by Fr. William G. Most
(Documentation and details can be found in
Wm. G. Most, New Answers to Old Questions, London, 1971.
The book is out of print, but xeroxes of it can be
had from the office of Notre Dame Institute)
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 thee 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
This impossibility was admitted by the real founder of the
"Thomist" system, Domingo Banez 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
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 Banez.
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 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
Baez was not right in claiming he merely took over the ideas of
St. Thomas. Baez was right in admitting his view was incompatible
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, William 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
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
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
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, 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
in consideration 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 an inadvertence? If he would, His love would be tiny, or
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...."