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The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions

"Pt. 5: Synthesis of the conclusions of the entire investigation - Ch. 24"


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502. In order to see the harmony of the results of our entire investigation, it will be worthwhile to make a synthesis in which we shall include the chief conclusions we have arrived at and also add a few elements, partly from revelation, partly from conjectures, that agree well with these. Theological notes for each assertion can be seen in the previous chapters.

1) In the beginning, God willed to create creatures. He did this solely out of supreme generosity, for He created not to acquire anything for Himself, but to give. He cannot acquire anything, since He does not lack anything. Nevertheless, creatures, by their very nature, are bound to glorify Him, even though He gains nothing from it. Further, God Himself cannot be indifferent to this glory:

a) He is not indifferent to objective goodness and justice: but objective goodness and justice require that creatures honour their God and Creator and Father.

b) God wants creatures to honour Him for their own sake, so they will be disposed to receive His generous favours. As St. Thomas says, He seeks His glory not for His sake, but for our sake.

So the first Vatican Council taught that God has bound together His own glory and the good of man: God will never seek His glory without our good.

2) In that same generosity and goodness, He loves His creatures. He loves men so much that He was not content to give them a merely human happiness: He planned a really divine happiness for them. That is, God wills all men to be saved, and to enjoy the vision of the divine essence. This will is sincere: were it not, the love of God would not be sincere, for this will is the chief part of that love. The salvific will is not only sincere, but most vehement: we can gauge its force by noting that it was so intense that the Father sent His only Son to the death of the cross for men. By this means, the Father wanted to establish infinite objective titles to graces for each individual man, so that He would owe it to Himself to grant graces according to those titles. He wanted to do this, as a means of proving His love and moving men, and also, out of a love of objective goodness. For objective goodness suggested, without demanding, that the damaged objective moral order be restored. The damage done to the moral order could have been infinitely restored by the incarnation in a palace, with redemption accomplished by the mere prayer, "Father, forgive them," even without the death of the incarnate Son. This would have been worth enough also to establish infinite titles for each man, both because of the infinite dignity of the Redeemer, and because the Father had bound Himself by at least an implicit contract, in sending His Son on this mission, as if He said: "If you do this I will grant an infinite treasury for men, your brothers." But this method would not have been sufficient for the purpose the Father intended. For He not only wanted to provide infinite titles for each man, but also wanted to move men by the richest possible means, so that they would not reject the offered graces. Hence St. Thomas says:1 "From the beginning of His conception, Christ merited eternal salvation for us; but on our part, there were certain impediments by which we were impeded from obtaining the effects of these early merits; to remove those impediments, 'it was necessary that Christ should suffer.' . . ."

Because infinite objective titles were established for each individual man, it is evident that the Father sets no limits that He will not pass to save a man. However, some are not saved, because men set limits. For by their repeated sins, they make themselves either physically incurable (incapable of perceiving ordinary graces because of their hardness) or morally incurable (so that they freely do not really change their course of life but, instead, are almost always in the state of sin). (It is true, one mortal sin has a sort of infinity about it. Still, the meritorious and satisfactory value of the Passion, which was offered for each individual, far surpasses even the collective gravity of all sins of the whole world taken together). Nevertheless no one can be safe in presuming: for even though God does not reprobate except for foreseen persistent and grave resistance to grace, yet He can, out of mercy, permit death to come to a man, after one or a few mortal sins, if that man is foreseen as going to be incurable if he lives.

Out of so great a salvific will, God offers to all even the grace with which they can persevere. Some actually persevere through this grace and are saved. Others however fall into sin in spite of it. Special providential care is required so that death does not catch such men while they are in sin. God actually does provide this care-for the salvific will has its measure in infinite objective titles for each individual-for all who do not make themselves incurable by persistent resistance. All who do not resist to that extent are predestined.

503. 3) By the power of His transcendent divine will, God is always able, when He so wishes, to move a man in such a way that that man freely but infallibly does that which God has decided upon. God is capable of moving men this way both within the internal economy (in matters that of themselves determine the salvation or perdition of men) and in the external economy (in which there is question of what external place a man will have, that is, whether a man will be a physician, or a shoemaker, or a politician, or even, whether a man will have full membership in the chosen people of the Old or New Covenant.

But God wanted the determination in each act to depend on man himself. Now man cannot of himself make the positive determination, i.e., the positive consent, or the exercise of the act of resistance. This is metaphysically impossible for him. But man can condition the whole process through negative conditions. For after grace (and a natural movement from God in the natural order) has made the beginning, by making the mind of man see the good that is proposed, and making his will take an initial complacency in it so that the man is moved by grace but does not yet move himself, man is able to resist. (That is, he can voluntarily cease from the act of complacency in his will: this is the beginning of the removal of the good specification. After that, God moves his will to order his intellect to cease attending to the moral goodness. Then, God moves him to the exercise of the act of resistance). Man is also able to non-resist. For since these two effects in his intellect and will continue by the power of the grace, without anything being required of him so that they may continue, man can non-resist by merely doing nothing. This non-resistance does not involve any positive act, or even a decision to do nothing, in this first moment of the process of the granting of a grace. If man does not resist, then the divine motion continues its course, and moves him to positive consent, in such a way, however, that in this second phase man is both being moved by grace and moving himself by the power received from grace. But the divine motion is not versatile: it is specified in itself; and it moves physically, not just morally. Yet, autonomous liberty remains, because in ordinary providence, God does not move as far as positive consent except after the condition of non-resistance. God made man free in autonomous freedom, because a man without autonomous freedom would not be a man, and because He wanted man to decide his salvation freely (for a man having only secondary, not autonomous freedom, would not have the power to "distinguish himself" as regards reprobation or non-reprobation). Having made man such, God will not contradict Himself by regularly using infrustrable movements, which take away autonomous freedom, but leave secondary freedom. But God can, by way of exception, in extraordinary providence, use infrustrable movements.

4) God assigned each man to his place in the external economy. He did this in two categories of things:

a) He assigned the external vocation or occupation of each man. He did this by giving varied talents to varied men, and by moving men's wills so that this man freely desires to be a shoemaker, that man, to be a physician, and so on. It is necessary that He make such assignments for a variety of roles is needed so that the world may function. However, frustrable movements suffice to bring a sufficient number into each occupation, for men are easily moved by natural objects, and towards the things for which they have natural talents.

b) He also assigned men to their place in the external mixed economy, that is, to some He gave the role of full membership in the Church, to others, a place in which they would have some, but not all the sacraments, and to still others, a place without any sacraments. St. Paul has revealed that God does not make these assignments because of the merits of men. But He certainly does act according to His Wisdom. There are not enough places in which all would have full membership, since (unless God were to multiply miracles to an immense degree) it is inevitable that there be heresies, etc., so that many will be born in places with few or no sacraments. So God seems to have assigned places according to the needs and foreseen resistance of individuals. That is, He gave places with the fullest external means of grace to those with the greatest need. Others, less needy, He put in places with lesser external means or with no external means. Some, who would perish in any place, He put in places with few or no external means, so as to leave the more favourable places open for those who need and will profit by them. This is an act of mercy to those who are thus put into unfavourable places, for, having less responsibilities as a result of a less favourable place, their ruin, inevitable in any place, is less.

504. 5) In predestining men to eternal life, God merely carried out that which He had wanted from the start. That is, God first willed, most sincerely and vehemently, that all men be saved. But then He saw that some would gravely and persistently resist grace, while others would not. He decreed to reprobate those who resist gravely and persistently, after foreseeing these demerits, and because of these demerits. He decreed to predestine and save the others, but not after foreseeing merits, nor because of foreseen merits. For at this point He had not yet looked at their merits: He had seen only their resistance or absence of resistance. He predestined them because of His goodness, in which from the beginning He had wanted to save them, and now predestined all in whom He did not find the bad condition, even though He did not yet see the good condition in them. For just as no condition was required from man so that God would begin to love him, so similarly, His purely spontaneous and generous love continues by its own force, without the need of any positive condition from man. And in its course, this love will predestine: for it always wanted to save; but salvation is impossible without predestination. So no condition was required from man so that God would predestine, precisely because His love moves in its course by its own power but a truly evil condition would be required so that God would not predestine, but would instead reprobate. Resistance would have to be persistent, since it would have to counterbalance the effects of a love and salvific will so powerful that it willed, through the supreme difficulty of the passion, to establish infinite objective titles for each individual man. Of course, God could have made merits a requirement for predestination by positive law. But just as a good human father, to whom God compares himself, does not do that, so neither does God the Father. Of course, merits will be present at the end of a man's course, and God, as the Just Judge, who loves and rewards all moral goodness, will give the crown of justice for merits. But merits still will be merely reasons of propriety in the order of execution-not a cause in the order of intention that led God to begin to love and to continue to love, and, in the course of that love, to predestine.

He saves even some of those who resist gravely and persistently. He does this by extraordinary, infrustrable graces. But God cannot save all men this way, for Wisdom does not allow the extraordinary to be ordinary, and Justice wants such men to be saved only by way of exception, or in consideration of the special merits of other members of Christ, who fill up those things that are wanting to the sufferings of Christ in their flesh, for His body, which is the Church.

505. 6) God foresees all these things through His transcendent intellect, which is not passive because it is transcendent and because the determinations that men make, which condition the outcome, are all negatives. But there is no ontological truth in negatives, nor does the divine intellect receive logical truth from those negatives, which have no form in themselves.

God foresees through His transcendent intellect without the need of decrees of His will as means of knowledge, but not without those decrees as prerequisites for the existence of the beings that are foreseen. However, divine causality is not required for the non-beings as such. So the foreknowledge of human consent and of resistance presuppose the causality of God by which He creates, conserves, and begins to move the man, causing a simple apprehension of good in man's mind and an initial complacency in his will. But when this is done, nothing more is prerequired in order that man may be able to have negative conditions in him, i.e., that man may be able to non-resist in the first phase, for in so doing, he merely does nothing; nor is anything more required from God in order that man may be able to cease from complacency in the good proposed, and so begin the evil specification, after which God will move the man further in the line of exercise. So non-resistance and the evil specification are logically prior to the divine knowledge of them. Yet, since these are non-beings, no truth is prior to God's knowledge. For in negatives, there is no ontological truth, nor do they make logical truth in the divine mind; the divine mind itself makes the logical truth of the proposition that says: "In this creature there is no resistance," or: "there is not a good specification."

God can also foresee what He produces in moving creatures by His causality, in the present of eternity. He can foresee in this way, in the present of eternity, even through frustrable decrees. Through infrustrable decrees, when He uses them, He can foresee even without the need of the presentiality of eternity.

506. 7) Within the divine nature, there is no real distinction between the various attributes, among which are mercy and justice. Very often, in His works done outside the divine nature, God acts in such a way that one and the same thing is both given and due on the basis of mercy and justice simultaneously. Thus there results a sort of fusion of mercy and justice, which imitates the relation of mercy and justice within the divine nature. From the extremely numerous examples of this way of acting, it seems at least highly probable that God has freely chosen to always act this way, in His works done outside the divine nature, except where the resistance of man freely impedes. Here are the principal examples:

a) God arranged a trial for our first parents: obedience to an easy divine command. If they had obeyed, the reward would have been given out of both mercy and justice, for God had promised a reward under this condition of obedience, and also, He had given a great intrinsic dignity to their works by making them adoptive sons, endowed with grace, and sharers in the divine nature.

b) In the objective redemption, the acquisition of the infinite treasury of pardon and grace, the Father willed to establish infinite objective titles for each individual man through the new covenant and the sacrifice of Calvary. So the Father gave this treasury into the hands of Christ not only out of mercy, but also out of justice, because (1) All the works of Christ are of infinite value, since He is a divine Person; (2) Christ fulfilled His part in a Covenant or at least implicit contract between Himself and the Father, for the Father, in sending Him on this mission, at least implicitly said: If you obey, I will give into your hands an infinite treasury of pardon and grace.

Further, out of supreme generosity and love of objective goodness and of men, the Father willed that the same treasury should also be owed in justice (though in a less rigorous way) as a result of the cooperation of the New Eve, whom He sent as the associate to the New Adam. The works of Mary were in themselves of lesser value. Still: (1) Because she was the Mother of God, His adopted daughter by grace, and a sharer in the divine nature through the fulness of grace, her works had a very great intrinsic dignity; (2) The Father also promised (even as He promises to reward our good works) to give the reward for her works. For, as Pope Pius XII taught:2 ". . . by the will of God, she was associated with Jesus Christ, the principle of salvation itself. . . ." Now Mary was both extrinsically (from her divine mission as the New Eve) and intrinsically fitted for meriting for us. For her grace was both eminent and social, because Mary, being full of grace, and the Mother of our Head, by the very nature of things had to be also the Mother of the members of that same Head. As Mother, she is intrinsically fitted to obtain and transmit life to her children.

c) But the Father also willed that the second phase, the subjective redemption or distribution of all graces, should also be carried out in mercy-justice. Hence, His Son instituted the Mass, and joined to Himself a Mystical Body.

Now in the Mass, the new Covenant is renewed and the same infinite price is presented again as the objective title for the dispensation of all graces "for our salvation and that of the whole world," as the text of the Mass itself expresses it. Therefore, having renewed this Covenant and accepted this price, the Father cannot within justice (for He owes it to Himself to give grace) refuse abundant graces to any man. Man can resist; but if he does not resist, the Father cannot refuse any grace of ordinary providence. Therefore, no one will perish except through his own persistent resistance.

The Father also willed that men should participate in the renewal of the Covenant and share by their actions in the objective titles established by Christ and Mary. (This is what merit means: to participate with Christ). Grace is offered in abundance to all, that they may become members of Christ. As members, they can (after the first grace, given through no merits of theirs, though its offering is owed to the merits of Christ and Mary) earn an objective title to grace in two ways: (1) Their works, as works of members of Christ, adopted children of the Father, and sharers in the divine nature, have a truly great intrinsic dignity; (2) The Father has bound Himself by the renewal of the Covenant and by Promises made through Christ to grant a reward to their works. Thus their works analogically imitate the two kinds of titles that Christ and Mary established, become part of the Covenant condition or price offered in the Mass, for in the Mass there is an offering of the whole Christ.3 Hence, although predestination is given without any merits on the part of men, still the actual conferring of the reward in the order of execution will be done out of both mercy (which is the foundation of the whole process) and justice.

In addition, the Father, through Christ, has promised to hear the prayers of men. Therefore the things that are given through prayer are given out of mercy, but also out of justice, for, as St. Augustine notes well (speaking to God):4 "For you deign, since your mercy is forever, to become even a debtor by your promises to those to whom you forgive all debts."

d) But among the members of Christ there are, and can be, evil men, dead members, who resist grace persistently. In the order of intention, these who are foreseen as going to resist persistently, are reprobated. In the order of execution, as a result of this persistent resistance, they are or will become physically or morally incurable. Thus they will fall short of even the minimum requisite conformity with Christ and participation with Him. To keep such men from becoming incurable, or to cure them in spite of their incurability (which arises through persistent resistance and hardening), there is need of a grace that can forestall or even cancel out resistance: an extraordinary grace. Yet, as we have seen, some of these can be saved, especially if other members fill up what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ for these members of His body. In this way a sufficient title in mercy-justice can be provided for these, so that God will grant even extraordinary graces to move them to good, freely but infallibly. However, these supplied titles need to be really great, so as to be proportioned to the extraordinary graces that are needed to move men who resist persistently.

e) In good men, the power of seeing spiritual truth is increased as they advance in the spiritual life. For if they act according to their faith, they become positively more fit to perceive the inspirations of light and, of course, have less impediments in them too. But the reverse happens in evil men: their power of seeing truth gradually diminishes and is obscured, since they act contrary to their faith, which becomes weakened. Further, their power of evaluative cognition (which is needed for grave sin) is gradually diminished. Thus there is mercy-justice. In the good, God mercifully increases the power of seeing and the power of merit: the increase is given out of mercy, but also out of justice for their good works deserve this. In the evil, mercy diminishes the power of seeing, so that they become less culpable when they sin. So the subtraction of light is a work of mercy, but it is also justice: for it is earned by their evil deeds.

f) Similarly, the obscurity of Scripture is penetrated by the good, who earn this, but it blinds the wicked, lest they be more culpable: and at the same time, it is a penalty of their malice.

g) Even death is an example of mercy-justice. God does not send death to men out of an attitude of vengeance. But by the mercy of God, if men accept death as He wills, they can acquire a greater title to reward. Therefore death, which is due in justice to sin, also becomes, if man does not resist grace, an instrument of mercy and a means of earning reward in justice.

8) Even the obscurity which God has permitted about the question of predestination is an indication of His goodness. To most men, the theory of some theologians about reprobation before foreseen demerits is entirely unknown. The faithful do not even suspect such a thing: so they suffer no difficulty from it. But to the relatively few who know it, and yet do not know the true solution, it is an occasion calling for great faith, and even of hope against hope. The theory of negative reprobation before foreseen demerits can even serve, providentially, as an instrument of passive purification in what St. John of the Cross calls the Dark Night.

9) In the great Encyclical on the Mystical Body, Pope Pius XII wrote:5

"Mysteries revealed by God cannot be harmful to men, nor should they remain without fruit, like a treasure hidden in a field; rather, they were divinely given precisely in order to contribute to the spiritual progress of those who devoutly contemplate them."

It is clear, then, that we should not fear to preach the mysteries of God to the faithful. The explanation we have proposed is such that no one need fear to explain it even to the unlettered. On the contrary, the theory of reprobation before foreseen demerits is such that even many of its backers, such as Garrigou-Lagrange, expressly warn priests not to preach on it. And experience shows that many souls who come to learn of it from reading or classes, are struck with terror, so that it seems impossible for them to trust in God. They say in themselves: "How can I know whether perhaps God wants to desert me, and give me only such grace that it would be metaphysically inconceivable for me to be saved, so as to punish me, so as to show vindicative justice by my eternal misery."

But if our explanation is presented, men are enkindled with greater love for our most loving Father. And it is so simple that even untrained persons can understand it. For we could say, even to a child: "God is our most loving Father. He made you out of pure generosity, even though He could not gain anything from you. In most intense love He wants to bring you and all His children to heaven. Even before we were born, in His infinite knowledge, He looked ahead, and made plans for us. He foresaw that some of His children would be persistent in resisting the rich abundance of graces He offers them. As a father in a human family, whose son is extremely and persistently wicked can be finally compelled, though sadly, to disinherit his son, so also our Father in heaven sadly disinherits those whom He sees will persist in throwing His graces away. But as for all others, He planned to give all graces, to care for them, and so to manage everything that they will most certainly arrive safely in heaven. He does this not because these children are good, but because He, our Father, is good. Of course, we can and should merit. And, if we do not resist grace, we will have merits. God will reward them, as a just judge. But these merits are not the reason why He began to love us, and continued to love us, and planned to arrange everything so that we would come to heaven-He does all this out of His love, if only we do not resist it too much. Really, all the good we do when we merit is His gift to us. He gave part of that gift when He made us, and gave us our abilities, and kept them in existence. The rest He gives at the very time when we do good. So, adding the two together, all the good comes from Him: all our good is His gift. So, when He crowns our merits, He is really crowning His own gifts.-And that is all we mean by predestination.


1 ST III.48.1 ad 2.
2 Ad Caeli Reginam. AAS 46. 634.
3 Cf. Pius XII, Menti nostrae, AAS 42. 666: "For Christ offers Himself to the Eternal Father . . . since, however, He Himself, the priest and victim, acts as the Head of the Church, He offers and immolates not only Himself, but all Christians. . . ."
4 Confessions 5.9.17.PL 32.714.
5 AAS 35. 197.

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