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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. 5: The universal salvific will"


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52. Only implicitly revealed in the Old Testament: Because the doctrine of salvation in the future life does not appear clearly and explicitly in the Old Testament before about the middle of the second century BC, we cannot expect to find any clear teaching in the earlier parts of the Old Testament on the universal salvific will.

However, the universal salvific will is implied with varying clarity in some texts. In calling Abraham, God said:1 "By you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." St. Paul interprets this text as follows:2 "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.'" Therefore, the call of all nations to salvation was already announced to Abraham. The same thought appears in many other passages, e.g., the Lord said to the "Servant of Jahweh" through Isaiah,3 "I am the Lord, I have called you . . . and given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations. . . . And again:4 "I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

Similarly, the doctrine of the universal mercy of God can contain an implication:5 "The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made." And again:6 "The compassion of man is for his neighbor, but the compassion of the Lord is for all living beings."

The mercy of God was given even to wicked nations. The book of Wisdom admires the fact that God did not at once destroy those who inhabited the Holy Land before the coming of the Hebrews:7 "Thou sparest all things, for they are thine O Lord, who lovest the living. Therefore thou dost correct little by little those who trespass." Even to Edom often considered as a classic type of reprobation, God said:8 "Leave your fatherless children, I will keep them alive, and let your widows trust in me." But in the book of Jonah, the sacred writer teaches that God loves and cares for even the Assyrians who, in the minds of the Jews, were the worst of all men. For God sent, or rather, forced the prophet to go to them. After God had miraculously caused a large plant to grow, and then had caused it to wither, Jonah was angry and concerned over the plant. God then taught him saying:9 "You pity the plant for which you did not labor nor did you make it grow. . . . And should not I pity Niniveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons. . . ." The implication is obvious: if God loves and cares for even the Assyrians who, to the mind of the Jews, were the worst of all peoples, then surely He must love absolutely all peoples.

The implication of the universal salvific will seems specially strong in the words of God to Ezekiel the prophet:10 "As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." In the literal sense, the passage seems to refer to physical death. However, if God does not desire even the physical death of the wicked man, but rather his conversion, much less does He wish his eternal death. Rather, He wills that all be converted and live.

53. Explicitly revealed in the New Testament: The same teaching is most clearly presented in the New Testament. For St. Paul teaches that God always provides the requisite help to avoid sin:11 "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." We notice especially the words: "God is faithful." St. Paul was deeply steeped in the teaching of the Old Testament that God had bound Himself by covenant to give help. So, in granting help, God was being "faithful" to His promises, and to the covenant.12 In the new infinite Covenant (or implicit pact: cf. chapter 4), God had bound Himself by an infinite title. Hence St. Paul, in the spirit of both covenants, teaches that God, out of fidelity, will always give the help to overcome all temptations.

St. Peter explicitly teaches the same doctrine, saying that God13 ". . . is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

But the principal passage on the salvific will is found in St. Paul's first Epistle to Timothy:14 "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men. . . . This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. . . ."

Presently we shall explore fully the meaning of this text. But first, it will be good to see the teaching of the Fathers of the Church on the same point.

54. The testimonies of the Fathers: The passages of the Fathers of the Church are extremely numerous. C. Passaglia15 gathered two hundred Patristic texts. We shall cite only selected passages, from both eastern and western Fathers. (Cf. also the Patristic texts on predestination in chapter 13.)

1) The Eastern Fathers: St. Hippolytus clearly teaches that God:16 "Casts aside . . . no one of His servants, loathes no one as unworthy of His divine mysteries . . . having mercy on all, and desiring to save all, wanting to make all sons of God and calling all saints into one perfect man." Still more eloquent are the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa:17 "'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. . . . 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. . . . 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." St. John Chrysostom expresses the same teaching in many places. Especially does he speak clearly in his Homily on enduring criticisms:18 "God never compels anyone by necessity and force, but He wills that all be saved, yet does not force anyone. . . . How then are not all saved if He wills all to be saved? Because not everyone's will follows His will. He compels no one. But even to Jerusalem He says:19 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered your children together, but you were unwilling.'" And again in his homilies on the Epistle to the Ephesians: ". . . he greatly longs after, greatly desires our salvation."20 St. John Damascene speaks similarly:21 "It is necessary to know that God antecedently 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 will and a giving way [and it comes] from our fault. . . ."22

2) The Western Fathers: St. Ambrose in a beautiful passage in which he speaks of Christ as a Levite, brings out the salvific love of God for all and for individuals:23 "'Levite' means 'undertaken for me'. . . . He therefore who was expected and came for the salvation of all, for me was born of the virginal womb, for me was offered, for me He tasted death, for me He rose. In Him the redemption of all men was undertaken. . . . The Redeemer is the Levite, for the wise man is the redemption of the unwise man. He, like a physician, cherishes the sick soul of the unwise man. . . . For He saw that those who suffered could not be saved without a remedy, and so He provided medicine for the sick. He gave the means of health to all precisely in order that whosoever perishes should attribute the causes of his death to himself, he who was unwilling to be cured although he had the remedy by which he could escape. Let the manifest mercy of Christ to all be proclaimed: for those who perish, perish by their own negligence; but those who are saved, are delivered according to the sentence of Christ, 'who wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.'" Several things are to be noted in this excellent passage: First, as we have said, he stresses the love of God for all and for individuals. Then, he distinguishes between the cause of ruin and the cause of salvation. The cause of salvation is in God; but the cause of ruin is in man alone "who was unwilling to be cured." It is obvious that St. Ambrose would never say that God deserts many before consideration of demerits. The same teaching stands out forcefully in the commentary of St. Ambrose on Psalm 39:24 "He wants all whom He has made and created to be His; would that you, O man, would not flee and . . . hide yourself; for He seeks even those who flee." St. Ambrose, of course, is merely saying the same things that Christ said about the lost sheep. Again, we are far from a theory of desertion before prevision of any fault.25

St. Jerome, like St. Ambrose stresses the fact that although God wills to save all, yet some are lost through their own fault:26 "'. . . He wills all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' But, because no one is saved without his own will (for we have free will), He wants us to will good, so that when we do, He may will to fulfil in us His plan."

St. Augustine in some passages27 seems to flatly deny that the salvific will of God is universal. However, in still other passages, he at least seems to speak in the same way as the other Fathers.28 He too explains that the difference between the elect and the reprobate depends on the human will:29 "'God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth;' but He does not [will it] in such a way as to take free will from them, by the good or bad use of which they may be judged most justly." In his Confessions he brings out beautifully the care of God for individuals:30 ". . . you care for each and every one as if you were caring for him alone, and you [care] in such a way for all, as if [you were caring for them] individually."

St. Prosper, who defended the teaching of St. Augustine after the latter's death, and answered objections for him, wrote:31 "Likewise, he who says that God does not will all men to be saved, but [only] a certain number who are predestined, speaks more harshly than one should speak about the loftiness of the inscrutable grace of God, 'who wills all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' and [who] fulfils the design of His will in those whom He predestined after foreknowing, called after predestining, justified after calling, glorified after justifying . . . so that those who are saved are saved for the reason that God wanted them to be saved, and those who perish, perish for the reason that they merited to perish." We note that St. Prosper repeats a distinction we have seen in other places: Salvation comes from the salvific will of God, which wills the salvation of all; but ruin comes from the wicked will of man.

Ambrosiaster expresses the same distinction:32 "'For God wills all men to be saved' but if they draw near to Him; for He does not wish [them to be saved] in such a way that those who are unwilling would be saved. But He wills them to be saved if they also will it. For surely He who gave the law to all, excepted no one from [His desire for their] salvation. Does not a physician make a public proclamation [of his profession] so that he may show he wants to heal all, on condition, however, that he is sought out by the sick? For there is no true health if it is given to one who is unwilling."

55. The doctrine of the salvific will is completely clear in the light of other Scriptural passages, and the Magisterium of the Church: Two questions must be answered in this regard. Actually, the solution is already clear both from Scripture and from the Fathers. But even greater clarity can be had from other parts of Sacred Scripture as they are interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church. The questions are these: Is the salvific will sincere, or is it a mere metaphor (or merely signified will)? How strong is this will?

1) The salvific will is sincere: All Catholic theologians admit that today. But in past times certain Catholics denied this truth or at least questioned it. Garrigou-Lagrange reports it thus:33 "The opinion of Cajetan and Bañez is that more probably the antecedent will [of God] in regard to the salvation of all men is only a signified will . . . a signified will is present in God only metaphorically. . . ." Here are the words of Bañez himself on the salvific will:34 "It seems much more probable that the will called 'velleity' is not formally present in God, but [rather that] it suffices that such an antecedent will be supposed to be in God eminently . . . for example, the attitude of a Christian man by which he wants all men to be saved [an attitude] of which God is the cause, must be in God either formally or eminently. Our conclusion in regard to the first alternative is established by the arguments given on the negative side [that is, the first alternative has been shown to be false]. It follows at once that the second alternative is true. Because such a will is not in God formally, it must be in God eminently, since God is the cause of it in the saints." In other words: God Himself does not really want all to be saved, but, inasmuch as He causes men to want this, we say that this will for the salvation of all is in God eminently, although actually, He does not Himself want all to be saved.

In passing, we might note that it is not surprising that Bañez wrote this way. For he is the very father of the interpretation of St. Thomas in which God deserts man before consideration of demerits.35 An excellent Thomist, F. Muñiz, OP, wrote well about this desertion theory:36 "Negative reprobation before prevision of sins seems to us to be completely incompatible with the universal salvific will of God." And actually, the conclusion is entirely obvious. For God cannot both sincerely will all men to be saved, and yet, without any fault on their part, desert them, giving them only graces with which it would be metaphysically impossible for them to be saved. For if God alone, without any consideration of free conditions in man, determines the eternal lot for each man in such a way that men in no way can "distinguish themselves," then, if God reprobates anyone, He cannot at the same time sincerely say He wants that same man to be saved.37 Nor can it be said that God merely permits such men to ruin themselves, as we have already seen.38 But Bañez in making the statement we have just read, was merely bringing out what is implicit in his system. He, the father of the system, surely should know what it implies. As we have seen, Cajetan agrees with Bañez.

But we, along with all Catholic theologians today, know that the universal salvific will is sincere. We know this because of the clarity of many passages of Scripture quoted above, and because of the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. But we can also show in another way that that will is beyond doubt sincere, namely, with the help of other passages of Scripture. Now St. Thomas teaches that:39 ". . . to love is to will good to someone." Elsewhere, speaking specifically of the divine love, he makes it clear that to love someone is not merely to will good to him, but to do so for his own sake.40 Therefore, to will salvation to anyone for his own sake is to love him. In other words, the salvific will is really one aspect, and the chief expression, of the love of God for men. Therefore, if we ask whether the salvific will is sincere, it is the same as asking whether the love of God for men is sincere. But it would be one of the worst of heresies to deny that God sincerely loves all men. Therefore, the salvific will is sincere, and is not a mere signified will, nor a mere metaphor.

The qualification that to love is to will the other's good for his own sake is important. For in the system of the older Thomists (following St. Augustine, as we shall see41), God predestines in order to manifest His goodness by means of mercy, and reprobates in order to manifest His goodness by means of justice. But in such a system, God does not love anyone, even the predestined. For He wills their salvation not for their own sake, but just to make a point.

2) The salvific will is most vehement in its desire: Some theologians hold opinions which contain the implication that the salvific will, although sincere, is very weak. For example, they say that God will deny the graces without which it is metaphysically inconceivable for a man to be saved, even on account of an inculpable42 inadvertence in man. They fall into this opinion because they try to solve the question by metaphysics, although St. Thomas warns:43 "Those things . . . that depend solely on the will of God . . . cannot be known to us except insofar as they are handed down in Sacred Scripture. . . ." But the strength of God's desire to save all men is not determined by metaphysical necessity, but by the generous free decision of God.

To solve the question, we come back to the words we quoted above from St. Thomas: ". . . to love is to will good to someone [for his own sake]." So, just as we saw above that to ask whether the salvific will is sincere is the same thing as to ask whether the love of God for men is sincere, in the same way, to ask how great is the strength of the salvific will is the same thing as to ask how strong is the love of God for men.

How strong is the love of God? We can get a gauge on the strength of any love by seeing how great are the obstacles it can surmount. A great love can ride over even great obstacles; a small love can overcome only small obstacles. But, as we saw in chapter 4, the love of the Father for men was so great that He did not even spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for all of us, not to become man in a palace, but in a stable; not to live a comfortable life, but to die wretchedly on a cross-although actually, even the least act of a God-man would have been enough to provide infinite compensation. He did this out of a most intense love by which He not only wanted to give pardon and grace to men, but willed even to bind Himself to do so, by infinite objective titles which were made both for the establishment of the treasury of grace, and for the dispensation of that treasury. All these things were done not only for men in a group but for each individual, as we have seen from the official interpretation given by Pope Pius XII of the words of St. Paul:44 ". . . our Divine Redeemer was nailed to the cross more by love than by the violence of the executioners; and His voluntary holocaust is the supreme gift that He imparted to each individual man, according to the terse statement of the Apostle: 'He loved me and gave Himself up for me.'" The love of God is so great that the same Pope could also speak of,45 ". . . the infinite love of God for the human race" and again:46 ". . . in the parables of mercy . . . the very Heart of God is manifested." As a result of this love:47 "There is no doubt that the heavenly Father 'who has not spared even his own Son but has delivered him for us all,' being asked by so great an advocate [Christ] will at all times send down upon all a rich abundance of divine graces."

Therefore, the precise measure of the salvific will is this: God wants the salvation of all men to such an extent that He did not spare even His only Son, but sent Him to the most dreadful death of the Cross, in order to establish infinite objective titles for each individual man, so that Pope Pius XII could rightly speak of the "infinite love of God for the human race."

3) Another, closely related, aspect of the salvific will can be seen through God's love of the objective moral order. As we have already seen48 in the Thomistic principle of ST I.19.5.c., God in His love of objective goodness likes to have a reason (or title) provided for giving something, even though He would have given it anyway.

According to this principle, God's reasons for acting are always twofold: He acts for objective goodness, and He acts for our benefit. In order for these two reasons to harmonize, thus preserving the moral order, the title established must correspond to the gift to be given. Thus, we can judge God's love for us by means of His love for the moral order; the two are, in a sense, inseparable.

But as we have just mentioned,49 the passion and death of Christ were, in a sense, completely superfluous, since the slightest act which He performed, as the act of an infinite person, was of infinite value. Nevertheless, the Father willed that His Son only suffer the horrible death of the cross. Not only this, but he freely willed that to the infinite merits of Christ be added the truly immense merits of His Mother, though in such a way that her role neither takes away or adds anything to the dignity and the efficacy of the one mediator.50

The role which God has given to our Lady is an especially strong testimony to His salvific will. He did not need to give that role, and yet He did, as we know from 17 magisterial texts, including statements from every Pope from Leo XIII to John Paul II inclusive, as well as from Vatican II.51 (We note that anything taught repeatedly by the ordinary Magisterium is infallible: the repetition shows the intent to make it final and definitive).

What is that role? She really contributed to our salvation, not just by bearing Christ, but also by sharing in the great sacrifice. The texts, especially Vatican II, say she did this by way of obedience. When she first gave her fiat, she accepted all the Father willed her to do. At Calvary, the Father willed that her Son die, die so horribly. So, since perfection in any soul requires it to will what the Father wills, she had to will that He die so horribly, in spite of her unimaginable love.

In both the sacrificial and covenantal aspects of the redemption, the thing that gives value is obedience. Thus she did join in offering Him, in making the covenant, and so she really shared in producing the objective title for all grace and forgiveness, in dependence on Him, with Him.

Is it strange that Our Father chose to employ Our Lady with Jesus to, as it were, add her to the infinite offering of Jesus? Actually, as we just noted there is a parallel to this in the suffering of Our Lord itself. If Jesus had been born in a palace and had never suffered, but had soon ascended after the Incarnation, that would have been infinite redemption, in merit and in satisfaction. Yet the Father chose to add infinity to infinity. It should not seem strange, then, that He also freely decided to add the finite but truly immense merits of Mary.

Thus we see that in the redemption, the Father was pleased to make the reasons for giving grace as rich as possible. So, He wanted to add her obedience. We conclude, then, that God has bound himself to give men grace without limit, a fact which Christ himself confirms, speaking through the Roman liturgy of Good Friday: "What more ought I have done for you, and have not done it?"

It is entirely obvious that a salvific will of such a kind and of such force not only finds no obstacle whatever in the inculpable inadvertence of a man, but rather, it sets no limits whatsoever which it will not pass to save individuals (short of miracles: for the extraordinary cannot become the ordinary). Therefore, if a man is not saved, this can happen only because he sets limits52 to the action of God in him. God Himself sets no limits.

From the fact that infinite objective titles were established for each individual, we can see an added proof, in addition to those we saw above53 against the view of some Thomists who want to say that even though God sincerely wills the salvation of all, yet He desires the order of the universe more than the salvation of individuals, so that He reprobates many for the sake of the order of the universe. In replying, we must first recall that the order of the universe is not itself the glory of God, but a means to that glory, and a finite means at that. For St. Thomas defines glory as54 "nothing other than clear knowledge with praise." The salvation of men is also a means to the glory of God. Now, howsoever much we may suppose that God wills the order of the universe as a means to His glory, He does not will it more than He wills the salvation of individual human beings. For His will for the salvation of individuals is, as we have seen, measured by the passion and by the infinite objective titles for each individual, so that Pius XII could rightly speak of "the infinite love of God for the human race," as we saw above. Furthermore, if God had willed to provide for the salvation of men only as a group, and not for the salvation of individuals, He would have merely established some objective titles for men as a group-He would not have established infinite titles for individuals. For, in establishing infinite titles for each individual, He has bound Himself to provide for the salvation of each individual, so that unless individuals resist or fail in their part,55 He owes it to Himself to give the means to bring them to salvation. He could not take upon Himself that obligation even towards individuals when He already had it in mind to desert many of the same individuals for the order of the universe, before foreseeing the desertion by the same individuals. For then He would contradict Himself and accept an obligation He had determined in advance, not to keep.

Actually, as we saw in chapter 3, the Vatican Council I teaches that God wills the salvation of men and His own glory to be inseparable.

Now we can understand better the words of St. Thomas which we saw above:56 "In created things, nothing can be greater than the salvation of a rational creature." And he did not add: "Except the order of the universe."

56. This teaching of Pius XII is by no means new. It is simply a beautiful expression of a truth contained in Holy Scripture which the Church always has taught, teaches, and will teach. St. Thomas puts it well, speaking of the testimony of Scripture on the passion:57 "By this man knows how much God loves man, and by this he is moved to love God. . . . Hence the Apostle says:58 'God proves His love towards us, because when as yet we were sinners, Christ died for us.'"

Similarly, as Pius XII pointed out in a passage cited above ". . . in the parables of mercy . . . the very Heart of God is manifested." But the parables of mercy, in which God's attitude is revealed, never represent Him as deserting a sinner so that He can punish him, but instead, as leaving the 99 in the desert, to seek the one that has strayed, for, as St. Ambrose says in a text we have just seen, "He wants all whom He has made and created to be His; would that you, O man, would not flee . . . for He seeks even those who flee."

57. The same truth is also contained in the analogy of the Father which Christ Himself so often presented in the Gospel. For no father who has even ordinary human goodness wishes to desert any of his children who has done no wrong. Even a pagan, Cicero, saw this truth and expressed it well. For, after speaking of the love between parents and children that exists even in the animal world he added:59 "This is even more evident among human beings, first of all, as a result of that love which exists between children and parents, a love that cannot be put asunder except by a detestable crime." How much less can the love of the best of Fathers60 "from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its name" desert a son for no fault or for a mere inculpable inadvertence.

Pope John XXIII taught that the love of God for all His children is even greater than a mother's love. For, in writing about St. John Vianney, the Pope said:61 "He spared no labors in making himself the minister of divine mercy which, to use his words, 'like an overflowing river, carries all souls along with it' and beats with a more than motherly love 'since God is quicker to pardon than a mother is to snatch her son from the fire.'" Now if God is quicker to pardon than a mother is in rescuing a son from a fire, how could we conceive of God as deserting a son before any fault, or for an inculpable inadvertence, so that that son would fall into fire, not just for a few moments, but forever?

58. Confirmatory argument from reason: Even if we did not have the revelation of the universal salvific will, we could gather much about its existence and nature from the very fact of creation (though we could not know it is measured by infinite objective titles for each individual). For in creating man, God made creatures to His own image and likeness inasmuch as He made them with a spiritual intellect and will. At least in this sense it would be clear from reason alone that He can be called their Father. Now, if anyone procreates children, it is not merely from a positive law made by God, but from the very nature of things that that man contracts an obligation of caring for the offspring. Similarly, if God freely becomes a Father, from the very nature of things He will owe it to Himself to sincerely care for them. Therefore, infallibly He will not will their ruin. And this will will be sincere. For a metaphorical will, a mere signified will, would not be enough to fulfill the obligation of a parent. So God will owe it to Himself to really-and not just metaphorically-care for His children. Furthermore, by the very nature of things, the glory of any good father as a father lies in the well being of his children. Hence, the father will not seek glory through the ruin of his children. If anyone of them perishes, this detracts from the glory of the father.62

59. Conclusions: 1) It is a revealed truth that the universal salvific will is sincere and most vehement, for it is measured by the immense difficulty of the passion and by infinite objective titles, established at such labor, for each individual. Therefore God sets no limits that He will not pass in caring for the salvation of individuals (short of the miraculous: for the extraordinary cannot become the ordinary). He could not reprobate for the order of the universe because He could not, knowing in advance of such a "necessity," still bind Himself by infinite objective titles in favor of each individual.

2) There is no reprobation, positive or negative, before prevision of demerits. God cannot at one and the same time reprobate with no consideration of demerits, and still say sincerely that He wills the salvation of a man who cannot "distinguish himself."63

3) The opinion of Bañez that the universal salvific will is "much more probably" only a metaphorical will, is totally incompatible with revelation. Therefore, any system in which this point of his is an essential part must be rejected.

4) The theory of those theologians who hold that God does not save many because He merely passes them by, or "excludes them from an undue benefit," likewise contradicts the revelation about the salvific will. (Actually, that theory has two roots: (a) An attempt to determine by metaphysical means that which God has freely decided. For the question is not what God metaphysically must do but what He freely has decided to do. He has freely decided to bind Himself by infinite objective titles for each individual. These theologians miss that fact completely, and as a result, say that God is not bound to do anything for individuals, so that He could reject in advance of any prevision of demerits, or after prevision of inculpable inadvertence in men. (b) A misinterpretation of Rom. 8:28- 9:24.64

5) As we have seen, St. Thomas says, speaking of the passion, that: "By this, man knows how much God loves man, and by this he is moved to love God. . . ." Now if God willed to desert many before prevision of demerits, man would not be moved to love God, because no one could know which ones God would plan to desert and could not know whether perhaps he himself would be among those deserted. For example, if I had to fear that perhaps God might intend to desert me, with no consideration of my demerits, I would not be moved to love Him in thinking of the passion, which merited a salvation which God would not care to give to me even though He could do so with no difficulty. Rather, I would be left in terror of God.

60. Objection 1: But, in negative reprobation, God does not really desert: He merely permits man to ruin himself if he wishes.

Answer: We have already replied, above, in §51.65

61. Objection 2: If God wills all men to be saved why are not all saved? God can do all things.

Answer: Just as a human father can have vehement love for all his children, and yet disinherit a son because of many and great offenses, so also our heavenly Father. For, as we saw in several of the citations given above from the Fathers of the Church, God is unwilling to force anyone. He made us free. If we wish to use our freedom perversely, we are able to do so, for God will not force our liberty. St. Thomas puts it well:66 "The power of the divine incarnation is indeed sufficient for the salvation of all. The fact that some are not saved thereby comes from their indisposition, because they are unwilling to receive the fruit of the incarnation within themselves. . . . For freedom of will, by which he can adhere or not adhere to the incarnate God, was not to be taken away from man, lest the good of man be forced, and so be rendered meritless and unpraiseworthy."

If God had left anyone with little or no opportunity for salvation, He would have little or no will for the salvation of that man. But actually, God has provided infinite objective titles for each individual, and has done so by surmounting the tremendous obstacle of sending His only Son to die so dreadful a death. He has proved, therefore, as we saw above,67 that He sets no limits, short of the miraculous, which He will not pass to save an individual. Man himself sets limits, by his resistance to grace. As we shall see later,68 God could forestall or overcome that resistance, but that would require a strictly extraordinary grace, comparable to a miracle.

Even if God, without going so far, had provided merely a really good opportunity of salvation, that would prove a really sincere salvific will.

62. Objection 3: Before original sin, God had wanted to save all men. But by original sin, the whole human race became a "mass of damnation."69 It no longer is much of a concern to God whether or not a given individual is saved. Rather, He saves some just to show He is merciful, and deserts others, to show He is just.

Answer: Historically, this objection arose from an erroneous interpretation of Romans 9, as we saw in chapter 1. When the foundation falls, that which is built on it must also fall.

However, we have already refuted this objection above,70 and shown that to desert anyone thus would be contrary to the covenant (or implicit agreement) by which God bound Himself, and did so even after original sin and as a remedy for it. Now we can add that it would also be contrary to the revelation of the universal salvific will, which was made after original sin, and was proved to be most vehement after original sin. For we must ask: How great an obstacle to the love of God and the salvific will is original sin? Is it such an obstacle as to make the love of God turn into indifference to men, so that it would no longer matter to Him whether or not a particular man would be saved or lost but rather, He would blindly (before prevision of demerits) choose some for damnation, to display justice, and others for salvation, to display mercy? Most certainly not, and for many reasons.

First, as we have seen, even after original sin, God so loved men that He spared not His only Son, but sent Him to the cross precisely to repair the damage of original sin and other sins. So His love did not stop after original sin. Rather, His love was the cause of the Redemption. As St. Thomas says of the passion:71 "By this man knows how much God loves man, and by this he is moved to love God. . . . Hence the Apostle says:72 'God proves73 His love towards us, because when as yet we were sinners [by original and personal sins], Christ died for us.'" So, after original sin, God bound Himself by infinite objective titles towards each individual man.

But we not only note that God bound Himself after original sin. We see also that the measure of God's love is such that original sin is a very small obstacle in comparison (for we recall that love can be measured by the size of obstacle it can surmount). On the one hand, the love of God is measured by the difficulty of the passion, and by the infinite objective titles created for each man. On the other hand, what is the size of the obstacle in original sin? St. Thomas explains it thus:74 ". . . among all sins, original [as found in the descendants of Adam] is the least, since it has the least voluntariness in it; for it is not voluntary by the will of the person [in whom it is found] but solely by the will of the origin of human nature. But actual sin, even venial, is voluntary by the will of the person in whom it is found. And so a lesser penalty is due to original sin than to venial sin." Now, God will desert no one on account of a venial sin. Therefore, He will not desert for that which, in us, is less than venial sin.

Furthermore, St. Thomas teaches that God actually gives no positive punishment to those who die with only original sin. Rather, he says that these:75 ". . . will not grieve at all over the absence of the divine vision. Rather they will rejoice in that they will participate much in the divine goodness in natural perfections." Therefore, if they who die in original sin not only do not suffer, but even rejoice, we can see the attitude of God towards original sin in us.

Actually, the objection implies a denial of both the value of the redemption, and of the salvific will.

63. Objection 4: If the salvific will is sincere, why are not infants who die without baptism saved?

Answer: Before answering directly it is good to note that it is not entirely certain that unbaptized infants are not saved. The opinion of St. Thomas, which theologians rather generally follow, says that they have only a natural happiness.76 Some good theologians differ from this view and hold out hope of full salvation. But even if the opinion of St. Thomas is true it does not prove that the salvific will is not sincere and most vehement.

For, in the present order, God has most wisely and most lovingly established natural laws, partly as a result of the very metaphysical nature of reality, partly out of a loving positive decision. For example, according to the ordinary physical laws, no man can walk upon the water. Christ did it, but He did it by a miracle. He could not do it without a miracle. Now Wisdom does not allow the miraculous or the extraordinary to become the regular thing: for then, the extraordinary would be ordinary. That is an inherent contradiction.

In regard to the infants, then: God could not without multiplying miracles, prevent all infants from dying in infancy without baptism. Many die from physical causes before birth. Many are born of parents who, even though they are in good faith, either deny the necessity of baptism, or are completely ignorant of baptism. As St. Paul says, it is inevitable, as a result of human weakness, that there will be many divisions and differences of views among men. Those who first originate a heresy or schism are apt to do so knowingly, and are not so apt to be free of guilt. But yet, the later generations, born in those sects, can easily be in good faith. Similarly, pagans who do not know of baptism are normally in good faith. So, without an immense multiplication of miracles, God could not prevent all infants from dying without baptism.

Even a vehement salvific will does not require that God should make the extraordinary ordinary. On the contrary, wisdom forbids it.

Further light on the problem can be had by speculating on the reason why a particular infant is providentially assigned to a place and situation in which it will die without baptism. Revelation does not give us the answer, but there is a very plausible conjecture, made by a great Doctor of the Church, St. Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote:77 "It is likely that He who knows the future as well as the past, prevents the progress of the life of the infant to full maturity, lest the evil which He foresees by His power of prevision be accomplished by the one who would have lived in that way. . . . We conjecture this about the death of newborn infants, that He who does all things reasonably, in His love of men, takes away the opportunity for evil, not giving to the [human] will the opportunity that is known by His power of prevision. . . ."

That is, St. Gregory suggests that since it is inevitable that many infants will die without baptism, God assigns particular infants to situations in which they will die without baptism, out of His love of men. For He knows that these particular ones, if allowed to grow to maturity, would fall into many sins and die in them. Thus they would suffer the fire of hell: but by dying in infancy, they are mercifully spared that, and given instead, a natural happiness.

Of course, it is obvious that not all men who would otherwise go to hell are cut off thus in infancy. This too, would probably call for multiplication of miracles. But the opinion of St. Gregory is highly plausible, at least.

But someone may ask: Could not God have made a different order of nature, in which no infant would have died in infancy?

We reply that He probably could have, but for excellent reasons, which we can guess only in part, He did not do so. Perhaps the reason was that, in line with the opinion of St. Gregory, there is more room for mercy in the present order. Perhaps there are other even better reasons, hidden from us, but known to infinite Wisdom.

We need to be very careful in this and similar matters, that we do not say that because we, weak men, cannot find the reasons in the mind of God, there are no good reasons present. We know by revelation that the universal salvific will is sincere and most vehement. It is sufficient to know this revealed fact. It is not necessary that we know how to reconcile that fact with the problem of infants. Just as a Catholic who encounters an objection against the faith which he cannot solve is not required-nor permitted-to call his faith into doubt; so we are not permitted to question the reality and force of the salvific will because we do not know all of the how it can be reconciled with the fate of infants-especially when that fate itself is not perfectly certain.

64. Objection 5: If God really wants all men to be saved, what are we to say of the salvation of so many pagans?

This objection will be answered in Appendix II on The Universal Salvific Will and Subjective Redemption. For now, it will suffice to say two things. First, as we have already seen,78 God bound himself to grant graces to each individual man. Those who accept grace have the Spirit of Christ, and all those who have the Spirit of Christ pertain in some way to the Church,79 and thus are not excluded from salvation. Second, God's vehement desire for the salvation of all men will affect the way he orders the external economy, insofar as this economy bears on salvation.

[N.B. §§ 65-69 of the original edition form part of the material of Appendix II in the present edition (§§ 535a-542).]

70. Objection 6: If God really wants all to be saved, why did He make us so weak, especially in regard to sex?

Answer: We will reply first in regard to weakness in general; and afterwards in particular about sexual matters.

In general, we must note in advance that even if we were unable to find any answer, that would not prove that God does not sincerely and vehemently desire our salvation. For the sincerity and force of the salvific will is taught in revelation.

But we can find at least some of the divine reasons. For, even though we sin more easily out of weakness, we also, as a result of our very changeability, are more easily converted. Perhaps as a result, more are saved. The angels did not have any weakness, yet many fell: and they were incapable of receiving a second chance precisely because by their very nature they were strong and immutable. Similarly, Adam and Eve before the fall were not weak, but still fell. God, who commands us to forgive seventy times seven times, is always ready to forgive, and gives us graces whose measure is found in infinite objective titles for each individual. Compare also the words of St. Paul to the Romans:80 "God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all."

In regard to human weakness in sexual matters, someone might wish to ask: Could not God have provided for the multiplication of our race in some other way? We must admit that He surely could have done so. But again, we must trust in the goodness of our Father. He loves to give us opportunities of meriting through faith, by putting before us seeming insoluble difficulties. For example, Abraham had to believe that God would give Him a great posterity through Isaac, as He had promised, and yet be ready to obey the divine order to sacrifice the same Isaac. Again, all the Jews, throughout most of the Old Testament period, had to believe that God rewards and punishes justly in spite of the fact that, on the one hand, they did not know that God rewards and punishes in the future life, and, on the other hand, they saw that sinners often fare very well, while good men are often afflicted, even to the end of their lives.

71. But, to return to the reply proper: The sex appetite is very valuable not only for the multiplication of the human race, but also in producing suitable dispositions for salvation. For when a baby is born, it at first is aware only of itself, and thinks of all others as existing solely for it. But, in order that a man may become fit to enjoy God in heaven, he must learn to love and think of others-other humans, and God. We do not learn this easily. But the sex appetite is a great help, in the following way.

Man consists of two elements, matter and spirit. These two are so bound together that, in the present life, no condition can exist in either one without tending to promote as it were a resonance in the other. In fact, even though our intellect is a spiritual faculty yet, we are unable to think if our material cerebrum should be injured, for it is the immediate instrument of the spiritual intellect.

Now love has a twofold aspect: sensory love (and even sexual love in some instances) in the body, and spiritual love in the spiritual will. Love is essentially in the will. As St. Thomas says,81 "to love is to will good to someone." Yet, the starter to love is found in the perception of some goodness or excellence in another. Under the influence of this starter, we begin to will that the other remain so fine, and even grow in goodness, and be well off and happy. And, if the love is true, we also wish to work to bring about the welfare and happiness of the other. How far we will go, depends on the strength of the love.

The process of sexual attraction runs as follows: A young man sees a certain girl. She seems good to him-or rather, wonderful (because of the sexual attraction). This reaction serves as a starter not only for the sex appetite, but also for love in the will. For love in the will starts with the perception of goodness or excellence but this girl, thanks to the sex attraction, seems not just good, but wonderful.

Hence, the sex drive promotes real love in two ways: (1) Because the sexual attraction makes another seem good or wonderful, and so provides the natural starter for love in the spiritual will, (2) Because any condition in the one part of man, matter or spirit, tends to produce the corresponding resonance in the other part: the spiritual resonance will be love in the will.82 Thus the man who began life thinking only of himself, now is powerfully moved to think and labor for another. The very vehemence of the sex appetite carries him outside himself, to the love of another. Later, if he marries, and if there are children, he will be naturally led to generous love of the children. For a human father, as we have said before, loves and cares for the children not because the children are good, but because he, the father, is good.

Therefore the benefits of the sex appetite are very great since it almost forces one to go outside himself and love others, and to work generously for them. But all these things are an excellent natural disposition for love of neighbor; and they dispose to love of God, inasmuch as love of God and love of neighbor are interconnected, and also because the children, seeing the goodness of their father, can easily learn about the goodness of God who has willed to be and to be called our Father.

72. Furthermore, the great struggle that is needed against sexual temptations greatly promotes the virtue of humility. For sometimes even very good persons can hardly help wondering a bit, after a long hard fight, whether they really have come through unscathed, or at least they have learned by experience that they are not strong by their own strength. But, the virtue of humility is peculiarly necessary for salvation. As Scripture says:83 "For pride is the beginning of all sin." Great then is the value of the sexual appetite in promoting the virtue that contradicts the very source of sin.

Further, the Lord Himself revealed to St. Paul that,84 "power is made perfect in weakness," so that St. Paul added: "I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me."85

73. Objection 7: God really wills to save all, but He loves more the good of the order of the universe. Therefore, for the good of the universe, He deserts some, so that He may have some to punish, to display justice in punishing.

Answer: The answer was already given above.86 Additional explanations will be given in the appendix of this book.


1 Gn 12:3.
2 Gal. 3:8.
3 Is 42:6-7. Cf. Jer.16:19-21.
4 Is 49:6.
5 Ps 144:9.
6 Sir 18:12.
7 Wis 11:26 and 12:1-2.
8 Jer 49:11.
9 Jon 4:10-11
10 Ez 33:11.
11 1 Cor 10:13.
12 Cf. chapter 4 on the covenant. Even if someone would say that St. Paul in this passage does not have the covenant in mind, it is at least clear that he means God bound Himself by promise.
13 2 Pt. 3:9
14 1 Tm 2:1-6.
15 De partitione divinae voluntatis, Romae, 1851. Cf. also the Patristic texts on predestination in chapter 13 below.
16 De Antichristo 3. PG 10.731.
17 Adv. Apollinarium 29. PG 45.1187
18 Homilia de ferendis reprehensionibus 6. PG 51.144.
19 In Ephesios, cap. 1. Hom. 1, n. 2. PG 62.13.
20 The Greek: sphodra ephietai, sphodra epithymei.
21 De fide orthodoxa 2.29. PG 94.970.
22 Cf. other passages in § 202 below
23 De Cain et Abel 2.3.11. PL 14.364-65.
24 In Ps. 39, n. 20. PL 14.1117.
25 Cf. § 51.
26 In Ephes. 1.1.11. PL 26.485.
27 Cf. § 206.2.
28 Cf. below §§ 207-12.
29 De spiritu et littera 33.58. PL 44.238.
30 Confessions 3.11.19. PL 32.692.
31 Resp. ad capit. Galiorzum 8. PL 51.172.
32 In 1 Tm. 2.4. PL 17.492.
33 De Deo uno, Desclee de Brouwer, Lutetiae Parisiorum, 1938, p. 418.
34 D. Banez OP, Scholastica commentaria in primam partem Angelici Doctoris D. Thomae, Romae, 1584. In I 19.6. col. 363 (emphasis mine)
35 Cf. §§ 7 and 51.
36 In his commentary in: Suma Teologica de Santo Tomas de Aquino, B.A.C., 2nd ed., Madrid, 1957. I. p. 704. Cf. § 280 below and J. H. Nicolas, OP, "La permission du peche" in Revue Thomiste, 1960. 4. p. 537: ". . . negative reprobation involves a kind of indifference in respect to the actual salvation of the one who is not chosen."
37 Cf. §§ 6.8, 51, 119.
38 Cf. § 51.
39 ST I-II 26.4.c. If anyone should object: "Even if the love of God is sincere, that might mean only that He sincerely wishes some good to men. It need not prove that God goes so far as to sincerely wish salvation to each man." We reply: The Redemption, the Passion, really did go so far, for its very purpose was to attain salvation, and to earn it for each individual man (cf. § 48 above). The vehemence of that love was proved (cf. Rom 5:8 and § 56) by the very difficulty of the Passion, and by the infinite objective titles (cf. § 48) established at such cost for each individual man.
Really, God not only wills the good of salvation to all, but considers each man as somehow one with Him: ST II-II 27.2.c: "But the love that is in the intellectual appetite also differs from benevolence: for it involves a certain union according to affection,of the lover to the one loved; that is, inasmuch as the lover considers the loved as in a certain way one with him, or pertaining to him, and so is moved towards that one."
40 SCG I 91.3: "For true love, it is required that one will another's good insofar as it is the other's. For if someone wills another's good only because it contributes to his own, the other is loved only accidentally. So a man who wills that wine be kept in order that he may drink it, or loves a man only as useful or enjoyable to himself, loves the wine or the man accidentally; what he loves for its own sake is himself. But God wills each thing's good as such. He wills each thing to be because it is good in itself, though he also orders one to another's use."
41 § 208.
42 See § 130 below, where the passage itself is quoted and commented on. Cf. also §§ 7 and 51.
43 ST III 1.3.c.
44 Haurietis aquas. AAS 48.333. Cf. also §§ 32 and 48.
45 Ibid, p. 315.
46 Ibid., p. 330.
47 Ibid, p. 337.
48 Cf. §44.
49 §45.
50 Lumen gentium, 62.
51 ASS 27.178, 28.130-131, 36.453-455; AAS 10.182, 15.104, 20.178, 35.247, 38.266, 42.768, 45.583, 46.634-635, 51.713, 55.10, 79.382-383; Vatican II, On the Church, §§ 58, 61; Pius XI, Radio message to Lourdes, L'Osservatore Romano, Apr. 29, 1935; John Paul II, Allocution at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guayaquil, Ibid., Supplement, Feb. 2, 1985.
52 Cf. § 153.2.
53 Cf. §§ 32-35, 39.
54 ST I-II 2.3.c. Cf. § 526.
55 Cf. § 318, esp. the citation from the Council of Trent.
56 Cf. § 39.2.
57 ST III 46.3.c.
58 Rom 5:8: my translation. On the meaning of the Greek synistesin, Cf.: W. F. Arndt-F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Chicago, 1957, s.v. synistemi I. c.
59 De amicitia 27.
60 Eph 3:15.
61 Sacerdotii nostri primordia. AAS 51. 574 (emphasis mine). The internal quotes are from St. John Vianney: the Pope obviously makes them his own.
62 Cf. also § 298.
63 Cf. §§ 6.8, 119-120.
64 Cf. chapter 1 above.
65 Cf. also § 130 below.
66 CG 4.55. Cf. the explanation of this passage in § 121.
67 C. §§ 55.2.
68 Cf. §§ 120-122; 126-127, 153.2, 228-231, 289-294.
69 Cf. § 208.
70 Cf. § 49-3.
71 ST III 46.3.c.
72 Rom 5:8.
73 Cf. note 58 above.
74 2 Sent. d. 33, q. 2, a. 1. ad 2. Cf. III 1.4.c: "A thing can be said to be greater in two ways. In one way, intensively; for example, whiteness is greater which is more intense; and in this way, actual sin is greater than original sin, since it has more voluntariness in it. . . . In the other way, something is greater extensively, e.g., whiteness is said to be greater which is over a greater area, and in this way original sin, by which the whole human race is infected, is greater than any actual sin. . . ."
75 2 Sent. 4.33, q. 2, a.3.c.
76 Cf. note 75 above.
77 De infantibus qui praemature abripiuntur, PG 46.183.
78 §48.
79 Cf. chapter 4, note 87.
80 Rom 11:32.
81 ST I-II 26.4.c.
82 What is said above holds for those who obey the commands of God in this matter. But if, on the contrary, youths who think they love one another lead each other into sins against chastity, then the sexual appetite does not produce true love-it is nearer to hate. For he who leads another into grave sin, does not really will the other's good, since he deprives the other of sanctifying grace, the greatest good in this life, and places the other (and himself) in danger of losing all happiness in the future life.
83 Sir 10:15.
84 2 Cor 12:9.
85 Cf. § 357.
86 §§ 32-35, 39, 55.2.