Predestination & the Ingenious “Solution” of Fr. Most

Predestination & the Ingenious “Solution” of Fr. Most September 17, 2018
This will be a collection of interesting, thought-provoking material I have dug up today in my own library and on the Internet about this fascinating issue. For those unfamiliar with the general controversies surrounding the issue of free will and God’s providence and foreknowledge, with regard to salvation and election (particularly within a Catholic theological framework), the following will be (I hope) a helpful (albeit very philosophically dense and heavy) aid.
I have sought to cite the most clearly expressed, as untechnical-as-possible selections. But since this is one of the most complex and vexed topics in the history of theology, one can only do so much. I have tried to help the reader (and myself, in working through the issues) along by my own editing and categorizing.
But proceed with caution, at your own peril. If you dislike abstract, analytical, and heavily philosophical treatments of theology, do not read any further! But if you are, like myself, one who loves the intersection of philosophy and theology, and pondering very deep mysteries of theology and God, then settle down for a thrilling intellectual adventure and feast for the (Christian) mind.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I. Thomism & Predestination
II. Molinism & Predestination
III. Common Beliefs of Thomists and Molinists Regarding Grace & Predestination
IV. Difficulties for Thomists
V. Difficulties for Molinists
VI. Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) and Congruism: a Moderate Developed Molinism
VII. Differences Between Congruism and “Pure” Molinism
VIII. Biblical Evidences for Middle Knowledge (scientia media)
IX. Biblical Evidences for Closely-Related Human and Divine Causation
X. The William G. Most “Solution”


I. Thomism and Predestination

The Theory of Predestination ante proevisa merita

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

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

II. Molinism and Predestination

The Theory of Predestination post proevisa merita

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

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

(Catholic Encyclopedia“Predestination”)

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

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

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

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

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

IV. Difficulties for Thomists

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

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

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

V. Difficulties for Molinists

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

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

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

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

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

VII. Differences Between Congruism and “Pure” Molinism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X. The William G. Most “Solution”

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. Solution from the revealed Father analogy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

300. Conclusions:

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

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

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

(The Father William Most Theological CollectionGrace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions: “Pt. 2: Predestination and reprobation – Ch. 17: Solution of the problem from the sources of revelation”)

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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


(originally 4-22-06)

Photo credit: Image by LightofShelley (6-9-10) [Deviant Art / CC BY-ND 3.o license]


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