Question about Election and Predestination

Question about Election and Predestination October 10, 2014

A reader writes:

The text “Many are called, few are chosen” is often used to defend the theology of Election and Predestination.  How would a Catholic interpret this?

I’m not sure how that particular text is used in that discussion (such matters are typically hashed over by converts from Calvinism, not by former Arminians like me).  However, here is some stuff from the Catholic Encyclopedia that might help:

Elect – Denotes in general one chosen or taken by preference from among two or more; as a theological term it is equivalent to ‘chosen as the object of mercy or Divine favour, as set apart for eternal life’

Election – In its broadest sense election means a choice among many persons, things, or sides to be taken. In the stricter juridical sense it means the choice of one person among many for a definite charge or function.

Predestinarianism – A heresy which reduces the eternal salvation of the elect as well as the eternal damnation of the reprobate to one cause alone, namely to the sovereign will of God, and thereby excludes the free co-operation of man as a secondary factor in bringing about a happy or unhappy future in the life to come. 

Predestination – Those divine decrees which have reference to the supernatural end of rational beings, especially of man

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  • Rebecca Fuentes

    A friend in college asked me, if God knew everything, didn’t God know the future, and therefore, didn’t he already know what we would do and if each of us would go to Heaven or not? And Wasn’t that like fate or predestination? I didn’t have a very good answer for him at the time.

    • I used to have that argument all the time with my brother. The way I now kinda sort of understand it (if I don’t think about it too hard) is that God is outside of time, so the idea of Him “knowing the future” doesn’t make sense. I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that we are temporal creatures, part of the universe rather than outside it, so that makes it difficult both to understand God and to understand eternity (which is not the same as eternal time).

      I hope that makes sense. And is at least somewhat right.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        I would have a better answer now, including what you said about God being outside time. I recall talking about free will and how, just because I knew him well enough that I could predict what he would pick for dinner at the cafeteria didn’t mean I had predestined him to pick that for dinner, and that God knows each of us better than we know ourselves.

    • wineinthewater

      I think the best response is to differentiate between knowledge and agency. God knows what we will choose, but God does not make us choose it. It is our agency, our choice that leads to our end, not God’s knowledge of our choice.

      If I watch a movie a second time, just because I know the ending doesn’t mean that I caused that ending to happen.

  • jroberts548

    My answer to your reader would be that he shouldn’t be trying to interpret the Bible (or anything) 6 words at a time. He should instead read those words in the context of Matthew 22 and the parable of the wedding guests. Nothing about the parable in which these words are found suggests it’s about the question of predestination. Someone who is trying to use those words to defend Calvinism should try reading the Bible, rather than picking random quotes and bending them to their interests.