Augustine and the Annoying Orange

Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Catholicism, Church History, Early Church Fathers, Featured, Predestination, Protestantism, Reformed Theology | 92 comments

Often you’ll hear that the difference between Catholics and Calvinists is about the “doctrine of election.” Not true. Both Catholicism and Calvinism affirm that the reason for election is divine grace. Some Calvinists and Catholics believe that there is some sort of trans-world consideration of possibilities involved (Alvin Plantinga on the Reformed side, Fr. William Most on the Catholic side), but there’s no denial on either side of the necessity of grace in election.

The actual difference between Catholics and Calvinists is over the reason for non-election, the state from which people are being elected, i.e., sin. Catholics believe that sin itself has no reason; it is purely an accidental result of what goods God actually wills. Calvinist believe that sin is itself decreed by God for the sake of some other reason. The representative difference in dogma is summarized by the Council of Orange (on the Catholic side) and the WCF (on the Calvinist side).

The Council of Orange says:

We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.

The WCF says:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

The Calvinists have spent a long time trying to avoid the vexing problem of why they seem to be flat-out violating a Christian dogma dating back to AD 529. A common go-to answer here is that they are really the followers of Augustine, but his doctrine got somehow softened, and that the Calvinists are therefore teaching what Orange was really about. One of the examples is the Reformed historian Phillip Schaff, who accused Orange of “semi-Augustinianism” as contrasted with the true system taught by Augustine.

Apart from a basic problem that the people asserted to be on the Augustinian side also didn’t have any problem with Orange, there’s the pesky fact that Augustine himself taught the same thing Orange did. And this wasn’t the kinder, gentler Augustine who supposedly became a Calvinist firebrand in his dotage. This was full-on anti-Pelagian Augustine, who still nonetheless didn’t believe God caused evil.

From To Simplician on Various Questions:

This knotty problem is solved if we understand God to be the artificer of all creatures. Every creature of God is good. Every man is a creature as man but not as sinner. God is the creator both of the body and of the soul of man. Neither of these is evil, and God hates neither. He hates nothing which he has made. But the soul is more excellent than the body, and God is more excellent than both soul and body, being the maker and fashioner of both. In man he hates nothing but sin. Sin in man is perversity and lack of order, that is, a turning away from the Creator who is more excellent, and a turning to the creatures which are inferior to him. God does not hate Esau the man, but hates Esau the sinner. As it is said of the Lord, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). To them also he said himself, “For this cause ye hear not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47). How can they be “his own” and yet be “not of God”? The first statement must be taken as regarding them as men whom the Lord himself had made, the second as regarding them as sinners whom the Lord rebuked. They are both men and sinners, men as fashioned by God, sinners by their own wills.

From Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians:

 Since, therefore, I neither say that this intercourse of husband and wife is diabolical, especially in the case of believers, which is effected for the sake of generating children who are afterwards to be regenerated; nor that any men are made by the devil, but, in so far as they are men, by God; and nevertheless that even of believing husband and wife are born guilty persons (as if a wild olive were produced from an olive), on account of original sin, and on this account they are under the devil unless they are born again in Christ, because the devil is the author of the fault, not of the nature: what, on the other hand, are they labouring to bring about who say that infants inherit no original sin, and therefore are not under the devil, except that that grace of God in infants may be made of no effect, by which He has plucked us out, as the apostle says, from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love?

Now, the historically aware Calvinists (including Schaff) know this too, and that’s where the really wild theorizing starts. The story then goes as follows: because Augustine had a similar view of original sin, he must have really intended to be Calvinist, but couldn’t because of some other belief he had (whether it’s his theology of Church or never-purged Neoplatonism is never all that clear). But what never gets mentioned there is that Augustine advanced this belief on original sin because he was absolutely convinced of baptismal regeneration and the necessity thereof. In other words, the belief was supposed to be driving Augustine toward Calvinism was actually motivated by the sacramental theology that was supposedly the obstacle to Augustine’s becoming a Calvinist.

In the end, all of these historical arguments by Calvinists are aimed at showing one thing: that Orange really wasn’t an Augustinian council. Seems legit.

92 Comments

  1. Jonathan,
    A topic came up about a month ago but was stillborn. It was never got off the ground. Maybe now is the time to mention it again.
    Does God create each soul immediately or does the human soul come from the parents? From their bodies or their corrupt souls?
    Augustine to Simplicius seems to settle the issue. ( However Augustine held both views at different periods of his life ).

    Our friends say the Imago Dei was corrupted in the Fall. How is that corrupt nature passed on?

    I believe Luther was a Traducinist but Calvin ( or Calvinists ) creationists. Both Lutherans and Calvinists have some explaining to do.
    Simple philosophy can silence Luther. The soul, a simple substance and rational, cannot come from matter or another soul.
    The Calvinist must explain how God, who is Love for Himself, can create a being bent on hating Him. It is like the crazy question about God making the proverbial rock too heavy to lift, a square circle or any other contradiction.

  2. Jim,

    Unless you become full-on Pelagian, Rome has the same basic dilemma. How can God create souls that are not in fellowship with him since the fall, since not being in fellowship with him is an evil?

  3. Robert,

    You bring up a good point. Something you are missing though. Theoretically we, as creatures, can have a creature to creator fellowship with God. We can’t have a familial relationship though.

    Jesus said that even wicked men, when asked for a fish, don’t give their sons a snake. That same ability exists as regards to acknowledging God as the source of all our natural goods. The pagans could reason to this. Without Revelation, they could go no further though.

    By grace, Adam was made a friend of God. He walked with Him in the cool of the evening. Friendship implies some equivalence. We can’t truly be friends with our pets for instance.
    In order for us to share this intimacy with God, we needed to be elevated. Rather than knowing God as the source of all creaturely goods, Adam was given the grace to love God for Himself. ( As Augustine said, the love OF and FOR God was poured into our hearts )
    Along with grace and Faith,Hope and Charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given so we could act supernaturally too. None of this was our due as creatures. The preternatural gifts weren’t either but they were still less than supernatural. This was what was lost in the Fall, the Likeness to God. The Image of God, our ability to reason and will and reflect upon ourselves, A.K.A. our personhood, remained.

    When Protestants say that we are dead in trespass and sin due to the fall, they mean we have lost the ability to act for the good. They say the Image was corrupted. We say, no, we have lost the Likeness, the ability to act for the supernatural good. But we remain men, persons, able to act for the natural good.

    We are not Pelagians. We don’t say we can naturally earn heaven. But we don’t go to the other extreme either and say our humanity no longer exists.

    C’mon Robert! We believe God created the world and holds it in existence. Even Pelagians aren’t really pelagians are they? Not if they believe in Creatio ex nihilo.
    In a certain sense, everything is a grace, huh?

  4. Robert,

    God is the creator of each soul, and such creation is good in his eyes. However, because of Adam’s fall from original grace and righteousness, the whole of humanity have been incorporated into his exit from that blessed state. They are not indicted with Him, however they share in the loss of those gifts which suited man for the type of fellowship with God that the eternal Son has (i.e., perfect love and divine righteousness). So the rest of humanity has no share in Adam’s indictment, but they share in his exile from the life of God, which energizes the mind and will for brotherhood to Jesus Christ (as it would be called in future generations).

  5. Jim,

    When Protestants say that we are dead in trespass and sin due to the fall, they mean we have lost the ability to act for the good. They say the Image was corrupted. We say, no, we have lost the Likeness, the ability to act for the supernatural good. But we remain men, persons, able to act for the natural good.

    This is not exactly correct. We have lost the ability to do what is truly good in the eyes of God in every sense. We still possess the ability to do civic goods or to do relative goods. The problem is that a civic or relative good is not enough to merit heaven. To be honest, that does not seem all that different from the RC position. The only difference is that we talk about grace only in a post-fall context. We see you guys as ultimately making it a sin to be a creature by making the fall an inevitability without an infusion of grace.

  6. Erick,

    That’s well and good, but the problem is that it is the exit from that fellowship that makes sin inevitable. IOW, when God makes that soul, it is a “good” soul, it is a good soul out of a blessed state that will inevitably corrupt itself. The problem still remains.

  7. Jonathan,

    But what never gets mentioned there is that Augustine advanced this belief on original sin because he was absolutely convinced of baptismal regeneration and the necessity thereof. In other words, the belief was supposed to be driving Augustine toward Calvinism was actually motivated by the sacramental theology that was supposedly the obstacle to Augustine’s becoming a Calvinist.

    This is a little bit like the chicken and the egg problem. In any case, it should be the other way around. There’s no reason to have baptismal regeneration unless there is a corruption that all are born into, however conceived. You can have original sin without baptismal regeneration, but you can’t have baptismal regeneration without original sin. (Unless of course you want to get all dualistic and make matter inherently evil or something) And even saying that, speaking of baptismal regeneration isn’t necessarily problematic if properly conceived. The problem is ex opere operato baptismal regeneration. Even here, there is an inconsistency on Augustine’s (and Rome’s part). Once you have a baptism of desire or baptism of blood, you basically are conceding the Reformed point that the reality signified in baptism is not tied to the moment at which the sacrament is administered.

  8. Robert,

    ” We still possess the ability to do civic goods or to do relative goods. The problem is that a civic or relative good is not enough to merit heaven. To be honest, that does not seem all that different from the RC ”

    You are so correct to see the similarity. So why is the charge of pelagianism always leveled against us?
    Robert, after making this ecumenical observation, you turn around and undo it by saying grace is irresistible.

    I think you further undo the similarity by denying the distinction between mortal and venial sin. Due to the loss of the preternatural gift of integrity we are left with the burden of concupiscence or the natural friction between a material body and a spiritual soul being fused into one being. ( Only after sinning did Adam look down and notice he wasn’t wearing his pants ). For us, this may be the “tinder of sin” but it is not actually sin( I think you already know this Robert? ).
    For you, anytime we are not 100% focused on loving and serving God, we are in sin, correct? Luther stopped saying Mass because he feared his distractions were so mortally sinful.
    If this is so, Jesus commanded us to sin. Whenever we are serving our neighbor, the focus is on the neighbor and not God in that instant. With the sole exception of Mary whose child was God, every mother who ever existed served God in her maternal duties toward her child. In the act of washing or feeding ( or worse!) the child the mother was not thinking of God.
    For the Protestant ( correct me if I overshoot ), Luther’s daydreaming at Mass or failure to recite the office as a good monk was as damnable as ax murdering the paperboy. Since we can never in this life stop mortally sinning, we need the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.
    This also slops over onto our views on temporal and eternal punishment, purgatory,penance and the evangelical counsels.
    But now I am wander far afield of the specific topic.

  9. Robert,

    I don’t want to usurp Jonathan’s place but, if I understand you correctly, you seem to think Baptism should wash away concupiscence too. Yes?
    And how does Baptism of Blood or Desire militate against Baptism working ex opere operato ( in the case of a baby anyway )?

  10. Robert,

    I am sure I read a statement by you saying the natural man would murder God if he could. Am I mistaken?

    What you said above about our ability to do naturally good acts but not supernaturally good acts outside of grace sounds so Catholic. It’s upon reading the other petals of the TULIP that we see we really don’t agree after all. It’s not just semantics, totally depraved vs totally deprived.

    I get the impression that you say we are Pelagians if I say we can love God and not hate Him.
    Saint Paul said the pagans were culpable because, after reasoning to His existence, they failed to glorify (love) Him naturally.

    As for ex opere operato, I stepped out for Mass since my last posting. I was daydreaming about Luther’s scruples about daydreaming when I woke up and realized I had zoned out during the Consecration and it was time for Communion.
    Was I disposed for receiving? Should I not approach the altar? Was I worthy? Would it be a sin?

    It was the Jansenists who discouraged frequent Communion because of our inability, since the Fall, to control the wandering imagination and all venial sin. The Church encouraged daily Communion and devotion to the Sacred Heart to combat this semi-pelagian error of the Calvinist Jansenists.

    Only deliberate mortal sin, and not our imperfect disposition, can block the Sacraments from working. To say otherwise, to refrain from Communion until one feels oneself “really worthy” is in fact pelagian.

    I went to Communion.

  11. Robert,

    So you are saying that even if man is created good by God, but subject to all the weaknesses of his own lack of self-control, lack of wisdom to control his passions, and is subject to the deceiving power of the evil one, that he created man evil anyway?

  12. Eric Y.,

    I’m saying that a good creature for whom sin is inevitable because of his creaturely nature is not a good creature. By making man dependent on an infusion of grace before the fall, you are making the creature inherently defective. A creature who by his nature as a creature cannot control his passions is not a good creature. He’s defective. This, we would say, is a fundamental problem with RC theology in that it makes creatureliness the real sin and turns sin into more of an ontological defect than a moral transgression.

  13. You are so correct to see the similarity. So why is the charge of pelagianism always leveled against us??

    I think that is largely because the Reformers made that charge. Personally, I would say that both Roman Catholicism and Arminianism (And I suppose EO for that matter) devolve into a kind of semi-Pelagianism or semi-semi Pelagianism. That’s because of the concept of sufficient/prevenient grace which enables man to receive salvation but does not in itself guarantee salvation. It amounts to the fall not really affecting our will in any significant way, which is what Pelagius affirmed. RCs and Arminians, or at least Wesleyan Arminians, differ from Pelagius in making the ability to respond to grace a gift of grace, but if prevenient grace is given to all without distinction, you might as well say that the fall didn’t really affect our ability to respond to the Lord.

    Robert, after making this ecumenical observation, you turn around and undo it by saying grace is irresistible.

    I would think that even Roman Catholicism must say that for the elect, grace is finally irresistible, which is all that the Reformed are saying. We just deny that any grace the non-elect receive truly puts man in a state of justification at any point.

    Due to the loss of the preternatural gift of integrity we are left with the burden of concupiscence or the natural friction between a material body and a spiritual soul being fused into one being.

    This dualism ends up making the material world not very good at all, and it has God creating two substances/things/whatever that are inherently incompatible, making sin an inevitable part of our creatureliness. We have to escape creaturehood in order to be sinless. This is where certain conceptions of theosis go off the rails.

    For you, anytime we are not 100% focused on loving and serving God, we are in sin, correct?

    More or less, that is correct.

    Whenever we are serving our neighbor, the focus is on the neighbor and not God in that instant.

    That is often the case, but it is not necessary. One can focus on God by focusing on neighbor. If we are motivated to please God in serving our neighbor, we are focused on God even if we don’t happen to have him on our mind every second while we are working.

    With the sole exception of Mary whose child was God, every mother who ever existed served God in her maternal duties toward her child.

    I’m unclear as to what you mean here. Was Mary not serving God when she was feeding the Christ child? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    In the act of washing or feeding ( or worse!) the child the mother was not thinking of God.?

    Maybe not always, but the two things aren’t irreconcilable, and plenty of mothers I know view their care for their children as part of their service to God, including my wife.

    For the Protestant ( correct me if I overshoot ), Luther’s daydreaming at Mass or failure to recite the office as a good monk was as damnable as ax murdering the paperboy. Since we can never in this life stop mortally sinning, we need the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.?

    This would have to be qualified, but basically yes. There is no sin so small that it does not merit damnation, and there is no sin no heinous that God will kick us out of His kingdom if we commit it. Those who commit grave/heinous sins and those who commit non-grave/non-heinous sins and do not know Christ both go to hell, but the punishment is worse for the one who commits a grave sin.

    I don’t want to usurp Jonathan’s place but, if I understand you correctly, you seem to think Baptism should wash away concupiscence too. Yes??

    I’d have to think about this. I have problems with concupiscence in that if I understand you all correctly, it is a necessary part of being a creature. But I could be wrong about that.

    And how does Baptism of Blood or Desire militate against Baptism working ex opere operato ( in the case of a baby anyway )?

    Because if one can receive grace apart from the operation of the sacrament, which is what happens in the baptism of blood or desire, then grace is not absolutely bound to the sacrament, which is fundamental to Roman sacramentology. In other words, those who undergo the baptism of desire are not efficaciously regenerated at the point the sacrament is administered because the sacrament is never administered. Why, then, believe that baptism is always efficacious at the point that a baby is baptized? It seems to me that if you are going to affirm baptismal regeneration ex opere operato, then there can be no regeneration apart from the actual working of the sacrament. Once you open the door to regeneration occurring apart from the sacrament’s working, there is no good reason to believe it is required to effect regeneration for anyone. That’s not to say that baptism is not important or even necessary in some sense; it is to sever the efficacy from the mere operation of the rite. It is to make it dependent on the sovereignty of God and not a rite that looks no different than the magic you might find in other belief systems.

    As for ex opere operato, I stepped out for Mass since my last posting. I was daydreaming about Luther’s scruples about daydreaming when I woke up and realized I had zoned out during the Consecration and it was time for Communion.?Was I disposed for receiving? Should I not approach the altar? Was I worthy? Would it be a sin?

    The Lord’s Supper is for sinners who are repentant. Anyone who truly trusts in Christ for salvation should approach His table. He does not turn away any who rest in Him alone. That is different from saying that the Lord’s Supper is efficacious as long as you don’t put up a conscious impediment to it.

    I get the impression that you say we are Pelagians if I say we can love God and not hate Him.

    A Pelagian would say that we can love God apart from His grace. To say that an unregenerate person can truly love God would be Pelagian, which is why I see problems with the idea that an unregenerate person can ask the church to regenerate him. A desire for regeneration manifests an existing love for God, which means that one is regenerate before asking for baptism, which points one away from ex opere operato sacramentalism.

  14. Robert,
    Seriously, thanks for your answers. I think I understand a bit better your position.

    A quick comment of Baptism of Blood/Desire though. Grace most certainly can be given outside of the Sacrament of Baptism. Many people, as catechumens, approach the Sacrament already in a stste of grace. I bet Cornelius and Apollos are examples from the Book of Acts ( but I am open to correction ).

    The Sacrament is necessary for the Character. Baptism of Blood and Desire do not equip the martyr or catechumens to receive further Sacraments ( obviously ).

    Oh, yeah, as for Mary, she is the ONLY mother in the history of mankind to serve God DIRECTLY when feeding and washing her babe.

  15. Robert,

    Correct me if I am wrong but your gripe with the “ex opere operato” of Baptism and I assume the other Sacraments ( or Sacrament in your case ) is that it is like “decisional regeneration”, yes?
    You are also against altar calls or saying the sinner’s prayer or any other formula that puts man in charge of when and where the Holy Spirit regenerates, correct?

    You haven’t been so ill mannered as to use the word “magic” but do you see ex opere operato as magical?

  16. Robert,
    And common grace can’t be grace because God can’t want all men or as many men as possible saved?
    Heaven is no good unless some go to hell?

  17. Robert,
    ” A desire for regeneration manifests an existing love for God, which means that one is regenerate before asking for baptism,”

    Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe a person can come to believe the facts of the life of Christ ( Faith ), fear hell, hope he can be saved, be willing to change, have imperfect contrition and a willingness to do what it takes ( obey the commandments. be baptized, etc. ) to beat hell and get to heaven.

    He is not yet regenerate. His love for God is still riddled with imperfection.
    Baptism regenerates him when he gets wet.

    Same when a person goes to Confession. If the penitent has perfect contrition or charity, he can be justified before the words of absolution are said as ” love covers a multitude of sins”. He can’t know for sure though .
    If his contrition is imperfect, he has the promise of Christ given the Apostles when He breathed on them in the upper room that his sins are forgiven in the Sacrament.

  18. Jonathan–

    Augustine (and supralapsarian Calvinists, a distinct minority these days) hold to double predestination, which Orange did not. Thus the “semi-Augustinian” designation for Orange (and most RC soteriology since then). I don’t believe you show Augustine’s dismissal of reprobation by your quotes.

    Of course, most of the Reformed community is infralapsarian these days: so we have that in common with you, as well.

    The principal differences between traditional Thomists and Calvinists have to do with 1. the nature of regeneration (yours is mostly a matter of state or status, ours is far more personal/transformational/experiential/mystical/conversional; your whole notion of conversion/regeneration seems blase, perfunctory, unspiritual, uninspiring)…and 2. the surety of assurance. You all believe in the perseverance of the elect, but since no one can know they are elect (they may be regenerate and yet still destined to fall), your system comes down to being a mirror image of Arminianism and other “semi-semi-Pelagianisms” (as Robert put it).

    You all have a great deal in common with other anti-Pietistic systems (like Old School Presbyterianism and the Federal Vision. (Arminians, to me, are humanistic in terms of keeping the faith. FV is humanistic in terms of entering the faith. Thomists are humanistic across the board.)

  19. Jim–

    My problem with “ex opere operato” in baptism is that it seems to be a way of saying that that which clearly doesn’t work…works. Without the faith of the subject (notwithstanding the faith of the church or the faith of the parents), baptismal “regeneration” goes literally nowhere and means literally nothing.

    I wouldn’t call it “magic” unless we term those tricks which a magician performs unsuccessfully “magic.”

  20. Eric, you write:

    Without the faith of the subject (notwithstanding the faith of the church or the faith of the parents), baptismal “regeneration” goes literally nowhere and means literally nothing.

    Infants can’t have any faith, of course, but Calvinists baptize infants, and Calvinists insist that the Sacrament of Baptism that they give to infants bestows grace.

    I take it that you completely disagree with the Calvinists on the issue of infant baptism, and contrary to the Calvinists, you embrace the theology of the Menno Simons and the sixteenth century Anabaptists. If that is not correct, please clarify.

    Why, given your theology, can it not be said that you believe that an adult man must first do a work (i.e. manifest his faith) before he is regenerated?

    Robert, what grace, exactly, is bestowed upon an infant when that infant is validly baptized by a Calvinist minister in a Calvinist church? Does the Sacrament of Baptism bestow grace ex opere operato to the infant?

  21. Eric,

    I don’t know if I am familiar with your position as their have been a few guys named Eric on this blog so I will ask you a question to clarify;

    Do you believe in the Eucharist? Some sort of objective or Real Presence of Christ?
    At what point, if any, does Christ become present? At the minister’s words? At reception? Do all recipients receive Christ?

  22. Mateo–

    Since in the Reformed ordo salutis regeneration precedes conversion (faith and repentance), faith is a manifestation of regeneration and not vice versa.

  23. Jim–

    If a Roman Catholic takes the Eucharist unworthily, eating and drinking judgment on himself, how is that the same type of “reception” experienced by the faithful? There’s not that much difference between us on this point. We both believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and we both believe only the faithful benefit.

  24. Eric,
    Are you the Anglican/Baptist Eric?

    Not important.

    Anyway, there is a great deal of difference. We worship Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. And the Presence is needed for the sacrifice.

    As for ex opere operato, if you doubt it, how do you explain the whole Simon the Magician scene. Peter did not rebuke him for the impossibility of selling Confirmation, whether sanctifying grace is given or not.
    Why was it an imperative to bebaptize Apollos? He was already a believer.
    Or what about the laying on off hands to impart the Holy Ghost?
    Why was it necessary for Christ to breath on and empower the Apostles so they could forgive sins if all that is required is to tell people they had been justified already by faith?
    Is it a sin for a couple, intending to wed, to have relations the night before the ceremony since they are as good as married already? At what point are they husband and wife? ( Marriage is probably not considered a Sacrament for you? )
    Why is a clergyman required to confect the Eucharist? And who is proper subject matter for ordination?
    Why, all through history, has Baptism been administered only once? ( Yes, I know Protestants repeat Baptism multiple times but that has always been a disputed practice, even within your Protestantism ).

  25. Eric,

    Upon reflection, your assertion that since unworthy reception of the Eucharist ( a proof of the Real Presence “ex opere operato” in itself ) does not convey sanctifying grace, is proof that the doctrine of the Real Presence is a moot point seems incredible to say the least.

    Of what importance is a proper Christology? What difference does it make if Mary had One child or six? Why quibble over the Baptism or believers or babies?
    Why the articles of faith? Or to carry this relativism to its logical conclusion, why does one need to have an explicit faith in Christ? Why all the missionary zeal over the centuries if an implicit faith in Christ suffices? Faith is believing God exists and He rewards anyone who seeks Him as the Bible says.
    Eric, if Christ revealed it, if His Church teaches it, it should not be cavalierly dismissed as adiaphora.
    God said, I believe it, that settles it.

  26. Eric, We are saved by grace THROUGH Faith, correct? Faith precedes salvation then, correct?

    The Calvinist ordo salutis puts the cart of regeneration/salvation before the horse of Faith.

    Yes, it depends on how we define Magic. The “nothing up my sleeve” slight of hand variety is not what we are speaking about here.

    Rather, we are talking about the kind where a man, by the power of “like produces like” sympathetic magic, produces an effect by performing rituals using objects that represent celestial realities. Trouble is, that type of magic requires a particular cosmology that says the things on this earth are affected by the heavenly bodies and the concentric circles controlling the elements of water, air, earth and fire. In all my years as a Catholic, I have never hear the Sacraments presented in such a manner.

    As for God permitting the Devil to confect the sacramental effects, why would the Devil bother? They are all invisible, not perceptible to the senses so therefore incapable of swaying anybody as were those of Jannes and Jambres.
    One could believe in a system in which God would allow a person ( an angel perhaps? )to bind a demon ( using a material object) and force that demon to do his bidding as we see in Tobit. But could we really call that magic as God oversees it all.
    No Eric, magic or Magick fits more into a pantheistc worldview than a theistic one. Catholics are theists.

  27. @Robert:

    This is a little bit like the chicken and the egg problem. In any case, it should be the other way around. There’s no reason to have baptismal regeneration unless there is a corruption that all are born into, however conceived. You can have original sin without baptismal regeneration, but you can’t have baptismal regeneration without original sin. (Unless of course you want to get all dualistic and make matter inherently evil or something)

    It’s that “however conceived” that is fatally equivocal, so we need to spend some time with that. Augustine didn’t actually conceive of “original sin” as corruption except by analogy. In other words, he didn’t believe that infants were evil, or that they were even capable of evil. Rather, he believed that they inherited the judgment against Adam, the status of being judged negatively, while still being completely innocent. His basis for saying so was that, even though the New Covenant, as prophesied by Ezekiel, did not allow children to be judged for the sins of their fathers, the Old Covenant did.

    Here’s Augustine:
    It is also said–and not without support–that infants are involved in the sins of their parents, not only of the first pair, but even of their own, of whom they were born. Indeed, that divine judgment, “I shall visit the sins of the fathers on their children,” definitely applies to them before they come into the New Covenant by regeneration. This Covenant was foretold by Ezekiel when he said that the sons should not bear their fathers’ sins, nor the proverb any longer apply in Israel, “Our fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

    This is why each one of them must be born again, so that he may thereby be absolved of whatever sin was in him at the time of birth. For the sins committed by evil-doing after birth can be healed by repentance–as, indeed, we see it happen even after baptism. For the new birth regeneratio would not have been instituted except for the fact that the first birth generatio was tainted–and to such a degree that one born of even a lawful wedlock said, “I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother nourish me in her womb.” Nor did he say “in iniquity” or “in sin,” as he might have quite correctly; rather, he preferred to say “iniquities” and “sins,” because, as I explained above, there are so many sins in that one sin–which has passed into all men, and which was so great that human nature was changed and by it brought under the necessity of death–and also because there are other sins, such as those of parents, which, even if they cannot change our nature in the same way, still involve the children in guilt, unless the gracious grace and mercy of God interpose.

    But, in the matter of the sins of one’s other parents, those who stand as one’s forebears from Adam down to one’s own parents, a question might well be raised: whether a man at birth is involved in the evil deeds of all his forebears, and their multiplied original sins, so that the later in time he is born, the worse estate he is born in; or whether, on this very account, God threatens to visit the sins of the parents as far as–but no farther than–the third and fourth generations, because in his mercy he will not continue his wrath beyond that. It is not his purpose that those not given the grace of regeneration be crushed under too heavy a burden in their eternal damnation, as they would be if they were bound to bear, as original guilt, all the sins of their ancestors from the beginning of the human race, and to pay the due penalty for them. Whether yet another solution to so difficult a problem might or might not be found by a more diligent search and interpretation of Holy Scripture, I dare not rashly affirm.
    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm

    Augustine does not confuse the corruptibility of nature, exemplified with susceptibility to death, with what he calls original sin or original guilt. He is not saying that infants have committed sin, i.e., that they are morally corrupt, but that they are “involved” in the sin of their parents. And he is only offering a theory of that involvement here, a theory that was ultimately examined and proved wanting in view of a unified understanding of what God means by visiting the sins of the fathers on their sons (namely, they are visited in terms of consequences, but not in terms of individual judgment).

    In other words, Augustine actually proves that one can have a view of baptismal regeneration that does not depend on Calvinist concepts of “sin nature” or “original corruption” (in the sense of moral corruption). You probably object that Augustine’s theory is unjust, because it has innocent infants being judged guilty even though they are innocent. We agree. Augustine’s view was wrong for that reason, mistakenly believing that God said it was just to judge based on the sin of the fathers, and that is why it hasn’t been followed. But Augustine nonetheless affirms that the nature must be created good and that this “involvement,” whatever it is, is not actual guilt.

    Thus, the Catholic view is “another solution … found by a more diligent search and interpretation of Holy Scripture,” as suggested by Augustine, that is nonetheless compatible with Augustine’s core principles on election and nature not being created evil. The Calvinist position on sin nature and original moral corruption is not.

    That’s critical for you to understand, because you’re wrongly equating the lack of grace with something being “wrong” or “evil.” We don’t consider relative goods as not being truly good or original sin as being actual moral corruption. So the fact that human beings are capable only of relative goods doesn’t make them sinful or corrupt, meaning that even humans created in the absence of grace aren’t thereby evil. They are corruptible, and given the situation in which they fall they will inevitably fall into some sin or another, just as they will inevitably die, but that is on no account due to any essential moral corruption in their nature. It’s vulnerability to moral corruption, not moral corruption itself. Even Augustine maintained that distinction.

    And even saying that, speaking of baptismal regeneration isn’t necessarily problematic if properly conceived. The problem is ex opere operato baptismal regeneration. Even here, there is an inconsistency on Augustine’s (and Rome’s part). Once you have a baptism of desire or baptism of blood, you basically are conceding the Reformed point that the reality signified in baptism is not tied to the moment at which the sacrament is administered.

    I think you must not have thought that statement through. All ex opere operato action means is that the divine grace is actually present. The only problems with that arise if divine grace is both irresistible and persistent unto salvation and if that grace includes a permanent declaration of imputed righteousness (i.e., if baptism is a sign of what Calvinists mean by the grace of regeneration). Because we obviously have a different view of what “the reality signified in baptism” is, the implications of not having the two tied in a one-to-one fashion are very drastically different.

    In Catholicism, although one can have the grace without the sign, one never has the sign without the grace being present. In other words, in Catholicism, baptism is a reliable sign of what is signifies. So just as smoke is a reliable sign of fire, even though not all fires produce smoke, so baptism is a reliable sign of divine grace, even though there can be divine grace without the sign. In Calvinism, you have have the smoke (the sign) without there ever being a fire, which means it is not a reliable sign of the corresponding grace.

  28. “In Catholicism, although one can have the grace without the sign, one never has the sign without the grace being present.”

    There is a difference between understanding -the works work –
    and
    – the works “worked”-

    It is in the working of the works that something really happens. I might not have the right disposition to do many things, but when I do them, whether I like it or not, the result is achieved.

  29. +JMJ+

    Jonathan wrote:

    You [Robert] probably object that Augustine’s theory is unjust, because it has innocent infants being judged guilty even though they are innocent.

    But then again, considering Penal Substitution, maybe not.

  30. @Eric:

    Augustine (and supralapsarian Calvinists, a distinct minority these days) hold to double predestination, which Orange did not. Thus the “semi-Augustinian” designation for Orange (and most RC soteriology since then). I don’t believe you show Augustine’s dismissal of reprobation by your quotes.

    Then it’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to show Augustine’s dismissal of reprobation. I was instead showing that Augustine did not believe that reprobation resulted from moral corruption of the human nature after Adam, as if every human being had committed a damnable sin by their existence, which those quotes and his related explanations on infants demonstrate. In Augustine’s view, infants could justly be judged guilty of having committed a sin (although he never explains how), but he never suggests that they were guilty of committing one. Hence, Augustine’s “predestination” of reprobation, such as it was, was still only the accidental cause of reprobation rather than the determinative cause. That’s entirely compatible with Orange on this point, and Orange was in no sense “semi-Augustinian.”

    You’re just equivocating in exactly the same sense that I discussed in the original post. “Double predestination” isn’t really the problem. The only question regards the causal operation of the divine decree, whether accidental (the Augustinian position) or determinative (the Calvinist position).

    Of course, most of the Reformed community is infralapsarian these days: so we have that in common with you, as well.

    Supralapsarianism isn’t even an option on the orthodox view of causality of evil, so it’s unsurprising that people cringe from it. Unfortunately, infralapsarianism is essentially incoherent given the WCF’s view on the causality of evil.

    The principal differences between traditional Thomists and Calvinists have to do with 1. the nature of regeneration (yours is mostly a matter of state or status, ours is far more personal/transformational/experiential/mystical/conversional; your whole notion of conversion/regeneration seems blase, perfunctory, unspiritual, uninspiring)…and 2. the surety of assurance. You all believe in the perseverance of the elect, but since no one can know they are elect (they may be regenerate and yet still destined to fall), your system comes down to being a mirror image of Arminianism and other “semi-semi-Pelagianisms” (as Robert put it).

    Then so does Augustine’s. The chief opponent of Pelagianism was still “semi-semi-Pelagian.” In other words, Christianity was “semi-semi-Pelagian,” and nobody on the face of the earth taught the Gospel until John Calvin (not even Luther, because he was too Catholic to figure it out) wrote the Institutes. If you want to tout the superiority of late medieval mysticism to historical Christianity, which is what Protestantism essentially does, be my guest. Just don’t claim that this late medieval innovation is somehow “the Western Christian tradition” or the faith of the Fathers, including Augustine.

    You all have a great deal in common with other anti-Pietistic systems (like Old School Presbyterianism and the Federal Vision. (Arminians, to me, are humanistic in terms of keeping the faith. FV is humanistic in terms of entering the faith. Thomists are humanistic across the board.)

    This is like going to a feminist seminar explaining how all these people were “patriarchal” or “matriarchal” or whatever. Pietism and humanism are descriptive of (generally heretical) movements that were invented very late in Christian history. Applying them to St. Augustine or St. Thomas is anachronistic at best, and in this case, it doesn’t even come close to understanding what their real concerns were.

  31. Jonathan,

    In other words, Augustine actually proves that one can have a view of baptismal regeneration that does not depend on Calvinist concepts of “sin nature” or “original corruption” (in the sense of moral corruption).

    Your contention was that Calvinists were wrong to see Augustine’s ecclesiology mucking with His doctrine of grace, and you proved it by saying that his view of baptism led to his view of original sin. At this point, the actual conception of original sin is largely irrelevant to that argument. All Calvinists have to show is that the view of baptismal regeneration is controlled by the prior assumption of sin, which we have. So, Augustine was correct to see sin and inability as the fundamental problem even if we wouldn’t agree entirely with his view of it (and neither does Rome, so to say you are following his principles and we’re not is ridiculous), he was just incorrect to posit baptismal regeneration as the answer.

    IOW, we aren’t wrong to suggest Augustine’s ecclesiology mucked with his doctrines of grace and that the Reformation represents the triumph of his doctrines of grace and their implications while Rome represents the triumph of much of his ecclesiological views.

    That’s critical for you to understand, because you’re wrongly equating the lack of grace with something being “wrong” or “evil.” We don’t consider relative goods as not being truly good or original sin as being actual moral corruption. So the fact that human beings are capable only of relative goods doesn’t make them sinful or corrupt, meaning that even humans created in the absence of grace aren’t thereby evil. They are corruptible, and given the situation in which they fall they will inevitably fall into some sin or another, just as they will inevitably die, but that is on no account due to any essential moral corruption in their nature. It’s vulnerability to moral corruption, not moral corruption itself. Even Augustine maintained that distinction.

    Ultimately, this is just affirming my point in that at least since Adam, God is creating beings with an inevitable tendency to go bad. How this is better than saying God ordains evil escapes me entirely. If you are creating persons who are essentially and by nature schizophrenic because their lower bodily/animal impulses are at war with their higher spiritual impulses, and they are so to such a degree that they will inevitably fall unless you give them grace, you aren’t any less morally responsible for sin than if you ordain the fall itself. So again we’re back to the same question neither of us can answer fully and that is how the Creator cannot be responsible for evil even though He creates a world in which evil is basically inevitable, whether by the act of creating a human nature at inherent war with itself or by sovereign ordination.

    And apart from inherited moral corruption, you basically have human beings starting out neutral, neither inclined toward or away from God. (Because if they’re inclined toward God, surely somebody could maintain it.) How that doesn’t amount to Pelagianism escapes me as well.

    The only problems with that arise if divine grace is both irresistible and persistent unto salvation

    Which in Roman Catholicism is true at least for infants who die in infancy. So yes, you have problems. Even so, to say that grace is conferred merey by the administration of the sacrament, you basically have magic. The church controls when grace is administered to its visible membership, not the Lord.

    The point of the baptism of blood or desire stands. Grace is not conferred by the sacrament in those cases, which means that there should be no inherent operational tie ever between the sacrament’s performance and the grace conferred. Rome is ultimately of two minds on this.

    In Calvinism, you have have the smoke (the sign) without there ever being a fire, which means it is not a reliable sign of the corresponding grace.

    Incorrect. Grace can be conferred before, during, or after the sign. The tie is theological, not operational.

  32. Jonathan,

    The only question regards the causal operation of the divine decree, whether accidental (the Augustinian position) or determinative (the Calvinist position).

    This is ultimately a distinction without a difference where it matters in God’s moral culpability for evil. In both cases, the decree ultimately determines the evil that occurs. God knows what evils will fall out as a result of his decree, and they won’t fall out without the decree. God stands behind evil in a way he doesn’t stand behind good. Welcome to Calvinism.

    If God’s decree does not somehow establish all that happens—even evil—you have the much bigger problem of agents who can thwart God’s decree. If God’s decree can be thwarted, I can have no confidence that He can bring about His purposes.

    The Open Theist answer to this is that ultimately, God just uses brute force to fix everything instead of working in and through the desires of humanity. I don’t see how any non-Calvinist position does not finally reduce to that. Talk about an inorganic way of working in creation.

  33. I’m in general agreement here—the continually vexing problem for absolute and exclusionary double predestinarians is that they make God the author of sin. The Lutherans and the Anglicans understood this early on and took careful steps to toe the Orange Council’s line in their confessions and articles.

    One thing has always bugged me about (the late) Augustine in this matter. In his Enchiridion he pushes hard on the notion of a fixed elect (61–63; see NPNF 1.3): Augustine speaks of restoring the balance of the inhabitants of heaven and earth (because of the angelic apostasy as well as the fall of man) with the elect from humanity: “The part in heaven is indeed restored when the number lost from the angelic apostasy are replaced from the ranks of mankind. The part on earth is restored when those men predestined to eternal life are redeemed from the old state of corruption.”

    This is the sort of fixedness that easily reduces to symmetrical double predestination, i.e., that the cause of reprobation is the same active cause as that of election. Nevertheless, Augustine offers good advice, perhaps even if in contradiction to himself: “Wherefore he draws this one and not that one, seek not to decide if you wish not to err” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 26.2; NPNF 1.7).

  34. Robert,
    Sometimes an act of rape results in a pregnancy. This could happen only if God creates the soul of the new life.
    Does God cooperate in the rape?

  35. Robert,

    “The point of the baptism of blood or desire stands. Grace is not conferred by the sacrament in those cases, which means that there should be no inherent operational tie ever between the sacrament’s performance and the grace conferred. Rome is ultimately of two minds on this.”

    Again, the purpose of the Sacrament is not primarily to give grace and have my sins remitted. Baptism of Desire can do that. ( Hold your fire Catholics! Let me finish.)

    It is to connect us with Christ so we can be given grace and have our sins remitted.

    Baptism connects us physically, organically, Body to Head. It puts us IN Christ. In Baptism we put on Christ and grace flows from that.

    Please go back and read my previous post in which I fgo into detail on this.

  36. Robert,
    I am so sorry you wrote,
    “So yes, you have problems. Even so, to say that grace is conferred merey by the administration of the sacrament, you basically have magic. ”

    You understand neither the Sacraments nor the principles behind magic. Please read my post to Eric.

    Or, just think about the various religions that use magic ( Wiccans, Tibetan Buddhists, the Aztecs, Voodoo/Santaria practitioners, New Agers, etc. )
    None of them are theists.

    Do you deny Catholics are theists?

  37. Catholics,
    Just to set you at ease as to my orthodoxy, let me refer you to two authors, both endorsed by Scott Hahn to support my assertion above.

    1. Dom Wulstan Mork, O.S. B.

    2. Canon F. Cuttaz

    I also think Scheeben would endorse my statement.

  38. +JMJ+

    A (the) difference between Sacramentalism and Magic (Superstition) is that a Sacrament must be a Human Act, whereas, for Magic, it is sufficient for it to be merely an Act of Man.

  39. Robert,

    Is this where you get the idea that men without grace HATE God?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRGMp0md5CE

    Paul Washer uses the H word about a dozen times in this talk.

    I am familiar with the verse about people saying they love God but hating their brother. However, could you present some scripture verses that say all men by nature hate God. Certainly not the OT passages St. Paul uses in Romans to show Jews are as bad as gentiles.
    All men by nature hate God? Sounds like all Cretans are liars.

    The will must choose the good like a man in a dark room must look at the light if someone strikes a match. Where sin comes in is in choosing lesser, created goods over God because in this life, we can’t see God and are therefore subject to error. No one can choose evil for evil’s sake. That includes the proverbial bogey-man Hitler. He had to have chosen a particular good ( Aryan race ) over a higher good.
    But the concept of hating the summum bonum by nature seems excessive to me.

  40. Wosbald,

    Hmmmmmm? Thanks. I will think about that.

  41. Same for me Wosbald – I’ve got to think about it.

    Can you explain further, because I like where you are going (I think)?

    In sacramental grace, God becomes ‘natural’ for man, it elevates and builds on our nature. Grace becomes effectual as needed (cleanses, feeds, renews etc…). It is the primary way God wants to share His life with us in abundance (instead of a little sip, we get a 5 gallon bucket).

  42. Jim,

    Those passage in Romans are but the tip of the iceberg, but Paul is not quoting them in a Proverbial sense as he does when he says all Cretans are liars. Then, of course, there’s Romans 1 which says all men knowingly suppress the truth. Not to mention Genesis 6 and 9 where we read that the hearts of fallen men are only evil continually.

    Its also a necessary consequence of us needing grace. If the consequence of the fall is not that we hate God, we don’t need grace.

    Its also a necessary consequence of people needing the law to curb their sinful impulses. If we didn’t hate God, we could control ourselves and the law would not be necessary. We would just do what is right.

    I don’t know what you are getting at when you say no one can choose evil for evil’s sake. When men choose a lesser good, they know what they are doing is evil. And then there’s the famous story of Augustine stealing the pears not because he was hungry or even wanted to eat the pears but just for the sheer thrill of the forbidden act. Talk about choosing evil for evil’s sake.

    A lot of people outside the church do not think they are hating God. But by definition, anyone who worships anything other than the true God hates the true God.

  43. Jim–

    You wrote:

    “But the concept of hating the summum bonum by nature seems excessive to me.”

    That, of course, is because you are blissfully unaware of your own rebellion.

  44. Jonathan–

    Humanism is also a simple synonym for man-centered religion (which is how I was using it). And I applied it to neither Augustine nor Aquinas.

    Pietism is more than a theological movement, as well. It merely correlates to religion involving inner spiritual renewal, a clearly NT aspect of faith dropped by some in favor of academic knowledge or continual ritual.

  45. Jim–

    I am really neither Anglican nor Baptist. I am confessional, liturgical/sacramental, and credobaptist. I am not an Anabaptist in any sense.

    We Protestants also worship Christ in the Eucharist. We also believe in the reapplication of the one Sacrifice. I’m still not seeing a major difference.

    It was made decidedly clear that Simon Magus could not buy the gift of confirmation. Acts never makes clear whether Apollos was (or even needed to be) rebaptized. The NT never refers to the baptism of any of the Apostles. Jesus himself was certainly not rebaptized following his resurrection. In a sense, he knew “only the baptism of John” (well, and the baptism of his death on the Cross).

    A couple of times in Acts folks receive the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands.

    Marriage is perhaps a sacramental. In Jewish practice, the period between betrothal and the wedding was technically off limits in terms of sexual activity, but there was no penalty if it occurred between the betrothed couple. So I doubt it’s that big of a deal to God. Study biblical ethics, and you’ll find God is sometimes much more puritanical than we are and sometimes much less.

    I’m not big into the necessity for ordination. There’s very little biblical evidence for it, and where there is, it is almost always merely temporary in character.

  46. Eric,

    You say
    ” I am confessional, liturgical/sacramental,…”

    But you also say,

    “I’m not big into the necessity for ordination. There’s very little biblical evidence for it, and where there is, it is almost always merely temporary in character.”

    “Marriage is perhaps a sacramental”. Perhaps? I would get it clear before saying sex before marriage, sacramental or sacrament, ” I doubt it’s that big of a deal to God. ”

    Sorry Eric, you are too much of a loose canon for me to bother with. Since I don’t know where your goal posts are, I will be running all over the place trying to pin you down. I’m out.

  47. Robert,

    If we are the depraved God haters, dead, with no ability to do anything but hate God, why does God tell us to choose good over evil? Why all the commandments if no one can keep them? ( Was Noah a God hater? Was righteous Abel? )

    Again, the heathens were blameworthy according to Paul because, by nature, without Revelation, they were still able to reason from nature and CONSCIENCE to the existence of God yet they did not glorify Him. The pagans were blameworthy because they had to ability to glorify God but opted not to. They couldn’t be blamed for something they couldn’t help.

    So,after the Fall, man is able, by the light of reason, to know that there is one supreme being, and that we owe Him homage as the source of all created goods.
    Sort of a Deistic religion. And notice, conscience remains written on the hearts of pagans. Looks like the Imago Dei is pretty much intact.

  48. @Robert:

    Your contention was that Calvinists were wrong to see Augustine’s ecclesiology mucking with His doctrine of grace, and you proved it by saying that his view of baptism led to his view of original sin. At this point, the actual conception of original sin is largely irrelevant to that argument. All Calvinists have to show is that the view of baptismal regeneration is controlled by the prior assumption of sin, which we have. So, Augustine was correct to see sin and inability as the fundamental problem even if we wouldn’t agree entirely with his view of it (and neither does Rome, so to say you are following his principles and we’re not is ridiculous), he was just incorrect to posit baptismal regeneration as the answer.

    Except you haven’t, because Augustine didn’t posit baptismal regeneration as the answer to original sin. Rather, he posited original sin as the explanation for baptismal regeneration. The fact that your explanation is literally backwards from Augustine’s that illustrates that you aren’t following his principles.

    IOW, we aren’t wrong to suggest Augustine’s ecclesiology mucked with his doctrines of grace and that the Reformation represents the triumph of his doctrines of grace and their implications while Rome represents the triumph of much of his ecclesiological views.

    His doctrine of grace was baptismal regeneration, which also happened to be an ecclesiological view. What you are saying is that a doctrine of original sin that he didn’t believe should have triumphed over what he actually believed, which makes no sense. His ecclesiology didn’t “muck with” his doctrine of grace. His ecclesiology was his doctrine of grace. Dividing the two has no basis in Augustine’s text or thought. It’s an invention out of nothing.

    Ultimately, this is just affirming my point in that at least since Adam, God is creating beings with an inevitable tendency to go bad. How this is better than saying God ordains evil escapes me entirely.

    There’s no “inevitable tendency” to go bad. Infants never “go bad.” They aren’t even capable of doing so.

    If you are creating persons who are essentially and by nature schizophrenic because their lower bodily/animal impulses are at war with their higher spiritual impulses, and they are so to such a degree that they will inevitably fall unless you give them grace, you aren’t any less morally responsible for sin than if you ordain the fall itself.

    They aren’t “schizophrenic.” They make choices. Despite the conflict, the rational faculty always has control. The person has to abdicate the control he has in order to succumb to sin. The reason this is inevitable is not due to any innate tendency, but simply the fact that all real people in the circumstances they actually face eventually sin, barring extraordinary grace. It’s an empirical fact, not an innate principle. As such, the fact that God creates the circumstances in no way causes this inevitability.

    So again we’re back to the same question neither of us can answer fully and that is how the Creator cannot be responsible for evil even though He creates a world in which evil is basically inevitable, whether by the act of creating a human nature at inherent war with itself or by sovereign ordination.

    Evil is not generally inevitable; infants don’t commit evil acts. The fact that people choose evil when faced with otherwise ordinary and innocuous circumstances is proximately caused by the person’s choice and nothing else. God doesn’t create either the inevitability or the sin. In other words, God never did create “a human nature at inherent war with itself.” If He did, then it would be impossible for Christ to assume the fallen human nature, because He would then inevitably sin.

    And apart from inherited moral corruption, you basically have human beings starting out neutral, neither inclined toward or away from God. (Because if they’re inclined toward God, surely somebody could maintain it.) How that doesn’t amount to Pelagianism escapes me as well.

    You’re assuming that not being inclined toward God is the same as being inclined against God. In other words, one must either love God or hate Him. That isn’t true, and in fact, it’s an assumption that is completely incompatible with Christianity, because Christ would be unable to truly assume fallen human nature if it were.

    This is ultimately a distinction without a difference where it matters in God’s moral culpability for evil. In both cases, the decree ultimately determines the evil that occurs.

    I don’t agree that the decree “ultimately determines the evil that occurs,” so this is just begging the question.

    God knows what evils will fall out as a result of his decree, and they won’t fall out without the decree.

    Agreed. But his knowledge doesn’t cause them to fall out, nor are people generally responsible for what falls out from their actions due to the bad moral choices of someone else. There’s no reason to judge God by a standard under which even humans wouldn’t be guilty. We’ve been through the mundane example of the sting operation, and my last response to you on the subject adequately addressed all of the potential issues you raised with respect to that one.

    God stands behind evil in a way he doesn’t stand behind good. Welcome to Calvinism.

    Except that you’re just making an assertion that doesn’t mean anything. When I say that God’s decree doesn’t cause evil in the same way that it causes good, I actually mean something by it. You are saying it, but the statement has no content in your view.

    If God’s decree does not somehow establish all that happens—even evil—you have the much bigger problem of agents who can thwart God’s decree. If God’s decree can be thwarted, I can have no confidence that He can bring about His purposes.

    But you don’t actually mean that God “somehow establish[es] all that happens,” because if you actually believed that, then the fact that God is the sine qua non of all existence “somehow establish[es] all that happens.” You actually believe that God’s decree must establish all that happens in a very specific way, and I disagree that this is the case. The reason is that you’re worried about things that can’t possibly happen, like someone thwarting God’s decree. Since nothing exists without God’s decree, it is literally impossible for it to be thwarted. You don’t need any more causal certainty, any greater “guarantee,” than that; it is a logical certainty that it is impossible for any creature to thwart God’s will. If any created thing contradicted God’s decree, that thing would not exist, and nothing is not a thing. If you’d stop thinking about God as one cause among many and instead think of Him as the very reason of existence, you wouldn’t be worried about how God “guarantees” an outcome.

    The Open Theist answer to this is that ultimately, God just uses brute force to fix everything instead of working in and through the desires of humanity. I don’t see how any non-Calvinist position does not finally reduce to that. Talk about an inorganic way of working in creation.

    Yes, because you see God as something separate from creation, rather than being the God in whom things live and move and have their being. For that reason, I completely agree that Calvinism and Open Theism are obverse sides of the same error, which is viewing God as a being among beings. Again, Brad Gregory does an amazing job of tracking how Protestantism rests on that error in The Unintended Reformation, and I can’t do a better job of reviewing that.

    The point is that all of your worries about what God “guarantees” and how His will can be “thwarted” are based on corrupted philosophical reasoning that you are bringing to Scripture (and Augustine). Your “semi-semi-Pelagian” account is similarly based on this idea that grace must be about “guaranteeing” salvation to assuage your doubts about how God can remain in control of the universe. This is likewise why you have a completely different view of original sin than Augustine does, because you need something to “guarantee” that people will do evil, as contrasted with grace that “guarantees” salvation. That likewise results from the defective idea that God must either be loved or hated in every action.

  49. Jonathan,

    I hope to write more later, but I had to briefly comment on this:

    Yes, because you see God as something separate from creation, rather than being the God in whom things live and move and have their being. For that reason, I completely agree that Calvinism and Open Theism are obverse sides of the same error, which is viewing God as a being among beings. Again, Brad Gregory does an amazing job of tracking how Protestantism rests on that error in The Unintended Reformation, and I can’t do a better job of reviewing that.

    I haven’t read Gregory’s book, but I’ll just start by noting that it’s hardly a surprise that a Roman Catholic historian would trace all things wrong with the modern world to the Reformation.

    Second, if this review is even halfway accurate, Gregory’s thesis has severe problems:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203471004577144500799888074

    Money quotse: Mr. Gregory is a scholar of remarkably wide reading: “The Unintended Reformation” includes almost 150 pages of endnotes documenting primary and secondary sources in several languages. How surprising, then, that his arguments are marked by baffling leaps in logic and tendentious blustering.

    Very interesting, one might think—except that the book presents no evidence that any Protestant reformer actually espoused “univocal metaphysics,” in the author’s phrase.

    Leaving aside Mr. Gregory’s preposterously overwrought characterization of modern Western societies, especially America—he sees little beyond depredation, exploitation, consumerism and global warming—his complaint that modern Western morality elevates acquisitiveness to the status of a virtue is justified. But blaming this state of affairs on events that occurred and people who lived five centuries ago is a sort of rearview-mirror utopianism: If only the right social order had been left in place—if only the Protestant reformers hadn’t shattered medieval Catholicism’s “institutionalized worldview”—life today would be so much better.

    What Mr. Gregory doesn’t seem to appreciate is that the world is fallen. It would be a moral and intellectual wreck whether the Reformation happened or not, and the wreck we’ve got is a far sight better than anything his “institutionalized worldview” could have produced. His quarrel isn’t with the 16th-century reformers; it’s with Adam and Eve.

    Finally, it is the view that says God must be the morally responsible cause of evil if he decrees evil that reduces God to a being among beings, not the Calvinistic view. It is precisely because God is not a being among beings that he can ordain evil without being its morally responsible cause. God can do things that we can’t because of WHO HE IS. Your belief that God can be innocent of evil only if He does not ordain it makes God univocal, or a being among beings.

  50. Eric,

    I should probably just let it go as I already said I don’t intend to try to pin you down on your personal, one of a kind belief system but this kind of eats at me;

    “It was made decidedly clear that Simon Magus could not buy the gift of confirmation. Acts never makes clear whether Apollos was (or even needed to be) rebaptized. The NT never refers to the baptism of any of the Apostles. Jesus himself was certainly not rebaptized following his resurrection. In a sense, he knew “only the baptism of John” (well, and the baptism of his death on the Cross).”

    1. Ever hear of simony? It is the actual, and not merely attempted, selling of the sacred, including bishoprics and the laying on of hands.
    2. Are you asserting Apollos was not rebaptized? Just hinting? Honestly doubting or questioning? Or bamboozling?
    Why was it brought out that this mighty spokesman had a defective Baptism if it was not an issue going to be addressed by Aquila and Priscilla when they gave him “further instruction”? Why does the text immediately go on to say that while Apollos was in Corinth evangelizing, Paul went on to Ephesus and rebaptized some who had the same faulty Baptism as Apollos seems to have had before being further instructed?
    Elsewhere, in his letter to those Corinthians, in a dispute over who Baptized who, Apollos’ name comes up. Paul goes on to say that he “planted” and Apollos “watered”.
    Are you seriously saying Apollos, an unbaptized person, was baptizing, preaching and a major player in the Corinthian Church?
    3. The NT doesn’t say if the Apostles were ever baptized? Even after Jesus told Nicodemus about its necessity and then Jesus and the 12 went to a place of much water and started outbaptizing John?
    4. The stuff about Jesus’ own Baptism is just too weird to get into.

    I can’t recall the subject, but I distinctly remember you doing this same sort of obfuscation elsewhere on this blog a few weeks back.
    Do you honestly believe anything your wrote here? Or are you just being a slippery old fish having fun with us trying to catch you?

    That’s why you are no fun Eric.

  51. @Robert:

    I haven’t read Gregory’s book, but I’ll just start by noting that it’s hardly a surprise that a Roman Catholic historian would trace all things wrong with the modern world to the Reformation.

    Actually, most Catholic historians don’t care about critiquing Protestantism anymore. The Counter-Reformation has lost its allure. And Gregory isn’t even really about trashing Protestantism. Gregory’s concern is essentially the same as mine: the people who ought to be resisting the modernist trends are the ones duped by it. That’s the real tragedy of the whole thing; we’ve had generations of Christians frittering away their vocations on anti-Catholic hostility and theological heresy for no reason.

    On Swaim’s thoughts, Swaim says:
    Very interesting, one might think—except that the book presents no evidence that any Protestant reformer actually espoused “univocal metaphysics,” in the author’s phrase.

    Gregory’s point, and it’s one that’s been ably made by others as well, is not that Protestantism endorsed univocal metaphysics, but that univocal metaphysics broke theological boundaries that were transgressed by Protestant theology. In particular, the ideas about God’s transcendence changed radically, which resulted in theological doctrines that viewed God as a being among beings, even if the holders of those beliefs did not explicitly acknowledge that they were doing so. The ideas about causality, justice, law, justification, revelation, sacraments, and more simply could not arise in the realist metaphysics of the Fathers. Swaim doesn’t even correctly identify that thesis, and I have yet to see anybody answer it.

    Compare, for example, Carl Trueman, who likewise misses the point:
    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2012/04/metaphysics-the-middle-ages-an.php

    And incidentally, I happen to agree with Trueman that Gregory is dead wrong about Scotus and that Scotus did not break the boundary of transcendence that Gregory thinks he did. But that correction only reinforces that Protestantism was a genuine rupture from Catholicism, which Scotus’s metaphysics wasn’t.

    Finally, it is the view that says God must be the morally responsible cause of evil if he decrees evil that reduces God to a being among beings, not the Calvinistic view. It is precisely because God is not a being among beings that he can ordain evil without being its morally responsible cause. God can do things that we can’t because of WHO HE IS. Your belief that God can be innocent of evil only if He does not ordain it makes God univocal, or a being among beings.

    Nice try, but no. It is actually exactly the opposite; we know precisely because God is not a being among beings that it is impossible for him to be responsible for evil. That is the definition of what evil is, i.e., a deviation from the ultimate end, and for that very reason, it is impossible for a being who is pure act and absolute perfection to act in an evil way. I entirely agree that God can do things that we can’t because of He Is Who Is, but that is precisely why it’s not a question of God being innocent of evil, but being incapable of evil. You ought to know flat out that God can’t decree evil, as opposed to trying to explain why He can decree evil and somehow mysteriously not be responsible for it.

    To put it another way, the fact that you are trying to solve the problem of how God is not responsible for evil even though He causes it already betrays a univocal metaphysics, because no one with a transcendent metaphysics thinks that way. On a transcendent metaphysics, you would have to start with the fact that God cannot possibly cause evil (as Augustine does) and work from there, so the questions of how God can innocently decree evil and your worry about evil somehow being “out of control,” as if it somehow escapes God’s decree, never arise. That’s an example of how the theological beliefs demonstrate underlying metaphysical faults, even if those metaphysical beliefs aren’t explicitly held.

  52. Imagine how annoying it must be to have a universalist pope.

  53. DGHART,

    Could you be more specific?

  54. Gang,
    Feast of St. Anthony, Hammer of Heretics today. Not many heretics where I live but it is the biggest holiday of the year. Drinking, Futbol, and dulia, lot’s of dulia. He was an Augustinian ( before he was a Franciscan ). While reading up on him I found this link which explains why the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is not on a par with a particular Protestant view put forth on this blog a couple of days ago. The difference is important.
    http://www.marymediatrix.com/blogs.html

  55. Robert,

    Another thought on Baptism.
    I know some Protestant denominations practice open Communion, even with the unbaptized. We have an American ex pat group here that does.
    This reveals a misunderstanding not only of the Eucharist but of Baptism.
    Baptism seals us into Christ’s death,His priestly act. The unbaptized cannot offer Christ’s sacrifice as they don’t participate in His priesthood.

    Think of marriage. We Catholics defend the sacramentality of Protestant marriages as vociferously as our own. Why?
    Because of Baptism. The couple is not made holy by marriage. Rather, marriage is elevated and made holy by the couples Baptismal seal.
    When a pagan married couple convert, they are not remarried in a wedding ceremony. Rather, their Baptism elevates their existing natural marriage* to a Sacrament automatically.

    An unbaptized person cannot pray or intercede as a Christian can. That is why in the Book of Acts it was important to rebaptize those with John’s Baptism only. They were probably already in a state of grace. But that was it. They could not participate in the life of the Church, the Sacraments, until they were Baptized into Christ.

    The seal calls for grace. It attaches us the Christ as branches to the vine.

    So, again, we Baptize to give the baby grace. Yes, indeed. But we also do it to engraft the baby into Christ for eternity. Even if the baby grows up and falls away, the seal remains.

    *By the way, since marriage remained through the Fall, through the punishment of the flood, etc. as a natural good, I think that supports our denial of the extreme depravity view held by Calvinists.

  56. Just reviewed the thread and came across some interesting points…

    @Robert:

    Incorrect. Grace can be conferred before, during, or after the sign.

    I missed this earlier. What about “never,” which is why the sign is unreliable?

    @Chris Donato:
    Good comment. This was a good caveat:

    This is the sort of fixedness that easily reduces to symmetrical double predestination, i.e., that the cause of reprobation is the same active cause as that of election.

    Agreed. What is interesting is that this was probably derived from Origen, who had a very fixed idea of the celestial order and a strong view of predestination. Origen obviously tried to save that view by adopting universalism, but that resulted in the same problem that ultimately got him condemned, an eternal and necessary creation. Viewing Augustine as part of this Christian Platonist tradition mediated by Origen makes sense of a lot of what Augustine wrote:
    https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_of_early_christian_studies/v012/12.3trigg.html

    That’s not to say that I think Augustine was an Origenist. I think that, like Jerome, he was actually rather embarrassed to have relied on him and took steps in his later works to distance himself from Origen. But the idea that Augustine was influenced more by Origen than Neoplatonism is consistent with the fact that contemporary scholarship has essentially debunked Augustine as a Neoplatonic thinker. It makes more sense, both historically and theologically, to see him in the Christian Platonist tradition in the West.

    @Dr. Hart:

    Imagine how annoying it must be to have a universalist pope.

    St. Gregory of Nyssa verged on universalism, and he was one of the greatest Christian theologians to ever live. Origen is a greatly respected Christian mind despite being universalist. Ironically, much of Augustine’s questionable thinking on predestination, like the order of the angels, likely developed from Origen’s universalist cosmic theories.

    In short, at least based on Christian history, it is far better to be a universalist heretic than a Calvinist heretic (although the Pope is neither). Erring on the side of universalism is barely erring. Erring on the side of God ordaining evil, as the WCF does, or on the side of strong penal substitution (as if Christ were actually punished by the Father) is unsalvageable. You can’t rehabilitate or tweak those beliefs; they simply are not Christian.

  57. Jonathan,

    What about “never,” which is why the sign is unreliable?

    The sign is always reliable because it always points to the grace of regeneration. You all collapse the sign into the sign signified.

  58. That is, what the sign signifies.

  59. Robert,

    Minutes ago I read A. W. Pink to say in The Total Depravity of Man, Chapter 5 Transmission,

    {“The image of God included both holiness and immortality,} but since Adam had lost them and become sinful and mortal, he could propagate none but those in his own fallen likeness, which had in it corruption and death (I Cor. 15:49-50; cf. v.22).”

    The Image of God Included immortality? Is this true for you? Do you agree?

    We say immortality was due to a preternatural gift. Being a composite of spiritual soul and material body, man was mortal by nature. Everything material is subject to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Before the Fall, this law was already in effect as we see the stars and sun shining. Man’s body is going to break down and return to dust because he is bodily.

    Of course, man’s soul, a simple and spiritual substance cannot break down into composite parts and so is naturally immortal. But his body is made up of parts that want to fall apart. Our soul can unify our cells, organs and systems into a living body for only so many years before it loses the battle. The body dies and the soul goes on to heaven, hell or purgatory to await the Resurrection and reunion with the flesh.

    Death is a punishment for sin because the preternatural gifts were lost leaving man subject to natural sickness and death.

    The Imago Dei was not the cause of our Adam’s immortality.
    In Genesis 9 murder is forbidden because we are ( still ) in God’s image. Murder would not even be possible then if immortality comes from the Imago Dei.

    I have also read that Adam’s immortality came from eating the fruit from the Tree of Life. Driven from the Garden, the tree was lost to him.

    Before the Fall, the animals obeyed Adam. This was a spin off from the same gift that gave Adam control over his bodily appetites. When it was lost, everything from bacteria, to mosquitoes and carnivores starting eating Adam.

    The Image of God is in our personhood, our spirituality. Our ability to reason and choose and rise above our physical situation images God’s Personhood and Transcendence.

  60. @Robert:
    So everyone who is baptized is regenerate and elect?

    Solves my problem then: all baptized Catholics are regenerate and elect. We’re predestined to go to Heaven no matter what we do.

  61. Jonathan,

    No, the sign testifies that God always regenerates those whom He chooses to regenerate. It isn’t efficacious merely by its administration, that’s why it is a sign and not the thing signified. You guys collapse the two, and then you only do it selectively. Hence you have ex opere operato regeneration except when you don’t.

  62. Jim,

    I think we run into problems whenever we try and sharply define what the image of God actually is. The Bible simply says that we are the image of God; it doesn’t tell us all that that means. We can get some hints of it by looking at how we differ from the animals, but many animals have some of the same capacities that we do, albeit to a much lesser degree. We aren’t going to get high-level philosophical treatises from the animal kingdom, but there is a certain kind of reasoning that animals like dolphins and monkeys seem to be capable of.

    In any case, I would say that death is not natural to us as originally created. Death is a bad thing. It’s only here because of sin, and if we had never sinned, we never would have died. There isn’t any innate tendency to decay and die that I see in Scripture, at least not for human beings. If God did not sustain our existence, we would blink out of existence, but that’s not really a natural property to death but to nonexistence, and then I don’t even know how nonexistence could be a property at all.

    To make a long story short (too late 🙂 ), there’s no reason why God could not bestow upon us the property of immortality as something that is natural to us. In the garden it was a conditional immortality, but we don’t have to be lifted out of the realm of creaturely existence in order to enjoy it. That is what I fear happens all too often in RC soteriology.

  63. Robert, you write:

    No, the sign testifies that God always regenerates those whom He chooses to regenerate.

    Robert, I asked you earlier, what grace do Calvinists believe the Sacrament of Baptism confers upon their infants, and you did not answer that question until now.

    The Calvinist answer has to be that the Sacrament of Baptism confers no grace at all to an infant, and here is why. If the infant being baptized is unlucky enough to have been created by God predestined for eternity in Hell, that unfortunate baby obviously gets no grace worth a spit from being baptized.

    But what about the lucky baby that was created by God predestined for Heaven? According to the Calvinists, that infant is also born totally depraved, so it cannot be said that the Calvinists know that the infant receives grace from God when the infant is baptized. In Calvinism, it is only when God capriciously decides to regenerate a person that it can it be said that the person has received regenerating grace.

    The lucky baby that was not created for damnation could have been regenerated by God an instant after the baby’s birth, or, the lucky baby could be regenerated by God at a time that could be over a hundred years in the future, a time of the instant before one’s death. Tthe lucky babies can be regenerated at anytime between their birth or death.

    In Calvinism, the ritual of infant baptism is some sort of weird sign that simultaneously signifies a regeneration that has already happened to the baby: a regeneration that might happen to the baby sometime in the future; and a regeneration that is never going to happen for that baby.

    It isn’t efficacious merely by its administration …

    A valid Sacrament of Baptism is always efficacious because Christ is the minister of a valid Sacrament of Baptism. The Calvinists are preaching strange novelties about infant baptism. No Church Father ever taught what the Calvinists believe about the Sacrament of Baptism.

  64. Robert,

    I hope nobody thinks this issue is much ado about nothing. No point addressing the restoration of grace in the New Adam until we know what was lost in the old Adam. Before the Council of Trent addressed justification in session 6, session 5 spoke of the sin of Adam, not our own individual sins. So I must press you on this.
    You wrote,

    “I think we run into problems whenever we try and sharply define what the image of God actually is. The Bible simply says that we are the image of God; it doesn’t tell us all that that means”.

    Yes, but surely we agree the Image existed in our being spiritual as God is a pure spirit.
    As spirits, we are to have fellowship with God and the angels.

    ” We can get some hints of it by looking at how we differ from the animals, but many animals have some of the same capacities that we do, albeit to a much lesser degree.”

    We differ from the animals not just in degree but in kind. Animal intelligence never transcends the physical, the particular. Our intelligence does. A quick example would be, we can conceive of a 100 sided geometric figure. However, we cannot picture it in the imagination. While stimuli comes in through the senses, we do something with it that an animal can’t. We rise above and out of the material world by knowing universal concepts.
    This knowledge of universals is more like that of angels than that of apes and dolphins. When animals start doing math and speaking foreign languages, it will be time to stop eating them and to start Baptizing them instead.

    “In any case, I would say that death is not natural to us as originally created. Death is a bad thing. It’s only here because of sin, and if we had never sinned, we never would have died.”

    We agree death is the result of Adam’s disobedience. But we say that freedom from death was due to something added to us.
    The Bible says the tree of life was the source of immortality. When driven from the Garden angels with a flaming sword were posted to keep Adam from that tree.
    Without that tree’s fruit and leaves, Adam was not free from sickness and death naturally.

    “There isn’t any innate tendency to decay and die that I see in Scripture, at least not for human beings”

    Perhaps physicist Jonathan could elaborate, but I have already shown this to erroneous. The stars were shining which means they were burning. They would eventually burn out. That is not sin. It’s physics.

    “If God did not sustain our existence, we would blink out of existence”‘

    Yes. But God will not blink us out of existence as it would show a contradiction in God. He made spirits, angels and human souls, to be naturally immortal. He will not deny them of that immortality without contradicting Himself.
    God would have to perform a miracle to make us not exist. Exnihilation and annihilation both require a special act of God.

    “.. there’s no reason why God could not bestow upon us the property of immortality as something that is natural to us. In the garden it was a conditional immortality, but we don’t have to be lifted out of the realm of creaturely existence in order to enjoy it. That is what I fear happens all too often in RC soteriolog’

    Whether God could is not the point. What He did is.
    Pardon the very awkward analogy but imagine the chimerical being that would result if God were to fuse an angelic nature with that of a gorilla’s.
    No manicheanism intended here. Apes are good. They are not sinners. But they are subject to the laws of decay and death due to being composites of matter. Matter, since the Big Bang, has been breaking down.
    Angels are spirits and so, by definition, are not subject to the confines of space. They have no composite parts to fall into dissolution and die.

    So, the Chimeral creature would be both mortal and immortal, bound by space and time and yet transcending it. Again, and I can’t stress it enough, both the angel and the ape are good. ( And again, I know this ape/angel analogy limps pathetically ). But the two natures would wrestle for control within the chimerical being.
    In order to make this fusion of two incompatible natures compatible, God added a special gift to make the gorilla-ish nature subject to the dictates of the higher, God like, angelic nature.
    When Adam rebelled against God, God removed this restraining gift. He sent Adam out and away from the Garden and its Tree. Adam’s lower nature and all of creation in turn rebelled against him now that he was naked of this gift. Without the Tree’s fruit and leaves he would be subject, like the rest of creation, to the laws of dissolution and death.
    Remember also, Adam had a special gift of infused knowledge that let him know certain natures without having to study. He knew the animals and could name them although he had no prior experience with them for instance.

    All who descend from Adam ( Jesus and Mary excepted ) come into the world without the gifts that give the higher spiritual powers control over the lower animal appetites. All are subject to death and suffering ( including Jesus and Mary ).

    The spiritual soul comes into existence by God’s direct creation when the matter of the man and woman fuse. It comes forth from the hand of God good and still in His image. It is incapable of acting supernaturally as it does not have the highest gift of all, Sanctifying Grace, but it is good in virtue of being a creature and especially good as being in God’s image.
    Compared to Adam, with the full panoply of gifts, we are wounded. But we are still human, in God’s image and therefore good. The tendency to sin is now there. But the tendency is not actually a sin. As a matter of fact, the internal friction remains so we can merit and cooperate with Christ in our own salvation. It is part of the cross we are to take up daily in union with His.

    I had better stop now as this post is getting a bit lengthy. As one with little tolerance for long posts, I shouldn’t violate my own rule. But this subject really should be resolved before moving on to the issue of grace and election.

  65. Jonathan,
    Any clarification on the issue of Thermodynamics before the Fall would be more than welcome as it is something I know little about.

  66. Robert,

    It just occurred to me to “google it”.

    Lot’s on the computer from Protestant sources on Adam’s natural mortality without a special gift from God.

    http://godandscience.org/youngearth/adam_immortal.html

  67. Robert,

    Calvin said,
    “Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable truth, which no engines can shake, that the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God, that he cannot conceive, desire, or design anything but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly envenomed by sin, that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness, their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound with fetters of wickedness.”2

    This is rather exaggerated, wouldn’t you say? The little good men do is only for show or out of fear of punishment according to Calvinism yet you say that Total depravity does not mean we are so bad as to “give a son a snake when he asks for a fish”. Why not? Why doesn’t a father give his son a snake? Or a stone when he asks for bread? Is it only for show? Even natural fatherly love seems shot through with evil for Calvinism.

    All of Calvinism stands or falls with on this first point, agreed? The other petals of the TULIP are spin offs from this one, correct?

  68. Robert,
    Augustine does not agree with Calvin,

    “Love is either divine or human; human love is either licit or illicit. I speak first of licit human love which is free from censure, then of illicit human love which is damnable; and in the third place of divine love, which leads us to heaven…You therefore have that love which is licit; it is human,but, as I have said, so much so that if it were lacking, the want of it would be censured. You are permitted with human love to love your spouse, your children, your friends, your fellow-citizens.
    But, as you see, the ungodly have this love. e.g. pagans, Jews, heretics. Who among them does not love his wife, his children, his brethren, his neighbors, his relations his friends? This, therefore, is human love. If any would be so unfeeling as to lose even human love, not loving his own children…we should no longer regard him as even even a human being”.

    Apart from grace, man can do good. Everything is not a sin. It may not be meritorious as that requires a state of grace. But man can do good works not shot through with evil.
    Before justification, a man can pray for grace. Calvin would say even that praying for grace, which we are commanded to do, is sin. So, God commands sin for Calvin.

  69. Robert,
    It looks like I have free reign over the blog this weekend. Since I am having stream of consciousness, let me add that the dichotomy between the Calvinist and catholic views of man outside of grace mentioned above in my two previous posts, became an issue at the time of the Discoveries and served as the basis for what was to develop into international law.

    Did the native people have rights? Since they worshiped idols, could they be converted by force? Could they be divested of property. Enslaved?

    At the same time of the Discoveries in Asia, Africa and the New World, the Council of Trent was in session to address the Protestant’s pessimistic view of man without Christ.

    Thomas Woods’ book and video series online details how the Catholic monarchs were swayed by the Church’s decree that the natives were true men, in God’s image, with rights to life, liberty and property. The kings set up a viceroy system to safeguard the natives from exploitation and to oversee the peaceful missionary efforts of the Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans.

    This accounts for not only the evangelization and Baptism of the native peoples but also the intermarriage ( seen as a Sacrament ) in the Catholic colonies while the Dutch and English colonies brought mostly exploitation, extermination and racism. ( Why bother preach to depraved sub humans , the massa damnata, if they are elected to hell anyway?)

    I am not so naive as to say that abuses did not happen. The explorers, Baptized as they were, still had fallen natures and were subject to cruelty and greed. Still, the Church did what she could. Aided by the appearances of God’s own mother as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Copacabana in Bolivia, Cobre in Cuba, Aparecida in Brazil, Lujon in Argentina, la Negrita in Costa Rica, and other places in the Philippines, China and Africa, often as dark skinned as the people themselves, the Church’s doctrine that ALL men are redeemed, loved and called to God’s sonship was taken to the world.

  70. Jim,

    In reference to your last post, all I can say is that it is an extremely naive view of history. First, Roman Catholicism has a doctrine of election as well that necessarily includes election to damnation. Why preach to people if God has passed them over for damnation. No matter how you construe the decree, there is a group of people in Roman Catholicism that will not be saved no matter how hard they or anyone else tries.

    Second, while there was no doubt peaceful missionary efforts of the Jesuits, Dominicans, and Franciscans, the RC colonists themselves were just as bad as any professing Protestant colonists. The Protestant clergy “did what they could.” And this isn’t even to note that the peaceful mission efforts of the Jesuits and other groups didn’t seem to be all that relevant in Europe itself. Ask those Huguenots how peacefully the church of Rome evangelized them.

    Third, principles of international law, for good or ill, are no more connected to Roman Catholicism than they are to Protestantism. The UN, for example, owes far more to Protestant USA and England than RC France.

    Fourth, the French Revolution was a godless revolution in one of the most RC countries of Europe.

    Finally, if all men are redeemed, quit preaching the gospel. They don’t need it. They are reconciled to God. By preaching it to them and giving them a chance to reject it, you’re sending people to hell that might not otherwise get there.

    I understand the impetus to want to attribute all good things to your faith and culture and minimize the bad things. I’m guilty of it too. But history isn’t that simple.

  71. Robert,

    “Finally, if all men are redeemed, quit preaching the gospel. They don’t need it. They are reconciled to God. By preaching it to them and giving them a chance to reject it, you’re sending people to hell that might not otherwise get there.”

    Redeemed Robert. Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for a million worlds. But it must be accepted.

    Election for us is a mystery. Please don’t think our views of election are similar. We believe, and you don’t, God sincerely wants All individual men saved. He gives all men grace.
    Unlike Calvinism that focuses on what has been revealed on God’s will to the expense of man’s freedom, Catholicism tries to keep both as both are revealed.

    I like the view that says God locked all men up in trespass so He could have mercy on all. ( You say He locked them up in sin because infralapsariansim is less harsh than supralapsarianism.)
    Prior to any merits, God elects all men to heaven.
    But, since the wages of sin is death, men can blow that election.

    As for the merits of Catholicism over Protestantism in the practical application in society of our conflicting anthropologies, I give you the mestizo race of Latin America as compared to the Indian reservations of North America and Aparthied in S. Africa. Facts are facts Robert. No race riots in Mexico. No lynchings. No anti-miscegenation laws. No Jim Crow Laws.
    Our culture is a refection of our cult. Your cult gave us racism and nationalism.

    As for the U.N., you are wrong. By the way, I give you the E.U. and Robert Schuman.

    On another topic, I read an piece yesterday that explained why Calvinist prefer the phrase Total Depravity over Total Inability. T.A. is too passive sounding. T.D. brings out an active hatred for God better.

    WOW! Again, your anthropology breeds hatred among men.

  72. Jim–

    We here in the U.S. are not unobservant. We have seen the Catholic paradise that is Latin America and will move heaven and earth to get there ourselves. We climb walls and ford streams and traverse tunnels and brave barbed wire and border patrols to make it to this paradise. Then we save up every penny and send it to our loved ones so that they can join us there…in paradise.

  73. Jim–

    Election for you is not a mystery, it is a nonentity. As we have said over and over, modern-day Catholic soteriology is de facto Arminian, despite lip service given to some sort of supposed “election.”

  74. Jim, Robert, and Eric, let’s get off the “whose cuisine reigns supreme” culture war stuff. If it has anything to do with Augustine or Orange, the link is so remote that it is pointless to discuss it.

    I’m having website issues; hope to be able to move the discussion along tonight or tomorrow.

  75. @Robert:
    On baptism, you really have major differences from Augustine. First, Augustine’s faith was in baptism regenerating; he understood that what God’s promise was, was that if we followed His instructions to baptize, He would really show up and not break His promise. That is not about magic; there is nothing magical in the water. But it shows that you believe that God will do what He promised, that even though He is not compelled by any power to do anything, He will voluntarily be present every single time that any person performs a Trinitarian baptism. That’s the starting point of God’s election; for Augustine, the thing to which people is electing people is primarily baptism (election to grace) and only secondarily perserverance in the baptismal grace (election to glory).

    From Augustine’s point of view, you would be saying that God can break His promise. And God’s promise regarding baptism is actually much clearer than the alleged “promise” in the Law to punish sin, that supposedly binds Him to punish somebody for other people’s sins. So baptismal regeneration isn’t something opposed to Augustine’s view of election; rather, it is the foundation on which his argument for predestination rests. This is why Augustine repeatedly relies on the difference between baptized infants and unbaptized infants as a sign of election in his controversy with Julian the Pelagian at the end of his life.

    Second, you’re misunderstanding the sense in which we use “sign” in this context. Sign for Augustine is much more like a natural sign, like thunder is to lightning or smoke is to fire. Basically, if you see that thing, then there is an absolute one-to-one correlation between the two: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That’s because of God’s promise that He will be there when the sacrament (sign) is performed. When we say that baptism is a sign of divine grace, we mean this in a much stronger sense than the general affirmation of divine grace.
    We mean that it is an actual sign in the same way that thunder signifies lightning or smoke signifies fire. And just like other natural signs, the absence of the sign doesn’t negate the underlying phenomenon (for example, if you’re too far away to hear the thunder, you may still see the flash of the lightning). But if there is a sign, then the thing signified was certainly there. So this idea that there might be some grace before or after or on some other person or whatever has nothing to do with what Augustine means by “sign” or “sacrament.” This idea that there would be baptism with no grace actually being conferred at that moment would be as impossible as thunder with no lightning or smoke with no fire.

    Note that this is true of the Eucharist as well. While unbelievers receive the divine grace to their condemnation, what God is giving them is not different from what everyone else is receiving. God is still there, and God is still providing grace to their soul, but because of their condition, that gift from God makes them worse, not better.

  76. Jonathan,

    I hope to reply more, but sufficeth for now to say that I don’t recall ever claiming to have the same view of baptism as Augustine. However, since we’ve been talking about the ordaining of evil, I was reading the Enchridion by Augustine the other day:

    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm#C26

    100. These are “the great works of the Lord, well-considered in all his acts of will”218 –and so wisely well-considered that when his angelic and human creation sinned (that is, did not do what he willed, but what it willed) he could still accomplish what he himself had willed and this through the same creaturely will by which the first act contrary to the Creator’s will had been done. As the Supreme Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom he had justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had mercifully predestined to grace.

    For, as far as they were concerned, they did what God did not will that they do, but as far as God’s omnipotence is concerned, they were quite unable to achieve their purpose. In their very act of going against his will, his will was thereby accomplished. This is the meaning of the statement, “The works of the Lord are great, well-considered in all his acts of will”–that in a strange and ineffable fashion even that which is done against his will is not done without his will. For it would not be done without his allowing it–and surely his permission is not unwilling but willing–nor would he who is good allow the evil to be done, unless in his omnipotence he could bring good even out of evil.

    101. Sometimes, however, a man of good will wills something that God doth not will, even though God’s will is much more, and much more certainly, good–for under no circumstances can it ever be evil. For example, it is a good son’s will that his father live, whereas it is God’s good will that he should die. Or, again, it can happen that a man of evil will can will something that God also willeth with a good will–as, for example, a bad son wills that his father die and this is also God’s will. Of course, the former wills what God doth not will, whereas the latter does will what God willeth.Yet the piety of the one, though he wills not what God willeth, is more consonant with God’s will than is the impiety of the other, who wills the same thing that God willeth. There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God–and also between the ends to which a man directs his will–and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved. Actually, God achieveth some of his purposes–which are, of course, all good–through the evil wills of bad men. For example, it was through the ill will of the Jews that, by the good will of the Father, Christ was slain for us–a deed so good that when the apostle Peter would have nullified it he was called “Satan” by him who had come in order to be slain.219 How good seemed the purposes of the pious faithful who were unwilling that the apostle Paul should go to Jerusalem, lest there he should suffer the things that the prophet Agabus had predicted!220 And yet God had willed that he should suffer these things for the sake of the preaching of Christ, and for the training of a martyr for Christ. And this good purpose of his he achieved, not through the good will of the Christians, but through the ill will of the Jews. Yet they were more fully his who did not will what he willed than were those who were willing instruments of his purpose–for while he and the latter did the very same thing, he worked through them with a good will, whereas they did his good will with their ill will.

    102. But, however strong the wills either of angels or of men, whether good or evil, whether they will what God willeth or will something else, the will of the Omnipotent is always undefeated. And this will can never be evil, because even when it inflicts evils, it is still just; and obviously what is just is not evil. Therefore, whether through pity “he hath mercy on whom he willeth,” or in justice “whom he willeth, he hardeneth,” the omnipotent God never doth anything except what he doth will, and doth everything that he willeth.

    The bolded portions are those most significant for the discussion of God’s ordination of evil, because the Westminster Confession, Calvin, and indeed the whole of the Reformed tradition are not saying anything other than what Augustine says here.

    Particularly significant is how Augustine says that man and God can will the same thing, but that it is the end or intent that determines the moral status of the willing. The preeminent example that Augustine gives is the crucifixion of Christ and the suffering of the early Christians. God and man both willed that evil event, but because God’s intent in willing it was good, he is not guilty of evil. The Bible makes it very clear that God ordained the crucifixion, and of course that is impossible without also ordaining that some would will it in an evil sense because without the evil wills of the authorities, there is no crucifixion.

    There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God–and also between the ends to which a man directs his will–and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved.

    Welcome to Calvinism. God’s ends are good, so he can ordain evil and still be good.

  77. @Robert:
    This is the Catholic position, as per Augustine:
    This is the meaning of the statement, “The works of the Lord are great, well-considered in all his acts of will”–that in a strange and ineffable fashion even that which is done against his will is not done without his will. For it would not be done without his allowing it–and surely his permission is not unwilling but willing–nor would he who is good allow the evil to be done, unless in his omnipotence he could bring good even out of evil.
    That’s not ordination; it’s permission, the very same permission that you accuse of being “bare permission” when I say it. There is not a word about ordination there, and there is no Calvinist “two will” schizophrenia, as if God wills something openly but secretly wills something else secretly, but a difference in the person’s willing with respect to the divine will.

    You’re proving my point that Calvinism is not Augustinian.

  78. Jonathan,

    And the reply I get from you proves my point. Let’s see you actually deal with everything Augustine says:

    Or, again, it can happen that a man of evil will can will something that God also willeth with a good will–as, for example, a bad son wills that his father die and this is also God’s will. Of course, the former wills what God doth not will, whereas the latter does will what God willeth.Yet the piety of the one, though he wills not what God willeth, is more consonant with God’s will than is the impiety of the other, who wills the same thing that God willeth. There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God–and also between the ends to which a man directs his will–and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved.

    The preeminent example, of course, that Augustine refers to is the crucifixion. God willed it for the salvation of mankind. The evil men willed it for evil. God ordained it. He willed for it to take place, but his motives in willing it were entirely just. He condemns the ones who actually killed Christ (his moral or revealed will) and yet he willed for them to do so (his hidden or decretive will).

    Augustine says absolutely nothing here that Calvinists do not say, and the fact that you think he does proves your inability to actually deal with Augustine outside your narrow frame of reference.

    If God wills the crucifixion or any other event that evil men will, it ain’t bare permission. His will guarantees that it will happen. There is no willing of the crucifixion without willing that there will be men to perform it.

    Your problem isn’t with Calvinism, it’s with Scripture and with Augustine who gets it exactly right here.

    God just doesn’t sit back and say “ho hum, I’ll uphold these people while they do evil but I never willed in any sense for them to do it.”

    There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God–and also between the ends to which a man directs his will–and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved.

    It is fitting for God to will the crucifixion, but it is not fitting for man. Why? There’s no difference really in the act of the crucifixion, the difference is in the intent. That is explicitly what Augustine says. That’s also, by the way, what Calvin taught, what Westminster taught, etc.

    It is not evil for God to will evil because He doesn’t will evil for itself but for a greater good. Man, however, wills evil for evil’s sake.

    Welcome to Calvinism. Augustine was teaching it centuries before Calvin came along.

    Yet they were more fully his who did not will what he willed than were those who were willing instruments of his purpose–for while he and the latter did the very same thing, he worked through them with a good will, whereas they did his good will with their ill will.

    This is such a beautiful exposition of what Calvinism teaches. Those who did not will the suffering of the Christians, which God willed (by decree) are more God’s because their not willing of the crucifixion is in accord with God’s moral will (that which pleases him in itself). On the other hand, the ones who willed evil against Paul, even though God also willed that (by decree) are not God’s because their will is contrary to God’s moral will.

    This is straight up Calvinism. It is so amazing. Where do you think Calvin et al got it? From Scripture of course, but they leaned heavily on Augustine.

    And this will can never be evil, because even when it inflicts evils, it is still just; and obviously what is just is not evil.

    God can will to inflict evil and yet still be just. God willed to inflict Israel with the evil of the Assyrians, whom he then condemned because they acted with an evil intent. God’s intent was good.

    Augustine recognizes quite clearly that it is the intent that determines moral culpability. To the extent that Orange denies that, it got Augustine wrong.

    And as far as permission, the language of permission is all over the Westminster Confession. We just deny that evil is purposeless, which is basically what you affirm when you say it “just happens.”

  79. @Robert:

    The preeminent example, of course, that Augustine refers to is the crucifixion. God willed it for the salvation of mankind. The evil men willed it for evil. God ordained it. He willed for it to take place, but his motives in willing it were entirely just. He condemns the ones who actually killed Christ (his moral or revealed will) and yet he willed for them to do so (his hidden or decretive will).

    Yes, the evil men willed it for evil. God didn’t cause them to will it for evil; God’s will was not the cause of their evil will, so He didn’t ordain their evil act.

    In fact, Augustine actually affirms free will in noting that God allows the good man to will something different from His will, yet not being evil: “Of course, the former [good man] wills what God doth not will, whereas the latter [evil man] does will what God willeth.Yet the piety of the one, though he wills not what God willeth, is more consonant with God’s will than is the impiety of the other, who wills the same thing that God willeth. “If God’s will were determinative, then it makes absolutely no sense that the good man can will something different from God’s will that is also good.

    Augustine says absolutely nothing here that Calvinists do not say, and the fact that you think he does proves your inability to actually deal with Augustine outside your narrow frame of reference.

    That’s because you’re reading in all kinds of things he doesn’t say (and contradicts elsewhere). You say, for example, that God ordains the evil will. Augustine says that the evil men willed the evil will, something that Calvinists do not say. That’s a flat out contradiction; Augustine says the opposite of what you say.

    If God wills the crucifixion or any other event that evil men will, it ain’t bare permission. His will guarantees that it will happen. There is no willing of the crucifixion without willing that there will be men to perform it.
    “Guarantees” is the wrong word to use in this context. A guarantee is a promise; is God promising that He will force people to commit evil and thus guaranteeing that they do wrong? Obviously not. Nor is it bare permission; God knows the evil will of the men He had created with infallible certainty and allows it to be exercised by His concurrence with that man’s existence (as you say He wills that there will be men to perform it). But He does not cause the evil will; He simply exploits it for His purposes. God doesn’t get surprised.

    Your problem isn’t with Calvinism, it’s with Scripture and with Augustine who gets it exactly right here.

    Augustine doesn’t say that God is the cause of the evil will. He says that evil men will evilly.

    God just doesn’t sit back and say “ho hum, I’ll uphold these people while they do evil but I never willed in any sense for them to do it.”

    That’s exactly what Augustine says, with respect to the men themselves.
    This knotty problem is solved if we understand God to be the artificer of all creatures. Every creature of God is good. Every man is a creature as man but not as sinner. God is the creator both of the body and of the soul of man. Neither of these is evil, and God hates neither. He hates nothing which he has made. But the soul is more excellent than the body, and God is more excellent than both soul and body, being the maker and fashioner of both. In man he hates nothing but sin. Sin in man is perversity and lack of order, that is, a turning away from the Creator who is more excellent, and a turning to the creatures which are inferior to him. God does not hate Esau the man, but hates Esau the sinner. As it is said of the Lord, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). To them also he said himself, “For this cause ye hear not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47). How can they be “his own” and yet be “not of God”? The first statement must be taken as regarding them as men whom the Lord himself had made, the second as regarding them as sinners whom the Lord rebuked. They are both men and sinners, men as fashioned by God, sinners by their own wills.
    http://www.romancatholicism.org/jansenism/augustine-simplician.html

    The sense in which God does not sit back is that the men in question aren’t in isolation. If they do some evil, then there are other goods that God also created that benefit from this evil. So God isn’t passive; He is always actively using the sin for some other good and actively willing the other good for which the sin is allowed.

    It is fitting for God to will the crucifixion, but it is not fitting for man. Why? There’s no difference really in the act of the crucifixion, the difference is in the intent. That is explicitly what Augustine says. That’s also, by the way, what Calvin taught, what Westminster taught, etc.

    No, the difference Augustine makes out is that God has providential control over all of creation, so that God can will the other good for the sake of which He allows evil. That’s why it is fitting for God to will the crucifixion. For men, on the other hand, it is acceptable for them to will some good different from the divine will, because they can will within their own limited scope. This is why it was good for Christ to sincerely will the Crucifixion not to take place according to His humanity and simultaneously to will it according to His divinity, and this was not a contradiction of the wills, because they were willing within different scopes. This is likewise why Augustine gave the example of the man who did not want his father to die; the good man’s will was different from God’s, but it was actually consonant with God’s will, because it was a man willing within the scope of his human activity. That is, therefore, not a “difference of intent,” as you wrongly assert, but a difference of scope.

    It is not evil for God to will evil because He doesn’t will evil for itself but for a greater good. Man, however, wills evil for evil’s sake.

    It would not be good for God to will evil, period. In affirming the need for grace, Augustine says flat out that God “cannot will evil” in his work Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians (“Nor can a man will any good thing unless he is aided by Him who cannot will evil—that is, by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord”):
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15091.htm

    You say God wills evil, and Augustine says God cannot will evil. Again, that’s a direct contradiction. God wills to permit evil, and the reason that God can will to permit evil is that God is simultaneously willing all of the goods that will benefit from this evil. There is nothing of God simultaneously willing against evil and yet secretly willing the same evil. He simply does not will the evil at all except by permission.

    Welcome to Calvinism. Augustine was teaching it centuries before Calvin came along.

    More like contradicting the Calvinist heresy centuries earlier.

    This is such a beautiful exposition of what Calvinism teaches. Those who did not will the suffering of the Christians, which God willed (by decree) are more God’s because their not willing of the crucifixion is in accord with God’s moral will (that which pleases him in itself). On the other hand, the ones who willed evil against Paul, even though God also willed that (by decree) are not God’s because their will is contrary to God’s moral will.

    But God doesn’t will the evil will of those who contradicted His will. All Augustine saying is that He willed the Crucifixion (that is, the event) to take place, but he says nothing about God willing the evil will. On the contrary, He repeatedly says that God does not and cannot will evil. There is no Calvinism there; Augustine says that God does NOT decree the evil will of men, and you say that He does in His secret will. Those two concepts are completely contradictory.

    This is straight up Calvinism. It is so amazing. Where do you think Calvin et al got it? From Scripture of course, but they leaned heavily on Augustine.

    It is amazing that you can’t see that Augustine is saying literally the opposite of what you are saying. You are reading in words that literally are not there. You say God wills evil, and Augustine says that God *cannot* will evil. You couldn’t possibly be any farther apart.

    God can will to inflict evil and yet still be just. God willed to inflict Israel with the evil of the Assyrians, whom he then condemned because they acted with an evil intent. God’s intent was good.

    Yes, God willed to inflict the evil of the Assyrians. He didn’t make the Assyrians evil. They willed to be evil, and God exploited their evil will, just as He did when he hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

    Augustine recognizes quite clearly that it is the intent that determines moral culpability. To the extent that Orange denies that, it got Augustine wrong.

    You’re making that up. It is nowhere in what you quoted. Augustine says that intent determines moral culpability for men, but he says exactly what he said elsewhere in the quote above: God isn’t even capable of willing evil. It’s not that He has a different intent; it’s that His intent cannot possibly be evil. God is not like us. He can’t will evil at all.

    And as far as permission, the language of permission is all over the Westminster Confession. We just deny that evil is purposeless, which is basically what you affirm when you say it “just happens.”

    I don’t say it’s purposeless. I say it is purposeless in itself, which is an entirely different thing.

    Augustine contradicts Calvinism all over the place. You just aren’t reading him.

  80. Jonathan,

    All I can say is that you continue to ignore what Augustine is explicitly saying here in the Enchiridion.

    He can’t will evil at all.

    So God can ordain an event that is evil—the crucifixion—but not will those who will do it. You’re contorting yourself, and you don’t understand what Calvinists mean by saying that God ordains evil because we’re saying nothing different than what Augustine is saying here. Nothing at all.

    Augustine says: There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God–and also between the ends to which a man directs his will–and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved. Actually, God achieveth some of his purposes–which are, of course, all good–through the evil wills of bad men. For example, it was through the ill will of the Jews that, by the good will of the Father, Christ was slain for us–a deed so good that when the apostle Peter would have nullified it he was called “Satan” by him who had come in order to be slain.

    Substitute the word “intent” for “end” and you have Calvinism throughout and through. And its a legitimate substitution.

    One can’t ordain the ends without also ordaining the means to the end. There’s no crucifixion without men having an evil intent to bring it about.

    What you are basically giving is a passive God. He sees what evil men will do, and then he ordains it. Arminianism.

    It’s not that He has a different intent; it’s that His intent cannot possibly be evil. God is not like us. He can’t will evil at all.

    I agree with the first part. The second part has to be qualified. God willed the crucifixion and the crucifixion was an evil event. Did Jesus not say that Judas would be judged? (The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born; Matt. 26:24).

    You say, for example, that God ordains the evil will. Augustine says that the evil men willed the evil will, something that Calvinists do not say.

    You’re just wrong. Evil men will the evil will. Ordain is not precisely equivalent to the word will. It just isn’t. You may not like that, but whatever.

    God ordained the crucifixion, an event which in and of itself is displeasing to Him. But in light of all the goods that flow from it, it is a good thing for God to ordain it and even ordain the means to that end. That’s basically what you said above, and the Calvinist is saying nothing different.

    God ordained the crucifixion, a good thing for Him to will in light of what it represents but when considered in itself and in the intent of those who ordained it, an evil. So, what we have is God ordaining something that is evil, at least from the perspective of what receives his moral approbation. You are twisting yourself and even Augustine to get around this.

    Yes, God willed to inflict the evil of the Assyrians. He didn’t make the Assyrians evil. They willed to be evil, and God exploited their evil will, just as He did when he hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

    Except that’s not what Scripture says. God makes from the same lump of fallen clay vessels fit for destruction.

  81. @Robert:

    All I can say is that you continue to ignore what Augustine is explicitly saying here in the Enchiridion.

    I’ll give you an example to show why you’re wrong.

    Substitute the word “intent” for “end” and you have Calvinism throughout and through. And its a legitimate substitution.

    Not only is it a completely illegitimate substitution generally, it is also a substitution that Augustine specifically denies. I’ll pull your quote and got through it so that you can see there is nothing mysterious (or biased) about my reasoning here.

    Augustine says:
    There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God–and also between the ends to which a man directs his will–and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved. Actually, God achieveth some of his purposes–which are, of course, all good–through the evil wills of bad men.

    Augustine’s entire point in the passage is to show that what one wills includes both the end (the event) and the intent/purpose in willing the event. If you collapse the distinction between intent and end, you ignore what Augustine is teaching you.

    In the above quote, “what is fitting … to will” refers to the complex act of willing, both intent and object. With respect to the differences between God and man, there is not only a difference in the act of willing itself, but also between the ends to which a man directs his will, which difference determines (among other things) whether the act of will is disapproved or approved.

    So part of the difference is that God’s ends/objects are not on the same scale as man’s. This is why willing a different object/end from God can nonetheless be fitting for a man. That is the example of a good man who sincerely wills that his father not die or Christ who sincerely wills (in His human will) not to die in the Crucifixion, even though He divinely wills the event to take place (Matt. 26:39, Luke 22:42).

    The difference between God and man is not merely in ends, because God is operating on a much higher scale where events are all interrelated, but in intent. Within man’s proper scale, he can have bad intent or good intent. Thus, he can will the same event, such as the Crucifixion, with a bad intent. Or the good man can will his father not to die (something different than God) with a good intent. God always has good intents/purposes, so this is not even a consideration for divinity.

    In that passage, Augustine distinguishes between ends, intent, and act of will, but you collapse all of them based on your philosophical understanding of how God’s causality operates. That’s not following Augustine. And I am not the one deciding what Augustine’s principles are. I’m simply listening to what he says they are.

    On that philosophical belief, you say:

    One can’t ordain the ends without also ordaining the means to the end. There’s no crucifixion without men having an evil intent to bring it about.

    That’s just a bad philosophical argument, picturing God like a little man pushing pieces around. The difference in God’s scope means that God can ordain the ends without intending the evil will that He uses. In other words, the difference between God and man is exactly what Augustine says it is, i.e., God is operating on a completely different plane in terms of ends/objects than men are. The view that God had to micromanage in this way in order to “guarantee” or “ensure” the outcome didn’t arise until very late in Christian history (in nominalism), and it’s actually an attack on the traditional view of God’s sovereignty.

    And apart from you saying it outright, here’s how I can tell that you are endorsing that defective philosophical concept:

    What you are basically giving is a passive God. He sees what evil men will do, and then he ordains it. Arminianism.

    Remember, both Arminians and Calvinists are actually Reformed, and this false dichotomy is itself a sign of the defective view. The idea is that if God doesn’t micromanage, then he must be passive. The Arminians were trying to preserve aspects of the older view, but they couldn’t do it with the Reformed concept of divine sovereignty. From our perspective, you’re all wrong for the same reasons. And this doesn’t come from Augustine; you are just reading Augustine as if he shared your philosophical assumption.

    I agree with the first part. The second part has to be qualified. God willed the crucifixion and the crucifixion was an evil event. Did Jesus not say that Judas would be judged? (The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born; Matt. 26:24).

    The question is whether God willed (or even ordained) Judas’s evil will, which is what is meant by God’s inability to will evil. The answer is that He didn’t, not as end or means, nor did He need to do so. You’ve got this completely unjustified philosophical belief that God needs to ordain everything, including evil wills, in order to “guarantee” or “ensure” that things are still in His control and that He isn’t passive, and that’s just wrong.

    You’re just wrong. Evil men will the evil will. Ordain is not precisely equivalent to the word will. It just isn’t. You may not like that, but whatever.

    “You’re just wrong” is not an argument. The distinction between will and ordination doesn’t matter; God neither wills, nor ordains by His own will, the evil will. There is no sense whatsoever in which God “guarantees” or “ensures” that the evil man’s will is evil. In no sense does He make the man’s will to be evil.

    God ordained the crucifixion, an event which in and of itself is displeasing to Him. But in light of all the goods that flow from it, it is a good thing for God to ordain it and even ordain the means to that end. That’s basically what you said above, and the Calvinist is saying nothing different.

    That is your philosophical belief talking. The Christian belief is that God neither wills nor ordains the evil will by which the act takes place, so if that is what you intend by saying “the means,” then you are wrong. If the Calvinist says that God wills or ordains by His will the evil will of men, then he says something different than the Catholic faith.

    God ordained the crucifixion, a good thing for Him to will in light of what it represents but when considered in itself and in the intent of those who ordained it, an evil.

    Yes, but the point is in God’s perspective, the crucifixion isn’t “considered in itself,” which is why it is not evil from His perspective, even though it would be from the human perspective considering it in itself. This is why Christ could simultaneously will not to be crucified in His human will (from the human perspective) and will to be crucified in His divine will. That’s a separate question from the intent, and the question is whether God willed or ordained those people’s evil intent.

    So, what we have is God ordaining something that is evil, at least from the perspective of what receives his moral approbation. You are twisting yourself and even Augustine to get around this.

    On the contrary, you are twisting Augustine around to justify your philosophical belief that God must “guarantee” or “ensure” evil intent, i.e., to ordain the means including the evil intent. There’s no “two wills” problem in terms of God’s moral approbation here, except the one that you’re introducing. Augustine isn’t saying that God disapproves in one will but ordains in another. God’s act of will is one.

    Except that’s not what Scripture says. God makes from the same lump of fallen clay vessels fit for destruction.

    Actually it does say both that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:32, Exodus 9:12). It’s only in this defective philosophical view where it has to be one or the other, where God has to “guarantee” or “ensure” the evil intent, that there is a problem. Otherwise, when Scripture speaks of hardening someone’s heart, it can simply be understood in the sense of exploiting an evil will in just the same way that God exploits evil wills generally.

    So let’s get back to this philosophical problem that God must be the source of people’s evil to avoid losing control of the cosmos. Does that really sound like respect for God’s sovereignty to you?

  82. Jonathan,

    The difference between God and man is not merely in ends, because God is operating on a much higher scale where events are all interrelated, but in intent. Within man’s proper scale, he can have bad intent or good intent. Thus, he can will the same event, such as the Crucifixion, with a bad intent. Or the good man can will his father not to die (something different than God) with a good intent. God always has good intents/purposes, so this is not even a consideration for divinity.

    And that is EXACTLY what I am saying.

    In that passage, Augustine distinguishes between ends, intent, and act of will, but you collapse all of them based on your philosophical understanding of how God’s causality operates. That’s not following Augustine. And I am not the one deciding what Augustine’s principles are. I’m simply listening to what he says they are.

    I’m not doing any of that. If the end God ordains is good, the intent He has in doing so is inevitably good and His act of will in making the choice to ordain that end is good as well. This is why it is good for God to ordain evil. His end in ordaining evil is not the evil itself, its part of His ordination of the good that it will come about by men doing evil. Which is what Augustine is saying. God’s intent in ordaining evil is good because the ultimate end of it is His glory, and His act of will in making such a choice is good for the same reason.

    What you are saying is that God ordains the crucifixion without ordaining the means to that end. But that is a distinction that does not hold because if God ordains the crucifixion, it is impossible for it not to happen without Him rewriting the whole story or having knowledge that is falsifiable. It is impossible the perpetrators will not have the evil will to make it happen. By ordaining the crucifixion, God ensures that it will happen. So we’re once more left with the problem as to how God cannot be morally responsible for that.

    Ultimately, what this boils down in your view seems to be that God is ordaining that an evil act will take place, he just doesn’t ordain who will do the evil. Setting aside the question of whether that is true to Scripture, He is still ordaining an evil event. It’s not evil for Him to ordain it because His intent in ordaining it, and the ultimate purpose of it is not evil, but the act itself as man does it remains evil. That is all I am saying. And I would say the say the same thing about ordaining an evil intent. It’s not evil for God to ordain that Judas would freely choose to have the evil intent to betray Christ because God’s intent in this is not evil, and the ultimate end of it is not evil, and his act of will in making the choice is not evil.

    What you seem to be saying is that God cannot possibly have a good intent in ordaining that specific men will do an evil act. That if he ordains the specifics, that makes him evil. If that is so, God cannot possibly ordain the crucifixion. There is no crucifixion without specific men committing an evil against Christ.

  83. Oops, I erred in formatting. Delete the above if possible.

    Jonathan,

    The difference between God and man is not merely in ends, because God is operating on a much higher scale where events are all interrelated, but in intent. Within man’s proper scale, he can have bad intent or good intent. Thus, he can will the same event, such as the Crucifixion, with a bad intent. Or the good man can will his father not to die (something different than God) with a good intent. God always has good intents/purposes, so this is not even a consideration for divinity.

    And that is EXACTLY what I am saying.

    In that passage, Augustine distinguishes between ends, intent, and act of will, but you collapse all of them based on your philosophical understanding of how God’s causality operates. That’s not following Augustine. And I am not the one deciding what Augustine’s principles are. I’m simply listening to what he says they are.

    I’m not doing any of that. If the end God ordains is good, the intent He has in doing so is inevitably good and His act of will in making the choice to ordain that end is good as well. This is why it is good for God to ordain evil. His end in ordaining evil is not the evil itself, its part of His ordination of the good that it will come about by men doing evil. Which is what Augustine is saying. God’s intent in ordaining evil is good because the ultimate end of it is His glory, and His act of will in making such a choice is good for the same reason.

    What you are saying is that God ordains the crucifixion without ordaining the means to that end. But that is a distinction that does not hold because if God ordains the crucifixion, it is impossible for it not to happen without Him rewriting the whole story or having knowledge that is falsifiable. It is impossible the perpetrators will not have the evil will to make it happen. By ordaining the crucifixion, God ensures that it will happen. So we’re once more left with the problem as to how God cannot be morally responsible for that.

    Ultimately, what this boils down in your view seems to be that God is ordaining that an evil act will take place, he just doesn’t ordain who will do the evil. Setting aside the question of whether that is true to Scripture, He is still ordaining an evil event. It’s not evil for Him to ordain it because His intent in ordaining it, and the ultimate purpose of it is not evil, but the act itself as man does it remains evil. That is all I am saying. And I would say the say the same thing about ordaining an evil intent. It’s not evil for God to ordain that Judas would freely choose to have the evil intent to betray Christ because God’s intent in this is not evil, and the ultimate end of it is not evil, and his act of will in making the choice is not evil.

    What you seem to be saying is that God cannot possibly have a good intent in ordaining that specific men will do an evil act. That if he ordains the specifics, that makes him evil. If that is so, God cannot possibly ordain the crucifixion. There is no crucifixion without specific men committing an evil against Christ.

  84. The Christian belief is that God neither wills nor ordains the evil will by which the act takes place, so if that is what you intend by saying “the means,” then you are wrong. If the Calvinist says that God wills or ordains by His will the evil will of men, then he says something different than the Catholic faith.

    No, that’s not the Christian belief. That’s your private belief as a Roman Catholic. There’s a difference.

    Yes, but the point is in God’s perspective, the crucifixion isn’t “considered in itself,” which is why it is not evil from His perspective, even though it would be from the human perspective considering it in itself.

    Exactly. Which is why it isn’t evil for God to ordain the crucifixion. That is what Calvinism is saying. But that doesn’t make the event any less. God ordains things he hates when they are considered in themselves, and God considers them in themselves when judging men because the ends of men are the acts themselves.

    Where I would disagree is your saying that the crucifixion is not evil from his perspective. That amounts to God not being displeased with the people who treated His Son the way they did. If it’s not evil, he can’t judge Judas or any of the other parties involved for doing what they did.

    God, in evaluating the intents, goals, etc. of the perpetrators clearly views what they did as evil. At least in this one case, God ordained what was an evil act. But because His ends and intent in ordaining it were not evil—because it was ordained for the final good of His glory—God is guilty of no evil at all. This is what Augustine is saying. This is what Calvin is saying.

  85. Jonathan,

    This is why Christ could simultaneously will not to be crucified in His human will (from the human perspective) and will to be crucified in His divine will. That’s a separate question from the intent, and the question is whether God willed or ordained those people’s evil intent.

    I was writing a response to something you said elsewhere, but it fits well here:

    Jonathan said elsewhere:

    That’s exactly what Augustine says, with respect to the men themselves.

    [Augustine] This knotty problem is solved if we understand God to be the artificer of all creatures. Every creature of God is good. Every man is a creature as man but not as sinner. God is the creator both of the body and of the soul of man. Neither of these is evil, and God hates neither. He hates nothing which he has made. But the soul is more excellent than the body, and God is more excellent than both soul and body, being the maker and fashioner of both. In man he hates nothing but sin. Sin in man is perversity and lack of order, that is, a turning away from the Creator who is more excellent, and a turning to the creatures which are inferior to him. God does not hate Esau the man, but hates Esau the sinner. As it is said of the Lord, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). To them also he said himself, “For this cause ye hear not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47). How can they be “his own” and yet be “not of God”? The first statement must be taken as regarding them as men whom the Lord himself had made, the second as regarding them as sinners whom the Lord rebuked. They are both men and sinners, men as fashioned by God, sinners by their own wills.

    The idea that God hates nothing that He has made would have to be qualified, not the least of which because the tex about not hating that Augustine cites to prove the point is not Scripture. But setting that aside, Calvinism agrees 100% that God does not fashion men sinners. And Calvinism 100% agrees that men alone fashion themselves evil. God is not the author of sin, as the WCF says.

    The best analogy I have seen for this is the author-story model. George Lucas wrote a story in which Anakin Skywalker falls to the dark side and commits evil. Did Lucas force Anakin’s fall? Is Lucas guilty of Anakin’s fall? We would answer no in both cases. But once the story was written was it possible for Anakin not to fall at least in every sense of the word possible? No, it was impossible for Anakin not to fall unless George rewrites the whole story. But we don’t blame Lucas for Anakin’s fall, we blame Anakin.

    The analogy is not perfect. After all, Anakin is not a real person. But if God is so much greater than us, why can he not do with real people whom he creates just as Lucas did with the person he created?

    All we are saying is that when God ordained to permit Esau to sin, that ordained permission ensured that Esau would sin. There was no ultimate possibility that Esau could have done otherwise than to sell his birthright without God rewriting the story or having a lack of knowledge. When I say God does not operate by bare permission, what I am saying is that God does not sit back and just watch evil and that there is no true potential in every sense of the word that said evil act would not take place.

    If God’s ordination to permit Adam to fall—and his ordination to permit every sin thereafter—does not guarantee/ensure/make certain that Adam would fall, then you have serious problems. First, we agree that God know that Adam would fall and that he knew this eternally. The fall has a kind of eternal existence in God’s mind because God eternally knew it would take place. The question is, what is the grounding of that knowledge. If it is simply by observation, then you basically have God eternally dependent on something outside himself for his omniscience. He knows that Adam would fall not because of his decree but because he knows perfectly all that is outside himself. But nothing exists outside of himself until he actually creates. Further, you end up having God learn something if he doesn’t decree it. God decreed to permit evil and then he saw that man would do evil. Evil is not truly a consequence of his decree but it has a kind of eternal existence nonetheless.

    Thomas’ distinction that God knows evil by accident is not helpful here because it still turns God’s knowledge into passive observation of something that exists outside himself eternally. The decree is eternal, so the results of the decree are eternal but the results have no proper grounding in the decree itself. They just are and they don’t have to be that way except that they do if God’s knowledge cannot be falsified. Arminianism.

    There are only two ways out of the conundrum, and that is either to say that God doesn’t know everything in the future or to make evil a part of His decree. The former has a lot of problems that make it worse then the alternative of passive observation. The second option does not make God dependent upon something outside himself for his knowledge. It maintains God’s full independence from His creation because everything that takes place only takes place by His eternal decree. His knowledge remains grounded in His perfect knowledge of Himself, not in His decreeing only a select few things and then looking at what will fall out.

  86. Oops, bad formatting. Sorry. Delete what I just commented before this. Here it is again:

    Jonathan,

    This is why Christ could simultaneously will not to be crucified in His human will (from the human perspective) and will to be crucified in His divine will. That’s a separate question from the intent, and the question is whether God willed or ordained those people’s evil intent.

    I was writing a response to something you said elsewhere, but it fits well here:

    Jonathan said elsewhere:

    That’s exactly what Augustine says, with respect to the men themselves.

    [Augustine] This knotty problem is solved if we understand God to be the artificer of all creatures. Every creature of God is good. Every man is a creature as man but not as sinner. God is the creator both of the body and of the soul of man. Neither of these is evil, and God hates neither. He hates nothing which he has made. But the soul is more excellent than the body, and God is more excellent than both soul and body, being the maker and fashioner of both. In man he hates nothing but sin. Sin in man is perversity and lack of order, that is, a turning away from the Creator who is more excellent, and a turning to the creatures which are inferior to him. God does not hate Esau the man, but hates Esau the sinner. As it is said of the Lord, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). To them also he said himself, “For this cause ye hear not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47). How can they be “his own” and yet be “not of God”? The first statement must be taken as regarding them as men whom the Lord himself had made, the second as regarding them as sinners whom the Lord rebuked. They are both men and sinners, men as fashioned by God, sinners by their own wills.

    The idea that God hates nothing that He has made would have to be qualified, not the least of which because the tex about not hating that Augustine cites to prove the point is not Scripture. But setting that aside, Calvinism agrees 100% that God does not fashion men sinners. And Calvinism 100% agrees that men alone fashion themselves evil. God is not the author of sin, as the WCF says.

    The best analogy I have seen for this is the author-story model. George Lucas wrote a story in which Anakin Skywalker falls to the dark side and commits evil. Did Lucas force Anakin’s fall? Is Lucas guilty of Anakin’s fall? We would answer no in both cases. But once the story was written was it possible for Anakin not to fall at least in every sense of the word possible? No, it was impossible for Anakin not to fall unless George rewrites the whole story. But we don’t blame Lucas for Anakin’s fall, we blame Anakin.

    The analogy is not perfect. After all, Anakin is not a real person. But if God is so much greater than us, why can he not do with real people whom he creates just as Lucas did with the person he created?

    All we are saying is that when God ordained to permit Esau to sin, that ordained permission ensured that Esau would sin. There was no ultimate possibility that Esau could have done otherwise than to sell his birthright without God rewriting the story or having a lack of knowledge. When I say God does not operate by bare permission, what I am saying is that God does not sit back and just watch evil and that there is no true potential in every sense of the word that said evil act would not take place.

    If God’s ordination to permit Adam to fall—and his ordination to permit every sin thereafter—does not guarantee/ensure/make certain that Adam would fall, then you have serious problems. First, we agree that God know that Adam would fall and that he knew this eternally. The fall has a kind of eternal existence in God’s mind because God eternally knew it would take place. The question is, what is the grounding of that knowledge. If it is simply by observation, then you basically have God eternally dependent on something outside himself for his omniscience. He knows that Adam would fall not because of his decree but because he knows perfectly all that is outside himself. But nothing exists outside of himself until he actually creates. Further, you end up having God learn something if he doesn’t decree it. God decreed to permit evil and then he saw that man would do evil. Evil is not truly a consequence of his decree but it has a kind of eternal existence nonetheless.

    Thomas’ distinction that God knows evil by accident is not helpful here because it still turns God’s knowledge into passive observation of something that exists outside himself eternally. The decree is eternal, so the results of the decree are eternal but the results have no proper grounding in the decree itself. They just are and they don’t have to be that way except that they do if God’s knowledge cannot be falsified. Arminianism.

    There are only two ways out of the conundrum, and that is either to say that God doesn’t know everything in the future or to make evil a part of His decree. The former has a lot of problems that make it worse then the alternative of passive observation. The second option does not make God dependent upon something outside himself for his knowledge. It maintains God’s full independence from His creation because everything that takes place only takes place by His eternal decree. His knowledge remains grounded in His perfect knowledge of Himself, not in His decreeing only a select few things and then looking at what will fall out.

  87. On the contrary, you are twisting Augustine around to justify your philosophical belief that God must “guarantee” or “ensure” evil intent, i.e., to ordain the means including the evil intent. There’s no “two wills” problem in terms of God’s moral approbation here, except the one that you’re introducing. Augustine isn’t saying that God disapproves in one will but ordains in another. God’s act of will is one.

    Ultimately, yes, God’s will is one. But in ordaining the crucifixion is God not ordaining something that he hates, at least considered from one perspective? If he’s not ordaining something he hates in itself, why do those who perform the act get judged?

    I am not twisting Augustine. He says it was good for God to ordain/will the crucifixion and the persecution of Christians such as Paul but that it was evil for men to will the same thing. And the reason he gives is the end of each, which end is impossible without the means—particularly in the crucifixion which demands that one does evil against another.

    You basically think it is impossible for God to ordain something that He hates when that something is considered in itself. But that is exactly what He did in the crucifixion. God doesn’t ordain things considered in themselves but as a means to a greater good, but He can certainly judge the intents and actions of those who perpetrate the event and are not motivated by the good.

    To make an analogy, if my daughter’s appendix is about to burst, I’m going to will that someone cut into her. All things being equal, I hate it if someone will cut into her, but I’ll will it in this case for the greater good of her health.

    To make a more biblical analogy, God ordained that Stephen would be killed. All things being equal, it is wrong to will an innocent man to die, but all things aren’t equal in this case. The end of Stephen’s death is testimony to Christ and, likely, a testimony for Paul that was part of the means that led to His conversion. God didn’t ordain Stephen’s death as an end in itself; His intent was wholly good—to bring about a testimony to His Son and the ministry to the Gentiles. But that doesn’t make what the men who killed Stephen any less guilty of doing evil, and Stephen isn’t killed unjustly unless the means is ordained as well. Otherwise you have some nebulous thing that may not happen or that God knows will happen merely by passive observation of the future.

    Actually it does say both that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:32, Exodus 9:12). It’s only in this defective philosophical view where it has to be one or the other,

    Except that I affirm it is both. The question is whether the first or ultimate mover is God’s decree or not. If it’s not God’s decree, God’s knowledge is based on something outside of Himself, not His perfect knowledge of Himself and His decree.

    where God has to “guarantee” or “ensure” the evil intent, that there is a problem. Otherwise, when Scripture speaks of hardening someone’s heart, it can simply be understood in the sense of exploiting an evil will in just the same way that God exploits evil wills generally.

    So let’s get back to this philosophical problem that God must be the source of people’s evil to avoid losing control of the cosmos. Does that really sound like respect for God’s sovereignty to you?

    God’s decree does not have to be the ultimate grounding for all events to avoid losing control of the cosmos. God could still maintain control but he sheer act of power, which makes “free will” no less of problem than does the Calvinist understanding, just at a different level. And it also makes God eternally frustrated in some ways because some people He really, really wants to save just can’t be saved even by God. That’s not a meaningful definition of sovereignty for the God who accomplishes all that He please to accomplish.

    More importantly, God’s decree has to be the ultimate grounding for all events in order to maintain God’s independence from creation. If it’s not, then God’s knowledge is dependent upon His creatures, and ultimately you have God learning some things after He decrees others.

    That’s just a bad philosophical argument, picturing God like a little man pushing pieces around. The difference in God’s scope means that God can ordain the ends without intending the evil will that He uses. In other words, the difference between God and man is exactly what Augustine says it is, i.e., God is operating on a completely different plane in terms of ends/objects than men are. The view that God had to micromanage in this way in order to “guarantee” or “ensure” the outcome didn’t arise until very late in Christian history (in nominalism), and it’s actually an attack on the traditional view of God’s sovereignty.

    The first sentence is a misunderstanding of Calvinism. The last sentence assumes that the “traditional view” was correct.

    From your entire response, and I could be wrong, all I can gather is that you believe God ordains evil events such as the crucifixion in a way that it is good for Him to do so (I agree) but does not ordain the specifics as to how these events will happen or the specific individuals who will do so and why they will do so. That’s not tenable under a biblical understanding of prophecy, and it’s also not tenable given what we know from such things as the butterfly effect where even the tiniest things alter/guarantee/affect much greater things that happen later.

    If God’s decree is not the grounding for all that happens, He is merely responding in a passive way to at least some actions of men. There’s no way around this, which is why R.C. Sproul is correct that if there is one maverick molecule, God is not truly in control and that when my free will bumps up against God’s free will, mine loses every time.

    My concern is not to appeal to what your sense of respect for God’s sovereignty mean. My concern is to be faithful to Scripture, and Scripture is quite clear that God’s decree extends even to the minutae of life.

    Prov. 16:33—The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

  88. @Robert:
    Let’s try to get organized again, because the stream-of-consciousness style is once again distracting from the point, which is what Augustine believed and whether that belief was different from (and as per my argument, contradictory to) Calvinism. At one point, you accused me of assuming that the traditional view is correct and pointed out that a text Augustine cited was not Scripture in your view. But the point of the whole discussion is that we are trying to understand what Augustine’s belief was. So even if the traditional view is wrong and even if the Wisdom of Solomon is not Scripture (although I have no idea how one would tell that, since there is no empirical test for inspiration), we need to treat those things as if they could be true for purposes of understanding Augustine’s view, because he believed that they were. In other words, it’s fine for you to say that Calvinism is (in your view) better than Augustine’s view, but that entails an admission that you are contradicting him.

    The fact that you are reading Augustine with a thoroughly modernist bent is illustrated by the modernist examples you chose. The fundamental belief that modernism inherited from nominalism is that what we think about things like natures is not essentially determined by what they things are (i.e., that there is a real order inherent in the thing) but an order in how we think about the things. That is why you choose the playwright analogy; from your perspective, the fact that you can think about characters as “real” in some sense has a significance in reality. This is why modernism is highly vulnerable to the reification fallacy; natures are the way in which we describe things.

    The fact that you say “well, there’s a distinction in that Anakin is not real” is the perfect example of just how far away from the classical view of God you are. The Fathers knew what playwrights were; Augustine himself was a highly trained rhetor. There’s a reason they didn’t use that analogy, and the reason is exactly that it cannot apply to God, because what God makes is real and not fiction. So, yes, George Lucas is absolutely the author of evil in his works, and if those characters were *real* and not fictional, then George Lucas would be … quite literally … the author of evil. Characters are not capable of blame; it doesn’t even make sense to blame Anakin, because he didn’t do anything; he doesn’t exist! There is no Anakin to blame, and thinking that there is demonstrates a fundamental wrong-headedness where what is in our head (our imagination, in this case) has some reality. That’s modernism in a nutshell: imagining minds (the noumenal realm) disconnected from existence (the phenomenal realm), as if we could be brains in a jar.

    Your concern about God’s omniscience is based on the same “brain in a vat” type concerns, which again is a peculiarly modernist concern. In order to answer your radical skepticism about the grounding of our own knowledge, you have to then answer the same skepticism about God’s knowledge, trying to figure out what “guarantees” or “ensures” that His knowledge is properly grounded (you even specifically alluded to the grounding problem with God’s decree). That’s what’s motivating your “first” or “ultimate” mover concern; you’re essentially trying to fit God into the knowledge-grounding problem. That is, by the way, not the way Augustine, Thomas Aquinas or other Christian theologians viewed God as first cause.

    The ironic thing is that the modernist approach has ultimately proved that philosophical modernism is impossible. You’ve misunderstood the “butterfly effect” entirely. The point of this analogy is that chaotic systems are not extriniscally but intrinsically unpredictable. In addition to the fact that they depend essentially on historic conditions in a way that is unpredictable even knowing what those conditions are (i.e., the rules of the system change depending on when the systems form), they are fundamentally dependent on individual interactions at the quantum level that are themselves indeterministic in terms of definite outcomes. In other words, modern science has essentially proved that if God must be dependent on the sort of grounding mechanisms that you describe, then God can’t possibly be omniscient. On that deterministic understanding of God’s sovereignty, the whole universe is made up of what Sproul calls “maverick molecules,” and if the Bible is teaching that sort of mechanism for God’s sovereignty, then modern science has debunked the Bible’s account as effectively as it has debunked young earth creationism.

    The way to avoid this is to stop thinking like a modernist and stop thinking that God has to have some mechanism for “ensuring” His own knowledge and sovereignty. God just *is* sovereign; we take that as a given and instead look at what He has chosen to do, rather than trying to explain it. The God-as-author analogy is an attempt to explain God’s view, not simply to accept it. So we don’t need to explain, and should not try to explain, how God ordains the Crucifixion without willing the evil intent of those who perform it. If you, as a Calvinist, really accepted than men were 100% responsible for their own evil and that God was not its author, then you wouldn’t be worried about how God can “ensure” that it happens. You’ve already got a case, the case of evil intent, where God has no causal role in the event, yet there is still never any doubt that it will take place. That shows that your God-as-author analogy has already broken down with respect to God, which is a clue that you need to stop thinking about God in this way. And as I’ve pointed out, the God-as-potter analogy is highly qualified even in Scripture, so there’s no excuse for taking it far beyond its intended application.

    This is why I keep trying to steer you away from the vain questions and return to the *real* cases that we have in Biblical revelation. We know that Christ willed something in His humanity that was different from what the Father willed, yet without violating or contradicting God’s sovereignty. This is the same conceptual distinction to which Augustine appeals when he speaks of the good man and evil man, showing that human intent is relevant to the relation with God’s will, not merely the end or object. We know that Satan’s and Adam’s sins were not *caused* by the divine omniscience, even though they would inevitably take place.

    Instead, what they show to us is that God, not by being forced by *His own choice*, created a universe where free will is allowed by design. It is not a case of free-willed individuals constraining His will, but of God having imposed this system entirely freely because it was what He wanted. There is no threat to God’s omniscience unless you accept the modernist account of grounding knowledge, which is a flawed account even with respect to humans, much less God Himself. Your worries and concerns about how God will know what happens are vain philosophizing; you should instead be assured by divine revelation that God does not need to determine evil wills in order to assure that He knows what will happen and that what He intends from eternity will in fact take place.

  89. Last paragraph typo: should be “not by being forced BUT by *His own choice*”

  90. Jonathan,

    ” We know that Christ willed something in His humanity that was different from what the Father willed, …”.

    Perhaps you could qualify this somewhat troubling statement?
    Just so nobody is confused, I would like to submit this link. http://www.catholictheology.info/summa-theologica/summa-part3.php?q=61

  91. Robert,
    Joseph’s brothers meant his sale to the Egyptians for evil but God meant it for good.
    Are you saying God put the evil intent in their heart? Or in the case of the mob who stoned Stephan that you mention, did God will them to do so? And Judas?
    Think about the men who crucified Jesus. They had already tried to kill Him on a couple of occasions so we wouldn’t say God put the evil intent to crucify Christ into their hearts. On those occasions they were thwarted. On Good Friday, God the Father did not stop them.

  92. @Jim:
    I actually find Scott Carson’s take on that issue more helpful than St. Thomas’s (mostly because I think people don’t get the difference between sensitive and rational will):
    http://examinelife.blogspot.com/2007/10/thy-will-be-done.html?m=1

    The point is that Jesus genuinely does not will the evil of the Crucifixion; He wills to tolerate it. That is similar to what God does with respect to evil, but it isn’t from God’s perspective, where He cannot even look on evil. The Son has a body and knows what it is to suffer, so He wills this evil according to His humanity not in a divine way but in a human way. He is not willing for the event not to pass based on His knowledge (rational will), but His tolerance is conditional and not absolute, so it is a distinct will from the act in which the Trinity will the existence of the event.

    The fact that people might find the idea “somewhat troubling” is that people can’t get their heads around the hypostatic union, which is understandable. But like Wosbald is fond of saying, picking either side of the paradox to the exclusion of the other leads to error. We know Jesus has a will distinct from the will of the Father, so we shouldn’t shy from studying the implications.

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