Sunday, April 23, 2006

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

"JS" is a Catholic and a Thomist. See my previous response to him and a preliminary "survey of the literature" post. 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.

Ott also gives the following proposition as a de fide dogma: "GOD, BY AN ETERNAL RESOLVE OF HIS WILL, PREDESTINES CERTAIN MEN, ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR FORESEEN SINS, TO ETERNAL REJECTION."

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.' . . .

GOD KNOWS ALL THAT IS MERELY POSSIBLE BY THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIMPLE INTELLIGENCE (scientia simplicic intelligentiae). (DE FIDE)

. . . 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] . . .

GOD ALSO KNOWS THE CONDITIONED FUTURE FREE ACTIONS WITH INFALLIBLE CERTAINTY (Scientia futuribilium). (SENT[ENTIA]. COMMUNIS.)

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.

Agreed.

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.

END OF PART ONE

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