NEW ANSWERS TO OLD QUESTIONS
Fr. William Most
Predestination               Actual Grace             Extraordinary Grace

Documentation and details can be found in Wm. G. Most,
New Answers to Old Questions, Christendom Press, 1998.

 

PREDESTINATION

Definition of Terms:

Predestination means an arrangement of Divine Providence to see to it that someone gets either, 1) heaven or 2) full membership in the Church. We specify full membership because there is also a lesser degree, a substantial membership which can suffice for final salvation.
From the beginning, the two kinds have usually been telescoped, i. e., no distinction was made. Thus the parable of the banquet has been understood to refer to both final salvation and to full membership in the Church. This is regrettable, for the two are different in themselves, different in the principles on which God makes His decisions.

Reprobation is the unfavorable decision, to let someone go to final ruin.

 

It is asked:
Does God make both kinds of decisions, predestination and reprobation, before or after considering merits and demerits? Since there is no time in God, this really means with or without taking into account merits and demerits.

It has been assumed by all that if God decides to predestine without considering merits, He must decide reprobation without considering demerits. And if He decides to predestine with considering merits and demerits, He must decide reprobation in the same way. This view comes from the belief that a person is either predestined or reprobated: both are two sides of the same coin. This view has been considered as obvious, as inescapable.

Nonetheless, it is not inescapable. As we shall see there is a way to separate the two sides, i. e., to say that He predestines without merits, but reprobates only after considering demerits.

 

Views of the Thomists and the Molinists:

a) Thomists:

They say that God predestines and reprobates without considering merits or demerits. Objection: Here is Joe Doaks, whom God has decided to reprobate without even seeing how Joe lives. Can He do this, and also say (1 Tim 2: 4) that He wills all to be saved - which would include Joe Doaks? Obviously not.

This impossibility was admitted by the real founder of the "Thomist" system, Domingo Bañez who was followed by Cardinal Cajetan. But later generations of Dominicans insisted this view is not incompatible with 1 Tim 2: 4. What they failed to see is this: To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. So to will salvation to all is to love. So in this "Thomist" view, God would not love Joe Doaks. And because He would decide to reprobate many without any consideration of their demerits, He would really not love anyone at all.

Did St. Thomas himself hold this view? By no means. Let us picture Thomas as standing on the rim of a circle. On it he seems to find two points from each of which he can draw a line to hit the center, the true answer. He actually thought he had two such points.

1) In Contra gentiles 3. 159ss he started from 1 Tim 2: 4: "Since a man cannot be directed to his ultimate end except by the help of divine grace, someone might think a man should not be blamed if he lacks these things, especially since he cannot merit the help of divine grace or turn to God unless God turns him.. .. But.. . many unsuitable things obviously follow.. . he would not be worthy of punishment.. .. To solve this problem we must notice that although a man by the movement of free will can neither merit nor obtain divine grace, yet he can block himself from receiving it.. .. But they alone are deprived of grace who set up in themselves an impediment to grace, just as, when the sun shines on the world, he deserves blame who shuts his eyes.. .. " Had he continued this line, Thomas would not have arrived at the position of Bañez.

2) In his Commentary on Romans chapter 9, lessons 2 & 3 he started from Romans 8. 29ff as interpreted by St. Augustine, in which God blindly picks those whom He will save or not save "Since all men because of the sin of the first parent are born exposed to damnation, those whom God frees through His grace, He frees out of mercy alone. " However he also wrote: "God, so far as is in Him, interiorly stirs up a man to good.. . but the wicked man abuses this stirring according to the malice of his heart.. .. Those whom He hardens, earn that they be hardened by Him. "

St. Augustine had held that all humans form a massa damnata et damnabilis, a damned and damnable blob from original sin. God blindly picks a small percent to save, to show mercy; the rest, the great majority, He deserts, to show justice.

It is evident that Thomas had two incompatible starting points. So he pulled up short in drawing each of the lines, the one from 1 Tim 2: 4, and the one from Romans 8: 29. In fact in his Commentary on Romans, as above, he shows signs of both views. So Bañez was not right in claiming he merely took over the ideas of St. Thomas. Bañez was right in admitting his view was imcompatible with 1 Tim 2: 4. St. Augustine said the same of his own view.

 

b) Molinists

Their view comes from Molina, a Spanish Jesuit. He held that God predestines after considering merits. But this is impossible, for our merits are a gift of God, according to 1 Cor 4: 7: "What have you that you have not received?" St. Augustine in Epistle 194 agrees: "When God crowns your merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts". So the view of Molina involves a vicious circle.

Debates in Rome: In 1597 Pope Clement VIII ordered both the above schools to send delegates to Rome to debate before a commission of Cardinals. The debates ran about 10 years. After a time the Pope himself presided. Clement VIII died, and Paul V inherited the debates. Paul V asked St. Francis de Sales, a saint and a great theologian, for advice. Francis advised him to approve neither school. He did that in 1607. Divine Providence was protecting the Church from two great errors.

Position of New Answers to Old Questions:

Preliminary note:

The author, W. Most, in around 1950, in a routine daily meditation, had what seemed a little grace of light. At first the implication did not dawn. But in time it did, and it seemed that it contained the germ of a new solution on the old problem of predestination. Further, it would break with both the major schools. Naturally, in such a case one should say: Perhaps someone can shoot this down with one pop. So he consulted Dominican and Jesuit theologians personally. The Jesuits all liked the idea, about half the Dominicans did. Next he prepared an 81 page single space summary of the idea - so many pages needed because of so many centuries of detailed debates. Five hundred copies were made and sent to Scripture scholars and Theologians mostly in Europe, asking for criticism. --the summary was in Latin, since so many Europeans find English difficult. --About 100 letters came in, from all parts of the theological spectrum. Some liked the proposal, some did not. He then took all the positive suggestions and incorporated them, and tried to answer all objections. The text then expanded into a book of about 500 large pages, which was published in Rome in 1963, just when the storm was breaking. The book drew 12 reviews in Europe. One unfavorable, but only old line objections. Three were merely descriptive. Others were favorable, e. g., Dom Mark Pontifex in Downside Review: ".. . the discussion which has gone on for so many centuries will be permanently affected. " Divus Thomas called it a "powerful volume. " La Ciencia Tomista of Salamanca: ".. . the contribution of the author to the theological investigation is exemplary.. . the positive value of his work and his method seem to be beyond question. " --These things do not prove it right, only that it has been seen and checked by solid scholars in Europe. If it is right, the credit does not go to the author, but to an unearned grace of light.

 

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 Bañez 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.. .. "

 

Note on Predilection:

R. Garrigou-Lagrange (De Deo uno, Turin, Paris, 1938, p. 525) : " "Hence the comparison of these different systems on predestination is reduced to this; what is the force of the principle of predilection: no one would be better than another, if he were not loved more by God.. .. . In the order of grace, this principle of predilection is revealed in these words of St. Paul in 1 Cor 4. 7: "Who has distinguished you? What have you that you have not received?' [omits fact that resistance to grace is from us, not from God, and so arrives at the view that there is nothing to distinguish one person from another, so God decides blindly that these go to heaven, those to hell].

Idem, De gratia (|Turin, 1945) p. 63, note 2) : ".. . a person is not able of himself alone, to not place an obstacle [to sufficient grace], for that [not placing an obstacle] is good. " Ibid. p. 190: ".. . although he could [possit] non resist, de facto nevertheless he resists, but freely and culpably.. .. there is no middle term in between to resist, which comes from our defectibility, and to not resist, which comes from the font of all good things, because 'to non-resist is already some good. '"

P. Lumbreras. O. P. (De gratia, Rome, l946, pp. 95-96, citing John of St. Thomas I-II. q. 111. disp. 14. a. 1. n. 12) "To be deprived of efficacious grace, it is not always required that we first desert God by sin.. .. on our part, there is always some impediment to efficacious grace not by way of fault, yet by way of inconsideration or some other defect.. .. 'Because of this defective consideration [in the human intellect] because of this voluntary defect - which is not yet a sin, since the consideration is for the sake of the judgment, and the judgment for the sake of the work, that is, the assent - God can refuse a man efficacious grace. " [without efficacious grace a man infallibly sins, according to "Thomists". But Christ earned every grace. cf. Romans 8: 31-34 and 5: 8-10. ]

How much does God love humans? There are two measures:

a) Since to love is to will good to another for the other's sake, if the love is strong, the lover will want to act to make the other well off and happy. Then if a small obstacle stops him, the love is small. If it takes a great obstacle to stop him, the love is great. But if even an immense obstacle will not stop him, the love is immense.

b) The Father in the new covenant and sacrifice accepted an infinite price of redemption. So He bound Himself to make forgiveness and grace available to our race infinitely, without limit. The only limit is in our receptivity. But He did this not just for our race as a whole, but even for each individual. St. Paul said in Gal 2: 20: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me. " This is not just for Paul. Vatican II in GS §22: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle, the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me. " So there is an infinite title or claim to all forgiveness and grace even for each individual.

Such then is the measure of His love.

So would be refuse to give grace merely because of an inculpable inadvertence? If he would, His love would be tiny, or nonexistent.

Would a mere inadvertence which is not at sin at all be such as to deprive a man of that without which he could not be saved?. (Since efficacious grace, according to the "Thomists" is the application of sufficient grace, it is clear that without efficacious grace, the man infallibly will not do good, must sin) cf. Garrigou-Lagrange above) . Of course God would not deny grace for that inculpable inadvertence. In Romans 8: 31-34 Paul exultantly exclaims: If God is for us, who is against us? He who has given us His only Son, what will He not give us in addition? - So would He see a soul go to hell because of an inculpable inadvertence, with is no sin at all, when a grace, for which His Son paid so dreadful a price, has already been earned and paid for? Such a vain fantasy is contrary to the goodness of our Father. So the theory of Garrigou and others like him is terribly false, without any foundation.

Behind such an error is a misunderstanding of 1 Cor 4: 7, which says every good we have is God's gift. True. But the Father has bound Himself to offer without limit. And an inculpable inadvertence would not block it. Grace can readily overcome such a thing. It is only if a person by much sin has made himself blind, and so incapable of taking in the first movement of grace when it is showing him something as good, only then could he be deprived of grace. St. Thomas himself in CG 3: 159 said: "But they alone are deprived of grace who set up in themselves an impediment to grace, just as, when the sun shines on the world, he deserves blame who shuts his eyes.. .. "

 

Reasons for Centuries-old Impasse

Was Nestorius a Nestorian? The article on "Nestorianism" in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity insists he was not a Nestorian.

So now we ask: Was St. Thomas a Thomist? Our answer is no for two reasons.

FIRST REASON: St. Thomas follows excellent theological method. In approaching the problem of predestination, he looked for more than one starting point, and seemed to have found two. To visualize it, we imagine him standing on the perimeter of a circle. He finds two points from each of which he hopes to project a line to hit the center, the correct answer.

The two points he found were these:

1) 1 Timothy 2: 4: "God wills all men to be saved. " He did this especially in Contra gentiles 3: 159 ff, though there are echoes of it also in his commentary on Romans.. . Unlike others, who we will consider presently, he accepted this clear truth of Scripture and did not try to distort it into meaning the opposite.

2) Romans 8: 29 ff: He inherited from St. Augustine the latter's exegesis of Romans 8: 29 ff. This included what Augustine called the massa damnata theory, in which all men form one damned and damnable mass, which God could throw into hell without waiting for anyone to sin personally. Augustine derived this from a purely allegorical reading of Romans 9, which speaks of the mass of clay from which the potter can make whatsoever he wills, a vessel of honor or of dishonor. Again, there are echoes of this idea in St. Thomas' commentary on Romans.


Thomas' attempt at a synthesis of the two points:

1) In his Commentary on Romans, Chapter 8, lessons 1, 2, 3 we find indications of both tendencies:

a) Tendency to the massa damnata view: "Since all men because of the sin of the first parents are born exposed to damnation, those whom God frees through His grace, He frees out of mercy alone. And so He is merciful to certain ones whom He delivers; but to certain ones He is just, whom He does not deliver. "

b) Tendency to the opposite view: ".. . foresight of sins can be some reason for reprobation.. . inasmuch as God proposes to punish the wicked for sins which they have of themselves, not from God, but He proposes to reward the just because of merits, which they do not have of themselves. Osee, 13: 9: ' Your ruin is from yourself, Israel; only in me is your help. '. .. Those whom He hardens, earn that they be hardened by Him. "

2) In Contra gentiles 3. 159, 161, 163:

a) Universal salvific will in general: CG 159: "They alone are deprived of grace who set up in themselves an impediment to grace, just as when the sun shines on the world, he deserves blame who shuts his eyes, if any evil comes thereby even though he could not see without having the light of the sun. " COMMENT: A broad statement: God offers help to all; only they do not get it who shut themselves off from it.

b) Massa damnata: CG 163: ".. . some by the divine working are directed to their ultimate end, being helped by grace, but others, deserted by the help of grace, fail to reach the ultimate end. Because all things that God does are provided and ordained from eternity by His wisdom, it is necessary that the difference of men mentioned be ordained by God from eternity.. .. Those whom He planned from eternity that He would not give grace, He is said to have reprobated or to have hated, according to what is said in Malachi 1: 2, 3: 'I have loved Jacob, but hated Esau. '" COMMENT: Here the difference in men is not that they voluntarily close or do not close their eyes: it is something God planned for from eternity. He hated some as He hated Esau.

 

3) Conclusion on the method of St. Thomas:

He had, as we said, two starting points, the salvific will, and Augustine's misunderstanding of Romans. Standing, as it were on the rim of the circle, Thomas began to draw a line from each point. But before going all the way, he pulled back, seeing that the lines would not meet.

St. Thomas knew that at least part of this view of Augustine was an error. For in De malo q. 5. a. 3, ad 4: "The infants [who die without baptism] are separated from God perpetually, in regard to the loss of glory, which they do not know, but not in regard to participation in natural goods, which they do know.. .. That which they have through nature, they possess without pain. " In contrast, Augustine, as his massa damnata theory really required, held for the positive damnation of infants: Enchiridion 93. Even he admitted much discomfort with his conclusion, in Epistle 166. 6. 126: "But when we come to the punishment of little ones, believe me, I am caught in great difficulty, nor can I find at all what I should answer. " Centuries later Pope Pius IX was to confirm the position of Thomas in regard to the lack of pain. In Quanto conficiamur moerore (DS 2866) : "God.. . in His supreme goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishment who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault. "

 

 

SECOND REASON: St. Thomas never denied the universal salvific will.

1) But the founder of the "Thomist" system, Domingo Bañez wrote (Scholastica commentaria in primam partem Angelici Doctoris, D. Thomae, Romae, 1584. In I. 19, 6. col. 363) : "Quia non est in Deo formaliter talis voluntas, necessse est quod sit eminenter, cum Deus sit causa illius in sanctis. " That is: God does not really will all to be saved: He just causes us to will that.

This is not too strange, since the system of Bañez is essentially the same as that of St. Augustine, who clearly denied the salvific will:

a) Enchiridion 103: "when we hear and read in the sacred Scriptures that He wills all men to be saved.. . we must.. . so understand [it] as if it were said that no man is saved except whom He wants [to be saved].. .. Or certainly it was so said.. . not that there is no man whom He is unwilling to have saved, He who was unwilling to perform the wonders of miracles among those whom He says would have done penance if He had done them; but in such a way that we understand 'all men' to mean the whole human race, distributed into various categories: kings, private citizens, nobles, ordinary men, lofty, lowly, learned, unlearned.. .. "

b) De correptione et gratia 14. 44: " And that which is written that 'He wills all men to be saved, ' and yet not all are saved, can be understood in many ways, of which we have mentioned some in other works, but I shall give one here. It is said in such a way.. . that all the predestined are meant; for the whole human race is in them. "

c) Ibid 25. 47: "That 'God wills all men to be saved' can be understood also in this way: that He causes us to wish [that all men be saved].. .. "

d) Epistle 217, 5. 19: ".. and so that which is said 'God wills all men to be saved' though He is unwilling that so many be saved, is said for this reason: that all who are saved, are not saved except by His will. "

COMMENTS: Here are his solutions: 1) "All" means "some out of every category of men. " 2) No one is saved unless God wills it. 3) All the predestined. 4) God causes us to will that all be saved. "

But this is a sad denial of the explicit teaching of Scripture. His fourth reasoning is the same as that of Bañez. His result is the same as that of Bañez.

All who follow Bañez fail to see an equation: To love is to will good to another for the other's sake (Cf. I-II. 26. 4) . Therefore when God says He wills someone to be saved, it is the same as saying He loves that one. If there is anyone He does not will to be saved, He does not love that one. So to deny the salvific will is to deny God's love. But God has proved His love: Romans 5: 8.

St. Augustine himself at least five times implied the opposite of the massa damnata theory. Here are two examples: In De diversis quaestionibus LXXXII. 68. 5": "For not all who were called willed to come to that dinner which as the Lord says in the Gospel was prepared, nor would they who came have been able to come if they had not been called. And no neither should they who came attribute [it] to themselves, for they came, being called; nor should those who were unwilling to come attribute [it] to anyone but themselves, for in order that they might come, they were called in free will. " Similarly in De Actis cum Felice Manichaeo 2. 8: "Felix said: You call Manichaeus cruel for saying these things. What do we say about Christ who said: Go into eternal fire? Augustine said: He said this to sinners. Felix said: These sinners - why were not they purified? Augustine said: Because they did not will [it]. Felix said: Because they did not will it - did you say that? Augustine said: Yes, I said it, because they did not will it. "

Now Augustine's theory is called massa damnata. He meant that by original sin all our race became a massa damnata et damnabilis. God willed to display mercy and justice. To display mercy, He rescues a small percent. To display justice, the rest go to hell, to show that all should have gone to hell. But in the two quotes just given, the basic reason for their loss is not God's desertion, but man's desertion.

God does not love anyone in Augustine's view. for even though He does will salvation to a small percent, He wills it not for their sake, but just to make a point. But to love is to will good to another for the other's sake.

2) Those who do not explicitly deny the salvific will propose a position which is almost the same. They hold that actual grace, which is needed for salvation, may be either sufficient or efficacious. Sufficient grace they say gives the full power of doing good, but it infallible that a man will not do good with it. The reason is that the application of that sufficient grace is still needed: without that application, it is metaphysically impossible to have an actualization of the grace. Now Garrigou-Lagrange (De gratia, Turin 1945, p. 63, note 2) wrote: ".. . a person is not able by himself alone to not place an obstacle [to sufficient grace]". This is even clearer in a later Thomist, P. Lumbreras O. P., (De gratia, Rome 1946, pp. 95-96, citing John of St. Thomas I -II, q. 111. disp. 14. a. 1. n. 12) : "To be deprived of efficacious grace, it is not always required that we first desert God by sin.. .. on our part, there is always some impediment to efficacious grace, not by way of fault, yet by way of inconsideration or some other defect.. .. .. 'Because of this defective consideration [in the human intellect] because of this voluntary defect - which is not yet a sin, since the consideration is for the sake of the judgment, and the judgment for the sake of the work, that is, the consent - God can refuse a man efficacious grace. '"

Theologians often distinguish between antecedent and consequent will in God. Antecedently, that is, in general, He wills all to be saved; but consequently, that is, in view of their sins, He may no longer will to save the man. If we express this view of Lumbreras and John of St. Thomas just cited in those terms, then we would have God saying, "I would like this man to be saved [antecedent will], but not if he has an inculpable inconsideration [consequent will]. "78

 

So we must ask: in this view, how strong is God's will to save if it can refuse the indispensable means of salvation for something that is no fault at all in the man? We reply: It is so feeble as to be almost nonexistent.

 

 

A Scriptural approach, picking up where Thomas left off:

To complete the work he so well started by St. Thomas, we need three things:

1) Remove the obstacle that held him back, i. e, Augustine's misunderstanding;

2) Complete the line he started in CG 159 but did not complete;

3) Put together the two positions that are implied.

1) FIRST STEP: Complete the rejection of massa damnata, which St. Thomas had begun. As we saw above, Thomas himself saw a truth that eluded Augustine, that infants who die without baptism do not go to hell. We saw that that bothered Augustine himself very much. Yet his massa damnata really required that conclusion. St. Thomas courageously rejected that mistake.

He still needed to correct the other part of Augustine's misunderstanding. St. Thomas was centuries early for that, for Scripture studies had not yet developed far enough then. But today they have. Pere Lagrange, in his great commentary on Romans, supplies what was lacking. He showed that the texts of Scripture on which both sides had relied in the De Auxiliis debates were all taken out of context. Scripture never explicitly speaks of predestination to heaven or reprobation to hell. The predestination it speaks of, according to Pere Lagrange, is always and only a predestination to full membership in the people of God, the Church. Now that we know this, we can get past the obstacle that stopped Thomas. (Also, instead of using Scripture, their views were predetermined by that they thought was metaphysics) .

 

2) SECOND STEP: Do not reject, but accept the universal salvific will.

Unlike Bañez and St. Augustine, St. Thomas never denied the salvific will. Rather, he wanted to work out from it to reach the true answer, but was hindered by the obstacle we have just seen. We will not deny that salvific will either. We can fill in on it with the help of an analysis of love.

Thomas said: Amare est velle bonum alicui. Very true. How can we measure it? St. Paul says in Romans 5: 8: "God has proved His love. " If anyone loves another, which means to will the good and well-being of another for the other's sake, as Thomas said: amare est velle bonum alicui, and if someone starts out to bring well-being and happiness to another, but a small obstacle can stop him, that love is weak. If it takes a great obstacle to stop him, the love is great. But if even an immense obstacle will not stop him then that love is immense, beyond our ability to measure. Such was the love of the Father, sending His Son to a horrible death.

This is implied when St. Paul said that the Father will not refuse to give us what that Son so dearly paid for. In Romans 8: 31-32: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He even did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over for us all - how will He not also give us all things with Him?" In other words: The Father has already given His own Son to a terrible death out of love of us - for amare est velle bonum alicui. And here the good He wills us is a share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1: 4) . After all is bought an paid for, He definitely cannot, will not stop giving out what that Son so dearly paid for. Surely an inculpable inadvertence would not make Him decide to let a soul go to hell!.

St. Paul continues (8: 33-36) : "Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? Will it be God who makes them just? Who is there who will condemn them? Will it be Christ Jesus who died, who even rose, who is at the right hand of God, who even intercedes for us?"

Who are the chosen ones of God? They are those mentioned in 8: 29, those whom He has called to be members of Christ. Who are they? In 1 Tim 2: 4 "God wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. " Really the whole of chapter 8 (and 9-11 also) is about the Church considered just in itself as a fail-safe means of bringing eternal happiness. We can fail it, but it cannot ail us, according to Romans 8: 9: "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, He does not belong to Christ. " But He offers that Spirit to all, for He wills that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. As Thomas said, when the sun shines, only they are deprived who close their eyes to the light. Further, if one follows the Spirit of Christ, then: "We are heirs [of the Father] together with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him. "

Then Paul gets exultant: "Who then will separate us from the love of Christ? Will it be tribulation? or being in a tight spot? or hunger? or nakedness? or danger, or persecution? or the sword.. . But in all these we are superconquerers because of Him who loved us. "

Finally Paul concludes: "I am certain that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor present things, nor future things, nor strength, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. " Surely, not just an inculpable inadvertence!

So the fact that the Father has accepted the infinite price of redemption, means He owes it to Himself to offer to all every grace and forgiveness. It is only if as Thomas says, we close our eyes to the light that we shall not have it.

But there is more. We could put this in legal language and say that Christ has generated an infinite title to forgiveness and grace for our race as a whole.

But even more: St. Paul in Gal 2: 20 says: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me. " Was that a special privilege for Paul, a special person? No, Vatican II, Church in Modern World §22 wrote: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me. " So - a staggering perspective -there is an infinite objective title to forgiveness and grace for each individual man! No mere inculpable inadvertence could cancel all that out!

Other Fathers of the Church: Do they agree with Thomas as we have developed his thought? Very definitely yes, the Eastern Fathers are absolutely unanimous in teaching that there is no reprobation, not even negative, without our own fault - without our closing our eyes to the light.

What of the Western Fathers? Absolutely the same: Jerome, Ambrose, Hilary and others. After Augustine made his slip what happened? Authors today often say that St. Prosper of Aquitaine was the great defender of the massa damnata theory. But they have not read Prosper. In the massa damnata, first God deserts a man, then the man deserts God. But Prosper wrote three times (Responsiones ad capitula obiectionum Gallorum 3) : "For this reason they were not predestined, because they were foreseen as going to be such as a result of voluntary transgression.. .. They were not deserted by God so that they deserted God; but they deserted and were deserted. "

 

THIRD STEP: Combine the two insights: Here we use the most basic analogy of the Gospels, the Father analogy. That can be used in a foolish sentimental way so as to say: He is so good He would not send anyone to hell. Thomas knew that was not true. He did know the love of the Father.

Now we can distinguish three steps - logical momenta, not chronological periods --

1) The Father wills all men to be saved. This is real, as we have seen. Thomas accepted it in spite of the denials of Augustine and others;

2) Notice that the children in a family do not think they must help around the house, cut the grass, dry dishes etc. so as to get the love and care of their Father (and Mother) . They know they get that not because they are good, but because their parents are good;

3) But the children also know that if they are bad, they can be punished. And if this goes on far, they can sense they might be thrown out of the home, be disinherited.

It is the same with our Father in Heaven. His Son said: "If you do not become like little children, you will not enter the mansions of the Father in Heaven. St. Paul, who is so often misunderstood - witness 2 Peter 3: 16 on that - when he preached: "You are free from the law", meant merely that we do not have to earn a place in our Father's house. We get that by inheritance (Rom 8: 17) : "We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him. " And in Romans 6: 23 Paul compactly made the needed distinction: "The wages [what we earn] of sin is death; the free gift [what we do not earn] of God is eternal life". In other words as a student of mine long ago said: "Salvation, you can't earn it, but you can blow it. "

What is this in more technical language?: 1) predestination to the Father's mansions without having earned it: it is an inheritance. Both St. Thomas and St. Augustine knew this and insisted on it. 2) Reprobation only in view of demerits. Absolutely all the Fathers of the East, and all those of the West except Augustine saw this. And the other Western Fathers agreed with the Easterners.

We could express this in other language. There are three logical momenta in God's decrees:

1) He wills all to be saved - - very strong, very genuine will. ;

2) He looks to see who resists His graces both gravely and persistently, so persistently that the man throws away the only thing that could have saved him. With regrets, the Father decrees to let him go: negative reprobation; 3) All not discarded in step 2 are positively predestined. But it is not because of merits, which have not even been mentioned. Nor is it even because of the lack of persistent resistance - no, there is something more basic: this is what the Father has wanted all along, and these souls are not stopping Him from carrying out His will.

We seem then, to have completed the work so well begun by Thomas. He did indeed well. We should recognize that fact, and not blame him for the mistake of those who later mistakenly tried to claim him.

 

 

 

[As we said, the chief defect in old exegesis was ignoring the context. So all the early writers thought, for example, that the parable of the dinner referred to predestination to heaven. In context, it did not mean that at all. It meant all the Jews were invited to the messianic kingdom and banquet. Most of them were refusing. Many are called, few are chosen. ]

 

[Discard errors of Augustine, as St. Thomas had already begun to do. Now with the help of the work of Pere Lagrange, in his commentary on Romans, using correct exegetical methods, we can dismiss the remainder of the error. This frees us up to extend the line Thomas had started using 1 Tim 2: 4. The chief reason the debates De Auxiliis proved futile was that all parties normally ignored scriptural context. In addition, they tried to solve many things by metaphysics. Metaphysics is very good, but we must not ask it to do what it can never do, to determine an answer in which a free decision of God or man is a factor.]


ACTUAL GRACE

Was St. Thomas a Thomist on actual grace? Definitely no, just as he was not a Thomist on predestination

To see, we will first review the "Thomist" position, then see what Thomas really said.

"Thomist position: " There are two kinds of actual graces, sufficient and efficacious. If God sends a sufficient grace, it gives the full and complete power to do something good; but it is infallibly certain we will not do good, but will sin. If He sends an efficacious grace, it is infallibly sure we will do good.

At first sight this seems folly. Yet it is not entirely so: the efficacious grace is the application of the sufficient grace. Compare a fire which has the full power to cook food, but never cooks anything unless a cook applies the fire to the food.

So, if God sends me a sufficient grace, what can I do to get the efficacious grace? The "Thomists" offer three answers:

(1) If He sends a sufficient grace, and I do not resist it, I get the efficacious grace. BUT: To nonresist a sufficient grace takes an efficacious grace of nonresistance. So no solution. In this vein, Garrigou-Lagrange wrote (De gratia, Turin, 1945, p. 63, note 2: ".. . a person is not able by himself alone to not place an obstacle [to sufficient grace - italics his]. "

(2) If He sends a sufficient grace, and I pray, I get the efficacious grace. BUT: To pray takes an efficacious grace of prayer. Again, no solution.

(3) They say that God can and often does deny the application -- without which a man cannot do good-- for a mere "inculpable inadvertence". P. Lumbreras (De gratia, Rome 1946, pp. 95-96, citing John of St. Thomas I - II q. 111. disp 14 a. 12, n. 12) wrote: "To be deprived of efficacious grace, it is not always required that we first desert God by sin.. .. on our part, there is always some impediment to efficacious grace, not by way of fault [italics added], but by way of inconsideration or some other defect.. .. 'Because of this defective consideration [in the human intellect] because of this voluntary defect - which is not yet a sin.. .. God can refuse a man efficacious grace.

 

Position of St. Thomas himself:

First, in ST I-II. 111 he divides grace in many ways -- but never at all into sufficient and efficacious. Yet that classification of sufficient/efficacious is central to the so-called Thomist theory proposed by Bañez.

Instead, in CG 3: 159 he says: "Since this is in the power of free will [namely] to impede or not to impede the reception of grace, not wrongly is it charged as a fault against him who sets up an impediment to the reception of grace. For God, so far as is in Him, is ready to give grace to all.. . but they alone are deprived of grace who set up an impediment to grace in themselves. "

So St. Thomas does teach that we really can resist, or really can omit resistance.

Not so within the "Thomist" system: sufficient grace, since it lacks the application, which is efficacious grace, cannot

produce any good, it can only sin; it lacks the power of not resisting, as Garrigou-Lagrange, cited above, says. Metaphysically, it lacks application, and a power without application can do nothing but fail. So two comments:

1) To say that a man cannot do other than impede, is, as we said, contrary to CG 159 as we saw, which says "this is in the power of free will, to impede or not to impede the reception of grace. "- We notice no distinction of sufficient vs efficacious grace - St. Thomas never makes that classification.

2) To say God would deprive a man of that without which he cannot help sinning means the salvific will is at zero, or close to zero. This is in contrast to the actual power of the salvific will as shown:

a) The Father accepted a price of redemption that is infinite, since it came from the work of an Infinite, Divine Person. So He bound Himself to make grace available without limit - surely an "inculpable inadvertence" would not be enough to void so powerful a salvific will.

b) Love can be measured by the obstacles it can overcome in trying to bring well-being and happiness to the beloved. Christ's love for us overcame an obstacle that was of measureless difficulty and suffering to make eternal life, and all grace available to us. Surely, He cannot refuse to give what He bought at such a price for an "inculpable inadvertence". So St. Paul in Romans 8: 35ff grows exultant: "Who then will separate us from the love of Christ? Will it be tribulation? or being in a tight spot? or hunger? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword.. . ? But in all these we are superconquerors because of Him who loved us.. . I am certain that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor present things, nor future things, nor strength, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord. " Surely, not just an "inculpable inadvertence".

An objection on infallibly efficacious grace: Some will object

that Thomas says in I - II 112. 3: "If it is the intention of God who moves that man, whose heart He is moving, should receive grace, he infallibly receives it. "This means merely that when God so wills He can so move that the effect is infallibly received. It does not say that God lacks the ability to permit a man to impede grace. As we saw above, Thomas said: ".. . this is in the power of free will, to impede or not to impede the reception of grace. " And the text of 2 Cor 6: 1 makes clear also that we can cause grace to come in vain.

The real solution of St. Thomas, completed: How then put these things together? The answer is not difficult. God has two modes of moving, ordinary and extraordinary. In the ordinary mode, He does permit man to impede, as St. Thomas says. In the extraordinary mode, God, by transcendence, can prevent resistance from developing or cut through it if it has already arisen, without altogether taking away free will. But this is extraordinary. Because it is a reduction, though not a cancellation, of His commitment to give free will. The precise reason for calling it extraordinary will come out from the following.

In the ordinary mode: God sends me a grace which, with no help from me, causes two things: it causes me to see something as good (cf. 2 Cor 3: 5), it makes me well disposed toward it.

At this juncture where I could reject the grace, if I merely make no decision against it, then grace continues in its course, and "works in me both the will and the doing (cf. Phil 2: 13) . "--At that point my will is favorably disposed to what the grace proposes, and the sustaining grace is offered to all, because of the infinite price of redemption. But that favorable stance is produced entirely by the grace itelf, not by me. Hence there is no merit, since all the power comes from the grace. My will makes no decision at all in phase 1.

However, in phase 2, after the omission of a contrary decision, then two things happen in parallel: first, grace works in me both the will and the doing, as we said; second, I am cooperating with grace by virtue of power being received at the same instant from grace.

Comments: 1) After grace has caused the two effects, I do not have the power to make a decision to accept (Phil 2. 13: it would be a good decision) . I do have the power to make no decision against it. (Grace sustains me in nonrejecting, without forcing nonrejection) . To act that way has the same effect as a good decision, but it operates in radically different way. By omission, not by commission.

2) What we have proposed is basically the same as Contra gentiles 3. 159, which we quoted above: A man has in his power to impede or not impede. Only they are deprived of grace who do impede, just as if someone closes his eyes when the sun shines, he is guilty of any harm that follows from closing his eyes.

In the extraordinary mode: God sends a grace, but the man resists it or has made himself blind, by much sinning, so he does not even perceive the good thought of what God wills and which grace tries to make clear in his mind. Such a thought is needed to start the process, but, according to 2 Cor 3: 5: "We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. "

In the ordinary mode, God would simply permit that resistance to have its effect, but in the extraordinary mode, He forestalls resistance or cancels it out. If He does this, that is, if He forestalls resistance or cancels it out, then the first decision on what is to happen does not come from the man as it would normally, in accord with CG 3: 159 which says a man can impede, with which S. Paul agrees in 2 Cor 6: 1: "We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. Instead, in the extraordinary mode the decision on whether it will be effective or not comes from God.

As we said above, if God forestalls the resistance or cancels it out, then the first decision comes from God, not from the man. This is in accordance with what Thomas said in I - II, 112. 3: "If it is the intention of God who moves that man, whose heart He is moving, should receive grace, he infallibly receives it. " But that, being a diminution of freedom, has to be extraordinary, since God normally observes His grant of free will. To routinely not observe that grant would be self-contradiction for Him. God can routinely do this.

Even in the ordinary mode, it is grace that is efficacious. At the critical juncture which decides everything my contribution is a metaphysical zero, the lack of blocking it.

When does He use this extraordinary mode?: Since He loves all that is right and good, it seems He will use the extraordinary mode only when someone other than the recipient - who would surely not do it for himself - puts an extraordinary weight into the scales of the objective order. That makes it suitable to grant an extraordinary grace, by way of exception. The extraordinary weight will be heroic penance and prayer, as in the case of St. Augustine's mother.

If as the"Thomists" say all grace were infrustrable, then there would be no point at all for Thomas to often appeal to eternity to show how God can know future contingents -- God would then know them merely by reason of His intention to cause them.

Philosophical view of the New Answers: The First Cause sends me a motion which actualizes the potency of my mind to see something as good, actualizes the potency of my will not as far as a decision, but only to the point of a favorable attitude. When these two things are in place, with no contribution from me, if I do nothing against the grace (this is a metaphysical zero from me) then the movement continues, and actualizes the potency of my will to accept. At the same instant it gives me the power to cooperate.

But if when I see the two actualizations in me (coming from the movement from the First Cause) the fact does not please me -then the actualization of my will (up to a favorable attitude) collapses back to potency (I can collapse without help) . Then The First Cause will actualize the potency of my will to reject.

Corollary for spirituality: Imagine a ledger for me. On the credit page I write the number for what I have contributed to a good act. It is a metaphysical zero. On the debit page, the number for my sins. So 1 Cor 4: 7: "What have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why boast as if you had not received it?" (As if you had made it yourself) . Thus my self esteem goes to zero, seeing I contribute only a zero. It sinks below zero, seeing my sins. - But on the secondary level, I am wonderful: an adopted child of God, with a share in the divine nature. So I am simultaneously worse than worthless and marvelous.

This is how the Saints could say terrible things about themselves, in all truth. Humility is the virtue that gets me to see myself in myself, in relation to God and others, as I really am, and then, to accept that at all levels of my being. Our explanation above helps to show how this is possible. We added "at all levels of my being" because it seems the Pharisee in the temple was grabbing some credit for himself, in a not fully conscious way. He began: "O God I give you thanks.. . " But without consciously fully realizing it, he was subconsciously grabbing credit for himself. Hence he was not justified, as the publican was.

The Scriptural framework presupposed in the above: There are two sets of texts of St. Paul which seem to completely clash ( we translate them in accord with canons 4 and 7 of the second Council of Orange 529 AD. DS 374 & 377) . Although a local council, the special approbation of Boniface II made its canons equal to those of a general council) : 1) 2 Cor 3: 5: "We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as from ourselves. Our sufficiency is from God. Phil 2: 13: "It is God who works [produces] in you both the will and the doing. "

2) 2 Cor 6: 1: "We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. " (Many texts all over Scripture imply the same, by asking that we turn to God, change our heart etc. ) .

One set seems to make us without freedom, like puppets on a string; the other set shows that in some way when grace comes we control the outcome.

The Church has never told us how to put the two together. We have just one small help from the Council of Trent (DS 1554, Canon 4 on Justification) . That canon says that under actual grace we are not entirely passive.

When debates became acute in Spain, and people were becoming disturbed, Clement VII in 1597 ordered both sides to send a delegation to Rome to have a debate before a commission of Cardinals.

In March 1602 Clement VIII began to preside in person. In 1605 he very much wanted to bring the debate to a conclusion. So he worked long into the night, and finally came up with a 15 point summary of Augustine's doctrine on grace, intending to judge Molina's proposals by it. That would have meant condemnation of Molina and probable approval of the so-called Thomists. But according to an article in 30 Days, No. 5 of 1994, on p. 46, "But, it seems barely had the bull of condemnation been drafted when, on March 3, 1605 Clement VIII died. " Another Pope had died at the right time centuries earlier. The General Council of Constantinople in 681 had drafted a condemnation of Pope Honorius for heresy - which was untrue - Pope Agatho had intended to sign it. But he died before being able. The next Pope, Leo II, having better judgment, agreed only to sign a statement that Honorius had let our doctrine become unclear, in his letters to Sergius, which did not teach the Monothelite heresy, but left things fuzzy.

So it seems if there be need, God will take a Pope out of this life if needed to keep him from teaching error.

At the end of the 10 years of debates ordered by Clement VIII in 1597, Paul V closed the sessions in 1607. On the advice of St. Francis de Sales, whom he consulted, the Pope refused to approve either the "Thomist" or the Molinist solutions.

 

Appendix: the Molinist solution: Sufficient and efficacious grace are the same. If I cooperate, it become efficacious. BUT: On any given occasion, God is apt to have more than one kind of grace to offer. We imagine a case in which He has graces a - b - c and d. He knows if He sends a or b, I will cooperate, but if He sends c or d, I will not. Question: How does He decide which kind to send? Reply: For some He has a special benevolence. To them at least commonly He sends the kind that will work for them. Otherwise, the kind that will not.

We conclude: this is playing with a stacked deck again.


EXTRAORDINARY GRACE

It surely take a lot more to move some souls than others. We think of the case of St. Augustine, hardened until about age 30, by constant sin. His Mother prayed and did penance literally for years to get his conversion.

And in general, when a Saint goes out to get some soul that is hardened or blind, the Saint usually gets the result. When more ordinary souls try it, there is often little or no result.

We must ask why? Clearly, some are hardened or blind. This can go so far as the sin against the Holy Spirit of which Our Lord Himself said that it would never be forgiven.

What about this blindness or hardness? Clearly a figure of speech, but a solid reality is behind it. We get help by starting with Matthew 6. 21: "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also. " In the narrow sense, that would mean a box of coins buried under the floor for safe keeping. If a man has such a stash, of course he likes to think of it: It is like a magnet pulling his thoughts and heart. But we see easily that one can put his treasure not only in a box of coins, but in all sorts of things: in huge meals, in gourmet meals, in sex, in travel, in study, even in the study of Scripture. All these are, of course, lower than God Himself, some much lower than others. So that is a first factor.

There is a second factor: How much does the soul let itself be caught in the pulls of these creatures? The least would be pulls that lead only to imperfection, less than a venial sin. The next level would be occasional venial sin - then habitual venial sin -then occasional mortal sin - then habitual mortal sin.

The lower the creature, and the more a soul lets itself be pulled, the harder it is for its thoughts and heart to rise to the divine level. As Our Lord Himself said, this can go so far that the soul cannot be forgiven at all. That would not mean that God is ever unwilling to forgive - of course not, but it means that the soul makes itself simply incapable of registering the coming of an actual grace, that is, the kind sent to lead and enable one to do a particular good thing here and now.

A supplementary comparison will help. We think of a galvanometer, which is simply a compass needle on its pivot, with a coil of wire around it. We send in a current into the coil, and the needle swings the right direction, and the right amount, measuring the current.

Now the needle should read correctly, provided there is no competition from outside pulls. It might be near a 33, 000 volt power line or a lot of magnetic steel. Then there are two forces hitting the needle: the current in the coil, and the outside pulls. If the outside pulls are very powerful, and the current in the coil is gentle, the current in the coil may be swamped, overwhelmed, unable to make any impression on the needle.

The meter is my mind. The current in the coil is grace. Grace is always gentile in that it respects my freedom - the outside pulls, if one lets himself be heavily enmeshed, take away freedom.

Then the poor soul cannot perceive even the first thing a grace needs to do, namely, the grace should put into the man's mind what God is trying to lead it to do.

If grace cannot do the first thing, of course it will not do any further things. So the man is blind, hardened.

Is there any hope for such a man? Yes, if someone else should do heroic work in penance and prayer, an extraordinary grace could be given. Such a grace would need to as it were cut through the resistance.

Can this be done without taking away the freedom of the man? Yes, God is transcendent, that is, He is above and beyond all our categories. He can move a soul in such a way that resistance either never develops, or He can cut through the resistance, without taking away free will.

St. Thomas has two passages that can help us to see our way in this difficulty. In Contra gentiles 3. 159 Thomas wrote: "Since this is in the power of free will [namely] to impede or not to impede the reception of grace, not wrongly is it charged as a fault against him who sets up an impediment to the reception of grace. For God, so far as is in Him, is ready to give grace to all.. . but they alone are deprived of grace who set up an impediment to grace in themselves. "

We gather something of capital importance: God - not strange, for He can do anything He wills - can send a grace such that He leaves the man capable of resisting, or not resisting the grace.

If the man does not resist, then the grace moves ahead in its course, and brings him to do good.

But Thomas also sees another possibility, the one we indicated above. In Summa I II 112. 3 he says: "If it is the intention of God who moves, that the man, whose heart He is moving, should receive grace, he infallibly receives it. " We notice two things. He says in such a case the man "infallibly" receives it. We also notice that Thomas says, "IF it is the intention of God", this happens, that is, the man infallibly receives grace.

Can this fit with what the same Thomas said above in Contra gentiles 3. 159? Of course. So, there must be two situations, or two kinds of graces: 1) In one situation or with one kind of grace, God moves the man in such a way that the man really can impede or not impede the grace. 2) In the other situation, God so moves that regardless of anything else, the man infallibly receives the grace. But Thomas specifies that this happens only IF, God intends to move that way.

So we get back to something we said earlier: There are ordinary graces, and there are extraordinary graces.

We can begin to see that the ordinary graces are enough if the man is not blinded or hardened: if he is hardened or blind, something more, something extraordinary is needed.

In what sense should we call the one kind of grace extraordinary? In the sense that it can cut through resistance, and yet leave the man free. How? Only divine Transcendence could do the two things at once, for they seem to be contradictory.

But all things are possible to Divine Omnipotence.

How could we visualize the process? We saw that Thomas says a man can impede or not impede. He did not say - we need to notice this - that the man can positively make a decision to accept the grace. Why not? St. Paul in Phil. 2. 13 says: "It is God who works, that is, produces in you both the will and the doing. " So we will not actually make a good decision unless He so moves us.

So we look at the start of the process: God sends a grace. The first thing it needs to do, of course, is to put into the man's mind the good thought of what God wants to lead him to do. We get this from 2 Cor 3. 5 (if we translate following the definition (in DS 377) of the Second Council of Orange) : "We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves: our sufficiency is from God. " That is: We cannot get a good thought without Him. Our Lord said: "Without me you can do nothing".

So the work starts when God puts into the man's mind the good thought. At that point the man could impede or not impede, as Thomas puts it. If the man merely does not impede, that is, does nothing against the grace - no decision at all - then the grace moves ahead in its course, and, to paraphrase Phil 2. 13, works in him both the will and the doing. At the same instant, we are cooperating, by power being received at the same instant from that grace.

This, then, is the process when God sends a grace such that the man could either impede or not impede, as Contra gentiles 3. 159 says.

But suppose the grace encounters a block, the man's resistance. Then God may simply allow the man to resist. As Thomas said, the man can impede or not impede. But IF God in spite of that wills that the man should receive grace - as Thomas said in I II 112. 3 - then it can be done, and the man will receive it.

But we need to notice a great difference here. In the ORDINARY case, in which God lets the man free to impede or not, the first decision on the outcome is the man's. So St. Paul could write in 2 Cor 6. 1: "We urge you not to receive the grace of

God in vain. " And all over Scripture we find the same sort of thing: "Repent, return to God. "

But we turn to the EXTRAORDINARY case, that in which God so intends that the man receive grace that the man is no longer permitted to impede. Yet as Thomas says, even then God can -working in a transcendent way - cause that man to receive grace in spite of the resistance. Does this mean that God is cancelling out freedom? No, we said God works in a transcendent way, namely, He can do two things at once, which seem incompatible: He can leave the man free, and can yet infallibly move the man.

But now a vital difference. We said that in the ORDINARY mode, the first decision comes from man, in line with St. Paul 2

Cor 6. 1: "We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. " But in the EXTRAORDINARY mode, St. Paul's words would not apply, for the man can be caused to receive grace in spite of his own resistance. This we must say is NOT TAKING FREEDOM AWAY, BUT REDUCING IT so that THE FIRST DECISION ON WHETHER OR NOT GRACE COMES IN VAIN, IS GOD'S, NOT MAN'S.

But, of course, it is not always that the first decision is God's: it is extraordinary. If we said that always God would make the first decision, that is, if He would always move a man infallibly, then the first decision on when and whether and what kind of evil or sin would be done would be simply God's. To say that would be blasphemous, to say God decided on all sins!

So this is why some graces need to be called extraordinary: they do not let the ordinary process operate. Instead, God by transcendence overcomes resistance, and does so in such a way that the man retains freedom. B ut the freedom now is reduced. We might call it secondary instead of primary. THE FIRST DECISION NOW COMES FROM GOD, NOT FROM THE MAN.

This helps to explain many things. We see now how it is that Saints can bring back even hardened sinners. Their heroic penance and prayer makes it suitable for God to work outside the ordinary way, to give even an extraordinary grace (They as it were put an extraordinary weight into the scales of the objective moral order, calling for an extraordinary grace) . It explains too how Our Lady is said to have told the Fátima children to pray and make sacrifices, for there are some who would be lost if someone else did not do that for them. These souls are hard or blind. Only an extraordinary grace can rescue them. To give that, God in good order (cf Summa I. 19. 5. c) , needs to have the special reason of an extraordinary weight in the scales, as it were.

What a need there is today for souls to do penance, to pray, and to accept sufferings that come to them to obtain extraordinary graces, for which Our Lady of Fátima pleaded, for hardened sinners!


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