Trespassing on Trinitarian Territory

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Catholicism, Creator/Creature Distinction, Featured, Michael Horton, Reformed Theology, Theology Proper | 552 comments

Concerning the issue of divine and human free agency, Michael Horton argues that those on both sides of the debate often exhibit a rationalistic tendency towards univocity. He writes:

Hyper-Calvinism shares with Arminianism (and especially open theism) a rationalistic tendency toward a univocal interpretation of the noun “freedom.” The one begins with the central dogma of omnicausalism and the other with the central dogma of libertarian free will. However, if even freedom is predicated of God and humans analogically, then there is not a single “freedom pie” to be rationed (however unequally) between partners.

As Horton’s “freedom pie” illustration suggests (see below), divine freedom is archetypal and original while human freedom is ectypal and derivative: “Because God is  freedom, such a thing as freedom exists and can be communicated to us in a creaturely mode.” In other words, there is not a common univocal pool called “freedom” from which both God and we drink, and neither is our exercise of freedom an infringement upon God’s or an example of trespassing on divine turf. Human freedom exists because God is sovereign and free, and our freedom is uniquely suited to us as creatures made in the image of our Creator.

My aim here is not to dispute, but to nod my head and double-down.

One of Reformed theology’s most important and oft-vocalized objections to the Catholic gospel stems from the fact that we insist on things like (1) our participation in Christ’s redeeming work by means of our Spirit-wrought works of sacrifice and love, (2) the departed saints’ participation in Christ’s priestly work of intercession for believers here on earth, and (3) the Church’s participation in offering up the once-for-all sacrifice of the Eucharist at each Mass. Such ideas are objectionable, the Reformed Christian argues, because they impinge upon divine prerogatives and trespass on Trinitarian territory. To allow for human participation in these divine activities, we are told, is to minimize God’s unique role as Savior and thereby rob him of glory.

But wait! not so fast. . . .

If Horton is correct in arguing that human free-agency does not take away from divine sovereignty but rather stems from it (and I think he is), then why would such an idea not apply here, to the most well-worn argument against the Catholic gospel?

In the same way that the Calvinist insists that God is free in a uniquely divine way while our freedom is a creaturely and derivative freedom, the Catholic insists that God’s saving work, and Christ’s priestly intercession, are uniquely divine, and that our participation in those activities is creaturely and suited to us as human actors.

Therefore if Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists are just rationalists in disguise because they posit a univocal understanding of freedom which fails to distinguish divine and creaturely expressions of it (as Horton charges), then what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. By failing (and often outright refusing) to notice any distinction between Christ’s mediatorship and that of Mary and the saints, or between Jesus’ self-offering at Calvary and the Church’s Eucharistic offering at Mass, our Reformed brethren are exhibiting the very rationalistic and fundamentalist rigidity that they claim to repudiate in other contexts.

And it’s no fair, so I’m crying “Foul.”

552 Comments

  1. Eric:
    From what I hear, Catholic priests in Nigeria drink flaming goblets of absinthe, ecstatically prophesying the whole while about the need for more young boys to throw on the sacrificial pyre to assuage the ire of the Virgin Goddess. Dangerous and horrible stuff to say the least.! That’s what I’ve heard, so it must be true…

    Mikel:
    Exactly what are you talking about? And what is absinthe? Sorry but I imagined I heard you mentioned something about a last shot. What are still gallivanting about here for?

    Oh I get it. Giving support to your Calvinist cohort. Well no problem. As James White said to the CTC guys; the whole lot of you at once, I don’t care. I can take all of you. Or words to that effect.

    And don’t think I have forgotten you still own me an apology. You falsely accused me and refused to recant. You don’t want your ipad malfunctioning again do you?

  2. Jim–

    What happens in your scenario when nobody studies and everybody fails? God is still in control?

    Just another brick in the wall…

    BTW, I don’t know about anyone else, but I no longer believe you to be the least bit genuine in your bellyaching about other people’s not respecting you…all your hurt feelings and all. Your aim is merely to manipulate and bully. I’m onto you….

    Go crawl back under your rock.

  3. Mikel–

    Do you really have frescoes of Ba’al riding a bull above your altars?

    My remarks were intended to playfully mock your blatant, blatant, blatant misrepresentation of Calvinism. Your depiction of us was as far off as my depiction of you guys and your “witch-doctor” priests. (Absinthe is a highly intoxicating French drink, by the way.)

    At least make a good-faith stab at accuracy. This is not Catholic Propaganda 101.

    I was just tying up loose ends before I make myself scarce. I don’t recall making any accusations, but I’ll take your word for it. Accept my apologies.

    Have fun!

  4. Eric,

    You are such a pompous ass.

    “(Absinthe is a highly intoxicating French drink, by the way.)”

    You seem to think everyone on this blog but you is a hayseed right off the farm with your constant references to Black Rubrics, Garrigou Lagrange, history corrections, french booze etc.? Where is this coming from? What are your credentials that make you stand out from the herd?

    Are you the only to have ever been to a little red brick school house?
    Your arrogance is over the top!

  5. Robert,

    I posted this link elsewhere but as I really want to make sure you get it, here it is again. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/12/lawrence-feingold-on-sufficient-and-efficacious-grace/

    I hope it helps.

  6. Eric,

    It’s not about my hurt feelings. It’s about trodding upon the Mother of God and Christ in the Eucharist on a Catholic (‘s).

    As for plain old snottiness and below the belt shots, I can give as good as I get, dontcha’ think?

  7. Jason L.,
    Just a little follow up on what I sent you yesterdays about alms giving and indulgences.
    I read a book once, written by a Protestant, about how the money from indulgences had basically built Europe.
    Remember, in medieval Europe, there was no welfare, no socialized medicine, no soup kitchens. Warring aristocrats had no interest in trade nor in keeping up roads and bridges. The defense of civilian cities was of no concern to them either as the were safely tucked away in their own castles.

    Indulgences were given for the following;
    1.Burying the dead, especially plague victims. An order, the Alexians, was
    founded for this purpose.
    2. Repairing a road, bridge or fortifying a city’s walls.
    3. Feeding the poor.
    4. Supplying the funds to a poor man so he could pay his daughter’s dowry.
    This was major in a society that said a girl would die a poverty stricken spinster
    if she had no male provider.
    5. Fighting in a crusade to defend/ take back the Holy Land.
    6. A special indulgence was given to abbots of monasteries for supplying coats to
    poor men.
    7. Helping with the upkeep or building of a church ( including St. Peter’s ).
    8. Paying for a habit so a girl could enter a convent. Like the dowry above, this
    could mean the difference between dying on the streets or in a convent.

    If a person was unable, due to age, health or time constraints, to assit in any of the above, he could give an alms instead. This was the “trafficking” you were probably alluding to.
    All classes of society, including the clergy and royalty, sought indulgences, not just the little guy. The story of King St. Louis of France carrying mortar in his cape to help with the repair of the walls of Acre during the crusades is one example.
    Like I said, I read all this in a book written by a Protestant who just wanted the truth to be known about the good indulgenced alms giving had done in civilizing and building Europe.

  8. Eric,

    I had to click back on yesterday’s posts to see that you were speaking of my irritation with Robert’s reference to “people in big hats” as being just gratuitous meanness. ( I was actually surprised as this is out of character for someone planning a career in the ministry, and for Robert as he is usually pretty decent.)

    Would you please, in future remarks, be clear which of your multiple personalities you are speaking from? Sometimes, you are they very erudite, tweed jacketed, pipe smoking, absinthe sipping Anglican Oxford don such as when you deign to school us yokels in Church history and, at other times, you speak from your no dancing, no card playing, no hard cider drinking, no tobacco chewing drinking Baptist persona.

    As we Catholics have only “men in mitres”, I would have thought the “people in big hats” crack would raised the eyebrow and flared the nostrils of an Anglican gentleman. It is you guys who have the practice of ordaining women, not us after all.
    However, as you are good with the Apostolic Succession of Bishops being snickered at, you obviously shot at me from your hay wagon ridin’, straw hat wearin’ Baptist personality, yes?

    So, for clarity, would you please identify yourself by telling me if you are speaking as Rick or Sir Eric?

    So, see you later alligator Rick or if you prefer, Good day Sir Eric Huffington ( of the Smythe Huffingtons, of course.)

  9. Eric:
    Mikel–
    Do you really have frescoes of Ba’al riding a bull above your altars?
    My remarks were intended to playfully mock your blatant, blatant, blatant misrepresentation of Calvinism.
    Your depiction of us was as far off as my depiction of you guys and your “witch-doctor” priests. (Absinthe is a highly intoxicating French drink, by the way.)

    Me:
    You really imagine I don’t know what absinthe is? You believe I didn’t understand you were being facetious albeit in a mocking manner?

    You see how easy it is to rile you guys up?

    Eric
    Your depiction of us was as far off as my depiction of you guys and your “witch-doctor” priests.
    At least make a good-faith stab at accuracy. This is not Catholic Propaganda 101.

    Me:
    No it isn’t. Calvinism being a child of Protestantism shares it morphing ability. There are all manner of variation and flavour to Calvinism. So it always so easy to raise the misrepresentation flag with it. And you never really identified how I misrepresented it.

    And I don’t believe you are really concerned with misrepresentation of Calvinism. What has gotten to you and your friends is my use of hyperbolic, high intensity language for describing it. I have deliberating refused to pull punches in my depiction of your believe system. That is what you are throwing hissy fits for.

    I started posting here because of you and Roberts constant unnatural depiction of Catholics. The fact that all the Catholics you have met are walking zombies and the Catholic Churches you have entered are cavernous tomb doesn’t suddenly give you omniscient powers to know what happens about Catholicism worldwide. Restrict you comment to what you have seen and have confirmed. Don’t make crazy comments like ‘the Catholic Church is a dead Church’. Don’t tell us your wife got sick in a Catholic Church you both once attended because of something about Mary.

    By the way a really nasty retort to that unthinking comment of yours instantly popped into my head when I first read that post of yours. But I refrained because I wouldn’t pass such comments about women generally.

    And a little advice here. Keep your family out of this blog. There are bullets, bombs and missiles, both of the smart and dumb varieties, flying all over the place. You don’t want them being made subject of the kind attacks that happen here, do you? Keep them out of this place.

    Don’t keep making allusions to syncretism in the third world when there is no way you can back it up. Don’t keep saying Catholics are idolaters. You do not possess the ability to see the workings of any man’s heart. And worship is a thing of the mind. Tell your Calvinist buddy Roberts that what Catholics believes and what he thinks Catholics believe are diametrically polar. And for Pete’s sake tell him to lay off the Pelosi thingy. It has now gotten so embarrassing.

    No blog site, especially not a Christian one should become an avenue for insulting anybody of a different believe. Disagree yes. But be respectful of what other people believe. And don’t ever use the ‘that is how Jesus or St. Paul spoke to the Pharisees and dissenters’ line. Jesus and St. Paul are authority figures in both our respective group. But we both disagree about the authority of the other. So claiming the authourity of Jesus as the reason for talking down on anybody is just plain lunacy.

    Don’t make generalized comments of any group based on your limited experience and knowledge. Don’t talk with a sneering or caustic tone. Don’t use this blog as an avenue for letting off steam.

    If you refrained from all these you will have a better chance of people listening to you. But if you keep antagonizing without measure, then you will have people who are ready to get of the porch and leap headlong into the mud with you guys.

    I have chosen to be as caustic with my comments as you guys by simply following your lead. So don’t turn around and complain about misrepresentation. If you can’t stand the heat the kitchen, turn out the flames.

    Eric:
    I was just tying up loose ends before I make myself scarce. I don’t recall making any accusations, but I’ll take your word for it. Accept my apologies.

    Me:
    Part of the riling you up agenda, though what I said actually did happen. But it is ancient stuff now.

    Eric:
    Have fun.

    Me:
    You too Eric. You too.

  10. Jim,

    But what’s the title of the book? 🙂

  11. Mikel,

    Tell your Calvinist buddy Roberts that what Catholics believes and what he thinks Catholics believe are diametrically polar. And for Pete’s sake tell him to lay off the Pelosi thingy. It has now gotten so embarrassing.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—when the RCs around here quit making the ridiculous argument that Protestants don’t have a way to make a principled distinction between theological truth and opinion, I’ll lay off the “Pelosi thingy.” If you aren’t going to grant Protestants the ability to discern what the Bible teaches and its divine authority, then I’m not going to grant you to read the teaching of your church and do the same. The failure to discipline is a manifestation that your reading of the church’s teaching is not the only tolerable one.

    If you can lay off the “Protestants have no principled way to distinguish,” then I can lay off pointing out that your infallible church is failing to provide a way to distinguish truth from opinion through its toleration of rank heretics in its midst.

  12. Jim,

    Like I said, I read all this in a book written by a Protestant who just wanted the truth to be known about the good indulgenced alms giving had done in civilizing and building Europe.

    The problem isn’t the “good” that was done with the money, the problem is the doctrine of indulgences itself. There were other ways to raise money than to put the fear of God of people about purgatory in order to raise money to pay off debts the papacy incurred. Yes, not all the things indulgences paid for were for good things.

    The problem is the idea that Christ didn’t fully pay the debt of sin but that you have to work some of it off yourself in purgatory.

  13. Robert you write:

    … when the RCs around here quit making the ridiculous argument that Protestants don’t have a way to make a principled distinction between theological truth and opinion …

    Robert, it is the principles on which Luther’s Protest is built that logically entail that it is impossible that those who hold those principles can make “principled distinction between theological truth and opinion.”

    The fact that you think that you can make that distinction only proves what is should be obvious to everyone, that in reality no one really believes in the principles of Protestantism.

    Luther’s sola scriptura proposition is that no man living in the post-Apostolic age can, under any conceivable circumstance, infallibly interpret the Protestant bible. Since you affirm the SS proposition, the only thing that you are willing to recognize as having any authority are your own private interpretations of the Protestant bible. If SS is true, it means that you know nothing but opinions based on your interpretation of the Protestant bible that may be, or may not be, correct. But of course you don’t actually believe that EVERYTHING that you know about Christianity are merely your opinions that might not be true, which is why you flip-flop all over the place when you try to defend your beliefs.

    if you aren’t going to grant Protestants the ability to discern what the Bible teaches and its divine authority, then I’m not going to grant you to read the teaching of your church and do the same.

    You are in no position to grant anything since you have no authority, and you have never rationally argued for your “belief” in sola scriptura. If you want to make the inane argument that Nancy Pelosi acting like a Protestant proves that Protestantism is correct, then you are only saying something about yourself – that you don’t know how to argue logically.

    If you can lay off the “Protestants have no principled way to distinguish,” then I can lay off pointing out that your infallible church is failing to provide a way to distinguish truth from opinion through its toleration of rank heretics in its midst.

    What is incredible to me is that Calvinists cannot see how incredibly lame this argument really is. You are not the only Calvinist that makes this argument either, because we have had to endure the likes of Darryl Hart making the same lame argument.

    I could do the same thing that you and Darryl do. Using the internet, I will have no problem turning up dirt on Calvinists; Presbyterian pastors that molest their own children, pastors that have affairs, etc. If I advanced the argument that the Presbyterian pastor that does NOT live up to the moral teachings of his Presbyterian sect is proof that the moral teachings of Presbyterianism is wrong, it would only prove one thing – that I am a dim-bulb bigot without the ability to reason. But I won’t make that argument because it is a stupid argument to make, and I wouldn’t embarrass myself by making it.

    Your Nancy Pelosi argument is lame for another reason. You don’t really know that she is a member in good standing in her Diocese. Nancy Pelosi is from the Diocese of San Francisco, and so am I. The Catholics that I know in that Diocese wonder if Nancy Pelosi is, in fact, a practicing Catholic in good standing with our bishop. We don’t know the answer to that question, and neither do you. What we know is that she had a private meeting with the Archbishop, but no one knows what was said in that private meeting. The fact that you think that you know that Nancy Pelosi is in good standing with her bishop is only more proof that you don’t know what you are talking about.

  14. Robert, you write:

    … the problem is the doctrine of indulgences itself …

    That is discussion that belongs on a different thread. But I am willing to bet $100 that you have no idea of what the doctrine of indulgences actually is, since you have proven time and again how ignorant you are of the actual doctrines taught by the Catholic Church.

    If you would actually listen to what the Catholics are trying to teach you, you might actually learn something. But your anti-Catholic bigotry is so intense, that you cannot hear what we say, because you believe that anything that a Catholic says must be wrong, and you, therefore, have an obligation to argue against it.

  15. Robert and Eric,

    Robert,
    Christ made superabundant satisfaction for a million worlds. When a person is Baptized all sin and temporal punishment is wiped out* when the person put’s on Christ.
    Post Baptismal sin requires penance only because God deigns to let us participate in our salvation rather than be mute spectators. He doesn’t have to as Christ’merits more than cover it.

    Indulgences and Purgatory are not scary. They are comforting. I often wonder how Protestants reach out beyond the grave to their loved ones who have died.

    * Perhaps you know of the case of the famous gangster, Dutch Schultz? He was a Jew whose real name was Arthur Flegenhiemer. He was gunned down in a restaurant and when the ambulance came to take him away, as he was dying, he said, ” Okay boys, time to get the priest” ( not a rabbi. ) He was Baptized as he lay dying. He had planned all along not to become a Catholic until death. ( His conversion was very troubling later to his pious Jewish mother ).
    The next day the anti-Catholic media had a field day. The Dutchman had cheated the electric chair, fate and the Devil. According to Catholic doctrine, the gangster had gone straight to heaven, no stop at Purgatory, as the Sacrament applies Christ’s Passion so completely. One day a hoodlum, the next day with the angels.
    Eric, the guy was crazy to have waited. What if the ambulance hadn’t got there in time?

  16. Jason L.,

    How I wish I could remember! I used to live in Portland, Oregon and as this predated the computer ( Yeah, I ain’t no kid ), I used to have 5 library cards to various Protestant and Catholic seminaries. I would drive an hour to Mt. Angel Abbey in Mt. Angel, Or. to check out books. I photocopied it from cover to cover but left everything in America years ago. There was so much more in the book than I can remember.
    Coincidentally, I mentioned the Mt.Angel Library on Kauffman’s blog one day. Turns out he had lived in Oregon too and hung out at their very famous (for its architecture and books ) library too.

  17. Mikel,

    Once again Masked Man, I don’t know who you and your Injun side kick are, but I sure like what I’m a hearin”.

  18. Mateo, You have got to be that Indian side kick. Great Post Tonto! I wish I had said it.

  19. Robert,

    I clicked on Google Images Cranach Crucifixion and see the work I told you about that Fr. Barron uses in his video was NOT by Cranach after all.
    It was by Matthias Grunwald.

    ( Wikepedia says he mad have had Lutheran sympathies but what does Wikapedia know? )

  20. Mateo has already responded most ably to you but let me just add my 50 cents

    Robert:
    If you aren’t going to grant Protestants the ability to discern what the Bible teaches and its divine authority, then I’m not going to grant you to read the teaching of your church and do the same. The failure to discipline is a manifestation that your reading of the church’s teaching is not the only tolerable one

    Me:
    Of course you won’t. You enjoy mud bath too much for that.

    There is no a book that can ever function solely as an authourity. I often hear people say the bible says so and so. It doesn’t. I have never come across a bible that talks. Try it. Ask your Bible a question and see what happens. You have to open the pages, read and use your supposedly depraved intellect to discern what it says.

    Humans understand this. That is why no country has only just a constitution. There is always a judicial system that is vested with powers to interpret the constitution. There is nothing magical about constitutions. They are written in human language and any literate person should be able to read and understand them. But no country allows that. Because it will simple lead to anarchy and chaos. Anarchy and chaos that should be very familiar to you as a ‘sola constituendum’ advocate.

    Robert:
    If you can lay off the “Protestants have no principled way to distinguish,” then I can lay off pointing out that your infallible church is failing to provide a way to distinguish truth from opinion through its toleration of rank heretics in its midst.

    Me:
    By stating that there are rank heretics within the ranks of Catholicism, you are actually admitting Catholics can distinguish between heresy and orthodoxy. It’s why you can keep pointing to examples of heretics within Catholicism and no Catholic seem to be able to respond. Simple because no one can identify heresy within Protestantism. It can’t be done. It is not possible. You are a country without a court system for interpreting its constitution. It’s all man for himself. So every time you point to Pelosi, it is actually a score for Catholicism.

    You solution is to systematically deny the tag Protestantism to any group whose application of Sola Scripture leads to conclusions that are at variance with yours (which is exactly what is supposed to happen and is exactly what does happen). You still haven’t made any attempt to explain why Pentecostals are not Protestant. You have not articulated what standard you use to cleave off the groups you deny Protestantism to. You just keep saying it.

    There can’t ever be dissenters within your group simply because your group never has boundaries. It constantly morphs. Take the federal vision crisis that has been broiling with you guys. Sooner or later a split will occur. Each group moves on, happy as a clam, both sides claiming purity. No heretics amongst its rank. But how is that possible? Where is the original impurity that caused the split? Somehow it has magically become a purity in one of the splits. Though both splits claim to be pure.

    A consequence of your elitist conduct I am sure you haven’t given a thought to is that of never accepting responsibility. You belong to the western stream of Christianity but carefully filter off the aspect of its history that appear unsavoury to you. You ascribe to sola scriptura but instantly distance yourself from Pentecostals and other Sola Scriptura adherents that you are uncomfortable with.

    It is conducts such as this that wipes you out from consideration. I need certainty so I know I am not following mere human opinion. You happily tell me you can’t provide that. You ascribe an unnatural purity to yourself that is unnecessary and untrue. You refuse to accept any form of responsibility, constantly distancing yourself from any supposed wrong doing, which is a sure sign you are unreliable and will sell me out at the first sign of trouble.

    You really should just close shop. You don’t have anything to offer.

  21. Jim–

    As the curate is told in one of George MacDonald’s novels (sometimes entitled “The Curate’s Awakening”) when the curate is looking for answers after a man he is witnessing to dies before converting:

    “If another minute would have done it, …he would have had it.”

    Bye for now.

  22. Luther’s sola scriptura proposition is that no man living in the post-Apostolic age can, under any conceivable circumstance, infallibly interpret the Protestant bible.

    Luther’s proposition is that the church CAN err, not that the church HAS erred. A church that is not automatically granted the gift of infallibility can properly interpret the Scripture and come to the assurance of faith. If it can’t, then you can’t interpret your church’s teaching and come to the assurance of faith either.

    Since you affirm the SS proposition, the only thing that you are willing to recognize as having any authority are your own private interpretations of the Protestant bible. If SS is true, it means that you know nothing but opinions based on your interpretation of the Protestant bible that may be, or may not be, correct. But of course you don’t actually believe that EVERYTHING that you know about Christianity are merely your opinions that might not be true, which is why you flip-flop all over the place when you try to defend your beliefs.

    Subjectively speaking, the only reason any of us submits to anything is because of our “private interpretation” of whatever authority we are following. Unless you are a mindless son of the church—and I’m beginning to wonder about some of you—you are doing nothing different than any Protestant is doing. Unless you want to tell me that you have direct, unmediated knowledge of God, all you have is your “opinions” of what Rome teaches. But of course you don’t actually believe that EVERYTHING that you know about Rome is merely your opinion that might not be true, which is why you flip-flop all over the place when you try to defend your beliefs.

    You are in no position to grant anything since you have no authority, and you have never rationally argued for your “belief” in sola scriptura. If you want to make the inane argument that Nancy Pelosi acting like a Protestant proves that Protestantism is correct, then you are only saying something about yourself – that you don’t know how to argue logically.

    The only inane argument is the one that pretends that Rome is so much clearer and has so much more authority because it attributes infallibility to itself even while tolerating heretics. The very fact that modern Rome allows Pelosi to “act like a Protestant” with no consequences just proves my point. No enforcement; no infallible authority. I can’t know that Pelosi is wrong except by my opinion of what the church says, which happens to be that Pelosi is against your current, ever-changing dogma on marriage and the family and when life begins, but you won’t let me trust my opinion, so I could be wrong.

    All that is to say is that you have no more certainty than I do. You just have more stuff that calls itself infallible that most RCs can freely reject without any fear of consequences.

    What is incredible to me is that Calvinists cannot see how incredibly lame this argument really is. You are not the only Calvinist that makes this argument either, because we have had to endure the likes of Darryl Hart making the same lame argument.

    I could do the same thing that you and Darryl do. Using the internet, I will have no problem turning up dirt on Calvinists; Presbyterian pastors that molest their own children, pastors that have affairs, etc. If I advanced the argument that the Presbyterian pastor that does NOT live up to the moral teachings of his Presbyterian sect is proof that the moral teachings of Presbyterianism is wrong, it would only prove one thing – that I am a dim-bulb bigot without the ability to reason. But I won’t make that argument because it is a stupid argument to make, and I wouldn’t embarrass myself by making it.

    It’s my experience that only dim-bulb bigots call others bigots. It’s kind of like faithful daughter of the Roman church Nancy Pelosi who would certainly label your views of abortion and homosexual marriage as arising from bigotry.

    The argument is NOT that moral failings of the church prove it is infallible. The argument is that the failure to discipline proves that Rome does not take its own teaching seriously, and if the infallible voice won’t take its own teaching seriously, there’s no reason to think it infallible. The argument is that Rome’s contradictory positions over the ages on such things as what it means to be in submission to the pope and how Protestants are related to the church show that Rome has erred dogmatically, and it has erred dogmatically often. Therefore it is fallible in dogma

    So just so we are clear, 99.99% of your denomination could be as open in their rebellion as Pelosi and it would have no bearing on the validity of your claim as long as Rome moved to discipline and excommunicate these people.

    The claim to infallibility was worthy of far more consideration during the Reformation when Rome did what it should have done if it is the infallible voice of God. You are part of a church that has given us so many more reasons to reject Rome’s claim as the Reformers had.

    Your Nancy Pelosi argument is lame for another reason. You don’t really know that she is a member in good standing in her Diocese. Nancy Pelosi is from the Diocese of San Francisco, and so am I. The Catholics that I know in that Diocese wonder if Nancy Pelosi is, in fact, a practicing Catholic in good standing with our bishop. We don’t know the answer to that question, and neither do you. What we know is that she had a private meeting with the Archbishop, but no one knows what was said in that private meeting. The fact that you think that you know that Nancy Pelosi is in good standing with her bishop is only more proof that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Which just goes to prove my point. Rome has provided no pastoral guidance for the people in that diocese at least. She’s been funneling money to make committing what appears to me as an outside observer to be a mortal sin easier for decades, and hasn’t been excommunicated. The best she’s gotten is a few tongue lashings. It’s one thing to move slowly. It’s another thing to say one thing and do something else. Because Rome does this, I cannot have any more assurance that my interpretation of Rome’s teaching on abortion is truer than hers.

    Remember—your argument is that Protestants can’t have a principled way to know what is divinely authoritative or not if the Bible alone is our final authority. You can’t know it either if the church is your final authority and your church is all talk and no action.

    The fact that you don’t know the answer to Pelosi shows that Rome doesn’t care, and if Rome doesn’t care, it’s teaching on abortion must be awfully insignificant in its eyes. You can hold contradictory positions and still be in good standing. That’s the mark of fallibility, not infallibility.

    That is discussion that belongs on a different thread. But I am willing to bet $100 that you have no idea of what the doctrine of indulgences actually is, since you have proven time and again how ignorant you are of the actual doctrines taught by the Catholic Church.

    If you would actually listen to what the Catholics are trying to teach you, you might actually learn something. But your anti-Catholic bigotry is so intense, that you cannot hear what we say, because you believe that anything that a Catholic says must be wrong, and you, therefore, have an obligation to argue against it.

    You must be one of the majority of RCs that vote for politicians who are pro-death since you use the exact same argument as the favorite RC political party in this country—the Democrats. Namely, that anyone who thinks you’re wrong must be a bigot.

    Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe the reason why Protestants may not always get what you guys are saying correctly is that there are about half a dozen ways that you all understand your doctrine. Let’s just consider indulgences, for example. Is it the warm bath before you come in the house (Kreeft)? Is it the sheer terror of pain and suffering promoted in the medieval church to sell more indulgences? Is it thousands, even millions of years long such that you can tell people exactly how much time they’re getting off in purgatory with each indulgence? (Very common view until very recently). Is it not a temporal thing at all (several recent thinkers). Nobody knows.

    About the only thing we can be sure of is that indulgences are related to purgatory, which is a place where we make temporal satisfaction for sin. But since I don’t have a direct line to the pope, and there are different ways of interpreting just what this means, all tolerated, all I have is my opinion on what the documents of your church say. Just as that’s all you have.

    But we’re glad that Rome is here to clear things up for us.

  23. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Mateo wrote:
    .
    Luther’s sola scriptura proposition is that no man living in the post-Apostolic age can, under any conceivable circumstance, infallibly interpret the Protestant bible.

    Luther’s proposition is that the church CAN err, not that the church HAS erred. A church that is not automatically granted the gift of infallibility can properly interpret the Scripture and come to the assurance of faith. If it can’t, then you can’t interpret your church’s teaching and come to the assurance of faith either.

    Of course we can. We can, because we Incarno-Sacramentally participate in Infallible Authority. Infallible Authority is not something exclusively external to us. It is not exclusively external to us, simply because we are Church.

    Now, if you would just be honest and consistent by claiming Infallibility through your personal, ineffable and invisible revelation/quickening, then it would be on like Donkey Kong.™ But if you refuse to do that and, even further, explicitly repudiate your claim to Infallible Authority, then the inherent superiority of Catholicism is easy to see.

    We claim Infallible Authority. You shirk Infallible Authority. That was easy.™

  24. Robert,

    You said,

    About the only thing we can be sure of is that indulgences are related to purgatory, which is a place where we make temporal satisfaction for sin. But since I don’t have a direct line to the pope, and there are different ways of interpreting just what this means, all tolerated, all I have is my opinion on what the documents of your church say. Just as that’s all you have.

    I’m going to give myself a shameless plug here because I’ve written precisely about this sort of thing in an extended blog article. You can find that here: http://hakalonhumas.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/texts-turns-and-the-tiber/

    Even if you did have a direct line into the papacy it wouldn’t solve your problems…

  25. Comment

  26. Wosbald,

    Now, if you would just be honest and consistent by claiming Infallibility through your personal, ineffable and invisible revelation/quickening, then it would be on like Donkey Kong.™ But if you refuse to do that and, even further, explicitly repudiate your claim to Infallible Authority, then the inherent superiority of Catholicism is easy to see.
    We claim Infallible Authority. You shirk Infallible Authority. That was easy.™

    The only one with infallible authority is God himself. When he speaks, it’s infallible. The question is always when and where he has spoken. Protestants say Scripture. Rome says God speaks infallibly whenever she speaks infallibly and who are you to question her.

    The church has divine authority insofar as its teachings reflect Scriptural teaching. When the church deliberates and comes to a conclusion that is consistent with biblical teaching, its conclusion has divine authority. The preached word of God is the word of God. The church does not need to have guaranteed infallibility for that to happen.

    How do you recognize when God has spoken? That’s a question we all have to answer. Using your fallible non-authority to submit to an infallible authority is absolutely no different than my fallible non-authority submitting to Scripture.

  27. Mikel,

    There is no a book that can ever function solely as an authourity. I often hear people say the bible says so and so.

    Well that’s basically right, which is why Protestants don’t believe the Bible is the sole authority. It’s the only authority that possesses the quality of infallibility.

    It doesn’t. I have never come across a bible that talks. Try it. Ask your Bible a question and see what happens. You have to open the pages, read and use your supposedly depraved intellect to discern what it says.

    Well, if you want to believe the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak through his Word, I guess that’s your prerogative.

    Humans understand this. That is why no country has only just a constitution. There is always a judicial system that is vested with powers to interpret the constitution. There is nothing magical about constitutions. They are written in human language and any literate person should be able to read and understand them. But no country allows that. Because it will simple lead to anarchy and chaos. Anarchy and chaos that should be very familiar to you as a ‘sola constituendum’ advocate.

    Hey, if you think when God spoke through the Apostles he was just confusing people, I guess that’s your prerogative.

    The analogy you guys keep making between the judicial system and the constitution of a country doesn’t help you. In this country, the Supreme Court cares very little to interpret the constitution according to the intent of the framers. It’s why we have abortion on demand and, unless God does something, will soon have homosexual marriage throughout the land. The judicial system has become its own authority, free of all constraints, and a very deep divide has opened up.

    Similarly, in Roman Catholicism, there is no attempt on the part of the Magisterium to interpret the Bible in light of the authors’ original intent, and there hasn’t been for quite some time. Sure, allegory isn’t embraced as overtly as it once was, but let’s not pretend that there is any honest attempt to ground a belief such as the Assumption of Mary in the New Testament. The Magisterium has become its own authority, free of all constraints. If Rome says something that any honest, good faith reading of it conflicts with the tradition, you must accept it if Rome says it is infallible.

    In theory, you are supposed to interpret Scripture within tradition, but nobody knows what tradition is. Rome tolerates all different views as long as it isn’t one that gives people the ability to think through these things for themselves and as long as it isn’t one that can hold the Magisterium accountable in any meaningful sense. The only reason why Rome holds together is that, quite frankly, no one cares what the Magisterium has to say except for a few conservatives who are trying their darndest to tell us that Pope Francis doesn’t believe all good atheists are going to heaven.

    By stating that there are rank heretics within the ranks of Catholicism, you are actually admitting Catholics can distinguish between heresy and orthodoxy. It’s why you can keep pointing to examples of heretics within Catholicism and no Catholic seem to be able to respond. Simple because no one can identify heresy within Protestantism. It can’t be done. It is not possible. You are a country without a court system for interpreting its constitution. It’s all man for himself. So every time you point to Pelosi, it is actually a score for Catholicism.

    Our church courts define heresy all the time, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if you want to like Rome to a country’s court system, that is fine by me, because at least in this country, the court can say whatever it wants and doesn’t have to care about what the intent of its founding documents are. Just like Rome.

    You solution is to systematically deny the tag Protestantism to any group whose application of Sola Scripture leads to conclusions that are at variance with yours (which is exactly what is supposed to happen and is exactly what does happen). You still haven’t made any attempt to explain why Pentecostals are not Protestant.

    Just as your solution is to systematically deny the tag faithful Roman Catholic to any Roman Catholic whose application of the tradition leads to conclusions that are at variance with yours even when that Roman Catholic is a fully communing member of your church. Do I need to say Nancy Pelosi again?

    In any case, I would say there are two main things that separate the loony Pentecostal fringe from Protestantism:

    1. The loony Pentecostal fringe doesn’t care about Christian tradition at all.
    2. The loony Pentecostal fringe is seeking direct encounters with God that are unmediated by His Word. In that respect, they are actually not significantly different than Roman Catholics who look for visions in the Eucharist, on the side of the road, at Lourdes, etc. etc.

    Non-loony Pentecostals do exist and attempt to be more grounded in Scripture than the wackjobs. Their theology is closer to true Protestantism, more of a mixture of Protestantism and certain Roman-leaning elements. Something similar is going on with Arminians because of their synergism.

    You have not articulated what standard you use to cleave off the groups you deny Protestantism to. You just keep saying it.
    There can’t ever be dissenters within your group simply because your group never has boundaries.

    You have not articulated what standard you give to separate the RC heretics from the faithful. You aren’t infallible, and if the church won’t kick out the people I keep referring to, why should I trust your view of them as heretics? You’re the one that says the layperson can’t accurate interpret divine truth without some group claiming guaranteed infallibility. When your group claiming guaranteed infallibility does nothing, you’re different how?

    It constantly morphs.

    Kind of like Rome has done over the ages, the clearest example being V2.

    Take the federal vision crisis that has been broiling with you guys. Sooner or later a split will occur. Each group moves on, happy as a clam, both sides claiming purity. No heretics amongst its rank. But how is that possible? Where is the original impurity that caused the split? Somehow it has magically become a purity in one of the splits. Though both splits claim to be pure.

    You’re acting as if this is a uniquely Protestant phenomenon, which makes me sad for your naïve view of church history. When the East and West split, each group moved on, happy as a clam, both sides claiming purity. After V1, the Old Catholic Church split from Rome, with each side moving on claiming to be pure.

    You have the same phenomenon as Protestants do. The only reason it takes you all longer is that Roman Catholicism (and especially EO) has become an ethnic religion in ways that Protestantism never has. To leave Rome is to leave one’s culture in a way that is not true of Protestantism. That makes it harder, but it also guarantees nominalism. When to be French is to be Roman Catholic or to be Italian is to be Roman Catholic, you’re in the graces of the church even if you never personally trust in Christ.

    A consequence of your elitist conduct I am sure you haven’t given a thought to is that of never accepting responsibility. You belong to the western stream of Christianity but carefully filter off the aspect of its history that appear unsavoury to you. You ascribe to sola scriptura but instantly distance yourself from Pentecostals and other Sola Scriptura adherents that you are uncomfortable with.

    Kind of like you do by relegating non-excommunicated Roman Catholic liberals as heretics because they appear unsavory to you. That’s incredibly elitist of you.

    It is conducts such as this that wipes you out from consideration. I need certainty so I know I am not following mere human opinion.

    Except you are following your mere subjective human opinion when you chose Rome.

    You happily tell me you can’t provide that.

    No, I happily tell you that the kind of objective infallibility that you are looking for is not what God has provided or what he has promised to provide. The demand for it and the whole CTC apologetic is a philosopher’s abstraction developed to give some pseudo-intellectual backing to the decision to become Roman Catholic. It’s an argument that unravels marvelously fast if you haven’t already surrendered your mind to the Vatican.

    You ascribe an unnatural purity to yourself that is unnecessary and untrue. You refuse to accept any form of responsibility, constantly distancing yourself from any supposed wrong doing, which is a sure sign you are unreliable and will sell me out at the first sign of trouble.

    I’m not even sure what this means. I freely admit where I have erred and where my Protestant forebears have erred. Rome doesn’t. There’s ALWAYS a caveat. Criticize Rome for covering up sex abuse, and Francis whines that the press has been unfair. Criticize the papacy’s taking up arms in the Crusades, and we get some mumbo-jumbo about just war theory that for some reason doesn’t apply even though the same infidels hold the same countries they took from professing Christians. Criticize Trent for the points at which it clearly misunderstood the Reformers, and you get some story about how things weren’t bad before the Reformation and Trent’s purpose wasn’t to deal with Protestantism anyway.

    You really should just close shop. You don’t have anything to offer.

    I don’t have a Roman Catholic epistemology and theory of certainty to offer that is true. I’m sad that you’ve been deceived into thinking such is demanded and that such even exists.

  28. Robert,

    “It’s why we have abortion on demand and, unless God does something, will soon have homosexual marriage throughout the land.”

    Robert, soon to be Presbyterian minister counseling married couples Robert, the reason we have these aberrations is because the world rejects Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae’s prophetic condemnation of contraception. Abortion and Gay marriage are just logical developments of man’s rebellion against the encyclical.

  29. Robert,

    Again you try your old canard,

    “Using your fallible non-authority to submit to an infallible authority is absolutely no different than my fallible non-authority submitting to Scripture.”

    I wish one of the other Catholics would address this silliness. I have addressed it so many times. Maybe it’s me. Maybe my style causes a blockage on your part. Maybe another person could get this through to you;
    Our reasoning powers, while not infallible in the strict theological sense are, are practically ( for practical purposes ) infallible given we are sober, sane, the 5 senses intact, etc.
    We make a well thought out and reasonable decision to trust a Church that, based on it’s founder, claims infallibility in the very strict sense.
    Protestants use their very nice and, for all practical purposes, infallible, reasoning powers to trust a book that 1. does not define what constitutes itself ( canon ), 2 does not claim to be the sole source of Revelation, 3 is of no use without an authority to interpret it, 4 points to outside authority, 5 CANNOT TALK as the living Magisterium can, etc. etc.

    Of course I believe in the Bible. Don’t accuse me of attacking it. But even if the Bible made the claims you say it makes, it would circular reasoning to believe the Bible because the Bible says to believe the Bible. Our “practically infallible” reasoning powers should reject that immediately.

    As for your constant smokescreen of Catholics being in the same quandary as you, reread Mikel’s suggestion that you try talking to the Bible.
    As for your snappy comeback about the Holy Spirit speaking through scripture, agreed. He speaks to/through the Church. The Bible says so.

  30. Mateo,

    Since you brought up the issue of the topic of the blog yesterday, so I will address this post on the Trinity to you directly and to our Protestant friends indirectly.

    Catholics are constantly being accused of making Mary the 4th member of the Trinity. This is absurd as, although we notice that the first revelation to mankind of the Trinity is given to Mary at the Annunciation, at no time was she transformed into a goddess by that revelation.

    Of course, in reality, she is far greater than any of the pagan goddesses could ever be. She is the greatest human being that has ever or will ever live. ( Jesus was not a human being. He is a divine being with a human nature, just to anticipate any rending of garments. )

    But I digress. Back to the Trinity. I have read several times on this blog how Jesus said his brothers, sisters, and mother can be anyone who hears the word and keeps it. ( Just as Mary did according to Elizabeth ).

    Let’s get something clear; When we are in a state of grace we are indwelt by the Holy Ghost and therefore by all three Persons. In Mary’s case however, her relationship to the Persons of the Blessed Trinity is different than ours not just in degree, but in kind.

    At Mary’s Fiat, the Second Person of the Trinity began to exist “ad extra” the Father in Mary’s womb. He is not in Mary by his power alone but by his Person.

    Now, read slowly here; Each of the three Persons IS the divine nature. 100%. The nature is not divided up in thirds between the Persons. Okay so far? Yes? ( Not really but let’s move on ).

    The Son is produced, generated, by the Father in Mary. The Father is in Mary producing the same Son as she is, Jesus.
    Moving right along gingerly, the Father and the Son produce by way of spiration ( a kiss ) the Holy Ghost in Mary’s womb. ( If you say you can fathom any of this you gotta be kidding because I sure don’t ).

    Because of her physical ( and spiritual as well of course ) blood tie with the Son, she is bound to the Father and the Holy Spirit, who exist 100% each in the same divine nature as the Person of her son does, Mary’s relationship with the Trinity defies our mind’s ability to grasp it. ( Robert! Here is where our reason can’t help us ).

    So, as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in the person of Mary, we should have no problem with how, when Mary visit’s the house of Elizabeth, the whole family, Zachary, Elizabeth and fetus John all receive an outpouring of the Spirit.

    Of course Mary is not the 4th member of the Trinity. She is a creature.

    BUT OH! WHAT A CREATURE!

  31. Protestants,

    Since I am always anticipating you to riot as the Pharisees and Sadducees did in Acts 23 at any mention of Mary, I hasten to quell the wailing and gnashing of teeth by telling you of the axiom of the saints; “De Maria Nunquam Satis”. They said that it is always safer, when speaking of Mary, to err by excess rather than defect. Why? Because to get it wrong on Mary is to get it wrong on Jesus.

  32. Robert, Eric, Ruberan,

    Please don’t accuse me of unnecessarily offending Protestant sensitivities by repeatedly bringing up what you find to be at best a non essential or, worse, an odious subject on a blog designed for Catholic/Reformed dialogue.
    For starters, for us, it’s not a non essential. Secondly you guys keep bringing it up as Robert did today in referencing the Assumption in a negative light.
    Finally, it seems that for some months on this blog the Reformed have assumed the default position by their promiscuous use of such terms as “idolatry, gag, worship, dry heaves, unbiblical, goddess, normal sex life, etc.” whenever Mary has been mentioned. Offense ( not against me Eric ) but against the Immaculate Heart has been made and I and every Catholic blogger should be making reparation by writing a little Hyperdulia just to balance the playing field and take back a blog designed by a Catholic, not for one side to bully and dominate by slurs and insults, but for both sides state their doctrinal positions in charity and respect.

  33. Robert you write:

    Luther’s proposition is that the church CAN err, not that the church HAS erred.

    Robert, this is just lame. Martin Luther claimed that the only source of infallible teaching for Christians in the post-Apostolic age are the words contained in the Protestant bible (the Protestant bible with almighty Martin’s canon, but let us forget that supreme act of fatuousness for now). How can Martin know that the Catholic Church can err, or ever has erred, unless almighty Martin can infallibly interpret his Protestant bible? Since Martin is a man that lived in the post-Apostolic age, Martin can’t know either that the church can err, or that it ever has erred – which is why what you are saying is so incredibly inane.

    A church that is not automatically granted the gift of infallibility can properly interpret the Scripture and come to the assurance of faith.

    A Protestant “church” is just a set of men and women that live at some time in the post-Apostolic age. The fact that you think that these post-Apostolic men and women can “properly interpret the Scripture” only proves what I said earlier – that you don’t really believe in the principles upon which Protestantism is built. A “proper interpretation” of the Protestant bible is by definition an infallible interpretation of the Protestant bible. The whole Deformation stands or falls on the principle that no man living in the post-Apostolic age can properly (infallibly) interpret the Protestant bible.

    Unless you want to tell me that you have direct, unmediated knowledge of God, all you have is your “opinions” of what Rome teaches.

    Sure, I can have opinions, and they can be wrong. But the living magisterium can correct my wrongheaded opinions. This is not unlike the situation of the men that St. Paul was personally teaching. They could have opinions too, even wrong opinions. But St. Paul could correct their mistaken opinions because he was a man that could listen to another man and give correction to erroneous opinions.

    Protestants have no one with any authority worth listening too, since it is a foundational principle of the Deformation that no man can offer anything more than his fallible opinion about what a passage from the Protestant bible actually means. The fact that no Protestant actually believes that their faith is built on mere opinions that could be utterly wrong only proves one thing – the irrationality of Protestantism.

    The very fact that modern Rome allows Pelosi to “act like a Protestant” with no consequences just proves my point.

    Robert, you are a windbag blowing hot gas. You don’t know what occurred between Nancy Pelosi and her bishop, and the fact that you think that you do is proof that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    It’s kind of like faithful daughter of the Roman church Nancy Pelosi who would certainly label your views of abortion and homosexual marriage as arising from bigotry.

    Why would I listen to Nancy Pelosi run her mouth like a “progressive” Protestant? Nancy Pelosi has no share in the teaching office of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. You know it, I know it, and so does everybody else.

    The argument is that the failure to discipline proves that Rome does not take its own teaching seriously, and if the infallible voice won’t take its own teaching seriously, there’s no reason to think it infallible.

    This is still an idiotic argument. Severe discipline or lax discipline proves nothing about whether or not a religion’s beliefs are correct. Jim Jones was as severe a disciplinarian as any Protestant that ever lived. His severe discipline proves nothing about the correctness of the doctrine taught at the People’s Temple, any more that John Calvin’s homicidal discipline in Geneva proves that Calvin taught orthodox doctrine.

    … 99.99% of your denomination could be as open in their rebellion as Pelosi …

    So you admit that you know that Pelosi is in open rebellion against what the Catholic Church teaches as her moral doctrine. How did YOU come to that knowledge of what the moral doctrine of the Catholic Church actually is? You are, as Mikel has said, tying yourself down with your own ropes!

    Rome has provided no pastoral guidance for the people in that diocese at least.

    Again, you prove that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    There are plenty of heretics as bad Pelosi, if not worse, in the Diocese of San Francisco. Frankly, I don’t know why you only harp on Nancy Pelosi. Gavin Newsom is supposedly a Catholic, and as Mayor of San Francisco, he was used his executive power to marry homosexuals. Are Gavin and Nancy in “good standing” with the current Archbishop of the Diocese of San Francisco? I don’t know, and neither do you.

    What I do know is that Archbishop Quinn let things get way out of hand in San Francisco, and Pope John Paul II removed Quinn as the Archbishop of San Francisco and replaced him with Bishop Levada (who later took over Cardinal Ratzinger’s position of Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith when Ratzinger became pope).

    Replacing Quinn with Levada is exactly how the Vatican provided pastoral guidance for the Diocese of San Francisco. Archbishop Levada helped write the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and he came to my parish to talk about the CCC. I got to ask him Bishop Levada questions that I had about the CCC and he gave me straight answers (unlike anything that I can get out of you). So you are totally wrong, the Vatican was aware of what was going on in San Francisco, and the Vatican took the correct steps to rectify what was wrong in San Francisco.

  34. Mateo,

    Especially as I am pretty sure it was Robert who said that while he was opposed to it, abortion is not a salvation issue but one of Christian liberty.

    How would the PCA deal with Pelosi? In the way the Lutherans dealt with Tiller?
    Why does Robert never mention Sebelius?

    ( Correct me if I am wrong Robert. maybe it was Eric ).

  35. Jim–

    A pro-life stance is an evangelical shibboleth. It is certainly NOT an issue of Christian liberty.

    It is hard to imagine the PCA HAVING a Pelosi. I have never met a pro-choice member of the PCA.

    That having been said, I do not believe the Evangelical Free Church excommunicated John Anderson (1980 third-party candidate for President) in spite of his public pro-choice stance.

    Tiller was a member in good standing at a Wichita ELCA congregation. The ELCA is neither confessional nor Protestant nor even Christian in any significant sense.

    Sebelius is not quite as high profile as Pelosi. Her archbishop asked her to voluntarily refrain from taking communion. As far as I know, she never complied. That’s not exactly effective church discipline, now, is it?

    Quit provoking me. I’m out a here.

  36. Eric,

    Christian Liberty was a phrase used on this blog. As for the PCA, if I am reading Wikipedia correctly, started in the 1970s. So, even if the PCA has ( and has always had ) a 100% no exceptions rule on abortion, it is still a branch or even schismatic spin off from the wider world wide Presbyterian Church that is certainly as liberal as Nancy Pelosi.

    Sibelius does not go to Mass anymore, if I am not mistaken.

  37. Eric, Robert,

    C’mon. Be honest. If you were to walk up to any Joes Sixpack on any street in the western hemisphere and as him what he knew about the Catholic Church he would probably scratch his head and say, “Well, lemme see. They eat fish on Friday, they say prayers to statues of Mary in Latin, their priests who they call “father” are always single, THEY ARE AGAINST ABORTION AND BIRTH CONTROL, they play Bingo and they like names like Rocco and Mick”.

    Now ask Joe about your church and see what you get.

    You said you don’t know any PCA folks who are not prolife. How would you know and would they be disfellowshipped post haste if they were?

  38. Eric, Not to take aim at your retreating backside as you are “out of here” as you often are after taking a pot shot, but, once again,

    If you or your church endorse the use of artificial means of birth control, even if only within the confines of marriage and only the non abortive kind,
    you should not claim you are “prolife”.

    You are one of the useful idiots of the abortion industry. The Catholic Church knows it. Planned Parenthood knows it. Only you are in blissful denial.

  39. Protestant Boys,

    Read ’em and weep!

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3011948/posts

    http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/clo/clo_10contraceptivrmind.html

    And then don’t be talkin’ no Nancy Pelosi nonsense no more til you get that beam outa your own eye.

  40. Eric/Robert, Here is the Supreme Court’s thinking;

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/supcourt/stories/blackmun030599.htm

    To save you from having to read the whole boring thing, here’s the gist of it;

    “…for nearly two decades people had arranged their lives based on the idea that abortion is available if contraception fails. There was no going back, they said…”

    Wherever contraception is allowed, legalized abortion follows. Always.

    The children of this world are more shrewd than the children of light!

  41. Mateo,

    You’re wrong about Luther. As I’ve implied before, Luther wasn’t a Calvinist. To be sure, Luther was both a son of the church as much as he was a Protestant, and were he to be brought back to life, he would be denouncing Rome once again and the pope as the very Antichrist.

    But his way of doing theology is different from much of confessional Protestantism. SS for Luther is not an axiomatic proposition from which a series of propositions are derived that then serve as a blueprint for the constructing of a theological system. Never was.

    Luther, as you would recall, did not learn his theology in what amounted to a controlled and hermetically-sealed environment.

    His experience wasn’t an *ivory* tower experience characterised by intellectual struggles and the need therefore to solve philosophical dilemmas that had beset theologians. Luther’s theology was forged in the crucible of his real-world, existential and death and life struggle with the word of God and conflict with the devil.

    Remember the Anfechtung? Well, this is coupled with his Turmerblenis (tower experience) where Luther’s “discovery” of the gospel of justification by faith alone took place in the concrete setting of the impact of the sacramental word of absolution *on* him (as a word that comes from the outside – rather than a mental abstraction). Judgment and justification — one and the same time. This is what is meant by it is scripture that interprets the interpreter. It is not we who internalise the words of scripture by giving mental assent but we are externalised into scripture, i.e. incorporated into the word of God (by faith). And thus so, we become part of the experience of scripture and as such suffer the experience of the cross.

    And Luther did not just appeal to scripture at the Diet of Worms; he appealed to his conscience also. Conscience (synteresis) for Luther signified the orientation of the person. This is more fundamental than “free will” since the synteresis is who *and* what the person is — consciousness and intuitiveness combined to constitute the synteresis. Based on his *experience* (of the word of God), Luther could not recant. His very *personal identity* (and not just his calling and vocation as a theologian) was at stake.

    Yet this is not what Luther meant by the Enlightenment understanding of private judgment and priesthood of all believers – Luther’s theology may have spawned the seeds of fundamentalism (conservative) and foundationalism liberal) but it clearly steered between the two extremes within Protestantism. Luther could *submit* to the authority of the church if only she could demonstrate its position not only from scripture, but also from tradition – of which the proclamation of the gospel is pre-eminent – and the experience of the cross and of faith (sola fide).

    How are doctrinal disputes resolved?

    By the faith of the church standing in apostolic succession. That is, by the proclamation of the gospel in word and sacraments of which the liturgy is the vehicle of transmission and reception. Nicea 1 was resolved precisely because of the *confession* of the church over-against the Semi-Arians and Arians. The authority of the political hierarchy was (only) added to reinforce and enforce the confession.

    Likewise, which came first? Confession or the papal pronouncements of ecclesial hierarchy? As it is, the papal pronouncements always come AFTER the confession of faith. This is not surprising since as Prima Sacramentum, Our Saviour’s words established the church by drawing the apostles to Himself. The teaching came later. As it is, Jesus Christ is the Logos of the verbum and not the Logos of the gnosis.

  42. Catholic brothers and sisters,

    Don’t you find it ironic that whilst you affirm and insist that the Church is able to participate in the work of Christ (what we Lutherans would call “gospel or evangelical infallibility”) — which pre-eminently, notably and characteristically is much more significant, crucial/ vital and critical for her life *and* witness in this world that she is at the same time unable to likewise participate in a juridical concept of infallibility (as embodied by the magisterium), i.e. that comes as a *fruit* of the same work of Christ?

    The Church may participate in the *”cause”* of her salvation but not in the *”effect”.* Bizarre, is it not since the “cause” and “effect” are so differentiated as to be separated?

  43. Jason L.,

    If I understand your question, the laity does in a sense participate in the charism of infallibility. It’s called the sensus fidelium.

    http://protectthepope.com/?p=9363

  44. Robert:
    As a student learning English language in secondary school, one of the more annoying aspect was something called summary making. A passage will be given and one is expected to not just summarize but give a topic heading to it. Used to really irritate me. Why didn’t the fellow who originally wrote the passage just simply give it a topic heading? Why did I have to do his work for him? Anyway I did my best and the rest is history.

    I am going to apply those skills I learnt and give a topic heading to your last post to me. Here goes:

    ROBERTS’S TU QUOQUE

    Yeah. ROBERT’S TU QUOQUE

    What the … ?

    Everything you wrote is just one lengthy list of ‘not just us, you too also’. You dug yourself a really nice deep mud hole and are really going for it with the wallowing.

    See the list below. Mind you it is not exhaustive:
    1. Just as your solution is to systematically deny the tag faithful Roman Catholic to …
    2. You have not articulated what standard you give to separate the RC heretics from the faithful (this is in response to my requesting you articulate why Pentecostals are not Protestants)
    3. Kind of like Rome has done over the ages
    4. You’re acting as if this is a uniquely Protestant phenomenon
    5. Kind of like you do by relegating non-excommunicated Roman Catholic liberals as heretics because they appear unsavory to you.
    6. Except you are following your mere subjective human opinion when you chose Rome (to the accusation that Protestants have no way of determining human opinion from divine)

    This is all you can come up with? A continuous list of tu quoque? One tu quoque introducing and flowing seamless into the next? Mein Gott!

    Mr. Jones built a nice little company employing about a 1,000 men. After a while Mr. Hank, one of the workers started questioning Mr. Jones’s management style, got quite a number of the staff on his side and finally left to start up another company where they plan to apply all their new management methods.

    Within days of setting up shop, Mr. Hank’s shining new company is torn up with bickering and almost immediately, break ups are occurring. When Mr. Jones inquired from Mr. Jack and his fellow dissenters what happened, all Mr. Hank kept saying was that Mr. Jones also has the same problem.

    Whaaaaat? The …?

    We built something. You guys came along and broke off a part. Now all you can come up with is that we are not better than you.

    What was the point of the reformation if all you can come up with is ‘we are clueless, but you are also clueless. We are all just a big happy clueless family’.

    You know that is what you have made Christianity into? One giant clueless arrangement. Tell me you have something better to offer that this lengthily long list of tu quoque.

    You are not offering anything better than the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church? You understand that? It is the whore of Babylon we are talking about here. The false Church? The military-economo-religious complex feeding fat on the blood of protestant and little babies. The Church under the anathema of Deuteronomy. Or is it Galatians?

    I’ll be damned.

    You are freely admitting you can’t and don’t offer anything better than her. You admit this without coercion, you are not under some form of duress?

    No way am I buying that. Must be you depraved intellect playing yo yo with you. I believe you do actually have something better than the evil Devil spawned empire of the Catholic Church can offer. You are just being coy and modest. And humble. Don’t be shy. I aint gonna bite ya. Just say it.

    Honestly what the heck?

    See I know I am not naturally a serious person, but … I have been really trying to act out of character with you. You just are not helping. At all.

  45. Jim,

    Yes, but then why the need for de jure infallibility aka papal infallibility?

    Protect the Pope commented that: “Pope Francis is clear that two of the fundamental criteria that guarantee the sensus fidelium are ‘the guidance of the Magisterium’ and ‘unfailing adherence to the faith transmitted’.” We reject the 1st criterion and re-affirm the 2nd. Our confession of faith as embodied in the creeds reflect the infallible proclamation of the gospel. Thus, our confession of faith is infallible in so far as it participates in the charism of infallibility bestowed by the Spirit on the exercise of the keys of the kingdom.

  46. SS for Luther never meant that scripture is sufficient for all things in life. Luther was the no. 1 violator of the typical Protestant understanding of sola scriptura when it came to *ethics.* Conservative Protestants who deride Luther’s approach moral issues as “situational ethics” and “theological liberalism.” When it comes to ethics, reason is on par with scripture and just as authoritative.

    And for Luther, there are times when warrant for the setting aside of the clear words of scripture is called for … so–called Lutheran casuistry ranging from divorce and re-marriage (by the way I’m sympathetic to the western catholic consensus on the issue but no longer rigidly so) to question of rebellion against the civil magistrate – where even the very words of Romans 11 are purposefully modified so as to suit the exigencies of the times.

    SS as an abstract theological principle for Luther? Not at all.

  47. Thus, yes, unlike previously, I now unhesitatingly and without ambiguity and without baulking affirm the infallibility of the creeds to the degree and to the extent it is a creedal/ confessional and liturgical response to the infallible proclamation of the word – as the recapitulation (and not as an addition) of the divine revelation of the law and the gospel – and grounded in the Church’s deposit of faith transmitted via apostolic succession.

  48. Jason L.,

    “… Luther was…a son of the church…, and were he to be brought back to life, he would be denouncing Rome once again and the pope as the very Antichrist.”

    Yes. Go on. I’m enjoying this.

    “Luther’s theology was forged in the crucible of his real-world, existential and death and life struggle with the word of God and conflict with the devil.”

    Conflict with the Devil? Indeed? I am aware that Luther had regular visitations ( hallucinations?) from Old Scratch. I’m sure you are familiar with the famous ink bottle incident but are you aware that on one occasion Luther looked out of his window and the Devil was standing across the street looking at him. Just to show his contempt for his great nemesis Luther, the Prince of Darkness turned around and shot Luther a moon.

    “Remember the Anfechtung? Well, this is coupled with his Turmerblenis (tower experience) where Luther’s “discovery” of the gospel of justification by faith alone took place in the concrete setting of the…”

    The “cloaca” Jason. It took place in the concrete setting of the monastery latrine. No white washing or candy coating it.

    Studying Luther the man sheds a light on how it just so happened that an obscure monk uncovered the true understanding of Paul after centuries of it being hidden. ( Tsk tsk ).

    A gospel that says no love or good works needed could only be concocted by a man who had no love and did no good works.

    Luther’s success was due to the “Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome”. One disillusioned votary who had frequented the Table Talks described them as ” a group of sycophants sitting around and fawning over Luther and who thought every time he broke wind it was a revelation from God”.

    I am glad you told me that I would not be stepping on your toes by speaking ill of the great heresiarch.

  49. Robert:
    Our church courts define heresy all the time, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if you want to like Rome to a country’s court system, that is fine by me, because at least in this country, the court can say whatever it wants and doesn’t have to care about what the intent of its founding documents are. Just like Rome.

    Me:
    And what Church may that be?

    You don’t know what I am talking about? Ok here goes. Heresy in Protestantism is a meaningless concept. It is a contradiction in terms. If I were to ask you to draw a triangle with 4 sides how soon would you expect to come up with it. Or to draw parallel lines that intersect, how quickly will you come up with one?

    I solemnly tell ye that thou and the man that seeketh to findeth heresy in Protestantism shalt both achieve their result at the same time. At the end of time.

    Robert:
    Just as your solution is to systematically deny the tag faithful Roman Catholic to any Roman Catholic whose application of the tradition leads to conclusions that are at variance with yours even when that Roman Catholic is a fully communing member of your church. Do I need to say Nancy Pelosi again?
    In any case, I would say there are two main things that separate the loony Pentecostal fringe from Protestantism:
    1. The loony Pentecostal fringe doesn’t care about Christian tradition at all.
    2. The loony Pentecostal fringe is seeking direct encounters with God that are unmediated by His Word. In that respect, they are actually not significantly different than Roman Catholics who look for visions in the Eucharist, on the side of the road, at Lourdes, etc. etc.
    Non-loony Pentecostals do exist and attempt to be more grounded in Scripture than the wackjobs. Their theology is closer to true Protestantism, more of a mixture of Protestantism and certain Roman-leaning elements. Something similar is going on with Arminians because of their synergism.

    Me:
    You can mention Joe Pelosi. You have my permission. He is a shining example of the ability of the Catholic Church to definitively determine orthodoxy from heresy. I can’t point to any equivalent from Protestantism. Trying to find one will be a cruel and unusual punishment.

    And guys. Hey guys. Guys watch this.

    THE LOONY PENTECOSTAL FRINGE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT CHRISTIAN TRADITION AT ALL.

    And earlier:

    IN THEORY, YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE WITHIN TRADITION, BUT NOBODY KNOWS WHAT TRADITION IS.

    Can anyone spot the asymmetrical reasoning within these two statement. Let me help. Tradition. Tradition. Tradition.

  50. Robert, ( and Jason l. too )

    I was wondering about how it was that Bach, a Lutheran, wrote Ave Maria after our discussion yesterday.

    http://www.canticanova.com/articles/ot/artc61.htm

    (Pssssst! He was a Catholic!)

  51. Robert?

    Did you really say this befuddling statement to Mikel?

    “The loony Pentecostal fringe … are actually not significantly different than Roman Catholics who look for visions in the Eucharist,… at Lourdes,…”

    But when I asked you about the miracles of Lourdes you demurred to give an opinion as you said you knew nothing about Lourdes. Now, to Mikel, you cast aspersions on God’s miracles at Lourdes. Make up your mind young man. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    ( You owe it to yourself to read up on Lourdes. )

  52. Mikel,

    Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are men of the cloth and, like the scandalous Papist in good standing with all of the popes, cardinals, angels and saints, Nancy Pelosi, are for choice.
    So is the great Anglican media darling, Desmond Tutu. ( I think all three might be for G marriage too ).

  53. Jim,

    I understand that as a Catholic, you’re bound to consider Luther as a heresiarch and I as a recalcitrant heretic and schismatic – who likes to play church and who thinks he’s a catholic but really isn’t one and whose claim should not be taken seriously at all.

    Just want to add that in relation to good works, Luther asked us not to put our trust in our good works. God does not need our good works but our neighbor does. Faith in God allows us to love our neighbour. This was how Luther interpreted “faith working through love” as per Galatians. Faith is the tree; love is the fruit. Faith is “be-ing;” love is “do-ing.”

  54. Robert:
    Well that’s basically right, which is why Protestants don’t believe the Bible is the sole authority. It’s the only authority that possesses the quality of infallibility.

    Me:
    How is a book an authourity? You care to explain that to me. And I don’t understand what you mean by the Bible is not the sole authourity, but the only infallible authourity.

    Robert:
    Well, if you want to believe the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak through his Word, I guess that’s your prerogative.

    Me:
    Here is what I said that prompted this response from you:

    “I often hear people say the bible says so and so. It doesn’t. I have never come across a bible that talks. Try it. Ask your Bible a question and see what happens. You have to open the pages, read and use your supposedly depraved intellect to discern what it says.”

    I said one thing, you responded to something else. Anyway let’s grant what you imply, how do I know when and if it’s the Holy Spirit that is making the Bible talk to me and not some text-to-voice software from google or Microsoft?

    Robert
    Hey, if you think when God spoke through the Apostles he was just confusing people, I guess that’s your prerogative.

    Me:
    You have gotten everything so mixed up, you don’t know when you are actually arguing against your position. It has gotten somewhat pathetic.

    God spoke through the Apostles is what you said. You seem to have forgotten to say ‘God wrote a book and handed it over to the Apostle’.

  55. “The loony Pentecostal fringe … are actually not significantly different than Roman Catholics who look for visions in the Eucharist,… at Lourdes,…”

    Yes, I agree completely with Robert here. Luther’s protest was a comprehensive protest at both the doctrine and practice of the Church. Roman mysticism and Pentecostalism are as you well know, Jim, a form of enthusiasm (Schwärmerei).

    This is why from the contemporary perspective, this only confirms for us Protestants the “subjectivism” of the Roman faith. The subjectivism of the mystic becomes a part of and enshrined in the tradition and spirituality of the Church, and by inclusion the sensus fidelium.

    However, how can mystical experiences be a part of the sensus fidelium when these do not fulfill the two criteria of ‘the guidance of the Magisterium’ and ‘unfailing adherence to the faith transmitted’? Mysticism by its very nature is a stream that *by-passes* the Magisterium and is not part of substance of the deposit of faith transmitted by apostolic succession. Historically, mysticism runs the danger of standing on the threshold of schism and heresy or at the minimum, schism.

    Yes, the Magisterium are known for their extreme caution and can be sceptical in instances. But for Magisterium to provide its approbation and confirmation of mystical experiences would seem to contradict its very claim to be the sole depository and locus of infallibility. After all, mysticism is none other than the unmediated experience and reception and enjoyment of divine revelation which by its very nature is infallible.

  56. Jim asks:How would the PCA deal with Pelosi?
    .
    Eric writes: It is hard to imagine the PCA HAVING a Pelosi. I have never met a pro-choice member of the PCA.

    At least some of the Presbyterians in Pelosi’s Congressional District vote for her because she holds the same stance on abortion as they do. Eric may have never met a member of the PCA that is pro-choice, but that must be because he has never been to the Bay Area and talked to the Presbyterians that live here. To be an electable politician around here, a Catholic must be a sell-out. Gavin and Nancy could never be elected if they were Catholics that stood up for the moral doctrines of the Catholic Church, which is why Gavin and Nancy are Catholics in name only (CINO). Neither Nancy or Gavin care a whit about what the Archbishop of the Diocese of San Francisco teaches on the issue of abortion and homosexual “marriage”. The reality is the Archbishop is constantly fighting lawsuits brought about by the City of San Francisco that wants to impose its pro-choice and gay agenda on the Catholic Church in San Francisco.

    If you want to see what the Protestant Church in rural America will look like in fifty years, come to San Francisco and get your eyes opened. Pro-choice is preached from the pulpit of Presbyterian churches in the Bay Area.

  57. A Muslim friend once asked me why Jesus selected Judas Iscariot to be one of the twelve Apostles when He knew Judas was going to betray Him. I answered that it was because it was to fulfil what had been written in the Old Testament. The Muslim then asked why it had to be that somebody close would betray Christ. Why couldn’t God have made it that Christ arrest would come from a less traumatic manner, i.e. any of the temple guides or the Roman soldiers having to arrest Him.

    I had never looked at it from that angle before. Indeed none of the other Apostles and early martyrs needed anybody to betray them. Why this elaborate plot? Why did the death of Jesus have to happen in such manner that needed Him having to select and put up with Judas Iscariot for such a long time, when Judas wasn’t just a thief, he was also a heretic who didn’t believe the teaching of Christ (John 6:64). All this happening with the full knowledge of Christ. What is Christ saying here?

    I say this because if Robert and his groups had been around at the time of Christ and they had been privy to Judas Iscariot’s conduct, they would have strongly accused Jesus of lack of authourity and dismissed whatever Christ said because He tolerated and refused to discipline a known thief and heretic within His rank.

  58. Jason L.,

    I don’t actually know the people you speak of. Eucharistic Adoration can be a heavenly delight and, on the other hand, it can be a real chore to stick to a Holy Hour every week that you have committed to. Devotion to the Eucharist is not enthusiasm or looking for signs and wonders. It is based in sound doctrine, not emotion. Try it sometime. Or better, ask Mother Theresa.

    If you doubt Lourdes, read the account of the Nazi doctor and Nobel prize winner Alex Carrel. Or the story of Emile Zola. My favorite is of the the British marine name Jack Traynor who was carried to Lourdes a rotting, incontinent, parapalegic with an oozing bullet hole in his head and one arm who came home and got a job tossing 200 lbs bags of coal.

    Speaking of Nazi doctors and the Eucharist, check out Theresa Neumann who lived on the Eucharist and nothing else. Don’t ask a Catholic to confirm it because we are biased.. Ask a Nazi. They studied her to learn her “tricks” so they could do them too.

  59. Jason L.,

    You have got beg, borrow or steal a video called Martin Luther and the Death of Charity by Art Sippo. You will be swimming the Tiber immediately.

  60. Robert,

    I know what the distinction says. What I’m saying is that the distinction is largely irrelevant. First because it’s not taught in Scripture, and second because if grace is sufficient, grace accomplishes the ends for which it is designed. If the purpose for sufficient grace is for people to be saved, then all people are saved. Otherwise, sufficient grace isn’t sufficient, some people aren’t saved and God’s tried his best but his best wasn’t good enough.

    If Grace is sufficient it is all the grace necessary for a creature to be saved. Sufficiency does not entail efficiency. The purpose of sufficient grace is to offer salvation to all men. This offer is borne out of love. The purpose of efficacious grace is for men to be saved by God infallibly. All those who reject Gods sufficient grace will parish not because “God tried His hardest and failed” but because they rejected an offer of salvation that was sufficient for them to comply with. They could have cooperated… but they never do. I hope that you will see that once this distinction is made the scriptures fall in line beautifully. The strongest proof texts from both the Armenian and Calvinist camps are affirmed and the totality of biblical data is beautifully reconciled in a way that only Aquinas could accomplish. I can affirm that Christ died for all (without doing mental jumping jacks to explain different “kinds of men”) and I can also read Romans 9 with a real sense of awe for Gods absolute sovereignty in salvation (without bringing in all the election of Nations hogwash).

    The fact is, at the end of the day, Thomas believes that no one is finally saved unless they get both sufficient grace and efficient grace.

    Thats true but I am not objecting to your view on the grounds that people should be saved without efficacious grace. You are side stepping my challenges like a politician by answering some other objection instead. The issue for me is not that efficacious grace is necessary. The issue is the denial of sufficient grace or an offer for salvation to all. The issue is a God who locks out the bulk of creation from His plan of salvation. The problem is this kind of God can not be aptly described as love (although MAYBE you could make a case for calling Him just)

    If a person will not be saved without efficient grace, the fact that God gives them sufficient grace doesn’t make things any better for you. God still creates people whom he knows will not believe unto final salvation unless he gives them efficient grace, and he doesn’t give them efficient grace. The tu quoque is not a fallacy because your answer isn’t an answer. It’s actually not much different than the Calvinist answer. No one will believe unless God gives people saving grace, and he doesn’t give everyone saving grace.

    It is not the final result that I am objecting to. Its how we arrive at that final result. When a baby is born that childs death is already a certainty, but HOW THEY GET THERE still matters. If a father murders a child it is not an apt defense to say “Well, at the end of the day the child was going to die someday anyways”. The difference between a father starving a child to death and a child refusing the food offered for reasons unknown is night and day.

    To give somebody the ability but not the willingness is not truly to give somebody the ability, or at least it is not really different than the Calvinist who says that human beings have the ability to trust in Christ but don’t have the will to exercise it, because that is we are actually saying.

    sufficient grace is sufficient to give the reprobate the willingness and also the ability to be saved. It deprives fallen man of neither. The failure is not in the wills inability to choose God but in the reprobates DECISION to reject grace.

    The fallacy here is assuming that human beings had nothing to do with Adam’s decision. You are as responsible for Adam’s decision as Adam was. When Adam ate that apple, you ate that apple. Adam did exactly what you would have done in that situation.

    Yes, and the reason you can say that is because you believe that God eternally decreed that Adam WOULD fall. In my view God eternally decreed to PERMIT Adam to fall. If your view is true than of course any creature would have made the same decision. God is forcing them to chose that way via divine decree.

    The fact that all men die even before they can commit an actual sin proves that God holds men guilty for Adam’s sin. The penalty for sin is death; if people aren’t held guilty for Adam’s sin, it is unjust for God to inflict the penalty upon them even though they haven’t committed an actual sin.

    But all men are not doomed to hell even before the commit an actual sin…. unless of course you are a calvinist…. which is exactly what we are arguing. Again, we are not discussing JUSTICE. I am letting the slide for now (even though i think your theology makes God the author of sin and totally unjust). For the sake of our disagreement we are focusing on LOVE. It is just for God to allow all men to die for the sin of Adam… but is it loving to allow all but a few be locked out of heaven for his decision? Is that a God of perfect love? I dont see how it fits

  61. Robert,

    If sufficient grace is not sufficient, why do we call it sufficient?

    If Christ did not for all men, but only for some, why does the Bible say “all” instead of “some”? Wasn’t there a Greek word for “some”?

    By the way, speaking of Lourdes, I think Edith Piaf may have had a miraculous cure there too.

  62. Robert,

    As God is complete within the Trinity, His glory ‘ad intra” is not diminished by our sin. We can never say God is under necessity to do anything outside the Trinity.

    God is under no obligation to punish sin. He had many options. He could have:
    1. Forgiven us outright with no injustice being done.
    2. Sent His Son ( or just a prophet or an angel ) to live in a palace and on a particular day, in a formal setting, decreed us forgiven.
    3. Pricked His finger or shed a single tear drop. That would have been sufficient to save a million worlds as it would have been infinite.
    4. Had His Son die on a cross and shed all of His blood for our salvation going beyond infinity.
    5. Accepted the finite but immense merits of Mary added to the infinite merits of
    His Son. Infinity + immensity =infinity.

    So why did God choose #5? Not to move Himself to love us. He already did that as God’s nature is Love. He did it to give us such abundant claims on grace.

    God did not need to be moved to love us. He can’t actually be moved. He already loved us and that is why He sent Jesus.
    Our sins don’t hurt God. They hurt His “accidental glory” which is our esteem for Him. He does not need our love or esteem. We need to love and esteem Him.

    When we see all the evils of the world, terrorism, divorce, crime, pettiness, seemingly meaningless suffering, etc. men become cynical and say, “If there is a God, how could he let this happen? He must not be good if He even exists” God’s glory “ad extra” is diminished.

    Remember, David’s sin had “given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme…” 2 Samuel 12:13-14. Satisfaction was called for to restore God’s name in front of men. The baby died.

    Every good and generous act performed by a Mother Theresa or Maximilian Kolbe makes satisfaction and restores our esteem for God.
    But the Maximilians and Theresas are finite. And they themselves are sinners incapable of restoring God’s glory sufficiently.

    To give us an infinite claims on grace, to restore God’s glory “ad extra” the Trinity, God could have done option 1,2,3, or 4 ( or more options I haven’t listed ). Jesus being God would have offered infinite satisfaction with, let’s say, the drop of blood shed at his Circumcision. But God chose to go beyond infinity and pour out every drop of blood in an agonizing death. And God chose to go beyond going beyond infinity by accepting the immense merits of sinless Mary in the price of our redemption, to give us such immeasurable claims on grace and to restore our esteem ( His accidental glory ).

    God wants all men to be saved. He is long suffering not willing that any should perish. His Sin died for all to give all men infinite claims on grace.

    Calvin’s miserly god parses out salvation sufficient to save just some. Calvin’s Jesus is punished in the stead of some. Nothing is overdone, nothing wasted, nothing flamboyant,nothing overly lavish, nothing spilt. The scales are balanced, punishment is exacted according to the letter of the law.
    No wonder Calvinism was the religion of Swiss and Dutch bankers, lawyers and business men like Ebeneazer Scrooge. ( Ever notice that Calvinists took OT names like Ebeneazer over NT names?)

    Any questions where I am getting this, check out Fr.Wm. Most

  63. Jim (and Kenneth),

    If sufficient grace is not sufficient, why do we call it sufficient?

    I don’t know why, and that is the point. It’s necessary, but its not sufficient. You NEED efficient grace to persevere unto final salvation. Unless you want to tell me that you don’t need efficient grace, in which case you basically affirm what I’ve said, and that is that from all appearances, RC soteriology looks like this —God gives some grace to you, and you need it, but you have the final controlling vote not only in damnation but also in salvation. You end up saving yourself with the help of God.

    If Christ did not for all men, but only for some, why does the Bible say “all” instead of “some”? Wasn’t there a Greek word for “some”?

    “All” is defined by the context. If the president came to visit my city, and 300,000 people live in my city, and 299,000 people go out to see him speak, I could say “all of the city” went out to see him even if 1,000 people stayed behind. The author has the right to use language as he will. Our responsibility is to understand it in the context, which is why so much RC soteriology just doesn’t work with the actual text of Scripture.

  64. Robert,

    So much of OUR soteriology doesn’t fit with scripture? Pshaw. A lot of arminean theology doesn’t mesh. A lot of Calvinism theology doesn’t mesh. But RC views on predestination (as espoused by both molina and thomas) make far better use of the biblical data.

    What man NEEDS to be saved is grace. God offers all grace. All. As in all men. If a politician visited a city and only a tiny remnant showed to hear the speech… It would be absurd to say “the whole city came out”. Sufficient grace is all that is needed to be saved. The reprobate reject sufficient grace and so are dammed. I don’t know why this is so difficult to grasp

  65. Robert,

    “It’s necessary, but its not sufficient.”

    This conflates sufficiency with efficacy.

    “You NEED efficient grace to persevere unto final salvation”

    Yes, but efficient grace is the fruit of sufficient grace. You seem to characterize it as two completely isolated graces. The dispute between Molinism and Thomism is what makes sufficient grace efficacious in the saved (or what makes it merely sufficient in the reprobate)- is it the difference in their willed response (M) or something intrinsic/qualitatively different in the grace itself (T). And has been pointed out repeatedly, even in Thomism the distinction between cannot and will not is maintained – even with intrinsically efficacious grace one maintains the ability to resist, even though he will not. Calvinism conflates the distinction.

    ” You end up saving yourself with the help of God.”

    And you end up earning heavenly rewards in progressive sanctification with the help of God so I guess you’ll strut around in your heavenly degree of glory with pride. This keeps presupposing that monocausalism is the only way that God can glorify himself (the point of the original post) – in that case you might as well endorse occasionalism and passive monergistic progressive sanctification as a red-line for orthodoxy to be consistent.

    “In any case, I would say there are two main things that separate the loony Pentecostal fringe from Protestantism:
    1. The loony Pentecostal fringe doesn’t care about Christian tradition at all.”

    So? They think it contradicts Scripture which Protestantism/SS commends them for holding as the sole infallible authority. Secondly, even if we grant that, who defines what definition/scope/elements of “Chrsitian tradition” counts as the ones the fringe need to regard and which ones don’t and need to be jettisoned?

    “2. The loony Pentecostal fringe is seeking direct encounters with God that are unmediated by His Word. ”

    Any cessationists can make the same argument against Protestant non-cessationists and charismatics. I know your bud Sproul video-presented at Macarthur’s strange fire conference, but that whole conference and associated arguments were far from uncontroversial amongst the Reformed.

    So you still have not demonstrated what makes loony pentecostals somehow non-Protestants or where they are violating SS/Protestant principles.

  66. Kenneth/James,

    First, Kenneth, you keep stating that Calvinists believe only a few people will be saved in the end. I don’t know where you get that.

    What man NEEDS to be saved is grace. God offers all grace. All. As in all men.

    God offers all people efficient grace? I guess then Thomas was lying when he said God loves all men in some ways but only some men in all ways. And then, of course, there’s Augustine… Most importantly, there’s Scripture. Romans 9 is quite clear that God doesn’t “offer” everyone grace. It’s the whole reason why Paul anticipates the objections that he does.

    But RC views on predestination (as espoused by both molina and thomas) make far better use of the biblical data.

    Molinism locates the reason for predestination unto salvation in God’s knowledge of who will believe. Thomas, as far as I can tell, does not. So the very fact that Rome allows for both shows how very unhelpful it is on important soteriological matters. In any case, Thomas is far better on this than Molina. It just took a more biblical thinker such as Calvin and even Luther to dispense with the distinction that makes no difference.

    James,

    This keeps presupposing that monocausalism is the only way that God can glorify himself (the point of the original post) – in that case you might as well endorse occasionalism and passive monergistic progressive sanctification as a red-line for orthodoxy to be consistent.

    You can keep saying such things all you want, but since we here on the other side of the Tiber start with Scripture and not with man’s philosophy, it isn’t convincing. Monocausal regeneration and no-cooperation-in-justification is what the Bible teaches, which is why we affirm it.

    And has been pointed out repeatedly, even in Thomism the distinction between cannot and will not is maintained – even with intrinsically efficacious grace one maintains the ability to resist, even though he will not. Calvinism conflates the distinction.

    No, Calvinism doesn’t. Plenty of Calvinistic thinkers affirm that the warnings about falling away for the elect are real in the sense that they could fall away but that they are never realized in that God makes sure that they don’t ever will to fall away.

    It’s kind of fun watching you guys squirm and try to explain to us that Molinism and Thomism really aren’t that different. That’s the problem when you have an infallible magisterium allowing two contradictory explanations of grace to exist side by side.

    So? They think it contradicts Scripture which Protestantism/SS commends them for holding as the sole infallible authority.

    It’s actually MORE the case that they have no idea that there is tradition or that the church existed before the Azusa street revival in the earliest 20th century.

    Secondly, even if we grant that, who defines what definition/scope/elements of “Chrsitian tradition” counts as the ones the fringe need to regard and which ones don’t and need to be jettisoned?

    I’m still trying to get that answer from Roman Catholics. I’ve yet to see an enumeration of what counts as tradition and what doesn’t. That’s because for Rome there is no principled answer to the question other than “Whatever the Magisterium’s need of the moment is.”

    Any cessationists can make the same argument against Protestant non-cessationists and charismatics. I know your bud Sproul video-presented at Macarthur’s strange fire conference, but that whole conference and associated arguments were far from uncontroversial amongst the Reformed.

    Of course, if you actually knew my “bud” Sproul, you’d also know that although he is a cessationist, he makes distinctions between Pentecostals who attempt to judge their experience by the Word and people like Benny Hinn who have visions of nine members of the Trinity and Adam living on the moon and spends hours in the morning talking to the Spirit with no Bible in hand. But as long as its convenient for you to lump all non-RC and non-EO together as Protestants, I guess that’s okay. Speaking of which…

    So you still have not demonstrated what makes loony pentecostals somehow non-Protestants or where they are violating SS/Protestant principles.

    You still have not demonstrated what makes the ethics of someone like Nancy Pelosi somehow non-RC or where she is violating RC principles.

    We can keep going at this all night. There are legitimate differences we can talk about, but the “principled distinction” and “God is a moral monster in your system” aren’t. You and I are in the same boat my friends.

  67. Jason Loh, you write:

    As I’ve implied before, Luther wasn’t a Calvinist.

    No kidding, JL. Luther lived from 1483 to 1546, and Calvin lived from 1509 to 1564. Calvin published his Institutes in 1536, when Luther was 53 years old. Calvin was a follower of Luther, in that both men were Catholics that became the equivalent of rebellious “do your own thing” hippies of sixteenth century.

    SS for Luther is not an axiomatic proposition from which a series of propositions are derived that then serve as a blueprint for the constructing of a theological system.

    SS is definable as an axiomatic proposition from which corollaries can be defined. Martin believed that he so special that he no longer had to obey the commandment of Christ found in Matthew 18:15-20, the commandment of Christ where he teaches that those who would be his disciples must listen to the church that he personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication.

    Instead of listening to the church that Christ personally founded, Martin, the sixteenth century hippy, did his own thing. He invented doctrines that no one had ever heard of, and lived his life as a hippy rebel that would listen to no one. The axiom that sums up sola scriptura is this: Do what thou wilt, as long as you feel like you are obeying your conscience. Interpret the Protestant bible for yourself in strange and highly eccentric ways if you wish, and listen to no church but the church of me, myself, and I. And then claim that you can do this because no man living in the post-Apostolic age can, under any conceivable circumstance, infallibly interpret the bible.

    It was Calvin the followed Luther into sixteenth century hippydom. Calvin did his own thing and also interpreted the bible in strange and eccentric ways. Of course neither Luther nor Calvin interpreted the same bible in the same way, but who cares? The essence of the hippy lifestyle is “do your own thing.” The hippy lifestyle has give the world the gift of thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations each doing their own thing.

    Too bad South Park wasn’t around in the sixteenth century:
    http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s09e02-die-hippie-die

  68. I will respond to Roberts comment point by point but really quick…. Why is everyone referring to pentecostal as a “looney fringe”. Last I checked they have been the fastest growing denomination in the Protestant world. Their numbers far surpass the reformed. If anything it is the reformed camp who are the looney unloving lunatic fringe. Pentecostals are by and large holy and beautiful people who are passionate for the Lord. Their tradition is just as novel as Luther and Calvin’s so I don’t see any reason to distinguish

  69. Robert,
    “God offers all people efficient grace? I guess then Thomas was lying when he said God loves all men in some ways but only some men in all ways.”

    God offers all men sufficient grace. Sufficient means sufficient. It does not mean”merely apparently sufficient but by God’s hidden decree really inefficient”.

    I believe we have a failure to communicate as I have told you this about a half dozen times.
    I seem to recall you saying that God loves you as much as He loves Mary, His Mother. Perhaps this is your problem. You don’t allow God to love in degrees of election. He loves Jacob and hates Esau with nothing in between, right? You wouldn’t say that as the writer of that passage did not have comparatives or superlatives to work with, he used opposite forms, would you? God either loves with one degree of love or He hates, right?

  70. Robert,

    So, first century Greek did not have words for “some”, “many”, “most”?

    Yes or no.

  71. Jason L,

    .”Our confession of faith as embodied in the creeds reflect the infallible proclamation of the gospel. Thus, our confession of faith is infallible in so far as it participates in the charism of infallibility bestowed by the Spirit on the exercise of the keys of the kingdom.”

    Why would a creed that came out of Nicaea be anymore infallible than a statement from Trent?
    To whom were those keys given?

  72. Jason L.

    The Extra Ordinary and Ordinary Magisteriums act more to set up parameters that can’t be crossed rather than to make thinks black and white unless a real problem arises. Limbo might be an example of what you are talking about,

  73. Robert,

    “You can keep saying such things all you want, but since we here on the other side of the Tiber start with Scripture and not with man’s philosophy, it isn’t convincing.”

    I don’t know why you think RCism starts with man’s philosophy. You’re kidding yourself if you think the Reformers and their heirs interpreted Scripture with no philosophical baggage. You think you’re approaching it tabula rasa? What does man’s philosophy have to do with asking you to be consistent in your criticisms – unless you just hold Scripture teaches inconsistencies and say pointing out such is man’s philosophy. But since your view of noetic effects of sin precludes you from ever being able to trust your interpretation of Scripture, I’m not sure why you’re so confident in your “starting with Scripture.”

    “Monocausal regeneration and no-cooperation-in-justification is what the Bible teaches, which is why we affirm it.”

    Condemnation being all due to man, salvation being all due to God is what the Bible teaches, which is why RCism (and both molinism and thomism) affirm it.

    “No, Calvinism doesn’t. Plenty of Calvinistic thinkers affirm that the warnings about falling away for the elect are real in the sense that they could fall away but that they are never realized in that God makes sure that they don’t ever will to fall away.”

    So is grace resistible or not? If it isn’t, there’s no distinction. If it is, you should have no problem with Thomism’s (and RCism’s) affirmation of sufficient grace.

    “That’s the problem when you have an infallible magisterium allowing two contradictory explanations of grace to exist side by side.”

    If they were contradictory, they wouldn’t both hold to central dogmas of grace – namely that sufficient grace is offered to all, condemnation is due to resistance, and that the will can only cooperate under the influence and preparation of grace.

    “It’s actually MORE the case that they have no idea that there is tradition or that the church existed before the Azusa street revival in the earliest 20th century.”

    Irrelevant to the point. Tradition, however you want to define it, is not the final ultimate infallible authority. So Pentecostals are not being inconsistent according to Protestant/SS principles.

    “I’m still trying to get that answer from Roman Catholics. I’ve yet to see an enumeration of what counts as tradition and what doesn’t. That’s because for Rome there is no principled answer to the question other than “Whatever the Magisterium’s need of the moment is.””

    Will you ever give a positive defense for your position? But this doesn’t even help you even if we grant it – let’s agree to your distorted caricature for argument’s sake. That answers the question I posed – the Magisterium decides it. That’s the who. Now can you answer the question? You might say, whatever conforms to Scripture – which is exactly what the pentecostals will say. So again we see they are not violating Protestantism/SS principles.

    “you still have not demonstrated what makes the ethics of someone like Nancy Pelosi somehow non-RC or where she is violating RC principles.”

    Another evasion instead of actually giving a positive defense which is like pulling teeth. But we press on anyways. As you said
    “So just so we are clear, 99.99% of your denomination could be as open in their rebellion as Pelosi”
    “In principle, I don’t necessarily have a problem with distinguishing dogma from discipline. Something can be true whether or not discipline is enforced”
    “Your church says abortion is wrong”

    That you keep using people “in rebellion” just shows the disingenuousness of your claims. You know what the church in communion with the bishop of Rome teaches. You know Pelosi is “rebelling” against that. That’s the violation.

    “There are legitimate differences we can talk about”

    Yeah, there are also legitimate questions you can actually answer instead of running around looking for (invalid and/or irrelevant) tu quoques. Hint, if RCism is wrong, Protestantism doesn’t win by default – it has to have some compelling and persuasive reasons. These questions about pentecostalism are not from Mars – they are quite common-sense questions any neutral inquirer familiar with Christianity might ask when investigating the various bodies.

    “You and I are in the same boat my friends.”

    This has been rehashed ad nauseum. You have freely admitted Rome makes different claims than Protestantism. You have freely admitted Rome claims apostolic authority but think it’s wrong/invalid because it doesn’t also claim inspiration. You have freely admitted infallible dogma Rome has defined. All 3 show it’s not the same boat.

  74. Jason L.,

    Was Calvin a Lutheran? Why not?

  75. Jason L.,

    Below are the links to a couple of books online dealing with indulgences. The first is about the bridges of Europe ( including London Bridge ) being constructed with alms money and the second link is about poor relief being funded by indulgenced alms. Neither of them are the book I mentioned but they verify that indulgences were not the scandalous rip off Protestants think they were.

    http://elfinspell.com/AndrewsBridges.html

    http://books.google.pt/books?id=J-tUx_OymVIC&pg=PA57&lpg=PA57&dq=indulgences,alms,built+bridges+and+roads&source=bl&ots=VpNf_daBgo&sig=c8RH73j7AxgH8i3ojxYddpYcFxA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tp14U5yqOaqd0AWLuYDADQ&ved=0CEEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=indulgences%2Calms%2Cbuilt%20bridges%20and%20roads&f=false

  76. Jason L.,

    As Robert said a few days ago that he didn’t object to the good woks done but he objected to indulgences in principle, I should probably say few works in defense.

    As a card carrying Lutheran you will be pleased to know that Luther’s 95 Theses
    actually endorsed purgatory and indulgences contrary to the popular myth. ( Some say the entire 95 Theses incident was a myth, a legend, propaganda.)

    “26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls, not by the power of the keys, but by way of intercession.”

    He also affirms the power of indulgences:
    64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

    All mortal sin carries an eternal punishment for turning away from God and a temporal one to for turning toward a finite good over the Creator of that good.

    According to the Bible ,after forgiveness of the eternal punishment is granted, God exacts a temporal punishment. We see this in the case of David and Miriam who, although forgiven, still had to suffer a penalty. ( David’s baby died and Miriam remained a leper for a time ).

    We also see in both testaments of the Bible that God gives blessing and/or remits punishment to one person based on the merits of another. (God would not have punished Sodom and Gomorrah if a few good me had lived there. The man lowered though the roof received blessings, both eternal and temporal ( sins forgiven and paralysis healed ) because of the faith of the four men who lowered him.

    We also know that blessings can be given and punishment withheld due to the merits of dead saints, ( for the sake of the fathers/Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or the dead man revived after coming in contact with the bones of Eliseus).

    Nothing unclean can go before God. Most just men die not yet fully sanctified or still owing some temporal debt. So there must be a post death time or place of purification.

    We know that just souls do not always go directly to heaven ( Where was Dorcas’ soul ?).

    And finally, we see in Maccabees that the OT Church had an ecclessial/ecclesiastical system for assisting souls. The NT Church would not be any less than its OT type and shadow.

    The merits of Christ on Calvary are infinite. Add to this infinite treasury the immeasurable satisfaction paid for sin by Mary ( who had no sin of her own ) and the superogatory merits of the saints. It is upon this Treasury of Merit that the Pope draws when he grants an indulgence.

    There is a lot more to be said, but that should help somewhat.

  77. @Robert:

    I don’t see how this makes God anything other than an arbitrary being.

    Further, I believe God freely forgives sinners, but he does so in a way that is consistent with his character. If justice is not owed, its not justice, so I don’t see how this view makes God anything other than unjust or at least one who reveals a law that has no grounding in his own character and could, if he so desired, let people off scot-free. To be honest, I don’t see how this differs from an Islamic understanding of God’s character, but we’ve been down this road before.

    The way one avoids being arbitrary is that one has principled reasons for one’s beliefs rather than being ad hoc. The Islamic understanding of God fails because it is ad hoc, and so does yours.

    The principle that you are missing is that God never creates a rational being as necessarily committed to evil. The underlying theological principle is that God is not evil, and specifically, God is not the author of evil. So when you say that God is the deterministic cause of evil but is not Himself evil, you are making an ad hoc appeal to mystery.

    We have specific cases in the creation of the angels Satan and Michael and the creation of Adam where God permitted the relationship of free, rational beings to depend on their choice of an opportunity He had graciously given them. It had nothing to do with anything inherent in their nature but with His gracious provision of a choice. Now, how God did this is a mystery. This is because we do not know how an omnipotent and sovereign God can give people a free choice. But because we know He is not the author of evil, we affirm that He causes some things in a non-deterministic way without violating His own sovereignty. That is a legitimate appeal to mystery, because we can legitimately say that God’s causal power is inscrutable to us as a general matter. It also appeals to God’s character in a principled way and not an ad hoc way, i.e., it does not make a claim that “that’s just the way the Bible says it is,” but analyzes the underlying reasons for God acting in the way He does by creating rational beings. And note that it doesn’t arbitrarily change after the Fall, which is an indication that it is truly a principle: a proposition that is always universally true.

    An illegitimate appeal to mystery would say that we do understand God’s causal power, but we have to make some specific exception to save our pet theological theory (like God not being the author of evil). Calvin’s appeal to secondary causation and his assertion that God can prescind from the evil, for example, is an ad hoc appeal to mystery. He has no principled reason for why God’s sovereignty can be violated in the case of some specific evil acts but not others.

    In fact, as a matter of history, Calvin’s explanations here track exactly with the Aristotelian views taken from the Islamic scholars. In other words, the reason that Calvin thinks it is OK to make ad hoc appeals to God’s sovereignty is exactly because of the (erroneous) ideas of Islamic theologians that were inherited in the medieval times, from whom Calvin took his idea of God’s will. Essentially, Calvin’s philosophical approach, which is informing his reading of Scripture, was unredeemed Islamic philosophy. Calvinism (or as I’ve sometimes called it, CalvinIslam) is exactly what Christianity looks like if you take the Muslim view of divine will and revelation and apply it to Christian faith. And this makes total sense given who Calvin was: a secular humanist, not a theologian or a priest.

    That’s why you can’t see the principled differences between your position and Thomism, Molinism, or Catholic theory generally. You aren’t making the principled distinctions in the first place, and you implicitly admit this problem when you say “[i]t just took a more biblical thinker such as Calvin and even Luther to dispense with the distinction that makes no difference.” A distinction that makes no difference is not a principled distinction, and when you don’t even recognize the principles at work in the Catholic view that make the distinction, then you do not even understand the Catholic view, much less provide any rebuttal to it.

    This isn’t about God owing anyone anything. The “Calvinist God is a moral monster” argument has nothing to do with injustice, as if God could even possibly owe anyone anything. It has to do with benevolence, so that God is not responsible for rebellion against Him. If God were to create people in rebellion against Him without any opportunity to turn to His side, then He would be the architect of the rebellion Himself, the author of evil, just as He would have been ultimately responsible for Satan’s rebellion if Satan had not have an initial opportunity to make a free choice. Even if God gave people knowledge of Him in nature, it would still not be the same as giving people at least one free opportunity to turn toward or away from Him, just as He does with all rational beings.

    I’ll give you an example of where this kind of unprincipled thinking takes you. You said:

    The fallacy here is assuming that human beings had nothing to do with Adam’s decision. You are as responsible for Adam’s decision as Adam was. When Adam ate that apple, you ate that apple. Adam did exactly what you would have done in that situation.

    The fact that all men die even before they can commit an actual sin proves that God holds men guilty for Adam’s sin. The penalty for sin is death; if people aren’t held guilty for Adam’s sin, it is unjust for God to inflict the penalty upon them even though they haven’t committed an actual sin.

    That’s an example of completely unprincipled thinking. There is no way, literally none at all, that there can be such a thing as backward causation for human agents. That would be a completely ad hoc appeal to something that can’t possibly happen in any other situation. So, no, we didn’t eat the apple. There’s a certain tradition trying to explain a bad translation of “in that all sinned” as “in whom all sinned,” and even that tradition never maintained that we literally sinned in Adam, but that we were somehow made collectively “responsible” for Adam’s sin. In any case, it is clearly analogous and not literal.

    I’ll refer you back to the point Fairbairn made about Athanasius. If death were simply a penalty, then the solution to death is easy: just forgive. The problem with death is it’s not that simple. We’re treated as sinners even if we don’t actually sin; the penalty comes on us as Adam’s children regardless of whether we sin or not. Again, God doesn’t owe us anything, and death is not a punishment from God. Rather, He gave us the Law as an analogy for the situation; just as we execute criminals who sin (the soul that sins shall die), so did Adam’s sin bring death to humanity collectively. Death is not literally a penalty, which would make no sense (except in some ad hoc system in which it needed to make sense).

    The best example of why this is senseless is that Christ Himself died, and Christ cannot possibly be a sinner. So if death to Adam’s progeny were an actual penalty, then Christ could not have suffered it. The inevitable conclusion, if one is being principled, is that death inherited from Adam is simply not a penalty for individual sin. But the ad hoc way is to say that Christ must be punished for something, even though that is impossible in principle. So again, Calvin makes an ad hoc appeal to God’s will, that God must somehow have imputed our sin or viewed Christ federally as in us, even though that makes no sense in principle.

    We can move on to revelation and how that is equally unprincipled, but this case really suffices. Calvin makes appeal to things like “secondary causes” and the like, but there are no underlying principles, so he violates them just as freely when it comes to what he perceives as the “revealed divine will.” Effectively, Calvin’s argument is an extended argument against principled interpretation of things like sin, the Fall, and redemption, exactly in the form that Islamic philosophical arguments took concerning God’s will.

    And yes, we’ve been around on this numerous times, but the problem is that you don’t even see what the principles are. You made some progress on the atonement, but you’re getting nowhere on your understanding of what principled thinking about Biblical revelation looks like. The point of that thinking is that God isn’t just revealing what He did, but the underlying principles on which He operates, why He did what He did. We should be able to examine the Biblical revelation and understand these things, not just “God said it,” but understanding why God said it. That’s why I accuse this view of fundamentalism; if you don’t understand the “why,” then you won’t even what the “what” right.

    The entire problem with “divide and dismiss” is that it breaks up these underlying principles and creates a fractured, unprincipled perspective on the Bible, splitting up things like justification and sanctification when the underlying principle groups them together and ignoring principle distinctions when they matter. It’s the ad hoc view of the divine will characteristic of Islam, not the Christian view of God Who is intelligible and makes all things intelligible.

    Agree or not, until you get your head around this way of looking at divine revelation in a principled way, you are simply going to be wasting your time with Catholics. We will think that you are oblivious, so you’ll have no chance of convincing any Catholic who understands His faith. And you won’t be in any position to see where the arguments are going to cut against your position, meaning you won’t be able to convince people who don’t start off agreeing with you and who start looking honestly at Catholicism. Even given your religious preference, this is an extremely bad strategy.

  78. Jason L.,

    By the way, as a fan of Augustine, you would know that his mother, Monica, told him before she died that she didn’t care where he buried her body. She just wanted him to say Masses for her soul.

    I don’t want to distract Robert above from the shellacking he is being administered, but a couple of weeks ago he was demanding a Tradition going back to the beginning. Praying for the dead is a major one.

    Maccabees is canonical. Even if it weren’t, it still shows the practice of the Jews at the time of Christ. The onus is on you Jason, to explain how you justify Luther’s innovative break with the Catholics, the Orthodox, and the ancient churches of the East.

  79. Robert, Jason L.,

    Maybe I will interrupt Robert and any of the Protestant guys involved in the argument a week ago about which culture was more superior, Catholic or Protestant.
    With the Reformation in England and the dissolution of the monasteries came the end of indulgences and alms giving. This meant disaster for the poor.
    For centuries in a Europe where feudal lords were occupied only with their own interests, it was the Church that provided for the poor, cared for plague victims, buried the dead,built the bridges, etc. . It was to the great monasteries that
    that the weaker classes looked for shelter in times of famine and war, not to the non existent welfare state. When Henry VIII sacked the monasteries and Luther “liberated” the nuns from the cloisters by force, the landless poor flocked to cities and the slums of Europe were born. No longer under the protection of the Church that had provided for them with indulgenced alms after the shrines were destroyed, the guilds disbanded, the religious orders divested of their assets, the landless and unskilled poor were to become exploited by the rising merchant class. The rest you know form history class as a kid. Except you were probably fed a lot of nonsense about Indulgences to have been the cause of the Deformation.

  80. Alrighty my break is over. Back to work. Am gonna be off blogging. For some time. Just in case anyone wants to keep in touch you can forward your bank details to me. You all know how we roll.

    Anyway before I disappear, I have just this little matter I would like addressed.

    According to the monergistic doctrine, God does everything. Man plays absolutely no part in his salvation. So here is the thing. If God had created men and instantly sent some to Heaven and the others to Hell, how would things have been different from what monergism entails. Both situations seems to completely remove man’s input from the equation.

    And response like:

    “The point of everything is God’s revelation of His glory in the full display of his attributes including mercy AND justice. The point of everything is for God to share His glory—the most wonderful thing imaginable—with those whom He loves”

    doesn’t cut it because God’s glory will be more fully displayed and shared in Heaven and His Justice in Hell (this response was from Robert by the way).

    Maybe there is something I am missing or maybe am just over-oversimplifying.

    Anyhow I would appreciate a stab at this.

    Jason S. and any convert out there. Did you guys ever think of this? What is the reformed response to this?

  81. Mikel,

    You – For some time. Just in case anyone wants to keep in touch you can forward your bank details to me. You all know how we roll

    Me – you literally made me laugh out loud. Good posts and I’m looking forward to your return.

    Bank details to follow shortly. 😉

  82. Mikel,

    No bank details but I will say you make perfect sense. Why didn’t God just cut to the chase and put us in our eventual destinations and save us all the hassle?

    Kind of like the hyper Calvinist idea that says the elects were never really lost in the first place which renders all the preaching, faith,sanctification, confession, etc. superfluous.

  83. Jason L.,

    I seem to recall some mention of Augustine on one of your earlier posts. I know Luther had been an Augustinian but he obviously distanced himself from them when he came out against vow taking. And I do remember reading that he said it was ” all over with Augustine” when he discovered JBFA. Probably because Augustine was very clear that Charity had to vivify Faith or it was of no use.

    Anyway, since you got me thinking about indulgences and purgatory by your request for the title of the book I mentioned a few days ago, I did some research and see that there are to be found 40 references to purgatory in Augustine’s writings. WOW! I had no idea there were that many.
    It must be pretty tricky being both a Lutheran and an admirer of Augustine, I would think.

    Like my arguments for Hyperdulia in which I say that common sense, with or without scriptural buttressing, should be able to see that Christ’s Mother would not have born other children or been allowed to remain in the tomb, the same applies to purgatory. People die without being bad enough for hell but not good enough for heaven. Where do they go?

    Actually there is a scriptural answer answer to that in Peter’s encyclical that speaks of the souls in prison from the time of the flood. Some people see this as a reference to the Bosom of Abraham/ Limbo of the Patriarchs. I don’t think so as this refers to those people not on the ark who drowned on account of their sinfulness . Some of those who scoffed at Noah must have repented of mortal sin before drowning and so made it to purgatory.

    So, I am grateful to you for renewing in me a desire to get all the indulgences I can today, for myself and for my departed loved ones. I checked and see there are some very simple little ejaculations that can be said that carry indulgences. I already wear a scapular ( I swim so I actually use the medal ) but one can get complacent and take things for granted. I am delighted that a simple recitation of the ancient Sub Tuum Praesidium, carries a partial indulgence.

    I will share it with you Jason:

    “WE fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.”

  84. Robert,

    Since none of you Protestant guys seem interested in going for the juicy indulgenced carrot I have been dangling in front of you for the past few days, I guess I will move on.

    You Robert, as a committed Calvinist, deny free will and insist our will has been corrupted and bend toward evil by nature.

    I also seem to recall that it was you who said when it comes to the transmission of our fallen nature from generation to generation you lean towards traducianism over creationism. Am I correct?

    May I ask you about your views?
    As mentioned several days ago, this theory makes explaining Original Sin easier than creationism for a Protestant. Augustine dallied with it for a while. However, it is not without its problems for you. If traducianism is correct, Christ’s human soul came from Mary, and Mary alone, as there was no male involved. Are you sure you want to go there? Mary’s soul, from which Christ’s soul comes out of would also need to be sinless in that case.
    Recoiling from such a suggestion, that Mary was sinless, you are forced to adopt creationism. When you do that though, you are left with the problem of God creating corrupt human souls at the conception of each baby ( Christ excepted of course ). Explain that please.

    A couple of days ago you asserted that the differences we Catholics make between the Image and likeness of God to be mistaken, denying that the Likeness ( grace ) is a super-addition to our nature. Again, this failure to distinguish nature and grace, leaves you positing that God creates a corrupted human nature bent toward evil and hating God.

    So, you are sailing between Charybdis and Scylla. Which will you jettison? You must either abandon your knee jerk opposition to the Immaculate Conception and sinless life of Mary, or quit insisting we are naturally bent towards evil. Which will it be?

    Before letting you off the horns of this dilemna, let me up the ante. The PCA, your denomination, allows contraception. As a minster, you will be counseling married couples on family matters.

    Humans do not reproduce. Animals and photocopy machines do that. We Pro Create. Not even the angels can cooperate with God in bring immortal beings into existence. This dignity is reserved only for man.

    Next, God had joined Himself to man’s sexual act. Every time sperm meets egg, God creates. It’s like God obeys us! What God has joined together, let no man tear asunder.

    Should you opt for the view that says God exercises His infinite power to create ex nihilo each rational soul whenever sperm meets egg, wouldn’t contraception frustrate that creative power? Wouldn’t the human couple be selfishly enjoying copulation but barring God from His participation in the one and only act, since the Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago, where He still creates out of nothing?

    Isn’t contraception and attack on the very goodness of God? On God being God the Creator of the Universe? Isn’t it atheism?

    So, Robert, Creationism or Traducianism? You decide and we will go from there.

  85. Jim,

    I forgot to mention that it is not only loony Charismaticism that I’m against — it’s Pentecostalism and Charismaticism and indeed all forms of mysticism. Yes, I’m a cessationist.

    Re Thomism, Robert is a better interpreter of Thomist predestination that many here.

    And yes, despite my very strong empathy and sympathy to Catholic teaching of divorce and remarriage and bioethics, I believe that for the Church to bind the conscience of the faithful in the arena of what is tantamount to *private* morality is excessive. This is contrary to the Pauline and indeed apostolic example – where such matters are only given exhortation (advice).

    Furthermore the behaviour that the Church wants to control are part of the areas in natural law that are context-specific. For example, the condemnation of contraception was appropriate in the past because of the socio-economic understanding of the institution of marriage. To put it in very impersonal terms, birth control which is part of the wider birth rate undermines the growth of labor and hence productivity rate in agrarian society.

    With the mass migration of labour from rural to urban areas in the industrial and post-industrial age, uncontrolled birth rate leads to undesirable consequences such as overcrowding, pollution and so on.

    A *balance* has to be struck between the two extremes of total birth control and total lack of birth control.

  86. Jim,

    Augustine’s purgatory is a pious opinion. Purgatory has no ecumenical standing which is one of the reasons why I don’t accept of the Council of Trent.

    Before I forget, Robert made a good point regarding the Magisterium’s accommodation of two contradictory positions re Thomism and Molinism – not very assuring since truth is defined in terms of propositions that require *mental* assent.

  87. Robert,

    Eureka! I have realized your undoing!
    After my post of a few hours ago, I went swimming ( the scapular medal ) and while floundering about I had a revelation from on high. I realized that my previous post had inadvertently toppled the monergistic world view of Calvinism.

    As mentioned, we are the only being that Pro-Creates. The number of angels is fixed as they, not having bodies, cannot make baby angels. In our case, however, WE COOPERATE WITH GOD in making new humans. We supply the matter and God the soul. As a matter of fact, we could actually go so far as to say God has bound Himself to cooperating with us. Even outside of marriage, in an act of adultery or rape, if sperm meets egg, Voila! God creates ex nihiho. God has willed it this way and binds Himself to cooperating, not with adultery or rape,but with the nature He chose to create.

    You can hold to Traducianism if you want to. But that theory says we and God are not co-workers. God isn’t involved. Is isn’t pro-creation but reproduction like rabbits. Rabbit have souls that never transcend matter. Is that where you want to go?

    So, if you believe God and man work together in the production of new rational beings made for eternity, how can you deny synergism in raising those rational beings to fellowship with God? Man cooperates with God!!!!!!

    As a matter of fact, ( and I am stepping out on ice here fellow Catholics, so reign me in if I need it ), maybe God cannot create souls without us. Souls are not angels. They are spiritual substances made to inform matter. They survive the death of the body but they yearn to be back in the flesh. Whether in Heaven, hell or purgatory, disembodied souls await the Resurrection. God has nothing to infuse the soul into until sperm meets egg, boy meets girl. He can’t make the form without the matter. The Creator of the Universe and we must work together.

    Does this give us dominion over God? No more than when every time a priest, even a wicked one, says the words over the bread and wine, Christ is Present.

    It is the economy God freely chose to set up.

  88. Jim,

    You are a staunch advocate of creation ex nihilo. And yet you reject salvation ex nihilo. We deny free will because salvation is *re*-creation.

    Just as we are created out of the sheer goodness of God apart from merit, likewise we are re-created out of the sheer goodness of God apart from merit. Precisely because salvation is recapitulation — the *reversal* of the Fall — that salvation is mirrors or is the mirror-image of creation.

    Otherwise, free-will would imply that salvation is not the reversal of the Fall — but the reversal of creation itself – since now by implication God “requires” the *co-operation* of the creature in starting all over again.

    Free-will, therefore, to borrow a term from Paul Tillich, is “blasphemy against creation.”

  89. Physical life cannot be separated from spiritual life as the Incarnation teaches us.

    If the Church was consistent, she would have mirrored the lack of free choice in bioethics with the lack of free choice in salvation. It is an anomaly.

  90. Jason L.,

    Greetings. You opined that, “Purgatory has no ecumenical standing which is one of the reasons why I don’t accept of the Council of Trent”.

    Huh? No ecumenical standing? I don’t understand? I thought you were a Lutheran. Reject purgatory for that reason, not because it has no ecumenical standing.
    Is ecumenism your religion?

    Let me tell you a tale, sad but true. Ten years ago, after about three years at my current parish of Irish Dominicans here, I was chatting with the English organ player. In the course of our discussion he mentioned that he was not Catholic but Anglican.
    I was dumbfounded as he was a weekly communicant. I ask him why, since he was receiving the Eucharist, he had not entered the Church.

    He said he believed in the Eucharist but was waiting for the reunion of the two Communions to unite as one. He saw himself as some sort of martyr or hero or something and did not want to enter alone but was praying for a melding of the two religions. He was a member of an Anglican group that holds Charles I and Archbishop Laud to be catholic martyrs.

    I informed him of Canon Law 844 that lays out provisions as to when non Catholics can receive the Sacraments and routine reception, on a weekly basis, was not one of them. He said he didn’t care and continued receiving on Sundays. I complained to our weak liberal priest of the abuse saying the Protestant organ player had been receiving for three years. The priest said, no, it had been ten years ( 7 before I got there ) but he felt powerless to act. I wrote the Provincial and raised enough hell that the fellow stopped and eventually quit coming to our Mass. He chose not to come into the Church.

    That was 10 years ago. 10+10=20. I see the guy around town every year or so. He still is not Catholic. He still worships ecumenism over truth. He is still waiting for what is never going to happen ( the Archbishop of Canterbury said that when the Anglicans started ordaining women, all hopes of uniting with Rome were over once and for all ).

    Jason, all the churches can’t be right. They can all be wrong. But only ONE can be right.

  91. Jason L.,

    “f the Church was consistent, she would have mirrored the lack of free choice in bioethics with the lack of free choice in salvation. It is an anomaly.”

    You speak in riddles. I haven’t the foggiest what you just said.

  92. Jason Stellman,

    My inbox continues to fill with emails from your blog. I have removed myself from the “post subscription” (that I actually never signed up for) twice now.

  93. Jason L.,
    You disagree with my assertion and say salvation is like creation, without our cooperation.

    As a fan of Augustine, you must know that he said, ” God made you without your cooperation but He wont save you without it”.

    As for the Dominicans and Molinists, I go with Fr. Wm. Most ( EWTN files ) who says they were both wrong.

  94. Kenneth, scroll up to “contact” and tell Jason if you need him to see your message today.

  95. Jason L.,

    “With the mass migration of labour from rural to urban areas in the industrial and post-industrial age, uncontrolled birth rate leads to undesirable consequences such as overcrowding, pollution and so on.
    A *balance* has to be struck between the two extremes of total birth control and total lack of birth control”

    Why not exterminate some people, the useless eaters? Or why not sterilize those unfit by the standards set by the state to breed? Or, why not harvest every girl’s eggs and then sterilize them. They can then copulate at random without fear of reproducing. The eggs will be in storage for later use by them or a surrogate?
    In principle Jason, tell me what’s wrong with this Brave New World contraceptive mentality and where we will soon be without the Catholic Church’s “interference” at the U.N., the E.U. and your own heart?

  96. Jason L.,

    Let me help you with the answer. Regulation of birth is not a sin. It depends on the MEANS. Contraception is an immoral means under every situation*. It separates what God has joined together, the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act.

    * Ask later if you want about the Belgian nuns wearing barriers in case of rape by bands of rebels. I am a bit tire of blogging now. Maybe one of the other Catholics will answer.

  97. Jim,

    I think that your comment about God being bound to man is problematic. This line of thought fits like a glove with the mechanistic metaphysical view of creation a la Paley and his watch but doesn’t mesh well with RC theology. With a watch and a watchmaker the maker has bound himself to his creation in a sense after the watch is complete. Everything functions without any intervention from the watchmaker. On this view, one could imagine the hands of the clock boasting about how the maker “needs” or has “bound” himself to the concept of time keeping and thus Needs the hands to carry out that function.

    Roman Catholics do not view God as a watchmaker. We believe God’s role is more intrinsic and vital to creation. Rather than thinking of God’s relation to creation as a watchmaker to his watch, one should think of God as a musician playing a ballad. Every note and chord has its place and is designed to work together but each and every note and chord depends entirely on the musician for both its existence AND duration. The song is continually reliant on its musician every second if it is to continue to exist. If at any moment the musician ceases to play the entire ballad disappears in an instant. On this view, it is difficult to see how any particular chord or note could claim that the musician has “bound” himself to them. In fact it is just the opposite. The notes are bound to the musician! At any moment those notes could be exchanged for new ones or else discarded all together. God does not depend upon humans to make a soul any more than a musician depends upon a certain piece to play a song. We are merely blessed to exist and subsist in His love and creation. You feel me?

  98. Jason L,

    “Before I forget, Robert made a good point regarding the Magisterium’s accommodation of two contradictory positions re Thomism and Molinism – not very assuring since truth is defined in terms of propositions that require *mental* assent.”

    As I said in reply to that, what is important is what the two positions share in common in affirming core dogmas on grace. Just as what is important is what the two positions of material sufficiency vs partim-partim share in common. It could be that both Thomism and Molinism are both completely wrong and there are other insights that will come to the fore, as Most tried to do. That’s part of development and why an RC is perfectly free to refrain from endorsing any of those positions and remaining agnostic (as long as they did not deny the core dogmas any position on grace must endorse).

    And I’m surprised at your comment you think Robert is a better interpreter of Thomist predestination than many here. You’ve read Garrigou-Lagrange, as have I – I doubt GL would be high-fiving Robert.

  99. James,

    Among the books by Garrigou LaGrange I have on my bookshelf is one called “Mother of the Savior”. Assuming he was a consistent thinker and not a schizoid, Mariology fit nicely into his system of soterology, anthropology, ecclesiology, etc. ( same goes for Aquinas and Augustine all ye who want to co-opt Catholic thinkers into the Calvinist camp ).

    If our Protestant friends like our thinkers so much, how do they know what to retain and what to jettison of their writings?

  100. Kenneth, Thanks for keeping me on the up and up! I was flying high with my own speculation. Of course I want to stay inside the parameters of orthodoxy.
    Thanks for the blast of cold water on me! Ha!
    Take care

  101. Jason Loh, you write:

    Free-will, therefore, to borrow a term from Paul Tillich, is “blasphemy against creation.”

    Jason Loh, are you able to commit sin by freely choosing to commit sin, or does God make you sin? Is God the source and cause of all evil?

    Freedom is the topic of this thread. You seem to be saying that only God has freedom and man is nothing but a puppet without any freedom. How do you reconcile the puppet-without-freewill view of man with the scriptures?

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
    Gen 2:15-16
    .
    I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life …
    Deut. 30:19
    .
    All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work which the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as their freewill offering to the LORD.
    Exodus 35:29
    .
    Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains.
    Psalm 110
    .
    Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
    John 8:31-32

  102. Robert you write:

    I doubt GL would be high-fiving Robert.

    You have that right!-

    Some souls, because of their negligence or spiritual sloth, do not pass from the age of beginners to that of proficients. These are retarded souls; in the spiritual life they are like abnormal children, who do not happily pass through the crisis of adolescence and who, though they do not remain children, never reach the full development of maturity. … Retarded souls are in danger; they should be entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who alone can bring them back to the Savior and obtain for them the graces that will rekindle in them the desire for perfection.
    .
    Reference: Three Ages of the Interior Life -Prelude to Eternal Life”, Part 2, The Purification of the Soul in Beginners
    Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

  103. JLo,

    Reading a book by father RGL does not make one an interpreter of Aquinas…. To my knowledge Robert had never read any works by a Thomist much less the bulky works of RGL.

  104. my last post should have been addressed to James, not Robert …

  105. Jason Stellman writes:

    In other words, there is not a common univocal pool called “freedom” from which both God and we drink, and neither is our exercise of freedom an infringement upon God’s or an example of trespassing on divine turf. Human freedom exists because God is sovereign and free, and our freedom is uniquely suited to us as creatures made in the image of our Creator.

    This I completely agree with. Jesus teaches that “the truth will set us free” which means that we are enslaved to something that Jesus can free us from. The Gospel is this proclamation: until Christ frees us, we are enslaved to sin. Which is exactly what Paul preaches:

    …God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
    Romans 5:8
    .
    We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
    Romans 6:6

    The Good News is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus men are set free from their enslavement to sin. It is because of this freedom in Christ, that we can participate in the life of God. Which is why Jesus commands of his disciples:

    You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    Matthew 5:48

  106. Jason Loh you write:

    … how can mystical experiences be a part of the sensus fidelium when these do not fulfill the two criteria of ‘the guidance of the Magisterium’ and ‘unfailing adherence to the faith transmitted’? Mysticism by its very nature is a stream that *by-passes* the Magisterium and is not part of substance of the deposit of faith transmitted by apostolic succession.

    …. the mystical life is not essentially extraordinary, like visions and revelations, but something eminent in the normal way of sanctity.
    .
    Reference: “Three Ages of the Interior Life -Prelude to Eternal Life”, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

    The mystical life does not bypass the deposit of faith, the mystical life is grounded in the deposit of the faith.

    Spiritual directors must have an understanding of mystical theology if they are going to be able to distinguish between the “dark night of the senses” and mere acedia:

    … mystical theology is useful not alone for the direction of some souls led by extraordinary ways, but also for the direction of all interior souls who do not wish to remain retarded, who tend generously toward perfection, and who endeavor to maintain union with God in the midst of the labors and contradictions of everyday life. From this point of view, a spiritual director’s ignorance of mystical theology may become a serious obstacle for the souls he directs, as St. John of the Cross remarks in the prologue of The Ascent of Mount Carmel. If the sadness of the neurasthenic should not be taken for the passive purification of the senses, neither should melancholy be diagnosed when the passive purification does appear.
    .
    Reference: “Three Ages of the Interior Life -Prelude to Eternal Life”, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

  107. Jonathan,

    The way one avoids being arbitrary is that one has principled reasons for one’s beliefs rather than being ad hoc. The Islamic understanding of God fails because it is ad hoc, and so does yours.

    The Islamic understanding of God fails in the first instance because it’s not based on divine revelation, and second because God’s will is arbitrary. It’s not based on anything inherent to his character.

    The principle that you are missing is that God never creates a rational being as necessarily committed to evil. The underlying theological principle is that God is not evil, and specifically, God is not the author of evil.

    And I agree with all of this.

    So when you say that God is the deterministic cause of evil but is not Himself evil, you are making an ad hoc appeal to mystery.

    No, I’m reflecting what passages such as Romans 9 and Job 38–41 say. There’s no “I cause evil non-deterministically” (whatever that is) in those passages when God’s goodness and justice in reprobation and allowing evil are questioned; there’s only “who are you, O man who knows so little, to question God’s wisdom and holiness and goodness.”

    We have specific cases in the creation of the angels Satan and Michael and the creation of Adam where God permitted the relationship of free, rational beings to depend on their choice of an opportunity He had graciously given them. It had nothing to do with anything inherent in their nature but with His gracious provision of a choice. Now, how God did this is a mystery. This is because we do not know how an omnipotent and sovereign God can give people a free choice. But because we know He is not the author of evil, we affirm that He causes some things in a non-deterministic way without violating His own sovereignty. That is a legitimate appeal to mystery, because we can legitimately say that God’s causal power is inscrutable to us as a general matter.

    Well, I agree that God’s power is inscrutable to us as a general matter, just as God is unscrutable in a general manner. We know him by analogy. The problem is you think you have done something different when you say God causes some things deterministically and some things non-deterministically. That’s no less “ad hoc” because you are still saying that God is the ultimate/first cause, otherwise there is no reason to make a distinction between causing something deterministically and causing something non-deterministically. The Calvinist says that God’s relationship to evil is different than his relationship to good and we do not know how he can ordain both without being morally responsible for the former. I can just as well say that we do not know how God can cause evil things non-deterministically and yet still be not guilty of evil. This is the specific problem of Christian theism, or really any theistic system that simultaneously affirms omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and omniscience. The business of willing to permit the fall et al isn’t any more “principled”; because God’s permission is not bare permission. Once you make it that, you have passivity in God, which violates other principles in an “ad hoc” manner.

    It also appeals to God’s character in a principled way and not an ad hoc way, i.e., it does not make a claim that “that’s just the way the Bible says it is,” but analyzes the underlying reasons for God acting in the way He does by creating rational beings.

    The issue is what defines the underlying reasons for God acting in the way he does, which is all that I mean if I say “that’ the way the Bible says it is.” You aren’t starting with divine revelation but with philosophy. You are trying to make divine revelation conform to what you have arbitrarily determined what is possible and impossible with the Lord, which is exactly backwards.

    And note that it doesn’t arbitrarily change after the Fall, which is an indication that it is truly a principle: a proposition that is always universally true.

    I don’t even know what you are referring to here, so let’s move on..

    An illegitimate appeal to mystery would say that we do understand God’s causal power, but we have to make some specific exception to save our pet theological theory (like God not being the author of evil). Calvin’s appeal to secondary causation and his assertion that God can prescind from the evil, for example, is an ad hoc appeal to mystery. He has no principled reason for why God’s sovereignty can be violated in the case of some specific evil acts but not others.

    I don’t know exactly what you are saying here. Calvin said God sovereignty is never violated. That’s the whole point of Calvinism.

    And Calvin never said we “understand” God’s causal power, nor do the later Reformed. The closest you get is that The WCF says that God is the first cause of all things, and other agents are secondary causes, which should not be objectionable because if God isn’t the first cause of all things you end up, ultimately, with more than one god because there is something else that is the first cause of at least certain things, namely, evil acts.

    In fact, as a matter of history, Calvin’s explanations here track exactly with the Aristotelian views taken from the Islamic scholars. In other words, the reason that Calvin thinks it is OK to make ad hoc appeals to God’s sovereignty is exactly because of the (erroneous) ideas of Islamic theologians that were inherited in the medieval times, from whom Calvin took his idea of God’s will. Essentially, Calvin’s philosophical approach, which is informing his reading of Scripture, was unredeemed Islamic philosophy. Calvinism (or as I’ve sometimes called it, CalvinIslam) is exactly what Christianity looks like if you take the Muslim view of divine will and revelation and apply it to Christian faith. And this makes total sense given who Calvin was: a secular humanist, not a theologian or a priest.

    And this is exactly what Calvin DID NOT do because Islamic theology does not have God’s will or law reflecting his character, whereas Calvin and the whole Reformed tradition have insisted otherwise. Further, there’s no “ad hoc” appeal. God is as sovereign over evil as he is over good, it is just that his sovereignty over evil is exercised in such a way that he is never morally culpable for it. That’s no more “ad hoc” or “principled” than saying God causes some things deterministically and some things undeterministically. The distinction is just being made to preserve your pet theological doctrine that God is wholly passive in regard to evil without that setting aside the understanding that He is pure act.

    And to say Calvin was not a theologian is just laughable.

    That’s why you can’t see the principled differences between your position and Thomism, Molinism, or Catholic theory generally. You aren’t making the principled distinctions in the first place, and you implicitly admit this problem when you say “[i]t just took a more biblical thinker such as Calvin and even Luther to dispense with the distinction that makes no difference.” A distinction that makes no difference is not a principled distinction, and when you don’t even recognize the principles at work in the Catholic view that make the distinction, then you do not even understand the Catholic view, much less provide any rebuttal to it.

    And it is because it is a distinction that makes no difference, ie, you don’t have a principled distinction. The “principles” at work in the non-Calvinistic view of sovereignty are not consistently based on divine revelation. That is the problem.

    This isn’t about God owing anyone anything. The “Calvinist God is a moral monster” argument has nothing to do with injustice, as if God could even possibly owe anyone anything. It has to do with benevolence, so that God is not responsible for rebellion against Him. If God were to create people in rebellion against Him without any opportunity to turn to His side, then He would be the architect of the rebellion Himself, the author of evil, just as He would have been ultimately responsible for Satan’s rebellion if Satan had not have an initial opportunity to make a free choice. Even if God gave people knowledge of Him in nature, it would still not be the same as giving people at least one free opportunity to turn toward or away from Him, just as He does with all rational beings.

    Let’s be clear: God doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against him. He didn’t make Adam that way, nor did he make him inherently defective so that he needed an infusion of grace before the fall to make sure he didn’t fall into evil. God doesn’t create me in rebellion to him immediately as if he creates me or anyone else since Adam immediately (the incarnation of Christ excepted). When I was conceived, God wasn’t there immediately making me evil.

    In any case, the whole assumption that God cannot be benevolent without giving everyone a choice in the libertarian sense is not inseparable from justice because one cannot be good and unjust. To object to God’s goodness is to object to his justice.

    Further, at the very least God created Satan and Adam knowing full well that they would fall. You still have to answer why he is not morally responsible for their fall even if it is caused “non-deterministically,” and at the end of the day, your answer is no better than the Calvinist’s. God is able not to intervene to prevent the fall and yet not be morally responsible for something he could have prevented. And, you make God passive. And you violate what Paul says in Romans 9 and a host of other passages in Scripture in which it is said specifically that God is involved in every act of evil committed even to the point of ordaining it.

    That’s an example of completely unprincipled thinking. There is no way, literally none at all, that there can be such a thing as backward causation for human agents. That would be a completely ad hoc appeal to something that can’t possibly happen in any other situation. So, no, we didn’t eat the apple. There’s a certain tradition trying to explain a bad translation of “in that all sinned” as “in whom all sinned,” and even that tradition never maintained that we literally sinned in Adam, but that we were somehow made collectively “responsible” for Adam’s sin. In any case, it is clearly analogous and not literal.

    Where has anyone said anything about backward causation?

    Let’s quote the good Father Weinandy (Does God Suffer?)on our participation in the guilt of Adam:

    “Unlike the West, which emphasizes that humankind inherits the guilt of Adam’s sin with its consequences, the East emphasizes that humankind inherits simply the consequence of Adam’s sin—death.” (p. 51)

    I disagree here with Weinandy in that he seems to make death a mere consequence of sin, but he clearly says that the West at least says that we inherit Adam’s guilt. We are reckoned guilty for what Adam did. You can view this federally as the Reformed do or more as if we were “in the loins of Adam,” but the point is that when Adam sinned and incurred guilt, we all sinned and incurred guilt.

    I’ll refer you back to the point Fairbairn made about Athanasius. If death were simply a penalty, then the solution to death is easy: just forgive.

    Death is certainly not LESS than a penalty.

    The problem with death is it’s not that simple. We’re treated as sinners even if we don’t actually sin; the penalty comes on us as Adam’s children regardless of whether we sin or not. Again, God doesn’t owe us anything, and death is not a punishment from God. Rather, He gave us the Law as an analogy for the situation; just as we execute criminals who sin (the soul that sins shall die), so did Adam’s sin bring death to humanity collectively. Death is not literally a penalty, which would make no sense (except in some ad hoc system in which it needed to make sense).

    If God binds himself to humanity in a covenant and promises death for sin, then he “owes” them death for sin. And the analogy doesn’t help your case. We execute criminals for sin because it is a PENALTY. It’s ad hoc to say death isn’t a penalty even though Scripture again and again and again says that it is. Further, Adam’s sin brings death to humanity collectively because he represents humanity in some sense. We’re there with him in the garden, whether federally or “in his loins” as it were. The point is, when Adam sinned, we all sinned.

    The best example of why this is senseless is that Christ Himself died, and Christ cannot possibly be a sinner. So if death to Adam’s progeny were an actual penalty, then Christ could not have suffered it.

    Unless of course sin is imputed to Christ, which is the “principled” way for all this to happen even if you don’t happen to like it. Further, you have the more serious problem as to why Christ could die at all if he is not reckoned as sin in some sense because death is not inherent to the human condition and, as you noted, a sinless person could not have suffered death. Again, the answer is the imputation of sin so that Christ bears my sin and guilt without ever being personally guilty of sin.

    The inevitable conclusion, if one is being principled, is that death inherited from Adam is simply not a penalty for individual sin. But the ad hoc way is to say that Christ must be punished for something, even though that is impossible in principle. So again, Calvin makes an ad hoc appeal to God’s will, that God must somehow have imputed our sin or viewed Christ federally as in us, even though that makes no sense in principle.

    It makes no sense to view Christ federally in us why? Simply saying it is ad hoc or makes no sense in principle doesn’t make it so. Federal representation is all over the Bible. When Achan sinned, his whole family died. The suffering servant suffers chastisement for our sins, etc., etc., etc.

    And while we are on this specific subject of Christ being “punished,” let’s quote Weinandy again:

    The Son’s human cry from the cross—”My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt. 27:46)—was not mere charade, but the authentic lamentation of one who was suffering the wages of humankind’s sin. The Son of God truly tasted death for us, not just the suffering of physical death, but the deeper ‘second death’ of being separated from God (see Heb. 2:8–9). Having been “made sin,” the Son of God, as a man, literally suffered the pains of hell, for hell is simply the experience of the absolute loss of God’s loving presence.

    Moreover, the loss of God’s loving presence is experienced not as a mere absence. This would indeed be horrendous in itself. But, more positively and abhorrently, the divine Son actually experienced, as man, the very wrath of God. While this must be properly nuanced, yet it must not be mitigated, for here we discover the depths to which the Son was willing to descend so as to seize the extreme limit of human suffering. (pp. 218-219)

    I am thus not comfortable when von Balthasar states that “God unloaded his wrath upon the Man” (Theo-Drama IV: The Action, p. 345). Nonetheless, I would agree with von Balthasar when he argues for Jesus’ “Holy Saturday” experience, which forms a major theme within his own Christology. “Jesus does not only accept the (to be sure, accursed) mortal destiny of Adam. He also, quite expressly, carries the sin of the human race and, with those sins, the “second death” of God-abandonment.” (p. 219)

    If you read the whole section in context, about the only thing that we “Sproulites” would disagree with is the notion that God does not have just demands that must to be satisfied. Weinandy seems to view wrath more as what happens when an impenitent sinner stands in the presence of a loving God, something like His holy love being experienced as His wrath. Even that is not really problematic, it just doesn’t go far enough in taking into account the covenantal context in which man finds itself.

    So God, as a man, suffered divine wrath, and God, as a man, suffered separation and alienation from God. Welcome to the “strong view” of penal substitution.

    We can move on to revelation and how that is equally unprincipled, but this case really suffices. Calvin makes appeal to things like “secondary causes” and the like, but there are no underlying principles, so he violates them just as freely when it comes to what he perceives as the “revealed divine will.” Effectively, Calvin’s argument is an extended argument against principled interpretation of things like sin, the Fall, and redemption, exactly in the form that Islamic philosophical arguments took concerning God’s will.

    I find no argument here; just the repetition of an error that Calvin views God’s will as the Islamic philosophers did. That’s just so wrong its barely worth acknowledging. God’s will, for Calvin and the Reformed, is always constrained/determined by His character. It’s you guys that are putting forth this idea that God’s promises and governance of creation don’t reflect his nature.

    And yes, we’ve been around on this numerous times, but the problem is that you don’t even see what the principles are.

    No, the problem is that you don’t apply the same principles to your own position that you apply to others, and you start with philosophy and not divine revelation. Hence statements like “God imputing sin to Christ or dealing with his people federally makes no sense in principle.”

    You made some progress on the atonement,

    If that means you now accept that Christ bore the wrath of God against the sins of His people, then I’m happy to agree.

    but you’re getting nowhere on your understanding of what principled thinking about Biblical revelation looks like. The point of that thinking is that God isn’t just revealing what He did, but the underlying principles on which He operates, why He did what He did. We should be able to examine the Biblical revelation and understand these things, not just “God said it,” but understanding why God said it. That’s why I accuse this view of fundamentalism; if you don’t understand the “why,” then you won’t even what the “what” right.

    Of course he is revealing the underlying “why.” The problem is that the why is determined by the exegesis of Scripture no less than the what. God is the interpreter of His own acts, which is what I don’t see in much of what you say. You start out with what you think is possible for God in principle and then you go to Scripture. It doesn’t work that way.

    The entire problem with “divide and dismiss” is that it breaks up these underlying principles and creates a fractured, unprincipled perspective on the Bible, splitting up things like justification and sanctification when the underlying principle groups them together and ignoring principle distinctions when they matter. It’s the ad hoc view of the divine will characteristic of Islam, not the Christian view of God Who is intelligible and makes all things intelligible.

    Who’s splitting up justification and sanctification? They’re distinct but inseparable. Wait, is there a theological principles that should justify such thing—wait for it—the doctrine of the Trinity and the hypostatic union.

    We determine what the underlying principles are from the exegesis of special revelation. That’s no more and no less fundamentalistic than saying we derive underlying principles from whatever the church says those principles are—which is your essential position.

    Agree or not, until you get your head around this way of looking at divine revelation in a principled way, you are simply going to be wasting your time with Catholics. We will think that you are oblivious, so you’ll have no chance of convincing any Catholic who understands His faith. And you won’t be in any position to see where the arguments are going to cut against your position, meaning you won’t be able to convince people who don’t start off agreeing with you and who start looking honestly at Catholicism. Even given your religious preference, this is an extremely bad strategy.

    Agree or not, until you get your head around this way of looking at divine revelation in a principled way, you are simply going to be wasting your time with Protestants. We will think that you are oblivious, so you’ll have no chance of convincing any Protestant who understands His faith. And you won’t be in any position to see where the arguments are going to cut against your position, meaning you won’t be able to convince people who don’t start off agreeing with you and who start looking honestly at Protestantism. Even given your religious preference, this is an extremely bad strategy.

    And just as an aside, I’ve yet to meet one convert to Rome who looked honestly at Rome warts and all. For some of you more philosophical types, it starts with the idea that God must have decided to give his church infallibility in order for there to be a principled way to know him even though that’s an assumption that is never really argued for. In fact, it’s a RC assumption that no one buys unless they’ve already decided to become RC. For others, it’s a more “how do you know what the Bible means,” reflecting a willingness to impute clarity to the Magisterium but not to the text of God’s Word, which is another RC assumption that no one buys unless they’ve already decided to become RC. For others, it’s a tiredness for all the diversity in Protestantism and the assumption that in order for unity to exist, you have to have the same home office. It’s another RC assumption that no one buys unless they’ve already decided to become RC and have never worked in any significant way with Protestants outside their tradition. For others, it’s because the RC looks old and so if its old it must be true, which is an assumption that no one buys anyway unless they’ve already decided to become RC and don’t see that Rome is not an ancient church but a medieval one.

    I hate to sound like a broken record here, but you guys want to criticize Protestantism based on standards that falsify your own denomination. There’s legitimate criticisms to be made and questions to be raised—this idea that Protestantism has no principled way of looking at things ain’t one of them.

  108. James,

    As I said in reply to that, what is important is what the two positions share in common in affirming core dogmas on grace. Just as what is important is what the two positions of material sufficiency vs partim-partim share in common. It could be that both Thomism and Molinism are both completely wrong and there are other insights that will come to the fore, as Most tried to do. That’s part of development and why an RC is perfectly free to refrain from endorsing any of those positions and remaining agnostic (as long as they did not deny the core dogmas any position on grace must endorse).

    That’s like saying that Calvinists and Arminians don’t have contradictory views of predestination simply because both of them affirm that God predestines some to salvation. And as far as the tradition argument, some of you have complained that the only thing uniting Protestants is a shared antipathy to Rome, but what you have just said is equivalent to Rome being united by a shared antipathy to Protestantism. “Heck, we RCs don’t know what tradition is, but as long as we know the Protestant is wrong, it’s all good even if we can’t agree on what has been infallibly taught in the tradition and what can’t.

    And I’m surprised at your comment you think Robert is a better interpreter of Thomist predestination than many here. You’ve read Garrigou-Lagrange, as have I – I doubt GL would be high-fiving Robert.

    Of course, the question is whether later Thomism is wholly true to what Aquinas himself taught. There’s an argument to be made that on significant points it is not.

  109. Kenneth,

    Seriously, I do appreciate you taking the time to comment and maybe correct my comment about God needing us to make a soul. Over the past few hours I’ve thought about it I may be more right than wrong. Let me explain;

    God can’t make a rock too big for Him to lift because God can’t do anything that is a contradiction. ( I know you know this Kenneth. )

    A soul is the form of the material body. No matter, no soul. ( Although the soul can exist after the death of the body, it is still the form of a body and in an unnatural state ).
    Souls are not pure spirits as are angels. Short of being enlightened by God, all knowledge comes through the bodily senses. Unless God or an angel enlightens a soul in purgatory, for instance, it has no way of knowing anything but is locked in on itself. What I am trying to say is that a soul that is not the substantial form of the body is a contradiction. God doesn’t traffic in contradictions.

    The Church has also condemned the theory of pre-existence of souls as opposed to sound philosophy and theology since the time of Augustine. ( Nemesius was the heretic who said that since the Bible says on the 6th day God rested, that He made all the souls and they were awaiting being placed in bodies as needed.)

    Reincarnation is condemned also as it says souls are not the forms of particular bodies but can move from one to another at death.

    So, I am going to stick with man being unique. Animal souls are not created but are immersed in matter. Angels have no bodies and are each one its own species.
    That leaves man, neither brute animal nor angel. Only man has been elevated by God to this awesome dignity.

    I appreciate your objections but, once again, God wills it to be this way. He could have created another world with other laws. But He didn’t.
    Souls, although made to inform matter into human bodies, are naturally immortal as they are simple and spiritual. The will never go out of existence. The only way they could is by annihilation which would require a miracle. Only God can create and annihilate. However, for God to annihilate, it implies God repenting of His act of creation. He won’t do it. And I don’t think that once God has made a world where man cooperates with God in making new human persons, God is going to repent and make a soul not intended for a body, without man supplying the matter.

    So, Kenneth, I am not a philosopher nor a theologian. And I know we shouldn’t put restrictions on God or imply any necessity binds Him. But I think God making souls not to inform a material body is a bit like Him making a rock to heavy for Him to lift.
    I would be happy to read anything from a Catholic philosopher you may want to refer me too. Thanks again for your feedback. I do appreciate it.

  110. +JMJ+

    Jim wrote:

    Kenneth, Thanks for keeping me on the up and up! I was flying high with my own speculation. Of course I want to stay inside the parameters of orthodoxy.
    Thanks for the blast of cold water on me! Ha!
    Take care

    Oh, you were still within the parameters of orthodoxy. Every orthodoxy theology has its own problematics. If a theology is without a problematic, its certainly not a Catholic theology. 😆

    The impulse to solve theological problematics at any cost (and to, thus, deny one element of the Mystery which is at the root of problematics) is a distinctive of heretical movements.

  111. Jim,

    I really enjoy reading your posts and want to clarify that i was only calling your thesis problematic not necessarily unorthodox. (Wosbald crawl back into your little hole!!) I wouldn’t have said anything except that you invited criticism when you went “out in the ice”. So….

    Seriously, I do appreciate you taking the time to comment and maybe correct my comment about God needing us to make a soul. Over the past few hours I’ve thought about it I may be more right than wrong. Let me explain;

    God can’t make a rock too big for Him to lift because God can’t do anything that is a contradiction. ( I know you know this Kenneth. )

    A soul is the form of the material body. No matter, no soul. ( Although the soul can exist after the death of the body, it is still the form of a body and in an unnatural state ).
    Souls are not pure spirits as are angels. Short of being enlightened by God, all knowledge comes through the bodily senses. Unless God or an angel enlightens a soul in purgatory, for instance, it has no way of knowing anything but is locked in on itself. What I am trying to say is that a soul that is not the substantial form of the body is a contradiction. God doesn’t traffic in contradictions.

    The soul separated from the body is actually very close to the angels. Ed Feser explains Angels, after all, are forms without matter, but not mere forms — each of them is a form plus an act of existence, and thus a particular thing. It is the same with postmortem human souls….. Human souls are…different from angels because their natural mode of knowing is, unlike that of angels, by means of sensation and imagination, and in other ways too their natural orientation is bodily. That’s why they are not and cannot be pure intelligences, and it’s why the resurrection is necessary.

    The point is that when you say “a soul that is not the substantial form of the body is a contradiction” that is an accurate statement. However, it misses the point. When discussing human beings, to speak of souls is to speak of forms. A soul is the form of a human being. So then if what you are trying to say is that “God can not make a composite creature that we call human beings- made of soul (form) and a human body (material)- without either the material or the form” then sure! The two necessarily must go together to make a composite creature. But if you are trying to say that God is BOUND to humanity if he wishes to create a form plus the act of existence (which is what humans are postmortem before the resurrection) then that is false. It is a proposition proven false by the existence of angels.

    The Church has also condemned the theory of pre-existence of souls as opposed to sound philosophy and theology since the time of Augustine. ( Nemesius was the heretic who said that since the Bible says on the 6th day God rested, that He made all the souls and they were awaiting being placed in bodies as needed.)

    Reincarnation is condemned also as it says souls are not the forms of particular bodies but can move from one to another at death.

    Well, I learned something today! I didn’t realize that the Church had condemned the idea of pre-made souls nor that it was ever a popular theory! Interesting.

    So, I am going to stick with man being unique. Animal souls are not created but are immersed in matter. Angels have no bodies and are each one its own species.
    That leaves man, neither brute animal nor angel. Only man has been elevated by God to this awesome dignity.

    Angels are actually above man in the order of existence…. but that is a minor quibble. Only man is a composite creature made in the image of God.

    I appreciate your objections but, once again, God wills it to be this way. He could have created another world with other laws. But He didn’t.

    Gods willing this world to be this way does not factor in to my objections. My point is that God is not bound to this world nor is He bound to human beings in any way or for anything at all. If God has made a world in which we find ourselves enjoying some special privilege, that is due to the freedom and sovereignty of the creator and has nothing to do with some need of humanity on Gods part. This is not only true before creation but at every moment in a creatures existence.

    Souls, although made to inform matter into human bodies, are naturally immortal as they are simple and spiritual. The will never go out of existence. The only way they could is by annihilation which would require a miracle. Only God can create and annihilate. However, for God to annihilate, it implies God repenting of His act of creation. He won’t do it. And I don’t think that once God has made a world where man cooperates with God in making new human persons, God is going to repent and make a soul not intended for a body, without man supplying the matter.

    I agree that God will probably not annihilate creation (although I am not sure if He did that it would entail repentance)

    So, Kenneth, I am not a philosopher nor a theologian. And I know we shouldn’t put restrictions on God or imply any necessity binds Him. But I think God making souls not to inform a material body is a bit like Him making a rock to heavy for Him to lift.
    I would be happy to read anything from a Catholic philosopher you may want to refer me too. Thanks again for your feedback. I do appreciate it.

    Ed Feser has a blog and several incredibly helpful books on A/T metaphysics. I have found his writing style to be approachable and as easy going as it gets when dealing with the layers and layers of arcane language and invented vocabulary that Thomas supplied for himself! lol I am reminded in your writings of an annoying problem that arises out of molinist metaphysics as to whether or not God remains free after creation. If He is a God that creates “certain worlds” with knowledge of how everything will play out in the future (middle knowledge etc) then it would seem to entail that once God began to create such a world He was BOUND by the story that He launched for all eternity. This is a big problem for molinists but not for Thomists for the obvious reason that we don’t really play the “in any possible world” game.

  112. Kenneth Winsman, you write:

    If God has made a world in which we find ourselves enjoying some special privilege, that is due to the freedom and sovereignty of the creator and has nothing to do with some need of humanity on God’s part.

    It seems to me that what you are saying here is reconcilable with this:

    As Horton’s “freedom pie” illustration suggests (see below), divine freedom is archetypal and original while human freedom is ectypal and derivative: “Because God is  freedom, such a thing as freedom exists and can be communicated to us in a creaturely mode.”
    .
    In other words, there is not a common univocal pool called “freedom” from which both God and we drink, and neither is our exercise of freedom an infringement upon God’s or an example of trespassing on divine turf. Human freedom exists because God is sovereign and free, and our freedom is uniquely suited to us as creatures made in the image of our Creator.

    Comments?

  113. “He was a member of an Anglican group that holds Charles I and Archbishop Laud to be catholic martyrs.”

    Couldn’t resist taking a dig at this one: Charles I and Archbishop Laud were no Anglo-Catholics or papal sympathisers. The English organ player is just plain ignorant.

    Charles I and Laud were both PROTESTANTS (in that they saw and identify themselves as such). They were the sworn foes of the Puritans, for sure, but saw themselves as authentic Protestants who were preserving the ethos and aims of the early Reformation. The Puritans were undermining Protestantism by veering away from the catholicity of the Reformation. To this, Charles I and Laud had to contend and combat at all costs since the very integrity of the claim of the Reformation was at stake and with that the integrity of the national church, i.e. the Church of England as a reformed English catholic church.

  114. Jason L,

    I am pleasantly surprised to see you have an interest in this stuff. I thought it was just Luther and the Continental Reformers you liked. The Charles I and Laud thing wasn’t all that doctrinal. If you can scrounge one up, Hilaire Belloc has write up on how un Catholic Laud was in his Characters of the Reformation.. Laud liked the smells and bells but was against uniting with the Pope.

    Here’s a bit of trivia to drop at your next cocktail party or around the office water cooler:
    Everyone thinks tea and crumpets is a British thing, right? Actually Charles II was married to a Portuguese woman named Catherine of Braganza. For her dowry, ( no indulgences needed for this wedding ), Portugal gifted India to England. The Portuguese had been getting tea from India so when she went to take up residence in England, she brought tea. She also brought a retinue of nuns to attend to her needs. Every convent in Portugal is known for its own particular sweet cake. The nuns made cakes for Catherine to have with her tea. The Brits adopted the idea from a Portuguese queen.
    Jason, women love men who know trivia. They can’t resit us. At that party, pick out the prettiest babe in the room, wait til she is standing alone and walk up to her and say, “Did you know tea and crumpets is actually…
    I will be the best man at your sure to follow nuptials. Ciao

  115. Kenneth,

    I was unaware of Ed Feser’s website. I’ve heard him on Catholic Answers. I have also read an article of his in which he corrects William Lane Craig on one of the attributes of God. I will check it out. Thanks.

    You mentioned the clock maker previously. Here’s an author for you, Stanley Jaki O.S.B. His “Cosmos and Creator” is my favorite book he wrote but he wrote a lot on this stuff. Every Catholic in to apologetics should read his stuff on science being a product of the Church. Thomas Woods uses Jaki’s material in his series on the Church’s contributions ti Western Civilization. He was a Hungarian born priest, physicist, historian etc. ( His book on Fatima is really, hmmmm, controversial, even among Catholics.)

    As for the Creation, Traducian and Nemesian concepts, about 25 years ago I was arguing with Greg Kokl on his call in show about purgatory and souls and stuff.
    He shut the conversation down by saying he was a traducianist. I was speechless as I thought this idea went out in the 5th century. Nope. It is a common view among modern Protestants.

    Okay, Kenneth, thanks again, Take care.

    PS Yeah, Angels are higher than us but they cannot procreate. Plus, we will judge them. And Gabriel greeted Mary as his queen by saying, ” Chaire”. The Franciscans have a website with about 40 videos explaining the jealousy of Lucifer over the Incarnation. Ciao

  116. Kenneth, I no sooner went back to my morning coffee than I thought of something. You know, we take so much for granted and assume Catholics and Protestants are on the same page about a lot of thing but really aren’t. This soul stuff for example. Not just on Traducianism/Creationism but on other points too. Soul sleep is a common view among non Catholics. ( Even one Pope erroneously taught this but retracted when corrected). Worse, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the souls’ existence but many Christians.
    Tons of Protestants deny the immortality of the soul but are awaiting the Resurrection. But, if the soul does not exist, there is no Resurrection but a re-Creation of the same person. This is indeed an impossibility, even for God. It is as impossible as the JW view that in the tomb Jesus the man ceased to exist and then started a new existence as a”life giving spirit” when He came out of the tomb.
    Anyway, I bet Garrigou LaGrange addresses the soul’s natural immortality once created. Or maybe Dom Vonier. Only an act of annihilation could make it go out of existence and annihilation implies God in a contradiction. Strange stuff to contemplate, huh?

    Dang! my coffee’s gone cold.

  117. Jason L.,

    The Lutherans ( and Luther ) used to condemn contraception. They don’t now. Were they right then and wrong now or wrong then and right now? Does it matter?

    Why are you a Lutheran again?

  118. That is so kind of you, Jim.

    How did you know I am single … and a hopeless romantic? 😀

  119. Jason L.,
    Ever Listen to Garrison Kiellor talk about the sad Lutheran Norwegian Bachelor Farmers? You’re all love lost.

  120. 😀

  121. @Robert:

    I don’t even know what you are referring to here, so let’s move on..

    You moved past the main point of the entire explanation, so that’s not really helpful.

    The point is simple. Satan is a rational being who fell, according to revelation. We should be able to discern principles from that account of how God relates to rational beings vis-a-vis evil, at least if we presume that God is rational in terms of acting based on principles. So when God was creating Satan, God allowed the fall to be by Satan’s choice. There has to be some principle behind that choice; it can’t be arbitrary. And principles don’t get discarded; they are univerally true propositions.

    So we learn a number of principles from Satan’s fall. One is that God has the causal power to allow free-willed beings to act autonomously with respect to His will. How He can do that is mysterious to us, but He did so with Satan, so we know that it is possible in principle.

    You admit that with respect to Satan when you say that “God doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against him. He didn’t make Adam that way, nor did he make him inherently defective so that he needed an infusion of grace before the fall to make sure he didn’t fall into evil.” In other words, this is a principle from revelation, and as such, it must be applied consistently. I completely agree with both statements, and the Catholic belief is absolutely not that Adam would have necessarily fallen into evil without grace. While grace cures sin, the absence of grace is not sin; that is a false dichotomy that you have introduced. The Catholic belief is that Adam would not have progressed to Heaven on his own, not that he would have sinned on his own.

    To save your view, you introduce a distinction about Satan, Adam, and Christ being created immediately. That distinction is completely irrelevant to the principle, so it is an ad hoc appeal, meaning that you are inconsistently applying the principle you yourself admitted is one revealed in divine revelation. In the first place, souls are specially created, so we are created immediately by God just as Satan and Adam were rational beings created immediately by God. Nor does traducianism save your view, because even if souls are a substance that is propagated, there is no way in principle that an act of rebellion can be propagated. In other words, absent the materialist view of traducianism that Kenneth point out, even traducianism does no work for original sin. This is why I accused you of the absurdity of reverse-causation: you are effectively saying that we did something wrong before we existed.

    In short, the entire concept of us having committed sin “in Adam” is a theological invention to justify a questionable interpretation of Scripture (in whom all sinned). This essentially comes from taking something metaphorical, like the sense in which Christ was “in” Abraham as his offspring, and trying to make it literal. This causes you to be inconsistent in the application of a Scriptural principle: God doesn’t create evil. You’re basically trying to some up with some justification for how we can inherit sin, which is impossible, in order to fit your (dubious) theological interpretation of what Scripture says. That’s not taking your principles from “exegesis of special revelation,” because exegesis is built on the discovery of sound principles, and your problem is precisely that you aren’t consistently applying sound principles that ought to hold.

    On that theological issue of inherited guilt, you wrongly assume that Fr. Weinandy shares your view on this subject, and you likewise wrongly assume that he shares your defective view of causality. In the first place, Weinandy admits that he is speculating in all of this in order to really affirm the profound depths of the Incarnation. Up front, I want to say that I think Weinandy is flat out wrong in his speculation; I don’t agree with him on any of this, and it certainly isn’t required for Catholics to agree with him. That being said, for you to refer to Weinandy, a man you accuse of offering idolatrous sacrifice and, as a faithful Catholic, teaching a false Gospel that cannot save, as “good Father” is obnoxiously sarcastic. I realize that you’re an anti-Catholic bigot and that it comes as naturally and easily as racial slurs do to other kinds of bigots, but I think it needs to be said that you are behaving like a boor.

    So let’s look at the actual issue in more detail.

    I disagree here with Weinandy in that he seems to make death a mere consequence of sin, but he clearly says that the West at least says that we inherit Adam’s guilt. We are reckoned guilty for what Adam did. You can view this federally as the Reformed do or more as if we were “in the loins of Adam,” but the point is that when Adam sinned and incurred guilt, we all sinned and incurred guilt.

    You’ve jumped from saying that we’ve inherited guilt to that we are reckoned guilty. There’s a difference between inheriting guilt by analogy, so that someone is being treated as having a status of guilt in some way, versus being judged by God as guilty. The jump is unwarranted, and your citation of Weinandy as support for the idea of inherited guilt in the sense that you mean it is inapposite. Essentially, the Western concept of inherited guilt and your concept of inherited guilt are different, and you have no warrant to use the former as evidence of the latter.

    This difference is likewise the basis for your errors on what death is. In other words, your disagreement with Weinandy on death is in principle inseparable from why you can’t correctly cite Weinandy as support for your Calvinist position on guilt. The fact that Weinandy distinguishes death and guilt in this context means that death is NOT being imposed as a penalty on account of inherited guilt. My point in saying that death was more than a penalty was obviously not an indication that it must always be at least a penalty. The point is that the scope of circumstances in which someone can be subject to death is much larger than the scope of circumstances in which someone is subject to death as a penalty. In other words, there are plenty of cases where death is not a penalty at all, contra your assertion that death must always be at least a penalty. Indeed, my entire point is that the situations in which death is being used as a penalty are being used by way of analogy to cases in which death is clearly *not* a penalty.

    Your allegations regarding Weinandy’s view of divine wrath are likewise inapposite. You are assuming, wrongly, that Weinandy views divine wrath as judgment against guilt, which his view on divine wrath actually excludes. Weinandy says explicitly that “hell is simply the experience of the absolute loss of God’s loving presence.” I think he’s completely wrong about that, and he is well outside the tradition on what the punishment of Hell constitutes, but take that as it is. Weinandy is NOT describing Hell as “what happens when an impenitent sinner stands in the presence of a loving God, something like His holy love being experienced as His wrath,” but the exact opposite (and indeed, that is exactly why I think he is wrong). Weinandy explicitly distinguishes his view from von Balthasar’s in saying that this is in no sense a perception of being positively punished by the Father, much less the Calvinist view of actually being judged guilty, but rather an experience of the divine absence in full cognizance of the absence. In other words, Weinandy is talking about Christ experiencing the divine absence and knowing exactly what He is missing. Personally, I think this is incoherent for the same reasons that von Balthasar’s view has been criticized by people who make the argument better than I do.

    The point of all this is that you keep saying that this is the Calvinist view except that it does not go far enough. My point is exactly that it would completely contradict the principles on which the argument is built, which is the paradigm case for where one cannot cite the argument as support. In other words, you’re using Weinandy dishonestly; you’re taking his arguments for a purpose for which they clearly cannot be used and yet claiming him as support. There’s no honest way in which Weinandy can mean the same thing by “guilt” or “wrath” that you do, or even any sense that can possibly be reconciled with the way you are using those terms, but you persist in dishonestly representing him as if he can. And I *have* read the argument, which is why I have to conclude that you are being either careless or deliberately dishonest, but in any case, you need to stop it.

    It goes no better for your on causality, particularly when you attempt to appeal to Aquinas. Your concept of first cause has nothing to do with the Catholic view, and indeed, your concept does not come from Scripture. Let’s turn back to that now:

    No, I’m reflecting what passages such as Romans 9 and Job 38–41 say. There’s no “I cause evil non-deterministically” (whatever that is) in those passages when God’s goodness and justice in reprobation and allowing evil are questioned; there’s only “who are you, O man who knows so little, to question God’s wisdom and holiness and goodness.”

    And you violate what Paul says in Romans 9 and a host of other passages in Scripture in which it is said specifically that God is involved in every act of evil committed even to the point of ordaining it.

    All that means is that you’re a bad exegete, and the fact that you had to violate principles that you believe are divinely revealed should have provided a clue to you that your exegesis is bad. I have no cause to question God’s goodness and justice in allowing evil, because I affirm the Scriptural principle, the one that you admitted, that God “doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against Him.” I simply do so consistently. If God doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against Him, then He didn’t do it in Romans 9 or Job 38-41 either.

    In Job 1-2, God gives that “bare permission” that seems to trouble you do much to Satan. And God’s answer in Job 38-41, contra your spin, is not “‘shut up,’ he explained.” It is, on the contrary, that Job should have known as Creator that God cannot be unjust, so that He should not be charged with doing evil and that Job should not be blaming God for the bad things that have befallen him. In fact, that his exactly what the Calvinist claim does, affirm that God can be charged with “causing” or “ordaining” or whatever it is with evil, affirming that God can somehow be charged for creating evil, but that He somehow prescinds from responsibility. The contrary Scriptural principle, which you correctly identified, is that God as Creator simply does not create evil, and we do not know why or how evil exists, nor is it a profitable question to ask about God. We simply know that God has nothing to do with it and that it results from fallible creatures, not from God’s role with respect to those fallible creatures.

    If we read the passages consistently according to that principle, then we already know that God’s hardening in Romans 9 has nothing to do with God causing the evil in Pharaoh’s heart, because God doesn’t cause evil in anyone’s heart. Then the question becomes what the passage is about. It turns out that it is about the same thing as Job: why does God allow bad things to befall people he has favored and blessed. And keeping in mind the principle that God does not cause evil, so He is not chargeable with wrong to anyone on that account, He is not then unjust to allow evil to befall those who have been previously blessed. In other words, He is not obligated to protect people, and even His chosen people, from their own sins, which is precisely why the petition “lead us not into temptation” actually means something.

    This all stems from your philosophically defective concept of causality, which itself results from delving into the same issues that Job tells you to avoid. It’s the philosophical concept, not a Biblical concept, that starts your inquiry. The Scriptural concept, which you’ve admitted, is that God doesn’t create evil. If you stuck with that Scriptural concept, you’d do fine. Instead, you insist on going beyond the limits prescribed and trying to inquire into God’s responsibility for evil.

    Here are some examples:

    The Calvinist says that God’s relationship to evil is different than his relationship to good and we do not know how he can ordain both without being morally responsible for the former. I can just as well say that we do not know how God can cause evil things non-deterministically and yet still be not guilty of evil. This is the specific problem of Christian theism, or really any theistic system that simultaneously affirms omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and omniscience.

    Except that isn’t the Christian answer at all. The Christian answer is exactly what you said: God doesn’t create evil. We have no idea why evil exists, but we affirm certainly that God doesn’t cause it. The problem is that your defective theory of causality does not prevent God acting as ultimate cause without somehow also causing evil. That’s a problem in your thinking, not a problem in the Christian view.

    The WCF says that God is the first cause of all things, and other agents are secondary causes, which should not be objectionable because if God isn’t the first cause of all things you end up, ultimately, with more than one god because there is something else that is the first cause of at least certain things, namely, evil acts.

    Yes, and this is the defective view. In saying that God acts “non-deterministically,” I am saying nothing other than that God is a transcendent cause, not a cause in the causal chain but the reason that any causes exist in the first place. That’s what “first cause” or “ultimate cause” actually means metaphysically. Absent that distinction, God must necessarily be, as you say, “morally responsible for something he could have prevented,” since He is in the causal chain. The Scriptural answer is to repeatedly affirm divine transcendence in causality, to say that God as Creator is not a cause like any other. So the error of Job or the interlocutor in Romans 9 is precisely in trying to violate this limit and trying to drag God down into the ordinary causal chain, so that He can be blamed. In these cases, Scripture reinforces God’s transcendence to knock down this kind of hubris.

    To say that God “ordains” evil in the sense that you mean it is an attempt to saddle God as transcendent cause with being a link in the causal chain. That’s also why you repeatedly keep making the error that God must either be a deterministic cause or “passive.” It’s outrageous that you claim I am violating God being “pure act,” because the entire point of God being pure act is that He must necessarily be a transcendent cause, meaning that He can’t possibly be considered a (deterministic) cause among causes. In other words, the fact that you even think of the Catholic view of God’s causality as being “passive” shows that you are making a fundamental (and Scripturally proscribed) error about how God’s causality operates.

    In other words, the Calvinist view is the same one as the defective Jewish view that (in their view) allows them to charge God with injustice. And God’s answer is not “‘shut up,’ he explained,” but rather to point out the error in their thinking about God as cause, the same one that you are making. You claim that you aren’t inquiring into divine causality, but your view of God as first/ultimate cause belies your claim.

    In short, your entire argument for the supposed harmony of your Calvinist view with the Western tradition, this assertion that Calvinism is just “one of the guys” in terms of Western tradition and the problem of evil, is completely wrong. It is based on a selective application of Biblical principles that even you admit, and it is based on mad-made philosophical ideas of causality, guilt, and punishment that violate the same Biblical principles that you claim to espouse. Rather than trying to harmonize those principles, which is what principled exegesis would do, you simply proof-text for these alien philosophical concepts and run roughshod over the conflicting principles. That is the only reasonable way in which we can have a meaningful discernment of God’s character that allows harmonization between God’s character and His revealed actions in a coherent way. By contrast, the anti-reason approach to Scriptural exegesis, where one attempts to treat revelation as a set of given principles rather than needing to intrepret revelation to discern consistent principles, is the Islamic approach that I mentioned early.

    There’s a reason you guys aren’t in the Thomist club. You need to understand that before you can interact with Catholics. As far as whether my view is convincing to you, I wouldn’t expect it to be, because as I pointed out, I think your entire approach to Scripture and theology is essentially incoherent, which is why I don’t consider Calvin a theologian in any meaningful sense. You have to at least admit the need to be reasonable in the first place before we can have a discussion. You’re the one who came here, which suggests that it’s at least possible for you to make that move, and you’re hanging around a Catholic website. And unlike Kevin, you seem to actually respond somewhat, although as I said, it’s painfully slow. So now I’ve explained, in excruciating detail, why we aren’t ignoring your points, but we think they are meritless. The ball’s in your court if you want to move it.

  122. Jonathan,

    Traducianism falls into two categories,(1) plain materialism if they say the soul arises from the parents’ bodies as do animals (2) or worse, a contradiction if they say the parents’ souls, which are simple substances, have something that can split off from them to form a third soul which is also a simple substance.

    Any form of pre-existnece of souls, as is held by Mormons today and reincarnationists end up with a soul that is not the substantial form of the body. The union of soul and matter becomes more like a demon possession rather than a real union.

    This leaves creationism. God, who is love, cannot create anything that is not naturally bent towards loving Himself. God can no more create a being who hates God than He can make a square circle or a rock too heavy to pick up.
    Of course, God is not obliged to elevate souls to supernature. But still, God does not create depraved souls. He creates deprived souls.

    Robert is on record as saying natural, unregenerate man would kill God if he could. He has yet to supply a scripture verse for such a troubling statement.

  123. Jason L.,
    Why are you never around when I want to talk to you? Where do you keep running off to?

    Anyway, I feel bad ( not really ) for saying such nasty things about Martin Luther. To make it up to you, I want to say some nice things about him. He are some quotes;

    ” It is a great joy of which the angel speaks! It is God’s consolation and overflowing goodness that man should be honored with such a mother: Mary is his true treasure, Christ his brother and God his Father.”

    “I believe there is no man among us who would not leave his own mother to become a son of Mary. And you can do that do all the more as it has been offered as a choice to you, and it is an even greater joy than if you embraced your own mother with real embraces.”

    ” We are the children of Mary! We are able to hear the song of the angels.”

    “Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of us all. If Christ is ours, we must be where He is, and where He is, we must be also, and all that He has must be ours, and his mother also is ours.”

    Of course, the Protestants on this blog can dismiss these statements of Luther as being mistaken. JBFA says Mary has no place in our lives. She is not compatible with JBFA. Luther was infallibe on JBFA but only on JBFA. ( The burning in their bosom tells them so*).

    Wouldn’t you think that the guy who invented JBFA would know what is and what is not compatible with his own concoction?

    Anyway, I just wanted to make amends for any offense given.

    * Apologies to any Mormon lurkers. Just making a point to the Protestants.

  124. Jonathan,

    I am listening to Tim Staples at the moment explain why the JW and Protestant doctrine of annihilation of the soul at death is wrong.
    There sure is a lot of misunderstanding out there on the soul.
    I think part of the problem with Calvinists is their merging the Image and Likeness of God into one thing. If they are, and they both are lost in the fall, the remaining soul is left with parts missing.
    Of course, we Catholics insist the Image is our creation as beings with intellect and free will. We are self conscious persons.
    The Likeness however, is sanctifying grace, something not part of our nature but a free gift added to us.
    We see that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils giving him a soul full of God’s own life, grace.
    Robert knows this but rejects it. He hold that Adam’s unelevated nature gave him a right to work his way into heaven. He blurs the distinction between nature and grace.

  125. Johnathan Prejean

    So the error of Job or the interlocutor in Romans 9 is precisely in trying to violate this limit and trying to drag God down into the ordinary causal chain, so that He can be blamed.

    This is also what Adam tried to do to after he willfully disobeyed God’s explicit commandment to not eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam tried to blame God, instead of manfully standing before God and taking responsibility for his own bad choice.

    Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
    Genesis 3:11-12

    After Adam sins, and is confronted by God, he tries to blame Eve, and ultimately, Adm tries to blame God for his willful sinfulness – that woman that you put here, she is the problem, not me. If you hadn’t created this woman, nothing bad would have happened.

    Weasel boy is trying to evade personal responsibility. God buys none of Adam’s lame blame shifting, and we are shown what the wrath of God actually is when God speaks to Adam. The wrath of God are the consequences of what happens when we make bad choices. When our will is not God’s will, and we choose to do our will anyway, we will suffer the wrath of God, that is, we will suffer the consequences of our own bad choices.

    God spells out for Adam what his sin consisted of, and he spells out to Adam the consequences to his life because he has freely chosen to go down a sinful path.

    To the man he said: Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, You shall not eat from it, Cursed is the ground – because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
    .
    Gen 3: 17-19

    The sin that Adam committed was the sin of listening to his wife, that is, Adam was created by God to be the head of the family, and it was his responsibility to tell his wife that they were NOT going to eat of the forbidden fruit; that instead, they were going to obey God. Adam’s wife was way out of line for even suggesting such a thing, but Paul says that she was deceived by the serpent, while Adam was not:

    I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
    1 Tim 2:12-14

    The point here is that Adam was NOT deceived by the serpent, so he ultimately bears responsibility for the original sin. All of Adam’s progeny suffer consequences from the sin that Adam personally committed, and that is why original sin is not a personal sin that I committed, but a state of being that I am born into by natural childbirth, since I am descendent of Adam. By analogy, if my grandfather had inherited a great wealth, but squandered it away by drinking and carousing, I might be born into poverty and be forced to become an indentured servant. Grandpa’s sin had consequences for my life, even though I did not personally commit the sin of gambling and carousing. Nevertheless, I am deprived of the life I might have lived because of grandpa’s sinning. The Catechesim of the Catholic Church makes the point that I am trying to make even more clear:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    .
    The consequences of Adam’s sin for humanity
    .
    402
    All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”
    .
    403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”. Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.
    .
    404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.
    .
    405 Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

    Johnathan writes:

    In short, the entire concept of us having committed sin “in Adam” is a theological invention to justify a questionable interpretation of Scripture (in whom all sinned). This essentially comes from taking something metaphorical, like the sense in which Christ was “in” Abraham as his offspring, and trying to make it literal. This causes you to be inconsistent in the application of a Scriptural principle: God doesn’t create evil. You’re basically trying to some up with some justification for how we can inherit sin, which is impossible, in order to fit your (dubious) theological interpretation of what Scripture says.

    Well said.

    The problem with Calvinism is that it is false religion in that Calvinism ultimately blames the god of Calvinism for why men are damned. In Calvinism, no man has to take personal responsibility for the sins that he commits. The elect get to go to heaven in spite of the sins that they commit, because the Calvinist god is a corrupt judge with a double standard of justice. The god of Calvinism looks the other way when the elect commit sin.

    The man that is not elect, is also not responsible for the sins that he commits, because the god of Calvinism has decreed that he will commit those sins, and what the god of Calvinism decrees, inevitably comes into being. But the non-elect man will go to hell for his sins, because the god of Calvinism is a corrupt judge with a different standard of “justice” for the non-elect.

  126. Mateo,

    he man that is not elect, is also not responsible for the sins that he commits, because the god of Calvinism has decreed that he will commit those sins, and what the god of Calvinism decrees, inevitably comes into being. But the non-elect man will go to hell for his sins, because the god of Calvinism is a corrupt judge with a different standard of “justice” for the non-elect.

    Clearly you’ve never actually read a Calvinist, which is why you can spout off such nonsense. In any case, if God knows the future and what he knows cannot be falsified, then his act of creation means that all this—including evil—inevitably comes into being. So RCism, unless it starts denying God’s exhaustively true foreknowledge, doesn’t get off the hook.

  127. Robert, you write:

    Clearly you’ve never actually read a Calvinist, which is why you can spout off such nonsense.

    Robert, I am writing about the logical consequences that flow from the tenets of Calvinism. Once a Calvinist denies that men have free will, there are a raft of other errors that follow from that mistaken idea. There are plenty of books by ex-Calvinists that speak to the problems inherent in Calvinism.

    In any case, if God knows the future …

    If? No practicing Catholic that know his faith denies the omniscience of God! God knows the future.

    … his act of creation means that all this—including evil—inevitably comes into being

    Robert, the fact that God already knows the sins that you are going to commit in the future does not logically entail that God is going to make you commit those sins. It seems to me that you are arguing for the “omnicausualism” of hyper-Calvinism, which Michael Horton identifies as an error in thinking.

    So RCism, unless it starts denying God’s exhaustively true foreknowledge, doesn’t get off the hook.

    What “hook” are Catholics caught on? Catholics don’t deny that God is omniscient, and Catholics don’t deny that men are responsible for the sins that they choose to commit.

    Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him.
    Sirach 15:17
    .
    I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life …
    Deuteronomy 30:19
    .
    … he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
    Matthew 25:41-43

  128. In keeping with the recent theme, I’m just going to agree with Mateo. The inevitability of what God foresees happening is undeniable. The question is causality, not knowledge. Otherwise, the act of creation itself would be necessary, since God knows from all eternity that He will create. The same argument strips away God’s freedom as surely as it does man’s.

  129. Guys,
    Like the Catechism says, Original Sin is not personal sin. Calvinism’s Federal theory says we each are charged with Adam’s sin though. I think the whole thing can be cleared up by sound philosophy. What is the origin of the soul?

    I am still reeling from the logic of Mikel’s question a few days ago about why didn’t God just create us already in heaven or hell? I slapped the question on a Calvinist on Kauffman’s blog and he couldn’t answer it.

    Finally, when it comes to predestination being before or after God seeing our merits, I once again defer to F. Most. He says that God lives in eternity or timelessness. Time is a creature that has only been around for 13.5 billion years.
    The Dominican/ Molinist or Arminian/Calvinist debate should take into account that with God, there is no before or after. Only now.

  130. Freedom in Christ (or freedom in Trinitarian Territory) really means our freedom to choose Jesus Christ. This is what freedom is. It is freedom for, it is not freedom from. It is freedom for God, freedom for good, freedom for choosing the right.

    The mature person realizes that true love is choosing to love. Our example is Jesus Christ having the choice, and choosing to obey, out of love, the Father. He chose to die for us, the ultimate act of love.

    Christians are free, and we must never forget freedom is never free.

    Hallelujah that our Lord Jesus Christ paid the price with His life – our Savior ‘saved us’ from not having freedom! We are now free to choose the way of God. The Catechism gives an important definition. “Freedom is the power rooted in reason and will to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform some deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. Human freedom… attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.” (CCC 1731)

    So the ‘pool’ of freedom we participate in is the freedom to love, and that is the freedom to move into (action, progress towards) Trinitarian Territory.

    When we fail to choose the good or act in this freedom, we become slaves of evil or sin. I don’t think John Calvin would understand this.

  131. Debbie,

    When we fail to choose the good or act in this freedom, we become slaves of evil or sin. I don’t think John Calvin would understand this.

    If you would sit down and read Calvin, you wouldn’t say this.

    Further, you are assuming a libertarian concept of freedom that has to be defended and not assumed. And in any case, we aren’t free in the sense you want us to be free if God knows for certain what we will do. If God knew yesterday that I would wear black pants today, I could not do otherwise.

  132. Robert,

    Just because God knows what you will choose doesn’t mean He doesn’t give you the choice. I am constantly underwhelmed by the ‘choice’ of some Protestants to put God in a time conceived box, as if He is some BIG prototype of Zeus getting some amusement from all of us creatures as we act out what He already knows will happen.

    This witness leads me to think they are not really ‘free’ if that is how they ‘choose’ to see God (or possibly that don’t live in full freedom).

    I don’t have the words to really combat this (I’ll leave it to others), but I sure do have the truthful imagery in my mind of how this completely negates God – His Glory ALONE fills the heavens and earth. This small mindset of God reminds me those who really believed the world was flat and were afraid they would drop off the edge and die – so they ‘chose’ not to travel.

  133. @Robert:
    You’re confusing a libertarian view with respect to God’s foreknowledge, which is logically impossible, with a particular causal account as to why that is. To put it simply, without your (and Calvin’s) defective assumptions about divine causality, this whole conflict between “libertarian” and “compatibilist” accounts ceases to exist.

    It is a contradiction in terms to say that human souls are secondary causes in the moral sense, yet they don’t have libertarian freedom. That’s an incoherent interpretation of Scripture. It is coherent and principled to say that God can create free moral agency despite His omniscience, given that He did it with both Satan and Adam.

    The best demonstration that Calvinism is logically incoherent is that there are both supralapsarian and infralapsarian Calvinists. If the principle affirmed by infralapsarians is true, then there is no principled reason to be a Calvinist, since there is no necessary conflict between God’s omniscience and libertarian freedom. And if there is a necessary conflict, then supralapsarian Calvinists should condemn everyone who isn’t a supralapsarian Calvinist as necessarily teaching another Gospel (in other words, the hyper-Calvinist position).

    In other words, you have the same problem Mateo pointed out with respect to Horton. On the principles you’ve outlined, you shouldn’t condemn hyper-Calvinists; you should be a hyper-Calvinist.

  134. Jonathan,

    It is a contradiction in terms to say that human souls are secondary causes in the moral sense, yet they don’t have libertarian freedom. That’s an incoherent interpretation of Scripture. It is coherent and principled to say that God can create free moral agency despite His omniscience, given that He did it with both Satan and Adam.

    And once again, there is no exegesis here. You are assuming Satan and Adam had libertarian freedom, but Scripture doesn’t teach that. If it does, I’d like the chapter and verse or a reading of the text that does not assume that in order for a moral choice to be real and for people to be culpable, libertarian freedom must obtain. This gets back to reading philosophical assumptions into Scripture instead of letting Scripture define these assumptions. The text of Scripture determines what makes a moral choice real, not humanistic ethical philosophy, which is basically what you have when you say libertarianism must obtain if secondary causes are to be causative in the moral sense.

    The best demonstration that Calvinism is logically incoherent is that there are both supralapsarian and infralapsarian Calvinists. If the principle affirmed by infralapsarians is true, then there is no principled reason to be a Calvinist, since there is no necessary conflict between God’s omniscience and libertarian freedom. And if there is a necessary conflict, then supralapsarian Calvinists should condemn everyone who isn’t a supralapsarian Calvinist as necessarily teaching another Gospel (in other words, the hyper-Calvinist position).

    I don’t think you know what you are talking about here. In any case, there’s a conflict between omniscience and libertarian freedom in every system that affirms libertarian freedom and omniscience. This is where the Open Theists are correct. If a person is to have the true ability to do non-A, God can’t know whether the person will do A or non-A ahead of time. Once God knows it, the outcome is guaranteed and the ability is not there in the sense you want it to be there. It’s all just a theoretical ability. It’s nothing I have the true capacity to exercise in the real world, and quite frankly, the real world is the only one that matters.

    God’s knowledge establishes reality, if it doesn’t he becomes a passive observer of creation and there is the very real problem of what the grounding of his knowledge is.

    As far as the infralapsarian vs. supralapsarian debate, its a debate over the logical order of God’s decrees that I personally don’t find very useful because there just really isn’t much in Scripture that talks about it. Be that as it may, libertarian freedom is incompatible with both because what ever order the decrees occur in logically, God still operates in his world under the rubric of compatibilistic freedom. So I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hyper-Calvinism denies real human agency, which is why we condemn it. The problem is that you assume that human agency can’t be real unless it is libertarian, and I again ask where the Bible teaches that. As long as you insist on not starting with exegesis, you are going to find Calvinism incoherent.

    What is really incoherent is the RC allows both the views of Thomism (unconditional election) and Molinism (election based on God’s knowledge of what a person will do). Those aren’t reconcilable, and they are directly contradictory.

    The “problems” Mateo points out are no less real for the non-Calvinst. Why should God create history at all if he knows the outcome. Why not just put everyone in hell and heaven immediately if he knows what they will do is a question you all have to answer as well.

  135. Johnathan Prejean you write:

    In other words, you have the same problem Mateo pointed out with respect to Horton. On the principles you’ve outlined, you shouldn’t condemn hyper-Calvinists; you should be a hyper-Calvinist.

    It seems to me that Robert is a hyper-Calvinist when it suits his needs and he shape-shifts into something else when that suits his needs. It is not just Robert that does this, because it seems to me that this is a characteristic of all Calvinists. The theme of this thread is about Jason Stellman crying “Foul” when Calvinists like Michael Horton aren’t consistent in the positions that they take.

    Therefore if Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists are just rationalists in disguise because they posit a univocal understanding of freedom which fails to distinguish divine and creaturely expressions of it (as Horton charges), then what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. By failing (and often outright refusing) to notice any distinction between Christ’s mediatorship and that of Mary and the saints, or between Jesus’ self-offering at Calvary and the Church’s Eucharistic offering at Mass, our Reformed brethren are exhibiting the very rationalistic and fundamentalist rigidity that they claim to repudiate in other contexts.

    Robert you write:

    Why should God create history at all if he knows the outcome.

    That is a question that hyper-Calvinists need to answer, since they deny that men have freewill. What is the point of life if God has created me for eternity in Hell, and there is nothing that I can do about that? What is the point of life if God is going to force irresistible grace down my throat and turn me a holy puppet that is forced to dance to the tune that God is playing? Why not just create me in Hell, instead of acting like a sick little boy that likes to torture the cat before he kills it? The god of the hyper-Calvinists is a monster.

    Why not just put everyone in hell and heaven immediately if he knows what they will do is a question you all have to answer as well.

    This is not a “problem” that I struggle with since I believe, unlike you, in what is written the Sacred Scriptures. It is God’s sovereign will that I have been given the freedom to make a choice for either life or death, blessing or curse. The hyper-Calvinsts that have created a problem where none exists.

    God was not violating his justice when he put Adam to the test.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    .
    Freedom put to the test
    .
    396
    God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” spells this out: “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die.” The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.
    .
    Man’s first sin
    .
    397
    Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
    .
    412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”

    Putting the elect to the test is something spoken about throughout the Bible. Only those who past the test will be saved.

    Behold, God is the judge, fear him! Cease from your sins, and forget your iniquities, never to commit them again; so God will lead you forth and deliver you from all tribulation. For behold, the burning wrath of a great multitude is kindled over you, and they shall carry off some of you and shall feed you what was sacrificed to idols. And those who consent to eat shall be held in derision and contempt, and be trodden under foot. For in many places and in neighboring cities there shall be a great insurrection against those who fear the Lord. They shall be like mad men, sparing no one, but plundering and destroying those who continue to fear the Lord. For they shall destroy and plunder their goods, and drive them out of their houses. Then the tested quality of my elect shall be manifest, as gold that is tested by fire.
    .
    “Hear, my elect,” says the Lord. “Behold, the days of tribulation are at hand, and I will deliver you from them. Do not fear or doubt, for God is your guide. You who keep my commandments and precepts,” says the Lord God, “do not let your sins pull you down, or your iniquities prevail over you.” Woe to those who are choked by their sins and overwhelmed by their iniquities, as a field is choked with underbrush and its path overwhelmed with thorns, so that no one can pass through! It is shut off and given up to be consumed by fire.
    .
    4 Esdra 16: 68-78

    If you would enter life, keep the commandments.
    Matthew 19:17

  136. Mateo,

    You’re not getting the fact that you have the same problem:

    Putting the elect to the test is something spoken about throughout the Bible. Only those who past the test will be saved.

    If God knows who will pass the test, what is the point of the test? Why should God go through the “trouble” of testing anyone, given that he knows who will pass and who won’t.

    This is not a “problem” that I struggle with since I believe, unlike you, in what is written the Sacred Scriptures. It is God’s sovereign will that I have been given the freedom to make a choice for either life or death, blessing or curse.

    If you believed what is written in Scripture, you wouldn’t be Roman Catholic. Be that as it may, I agree that it is God’s sovereign will that I have been given the choice for either life or death, blessing or curse. The question is what kind of freedom have we been given, compatibilistic freedom or libertarian freedom? It’s one or the other, and the only way you can have true libertarian freedom is to deny God’s omniscience. You’re dancing around the issue.

  137. Mateo,

    It seems to me that Robert is a hyper-Calvinist when it suits his needs and he shape-shifts into something else when that suits his needs. It is not just Robert that does this, because it seems to me that this is a characteristic of all Calvinists. The theme of this thread is about Jason Stellman crying “Foul” when Calvinists like Michael Horton aren’t consistent in the positions that they take.

    Neither you or Jonathan have given any indication that you know what hyper-Calvinism is.

  138. Jonathan,

    You said,

    In short, your entire argument for the supposed harmony of your Calvinist view with the Western tradition, this assertion that Calvinism is just “one of the guys” in terms of Western tradition and the problem of evil, is completely wrong. It is based on a selective application of Biblical principles that even you admit, and it is based on mad-made philosophical ideas of causality, guilt, and punishment that violate the same Biblical principles that you claim to espouse.

    You make a blanket assertion (which is clearly wrong) and then provide no support for that assertion. You talk about the tradition and move on to talk about biblical interpretation and man-made philosophical ideas. The only problem is that your agenda is getting in the way of your history and the fact of the matter is that any student of history knows that the issues of predestination have a long and rich history in the Christian Church.

    One only need to read Augustine to see how oddly idiosyncratic and agenda driven your statements are. His letter to Simplician is “Calvinism.” It’s not even a precursor, it is lock, stock, and barrel “Calvinism.”

    Consider this summary of Augustine’s later thought in his Anti-Pelagian writings [Source: http://www3.nd.edu/~ujournal/assets/files/05-06/augustine.pdf%5D,

    There are parts of the Enchiridion that sound quite frightening to the modern Catholic
    ear, the scariest of which have not yet been addressed. Near the end of the “handbook,”
    Augustine begins to use language that sounds surprisingly Calvinist, prefiguring the later notion
    of “double-predestination,” the idea that God not only elects some for salvation but actively
    elects the rest for damnation. This notion is due undeniably to Augustine’s escalation of God’s
    absolute omnipotence. At one point, Augustine writes of “those whom in His justice He has
    predestined to punishment,” and “those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace.”54 In the
    same section, he seems to say that punishing of the “non-elect” was God’s will from the very
    beginning, so by acting badly, the damned are actually accomplishing God’s will. “In the very
    fact that they acted in opposition to His will, His will concerning them was fulfilled.”55 Bonner
    notes that “Augustine’s conviction of the absolute power of God would not admit that it could
    ever be defeated by the human will; even those who seem to reject God are in fact fulfilling His
    purposes.”

    You can debate the merits of whether or not Augustine is wrong, but this idealized notion that the Catholic Church has some sort of unanimity on these things in the Western Tradition is indefensible. It’s easy to get carried away in a discussion and lose precision, but it is important to note that the narrative you’ve attempted to construct is incorrect.

    For even more information about debates concerning predestination in the Medieval church, you can consult Carl Trueman’s lectures on iTunes U: https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/medievalchurch/id430337027?mt=10

  139. Debbie you write:

    Freedom in Christ (or freedom in Trinitarian Territory) really means our freedom to choose Jesus Christ. This is what freedom is. It is freedom for, it is not freedom from. It is freedom for God, freedom for good, freedom for choosing the right.

    This is a good point, and I agree with it. I also think that there is a both/and aspect to this too. Christ came to set us free from our bondage to sin AND Christ came to give us the freedom that comes from partaking in the divine nature (theosis).

    Robert writes to you:

    Further, you are assuming a libertarian concept of freedom that has to be defended and not assumed.

    Robert did not bother to define what he thinks a “libertarian concept of freedom” consists of, and I have tried several times to get someone to define in this thread what they think “libertarian free will” actually is.

    Robert, are you ever going to bother to define what you think the error of libertarian free will consists of?

    Jason Stellman quotes Michael Horton who mentions “libertarian free will” as something that the “Arminians” believe in (and apparently something that Michael Horton does not believe in):

    Hyper-Calvinism shares with Arminianism (and especially open theism) a rationalistic tendency toward a univocal interpretation of the noun “freedom.” The one begins with the central dogma of omnicausalism and the other with the central dogma of libertarian free will.

    What, exactly, is the aspect of “libertarian free will” that is unacceptable to Michael Horton?

    In searching the Internet, one aspect of “libertarian free will” is the idea that men actually get to make choices in life, which is something that the Catholic Church affirms. Earlier in this thread I posted this quote from the Wikipedia article on “Libertarianism”: “… libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.”

    The Catholic Church does teach that an adult has to make a correct choices in order to be saved. But the Catholic Church is nuanced in what it teaches. She teaches that no man needs grace to choose to commit sin. There is no such thing as un-saving grace. She also teaches that all men need grace in order to choose to do good.

    For example, it is a de fide dogma of the faith that an adult that is not baptized cannnot make a choice to receive a valid baptism without God first giving the adult two kinds of actual grace. First God must give the adult “operating grace”, an actual grace that is monergistic, and by definition, irresistible. Operating grace enlightens the darkened mind of the man born into the state of being brought about by the original sin. But that operating grace must be followed by cooperating grace, a synergistic grace that requires the cooperation of man with God. By cooperating with that grace, the adult can become a catechumen and receive the habitual grace that will save him.

    If “libertarian free will” is the position that men born in original sin can choose to become Christians without cooperating grace, then the Catholic Church rejects that idea, since that is the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism.

    Bryan Cross at Called to Communion has posted a lecture by Professor Lawrence Feingold that speaks to these issues:

    The distinction between sanctifying grace and actual grace is one of the fundamental points of disagreement between Reformed theology and Catholic theology. Reformed theology does not make this distinction, and therefore treats the Catholic teaching on cooperation with actual grace prior to receiving sanctifying grace as Semipelagianism. Reformed theology also does not recognize sanctifying grace because Reformed theology does not accept the Catholic doctrine of theosis, i.e. actual participation in the divine nature.
    .
    Reference: Lawrence Feingold on Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace
    .
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/lawrence-feingold-on-sanctifying-grace-and-actual-grace/

    In the comment section of the above thread at CTC that I posted this definition by Dr. Ott of the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism:

    … Semi-Pelagianism recognizes the supernatural elevation of man, original sin, and the necessity of inner supernatural grace for preparation for justification and for the achievement of salvation, but limits the necessity and gratuitous nature of grace. Striving to preserve the freedom of the will and the personal co-operation of man in the process of sanctification, the originators of the error came to the following conclusions:
    .
    a) The primary desire for salvation proceeds from the natural powers of man …
    .
    Ref: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott

    The Catholic Church rejects the idea that the “primary desire for salvation proceeds from the natural powers of man.” If that is what concept of “libertarian free will” is asserting, then the Catholic Church rejects that idea. And if Robert is saying that Catholic soteriology is Semi-Pelagian, then Robert is attacking a straw man.

  140. Robert you write:

    Neither you or Jonathan have given any indication that you know what hyper-Calvinism is.

    Robert that is hogwash. But you are free to give us your personal definition of hyper-Calvinism.

  141. Robert, you ask:

    If God knows who will pass the test, what is the point of the test? Why should God go through the “trouble” of testing anyone, given that he knows who will pass and who won’t.

    The point of the test is for us to know something about ourselves. God knows us perfectly, but our knowledge of ourselves is anything but perfect. It is easy for us to live in delusion. We can be like Peter, sure that we will never fail the test, but destined to fail the test if we are depending upon our own strength, instead of recognizing our utter weakness and depending on God’s strength.

    Peter declared to him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
    Matthew 26:33-34

    Here is a perfect example of Jesus being omniscient about the future. Peter was put to the test so that he would learn something about himself – he was not the tough guy he thought he was. Peter didn’t really know that apart from God he could do nothing until he failed his test.

    Failing the test is useful if we learn something from our failures. The alcoholic cannot begin his recovery until he admits he is an alcoholic and turns to “God as he knows him” for the help he desperately needs.

    I agree that it is God’s sovereign will that I have been given the choice for either life or death, blessing or curse. The question is what kind of freedom have we been given, compatibilistic freedom or libertarian freedom?

    You are going to have to define your terms if you expect me to understand what you are talking about. I am not a mind reader.

    Define what you personally mean by the term “libertarian free will”.

    Define what you mean by “compatibilistic freedom”.

    You’re dancing around the issue.

    That is bunk, and anyone reading this thread can see it. I am more than willing to define my terms.

    The real question is this, are you ever going to define your terms?

  142. Mateo:

    Hyper-Calvinism: The denial of the significance of human agency. This can take any number of forms. One of the most common would go something like this “Since God has elected only some to salvation, preaching the gospel is pointless because people are going to be saved anyway regardless of what I do.”

    Compatibilism: Freedom is the freedom to do what one most desires in any given situation. As long as people do what they want to do, they are free.

    Libertarianism: Freedom is the freedom to do A or non-A in any given situation. People are free as long as it is equally possible that they would do A or non-A in any given situation.

    The point of the test is for us to know something about ourselves. God knows us perfectly, but our knowledge of ourselves is anything but perfect. It is easy for us to live in delusion. We can be like Peter, sure that we will never fail the test, but destined to fail the test if we are depending upon our own strength, instead of recognizing our utter weakness and depending on God’s strength.

    No Calvinist that I know would deny this, which invalidates your whole “why not just put people directly in hell” point.

  143. Mateo,

    I am about 90% sure I sent that same link of Lawrence Feingold weeks ago. He can’t grasp the nuances of the types of grace. If it isn’t irresistible, efficaceous, Robert doesn’t see it as grace. ( Sorry for speaking of you in the 3rd person Robert).

    If it is given to all men, it can’t be grace. Grace is only for special people.

    Maybe just keep it simple. 1. The Bible says God wants all men saved. Christ died for all. We are told to pray for all. 2 Nobody can come unless given the grace to come. All men are commanded to come. Ergo, all are offered grace.
    3 ( And here’s the rub ) All men don’t come. Why? FREEWILL!

  144. Mateo,

    And if Robert is saying that Catholic soteriology is Semi-Pelagian, then Robert is attacking a straw man.

    The problem with a term like semi-Pelagian is that it was first used in one context and then retroactively applied to something that happened long before its first use.

    In any case, I would say that RC soteriology—as well as Wesleyan and Arminian theology—is a kind of de facto semi-Pelagian or as Eric has said, semi-semi-Pelagian because both agree that everyone has the equal ability to respond or not respond to the gospel and that God’s grace doesn’t guarantee the response of faith. To be fair, this is ability conveyed by God via grace, so he takes the first step. In that sense, neither group is semi-Pelagian according to how the term is customarily used to refer to disputes in the ancient church.

    It would be more accurate to say that most non-Calvinistic systems essentially deny the sufficiency of grace because grace does not guarantee the outcome God desires except in Calvinism.

  145. Robert,

    “It would be more accurate to say that most non-Calvinistic systems essentially deny the sufficiency of grace because grace does not guarantee the outcome God desires except in Calvinism.”

    Conflates sufficiency with efficacy (again).
    Also, by this logic this means in progressive sanctification, when you sin, God did not give you grace to resist. So grace must be irresistible/monergistic in both regeneration as well as progressive sanctification.

  146. @Robert:

    And once again, there is no exegesis here. You are assuming Satan and Adam had libertarian freedom, but Scripture doesn’t teach that. If it does, I’d like the chapter and verse or a reading of the text that does not assume that in order for a moral choice to be real and for people to be culpable, libertarian freedom must obtain. This gets back to reading philosophical assumptions into Scripture instead of letting Scripture define these assumptions. The text of Scripture determines what makes a moral choice real, not humanistic ethical philosophy, which is basically what you have when you say libertarianism must obtain if secondary causes are to be causative in the moral sense.

    I’m not assuming anything. The ability to exegete assumes common human experience and common human understanding. The only thing to which I am appealing is the common human experience and understanding necessary for human being to be able to communicate meaningfully. You can call that “philosophy” if you want, but since that “philosophy” is necessary to perform exegesis or even for the very idea of language to exist, any claim of performing exegesis around it is vacuous. So the default assumption is that when Scripture is speaking about something like moral responsibility, it is supposed to apply in the same sense as we would commonly understand it to apply in the absence of some clear reason to think that there is something different.

    Moreover, Scripture doesn’t use the terms “libertarian” or “secondary cause” explicitly. We need to establish the meaning of those terms conceptually even prior to inquiring as to what Scripture says about them. In fact, you are the one who is actually bringing an alien philosophical view to Scripture rather than the ordinary, common human understanding. The entirely ordinary definition of moral causality and responsibility is that one is not morally judged responsible for what is not voluntary. That is the ordinary default assumption unless we have some good reason for thinking otherwise.

    Scripture explicitly uses terms that necessarily include free choice in their ordinary meaning, and it tells stories that implicitly require free choice in terms of their meaning. Specifically, Scripture uses the term exousia (it’s in the New Testament more than 50 times alone), and while it is often translated as “power,” “right,” or “authority,” that is really by analogy to the primary meaning of the term, which is the ability to choose from one’s own power or substance (ousia). That was both the ordinary use of the term Stripped of ability of free choice, exousia loses its ordinary meaning, and this was also commonly how the term was used both commonly and technically in Greek philosophy. So, for example, when St. Paul speaks of exousia in Romans 13:1b (“For there is no power but of God : the powers that be are ordained of God”), it makes no sense unless God has the ability in His own supreme exousia to produce a lower exousia, which term includes its own free choice. This is completely harmonious with the repeated analogy of human beings to stewards or servants with some sphere of responsibility. Scripture also uses the term ekousion (voluntary; Phlm. 14) as opposed to ananke (involuntary, forced), as well as eleutheria, which Paul specifically notes as being amenable to abuse even among Christians (Gal. 5:13). All of these terms lose their meaning without the common understanding of moral agency allowing choice apart from compulsion.

    Additionally, you’ve already identified an implicit principle at work in numerous Biblical narratives: God doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against Him. You have said repeatedly that God created Adam upright, and one cannot doubt that Satan was created likewise. If the reason was not God’s creation and it was not a God directing the sin (which we know is not the case from numerous Scriptural passages), then it must inevitably be the case that it resulted from Satan’s and Adam’s use of their created exousia, their free choice. There was nothing in them to cause them to desire to do wrong, and there was no principle of evil causing them to do wrong, but they did anyway. That’s the only possible explanation.

    There’s nothing humanist here at all; for centuries, this was assumed to be the Christian understanding. It was a specific medieval tradition, the nominalist tradition, that took specific Islamic ideas about how causality took place and contradicted the universal Christian understanding of how this operated. It was that philosophical position overriding the common and ordinary understanding that produced Calvinism. You’re the one talking about “libertarian” and “compatibilist” positions; I’m just talking about how human beings have generally understood moral action for centuries, without these sophisticated philosophical concepts.

    You say that Catholics have the same problem as Calvinism. That is wrong for two reasons. First, because the Catholic conception of causality (and really the Christian concept of causality) is different from yours, it does not entail the same kind of moral responsibility that is entailed in the Calvinist conception of God, in that God is not a deterministic cause in the way that other evildoers would be. Second, you say that even assuming the Catholic view (that God is not the deterministic cause of evil), you say that God would still be responsible in that He does not prevent the evil. But prevention of evil is not morally equivalent to causing it. In the case of a sting operation, for example, a criminal is knowingly allowed to commit a crime in the interest of justice. One could easily argue that allowing exousia for rational beings serves the same purpose of demonstrating justice, and since all wrongs done to individuals are ultimately redressed in the end, creation is essentially the ultimate sting operation for the demonstration of divine justice.

    In short, the Catholic view is nothing more than the ordinary, common understanding of morality that we would expect to find (and do find) reflected in Scripture, while the Calvinist view is based on sophisticated, late-medieval philosophical beliefs that did not exist in Scriptural times. Moreover, the Catholic view is not subject to the same objections it raises against the Calvinist view. Basically, nothing you have said here is actually true.

    I don’t think you know what you are talking about here. In any case, there’s a conflict between omniscience and libertarian freedom in every system that affirms libertarian freedom and omniscience. This is where the Open Theists are correct. If a person is to have the true ability to do non-A, God can’t know whether the person will do A or non-A ahead of time. Once God knows it, the outcome is guaranteed and the ability is not there in the sense you want it to be there. It’s all just a theoretical ability. It’s nothing I have the true capacity to exercise in the real world, and quite frankly, the real world is the only one that matters.

    Where you say that open theists are correct is exactly where they are wrong, so it is unsurprising that you are equally wrong in replying on the premise. Their problem (and yours) is that this alleged conflict between libertarian freedom and omniscience only arises from thinking of God as knowing things “ahead of time,” and you even speak specifically about something happening “[o]nce God knows it.” Absent your defective concept of God acting in time, this isn’t a problem. And we know that it is a defective concept precisely because if it were true, then because God knows everything from eternity, God knows “ahead of time” that He is going to create, so He is forced by His own omniscience to create everything, meaning that everything that exists, your “real world,” necessarily exists as it is. But if God isn’t shackled by His own omniscient knowledge of creation, there’s no reason to think that it is a limitation on His true ability to interact with creatures. In essence, you and the open theists are both of the philosophically dubious position that God’s omniscience prevents Him from meaningfully interacting with free, temporal beings.

    God’s knowledge establishes reality, if it doesn’t he becomes a passive observer of creation and there is the very real problem of what the grounding of his knowledge is.

    The fact that you think God’s knowledge is subject to a grounding objection is precisely the philosophical problem. That’s certainly at least a potential problem of the Molinist account of middle knowledge in terms of what the object of middle knowledge is (which is why I’m not a Molinist), but that’s no reason to confuse the issue with divine causality, which Molinists do not do. As I said, if you take the view that “God’s knowledge establishes reality” in the sense that you mean it here, then that would make creation itself part of God’s omniscience, meaning that creation necessarily exists. That’s why we do not confuse God’s knowledge with God’s causality, and why the problems you raise are actually pseudo-problems created by your own philosophy.

    As far as the infralapsarian vs. supralapsarian debate, its a debate over the logical order of God’s decrees that I personally don’t find very useful because there just really isn’t much in Scripture that talks about it. Be that as it may, libertarian freedom is incompatible with both because what ever order the decrees occur in logically, God still operates in his world under the rubric of compatibilistic freedom. So I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hyper-Calvinism denies real human agency, which is why we condemn it. The problem is that you assume that human agency can’t be real unless it is libertarian, and I again ask where the Bible teaches that. As long as you insist on not starting with exegesis, you are going to find Calvinism incoherent.

    Again, “libertarian” and “compatibilistic” are adjectives that result from a particular philosophical mindset. Scripture just talks about free choice using terms like exousia, eleutheria, and ekousion, and these are all based on their ordinary, common understanding of what free choice is. Given a proper understanding of divine causality, the made-up conflict between “libertarian” and “compatibilist” views doesn’t exist. And I’m not assuming that real human agency requires moral autonomy; that is the ordinary, common human understanding of those terms that is the basis of exegeting Scripture, and anyone who denies that in favor of a sophisticated philosophical understanding is not affirming “real human agency” in any meaningful sense. Both you and the hyper-Calvinists deny “real human agency,” so your criticism of them is meaningless. Neither of you start from exegesis; both of you are starting from a philosophical understanding of free will that is not a common understanding, and you’re reading Scriptural terms based on that understanding. That’s not exegesis; it’s eisegesis.

    As to the infralapsarian and supralapsarian, my point is that this demonstrates the same grounding objection you raised against the Catholic view actually applies to your own view. If your view if that God’s omniscience is causal, then there can’t be a logical order between the two, because that produces a grounding objection in omniscience (God can’t possibly know the one event prior to the other). The fact that your confusion of omniscience and causality produces an absolutely unavoidable logical problem shows that it is inconsistent. The quarrel with hyper-Calvinism is simply an illustration of how Calvinists are being asked to accept a self-contradictory view of “real human agency” and divine causality.

    To summarize, I am making no assumptions apart from the ordinary, common understanding of moral action that must necessarily be assumed in any kind of human communication and that is reflected in the Scriptural use of language, as shown by use of various terms that contemporaneously had that meaning. You are assuming a philosophically sophisticated (and wrong) account of “libertarian” and “compatibilist” freedom, neither of which terms are found anywhere in Scripture and both of which date to centuries later, and eisegeting Scripture in favor of that philosophical understanding. As between those two views, it’s not hard to figure out which is more faithful to the original intent of the Scriptures.

  147. @Robert:

    In any case, I would say that RC soteriology—as well as Wesleyan and Arminian theology—is a kind of de facto semi-Pelagian or as Eric has said, semi-semi-Pelagian because both agree that everyone has the equal ability to respond or not respond to the gospel and that God’s grace doesn’t guarantee the response of faith.

    Where are you getting this? That’s not what sufficient grace means, not even close. That’s why we reject the Arminian view that the Gospel itself is sufficient grace.

  148. @Brandon:

    You can debate the merits of whether or not Augustine is wrong, but this idealized notion that the Catholic Church has some sort of unanimity on these things in the Western Tradition is indefensible. It’s easy to get carried away in a discussion and lose precision, but it is important to note that the narrative you’ve attempted to construct is incorrect.

    I haven’t lost precision on anything. Predestination is not the issue, and it never has been; Thomists are perfectly comfortable with unconditional election. The only issue is the denial of God’s special provision of grace to every single person at some point which, but for that person’s denial of that special intervention (evil intent), would have been sufficient to lead that person to God. Augustine doesn’t even speak about that, and what he says here is irrelevant in that regard. It is the peculiar Calvinist view that God gives no special grace to the unregenerate and the related view that the truly regenerate cannot lose the grace of regeneration that are distinctives in this regard. Those views are anticipated literally not at all in the tradition; not one single author endorses it.

    You seem to have the same bizarre view as Robert that Catholics think that everyone has an “equal ability to respond,” which no Catholic, Thomist or Molinist, believes. That is why we would condemn the Arminian understanding of the Gospel as being sufficient grace as heretical semi-Pelagianism; we are not Arminians. The Catholic distinctive position is that God offers a special, personalized divine intervention into every person’s life at some or another point that is either accepted or refused, so that God has objectively made the offer of salvation to every single soul personally, irrespective of whether that person has ever heard the Gospel. It is the denial that God does this, a denial that cannot be found in any of the Fathers, that is the Calvinist heresy.

  149. Jonathan,

    When Scripture is speaking about something like moral responsibility, it is supposed to apply in the same sense as we would commonly understand it to apply in the absence of some clear reason to think that there is something different.

    Which is why the idea of the liberty of indifference or libertarianism that you hold is incoherent, because we don’t ground moral responsibility in the ability to do A or not-A , at least not primarily. What always matters most is motive and intent, which are matters of character that determine our choices. Even God can’t act against his character because God can’t do evil. On this evaluation neither what God or the incarnate Christ did can be morally praiseworthy because neither one could do both A and non-A if A is good and non-A is evil.

    As far as most of the rest of what you just wrote, you are falsely assuming that ordain=cause, but I’m preparing a longer response that deals more with that.

  150. Jonathan,

    You seem to have the same bizarre view as Robert that Catholics think that everyone has an “equal ability to respond,” which no Catholic, Thomist or Molinist, believes. That is why we would condemn the Arminian understanding of the Gospel as being sufficient grace as heretical semi-Pelagianism; we are not Arminians. The Catholic distinctive position is that God offers a special, personalized divine intervention into every person’s life at some or another point that is either accepted or refused, so that God has objectively made the offer of salvation to every single soul personally, irrespective of whether that person has ever heard the Gospel. It is the denial that God does this, a denial that cannot be found in any of the Fathers, that is the Calvinist heresy.

    So when God makes the objective offer, some people can respond and some can’t respond? Some people do not have the ability to accept? Because that seems to be what you are saying. If you’re not saying that, I don’t see how you are saying anything materially different from Arminians.

  151. Brandon,

    Good luck getting Jonathan to admit that Calvinism has antecedents. For him it appears to be a heresy that dropped out of the sky into an environment in which the papacy was pristine and why in the world would anyone think the Reformation should happen since, according to him, Rome had cleaned up its act long before Luther, Calvin, et. al came on the scene. The fact that you would believe otherwise will get you branded as an ignorant and unthinking bigot even though he can charge Calvin with teaching a false gospel in an unbiased way completely free of all bigotry. But good on you for trying.

  152. Jonathan,

    Yes, you have been imprecise, which is probably too generous an estimation. You are demonstrably wrong in your historical assessment. Are you willing to admit that Augustine taught a form of predestination almost identical to the Reformed tradition, particularly in his letter to Simplician?

    If you can admit that then the conversation can move forward and we can drop this nonsense about Calvinism being Islamic (or CalvIslam, as I believe you stated I above). That has to be one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard. If you want to know why I use such strong language, consider the fact that Augustine wrote in the late fourth and early fifth century in Africa.

  153. @Robert:

    Which is why the idea of the liberty of indifference or libertarianism that you hold is incoherent, because we don’t ground moral responsibility in the ability to do A or not-A , at least not primarily.

    Nor did I maintain that I did. What I did say is that we don’t hold people morally responsible for what they did, if they could not have the choice not to do it, or what they did not do, if they did not have the choice to do it. “Ability” has nothing to do with it; the question is whether the act of will was voluntary or compelled.

    What always matters most is motive and intent, which are matters of character that determine our choices.

    I don’t believe wills are (causally) determined by anything. Intent is a choice; motive is a choice. To say that choices are determined is to deny real human agency.

    Even God can’t act against his character because God can’t do evil. On this evaluation neither what God or the incarnate Christ did can be morally praiseworthy because neither one could do both A and non-A if A is good and non-A is evil.

    That would only be true if every particular good was a necessary good (basically, not doing every single possible good thing was necessarily evil). Otherwise, every particular good can be freely chosen (or not), and one can be praiseworthy for choosing any particular good, while not choosing that good would still be morally indifferent. That is, in fact, the peril of deterministic will for your view; it makes every good both mandatory and necessary.

    As far as most of the rest of what you just wrote, you are falsely assuming that ordain=cause, but I’m preparing a longer response that deals more with that.

    I’m not assuming that, anymore than I assumed the ability to do evil as a requirement of moral responsibility. If you think that I am, you’re going to be spinning your wheels on that rebuttal.

    So when God makes the objective offer, some people can respond and some can’t respond? Some people do not have the ability to accept? Because that seems to be what you are saying.

    I don’t know what you mean by “ability.” Those who refuse do so by their fault; those who accept do so by grace. It’s the same as with St. Michael and Satan. Michael’s good choice is attributed to God and not to his credit, while Satan’s bad choice is attributed to Satan. Those who respond, respond by grace, and those who refuse, refuse by their own fault. The heresy is to deny that God makes the offer.

  154. @Brandon:

    Are you willing to admit that Augustine taught a form of predestination almost identical to the Reformed tradition, particularly in his letter to Simplician?

    Predestination is not the issue. The heresy is predestinarianism, wherein God predestines reprobation in such a way that it determines for sin to be committed against Him. I’ve read Augustine’s works all the way to the end of his life, and I’ve never read anything like predestinarianism (sometimes obtusely referred to as “double predestination,” but that is unhelpfully ambiguous). On the contrary, given the very same Neoplatonic account that was cited there, it is impossible for Augustine to accept predestinarianism, because it would violate his philosophical account of what evil is. It took a much later view of divine causality for that to even be a logical possibility, and if the question is whether that view of divine causality existed in Augustine’s time, the answer is an emphatic NO!

    If you can admit that then the conversation can move forward and we can drop this nonsense about Calvinism being Islamic (or CalvIslam, as I believe you stated I above). That has to be one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard. If you want to know why I use such strong language, consider the fact that Augustine wrote in the late fourth and early fifth century in Africa.

    The Islamic view had a similarly deterministic view of divine causality (God knows it is going to happen, which makes it happen). That’s part of the reason that Islam has a divine dictation theory of inspiration as opposed to the prevailing Jewish and Christian view; if it is God’s word, then it must be determined by God’s will. I suppose in some vague sense this did come out of a Christian view, in that there were Christian sects (possibly Collyridians and definitely Nestorians) and Jewish sects (such as the Essenes) that inspired some of these doctrines. But if we’re talking about mainstream, pro-Nicene Christianity, then, no, this idea of a deterministic divine will in the sense affirmed by predestinarianism simply didn’t exist. Augustine’s Christian Neoplatonism is actually an excellent example of a pro-Nicene view that rejects it.

    It’s also no coincidence that these views on the divine will overlapped with those of the Monothelite heretics within the Christian empire. This idea of a deterministic divine will quite easily fit in with the idea of Christ’s human will being determined by the divine will (Nestorian-type monotheletism). Where that idea of the divine will was killed in mainstream Christianity by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, it survived in the Nestorian Church of the East, where it was assimilated by Islam, and later crept back into the West through the back door of Aristotelian studies.

    The way Calvin thinks about human will just flat out isn’t Christian, or at least, not orthodox Christian. Augustine didn’t think that way; Aquinas didn’t think that way. The only Christians who thought that way in the West were much, much later thinkers like Ockham, and, to say the least, they didn’t inherit that view from the ancient Christian tradition.

    Predestination is a red herring. The real distinctive of Calvinism is how it thinks of the human will being determined by the divine will, particularly with respect to the causality of evil acts after the Fall. That is precisely what I mean when I say that no support (and I mean literally none, not even individual works of individual authors) can be found in the earlier tradition. Christianity simply never thought this way until well into the scholastic period.

    This should not come as a surprise. From the Catholic perspective, Calvinism is a Christian heresy much like Nestorianism or Monotheletism. You shouldn’t be surprised when we say that it has no support in the orthodox Tradition, since we would say exactly the same thing about Nestorianism or Monotheletism.

  155. Jonathan,

    I’m highly skeptical you’ve read all of Augustine (an Augustine scholar once told me that if someone claims to have read all of Augustine they are a liar because Augustine wrote so voluminously…), but if you have, then that’s great, you should be able to pull out his letter to Simplician commenting on Romans 9 and show how Augustine’s views are distinct from Calvin’s or Calvinism. As I just cited to you, Catholic scholars see Augustine teaching a view of double predestination. I’ve yet to see you address that.

    Furthermore, you’ll notice that your mention of Predestination is a red-herring. I never said you didn’t believe in Predestination or that the Catholic tradition rejected it. I said Augustine believes nearly everything Calvin did. I will say that what you’ve presented as the “Catholic” position is blatantly opposed by Augustine and if you have read Augustine like you claim, then this ought to be something you can acknowledge.

  156. @Brandon:
    Did not mean to imply I have read all of Augustine’s works, but I have read works from the earliest part to the end of his life, and I see no big change.

    If you think Augustine or the article you cited shows that Augustine is blatantly opposed to the Catholic view, then you need to read what I’ve said and what the article said again. It takes double predestination plus a specific view of divine causality to be predestinarian. The author you cited mentions a “modern Catholic” view for a reason; people tend to overlook the fact that the dogmatic teaching on predestination is essentially the same in Catholicism and Calvinism. But that has nothing to do with predestinarianism, which has always been a heresy and which only originates with heretics.

  157. Jonathan,

    don’t know what you mean by “ability.” Those who refuse do so by their fault; those who accept do so by grace. It’s the same as with St. Michael and Satan. Michael’s good choice is attributed to God and not to his credit, while Satan’s bad choice is attributed to Satan. Those who respond, respond by grace, and those who refuse, refuse by their own fault. The heresy is to deny that God makes the offer. The heresy is to deny that God makes the offer.

    I’m sorry but you are being obtuse. Who is denying that God makes the offer? To my knowledge Calvin didn’t, and every modern Calvinist I know doesn’t deny that. What we deny is that man can make the right choice to accept the offer without the effectual grace of God. This discussion has everything to do with ability, because all I see in what your saying is that the author can only be genuine if God gives sufficient grace for people to accept it or reject. That is God giving an ability.

  158. @Robert:
    No, I have said about a hundred times that it’s not about ability. No Thomist or Molinist believes that those who are not chosen by God to receive efficient grace will ultimately be saved. The sole question is whether the offer takes the form of the special action of the Holy Spirit in the soul, i.e., actual grace. That’s it. All of the stuff about compatibilism and libertarian freedom has nothing to do with anything. It’s solely a question of whether the non-elect have, at some point, personally and directly refused the action of the Holy Spirit.

  159. Robert, you write:

    The problem with a term like semi-Pelagian is that it was first used in one context and then retroactively applied to something that happened long before its first use.

    The Catholic Church understands what constitutes the heresy of semi-Pelagianism and responded to that heresy at the Council of Orange in 529 AD. That is about a thousand years before Calvin was even born. The real problem is that Calvinists have been redefining the “semi-Pelagian” to mean anyone that dares to disagrees with what almighty John Calvin teaches about man’s supposed lack of freewill.

    Robert you give these definitions:

    Hyper-Calvinism: The denial of the significance of human agency. This can take any number of forms …

    Which is just a way of saying that hyper-Calvinists believe that human beings have no freewill. Hyper-Calvinism is the belief that human beings are essentially bipedal puppets made of meat that are completely controlled by the divine puppet master. Which is why Michael Horton associates with hyper-Calvinism with “omnicausalism” (omnicausalism – God causes everything, even the evil that men commit).

    Compatibilism: Freedom is the freedom to do what one most desires in any given situation. As long as people do what they want to do, they are free.
    .
    Libertarianism: Freedom is the freedom to do A or non-A in any given situation. People are free as long as it is equally possible that they would do A or non-A in any given situation.

    As it stands, there is NO difference between your definition of Compatiblilism and Libertarianism. To illustrate, let us use the example of the member of the elect that decides he want to commit the sin of adultery. If man is not a puppet, then under your definition of “Compatiblism” he can do what he desires to do, which is to commit the sin of adultery. Which is no different that your “Libertarian”. The “Libertarian” can either commit adultery or not commit adultery. If he choose to commit adultery, he is doing the exact same thing as the “Compatiblist” – exercising his free will to commit a sin.

    If there is a difference between a Compatiblist and a Libertarian, it must lie in the choice to do a good thing that is wholly pleasing to God. You need to explain what that difference is (if there is any).

    What we deny is that man can make the right choice to accept the offer without the effectual grace of God.

    If “effectual grace” is the means that God uses to force the elect to make the right choice, then you are preaching hyper-Calvinism. The divine puppet master makes the meat puppets dance to his tune.

  160. Gentlemen,

    Augustine also said unbaptized babies go to hell. He was flat out wrong. If what he said can’t be reconciled with what the Church teaches, he was wrong, doctor of the Church or not.
    Still, seeing that he also believed in the Mass, prayers to the saints and for the dead, veneration of relics, the Pope, Mary,the Catholic canon of scripture,Tradition, justification by Faith formed by Charity,etc.etc., for him to have also been a proto-Calvinist, well, then both Catholics and Calvinists should consider him unstable or schizoid and read everything he wrote with a grain of salt.

  161. Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer, who in a very real sense can be referred to as “apostle to the Mohammedan World,” calls attention to the strange parallel between the Reformation in Europe under Calvin and that in Arabia under Mohammed. Says he: “Islam is indeed in many respects the Calvinism of the Orient. It, too, was a call to acknowledge the sovereignty of God’s will… It is this vital theistic principle that explains the victory of Islam over the weak divided and idolatrous Christendom of the Orient” (Boettner, The Doctrine of Predestination, p. 318-319).

  162. Jonathan,

    No, I have said about a hundred times that it’s not about ability. No Thomist or Molinist believes that those who are not chosen by God to receive efficient grace will ultimately be saved. The sole question is whether the offer takes the form of the special action of the Holy Spirit in the soul, i.e., actual grace. That’s it. All of the stuff about compatibilism and libertarian freedom has nothing to do with anything. It’s solely a question of whether the non-elect have, at some point, personally and directly refused the action of the Holy Spirit.

    Okay but that still does not answer my question. What does actual grace in the soul do? It seems to me that if actual grace is not in itself efficacious for salvation, what is being granted is an ability/capacity/whatever you want to call it to receive the further grace of salvation, since everyone says that grace precedes the response to grace. If God were not to give actual grace, COULD a person respond in faith?

  163. Mateo,

    The Catholic Church understands what constitutes the heresy of semi-Pelagianism and responded to that heresy at the Council of Orange in 529 AD. That is about a thousand years before Calvin was even born. The real problem is that Calvinists have been redefining the “semi-Pelagian” to mean anyone that dares to disagrees with what almighty John Calvin teaches about man’s supposed lack of freewill.

    No one referred to what was condemned at the Council of Orange as semi-Pelagianism until the Reformation period, and that’s a fact. As far as I know, the term was first used by Protestants and not used of what was condemned. Later writers co-opted the term and RETROACTIVELY referred it to what you are talking about. I could be wrong on that, and I’m happy to be corrected if I am.

    And neither Calvin nor any other Reformed person believes we lack freewill. You are continuing to assume freewill in the libertarian sense.

    Which is just a way of saying that hyper-Calvinists believe that human beings have no freewill. Hyper-Calvinism is the belief that human beings are essentially bipedal puppets made of meat that are completely controlled by the divine puppet master. Which is why Michael Horton associates with hyper-Calvinism with “omnicausalism” (omnicausalism – God causes everything, even the evil that men commit).

    Hyper-Calvinists tend to regard God as the immediate cause of all things, which is not what the mainstream of Calvinism believes. There’s also a tendency among some of them to picture God as shutting the gates of heaven to those who want to be there, and there’s the belief that one must know whether someone is elect before one preaches to him. All of these are problems from a Scriptural standpoint.

    As it stands, there is NO difference between your definition of Compatiblilism and Libertarianism. To illustrate, let us use the example of the member of the elect that decides he want to commit the sin of adultery. If man is not a puppet, then under your definition of “Compatiblism” he can do what he desires to do, which is to commit the sin of adultery. Which is no different that your “Libertarian”. The “Libertarian” can either commit adultery or not commit adultery. If he choose to commit adultery, he is doing the exact same thing as the “Compatiblist” – exercising his free will to commit a sin.
    If there is a difference between a Compatiblist and a Libertarian, it must lie in the choice to do a good thing that is wholly pleasing to God. You need to explain what that difference is (if there is any).

    A compatibilist says that man’s choices are ordained by God in a way that is consonant with the desires of the person. In other words, God does not ordain for me to give Bob an ice cream cone in a way that violates my desire to give Bob an ice cream cone. At the point when I give Bob an ice cream cone, that is what I most want to do, or at least I want to do that more than I want to do than any other the alternative.

    In the case you mention, a compatibilist would say that if what the man wants to do more than anything else is commit adultery, he will commit adultery and, in an ultimate sense, he cannot or will not do anything else. The libertarian will say that the man who most wants to commit adultery can act against that desire, which is incoherent. If we can act against what we most desire, there is no explanation for our actions.

    If you’re interested, the Reformed theologian John Frame has a helpful explanation:

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/free-will-and-moral-responsibility/

    If “effectual grace” is the means that God uses to force the elect to make the right choice, then you are preaching hyper-Calvinism. The divine puppet master makes the meat puppets dance to his tune.

    God doesn’t, strictly speaking, force anyone. He doesn’t ask somebody before he changes their heart , it is true. But once he changes a person’s heart, that person isn’t sorry that he did so. Your assuming that there are people who really want to do the right thing apart from the effectual grace of God. There is no such person. God must change our desires. In regeneration, he doesn’t ask our permission. If he did, every single one of us would say no. We have no true desire for the God who is unless God overcomes our resistance. This is the problem of sin. Everyone who’s been changed is grateful for it.

  164. Jim,

    Of course, Zwemer was himself Reformed and pointed out the differences between Islam and Reformed Christianity as well. Now it is true that there are some superficial similarities between Reformed thought and Islam, but Islam believes that God’s will is arbitrary and that God is unknowable, which is specifically what Reformed thought denies. I can just as well point out—and have—that there are similarities between a lot of what the RCs around here say and Islam because the RCs around here deny God’s justice by making the atonement, in essence, optional.

    If you read more in Boettner (who I don’t recommend as a rule), he goes on to point out the significant differences between Islam and Calvinistic views of predestination and other matters. Having said that, if Christianity is ever to return to that part of the world in force, it is going to be via Calvinism. This idea of a namby-pamby God who is just hoping that you will make the right choice is not attractive to people with a high view of God’s sovereignty, and rightfully so. That is the image of God you get in all Christian traditions except Calvinism.

  165. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    A compatibilist says that man’s choices are ordained by God in a way that is consonant with the desires of the person. In other words, God does not ordain for me to give Bob an ice cream cone in a way that violates my desire to give Bob an ice cream cone. At the point when I give Bob an ice cream cone, that is what I most want to do, or at least I want to do that more than I want to do than any other the alternative.
    .
    In the case you mention, a compatibilist would say that if what the man wants to do more than anything else is commit adultery, he will commit adultery and, in an ultimate sense, he cannot or will not do anything else. The libertarian will say that the man who most wants to commit adultery can act against that desire, which is incoherent. If we can act against what we most desire, there is no explanation for our actions.

    Your abstract only functions through exorcising Indeterminacy from the picture. As such, it simply doesn’t match up with Reality. When you write these kinds of posts, I feel like I’m reading some creepy, deterministic philosophical or scientific treatise from the 18th or 19th century.

    Does Calvinism ever intersect with Reality? The world may never know.

  166. Wosbald,
    Yes it is like asking what necessitates a non-necessitated action? Fun game but no thanks. Most have moved on from the warmed over Edwards we are getting here.

  167. @Robert:

    Okay but that still does not answer my question. What does actual grace in the soul do? It seems to me that if actual grace is not in itself efficacious for salvation, what is being granted is an ability/capacity/whatever you want to call it to receive the further grace of salvation, since everyone says that grace precedes the response to grace. If God were not to give actual grace, COULD a person respond in faith?

    If God were not to give actual grace, then it would be impossible for a person to respond in faith. That is why we condemn both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism.

    As to what actual grace in the soul does, that question is unanswerable. The only thing we know for sure is that some people resist it, through their own fault, and some people accept it, through God’s prevenient grace. This is primarily because we can neither see nor predict the action of the Holy Spirit. “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). That describes not the grace of regeneration, which is quite visible in the Sacrament, but actual grace, the action of the Holy Spirit that draws people into the new birth.

    Nonetheless, there have been several speculations on exactly what actual grace does, as you put it. Some say that it works with another prevenient grace already placed in the soul (Thomism, e.g., Banez, Maritain), and some say that the nature of actual grace is selected so that it will work or not work based on the individual recipient (Molinism, Congruism). In no case is God’s election dependent on a positive response from the recipient; even Molina maintained that the choice was only made based on middle knowledge of what a person would do in a certain case (effectively, God examining what He Himself had made), which is why Molina’s view is not chargeable with Pelagianism. This is all just speculation; we will never know, because the answer has not been revealed. But as long as the speculation remains within the dogmatic boundaries, there is no harm in speculating.

    Not all of this explanation was clear at the Reformation. But the dogma from Orange was clarified and confirmed at Trent, so the conclusions have been known for at least that long.

    No one referred to what was condemned at the Council of Orange as semi-Pelagianism until the Reformation period, and that’s a fact. As far as I know, the term was first used by Protestants and not used of what was condemned. Later writers co-opted the term and RETROACTIVELY referred it to what you are talking about. I could be wrong on that, and I’m happy to be corrected if I am.

    My understanding is that the term arose even after the Reformation, and that it was actually coined by Catholic opponents of Molina, not Protestants. The concept to which that term was applied (by Catholics, at least) was the one condemned by the Council of Orange, as Mateo noted. If nothing else, it is confusingly equivocal to refer to “semi-Pelagianism” as being something else than this doctrine, so I would agree with Mateo that we should all use the term to refer to what was condemned at Orange.

    And neither Calvin nor any other Reformed person believes we lack freewill. You are continuing to assume freewill in the libertarian sense.

    The “free” part of free will, at least in the Christian past, was the ability to choose among a plurality of perceived goods, i.e., to determine which of a plurality of desires was the one to which one inclined. That is not an assumption; it is simply what the term meant. The idea that anything other than libertarian free will (i.e., a will not determined to inclination) would have been called “freewill” is anachronistic at best. That required a view of determinism that simply didn’t exist in the ancient world.

    Hyper-Calvinists tend to regard God as the immediate cause of all things, which is not what the mainstream of Calvinism believes.

    I would say, and I’m pretty sure that Mateo will agree, that the mediate/immediate distinction is irrelevant as long as the ultimate determining cause is God. In other words, if God is affirmed as the “first cause” in a deterministic chain, then it doesn’t really matter how many secondary or mediate causes there are. It’s the affirmation of God as the “first cause” in this sequence that creates the problem.

    At the point when I give Bob an ice cream cone, that is what I most want to do, or at least I want to do that more than I want to do than any other the alternative.

    The question is what determines what you “most want to do.” That is essentially your choice; you incline yourself where you will.

    In the case you mention, a compatibilist would say that if what the man wants to do more than anything else is commit adultery, he will commit adultery and, in an ultimate sense, he cannot or will not do anything else. The libertarian will say that the man who most wants to commit adultery can act against that desire, which is incoherent. If we can act against what we most desire, there is no explanation for our actions.

    The dogmatic Christian answer is that there are a plurality of goods, and that the power of a free will is to choose among them. That is precisely why it was not evil or sinful for Christ to ask for the cup to pass from Him; there were plenty of other good things for Him to want to do. But He also agreed that in His ordering of these things, in His free choice, He would choose to follow what the Father chose, even though there were many other good options that he may have wanted to exercise. So Christ, our paradigm of humanity, had a plurality of goods to choose, and He was not determined by any particular desire, but He could incline His will in many ways.

    The problem you have, which results from a monergistic view of the divine will, is that the divine will must be determinative. It is “My way or the highway” as it were; there is always only one determined good in every single instance. Animals have irresistible desires; humans with operational rational faculties don’t. That’s essentially the problem with Frame’s account. Frame has this idea that unless we are determined by our desires, there is no reason for our actions. For example…
    The libertarian view states that some human decisions and actions, particularly moral and religious decisions, are strictly uncaused. In the most sophisticated forms of libertarianism, these decisions are not even caused by our desires or character.

    Indeed, in saying that human actions can be “uncaused,” it attributes to man ultimate causality; but in Christianity, only God is the first cause.

    An alternative concept of freedom, one consistent with Reformed theology and held by a number of philosophers (the Stoics, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Hobart, Richard Double et al) is often called “compatibilism,” for on that basis, free will and determinism (the view that all events in creation are caused) are compatible.

    Over and over again, repeatedly, Frame assumes that the ability of the will to determine its own inclination, i.e., to determine which of multiple inclinations it would follow, would make the decision “uncaused.” But this is false; causation and the principle of sufficient reason do not require determination. For example, in quantum mechanics, there is probabilistic causation, in that there is a reason things exist and follow probabilistic laws, but the particular outcome is indeterminate. Effectively, Frame is arguing that his own particular view of deterministic causation is necessary to accept causality at all. But all libertarians are saying is that there is no determining cause of the free choice, which is not the same thing at all as saying that there is no cause or reason for it.

    While I agree with Frame that arguments have been made by numerous secular philosophers for compatibilism with determinism, there are two points: (1) determinism itself is not a Christian view, and (2) the concept of “free will” espoused by such compatibilists is not compatible with the concept of free will required by the dogma of two wills in Christ, as I have outlined above.

    This idea that God’s will must be a determining cause (i.e., there is only one right way) falls in here as well:

    God doesn’t, strictly speaking, force anyone. He doesn’t ask somebody before he changes their heart , it is true. But once he changes a person’s heart, that person isn’t sorry that he did so. Your assuming that there are people who really want to do the right thing apart from the effectual grace of God. There is no such person. God must change our desires. In regeneration, he doesn’t ask our permission. If he did, every single one of us would say no. We have no true desire for the God who is unless God overcomes our resistance. This is the problem of sin. Everyone who’s been changed is grateful for it.

    You’re talking here about “THE right thing,” as if there is only one. But the whole point of freedom is that there are many right things; that’s what freedom is. The problem with sin is not that people cannot do the right thing. The problem is that they cannot exercise their freedom in such a way to maintain a relationship with God. In other words, while sin is a problem with relationship with God, good/sin and one’s relationship with God are two conceptually separate concerns.

    Again, there was a Catholic school at the time of the Reformation, called the Augustinians, that conflated the two. Essentially, there were always only two options: God’s will and sin. Their view was that even venial sin was opposed to God to some degree. Hence, they came up with a concept of “double justice,” so that imputation covered the additional venial sin, while infusion was responsible for the rest. But this view was condemned as heresy at Trent, so that there could only be one formal cause of justification. Effectively, Trent rejected the novel idea (which was not Augustinian, although it claimed to be) that relationship with God is a zero-sum game with sin opposed to a perfect relationship.

    This is why you keep talking about us not taking sin seriously enough, because you’re caught up in the zero-sum “Augustinian” view of things, so that the only choices are good and evil. That view, and the deterministic view of the human will that Frame supports, was a medieval invention. It did not come from the Christian tradition on the theology of the will; on the contrary, it completely contradicted it.

  168. Dear Abby,

    My cat never acts against her nature. If food is put in front of her and she is hungry, she freely eats. If she is not hungry, she freely declines.

    Since only a spiritual, rational soul can exercise freedom, I concluded Jinxy to be ensouled, like the rest of the family. Concluding she might therefore have fallen in Adam with the rest of creation, I decided to Baptize her.

    After consulting some Protestants friends, I decided pouring some water on her forehead to be insufficient. Full immersion was needed. I filled the sink with warm water and called in my friends for some hymn singing to add some solemnity to the occasion. Just as I was about to submerge the struggling furball, I realized she had not yet made a profession of faith so I decide to ask her if she was a believer. While I was awaiting her answer, she freely scratched my hand and freely ran out into the night.
    Since Baptism is just a symbol and doesn’t do anything anyway, am I making to big of a deal out of this? Yours truly, Perplexed

    Robert! Knock it off with the weird definition of freedom that makes us all like my cat!

  169. Jonathan,

    But this is false; causation and the principle of sufficient reason do not require determination. For example, in quantum mechanics, there is probabilistic causation, in that there is a reason things exist and follow probabilistic laws, but the particular outcome is indeterminate.

    I’ll have more to say later, but this is a bit simplistic. The outcome looks indeterminate to us, but that hasn’t stopped physicists from trying to figure out whether or not it is actually so. I was actually talking about quantum mechanics with a friend a few days ago about a conversation he recently had with a Christian physicist. They were talking about the phenomenon of an electron simultaneously disappearing in one place and reappearing in another without traveling across any space. The physicist told my friend that there is no way to prove that it is the same electron, which means there is a whole lot of qualification that must go on when we start talking about indeterminacy on the subatomic level.

    In any case, I always throw up red flags when people start talking about indeterminacy because it assumes that we know everything there is to know about any given situation. In order to declare anything indeterminate, we’d have to be omniscient, and we’re not.

  170. Catholics,

    Just in case anyone is missing Kevin or thinks he got a bad rap, he just posted this about 10 minutes ago elsewhere ( Kauffman’s);

    ” Its monergistic. You and and all your Catholic cohorts on here want the glory. its all about you. You look at yourself and down at the death wafer…”.

    He is still furious that he can’t post here and is lurking as I write this.. I just want him to see that I am pulling his covers.
    Three cheers for Jason dumping a guy who uses such language. ( Kelvin, your mask is off for all to see).

  171. Jason, Just in case Kevin has been begging to come back. Please, Please, never let him back in the door. This is not isolated. He says this stuff everyday. Thank you so much for sending him into the outer darkness. Keep him there!

  172. @Robert:
    It’s been over fifteen years since I got my master’s in physics, and I haven’t really seen anything to change my mind in that opinion. I would put myself in the category of “Christian physicist,” assuming that category includes Christians trained in physics as opposed to exclusively academics. In any case, there are Christian physicists who don’t disagree with me. I am aware of people trying to get around this problem in various philosophical theories, but much like Molinism, they appear to be buying more trouble than they are resolving.

    I have two things to say about your point on omniscience. First, hidden variable theory continues to take a beating, so while it may be true in a general sense that God knows something that we don’t, that doesn’t mean there is anything within creation itself that determines the outcome. So your causal theory still suffers from problems. Second, if you are willing to allow an exception for physical matters that we “just can’t say” based on our lack of omniscience, then this should apply a fortiori to the inner workings of the soul, which Scripture explicitly says are opaque to human understanding. It is the assumption that Frame makes about determinism, something that Scripture never teaches and appears to contradict by its statement of the unknowability of the human heart, that produces this overconfidence on matters that we humans can’t know.

  173. @Jim:
    Can we just ignore Kevin? He was disrupting the discussion, so he’s gone. That’s based on experience here on his behavior at this website, not anywhere else. What he does elsewhere is really none of anybody’s concern, as long as it isn’t here.

  174. I agree. And I want to keep it that way. He has a way the way of the proverbial bad penny.

  175. Robert, you write to me:

    And neither Calvin nor any other Reformed person believes we lack freewill. You are continuing to assume freewill in the libertarian sense.

    Given your own definition of libertarian free will, what other sense can there be? Here is your definition of libertarian free will:

    Libertarianism: Freedom is the freedom to do A or non-A in any given situation. People are free as long as it is equally possible that they would do A or non-A in any given situation.

    If the definition of free will is the ability to do anything that I want, then that definition fails to meet your definition of libertarian free will. To illustrate, suppose that I want to be a human being today, and a tree frog tomorrow. If I had the ability to anything that I wanted to do, I could be a tree frog tomorrow. But that is not possible under your definition of “libertarian” free will, because your definition restricts my freedom to what is possible for me to choose.

    I am NOT free to become a tree frog, but I can choose to have a vanilla milkshake today instead of a chocolate milkshake, even though I generally prefer to drink chocolate milkshakes. If I have an extra fifty dollars that I can donate, I could send that money to feed the poor, give it to a local charity in my town, or I could listen all day to Lush Rimbaugh and decide to send my fifty dollars to the meanest teabagger running for office. Your definition of “libertarian” free will only says that people are free to make real choices in their lives. Which is something that all sane people believe.

    mateo: The point of the test is for us to know something about ourselves. God knows us perfectly, but our knowledge of ourselves is anything but perfect. It is easy for us to live in delusion. We can be like Peter, sure that we will never fail the test, but destined to fail the test if we are depending upon our own strength, instead of recognizing our utter weakness and depending on God’s strength.
    .
    Robert: No Calvinist that I know would deny this, which invalidates your whole “why not just put people directly in hell” point.

    No, it does not invalidate my point, because my point was made against hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism asserts that no men have free will. Those men that are going to be sent to hell have no choice in the matter. God created the non-elect for hell, and that is where they are going to go. Which is why those who object to hyper-Calvinism say “why not just put people directly in hell.”

    If hyper-Calvinism is true, life on this earth is utterly pointless for everyone.

  176. Johnathan Prejean you write:

    I would say, and I’m pretty sure that Mateo will agree, that the mediate/immediate distinction is irrelevant as long as the ultimate determining cause is God. In other words, if God is affirmed as the “first cause” in a deterministic chain, then it doesn’t really matter how many secondary or mediate causes there are. It’s the affirmation of God as the “first cause” in this sequence that creates the problem.

    I do agree with this. Robert is speaking in Calvinistic contradictions. First Roberts says that people really can make choices between good and evil, and then he equivocates by speaking of what God “ordains”. For Robert, what God ordains “inevitably” happens, which is just another way of saying that ultimately, men have no free will, since God is going to force all men to dance to program that he has “ordained”.

    Robert writes:

    As far as most of the rest of what you just wrote, you are falsely assuming that ordain=cause, but I’m preparing a longer response that deals more with that.

    I am skeptical that you are going to be able to make a distinction between “ordain” and “cause” and still maintain the novelties of Calvinism. Ralph Larson critiques Lorraine Boettner’s “ludicrous self-contradictions” here:

    Be prepared for the fact that Calvinistic writings abound in ludicrous self-contradictions, which are an insult to the intelligence of the reader. In Boettner’s book it is argued, for example:

    1. That although their god creates, directs, and controls every impulse, thought and action of man, nevertheless the will of man is totally free.
    .
    2. That although their god creates and controls the sinful thoughts and sinful actions of man, that nevertheless their god is not the author of sin.
    .
    3. That although their god creates, directs, and controls every thought and impulse of man, nevertheless man is totally responsible for his own sinning.
    .
    4. That although their god tortures forever the helpless non-elect whom He has forced to sin, that this is no injustice to the non-elect.
    .
    5. That although before the world was created God predestined who would be saved, in such a manner that their salvation had no dependence upon either their choices or their behavior, nevertheless Christ had to die for their salvation, etc., etc. …
    .
    Reference: http://www.specialtyinterests.net/the_hellish_torch.html

    Ralph Larson also gives references in the Calvinist confessions of faith where it is obvious that ordain equals cause:

    All things happen because he [God] makes them happen.
    .
    1. “God did from eternity . . . ordain whatever comes to pass.” Westminster Confession, B, 13.
    .
    2. “He hath foreordained whatever comes to pass.” The Shorter Catechism, B, 17. (To ordain something means to order it. This is not at all the same as to permit. That which is ordained is ordered and established as an act of one’s will. Notice the all-inclusive language as we go on.)
    .
    3. “Nothing can come to pass apart from His sovereign will.” B, 30.
    .
    4. “Nothing can come to pass contrary to what He expressly decrees.” B, 14.
    .
    5. “God has an eternal plan in which is predetermined every event that comes to pass.” B, 23.
    .
    6. “His decree . . . extends . . . to every event in human history.” B, 13.
    .
    7. “All things, without exception, indeed, are disposed by Him.” B, 31. (You are probably already gasping and thinking, ” Surely this means only good things,” but this is not the case. It includes bad things as well.)
    .
    8. “He gives peace and fruitful seasons, prosperity and happiness, or He sends the desolations of war, famine, drought, and pestilence.” B, 37.
    .
    …. let us remember that these words express the desire, the intention, the purpose, the will of the Calvinistic god. It is not that he permits or allows them. They happen because he wants them to happen and makes them happen.

  177. Jonathan,

    The point is simple. Satan is a rational being who fell, according to revelation. We should be able to discern principles from that account of how God relates to rational beings vis-a-vis evil, at least if we presume that God is rational in terms of acting based on principles. So when God was creating Satan, God allowed the fall to be by Satan’s choice. There has to be some principle behind that choice; it can’t be arbitrary. And principles don’t get discarded; they are universally true propositions.

    So we learn a number of principles from Satan’s fall. One is that God has the causal power to allow free-willed beings to act autonomously with respect to His will. How He can do that is mysterious to us, but He did so with Satan, so we know that it is possible in principle.

    You are giving absolutely no exegetical or even philosophical defense for your assumptions here. I agree God allowed the fall to be by Satan’s choice. What I deny is that Satan or any other creature is ever autonomous, and I do so for biblical reasons. Since there is no exegesis here, and not even an attempt at philosophy, I have nothing to respond to. All I can say is prove it.

    You admit that with respect to Satan when you say that “God doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against him. He didn’t make Adam that way, nor did he make him inherently defective so that he needed an infusion of grace before the fall to make sure he didn’t fall into evil.” In other words, this is a principle from revelation, and as such, it must be applied consistently. I completely agree with both statements, and the Catholic belief is absolutely not that Adam would have necessarily fallen into evil without grace. While grace cures sin, the absence of grace is not sin; that is a false dichotomy that you have introduced. The Catholic belief is that Adam would not have progressed to Heaven on his own, not that he would have sinned on his own.

    Thank you for the clarification on your belief. I’m not sure I can take it as the universal Roman Catholic belief, however. I suppose it is one possible RC belief, unless you can give me support from a council or the CCC.

    To save your view, you introduce a distinction about Satan, Adam, and Christ being created immediately. That distinction is completely irrelevant to the principle, so it is an ad hoc appeal, meaning that you are inconsistently applying the principle you yourself admitted is one revealed in divine revelation. In the first place, souls are specially created, so we are created immediately by God just as Satan and Adam were rational beings created immediately by God. Nor does traducianism save your view, because even if souls are a substance that is propagated, there is no way in principle that an act of rebellion can be propagated. In other words, absent the materialist view of traducianism that Kenneth point out, even traducianism does no work for original sin. This is why I accused you of the absurdity of reverse-causation: you are effectively saying that we did something wrong before we existed.

    It’s not an ad hoc distinction because God didn’t make Satan, Adam, or Christ the way he makes other people. Satan is a fully spirit being. Adam had no earthly parents, and Christ had only one earthly parent, in the physical sense. Everyone after Adam, except for Christ, comes about by ordinary, natural propagation. Any creation of human life God does is mediated through the parental act of intercourse. This is so plainly obvious that I can’t believe I have to state it.

    You are asserting that all souls are created directly by God. But you give no proof. You may be right, but the tradition is certainly not unified on it.

    In any case, an act of rebellion is not propagated but corruption. The guilt that comes is via imputation. Christ represented us federally before the Father. That’s really the only way it could work because the Bible clearly parallels Adam and Christ, noting that people are “in” both of them. We can’t be in Christ via physical descent, so it can only work federally. Because Christ represented us federally and he is paralleled with Adam who likewise did the same thing, the imputation of guilt is federal.

    In short, the entire concept of us having committed sin “in Adam” is a theological invention to justify a questionable interpretation of Scripture (in whom all sinned). This essentially comes from taking something metaphorical, like the sense in which Christ was “in” Abraham as his offspring, and trying to make it literal. This causes you to be inconsistent in the application of a Scriptural principle: God doesn’t create evil. You’re basically trying to some up with some justification for how we can inherit sin, which is impossible, in order to fit your (dubious) theological interpretation of what Scripture says. That’s not taking your principles from “exegesis of special revelation,” because exegesis is built on the discovery of sound principles, and your problem is precisely that you aren’t consistently applying sound principles that ought to hold.

    And with this, you cast aside an entire tradition that goes right back through Augustine all the way to Paul. The hubris in accusing Calvinists of disregarding the tradition is especially rich. Further, exegesis is built on discovering what the authors of Scripture actually meant, not this reader-response criticism that Rome advocates wherein whatever the church says TODAY is what the text means. Since I’ve yet to see any real attempt at exegesis from you here, I don’t know what else to say. All I know is that modern RC exegetes, at least of a conservative bent, are not going to disagree with me in that the point of exegeting special revelation is to discover what the author meant.

    God doesn’t create evil. I never said that he did. I’ve said he ordains evil without being morally responsible for it. I’m sorry you don’t like that, but your answer isn’t any better because if God creates Satan with an “autonomous” will and knows that Satan will rebel, all you’ve done is move things back a step. Evil is only here in the first place because God created Satan.

    God creating Satan with an “autonomous will” that He knows Satan will use for ill does not absolve God of moral responsibility in any ordinary sense. If I give a loaded gun to Steve and I know that Steve is going to use it to murder Bob, I’m going to be held responsible for what Steve does with the gun. At some point you have to say that God gave people freedom knowing that they would misuse it and that he isn’t morally responsible for their misuse. I’m really not saying anything substantially different. You just don’t like the word ordain.

    On that theological issue of inherited guilt, you wrongly assume that Fr. Weinandy shares your view on this subject, and you likewise wrongly assume that he shares your defective view of causality. In the first place, Weinandy admits that he is speculating in all of this in order to really affirm the profound depths of the Incarnation. Up front, I want to say that I think Weinandy is flat out wrong in his speculation; I don’t agree with him on any of this, and it certainly isn’t required for Catholics to agree with him.

    Of course its not REQUIRED for RCs to agree with this since Rome has no official position on the atonement, but you are the one accusing Calvinists of heresy when Weinandy is advocating a position that is not materially different—we’re counted guilty because of Adam and Christ bears the wrath of God as a man. So let’s see, I have a choice between deciding orthodoxy based on what on what a premier American RC theological scholar is saying and what a lawyer with no formal theological training is saying. Hmm, I’ll go with Weindandy.

    Other than that, your response here is basically that you don’t agree with Weinandy and you are assuming some idea of causation that I don’t recoginize in my own beliefs. The first point is not an argument, and the second is just wrong.

    That being said, for you to refer to Weinandy, a man you accuse of offering idolatrous sacrifice and, as a faithful Catholic, teaching a false Gospel that cannot save, as “good Father” is obnoxiously sarcastic. I realize that you’re an anti-Catholic bigot and that it comes as naturally and easily as racial slurs do to other kinds of bigots, but I think it needs to be said that you are behaving like a boor.

    No sarcasm, just a little humor, which apparently you don’t get. Sorry.

    The sure sign of the modern left’s failure to have an argument is the frequency with which they trot the charge of bigotry. Every time you accuse someone of bigotry because they say the same things about Rome that you say about Calvinism, you reveal the weakness of position. You show your utter failure to argue/dialogue seriously by accusing Calvin and those who follow him of being false teachers and heretics without that making you a bigot while saying that anyone who says the same thing about Roman Catholicism is a bigot. All your showing is your actual inability to deal with what Calvinists are actually saying.

    You’ve jumped from saying that we’ve inherited guilt to that we are reckoned guilty. There’s a difference between inheriting guilt by analogy, so that someone is being treated as having a status of guilt in some way, versus being judged by God as guilty. The jump is unwarranted, and your citation of Weinandy as support for the idea of inherited guilt in the sense that you mean it is inapposite. Essentially, the Western concept of inherited guilt and your concept of inherited guilt are different, and you have no warrant to use the former as evidence of the latter.

    This difference is likewise the basis for your errors on what death is. In other words, your disagreement with Weinandy on death is in principle inseparable from why you can’t correctly cite Weinandy as support for your Calvinist position on guilt. The fact that Weinandy distinguishes death and guilt in this context means that death is NOT being imposed as a penalty on account of inherited guilt. My point in saying that death was more than a penalty was obviously not an indication that it must always be at least a penalty. The point is that the scope of circumstances in which someone can be subject to death is much larger than the scope of circumstances in which someone is subject to death as a penalty. In other words, there are plenty of cases where death is not a penalty at all, contra your assertion that death must always be at least a penalty. Indeed, my entire point is that the situations in which death is being used as a penalty are being used by way of analogy to cases in which death is clearly *not* a penalty.

    You’ve made a distinction without a difference by saying that someone is being treated as having a status of guilt in some way, versus being judged by God as guilty. The very fact that some can be treated as having a status of guilt is all that the Reformed have ever said. There is a distinction between original sin and actual sin, and the way that God sees me as guilty of both is not the same. Original sin is reckoned in a federal way. God doesn’t see me as having a status of guilt of everything Adam did in the first place, and second he sees me as guilty for the sins I commit and he doesn’t see Adam as guilty of them. I’m personally guilty for my sin in a way I’m not personally guilty for Adam’s; nevertheless, I’m guilty for Adam’s failure to trust God in his eating of the forbidden fruit.

    Death is a penalty for original sin in all cases. No sin of Adam, no death. This is Paul’s point in Romans.

    Your allegations regarding Weinandy’s view of divine wrath are likewise inapposite. You are assuming, wrongly, that Weinandy views divine wrath as judgment against guilt, which his view on divine wrath actually excludes. Weinandy says explicitly that “hell is simply the experience of the absolute loss of God’s loving presence.” I think he’s completely wrong about that, and he is well outside the tradition on what the punishment of Hell constitutes, but take that as it is. Weinandy is NOT describing Hell as “what happens when an impenitent sinner stands in the presence of a loving God, something like His holy love being experienced as His wrath,” but the exact opposite (and indeed, that is exactly why I think he is wrong). Weinandy explicitly distinguishes his view from von Balthasar’s in saying that this is in no sense a perception of being positively punished by the Father, much less the Calvinist view of actually being judged guilty, but rather an experience of the divine absence in full cognizance of the absence. In other words, Weinandy is talking about Christ experiencing the divine absence and knowing exactly what He is missing. Personally, I think this is incoherent for the same reasons that von Balthasar’s view has been criticized by people who make the argument better than I do.

    You really need to stop with this business of “the Calvinist view of actually being judged guilty” because NO ONE says that God sees Christ as personally guilty of sin. The imputation of sin and guilt is only a way of saying that what was punished on the cross, what wrath satisfied on the cross, is the wrong that sinners have done.

    The substance of your argument, again, is that you don’t agree with Weinandy. Not convincing. And the distinction between “positive punishment” and divine wrath is one without a difference, which is why I don’t think Weinandy goes far enough. In any case, you aren’t getting the Calvinist position because we certainly agree with Weinandy that to experience the wrath of God is not an experience of God avenging himself in rage or capriciously punishing in anger. (Does God Suffer? P. 218). God isn’t capricious, and he isn’t controlled by rage. Any discussion of God’s ire and wrath always has its underlying assumption that God is perfectly just and not subject to such whims as sinful men are.

    As far as hell being the experience of God’s love as wrath:

    God does not hate the damned. God remains the God of love, but within and because of his love, he hates and despises what the sinner has become. God is experienced as being wrathful, for God judges or sanctions that such a separation is the proper and only just consequence (and so punishment) of sin, not because he has so said, but because sin itself has so said. The wrath of God is simply God’s approval of what sin itself rightfully demands. (p. 218)

    Weinandy explicitly says that the God who is love is experienced—by the sinner—as being wrathful. So I haven’t misread Weinandy here. I disagree with him in that despising what the sinner has become and despising the sinner are not materially different, at least in hell. I also disagree that sin as sin rightfully has the ability to demand anything. Other than that, Weinandy is saying that the sinner experiences the wrath of God in hell, and that Christ on the cross experiences God as wrathful (according to Christ’s humanity), which is exactly what the Calvinist is saying. What is incoherent around here is the false distinction between “positive punishment” and the experience of wrath and this idea of yours that Calvinists somehow have God accusing Christ of being personally guilty of sin. The only response we get from you is that God can’t transfer guilt, which amounts to the old legal fiction argument that isn’t based on the exegesis of the text but on ex opere operato sacramentalism.

    I will give you one point, however, is that you seem to realize that believing Christ bears our guilt and suffering God’s wrath, if held consistently and taken to its logical end, entails the destruction of such things as purgatory, ex opere operato sacramentalism, and other core RC doctrines.

    The point of all this is that you keep saying that this is the Calvinist view except that it does not go far enough. My point is exactly that it would completely contradict the principles on which the argument is built, which is the paradigm case for where one cannot cite the argument as support. In other words, you’re using Weinandy dishonestly; you’re taking his arguments for a purpose for which they clearly cannot be used and yet claiming him as support. There’s no honest way in which Weinandy can mean the same thing by “guilt” or “wrath” that you do, or even any sense that can possibly be reconciled with the way you are using those terms, but you persist in dishonestly representing him as if he can. And I *have* read the argument, which is why I have to conclude that you are being either careless or deliberately dishonest, but in any case, you need to stop it.

    The only dishonest one around here is the one, namely you, who thinks you know what the Calvinist means by guilt and doesn’t, and refuses to be corrected. And the other dishonest one around here is you who explicitly deny that Christ, as a man, experiences the wrath and abandonment of God on the cross and calls such a position heresy when a cardinal of your infallible church (Balthasar) and one of its premier modern theologians (Weinandy) say otherwise. Does Weinandy agree with every point the Calvinist makes. No. But he does agree that Christ experienced the abandonment by God on the cross and that Christ, having taken upon himself sin, experienced the divine wrath that manifests itself in the presence on sin. Sorry, but to say that is fundamentally different than what Calvin said is dishonest. You are accusing people of heresy that serve as leaders in your church and who do not differ in any substantial way with Calvin. And further proof of what I am saying is that Weinandy denies that Calvin was Nestorian even if he thinks Calvin was somewhat ambiguous on the ontology of the incarnation. Epic fail

    All that means is that you’re a bad exegete, and the fact that you had to violate principles that you believe are divinely revealed should have provided a clue to you that your exegesis is bad. I have no cause to question God’s goodness and justice in allowing evil, because I affirm the Scriptural principle, the one that you admitted, that God “doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against Him.” I simply do so consistently. If God doesn’t create anyone in rebellion against Him, then He didn’t do it in Romans 9 or Job 38-41 either.

    And I have again sad that God doesn’t create evil. You seem to have the mistaken notion that for the Calvinist, ordain=create. It doesn’t. So stop it.

    The clue that your exegesis is bad is that you don’t think the fall really changed anything. As noted above, there is discontinuity between God’s creation of Adam and His creation of Adam’s descendants.

    In Job 1-2, God gives that “bare permission” that seems to trouble you do much to Satan. And God’s answer in Job 38-41, contra your spin, is not “‘shut up,’ he explained.” It is, on the contrary, that Job should have known as Creator that God cannot be unjust, so that He should not be charged with doing evil and that Job should not be blaming God for the bad things that have befallen him. In fact, that his exactly what the Calvinist claim does, affirm that God can be charged with “causing” or “ordaining” or whatever it is with evil, affirming that God can somehow be charged for creating evil, but that He somehow prescinds from responsibility. The contrary Scriptural principle, which you correctly identified, is that God as Creator simply does not create evil, and we do not know why or how evil exists, nor is it a profitable question to ask about God. We simply know that God has nothing to do with it and that it results from fallible creatures, not from God’s role with respect to those fallible creatures.

    The exegetical fail is on your part. Job isn’t given what happens in Job 1–2, WE ARE. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that Job ever knew, at least on this side of heaven, the events of Job 1–2. If “bare permission” is the answer, then all God had to do in Job 38–41 is say, “Look Job, I just allowed Satan to have his way with you. I only gave him permission.” He explicitly DOES NOT do that, and his questions he gives to Job strictly enforce the creator-Creature distinction. God never declares his justice or that he did not ordain evil; He declares that He is the Creator and that Job has no right to ask such questions.

    Again, your presupposition is that ordain=create. It does not mean that. Your reading a “defective causality” into Calvinism that Calvinism doesn’t affirm. It’s your assumptions of what ordain means that allow you to say such wrong things.

    If we read the passages consistently according to that principle, then we already know that God’s hardening in Romans 9 has nothing to do with God causing the evil in Pharaoh’s heart, because God doesn’t cause evil in anyone’s heart. Then the question becomes what the passage is about. It turns out that it is about the same thing as Job: why does God allow bad things to befall people he has favored and blessed.

    That is precisely NOT what Romans 9 is about. It is about how God can be just to hate Esau before he was born or had done anything and how he can harden Pharaoh’s heart and justly refuse to show him mercy.

    And keeping in mind the principle that God does not cause evil, so He is not chargeable with wrong to anyone on that account, He is not then unjust to allow evil to befall those who have been previously blessed. In other words, He is not obligated to protect people, and even His chosen people, from their own sins, which is precisely why the petition “lead us not into temptation” actually means something.

    You conclude this paragraph with an assertion that has gone undefended. Moreover, Romans 9 doesn’t talk about bare permission or allowing anything. It explicitly tells us that God has always saved people not by race but by His free choice that takes absolutely nothing of what they have done into account. Again, there is no reason to think the charge of injustice that Paul anticipates would come up if all God is doing is allowing people to suffer for their own sins. In fact, that is exactly what we would expect a just God to do.

    Your reading cannot make sense of the passage. It’s a bad reading that would never generate the questions Paul anticipates.

    This all stems from your philosophically defective concept of causality, which itself results from delving into the same issues that Job tells you to avoid. It’s the philosophical concept, not a Biblical concept, that starts your inquiry. The Scriptural concept, which you’ve admitted, is that God doesn’t create evil. If you stuck with that Scriptural concept, you’d do fine. Instead, you insist on going beyond the limits prescribed and trying to inquire into God’s responsibility for evil.

    Again, I don’t believe ordain=create, so the entire charge here is absolutely groundless. Further, I’m not “inquiring” into God’s responsibility for evil. I’m attempting to reconcile the fact that God is no less sovereign over evil than he is over good, that He works out ALL things, even evil, according to the counsel of HIS will (Eph. 1:11). You’re the one pretending that bare permission solves the problem, let alone is coherent. Even in the case of bare permission how God can allow evil and not be guilty of it is a question you can’t answer except to say that God can allow evil and yet not be morally responsible for it. Otherwise, you have to deny God’s knowledge or goodness.

    Except that isn’t the Christian answer at all. The Christian answer is exactly what you said: God doesn’t create evil. We have no idea why evil exists, but we affirm certainly that God doesn’t cause it. The problem is that your defective theory of causality does not prevent God acting as ultimate cause without somehow also causing evil. That’s a problem in your thinking, not a problem in the Christian view.

    You have no idea what we mean by ordain, so you are mistaken. And identifying your view as the Christian view is absolutely laughable. We all agree that God does not cause evil. What the disagreement is in regards to how his sovereignty functions with respect to evil. Apparently you believe he isn’t sovereign over evil or that evil just somehow “happens.”

    Yes, and this is the defective view. In saying that God acts “non-deterministically,” I am saying nothing other than that God is a transcendent cause, not a cause in the causal chain but the reason that any causes exist in the first place.

    Excuse me, but you said that God causes some things deterministically and some things non-deterministically. Such language is dragging him down into the “chain of causes.” Quit using the language of causation altogether and be consistent. Otherwise the Calvinist is not saying anything substantially different than God causes some things deterministically and some things non-deterministically. God “causes” both and the way he “causes” one is not the same way he causes the other. To put it in deterministic/non-deterministic terms is playing with words. You don’t know how God can do that, and neither do I know how God can cause both good and evil and be wholly responsible for the former and not at all responsible for the latter. To say that God creates people with an autonomous will and knows what they will choose but creates them anyway does not absolve him of moral responsibility. You just move things back a step.

    That’s what “first cause” or “ultimate cause” actually means metaphysically. Absent that distinction, God must necessarily be, as you say, “morally responsible for something he could have prevented,” since He is in the causal chain. The Scriptural answer is to repeatedly affirm divine transcendence in causality, to say that God as Creator is not a cause like any other. So the error of Job or the interlocutor in Romans 9 is precisely in trying to violate this limit and trying to drag God down into the ordinary causal chain, so that He can be blamed. In these cases, Scripture reinforces God’s transcendence to knock down this kind of hubris.

    Except that we deny causation of good and evil are equivalent, and we also affirm that God’s permission actually guarantees the outcome which is precisely what creaturely permission CANNOT do. You all want to say that God’s permission doesn’t cause anything. THAT is to bring God down to the creaturely level.

    And again, neither Job nor the interlocutor in Romans is told “God doesn’t cause evil.” They’re told you don’t know enough. If you were correct the answer would be “I am transcendent but I didn’t ordain evil.” That’s not what we’re told. We’re told, essentially, “I’m transcendent, don’t question my justice based on your limited knowledge.” God again and again condescends to his people in Scripture. He could have easily said “I don’t ordain evil.” The very fact that he doesn’t is quite telling, especially when the Bible says God works out all things according to his will and that those who crucified Jesus DID EXACTLY WHAT GOD ORDAINED FOR THEM TO DO EVEN THOUGH IT WAS EVIL (Acts 4:27).

    To say that God “ordains” evil in the sense that you mean it is an attempt to saddle God as transcendent cause with being a link in the causal chain. That’s also why you repeatedly keep making the error that God must either be a deterministic cause or “passive.” It’s outrageous that you claim I am violating God being “pure act,” because the entire point of God being pure act is that He must necessarily be a transcendent cause, meaning that He can’t possibly be considered a (deterministic) cause among causes. In other words, the fact that you even think of the Catholic view of God’s causality as being “passive” shows that you are making a fundamental (and Scripturally proscribed) error about how God’s causality operates.

    And once again, the language of “ordain” is precisely given to say that God is NOT a link in the causal chain. You’re reading your bad assumptions into what I am saying. Stop it. If God’s causality is not passive, it’s not bare permission, but that is what you are (unsuccessfully) trying to affirm. God’s allowing of something guarantees that it will happen. That is precisely what causation on the creaturely level DOES NOT do.

    The question of God’s goodness and justice DOES NOT arise if God is just the reason that causes exist in the first place. Nobody questions God’s justice for setting up a system in which sinners get their just desserts. That’s exactly what we would expect a just God to do. Scripture is clear that Job is completely innocent and that his suffering is not due to his personal sin, and Romans 9 is clear that the final fate of the elect and non-elect is due not to what they have done or will do. That is not what we would expect a just God—measured by our creaturely standards of justice—to do.

    In other words, the Calvinist view is the same one as the defective Jewish view that (in their view) allows them to charge God with injustice. And God’s answer is not “‘shut up,’ he explained,” but rather to point out the error in their thinking about God as cause, the same one that you are making. You claim that you aren’t inquiring into divine causality, but your view of God as first/ultimate cause belies your claim.

    already refuted.

    In short, your entire argument for the supposed harmony of your Calvinist view with the Western tradition, this assertion that Calvinism is just “one of the guys” in terms of Western tradition and the problem of evil, is completely wrong. It is based on a selective application of Biblical principles that even you admit, and it is based on mad-made philosophical ideas of causality, guilt, and punishment that violate the same Biblical principles that you claim to espouse. Rather than trying to harmonize those principles, which is what principled exegesis would do, you simply proof-text for these alien philosophical concepts and run roughshod over the conflicting principles. That is the only reasonable way in which we can have a meaningful discernment of God’s character that allows harmonization between God’s character and His revealed actions in a coherent way.

    And with this absurdity, you just ignored everything that Western philosophy and theology has said about compatibilism. And as far as “principles of exegesis,” I’m still waiting for you to show me from where in the biblical text you get the idea that if God ordains something that must mean he causes it in a morally responsible way, not to mention the idea of bare permission, and that simply by permitting something he isn’t morally responsible for it, and so much more.

    By contrast, the anti-reason approach to Scriptural exegesis, where one attempts to treat revelation as a set of given principles rather than needing to interpret revelation to discern consistent principles, is the Islamic approach that I mentioned early.

    “Hath God really said…”

    There’s a reason you guys aren’t in the Thomist club. You need to understand that before you can interact with Catholics. As far as whether my view is convincing to you, I wouldn’t expect it to be, because as I pointed out, I think your entire approach to Scripture and theology is essentially incoherent, which is why I don’t consider Calvin a theologian in any meaningful sense.

    The reason we aren’t in the “Thomist club” is because modern Thomism often ends up being a version Arminianism. Even Thomas wouldn’t be fit to join the Thomist club.

    Your view isn’t convincing because it’s not Scriptural to view any creature as being autonomous, which is what you must do. And further, it isn’t convincing because your critiques assume a meaning of terms such as ordain that Calvinists don’t mean by them.

    Essentially, you approach the whole matter with “If God ordains evil, then he is responsible for it in a morally culpable way.” Talk about bringing causation down to the creaturely level.

    You have to at least admit the need to be reasonable in the first place before we can have a discussion. You’re the one who came here, which suggests that it’s at least possible for you to make that move, and you’re hanging around a Catholic website. And unlike Kevin, you seem to actually respond somewhat, although as I said, it’s painfully slow. So now I’ve explained, in excruciating detail, why we aren’t ignoring your points, but we think they are meritless. The ball’s in your court if you want to move it.

    By attributing to me and other Calvinists points we do not hold, you are ignoring our points. A reasonable discussion does not start off with “Calvin is not a theologian and a spiritual pornographer” when even your modern infallible church would not say such a thing. A reasonable discussion doesn’t accuse Calvinism of heresy for believing that Christ suffered abandonment by God on the cross as a man and thereby underwent divine wrath for sin when even your modern luminaries hold a position that isn’t substantially different. So as it stands, your accusations are meritless.

  178. Mateo,

    God permitted Al Qaeda to fly planes into buildings. He knew exactly what they would do if he were to give them such permission. They never would have done it had he not given them permission. God could have not given them permission or given them permission to do something less bad, such as tell a little white lie.

    God’s permission guaranteed the outcome of Al Qaeda flying the planes into the building. I guess that means he must have “caused it.”

  179. Robert,

    I decided I would discipline myself and read your tome. I got as far as your question about whether or not God creates all souls immediately and stopped. No point going further as it is major.

    Not until the parents supply the matter does God create each soul. If souls exist prior to this, they cannot be said to be the form of the body. Instead, the union of soul with matter would be like that of a demon possessing a man. It would be like two persons in one.

    The soul must come directly from the hand of God. It cannot emerge from matter as the greater cannot come from the less. Besides, matter cannot produced not matter (thoughts ).

    Next, God loves Himself first and foremost. Everything in existence shares in that love according to the degree of their natures.

    God CANNOT create something that hates him. God can no more make a soul that hates Him than He can make a square circle.

    For the rest of it, you guys have been arguing about God’s will for months. I guarantee you, if smarter guys than you never figured it out, you probably won’t either.
    God learns nothing. He sees all things in Himself first. Yet, if we don’t have freewill, then, once again, God is a ventriloquist chatting with His dummy.
    The Bible says we have freewill. It says Christ died for all ( all = 100%). Yet all don’t make it to heaven. Conclusion; freewill.
    How do we reconcile these two things, God’s foreknowledge and our freedom? I don’t know and neither do you. I think it is like Augustine pondering the Trinity and the little kid trying to fit the sea into a bucket.
    Enough already.

  180. @Robert:
    This was the response I was awaiting? You nearly shouldn’t have wasted your time, because I can hardly find a “response” anywhere. And the point here is to communicate, not to debate. You should be trying to understand what you don’t understand, not trying to score points (with whom I am not sure).

    You are giving absolutely no exegetical or even philosophical defense for your assumptions here. I agree God allowed the fall to be by Satan’s choice. What I deny is that Satan or any other creature is ever autonomous, and I do so for biblical reasons. Since there is no exegesis here, and not even an attempt at philosophy, I have nothing to respond to. All I can say is prove it.

    Prove what? The point is for you to get the Catholic view right, and nobody said anything about “autonomous.” If you’d stop just making things up, that would help. I agree that Satan’s fall was by Satan’s choice, and Adam’s fall was by Adam’s choice, and whatever label you attach to the word “choice” is essentially irrelevant.

    Moreover, your view on the alleged “choice” is incoherent. You maintain the (late medieval) Augustinian account of choice as being determined between desires. But you cited Frame before as endorsing the “Reformed” view.
    Frame says:
    Reformed theology recognizes that all people have freedom in the compatibilist sense. Adam before the Fall acted according to his desires, which then were godly.
    If your account of “choice” as being dictated by what one most desires (which are themselves outside of one’s choice), then Adam should have been incapable of sinning, because his desires were godly. So not only have you not demonstrated that you understand the Catholic view, you haven’t even demonstrated that you have any kind of reasonable alternative view. It’s a good thing this really isn’t a debate, or you wouldn’t be doing well.

    Thank you for the clarification on your belief. I’m not sure I can take it as the universal Roman Catholic belief, however. I suppose it is one possible RC belief, unless you can give me support from a council or the CCC.

    First, that’s not a clarification. You made up something that neither I nor any Catholic source ever said, and I’ve pointed out repeatedly that you just made it up. This is behaving like an anti-Catholic bigot; your own prejudiced and slanderous accusation is assumed to be the truth, and it’s practically impossible to convince you that your bigoted views aren’t the reality.

    From CCC 392: “This [angelic] ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: ‘You will be like God.'” From CCC 396: “God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God.” From CCC 398: “He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory.”

    Friendship with God and holiness are obviously not attributes that creatures can have on their own, so they must be given by participation. Now, if you’re still a bigot at this point, then you’ll argue that I haven’t convinced you, even though from the Catholic view I clearly have. So it would be a great deal more productive if you would pony up the alleged document that makes you think that there is a dichotomy between Adam being created in grace and Adam necessarily sinning, and we can work from there.

    It’s not an ad hoc distinction because God didn’t make Satan, Adam, or Christ the way he makes other people. Satan is a fully spirit being. Adam had no earthly parents, and Christ had only one earthly parent, in the physical sense. Everyone after Adam, except for Christ, comes about by ordinary, natural propagation. Any creation of human life God does is mediated through the parental act of intercourse. This is so plainly obvious that I can’t believe I have to state it.

    It’s an ad hoc distinction because the distinction that you have outlined is completely irrelevant to free choice. There’s no principled reason why the circumstances of a rational being’s creation have anything to do with the essential natural property that rational beings have the faculty of free choice.

    You are asserting that all souls are created directly by God. But you give no proof. You may be right, but the tradition is certainly not unified on it.

    If you can shift your brain out of “mindless debate mode” for an instant, you’ll see that’s completely irrelevant. Even if this is a permissible view, it still puts the explanatory burden on you to either falsify it or to explain how your view accounts for special creation of the soul. Regardless, the Catholic dogmatic view is that souls are specially created, so if you’re going to understand and interact with the Catholic view, you are going to have to take that as a premise to avoid question-begging.

    In any case, an act of rebellion is not propagated but corruption. The guilt that comes is via imputation. Christ represented us federally before the Father. That’s really the only way it could work because the Bible clearly parallels Adam and Christ, noting that people are “in” both of them. We can’t be in Christ via physical descent, so it can only work federally. Because Christ represented us federally and he is paralleled with Adam who likewise did the same thing, the imputation of guilt is federal.

    No, it isn’t “really the only way it could work.” Nobody even thought it worked this way before the Reformation or that it was necessary to do so. That is the massive rupture from Christian tradition.

    And with this, you cast aside an entire tradition that goes right back through Augustine all the way to Paul. The hubris in accusing Calvinists of disregarding the tradition is especially rich.

    The point was that there was an exegetical tradition that interpreted “in whom all sinned,” but neither Augustine nor Aquinas interpreted it in the way that you do (i.e., actual guilt transmission). That was a complete innovation that had no antecedents in the tradition; it wasn’t an orthodox explanation.

    Further, exegesis is built on discovering what the authors of Scripture actually meant, not this reader-response criticism that Rome advocates wherein whatever the church says TODAY is what the text means. Since I’ve yet to see any real attempt at exegesis from you here, I don’t know what else to say. All I know is that modern RC exegetes, at least of a conservative bent, are not going to disagree with me in that the point of exegeting special revelation is to discover what the author meant.

    First, we’re having a disagreement on what the author meant, and that involves working through these issues of what can and cannot make sense. Second, we assume that the author doesn’t mean irrational things and doesn’t assert bare contradictions, which are presumed but not necessarily true in ordinary exegesis. Third, there is a divine component here that goes beyond the authorial intent, although it doesn’t conflict with it. The point is that you’re ignoring the passages that I have offered to you repeatedly, so the problem isn’t in my lack of exegesis, but the disagreement on these other factors. I follow Augustine’s view on exegeting Scripture so as not to accuse Scripture of philosophical absurdities (like imputation or federal sin, for example). We know those are wrong, so we don’t impute them to the Scriptural authors.

    God doesn’t create evil. I never said that he did. I’ve said he ordains evil without being morally responsible for it. I’m sorry you don’t like that, but your answer isn’t any better because if God creates Satan with an “autonomous” will and knows that Satan will rebel, all you’ve done is move things back a step. Evil is only here in the first place because God created Satan.

    Blustering about “autonomous” wills doesn’t save your view. You say that choice is determined by desires. If Adam’s desires were “godly” as Frame says, then he shouldn’t have sinned on your theory. Same for Satan. So either God made evil desires in them, which is impossible, or they didn’t sin, which is impossible. That means your theory is impossible. Whether you call the counter-theory “autonomous” will or whatever, that’s your business. And the step back is highly relevant, because even in ordinary human moral theory, allowing evil is not the same as causing it (see the example of the sting operation above). There are cases where it is morally permissible to allow a rational being to make his choices, even though those choices are wrong. God’s causality may be a mystery, but the fact that God does not deterministically cause evil is not mysterious. He doesn’t.

    God creating Satan with an “autonomous will” that He knows Satan will use for ill does not absolve God of moral responsibility in any ordinary sense. If I give a loaded gun to Steve and I know that Steve is going to use it to murder Bob, I’m going to be held responsible for what Steve does with the gun. At some point you have to say that God gave people freedom knowing that they would misuse it and that he isn’t morally responsible for their misuse. I’m really not saying anything substantially different. You just don’t like the word ordain.

    If I give drugs to the sting target knowing he will sell them, then I am NOT morally responsible for his actions. On the contrary, I am doing it for the moral purpose of demonstrating that person’s bad choices. And because God can always remedy injustices in the end, God is essentially the perfect sting operator. So you’re making unfounded assertion. It has nothing to do with the word “ordain.” It’s the concept that is problematic.

    Of course its not REQUIRED for RCs to agree with this since Rome has no official position on the atonement, but you are the one accusing Calvinists of heresy when Weinandy is advocating a position that is not materially different—we’re counted guilty because of Adam and Christ bears the wrath of God as a man. So let’s see, I have a choice between deciding orthodoxy based on what on what a premier American RC theological scholar is saying and what a lawyer with no formal theological training is saying. Hmm, I’ll go with Weindandy.

    Weinandy did not say that we were counted guilty. He said that we had inherited guilt. If you don’t understand the distinction between those two, then you are ignoring a distinction that Catholics make. There is a difference between having the status of guilt and being judged guilty. The only reason you think Weinandy agrees with you is that you collapse the two, but on the Catholic view, you and he aren’t saying the same thing.

    Other than that, your response here is basically that you don’t agree with Weinandy and you are assuming some idea of causation that I don’t recoginize in my own beliefs. The first point is not an argument, and the second is just wrong.

    Again, I’m not disagreeing with Weinandy, because he’s not saying what you think I’m saying, and I’m not assuming anything. What you mean by “ordain” is “creates conditions that determine the choice.” That is what I am saying that God does not do. I don’t believe in your view of causality when it comes to free will, and neither did Aquinas or any of the Fathers (including Augustine).

    The sure sign of the modern left’s failure to have an argument is the frequency with which they trot the charge of bigotry. Every time you accuse someone of bigotry because they say the same things about Rome that you say about Calvinism, you reveal the weakness of position. You show your utter failure to argue/dialogue seriously by accusing Calvin and those who follow him of being false teachers and heretics without that making you a bigot while saying that anyone who says the same thing about Roman Catholicism is a bigot. All your showing is your actual inability to deal with what Calvinists are actually saying.

    So nobody is actually a bigot? I have shown what you are actually doing: falsely imputing slanderous beliefs to Catholics. You even admitted that you were wrongly charging me with a belief when you thanked me (a Catholic) for the clarification, but then you say “but that’s not really what Catholics believe.” Same thing with Weinandy, when you’re interpreting him (falsely) as agreeing with you whether than me. How much more bigoted can you possibly be than lecturing someone on what his own religion really believes?

    You’ve made a distinction without a difference by saying that someone is being treated as having a status of guilt in some way, versus being judged by God as guilty. The very fact that some can be treated as having a status of guilt is all that the Reformed have ever said. There is a distinction between original sin and actual sin, and the way that God sees me as guilty of both is not the same. Original sin is reckoned in a federal way. God doesn’t see me as having a status of guilt of everything Adam did in the first place, and second he sees me as guilty for the sins I commit and he doesn’t see Adam as guilty of them. I’m personally guilty for my sin in a way I’m not personally guilty for Adam’s; nevertheless, I’m guilty for Adam’s failure to trust God in his eating of the forbidden fruit.

    Death is a penalty for original sin in all cases. No sin of Adam, no death. This is Paul’s point in Romans.

    Yes, I understand what the Calvinist view is. What you need to recognize is that it’s not the Catholic view, and it’s not the view that was held by anybody before, including Aquinas, who had a concept of federal guilt. If God were holding people actually guilty for this analogous guilt, the entire explanation would break down. They cannot even be treated as having a status of guilt by God without violating divine justice. That’s the difference; that’s the novelty; that’s the rupture from Tradition.

    You really need to stop with this business of “the Calvinist view of actually being judged guilty” because NO ONE says that God sees Christ as personally guilty of sin. The imputation of sin and guilt is only a way of saying that what was punished on the cross, what wrath satisfied on the cross, is the wrong that sinners have done.

    The substance of your argument, again, is that you don’t agree with Weinandy. Not convincing. And the distinction between “positive punishment” and divine wrath is one without a difference, which is why I don’t think Weinandy goes far enough. In any case, you aren’t getting the Calvinist position because we certainly agree with Weinandy that to experience the wrath of God is not an experience of God avenging himself in rage or capriciously punishing in anger. (Does God Suffer? P. 218). God isn’t capricious, and he isn’t controlled by rage. Any discussion of God’s ire and wrath always has its underlying assumption that God is perfectly just and not subject to such whims as sinful men are.

    That distinction is irrelevant. The point is that God does not see Christ as a sinner or treat Christ as a sinner. On Weinandy’s view, Christ suffers God’s wrath, but God is not imposing His wrath or treating Christ as a sinner. That’s the difference between positive punishment and experiencing divine wrath. Why you can’t accept basic Catholic distinctions is not a mystery; you’re bigoted against our view.

    Weinandy explicitly says that the God who is love is experienced—by the sinner—as being wrathful. So I haven’t misread Weinandy here. I disagree with him in that despising what the sinner has become and despising the sinner are not materially different, at least in hell. I also disagree that sin as sin rightfully has the ability to demand anything. Other than that, Weinandy is saying that the sinner experiences the wrath of God in hell, and that Christ on the cross experiences God as wrathful (according to Christ’s humanity), which is exactly what the Calvinist is saying. What is incoherent around here is the false distinction between “positive punishment” and the experience of wrath and this idea of yours that Calvinists somehow have God accusing Christ of being personally guilty of sin. The only response we get from you is that God can’t transfer guilt, which amounts to the old legal fiction argument that isn’t based on the exegesis of the text but on ex opere operato sacramentalism.

    I will give you one point, however, is that you seem to realize that believing Christ bears our guilt and suffering God’s wrath, if held consistently and taken to its logical end, entails the destruction of such things as purgatory, ex opere operato sacramentalism, and other core RC doctrines.

    It’s not about accusing Christ of anything. It’s that God is incapable of viewing Christ as a sinner. Christ can suffer the penalties of sin, but not because God treats Him as a sinner.

    The only dishonest one around here is the one, namely you, who thinks you know what the Calvinist means by guilt and doesn’t, and refuses to be corrected. And the other dishonest one around here is you who explicitly deny that Christ, as a man, experiences the wrath and abandonment of God on the cross and calls such a position heresy when a cardinal of your infallible church (Balthasar) and one of its premier modern theologians (Weinandy) say otherwise. Does Weinandy agree with every point the Calvinist makes. No. But he does agree that Christ experienced the abandonment by God on the cross and that Christ, having taken upon himself sin, experienced the divine wrath that manifests itself in the presence on sin. Sorry, but to say that is fundamentally different than what Calvin said is dishonest. You are accusing people of heresy that serve as leaders in your church and who do not differ in any substantial way with Calvin. And further proof of what I am saying is that Weinandy denies that Calvin was Nestorian even if he thinks Calvin was somewhat ambiguous on the ontology of the incarnation. Epic fail

    I think this is covered so well at this point that there is nothing to say. You’re misrepresenting both von Balthasar and Weinandy and ignoring distinctions they make. So you’re just presenting your bigoted anti-Catholic view of Catholicism as Catholic. I disagree with Weinandy about Calvin being Nestorian for several reasons; I think he is interpreting ambiguity far too charitably.

    And I have again sad that God doesn’t create evil. You seem to have the mistaken notion that for the Calvinist, ordain=create. It doesn’t. So stop it.

    The clue that your exegesis is bad is that you don’t think the fall really changed anything. As noted above, there is discontinuity between God’s creation of Adam and His creation of Adam’s descendants.

    I don’t think ordain equals create; I just think that either ordaining or directly creating evil is equally bad on principle.

    That is precisely NOT what Romans 9 is about. It is about how God can be just to hate Esau before he was born or had done anything and how he can harden Pharaoh’s heart and justly refuse to show him mercy.

    That’s an assertion. Let’s see the argument. God’s “hate” in this context was giving someone else his inheritance; that has nothing to do with reprobation. Neither does Pharaoh.

    You conclude this paragraph with an assertion that has gone undefended. Moreover, Romans 9 doesn’t talk about bare permission or allowing anything. It explicitly tells us that God has always saved people not by race but by His free choice that takes absolutely nothing of what they have done into account. Again, there is no reason to think the charge of injustice that Paul anticipates would come up if all God is doing is allowing people to suffer for their own sins. In fact, that is exactly what we would expect a just God to do.

    Your reading cannot make sense of the passage. It’s a bad reading that would never generate the questions Paul anticipates.

    Nonsense. The charge of injustice comes from Jews who think that they should get off the hook because they are God’s chosen people, and it arises whichever view we take.

    Again, I don’t believe ordain=create, so the entire charge here is absolutely groundless. Further, I’m not “inquiring” into God’s responsibility for evil. I’m attempting to reconcile the fact that God is no less sovereign over evil than he is over good, that He works out ALL things, even evil, according to the counsel of HIS will (Eph. 1:11). You’re the one pretending that bare permission solves the problem, let alone is coherent. Even in the case of bare permission how God can allow evil and not be guilty of it is a question you can’t answer except to say that God can allow evil and yet not be morally responsible for it. Otherwise, you have to deny God’s knowledge or goodness.

    You falsely assert, without evidence, that ordination and bare permission are the only two options, even though numerous other options are recognized. I am not asserting bare permission.

    You have no idea what we mean by ordain, so you are mistaken. And identifying your view as the Christian view is absolutely laughable. We all agree that God does not cause evil. What the disagreement is in regards to how his sovereignty functions with respect to evil. Apparently you believe he isn’t sovereign over evil or that evil just somehow “happens.”

    No, he is sovereign over evil, AND it “just happens” to some extent. I am affirming both conclusions, because they don’t conflict.

    Excuse me, but you said that God causes some things deterministically and some things non-deterministically. Such language is dragging him down into the “chain of causes.” Quit using the language of causation altogether and be consistent. Otherwise the Calvinist is not saying anything substantially different than God causes some things deterministically and some things non-deterministically. God “causes” both and the way he “causes” one is not the same way he causes the other. To put it in deterministic/non-deterministic terms is playing with words. You don’t know how God can do that, and neither do I know how God can cause both good and evil and be wholly responsible for the former and not at all responsible for the latter. To say that God creates people with an autonomous will and knows what they will choose but creates them anyway does not absolve him of moral responsibility. You just move things back a step.

    Yes, and that step is critical in terms of moral responsibility. Your view of causation doesn’t allow it, but your view of causation is wrong.

    Except that we deny causation of good and evil are equivalent, and we also affirm that God’s permission actually guarantees the outcome which is precisely what creaturely permission CANNOT do. You all want to say that God’s permission doesn’t cause anything. THAT is to bring God down to the creaturely level.

    And again, neither Job nor the interlocutor in Romans is told “God doesn’t cause evil.” They’re told you don’t know enough. If you were correct the answer would be “I am transcendent but I didn’t ordain evil.” That’s not what we’re told. We’re told, essentially, “I’m transcendent, don’t question my justice based on your limited knowledge.” God again and again condescends to his people in Scripture. He could have easily said “I don’t ordain evil.” The very fact that he doesn’t is quite telling, especially when the Bible says God works out all things according to his will and that those who crucified Jesus DID EXACTLY WHAT GOD ORDAINED FOR THEM TO DO EVEN THOUGH IT WAS EVIL (Acts 4:27).

    I don’t say that God’s permission isn’t causal. I say that it’s not causal in a deterministic sense within the causal chain. That’s just ordinary understanding of God’s transcendent causality.

    And once again, the language of “ordain” is precisely given to say that God is NOT a link in the causal chain. You’re reading your bad assumptions into what I am saying. Stop it. If God’s causality is not passive, it’s not bare permission, but that is what you are (unsuccessfully) trying to affirm. God’s allowing of something guarantees that it will happen. That is precisely what causation on the creaturely level DOES NOT do.

    The question of God’s goodness and justice DOES NOT arise if God is just the reason that causes exist in the first place. Nobody questions God’s justice for setting up a system in which sinners get their just desserts. That’s exactly what we would expect a just God to do. Scripture is clear that Job is completely innocent and that his suffering is not due to his personal sin, and Romans 9 is clear that the final fate of the elect and non-elect is due not to what they have done or will do. That is not what we would expect a just God—measured by our creaturely standards of justice—to do.

    God is not passive and not giving bare permission. The opposite of those things is not ordination.

    already refuted.

    Not really.

    And with this absurdity, you just ignored everything that Western philosophy and theology has said about compatibilism. And as far as “principles of exegesis,” I’m still waiting for you to show me from where in the biblical text you get the idea that if God ordains something that must mean he causes it in a morally responsible way, not to mention the idea of bare permission, and that simply by permitting something he isn’t morally responsible for it, and so much more.

    Compatibilism is a later (and inaccurate) label. So are your causal assertions.

    “Hath God really said…”

    But you’re not an anti-Catholic bigot stereotyping us. Great job showing your colors, Rothwell.

    The reason we aren’t in the “Thomist club” is because modern Thomism often ends up being a version Arminianism. Even Thomas wouldn’t be fit to join the Thomist club.

    Your view isn’t convincing because it’s not Scriptural to view any creature as being autonomous, which is what you must do. And further, it isn’t convincing because your critiques assume a meaning of terms such as ordain that Calvinists don’t mean by them.

    Essentially, you approach the whole matter with “If God ordains evil, then he is responsible for it in a morally culpable way.” Talk about bringing causation down to the creaturely level.

    Yes, I’m sure no Catholics are Thomists. And you’re not a bigot how? Study some Thomists on Causality (and ordination), and you won’t say such stupid things.

    By attributing to me and other Calvinists points we do not hold, you are ignoring our points. A reasonable discussion does not start off with “Calvin is not a theologian and a spiritual pornographer” when even your modern infallible church would not say such a thing. A reasonable discussion doesn’t accuse Calvinism of heresy for believing that Christ suffered abandonment by God on the cross as a man and thereby underwent divine wrath for sin when even your modern luminaries hold a position that isn’t substantially different. So as it stands, your accusations are meritless.

    Denying the distinctions you deny is heresy. Calvinism is heresy. Weinandy doesn’t say what you say. These are facts. When you start dealing with reality, then we can have a reasonable discussion. When your bigoted delusions are all you can see, then we can’t.

  181. Jonathan,

    If you don’t see any substantive change between the early Augustine and the late Augustine on predestination then I wonder how much Augustine you’ve read and what secondary sources you’ve consulted. Such knowledge was emphasized extensively even in my undergraduate work and is often mentioned explicitly in summaries of Augustine’s theology. We’ve come rather significantly adrift from Jason’s original post, and I don’t intend to go down this road much further, but this again causes me to seriously question your credibility when assessing history.

    You consistently use strong wording to advocate for your positions (theological pornographer, fundamentalist hicks, heretics, etc), yet I’ve found the substance of your position to be lacking. I sincerely think you see things to be so clearly set forward, but the evidence you’ve presented to substantiate this language is severely lacking.

    For example, you seem to completely miss my point when you say,

    The author you cited mentions a “modern Catholic” view for a reason; people tend to overlook the fact that the dogmatic teaching on predestination is essentially the same in Catholicism and Calvinism. But that has nothing to do with predestinarianism, which has always been a heresy and which only originates with heretics.

    Let’s go back and see what the author of the article said about the Modern Catholic view:

    There are parts of the Enchiridion that sound quite frightening to the modern Catholic ear, the scariest of which have not yet been addressed. Near the end of the “handbook,” Augustine begins to use language that sounds surprisingly Calvinist, prefiguring the later notion of “double-predestination,” the idea that God not only elects some for salvation but actively elects the rest for damnation

    The modern Catholic view is being contrasted with Augustine. Now let’s contrast your statement, about “predestinarianism”, whatever that is,

    But that has nothing to do with predestinarianism, which has always been a heresy and which only originates with heretics.

    The problem with this statement is that you’ve just condemned Augustine form the tradition. If you want to do that, be my guest, but I don’t think you’ll find many within your communion that would be willing to do that.

    To summarize all of this, your strong statements about Calvinism being Islamic and predestinarianism “only originating with heretics” are historically falsifiable—and pretty easily so.

  182. @Brandon:
    I suppose there’s some amusement value in being lectured on the Catholic view of St. Augustine by somebody who has never heard of predestinarianism. Therefore, I will not take your attempts to impugn my credibility personally, since I doubt you actually know enough to mean it maliciously.

    For your edification:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12376b.htm

    In short, I am aware of no Catholic historian who denies that Calvinism is a condemned heresy, and I am likewise aware of no Catholic historian who condemns Augustine for holding such a heresy. The reason the author points to a “modern Catholic ear” is not that the teaching has changed, but that people aren’t used to hearing what had previously been a commonplace notion of predestination and election. That doesn’t mean that Augustine was a heretical predestinarian.

    The author you cited notes that Augustine “prefigures” heretical predestinarian views like Calvinism. But so does the Catholic Encyclopedia article on predestinarianism, while simultaneously saying that Calvinism is a heresy that Augustine didn’t hold.

    Calvinism is heretical, and that heretical view was informed by an absolute view of causality by the divine will, the same causal account you see Robert offering. That same view of the causality of the divine will is responsible for Islam’s view of verbal inspiration of the Quran, which is essentially identical to the verbal inspiration theory of sola Scriptura. That causal theory of the divine will cannot be found in earlier, non-heretical Christian sources, but it can be found in Islam. It’s possible Calvin reinvented an old heresy, but I think there is sufficient evidence that it came to him mediated by scholasticism from Islam.

    Let’s get off this “strong language” fixation and deal with the reality. The reality is that Calvinism is a condemned heresy. No Catholic maintains that it was ever a permissible view of predestination or that Augustine or any other Saint held it. That is essentially the antithesis of claiming that the view had historical support. If you think there is such a Catholic, then you are misreading that Catholic’s work.

    I am disturbed that there are Calvinists who think that Calvinistic predestinarianism is not condemned as a heresy or that it was ever a permissible view. That is clearly not the Catholic position, and I don’t even know how somebody could honestly come to that view of the Catholic position.

  183. Brandon,

    Surprise, surprise, a Roman Catholic knows of no Roman Catholic historian who thinks Augustine was a Calvinist. Of course, what Jonathan misses is that honest Protestants believe Augustine was a Roman Catholic.

    What is incoherent is that in the same breath, Jonathan agrees that Augustine prefigures Calvinistic views of predestination. Apparently we can’t fall back on development like the Roman Catholics can. Witness again the Roman Catholic double standard at work. What is good for me is not good for thee.

    Sure Jonathan is correct that Calvinism is a Roman Catholic heresy. So is any view that affirms the sufficiency of grace and fallibility of the church. The problem is that Calvinism is NOT a Christian heresy.

  184. Of course, Calvin also taught Augustine’s doctrine of concurrence, which is inseparable from God’s eternal decree:

    Does not the similarity of the events apparently join both; and, at the same time, does not the dissimilarity of the causes make a real difference? Again, God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up2156 for us all.2157 Of the Son also it is said, “who loved me, and gave Himself2158 for me;”2159 and it is also said of Judas that Satan entered into him that he might betray2160 Christ.2161 Seeing, therefore, that the Father delivered up His Son, and Christ delivered up His own body, and Judas delivered up his Master, wherefore is God holy and man guilty in this delivering up of Christ, unless that in the one action which both did, the reason for which they did it was not the same?

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf101.vii.1.XCIII.html

  185. Jonathan,

    Please don’t take my response as an attempt to lecture you–it’s an attempt to interact with your statements. I happen to believe that they are seriously flawed, but I don’t presume to be your teacher.

    To clarify, I know what the term “predestinarianism” refers to, my point is that you’ve yet to do anything to show that Calvin and Augustine differ on causality . You can assert all you want Calvin and Augustine didn’t believe the same thing, but I just quoted you a Catholic source who sees Augustine saying essential what Calvinists say about double predestination. Unfortuantely, you’ve yet to actually interact with anything that I’ve said in response to your curious historical claims.

    I would most certainly like to get off this strong language fixation–it is your fixation by the way, not mine–and actually begin talking about substantive issues. If we can drop the rhetoric and begin discuss the substance that’d be great. I’ve asked you multiple times to discuss Augustine’s letter to Simplician. You came back talking about your own reading of Augustine with more assertions about Augustine’s belief. I cite you Catholic sources and ask you to interact with Augustine’s most famous writing on predestination and there is nothing except a patronizing response about my supposed ignorance. And we continue to see the same tired canard about Calvinism and Islam.

    I’d like to draw attention to one of your concluding comments because it illustrates your inability to discuss the issues I’m talking about.

    The reality is that Calvinism is a condemned heresy. No Catholic maintains that it was ever a permissible view of predestination or that Augustine or any other Saint held it. That is essentially the antithesis of claiming that the view had historical support. If you think there is such a Catholic, then you are misreading that Catholic’s work.

    The only problem is that I’ve cited you a Catholic who says that it is what Augustine believed. And I’ve been asking you to read Augustine’s letter to Simplician and event though you have claimed to have read Augustine’s comprehensively, not even a brief mention. Not even a statement that Calvinists have misread him; you have provided literally nothing. This silence speaks volumes. The longer the silence continues the more your position is shown to be baseless.

  186. That is:

    Of course, what Jonathan misses is that honest Protestants don’t believe Augustine was a Roman Catholic OR a Protestant.

  187. Brandon,
    Okay, so it appears Augustine predated Calvin in his writings against Pelagius.
    Since Protestants feel that JBFA is the heart of the Bible, subjecting all doctrine and practice to this core doctrine, they have, starting with Luther and moving to more extreme Reformers, dropped as non essentials or worse, contrary to JBFA, prayers to saints, relics, prayers for the dead, Mary, the Mass, faith formed by Charity, necessity of good works, the Papacy, the entire Catholic canon of the Bible, Tradition, IOW, all of Catholicism, how do you account for Augustine having retained everyone of these Catholic teachings?
    If Calvinism says the doctrines of grace ( predestination, limited atonement, irresistible grace,etc.) render Catholicism superfluous, Augustine must have been a schizoid, 1/2 Calvints, 1/2 Catholic.
    Anyone that nutty kind of disqualifies himself as a reputable source, wouldn’t you say?
    Not to put you on the spot. I have often wonder about this myself.

  188. Jim,

    1. Every uninspired theologian is inconsistent, even the great Augustine.

    2. Protestants don’t reject the necessity of good works, the entire catholic canon of the Bible, or tradition. Augustine did not hold to a Tridentine view of justification—though he anticipates it—and he didn’t hold to the modern RC view of the papacy, which is a medieval invention.

    3. We don’t accept from Augustine what we accept because Augustine said it, we accept what we accept because the Bible teaches it. Just like you accept what you accept from Augustine not because Augustine said it but because your church says it is true.

    Once we all realize that we ALL pick and choose from the tradition, we’ll all be better off. No denomination preserves perfectly the content or intent of the fathers’ teaching. Rome included.

  189. @Brandon:
    I’m going to assume that you didn’t understand the article, because that author, who talks specifically about the Questions to.Simplicianus, makes the same conclusion I did. If you’ve actually read the article, you would note an extensive discussion of how evil has no efficient cause, only a deficient cause, and that this is the the counterbalancing theme to divine omniscience. The article’s entire point is that while Augustine emphasizes one or another of these themes in his life, there is a consistent synthesis between the two. That is *exactly* what I said; Augustine’s view on causality prevents his view of predestination from being heretical.

    The way that Calvinism is heretical is that he takes one theme, the omnipotence or double predestination theme, without the counterbalancing theme on the causality of evil. Essentially, he takes Augustine’s writing out of context, which you’ve apparently learned from Calvin, since you took what this Catholic author said in one paragraph completely out of context and interpreted it directly contrary to his meaning.

    So, no, this Catholic author absolutely did not say what you are attributing to him. And this author who has obviously read the same letter to Simplician (assuming you mean the same work he cites) disagrees with your conclusion that Augustine’s themes should be taken in isolation from one another.

    Calvinism is still a heresy, and Augustine never held that heresy. Again, I suggest that you read the article you cited to understand why.

  190. @Robert:
    Your view excludes any possibility of rational theology. If all theologians are inconsistent, then theology is necessarily irrational, because it violates the law of non-contradiction. That’s an admission of fundamentalism right there.

    The point of the article Brandon cited, which it’s not clear that he bothered to read, is that Augustine is consistent on this subject if you keep both themes in mind.

  191. Jim,

    If we can agree that Augustine is a “precursor” to Calvinism, then we can actually move the conversation forward. My initial comment was to point out that Jonathan’s attempt to paint Calvinists as being completely outside of the Christian tradition and instead sprouting from Islamic Aristotelian philosophy is idiosyncratic. It is something that doesn’t pass muster with even a brief exploration of the relevant historical material. Agreement here at least allows you to regard the Calvinistic position as part of the broad and rich Christian theological tradition.

    Robert has nicely summarized how I would respond to your questions, so I won’t clutter the comments with a re-statement of something that summarizes my position well. (Thanks, Robert!)

  192. Jonathan,

    Your patronize comments are a sad commentary on the strength of your arguments. Unfortunately, you don’t realize that in the author’s attempt to show a unified Augustine regarding nature and grace, he actually outlines basic Calvinistic distinctions and theology.

    He cites Augustine at length on issues that you claim are heretical. For example,

    Rather than restricting God’s omnipotence, Augustine proposes that we “are rather to
    understand the Scripture [1Tim 2:4] as meaning that no man is saved unless God wills his
    salvation: not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will, but that no man is saved
    apart from His will.” Augustine then suggests that we should pray for God to will our salvation,
    and “it was of prayer to God that the apostle was speaking when he used this expression.”

    How do you square this with the positions you’ve been advocating? How is this part of the Catholic tradition? Continuing the author notes:

    Augustine writes of “those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment,” and “those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace.”

    Consider this extended quote from Augustine on the nature of God’s election or some and condemnation of others,

    At this point we must try, if the Lord will help us, to see how both of these Scripture passages can be true: “Thou hatest nothing that thou hast made” and “Jacob I have loved, but Esau have I hated.” The potter, remember, made one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour. Now, if he hated Esau because he was a vessel made unto dishonour, how could it be true that “Thou hatest nothing which thou hast made.” For in that case God hated Esau though he had himself made him a vessel unto dishonour.

    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. Was not Jacob a sinner, then, seeing that God loved him? But God loved in him, not the sin which he had blotted out, but the grace which he had freely given him. Christ died for the ungodly not that they should remain ungodly, but that they should be justified and converted from their impiety, believing in him who justifies the ungodly. For God hates impiety. In some he punishes it with damnation, in others he removes it by justification, doing what he judges right in his inscrutable judgments.

    Those of the number of the godless whom he does not justify he makes “vessels unto dishonour”; but he does not hate that in them which he has made, though of course they are hateful in so far as they are godless. In so far as he has made them vessels, he made them for some use, that “vessels made unto honour” may learn from the penalties duly ordained for the evil. Accordingly, God does not hate them as men or as vessels, that is, not in so far as he created them and ordained their punishment. He hates nothing which he has made. In making them vessels of perdition he makes them for the correction of others. He hates their impiety which he did not make. A judge hates theft, but he does not hate sending the thief to the mines. The thief is responsible for the crime, the judge for the sentence. So God, in making vessels of perdition from the lump of the impious, does not hate what he does, i.e., his work of ordaining due penalty for those who perish; for thereby those on whom he has mercy may find an opportunity of salvation. So it was said to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.” This demonstration of the power of God and proclamation of his name in all the earth is of advantage to those to whom it is a calling perfectly suited to their condition, so that they may learn from it to fear and to correct their ways. So the apostle goes on: “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction. . . ?” Through all this you can hear as an undertone, “Who art thou that repliest against God?”

    That must be understood as a recurring refrain—if God, willing to show his wrath, endured vessels of wrath, who art thou that repliest against God? But not only is it to be understood with the words just quoted, but also with the words that follow, “That he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy.” There is no advantage for vessels fitted unto destruction that God patiently endures them, to destroy them in due order and to use them as a means of salvation for those on whom he has mercy. But there is advantage for those for whose salvation God uses this means. As it is written, “The just shall wash his hands in the blood of the wicked” (Ps. 58:10), i.e., he shall be cleansed from evil works by the fear of God when he sees the punishment of sinners. That God shows his wrath in bearing with vessels of wrath avails to set a useful example to others, but also to “make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy which he prepared unto glory.”

    The hardening of the ungodly demonstrates two things—that a man should fear and turn to God in piety, and that thanks should be given for his mercy to God who shows by the penalty inflicted on some the greatness of his gift to others. If the penalty he exacts from the former is not just, he makes no gift to those from whom he does not exact it. But because it is just, and there is no unrighteousness with God who punishes, who is sufficient to give thanks to him? For he remits a debt which, if God wanted to exact it, no man could deny was justly due.

    This is a quote from Augustine that is nuanced, showing that God is not the author of evil, and yet still articulating a version of “double” predestination that Calvin and any of his followers would be able to affirm. Your failure to interact in any meaningful way with Augustine’s most important theological work on predestination underscores the vacuous nature of your argument and also seriously questions your credibility about your understanding of Augustine or the Christian tradition on the doctrine of predestination. For more on this letter, I’ve looked up an online version available here: http://www.romancatholicism.org/jansenism/augustine-simplician.html

    I would encourage you to read this (and his work on Predestination and Perseverance) to see that what I’m arguing here is found explicitly in Augustine’s writings.

  193. Jonathan,

    Even though you responded to Robert, I’d like to ask a question: Are you proposing that in order for theology to be worthwhile discipline that all men who write theology must be consistent in their theology?

    If not, then I’m not sure how Robert’s statement that men are inconsistent with themselves is “fundamentalism.” It’s “fundamental” only in the sense that it is a basic tenet of any honest approach to theology or history.

    And again, I’ve read the article–it undermines the very thing that you are arguing. Any distinctions you think that make Augustine’s position part of the Christian tradition can be equally applied to Calvinism because Augustine’s position is virtually co-extensive with Calvinism.

  194. Jonathan,

    Your view excludes any possibility of rational theology. If all theologians are inconsistent, then theology is necessarily irrational, because it violates the law of non-contradiction. That’s an admission of fundamentalism right there.

    That is a ridiculous statement. The only person who is perfectly consistent in all creation is God. Maybe I’ll add in the perfected saints. If you think that you can only do theology if you hold a fully consistent position with no holes or gaps, you aren’t going to find a single theologian who will meet your criteria.

    Theology itself isn’t necessarily irrational; the problems is the fact that it is SINNERS who do theology. Those who pursue the discipline aren’t omniscient, do not always have debate partners to point out their inconsistencies, and they are bound to some extent by their own traditions. All of those mean that everybody has inconsistencies in their thinking. It’s more often than not an unconscious thing.

    Let’s put it this way—if you have no inconsistencies in your thinking, then you’re the only one on the planet.

    This is where having a sound understanding of the noetic effects of sin is helpful.

  195. Robert, you write:

    God permitted Al Qaeda to fly planes into buildings. He knew exactly what they would do if he were to give them such permission. They never would have done it had he not given them permission.

    The Islamist terrorist wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you, because his view of kismet is not really any different than the Kalvinst Kismet that you espouse.

    kismet
    1. (Islam) Islam – the will of Allah
    2. fate or destiny
    .
    Reference: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/kismet

    As Allah wills it. It was the fate of the terrorist to do God’s will, and there was nothing he could do to change the will of Allah. Which is why the terrorist expects to receive his seventy-two virgins for being a martyr that heroically gave up his life to fight the infidels.

    God’s permission guaranteed the outcome of Al Qaeda flying the planes into the building. I guess that means he must have “caused it.”

    From the Islamic terrorist’s understanding of the will of God, and the Calvinist’s understanding of the will of God, it does indeed mean that God caused these things.

    Calvinism is a “blame God” religion, and that is why Calvinism is heresy.

    The Islamic terrorist and the Calvinist are both going to stand before God and be judged when they die. Both the Islamic terrorist and the Calvinist are going to know two things at their particular judgement. One, that no one can stand before God and claim that God owes them entrance into heaven because of the works that they did in God’s name. And two, that no one that is being cast into the eternal fires of Hell is going to be able to blame God for the sins that they freely chose to commit.

    Robert, if you want to save yourself from the flames of hell, you, like every other man, must take personally responsibility for the sins that you freely choose to commit.

    Repent and be saved.

  196. Mateo,

    You continue to play the part of the interlocutor who questions God’s wisdom and justice when Paul tells him that election and reprobation are determined by God in eternity past. Plus, you have no clue as to what Calvinists say about the will of God, moral culpability, and so on. If you did, you couldn’t say such nonsense.

    You have yet to show any understanding of the distinction between a compatibilistic understanding of the will and a libertarian understanding, and like most people assume that libertarian understandings are true. When you show SOME awareness of the philosophical and theological problems with your understanding of human freedom, this discussion will be worth having.

    It was the fate of the terrorist to do God’s will, and there was nothing he could do to change the will of Allah.

    Islam believes God’s will is arbitrary, kind of like the Roman Catholics around here who believe that God can forgive sin without visiting wrath upon it, that God’s justice need not be satisfied. Islam also denies, in essence, that God is a personal being.

    No, the Calvinist can’t blame God for his sin. And further, I guess you deny the use of anthropomorphic language in Scripture, since apparently you believe you can cause a true change in God’s mind or will. God has no idea of the future in your view, apparently. Maybe you are a Roman Catholic open theist.

    One, that no one can stand before God and claim that God owes them entrance into heaven because of the works that they did in God’s name.

    That is true, which is basically what the distinction between condign and congruent merit in Roman Catholicism ends up denying.

    And two, that no one that is being cast into the eternal fires of Hell is going to be able to blame God for the sins that they freely chose to commit.

    Yes, I freely commit sin even though it is ordained. I want to sin when I sin. Nobody is forcing me. God isn’t preventing my “good-natured” heart that really wants to do good from doing it. God can ordain my sin in a way that taints him in no way morally and makes me fully responsible for any blame. That’s what Paul says in Romans 9.

    Robert, if you want to save yourself from the flames of hell, you, like every other man, must take personally responsibility for the sins that you freely choose to commit.

    The fact that God ordains my sin does not make me any less responsible for it. You and Jonathan both have no clue as to what ordain means.

    Repent and be saved.

    I am saved, thank you very much. I have turned from sin, and continue to do so every day. I trust not at all in my own self but only in the righteousness of Christ.

  197. Robert,
    When you say that you trust in the righteousness of Christ, do you mean you trust that Christ is righteous or that He merited righteousness? What exactly do you mean as the ‘righteousness’ of Christ?

    And when you say Christ, I am assuming you mean the Son of God incarnate, conceived and alive within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, born of the Virgin Mary, lived 33 years on earth fully human but also with the fullness of the Triune God within Him, suffered terribly, was crucified and rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, will come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will never end. Do you trust in all of the above?

    This is quite a package. The righteousness of Christ is quite a package.

    Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
    IT (Abraham’s belief in God) was credited to Abraham AS righteousness. The two words IT and AS are important.
    Is this the same righteousness of Christ that you trust in?

  198. @Robert:

    That is a ridiculous statement. The only person who is perfectly consistent in all creation is God. Maybe I’ll add in the perfected saints. If you think that you can only do theology if you hold a fully consistent position with no holes or gaps, you aren’t going to find a single theologian who will meet your criteria.

    No, what is ridiculous is thinking that perfect consistency is necessary to hold even one true belief. Regardless of whether someone is perfectly consistent, i.e., holding only true beliefs, all true beliefs are consistent with one another, so you are essentially saying that everyone is perfectly *inconsistent*, that is, that they hold no true beliefs. There are necessarily going to be “holes or gaps” in human knowledge to some extent, but you are essentially saying that the existence of holes or gaps means the whole enterprise is fundamentally flawed.

    I absolutely do not think that Augustine was inconsistent on this; I think he was consistent and correct. Calvin was both inconsistent and incorrect, and his false beliefs should not be excused simply because other people may also have false beliefs. Calvin’s account of causality, which he didn’t get from Scripture, was wrong; Augustine’s, which he did get from Scripture, was right.

    Theology itself isn’t necessarily irrational; the problems is the fact that it is SINNERS who do theology. Those who pursue the discipline aren’t omniscient, do not always have debate partners to point out their inconsistencies, and they are bound to some extent by their own traditions. All of those mean that everybody has inconsistencies in their thinking. It’s more often than not an unconscious thing.

    None of those things mean that everybody has inconsistencies in every belief. That’s absolute nonsense. People can be perfectly right, true, and consistent in all kinds of beliefs. In fact, people are *mostly* right, true, and consistent in their beliefs, or it would be impossible to do anything. Theology and philosophy are not exceptions to this general principle; even somebody in error nonetheless holds a number of true and consistent beliefs. Sin or lack of omniscience means that this is not likely to be true of absolutely every belief, but so what?

    And here’s the huge problem with your view: if everybody’s inconsistent, then who is most likely the screw-up on this specific issue, Calvin or every other theologian in Christian history? He’s got all the classic signs of a heretic, particularly the emphasis of one doctrine to the exclusion of the balancing doctrine. If Calvin is teaching a meaning of “ordain” that does not match up with what the Fathers said, which is allegedly simultaneously clear from Scripture yet so opaque that we can’t seem to have a clue about it, then why should we believe him (or you)? And if his meaning is consistent with the Fathers, then why are you arguing with us?

    You keep talking about Scriptural exegesis, but Scripture doesn’t endorse your view of causality. Take James 1:13-14 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” The plain exegesis of that passage is that God neither causes nor ordains temptation. If God were putting the desires in people’s hearts, then He would be tempting them. So clearly, the reasonable interpretation is that God orders creation in the sense of sustaining the creature’s existence, but not in any respect determining them toward evil desires, which is entirely uncaused by God. If you didn’t have this bizarre idea that creation would go flying out of control unless God was deterministically causing everything, this wouldn’t even be a concern.

    Let’s put it this way—if you have no inconsistencies in your thinking, then you’re the only one on the planet

    The question is whether I have any inconsistencies in my thinking (or Augustine’s thinking) specifically about predestination and casuality of evil, which isn’t the case. Of course, as Wosbald has pointed out many times, there is no such thing as a closed theological system with no gaps, because that would require omniscience of God, but that hardly means that we can’t come to sound dogmatic conclusions on specific matters.

    This is where having a sound understanding of the noetic effects of sin is helpful.

    Indeed, and that’s precisely why I’m explaining to you what they are. The noetic effects of sin mean that people make *some* mistakes. It doesn’t mean that all or even most of their beliefs are corrupted.

  199. Robert, you write:

    You have yet to show any understanding of the distinction between a compatibilistic understanding of the will and a libertarian understanding, and like most people assume that libertarian understandings are true.

    Robert, when I speak with a Protestant, it is my experience that I should assume nothing, since Protestants believe anything and everything. That is why I asked you to define your terms, because I didn’t want to assume anything about what you believe just because you are a Presbyterian.

    You defined what you mean by “libertarianism” and “compatiblism” and the definitions that you gave have exactly the same in meaning. I pointed this out to you, and you did not bother to dispute that. You also gave no clarification for what difference there is supposed to be between your two definitions.

    Robert, you write:

    I want to sin when I sin. Nobody is forcing me.

    So, by your own definition of “libertarianism”, you believe in libertarian free will. Here, again, is your own definition of “libertarianism”:

    Libertarianism: Freedom is the freedom to do A or non-A in any given situation. People are free as long as it is equally possible that they would do A or non-A in any given situation.

    You admit that God is not forcing you to commit sin, which means that you have the “libertarian freedom” to do either A (sin) or not-A (not sin). You sin when you want to commit sin, which means that you believe that the sinning that you commit is not caused by anything other than your own ability to exercise your freedom to disobey God. Your willful sinning is NOT determined by God, or the laws of physics, or anything other than your culpable choice to be disobedient to God. Therefore, you have a incompatiblist view of free will according to the common understanding of the incompatiblist position:

    Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.
    .
    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_free_will

    Robert you write:

    Yes, I freely commit sin even though it is ordained. … The fact that God ordains my sin does not make me any less responsible for it. You and Jonathan both have no clue as to what ordain means.

    Robert, you are arguing in blatant contradictions. First you say that God doesn’t cause you to sin, and you claim that you freely commit the sins that you want to commit. Then you say that God has ordained the sins that you are going to commit, and that what God ordains “inevitably” comes to pass, which means that your sinning has been predetermined by God.

    It is not just Catholics that see your Calvinist contradictions, because other Protestants understand this point of Ralph Larson that I posted earlier: “Be prepared for the fact that Calvinistic writings abound in ludicrous self-contradictions, which are an insult to the intelligence of the reader. In Boettner’s book it is argued, for example:

    That although their god creates, directs, and controls every impulse, thought and action of man, nevertheless the will of man is totally free.
    .
    That although their god creates and controls the sinful thoughts and sinful actions of man, that nevertheless their god is not the author of sin.
    .
    That although their god creates, directs, and controls every thought and impulse of man, nevertheless man is totally responsible for his own sinning.

    Robert, you write:

    God has no idea of the future in your view, apparently.

    Apparent to whom? This is hogwash. Catholics believe that God is omniscient. God knows every sin that you are going to commit in the future, but that doesn’t mean that God has “ordained” that you must commit those sins because you have no real choice in the matter.

  200. Gentlemen,
    Like Mateo says, there are Protestants out there who oppose Calvinism’s view of freewill and determinism. Go to utube and you will see Arminians and Calvinists hammering away at each other with the same scripture passages they have been using for centuries. Gary Walls has a whole series on compatibilism. Open theism is debated there also.
    Was Augustine responsible for Calvinism? Tons to read on that on the net.
    Dominicans and Jesuits? Remember, guys, the Pope finally said he had had enough.

    In my humble opinion, the solution is to be found in God’s eternity. IOW, this is at an impasse. All the above arguments hinge on the sequence of events that we earthlings can’t help but feel is involved in all this. Eternity is not unceasing duration. Rather it is an absence of duration and sequence in time. I can’t figure it and neither can you.
    Maybe a good topic to kick of the new blog would be God Himself and the Divine attributes. I guarantee you guys aren’t going to settle this. Better men have tried, as many men have died.

  201. Jonathan,

    No, what is ridiculous is thinking that perfect consistency is necessary to hold even one true belief.

    Who in the world has said this. Not me.

    Regardless of whether someone is perfectly consistent, i.e., holding only true beliefs, all true beliefs are consistent with one another, so you are essentially saying that everyone is perfectly *inconsistent*, that is, that they hold no true beliefs. There are necessarily going to be “holes or gaps” in human knowledge to some extent, but you are essentially saying that the existence of holes or gaps means the whole enterprise is fundamentally flawed.

    Are you even reading? My comment about Augustine’s inconsistency was in response to Jim’s “how can you trust Augustine” if he got double predestination right. My contention is that Augustine was correct, or at least mostly correct, on predestination even if he was wrong on other points.

    You’re the one saying I think the enterprise is wholly flawed just because there are gaps in our knowledge and because we are inconsistent. Do you really want to say that there are no inconsistencies in YOUR theology?

    I absolutely do not think that Augustine was inconsistent on this; I think he was consistent and correct. Calvin was both inconsistent and incorrect, and his false beliefs should not be excused simply because other people may also have false beliefs. Calvin’s account of causality, which he didn’t get from Scripture, was wrong; Augustine’s, which he did get from Scripture, was right.

    I see you are continuing to ignore Brandon’s argument. Speaks volumes.

    None of those things mean that everybody has inconsistencies in every belief.

    I agree.

    That’s absolute nonsense. People can be perfectly right, true, and consistent in all kinds of beliefs. In fact, people are *mostly* right, true, and consistent in their beliefs, or it would be impossible to do anything. Theology and philosophy are not exceptions to this general principle; even somebody in error nonetheless holds a number of true and consistent beliefs. Sin or lack of omniscience means that this is not likely to be true of absolutely every belief, but so what?

    People are “mostly” right, true, and consistent insofar as they are following a Christian worldview. Non-Christians when they come to a knowledge of truth in any enterprise are being inconsistent with their fundamental non-Christian commitments. And yes, even somebody in error nonetheless holds a number of true and consistent beliefs.

    And here’s the huge problem with your view: if everybody’s inconsistent, then who is most likely the screw-up on this specific issue, Calvin or every other theologian in Christian history? He’s got all the classic signs of a heretic, particularly the emphasis of one doctrine to the exclusion of the balancing doctrine. If Calvin is teaching a meaning of “ordain” that does not match up with what the Fathers said, which is allegedly simultaneously clear from Scripture yet so opaque that we can’t seem to have a clue about it, then why should we believe him (or you)? And if his meaning is consistent with the Fathers, then why are you arguing with us?

    Your animus toward Calvin is starting to amuse me. You seem to have some respect for Luther, even saying that he is always worth reading, but Luther’s view of the will is even more deterministic than Calvin’s. How’s THAT for inconsistency. In any case, you continue to ignore Brandon’s argument. Speaks volumes.

    You keep talking about Scriptural exegesis, but Scripture doesn’t endorse your view of causality. Take James 1:13-14 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” The plain exegesis of that passage is that God neither causes nor ordains temptation. If God were putting the desires in people’s hearts, then He would be tempting them. So clearly, the reasonable interpretation is that God orders creation in the sense of sustaining the creature’s existence, but not in any respect determining them toward evil desires, which is entirely uncaused by God. If you didn’t have this bizarre idea that creation would go flying out of control unless God was deterministically causing everything, this wouldn’t even be a concern.

    And I’ll keep saying it—ordain is not equivalent to the word cause, so this argument is attacking a straw man.

    The question is whether I have any inconsistencies in my thinking (or Augustine’s thinking) specifically about predestination and casuality of evil, which isn’t the case. Of course, as Wosbald has pointed out many times, there is no such thing as a closed theological system with no gaps, because that would require omniscience of God, but that hardly means that we can’t come to sound dogmatic conclusions on specific matters.

    Again, the specific reason I said Augustine was inconsistent is in comparing his belief in predestination to other matters that Protestants deny. And even then that is being extremely gracious in granting to the RC that Augustine was a RC. He wasn’t. He wasn’t a Protestant either.

    Of course we can come to sound conclusions. We do it all the time in every enterprise.

    Indeed, and that’s precisely why I’m explaining to you what they are. The noetic effects of sin mean that people make *some* mistakes. It doesn’t mean that all or even most of their beliefs are corrupted.

    Depending on the person, I largely agree. Some people have throughly corrupted beliefs. Not everyone.

  202. @Robert:
    Jim’s point was the same one that I’ve been making all along. There are inconsistencies, and there are inconsistencies. Augustine’s view of predestination is irreconcilable with JBFA, which is why Augustine believes so many different things that are inconsistent with it.

    This suggestion that Augustine is neither Catholic nor Protestant ignores the principled reasons behind Augustine’s position. A Catholic can accept all of Augustine’s principles while disagreeing with him on certain outcomes based on those principles. Protestants have to reject his fundamental principles.

    The whole “worldview” idea obscures the concept of true and fundamental principles. That’s what we keep trying to bring out as Catholics. In this case, there are two principles: God’s causality of everything (omnipotence) and the general lack of causality for evil. Augustine affirms both; you affirm only the first. That’s a disagreement in principle, not a disagreement on conclusions. You have to chuck Augustine’s position to take yours; the principles are irreconcilable.

  203. @Brandon:
    I was reading the thread on a phone, so I didn’t see your earlier responses. I apologize for the delay.

    The author’s point is that Augustine’s exegesis itself states that his interpretation of the passage is not necessary for his view. That is, there isn’t any principled reason for interpreting the universal will of salvation in this way, and other interpretations can in principle be reconciled with his position. The standard Catholic interpretation, which is well attested in the tradition, is one such interpretation.

    The problems for Calvinism are far more serious. Augustine doesn’t just assert that God is not the author; He makes a principled argument based on the fact that God hates nothing He has made. That leaves no room for saying that God either made or ordained the evil that men do; He only allows it via His general concurrence with the existence of things. That’s the Thomist and Molinist position, but it’s absolutely irreconcilable with the Calvinist position that God specifically ordains the evil that men do (essentially, the causal interpretation of Romans 9). Without that piece, the Calvinist version of election to reprobation falls apart in principle, while the Thomist and Molinist views function perfectly well.

    That’s the same thing the author says, and it’s pretty patronizing on your end to act like I haven’t read Augustine on this. Show some humility, not humility before me, but before the tradition I represent. When I say that Calvinism is a heresy unsupported by the tradition, something that all Catholics believe, that dogma hasn’t gone unexamined. There is a reason that Catholics who know Augustine very well think he wasn’t a heretical Calvinist.

  204. Jonathan,

    Augustine’s view of predestination is irreconcilable with JBFA, which is why Augustine believes so many different things that are inconsistent with it.

    Wrong. If the will is as enslaved as Augustine says it is, then monergism is required, and the consistent view of JBFA requires monergism. Its no coincidence that Augustine was becoming more firmly predestinarian towards the end of his life, and its no coincidence that when Calvin and Luther cite Augustine on God’s sovereignty and the will, they invariably cite the later Augustine.

    Augustine changed his mind even on the some of the principles he held. He didn’t live long enough to keep going. This is what we call development of doctrine. If it is good for thee, it is good for me.

    God’s causality of everything (omnipotence) and the general lack of causality for evil. Augustine affirms both; you affirm only the first. That’s a disagreement in principle, not a disagreement on conclusions. You have to chuck Augustine’s position to take yours; the principles are irreconcilable.

    You continue to falsely define ordain as equalling cause, which is why you can make this nonsensical statement. You are the one bringing God down to the level of creaturely causes by stating that ordain means God’s the first link in a causal chain just as creatures are. And for one who is so big on incoherence—this statement is contradictory “God’s causality of everything except there is (on his part I suppose) the general lack of causality for evil.

    He only allows it via His general concurrence with the existence of things. That’s the Thomist and Molinist position, but it’s absolutely irreconcilable with the Calvinist position that God specifically ordains the evil that men do (essentially, the causal interpretation of Romans 9). Without that piece, the Calvinist version of election to reprobation falls apart in principle, while the Thomist and Molinist views function perfectly well.

    Wait, I though you denied bare permission. How is this any different from bare permission?

    There is a reason that Catholics who know Augustine very well think he wasn’t a heretical Calvinist.

    And, as Anthony Lane has pointed out, there is a reason why many Roman Catholic Scholars believe Calvin and Luther were largely justified in their appeal to Augustine.

    The author’s point is that Augustine’s exegesis itself states that his interpretation of the passage is not necessary for his view. That is, there isn’t any principled reason for interpreting the universal will of salvation in this way, and other interpretations can in principle be reconciled with his position. The standard Catholic interpretation, which is well attested in the tradition, is one such interpretation.

    Not necessary but possible. While I disagree on it not being necessary, the very fact that the author says it is possible means that insofar as the Reformed follow Augustine’s exegesis here, they are very much at home in the Western tradition.

    And BTW, where is the infallible list of the principles that undergird Augustinian thought, because if we’re to believe Rome follows them, we should know them. If the principles are just brought about by “general scholarly consensus” (whatever the heck that means), which I am 99 % sure that is what you mean, then what happens if the scholarly consensus shifts and ends up with a list that goes against what Rome says Augustine meant or followed?

  205. Jonathan,

    I am saying you haven’t read Augustine because your arguments show you have no familiarity Augustine’s fundamental writings on this subject. You’ve still yet to act or interact with anything I’ve said or address how Augustine argues precisely the way that the Reformed tradition does when it comes to God’s sovereignty, human freedom, predestination, election, and reprobation. I’ll allow you to have the last word on the subject because I don’t have any more time to spend, but if we are giving injunctions to humility, humble yourself to read Augustine on predestination. This is not something I’m making up, this is well known, on the record, and explicitly delineated in primary and secondary literature on Augustine. Tolle Legge.

  206. Guys,
    I have a question. Augustine wrote against Pelagians, Manicheaens and Donatists ( and maybe others?)
    Is it important which of these groups he was addressing when he wrote? Maybe Pelagians, when he wrote on grace and maybe Manichaeans, when he wrote on necessity and predestination? His writings on the sacraments may have been directed against the Donatists and only the Donatists?

    In polemics, we often go to extremes to make a point that we wouldn’t necessarily hold to in other situations.
    I don’t know. I’m just guessing as I have always wondered about some things attributed to Augustine.

    Also, didn’t Luther say it “was all over with Augustine when I discovered Paul”? ( Maybe the quote is ” when I discovered the Gospel”. It’s been a while but I know he did dump Augustine at some point.
    Luther’s views came more from Nominalism than Augustine, right?

  207. Gentlemen,

    I forgot to mention ( again ), EWTN has archived about half a dozen articles by Fr. William Most on the very issue being discussed. He pulls no punches with his criticism of Augustine so he is not trying hide anything. He comes right out and says both the Dominicans and Molinists were wrong. He writes from an ecumenical perspective as he wants Catholics and Protestants to find some common ground here.
    He does it all from scripture too and is very easy to follow if one is a layman like myself.
    He may have some audio archived there too as I have heard him speak on this stuff years ago too.

  208. Jim,

    You’re right that Augustine wrote against a number of different opponents and that a holistic approach will give us a better understanding of his corpus. I’d invite you to go and read the article I’ve linked to though and see how explicit Augustine is in his writings and how the very objections you and others have raised against Robert are answered by Augustine. It’s rather uncanny how Augustine’s letter to Simplician closely mirrors the current discussion.

    Luther’s views came more from Nominalism than Augustine, right?

    When I asked Richard Muller about this question his response was that the only people who argue in this fashion are 19th century Jesuits. When I told Muller that I had seen some Catholics advocating this argument his response was that he was puzzled that the arguments were being resuscitated (though errors have the uncanny ability to crop up again).

    It is undeniable that Nominalism provided the soil for the Reformation to grow, but Augustine was monumentally influential for the Reformed tradition. Moreover, the Reformation doesn’t happen without Renaissance Humanism. Without the rise of nationalism the Reformation never happens. There are so many contributing factors that to tap any one thing as *the* cause of the reformation is historically irresponsible.

    Luther’s theology is shaped by a number of factors, but none of them are more important than the primacy of Scripture. His Augustinianism impacts his interpretation of Scripture. His Nominalism impacts his interpretation of Scripture. But Luther is not starting the Reformation unless he believes that Scripture actually taught what he believed it did. This is fundamentally why attempts to falsify Protestantism by pointing out that Nominalism fertilized the soil of the Reformation are misguided.

    It may well be that Nominalism impacted Luther’s interpretation of Scripture, but the real polemical issues center on his interpretation of Scripture. If I simply pointed out the importance of Aristotelian philosophy in some Roman Catholic interpretations of Scripture, that would not falsify the exegetical conclusions. The real groundwork takes place in the text of Scripture and because of the exegetical positions of Augustine that undoubtedly influenced Luther. That is why if we were forced to choose which were more influential, Nominalism or Augustine, the choice would be Augustine.

  209. Jim,

    Thanks for the link. Just to show how bizarre Joanthan’s appropriation of Augustine is, consider how starkly Fr. Most describes Augustine’s view,

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

  210. Jim,

    Guys,
    I have a question. Augustine wrote against Pelagians, Manicheaens and Donatists ( and maybe others?)
    Is it important which of these groups he was addressing when he wrote? Maybe Pelagians, when he wrote on grace and maybe Manichaeans, when he wrote on necessity and predestination? His writings on the sacraments may have been directed against the Donatists and only the Donatists?
    In polemics, we often go to extremes to make a point that we wouldn’t necessarily hold to in other situations.
    I don’t know. I’m just guessing as I have always wondered about some things attributed to Augustine.
    Also, didn’t Luther say it “was all over with Augustine when I discovered Paul”? ( Maybe the quote is ” when I discovered the Gospel”. It’s been a while but I know he did dump Augustine at some point.
    Luther’s views came more from Nominalism than Augustine, right?

    I think Brandon provided a very fair response regarding nominalism and the Reformers, or at least nominalism and Luther. The other questions you raise are excellent ones.The circumstances and opponents are important in assessing an argument and the reasons for it. I would humbly suggest that Protestantism by its nature as a text-based religion that stresses the use of the GHM does a better job of such considerations than other Christian traditions.

    I think its also important when we talk about someone from the past and what they believed that we take into consideration that people’s views change over time. That’s true from Augustine to Calvin to everyone else.

  211. Brandon,

    Good quote from Augustine. Here’s another from Most on original guilt:

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

    This is exactly what I have been saying. And what is most interesting that the same author is critical of Augustine throughout his article and even of Thomas where Aquinas borrows from Augustine.

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=2

    It doesn’t take a Calvinist to see Calvinism in Augustine. That doesn’t make Calvinism correct in itself, but it puts to death the absurd idea that Calvinism is not a legitimate part of the Western theological tradition.

  212. Robert,

    I am glad you checked out the link.
    Here is a debate between William Lane Craig* ( Molinist) against a Calvinist.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZwywSLnJK4

    *Fellow Catholics, Although Craig is a Protestant, he has a standing invitation to be a guest on Catholic Answers to debate against atheists. So, although not “one of us”, he is very respected in Catholic circles. So, in a sense, he has an “imprimatur” ( kinda’).

  213. @Brandon:
    The problem is not that I haven’t read Augustine. The problem is that you keep confusing two entirely separate concepts.

    Everybody knows Augustine was wrong
    on the massa damnata, the “lump of the impious” in that letter to Simplician. But we know it’s an error precisely because it is irreconcilable with his view on the causality of evil. Nothing in Augustine’s view of election or predestination requires this doctrine. And indeed, nothing in the argument from.Augustine that you cited requires it.

    Now if you are admitting that your support in the tradition is where Augustine screwed up and violated his own principles, then I’m happy to concede that. The point is that there’s no *principled* argument from Augustine. You agree with his conclusions without following his reasons, which is the paradigm case of intellectual dishonesty, same as you do with the argument in the article.

    In short, we’re equivocating on what it means to gain support from a source. If you mean that following someone wrongly, selectively and dishonestly in a way the original author would not support, then yes, Calvinism was derived from Augustine. But the point is that based on what we know about what Augustine really meant, it’s also equally clear that Calvin got Augustine badly wrong.

  214. Jonathan,

    Your entire comment in rather rich,

    . If you mean that following someone wrongly, selectively and dishonestly in a way the original author would not support, then yes, Calvinism was derived from Augustine. But the point is that based on what we know about what Augustine really meant, it’s also equally clear that Calvin got Augustine badly wrong.

    Augustine doesn’t really think what he says he thinks. Jonathan can tell us what Augustine really meant… And you would lecture me on humility? Not only are you claiming to know better than Augustine, you’re claiming to know Augustine better than Augustine (remember that consistency thing you were just attempting to take Robert to task for…ay carumba)! Such bravado is rather sad, particularly from someone who is clearly as intelligent as you are.

    I’ll simply note that you’ve yet to cite anything demonstrating the distinction that you claim exists, either. It’s nothing other than vacuous assertions from you–and I know you are much sharper thinker than that.

  215. @Jim:
    Most is pretty far out of the mainstream on election. Matthew Levering’s book Predestination is an impeccable survey of where Catholics have been on this.

    The important distinction between Calvinism and Catholicism is not on election, which is the subject Fr. Most examines. It’s solely a question of the causality of evil, whether God ordains evil or not. The Catholic view is that God neither causes nor ordains evil, that is, that God neither directly nor indirectly (such as providentially) causes evil. This is not “bare permission,” because God is specifically concurring with the existence of the evildoer. But there is no causality of the evil intention or the evil choice, which originates solely in the will of the evildoer.

    Election is inevitably mysterious. People will fight about that simply because there can be no answer. But the fact that evil does not result from the operation of divine will is undeniable.

  216. @Brandon:
    You cited an article specifically devoted to showing how *seeming* Calvinism in Augustine could be explained when viewed in context of other themes, and you’re complaining about me making the same argument? That seems like a much more audacious claim.

    And Peterson isn’t out of the mainstream in Catholic scholarship. It’s not me saying what Augustine thought in this regard. The fact that the massa damnata was a mistake that can’t be coherently reconciled with his view isn’t exactly news. It was based on a questionable.allegorical bit of exegesis that he tried to.support with even more questionable philosophy (like traducianism). I’d swear you hadn’t even read Wetzel or Bonner.

  217. Brandon, you write:

    … consider how starkly Fr. Most describes Augustine’s view …

    I think that you are missing the forest for the trees.

    Fr. Most is writing as a theologian that is arguing for a position that is neither Molinist nor Banezian. Fr. Most is well aware of the defects of Augustine’s teaching on predestination, and his implicit point is that St. Augustine is NOT the magisterium of the Catholic Church. Nor is Father Most a maverick in his assessment of the defects of St. Augustine’s teachings on predestination. I would say that the majority of Catholics that are educated on these issues are quite cognizant of the fact that on the issue of predestination, that all of St. Augustine teachings in this issue have never been accepted by the magisterium. That said, I find it incredible that anyone can seriously believe that St. Augustine was a Calvinist that held a “monergism only” understanding of grace.

    Fr. Most writes:

    … There are two sets of texts of St. Paul which seem to completely clash (we translate them in accord with canons 4 and 7 of the second Council of Orange 529 AD. DS 374 & 377). Although a local council, the special approbation of Boniface II made its canons equal to those of a general council): 1) 2 Cor 3:5: “We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as from ourselves. Our sufficiency is from God. Phil 2:13: “It is God who works [produces] in you both the will and the doing.” 2) 2 Cor 6:1: “We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (Many texts all over Scripture imply the same, by asking that we turn to God, change our
    heart etc.).
    .

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

    The Church has never told us how to put the two together. We have just one small help from the Council of Trent (DS 1554, Canon 4 on Justification). That canon says that under actual grace we are not entirely passive.
    .
    Ref: http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/2THOMIST.TXT

    Here Fr. Most is getting to the heart of the matter. Are men merely puppets on a string as the Calvinists contend, puppets that are controlled by strings labeled “monergism-only/irresistible-grace”? Or do men have the capacity to freely choose to cooperate with the grace of God? In other words, is there any room for synergism in an orthodox theology of grace?

    Fr. Most points out that the magisterium of the Catholic Church has never solemnly defined the dogmas that answers all the questions that he has raised. There is, however, a “small help from the Council of Trent” that states that under actual grace men are “not entirely passive.”

    If one bothers to read DS 1554, one will see that Trent is speaking about the actual graces of God that that must be received by a person that has reached the age of reason, before that person can receive the sacramental graces of baptismal regeneration. In DS 1554, it is taught that persons that have reached the age of reason must receive two kinds of actual grace before then can desire the saving grace bestowed by the Sacrament of Baptism – “prevenient grace” which is monergistic, and “quickening and assisting grace” which is synergistic. In DS 1554 the magisterium is arguing against both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, and the magisterium is drawing heavily on the teachings of St. Augustine.

  218. Jim, you write:

    Go to utube and you will see Arminians and Calvinists hammering away at each other with the same scripture passages they have been using for centuries. … I guarantee you guys aren’t going to settle this. Better men have tried, as many men have died.</blockquote

    Jim, I used Google to search, “Calvinism, Arminianism” and I got back 198,000 results. Who could wade through it all?

    I have tried to understand what this bickering within Protestantism is all about, and my conclusion is that neither the Calvinists nor the Arminians understand what St. Augustine wrote.

    It seems to me that the “Arminians” are arguing for a “synergism-only” view of grace, and the Calvinists are arguing for a “monergism-only” view of grace. But St. Augustine was not either/or on the issue of monergism/synergism, St. Augustine was both/and, as is the Catholic Church.

    Wikipedia has this to say on prevenient grace:

    Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. It is divine grace that precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. … Prevenient grace is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Whereas Augustine held that prevenient grace cannot be resisted, Wesleyan Arminians believe that it enables, but does not ensure, personal acceptance of the gift of salvation.

    Wikipedia is correct, when Augustine speaks about prevenient grace, he is talking about a grace that cannot be resisted (a monergistic grace). This is precisely the error of the Arminians. But that error by the Armenians does not make the error of the Calvinists correct, because the Calvinists try to deform Augustine’s theology of grace into their defective monergism-only theology of grace.

    “He operates that we may will; and when we will, He co-operates that we may be perfect.”
    .
    “He Who created thee without thyself, will not justify thee without thyself.”

    St. Augustine

    … the Council of Trent declares in St. Augustine’s own words: “God never commands the impossible, but in commanding He tells us to do what we can, to ask for that which we are not able to do, and He helps us in order that we may be able.”
    .
    Reference: “The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Prelude to Eternal Life”, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
    http://www.christianperfection.info/tta12.php

    This thread is about human freedom, and I think that it can be established that both the Arminians and the Calvinists are wrong. Neither camp really understands what St. Augustine teaches (a teaching that St. Thomas made even clearer in his distinction between operating grace and cooperating grace).

  219. Jonathan,

    Now if you are admitting that your support in the tradition is where Augustine screwed up and violated his own principles, then I’m happy to concede that. The point is that there’s no *principled* argument from Augustine. You agree with his conclusions without following his reasons, which is the paradigm case of intellectual dishonesty, same as you do with the argument in the article.

    So now AUGUSTINE is irrational?

    Of course, the simple explanation just couldn’t be that Augustine changed his principles based on exegesis. That would make him too Protestant.

  220. !@#$% html

    Jim, you write:

    Go to utube and you will see Arminians and Calvinists hammering away at each other with the same scripture passages they have been using for centuries. … I guarantee you guys aren’t going to settle this. Better men have tried, as many men have died.

    Jim, I used Google to search, “Calvinism, Arminianism” and I got back 198,000 results. Who could wade through it all?

    I have tried to understand what this bickering within Protestantism is all about, and my conclusion is that neither the Calvinists nor the Arminians understand what St. Augustine wrote. It seems to me that the Arminians are arguing for a “synergism-only” view of grace, and the Calvinist are arguing for a “monergism-only” view of grace. But St. Augustine was not either/or on the issue of monergism/synergism; St. Augustine was both/and, as is the Catholic Church.

    Wikipedia has this to say on prevenient grace:

    Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. It is divine grace that precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. … Prevenient grace is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Whereas Augustine held that prevenient grace cannot be resisted, Wesleyan Arminians believe that it enables, but does not ensure, personal acceptance of the gift of salvation.

    Wikipedia is correct, when Augustine speaks about prevenient grace, he is talking about a grace that cannot be resisted (a monergistic grace). This is precisely the error of the Arminians. But that error by the Armenians does not make the error of the Calvinists correct, because the Calvinists try to deform Augustine’s theology of grace into their defective monergism-only theology of grace.

    “He operates that we may will; and when we will, He co-operates that we may be perfect.”
    .
    “He Who created thee without thyself, will not justify thee without thyself.”

    St. Augustine

    … the Council of Trent declares in St. Augustine’s own words: “God never commands the impossible, but in commanding He tells us to do what we can, to ask for that which we are not able to do, and He helps us in order that we may be able.”
    .
    Reference: “The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Prelude to Eternal Life”, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
    http://www.christianperfection.info/tta12.php

    This thread is about human freedom, and I think that it can be established that both the Arminians and the Calvinists are wrong. Neither camp really understands what St. Augustine teaches (a teaching that St. Thomas made even clearer in his distinction between operating grace and cooperating grace).

  221. Robert you write:

    It doesn’t take a Calvinist to see Calvinism in Augustine.

    Only a Calvinist can “see” Calvinism in Augustine. St. Augustine was not a proto-Calvinst.

    … it puts to death the absurd idea that Calvinism is not a legitimate part of the Western theological tradition.

    Calvinism is no more a “legitimate part of the Western theological tradition” than is Arianism or Sabellianism.

  222. Mateo,

    Only a Calvinist can “see” Calvinism in Augustine. St. Augustine was not a proto-Calvinist.

    Of course, some of the Roman Catholics noted above don’t agree, but whatever. Who cares about the facts of history when they don’t serve the Vatican?

    Calvinism is no more a “legitimate part of the Western theological tradition” than is Arianism or Sabellianism.

    You need to repent of your blasphemy against your infallible church. My baptism is valid, the baptism of those groups isn’t. Rome does not agree with you even if it thinks us wrong. Heretics don’t get valid baptisms. Even Jonathan has basically admitted after a tortuous battle to get him to look at the great theologian honestly that we follow later Augustine on election and reprobation. In any case, if you want to kick Augustine out of the tradition, that’s fine by me.

    Now, apparently, from reading Rome’s horrible and wrong view of what Protestants believe at Trent, Trent once condemned us as heretics. The more ecumenical everything goes Rome of V2 takes quite a different tack. It’s hard to keep up with all the dogmatic change coming out of the Vatican, but please try to keep up.

  223. mateo: Calvinism is no more a “legitimate part of the Western theological tradition” than is Arianism or Sabellianism.
    .
    Robert: My baptism is valid, the baptism of those groups isn’t. Rome does not agree with you even if it thinks us wrong. Heretics don’t get valid baptisms.

    Robert, your posts show that you misunderstand what the Catholic Church teaches. The Catholic Church knows that Calvinism is heresy, and she also knows that heretics can administer a valid baptism.

    You are wrong about Arian baptism – the Council in Trullo recognized the validity of Arian baptism:

    Council in Trullo (A.D. 692)
    .
    Canon 95
    .

    Those who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of certificates and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the holy Apostolic Church of God …
    .
    Ref: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3814.htm

    The “certificates” that the Arians needed to present were their baptismal certificates. That said, even a pagan can administer a valid baptism:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    .

    WHO CAN BAPTIZE?
    .
    1256
    The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

    The fact that heretics like Arians and Calvinists can administer a valid Sacrament of Baptism does not make Arians and Calvinsts orthodox. Vatican II changed nothing in this regard, and the fact that you think that it did shows more of your lack of understanding in what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

  224. Robert,
    Historians disagree over Constantine’s late Baptism. Some sources say he was Baptized by an Arian, not a Catholic.
    Read up on Cyprian/Pope Stephan to learn about the Baptism of heretics.

  225. Jonathan or Kenneth W,

    A week or so ago one of you guys asked about if one of God’s attributes was justice. If I recall correctly, Robert had asserted it was . ( Apologies if I am mistaken on any names ). You asked if anyone had ever heard about his.
    Last night I stumbled upon this article written by a former Calvinists explaining this strange doctrine and I remembered your question. Hope it helps.
    http://orthodoxyandheterodoxy.org/2014/01/10/why-i-stopped-being-a-calvinist-part-2-calvinism-destroys-gods-justice/

  226. Mateo,

    I appreciate the clarification, but I fear that based on what your church has said and continues to say, things aren’t that simple.

    The Catholic Church knows that Calvinism is heresy, and she also knows that heretics can administer a valid baptism.
    You are wrong about Arian baptism – the Council in Trullo recognized the validity of Arian baptism:

    If this is so, why then does the RCC reject the baptism of Jehovah’s Witnesses? At least that’s what the Archdiocese of Baltimore says. It even goes so far as to say that even if the form and manner of the baptism were to be formally correct in the case of the JWs (generally speaking, it isn’t), the baptism is to be rejected because the minister would not have the intent to baptize the recipient into the triune God. The past Arians would have not had this desire either, but their baptism is valid?

    Here is the problem. As far as I can tell, the RCC agrees with most traditional Protestants that the sacrament should be valid regardless of the faith and intention of the minister as long as the baptismal Trinitarian formula is observed. Here we have a case where Rome has specifically said otherwise.

    Consider also the Mormons, whom the Vatican has specifically said does not have a valid baptism even though they baptize in the name of the Trinity.

    Now, I suppose one could say that Rome rejects these baptisms because they don’t recognize either group as a true church. Which would be a fine argument, except that by implication it means that Protestants are members of true churches. Of course, Rome has said that Protestant churches are not legitimate churches (or at least Benedict said that within the past 15 years).

    This just looks to me like Rome is trying to have its cake and eat it to. If “heresy” means any false theological belief, then the term has no meaning. Either the Molinists or the Thomists would be heretics, Rome just doesn’t know which. During the Avignon papacy, all of Western Christendom was under the sentence of excommunication because all 3 popes excommunicated the followers of their rival popes. All of Western Christendom were heretics.

    And then we have the phenomenon of Francis recognizing Word of Faith heretics as his brothers in Christ and his endorsement of the bishopric of an Anglican.

    Rome is all over the place on this. If my baptism is valid and there is no longer any anathema on me since V2, I can make no other conclusion than that I am not considered a heretic by Rome. And this bears out in my ordinary dealings with the RC Church. I’ve interviewed priests and have Roman Catholic friends. Not one of them has implored me to become a Roman Catholic or told me that persisting in my Protestant “errors” would lead to my damnation. The only people making such a suggestion are a few of you extremely conservative RC types, and from what I can tell, the vast majority of RCs aren’t like you guys. They’ve adopted the live and let live postmodern attitude of V2. What can I conclude, on the basis of your strong ecclesiology, but that you guys are the ones who don’t have an accurate grasp of Rome, or at least modern Rome? At best, you represent one small strand of RCism that is tolerated in the church, but movements and individuals you consider unorthodox are tolerated as well. I have no good reason to believe their view of RCism is any less valid than yours.

    even a pagan can administer a valid baptism:

    This is why we criticize Rome for having a view of baptism that amounts to magic. How in the world can a pagan have the correct intent in baptizing? He’s a pagan! He denies the existence of the one true God. The JW and Mormon baptisms are invalid because even with the right formula they do not intend to baptize into the one true God, but pagan baptisms are valid though their intent is no less pure.

    It’s impossible to hold you guys to your conciliar statements when you keep changing them and their meaning. Presbyterians aren’t perfect, but things are far less confusing over here in Presbyterian land.

  227. Robert,

    I find you observation about Arian Baptisms being invalid for the same reasons as JW and Mormon Baptism quite interesting. I will think about that one.

    Perhaps ( I am guessing ) since the Witnesses and Mormons explicitly deny doing “what the Church does” their Baptisms are disqualified as in the case of those consecrated/ordained using Cranmer’s ordinal. Ignorance is one thing. Knowing what the Church teaches and still opposing it are different.

    Still, as for your Catholic friends not liking you enough to implore you to enter the Church, please remind them of Apollos, a man zealous for the Lord although he was missing the sacramental life of the Church. When Aquila and Priscilla found him, they were not content to leave him as a “partial” Christian. They instructed him and brought him all the way in. For them, Baptism was not “magical” as you say. They would have left him with only John’s baptism if they thought it was.

    As for Protestant churches being Churches, according to the Bible, you need a real Bishop for that. Since you guys, including Anglicans, don’t have Bishops, you are communions or denominations. The Eastern Churches, despite their errors, are Churches as they do have Bishops.

  228. Robert you ask:

    … why then does the RCC reject the baptism of Jehovah’s Witnesses? At least that’s what the Archdiocese of Baltimore says.

    Short answer, Jehovah Witnesses “lack of proper form and intention on the part of the ministers.” In the case of Mormons, the form and matter are correct, but the intention on the part of the ministers is defective.

    As far as I can tell, the RCC agrees with most traditional Protestants that the sacrament should be valid regardless of the faith and intention of the minister as long as the baptismal Trinitarian formula is observed.

    That is almost correct as to what the Catholic Church teaches. In the case of the Calvinist heretics, the Calvinist ministers of the Sacrament of Baptism are not positively denying that the Sacrament of Baptism bestows grace. The Calvinist ministers of that sacrament are typically all messed up in their understanding of what graces the Sacrament of Baptism bestows, but that is not enough to make the sacrament invalid. Even if the Calvinist minister denied that any grace was given in the Sacrament of Baptism, that would not be enough to make the sacrament invalid.

    Now, I suppose one could say that Rome rejects these baptisms because they don’t recognize either group as a true church.

    One could say that, but that would not be correct. The Catholic Church does not recognize any Protestant sect as being a true church. See here:

    DECLARATION “DOMINUS IESUS” ON THE UNICITY AND SALVIFIC UNIVERSALITY OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
    .
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html

    Robert you write:

    If “heresy” means any false theological belief, then the term has no meaning.

    One must distinguish between material heresy and formal heresy. You are right, of course, it is not possible for both Molinism or Banezianism to be correct, but the magisterium of the Catholic Church has never solemnly defined any dogma that would settle once and for all the questions in dispute between these two camps. Perhaps neither side is entirely correct (which is what I think). That said, the Calvinists knowingly take heretical positions against a number of dogmas of the faith that have been solemnly defined. The magisterium of the Catholic Church knows this is true, but that does not require her to declare that all Calvinist baptisms are invalid.

    If my baptism is valid and there is no longer any anathema on me since V2, I can make no other conclusion than that I am not considered a heretic by Rome.

    These are, at best, your delusional fantasies based on your ignorance of what the Catholic Church really teaches. No Robert, your baptism may be valid, but you are also a formal heretic, since the actual dogmas of the faith that have been solemnly defined have been made explicit to you, and you have made the choice to reject those dogmas. Whether there is any possibility of salvation for you as a formal heretic, I don’t know; only God knows.

  229. Jim, you write:

    Perhaps ( I am guessing ) since the Witnesses and Mormons explicitly deny doing “what the Church does” their Baptisms are disqualified as in the case of those consecrated/ordained using Cranmer’s ordinal.

    Jim, I don’t want to see this thread hijacked into a discussion of what criteria must be met to confer a valid Sacrament of Baptism. FYI, I think that you might find interesting this explanation of why Mormon Baptism is considered invalid, as this explanation is found on the Vatican’s own website:

    THE QUESTION OF THE VALIDITY OF BAPTISM CONFERRED IN
    THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS*
    .
    Fr Luis Ladaria, S.J.
    .
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20010605_battesimo_mormoni-ladaria_en.html

  230. Mateo,

    Fantastic! I checked it out.

  231. Mateo,

    Short answer, Jehovah Witnesses “lack of proper form and intention on the part of the ministers.” In the case of Mormons, the form and matter are correct, but the intention on the part of the ministers is defective.

    But that doesn’t the answer the question as to why the baptism of Arians used to be acceptable, because they to lacked the proper form and intention. So Rome has changed its mind on a very important dogma. So much for infallibility.

    In any case, I’m golden according to V2 and especially the latest pope. If the most important thing is to follow one’s conscience, as he has told atheists, then I’m good because my conscience says that Rome is an extremely defective church.

  232. @Robert:

    So now AUGUSTINE is irrational?

    Of course, the simple explanation just couldn’t be that Augustine changed his principles based on exegesis. That would make him too Protestant.

    Actually, this is why your idea of “worldview,” in which every idea has to be perfectly consistent and no ideas are more important that any others, won’t hold up. In the real world, there are principles that are necessary for people’s positions, and there are also peripheral matters that don’t depend on these principles, and we generally take authors at their word for their explanations in that regard. It is irrational to take principles that are essential to the conclusion of the argument and to violate those principles. It is likewise irrational for someone to claim the support of an author while violating his principles. This is because it is far more serious to be inconsistent in matters of principle than peripheral matters.

    The point of the article that Brandon linked was exactly that Augustine had two principles on which his theology of predestination was based: predestination/omniscience and lack of causality of evil. Augustine announces those things as principles; he relies on them in his argumentation, and he asserts them as being necessarily true. That is flat out incompatible with Calvinism saying that God ordains the existence of evil. Augustine says that God ordains punishment for evil, but does not say that God ordains the evil acts themselves, and rather repeatedly denies that conclusion. Based on Augustine’s own writings, that’s not a peripheral matter, but an essential one.

    Regardless of whether Augustine’s position on the massa damnata was “based on exegesis,” it clearly wasn’t a matter of principle. His sole explanation for the position was that Scripture used them term massa, lump, in Romans 9 to imply that the creation of human beings was of some sort of common substance whose nature was then further defined by the potter. He would have better focused on the material clay, which was not used to imply uniformity of material properties (since any particular piece responds differently to the potter), but simply the common origin of humanity. In other words, as against the Jewish insistence that they were somehow made differently by God, Paul is emphasizing the common human nature and rejecting this idea that there are two sets of rules, one for Jews and one for Gentiles, instead affirming that God can deal with each individual, Jew or Gentile, as He sees fit. So this is bad exegesis by Augustine.

    Nor does Augustine have any good explanation for how this massa interpretation can be reconciled with his principle that nothing is created evil. He toys around with traducianism as a possible explanation, but he never actually arrives at anything like a coherent understanding of how inherited sin would actually work in this system. It is therefore clear that Augustine is taking this position not for any principled reason but simply because his interpretation of Scripture gives a theological significance to the word massa that isn’t there. He then relies on some questionable philosophy to explain how this doesn’t violate his principles, but in the end, it does unavoidably do so. In those cases, Augustine’s own rules of Scriptural interpretation say that if one finds this kind of conflict between one’s true principles and one’s interpretation of Scripture, one should modify one’s interpretation of Scripture (as when Scripture would imply an evil intent with God). So given Augustine’s own principles and his own explanation, we should recognize that Augustine made an exegetical mistake that violates his own principles here, and that if one fairly and charitably interprets Augustine’s position, he would have wanted that mistake to be corrected.

    And we don’t even have to speculate. The man who had the most theologically serious correspondence with Augustine on this subject, St. Prosper of Aquitaine, came to the same conclusion after dialoguing with opponents in what we now call the semi-Pelagian controversy. That is contemporaneous evidence from a man who had actually interacted in detail with Augustine of what Augustine would have believed. St. Prosper’s explanation is dogmatically reflected in the Second Synod of Orange.

    That’s a completely different case from Calvinism, which completely violates Augustine’s principle that God neither causes nor ordains evil (i.e., that evil finds no reason whatsoever in God’s decree). There is no reason to think that Augustine would have gone back on what he repeatedly announced as a necessary principle, particularly given that his entire theology of predestination falls apart if he does so. That’s a completely different situation from concluding reasonably based on Augustine’s own writings that Augustine made an exegetical mistake. On the one hand, we have a charitable interpretation offered by a man called Augustine’s disciple and defender on this particular subject; on the other, we have someone who rejects Augustine’s fundamental principles that Augustine endorsed even on his deathbed.

    That’s a great deal different than “Augustine was neither Catholic nor Calvinist.” He was far more Catholic, but more importantly, the only distinctions between the Catholic position and Augustine’s position were immaterial and peripheral.

    The same goes in general for the relative significance of the Calvinist heresy compared to other heresies. Calvinism, Nestorianism and even Arianism don’t go so far as denying the divinity of the Father Himself. So those heresies, while legitimately erroneous, aren’t so serious that they invalidate baptism. One has to be to the point of denying that even the Father is the One God, as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do, before baptism is invalidated. There’s no reversal on that subject at all; it’s simply a question that most people who denied even the divinity of the Father never baptized with the Christian formula, so this specific case never really came up.

    As to pagans baptizing, the entire point is that they are invoking the God that Christians worship for the Christian, not the god that they themselves worship. If a Mormon did the same thing, i.e., invoking the object of Catholic faith rather than the celestial being that they themselves worship, they could give a valid baptism as well, but there would have to be some manifestation of their intent to do so in order for the baptism to be objectively valid.

    The point is that all of this does make sense, but you aren’t even trying to find an explanation. Nor does the fact that many Catholics don’t understand this mean that it’s irrelevant, any more than the fact that people don’t understand electrical or mechanical engineering mean that they can’t drive a car. One doesn’t have to understand the principles of how things work to know to operate them. But there are such principles, and one needs to understand them if one is trying to build a car. That’s essentially where Protestants fall; they are trying to construct a car without knowing the underlying principles.

  233. Robert you write:

    But that doesn’t the answer the question as to why the baptism of Arians used to be acceptable, because they to lacked the proper form and intention. So Rome has changed its mind on a very important dogma.

    The Catholic Church has NOT changed her mind on an important dogma. The mistake that you are making, once again, is confusing dogma with church discipline.

    From the Catholic Church’s point of view, a person’s baptism can fall into one of three categories, valid, invalid and questionable. If a heretic’s baptism is determined to be valid, the heretic is not rebaptized if he desires to enter into full communion with Christ’s church. Let us look again at Canon 95 of the Council in Trullo, which this time I will post in its entirety:

    Those who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of certificates and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the holy Apostolic Church of God: then first of all we anoint them with the holy chrism on their foreheads, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears; and as we seal them we say— The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    .
    But concerning the Paulianists it has been determined by the Catholic Church that they shall by all means be rebaptized. The Eunomeans also, who baptize with one immersion; and the Montanists, who here are called Phrygians; and the Sabellians, who consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and are guilty in certain other grave matters, and all the other heresies— for there are many heretics here, especially those who come from the region of the Galatians— all of their number who are desirous of coming to the Orthodox faith, we receive as Gentiles. And on the first day we make them Christians, on the second Catechumens, then on the third day we exorcise them, at the same time also breathing thrice upon their faces and ears; and thus we initiate them, and we make them spend time in church and hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.
    .
    And the , and Manichæans and Marcionites and all of similar heresies must give certificates and anathematize each his own heresy, and also Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and the other chiefs of such heresies, and those who think with them, and all the aforesaid heresies; and so they become partakers of the holy Communion.

    The Council here is discussing the validity of the Sacrament of Baptism received by an assortment of seventh century heretics that desire to come into full communion with the Catholic Church (“Those who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy.)

    The Council in Trullo has determined that these heretics are considered to have valid baptism: “Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians.” These heretics needed to present their baptismal certificates, repent of their heresies by making a confession of faith, and then receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is the church discipline of A.D. 692, and it is no different that the church discipline of today concerning the Calvinist heretics that want to “come over to orthodoxy”. The Calvinist converts need to show evidence of their baptism, repent of their heresies by making a confession of faith, and then receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

    The Council in Trullo also recognizes that there are heretics whose baptism is not valid:

    But concerning the Paulianists it has been determined by the Catholic Church that they shall by all means be rebaptized. The Eunomeans also, who baptize with one immersion; and the Montanists, who here are called Phrygians; and the Sabellians, who consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and are guilty in certain other grave matters, and all the other heresies— for there are many heretics here, especially those who come from the region of the Galatians— all of their number who are desirous of coming to the Orthodox faith, we receive as Gentiles. And on the first day we make them Christians, on the second Catechumens, then on the third day we exorcise them, at the same time also breathing thrice upon their faces and ears; and thus we initiate them, and we make them spend time in church and hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.

    The Paulianists, Eunomeans, Phygians, and the Sabellians are heretics whose baptisms were not considered to be valid, which is why the Catholic Church received them as Gentiles, and not as Christians who had been regenerated by baptismal grace. These heretics are treated the same way as the Protestant heretics of our era that are members of the sects of the Latter Day Saints, Jehovah Witnesses, and Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith.

    Canon 95 of the Council in Trullo is speaking about those heretics whose baptisms are either valid or invalid. There are also cases where it is difficult to determine if a convert’s baptism is either valid or invalid – maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t; the validity of the sacrament is doubtful for any number of reasons. In that case, the convert is given “conditional baptism”. The guidelines given for conditional baptism in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia can be found here:

    PASTORAL GUIDANCE REGARDING THE CONDITIONAL BAPTISM OF THOSE SEEKING RECEPTION INTO THE FULL COMMUNION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
    .
    http://archphila.org/evangelization/worship/pdf/ConditionalBaptism.pdf

    Before Vatican II, it was Church discipline in the West to routinely give conditional baptism to Calvinist converts. After Vatican II, that Church discipline was not the norm, since the Catholic Church has been in dialog with various sects of Protestants to make the determination of the validity of the Sacrament of Baptism that the sects administer. An example of this is the years long dialog that the Catholic Church had with several “Reformed” sects:

    These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism
    A Report of the Catholic Reformed Dialogue in United States
    2003 – 2007

    Reference: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/reformed/upload/These-Living-Waters.pdf

  234. Robert, you write:

    In any case, I’m golden according to V2 and especially the latest pope. If the most important thing is to follow one’s conscience …

    Again, you fail to understand what the pope has taught. He did not teach that “the most important thing is to follow one’s conscience”, as you are asserting. It is true that the Catholic Church teaches that one must follow one’s conscience, but that cannot be construed as an affirmation of Luther’s false doctrine of the “primacy of the individual’s conscience”. Yes, one must follow one’s conscience, but all men are born with defective consciences that are in need of formation. The most important thing is to accept the Sacred Scriptures that teach that a disciple of Christ must listen to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. When one listens to the true church, one will have his conscience formed so that the defects of one’s conscience are overcome.

    Since Protestants refuse to listen to Christ’s church, is it any wonder that they don’t see that practices such as divorce, practicing artificial contraception, and founding personal “bible churches” are sinful?

  235. Jonathan,

    The point of the article that Brandon linked was exactly that Augustine had two principles on which his theology of predestination was based: predestination/omniscience and lack of causality of evil. Augustine announces those things as principles; he relies on them in his argumentation, and he asserts them as being necessarily true. That is flat out incompatible with Calvinism saying that God ordains the existence of evil.

    You keep identifying ordain with cause, which is improper. Further, there are all sorts of ways we can define cause. First cause, secondary cause, transcendent cause, moral cause, intellectual cause, instrumental cause, material cause, formal cause….

    The simple fact of the matter is that if you are a theist, evil is only here because God is here. God didn’t have to create, and even on a view that says he created man with a libertarian or autonomous will, there is still no explanation for how God can not in any way be charged with evil. He at least created a situation in which evil was possible, so at the very least he could be charged with negligence. At the end of the day every theist has to say that God is not morally responsible for evil but they don’t know how that is the case. Saying he only permitted it does not answer the question, and I’m still waiting for you explain how you don’t see God’s permission of evil as bare permission.

    Regardless of whether Augustine’s position on the massa damnata was “based on exegesis,” it clearly wasn’t a matter of principle. His sole explanation for the position was that Scripture used them term massa, lump, in Romans 9 to imply that the creation of human beings was of some sort of common substance whose nature was then further defined by the potter. He would have better focused on the material clay, which was not used to imply uniformity of material properties (since any particular piece responds differently to the potter), but simply the common origin of humanity.

    Even on this analogy, the potter can apply whatever it takes to make the clay what he wants it to be, and how much more so the potter?

    But even so, Romans 9:21 says explicitly that it is the same lump of clay from which the elect and reprobate are fashioned. God isn’t taking one piece of clay that has one set of properties and one set of responses and then another piece, and then another piece with different properties and responses, and then another piece with different properties and responses. It’s all the same clay.

    In other words, as against the Jewish insistence that they were somehow made differently by God, Paul is emphasizing the common human nature and rejecting this idea that there are two sets of rules, one for Jews and one for Gentiles, instead affirming that God can deal with each individual, Jew or Gentile, as He sees fit. So this is bad exegesis by Augustine.

    While the idea that there are not two sets of rules is agreeable to the passage in question, it does not go far enough. It does not explain the anticipated objection of verse 19. That person is asking, given the fact that God hardens and shows mercy as he wills (vv. 14–18), how the Lord can find fault with anyone. Who can resist the hardening or the mercy, and if this cannot be resisted, how is anyone rightly damned or charged with evil. That’s a very logical question to follow from what Paul has been saying, especially since Paul, as a good Jew, would affirm that God is not the blameworthy cause for evil. How can someone rightly be charged with evil if, in fact, the hardening isn’t due in the first instance to God.

    And again, what Paul doesn’t do is say “Pharaoh hardened his heart first.” Paul doesn’t say “God’s decree does not ordain evil.” He doesn’t offer any explanation that would potentially alleviate the problem. He doesn’t say hardening pertains only to the history of salvation. He doesn’t say that anything foreseen—works or faith—is the basis for the hardening. He doubles down and appeals to God’s right as the Creator to do what He will. The pot can’t complain to the potter.

    The whole passage begins with the question as to whether God’s plan had failed given that so many Jews had failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Paul jumps immediately to election and reprobation. He says God’s election has always worked that way within the Jewish line, with the implication that if this is the way it is within the God’s covenant people, how much more so is it true of the Gentiles. The whole teaching moves on through Rom. 11, where the Gentiles are likewise warned not to think any better of themselves for being made in a certain way—i.e., branches grafted into the olive tree. And the whole passage is concluded with Paul’s famous statement “For from [God} and through him and to him are all things.” There’s no qualification there. Paul doesn’t say “all things EXCEPT” And given that he has just been talking about salvation, damnation, election, and reprobation, it is clear that damnation and reprobation are from him in some ultimate sense. There are all sorts of qualifications that can and should be made in light of the fact that Paul talks about the “same lump” and so forth, but it does not get away from a strong view of double predestination.

    The whole idea of the “same lump” makes perfect sense in light of the idea that Paul is trying to hit home, and that is that no one can find in themselves any reason for God’s election. That is really only possible if we all start out as the same lump of damned clay to begin with.

    Nor does Augustine have any good explanation for how this massa interpretation can be reconciled with his principle that nothing is created evil. He toys around with traducianism as a possible explanation, but he never actually arrives at anything like a coherent understanding of how inherited sin would actually work in this system.

    But traducianism does explain it, though its not necessarily the only possible explanation.

    It is therefore clear that Augustine is taking this position not for any principled reason but simply because his interpretation of Scripture gives a theological significance to the word massa that isn’t there. He then relies on some questionable philosophy to explain how this doesn’t violate his principles, but in the end, it does unavoidably do so. In those cases, Augustine’s own rules of Scriptural interpretation say that if one finds this kind of conflict between one’s true principles and one’s interpretation of Scripture, one should modify one’s interpretation of Scripture (as when Scripture would imply an evil intent with God).

    This assumes going in that Augustine’s principles were correct. It also begs the question as to how principles are derived. If they are derived from Scripture, they have to be able to be corrected by Scripture. And it is quite easy to do this because whenever the Bible talks about God’s intent and concurrence with evil, it is clear that his intent is not evil. Genesis 50:20 being the most obvious example. What you are assuming that God cannot ordain evil without an evil intent, but you certainly haven’t proven that, and the fact that your reading of some church councils that Protestants don’t accept in their entirety doesn’t change that.

    So given Augustine’s own principles and his own explanation, we should recognize that Augustine made an exegetical mistake that violates his own principles here, and that if one fairly and charitably interprets Augustine’s position, he would have wanted that mistake to be corrected.

    Or, we could actually look at how Augustine changed his mind on all sorts of things during his life and recognize that he was in the midst of changing his view, and we don’t necessarily assume that Augustine was making a mistake simply because what he is saying appears to violate his “earlier principles.” Along a line of thought like this, you should reject the papacy since it violates the principle of collegiality.

    The same goes in general for the relative significance of the Calvinist heresy compared to other heresies. Calvinism, Nestorianism and even Arianism don’t go so far as denying the divinity of the Father Himself. So those heresies, while legitimately erroneous, aren’t so serious that they invalidate baptism. One has to be to the point of denying that even the Father is the One God, as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do, before baptism is invalidated. There’s no reversal on that subject at all; it’s simply a question that most people who denied even the divinity of the Father never baptized with the Christian formula, so this specific case never really came up.

    As to pagans baptizing, the entire point is that they are invoking the God that Christians worship for the Christian, not the god that they themselves worship. If a Mormon did the same thing, i.e., invoking the object of Catholic faith rather than the celestial being that they themselves worship, they could give a valid baptism as well, but there would have to be some manifestation of their intent to do so in order for the baptism to be objectively valid.

    This explanation is helpful in some regards, however, it still doesn’t answer the problem In the first place, JWs don’t deny that the Father is the One God. They’re no different than the Ancient Arians except perhaps for the fact that they believe Jesus was originally an angel. Both groups believe that only the Father is God and that Jesus is a created being. Both groups would also deny the eternal Fatherhood of God, since if the Father has to have a Son to be the Father, He could not be the Father until He created the Son. So with the JWs we have a clear case of a change as to whether Arian baptisms are acceptable. Unless you have another explanation, the only way I can see for differentiating between them is that there is no episcopate for the JWs. But then that just raises the question as to how important the episcopate is if a Protestant who doesn’t have an episcopate can administer a legitimate baptism.

    As far as the Mormons and the pagans, even if they baptize with the intent of baptizing said person into the God whom RCs worship, these groups are denying a cardinal belief that the God whom RCs worship is the only true God. They aren’t even bare monotheists. And you’ve just said that to deny that the Father is the One God is to invalidate the baptism.

    In an ex opere operato system where all that really matters is the words and the deed, I can see how all this could work. But that would mean that JW and Mormon baptisms should work as long as they are done in the Trinitarian formula, but the RCC explicitly says that for those groups, the baptisms would not work even if formally performed the right way. That’s a whole heap of contradictions even on the principles you’ve given.

  236. Mateo,

    Yes, one must follow one’s conscience, but all men are born with defective consciences that are in need of formation. The most important thing is to accept the Sacred Scriptures that teach that a disciple of Christ must listen to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. When one listens to the true church, one will have his conscience formed so that the defects of one’s conscience are overcome.

    But if my conscience tells me that Rome is not the church personally founded, or at least that it has no better claim to being that than the EO, the Copts, the Lutherans, the PCA, OPC, or Southern Baptist Convention, what then? This is particularly important since given the comments from the pope that I have seen, he’s telling the atheist to follow his conscience knowing full well that the conscience of the atheist is telling him that Rome is not the church Jesus founded.

    You could perhaps get around that by saying the atheist is suppressing the true voice of conscience, but that would give you an essentially Calvinistic view of the conscience.

  237. Robert, you write:

    But if my conscience tells me that Rome is not the church personally founded, or at least that it has no better claim to being that than the EO, the Copts, the Lutherans, the PCA, OPC, or Southern Baptist Convention, what then?

    Robert, there are no scriptures that teach that Robert’s conscience determines what constitutes orthodoxy. What then, you ask? You should let the Sacred Scriptures be your authority, and do what Jesus commands of you – listen to the church that he personally founded.

    If you are deciding between the Catholics, the EO or the Copts, that is one thing, because these are real churches with a two-thousand year old history that have maintained valid Apostolic Succession. The same cannot be said of the Lutherans, the PCA, OPC, and the Southern Baptist Convention. These are sects of schismatics and heretics that have been founded by mere men that have been on the earth less than five hundred years. There are no scriptures that you can use to justify belonging to schismatic and heretical sects that mere men or women have founded. No Protestant is going to be able to stand before God and say that he let scripture be his authority, because no Protestant is doing what the scriptures command of him – to listen to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. A Protestant will listen to any old church except the church that he has been commanded by Christ to listen to.

    This is particularly important since given the comments from the pope that I have seen, he’s telling the atheist to follow his conscience knowing full well that the conscience of the atheist is telling him that Rome is not the church Jesus founded.

    You are misreading what the pope has said. The atheist that actually follows his conscience will also be following Jesus, at least to the extent that his conscience is properly formed. What the conscience points to is the natural law that tells men what constitutes right and wrong behavior.

    If one had a perfectly formed conscience, and also followed the dictates of the conscience, one would be following Jesus. Why is that? What the natural law points to is truth that is outside of oneself, a law of right behavior. When Jesus says that he is the truth, what he is saying is that truth that we have knowledge of because we have a conscience – THAT TRUTH – has became flesh and dwelt among us. It seem clear to me that you do not understand what the Apostle John meant when he wrote “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.” And, “”I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

    Jesus isn’t saying that he speaks the truth, that he know of a way to follow that leads to life; Jesus is saying that he IS the truth, he IS the way, and he IS the life. Which is why an atheist that is following his conscience to the best of his ability is also following the way, the truth and the life, to the best of his ability. But of course the real question is this, can an atheist actually do everything that his conscience is dictating to him? If you would read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, it might do you a world of good in understanding what both the Apostle John and the pope is really saying.

    You could perhaps get around that by saying the atheist is suppressing the true voice of conscience, but that would give you an essentially Calvinistic view of the conscience.

    I don’t think so. You keep asserting that the atheist must have a total hatred of God, which would mean that the atheist never follows his conscience in any way, not even imperfectly. Which is just an absurd thing to say. If you ever interacted with any real atheists, you would know that what you are saying is wrong. But that is Calvinism for you, absurdity after absurdity that must be accepted by irrational acts of fideism.

  238. Robert,
    “But traducianism does explain it, though its not necessarily the only possible explanation.”

    Only because you keep saying this, I think it only fair to ask you to defend this view. You keep using it to side-step the assertion that God cannot create an evil soul.
    If you aren’t going to defend it as a possibility, please be honest enough to jettison the invocation of Traducianism to escape the limb you have climbed out on.

  239. Robert,

    “In an ex opere operato system where all that really matters is the words and the deed, …”.

    Please don’t forget we are also an ex opere operantis system as well. Babies don’t present an obex so Baptism always works for them. It’s a free gift, not of ourselves, right? For adults, well, they bring a lot of baggage to the sacrament.

    Proper disposition is necessary Robert. Catholics don’t believe in magic.

  240. Mateo,

    The Council of Trullo, eh? This is even better than the Vatican website stuff. Very interesting.

  241. Mateo,

    You wrote to Robert, “It seem clear to me that you do not understand what the Apostle John meant when he wrote “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.” And, “”I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus isn’t saying that he speaks the truth, that he knows of a way to follow that leads to life; Jesus is saying that he IS the truth, he IS the way, and he IS the life.”

    Amen to this. I can’t tell you how many times I have said this and it never seems to hit home, just soars out the window without anyone noticing.
    If one were to sit and meditate on this even for a brief amount of time, their conclusion would inevitably be – Wow, Jesus is much more than I thought, so I better do more than just think about Him because that is only a partial knowledge – I want to do, act, love, be in Him . . . literally ‘put on Christ’.

    Mere words, whether in reading Sacred Scripture or in prayer, don’t allow us to enter fully into the mystery. God wants us, even commands us, to
    ‘Trespass, stomp all over, care for your brothers and sisters, love till it hurts in Trinitarian Territory”.

  242. Debbie, you write:

    I can’t tell you how many times I have said this and it never seems to hit home, just soars out the window without anyone noticing.

    I know what you mean! The heresy of antinomianism is the ultimate destruction of the Gospel, because antinomianism asserts that one can be “saved” and not live a moral life. But Jesus IS the truth – Jesus IS the moral life of the Christian. Antinomianism is asserting that one can be saved apart from the Truth.

    Saved by Jesus, apart from Jesus – could anything be more irrational than that? Yet the heresy of non-Lordship salvation (which is implicit in the Protestant doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved”) is taking over the world of Protestantism as the older mainline Protestant churches die a slow death, and are replaced with non-denominational Protestant churches that preach antinomianism from the pulpit.

    The last step for antinomian Protestants to take to separate themselves completely from Christianity is to exercise the “sin option” that is implicit in OSAS. And I know Protestants that exercise the sin option that they think they have. They claim that they have a “deal” with God where their past, present, and future sins are “covered by the blood of the lamb”, and this deal that they have with God gives them the absolute assurance of salvation. In their actual lives, they are sleeping with people that they are not married to, and don’t think twice about it, since the deal forgives them of sins for which they are not repentant.

    There was a time when Protestant teenagers typically didn’t commit the sin of fornication (sex between a boyfriend and a girlfriend is not adultery if the two are not married, but it is the sin of fornication). The era of chaste Protestant teenagers is over in western Europe and the USA. I am not saying that Catholic teenagers are any better in this regard, but at least the Catholic Church still teaches that unrepentant fornication is a mortal sin that can send one to hell. Catholic teenagers should at least know better, whereas many Protestant teenagers only have what their consciences are telling them is true, a truth of the natural law that is stomped on by the preaching that they are hearing on the radio and from the pulpit.

    What Protestant teenage boy can’t figure out that he can be “saved”, have sex with his girlfriend, and still go to heaven? Sure, pastor isn’t saying that he should fornicate with his girlfriend, but pastor is saying that if does fornicate, he will still go to heaven, since the “blood of the lamb” covers even unrepentant sin.

    … love till it hurts in Trinitarian Territory

    Amen. Living the Ten Commandments means that one won’t be lying, stealing, committing adultery, fornicating, or murdering; which are minimal requirements for living a moral life. The calling of the Christian is far more than a calling to live minimal moral life; it is a calling to “love till it hurts in Trinitarian Territory”.

    I once heard a teacher say that living a chaste life is not the hardest part of being a Christian; the hardest part of being a Christian is loving one’s enemies. A religious sister taught me to think of the person that I love the least, because that that is the measure of how much I love Jesus. Ouch! Love till it hurts in Trinitarian Territory, that is what the sister was really teaching me.

    Well said, Debbie.

  243. The half truths are so dangerous, and I bought every one of them as a teenager trying to be free in Christ.

    I think all of us living at this time in history are particularly susceptible to relativism. Another crucial reason for the Magesterium and Catholic Dogma!

    It is getting harder and harder to really live as an authentic follower of Christ – you can find MANY well meaning Christian to say whatever you want to hear (and prove it to you from the Bible). When I started seriously living my faith from within the Catholic Church, I initially felt constrained by the moral law – I eventually learned this is the law of Love and therefore is perfect for us. One has to be led to this by the Holy Spirit through grace.

    To see this from a human perspective (or Sola Scriptura perspective) doesn’t make a lot of sense. The walk of Christ must become our walk, our journey, our race. And this can only be taken on within the Body of Christ, within Trinitarian Territory, or one is sure to fail, and then what?

    Running around in circles trying to figure out how one can stay saved . . .

  244. I will remember this little nugget till the day I die,

    “think of the person that I love the least, because that is the measure of how much I love Jesus. Ouch!”

    This may be in all I need to know, thanks.

    Happy Feast of the Ascension!

    By the way, I’d love to hear thoughts about the Ascension from readers here. Meditating on this in prayer blows my mind and I can’t really even find words to express it. This is truly the point where the physical body of Jesus Christ ascends to the Father in every conceivable way – almost the backside of the Eucharist, if you will. The Ascent brings all things in line . . .

    “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

    This sounds like Trinitarian Territory to me with lots of busy bees working hard within the Kingdom. What are they working hard at?

  245. Debbie,

    When I think of the Ascension I think of something Vincent McNabb or Ronald Knox said ( somebody of that Frank Sheed ilk anyway ) said.

    Unbelievers say the Resurrection could have been a trick or hallucination or whatever. The Apostles weren’t eye witnesses and only found an empty tomb. The Body could have been stolen or, dumber, they went to the wrong tomb.

    The Ascension wipes all that nonsense out. The Apostles said they saw Jesus ascend. If He later died a natural death and was buried, it makes the Apostles out to be not deluded by liars. We know they weren’t because nobody dies for what they know to be a lie.

    So, the Apostles may not have witnessed the Resurrection but they did indeed witness the Ascension. They were truthful or they were liars. But they were not deluded.

  246. Thanks Jim, I hadn’t really thought about it from that angle – this could be the most significant witness of all – I love it!

  247. @Robert:
    We’ve now essentially got three separate discussions going that all relate to this question of free will. One is about the causality of evil, one is about the potter/clay analogy in Romans 9, and one is about Augustine. The question about validity of baptism ties in a bit, but it’s peripheral. To wrap it up, I’ll just say one more thing on that: denial of the divinity of the Father is a sufficient basis for invalidating baptism, but it’s not the only basis. JWs take a different view from Arians in that they don’t view Jesus’s intermediate status in the same way. That discussion would be far afield, but they are more like the Sabellians, who expressly deny any kind of divinity to the Holy Spirit, even a kind of hybrid divinity. In other words, what we’ve done with those baptisms, as Mateo said, is nothing other than the normal process.

    Causality of Evil

    You keep identifying ordain with cause, which is improper. Further, there are all sorts of ways we can define cause. First cause, secondary cause, transcendent cause, moral cause, intellectual cause, instrumental cause, material cause, formal cause….

    Yes, I know.
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum216.htm

    St. Thomas is very clear that God causes the act of sin but in no way causes that the act is sinful and that the sinfulness is neither ordered to God’s will nor ordered to God as first cause (ST I-II, Q. 79, “The External Causes of Sin”). In fact, evil has no first cause; see ST I, q. 49, “The Cause of Evil”, espec. art. 3). God uses sin in His divine order, but the sin itself is not ordered (ordained) to His will; it is simply used for God’s purposes in willing other things. Nor does His causality of everything mean that everything is ordered to His will. The Biblical image of toleration of sin (e.g., Rom. 2:4, 9:22) is probably the best analogy we have. That is not bare permission, because God still sustains everything in existence and causes the person to act, but He does not cause the sinful way the person acts.

    That’s a really important distinction to understand, and it essentially leaves us with two positions. The orthodox Catholic position is that sin as being sinful has no first cause, not even by way of ordination. The heterodox position, summarized in the WCF, is that God is the first cause even of sin being sin. Those two positions can’t possibly be reconciled, and somebody is just flat out wrong.

    This is really just a subset of the idea that the reason for everything is the divine will. I found an excellent summary of my view by Catholic blogger Will Duquette, which I will quote here:
    It’s well known that the world of Islam had quite an intellectual tradition going in the early Medieval period, what with Averroes and company. But about that time, the thinkers of Islam adopted a voluntaristic view of God: the universe works the way it does simply and only because God wills that it should, and not because of any innate order of its own. If God should change His mind, everything might be different. Christian theologians of the day rejected that voluntaristic view; per Thomas Aquinas, the universe works the way it does because it has its own innate order, its own innate logic. It is given this order by God, this is true; but you can study this order directly. It is there, and it is not arbitrary. And in studying it, you are not presumptuously seeking things to deep for you; rather, you are honoring God, and giving glory to His creation.

    And so, science.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crywoof/2014/06/lumen-fidei-remounting-my-hobby-horse/

    If everything reduces to the study of the divine will, that is, if the reason for everything is in the divine will, then the philosophical problems are insurmountable. This doesn’t mean that we are going to understand everything about the reasons God does what He does, but we can identify certain principles based on the fact of creation alone that we know to define the parameters in which God operates. One of those parameters is that sin lacks a first cause.

    As to charging God with moral responsibility for evil, that is only a problem if everything, even sin, has the divine will as the first cause. Remember, St. Thomas says absolutely that evil has no first cause. If evil has no first cause, then there are numerous analogous cases where one would not be responsible for failing to prevent or even helping to orchestrate the sin of another. You still haven’t answered the case of the sting operation, wherein someone is deliberately allowed to commit a crime in order to provide a suitable demonstration for judgment.

    This is consistent with the fact that Romans 3 rebukes people who charge God with having some blame in wrongdoing. That doesn’t make any sense if there is a logical reason that God could be charged with negligence or if there was a reasonable case for God having moral responsibility. There are still mysteries about why God allows sin, but there is no mystery about God’s lack of moral responsibility for sin. If other words, if your view entails that God could be charged with evil, yet He is somehow mysteriously not responsible for it, then that is a sign that your view is incoherent. A Christian with a proper view of God as Creator, who does not ground final causality for sin in the divine will, can definitely know why God is not responsible for evil. The only Christians who have this problem are Calvinists.

    The Potter/Clay Analogy

    Even on this analogy, the potter can apply whatever it takes to make the clay what he wants it to be, and how much more so the potter?

    Actually, in the Biblical examples, the clay can be marred, in which case the potter throws it out and starts over or does something different with it. Jer. 18:4-6 “And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.'” There’s nothing in this analogy to affirm that the power of the potter is being exercised absolutely in this respect. To do that, you would have to assume that Paul somehow intends to override the ordinary understanding of the analogy without actually saying that he is doing it, and that is exegetically dubious. Furthermore, the analogy of the potter “enduring with much patience” the vessels of destruction (Rom. 9:22) is far more consistent with the picture of the potter finding a particular piece unworthy and using it for something else than the potter’s intent being to make a poor vessel. That is also consistent with the analogy of Isaiah to a stubborn piece of clay that essentially fights back against the potter, rather than pliably complying with the potter’s design.

    But even so, Romans 9:21 says explicitly that it is the same lump of clay from which the elect and reprobate are fashioned. God isn’t taking one piece of clay that has one set of properties and one set of responses and then another piece, and then another piece with different properties and responses, and then another piece with different properties and responses. It’s all the same clay.

    That’s just begging the question about what the common properties are. It’s a perfectly consistent (and better) explanation that it simply refers to the fact that Jews and Gentiles are all human beings, not reading anything else into it. That would be responsive given the context, and there’s no reason to read anything else into the analogy. Again, you would have to override the common understanding that the potter’s craft depends not only on the material itself but the particular piece that he picks out, and if that were the case, then Paul picked a bad analogy (or he was unclear about why he picked it).

    While the idea that there are not two sets of rules is agreeable to the passage in question, it does not go far enough. It does not explain the anticipated objection of verse 19. That person is asking, given the fact that God hardens and shows mercy as he wills (vv. 14–18), how the Lord can find fault with anyone. Who can resist the hardening or the mercy, and if this cannot be resisted, how is anyone rightly damned or charged with evil. That’s a very logical question to follow from what Paul has been saying, especially since Paul, as a good Jew, would affirm that God is not the blameworthy cause for evil. How can someone rightly be charged with evil if, in fact, the hardening isn’t due in the first instance to God.

    On the contrary, it is NOT a very logical question; it is an obnoxious and sarcastic question resulting from the misuse of Paul’s analogy. In other words, at this point, Paul is saying “some of you are going to take my potter analogy and say ‘well, if he’s the potter, why doesn’t he just fix us?'” In fact, it’s the same obnoxious question to which Paul responds (or really, does not even dignify with a response) in Romans 3.

    That’s not to say that Paul doesn’t give a legitimate answer to the question; he does. But Paul’s reply is this: “What if God is just tolerating you for the sake of someone else?” That fits right into the theme of there not being two kinds of people. The interlocutors is essentially saying “well, if God is so great, why didn’t he make us (i.e., the Jews) better?” And Paul says “instead of asking why God didn’t make you better, ask yourself whether God isn’t just tolerating your misbehavior.” The Biblical answer is therefore the same as the philosophical one: God tolerates evil for the sake of a greater good for others, even though the nature of the greater good is mysterious. That’s consistent with the potter metaphor, because it suggests the potter throwing out the pieces that just don’t work out. It also fits nicely with the sense of the Isaiah passage to which Paul is alluding about the clay replying to the potter.

    In short, you’re assuming that the interlocutor in Romans 9 is sincere, but that in itself is not consistent with the context of the passage. If you think of it in terms of what sarcastic question people ask at that point, particularly in line with the sarcastic question to which Paul replies in Romans 3, it comes together.

    Augustine

    The entire point with Augustine is this. While people do change their mind, Augustine continued to appeal to free will as the cause of evil in his anti-Pelagian works, including the letter to Simplicianus, the reply to the two letters of the Pelagians, and others as well. In other words, it’s very clear that he never abandoned the lack of causality for evil, even in his anti-Pelagian period. So whatever Augustine’s anti-Pelagian argument was, it clearly didn’t abandon the principle that free will was the sole cause of sin.

    This is contrasted with the massa damnata interpretation, which was based solely on exegesis and which was never justified by (or even reconciled with) his principles. Moreover, even Augustine says that he might be wrong on the interpretation and that what we have to keep in mind is the principle. Lastly, he doesn’t rely on this point in his anti-Pelagian arguments. So that is a perfect example of where you might reasonably think somebody made a mistake or an oversight, as opposed to the causality of evil, which as I pointed out is an essential principle.

  248. Jonathan,

    I’ll have more to say on the potter and clay and other issues later, but on the sting operation:

    This is a bad example because a sting operation is generally only legitimate when the authorities have evidence that the person is conducting criminal activities or that there is strong evidence that said person will be likely to conduct such an activity. Otherwise you have entrapment, which is generally frowned upon.

    The sting serves to “get” the criminal because they couldn’t get him for criminal things done before the sting. This is not so with Adam. When Adam sinned, he had no sin prior that God couldn’t get him for.

    In any case, in a human sting operation, the police can set up the conditions but in so doing they do not guarantee that the person will make the choice. If God knows the future exhaustively and he in some way sets up/ordains the conditions that will bring about that future, he is serving as a cause in a way that the police cannot. In the case of the sting, the criminal is guilty both because there is a prior disposition of guilt/criminality and because nothing the police do can guarantee the choice. It does not work this way with God and Adam, let alone God and all sin after him.

    Also, God’s permission of evil is different because God gave man at least the potential to fall whereas the police don’t give the criminal potential that is not otherwise realized or evident. God created the whole system in which evil could be realized, and without his creation, there could be no realization of evil. This is true even in a system where evil is merely a privation. At this point, the typical non-Calvinist answer is that having people freely choose to love him in a libertarian sense is a greater good than preventing evil. That’s not a position that I can tell is ever based on exegesis. In any case, the Calvinist answer is that the greater good is the glory of God through the demonstration of his sovereign mercy, justice, love, etc.

    True the police don’t give the criminal the desire, but most Reformed theologians are, strictly speaking, not going to say God gives people the desire to do evil either. They’ll say that God ordained that said person would have the desire, that he would freely choose it in a way that makes the sinner alone culpable for his actions. Explaining what that means to anyone’s full satisfaction is impossible, but the alternative is that you have sin coming in out of nowhere, even that God doesn’t know where evil comes from.

    If God sustains the act of sin but not the desire, you still have to say that God is not responsible for it but that you do not know how. He doesn’t have to sustain the act. Basically you are reduced to saying that the intent God has in sustaining it—whether to preserve libertarian free will or any other reason—is not the same intent that the sinner has in committing the act. At that point the differences between what Westminster is saying and what others are saying are largely semantic.

    God’s intent in ordaining evil is altogether good. Evil isn’t an end in itself. And God’s foreknowledge in any system guarantees that the evil will take place. Above somewhere you protest that this would not make creation a free act, but this is not so. God’s decree is logically prior to his foreknowledge. Things happen the way they do because He decreed that they would. He could have decreed something different as long as it was in accordance with His character.

  249. Jonathan,

    You said,

    Augustine continued to appeal to free will as the cause of evil in his anti-Pelagian works, including the letter to Simplicianus, the reply to the two letters of the Pelagians, and others as well.

    You continue to miss the significance of this in Augustine. There *is* a logical consistency in holding Augustine’s view of election with his view on the cause of evil–at the very least, there are those who believe that Augustine’s position is consistent and those people are called “Calvinists.”

    For example, the WCF maintains Augustine’s position on the will when it states in WCF 9.1:

    God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.

    This is more directly explain in WCF 5.4:

    The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission,but such as has 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 proceeds 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

    We see the strong predestinarian position but always rooting sin in the will of the creature. Even if you argue that the tension is not something that can be consistently held, it is important to point out the historic pedigree of the Reformed doctrine on this point.

  250. I’m not broadly educated in theology, but the way I see Calvinists’ understanding of God is somewhat similar to that of Muslims’ understanding of their Allah. Quite detached from His subjects other than when giving orders and compensating those of His favorites. Well, at least for the Muslims, everyone’s Allah’s favorite. Just an observation.

  251. @Robert:
    Maybe I should try the Socratic dialogue more often; that actually got the point across better than I would have thought.

    This is a bad example because a sting operation is generally only legitimate when the authorities have evidence that the person is conducting criminal activities or that there is strong evidence that said person will be likely to conduct such an activity. Otherwise you have entrapment, which is generally frowned upon

    You’ve got the right concept, but the problem with entrapment is when the authorities actively elicit a criminal intent that never would have been present otherwise. In other words, even in secular justice, we recognize that there is wrongdoing when someone actively evokes a wrong desire. And there are vice stings (drugs or prostitution) that are indifferent as to who the person is, which is often how people who are not known to be committing crimes are caught, so that’s not relevant to entrapment. The only relevant factor is the authorities role as the source of desire. The fact that someone never committed a crime before might be a factor that indicates the authorities have actively induced him, but as in the case of vice stings, that would only be relevant if there was active inducement of the criminal desire by the authorities.

    In the Calvinist concept, God is entrapping sinners rather than stinging them. In that case, at least based on this analogy, He would be morally complicit with the crime. On the Catholic view, He wouldn’t.

    The sting serves to “get” the criminal because they couldn’t get him for criminal things done before the sting. This is not so with Adam. When Adam sinned, he had no sin prior that God couldn’t get him for.

    Again, prior criminal behavior is irrelevant to stings. There’s nothing wrong with a vice sting that catches a first-time offender, for example, so long as the sting didn’t induce the criminal intent. If someone decides to patronize a prostitute for the first time and unluckily (for the criminal) lands on a vice officer in disguise, that doesn’t excuse the crime. The purpose is to bring criminal intent to light in action, regardless of whether the person has committed a crime before or not.

    In any case, in a human sting operation, the police can set up the conditions but in so doing they do not guarantee that the person will make the choice. If God knows the future exhaustively and he in some way sets up/ordains the conditions that will bring about that future, he is serving as a cause in a way that the police cannot.

    It’s a question-begging assertion that God “in some way sets up/ordains the conditions that will bring about that fature” and that God is “serving as cause in some way” for the sinful behavior. The Catholic belief denies this, and Scripture denies this: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (Jas. 1:13-14). That’s exactly what happens in a lawful sting; the authority does not induce the desire in any way (entrapment), but the criminal acts based on his own desire.

    God created the whole system in which evil could be realized, and without his creation, there could be no realization of evil. This is true even in a system where evil is merely a privation. At this point, the typical non-Calvinist answer is that having people freely choose to love him in a libertarian sense is a greater good than preventing evil. That’s not a position that I can tell is ever based on exegesis. In any case, the Calvinist answer is that the greater good is the glory of God through the demonstration of his sovereign mercy, justice, love, etc.

    Because evil lacks a first cause, there is no purpose of evil per se. There are only purposes (and those are accidental) relative to what is created around the evil act. As to the specific reason, the specific greater good for this or that evil, that is always going to be some extent inscrutable. Michael Liccione covers that well here:
    http://problemsofevil.blogspot.com/

    The fact that all creation is for God’s glory doesn’t actually distinguish anything; that is what Catholics affirm as well. The question is exactly what is “good” for the created thing, and why sin is good for created things in the greater sense is always going to be mysterious, because sin itself has no reason, no first cause. The sinful act itself doesn’t serve God’s glory; what God creates is what serves God’s glory.

    True the police don’t give the criminal the desire, but most Reformed theologians are, strictly speaking, not going to say God gives people the desire to do evil either. They’ll say that God ordained that said person would have the desire, that he would freely choose it in a way that makes the sinner alone culpable for his actions. Explaining what that means to anyone’s full satisfaction is impossible, but the alternative is that you have sin coming in out of nowhere, even that God doesn’t know where evil comes from.

    First, we would need to be careful about what we mean by “ordained that said person would have the desire,” because that is the point of disagreement. Catholics would probably deny that if it were the case of entrapment.

    As to the second point, that isn’t the only alternative for how God would know evil. That’s exactly the point of disagreement; God doesn’t need to ordain evil to know it:
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm#article10

    If God sustains the act of sin but not the desire, you still have to say that God is not responsible for it but that you do not know how. He doesn’t have to sustain the act. Basically you are reduced to saying that the intent God has in sustaining it—whether to preserve libertarian free will or any other reason—is not the same intent that the sinner has in committing the act.

    On the contrary, the whole point is that God is not morally responsible for the sin in sustaining the act for thevery reason that He is not the source of the desire. He is not entrapping anyone, so like the architect of the sting, He has no moral responsibility for the sin. It won’t do simply to say that God has a different intent; He must also in no way be the source of the sinner’s intent, because even different intent doesn’t suffice to distinguish the two.

    At that point the differences between what Westminster is saying and what others are saying are largely semantic.

    Brandon has helpfully quoted parts of the WCF where I will point out the difference in detail.

    God’s intent in ordaining evil is altogether good. Evil isn’t an end in itself. And God’s foreknowledge in any system guarantees that the evil will take place. Above somewhere you protest that this would not make creation a free act, but this is not so. God’s decree is logically prior to his foreknowledge. Things happen the way they do because He decreed that they would. He could have decreed something different as long as it was in accordance with His character.

    Evil isn’t an end at all; that’s why it has no first cause. Again, there’s no overarching reason for evil; it’s always an accident of particular circumstances. The assertion “[t]hings happen the way they do because He decreed that they would” is precisely the question-begging argument. The entire point of the account is that sin does not take place because He decreed that it would, but beside His intent, as it were, from willing other things. The logical priority is not between will and foreknowledge, which tends to screw up divine simplicity (since God knows everything by knowing Himself, including His will). Rather, the logical priority is in the degree (and in creation) itself, so that God wills good things, and sin is a second-order accident within the order of good things that are willed. So if one says that sin happens “because” of God’s will, so as to imply that God is the cause of sin, that’s wrong.

    The violation of divine simplicity is the difficulty I mentioned above. Once you start introducing logical priorities between God’s simple attributes, you end up having one determine the other, so that they collapse into each other. For example, if God’s act of will (decree) is logically prior to God’s foreknowledge, then God’s knowledge collapses to His act of will. But God’s omniscience is an equally necessary attribute of God’s being, so if God’s omniscience collapses to an act of God’s will, a decree, then that makes His decree necessary. What one has to avoid is making attributes dependent on acts, and that is the difficulty. This is the trouble with the “character” analogy in God; it implies that God’s acts (e.g., justice with respect to creation) are on the same logical level has His attributes. Ultimately, that ends up being a significant problem; we can say that His acts demonstrate His attributes, but not in such a way that God’s acts are determined by His attributes, which always has the effect of making the acts necessary.

  252. @Brandon:

    You continue to miss the significance of this in Augustine. There *is* a logical consistency in holding Augustine’s view of election with his view on the cause of evil–at the very least, there are those who believe that Augustine’s position is consistent and those people are called “Calvinists.”

    No, those people are called Catholics. That has been my point all along. I have no problem accepting the logical consistency between Augustine’s doctrine of election (which does not depend on the massa damnata) and his view on the cause of evil. That is what I have been arguing. The problem with Calvinists is that they don’t accept Augustine’s view on the cause of evil.

    This part of the WCF is fine:
    “God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.”

    That is true; the will of man is neither forced nor determined by any absolute necessity of nature. The following part is not:
    “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission,but such as has 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.”

    It’s right that God’s causality is not “bare permission,” as I’ve said numerous times. It is wrong that sins of angels and men take place by “a wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them” by the divine will or decree. That is not compatible with Augustine’s view of causality of evil or Aquinas’s view of causality or evil, or even the Bible. It’s just flat out wrong; it is a (defective) philosophical belief that everything happens “because of” the divine decree. That is, at the very least, an oversimplification, and in the case of evil, it is flat out wrong. It fails to draw essential logical distinctions that are necessary to preserve divine simplicity and omnibenevolence.

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