Monday, April 24, 2006

Dialogue on Molinism and God's Mode of Predestination (vs. "JS"), Part II

By Dave Armstrong (4-24-06)

"JS" is a Catholic and a Thomist. His words will be in green. My older words will be in purple.

* * * * *

"What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? God forbid! For He saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. And I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Romans 9:14-17)

In explaining the election of the Jewish people and their mysterious obduracy, St. Paul shows the absolute sovereignty of God’s choice of election, "I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Again, no mention is made to foreseen merits determining God’s choice of election. St. Paul concludes, "So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy." It seems rather clear then, for St. Paul, that election has nothing to do with foreseen merits, because it is not of him that wills, but rather that God shows mercy unconditionally.

It doesn't say that it is unconditional: that is what you read into the passage. And of course God shows mercy; who else could? Man can't show mercy to himself and save himself, right? So obviously God does that, but this doesn't give us any information that would solve our dilemma one way or the other. You simply eisegete the passage according to your prior view, just as Calvinists do in supposed support of their double predestination. They think the passage is crystal-clear in support of their position; you do the same even though your position is different from theirs.

Protestant apologist James Patrick Holding has commented on this passage at great length, in response to anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist apologist James White. Here are a few highlights:
[A] socio-contextual reading is more than capable of "consistently reading from 9:6 through 9:24 without changing contexts, topics, or anything else." Since White has been honest, I will be as well: I believe that Reformed exegesis of this passage manages what it does because, quite simply, working within its own defined parameters -- not the original context -- it is free to make its own rules, so to speak, so that any problem can be easily eliminated. I do not say White has done this particularly, though he may have (I have no recollection just now), or may have relied on those who have. Furthermore, I honestly believe that Reformed exegetes ultimately deal with any stumbling blocks with the essential reply, "Just shut up and give glory to God, you heathen." Certainly not all do this . . .

. . . Hebrew "block logic" operated on similar principles. "...[C]oncepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension - and often illogical relation - to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic." Examples of this in practice are the alternate hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God, or by Pharaoh himself; and the reference to loving Jacob while hating Esau - both of which, significantly, are referred to often by Calvinist writers.

Wilson continues: "Consideration of certain forms of block logic may give one the impression that divine sovereignty and human responsibility were incompatible. The Hebrews, however, sense no violation of their freedom as they accomplish God's purposes." The back and forth between human freedom and divine sovereignty is a function of block logic and the Hebrew mindset. Writers like Palmer who proudly declare that they believe what they read in spite of what they see as an apparent absurdity are ultimately viewing the Scriptures, wrongly, through their own Western lens in which they assume that all that they read is all that there is.

What this boils down to is that Paul presents us with a paradox in Romans 9, one which he, as a Hebrew, saw no need to explain. "..[T]he Hebrew mind could handle this dynamic tension of the language of paradox" and saw no need to unravel it as we do. And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at "face value" as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text.

The rabbis after the NT explicated the paradox a bit further. They did not conclude, however - as is the inclination in the Calvinist camp - that "a totally unalterable future lay ahead, for such a view contradicted God's omnipotence and mercy." They also argued that "unless God's proposed destiny for man is subject to alteration, prayer to God to institute such alteration" is nonsensical. Of course the rabbis were not inspired in their teachings. Yet their views cannot be simply discarded with a grain of salt, as they are much closer to the vein than either Calvin or Arminius, by over a millennium and by an ocean of thought.

. . . expression in extremes is not a characteristic of Hebrew thought alone. Second and more importantly, Paul was a Hebrew; he quotes from sources in Hebrew as White admits, and communicating in Greek changes neither of these points. Indeed, lingusitic studies by such as Casey indicate . . . that bilingual interference points to Paul preserving his Hebrew linguistic and thought-forms, even as he communicates in Greek.

. . . White has simply found himself lost in the hurricane of social concepts offensive to his Western sentiments; there is, again, not a thing "vague" or "unargued" or "unsubstantiated" about any of this (as my material on Ecclesiates, inserted into the text of the article, indicates) and it remains a non-answer that fails to in any sense show that the analysis is in error, and one should like to hear White himself say such things to a credentialed scholar like Wilson, whose publication credits include A Workbook for New Testament Greek: Grammar and Exegesis in First John . . . and Dictionary of Bible Manners and Customs (with highly respected Evangelical scholars Yamauchi and Harrison).

. . . I actually believe that White does think refutation is impossible, because he is unfamiliar with the critical literature on the subject of idioms in Hebrew and Hebrew thought. Such literature is no doubt banned by the Inquisition in his sector as threatening to fundamentalism. But as for the panic button of "every negative particle" the answer is no, we need not get that paranoid. Every passage may be subject to critical examination. In this case, taking the negatives in Rom. 9:16 creates a clear contradiction between 9:16 and later passages in Rom. 9, as I show. Calvinists of course solve this dilemma by calling anyone who asks the question heathens and saying they need to give glory to God. As yet that is about all White's responses have amounted to. And of course it is a falsehood to say we have only Jer. 7:22: We have the entire background of negation idioms and polarized forms of expression to appeal to, documented by the scholastics we cited.

. . . I agree that mercy and compassion -- the offering of covenant kinship and consideration -- are free. It is once we are within that relationship that rewards and punishments begin to come into play (or does White deny that we have rewards in heaven?). Nevertheless this does not prove in any sense that God did not create people with certain characteristics that suited His purposes. What does White wish to deny? That God foreknew the characteristics of His creation? Is he now an open theist in the defense of Calvinism? This is the critical contradiction that Calvinism cannot account for, as noted above. It makes God dumb when convenient, just like open theism; or else tries to palm off answering. And yes, there does remain a contrast, in my view, between mercy and hardening: It is the stark contrast between covenant concern and non-covenant disregard. And yes, the will of God is to decide who He enters into kinship relationships with. But no, this still doesn't eliminate characteristics as a factor in God choosing people for specific assignments; and it does not eliminate free choice of humans as a factor in salvation . . .

(White as a Sheet: James White's Indeterminate Take on Mercy and Patronage (Part 1 of ?)

The fathers (save for Augustine, and only in later writings) did not interpret Romans 9 in the way that Calvinists and Thomists do, For example:

"God does not have to wait, as we do, to see which one will turn out good and which one will turn out bad. He knew this in advance and decided accordingly."

(St. John Chrysostom, Homilies in Romans 16; NPNF 1 11:464-65)

"So also he chose Jacob over Esau . . . Why be surprised then, if God does the same thing nowadays, by accepting those of you who believe and rejecting those who have not seen the light?"

(Theodoret of Cyr, Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans, IER, Migne PG 82 col. 153)

"Paul says this in order not to do away with free will but rather to show to what extent we ought to obey God. We should be as little inclined to call god to account as a piece of clay is."

(St. John Chrysostom, ibid., NPNF 1 11:467)

"God does nothing at random or by mere chance, even if you do not understand the secrets of his wisdom. You allow the potter to make different things from the same lump of clay and find no fault with him, but you do not grant the same freedom to God! . . . How monstrous this is. It is not on the potter that the honor or dishonor of the vessel depends but rather on those who make use of it. it is the same way with people - it all depends on their own free choice."

(St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 16.46; NPNF 1 11:468)

"Those who are called vessels for menial use have chosen this path for themselves . . . This is clear from what Paul says to timothy: 'If anyone purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work.' "

(Theodoret of Cyr, Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans, IER, Migne PG 82 col. 157; citation of 2 Tim. 2:21)

Methodist commentator Adam Clarke provides further background on Paul's mention of Jacob and Esau:

Verse 12. The elder shall serve the younger] These words, with those of Malachi, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, are cited by the apostle to prove, according to their typical signification, that the purpose of God, according to election, does and will stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; that is, that the purpose of God, which is the ground of that election which he makes among men, unto the honour of being Abraham's seed, might appear to remain unchangeable in him; and to be even the same which he had declared unto Abraham. That these words are used in a national and not in a personal sense, is evident from this: that, taken in the latter sense they are not true, for Jacob never did exercise any power over Esau, nor was Esau ever subject to him. Jacob, on the contrary, was rather subject to Esau, and was sorely afraid of him; and, first, by his messengers, and afterwards personally, acknowledged his brother to be his lord, and himself to be his servant; see Gen. xxxii. 4; xxxiii. 8, 13. And hence it appears that neither Esau nor Jacob, nor even their posterities, are brought here by the apostle as instances of any personal reprobation from eternity: for, it is very certain that very many, if not the far greatest part, of Jacob's posterity were wicked, and rejected by God; and it is not less certain that some of Esau's posterity were partakers of the faith of their father Abraham.

. . . Verse 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay] The apostle continues his answer to the Jew. Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jer. xviii. 1, &c., that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as he in his infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honourable and another to a less honourable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces? For the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work upon the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. It was not fit for the more honourable place in the mansion, and therefore he made it for a less honourable place, but as necessary for the master's use there, as it could have been in a more honourable situation. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation-to build and to plant it; is it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. The reference to this parable shows most positively that the apostle is speaking of men, not individually, but nationally; and it is strange that men should have given his words any other application with this scripture before their eyes.

Verse 22. What if God, willing to show his wrath] The apostle refers here to the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to which he applies Jeremiah's parable of the potter, and, from them, to the then state of the Jews. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath-persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle's time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle.

(Clarke's Commentary)
"O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him, and recompense shall be made him? For of Him and by Him and in Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:33-36)

St. Paul here yields to the mystery of why God chooses some for election and others he permits to fall into and remain in sin.

He does? Where does that theme appear above? I must have missed it.

He respects the affirmation of all the essential truths of the issue: God’s absolute sovereignty in electing some and not others, as well as our free will, as well as the possibility of keeping the commandments with God's grace- even for the reprobate.

No one is denying that God is sovereign!!! It doesn't help your argument to keep repeating things we already agree on.

Of course, no one knows for certain who is saved (except the Church's decrees on the Saints), which is a different, but related issue. The Bible reveals this apparent arbitrariness of God, which will perhaps only be known clearly in the next life. For instance, God chooses Seth over Cain; Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; David over Saul; Judah over Ephraim; Jew over Israelite; and finally, in these last days, God has forsaken the Jews and chosen the Gentiles, so as to win the Jews back to Christ (Romans 9-11).

That is judgment of nations and peoples in most (if not all) cases, as explained by Clarke above, which is a completely different matter from individual destinies.

All of this "choosing" on God’s part is not really arbitrary; it belongs to the delicate tension of God's Justice and Mercy, as well as His absolute sovereignty- three infinite perfections in God whose reconciliation cannot be fully grasped in this life. Yet we must affirm all of them, as the Church does.

I agree.

Therefore, the Church’s teaching can be summed up as follows:

1. In a certain sense, God wills the salvation of all men, even though not all men are saved.
2. God predestines some men to eternal life, while others he permits on the basis of their own demerits to fall into sin and remain therein, meriting damnation.
3. According to the Council of Trent, God does not will the impossible, since even the reprobate have the possibility of attaining salvation.
4. Therefore, two important truths are affirmed: God absolutely predestines some men to eternal life, and men are free and have the possibility of attaining salvation, even though some do not of their own fault.

Sure; Molinists do not disagree with any of this (except if "absolutely" precludes even cooperation of men with the grace of election and predestination), which is precisely why the school of thought is freely permitted in the Church.

Regardless of the mystery in reconciling man's freedom with God’s predestination, we must hold with the Church all these truths to be true.

Obviously, "unconditional election" in your sense is not incumbent upon all Catholics to hold, or else Molinism would have been condemned.

Further on, I will examine your comments on free will and determinism, and in what way man is both determined and free, not only in the order of nature, but also that of grace. I believe your difficulty is primarily philosophical, not theological.

Well, we'll see. I think your difficulty is in clinging to false premises without adequate proof, thinking that Thomism is Catholic dogma in places where it is not so, and in not taking into account all the relevant Scripture passages, analogy, and Hebrew paradox and other modes of thinking common to that culture (as alluded to by Holding above).

If He knows that we will accept and act upon His grace he could therefore choose to elect the person who does so. It still all goes back to God, so I don’t see any problem.

Molina's theory does ultimately come back to God, which is how it avoids pelagianism and semipelagianism, it is also the reason why I believe the Church has permitted it. However, that it returns to God as the source of all our good actions is not the issue. The issue is whether the predestination of the elect is conditioned by foreseen merits or not. When you propose a statement such as, "If He knows that we will accept and act upon His grace, he could therefore chose to elect he person who does so," you are proposing a conditional statement (If this, then that). Therefore, following Molina's logic, you are conditioning God’s will- God's decision to choose the elect is conditioned by our foreseen merits. This is why many theologians of the Augustinian and Thomist schools- among others- have a real hard time with Molinism. It does not sufficiently preserve St. Paul's rather clear teaching that election is absolutely gratuitous, neither dependent on our merits now nor in the future. God's mercy and love are absolutely unconditional; they are not commanded in any way either now or in the future.

I've dealt with this already . . . Hopefully you will deal directly with my arguments since you wrote this, too.

I don't think that grace is dependent upon foreseen consent, but rather election to salvation…

This statement, if I understand it correctly, seems to me to be a contradiction. Election is God’s free gift (grace) through which we merit glory; therefore, just as you admit grace does not depend on foreseen consent, it would only follow that neither does election, since election is a free and gratuitous gift of God; election is merited only on the basis of God’s own grace, bearing in mind St. Paul’s words in 1 Cor 4:7: "What do you have that you have not received?"

We don't disagree on that, but it is not proof that God wouldn't use middle knowledge to foresee how men would react to His grace. You need to accept biblical paradox: God and men working together. Men work because God gave them the grace to do so. Their free will was also because of His grace. No good thing man does arises purely from their natural powers. So I fail to see the difficulty.

So if you admit that grace does not depend on foreseen consent, then it would seem contradictory to state that election is based on foreseen consent.

That doesn't follow because the consent itself is from grace; therefore, it would be (in Molinist thought) God "crowning His own gifts," just as the Church has proclaimed that He does in cases of merit per se.

Further, in admitting that grace does not depend on foreseen merit you seem to be departing from Molinism.

Nope; I am departing from Pelagianism. And you yourself correctly admit that Molinism is anti-Pelagian.

God would then take into account how men are going to act, in His election of some and not others to salvation. If I'm right about that, how He distributes grace is not dependent on man's will over against His own.

It's not because grace enables all responses towards God and the good.

Again this seems contradictory. To say that God takes into account how men are going to act, and then suggest that God's distribution of grace is not dependent upon man's will in foreseen situations, would be a clear contradiction.

No; it is biblical paradox. See the Scriptures I provided for man acting along with God, and the Bible describing both things in very similar terms. Thomism goes astray if it doesn't incorporate biblical, Hebraic modes of thinking within its analysis.

Either God's decision to dispense graces is based on our future actions or not; if so, then God’s will depends on our future will.

It doesn't "depend" on it; it simply incorporates this aspect of knowledge within the decision to elect. This is how God's providence works in general: the free will decisions of men are known and incorporated in the overall "master plan." That doesn't make God's will "dependent" on man; quite the contrary, we are entirely dependent on him and have only a limited domain of freedom. We are merely characters in a book. The author is in control (ultimately) of what we do, and how it fits in to his "plot."

I would never hold that God’s will is dependent upon ours. If that is what Molinism entails, and you can prove this to me, then I will change my position. But I will have to see some solid documentation for that to happen.

There is, to my knowledge, no explicit statement from Molina or any other Molinist that God's will is dependent upon ours. Yet this is a conclusion that is easily drawn . . .

Just because God takes into account our response (in Molinism) does not prove that "salvation is entirely dependent on our will."

I disagree here. We cannot hold that predestination is conditioned on the basis of foreseen merits and at the same time hold that predestination is not dependent upon man's will.

Yes we can, because of the complex relationship of man's will and the God Who makes it possible and intrinsically guides it insofar as it moves in the direction of the good and true and grace-filled. Your fallacy is that you see "man's will" and you immediately interpret it as if it is in inexorable contrast to God's will. When we sin, this is indeed true. But when we act "under grace," this is not the case. Therefore, election based on foreseen merits would be "within" God's will and grace, insofar as it is not "distinct" from God in terms of cause or control. Until you recognize this biblical and theological paradoxical truth, you'll keep repeating the same error over and over.

Clearly, if one holds that predestination is conditioned, then it depends in some sense, upon man's will. Whether conditioned, or complete, God's decision to elect is no longer completely sovereign, as St. Paul clearly teaches in the above passages.

I disagree, for reasons I have expressed again and again. You're arguing exactly as Calvinists do with their "monergism" mantra. It's neither theologically, nor biblically, nor logically necessary, in my opinion.

Therefore, there is no such thing as "man’s will for good" without God’s enabling grace.

Yes, this is why I am not a Molinist.

That wouldn't be sufficient reason, since all agree with this.

The existence of true human free will means that determinism is ruled out.

How so? This, I believe is the heart of your dilemma (a false one I might add), as it was for Molina. Further, it depends upon what you mean by determinism. If by determinism, you understand movement by necessity, as for example the planet Earth is moved in orbit out of necessity due to the Sun’s gravitational pull, then yes, clearly this contradicts freedom.

That is how I meant it, yes. Man can do otherwise from what he chooses to do. He is a free agent. Man even has the freedom to reject God.

Yet, from this it does not follow that man is not determined at least in some sense, though clearly in a different fashion from inanimate objects. St. Thomas, in his fifth argument for God's existence, sets down a very plain observation that every agent acts for a certain end. For example, the eye exists for seeing and not for hearing; and the lung for breathing and not knowing, etc. Therefore, every agent is determined towards a certain end according to its own nature. In other words, God moves each thing according to its own nature; if the agent is inanimate, God governs it according to the laws of physics; if the agent is vegetative, then according to the laws of vegetation; if the agent is an animal then God governs it according to instinct. Likewise, the same is true for man. Man is determined, though in a different way than physical objects, plants and animals: he is determined according to his own nature which is endowed with intellect and free will, of which the end or purpose is to love and choose the "good". Therefore, as God moves all other objects according to their nature, so too, God moves man according to his nature- freedom- to choose the good. God does this naturally through the gift and preservation of freedom, and He does so supernaturally through the gift of faith which produces in us good works that merit eternal life. Thus, following a Thomistic approach, the determinism of necessity (as is the case with all other objects in the universe) is ruled out, yet man still remains determined, but according to his own nature. And, by analogy, the same holds true for grace and predestination. Predestination is nothing other than God moving- through-grace- the souls of the elect toward salvation.

The Thomist "physical" notion of causation (for virtually everything, it seems) was critiqued at some length in my survey paper. I do not accept all of these Thomist "dogmas" or undisputed premises. I am a philosophical syncretist, as Suarez was.

. . . Essentially, I am arguing that Molinism is self-refuting because it falls into the false dilemma that it wishes to avoid: determinism. According to Molina, God predestines some to eternal life on the basis of foreseen merits. God, through the scientia media, knows the various situations that man could find himself in and how he would respond. God then dispenses the graces of salvation based upon foreseen merit because God knows, for example, that Peter will respond to the grace of repentance after denying Christ three times, whereas God withholds such graces to Judas because He knows that Judas will not repent. In other words, God, through middle knowledge, knows how each person will respond in each situation, and dispenses graces accordingly. Therefore, man's salvation becomes a matter of circumstance; God allows certain men to arrive at various circumstances in which it is possible for them to be saved, and further God dispenses saving grace to those of whom he has foreseen cooperating with efficacious grace. On the other hand, God extends sufficient grace to everyone- even Judas- so that it is really possible for all to be saved. However, on account of the scientia media, God knows that Judas will despair in this situation and therefore God denies him efficacious grace. So, in the last analysis of Molinism, it is as if God guides the course of circumstance through grace so that each person has the maximum possibility of being saved, even though God denies efficacious grace to those whom He foresees to reject Him.

I hold that this undermines man’s freedom because essentially it is circumstances guided by grace that realize man's election. God guides the course of history so that each circumstance is arranged as to present to man the possibility of salvation; God knows how each man will act and so he leads them through a litany of circumstances that will compel him to choose this way or that way, despite knowing that a certain set of circumstances might lead man to sin or even incur damnation. Thus, according to Molina, the fate of man is determined by God's grace operating through circumstance rather than the will properly speaking. As noted below, this is entirely unlike the Augustinian and Thomistic understanding of how God determines man's freedom. Man's freedom is not determined by God from the outside, as an environment determines the development of a species. Instead, God determines man from the inside, moving man towards his natural and supernatural ends (see below) through the will choosing what is good. Therefore, in stressing man's freedom and role in the economy of salvation, Molinism admittedly departs from the tradition of St. Thomas and St. Augustine and winds up actually compromising man's freedom instead, since it all comes down to circumstances pre-arranged by God's scientia media.

That doesn't eliminate your difficulties, as outlined in my survey paper, because you still have to explain why, in your system, God chooses one person and not the next, if election is unconditional. On what grounds? If you say that it is (in effect) arbitrary: He simply chooses one person and leaves the other to damnation (as we all can justly be left, etc.), then you have to explain how this can be if, in fact, we are all equally blameworthy and should be damned. If we're all equally to blame (original and actual sin), then if God will simply choose some for election and not others, I don't see how you can escape the element of "unfairness" and lack of justice for those who are damned (since all are equally guilty). If He chooses some "absolutely unconditionally," as you say, then those whom He does not choose MUST be damned no matter what they do. And the practical result of that is exactly the same as in supralapsarian Calvinist double predestination, as Ott noted.

It's like saying there are ten murderers, and the governor (after trials, of course) decides to hang five of them and let the others go scot-free. When asked how he could do this, he replies, "they were all guilty and worthy of death, so those who were executed cannot complain of injustice, but I have the right to pardon whomever I will, so the relatives of the executed men have no grounds whatsoever to complain of unfairness." No one would accept that in this world of men, so why do large portions of Christians accept it when it comes to analyses of how God elects? We can only go by the analogy of how we approach these things, in our own moral sense given us by God and guided by the Holy Spirit (in Christians). Fr. Most did that, and I think his solution makes eminent logical and moral sense, and is harmonious with what we know from the Bible.

Therefore, I reject this scenario and accept either Molinism or Fr. Most's solution, because they are more in accord with an instinctive, intuitive understanding of how love and mercy and fatherhood function and operate. God rejects only those who continually spurn His grace. The reat are saved (unconditionally or prior to foreseen merits, you'll be happy to know) in that grace. I find that to be the most satisfactory interpretation of what all agree is a profound mystery, by far. If I'm wrong, I'll learn that one day. It's not like one's position on these extremely complex matters has all that much effect on one's Christian life. We follow and obey God. Period. This is interesting to ponder and debate, but it makes no practical difference which way one comes down on it.

Lastly, as noted above, there is another dilemma with the scientia media in that efficacious grace seems to lose its efficacious quality, since it only becomes efficacious if man cooperates (as foreseen by middle knowledge). Therefore, the Molinists are forced to conclude that efficacious grace is not intrinsically efficacious, only extrinsically efficacious because it is conditioned by man's foreseen response. Yet, in lieu of the teachings of the Church and the Scriptures quoted above, I don’t think there is any basis for establishing that efficacious grace is not efficacious of itself.

Dealt with in my other paper . . .

It is clear, both from reason and revelation, that God determines the human person, as a first cause determines a second cause…

Yes, of course.

If you agree with this proposition, then you cannot logically hold, as you stated above that "the existence of the true human free will means that determinism is ruled out."

I meant this (as I recall without looking at the context) in the complex way that I have defended, meaning that I accept sovereignty and providence every bit as much as you do, and only differ on how it is applied to our world. We can go round and round on this forever if you don't acknowledge the paradox which makes these things appear contradictory when they are not necessarily so.

The fact is that since God is the first cause of our freedom, he remains the effective cause of our freedom and our salvation; and just as a first cause is not conditioned by a second cause; neither is God’s choice to predestine some and not others conditioned by foreseen merits (secondary causes) that man will produce in the future.

Old ground by now . . . Obviously, no one can overcome your reasoning as long as you remain within the Thomist paradigm that you have accepted. One has to overthrow various presuppositions that you hold in that paradigm which guide your own opinions and preclude certain other opinions. That's what this comes down to. I'm not beholden to any particular theological system other than the constraints of Catholic orthodoxy itself, so I am able to move more freely through these discussions and consider options that you have no freedom to consider because of your quasi-dogmatic Thomist preconceptions (which is why I could accept the Fr. Most solution, as even half the Thomists he discussed it with could do). I don't observe this to judge you or condemn you at all (it's not a value judgment); I'm simply stating a philosophical (epistemological) observation, and a point of logic.

[ . . . ]

I've passed over the rest (no pun intended!) - as you gave me permission to do - because it basically covers the same ground again in only slightly different terms. Thanks for the stimulating discussion, and I look forward to your reply. It may take a few days for me to respond to any future replies because I need to work on my new book and am behind (I did this today instead of my book which was a bit naughty of me . . . :-).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dialogue on Molinism and God's Mode of Predestination (vs. "JS"), Part I

By Dave Armstrong (4-23-06)

"JS" is a Catholic and a Thomist. His words will be in green. My older words will be in purple.

* * * * *

This "conditioned" dimension of Molinism is precisely its weakness, since God's will is not conditioned by anyone or anything, let alone man's foreseen merits.

That's not true as a general statement because God's will is clearly conditioned by those who reject His grace; i.e., those who are damned (conditioned by demerits in that case). This is Catholic teaching over against Calvinist double predestination. Otherwise, we would have God damning souls to hell from all eternity since according to you His will cannot be conditioned by anything else and since Catholics also believe in universal atonement or the universal salvific will of God. The only thing that interferes with that is the free will of the reprobate to reject God's mercy and grace. So if the debate is whether God's will can be "conditioned" with regard to salvation or predestination of the elect, and you say it is impossible as a general proposition, I must disagree.

Secondly, since merit is Catholic dogma and it involves God rewarding those who cooperate with His graces in doing meritorious works, and since this seems to be a huge consideration in how He decides who is saved or not (many biblical passages stating this), it also appears unlikely that man's free will decisions have nothing at all to do with election (or at any rate, salvation, insofar as there is a distinction).

As I will show further in this response, this "conditioned" predestination has no basis in Scripture, the writings of the Fathers, and the magisterial teachings of the Church.

Molinism hasn't been condemned by the Church, so it can't be that far off, or heretical; otherwise it certainly would have been. The sources I have seen show that the fathers' views were far closer to Molinism. I've shown how middle knowledge has explicit biblical support also.

Further, to assert the absolute sovereignty of God predestining some and not others as both Augustine and St. Thomas hold is not the same as Calvinism or else the Church would have condemned these two great doctors.

That God predestines the elect is not in dispute. All parties accept that. The debate is whether He takes into account responses to His grace. He is still sovereign and He still predestines, in either scenario, I would argue, since any response to His grace is itself caused by His grace. It seems to me that if your critique of Molinism were correct, it would have to be semi-Pelagian. But it is not. Therefore,I disagree that God's sovereignty is undermined by it.

There is little if any indication of middle knowledge in the Scriptures, which is why I find it suspect.

I have presented four passages in my last post.

In regard to the passage from Matt. 11, this does not seem to establish that God dispenses graces based on foreseen merits, for if this were the case, one is hard pressed to explain why God did not choose to reveal the mighty works of Jesus to Tyre and Sidon knowing that they would have repented.

It is a generalization in the first place, to say that a whole city repents. Obviously, each individual will have to stand accountable to God as an individual, and we believe that God gives everyone sufficient grace for salvation. So I disagree that God would have to perform this for these cities in order for them to have sufficient grace to repent. Jesus was simply stating a fact about what would have happened. It is a proof of middle knowledge, not whether God utilizes middle knowledge in order to incorporate foreseen merits into His decision to elect or predestine certain souls to salvation.

The issue, however, is that God did not choose to reveal such things to Tyre and Sidon, and obviously not because of foreseen merits. Instead, God's choice was made from all eternity to reveal the works of Christ to one generation and not to do so for another. This choice was made freely by God, without influence from man, in accordance with His infinite wisdom.

But that doesn't mean that those before Christ were less able to be saved than those after. They are judged by what they know, per Romans 2.

1 Timothy 2:4 and another passage, Matt. 28:19-20, clearly show God's universal will to save all men. But not all men are saved. Therefore, are we to presume that God's grace is not infallible or efficacious? No.

We are to conclude that free will makes rebellion against God possible and that He accepts this and the consequence of hell rather than the alternative of eliminating free will and providing universal salvation.

Clearly God desires the salvation of all mankind, since God died for the sins of all men. The Augustinians, along with the Thomists, refer to this as God's antecedent will, in the sense that God desires that it is possible that all men attain salvation. Conceptually, God's antecedent will is prior to His consequent will, though in reality they are but one, as God is one. However, on account of the fact that not everyone attains salvation ("Many are called, but few are chosen"- Matt. 22:14), it is also evident from all eternity that God permits sin and inflicts damnation on the basis of man's demerits, which God sees from all eternity.

See; like I said, God's will is conditioned by ("on the basis of") demerits. You agree. If that is so, then it seems quite possible and not impossible that it also may be conditioned by merits which are themselves brought about by His grace. Since I have accepted Fr. Most's scenario which does not involve predestination based on foreseen merits, we don't disagree on this point as we did before, but I still contend that your reasoning for why God "could or would not" use such a method is not sufficient to prove your assertion. it's based on Thomist presuppositions which are themselves neither infallible nor the dogma of the Church (as far as I know).

God's consequent will, however, is also infallible, since it guides some men infallibly to enteral life (predestination, see John 17:12, among others - see texts below) while God permits some men to fall into sin, even though it is really possible for them - on account of the graces that God bestows - to keep the commandments (reprobation).

We agree there.

Therefore, bearing in mind the distinction between antecedent and consequent will in God, there is no contradiction in the passages that stress God's universal call to salvation and those that stress the absolute predestination of the elect (I will elaborate more on these passages below).

I think one must arrive at a view which preserves the mercy of God as well as His justice, without creating seeming difficulties in "unfairness" - why one set of people is chosen over another without consideration of how they act and believe. Fr. Most's system does this, which is why I find it entirely satisfactory.


I am not sure if you have misunderstood Ott or if Ott is in error, since the Catechism clearly states, "God predestines no one to hell." (1037; this statement is referenced to the Second Council of Orange).

The two statements are meant in different senses. The Catechism is referring to predestination in the heretical Calvinist sense, but Ott is not since he mentions foreseen sins, which Calvinism would not include in its view.

However, it is true to say of Church teaching that God permits some men, from all eternity to fall into sin, even final impenitence, and from all eternity God inflicts the just punishment for their sins. God does in fact "foresee" these sins and his judgment is predicated upon them.

So you prove that His will is "conditioned" in this instance once again . . .

The classic term for this theological truth is reprobation, since God merely permits some men and some angels to fall into sin and remain therein; however God does not predestine (direct) man to hell in the strict sense of the word.

We agree.

Yet, it does not follow from this truth that God predestines the just based on their foreseen merits, since no one, in any way can merit eternal life.

Molinists are not saying that anyone merits eternal life (contra Pelagianism); only that God utilizes His middle knowledge in deciding who to give the grace which alone causes them to believe and to attain final salvation. You appear to misunderstand the Molinist claim.

Not even future actions (futuribilia) can condition God’s will. The Church is rather clear on this teaching when, following the insights of St. Augustine and his disciple St. Prosper, she declared in the third canon of Quierzy in 853 AD, "Almighty God wills without exception, all men to be saved, though not all are saved. That some are saved, however, is the gift of Him who saves; if some perish, it is the fault of them that perish."

This does not contradict Molinism, though. Again, if it did, then the Church would have condemned Molinism, but it chose not to in 1607. Rather, the Molinists were charged not to call the Thomists "Calvinists" and the Thomists were told to refrain from calling the Molinists Pelagians. These things are ultimately mysteries, so no one can be overly dogmatic about it.

From this doctrine, which Mother Church teaches consistently in other councils of that time period (Valence, Langres, Toul, and Thuzey), we can deduce a few important conclusions. First, that God's will to save is universal, as noted in the Scripture passages above. Yet this universal resolve of God is not efficacious in everyone, but it is sufficient so that it is really possible even for the reprobate to be saved. Even still, God's will to save is truly efficacious only in the elect. This last point is of prime importance because if we hold that God dispenses grace based on foreseen merits, then the grace God accords to the elect is not really efficacious, since it depends on the response of man.

For God to know in His omniscience (middle knowledge) how one will respond is not the same as the assertion that the man who responds favorably to His grace has caused his own salvation, even in part. The prisoner gets no credit for merely accepting the pardon of the governor. He gets no credit at all. It is a pure gift of mercy and "grace." It makes no sense to say that the pardoned prisoner somehow caused his own pardon or that the governor had less power and "sovereignty" in the matter simply because his pardons are accepted.

Therefore, since the Church infallibly teaches that God's grace for the elect is really efficacious, it only follows that it is not based on foreseen merits, but only on the absolute sovereignty of God's will to dispense his grace freely - unconditionally.

It doesn't follow at all. You have simply assumed what you are trying to prove. You haven't yet shown me how God cannot or would not consider foreseen merits or responses to grace in his decision to bestow graces sufficient for salvation. You have asserted it, but not proven it. I have argued, on the other hand, based on the analogy of merit and man's cooperation with God's graces in merit (per the Scriptures I presented last time of synergism), that consideration of merit is not impossible; nor does it undermine God's sovereignty. I agree, however, that a belief-system which incorporates free will decisions in God's decision to predestine is more difficult to defend than one which does not. Fr. Most solves the problem by introducing a new nuance and distinction:

1) Calvinist (heretical) system:

A) Unconditional election to salvation (aligned with final perseverance)
B) Unconditional reprobation / damnation (either infralapsarian or supralapsarian)

2) Thomist system:

A) Unconditional election to salvation
B) Reprobation / damnation based on foreseen demerits

3) Molinist system:

A) Election to salvation based in part on foreseen acceptance of solely-sufficient grace
B) Reprobation / damnation based on foreseen demerits

4) Fr. Most's "solution":

A) Election to salvation based on foreseen non-rejection of God (i.e., the negative criterion of "not rejection" rather than the positive criterion of merit)
B) Reprobation / damnation based on foreseen demerits and utter rejection of God
It seems reasonable, then, that if God takes into account forseen sins in deciding who is to be eternally lost, that He would also take into account foreseen positive actions and beliefs, held or done as a result of His freely given grace, in deciding who to save.

Now I would modify my former statement to make it consistent with Fr. Most: God takes into account foreseen non-rejection of His sufficient grace for salvation.

I would refer back to the above quote from the Council of Quierzy, in which the Church clearly teaches that while reprobation is predicated upon foreseen demerits, salvation and election are not based on foreseen merits, since it is an absolutely unconditional free gift.

Molinism does not make it non-free in the same way that merit does not make salvation in the Catholic understanding non-sola gratia, and in the same way that works as the necessary organic manifestation of faith do not make salvation Pelagian or non-gratuitous. All goes back to grace. You seem to be unable to accept the biblical paradox and insist on either-or reasoning where it is not necessary.

Further, I would invite you to show me one declaration of official Church teaching that corroborates your statement above.

The Church decided to allow this option. Therefore, it is a non-defined permissible opinion for Catholics to hold; ergo, I can hold it in perfectly good faith as a Catholic until informed otherwise. We wouldn't expect it to be as developed, since middle knowledge itself was only stated by Molina in the 16th century. Some of the Marian doctrines are fairly late, too. Mary Mediatrix is not explicitly defined (at least not at the highest levels). Catholics are permitted to believe it (and I do). Fatima and Lourdes are not required Catholic beliefs, but plenty of good Catholics believe in these apparitions and miracles connected to them (as I do). So your objection has no force. The fact remains that there is latitude regarding predestination. The Church in its great wisdom has allowed this, so that we wouldn't have schism or the silly in-fighting that we observe in the endless Protestant Calvinist vs. Arminian wars (with mutual anathemas).

But beyond that, my statement is based on analogical reasoning (which is my second line of defense):

1) I denied that God's will is unconditioned by anything. It is: by man's free will.

2) God's will is conditioned in the case of damnation (as all Catholics agree).

3) Therefore, it is not a priori impossible to suppose that His will as regards the elect may be in part conditioned by foreseen actions, just as it is conditioned in the case of the reprobate.

4) Middle knowledge follows (I think) from omniscience and has been strongly indicated in at least four biblical passages.

5) Scripture often informs us that God's decision of who to save (at least at the time it is announced, during judgment) appears dependent at least in part on merit and actions of men.

6) The doctrine of merit itself is defined doctrine, and is analogous to merit as regards election. In both cases, man gets no credit for human-generated goodness or the rewards from God obtained therefrom. It is God crowning His own gifts.
I don't totally understand God's mind, of course (no one does)

I do (just kidding of course) :-)

Well, that's just it, isn't it? No one does, so no one can be dogmatic on these points. But I am giving my reasons for why I believe as I do, in a non-dogmatic fashion (not denigrating the Thomist position at all).

While exhaustively knowing His creative causality He also knows therein all the operations which flow or can flow from this, and indeed, just as comprehensively as He knows Himself. 1 Jn 1:5: 'God is light and in Him there is no darkness.' . . .


. . . Holy Writ teaches that God knows all things and hence also the merely possible [cites Est 14:14, 1 Cor 2:10, S. Th. I, 14,9] . . .


By these are understood free actions of the future which indeed will never occur, but which would occur, if certain conditions were fulfilled. The Molinists call this Divine knowledge scientia media . . . The Thomists deny that this knowledge of the conditioned future is a special kind of Divine knowledge which precedes the decrees of the Divine Will.

I would like to note here that sententia communis doctrines ("common teaching") are described by Ludwig Ott (p. 10) as "doctrine, which in itself belongs to the field of free opinions, but which is accepted by theologians generally." He classifies this type of belief as the fifth highest level of authority. He has five levels of belief below this one: well-founded (bene fundata), more probable (sententia probabilis), probable (probabilior), pious opinions (sententia pia), and tolerated opinions (opinio tolerata). So with four grades of opinion above it, and five below it, middle knowledge is in a fairly good position: certainly high enough to not be sensibly flatly denied by Catholics who personally disbelieve it.

Here is an example Ott gives (p. 179) of (competing?) opinions, both classified as sententia communis:

A) Even on the presupposition of the Divine Resolve of Redemption, the Incarnation was not absolutely necessary.

B) If God demanded a full atonement the Incarnation of a Divine Person was necessary.
I agree (for what it's worth) with (A), along with St. Thomas and St. Augustine, over against St. Anselm. Here are ten more examples of sententia communis opinions:

Original sin consists in the deprivation of grace caused by the free act of sin committed by the head of the race. (p. 110)

A creature has the capacity to receive supernatural gifts. (p. 101)

Christ's Vicarious Atonement is superabundant, that is, the positive value of the expiation is greater than the negative value of the sin. (p. 188)

From her conception Mary was free from all motions of concupiscence. (p. 202)

Mary suffered a temporal death. (p. 207)

The moral virtues also are infused with sanctifying grace. (p. 260)

Excepting the Sacrament of Penance, neither orthodox belief nor moral worthiness is necessary for the validity of the Sacrament, on the part of the recipient. (p. 345)

The essential Sacrificial Action consists in the Transubstantiation alone. (p. 409)

The purifying fire will not continue after the General Judgment. (p. 485)

The specific operation of Confirmation is the perfection of Baptismal Grace. (p. 366)
I don't deny, and neither would the Thomists and the Augustinians, that God does know future events as well as the merely possible. However, this is not the issue. The issue is whether or not God chooses the elect based upon foreseen merits.

Yes, but if Thomists deny the possibility of middle knowledge, then (as I understand it) they eliminate the possibility of consideration of foreseen merits also. Therefore, it is important to establish the plausibility of middle knowledge as an essential component of Molinism from the outset.

I don't believe this to be the case either in the scriptures or Church teaching.

Obviously, if the contrary opinion were defined at the highest levels, then Molinism would have been ruled out. But since the former is untrue, the latter is allowed; therefore protesting otherwise on the grounds of supposed Church teaching for or against is a non sequitur.

Further, I don't see the logical necessity of separating the knowledge of the future conditional in God from what God knows in his simple intelligence. Quite simply God knows all, whether real or possible from all eternity in one simultaneous glance. I see no need to distinguish a mode of knowledge that is anterior to God's simple intelligence. This would seem to be superflous.

This is your Thomist position, based on further premises which are debatable. But I appeal back to my previous survey post for replies to this assertion.

The Fathers assert Divine foresight of conditioned future things when they teach that God does not always hear our prayer for temporal goods, in order to prevent their misuse; or that God allows a man to die at an early age in order to save him from eternal damnation [cites St. Gregory of Nyssa]

I don't see how this quote supports the Molinist theory of salvation based on foreseen merits.

Technically, it doesn't; it supports middle knowledge.

The fact that God would allow one man to die in order to save him from future sins, yet He does not do so for another man would clearly seem to indicate that God unconditionally predestines some to eternal life, while others he permits to fall into and remain in sin.

I think the "unconditionally" is the part of your statement which is not proven, and doesn't inexorably follow from God doing this particular thing.

Please clarify how God answering some prayers and not others establishes the Molinist claim that predistination is based on foreseen merits.

Again, this is proof for patristic support of middle knowledge.

[Ott] In the light of scientia media He then resolves with the fullest freedom to realise certain determined conditions (bold mine). Now He knows through scientia visionis with infallible certainty, how the person will, in fact, act in these conditions.

This seems to be a pretty good summary of Molinism. In bold I highlighted one of the main dilemmas with Molinism, in that God- via the scientia media- determines the conditions in which man will realize his salvation. This would seem to undermine man's freedom, since he is ultimately determined by preordained circumstances that will compel him to act in a certain manner.

There are two problems with this that I see right off the bat:

1) You contradict yourself since now you claim that Molinism creates determinism and abridges Man's freedom, whereas before you complained that Molinism makes man's decision determine God's will. The first is a false summary, as will be show in #2; the second claim is based on a fallacious analysis of what Molinism entails (already touched upon above).

2) You err, I think, in your use of the word "compel" above. What is "determined" is the prior conditions, not the response of the person to them. God knows how the person will respond, but that doesn't make the response less free. I could "know", for example (with a fairly high level of certainty), that my four-year-old daughter will freely choose to pick up and eat a chocolate bunny placed in her Easter basket. I determined the conditions for that to happen (preparing the basket and placing it in a place so that she can find it). But I didn't "determine" her choice to eat the chocolate bunny. She freely chose that and could have chosen otherwise (e.g., perhaps in the interim she discovered that she was allergic to chocolate and stopped eating it). Therefore, God did not predetermine the salvation of the person in the Molinist scenario; rather, He created conditions in which He knew the person would freely (not compellingly) make the right choice.

Thus God directs the soul exteriorly, as an equestrian directs the path of a horse exteriorly. Yet because man is free, it cannot be that God directs the course of His soul the way he directs inanimate objects are even animals according to their nature. I will have more on this issue further on.

Correct. But the horse can also rebel and be uncooperative, as far as that goes.

Origen, Commentaries on Genesis , 3,6 [ante 232]

When God undertook in the beginning to create the world, for nothing that comes to be is without a cause, - each of the things that would ever exist was presented to His mind. He saw what else would result when such a thing were produced; and if such a result were accomplished, what else would accompany; and what else would be the result even of this when it would come about. And so on to the conclusion of the sequence of events, He knew what would be, without being altogether the cause of the coming to be of each of the things which He knew would happen.

(vol. 1, 200, #461)

This quote seems to reveal Origin’s insight into the infinite knowledge of God, of all things real and conditional. Yet, it does not follow from this quote that Origin believed that predestination was based on foreseen merits. To say that God has foreknowledge is different from saying that God predestines the elect based on foreseen merits. Even still, if your interpretation of this text is valid, it is worth noting that Origen is not exactly a preeminent Church Father.

I agree. Again, this indicates patristic support for middle knowledge. More was given in the Catholic Encyclopedia, as I cited in my last post (emphases added presently):

Generally speaking, the Greeks are the chief authorities for conditional predestination dependent on foreseen merits. The Latins, too, are so unanimous on this question that St. Augustine is practically the only adversary in the Occident. St. Hilary (In Ps. lxiv, n. 5) expressly describes eternal election as proceeding from "the choice of merit" (ex meriti delectu), and St. Ambrose teaches in his paraphrase of Rom., viii, 29 (De fide, V, vi, 83): "Non enim ante praedestinavit quam praescivit, sed quorum merita praescivit, eorum praemia praedestinavit" (He did not predestine before He foreknew, but for those whose merits He foresaw, He predestined the reward). To conclude: no one can accuse us of boldness if we assert that the theory here presented has a firmer basis in Scripture and Tradition than the opposite opinion.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Predestination")
See above quote on St. Gregory of Nyssa and the death of infants, which would seem to me to be a clear example of the absolute gratuity of God predestining some and not others.

Once again, the citation was to support middle knowledge. I don't want to start discussing individual citations in depth. We have enough on our plate already.

By contrast with other texts of St. Augustine, we can ascertain the true sense of the above passage, which would seem to imply absolute predestination, not the conditional predestination of Molina.

We know Augustine believed in that, so we need not argue about it.

On the other hand, I don't think you can provide texts which absolutely rule this out and allow for predestination in a way which is distinguishable from Calvinist forms which deny human free will.

I think we should be clear about Calvinism and what exactly the Church condemned in Calvinism. The Church did not condemn Calvin's claim that God absolutely and unconditionally predestines some men to eternal life. This in fact, is the kernel of truth hidden in the rubbish of Calvinism, which was exaggerated at the expense of other truths that the Church preserves in a delicate balance, like a stained-glass window.


I would add that in not condemning this tenet of Calvinism, the Church at the Council of Trent has indirectly endorsed the Augustinian and Thomistic theses that God predestines absolutely, apart from foreseen merits.

Rather, I think we can only conclude from Trent that unconditional predestination to hell was condemned.

And, this indirect "endorsement" would simply reinforce earlier teachings at the first and second Councils of Orange and Quierzy (noted above), when the Church, following St. Augustine, affirmed the absolute gratuity of God's gift of salvation against the Pelagians and the Semipelagians.

Again, Pelagianism is not at issue. Molinism is not Pelagian at all, as explained in my last survey post. If it were, it would stand condemned by the Church for that reason, if no other. But it was allowed in 1607, so this is an irrelevant consideration.

What the Church did condemn is well known: the denial of free will and the doctrine of total deprivation after the Fall; double predestination- predestination of some men to hell without any consideration of their merits; the subsequent rejection of the sacraments and the necessity of perseverance in faith and good works; the assertion that it is impossible, even with God's grace, to keep the commandments. Of course, neither the Thomists nor the Augustinians would object to any of the canons at Trent or elsewhere; so to identify them with Calvinism is grossly misleading.

Nor would the Molinists. And I don't equate Thomists with Calvinists; only in certain limited regards where I see some difficult problems or dilemmas.

Each theological school (excepting Calvinism and other Protestant brands) affirms the mutual interdependence of grace and free will. The following scripture passages seem to clearly show that God predestines some men infallibly to eternal life (and not on the basis of foreseen merits), while others are reprobate:

"Many are called, few are chosen." (Matt. 22:14)

This doesn't tell us how they are chosen, so it is irrelevant to our discussion.

Here we see the contrast between God's antecedent will, which desires that it is really possible for all men to be saved, and God's consequent will in which some men are predestined infallibly by grace working through charity, while others are not.

But so what? We don't disagree on that.

"Those whom thou gavest me have I kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the Scripture may be fulfilled." (John 17:12)

The elect are not lost; they cannot be. So what? No one disputes that.

Here Our Lord seems to state quite clearly that His grace is truly efficacious, in other words, of itself it brings about the term of predestination- eternal life. Because grace is efficacious of itself, it does not depend on our consent- either in the present or the future. Instead, because it is efficacious it moves us to faith and good works, which justify us before God.

One could argue that it depends on our consent in the same way that Scripture speaks many many times of requiring our consent for salvation ("work out your salvation," etc.). God gives the grace: we freely consent (the consent itself being enabled by grace, as Trent teaches). By analogy, I don't see how you could absolutely rule out any foreseen consent in God's decision to elect, since the Bible shows us consent regarding salvation (at least in the temporal order).

"And I give them life everlasting: and they shall not perish for ever. And no man shall pluck them out of my hand. That which my Father hath given Me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father." (John 10:27-30)

Again, here we see that grace is absolutely efficacious, not dependent in any way upon our consent- either now or in the future.

The text doesn't say that: you merely eisegete that understanding and exclusion into it. This simply states that God predestines, but no one disagrees with that. Our dispute concerns how He does so, not that He does so. You disputed all my previous patristic quotes on the grounds that they didn't get into the "how" of utilizing foreseen merits, then you turn around and give Bible proof texts that are equally silent on the "how." But I can give plenty of Scripture showing how God seems to consider our merits in His decision to save us or not. So the biblical data leans strongly in my direction on this, I think, by considerable analogies.

If we do cooperate with God’s grace, it is only by God's grace ("prevenient grace") that we are able to do so.

Exactly. So why do you rule out participation, and God using that as part of His decision to elect and predestine? We get no credit for that; therefore God's will or decision is not dependent upon it as if it were separate in origin or cause from He Himself. Now you are arguing my case for me.

God moves the will to good works which merit eternal life, but in a way that involves freedom, not necessity (more on this Thomistic principle later)

This is also the Molinistic principle . . .

"….but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened." (Matt. 24:22)

Here Christ clearly distinguishes between the "called" and the "chosen" few that He must have known (loved) from all eternity. No reference is given, either directly or indirectly, of the elect being chosen on the basis of foreseen merits.

Nor is there any indication that they were not, so it is a wash. You can't dispute the argument from silence on my part and then use it yourself. These are supposed to be your proof texts . . .

"What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory as if thou had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7)

Here St. Paul clearly teaches that all that is good in us, even the cooperation of our will with His will, is a grace given by God that is in no way merited- either now or in the future.

As Molinists agree; so, another moot point.

Therefore, grace is absolutely gratuitous, and not in any way conditioned- especially by foreseen merits.

Dealt with above . . .

"As he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight in charity. Who has predestined us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the purpose of His will." (Ephesians 1:3-7)

Here St. Paul clearly links the predestination of certain men with those who he knew before the foundation of the world, in the sense that they were chosen even before the world began. No mention is made of foreseen merits, only that God had already knew or determined who the elect would be.

Nor is any exclusion made of middle knowledge or foreseen actions or merits. This (like all your other texts thus far) helps neither position to establish itself as more plausible.

"We know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as according to His purpose are called to be saints. For whom he foreknew, He also predestined to be made conformable to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. And whom He predestined, them He also called. And whom He called, them He also justified. And whom he justified, them He also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)

Here predestination for St. Paul is once again linked to those whom God had already known to be elect at the foundation of the world.

Of course. No one denies that He elects!!!! But how He does it is the question.

The consistent interpretation of "For whom he foreknew" by the Church is not in reference to foreseen merits. This interpretation was introduced by Molina rather later in Church history.

Lots of things develop late. So what? Look at ecumenism and religious freedom, for example: both rather firmly taught by Vatican II. I have shown that St. Ambrose and St. Hilary taught on foreseen merits, and the Catholic Encyclopedia claims virtual unanimity among the eastern fathers and even the western ones, save for St. Augustine. So one has to question whether your claim of "late origin" is valid in the first place.

St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, and even St. Robert Bellarmine (a moderate Molinist) all assert that by "foreknew" St. Paul means "loved" as when Adam "knew" Eve and they begat children. God loved the elect before the world began, and then dispensed graces to guide them infallibly to eternal life and to bear good fruit in them. Hence we can now appreciate St. Augustine's definition of predestination which is wholly consistent with the of St. Paul, "Predestination is the foreknowledge and preparedness on God’s part to bestow the favors by which all those are saved who are to be saved."

The text from St. Paul neither proves your position nor disproves mine.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Predestination, Molinism, and the Ingenious "Solution" of Fr. William G. Most

By Dave Armstrong (4-22-06)

This will be a collection of interesting, thought-provoking material I have dug up today in my own library and on the Internet about this fascinating issue, preliminary to my public response to the Thomist "JS", who has provided a lengthy and thoughtful reply in private e-mail (to my previous response).

For those unfamiliar with the general controversies surrounding the issue of free will and God's providence and foreknowledge, with regard to salvation and election (particularly within a Catholic theological framework), the following will be (I hope) a helpful (albeit very philosophically dense and heavy) aid. I have sought to cite the most clearly-expressed, as untechnical-as-possible selections. But since this is one of the most complex and vexed topics in the history of theology, one can only do so much. I have tried to help the reader (and myself, in working through the issues) along by my own editing and categorizing.

But proceed with caution, at your own peril. If you dislike abstract, analytical, and heavily philosophical treatments of theology, do NOT read any further! But if you are, like myself, one who loves the intersection of philosophy and theology, and pondering very deep mysteries of theology and God, then settle down for a thrilling intellectual adventure and feast for the (Christian) mind.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


I. Thomism & Predestination
II. Molinism & Predestination
III. Common Beliefs of Thomists and Molinists Regarding Grace & Predestination
IV. Difficulties for Thomists
V. Difficulties for Molinists
VI. Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) and Congruism: a Moderate Developed Molinism
VII. Differences Between Congruism and "Pure" Molinism
VIII. Biblical Evidences for Middle Knowledge (scientia media)
IX. Biblical Evidences for Closely-Related Human and Divine Causation
X. The William G. Most "Solution"

I. Thomism and Predestination

The Theory of Predestination ante proevisa merita

This theory, championed by all Thomists and a few Molinists (as Bellarmine, Suarez, Francis de Lugo), asserts that God, by an absolute decree and without regard to any future supernatural merits, predestined from all eternity certain men to the glory of heaven, and then, in consequence of this decree, decided to give them all the graces necessary for its accomplishment. In the order of time, however, the Divine decree is carried out in the reverse order, the predestined receiving first the graces preappointed to them, and lastly the glory of heaven as the reward of their good works. Two qualities, therefore, characterize this theory: first, the absoluteness of the eternal decree, and second, the reversing of the relation of grace and glory in the two different orders of eternal intention (ordo intentionis) and execution in time (ordo executionis). For while grace (and merit), in the order of eternal intention, is nothing else than the result or effect of glory absolutely decreed, yet, in the order of execution, it becomes the reason and partial cause of eternal happiness, as is required by the dogma of the meritoriousness of good works (see MERIT). Again, celestial glory is the thing willed first in the order of eternal intention and then is made the reason or motive for the graces offered, while in the order of execution it must be conceived as the result or effect of supernatural merits.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Predestination")

[see also, Catholic Encyclopedia, "Grace, Controversies on," (1) Thomism]

II. Molinism and; Predestination

The Theory of Predestination post proevisa merita

This theory defended by the earlier Scholastics (Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus), as well as by the majority of the Molinists, and warmly recommended by St. Francis de Sales "as the truer and more attractive opinion", has this as its chief distinction, that it is free from the logical necessity of upholding negative reprobation. It differs from predestination ante proevisa merita in two points: first, it rejects the absolute decree and assumes a hypothetical predestination to glory; secondly, it does not reverse the succession of grace and glory in the two orders of eternal intention and of execution in time, but makes glory depend on merit in eternity as well as in the order of time. This hypothetical decree reads as follows: Just as in time eternal happiness depends on merit as a condition, so I intended heaven from all eternity only for foreseen merit. - It is only by reason of the infallible foreknowledge of these merits that the hypothetical decree is changed into an absolute: These and no others shall be saved.

This view not only safeguards the universality and sincerity of God's salvific will, but coincides admirably with the teachings of St. Paul (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8), who knows that there "is laid up" (reposita est, apokeitai) in heaven "a crown of justice", which "the just judge will render" (reddet, apodosei) to him on the day of judgment. Clearer still is the inference drawn from the sentence of the universal Judge (Matthew 25:34 sq.): "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat" etc. As the "possessing" of the Kingdom of Heaven in time is here linked to the works of mercy as a condition, so the "preparation" of the Kingdom of Heaven in eternity, that is, predestination to glory is conceived as dependent on the foreknowledge that good works will be performed. The same conclusion follows from the parallel sentence of condemnation (Matthew 25:41 sq.): "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat" etc. For it is evident that the "everlasting fire of hell" can only have been intended from all eternity for sin and demerit, that is, for neglect of Christian charity, in the same sense in which it is inflicted in time. Concluding a pari, we must say the same of eternal bliss. This explanation is splendidly confirmed by the Greek Fathers. Generally speaking, the Greeks are the chief authorities for conditional predestination dependent on foreseen merits. The Latins, too, are so unanimous on this question that St. Augustine is practically the only adversary in the Occident. St. Hilary (In Ps. lxiv, n. 5) expressly describes eternal election as proceeding from "the choice of merit" (ex meriti delectu), and St. Ambrose teaches in his paraphrase of Rom., viii, 29 (De fide, V, vi, 83): "Non enim ante praedestinavit quam praescivit, sed quorum merita praescivit, eorum praemia praedestinavit" (He did not predestine before He foreknew, but for those whose merits He foresaw, He predestined the reward). To conclude: no one can accuse us of boldness if we assert that the theory here presented has a firmer basis in Scripture and Tradition than the opposite opinion.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Predestination")

In spite of original sin and concupiscence man is still free, not only with reference to ethical good and evil in his natural actions, but also in his supernatural salutary works in which Divine grace co-operates with his will. Molinism escaped every suspicion of Pelagianism by laying down at the outset that the soul with its faculties (the intellect and will) must be first constituted by prevenient grace a supernatural principle of operation in actu primo, before it can, in conjunction with the help of the supernatural concursus of God, elicit a salutary act in actu secundo. Thus, the salutary act is itself an act of grace rather than of the will; it is the common work of God and man, because and in so far as the supernatural element of the act is due to God and its vitality and freedom to man. It must not be imagined, however, that the will has such an influence on grace that its consent conditions or strengthens the power of grace; the fact is rather that the supernatural power of grace is first transformed into the vital energy of the will, and then, as a supernatural concursus, excites and accompanies the free and salutary act. In other words, as a helping or co-operating grace (gratia adiuvans seu cooperans), it produces the act conjointly with the will. According to this explanation, not only does Divine grace make a supernatural act possible, but the act itself, though free, is wholly dependent on grace, because it is grace which makes the salutary act possible and which stimulates and assists in producing it. Thus the act is produced entirely by God as First Cause (Causa prima), and also entirely by the will as second cause (causa secunda). The unprejudiced mind must acknowledge that this exposition is far from incurring the suspicion of Pelagianism or Semipelagianism.

When the Thomists propound the subtler question, through what agency does the will, under the influence and impulse of grace, cease to be a mere natural faculty (actus primus) and produce a salutary act (actus secundus), or (according to Aristotelean terminology) pass from potency into act, the Molinists answer without hesitation that it is no way due to the Thomistic predetermination (proedeterminatio sive proemotio physica) of the will of God. For such a causal predetermination coming from a will other than our own, is a denial of self-determination on the part of our own will and destroys its freedom. It is rather the will itself which by its consent, under the restrictions mentioned above, renders the prevenient grace (gratia proeveniens) co-operative and the completely sufficient grace (gratia vere sufficiens) efficacious; for, to produce the salutary act, the free will need only consent to the prevenient and sufficient grace, which it has received from God. This theory reveals forthwith two characteristic features of Molinism, which stand in direct opposition to the principles of Thomism. The first consists in this, that the actus primus (i. e. the power to elicit a supernatural act) is, according to Molinism, due to a determining influx of grace previous to the salutary act (influxus proevius. gratia proeveniens), but that God enters into the salutary act itself (actus secundus) only by means of a concomitant supernatural concursus (concursus simultaneus, gratia cooperans). The act, in so far as it is free, must come from the will; but the concursus prœvius of the Thomists, which is ultimately identical with God's predestination of the free act, makes illusory the free self-determination of the will, whether in giving or withholding its consent to the grace.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Molinism")

[see also, Catholic Encyclopedia, "Grace, Controversies on," (3) Molinism

"'No Other Name': A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of SalvationThrough Christ," Dr. William Lane Craig

"Middle Knowledge, Truth–Makers, and the 'Grounding Objection,'" Dr. William Lane Craig

"A 'middle' knowledge perspective on the doctrine of Divine Providence," Thomas Rauchenstein]

III. Common Beliefs of Thomists and Molinists Regarding Grace and Predestination

Owing to the infallible decisions laid down by the Church, every orthodox theory on predestination and reprobation must keep within the limits marked out by the following theses: (a) At least in the order of execution in time (in ordine executionis) the meritorious works of the predestined are the partial cause of their eternal happiness; (b) hell cannot even in the order of intention (in ordine intentionis) have been positively decreed to the damned, even though it is inflicted on them in time as the just punishment of their misdeeds; (c) there is absolutely no predestination to sin as a means to eternal damnation.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Predestination")

IV. Difficulties for Thomists

It is just as difficult to find in the writings of the Fathers a solid argument for an absolute predestination . . . What deters us most strongly from embracing the theory just discussed is not the fact that it cannot be dogmatically proved from Scripture or Tradition, but the logical necessity to which it binds us, of associating an absolute predestination to glory, with a reprobation just as absolute, even though it be but negative. The well-meant efforts of some theologians (e. g. Billot) to make a distinction between the two concepts, and so to escape the evil consequences of negative reprobation, cannot conceal from closer inspection the helplessness of such logical artifices. Hence the earlier partisans of absolute predestination never denied that their theory compelled them to assume for the wicked a parallel, negative reprobation — that is, to assume that, though not positively predestined to hell, yet they are absolutely predestined not to go to heaven (cf. above, I, B). While it was easy for the Thomists to bring this view into logical harmony with their proemotio physica, the few Molinists were put to straits to harmonize negative reprobation with their scientia media. In order to disguise the harshness and cruelty of such a Divine decree, the theologians invented more or less palliative expressions, saying that negative reprobation is the absolute will of God to "pass over" a priori those not predestined, to "overlook" them, "not to elect" them, "by no means to admit" them into heaven. Only Gonet had the courage to call the thing by its right name: "exclusion from heaven" (exclusio a gloria).

. . . How can that will to save be called serious and sincere which has decreed from all eternity the metaphysical impossibility of salvation? He who has been reprobated negatively, may exhaust all his efforts to attain salvation: it avail's him nothing. Moreover, in order to realize infallibly his decree, God is compelled to frustrate the eternal welfare of all excluded a priori from heaven, and to take care that they die in their sins. Is this the language in which Holy Writ speaks to us? No; there we meet an anxious, loving father, who wills not "that any should perish, but that all should return to penance" (2 Peter 3:9). Lessius rightly says that it would be indifferent to him whether he was numbered among those reprobated positively or negatively; for, in either case, his eternal damnation would be certain.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Predestination")

Thomism, on the other hand, is confronted by the following dilemma: Either the grace which is merely sufficient (gratia mere sufficiens) is able by its own nature and without the help of an entirely different and new grace to produce the salutary act for which it was given, or it is not: if it is not able, then this sufficient grace is in reality insufficient (gratia insufficiens), since it must be supplemented by another; if it is able to produce the act by itself, then sufficient and efficacious grace do not differ in nature, but by reason of something extrinsic, namely in that the will gives its consent in one case and withholds it in the other. If then, when possessed of absolutely the same grace, one sinner is converted and another can remain obdurate, the inefficacy of the grace in the case of the obdurate sinner is due, not to the nature of the grace given, but to the sinful resistance of his free will, which refuses to avail itself of God's assistance. But for Thomism, which assumes an intrinsic and essential difference between sufficient and efficacious grace, so that sufficient grace to become efficacious must be supplemented by a new grace, the explanation is by no means so easy and simple. It cannot free itself from the difficulty, as is possible for Molinism, by saying that, but for the refractory attitude of the will, God would have bestowed this supplementary grace. For, since the sinful resistance of the will, viewed as an act, is to be referred to a physical premotion on the part of God, as well as the free co-operation with grace, the will, which is predetermined ad unum, is placed in a hopeless predicament. On the one hand the physical premotion in the form of an efficacious grace which is necessary to produce the salutary act, is lacking to the will, and, on the other, the entity of the sinful act of resistance is irrevocably predetermined by God as the Prime Mover (Motor primus). Whence then is the will to derive the impulse to accept or to reject the one premotion rather than the other? Therefore, the Molinists conclude that the Thomists cannot lay down the sinful resistance of the will as the cause of the inefficacy of the grace, which is merely sufficient.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Molinism")

V. Difficulties for Molinists

At this stage of the controversy the Thomists urge with great emphasis the grave accusation that the Molinists, by their undue exaltation of man's freedom of will, seriously circumscribe and diminish the supremacy of the Creator over His creatures, so that they destroy the efficacy and predominance of grace and make impossible in the hands of God the infallible result of efficacious grace. For, they argue, if the decision ultimately depends on the free will, whether a given grace shall be efficacious or not, the result of the salutary act must be attributed to man and not to God. But this is contrary to the warning of St. Paul, that we must not glory in the work of our salvation as though it were our own (1 Corinthians 4:7), and to his teaching that it is Divine grace which does not only give us the power to act, but "worketh" also in us "to will and to accomplish" (Phil., ii, 13); it is contrary also to the constant doctrine of St. Augustine, according to whom our free salutary acts are not our own work, but the work of grace.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Molinism")

VI. Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) and Congruism: a Moderate Developed Molinism

First of all it was clear to the Jesuits from the beginning and the disputations before the Congregatio de Auxiliis (q. v.) did but strengthen the conviction, that a more perfect, more fully developed, and more accurate exposition of the Molinistic system on grace was both possible and desirable. As a modification of Molinism we are usually referred in the first place to that expansion and development, which afterwards took the name of Congruism (q. v.), and which owes its final form to the joint labours of Bellarmine, Suarez, Vasquez, and Lessius. As the article on Congruism shows in detail, the system received its name from the gratia congrua, i. e. a grace accommodated to circumstances. By such is understood a grace which, owing to its internal relationship and adaptation to the state of the recipient (his character, disposition, education, place, time, etc.), produces its effect in the light of the scientia media with infallible certainty, and thus is objectively identical with efficacious grace. The expression is borrowed from St. Augustine, as when he says: "Cujus autem miseretur, sic eum vocat, (quomodo scit ei congruere, ut vocantem non respuat" (Ad Simplicianum, I, Q. ii, n. 13). Consistently then with this terminology, the grace which is merely sufficient must be called gratia incongrua, i. e. a grace which has not a congruity with the circumstances, and is therefore inefficacious. This term also is sanctioned by St. Augustine (I. c.), for he says: "Illi enim electi, qui congruenter vocati; illi autem, qui non congruebant neque contemperabantur vocationi, non electi, quia non secuti, quamvis vocati". This doctrine seems to have advanced beyond "extreme Molinism" to this extent, that inefficacious grace and merely sufficient grace are made to differ even in actu primo - not indeed in their internal nature and physical entity, but in their moral worth and ethical nature - inasmuch as the bestowal of an ever so weak gratia congrua is an incomparably greater benefit of God than that of an ever so powerful gratia incongrua, the actual inefficacy of which God foresaw from all eternity. Though Molina himself had taught this doctrine ("Concordia", Paris, 1876, pp. 450, 466, 522, etc.), it seems that among his followers some extreme Molinists unduly emphasized the power of the will over grace, thus drawing upon themselves the suspicion of Semipelagianism. At least Cardinal Bellarmine attacks some who propagated such one-sided Molinistic views, and who cannot have been mere imaginary adversaries; against them he skilfully strengthened the tenets of Congruism by numerous quotations from St. Augustine.

. . . the opinion, gradually adopted since the time of Suarez (but repudiated in Molina's work), maintains that, by the scientia media, God sees the conditioned future acts in themselves, i. e. in their own (formal or objective) truth. For, since every free act must be absolutely determined in its being, even before it becomes actual or at least conditionally possible, it is from all eternity a definite truth (determinata veritas), and must consequently be knowable as such by the omniscient God with metaphysical certainty.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Molinism")

[see also, Catholic Encyclopedia, "Grace, Controversies on," (4) Congruism]

VII. Differences Between Congruism and "Pure" Molinism

Congruism is the term by which theologians denote a theory according to which the efficacy of efficacious grace (see GRACE) is due, at least in part, to the fact that the grace is given in circumstances favourable to its operation, i. e. "congruous" in that sense. The distinction between gratia congrua and gratia incongrua is found in St. Augustine where he speaks of the elect as congruenter vocati (Ad Simplicianum, Bk. I, Q. ii, no. 13). The system known as Congruism was developed by eminent Jesuit theologians at the close of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth. All Molinists regard actual grace as being really identified with supernatural action, actual grace of will, technically called inspiration, being an act of will. This act invariably begins necessarily, and may become free at a certain point in its duration; so, however, that, should it become free, there will be no complete break in the individuality, but only a modification of the action; the original necessary motion continuing in a modified form after the point where freedom commences has been reached. An actual grace of will which is merely sufficient never gets beyond this point. Whenever the motion does get beyond and become free, it is called an efficacious grace; the term being applied, not merely to the second stage of the action, wherein it is free, but even to the first stage, wherein it was necessary, with a tendency, however, to continue after the crucial point where freedom begins. This tendency to continue as a free act is found in the grace which remains merely sufficient, in the sense that the second, or free, stage may be, but is not, reached in that case; whereas, in the case of efficacious grace, the second or free stage is actually attained.

Hereupon the question arises: what is the precise reason why, of two motions which may be supposed to be similar in every respect as far as their intrinsic constitution is concerned—to be of the same intensity as well as of the same kind—one does not last beyond the critical point where freedom begins, whereas the other does? It is of the essence of Molinism that this is due in part to the will itself continuing to act under the Divine grace or not continuing. To which Bellarmine adds that grace which proves efficacious is given by God to one who, He foresees, will use it freely; whereas He foresees no less surely, when giving a grace which remains merely sufficient, that it will not last in the recipient beyond the initial or necessary stage of its duration. Congruism further insists that the motion passes into the free stage when the circumstances are comparatively favourable (congruous) to it; but when they are comparatively adverse (not congruous), it will not continue, at least as a rule. The circumstances are to be deemed favourable or unfavourable not absolutely, but comparatively, that is, in proportion to the intensity of the grace; for it is plain that, no matter how adverse they may be, God can overcome them by a strong impulse of grace such as would not be needed in other less stubborn cases; and, vice versa, very powerful Divine impulses may fail where the temptation to sin is very great. Not that in the necessary stage of the motion there is not sufficient energy, as we may say, to continue, always supposing freedom; or that it is not within the competence of the will, when the crucial point has been reached, to discontinue the motion which is congruous or to continue that which is not so. The will can continue to act or can abstain in either case; as a rule, however, it continues to act when the circumstances are favourable to that precise form and intensity of motion, thereby becoming efficacious; and does not continue when the circumstances are unfavourable, thereby proving a merely sufficient grace.

. . . All true Molinists admit and contend that, antecedently to the concession of grace, whether merely sufficient or efficacious, God knows by scientia media whether it will actually result in the free action for which it is given, or will remain inefficacious though sufficient. All likewise admit and proclaim that a specially benevolent Providence is exercised towards the recipient of grace when, with His knowledge of conditional results, God gives graces which He foresees to be efficacious, rather than others which He foresees would be inefficacious and which He is free to give. Bellarmine (De Gratiâ et Lib. Arbitrio, Bk. I, ch. xii) seems to accuse Molina, unjustly, of not admitting this latter point. Difference of opinion among Molinists is manifested only when they proceed to inquire into the cause of the Divine selection: whether it is due to any antecedent decree of predestination which God means to carry out at all costs, selecting purposely to this end only such graces as He foresees to prove efficacious, and passing over or omitting to select, no less purposely, such as he foresees would be without result if given. Suarez holds that the selection of graces which are foreseen to prove efficacious is consequent on and necessitated by such an antecedent decree, whereby all, and only, those who will actually be saved were infallibly predestined to salvation, and this antecedently to any foreknowledge, whether of their actual or merely conditional correspondence with the graces they may receive.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Congruism")

VIII. Biblical Evidences for Middle Knowledge (scientia media) [RSV]

[T]here must be a third kind of "intermediate knowledge", which embraces all objects that are found neither in the region of pure possibility nor strictly in that of actuality, but partake equally of both extremes and in some sort belong to both kinds of knowledge. In this class are numbered especially those free actions, which, though never destined to be realized in historical fact, would come into existence if certain conditions were fulfilled. A hypothetical occurrence of this kind the theologians call a conditional future occurrence (actus liber conditionate futurus seu futuribilis). In virtue of this particular kind of Divine knowledge, Christ, for example, was able to declare with certainty to His obstinate hearers that the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon would have done penance in sackcloth and ashes, if they had witnessed the signs and miracles which were wrought in Corozain and Bethsaida (cf. Matthew 11:21 sq.). We know, however, that such signs and miracles were not wrought and that the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon were not converted. Yet God had infallibly foreseen from all eternity that this conversion would have taken place if the condition (which never was realized) of Christ's mission to these cities had been fulfilled.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Molinism")

Exodus 13:17: "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt."

Jeremiah 23:21-22: "I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings."

Matthew 11:21-24: "Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."

1 Corinthians 2:8: "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

IX. Biblical Evidences for Closely-Related Human and Divine Causation [RSV]

Mk. 16:20: "And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them".

Acts 13:2-4: "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleu'cia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 17:28: "for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; . . ." (cf. Rom. 11:36; Heb. 1:3)

1 Corinthians 3:6-9 : "I planted, Apol'los watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building."

1 Corinthians 12:6: "and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one."

2 Corinthians 6:1: "Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain."

Ephesians 2:10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Philippians 2:12-13: ". . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

2 Peter 1:3-4: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature."

X. The William G. Most "Solution"

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 Banez 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...."


II. Solution from the revealed Father analogy

284. The analogy itself: The principal way in which Christ revealed to us the nature of God was in the name which He uses on almost every page of the Gospels: God is our Father.

The way was prepared for this revelation in the Old Testament. For, as we saw in chapter 4, through the old covenant of Sinai, God, out of the most intense love, willed to bind Himself to do good to His people, so that there existed between Him and them the relation expressed by the Hebrew word hesed. That is, God bound Himself to act as the next of kin, as a blood relative of the people of Israel. He willed also to be called the redeemer of the people whom He delivered from the slavery of Egypt and acquired as a people for Himself. "Redeemer" in Hebrew is go'el. Now the principal and usual meaning of this word is:28 ". . . that next of kin to whom the Mosaic law gave the right or enjoined the duty of redeeming his kinsmen and protecting them in all their rights." He acted this way out of the love of a Father, as He said through Hosea:29 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son," so that Isaiah lyrically exclaims:30 "For thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; thou, O Lord, art our Father."

But under the new covenant,31 in which the true go'el, Christ, liberated us from the slavery of sin and acquired us as a people, God not only acts as though He were the next of kin, but, in the literal sense he becomes, by an added title, our Father, since the Son of this Father is our blood brother.

We have then, from direct revelation, an analogy from which we can learn much about God. It is to be regretted that so many theologians say little about this analogy-perhaps out of fear that someone might want to say: If God is our Father, surely he will damn no one. But that, of course, would be obviously false. However actually, if the analogy is rightly understood, it not only does not lead to such an error, but instead, the very existence of an eternal hell can be proved from it, as we shall soon see. We need then to investigate the chief truths contained in this analogy.

285. In the ordinary human family, with which a comparison is made, the father loves and cares for all the children. He wants all to turn out well. But why does the father love and care for the children? It was not required that they do something so that he would begin to love them: He began to love them before the children could do anything. Nor is it required that the children do something, e.g., various chores around their home,32 so that the father may continue to love and care for them. For the love of the father continues by its own force, out of his goodness. Something grave would be required to interrupt his love (or its effects) but nothing is required from the children in order that it may continue in its course. However, even though the children neither can nor must merit that the love of the father should begin, nor need they do anything so that his love may continue (for it continues by its own force), still, they can merit to be deprived of this love and care. For they can really merit punishment if they are bad. And, if they are gravely and persistently bad, they can even merit that the father should, though sadly, disinherit them.

Similarly God, our Father, loves and cares for all His children. He wants all to turn out well, i.e., to be saved. But why does He love them? It was not required that we do anything so that He might begin to love us-He began to love us before we existed; or rather, if He had not done this, we would not have existed at all. Nor is it required that we do something so that He may continue33 to love us, precisely because His love moves by its own power, out of His spontaneous unmerited goodness. However, we can merit punishment. And, if we are gravely and persistently bad,34 we can merit to be cast out of the house of our Father forever. This disinheritance is the pain of loss, which is the principal pain of hell.

So, those who are gravely and persistently bad, will be expelled from the house of their Father, that is, they are reprobated after and because of their demerits. But all others-God continues loving and caring for them, and giving all that is needed for salvation, including predestination itself, not because these children are good, nor because they have merited it, but simply because the Father from the outset, of his own spontaneous unmerited goodness, wanted to do this. For He wanted from the outset to save all and so He also willed to predestine them. He who wills the end, wills the means. But there is no salvation without predestination. Therefore, in willing to save all, He also willed to predestine all. It is not required that the children place any condition in order that God may predestine them, because the will of the Father was from the outset freely so disposed that He wanted to give everything needed for salvation, including predestination. Since this love and will of the Father moves by its own force, by force of His own goodness, nothing is required from man in order that it may continue, even though something serious would be required from man to interrupt35 this will so that it would not continue but would instead reprobate and cast them out of the number of His children.

286. Predestination is before, not after, prevision of merits: It is clear from this revealed Father analogy that predestination is neither because of nor after consideration of merits. Predestination would be because of merits, if merits were required to move the Father: but nothing is required to move Him; in fact, nothing could move Him. Predestination would be after, though not because of, prevision of merits if merits were a condition which the Father would freely will to consider, and predestine after finding it. But, as we have seen, nothing at all is required from man, i.e., it is not required that a man place any condition so that the love and care of the Father may begin and may continue, and may, in its course, predestine. The reason is that His love and care start and continue out of His own goodness. As we saw, a grave condition would be required to interrupt His love (or, more exactly, the effects of His love); but precisely because His love is spontaneous, self-moving, nothing is required from man that it may continue.

287. But we must still raise a question: Even though, by the nature of His love, it is not required that His children place any condition so that the love and care of the Father may continue, still, it is possible that the Father for some reason, e.g., out of love of good order, might want to add something, as it were by positive decree, that is, to decree that merits must be the formal condition. (We could not, of course, suppose that He would be so disposed as to refuse predestination to a son who did not resist, but still did not have merits-if these two things were separable. Certainly, the vehement force of His self-moving love would not leave room for that. Our question is solely about the possibility of adding a formal condition out of a positive decision of God).

The answer is that such a possibility is excluded by the revealed Father analogy.

1) A good human father, who has strong love, at least actually does not make any work or merit on the part of his children a formal requirement for his love and care, as long as they are little. Actually, for such a father, it is enough if the children do not place a negative condition that calls for punishment. Now, God, our Father, is the best of all Fathers, and has most vehement love (measured by the passion and the infinite objective titles for each individual), and we are always small children in His sight, for no matter how old we are we depend much more on Him than do small children in a human family: we can do nothing, even in the natural order, without the constant support of the power of our Father. Therefore, since God has revealed that He acts like a good Father to us, He has implicitly revealed that He does not add any such positive condition.

2) Furthermore, a human father simply would not be permitted to omit loving and caring for his small children precisely and formally because of the absence of a positive condition which he would demand from his child. The obligation of the father is imposed by the very nature of things from the very fact that he is a father. This obligation binds the father even though no positive condition is placed by the child. Only a gravely bad condition placed by the child will liberate the father from his obligation. It is true, a human father can order his children to do things to help in the home, and the children can merit punishment by disobedience. However, if a punishment is given, it is given formally because of disobedience, not formally because of a lack of a positive condition, i.e., the penalty of disinheritance and expulsion (if things reach such an extreme) is warranted precisely because of the evil condition of disobedience-not by the lack of a positive condition of earning the love and care of the father. Therefore God, from the fact that He acts as a Father to us, has implicitly revealed that He too acts in the way in which human fathers not only actually act but are bound to act. (If God wishes merits to be present for the sake of good order, this is sufficiently provided for in the order of execution, as we shall see below).36

Therefore it is revealed in the Father analogy that predestination is not after but before prevision of merits.

300. Conclusions:

1) The revealed Father analogy not only contains the principles needed for the solution, but it also, implicitly, contains the solution itself. For from this analogy it is clear that reprobation is after and because of foreseen demerits: but that predestination is before foreseen merits, in such a way that the cause of predestination is the spontaneous unmerited goodness of the Father, who predestines as often as the effects of His goodness are not impeded by a human condition, namely, grave and persistent resistance. Inasmuch as the absence of resistance in the first logical moment is an ontological zero, there is no condition in the predestined man. The point at which the decree of predestination is made is before foreseen merits, but after the foreseen absence of grave and persistent resistance. The resistance that brings on reprobation must be, in accordance with the will of God, grave, and persistent not only inasmuch as it must reach to the end of a man's life, but also inasmuch as reprobation is not decreed except after so many and such great sins that a man becomes physically or morally incurable.71 This does not mean that God cannot or will not ever send death after one or a few mortal sins, to a man who is foreseen as going to be incurable: He may do this out of mercy towards the man who is reprobated and/or towards others who would be harmed by the reprobate. It is certain, moreover, that some who resist much and are even hardened are saved by extraordinary graces. Probably, at least to some extent, God decides to save a hardened man on condition that other men fill up the deficiency in objective titles needed for him.

2) From the revelation on the salvific will and from that on the purpose of creation, it is clear that reprobation is after foreseen demerits, and also, it is clear from the salvific will that the resistance must be persistent in the senses explained in conclusion 1. It is probable, on the basis of these two loci in revelation, that predestination is before foreseen merits.

3) Even from philosophy it can be shown (following St. Thomas) that reprobation is after foreseen demerits, and that predestination is gratuitous.

(The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions: "Pt. 2: Predestination and reprobation - Ch. 17: Solution of the problem from the sources of revelation")

[see also: "Predestination: Reasons For Centuries-Old Impasse," William G. Most)

* * *

What is my own position, after all this, you may wonder? Well, up till now I was not as well-studied on the issues (I didn't claim to be, so I don't think I was guilty of pretense or presumption). After my intensive, quite intellectually exciting study today, I am inclined towards Congruism or "Suarezianism" over against the original Molinism (though it is unclear how much what is known as "Molinism" departs from Molina's actual views - just as some strains of Thomism sometimes contradict St. Thomas; there is contradiction in my sources above in this regard).

Suarezian Congruism appeals to my strong belief in God's sovereignty and His causation of all good actions by His enabling grace, yet I feel mildly troubled by the counter-objection that this mitigates to some extent against free will and creates some (logically reductive) difficulty for the universal salvific will of God. Suarez and Bellarmine retain belief in middle knowledge, which appears well-established from Scripture and philosophical reflection on omniscience, omnipotence, and providence. I definitely accept that, over against the Thomists.

I like the Suarezian development of Molinism in the sense that it seems to resolve the objection that Molinist free will overrides or causally precedes God's sovereignty and is too radically free; also the fact that Suarez appreciates the frequent biblical paradox of God's actions somehow mysteriously being also our own (as seen in the Scriptures from Section IX above). This is analogous to the Catholic doctrine of merit, upon which all Catholics agree: "God merely crowns His own gifts when He rewards our merits" (St. Augustine).

That said, I think Fr. Most's remarkable "why didn't I notice that before?"-type solution is entirely satisfactory, since it accepts and incorporates paradox, human free will, divine sovereignty, universal divine salvific will, the profound mercy and love of our heavenly Father, and biblical analogy and parable alike. I believe that it (almost miraculously) resolves the continuing difficulties of both competing schools. It maintains the Thomist unconditional election before any consideration of merits, but also at the same time human free will, by making reprobation dependent on human rejection of God, without the instinctive discomfort which I feel about both traditional proposed explanations.

So whatever that "school" is called ("Mostian" doesn't have nearly the ring of "Suarezian" or "Molinist", which are very fun, intriguing, romantic Spanish titles), I'm enthusiastically there at present, until I see a more satisfactory solution to the dilemmas above.

Thanks for bearing with this sometimes tedious, difficult, ultra-demanding but ultimately rewarding reading. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have (which was a great deal indeed).