The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions
"Pt. 1: Research in the sources of revelation - Ch. 1: Explicit texts of Sacred Scripture"
10. The sacred text, Rom 8:28-30: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."
Rom 9:11-23 (passim): ". . . though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, 'The elder will serve the younger.' As it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated'. . . . For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. . . . For the scripture says to Pharoah, 'I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you. . . . So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. . . . Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?"
11. Exegesis of Rom 8:28-31:1 The best exegetes of all schools within the Church, and also the best outside the Church, agree on many points of great importance in interpreting these verses.
First, all teach that St. Paul in these verses is speaking about all Christians, that is, all Christians are predestined in the Pauline sense. Hence they teach that St. Paul in these verses does not distinguish Christians into two classes, into the predestined and reprobate. The eminent Dominican exegete, Père Lagrange, notes that St. Augustine attempted to introduce that distinction into this passage, and comments:2 "That opinion, so full of consequences, isolated in ancient times, and rejected by modern authors (Cornely, Prat, Lipsius, Sanday-Headlam, Julicher, Zahn, Lietzmann), has no foundation in the text and is contrary to the whole context. St. Paul speaks to all Christians, and does not dream of distinguishing them into two classes: those who are called according to a design of predestination, and those who are called without being predestined. The distinction between those called and those chosen, such as it is given in the Gospel (Mt 20:16; 22:14), does not coincide with the terms used by Paul. In his mind, kletos, "one who is called," refers to one who has answered the call; he has been called effectively (Cornely, Prat). All Christians are called in that sense. He would not reassure them by saying: certain ones among you are predestined." Similarly, in his commentary on verse 30:3 "We have already noted that here Paul does not make two classes among Christians: those who are predestined, and those who are not. His purpose is to encourage all the faithful. On the part of God, the call to faith and justification are an assured pledge of salvation; it is not God who will fail the faithful. The chain of divine acts conducts them to salvation, because Paul supposes that a Christian will not divest himself of his goodness. . . . Or rather; Paul does not think of the particular destiny of each Christian in the designs of God, but of the designs of God for Christianity; those who are in his mind are the faithful as a group, those who have answered his call. . . . As far as individuals are concerned, it is for them to live according to the Spirit, etc., for Paul does not hide the fact that they can fall back under the regime of the flesh."
Precisely the same explanation is found in the excellent commentary of J. Huby, SJ.4
Therefore, since St. Paul is not here speaking of the place of the individual in the plans of God, nor of infallible predestination to Heaven, it does not make much difference for our question whether we say that St. Paul is speaking of predestination before or after prevision of merits. As Lagrange notes so well, if St. Paul really were speaking of the predestination of the individual to Heaven and said that some Christians, without any consideration of their dispositions whatsoever, were not predestined, he would not strengthen the hope of all by saying to them: Some of you are predestined. But, as Lagrange also says, St. Paul's purpose in this passage is to strengthen the hope of all the faithful. Huby, then, is quite right in saying:5 ". . . in an exhortation in which the Apostle wishes to arouse a firm hope in the hearts of all Christians, would he really encourage them if he said: 'All have confidence, because some among you are predestined?' As someone has said: 'It is impossible to argue with less logic.'"
As to men who do not enter into the Church in the full sense, St. Paul simply does not speak of them in the verses we are considering. Elsewhere in the same Epistle, especially in 2:12-16, he makes clear that at least some of them are actually saved.
12. Exegesis of Rom 9:11-23: According to St. Augustine, this passage teaches predestination to Heaven, or reprobation to hell, before any consideration of human merits and demerits. Out of his interpretation, St. Augustine formed the following theory: As a result of original sin, all men are part of the potter's clay (v. 21), that is, they form one "damned and damnable mass." If God rescues some, this is out of mere mercy. If He deserts others in the same damned mass, it is mere justice.
All exegetes today reject this interpretation. As Huby points out,6 it is altogether arbitrary to say that the "clay" in v. 21 stands for the human race, corrupted by original sin, because in the whole of chapter 9 there is not even a remote allusion to original sin. Lagrange makes a keen observation:7 "At least the potter does not blame the vessels which he has made for ignoble uses." Hence, if God really had made certain men for ignoble roles, He should not blame and condemn these men for being such.
Actually, St. Paul was only making a comparison, or, as Lagrange says,8 "a simple parable." St. Paul wishes to teach that God has the right to assign men to various places in the external order of this world-which is quite different and distinct from the internal order of eternal salvation or ruin! That is, God makes some to be kings, others physicians, others laborers, etc. And similarly, He brings some into the Church in the full sense, and not others. But these assignments by no means fix the eternal lot of a man. Later in this chapter we shall examine what relation does exist between a man's eternal lot and his place in the external order of this world.
Even St. Augustine himself, in many works, as we shall see later,9 says many things that at least seem to presuppose a view that differs from the massa damnata theory.
St. Thomas, in his commentary on Romans, followed the interpretation of St. Augustine. However, he seems to feel ill at ease with the harshness of that interpretation. For if he were simply following out the implication of that interpretation, he could and should say that Pharaoh and the other reprobates were first of all deserted10 by God in the "damned mass." He would say that God did this because of original sin, to display His justice. As a result of this desertion, the reprobate infallibly fall into personal sins. Because of original and personal sins, they will be damned.
But St. Thomas did not speak this way. Rather, over and over again he harps on personal sins:11 ". . . because of the sins which they have from themselves, not from God . . . because of the evil things which you did . . . because of their own merits they were worthy to be devoured at once . . . as far as He is concerned, [God] interiorly urges a man on to good . . . but the bad man perverts this divine motion according to the malice of his heart. . . ."
13. Today the best exegetes of all schools either openly reject the interpretation of St. Augustine or pass it by in silence and propose another instead. To quote Père Lagrange again:12 "And so the question which Paul treats directly is not at all that of predestination and reprobation [to eternal lots] but merely the call of the Gentiles to the grace of Christianity, in contrast to the infidelity of the Jews." And similarly:13 "Prat says quite well: The precise point of the question is not: 'Why is this particular man predestined to the glory of Heaven and another given over to damnation?' nor: 'Why, as a matter of fact, is this man saved and that man lost?' nor even: 'Why is this individual rather than another called to the faith?' I would add that it is not even this: 'Why [in general] are there elect and reprobates?'"
A. M. Dubarle, OP, the eminent Professor of Sacred Scripture at Le Saulchoir, says exactly the same:14 "When he exalts, as he does, divine grace acting without any consideration of works, the Apostle is not speaking of the sentence which will fix the lot of each man on the last day but of the call to a privileged condition, the possession of the Christian faith. . . . It is in this perspective that one must understand the election and the hardening spoken of in chapter 9 of Romans." Huby speaks similarly:15 "The question, then, is not about the predestination of individuals to eternal salvation, nor even to the faith that prepares for it but about the entry of a nation into the Church. And let us note also, to remain within the strict limits of the question proposed by St. Paul, that to enter into Christianity is not at all the same as being saved: in certain conditions, salvation is possible outside of explicit adherence to Christianity, and, on the other hand, not everyone who enters Christianity is necessarily saved."
In other words, there are two questions, which we must not confuse: (1) According to what principles does God predestine individuals to heaven? (2) According to what principles does God predestine nations to belong to the chosen people in the Old Testament, or to be in the Church in the full16 sense in the New Testament?
As to the first question, all exegetes agree that St. Paul does not really treat it in the entire Epistle to the Romans-or rather, in no Epistle does he treat it.
But in chapter 9 of Romans, St. Paul does give an answer to the second question. He says that God does not predestine nations to this privileged position according to merits: that the descendants of Jacob rather than those of Esau became the chosen people was "not because of works but because of his call."17 Only indirectly does St. Paul bring in individuals, such as Pharaoh, Esau, and Jacob insofar as they are related to the question of nations. Hence, God said to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." That is, I will do as I wish in the matter of the mercy shown in the call to membership in the chosen people.
When Scripture says to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you," it does not mean that Pharaoh was created for damnation. As Lagrange points out,18 the word "raised up" in Scripture does not mean "brought into existence," but rather it means "to give a role in history, to send on the stage": for Pharaoh was evil by his own free will. God did not make him such. But God does bring good out of evil. Hence, He willed to make use of the evil quality which Pharaoh had of his own accord; in defeating Pharaoh, God displayed divine power in favor of the chosen people in Egypt. Hence, God is compared to a potter, who out of the same clay, that is, our common human nature, assigns various roles in the external order to various men. Not that God wants certain men to be evil and to act wickedly-but, since these men are by their own will going to be wicked anyway, God makes use of their malice for good purposes, and draws good out of evil.
St. Paul says these things in reply to the question he himself proposed: Why are not the Jews, as a nation, in the Church in the New Testament? The first answer he gives is this: God does not assign nations to the Church according to merits. But later St. Paul adds:19 "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . . . For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." So it is not that God has rejected the Jews, but they have rejected Him:20 "they were broken off because of their unbelief." Yet, because, as St. Paul said, the call of God still remains for them, for it is "irrevocable":21 "if they do not persist in their unbelief, [they] will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again" into the salutary tree from which they cut themselves off. It is clear that Père Lagrange is quite right, then, in saying of the Jews:22 ". . . nothing shows that their fall was the effect of reprobation." For the Jews rejected God: He did not reject them.
14. The two economies: It is obvious, then, that there are two economies, that is, spheres or orders: (1) The internal economy, in which there is the question of the eternal lot of individual men, that is, whether they will go to heaven or hell. (2) The external economy, in which there is the question of the position a nation or man has in the external order i.e., whether a nation will belong to the chosen people of the Old Testament, or to the Church of the New Testament (in the full sense).
In chapter 9 of Romans, St. Paul is not speaking of the internal economy, but of the assignment of nations in the external economy. He says that assignment is not made because of merits.
As we have already said, St. Paul is not speaking, in this passage, of individuals. However, if even nations cannot merit to be called into the Church, it seems that individuals cannot either. For if individuals could, then if all, or at least most, individuals in a certain nation merited to be called, by that very fact the nation would merit to be called. But this would contradict the teaching of St. Paul. Hence we must say that even individuals are not assigned to membership in the Church on account of merits.
However, the fact that St. Paul says God does not assign places in the external economy because of merits does not mean that God acts without any reasonable consideration: that would be contrary to Wisdom. So it is legitimate to make speculations as to the divinely chosen principles in this matter.23 Perhaps God, in assigning places in which there are greater or lesser external means of grace, acts, at least in general, according to the needs and relative weakness of various souls. In fact, that general divine policy revealed through St. Paul does not prevent God from at times taking even merits into consideration, as He did in the case of Cornelius the Centurion:24 "Cornelius . . . your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and bring one Simon who is called Peter. . . ."
15. The relation between the two economies: No one will deny that there is a relation between the two economies in that those who are in the Church in the full sense have better, more abundant external means of grace. Nor will anyone deny the truth of what Dubarle says:25 ". . . this [the place assigned in the external economy] does not predetermine the eternal lot reserved to each one in view of his conduct."
But when the older Thomists, who once thought they had an explicit revelation of their theory of negative reprobation in this passage of St. Paul, hear that St. Paul really is not talking about the eternal fates of individuals, they often try to rehabilitate their proof by saying that in this passage St. Paul gives principles which can be applied to the internal economy of eternal salvation. With such a tendency in view, Père Lagrange said:26 "One thinks naturally of the eternal lot of individuals and transposes terms and applies the principles of Paul to the salvation of individuals. God calls [men] to justification gratuitously, but those who are not called, will not reach the glory of heaven, so that those who are not called, go to eternal ruin. [However] the conclusions that one could obtain by such a train of thought lose sight of the exegesis of the text. . . . One cannot apply indiscriminately to eternal predestination and reprobation that which is said about the call to the grace of Christianity . . . one should not understand what is said about one's action in history, of the eternal moral destiny of an individual. . . . One should not cease repeating . . . that according to Paul, man is really the cause of his reprobation by his sins. . . ." Thus Lagrange teaches emphatically that St. Paul knows nothing of reprobation before consideration of demerits. Therefore, the application of principles that the Thomists wish to make is invalid. Lagrange adds:27 "Paul is replying to the pretensions of the Jews. He is not drawing a great picture of the role of the elect and the damned in the divine plan. He teaches the gratuitous call of the Jews first and later of the faithful, and of the resistance to the designs of God as they enter into His plan."
16. The fundamental reason why the proposed applications are illegitimate is that there are many, even basic differences between the two economies. First of all the predestination of which St. Paul speaks does not infallibly bring a man to heaven. For, as Lagrange notes,28 ". . . there are some who are called to grace who do not continue [in it]," while, on the other hand, some gentiles can be saved.
But the most fundamental reason why the application is illegitimate is this: God has freely decided upon different fundamental principles for the two economies. These principles are quite incompatible with one another. In the external economy, it is a rule that "he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills." For example, after one sin, God rejected Saul, so that his line should not rule the chosen people. But David, who had committed greater sins (murder and adultery) received mercy: he was not removed from the kingship29 but rather, God promised to make firm his throne forever and David became the ancestor of Christ. In contrast, even before Esau was born, God said, "Esau I hated."
Thus in the external economy, mercy (the grant of a favored position) is given and denied independently of merits, so that mercy is not shown to all.
In the internal economy however, the rule is quite different:30 "The Lord is good to all: and his compassion is over all that he has made." And again:31 "The compassion of man is for his neighbor, but the compassion of the Lord is for all living beings." Or:32 "For thou lovest all things that exist, and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made." For God33 "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Now if God were to reject a man from eternal salvation as He rejected Esau, that is, before considering anything that the man would or would not do, and were to do it in such a way that, as the older Thomists say34 the rejected man could not "distinguish himself" in regard to being reprobated or not: then he could not simultaneously say sincerely that He willed all men-including those reprobated-to be saved. Actually, as we shall see in chapters 4 and 5, God's desire for the salvation of all is so vehement that He bound Himself by a New and eternal Covenant in the blood of His Son to give graces to all that are in proportion to infinite objective titles or claims established at such great cost (the Cross) for each individual man.
So in one economy, God does not have mercy on all; but in the other, His mercy is universal. In one economy, even before a man has sinned, He may say: "Esau I hated," but in the other: you have "loathing for none of the things which thou hast made," for God "desires all men to be saved." Therefore, since the principles of the two economies are not only different, but incompatible, it is illegitimate to infer that the principles of divine action in one economy are the same as in the other economy, in which God has freely decreed to act differently, and has revealed that fact in Sacred Scripture.
17. Is the divine call to membership in the Church infrustrable? Before trying to answer this question, we need to note that we are not asking about extraordinary cases, such as the conversion of St. Paul. Rather, we wish to know if, in ordinary providence, the divine motion that brings a man into the Church is such that it either forestalls or overcomes all human resistance.
The Epistle to the Romans provides much light on the question. For, since, as all agree, the divine movement which is given to men is not such as to prevent them from falling away from the faith through their own fault it is at least highly probable that the divine movement that led them to the Church (if they were adults at the time) was of the same kind. For it does not seem to harmonize with Wisdom to give an infrustrable motion to bring a man into the Church, and afterwards to change the character of that motion: the reason for the change could not be found. On the contrary, St. Paul explicitly teaches that,35 "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." So if God had called a man into the Church infrustrably, that is, by a motion that would forestall or overcome all human resistance, then, since His gifts and call are irrevocable, He would have continued such a motion.
The complete divine plan in regard to membership in the Church would seem, therefore, to be somewhat as follows: God really wills all men to be saved, and He also wants all to be members of the Church in the full sense, so that they may have the fuller means of grace. But, as a result of human weakness, it is the inevitable that there be differences, and many will be born in places where they have few or no sacraments.36 Therefore, unless God were to multiply miracles to an immense degree, it will be necessary to assign many humans to places with few if any sacraments. To those in such places, God does send many graces, for, as Pope Pius XII taught, it is certain that,37 "the heavenly Father . . . will at all times send down upon all men a rich abundance of divine graces." In assigning men to places in which they will have the proximate opportunity38 of entering the Church, God does not let merits be the controlling principle. He acts according to other principles. Probably, He considers the needs, the resistance to grace, and the relative weakness of individuals. He gives the faith and entrance into the Church in the full sense to all who receive the proximate opportunity of entry and who do not resist the graces offered. However, if they resist, at least ordinarily, God will not move them against their resistance.
18. The "measure of grace": Some theologians have interpreted certain texts to mean that God so limits the graces given to some men that as a matter of fact these men could not be saved. The principal texts cited in this sense are: Ephesians 4:7: "But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift," and Romans 12:3: ". . . each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him."
Actually, as the context shows, in these texts St. Paul is not talking about actual and habitual graces that make a man holy within the internal economy, but about charismatic graces of the external economy. Thus, right after the words quoted from Romans, we read: "For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ. . . . Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching. . . ." Similarly, in the epistle to the Ephesians, we read, immediately after the text cited above: "Therefore it is said, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men'. . . . And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists."
So St. Paul by no means teaches that God gives graces sparingly. The measure of grace given to each man for salvation is "a rich abundance" as we saw above in the words of Pope Pius XII.39
The "principle of predilection": As we saw in the introduction, Garrigou-Lagrange and many other theologians often cite 1 Cor 4:7 to prove their views on predestination: "Who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
Actually, as the context shows, St. Paul is by no means speaking of predestination to eternal glory. He is speaking of the pride of the Corinthians who thought they had been chosen to be in the Church as a result of their good qualities, and who sought added honor and distinctions from belonging to factions within the Church, attached to Apollos, Cephas, or Paul. St. Paul rebukes their pride: "Who distinguisheth thee?" That is: You do not have wisdom, virtue, or other special qualities so that you could rightly boast that you were called into the Church, or into a special group in the Church, on account of them. God does not choose men for the Church according to merits. And besides: What have you that you did not receive? Whatever good qualities you have are from God, not from yourself: so you cannot boast.
It is illegitimate to transfer these words of St. Paul to the internal economy, because St. Paul is speaking about the external economy, and, as we have seen, the principles of the two economies are not only different but incompatible. Furthermore, if St. Paul meant these words in the sense supposed by Garrigou-Lagrange, he would contradict what he says in 2 Cor 6:1: ". . . we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain." But if, as Garrigou-Lagrange holds, a man could not really determine whether he receives the grace of God in vain or not (for if he could, he would "distinguish himself"), then the exhortation of St. Paul would not be only vain, but a mockery.
So St. Paul does, in 1 Cor 4:7, say that a man cannot "distinguish himself" in one sense, that is, he says that in the external economy it does not depend on a man's merits whether or not he is chosen by God to be a member of the Church in the full sense. But in 2 Cor 6:1, St. Paul makes clear that in another sense a man can "distinguish himself" namely, in the sense that it does depend on man whether or not he receives the grace of God in vain or not.
From the words of Christ at the Last Supper:40 "You did not choose me, but I chose you. . . ." Some have thought these words imply an absolute predestination and reprobation, before any consideration of merits and demerits. But again, Christ is not speaking of predestination to eternal glory or eternal ruin. The context shows He is speaking to the Apostles. He says that He has chosen them for the Apostolate-a matter of the external economy-rather than that they chose Him.
From the Epistle to the Ephesians:41 ". . . even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. . . ." Just as in the Epistle to the Romans, so also here, St. Paul is speaking of the vocation of men to the Church, that is, to a special place in the external economy, as the context shows. For the Apostle is speaking to all Ephesians who are in the Church, and he says to all that they are predestined. Now no one would say St. Paul revealed to all the Ephesians that all were predestined to eternal glory; but he can easily say that all are predestined to membership in the Church-a thing that is obvious from the fact that they are actually in the Church.
19. Conclusions from all texts:
1) Sacred Scripture never speaks explicitly of an infallible predestination to the glory of heaven or of infallible reprobation to eternal ruin. All explicit texts in which the word "predestine" is found refer to the external economy. Therefore the claim of the Thomists that their view of predestination is proved by explicit texts of Scripture is without foundation.
2) It is illegitimate to apply the principles of Romans 9 and other texts that speak of the external economy to the internal economy, because the principles that God has freely chosen in the two economies are not only different but incompatible. Therefore the claim of the older Thomists that their view of predestination is proved by an application of the principles of Romans 9 and similar texts is without foundation.
3) Even though in Romans 8:28-30 St. Paul is not speaking of the predestination of individuals, but of the plans of God for Christianity or for Christians as a group, yet, because, as Père Lagrange says, the purpose of St. Paul in Romans 8 was to strengthen the hope of all Christians, there is no room left for a negative reprobation before prevision of demerits. Rather, such a theory is implicitly excluded. For if that theory were true, the hope of Christians could not be firm, because if God wished to reprobate some before all consideration of human conditions, then no one would have the means of a firm hope that God might not treat him thus, and leave him with only means with which it would be metaphysically inconceivable that he be saved.42 But the truth is, according to St. Paul, as Père Lagrange says:43 ". . . one should not cease repeating . . . that according to Paul, man is really the cause of his reprobation by his sins.
20. Objection: In Acts 13:48 we read: ". . . and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Therefore, predestination to the Church coincides with predestination to eternal life, or to the glory of heaven.
Answer: If this were true, it would follow that no one who is not a member of the Church in the full sense could be saved. But the Church herself denies this, as is clear from the condemnation of the views of Father Leonard Feeney, SJ. Rather, the truth is that eternal life in the text cited is spoken of in the same sense as in the Gospel:44 "And this is eternal life, that they know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." This knowledge is begun in this life, by knowing Jesus Christ in the Church, and is perfected in the beatific vision, to which the Church is intended to lead men.
Again, the objection would prove that all who are in the Church in the full sense are saved. But the Church herself has never taught that.