Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

The Father William Most Collection


[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]

See also the first two files in this group of three, "Predestination: Reasons for Centuries-Old Impasse", and "St. Thomas on Actual Grace".

Definition of Terms: Predestination means an arrangement of Divine Providence to see to it that someone gets either, 1) heaven or 2) full membership in the Church. We specify full membership because thee is also a lesser degree, a substantial membership which can suffice for final salvation.

From the beginning, the two kinds have usually been telescoped, i.e., no distinction was made. Thus the parable of the banquet has been understood to refer to both final salvation and to full membership in the Church. This is regrettable, for the two are different in themselves, different in the principles on which God makes His decisions.

Reprobation is the unfavorable decision, to let someone go to final ruin.

It is asked: Does God make both kinds of decisions, predestination and reprobation, before or after considering merits and demerits? Since there is no time in God, this really means with or without taking into account merits and demerits.

It has been assumed by all that if God decides to predestine without considering merits, He must decide reprobation without considering demerits. And if He decides to predestine with considering merits and demerits, He must decide reprobation in the same way. This view comes from the belief that a person is either predestined or reprobated: both are two sides of the same coin. This view has been considered as obvious, as inescapable.

Nonetheless, it is not inescapable. As we shall see there is a way to separate the two sides, i.e., to say that He predestines without merits, but reprobates only after considering demerits.

Views of the Thomists and the Molinists:

a) Thomists: they say that God predestines and reprobates without considering merits or demerits. Objection: Here is Joe Doaks, whom God has decided to reprobate without even seeing how Joe lives. Can He do this, and also say (1 Tim 2:4) that He wills all to be saved - which would include Joe Doaks? Obviously not.

This impossibility was admitted by the real founder of the "Thomist" system, Domingo Bañez who was followed by Cardinal Cajetan. But later generations of Dominicans insisted this view is not incompatible with 1 Tim 2:4. What they failed to see is this: To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. So to will salvation to all is to love. So in this "Thomist" view, God would not love Joe Doaks. And because He would decide to reprobate many without any consideration of their demerits, He would really not love anyone at all.

Did St. Thomas himself hold this view? By no means. Let us picture Thomas as standing on the rim of a circle. On it he seems to find two points from each of which he can draw a line to hit the center, the true answer. He actually thought he had two such points.

1) In Contra gentiles 3. 159ss he started from 1 Tim 2:4: "Since a man cannot be directed to his ultimate end except by the help of divine grace, someone might think a man should not be blamed if he lacks these things, especially since he cannot merit the help of divine grace or turn to God unless God turns him.... But... many unsuitable things obviously follow... he would not be worthy of punishment.... To solve this problem we must notice that although a man by the movement of free will can neither merit nor obtain divine grace, yet he can block himself from receiving it.... But they alone are deprived of grace who set up in themselves an impediment to grace, just as, when the sun shines on the world, he deserves blame who shuts his eyes...." Had he continued this line, Thomas would not have arrived at the position of Bañez.

2) In his Commentary on Romans chapter 9, lessons 2 & 3 he started from Romans 8. 29ff as interpreted by St. Augustine, in which God blindly picks those whom He will save or not save "Since all men because of the sin of the first parent are born exposed to damnation, those whom God frees through His grace, He frees out of mercy alone." However he also wrote: "God, so far as is in Him, interiorly stirs up a man to good... but the wicked man abuses this stirring according to the malice of his heart.... Those whom He hardens, earn that they be hardened by Him."

St. Augustine had held that all humans form a massa damnata et damnabilis, a damned and damnable blob from original sin. God blindly picks a small percent to save, to show mercy; the rest, the great majority, He deserts, to show justice.

It is evident that Thomas had two incompatible starting points. So he pulled up short in drawing each of the lines, the one from 1 Tim 2:4, and the one from Romans 8:29. In fact in his Commentary on Romans, as above, he shows signs of both views. So

Bañez was not right in claiming he merely took over the ideas of St. Thomas. Bañez was right in admitting his view was imcompatible with 1 Tim 2:4. St. Augustine said the same of his own view.

b) Molinists. Their view comes from Molina, a Spanish Jesuit. He held that God predestines after considering merits. But this is impossible, for our merits are a gift of God, according to 1 Cor 4:7: "What have you that you have not received?" St. Augustine in Epistle 194 agrees: "When God crowns your merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts". So the view of Molina involves a vicious circle.

Debates in Rome: In 1597 Pope Clement VIII ordered both the above schools to send delegates to Rome to debate before a commission of Cardinals. The debates ran about 10 years. After a time the Pope himself presided. Clement VIII died, and Paul V inherited the debates. Paul V asked St. Francis de Sales, a saint and a great theologian, for advice. Francis advised him to approve neither school. He did that in 1607. Divine Providence was protecting the Church from two great errors.

Position of New Answers to Old Questions:

Preliminary note: the author, W. Most, in around 1950, in a routine daily meditation, had what seemed a little grace of light. At first the implication did not dawn. But in time it did, and it seemed that it contained the germ of a new solution on the old problem of predestination. Further, it would break with both the major schools. Naturally, in such a case one should say: Perhaps someone can shoot this down with one pop. So he consulted Dominican and Jesuit theologians personally. The Jesuits all liked the idea, about half the Dominicans did. Next he prepared an 81 page single space summary of the idea - so many pages needed because of so many centuries of detailed debates. Five hundred copies were made and sent to Scripture scholars and Theologians mostly in Europe, asking for criticism. --the summary was in Latin, since so many Europeans find English difficult. --About 100 letters came in, from all parts of the theological spectrum. Some liked the proposal, some did not. He then took all the positive suggestions and incorporated them, and tried to answer all objections. The text then expanded into a book of about 500 large pages, which was published in Rome in 1963, just when the storm was breaking. The book drew 12 reviews in Europe. One unfavorable, but only old line objections. Three were merely descriptive. Others were favorable, e.g., Dom Mark Pontifex in Downside Review: "... the discussion which has gone on for so many centuries will be permanently affected." Divus Thomas called it a "powerful volume." La Ciencia Tomista of Salamanca: "... the contribution of the author to the theological investigation is exemplary... the positive value of his work and his method seem to be beyond question." --These things do not prove it right, only that it has been seen and checked by solid scholars in Europe. If it is right, the credit does not go to the author, but to an unearned grace of light.

The solution: There is no time in God, but one thing may be logically before another. There are three logical points in His decisions on predestination:

1) God wills all men to be saved. This is explicit in 1 Tim 2:4, and since to love is to will good to another for the other's sake, this is the same as saying God loves us. To deny that, as Bañez did is a horrendous error, it denies the love of God. How strong this love is can be seen by the obstacle it overcame in the work of opening eternal happiness to us: the death of Christ on the cross.

2) God looks to see who resists His grace gravely and persistently, so persistently that the person throws away the only thing that could save him. With regrets, God decrees to let such persons go: reprobation because of and in view of grave and persistent resistance to grace.

3) All others not discarded in step two are positively predestined, but not because of merits, which are not at all in view yet, nor even because of the lack of such resistance, but because in step 1, God wanted to predestine them, and they are not stopping Him. This is predestination without merits.

This can also be seen from the Father analogy of the Gospels. In even an ordinarily good family: 1) the parents want all the children to turn out well. 2) No child feels he/she needs to help around the house etc. to earn love and care. The children get that because the parents are good, not because they, the children are good. 3) Yet the children know that if they are bad they can earn punishment, and if bad enough long enough, could be thrown out and lose their inheritance.

Cf. 1 Cor 6:9-10 saying that those who do these things, great sins, will not inherit the kingdom. And Rom 6:23: "The wages [what one earns] of sin is death, but the free gift [unearned] of God is everlasting life. Cf. also: "Unless you become like little children...."

Note on Predilection: R. Garrigou-Lagrange (De Deo uno, Turin, Paris, 1938, p. 525):" "Hence the comparison of these different systems on predestination is reduced to this; what is the force of the principle of predilection: no one would be better than another, if he were not loved more by God.... . In the order of grace, this principle of predilection is revealed in these words of St. Paul in 1 Cor 4. 7: "Who has distinguished you? What have you that you have not received?' [omits fact that resistance to grace is from us, not from God, and so arrives at the view that there is nothing to distinguish one person from another, so God decides blindly that these go to heaven, those to hell].

Idem, De gratia (|Turin, 1945) p. 63, note 2):"... a person is not able of himself alone, to not place an obstacle [to sufficient grace], for that [not placing an obstacle] is good." Ibid. p. 190: "... although he could [possit] non resist, de facto nevertheless he resists, but freely and culpably.... there is no middle term in between to resist, which comes from our defectibility, and to not resist, which comes from the font of all good things, because 'to non-resist is already some good.'"

P. Lumbreras. O. P. (De gratia, Rome, l946, pp. 95-96, citing John of St. Thomas I-II. q. 111. disp. 14. a. 1. n. 12) "To be deprived of efficacious grace, it is not always required that we first desert God by sin.... on our part, there is always some impediment to efficacious grace not by way of fault, yet by way of inconsideration or some other defect.... 'Because of this defective consideration [in the human intellect] because of this voluntary defect - which is not yet a sin, since the consideration is for the sake of the judgment, and the judgment for the sake of the work, that is, the assent - God can refuse a man efficacious grace." [without efficacious grace a man infallibly sins, according to "Thomists". But Christ earned every grace. cf. Romans 8:31-34 and 5:8-10. ]

How much does God love humans? There are two measures:

a) Since to love is to will good to another for the other's sake, if the love is strong, the lover will want to act to make the other well off and happy. Then if a small obstacle stops him, the love is small. If it takes a great obstacle to stop him, the love is great. But if even an immense obstacle will not stop him, the love is immense.

b) The Father in the new covenant and sacrifice accepted an infinite price of redemption. So He bound Himself to make forgiveness and grace available to our race infinitely, without limit. The only limit is in our receptivity. But He did this not just for our race as a whole, but even for each individual. St. Paul said in Gal 2:20: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." This is not just for Paul. Vatican II in GS ยง22: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle, the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me." So there is an infinite title or claim to all forgiveness and grace even for each individual.

Such then is the measure of His love.

So would be refuse to give grace merely because of an inculpable anadvertence? If he would, His love would be tiny, or nonexistent.

Would a mere inadvertence which is not at sin at all be such as to deprive a man of that without which he could not be saved?. (Since efficacious grace, according to the "Thomists" is the application of sufficient grace, it is clear that without efficacious grace, the man infallibly will not do good, must sin) cf. Garrigou-Lagrange above). Of course God would not deny grace for that inculpable inadvertence. In Romans 8:31-34 Paul exultantly exclaims: If God is for us, who is against us? He who has given us His only Son, what will He not give us in addition? - So would He see a soul go to hell because of an inculpable inadvertence, with is no sin at all, when a grace, for which His Son paid so dreadful a price, has already been earned and paid for? Such a vain fantasy is contrary to the goodness of our Father. So the theory of Garrigou and others like him is terribly false, without any foundation.

Behind such an error is a misunderstanding of 1 Cor 4:7, which says every good we have is God's gift. True. But the Father has bound Himself to offer without limit. And an inculpable inadvertence would not block it. Grace can readily overcome such a thing. It is only if a person by much sin has made himself blind, and so incapable of taking in the first movement of grace when it is showing him something as good, only then could he be deprived of grace. St. Thomas himself in CG 3:159 said: "But they alone are deprived of grace who set up in themselves an impediment to grace, just as, when the sun shines on the world, he deserves blame who shuts his eyes...."



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