Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Jittery John" Loftus Again Explodes After I Critique His Argument Against the Timeless, Transcendent God

By Dave Armstrong (11-30-06)

"Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me."

Job 38:3 (RSV)

"Pour forth the overflowings of your anger, and look on every one that is proud, and abase him . . . bring him low; and tread down the wicked where they stand."

Job 40:11-12

This amazing display of condescension came about after I commented on a post from atheist John W. Loftus, having to do with whether God was in time or not. John has a history (with me, at any rate) of flying off the handle, rather than presenting rational counter-replies, when some criticism is offered. The classic case was when I dared to offer criticisms of his deconversion story. His reaction has to be seen to be believed.

I had hoped that (with the passage of time) he had gotten over this skittishness and hair-trigger defensiveness and condescension where I am concerned, but alas, it was not to be. He has even "upped the ante" and continued a stream of insults toward me, for (quite outrageously) being and acting like a Christian confident in his faith and able to defend it. In the past, he has called me a "joke" and an "arrogant idiot" among other things. He has yet to retract any of the epithets.

Now, I'm the first to gladly assert that his reaction should not be seen as one that typifies atheists, or disproves any particular atheist version of reality. Neither is true. But that is not my purpose at present; rather, it is to show how even intelligent people (John has two masters' degrees) can become utterly irrational and unreasonable when confronted with criticism of their arguments, and how harmful this is to the intellectual endeavor. This is how not to do it, folks!

There is also some considerable humor and amusement to be enjoyed (the section about "obvious"); I simply couldn't resist. He laid himself out wide open on that one; provided the rope to hang him with. John's words will be in blue.

* * * * *

. . . look these arguments up before you comment further. Please do my readers a favor here. Read up on this topic before you continue to waste space. Let other more informed people comment.

ME: On the other hand, it is obvious that God must be outside of time, if one accepts the description of Him that the Bible offers.

That he walked in the cool of the Garden of Eden? That he showed Moses his back side? That he appeared to Abraham? That he changed his mind? That he visited us in Jesus? You are ignorant if you think what you just said is obvious.

. . . Anthropomorphism. That saves you, doesn't it? Then show me one verse in the Bible that could not have been written by an ancient superstitious person. Just one. Show me where there was a prediction of the computer chip, or a vaccine for Polio. Show me where God told people about the vastness and age of the universe.

ME: I suspect you are slanting his full argument. If he is orthodox, he would not put it in such despairing terms.

Read it yourself. Why is it that you distrust what I say? If you distrust what I say then why bother to comment on this at all? Just say you don't believe he said this and move on.

[I didn't say I distrusted it, only that there was possible bias in presenting the Christian's argument]

Dave, you present your uninformed arguments as if everyone should agree with you, and that is what I object to.

You used the words "obvious" and "obviously" twice in this last comment alone, when not even all Christians will agree with you, much less atheists. Why do you continue to insist that the things you believe are obvious? That's what I think is ignorant of you, for if they were obvious no one would disagree.

But that's not all. You state "it is nonsensical and utterly illogical." You state "This is radically unbiblical," and "impossible exegetically."

You annoy me, not because of your arguments, but because of your ill placed confidence. Any educated person would not state the things you do with such arrogance. That's all.

Besides, it does nothing for your argument to add the word "obviously" to it. And if you were informed as you say about this, then you would know that such interpretatons are not impossible since Christians themselves think otherwise.

I mean, really, with you there is no discussion to be had for any topic you write about. You are the answer man. Everyone else is ignoring the obvious. And that's the hallmark of an ignorant and uneducated man.

You keep being personally insulting, John, and I'll keep making arguments (just like when I critiqued your deconversion). People can see through that.

If I'm as big of a dolt and an ignoramus as you endlessly contend, then surely you'll be able to blow my arguments out of the water.

But of course, since you're far less "confident" than I am, this handicap (or virtue, depending on one's point of view) would OBVIOUSLY present an opposing counter-weight to your doing so.

Which scholar, for instance, would you point to who says his arguments are obvious?

I don't know who's a scholar or who isn't, but I'll use examples from this very blog:

Obviously, the problem is that each author of the various books treats 'Faith' as something differently.

(DagoodS, 11-1-06)

(I won't argue whether such a conception of "degrees of individuality" is "true or not" in a philosophical sense, which will obviously get us no where, since how could one prove any of my assumptions above at all)?

(Ed Babinski, 10-20-06)

Obviously, this passage presents some theological difficulties for early Christians. This passage seems to run against the notion that Jesus is God.

(Bill Curry, 11-6-06)

. . . God must take the sum total of His wrath out on the most unworthy recipient, a wholly guiltless individual, who also happens to be Himself? Why is such a belief necessary? And why do Christian creeds insist on the necessity of such a belief, when it obviously does not appeal to all, nor even make sense to all?

(Ed Babinski, 10-20-06)

Conclusive proof that the Bible is NOT inerrant. [title] . . . The God who created the Universe, stars, planets, and our own Sun, obviously wasn't aware of the very astronomical phenomena he created.

(Desolate-Paladin, 6-21-06)

Steve is obviously committing a fallacious appeal to authority, considering he hasn't yet even evaluated my writing in order to refute it on the grounds of "no formal credentials".

(Daniel Morgan, 5-11-06)

The Establishment Clause is best understood by the Lemon Test. This situation fails the test on obvious grounds, . . .

(Daniel Morgan, this very day: 11-30-06)

The message was as obvious as anything, but I tried to look for answers. I read up on the responses from all the theological camps, from the conservatives (Blomberg, Marshall, McKnight, Wright, Witherington) to moderates (Meyer, Brown) to the Jesus Seminar.

(exapologist - almost a scholar, going for his doctorate in philosophy, 9-9-06)

Rather it is a book easily proven to be filled with errors and of obvious human origin.

(s burgener, 11-5-06)

Now let's say a Calvinist offers an answer and is unconvinced by any of my replies. I never said I could convince those who hold to absolutely idiotic beliefs such as this one, that they are wrong. Any thinking person not already blinded by their faith would see the obvious and serious problem here.

(John W. Loftus, 10-15-06)

[I]t is apparent that upon careful examination, several fundamental elements of the Christian faith do not stand up to outside critiques, or even, in some cases, to several passages in the same book. In the case of the 'virginal birth' and the accompanying prophecies, it is obvious that the two critical parts of the faith of Christianity can not logically coexist. But then, logic is not what religion is based upon.

(C.J. Baserap, 5-14-06)
But here's one scholar, at least: William Lane Craig:
There's another version of Dr. Ehrman's objection which is even more obviously fallacious than Ehrman's Egregious Error. I call it "Bart's Blunder."
In this paper, presented by you (6-6-06), you yourself state that Craig is a pretty decent scholar, not an idiot and deluded and presumptuous fool like you think I am: "Craig understands symbolic logic, and uses it to his advantage whenever he can. . . . Craig does a masterful job of it."

Since Dr. Craig used the outrageous word "obvious" with regard to one of his own arguments, or regarding the "obviously fallacious . . . Egregious Error" [his capital letters] and "Blunder" of an opponent, then he, too must be (as you say I am) "the answer man. Everyone else is ignoring the obvious . . . the hallmark of an ignorant and uneducated man." Nice little foray into symbolic logic there, John . . .

And again you (5-7-06) cite NT scholar James Dunn (one whom Ed Babinski has tried to cite against my position):
"John's Gospel is 'obviously different' [Dunn] from the other three earlier Gospels in terms of style and content."
So there is another "ignorant and uneducated" scholar, using this dreaded word "obvious" and thus proving that he has no business commenting on anything at all, with such unmitigated gall and hubris, leading him to possess such inappropriate confidence!

Okay Dave. Fine. Where do you get the time to search these things out? For me to answer you I would have to search out the context of every one of these uses of "obviously." But let me guess. Craig does this only in debates for rhetorical effect. Others were talking about their own notions and personal experiences. Still others are indeed fairly obvious.

They're what???!!!

There are other usages you pointed to which I'll let those who used them speak for themselves. But if I'm arguing against a viewpoint that I know my opponent doesn't agree with, or if I'm arguing a minority viewpoint, or a contestable viewpoint then it's ignorant to use the word for anything contestable, especially as much as you use it. And even when you don't use such a word it's in the whole tone of what you write.

For instance it is "obvious" to me that Christianity is false.

It's what???!!! But of course, this is not an arrogant use of the word; only when I use it to defend Christianity. Curious logic . . .

That's my personal belief, and it's proper to use this word to describe my personal feelings about Christianity. But to say it's "obvious" that Christianity is false in an argument that attempts to show another person that it's false, is ignorant, unless done for rhetorical effect, which is merely rhetorical and has no force at all. Ehrman could've simply said "this is not obvious to me."

That's interesting. So to describe an argument as "obviously wrong" is insufferably arrogant, but to utilize a number of different arguments to make a statement describing one's conclusion that an entire religion is obviously false, is perfectly prim and proper. It's a silly distinction. Just let people say what they want to, and give them the freedom to use whatever words they wish. John finds my style offensive and overly-confident. I find his insulting and condescending. Does he really think my being confident that an argument is "obviously wrong" is more offensive than him calling me an "arrogant idiot" and all the additional insults (most aimed at my knowledge and intelligence) seen presently?

I am annoyed by people like you, and it may be a personality problem. I'm annoyed with pompous self-righteous know-it-all's, especially when I know they don't.

See, there you go! LOL Yet another to add to my collection. So John lectures me about supposed attitudes, using examples that don't prove his point, and then absolutely proves that his attitude is far worse than mine, by any objective criteria.

And that is how you come across. Now it might go over well with your supporters and visitors to your site, but not here. Here you will find people who disagree with you a lot more often.

Not only do you think you're right when you haven't read the relevant literature. Now you are attempting to defend the arrogant way you argue. You're just right about everything, or, at least you always come across that way. And in my book that reveals you are an uneducated, ignorant, arrogant know-it-all.

What I am probably going to do is to delete these comments tomorrow so that we can start this discussion all over again. You may copy them if you want to, but they are off track.

Yes, of course (precisely why I knew I had to preserve them). I suppose I would do the same thing, if something made me look like a fool, as this stuff does regarding John.

[to someone else]:

I think people who argue in the manner I see over at Triablogue [an anti-Catholic site], and even Dave Armstrong to some degree, don't care about us as persons. They only want to show to others, whom they do care for, that we are wrong. Many of them think we are ignorant or willfully ignorant deceivers who don't care about the truth at all. So they treat us like non-persons.

Yes, of course. I disagree with a position, and this sort of hyper-paranoid tripe is what I get back. But John is clearly (whoops, OBVIOUSLY) showing tons of "care" for me as "person" when he uses the following descriptions (all now a matter of record):
you continue to waste space

You are ignorant

you present your uninformed arguments as if everyone should agree with you

Any educated person would not state the things you do with such arrogance.

with you there is no discussion to be had for any topic you write about.

You are the answer man. Everyone else is ignoring the obvious. And that's the hallmark of an ignorant and uneducated man.

I am annoyed by people like you, . . . pompous self-righteous know-it-all's

Now you are attempting to defend the arrogant way you argue.

You're just right about everything, or, at least you always come across that way.

you are an uneducated, ignorant, arrogant know-it-all.

I think people who argue in the manner I see over at Triablogue, and even Dave Armstrong to some degree, don't care about us as persons.

Many of them [implied, including me] think we are ignorant or willfully ignorant deceivers who don't care about the truth at all. So they treat us like non-persons.

(all on 11-30-06)

Not bad for a day's work, especially for one who is lecturing another about how to treat folks respectfully. What else has John said about me in the past?:

Dave, as I read this [my critique of his deconversion] I thought to myself, he doesn't think of me as an equal. He looks down his nose at me. As I'm writing he looks for loopholes. He doesn't think I was sincere. I'm probably not even a person to him.

You're a joke. I'm surprised you have an audience. You're also a psychologist, eh? Wow! . . . Again, you're a joke.

. . . that quite frankly is stupid of you.

You're a joke, and I just don't have the time to teach you what you need to understand.

To think you could pompously proclaim you are better than me is beyond me when you don't know me. It's a defensive mechanism you have with people like me.

You have shown yourself to be non-objective with me and to parade before the ignorant how smart and how much more faith you have than I did.

It's called respecting people as people, and Dave's Christianity does not do that with people who don't agree with him.

I'm just tired of pompous asses on the internet who go around claiming they are superior to me in terms of intelligence and faith. Such arrogance makes me vomit.

. . . self-assured arrogant idiots out there, like Dave, who prefer to proclaim off of my personal experience that they are better than I.

(10-16-06; wow, it'a close call between these two insult-days. I give the nod to 10-16, though, because I love "arrogant idiot" and "joke" the best)

Is God in Time? (vs. John W. Loftus)

By Dave Armstrong (11-30-06)

The following exchange took place at Debunking Christianity blog, with John W. Loftus, former Church of Christ pastor and now an atheist. His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

Is God in time or is he timeless?

Obviously the latter.

Either stance a Christian takes leads to some kind of incoherence.

No; saying He is in time leads to insuperable logical and biblical difficulties. Being out of time does not.

Let me simply use Christian philosopher Paul Helm's analysis of this in "God and Spacelessness," Philosophy 55 (1980).

Helm begins with two authors who made similar claims against the timelessness of God. J. R. Lucas made this claim: "To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person." He reasons that to be a person is to have a mind, and to have a mind requires that it be in time (i.e., thoughts require a sequence of events, etc.).

For finite created beings, sure. But an infinite, self-existent, timeless, omniscient being overcomes this limitation, it seems to me. If a being knows everything at once, no sequence is required to "work through" the patterns of thinking and analysis that we are familiar with, as finite creatures.

A.N. Prior claimed that a proposition such as "It is raining now" is not equivalent in meaning to "It is raining on Tuesday," and that an omniscient God who knew the latter would not necessarily know the former,

I don't follow this reasoning. I'd have to see the basis for why this person thought that.

and would not know it if he were timeless, since he could not be present on the occasion on which it was raining.

Omnipresence would overcome that. Omniscience, too. I don't see the point of projecting inherent human limitations onto God. Atheists often complain that God is a projection. Yet here the sub-orthodox thinkers do exactly the same thing. The Christian, on the other hand, accepts God as He has revealed Himself to be. The Christian God is not the sort of being Who could readily be made up by man, precisely because His nature is so much more complex than ours and difficult to comprehend.

[These are pretty persuasive arguments, I might add].

Really? I don't see that they are, based on the summary. I would need to see more to understand how they argued their case in full.

But Helm argues against both authors by merely showing that such a claim also entails the denial that God is spaceless, which in turn denies that God is infinite - something these authors want to maintain. Helm writes that "the arguments used to show that God is in time, in effect support the view that God is finite, and so anyone who wishes to maintain that God is infinite, as the traditional theist does, will either have to find other arguments for the view that God is in time, or eschew the idea of God being in time altogether" - this is the dilemma Helm presents to these authors. And he claims, "if the timeless existence of God is incoherent then so is the spaceless existence of God."

A spirit does not have spatial qualities.

[I happen to agree that they are both incoherent].

Big surprise!

Helm does not try to show that God is in fact timeless, nor is his purpose to show that the logic of these two authors is wrong. He admits that he doesn’t even fully understand what it means to say God is both timeless and spaceless. He's only claiming that a denial of God's timelessness is also a denial of God's spacelessness.

After making his arguments he leaves the reader with three alternative consequences to choose from:

1) "Theism is even more incoherent than was previously thought, in that it requires unintelligibilities such as a timeless and spaceless existence." [To this I completely agree with him here.]

2) Recognize that since the belief in God requires an infinite and spaceless God "there must be something wrong" with the arguments against the timelessness of God." [However, it's far from the case that the Bible describes anything but God's activity in time, especially with the purported incarnation. Nicholas Wolterstroff's essay, "God Everlasting" has more than sufficiently shown this, as has Clark Pinnock's essays and books.] The Bible simply does not require that God is timeless. This view of God has been something fully adopted because of neo-Platonism and finally codified by Anselm's conception of the "greatest conceivable being."

3) These authors must "supply an argument against God’s timelessness that does not have a spatial parallel." [To date this challenge has not been sufficiently met].

I would argue, as always, that the Bible is presented in pre-philosophical language. Therefore, one can say that the doctrines later developed to a very high degree by theologians, are usually not found fully-developed in the Bible. Again, this is because it is not presented in philosophical, or "Greek" terms, for the most part, excepting some portions of Paul, and things like Logos ("word") in John, which was, I believe, Greek philosophical terminology.

On the other hand, it is obvious that God must be outside of time, if one accepts the description of Him that the Bible offers.

For example: how does God create everything that exists, while still being in time? How does He create the universe in such a fashion? There is no time, according to modern physics, without the matter which time entails in order to have any meaning. An eternal, omniscient spirit is not subject to time because there is no sequence to either His existence or "thoughts."

One has to explain how there can be some mysterious thing called "time" before there was a material universe. What would it be? How could it be defined? What sense does it make to say that an eternal spirit-being is "in" it? What then changes when matter is introduced to the set of "real" things?

Both Newtonian and relativistic Einsteinian time depend on a material universe by which they are determined and measured: this involves the relationship of matter with other matter. Time is indeed another dimension (at least as I understand relativity, in layman's terms).

Therefore, it is impossible, even by modern physics standards, and any reasonable form of philosophy, to say that God could be "in time" and create the universe while being in such a state. It's a meaningless concept. Whatever the truth is, it can't be that, because it is nonsensical and utterly illogical.

Secondly, the Bible gives ample indication of timelessness; e.g., the description of God, "I AM," from the burning bush and Moses (Exodus 3:14-15). Jesus later repeated this (because He, too, is an eternal being), in saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" [ego eimi] (John 8:58). See also: Gen 21:33, Ps 90:2, Is 40:28, Hab 1:12, Rom 16:26, 1 Tim 1:17.

Greek scholar Gerhard Kittel (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) explains the "I am" clauses:

The formulas [eimi: 'to exist' and ho on: 'I am'] express God's deity and supratemporality. Similar formulas occur in Judaism. The Greeks also use two- and three-tense formulas to express eternity (cf. Homer, Plato . . .). These possibly came into Revelation by way of the Jewish tradition, though a common source may lie behind the Greek and Jewish traditions.

ego eimi as a self-designation of Jesus in Jn. 8:58 (cf. 8:24; 13:19) stands in contrast to the genesthai applied to Abraham. Jesus thus claims eternity . . . The point is not Jesus' self-identification as the Messiah ('I am he') but his supratemporal being.

(pp. 206-207 of one-volume edition)
The section on aion ("age, aeon") elaborates:
The double formula 'for ever and ever' (Heb. 1:8), especially in the plural (in Paul and Revelation; cf. also Heb. 13:21; 1 Pet. 4:11), is designed to stress the concept of eternity, as are constructions like that in Eph. 3:21 ('to all generations for ever and ever').

a. aion means eternity in the full sense when linked with God (Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17; cf. Jer. 10:10)

b. In the OT this means first that God always was (Gen. 21:23) and will be (Dt. 5:23), in contrast to us mortals. By the time of Is. 40:28 this comes to mean that God is eternal, the 'First and Last,' whose being is 'from eternity to eternity' (Ps. 90:2). Eternity is unending time, but in later Judaism it is sometimes set in antithesis to time. The NT took over the Jewish formulas but extended eternity to Christ (Heb. 1:10 ff.; Rev. 1:17-18; 2:8). Here again eternity could be seen as the opposite of cosmic time, God's being and acts being put in terms of pre- and post- (1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 1:26; Eph. 3:9; Jn. 17:24; 1 Pet. 1:20).

(pp. 31-32)
The word was used in the Septuagint translation of the OT (LXX). Plato had used it in the sense of "timeless eternity in contrast to chronos as its moving image in earthly time (cf. Philo)" (p. 31).

So this is how the word was understood. The Greek translators thought it was best to apply this word to God, and the increased development of understanding of philosophical-type issues of this sort added clarification to the Jewish and later Christian doctrine of God.

That is, Helm argues that one can either, a) Deny (or accept) the unintelligible existence of both a timeless and spaceless God,

I suspect that he would frame the question as being ultimately mysterious and difficult to human minds, but not "unintelligible" - which implies an irrationality and unreasonableness to the Christian doctrine of God. Helm appears to be an orthodox Christian, from what I can tell (he and I would agree on the doctrine of God).

b) Accept the consequences of a God who is both in time and finite, or,

This is radically unbiblical; hence no Christian who accepts biblical inspiration could possibly take this view.

c) Supply other arguments on behalf of a God who is in time which does not also deny God's spacelessness. Not being able to do (c) presents the dilemma of choosing either (a) or (b).

God cannot be in time, according to the Bible, or any rational belief that He created the universe. The first scenario is impossible exegetically, the second, logically, and scientifically (i.e., if one presupposes a creator and then subjects such a concept to theoretical scientific analysis).

Here is a Christian philosopher of some note who recognizes a very serious problem in reconciling God and time. He makes my case for me.

I suspect you are slanting his full argument. If he is orthodox, he would not put it in such despairing terms. He would say it was ultimately a mystery (meaning we can't fully understand or comprehend it; not that it is literally irrational).

On the one hand we have the Bible, which clearly shows God responds to us in time,

Yes, of course. It must do so, in the sense of anthropomorphism, precisely because we can barely comprehend a timeless being. But God does break into time. We see that with the incarnation. Jesus lived in history. When God took on matter and a human body, the incarnate God subjected Himself to time, because that is the nature of matter and human bodies. It's not a contradiction because God created time and matter; therefore He can partake of it if He so chooses, in terms of becoming incarnate.

along with the philosophical arguments of J.R. Lucas and A.N. Prior. On the other hand, a being in time also denies that God is spaceless. Which is it?

I have given the orthodox Christian, biblical view of God. It is not incoherent or illogical at all.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Catholic Predestination (Ludwig Ott)

(Edited and uploaded by Dave Armstrong in 1996)


The Catholic Church, following St. Augustine (e.g., Grace and Free Will, 1,1; Sermon 169, 11,13), accepts predestination of the elect to heaven, but also affirms the freedom of the human will, thus staking out a position distinct from Calvinism. Predestination to hell, in Catholicism, always involves man's free will, and foreseen sins, so that man is ultimately responsible for his own damnation, not God (double predestination is rejected).

God is sovereign, in our view, every bit as much as in Protestantism (particularly Calvinism), as will amply be demonstrated below. All that is disputed are the intricacies of the grace / free will antinomy, which is one of the most mysterious and difficult questions in the history of both Christian theology and theistic philosophy. Of course, the allowance of free will is also present in Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, most charismatic, non-denominational and Baptist theologies, etc.

The Catholic Church affirms predestination as a de fide dogma (the highest level of binding theological certainty), while at the same time affirming free will and the possibility of falling away from the faith. The following material from Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 {orig. 1952}, 242-245) ought to be most helpful for Protestants seeking to understand what Catholics believe about this ever-mysterious, controversial, complex, highly abstract theological question:

* * * * *


[ De fide = "of faith" - dogmas are absolutely binding on all Catholics]

This doctrine is proposed by the Ordinary and General Teaching of the Church as a truth of Revelation. The doctrinal definitions of the Council of Trent presuppose it . . . The reality of Predestination is clearly attested to in Rom 8:29 et seq: . . . cf. Mt 25:34, Jn 10:27 et seq., Acts 13:48, Eph 1:4 et seq. . . . Predestination is a part of the Eternal Divine Plan of Providence.


a) The Problem

The main difficulty . . . lies in the question whether God's eternal resolve of Predestination has been taken with or without consideration of the merits of the man (postorante praevisa merita).
Only incomplete Predestination to grace is independent of every merit (ante praevisa merita), as the first grace cannot be merited. In the same way, complete Predestination to grace and glory conjointly is independent of every merit, as the first grace cannot be merited, and the consequent graces, as well as the merits acquired with these graces and their reward, depend like the links of a chain, on the first grace . . .

b) Attempts at Solution

The Thomists, the Augustinians, the majority of the Scotists and also individual older Molinists (Suarez, St. Bellarmine) teach an absolute Predestination (ad gloriam tantum), therefore ante praevisa merita. According to them, God freely resolves from all Eternity, without consideration of the merits of man's grace, to call certain men to beatification and therefore to bestow on them graces which will infallibly secure the execution of the Divine Decree (ordo intentionis). In time God first gives to the predestined effective graces and then eternal bliss as a reward for the merits which flow from their free cooperation with grace (ordo executionis). The ordo intentionis and the ordo executionis are in inverse relation to each other (glory-grace; grace-glory).

Most of the Molinists, and also St. Francis de Sales (+1622), teach a conditioned Predestination (ad gloriam tantum), that is, postand propter praevisa merita. According to them, God by His scientia media, sees beforehand how men would freely react to various orders of grace. In the light of this knowledge He chooses, according to His free pleasure a fixed and definite order of grace. Now by His scientia visionis, He knows infallibly in advance what use the individual man will make of the grace bestowed on him. He elects for eternal bliss those who by virtue of their foreseen merits perseveringly cooperate with grace, while He determines for eternal punishment of hell, those who, on account of their foreseen demerits, deny their cooperation. The ordo intentionis and the ordo executionis coincide (grace-glory; grace-glory).

Both attempts at explanation are ecclesiastically permissible. The scriptural proofs are not decisive for either side. The Thomists quote above all passages from the Letter to the Romans, in which the Divine factor in salvation is brought strongly to the foreground (Rom 8:29; 9:11-13, 9:20 et seq.) . . . The Molinists invoke the passages which attest the universality of the Divine desire for salvation, especially 1 Tim 2:4, as well as the sentence to be pronounced by the Judge of the World (Mt 25:34-36), in which the works of mercy are given as ground for the acceptance into the Heavenly Kingdom. But that these are also the basis for the 'preparation' for the Kingdom, that is, for the eternal resolve of Predestination, cannot be definitely proved from them . . .

While the pre-Augustinian tradition is in favour of the Molinistic explanation, St. Augustine, at least in his later writings, is more in favour of the Thomistic explanation. The Thomist view emphasizes God's universal causality while the other view stresses the universality of the Divine salvific will, man's freedom and his cooperation in his salvation. The difficulties remaining on both sides prove that Predestination even for reason enlightened by faith, is an unfathomable mystery (Rom 11:33 ff.).


a) Immutability

The resolve of Predestination, as an act of the divine knowledge and will, is as immutable as the Divine Essence itself. The number of those who are registered in the Book of Life (Phil 4:3, Rev 17:8; cf. Lk 10:20) is formally and materially fixed, that is, God knows and determines with infallible certainty in advance, how many and which men will be saved . . .

b) Uncertainty

The Council of Trent declared against Calvin, that certainty in regard to one's Predestination can be attained by special Revelation only . . . Holy Scripture enjoins man to work out his salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). He who imagines that he will stand should take care lest he fall (1 Cor 10:12). In spite of this uncertainty there are signs of Predetermination which indicate a high probability of one's Predestination, e.g., a persevering practice of the virtues recommended in the Eight Beatitudes, frequent reception of Holy Communion, active love of one's neighbor, love for Christ and for the Church . . .

[For scriptural proofs against absolute assurance of salvation I submit the following passages: 1 Cor 9:27, 10:12, Gal 5:1,4, Phil 3:11-14, 1 Tim 4:1, 5:15, Heb 3:12-14, 6:4-6, 2 Pet 2:15,20-21. These I consider the most compelling, but there are many others as well: e.g.: 1 Sam 11:6, 18:11-12, Ezek 18:24, 33:12-13,18, Gal 4:9, Col 1:23, Heb 6:11-12, 10:23,26,29,36,39, 12:15, Rev 2:4-5.]

[Many evangelical Protestants claim to have an absolute "assurance," but when all is said and done, both biblically and epistemologically, they simply can't attain to this certitude, and are no more "certain" than a devout Catholic or Orthodox is. Such claims are simply unproven and unprovable. In other words, Protestant "assurance" involves the following "argument" in a vicious circle: in order to possess assurance of salvation you must believe that you have salvation. This has been called "fiducial faith," and is completely subjective, every bit as much as the Mormon "burning in the bosom." Martin Luther himself illustrates the incoherence of this innovation:
    We must day by day struggle towards greater and greater certainty . . . Everyone should therefore accustom himself resolutely to the persuasion that he is in a state of grace . . . Should he feel a doubt, then let him exercise faith; he must beat down his doubts and acquire certainty . . . The matter of justification is difficult and delicate, not indeed in itself, for in itself it is as certain as can be, but in our regard; of this I have frequent experience.{In Hartmann Grisar, Luther, London: 1917, vol. 4, 437-443} ]

By Reprobation is understood the eternal Resolve of God's Will to exclude certain rational creatures from eternal bliss. While God, by His grace, positively cooperates in the supernatural merits, which lead to beatification, He merely permits sin, which leads to eternal damnation.

Regarding the content of the resolve of Reprobation, a distinction is made between positive and negative Reprobation, according as the Divine resolve of Reprobation has for its object condemnation to the eternal punishment of hell, or exclusion from the Beatific Vision. Having regard to the reason for Reprobation, a distinction is made between conditioned and unconditioned (absolute) Reprobation, insofar as the Divine resolve of Reprobation is dependent on, or independent of the prevision of future demerits.


The reality of Reprobation is not formally defined, but it is the general teaching of the Church.


Heretical Predestinationism in its various forms (the Southern Gallic priest Lucidus in the 5th century; the monk Gottschalk in the 9th century, according to reports of his opponents, which, however, find no confirmation in his recently re-discovered writings; Wycliffe, Hus, and esp. Calvin), teaches a positive predetermination to sin, and an unconditional Predestination to the eternal punishment of hell, that is, without consideration of future demerits. This was rejected as false doctrine by the Particular Synods of Orange, Quiercy & Valence and by the Council of Trent. Unconditioned positive Reprobation leads to a denial of the universality of the Divine Desire for salvation, and of the Redemption, and contradicts the Justice and Holiness of God as well as the freedom of man.

According to the teaching of the Church, there is a conditioned positive Reprobation, that is, it occurs with consideration of foreseen future demerits (post et propter praevisa demerita). The conditional nature of Positive Reprobation is demanded by the generality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. This excludes God's desiring in advance the damnation of certain men (cf. 1 Tim 2:4, Ezek 33:11, 2 Pet 3:9) . . .


In the question of Reprobation, the Thomist view favours not an absolute, but only a negative Reprobation. This is conceived by most Thomists as non-election to eternal bliss (non-electio), together with the Divine resolve to permit some rational creatures to fall into sin, and thus by their own guilt to lose eternal salvation. In contrast to the absolute Positive Reprobation of the Predestinarians, Thomists insist on the universality of the Divine Resolve of Salvation and Redemption, the allocation of sufficient graces to the reprobate, and the freedom of man's will. However, it is difficult to find an intrinsic concordance between unconditioned non-election and the universality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. In practice, the unconditioned negative Reprobation of the Thomists involves the same result as the unconditioned positive Reprobation of the heretical Predestinarians, since outside Heaven and Hell there is no third final state.

Like the Resolve of Predestination the Divine Resolve of Reprobation is immutable, but, without special revelation, its incidence is unknown to men.

Total Depravity and the Fall

By Dave Armstrong (1996)

I think an orthodox "Reformation" Calvinist would agree with the definition of Total Depravity in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (ed. F.L. Cross, rev. 1983, 1387) - with which I also agree:
    . . . the extreme wretchedness of man's condition as the result of the Fall. It emphasizes the belief that this result was not a mere loss or deprivation of a supernatural endowment possessed by unfallen man, but a radical corruption or deprivation of his whole nature, so that apart from Christ he can do nothing whatever pleasing to God. Even his reason has been radically vitiated, so that acc. to Calvinism, all natural knowledge of God (such as obtains in the system of St. Thomas Aquinas is held to be impossible.
For the purpose of clarifying differences between Protestant and Catholic conceptions of the Fall, I shall cite Louis Bouyer, former Lutheran, and author of a penetrating analysis of Protestantism as a system of belief, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism (New York: Meridian Books, 1955, translated by A.V. Littledale):
    Even the idea of the Word of God creating what he says by the act of saying it . . . would be enough to show that God makes just whom he 'declares just', even if he were not so beforehand, by the very fact of his declaration, so the opposition set up is without meaning . . . .

    The God of Calvinism and Barthism, it seems, keeps all his greatness only if his creatures return to nothingness. The God of the Bible, on the contrary, shows his greatness in snatching them from it, not only, as St. John says, 'that we are called, but really are, the sons of God.' {Jn 3:1} . . .

    It was apparently impossible for Protestant theology [i.e., in its initial and original Calvinist form] . . . to agree that God could put something in man that became in fact his own, and that at the same time the gift remained the possession of the giver . . . it would seem as if man could only belong to him in ceasing to have a distinct existence, in being annihilated . . .

    If the grace of God is such, only on condition that it gives nothing real; if man who believes, by saving faith, is in no way changed from what he was before believing . . .; if God can only be affirmed by silencing his creature, if he acts only in annihilating it . . .- what is condemned is not man's presumptuous way to God, but God's way of mercy to man.

    This, and this alone, is the ultimate reproach which the Church levels at the Protestant system . . . The Word of God categorically proclaims a grace that is a real gift; a justification by faith that makes man really just . . . he is the living God who gives life . . .

    For both Erasmus and Luther, to say that God and man act together in justification must mean that their joint action is analogous to that of two men drawing the same load. Consequently, the more one does, the less the other; whence, for Luther, realising anew that grace does everything in salvation, it follows of necessity that man does nothing . . .

    On the other hand, for St. Bernard and the whole authentic tradition, in one sense God does all, and in another man must do all, for he has to make everything his own; but he cannot - he can do absolutely nothing valid for salvation, except in complete dependence on grace. This view, we must say, must have appeared absolutely unimaginable to both Erasmus and Luther. It is so, in fact, so long as one cannot conceive a world other than that of nominalism, as was the case for them both . . .

    The true theological position, wholly consonant with revelation, is that man is himself only as he recognises his radical dependence on the Creator; but this does not mean that creation is a fiction, legal or otherwise, but the most authentic of all realities. Man saved is therefore man restored by faith to the consciousness of that absolute dependence, and so recovering his life at the very source. It may seem strange, but it is undeniable that in the whole course of this unhappy controversy [i.e., Luther vs. Erasmus] this view does not seem to have occurred to either of the protagonists. There lies the whole tragedy of Protestantism. {pp. 148,151-2,156-7}

Ludwig Ott wrote, concerning the Fall, in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 {orig. 1952}, translated by Patrick Lynch):
    The Reformers . . . admitted the reality of original sin, but misunderstood its essence its operation, since they regarded it as identical with concupiscence which corrupts completely human nature . . .

    Original Sin does not consist, as the Reformers . . . taught, in 'The habitual concupiscence, which remains, even in the baptised, a true and proper sin, but is no longer reckoned for punishment.' The Council of Trent teaches that through Baptism everything is taken away which is a true and proper sin, and that the concupiscence which remains behind after Baptism for the moral proving is called sin in an improper sense only. That sin remains in man, even if it is not reckoned for punishment, is irreconcilable with the Pauline teaching of Justification as an inner transformation and renewal . . .

    The wounding of nature must not be conceived, with the Reformers and the Jansenists, as the complete corruption of human nature. In the condition of Original Sin, man possesses the ability of knowing natural religious truths and of performing natural morally good actions . . . Man, with his natural power of cognition, can with certainty know the existence of God. The Council of Trent teaches that free will was not lost or extinguished by the fall of Adam.

    {pp. 108,110,112-113}
In other words, in Catholic theology man is not "totally depraved," does not have an essential "sin nature," and possesses a free will.

The contrasting classic (i.e., Calvinist) Protestant, evangelical viewpoint on the Fall is observed in the writing of Charles Hodge, the Presbyterian theologian, in his Systematic Theology:
    The Semi-Pelagian [note how he falsely and inaccurately describes the Catholic view] doctrine . . . admits the powers of man to have been weakened by the fall of the race, but denies that he lost all ability to perform what is spiritually good . . . The Augustinian or Protestant doctrine [St. Augustine was more Protestant than Catholic???] . . . teaches that such is the nature of inherent, hereditary depravity that men since the fall are utterly unable to turn themselves unto God or to do anything truly good in his sight . . .

    This want of power of spiritual discernment arises from the corruption of our whole nature, by which the reason or understanding is blinded, and the taste and feelings are perverted. As this state of mind is innate, as it is a state or condition of our nature, it lies below the will and is beyond its power, controlling both our affections and our volitions.
    {abridged version, edited by Edward N. Gross, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988, 308, emphasis added}
I think all these excerpts are consistent with each other, and accurately summarize the classic Protestant "Reformed" position (as seen in Calvin's Institutes and Luther's Bondage of the Will) on the Fall: viz., that it is a corruption of man's entire nature, including reason, leaving him with a "sin nature" (in other words, essentially identical to concupiscence).

1 Corinthians 3:9 and Man's Cooperation With God

By Dave Armstrong (8 May 2002)

Dialogue from a public Internet Discussion Board with a Protestant, whose words are in blue.

* * * * *

If the Holy Spirit "inspires," "enables," "prompts," "causes," "initiates" (or whatever synonymous term you like) our good works, how then, can it be said (of Catholic theology) that they originate with us? All we're saying is that the human being in good graces can cooperate with God. This is -- it seems to me -- an explicit, undeniable, Pauline doctrine. God begins the process, and then we merely cooperate with it (e.g., Paul uses the term "co-laborers," I believe).

Is that what he says? [1 Corinthians 3:5-11]:

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom
you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is
anything, but God who causes the growth.
8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will
receive his own reward according to his own labor.

9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise
master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But
each man must be careful how he builds on it.
11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.

The italic text is what you quote -- which is literally "we are fellow workers of God", not "fellow workers with God", which the Catholic NAS confirms -- does not say we work in partnership with God but in service to God.

Man cooperates with God, who always enables, and this is nothing more than what St. Paul explicitly says (e.g., 1 Cor 3:9). The Protestant reference, Eerdmans Bible Commentary (ed. D. Guthrie & J.A. Motyer, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 3rd ed., 1970), states, for this verse:
. . . the Greek is probably as AV, 'together with God' (cf. RSV mg.; Mk 16:20).
Mark 16:20 (RSV) reads:
And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them . . .
The KJV reads at 1 Cor 3:9:
For we are labourers together with God . . .
Phillips: In this work, we work with God . . .
Amplified: For we are fellow workmen -- joint promoters, laborers together -- with and for God . . .
The Greek for "labourer" is sunergos (Strong's word #4904). It appears (usually as "fellow labourer" or "helper," etc.) also in Rom 16:3,9,21, 2 Cor 1:24, 8:23, Phil 2:25, 4:3, Col 4:11, 1 Thess 3:2, Philem 1,24, and 3 Jn 8. The related sunergeo (#4903) is at Mk 16:20, Rom 8:28, 1 Cor 16:16, James 2:22, and 2 Cor 6:1:
Working together with him [i.e., Jesus; see 5:21], then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. (RSV)
Baptist Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, writes at 1 Corinthians 3:9:
. . . (co-workers of God) . . . God is the major partner in the enterprise of each life, but he lets us work with him.
Likewise, Marvin Vincent, in Word Studies of the New Testament, states:
'It is of God that ye are the fellow workers.'
W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words:
'Sunergos' denotes a worker with . . . See the R.V., 'God's fellow-workers.' (under "Work")
I rest my case. 1 Corinthians 3:9 clearly teaches direct cooperation of the believer with God.
My opponent also brought up the Latin Vulgate and its translations in an attempt to demonstrate internal contradiction in the Catholic position on this, so I decided to check out a few of the Catholic translations of the Vulgate. First up is the good ole Douay-Rheims version (Bishop Challoner revision); 1 Corinthians 3:9:
For we are God's coadjutors . . .
Now, this is sort of a strange word, so I looked it up in the dictionary. It comes from Latin (co = together / adjutor = assistant). So the definition is:
1. an assistant; helper 2. a person, often another bishop, appointed to assist a bishop, usually becoming his successor.
So far so good. Now we turn to the recent translation of the Vulgate by famous Catholic apologist, Ronald Knox:
You are a field of God's tilling, a structure of God's design; and we are only his assistants.
The late great Protestant Bible scholar F.F. Bruce (no slouch) was rather fond of the Knox translation:
Knox's version has the overwhelming advantage of being the work of a man who had an uncanny instinct for getting the right word or the right phrase in any given context. As readers of his other works know, Knox was a master of English style . . .
Suffice it to say that, for all the inevitable limitations of a secondary version, Knox has given us a most readable edition of the English Bible.

(History of the Bible in English, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 3rd ed., 1978, 208, 212)

Merit: Catholic Doctrine vs. Caricature (James McCarthy's Distortions)

By Dave Armstrong (1997)

A Catholic correspondent wrote to me:

The person with whom I am debating is Jim McCarthy, author of The Gospel According to Rome. He quotes Dogmatic Theology for the Laity by Matthias Premm as follows,
    It is universally accepted dogma of the Catholic Church that man, in union with the grace of the Holy Spirit must merit heaven by his good works . . . we can actually merit heaven as our reward . . . Heaven must be fought for; we have to earn heaven.
This is apparently from page 262. In the letter to me, Mr. McCarthy quoted this phrase in response to my saying that we Catholics do not believe that we earn heaven. The "earning" of heaven seems like strong language even when put in context of "in union with grace." Others I have read specifically say we don't earn heaven. I am wondering if there is a larger context to this quote or if this is a misquote or if this Matthias Premm is just plain wrong.

I replied:

This is easily explained in context. I will give you that below. First, though - some preliminary observations. As usual, McCarthy (along with many other Calvinist anti-Catholics) is unwilling or unable to understand the relationship of human free will to God's grace. We believe we can cooperate with God's grace in order to "merit." Yet that very merit is itself completely an act of God's grace. Here is some more relevant information to consider:
    The Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.), accepted as dogma by the Catholic Church, dogmatically taught in its Canon 7:

      If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as we ought, or choose any good pertaining to the salvation of eternal life . . . without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . he is misled by a heretical spirit . . . [goes on to cite Jn 15:5, 2 Cor 3:5]

    Likewise, the ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-63): Chapter 5, Decree on Justification:

      . . . Man . . . is not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.

    Canon I on Justification:

      If anyone saith that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

    The existence of a measure of human free will in order for man to cooperate with God's grace does not reduce inevitably and necessarily to Semi-Pelagianism, as Luther, Calvin, and present-day Calvinists wrongly charge. The Catholic view is a third way. Our "meritorious actions" are always necessarily preceded and caused and crowned and bathed in God's enabling grace. But this doesn't wipe out our cooperation, which is not intrinsically meritorious in the sense that it derives from us and not God . . . Second Orange again:

      The reward given for good works is not won by reason of actions which precede grace, but grace, which is unmerited, precedes actions in order that they may be accomplished meritoriously.

    Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott describes the Catholic view:

      As God's grace is the presupposition and foundation of supernatural good works, by which man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, at the same time gifts of God and meritorious acts of man.
      {Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 (orig. 1952), p.264}

    St. Augustine wrote:

      What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts?
      {Ep. 194,5,19; in Ott, p.265}
      The Lord has made Himself a debtor, not by receiving, but by promising. Man cannot say to Him, "Give back what thou hast received" but only "Give what thou hast promised."
      {Enarr. in Ps 83,16; in Ott, p.267}

    The concept of merit and its corollary reward is well-supported in Scripture: Mt 5:12, 19:17,21,29, 25:21, 25:34 ff., Lk 6:38, Rom 2:6, 1 Cor 3:8, 9:17, Col 3:24, Heb 6:10, 10:35, 11:6, 2 Tim 4:8, Eph 6:8.

So, with that background, let's look at the Premm quote (Dogmatic Theology for the Laity, Rev. Matthias Premm, Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1977 - orig. 1967, by the Society of St. Paul) in broad context (pp. 261-264 - emphasis in original - , with McCarthy's citations bracketed):
    In discussing the work of the Holy Spirit, we have seen that he sanctifies the world. We have shown how he sanctifies each individual [p. 262] soul by his actual and sanctifying grace, and his other gifts. Man, for his part, in order to arrive at full sanctification, must cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit through faith, hope, love of God and neighbor, and prayer; but he must also perform other 'works.' [It is universally accepted dogma of the Catholic Church that man, in union with the grace of the Holy Spirit must merit heaven by his good works]. These works are meritorious only when they are performed in the state of grace and with a good intention . . .Through these and similar works [we can actually merit heaven as our reward]. There are few truths so infallibly attested by Scripture. Christ himself has promised: 'Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven' (Matt 5:12) . . .

      [[Premm goes on to cite 1 Cor 3:14; Heb 10:35; 2 Cor 9:6; Matt 16:27; [p. 263] Mk 9:41; Heb 6:10; Matt 20:4; 2 Tim 4:6-8]]

    . . . . The Catholic Church was right in maintaining against Luther, at the Council of Trent, that heaven is merited by our good works, because this is the clear teaching of revelation. "We have shown that according to Holy Scripture the Christian can actually merit heaven for himself by his good works. But we must realize that these works have to be performed in the state of grace and with a good intention . . .

    Jesus himself tells his disciples: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me (by the state of grace), and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit (for heaven). If a man does not abide in me (by mortal sin) . . . he can do nothing' - he can bear no fruit for heaven; just as the branch that is cut off from the vine cannot produce any grapes.

    By sanctifying grace we are children of God. Only by sanctifying grace do we have a right to heaven as our heritage. By purely natural good acts, such as even the sinner can perform, heaven cannot be merited as a reward; we must be in the state of grace, a child of God. Only after human nature has been united to God by grace and raised up above it's own nature can good acts, which proceed from this supernaturally elevated nature, be directed towards the possession of God in the hereafter. Only in this way can we merit the vision of God in heaven, since it completely surpasses the powers of our pure human nature.

    By sanctifying grace we become living members of the mystical body of Christ, one with Christ our Head. Thus our acts become acts of Christ, who, in an incomprehensible way, is living and working in [p. 264] his members. Through this intimate union with Christ, our Mediator before the Father, we merit the happiness of heaven.

    Finally, sanctifying grace makes us temples of the Holy Spirit, who compels us to good works (Rom 8:14). St. Francis de Sales writes that the Holy Spirit performs good works in us with such consummate skill that the works belong more to him than to us. He works with us and we work with him. In this activity we use our free will. By our free will we submit all our human activity to the grace and will of God. By this act of reverence and worship, our good acts redound to the glory of God. Our will could also take a stand against God's will, and commit sin.

    [Heaven must be fought for; we have to earn heaven].
I don't see the preceding quote anywhere in the immediate context (I may have missed it), but it is entirely consistent with Premm's other statements, and the understanding of merit and salvation outlined above. Thus, the meaning of the passage is quite different in context. Premm is absolutely orthodox. By isolating sentences (the classic and quintessential anti-Catholic methodology) which emphasize man's cooperation and effort, it appears that McCarthy had hoped to leave a false impression that we believe we can get to heaven on our own power, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, without God's enabling grace. But this is the heresy of Pelagianism, which both Catholic dogma and Premm (even in immediate context) clearly condemn.

This is, therefore, apparently deliberate misrepresentation on McCarthy's part, and that is a serious sin - a violation of the Ten Commandments and even basic pagan and secular ethical precepts. Whatever McCarthy or other anti-Catholics think of our theology, their own Christian tradition (as well as Jesus Himself) condemn them for slander and lying, whether we are Christian "brothers" or not, in their thinking. As we indeed are their brothers in Christ, their sin is all the greater. McCarthy's polemical anti-Catholic video has also been clearly shown by Catholic apologetics magazine This Rock to be slanderous and grossly inaccurate. Let us hope and pray that he will repent, for his sake, and for the sake of the thousands he is leading astray.
    Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.(James 3:1; RSV)

A Primer on Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism

By Dave Armstrong (4 December 2002)

The position of many Protestants (particularly many Calvinists) on this issue is hopelessly contradictory and incoherent, with regard to the soteriology of Arminianism and/or Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. The definition of the latter is as follows (from two highly authoritative non-Catholic sources):

[Semi-Pelagianism], while not denying the necessity of Grace for salvation, maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later.
{Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross, Oxford Univ. Press, revised edition, 1983, 1258}

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1985 ed., vol. 10, 625) states:

The result of Semi-Pelagianism, however, was the denial of the necessity of God's unmerited, supernatural, gracious empowering of man's will for saving action . . . From [529] . . . Semi-Pelagianism was recognized as a heresy in the Roman Catholic Church.
Indeed, the Catholic Church - despite constant bogus and astonishingly uninformed claims by Calvinists - has vigorously opposed Pelagianism in all forms from the time of St. Augustine. The Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.), accepted as dogma by the Catholic Church, dogmatically taught in its Canon VII:

If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as we ought, or choose any good pertaining to the salvation of eternal life . . . without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . he is misled by a heretical spirit . . . [goes on to cite Jn 15:5, 2 Cor 3:5]
Likewise, the ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-63): Chapter V, Decree on Justification:

. . . Man . . . is not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.
And Canon I on Justification:

If anyone saith that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott describes the Catholic view:

As God's grace is the presupposition and foundation of supernatural good works, by which man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, at the same time gifts of God and meritorious acts of man.
{Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 (orig. 1952), 264}

St. Augustine wrote (and the Catholic Church wholeheartedly concurs):

What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts?
{Ep. 194,5,19; in Ott, 265}

The concept of merit and its corollary reward is well-supported in Scripture: Mt 5:12, 19:17,21,29,25:21, 25:34 ff., Lk 6:38, Rom 2:6, 1 Cor 3:8, 9:17, Col 3:24, Heb 6:10, 10:35, 11:6, 2 Tim 4:8, Eph 6:8. Trent must be understood in this light, and nothing in it contradicts 2nd Orange, Scripture, or the doctrine of all grace as originating from God, not man. Thus, neither Trent nor Catholicism is Pelagian or semi-Pelagian.
Arminianism derives, classically, from the Remonstrance of 1610, a codification of the teachings of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609). Here are the 3rd and 4th articles of five (emphasis added):

III.That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good--nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will, and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John 15:5].

IV.That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor withstand any temptation to evil, without grace precedent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conceived in through must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of operation, grace is not irresistible; for it is written of many that they resisted the Holy Spirit [Acts 7 and elsewhere passim].

Much more documentation from the many Arminian denominations could easily be produced. But two shall suffice at this point. John Wesley and the Methodists have long been a target of Calvinist suspicion and disdain. Wesley's Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (1784), considered normative for Methodists, states in its Article VIII ("Of Free Will" - virtually the same as Article X of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles); emphasis added:
The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he can not turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
{in Creeds of the Churches, ed. John H. Leith, Garden City: NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1963, 356}
Likewise, in the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1580), the distinction between Melanchthonian Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism could not have been more clearly stated (emphasis added):
We also reject the error of the Semi-Pelagians who teach that man by virtue of his own powers could make a beginning of his conversion but could not complete it without the grace of the Holy Spirit.
{Part I: Epitome, Article II: Free Will, Antitheses: Contrary False Doctrine, section 3; cf. Solid Declaration, Article II: Free Will, error #2: "coarse Pelagians"}
Error #3 presents a critique of a twisted straw man version of Tridentine Catholicism's soteriology, supposedly semi-Pelagian, which only serves to reinforce the fact that confessional Lutheranism indeed vigorously opposes semi-Pelagian doctrine.