Wisdom of Solomon
by Fr. William Most
This book is the culmination of a long process of planning on
the part of the wisdom and providence of God. We saw in the
introduction to the Wisdom books that the Jews certainly did know
survival after death in spite of their odd notion of a unitary
character of man. We saw that at least by the time of the
persecution of Antiochus IV of Syria, around 170 AD, many of the
Jews came to know reward and punishment in the future life. Not
all Jews took this up it seems. We know that in the time of our
Lord himself, the Sadducees did not believe in survival at all.
When St. Paul was in Jerusalem and was speaking to the crowd in
Acts 23.6ff, he noticed there were Pharisees and Sadducees and
said, "I am on trial for the resurrection."
That started a furious debate, and they had to put Paul away
under custody so they would not tear him apart. The Sadducees even
that late did deny resurrection and survival. Also earlier they had
tried to trap our Lord with an imaginary case of a women who had
seven different husbands. But He very cleverly overthrew their
argument. At any rate, at the time Paul spoke the Pharisees and
their followers did know survival.
Previously we saw they Jews groping much of the time trying to
find some things. But now in the Wisdom of Solomon there is no
more groping; everything is right out in the open.
Solomon urges them to love righteousness. Wisdom is found by
those who do not put it to the test, and shows herself to those who
do not mistrust her. He says that perverse thoughts separate
people from God, and when his power is tested it convicts the
foolish. Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul.
Farther down he says, "The spirit of the Lord has filled the
world. And that which holds all things together knows what is
said. Therefore no one who utters unrighteous things will escape
unnoticed . There is no secret word that does not have a result.
And he says also in verse 11, "A lying mouth destroys the soul."
Some people have misunderstood this as if the soul were not
immortal. No, it refers to spiritually ruining the soul. Farther
on in 16, "Ungodly men by their words and deeds brought on death,
because God did not make anything naturally deadly.Everything is
good in itself but evil men brought it on. Is he see thinking of
original sin? The Jews in general in the Old Testament do not seem
to speak of original sin.
He says, They reason unsoundly: "This life is short and
sorrowful. There is no remedy when a man comes to his end. Nobody
has ever been known to come back from the netherworld". It is true
that they never saw anyone come out of his grave and resume his
place in everyday life. So the wicked men then took the attitude -
eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; they used the good
things of creation to the full.
But then the thought goes on into something very strange - in
verse 10 : "The wicked say: Let us oppress the righteous poorman,
and not spare the widow; and even it adds in verse 12, "Let us lie
and wait for the righteous man. He reproaches us for our sins.
Even if he doesn't say anything to them, the mere fact that he
lives righteously is a reproach to them by the mere fact of
comparison. The very sight of him is a burden to us." Then a
strange things happens in verse 17. He says, "Let us test what
will happen at the end of his life. If the righteous man is God's
son, he will help him, so let us try him with insult and torture
and see how he is," and then even, this is astounding in 20, "let
us condemn him to a shameful death. According to what he says, he
will be protected."
Now we wonder, how on earth did the writer of the Wisdom of
Solomon go so far as this. It is true that good people are a
living reproach to the wicked. But look how far they are going.
They want to take a good man and take him to a shameful death. We
have to wonder about something. We know the chief author of holy
scripture is the Holy Spirit. We know too that it is not necessary
that always the human writer should understand fully what the human
writer has in mind. We see this very clearly in Vatican II, Lumen
Gensium 55. It is talking about Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14, and
it says this: "These primeval documents as they are read in the
Church and are understood in the light and later and full
revelation gradually bring before us the figure of the Mother of
the Redeemer. She in this light is already prophetically
foreshadowed in the promise given to our very first parents, fallen
into sin, of a Redeemer (cf. Gen. 3:15 cf. Isaiah 7:14)."
We gather:the writer of Wisdom may not have seen all that the
Spirit had in mind here. He may have had in mind Jesus, to whom the
words so remarkably apply.
Their own wickedness blinded these wicked men They did not
know the secret design of God:suffering was to bring redemption.
(Cf.Isa 53).God did not create man to suffer:it was by the envy of
the devil that death came into the world.
Yet no matter what the wicked may do,the souls of the just are
in the hands of God.-- Here for the first time we have a clear
statement of immortality,glorious at that.
Does this have to mean reward between death and resurrection?
Not necessarily. In Jewish thought survival and resurrection are
tied together.But it surely does teach glorious survival. V.7 could
favor the idea that this had in mind the state after resurrection.
Verse 14 shows an interesting shift compared to the old law in
which eunuchs were not allowed to be part of the covenant
community. Now they are, and they are considered specially blessed
if they have done well.
CHAPTER 4:V.7ff are remarkable: God sometimes takes a man in death
when young, so he may not be perverted. Now it is not just old age
that is to be honored but virtue, or living by wisdom.
So v.12 says in great wisdom: The magic spell of little things
obscures good. Matt 6.21 says:"Where your treasure is,there is
your heart also." In the narrow sense the treasure could be a box
of coins buried under the floor If a man has such a stash it pulls
his thoughts and heart to it. So it is just that much less easy
for them to rise to God. But he can make his treasure many things--
large meals,gourmet meals,sex, travel,even study of theology. All
these are lower than God, some more than others.
There is a second factor: how strongly does a man let these
pull him? To only imperfection,or occasional venial,or habitual
venial sin? Or occasional or even habitual mortal sin?habitual
venial sin,or to occasional or even habitual mortal sin?
If they do not pull even to imperfection, they are harmless or
even beneficial. Christianity does not call for lack of all
feeling. It is no Stoicism. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. St.
Francis de Sales told a married woman that as her devotion grew,
her warmth to her husband should grow.(A matter of duties of state
Then in 13 :Length of life is not the essential thing --growth
in wisdom is.That may be done even in a short time.
Chapter 5:So if the evil have afflicted a good man,at the end,they
will find out the real truth. The righteous shall live forever.
Chapter 6: He advises kings: Your power comes from God.He will
demand a much more strict account from you than from the little
man,who more readily is given mercy. So if kings want long and good
rule let them follow wisdom.
Chapter 7: I too am mortal man,with the same human formation as
others.But I prayed for wisdom and she came,and all good things
with her. Wisdom is pure emanation of God: this is part of the
growing tendency to identify wisdom as divine. Finally St.Paul will
tell the Corinthians that Christ IS the wisdom of the Father.
Chapter 8:Wisdom extends to all things,not in the sense the
lifeless things have it,but divine wisdom ordered and arranged
Elders waited in silence to hear his wisdom.
Chapter 9:The God of our Fathers in wisdom made man to have
dominion over other creatures. There is debate over sense of
Genesis saying God made man in His own image.This text favors
saying it means sharing God's dominion.
In v.7 the writer speaks in person of Solomon:God made him
king,told him to build the temple as a copy of the holy tent
prepared from the beginning as in 1
Solomon continues: the reasoning of men is
worthless.This earthly tent,the body,burdens the thoughtful mind:
cf for this sense above notes on 4.13.
Chapter 10:Now the author begins a long review of history,starting
with Adam:wisdom delivered him from his transgressiom. But then an
unrighteous man,Cain,slew his brother Abel.When the flood came
wisdom saved the righteous Noah on a little wood.Again wisdom
delivered Lot when fire fell on the Five Cities.A pillar of
salt,Lot's wife is a monument to an unbelieving soul.
Wisdom rescued a righteous man,Jacob,fleeing his brother's
wrath and gave him victory in the contest with the angelic spirit
in the night.
Another good man,Joseph,was sold into Egypt,but wisdom
delivered him and gave him power in Egypt.
Wisdom delivered a blameless people - heavy Semitic
exaggeration-- from Egypt and led Moses to withstand the
Pharaoh..God guided that people by a pillar of cloud by day ,a
pillar of fire by night.Then they sang the praises of God.
Chapter 11:Wisdom made their works to prosper through a holy
When they sinned,God sent saraph serpents.They saw that one is
punished through the very things through which they sinned.God told
Moses to set up a bronze serpent,so those who looked on would be
healed.We note this did not violate God's command against making
images,for it was not to worship it,but to foretell the redemption
V.20 says God has arranged all things in measure and number --
in that they all are orderly and by their marvelous structure
reflect His wisdom.The whole world in His eyes is as a speck on the
Chapter 12.God corrects people a bit at a time,hoping thus to
provide for more chance for their salvation. The reference here is
to Ex.23.28. (Te word wasps follows the LXX.The sense of the
Hebrew word is uncertain). But it is not only there that God uses
all means to save.Please see the long file appended to this
commentary on Wisdom.
V.v10-11 says their origin was evil.This seems to mean the
people being led here,for the notion of original sin is not clear
in any spot in the OT, though the account of the fall shows Adam
lost grace/favor,and so did not pass it on to his descendants.
V.19: God's kindness in this case teaches us to be kind.
Chapter 13:The thought here is like that at the start of
Rom 1 which yet insists they could and should know God by His
creation.Since so may did not actually do that,they went into
worship ofoher things,and went lower and lower in an evil
spiral.(The picture of Romans 1 is artificially focused,showing
what man is like when on his own.See my book The Thought of St.Paul
Chapter 14:continues the descent pictured in Romans 1.Making idols
is the start of so many evils,even sacrificing their own children
to them. It led to ritual fornication and to fornication in the
broad sense of infidelity to God.
Chapter 15:Even when we sin we belong to God and He tries bit by
bit to rescue us,as we saw in chapter 12.We are like potter's clay
in His hand.Yet we are free: for explanation please see notes on
Chapter 16:Tells how God preserved His pepople while punishing the
wicked.Even water He made to act like fire; and fire like water:not
in Scripture,but cf. Philo,Life of Moses 1.118.
For His people He gave to manna many different tastes.Men ate
the bread of angels-- fanciful language:does not mean angels have
bodies and use food.
Chapter 17:In the plagues before the Exodus,He held captive by
darkness those who thought they could hold God's people.In the
darkness their fears conjured up specters.
Chapter 18:Their enemies were in darkness,but His people He led by
a pillar of fire. In silence and darkness His word came down and
slew the firstborn.--VV 14-15 have been beautifully adapted by our
liturgy for the incarnation. Death came to some of God's people in
the desert, but a blameless man, Aaron, made propitiation with
incense and the plague stopped. On his long robe the whole world
Chapter 19: But in Egypt the ungodly came again into pitiless
anger, so that they pursued the Israelites whom they had asked to
go. Thus they filled up the measure of their sins. But God remade
the whole creation: the waves came back on the pursuers.
In everything the Lord has exalted His people. He helps them
at all times and places.
Appendix:He Wants Intensely to Make us Happy (cf.12.8)
For each other kind of creature,our Father has provided
satisfaction and pleasure suited to that creature. But for us, whom
He even calls His children,He is not satisfied with giving us a
human happiness: He wants us to have a really divine happiness. So
in 1 John 3.2 we see that "When He appears,we shall be like Him,for
we shall see Him as He is". It means that we will be able to know
Him as He knows us -- not with the same infinite fullness,but in
the same directness. It means that we will be able to love Him as
He loves us,again,not with the same infinity,but in the same way.
Only a being partly divine could do these things.So 2 Peter 1.4 is
right in saying that by grace we become "sharers in the divine
We are going to explore two facets of the picture,first,the
immeasurable strength of that will to save,second, some fraction of
the designs of infinite wisdom to make that will come true in
Strength of the salvific will: Jesus once said:Only the Son
knows the Father,and only the Father knows the Son,and anyone to
whim He wills to reveal Him." Within the Holy Trinity the Father
speaks one Word.But it is not a passing ripple in the air such as
we speak: it is substance,it is another Divine Person.Between
Father and Son there is infinite Love.That love is a Person, the
Holy Spirit. 1 John 4.8 also says: "God IS love." We cannot say
that He has love- that would be a duality,but He is completely
simple.So we must say:He IS love.
To love is to will good to another for the other's sake.The
Father wills to the Son the good of divine nature:that will is
effective,it constitutes the Son,by love.Father and Son together
will that same good of divine nature to the Holy Spirit.That will
constitutes Him. So We can begin,only begin,to see that God is
So when The Father says in 1 Tim 2.4 that He wills all men to
be saved,it really means that He loves them,for He wills them good,
even divine good.He wills that we be able to get in on the infinite
streams of infinite knowledge and of infinite love that flow within
the Holy Trinity.
Does He want this strongly? Romans 5.8 says God proved His
love for us.He did this in two ways.
First,when we love,there are three steps. First,we see
something fin in another.That leads us,secondly,to will or wish
that so fine a person may be well off.Then,thirdly, if that will is
strong,we will not be content to merely say I wish,but will act to
bring it about.
But if someone starts out to bring well-being and happiness to
the one loved,and a small obstacle can stop him - that love is
small.If it takes a great obstacle to stop him - that love is
great.If even a measureless obstacle,literally immense,cannot stop
him - then that love is measureless.
What obstacle did the Father surmount to bring us this divine
happiness? Nothing less than the terrible death of His Only Son.
This is a staggering thought. Plato (Symposium 203) had said that
"No god associates with man."Aristotle (Ethics 1.5) said that no
friendship is possible between a god and a man,since the distance
is too great. What would these great minds have thought had they
heard that God not only became man,but even was willing to suffer
so horribly for us. No wonder St.Paul told the Corinthians (1.24)
that Christ crucified is "a stumbling block to the Jews (who had
heard in Dt 21.23 "God's curse in upon every one who hangs on the
tree"), and nonsense to the Greeks." So in this way we can begin to
see that His love is measureless for us.
Further, since in Isaiah 55.8-9 He had said: "As high as the
heavens are above the earth,so high are my thoughts above your
thoughts,and my ways above your ways" --in view of that He knew we
could not understand Him or feel at home with Him unless He in some
way told us what He is like.So He did that in His Son,and by way of
the New Covenant that Son brought to us. In a covenant,the two
sides each give something and receive something.What they give is
of course of the same greatness as that which they receive.The
Father accepted the infinite price of redemption, the death of His
Only Son. So in accepting that infinity,He pledged,obligated
Himself to offer forgiveness and grace infinitely,with no limit
other than that which we might place,in rejecting His advances.
If we used legal language, we would say that He created an
infinite objective claim or title to forgiveness and grace without
limit for mankind.But is it just for mankind in a block,as it were?
It is that,but far more.St.Paul in Gal 2.20 wrote that "He loved
me,and gave Himself for me." Was that just for St.Paul,a very
special person? No,Vatican II,Church in Modern World §22 assures
us: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God loved
me,and gave Himself for me."
So for each one of us,individually,there is an infinite claim
or title to all forgiveness and grace.That does not imply a man
could set out on a spree of sin,and intend to pull up just in time.
No, when he did pull up,there would be no change of heart,it would
be all preplanned .And so no real change of heart,no contrition.
Further,much sinning brings hardness or blindness.Then God would
indeed be glad to offer grace,gut the an would be closed
off,incapable of taking it in.
In Psalm 118 the refrain is: "For His love is everlasting."
Yes,that is true, but we should add that it is also without
We have tried to find gauge the immeasurable,we have found it
absolutely beyond our poor measures.
So we must explore a second facet: How in practice does He
work to arrange to bring about this infinite happiness for us? The
measureless wisdom of the Father has devised truly marvelous plans.
We can penetrate only some part of them,but let us make the effort.
His marvelous Wisdom has found ways to make use of every
possible opening to save souls. Some of these might seem to us
beyond help. But His wisdom knows how to say,in varying measures:
They know not what they do."
For example, there are people called sociopaths,
who seem almost unable to grasp any moral principles.Is there any
hope for them? Definitely yes,in His marvelous plans to reduce
responsibility in accord with variations in human conditions.
Myriad are the means He uses to help souls towards salvation.
First of all, there is such a thing as somatic resonance - a
term from modern psychology. Since we are made of body and
spirit,and yet the two are so closely joined as to add up to one
person, the result is that if we have a condition on either one of
the two sides, there should be a parallel condition, called a
resonance, on the other side. For example,a person in deep black
depression sometimes thinks he is losing or has lost his faith.
But the bad chemistry of his disease can interfere with the
biochemistry that should serve as the somatic resonance to his
faith. This does not expel faith, but can keep it from functioning
normally, so that the person thinks he has lose it or is losing it.
Different conditions in the brain can serve as the somatic
resonance to different conditions. Thus,Science News of April
16,1994,pp.248-49 reported that PET scans of persons with autism
showed that normal persons have a cooler anterior singulate
compared to the active anterior singulate of the withdrawn
person.The brain portions involved seem to be the somatic resonance
to the mental conditions. Further, Science News of August 20,1983,
pp.122-25 reports a chemist from Argonne laboratories took hair
samples of violent criminals, found strong correlation between
certain highs and lows in trace elements and violent behavior.It
does not mean they had no free will. It does mean their somatic
resonance could strongly predispose them in an evil direction.
Cf.Discover magazine, August, 1992, pp.11-12 for similar results.
There are numerous applications of this principle. Science
News of Oct 14,1989,p.250 reported men who had committed murder
without clear premeditation had the lowest levels of the breakdown
product [ of serotonin] known as 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid of 5-
HIAA. Science News of April 16,1994,pp.248-49 shows that PET scans
of a normal brain processing glucose show considerable differences
compared to the scan of a brain of a person who has trouble
relating to others. And there are numerous other instances. Again,
Science News of Aug 20,1983, pp.122-25 reports a chemist found
notable differences in highs and lows of certain trace elements in
the hair of violent criminals. (The appendix gives many more
scientific details on the workings of this somatic resonance).
These things do not deny free will.But they show that a person
may be much inclined in an unfortunate direction by abnormal
chemistry. God who so greatly wills all to be saved, surely makes
full allowance for these things.
Furthermore, there are two marvelous spiral processes or
patterns that show how God's mercy and justice can be identified in
practice in these processes. The bad spiral appears when a soul
sins much over a period of time. It grows less and less able to
perceive spiritual truths. Suppose we think of a man who has never
been drunk before, but tonight he becomes very drunk. The next
morning he will have guilt feelings - for this was the first time.
There will be a clash between his beliefs and his actions.
Something will give in time. If he continues getting drunk, his
beliefs will be pulled to match his actions, so that a confirmed
drink can hardly understand there is anything wrong with it.
Further moral truths may be dimmed in this way.
Now we can see both mercy and justice here. The fact that the
man is losing light is justice, he has earned that. But at the same
time, what he does not understand at the time of acting can lower
his culpability. He may lose even the ability to see some doctrinal
truths. Thus Dignity, the group that defies the Church on the
immorality of homosexuality, published a statement before the
Pope's appearance in Denver in the summer of 1993 saying: The Pope
is only titular head of the Church, We are the Church.
Yes, there is a responsibility taken on at the start of the
decline ,when and if the person sees himself declining,and consents
to it. But at the later times of acting, responsibility may be
We should notice also the reduced responsibility that comes
from the fact that people may have mental frameworks, sets of ideas
already in their minds. If something that does not fit tries to get
it, it usually does not.
For example, Galen a second century Greek anatomist wrote a
description of all parts of the body without having fully dissected
one. Centuries later, Fabricius,the anatomy professor of William
Harvey, who discovered the circulation of the blood, in dissecting
found some things contrary to Galen - he refused to believe his own
eyes, held instead to Galen.
Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., called variously a theologian or a
paleontologist, not only believed in evolution of the human
body,but also of intelligence and morality, so that just before the
return of Christ at the end, he said most of our race would be
joined in a unity like that of a totalitarian state, by love.
Compare Luke 18.8: "When the Son of Man comes, do you think He will
find faith on the earth?" Or Matthew 24.12: "Because sin will reach
its peak, the love of most people will grow cold". Or 2 Timothy 3
which at the start of the chapter gives a dreadful list of what
people will be like then. And there is more in Scripture, which did
not penetrate at all into De Chardin.
Then there is Ignaz Semmelweis,M.D. one of the discoverers of
germs. He told other Doctors to use antiseptic precautions. They
said he must be crazy, put him in a madhouse for the rest of his
And our Apostles, because they firmly believed in a
militarily conquering Messiah, did not grasp the predictions of
Jesus of His death and resurrection. When they happened, they acted
as if they had never heard of such things.
Here too is much room for much reduced responsibility. So we
need to pay attention to Matthew 7.1: "Judge not." Which does not
forbid us to state the objective moral rating of an action, but it
does say we must not claim to know the interior of the one who does
His arrangements in Holy Scripture are similarly marvelous.
Holy Scripture is a great gift to us, but in its very difficulty
and obscurity we see the workings of God's wisdom in still another
way. Actually,God wills some obscurity in Scripture, to mercifully
be able to say: "They know not what they do". How much
responsibility is dimmed in a given case, only He can judge.
We can notice the principle working out especially in the case
of the parables. Early in His public life,if we follow the
chronology of St.Mark, His enemies charge He casts out devils by
the devil, then, as all three Synoptics report, Our Lord turned to
parables, and told the Apostles: To you it is given to know the
mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the others in parables, so
that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
Now of course He did not deliberately blind them - if He had
done that, He would not have wept over Jerusalem later. Rather it
means that parables are a divinely established means for dividing
people into two groups. One group, by living vigorously according
to what faith says, that the things of this world are worth little
compared to eternity, will get a little light at first,and then
more and more,light. The other group will become more and more
blind -- we are speaking again of the two spirals, mentioned above,
in two directions.
But it is not only parables that cause this effect: God wills
that Scripture in general be difficult. If we make allowance for
differences in language, culture, literary genre etc. in
understanding, after all that there is still a lot of difficulty
not accounted for. That part is willed by God. St.Augustine thought
God wants it that way, to get us to work harder, and so get more.
Pius XII agreed (EB 563). So again, God has a means of mercifully
allowing a person to become less responsible as he loses light.
To turn to still another facet of His plans: An established
mental framework can cause difficulty in understanding, that is, a
set of established ideas. For example, the Apostles had an firm
idea that Jesus was going to restore the kingship to Israel - just
before the ascension they asked when He would do that! (Acts 1:6).
That is why they did not understand His predictions of His death
and resurrection - such things could not fit with their notion of
what sort of Messiah He was. Similarly, since the Old Testament
predictions,as we shall see fully later, of the gentiles streaming
to Jerusalem were easily understood to mean that all gentiles would
become Jews - and not that they would be accepted by God as
gentiles and become part of the people of God (cf.Ephesians 3:3-
6,where that fact is revealed for the first time b y Paul). As a
result, Peter and others were painfully slow to understand the
command of Mt 28 to go and teach all nations. So Jewish Christians
in Acts 10 were shocked that Peter would even speak to gentiles -
though Jesus had ordered precisely that.
Such lack of comprehension fits,as we said above, with the
words of Our Lord Himself. "Father forgive them,for they know not
what they do."
So we can see then some of the myriad ways God has devised to
make salvation possible for all.
In addition,as we saw above, He bound Himself by the infinite
price of redemption in the new covenant, to make available
forgiveness and grace infinitely, without limit. The only limit
imposed is the receptivity of the one to whom the grace is offered.
Still further, as we learn from St.Paul in Gal 2:20, "He loved me,
and gave Himself for me", the Father has established this infinite
title or claim not just in favor of the world as a whole, but in
favor of each individual man. Vatican II (Gaudium et spes §22)
tells us: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God
loved me,and gave Himself for me." So He will do everything
possible for the salvation of each individual.
Hence we see how unfortunate it is to say that God gives
"sufficient" grace to all to be saved. That sounds as if He doles
it out, gives just enough: a man had better use every bit or he
will be lost, and God will not care.
No salvation outside the Church is a defined doctrine that
has caused immense confusion,and what amounts to denial of the
goodness of God. Some,like L.Feeney, have said that if a person has
never had a chance to even hear of the Church he will be damned
for not entering it. That makes God to be a monster! The same
people insist that God sends to hell innocent babies who died
without baptism, again, with no fault.This is sheer blasphemy!
Can Protestants and pagans be saved?: "The Church has said yes
many times over.Pius IX (DS 2666) wrote:God in His supreme goodness
and clemency,by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal
punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault." The
Pope did not explain the how ,but he did state the fact. Similarly,
Vatican II,in LG §16: "They who without their own fault do not know
of the Gospel of Christ and His Church,but yet seek God with
sincere heart,and try,under the influence of grace,to carry out His
will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience,
can attain eternal salvation" Again,we see the fact,not the how.
Further,since membership in the Church is needed for salvation,
these two texts imply that somehow that requirement is met,without
explaining how. John Paul II,in his Encyclical on Missions §10
said: "Since salvation is offered to all,it must be made concretely
available to all....many do not have an opportunity to come to know
or accept the Gospel or to enter the Church.... For such people
salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while
having a mysterious relationship to the Church,does not make them
formally members of the Church." We underlined the word formally,
since it implies that some lesser kind or membership, we might call
it substantial, can suffice.
We can try to fill in on what these documents imply even
though they do not speak explicitly. St.Justin the Martyr,writing
c.145-40,said,in Apology 1.46 that some in the past who were
thought to be atheists,were really Christians,since they followed
the divine Logos,the Word.In Apology 2.10 he adds that the Logos is
in each person. Now of course that is not a spatial presence. A
spirit does not take up space, but is present where it causes an
effect. What effect? We turn to St.Paul,Romans 2.14-16: "The
gentiles who do have the law, do by nature the things of the law.
They show the work of the law written on their hearts." And
according to their response,are saved or not.
It is the Spirit of Christ (or of God,or the Holy Spirit- all
are the same) who writes the law,that is,makes known to them
interiorly what morality requires. Justin had said that Socrates
was one who did this. So Socrates (1) read what the Spirit wrote on
his heart and believed it. (2) He had confidence in it. (3)He
obeyed, carrying out the 'obedience of faith" of which Romans 1.5
speaks. Now those three things are a definition of faith as St.Paul
means it.So Socrates was justified by faith. We add:Romans 8.9 says
that if one has and follows the Spirit of christ, he belongs to
Christ.But that phrase means to be a member of Christ,which means
to be a member of the Church,His Mystical Body.So Socrates did have
a substantial,not a formal membership.Hence their is no problem
The same applies also to Protestants and pagans,and Jews who
reject Christ,if they fill the same three requirements.
What if one of these persons who is justified by faith in this
way later commits a mortal sin? Of course,perfect contrition will
clear it.But we may speculate that there is a different way of
doing it.In Ezekiel 18.21 God says:"If a wicked man turns from all
his sins..and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and
right,he shall surely live." No perfect contrition is addressed to
God who is goodness itself; but the change of heart in the wicked
man,of which Ezekiel speaks,is addressed to God's justice: the man
sees what he has done is wrong,resolves to do it no more. But just
as God is identified with love,so also He is identified with His
other attributes,including justice. Hence we may speculate that
this will explain what Ezekiel says,that a person might recover the
state of grace in that way. Such is God's goodness,who wants all to
reach eternal happiness,and gladly accepts whatever good will He
In fact, although a pagan or some other person who follows the
worship of some body other than the Catholic Church,does not reach
salvation by such worship, yet God will accept the good will shown
in trying to do what the man things God wills,what is right.
How does God make His assignments of persons to certain places
in the world? Let us imagine that God is looking over the world
before history begins to roll. Let us imagine He sees a huge
checkerboard. There is one square for each human of all ages.God
notices that there are three kinds of squares: 1)Class 1 has all
the external means of grace:Mass and all Sacraments; 2)Class 2 has
some Sacraments,but not all; 3)Class three contains those out in
paganism, without any external means of grace. But God has bound
Himself by the infinite price of redemption, as we saw above, to
offer forgiveness and grace with no limit except the rejection of
grace by the human being.
Why are there these three kinds of squares? The founder of a
heresy may well be in mortal sin. But the later generations born
into his heresy are unlikely to be in sin: they have grown up that
way and see no reason for changing. It would take quite an impetus
to get them to even ask if they should consider the situation.
Further, the Gospel naturally took long centuries to reach
everywhere in the world. So unless God were to multiply miracles
everywhere, there would have to be these three kinds of squares.
Next, He looks at all humans. He finds no difference on the
side of positive goodness: they will each have what He gives,as
St.Paul says in 1 Cor 4.7. But He notices great differences,which
they made,not He,in their resistance to grace,leading to sin.
He looks also at that negative side, resistance to
grace,leading to sin. Some are so perverse that no matter what kind
of squares He puts them in, they will be eternally lost. Of
course,He will not waste the class 1 squares on them,for there is
not an infinite number of those squares.
But others could be saved if they get the right kind of
assignment. Some of this latter group need all the means to be
saved: then He gives them the squares of class 1. Others can be
saved with something less. He gives them class 1 or 3 squares.
We see then,that there is at least one way - perhaps He has a
much better way - for Him to so arrange thing by His Providence so
that no one is lost because of the kind of position God assigns Him
We must consider too the more pleasant topic of reaching
spiritual perfection. The Church teaches that a person in any walk
of life can reach spiritual perfection, even though the means
available in some states, such as abstinence from marriage, are in
themselves more powerful than those outside.
We said "in themselves", because the goodness of our Father
has placed wonderfully powerful means of spiritual growth in
marriage too. Hence Paul VI once said that marriage is a long path
towards sanctification (on this cf.W.Most,Our Father's Plan,pp.145-
49). God has sugar-coated the situation, to get people to as it
were register for this course in sanctification. During courtship,
the very large differences in male and female psychology are all
heavily papered over by emotion. But when after some time in
marriage, the feelings subside to a more normal level, then they
find out. Each one can honestly say: I need to give in most of the
time to make this work. That is spiritually
splendid, the opposite of selfishness. And if children come, the
generosity of even rather ordinary parents to children is really
phenomenal. So Paul VI is very right: Marriage can be a long path
Does God love some more than others? Some say yes, chiefly
those who hold the older views on predestination. But let us
To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. To
will our salvation is of course the major part of that will/love.
Since He wills that all reach final salvation, He wills all a
good that is beyond measure, in a sense infinite, in that it leads
to union with the Infinite Good. There is no greater good He could
will to them.
We saw above the measures,as it were,of that will:1)The
obstacle He overcame in seeking to give us that good was the
terrible death of His Son. 2) In the covenant,in accepting the
infinite price of redemption, He obligated Himself to make
available to all men forgiveness and grace without any limit -
except that which is placed by their rejection of His grace. As
St.Paul told the Romans in 8.32: "He who did not spare His own Son,
but gave Him for us all, how will He not give all things with Him?"
Further, the same St.Paul in Gal 2.20 says that, "He loved
me,and gave Himself for me." That this applies to each individual
man is clear from Vatican II, 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 objective title to all forgiveness and grace
for each individual man.
We conclude: God wills to every man, the infinite good of
eternal happiness. There is no greater good He could will them. And
He has bound Himself as just explained to make available to each
individual man forgiveness and grace without limit - other than
that imposed by the rejection by the man.
What greater good could He will anyone? What greater means
could He pledge to offer to every man? Then,since to love is to
will good to another for the other's sake, He does not love one
more than another.
What of the fact that some attain a higher degree of glory
than others? The difference in degrees is due not to God's holding
back on that which He has pledged - it is due to the rejection, in
varying degrees, of His graces by the human.
What of extraordinary graces?
We distinguish: a) the extraordinary sort of grace needed to
cut through or forestall resistance in hardened sinners.
b)extraordinary interventions such as the conversion of St.Paul.
In regard to extraordinary grace to convert hardened sinners:
As we explained above, He cannot make the extraordinary ordinary.
But He can grant such extraordinary things in view of
extraordinary, heroic work in penance and prayer by another. He
gladly does that then.
In regard to extraordinary interventions, such as the
conversion of St.Paul: These things He gives not just for the sake
of the individual, such as St.Paul, but for the benefit of all who
profit by St.Paul's works and writings. Again, He cannot make the
extraordinary to be ordinary. But He can at times, by way of
exception, make use of such means. That He does, for the sake of
benefits to all. We notice too the case of St.Margaret Mary, who
received the great Sacred Heart revelations.They are of immense
benefit to all. As to her personally, she reports that He told her
if He could have found anyone more wretched than her, he would have
chosen that one. Sister Josefa Menendez reports the same sort of
words from Him.
What of the statement of St.Thomas (I.20.3), that no one would
be better than another if He did not will a greater good to that
one? We distinguish with St.Thomas (body of article):"On the part
of the more or less intense act of the will [of God]: In this
respect, God does not love certain ones more than others: for He
loves all in one, simple act of His will, which always has the same
attitude." He adds that as to the good itself, He can be said to
love one more than another if He wills a greater good. But that
does not mean He loves, "with a less intense will."
It merely means this: No one has any good at all except what
God gives. St.Paul expresses this in 1 Cor 4.7; "What have you
that you have not received?." That is: Every bit of good that you
are or have or do is simply His gift.
But He does not as it were blindly decide to give a greater or
lesser good. No, He has, as we saw, bound Himself by the infinite
price of redemption to make available grace without any limit to
everyone. His Son has even, as St.Paul says in Gal 2.20 offered His
death for each individual man, and so each individual man has an
infinite objective title or claim to grace and forgiveness.
St.Thomas expresses this distinction well in what he says
about God's antecedent and consequent will. In antecedent will,
that is, before considering anything, He does will that all be
saved. But in consequent will, that is, in view of their rejection
of grace and sin, He does not actually will that all reach final
What of the words of God in Malachi 1.2-3 cited by St.Paul: "I
have loved Jacob and hated Esau." First, He hates no one at all.
More importantly, Hebrew and Aramaic both lack the degrees of
comparison, such as good,better,best. We would say: He loves one
more and the other less. But in what respect? St.Paul in
Romans 9 is speaking of God's decision to give or not give the
special benefit of full membership in the people of God - which is
a great help to final salvation, but does not predetermine it.
That decision really falls within the principle of the
checkerboard, which we explained above.
Appendix of Details on Somatic Resonance
1.US News & World Report,Nov 8,1993,pp.76-79. Personality changes
seem to come from some antidepressants.Serotonin, a mood-elevating
brain chemical,normally flows from the synapses...into the cells
where it is deactivated. SSRIs such as Prozac and Pamelor block the
brain's natural ability to deactivate Serotonin,thereby resulting
in more Serotonin effect. Can cause drowsiness or lowered sexual
desire. -- Due to modification of somatic resonance.
2.Discover magazine,Oct,1993,pp.30-31;"Violence in the Blood" by
Sarah Richardson. A perfect correlation between inclination to
violence seems to relate to a defect in men on the short arm of the
X chromosome, a marker known to code for an enzyme monoamine
oxidase A which should break down three important
neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, serotonin,and
3.Science News of Oct 14,1989,p.250 said: "Men who had committed
murder without clear premeditation had the lowest levels of the
breakdown product [of serotonin known as 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid
or 5-HIAA. In addition,men who had killed more than once had lower
levels of 5 HIAA than did one-time murderers.... In a study of
violent offenders and impulsive arsonists...Linnolla's team again
found abnormally low levels of 5 HIAA. Men in this group who went
on to commit additional violent offenses or arson during an average
three-year follow-up period after prison release had the lowest
levels of 5-HIAA. Studies measuring 5-HIAA levels in the
cerebrospinal fluid of suicide attempters show that individuals who
used violent means,such as guns,tend to have lower levels than
those who took pill overdoses.....In autopsy studies,other
investigators have linked low brain concentration of 5-HIAA to a
aggression in Alzheimer's patients. In contrast,note thomas R.Insel
of NIMH,some studies of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder
show that these individuals have slightly higher-than-normal levels
of 5-HIAA....Linnolla cautions that 5-HIAA is only an indirect
indicator of serotonin function."
3.Science News Oct 14,1989,p.246:"With the help of antidepressants,
Ann finally conquered the guilt and despair that had overwhelmed
her for two years after her husband's death in 1984. The 62-year
old woman said she felt 'as if a cloud had been lifted.' Then,in
early 1988, Ann took part in a medical experiment.She and 20 other
patients recently recovered from depression drank a chocolate-
flavored concoction of amino acids that drastically lowers blood
levels of a precursor of serotonin....three hours after drinking
the liquid, Ann began sobbing uncontrollably. She slept little that
night and mourned her husband's death as if it had just happened.
The following evening,the episode ended as abruptly as it had
begun. She stopped crying and told the doctors she felt back to
normal.... Thirteen other participants experienced similar setbacks
after drinking the liquid." COMMENTS: even though the patients knew
it was just a chemical change, yet their feelings seemed real.
4.Scientific American:. Feb.1974,pp.84-91 reports low levels of
serotonin go along with increased sexual activity and insomnia.
5.Science News Oct 9,1971,p.249. An infusion of Lactate triggers
anxiety attacks in those prone to anxiety.cf.Ibid,July 16,1983
pp.45-46. Shows anxiety is linked to biochemistry.
6.Science News August 20,1983,p.122-25.A chemist from
Argonne lab took hair samples of violent criminals at Stateville
prison in Illinois, found highs or lows of certain trace elements
tended to correlate with tendencies to violence.
7.Discover magazine, Aug.1992.pp.11-12: Louis Gottschalk a neuro-
psychiatrist at U of C at Irvine took hair samples of 193 rapists,
murderers, armed robbers and other violent criminals - and also
took samples from normal persons. "On the average violent criminals
have almost five times more manganese in their hair." He had set
out to reproduce an earlier study that had found elevated levels of
lead, cadmium, and copper in criminal hair. Those results did not
hold up, but the manganese connection did.
8.Science News, by Tina Adler,"Comprehending Those who Can't
Relate", vol 145, April 16,1994,pp.248-49.Finds that autistic
persons have difficulty in relating to others a PET scan of a
normal brain processing glucose,compared to a socially withdrawn
person shows in a normal person, a cooler anterior singulate
compared to the very active anterior singulate of a socially
withdrawn person.The socially withdrawn persons may have fine
logical ability,but lack social interactive skills.