Lawrence Feingold on God’s Universal Salvific Will

Nov 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

“It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.” Those words were written by then Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Declaration Dominus Iesus, published in 2000. Last week Professor Lawrence Feingold of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology and author of The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and his Interpreters and the three volume series The Mystery of Israel and the Church gave a lecture on God’s universal salvific will to the Association of Hebrew Catholics. The doctrine of God’s universal salvific will is the doctrine that God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. This doctrine is another point of disagreement between Reformed theology and Catholic theology. Reformed theology denies that God desires all men to be saved, and claims that Christ died only for the elect, not for the sins of all men. The audio recordings of the lecture and of the following Q&A session, along with an outline of the lecture and a list of the questions asked during the Q&A are available below. The mp3s can be downloaded here.


The Preaching of Paul at Ephesus
Eustache Le Sueur (1649)

Lecture: God’s Universal Salvific Will (November 9, 2011)
 


Lawrence Feingold

God’s universal salvific will, and predestination, must always be considered together. (1′)
“God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4)
God desires all to be saved, because He loves all men, and wants us all to enter into His own life.1 (1′)

God truly wills the salvation of all men: Scripture

1 Tim 2:1-4 (2′)
Christ gave Himself “as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6) (3′)
John 3:16 (5′)
How do we reconcile the universal salvific will of God with the fact that some are lost? (6′)
2 Peter 3:9 “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (7′)
1 John 2:2 “expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (8′)
Sermon on the Mount (8′)
Parable of the Sower (9′)
Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt. 22:1-14) (11′)
Parable of the Sheep: “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mt. 18:14) (15′)

Universal Means of Salvation

To say that God wills all men to be saved would be empty if it did not include some kind of universal means so that all can be saved. (16′)

Christ through His Church and sacraments is the universal means (17′)

Four steps (18′)
(1) Christ’s incarnation and passion for all men2
(2) Grace merited by Christ
(3) Universal Church
(4) Sacraments in His Church, by which men can receive His grace.

All men who attain the age of reason are given operative grace, sufficient for salvation if men cooperate (20′)
Cooperative grace is given only to those who cooperate with operative grace. (21′)

The Old Covenant not yet Catholic, and not yet a universal means of salvation, but hints at it (23′)

The Book of Jonah (25′)

The Fathers and Doctors on the Universal Salvific Will3 (26′)
All are agreed that God wills all men to be saved in a manner fitting for free creatures.

St. John Chrysostom (28′)
St. Ambrose (28′)
St. Augustine (29′)
St. John Damascene (31′)

Two senses of God’s salvific will: antecedent and consequent

Also one must bear in mind that God antecedently wishes all to be saved and come to His Kingdom. (1 Timothy 2:4) For it was not for punishment that He formed us but to share in His goodness, inasmuch as He is a good God. But inasmuch as He is a just God, His will is that sinners should suffer punishment. The first then is called God’s antecedent will and pleasure, and springs from Himself, while the second is called God’s consequent will and permission, and has its origin in us. (De Fide Orth 2.29) (34′)

St. Thomas Aquinas (36′)

Objection: It seems that the will of God is not always fulfilled. For the Apostle says (1 Timothy 2:4): “God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But this does not happen. Therefore the will of God is not always fulfilled.

Response: According to Damascene (De Fide Orth. 2.29), they are understood of the antecedent will of God; not of the consequent will. This distinction must not be taken as applying to the divine will itself, in which there is nothing antecedent nor consequent, but to the things willed. To understand this we must consider that everything, in so far as it is good, is willed by God. A thing taken in its primary sense, and absolutely considered, may be good or evil, and yet when some additional circumstances are taken into account, by a consequent consideration may be changed into the contrary. Thus that a man should live is good; and that a man should be killed is evil, absolutely considered. But if in a particular case we add that a man is a murderer or dangerous to society, to kill him is a good; that he live is an evil. Hence it may be said of a just judge, that antecedently he wills all men to live; but consequently wills the murderer to be hanged. In the same way God antecedently wills all men to be saved, but consequently wills some to be damned, as His justice exacts. Nor do we will simply, what we will antecedently, but rather we will it in a qualified manner; for the will is directed to things as they are in themselves, and in themselves they exist under particular qualifications. Hence we will a thing simply inasmuch as we will it when all particular circumstances are considered; and this is what is meant by willing consequently. Thus it may be said that a just judge wills simply the hanging of a murderer, but in a qualified manner he would will him to live, to wit, inasmuch as he is a man. Such a qualified will may be called a willingness rather than an absolute will. Thus it is clear that whatever God simply wills takes place; although what He wills antecedently may not take place. (Summa Theologica I Q.19, a.6.)

God wills all men to be saved, and prepares for them a series of graces sufficient (and in fact, superabundant) to bring them to salvation. But we have to correspond to them. God leaves us free will, by which we either cooperate with His grace, or freely impede it, and His consequent will takes into account our cooperation and resistance. (37′)

Denial of the Universal Salvific Will at the Reformation (38′)

Luther and Calvin denied our ability to cooperate with grace.4 (39′)
That denial eliminates the distinction between antecedent and consequent will (40′)5
This entails that God’s salvific will is not universal (41′)

Luther’s On the Bondage of the Will: (41′)

In a word: if we are under the god of this world, strangers to the work of God’s Spirit, we are led captive by him at his will, as Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim. 2.26), so that we cannot will anything but what he wills. For he is a ‘strong man armed,’ who keeps his palace to such good effect that those he holds are at peace, and raise no stir or feeling against him — otherwise, Satan’s kingdom would be divided against itself, and could not stand; but Christ says it does stand. And we acquiesce in his rule willingly and readily, according to the nature of willingness, which, if constrained, is not ‘willingness’; for constraint means rather, as one would say, ‘unwillingness’. But if a stronger appears, and overcomes Satan, we are once more servants and captives, but now desiring and willingly doing what He wills — which is royal freedom (cf. Luke 11.18-22). So man’s will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God wills: as the Psalm says, ‘I am become as a beast before thee, and I am ever with thee’ (Ps. 73.22-3). If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan wills. Nor may it choose to which rider it will run, or which it will seek; but the riders themselves fight to decide who shall have and hold it.’ (On the Bondage of the Will, 103-104)

Luther applies this to Cain (43′)

This leads to the notion of double-predestination (45′)

John Calvin (46′)

Claimed that Christ did not die for all, but only for the elect. “Limited atonement”
Leads to the notion that some are predesined by God to hell.

Denial of the Universal Salvific Will by Jansenism (47′)

The following five Jansenist positions were infallibly condemned by Pope Innocent X in 1653: (48′)

1. Some of God’s precepts are impossible to the just, who wish and strive to keep them, according to the present powers which they have; the grace, by which they are made possible, is also wanting.

2. In the state of fallen nature one never resists interior grace.

3. In order to merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not required in man, but freedom from external compulsion is sufficient.

4. The Semipelagians admitted the necessity of a prevenient interior grace for each act, even for the beginning of faith; and in this they were heretics, because they wished this grace to be such that the human will could either resist or obey.

5. It is Semipelagian to say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men without exception. (Denzinger 1092-1096)

Real Possibility of Salvation for All (53′)
Sufficient grace to be saved is given to everyone who reaches the age of reason. Christ died for all men. God wills all men to cooperate with that grace, and thus God predestines no one to hell.

What about those who never hear the gospel? (53′)
What about “outside the Church there is no salvation”?

Lumen Gentium: (55′)

Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium, 14)

Vincible ignorance and invincible ignorance (57′)
Bl. Pope Pius IX on invincible ignorance (59′)

Lumen Gentium: (60′)

Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. (Lumen Gentium, 16)

Creed of the People of God (Pope Paul VI) (61′)

We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church. But the divine design of salvation embraces all men, and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ, but seek sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation. (Creed of the People of God)

Catechism of the Catholic Church (62′)

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (CCC 1260)

Explicit desire and implicit desire (65′)

Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston, August 8th, 1949 regarding Feeneyism. (67′)

However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God. (Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston)

Salvation outside the visible Church requires perfect contrition (69′)
God gives the grace to everyone to make an act of perfect contrition (69′)

Some faith is necessary for salvation (70′)
Hence missionary activity of the Church is not rendered useless by the fact that it is possible for those to be saved who have never heard the gospel.

It is much more difficult to be saved when not in full communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore without the fullness of the truth and the means of grace Christ has established in His Church.

Mystici Corporis Christi (71′)

They who do not belong to the visible Body of the Catholic Church, … We ask each and every one of them to correspond to the interior movements of grace, and to seek to withdraw from that state in which they cannot be sure of their salvation. For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church. (Mystici Corporis Christi, 103)

Questions and Answers
 

1. How does the Catholic understanding of the universal salvific will compare to that of the Orthodox Jewish or Islamic view? (1′)

2. Is inculpable ignorance holding views contrary to the Church because you run out of time before you can investigate the reasons for the truth on all the issues, or is it necessary to hold the principles of the Church by faith before you dismiss them by investigation that confirms your conscience? (3′ 19″)

3. Luther said that in Genesis God was simply telling Cain what he ought to do. But if as Luther believed, Cain had no choice in the matter, why would God bother telling him at all? (4’42”)

4. In many places in Scripture we see God hardening people’s hearts. In Deuteronomy 2:30 He hardens the heart of Sihon King of Heshbon. In Joshua 11:20 He hardens the hearts of the Canaanites. In 1 Sam. 2:25 He hardens the hearts of Hophni and Phineas, so that they would not listen to Eli. Jesus thanks the Father for hiding things from the wise and prudent (Matt. 11:25,26), and quotes Isaiah saying that God has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted. (John 12:37-40) St. Paul says the same in Romans 11:8, and in 2 Thess 2:11 he says that God sends them a strong delusion to make them believe what is false. How is all this compatible with a universal salvific will? (6’30”)

5. In John 10:26 Jesus says, “but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.” If God wants all men to be saved, why doesn’t Jesus say, “you are not of my sheep because you do not believe”? (17′)

6. If God wants all men to be saved, then why does St. Paul say (Rom. 9:22) that there are “vessels of wrath made for destruction” and why does St. Peter say “for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do”? (1 Pet. 2:8) (19′)

7. If our being saved or being lost depends fundamentally on whether we cooperate or do not cooperate with grace, then why does St. Paul say that “it is not of him that wills or runs, but of God that shows mercy” (Rom 9:16) Why does St. Paul in Romans 9 seem to make election depend not on human choice but on God’s sovereign and inscrutable will? (24′)

8. Does the possession of sanctifying grace require conscious explicit faith in Jesus as the Son of God? If not, how is the Council’s teaching different from Rahner’s “anonymous Christian”? If it requires faith, then how can the Catechism speak of atheists possibly attaining salvation? [Note: the Catechism does not speak of atheists as such possibly attaining salvation. The questioner was referring to Lumen Gentium 16] (26′)

  1. The doctrine of God’s universal salvific will is not to be confused with universalism, the claim that all men are saved, or with what is called ‘hopeful universalism,’ which I have addressed here. (Update: See comment #4 below.) []
  2. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.” [Council of Quiercy (853)]. (CCC 605) []
  3. For more excerpts from the Church Fathers on this subject see section 54 of Fr. Mosts’s book Grace, Predestination, and the Universal Salvific Will of God. []
  4. This denial was in turn based on their notion of original sin, explained here, and their not distinguishing between actual grace and sanctifying grace, explained here. []
  5. The distinction between antecedent and consequent will should not be confused with the Reformed distinction between preceptive will and decretive will. The former distinction allows for it to be true without contradiction that God desires all men to be saved and yet not all men are saved; but without the former distinction the latter distinction undermines the possibility of an authentic universal salvific will in God. If God commands that a person repent, but then, not on the basis of foreseen rejection of grace by that person, refuses to give sufficient grace for that person to repent, not only does God not truly desire that person’s salvation, but God has fallen into a performative contradiction, saying one thing, but doing something contrary to what He says. Either He does not mean what He says, in which case He is not the Truth, or He rebels against Himself, in which case He is in need of salvation. The notion that there are two actual contrary wills in God (in which neither will involves an abstraction from what God knows about human choices) is not only a theological schizophrenia, it is also a form of Manichean dualism. Calvinists use Scriptural examples of the difference between what is in fact divine antecedent will and divine consequent will, as though this supports a decretive-preceptive distinction not based on an antecedent-consequent distinction. John Piper does that, for example, in his “Are There Two Wills in God?,” and so do Luther, Calvin, Turretin, etc. — see here. But while an antecedent-consequent distinction avoids theological schizophrenia, because the former (i.e. the antecedent) is an abstraction, the decretive-preceptive distinction without the antecedent-consequent distinction does not avoid theological schizophrenia, because neither the decretive nor preceptive will is an abstraction. []
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29 comments
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  1. Compare Sproul’s answer with the lecture above, and especially with footnote 5.

  2. Bryan,

    Looks like a good article that will help alot of reformed. I do believe that, in fact, Calvinists do deny the universal will of God for all to be saved–that is, I dont think that the decretive/preceptive will distinction saves them. I havent read all of the document you have posted, and I havent listen to the lecture yet ( I certainly will this week) but from a cursory glance I would encourage you to develop the argument in the footnote a bit, for all your calvinist readers and anticipate that many feel that infralapsarianism is also a way out here…its the Reformed version of superlapsarianism that is easiest to shoot down becasue of the doctine of reprobation…Go for dismantiling the softer version. I hope you do, I intend to forward it to a few old friends. Currently I am at Yale ( doing some Latin reading for 3 weeks) and have been surrounded by old Calvinist friends… you do good–very good work–and I hope you will develop this piece a bit more ad maiorem Dei Gloriam.

  3. In the following videos Jerry Walls, Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, argues that Calvinism entails that God does not truly love everyone. His argument applies to the answer given by Sproul in the video in comment #1:

  4. My response to the question of “Hopeful Universalism.”

  5. Bryan,

    Could you please identify what particular view of election Dr. Feingold holds too? It seems like some kind of Thomism (anticident and consequent wills) that is leaning on molinist presuppositions (election depending upon foreseen merits and demerits).

  6. Kenneth,
    May I interject a little something? I have heard Dr. Feingold’s lecture series and I get a similar impression.
    As a matter of fact, I have heard the good Dominicans at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon preach for years. I am now a member of the Irish Dominican Province in Lisbon. They all preach like Jesuits. It was explained to me once that preaching missions the Jesuit way empowers the laity into reforming their lives while the “official” Dominican way leads to despair.
    I want to go on record as saying, Scouts’ honor, in my entire association with Dominicans for decades, the only one who ever preached like a “Calvinist” with God passing some over and leaving them to their just desserts lost his Faith and left the priesthood. He gave a course on Aquinas’ view of predestination/grace at Holy Rosary that shocked all in attendance. So, theory and actual practice don’t always jive.
    That is all I want to say.
    Happily, the priest made it back to the Church ( but not the priesthood ).

  7. Ken, (re: #5)

    Prof. Feingold has laid out his position on this question in the lecture at “Lawrence Feingold: A Catholic Understanding of Predestination and Perseverance” and the lecture at “Lawrence Feingold on Sufficient and Efficacious Grace.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. [comment removed at author’s request]

  9. Ken, (re: #8)

    You wrote:

    Rather, Aquinas believed that what God took into consideration was the greater good of the entire universe. That is to say, the way in which He desired to express His goodness to the fullest extent.

    Nothing in the quotation you provided from St. Thomas even mentions antecedent or consequent will. So your claim that for St. Thomas, the distinction between antecedent and consequent will is based on taking into consideration either only the good of the individual (i.e. for the antecedent will) or also the good of the whole universe (i.e. for the consequent will), is an unsubstantiated claim.

    Regarding this distinction (between God’s antecedent and consequent will) St. Thomas directly and explicitly ties it to the free choices of creatures, when, in answer to the question “Can the divine will be distinguished into antecedent and consequent?” he writes in Quaestiones disputatae de veritate:

    In God’s operation in regard to creatures similar factors must be taken into account. Though in His operation He requires no matter, and created things originally without any pre-existing, matter, nevertheless He now works in the things which He first created, governing them in accordance with the nature which He previously gave them. And although He could remove from His creatures every obstacle by which they are made incapable of perfection, yet in the order of His wisdom He disposes of things conformably to their state, giving to each one in accordance with its own capacity.

    That to which God has destined the creature as far as He is concerned is said to be willed by Him in a primary intention or antecedent will. But when the creature is held back from this end because of its own failure, God nonetheless fulfills in it that amount of goodness of which it is capable. This pertains to His secondary intention and is called His consequent will. Because, then, God has made all men for happiness, He is said to will the salvation of all by His antecedent will. But because some work against their own salvation, and the order of His wisdom does not admit of their attaining salvation in view of their failure, He fulfills in them in another way the demands of His goodness, damning them out of justice. As a result, falling short of the first order of His will, they thus slip into the second. And although they do not do God’s will, His will is still fulfilled in them. But the failure constituting sin, by which a person is made deserving of punishment here and now or in the future, is not itself willed by God with either an antecedent or a consequent will; it is merely permitted by Him. (QDV Q.23 a.2)

    As St. Thomas explains, that to which God has destined the creature as far as God is concerned, is what is called God’s antecedent will. That’s not limited only to the individual creature’s good, nor does it disregard the common good. Rather, what the antecedent will does not take into consideration is the creature’s free response, as St. Thomas then goes on to explain. Because some persons freely work against their own salvation, and the order of God’s wisdom does not admit of their attaining salvation “in view of their failure,” [in view of their sin of freely rejecting grace, they cannot then be saved, given the redemptive economy God has established, by which those who freely and permanently reject grace are allowed to remain in that condition forever] they therefore receive just punishment, because they are the one’s who have damned themselves, by freely and definitively rejecting the grace He offered them.

    And for St. Thomas this free choice against God’s antecedent will is precisely the basis for the difference between God’s antecedent and consequent will, the very question St. Thomas is answering in this article. When the creature’s choice diverges from God’s antecedent will, the creature receives God’s secondary intention, or consequent will. For St. Thomas the failure to correspond to the offered grace is neither God’s antecedent will nor His consequent will. Rather, for St. Thomas, this sinful failure (from us) is precisely that by which God’s antecedent will is distinguished from God’s consequent will. Regarding the rejection of grace St. Thomas says something similar in the SCG when he writes:

    In fact, as far as He is concerned, God is ready to give grace to all; “indeed He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” as is said in 1 Timothy (2:4). But those alone are deprived of grace who offer an obstacle within themselves to grace. (SCG III. 159)

    And in the Quaestiones Quodlibetales St. Thomas writes:

    God moves everything according to its manner. So divine motion is imparted to some things with necessity; however, it is imparted to the rational nature with liberty because the rational power is related to opposites. God so moves the human mind to the good, however, that a man can resist this motion. And so, that a man should prepare himself for grace is from God, but that he should lack grace does not have its cause from God but from the man…. (Quodlibetales I. Q.4 a.2 ad 2)

    And this fits completely with and explains what St. Thomas says in ST I Q.19 a.6 about the basis for the distinction between antecedent and consequent will.

    It would be a mistake to infer from any truth in ST I Q.23 a.5 ad 3 that what St. Thomas says in SCG III.159 and in QDV Q.23 a.2 and in ST I Q.19 a.6 is false. The manifestation of God’s goodness through the creation of free creatures capable of freely sinning and allowed to reject grace freely in an irrevocable, everlasting way does not mean or entail that the basis for the distinction between God’s antecedent and consequent will is not our sins. God’s desire to manifest His goodness most fully through a myriad of grades of being in creatures, thereby including the creation of free creatures capable of sin, does not mean or entail that the creatures’ free choice to reject the grace offered to Him is not the basis for the distinction between God’s antecedent and consequent will. His desire to manifest His goodness through the creation of such creatures makes the distinction possible, but the creatures’ free, sinful choices makes the distinction actual. If every free creature always freely chose to obey God, as Christ in His human will always perfectly obeyed God, there would be no distinction between God’s antecedent and consequent will; they would be one and the same.

    You concluded:

    Thus, to Aquinas, the consequent differed from the anticident will in that the consequent will considered the greater good of the universe.

    The problem with that claim is that there is no evidence for it.

    It was never the view of Aquinas that God first took into account our cooperation.

    The problem with that claim is that what St. Thomas explicitly says directly refutes it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Bryan,
    Great answer.
    On this topic of what Aquinas may have taught or what Cajetan, Banez or the Dominican order may have or may not have taught, I think there is a quick and easy rule of thumb as to how to respond to charges of Calvinism being compatible with Catholicism.
    An easy way to dispel this worry is simply to click on Catholic answers and listen to Fr. Vincent Serpa speak. If one didn’t already know it, does he ever say anything that gives himself away as a Dominican?
    While one can often tell which order, Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit, etc., a particular parish church belongs to by taking note of the statues of saints or paintings on the wall, when it comes to the homily, all priests talk the same talk. Whether Dominican or not, salvation is of God, damnation of man. No priest, regardless of his order, denies God’s will to save all men or Christ’s blood being shed for every man. None of them preach irresistible grace, total depravity or deny free will and the necessity and capacity for man to respond to grace.
    Notice, almost every Catholic parish church, whether Jesuit or not, has a statue of the Sacred Heart somewhere.
    On these blogs Calvinists participants have claimed Aquinas as their own. Common sense and simple observation of the the universality of the Church’s teachings on salvation from the pulpit on any Sunday say otherwise.

  11. As a follow-up to comment #4 above regarding the question of “hopeful universalism,” Prof. Feingold addresses this question beginning in the 44rth minute of his lecture titled “Why is there a hell?” and on page 5 of the accompanying handout.

  12. What does it look like when a theology denies God’s universal salvific will? Here’s one way it looks:

    The author, a Calvinist, intended the caption to read: “This is an ultrasound of our first grand baby due in September. And even though I love this baby I know God may not and may have created it for damnation.”

    (source)

  13. Bryan,

    Although the author may have not diatinguished that there is no equal ultimacy between election and reprobation, it seems that a factual statement that God may predistine this child to salvation or allow this child to be damned on account of sin is consistent with Thomistic theology. In some sense Thomas does not believe that God wills all men to be saved.

    Thomas Aquinas wrote:

    On the contrary, It is said (Malachi 1:2-3): “I have loved Jacob, but have hated Esau.”

    I answer that, God does reprobate some. For it was said above (Article 1) that predestination is a part of providence. To providence, however, it belongs to permit certain defects in those things which are subject to providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 2). Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is a part of providence, in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation, so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 1). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin.

    Reply to Objection 1. God loves all men and all creatures, inasmuch as He wishes them all some good; but He does not wish every good to them all. So far, therefore, as He does not wish this particular good–namely, eternal life–He is said to hate or reprobated them.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  14. I agree that is a harsh statement, and not something I would say nor promote. However, since you bring this up, what is the Catholic position on the difficult statements of Romans 9?

    To be sure, I would think a more mature and spiritual Calvinist would grab onto the statement in Acts 2:

    “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”

  15. Not trying to toot my horn, but this is too neat. I am the “Matt” that submitted that question that Mark Driscoll posed to R.C. Sproul (from box 1 above, on December 16th, 2011). When this was posted by Driscoll, I was telling (almost shouting) to my wife, “Check this out. My question is being asked!”

    That has always been a sticking point for me with some Reformed teachings. I was disappointed with Sproul’s answer, because he quoted the first part of Ezekiel 18:23, but not the second part. He quoted: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?”

    He left out this last part of it: “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

  16. Joey (re: #13)

    In some sense Thomas does not believe that God wills all men to be saved.

    See comment #9 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  17. Bryan,

    Thomas Aquinas did indeed have differing categories of God’s will. That is why I said, in some sense there in light of God’s predistination and rebrobation prerogatives, he wills not to save everyone. Of course we can see that God’s predistination is not against freewill because Thomas says God moves the will of man to effect as part of his predistining act.

    Now there is no distinction between what flows from free will, and what is of predestination; as there is not distinction between what flows from a secondary cause and from a first cause. For the providence of God produces effects through the operation of secondary causes, as was above shown (22, 3). Wherefore, that which flows from free-will is also of predestination. We must say, therefore, that the effect of predestination may be considered in a twofold light–in one way, in particular; and thus there is no reason why one effect of predestination should not be the reason or cause of another; a subsequent effect being the reason of a previous effect, as its final cause; and the previous effect being the reason of the subsequent as its meritorious cause, which is reduced to the disposition of the matter. Thus we might say that God pre-ordained to give glory on account of merit, and that He pre-ordained to give grace to merit glory. In another way, the effect of predestination may be considered in general. Thus, it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace.

    The predistination of God can not be resisted as Thomas affirms that there is a fixed number of the predestined and that it is certain.

    I answer that, Predestination most certainly and infallibly takes effect; yet it does not impose any necessity, so that, namely, its effect should take place from necessity. For it was said above (Article 1), that predestination is a part of providence. But not all things subject to providence are necessary; some things happening from contingency, according to the nature of the proximate causes, which divine providence has ordained for such effects. Yet the order of providence is infallible, as was shown above (Question 22, Article 4). So also the order of predestination is certain; yet free-will is not destroyed; whence the effect of predestination has its contingency. Moreover all that has been said about the divine knowledge and will (14, 13; 19, 4) must also be taken into consideration; since they do not destroy contingency in things, although they themselves are most certain and infallible.

    I answer that, The number of the predestined is certain. Some have said that it was formally, but not materially certain; as if we were to say that it was certain that a hundred or a thousand would be saved; not however these or those individuals. But this destroys the certainty of predestination; of which we spoke above (Article 6). Therefore we must say that to God the number of the predestined is certain, not only formally, but also materially. It must, however, be observed that the number of the predestined is said to be certain to God, not by reason of His knowledge, because, that is to say, He knows how many will be saved (for in this way the number of drops of rain and the sands of the sea are certain to God); but by reason of His deliberate choice and determination.

    Thomas also believes that the reason of predistination and reprobation is owing to God alone.

    Let us then consider the whole of the human race, as we consider the whole universe. God wills to manifest His goodness in men; in respect to those whom He predestines, by means of His mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of His justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others. To this the Apostle refers, saying (Romans 9:22-23): “What if God, willing to show His wrath [that is, the vengeance of His justice], and to make His power known, endured [that is, permitted] with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction; that He might show the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He hath prepared unto glory” and (2 Timothy 2:20): “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver; but also of wood and of earth; and some, indeed, unto honor, but some unto dishonor.” Yet why He chooses some for glory, and reprobates others, has no reason, except the divine will. Whence Augustine says (Tract. xxvi. in Joan.): “Why He draws one, and another He draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish to err.”

    So I don’t understand why in light of this Thomistic thought, the person saying that his daughter may or may not be elect is wrong.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  18. Matt, (re: #14)

    However, since you bring this up, what is the Catholic position on the difficult statements of Romans 9?

    That comes up in question 11 of the Q&A after the lecture in the “Predestination and Perseverance” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Joey, (re: #17)

    You’re misunderstanding St. Thomas by reading into his terms concepts different from his.

    Thomas Aquinas did indeed have differing categories of God’s will. That is why I said, in some sense there in light of God’s predistination and rebrobation prerogatives, he wills not to save everyone.

    By conflating the distinction between antecedent and consequent will, and thus the ground for the distinction as explained in footnote #5 above and in comment #9 above, you misrepresent St. Thomas’s position as though it is equivalent to that of the person quote in #12. For St. Thomas God only consequently wills not to save persons in light of their free choice to reject His truly sufficient grace, which He sincerely gives to all, desiring all to be saved.

    For St. Thomas there is no distinction between what flows from free will and what is of predestination, not because the will of the non-elect is moved by God away from good, or because God fails to give sufficient grace to the non-elect, but because (as explained in comment #9) the non-elect freely resist the truly sufficient grace He does give. Also, St. Thomas does not say that predestination “cannot be resisted.” That’s a category mistake, like saying that foreknowledge cannot be resisted. It is also highly misleading, because it depicts St. Thomas’s position on predestination as being one in which free creatures have no role in scripting. But predestination does take into consideration the free choices of creatures (see the “Predestination and Perseverance” post). It is simply not true that “Thomas also believes that the reason of predistination and reprobation is owing to God alone.” He never says that. Rather, he explains (again, see comment #9 above) that the rational creature’s free choice to reject the truly sufficient grace offered to him is the cause of his not being elect. Regarding ST I Q.23 a.5 ad 3 I grant that at first glance, that looks like the Calvinist notion of double predestination described above. But St. Thomas’s position is subtler. The objection he is answering is the argument that it would be unjust to give unequal things to equals, and therefore that God does not prepare unequal things for men by predestinating and reprobating, unless through the foreknowledge of their merits and demerits. In his reply to this objection, St. Thomas first answers two distinct questions. The first question is Why has God made a plan in which some are elected and some are reprobated. The second question is Why was this person elected and that person reprobated. St. Thomas’s answer to the first question is that through this plan [in which grace is given in such a way that persons are allowed to resist grace freely even to death], God’s goodness is more perfectly manifest, and many good things are not impeded. That’s the question he is answering when he writes,”The reason for the predestination of some, and reprobation of others, must be sought for in the goodness of God.”

    St. Thomas’s answer to the second question is the source of the seemingly Calvinistic quotation. There St. Thomas cites St. Augustine’s warning against attempting to peer into the divine reason why He draws this person and not that person. St. Augustine himself, in the line that follows, urges the person who finds himself not drawn toward God to pray to God to be drawn to God, showing that for St. Augustine sufficient grace is available to pray to be drawn. St. Thomas explains that while we can see why multiple forms would be given to prime matter, it lies beyond us to determine why God chose this prime matter for the form of fire, and this prime matter for the form of earth, etc. (Of course St. Thomas knew that there could be no such thing as bits of prime matter; it is just an illustration.) For St. Thomas, how God determines who to elect and who to reprobate, has its ratio in the will of God, just as why God allows this infant to die as an infant, and that infant to live till ninety, has its ratio in the will of God. St. Thomas is talking about the distribution of unequal goods to equals (not the distribution of heaven to some and hell to others, even though hell is where the reprobate end up by their own doing).

    St. Thomas is explaining here that this sort of distribution is not contrary to justice when the greater goods given are not owed to anyone, and the giver deprives no one of his due. Heaven is owed to no one, because it is a gratuitous gift, so if God creates a world God is not obliged by justice to create only a world in which everyone is predestined to heaven. He can justly create a world in which He allows persons with free will to freely reject the truly sufficient grace He offers to them. How this differs from Calvinism is already patent. St. Thomas is not teaching here that God positively predestines persons for hell, or positively predestines persons for sin. Calvin has no such thing as sufficient grace, or the notion that Christ died for the salvation of every single person, or the free will of the unregenerate by which they freely reject sufficient grace. For Calvin, God positively predestines some persons to hell in the same way He positively predestines some persons to heaven.

    So I don’t understand why in light of this Thomistic thought, the person saying that his daughter may or may not be elect is wrong.

    That’s because you are treating being “non-elect” as equivalent to not being loved by God, and positively predestined for hell. But that’s not St. Thomas’s position regarding the non-elect, as I’ve explained above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  20. Bryan,

    I don’t think I have misrepresented Thomas A. When he responded to the objection that God’s will is not always fulfilled because on the one he wills to save everyone (1 Tim 2:4) and yet not everyone is saved, he answered the objection in three ways:

    First, by a restricted application, in which case they would mean, as Augustine says (De praed. sanct. i, 8: Enchiridion 103), “God wills all men to be saved that are saved, not because there is no man whom He does not wish saved, but because there is no man saved whose salvation He does not will.”

    He agreed with Augustine that “all men” is restricted. It can mean “all men” = “all men that are saved”. Note that here he does not agree that God wills “all men” individually to be saved.

    Secondly, they can be understood as applying to every class of individuals, not to every individual of each class; in which case they mean that God wills some men of every class and condition to be saved, males and females, Jews and Gentiles, great and small, but not all of every condition.

    The second solution is to treat “all men” as equal to “some men of every class and condition” but “not to every individual of each class”. Again he restricted the meaning and here does not affirm that God wills all men to be saved.

    Thirdly, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 29), they are understood of the antecedent will of God; not of the consequent will. This distinction must not be taken as applying to the divine will itself, in which there is nothing antecedent nor consequent, but to the things willed.

    It is in the third solution that he allows the verse to mean “all men” as “all men individually”. But, he said that this belongs to God’s antecedent will. As God considers all circumstances, he consequently wills not to save everyone but to extract justice in light of sin. Note though that Thomas said that the distinction between antecedent and consequent will can not be applied to the divine will. Nevertheless he explains how the antecedent and consequent works to answer the objection. God did indeed will antecedently to save all men. But in light of sin, he consequently wills to punish them. This consequent will is consistent to the premise that all good things comes from God even damnation on account of sin.

    Thus it is clear that whatever God simply wills takes place; although what He wills antecedently may not take place.

    Hence we will a thing simply inasmuch as we will it when all particular circumstances are considered; and this is what is meant by willing consequently.

    In as far as the timing on when God wills antecedently that he wills to save all men, and consequently that he does not will to save all men on account od sin, we know that this happened before creation. If God thus providentially spare an individual from punishment of sin by predestining him for glory, he explains that such choice is not owing to free choices of men because these choices are also ordained by him.

    Now there is no distinction between what flows from free will, and what is of predestination; as there is not distinction between what flows from a secondary cause and from a first cause. For the providence of God produces effects through the operation of secondary causes, as was above shown (22, 3). Wherefore, that which flows from free-will is also of predestination. We must say, therefore, that the effect of predestination may be considered in a twofold light–in one way, in particular; and thus there is no reason why one effect of predestination should not be the reason or cause of another; a subsequent effect being the reason of a previous effect, as its final cause; and the previous effect being the reason of the subsequent as its meritorious cause, which is reduced to the disposition of the matter. Thus we might say that God pre-ordained to give glory on account of merit, and that He pre-ordained to give grace to merit glory. In another way, the effect of predestination may be considered in general. Thus, it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace.

    Thus, Thomas argued, that it is possible to posit that God wills to save everyone in a qualified sense. This is what he wills antecedently. But consequently, on account of sin, he does not will to save everyone. Some he permits to perish and some he predestines to glory. The basis of such predestination is not owing to our choices, though not contrary to freewill, as Thomas said,

    Thus, it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace.

    Yet why He chooses some for glory, and reprobates others, has no reason, except the divine will.

    Indeed I agree with you that Thomas does not see a contradiction against free will and predestination. I just don’t why read Thomas as if he is saying that individuals are predestined because they chose God. Rather, they chose God, because they are predestined.

    Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 1). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin.

    Bryan,

    That’s because you are treating being “non-elect” as equivalent to not being loved by God, and positively predestined for hell. But that’s not St. Thomas’s position regarding the non-elect, as I’ve explained above.

    I don’t believe that God positively predestine the “non-elect” to hell. I agree with Thomas A. who argued that God “permits” them to fell into sin. He allows them to choose what they desired to choose. God simply let them be… he does not reatrain them.

    But Thomas himself isd deliberate is saying that the non-elect is not loved by God.

    God loves all men and all creatures, inasmuch as He wishes them all some good; but He does not wish every good to them all. So far, therefore, as He does not wish this particular good–namely, eternal life–He is said to hate or reprobated them.

    Election and love of God belongs to the predestined as Thomas argued,

    For His will, by which in loving He wishes good to someone, is the cause of that good possessed by some in preference to others. Thus it is clear that love precedes election in the order of reason, and election precedes predestination. Whence all the predestinate are objects of election and love.

    This can not be said of the reprobate.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  21. Joey Henry,

    You may find this article on what Thomas ( and not “Thomists” ) had to say helpful.

    https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=3

    This is a group of articles not only on Aquinas but Augustine and others.

    https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=214

  22. Bryan (re: #19),

    For Calvin, God positively predestines some persons to hell in the same way He positively predestines some persons to heaven.

    This is not an accurate statement of Calvin’s theology, since he did not teach that God positively predestines “in the same way” some to hell and some to Heaven. Rather, God elects/regenerates (positive) and passes over the rest (negative) and those who are passed over are condemned for their sins.

    Here’s the WCF, Ch. 3:

    V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

    VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

    Peace,
    John D.

  23. JohnD (re: #22)

    John Calvin died in 1564. The WCF was written in 1646. So quoting x from the WCF doesn’t show that Calvin believed or taught x.

    According to Calvin, reprobation is not consequent upon foreseen demerit, but is the reason why the reprobate fall into sin, remain in sin unto death, and so end up in hell as the just punishment for their sin. For Calvin, the reprobate are predestined to hell in the same way that the elect are predestined unto heaven, as an unconditional positive decree, to which the means to that end are then [in logical, not temporal order] determined. God decrees to damn some, and then [logically, not temporally] chooses the means of getting them to hell, namely, by decreeing their fall into sin, not giving them grace for salvation, and then justly punishing them for their sin. Calvin writes:

    By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which He determined within Himself whatever He wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death. (Institutes, III.21.6)

    In the words, God created two groups of people; one group was created for heaven, and the other group was created for hell. The damned were created for the purpose of glorifying God by their damnation; their sin and remaining in sin unto death are means to achieving the end for which God created them.

    At last, he [St. Paul] concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. (Institutes III.22.11)

    The reason God reprobates some is fundamentally His will, not any other reason, not on account of their foreseen demerit. (Here in this section, Calvin takes a divine command theory notion of the relation of God’s will to justice.)

    Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children. … They [those who object to Calvin’s doctrine] add also, that it is not without cause the vessels of wrath are said to be fitted for destruction, and that God is said to have prepared the vessels of mercy, because in this way the praise of salvation is claimed for God, whereas the blame of perdition is thrown upon those who of their own accord bring it upon themselves. But were I to concede that by the different forms of expression Paul softens the harshness of the former clause, it by no means follows, that he transfers the preparation for destruction to any other cause than the secret counsel of God. This, indeed, is asserted in the preceding context, where God is said to have raised up Pharaoh, and to harden whom he will. Hence it follows, that the hidden counsel of God is the cause of hardening. (Institutes III.23.1)

    Again, for Calvin the reason for reprobation is not foreseen demerit, but God’s pleasure. God is pleased to exclude some of humanity from heaven, not because He foresees that they freely reject grace, but merely because it pleases Him to make some people for the purpose of eternal damnation. He says the same thing at the end of that section:

    [W]e say, that God, according to the good pleasure of his will, without any regard to merit, elects those whom he chooses for sons, while he rejects and reprobates others. (Institutes III.23.10)

    This notion of reprobation is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding reprobation. According to the Catholic teaching, hell is not positively decreed to the damned, and the reprobate are not predestined to fall into sin as a means to justly deserve hell. The Catholic teaching on reprobation can be seen in the Council of Orange (AD 529):

    According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. (Council of Orange)

    In this life the power of God does not leave anyone unable to avoid evil or be saved from evil, and thus the grace of God does not leave anyone unable to be saved. The notion that God foreordains anyone to evil by His power, rather than by allowing them to reject grace is anathematized.

    This doctrine concerning reprobation can also be seen in the Council of Quiersy (AD 853):

    The just and good God, however, chose from this same mass of perdition according to His foreknowledge those whom through grace He predestined to life [ Rom. 8:29 ff.; Eph. 1:11], and He predestined for these eternal life; the others, whom by the judgment of justice he left in the mass of perdition, however, He knew would perish, but He did not predestine that they would perish, because He is just; however, He predestined eternal punishment for them. (Denz. 316)

    In other words, though God foreknew that the reprobate would perish, He did not predestine anyone to perish. He predestined a certain punishment [i.e. eternal punishment] for those whom He created for eternal life, but whom He knew would freely choose to reject grace, and whom He permitted to reject grace.

    This same Catholic understanding of reprobation can be seen in the Third Council of Valence (AD 855):

    Certainly neither (do we believe) that the foreknowledge of God has placed a necessity on any wicked man, so that he cannot be different, but what that one would be from his own will, as God, who knew all things before they are, He foreknew from His omnipotent and immutable Majesty. “Neither do we believe that anyone is condemned by a previous judgment on the part of God but by reason of his own iniquity.” “Nor (do we believe) that the wicked thus perish because they were not able to be good; but because they were unwilling to be good, they have remained by their own vice in the mass of damnation either by reason of original sin or even by actual sin.

    [I]n the election, moreover, of those who are to be saved, the mercy of God precedes the merited good. In the condemnation, however, of those who are to be lost, the evil which they have deserved precedes the just judgment of God. In predestination, however, (we believe) that God has determined only those things which He Himself either in His gratuitous mercy or in His just judgment would do …; in regard to evil men, however, we believe that God foreknew their malice, because it is from them, but that He did not predestine it, because it is not from Him. (We believe) that God, who sees all things, foreknew and predestined that their evil deserved the punishment which followed, because He is just, …. “But we do not only not believe the saying that some have been predestined to evil by divine power,” namely as if they could not be different, “but even if there are those who wish to believe such malice, with all detestation,” as the Synod of Orange, “we say anathema to them”. (Denz. 321-22)

    Valence clarifies that by “predestined to evil by divine power” the meaning is that the reprobate could not but do evil, i.e. they could not choose to do right. And that entails that sufficient grace is offered to all, even the reprobate.

    The Council of Trent likewise condemned double predestination, again with this language of divine power:

    If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, but that all others who are called are called indeed but receive not grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema. (Session VI, Canon 17)

    Here again, the condemned position is one that predestines persons to evil by depriving them of the grace they need in order to obey God.

    For Calvin it is false that God truly desires the salvation of all men without exception. But in the Catholic teaching God does desire the salvation of all men without exception; this is why (contra the Jansenists) the Church teaches that Christ died for all men without exception. For Calvin, sufficient grace is not offered to the reprobate, but in Catholic doctrine sufficient grace is offered to all (otherwise, that would be double-predestination). For Calvin, the human will, being dead, does not participate voluntarily in regeneration (Institutes II.3.6), and cannot resist grace; therefore, since universalism is false, double predestination logically follows. But in Catholic doctrine, the will cooperates in regeneration (Council of Trent, VI, Canon 4), and can resist sufficient grace (which is offered to all), and therefore double predestination does not follow. So these are real, substantive differences between Calvin and the Catholic Church on the doctrine of reprobation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Joey, (re: #20)

    When he responded to the objection that God’s will is not always fulfilled because on the one he wills to save everyone (1 Tim 2:4) and yet not everyone is saved, he answered the objection in three ways. …

    In ST I Q.19 a.6 ad 1 St. Thomas lists out the three interpretations, and then shows that the third one is the way to understand the second one. (The first one is trivially true.) Because the third explains the second, it is inaccurate to claim that for St. Thomas God wills simply that certain people be damned. He wills people to be damned only by His consequent will, i.e. on account of their free rejection of the truly sufficient actual grace He offers them.

    But Thomas himself isd deliberate is saying that the non-elect is not loved by God.

    Except he does not say that. In saying “but He does not wish every good to them all” the “does not wish” refers to the divine plan to allow men freely to reject Him, and to His consequent will which takes into consideration their free rejection of the truly sufficient grace He offers them. Just because for St. Thomas predestination is not based on foreseen merits it does not follow that for St. Thomas the reprobation of any particular individual (as opposed to the divine plan to allow men freely to reject Him) is not based on foreseen rejection of grace.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  25. Bryan (re: #23 & 24),

    So these are real, substantive differences between Calvin and the Catholic Church on the doctrine of reprobation.

    Agreed. I never said otherwise. I pointed out that you incorrectly presented the Reformed doctrine of reprobation by equating regeneration and reprobation with regard to God’s action in each case. However, you are correct to point out that the WCF came well after Calvin and I (falsely) assumed the WCF reflected Calvin’s thought across the board.

    Just because for St. Thomas predestination is not based on foreseen merits it does not follow that for St. Thomas the reprobation of any particular individual (as opposed to the divine plan to allow men freely to reject Him) is not based on foreseen rejection of grace.

    I think this is a helpful statement to bring out the difference between Thomists and Calvinists. Catholics (Thomists) are permitted to believe in unconditional election, but they are not permitted to believe in double predestination. Is that a fair conclusion?

    Peace,
    John D.

  26. JohnD, (re: #25)

    I pointed out that you incorrectly presented the Reformed doctrine of reprobation by equating regeneration and reprobation with regard to God’s action in each case.

    Except I didn’t make any claim about “the Reformed doctrine of reprobation.”

    Catholics (Thomists) are permitted to believe in unconditional election, but they are not permitted to believe in double predestination. Is that a fair conclusion?

    If by “fair” you mean “true,” then yes.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  27. Catholics are also permitted to believe in election without consideration of either merits or demerits.

  28. Kenneth, (re: #27)

    Catholics are also permitted to believe in election without consideration of either merits or demerits.

    Catholics may not believe that the relation between election and merit/demerit is ambiguous or an open question. First, it is de fide that man cannot merit any initial grace, or even the grace of perseverance, by which he would become elect. See Canons 4-10, 12, 14, 18, 19, 23, 25 of the Second Council of Orange. So Catholics are not permitted to believe that election is on the basis of merits. That’s a form of the heresy of semi-Pelagianism. Second, it is de fide that reprobation is on account of foreseen freely chosen sins. See the concluding paragraphs of the Second Council of Orange, as well as the Council of Quiercy, the Council of Valence, and the Council of Trent (quoted in comment #23 above). So Catholics are not permitted to believe that reprobation is not on account of foreseen freely chosen sins; that would be the error of positive reprobation and unconditional election to sin and hell.

    In short, therefore, Catholics are not permitted to believe either that election to glory is (or is possibly) on the basis of merits, or that reprobation is not on the basis of, or is unrelated to, demerits.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  29. I’ve previously mentioned D.B. Hart’s universalism very briefly in comment #15 of the thread on free will. One of Hart’s students, Jason Micheli, a United Methodist pastor in Alexandria, Virginia, recently defended universalism in a post titled “The Absurdity of an Eternal Hell,” writing:

    If God desires the salvation of all it is a logical absurdity to assert that the transcendent God will ultimately fail in accomplishing his eschatological will. …

    Just as God cannot act contrary to his good nature, so too God cannot fail to realize the good he desires. To say, as scripture does, that God desires the salvation of all is to say simultaneously and necessarily, as scripture implies, that all will be saved, that all things will indeed be made new.

    Micheli’s argument presupposes that there is no distinction between God’s antecedent will and God’s consequent will. I’ve discussed that distinction both in footnote #5 above, and in the preceding comments in this thread.

    Update: For another response to Hart’s universalism, see Ed Feser’s “A Hartless God?.” (2017)