themselves: How is it strange if then He handed over to their own infidelity Pharaoh, who never would believe, and those who were with him?"
Comments: St. Irenaeus is refuting the argument of the Marcionites who tried to call God the author of evil because He blinded Pharaoh. St. Irenaeus argues from a general principle: for he describes what God did in the past and does "even now." The general principle is this: "God . . . has handed over to their infidelity as many as He knows will not believe . . . leaving them in the darkness which they chose for themselves."
So what is the ultimate reason, the fundamental reply to the question of why these men do not believe? Is it: Because God deserted them, so that they fall, so that He punishes them for the fall? By no means. St. Irenaeus does not say that they lack the faith because God deserted them, but rather, that God handed them over to infidelity because they chose darkness for themselves. Clearly, St. Irenaeus intended to give the fundamental answer, as is apparent from the purpose of his argument. For if he really meant: God deserted them so that men would desert God so He could punish-then the Marcionites, against whom St. Irenaeus is arguing, would seem to be right. For they said that God initiated the hardening of Pharaoh. St. Irenaeus tries to refute this charge. It is clear then, since he tries to give the fundamental reason, that St. Irenaeus is speaking of the order of intention, and of the total process of predestination (not of just predestination to glory taken separately).27
It is clear also that St. Irenaeus by no means says that men can merit predestination. He does not, actually, speak at all about the positive side, but only about reprobation.28
We conclude, then, about St. Irenaeus: He teaches that the ultimate reason for the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves.
195. Clement of Alexandria:29 "For the coming of the Saviour did not make [men] foolish and hard of heart and faithless, but prudent, amenable to persuasion, and faithful. But they who were unwilling to obey, departing from the voluntary adherence of those who obeyed, were shown to be imprudent and unfaithful and foolish. 'But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.'30 Should we not, then consider as negative (as is better) the statement 'God has not made foolish the wisdom of the world'31 . . . lest the cause of their hardheartedness seem to have come to them from God 'who made foolish the wisdom [of the world]'? For altogether, since they were wise, they were more at fault in not believing the preaching. For the preference and choice of the truth is voluntary. But also the statement: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise'32 means that He sent forth light, in contrast to the despised and condemned barbarian philosophy; just as also a lamp that is shone on by the sun is said to have perished, since it does not exert equal power [in comparison to the light of the sun]. Although, then, all men are called, those who willed to obey are named 'called.' For there is no unrighteousness with God. So those out of each people who believed are the 'chosen people.' And in the Acts of the Apostles you would find 'So those who received His word were baptized'33 but those who were unwilling to obey, obviously separated themselves. To them the prophecy says: 34'And if you wish and hear me, you will eat the good things of the land,' showing that it lies in us to accept and to turn aside."
Comments: Clement is explaining the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:19 ff. He inquires why it is that some do not believe. He does not want to say that they did not believe because God blinded them. And he finds three statements in this passage of St. Paul difficult, namely: "But to those who are called . . . Christ the power of God," and: "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" and: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise."35
He first takes up the statement: "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" In the Greek original of St. Paul, these words could either be read as we have just given them: "Has not God made foolish? . . ." Or they could be read: "God has not made foolish. . . ." Clement prefers the second way of reading it.
Then by means of a comparison he explains the words: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise." If an ordinary lamp is placed in the brilliant light of the sun, the light of the lamp is almost invisible. Similarly, the light of philosophy is a real light, but when placed along side of the brilliant light of divine wisdom, the human light is so faint as to be practically invisible, like the lamp in the sunlight.
Finally he explains the words: "But to those who are called . . . Christ is the power of God." He wants to avoid saying that only some are called; yet he sees a difficulty to be answered in the seemingly restrictive form of St. Paul's words. He solves the difficulty by explaining that the word "called" can have two senses. All men are truly called, but those who both have been called and have obeyed can be named "called" in a special sense: so those, both Jews and Greeks, who obeyed the call are named the chosen people or the special people. But he is anxious to show that the reason why some rejected the faith and others did not is found in men, not in God: "For there is no unrighteousness with God." And he finds the explanation implicitly contained in a line of the Acts of the Apostles: "So those who received His word were baptized." From this he concludes: "those who were unwilling to obey, obviously separated themselves." For: "It lies in us to accept and to turn aside."
So the reason for the difference is not found in God but in man.
Does Clement try to give the fundamental reason why some do not accept the faith? He at least seems to intend it. For it does not seem possible to suppose he holds that the fundamental reason is that God deserts some, so that they are blinded, so that they reject the faith. Clement is arguing precisely against such a view. So, it is clear that Clement is not speaking merely of the order of execution, nor of predestination to glory taken separately.36 It is true, the acceptance or rejection of faith takes place in the order of execution-but Clement is inquiring into the fundamental reason why this happens.37 And he is working vigorously to prove that the reason why some reject faith is not in God but in men.38
Therefore we conclude: Clement teaches that the ultimate reason for the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves.
196. St. Cyril of Jerusalem:39 "For not by necessity but from free choice we come to such a holy adoption as sons."
Comments: We see from the context that by these words St. Cyril is rejecting the error of those who taught that different men have different natures, and that they, according to their different natures, obtain or do not obtain the divine adoption of grace which makes a man an adopted son of God.
St. Cyril vigorously denies that the difference between those who do and do not obtain the divine adoption depends on different natures given by God to men. Instead, he teaches that the difference depends on a cause in man, namely, "from free choice."
It is true, St. Cyril has rather few words on this subject. However, he at least seems to hold the same teaching as the other Fathers, namely, that the ultimate reason for the decision as to who is or is not to be reprobated is found in the dispositions of men themselves. For sure, he provides no ground for suspecting that he thinks that God deserts men before any consideration of their dispositions, so that men are totally incapable of "distingushing themselves"40 in regard to reprobation. If he held such a view, he could not say that it is from our free choice that we come to the divine adoption. For these words mean that a man can "distinguish himself."
197. St. Gregory of Nazianzus: In commenting on Matthew 19:11 ("Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it has been given"), St. Gregory says:41 "When you hear this 'it has been given,' do not take any heretical attitude, nor introduce varied natures-earthly and spiritual and middle. For there are some so ill disposed that they think some are altogether of a nature that will perish, others [of a nature] that is going to receive salvation, others, finally, are so disposed according as their own choice leads them to worse or to better. . . . When you hear 'to whom it has been given,' add: It is given to those who are called, and to those who are so disposed. For when you hear those words: 'There is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy,'42 I judge you should think the same thing. For since there are some who to such an extent are proud of their good deeds that they attribute all to themselves and nothing to the one who made them and made them wise and led them to good, this text [of St. Paul] teaches them that even to will good needs help from God. Or rather, that the very choosing of the things that should be chosen is something divine, and a gift from God's love of man. For it is necessary that salvation depend both on us and on God. Hence he [St. Paul] says: 'There is question not of him who wills,' that is, not only of him who wills, 'nor of him who runs' only, 'but' also 'of God showing mercy.' So, since even the act of will43 is from God, he properly attributed all to God." And after a bit St. Gregory continues, explaining the words of Christ to the mother of the sons of Zebedee, from Mt 20:23: "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." He comments: "Does then our mind that guides [count for] nothing? . . . Does work [count for] nothing? . . . Does fasting [count for] nothing? . . . Shall none of these profit a man anything but [instead] by a sort of capricious choice, is Jeremia sanctified, while others are rejected from the very womb? . . . There too, to the words 'for whom it has been prepared' add this: who are worthy, and who have not only received from the Father that they may be such, but also have given [it] to themselves."
Comments: St. Gregory begins, as we saw, with the words of Christ, "Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given."44 He applies the same principles to these words about virginity as he does to the words of St. Paul in Romans 9 (about the call to full membership in the Church) and to the words of Christ to the sons of Zebedee (about special positions in the external government of the Church) and to the question of the eternal salvation of the individual. Certainly, distinctions should have been made, which St. Gregory does not make. Yet, since he speaks of all these matters in the same way as he speaks about eternal salvation, it is obvious that we can see from his words the principles he holds in regard to eternal salvation.45
St. Gregory is concerned to reject the same error that we saw St. Cyril rejecting, i.e., the error that says that different men were made of different natures by God, and that, according to these natures, they will be saved or lost. Against these errors, St. Gregory vigorously teaches that salvation does not depend on an absolute decision of God made without consideration of human conditions.
We must note, however, the distinction implied in his words. For he says: "the very choosing of the things that should be chosen is something divine and a gift from God's love of man," and again: "since even the act of will is from God, he properly attributed all to God."-Therefore, he attributes all positive good things to God, and indeed, to God's love of man. Therefore, God does not give these things because of man's merits, but out of His love. Hence, when St. Gregory says, "it is necessary that salvation depends both on us and on God," since he has taught that man's contribution cannot be on the positive side, therefore, even though he does not explicitly say so, he seems to think that the difference between those reprobated and those predestined comes from the negative side, namely, from the resistance (or absence thereof) of man to the love of God from which comes even "the very choosing of the things that should be chosen."46
Similarly, his words "but [they] also have given [it] to themselves," should be understood in the light of the above as referring to negative condition. That is, by not resisting the love of God, they gave it to themselves.
Does St. Gregory think he is giving the fundamental reason for the difference between those who are reprobated and those who are not? When we consider his words, especially when we hear him say so vehemently, "Shall none of these profit a man anything, but [instead] by a sort of capricious choice, is Jeremia sanctified, while others are rejected from the very womb?" it seems entirely impossible to suppose that St. Gregory would think the ultimate and fundamental explanation of reprobation would be desertion by God. For then it would be true that some would be rejected from the very womb. But St. Gregory vigorously rejects such a thought. Therefore, because he intends to give the fundamental reason, it is obvious that his explanation is meant to refer not only to the order of execution, but also to the order of intention; and similarly, that it refers not just to glory taken separately, but to the whole process of reprobation and predestination.47
So, St. Gregory teaches the same as the other Fathers whose teachings we have seen, namely: He holds that the ultimate reason for the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves. Further, it appears that he believes the critical dispositions are negative rather than positive (resistance or lack thereof).
198. St. Gregory of Nyssa:48 "'The Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whom He will.'-We do not conclude from this that some are cast out from the lifegiving will; but since we have heard and we believe that all things of the Father belong to the Son, we obviously also see the will of the Father, as one of all these, in the Son. If then the Father's will [attitude] is in the Son, and the Father, as the Apostle says, 'wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' it is plain that He who has everything that is the Father's, and has the whole Father in Him along with other good things of the Father, has fully also the salvific will. Since then He does not lack the perfect will, it is altogether clear that those whom the Father wants to give life to, He too gives life to, not being lesser in a will that loves men, as Apollinarius says that He wants to give life to some, not to all. For not because of the Lord's will are some saved but others are lost: for then the cause of their ruin would come from that will. But by the choice of those who receive the word, it happens that some are saved or lost."
Comments: St. Gregory is refuting the error of Apollinarius. He sees that a difficulty could be proposed from the words "The Son gives life to whom He will," as if the Son would not want to give life to all by grace. St. Gregory shows that the difficulty is only an apparent, not a real difficulty, by showing that the will of the Father and the Son is the same. But, the Father wills to save all. Therefore, the Son too wills to save all. And he adds: "For not because of the Lord's will are some saved but others are lost: for then the cause of their ruin would come from that will. But by the choice of those who receive the word it happens that some are saved or lost."
It is clear that St. Gregory found the reason for the difference between those who are or are not reprobated, not in God but in man: For the Lord's will is not the cause: God wants to save all. Certainly, it would be impossible to suppose that St. Gregory did not think he was giving the fundamental reason, but instead kept back in his own mind: "Really, the Lord's will is the fundamental reason why some perish, for God, before any consideration of human demerits deserts some. Then men infallibly fall. Because of their fall, God rejects them." Therefore, St. Gregory is not speaking only of the order of execution, nor only of predestination to glory separately considered.49
We conclude therefore that St. Gregory of Nyssa too held that the ultimate reason for the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves.50
199. St. John Chrysostom:51 "But he [St. Paul] says that all have sinned and need the glory of God. If, then all have sinned, how [is it that] some are saved but others perish? Because not all willed to draw near. For as for His part, all have been saved. For all were called."
And similarly:52 "'Having predestined us in love.' For it does not happen as a result of [our] labours or good works, but from [His] love. But not from love alone, but also from our virtue. For if it were from [His] love alone, it would be necessary that all would be saved. But again, if it were from our virtue alone, His coming would be superfluous, and all that He did through dispensation. But it is neither from love alone nor from our virtue, but from both. For he [St. Paul] says: 'He chose us.' But he who chooses, knows what he chooses. . . . Why then does He love us so, and whence such affection for us? out of [His] goodness alone. For grace is from goodness. Hence he [St. Paul] says: 'He predestined us to the adoption of sons.'"
Comments: In the first passage cited above, St. John proposes a difficulty based on the words of St. Paul in Rom 3:23: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So, since all have sinned, he inquires into the reason why some are saved and some not. He explains that the reason why not all are saved cannot be in God: "For as for His part, all have been saved." And similarly in the second passage above: "For if it were from [His] love alone, it would be necessary that all would be saved." Therefore, the fundamental reason for the difference is not found in God: He wants all to be saved. But the reason is in man: "Because not all willed to draw near," and again: "But it [salvation] is neither from love alone nor from virtue alone but from both."
What is the nature of the condition, positive or negative? He does not say that we can accomplish our salvation by the power of nature: "If it were from our virtue alone, His coming would be superfluous." Nor does he say that we can merit our predestination: there is no word about merit in either passage. For it is one thing to say that the difference between being saved or not in some way depends on man; quite another thing to say that a man can merit predestination. For the difference can depend on man if it is in man's power to condition the outcome even in a negative way, by his resistance to grace or absence thereof. So the words of St. John do not have to imply that a man can merit predestination.53
It is entirely obvious that we cannot suppose St. John is holding back in his mind a belief that the fundamental reason for reprobation is desertion by God. Rather, he thinks that he is giving the fundamental reason. Therefore it is clear that his words apply not only to the order of execution, nor only to glory taken separately.54
We conclude: St. John Chrysostom held that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves.
200. St. Cyril of Alexandria:55 "It is not unnatural that some make a ready excuse for their lack of faith, being caught in their ignorance, and saying: 'If they are called whom He foreknew according to the purpose and previous choice, this is nothing to those who have not yet believed. For we have not been called nor predestined.' To them we say that He who made the marriage feast for His Son sent His servants to gather those who were called, but they did not will to come. After them, those who were called according to the special purpose came in. . . . Therefore, then, obviously, no obstacle lies in the way of those who want to come. For foreknowledge hurts no one at all nor does it help anyone. . . . we find our Lord Jesus Christ saying clearly: 'Come to me all who labour and are burdened and I will refresh you.' Behold, He calls all to Himself. So no one would not have a share in the grace of the call. For in saying "all," He sends away absolutely no one. [Scripture] says: Having foreseen far in advance of what sort they would be, He predestined them to share in the future goods, so that through faith in Him they might enjoy justification."
Comments: St. Cyril clearly distinguishes between the positive and the negative sides. For it is clear that no one can come without the call. Hence, on the positive side, all depend on God, and cannot come by the power of their nature. But the difference between those who do and do not come to the marriage feast does not come from a lack of call to some: "He calls all . . . He sends away absolutely no one." So the reason for the difference is in man, because even though men could not come without the call, yet, they can refuse: some "did not will to come." Those were predestined whom God foreknew would not refuse: "Having foreseen far in advance of what sort they would be, He predestined them. . . ."
It is clear that St. Cyril thinks he is giving the fundamental answer to the question he proposed. Therefore, according to the principles explained above,56 we conclude that he does not intend to restrict his meaning to the order of execution, nor to predestination to glory considered separately. Therefore St. Cyril too, with the other Fathers, held that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves.57
201. Theodoret:58 "'Those whom He predestined, them He also called. . . .' Those whose purpose He foreknew, these He predestined from the beginning. . . . But let no one say that foreknowledge is the cause of these things. For the foreknowledge did not make them such. But God, as God, foresaw far in advance what would be."
Comments: Theodoret speaks rather briefly in commenting on Romans 8:30. He clearly puts the condition in man, for by "purpose" (Greek prothesis) he means men's dispositions. But he does not say that a man can have the required disposition by his own power. He seems to be saying the same thing as the other Fathers said, and they, as we have seen,59 attribute the good in men to God, in such a way, however, that some controlling condition is in human power.60
202. St. John Damascene:61 "It is necessary to know that the choice of things to be done is in our power, but that the accomplishment62 of good things [is] from the cooperation of God, justly cooperating, according to His foreknowledge, with those who in right conscience choose good, but [that the accomplishment] of evil things is from the desertion by God, again according to His foreknowledge, justly deserting [the wicked man]. There are two kinds of desertion. For there is a dispensatory and instructional desertion, and there is a total, reprobating desertion. The dispensatory and instructional desertion is for the emendation and salvation and glory of the one who suffers it. . . . But the total desertion happens when, after God has done everything to save, the man remains unreformed and not cured, or rather, incurable, as a result of his own resolve.63 Then he is given over to complete destruction, like Judas. . . . It is necessary to know that God antecedently64 wills all to be saved and to reach His kingdom. For He did not make us to punish, but to share in His goodness, because He is good. But He wills that sinners be punished, because He is just. Now the first [will] is called antecedent will, and will of good pleasure [and] it is from Him. But the second [will is called] consequent will65 and a giving way66 [and it comes] from our fault. . . . It is necessary to know that virtue is given by God to our nature, and that He is the beginning and cause of all good, and that without His cooperation and help it is impossible for us to will and do good. But it is in our power either to remain in virtue and to follow God who calls us to it, or to depart from virtue. . . ."
Comments: St. John does not teach that man can merit predestination. He clearly says that "without His cooperation and help, it is impossible for us to will . . . good." But it is one thing to merit; another thing to place some condition which, inasmuch as there is good in it, is from God, but which is under man's control on the negative side.67
In regard to reprobation, he clearly distinguishes between the antecedent will, in which God wants all to be saved, and the consequent will, in which He actually condemns some. He teaches that God deserts man in one of two ways:
1) "Dispensatory and instructional desertion."-This desertion does not lead to damnation but to salvation. It is temporary, and brings good to the man who is so deserted.
2) "Total desertion," which really deserves to be called reprobation in the true sense. But-it is most important to note St. John, with no ambiguity whatsoever, teaches what is the cause of this total desertion. For he says: "Total desertion happens when, after God has done everything to save, the man remains unreformed and not cured, or rather, incurable. . . ." In other words, God does not desert nor reprobate before consideration of demerits. God deserts in this way only after consideration of demerits, and at that, after demerits that are so great that the man is "incurable," although God has done everything to save him. And the reason for the incurability of the man does not come from desertion by God-instead, desertion follows after incurability, and the incurability comes "as a result of his [the man's] own resolve, that is, from grave and persistent resistance to grace."
So it is most evident: St. John together with the other Greek Fathers, teaches that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves. Since the reason he gives is the fundamental reason, he does not restrict his meaning to the order of execution, nor to predestination to glory taken separately.68 Probably he puts the human condition in negative dispositions, for he says that "to will . . . good" is from God.69
203. St. Jerome:70 "If . . . the patience of God hardened Pharao, and for a long time put off the punishment of Israel, so that He more justly condemned those whom He had endured so long a time, God's patience and infinite clemency is not to be blamed, but the hardness of those who abused the goodness of God to their own destruction. Moreover, the heat of the sun is one and according to the kind of thing that lies beneath it, it liquefies some, hardens others, loosens some, constricts others. For wax is melted, but mud is hardened: and yet, the nature of the heat [that each receives] is the same. So it is with the goodness and clemency of God: it hardens the vessels of wrath, that are fit for destruction; but it does not save the vessels of mercy in a blind way, and without a true judgment, but in accordance with preceding causes; for some did not accept the Son of God; but others of their own accord willed to receive Him. Now these vessels of mercy are not only the people of the gentiles, but also those of the Jews who willed to believe, and one people was made up of those who believe. From this it is plain, that it is not nations [as such] that are chosen, but the wills of men. . . ."
Comments: From the context we see that St. Jerome is explaining the most difficult parts of chapter 9 of the Epistle to the Romans. He compares the action of divine grace to the heat of the sun: the action of grace is always good in itself. The fact that some are hardened, while others are saved, is not explained therefore by differences in the heat, or in the actions of God: "The nature of the heat is the same." Instead, the difference is "according to the kind of thing that lies beneath it." For God "does not save . . . in a blind way," without consideration of human conditions, "and without a true judgment, but in accordance with preceding causes, for some did not accept the Son of God; but others of their own accord willed to receive Him."
The great Doctor of Sacred Scripture thus bears clear witness to the teaching that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves. He describes the condition in much the same way as St. Paul: it is faith. But he does not explore what is the precise role of man in having this faith.71
204. St. Ambrose:72 "The Apostle says: 'Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined.' For He did not predestine before He foreknew, but He predestined the rewards of those whose merits He foreknew."
Comments: From the context, we see that St. Ambrose is commenting on the response of Christ in regard to the sons of Zebedee, whose mother had asked for them the first places in the kingdom of Christ. Christ had said:73 ". . . but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." St. Ambrose comments:74 "'that is not mine to give,' for I observe justice, not favouritism. And then, referring to the Father, He added: 'It is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father,' so that He might show that the Father too is not accustomed to defer to petitions, but to merits, because God is no respecter of persons. Hence also the Apostle says: 'Those whom he foreknew . . .'" And St. Ambrose continues with the passage we cited above.
It is obvious that St. Ambrose is really discussing a text that in itself refers to the first places in the external economy. Like the other Fathers, he seems not to know this distinction explicitly. For such places (of the external economy) are not assigned according to merits. However, if St. Ambrose holds that even these things-which actually are not regulated according to human merits-really are given according to human dispositions, then certainly he could not hold that reprobation and eternal predestination are decided without consideration of demerits. Rather, in accordance with the explanation given above,75 he thinks that the same principles apply to both internal and external economy.
Does St. Ambrose teach that we can merit predestination itself? It is not necessary to understand his words in this sense. For he merely teaches that predestination is decided after considering merits. But, it is one thing to say that predestination is decided after consideration of merits; quite a different thing to say it is decided because of merits, so that predestination itself would be, strictly, merited. For St. Ambrose could mean merely that human merits are a condition, which God freely wills to consider, not a cause. And even in this condition, all that is positively good is, he would no doubt hold, from God.76
We conclude then, that St. Ambrose holds at least substantially the same as the Greek Fathers. Actually, it is well known that he drew much on the Greek Fathers.
205. St. Hilary:77 "'Blessed is he whom you have chosen and taken up, so that he may dwell in your tabernacles.' All flesh, indeed, will come, that is, we are gathered together from the whole human race; but blessed he who is chosen. For according to the Gospel, many are called but few are chosen. The chosen ones, moreover, are marked by the nuptial garment, and are splendid in the pure and fresh body of the new birth. So the choice is not a matter of haphazard judgment; but the distinction is made on the basis of a choice of merit. Blessed then is he whom God has chosen: blessed for this reason, because he is worthy of being chosen. Now it is good for us to know for what this blessed one is chosen. He is chosen for that which follows: 'He will dwell in your tabernacles.' The rest of the heavenly dwelling is the perfection of all goods. The Lord testifies that there are many mansions in the heavens: but He asks the Father, that the Apostles may remain where He Himself also is. . . ."
Comments: St. Hillary is commenting on Psalm 64:5. He refers these words to the Gospel parable about those invited to the wedding feast, about whom the Gospel says:78 "Many are called, but few are chosen."
In itself, this Gospel parable does not speak of infallible predestination to eternal glory, but of the call to full membership in the Church. All of the people of Israel are called, but few actually enter. However, as we saw above79 St. Hilary, like the other Fathers, holds that the same principles apply to predestination to the Church as to predestination to eternal glory. Further, he seems to understand this parable as referring also (but not exclusively) to eternal life. For he notes: "It is good for us to know for what this blessed one is chosen. . . . 'He will dwell in your tabernacles.'" And he continues at once, speaking of the eternal glory of heaven: "The rest of the heavenly dwelling is the perfection of all goods. The Lord testifies that there are many mansions in the heavens. . . ."
Since, moreover, St. Hilary thinks he is giving the fundamental answer to the question of the choice, it is clear that he does not restrict his meaning to the order of execution, nor to glory considered separately.80
Like the other Fathers, St. Hilary most clearly teaches that election is conditioned by human conditions: "The choice is not a matter of haphazard judgment, but the distinction is made on the basis of a choice of merit." (In regard to the word "merit," see the comments above on St. Ambrose). Therefore, he hands down the same teaching as the other Fathers, namely, that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is or is not reprobated is found in the dispositions of men themselves.
206. Preliminary notes: To better understand the opinion of St. Augustine, we need to examine a few preliminary factors that exercised a great influence on his view:
1) A tendency to allegorical interpretations: In the early part of his life, St. Augustine was much disturbed by the Manichean objections against the Old Testament. From the sermons of St. Ambrose, however, he first found a way out of these objections: it was by way of allegorical and mystical interpretations. St. Augustine himself tells how, before his conversion, he listened to St. Ambrose:81 "I rejoiced also, that the old writings of the law and the prophets were not now presented to me as to be read in the way in which they had before seemed absurd to me, when I charged your Saints with such ideas, though they did not really hold them. Joyfully I used to hear Ambrose saying in his sermons to the people, as though he were most diligently teaching a rule: 'The letter kills, but the spirit gives life,'82 when he opened up in a spiritual sense, removing the mystical veil, those things which taken literally, seemed to teach perversity." Hence St. Augustine was, at least somewhat predisposed to give-not always, but not rarely either-allegorical interpretations of Scripture. Hence we can see part of the reason why he fell into an interpretation of Romans 9 which today is totally rejected by the exegetes of all schools, so that it is held:83 "Most certainly the interpretation of the 'clay' which takes its beginning from Augustine, is entirely arbitrary. In all of chapter 9 there is not even a remote allusion to original sin that corrupts the mass of the human race. . . ." Or, the comment of Pere Lagrange on St. Augustine's interpretation of Romans 8:28 ff.:84 "That opinion, so full of consequences, isolated in ancient times, and rejected by modern authors . . . has no foundation in the text and is contrary to the whole context."
2) St. Augustine's opinion on the universal salvific will: In spite of many entirely clear texts of St. Augustine, some theologians try to say that he really did hold for the sincerity of the universal salvific will. Before reading his texts themselves, it will be good to see certain factors which created a predisposition in St. Augustine on this point:
In a similar way, he does not seem to have drawn the distinction in the supernatural order between ordinary and extraordinary graces:87 ". . . who would dare to say that God lacked a way of calling, in which even Esau would apply his mind to faith, and join his will [to that] in which Jacob was justified?" In other words: If God had really wanted to convert Esau (whom St. Augustine, according to his erroneous interpretation of Romans 9, believes was reprobated before consideration of demerits), God could have done so. St. Augustine seems to feel: Because God did not use this means of converting Esau, God did not really want to: God did not will the salvation of Esau.
If St. Augustine had invoked the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary graces, he could have said: God gave Esau many graces, with which he really could have been converted. Esau however was not converted by these graces. God could have converted Esau even so, but an extraordinary grace would have been needed, for the grace would have needed to forestall or even cancel out resistance to grace.88 The extraordinary cannot become ordinary: So God could sincerely will the salvation of Esau even though He did not send an extraordinary grace.
And even without this distinction, St. Augustine could have salvaged a true salvific will for Esau if he had said: God gave Esau many and great graces. Through these, Esau really could have been converted [we do not speak in the sense of the sufficient grace of the Thomists, with which it would be metaphysically inconceivable for Esau to be converted]. From the fact that God did give these abundant graces, it is plain that God really and sincerely willed the salvation of Esau, even though by still more abundant graces, Esau might have been converted.
However, it is clear that these interpretations were not actually in the mind of St. Augustine, for he explicitly gives another explanation, namely: Esau was reprobated before consideration of personal demerits because of original sin. This conclusion flows from the theory of the massa damnata, of which St. Augustine is the father, and which we shall soon consider.
It is clear, then, that the lack of the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary graces helped predispose St. Augustine to deny the sincerity of the universal salvific will.
2) He was also predisposed because he did not know the distinction between the antecedent will, in which God sincerely wills the salvation of all, and the consequent will, in which God actually reprobates some after consideration of demerits. For it is clear that God does not actually save all. Without this distinction, one is practically compelled to say: If God does not save some, it is because He does not want to.
b) The actual texts of St. Augustine on the salvific will
2) De correptione et gratia 14.44:90 "And that which is written that 'He wills all men to be saved,' and yet not all are saved, can be understood in many ways, of which we have mentioned some in other works, but I shall give one here. It is said in such a way . . . that all the predestined are meant; for the whole human race is in them."
3) De correptione et gratia 15.47:91 "That 'God wills all men to be saved' can be understood also in this way: that He causes us to wish [that all men be saved]. . . ."
4) Epistle 217.6.19:92 ". . . and so that which is said: 'God wills all men to be saved' although He is unwilling that so many be saved, is said for this reason: that all who are saved, are not saved except by His will."
c) Comments on the texts on the salvific will: We see that St. Augustine vacillated between various interpretations, namely:
2) No one is saved unless God wills it.
3) All the predestined.
4) God causes us to will that all be saved.
Most certainly, St. Augustine did not arrive at so many and such varied conclusions from the exegesis itself of the text. They have only one thing in common: absolutely all of them deny the universality of the salvific will. St. Augustine felt himself forced to these lengths, because it seemed clear to him that God is unwilling for all to be saved. His interpretations are forced and aprioristic. In reality, Scripture says, without restriction, "all men." It does not say: "Some of all categories." Nor does Scripture say: "all the predestined," but rather, "all men." Nor does it say: "God brings it about that we will," but rather it says that God wills. And to say that in saying "He wills all men to be saved" he really means: "No one is saved unless God wills him to be saved"-this is merely running in a vain circle. For the sense would be: "God wills that only those be saved whom He wills to be saved."
So, since St. Augustine thought it necessary to have recourse to forced interpretations, we can scarcely suppose that he kept back in his mind, even implicitly, a simple distinction with which he could have avoided the necessity of straining texts. For if he had even implicitly thought: God wills all to be saved, but because of their demerits he does not save some-it would have been so easy to say this, instead of searching for such varied and such strained interpretations.
Actually, there is an obvious explanation of why St. Augustine spoke this way. For he held, as we shall see below, the theory of the massa damnata, i.e., he held that as a result of original sin, all men belong to, are in, a damned mass. Although an infinite price has been paid in satisfaction for each one of these, God still wills to leave the great majority in that massa damnata. In other words, St. Augustine is the very father of the system of negative reprobation before consideration of demerits. But, as we have shown many times in the first part of this investigation, such a theory cannot be reconciled with the universal salvific will as it is revealed to us in Scripture. So it is not strange that St. Augustine denied the universal salvific will. Rather, it would be inexplicable how he could admit it as it appears in Scripture and still hold the theory of the massa damnata.
Hence, St. Augustine even explicitly denies the salvific will, saying, in the fourth text cited above, that, "He is unwilling that so many be saved," and, in the context of the same passage, he had said, a bit before: "when so many are not saved, not because they [do not will it] but because God does not will [it]. . . ." And similarly, in the first text above, he reasons that God could have converted many by miracles, but yet did not do so: "not that there is no man whom He is unwilling to have saved, He who was unwilling to perform the wonders of miracles among those whom He says would have done penance if He had done them. . . ." But this is the very train of reasoning we mentioned above in showing that St. Augustine was predisposed to deny the salvific will.
d) Confirmation of our interpretation of his texts on the salvific will:
2) At least a probable confirmation of our interpretation emerges from the words of St. Augustine on the number of those lost. He holds that the reprobates are so much more numerous than the saved that94 "by an incomparable number they are more numerous than those whom He deigned to predestine as sons of the promise to the glory of His kingdom; so that by the very number of those rejected, it might be shown that the number, howsoever large, of the justly damned is of no importance with a just God. . . . For that entire mass of just damnation would receive its due, if the potter95 who is not only just, but also merciful, did not make out of it some vessels for honour according to grace, not according to what is due. . . ."-Therefore, if the damned are incomparably more numerous, and yet this is a matter "of no importance" to God even though no one can decide for himself whether or not he will be left in that mass-there hardly seems room left for a salvific will.96
207. The two Augustinian theories of predestination: But we must recall what was said in the introduction of this investigation, about theological method. A good theologian can be compared to a man who stands on the circumference of a circle, and from two or more points on it tries to draw lines that will come to a focus in the center, which is the true solution. The lines are drawn from various passages in revelation which at least implicitly contain the solution of the problem. Now the good theologian, if he sees that two lines, from two different parts of revelation, do not focus, will not force one to agree with the other, but will hold to both, admitting that mysteries can be found in theology.
As we saw above,97 St. Thomas, following this method with great fidelity, arrived at two theories on predestination: one founded on St. Augustine's interpretation of Romans 9, the other founded on the universal salvific will.
St. Augustine seems to have done the same thing, though not with the same fidelity to method as St. Thomas. For, although St. Augustine most certainly held the theory of the massa damnata, and is its father, nevertheless clear and unmistakable implications of a second theory are found in many of his works.
We must, therefore, investigate the two theories in the words of St. Augustine himself.
208. The first theory of St. Augustine: the massa damnata: Since no one denies that St. Augustine held this theory, it will suffice to cite just a few passages:
1) The texts themselves:
b) Enchiridion 27:100 ". . . the condemned mass of the whole human race lay in evils, or even rolled about in them, and was precipitated from evils into evils . . ."
c) De civitate Dei 21.12:101 "Hence there is a condemned mass of the whole human race . . . so that no one would be freed from this just and due punishment except by mercy and undue grace; and so the human race is divided [into two parts] so that in some it may be shown what merciful grace can do, in others, what just vengeance can do . . . In it [punishment] there are many more than in [mercy] so that in this way there may be shown what is due to all."
d) Epistle 186. 6.16:102 "'For He says to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I shall show mercy to him to whom I shall be merciful.' What does he teach us here, except that it pertains not to the merits of men, but to the mercy of God that some are freed from that mass [resulting] from the first man, to which death is rightly owed?"
e) Epistle 190. 3.9:103 "It would rightly seem unjust that vessels of wrath for perdition are made [created] if the whole [human race] were not a condemned mass, from Adam."
2) Comments on texts on the massa damnata: It is obvious that St. Augustine holds that many, in fact (as we saw above) incomparably more than not, of the human race are deserted in the massa damnata because of original sin. Those who are rescued are saved merely104 "so that in some it may be shown what merciful grace can do," for105 "it pertains not to the merits of men, but to the mercy of God that some are freed from that mass." Obviously, desertion is decreed entirely independently of any consideration of human personal demerits. No man can "distinguish himself" so as to determine whether or not he will be left in that condemned mass. If a man really could "distinguish himself," St. Augustine's words would not hold.
209. The common element in the two theories: Since in both the first and the second theory St. Augustine holds predestination before consideration of merits, it will be helpful to see his statements on this point before turning to the second theory. It is clear from many passages that he did hold predestination before consideration of merits. Nor are his words such as to leave room for us to suppose that he was speaking only of the whole process of predestination, so that he could conceivably hold at the same time that predestination to glory, separately considered, could be after consideration of merits:
1) He teaches that every good work, even the good decision of our will is the work of God.
a) De gratia Christi 25. 26:106 "For God not only has given [us] our ability, and aids it, but also, He 'works both the will and the performance,' not that we do not will, or that we do not act, but that without His help we neither will nor do any good."
b) De gratia et libero arbitrio 16. 32:107 "It is certain that we will when we will; but He brings it about that we will good. . . . It is certain that we act when we act, but He brings it about that we act, giving most efficacious power to our will."
c) Ibid. 6. 15:108 "If, then, your merits are gifts of God, God does not crown your merits as merits of yours, but as gifts of His."
d) Epistle 194. 5.19:109 "What then is the merit of a man before receiving grace, in accordance with which he receives grace, since it is only grace that makes every good merit of ours, and since when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts?"
2) He explicitly excludes consideration of merits as a condition:
a) De praedestinatione sanctorum 17.34:110 "Let us, then, understand the call by which the elect are made [elect]: [they are] not [persons] who are chosen because they have believed, but [they are persons] who are chosen so that they may believe. For even the Lord Himself made this [call] sufficiently clear, when He said:111 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.' . . . This is the unshakeable truth of predestination and grace. For what else does that mean, that the Apostle says, 'As He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.' For surely if it was said [that they were chosen] because God foresaw that they would believe, [and] not because He Himself was going to make them believers-the Son speaks against that sort of foreknowledge, saying: 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.' . . . So they were chosen before the foundation of the world by that predestination by which God foreknew His own future acts: they are chosen out of the world by that vocation by which God fulfilled that which He had predestined. 'For those whom He predestined, them also He called. . . .' Therefore God chose the faithful, not because they already were [faithful] but that they might be [faithful]. . . . So by choosing, He makes them rich in faith, just as [He makes them] heirs of the kingdom."
b) Enchiridion 99:112 "For grace alone distinguishes the redeemed from the lost, whom a common cause from [their] beginning had joined into one mass of perdition. . . ."
c) De correptione et gratia 7.12:113 "They, however, are distinguished not by their merits, but by the grace of the Mediator . . . from that mass of perdition which was made through the first Adam. . . . "
d) Epistle 194.8.35:114 "It is, moreover, marvellous into what precipices they hurl themselves, in their fear of the nets of truth, when they are pressed by these difficulties. 'It is for this reason' they say, 'that He hated one of those not yet born [Esau] and loved the other [Jacob], because He foresaw their future works.' Who would not be surprised that this most keen thought would be lacking to the Apostle? . . . This, then, was the place for him [St. Paul] to say what these [persons who reason incorrectly] think: 'For God foresaw their future works, when He said that the elder would serve the lesser.' But the Apostle did not say this, but instead, lest anyone dare to boast of the merits of his works, he wanted what he did say to be able to teach the grace and glory of God."
210. The second theory: Reprobation after and because of personal demerits: St. Augustine does not propose this theory explicitly and clearly, but he does propose it, by inescapable implications, in many passages, in works written at various times, against various opponents, and in works that are not controversial as well.
As we briefly indicated in the introduction to this study, and will explain more fully later,115 reprobation after consideration of demerits can fit with predestination before consideration of merits (we already know St. Augustine held the latter.) Since, then, St. Augustine held both points, he seems to have possessed the most essential elements of the theory we proposed in the introduction, even though he did not know how to reconcile the two points.
The way is, as it were, prepared for the second theory in some statements St. Augustine makes about the difference in human power for good and for evil. We have already116 seen what he said about the power of man for good. He speaks far differently about human power for evil. Namely, in the De civitate Dei 12. 7 he says:117 "Let, then, no one seek for the efficient cause of evil will; for [the cause] is not efficient but deficient; for that is not efficiency but deficiency." And similarly in his De correptione et gratia 11. 31:118 "Free will suffices for evil, but for good it is too little, unless it is helped by the Almighty God."
But we must come to the texts in which he implicitly teaches that reprobation comes after consideration of personal demerits. It is important to notice that (as we shall see below), in the majority of the texts, his words could not be understood as applying only to positive reprobation, but necessarily apply also to negative reprobation:
1) De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII. 68.5:119 "For not all who were called willed to come to that dinner, which as the Lord says in the Gospel, was prepared, nor would they who came have been able to come if they had not been called. And so neither should they who came attribute [it] to themselves, for they came, being called; nor should those who were unwilling to come attribute [it] to anyone but themselves, for, in order that they might come, they were called in free will."
Comments: St. Augustine makes a clear distinction between the power of man for good and for evil. Man without help cannot perform supernatural good: "nor would they who came have been able to come if they had not been called." But for evil, as he said elsewhere, free will suffices: "nor should those who were unwilling to come attribute it to anyone but themselves." In this passage, he is speaking about the dinner in the Gospel, to which "many were called, but few were chosen."120 He explains why many of those who were called were not also chosen. He says that a man could not come by his own power, but he can, by his own power, refuse to come. He gives the reason for the non-election of those who did not come when they were called: "nor should those who were unwilling to come attribute it to anyone but themselves." Now if the fundamental reason why they were not chosen were in God's desertion of them (in negative reprobation), then St. Augustine could not say that the non-elect should not "attribute it to anyone but themselves." For they could also, and most fundamentally, attribute it to God, who deserted them before considering their demerits. Therefore according to this text, man himself, by his evil will, can "distinguish himself" from the good, so that whether or not he is reprobated does depend on human conditions. Obviously, this view is quite the opposite of the view St. Augustine expressed in a text cited above for the first theory:121 "grace alone distinguishes the redeemed from the lost, whom a common cause from [their] beginning had joined into one mass of perdition. . . ."
2) De correptione et gratia 13.42:122 "Those, then, who do not belong to that most certain and most happy number [of the predestined] are judged most justly according to their merits. For they either lie under the sin which they contracted originally by generation. . . . Or they receive the grace of God, but are temporary, and do not persevere; they desert and are deserted. For they were let go in their free will, not receiving the gift of perseverance, by a just and hidden judgment of God."
Comments: In the latter part of this text, St. Augustine speaks of men who have received forgiveness of original sin by grace, but who do not persevere. Now, from the very fact that they no longer have original sin, it is clear that they are not reprobated and refused the grace of perseverance because of original sin. If then they are not reprobated for original sin, what is the reason for reprobation? Two alternatives could be conceived: (a) God acts without any reason at all, in a blind fashion; (b) God reprobates because of personal demerits. Now of course, the first alternative must be rejected. First, because it is altogether unbecoming for God to act blindly, without reason. Infinite Wisdom cannot do that. Second, because St. Augustine denies that God acts blindly. He says: "They were let go in their free will . . . by a just and hidden judgment. . . ." So they were not let go without a cause, since a just judgment is not passed without a cause. But especially, St. Augustine also said: "They desert and are deserted." The sequence is of prime importance. He did not say: "They were deserted by God [in negative reprobation] so that they deserted God," but instead: "They desert and are deserted" that is, they first desert God by sins, and after this, by a just judgment, they are deserted.
Their case could not be accounted for by saying that they perish because of the weakness that remained even after original sin is forgiven-for this weakness remains in all, even the baptized. Yet not all perish. So we must still seek for the reason why some of the baptized perish but others do not. The alternatives given above still apply. So again, St. Augustine implies that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is to be reprobated or not is to be found in the dispositions of men themselves. (Of course, this text in itself shows our conclusion only in regard to the baptized. Other texts, as we have seen and will see further, are more general in wording).
3) De peccatorum meritis et remissione 2.17.26:123 "Men are not willing to do what is right either because the fact that it is right is hidden from them, or because it does not please them. It is from the grace of God, which helps the wills of men, that that which was hidden becomes known, and that which did not please becomes sweet. The reason why they are not helped [by grace] is in themselves, not in God, whether they are predestined to damnation because of the wickedness of their pride, or whether they are to be judged and emended, contrary to that pride, if they are sons of mercy."
Comments: Again St. Augustine distinguishes the power of man for good and for evil. He is insufficient for supernatural good: "It is from the grace of God . . . that that which was hidden becomes known and that which did not please becomes sweet." But man can reject this grace. Therefore, the distinction between those reprobated and those not reprobated depends precisely on this point: whether or not man rejects grace, for he says: "The reason why they are not helped [by grace] is in themselves, not in God . . . " Now, if the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is or is not reprobated were found in desertion by God, these words would not be true. For then he should have said the opposite, namely: "The reason why they are not helped by grace is not in themselves, but in God, who freely deserts him whom he deserts without consideration of any condition in the man who is deserted." So again, St. Augustine holds that the reason underlying the decision as to who is or is not reprobated is found in conditions in men themselves.
4) De actis cum Felice Manichaeo 2.8:124 "Felix said: You call Manichaeus cruel for saying these things. What do we say about Christ who said: Go into eternal fire? Augustine said: He said this to sinners. Felix said: These sinners-why were they not purified? Augustine said: Because they did not will [it]. Felix said: Because they did not will it-did you say that? Augustine said: Yes, I said it: Because they did not will it."
Comments: St. Augustine is having a public debate with Felix the Manichaean. At the end of the debate, Felix publicly repudiated Manichaeism. St. Augustine had said that the theory of Manichaeus is cruel for it teaches that many particles of light (which are divine) would be shut up in a ball of fire forever. For the Manichees taught that there is a mixture of light and darkness in this world. They said that this mixture was permitted by God, so that the way might be prepared for a greater victory-yet they taught that at the end of the world, not all the particles of light would be separated from the darkness, so that, through no fault of their own, many particles of light (which are divine) would have to suffer forever. Really then, God would have permitted a mixture to prepare the way for a greater victory-which would never come!
Felix tries to retort that Christ too is cruel, since he condemns men to eternal fire. St. Augustine defends Christ, saying that sinners are condemned: "Because they did not will [to be purified]." Felix finds it hard to believe his ears. So St. Augustine repeats with insistence: "Yes, I said it: Because they did not will it."
So again, St. Augustine teaches that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who will or will not be reprobated is found in dispositions in men themselves. For if a man does not wish to be purified, he is not purified, and so is condemned.
Could we say in spite of this that perhaps St. Augustine is keeping in the back of his mind such a thought as this: Certain men do not wish to be purified, because God deserts them, so that it would be inconceivable for them to will to be purified?-If St. Augustine really held that view, he would have defeated Felix by a shameful deception. For Felix was defeated on this point precisely because St. Augustine said that sinners were not purified because they did not will to be purified. But if the fundamental reason were not the fact that they did not will it, but the fact that God had deserted them, giving them no opportunity at all of "distinguishing themselves" in regard to being reprobated or not-then the objection raised by Felix would really hold, for men would be damned with no chance to extricate themselves from it. And Felix could have added that the Christian God too, like the Manichaean God, would have permitted an evil to prepare for greater good-but the good, the greater victory, would never come, for (in Augustine's view)125 incomparably more men are condemned than are saved, and that, not fundamentally because these men did not want to be purified, but because they were not given an opportunity to really "distinguish themselves."
5) Tractatus in Ioannis Evangelium 53.6:126 "'They were not able to believe' since Isaias the prophet predicted it; and the prophet predicted it because God had foreseen that this would happen. But if I am asked why they were not able, I reply quickly: Because they did not want to: For God foresaw their evil will, and He from whom future things cannot be hidden announced it in advance through the prophet. But, you say, the prophet speaks of another cause, not of their will. What cause does the prophet speak of? Because 'God gave them a spirit of compunction, eyes so that they did not see, and ears so that they did not hear, and He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart.' I reply that their will merited even this."
Comments: In this passage, St. Augustine is giving the fundamental reason for the reprobation of certain men. For first, in explaining the words of Isaiah the prophet, he says that the reason why they were not able to believe was "their evil will"-not desertion by God. But secondly, foreseeing that perhaps someone might say that those who were unwilling to believe were such because God had deserted them or blinded them, he answers firmly: "I reply that their will merited even this."
So again, St. Augustine teaches that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to why some are reprobated or not is found in the dispositions of men themselves, that is, in the evil wills of those who were unwilling to receive grace.
Could we suspect that St. Augustine is still holding back in his own mind this belief: "Men merit this because they are in original sin?" This seems scarcely possible, for, if he felt thus, why would it be necessary to go through so long a verbal process, and to propose an objection to himself that perhaps the ultimate reason was that God blinded them, and to deny the force of the objection by again asserting very firmly that the reason was in their evil wills? Surely if he really held such a view, he would be open to the charge of having misled his hearers. For they could hardly suspect his real meaning from his words: instead, they would almost surely get the opposite meaning.
6) De catechizandis rudibus 52:127 ". . . the merciful God, wishing to free men, if they are not enemies to themselves and do not resist the mercy of their Creator, sent His only-begotten Son. . . ."
Comments: Again St. Augustine teaches that the distinction between those who are freed and those who are not freed depends on the resistance or lack thereof on the part of men. Nor could we suspect that he really means: All men will resist unless God prevents it. For then the words just cited above would be deceptive, and would surely lead the reader into error. For they seem to mean that the outcome is determined by a condition in man: "if they are not enemies to themselves and do not resist the mercy of their Creator." But if it were not in the power of men not to resist, the outcome would not really be so conditioned.128
211. The times and circumstances of composition of the passages of the second theory: It cannot be said that St. Augustine proposed this second theory only at one period, and later changed his view. For the texts we have seen come from all periods of his literary activity:129
De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII-written between 388 and 395 A.D.
De actis cum Felice Manichaeo-398 A.D.
De catechizandis rudibus-399 A.D.
De peccatorum meritis et remissione-411 A.D.
Tractatus in Ioannem-between 413 and 418 A.D.
De correptione et gratia-426 A.D.
Thus texts containing the second theory are found at the beginning and at the end, and at many intermediate points in the career of St. Augustine. So it cannot be said that he merely changed his mind. For during this same span of time he also taught the theory of the massa damnata.
Nor could one say that his theory varies with the various adversaries against whom he is writing. For the passages we have considered for the second theory come from works against the Pelagians, against the Manichees, and works in which he is not engaged in controversy. Further, they come from technical theological works, and from more popular works as well.
So we cannot do other than to admit that St. Augustine, moved by sound theological method, did not altogether leave out conclusions drawn from faith in the goodness and justice of God in general. However, he did not follow sound method with such fidelity as did St. Thomas. Yet he did follow it, and, to understand his opinions, it is quite necessary that we work on the assumption that he followed it.
212. Confirmation of our interpretation of texts of the second theory:
1) From St. Augustine himself: In a number of places, especially in his early works, St. Augustine had said some things about grace, which he later corrected:
b) In his De dono perseverantiae 17.42 he explicitly teaches that in his teaching on predestination he was writing solely against attributing the power of positive salutary good to man (for thus, if a man could of himself accomplish a positive salutary good, then predestination would be according to merits):133 ". . . let them see . . . that by this preaching of predestination there is impeded and overthrown only that most dangerous error in which it is said that the grace of God is given according to our merits, so that he who glories would glory, not in the Lord, but in himself."
So St. Augustine by this teaching on predestination wanted to teach just one truth: that man cannot merit predestination, or, that predestination is not given according to the merits of men. But this truth which he so insistently defended in no way conflicts with another truth, namely, with the teaching of the second theory that reprobation is decreed after and because of consideration of demerits.134 St. Augustine, however, since he did not see how these two things could harmonize (and as a result of his erroneous interpretation of Romans 8-9) was led to the theory of the massa damnata, in such a way, however, that in fidelity to sound theological method he did not altogether abandon the truth of the second theory.
c) St. Augustine also wrote:135 "He [God] will more easily restrain His wrath than His mercy." Now in the theory of the massa damnata, St. Augustine teaches that God damns many more than He saves. Therefore, in that theory, God will much more easily restrain His mercy than His wrath. But in the passage just cited, he says the opposite. So, at least in part, he seems to imply the second theory.
2) Confirmation of our interpretation from the words of St. Prosper: Controversies arose over St. Augustine's teachings on predestination and grace both during his own lifetime and after his death. Shortly after his death, St. Prosper answered objections on behalf of St. Augustine. Some think that St. Prosper modified the views of St. Augustine somewhat. But Garrigou-Lagrange, who vigorously defends the theory drawn from St. Augustine's interpretation of Romans 8-9, says that St. Prosper was136 "a most faithful disciple of Augustine." Whatever be the case, it is clear that St. Prosper most faithfully proposed the same view as St. Augustine taught in the second theory:
Comments: St. Prosper is speaking about those who do not persevere. He is speaking about reprobation, the denial of predestination, and he gives the reason for it, namely: "They were not predestined because they were foreseen as going to be such as a result of voluntary transgression. . . . " So reprobation is decreed only after consideration of demerits. St. Prosper also excludes negative reprobation before consideration of demerits: "For they were not deserted by God so that they deserted God but they deserted and were deserted." If he had held negative reprobation he should have said: "They were deserted by God so that they deserted God; they were deserted, and [then] deserted God." But he said the opposite, as we see.
b) Ibid. 7.85:138 ". . . He foresaw that they would fall by their very own will, and for this reason He did not separate them from the sons of perdition by predestination."
Comments: St. Prosper is obviously saying the same as in the text we have just considered above.
c) Responsiones ad capituta obiectionum Vincentianarum 12:139 "Now these, of whom it is said: 'They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would surely have remained with us'-these went out by their will, by their will they fell. And because they were foreseen as going to fall, they were not predestined."
Comments: Again, the same teaching as in the two passages cited above.
V. Conclusions from all the Fathers, Taken Together
213. To prove a doctrine from the Fathers, it is necessary to find them morally unanimous, and speaking as witnesses of revelation. We do not find that unanimity on the matters we are considering, though they approach closely to it in the teaching that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is or is not to be reprobated is found in the dispositions of men themselves. All the Eastern Fathers vigorously state this thesis, and obviously base it on revelation. The Western Fathers before St. Augustine do the same. And even St. Augustine himself, in not a few texts, at least seems to imply it. His disciple St. Prosper beyond doubt holds it.
But in spite of the lack of a rigid proof, we can make a very plausible speculation. From the fact that Divine Providence has so arranged things that there is a progressive clarification of revelation throughout the centuries, there is not to be expected such clarity in the first centuries as later. So it is not strange that we find some differences in different Fathers. Yet it seems plausible to suppose this: Some Fathers, by providential disposition, saw some parts of the complete picture, while others saw others. Namely:
1) St. Augustine: We should certainly retain from him the teaching which he says is the only point he really wishes to insist on in this matter. Namely, he wished to refute140 "only that most dangerous error in which it is said that the grace of God is given according to our merits." On the other hand, we should certainly not accept his denial of the universal salvific will. Nor should we accept his theory of the massa damnata which is based on an interpretation of Romans 8-9 which exegetes of all schools today reject, and on a failure to understand the real nature and force of the universal salvific will, as it is revealed to us in Scripture (as we saw it in chapters 4-5).
2) The other Fathers: We should certainly accept from them that which they saw most clearly and most urgently proclaimed, namely, that the fundamental reason underlying the decision as to who is or is not to be reprobated is found in conditions within men themselves. In other words: God does not reprobate before consideration of demerits. The Fathers did not see clearly the exact nature (positive or negative) of the human condition. But they did see clearly that the condition is present.
3) All the Fathers: If we combine the two points to be accepted, as we have just indicated them, we have the following: Predestination is not given according to merits, but reprobation is given only after consideration of demerits.
Of course, the Fathers did not see how to reconcile these two statements. But they are not to be blamed for that, since there is, by Divine Providence, a gradual clarification to be expected over the centuries.
In spite, then, of some obscurities, the Fathers deserve great praise for having each preached that part of the truth which Divine Providence assigned to him. And St. Augustine still deserves to be called Doctor of Grace, since, in spite of difficulties that must have been painful to him, he still most faithfully taught the gratuity of grace, a point which some other Fathers saw only obscurely.