Monday, April 24, 2006

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

By Dave Armstrong (4-24-06)

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, this is why I am not a Molinist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealt with in my other paper . . .

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

Yes, of course.

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

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

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

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

[ . . . ]

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

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