Predestination (In Catholic Theology)
PREDESTINATION (IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY)
Predestination is the plan eternally conceived by God whereby He conducts rational creatures to their supernatural end, that is, to eternal life. Of necessity this plan is very complex. It must be concerned, first of all, with the supernatural order: its end, which is eternal life; its means, the complexus that we term supernatural grace (sanctifying and actual, efficacious and sufficient grace, the infused virtues, and the gifts of the holy spirit). Predestination also closely involves the divine foreknowledge of future free acts, the exercise of the freewill of man, and divine predilection.
This article will consist basically of three parts: (1) an exposition of the nature of predestination and the concepts with which it is necessarily concerned; (2) a presentation of Catholic teaching concerning this great mystery (here emphasis will be on the historical development); and (3) a survey of the chief theological systems formulated by the great theologians of the Church in their attempts to delineate and clarify this revealed truth.
Predestination and related concepts. In its most general sense, predestination is a decree of God, an inner decision of the divine wisdom and will, whereby God resolves and determines what He Himself will bring to pass. According to St. Paul, it is the counsel of the divine will whereby God works all things (Eph 1.11), or, according to St. augustine, it is that whereby He disposes within Himself what He intends to accomplish (Persev. 17.41; Patrologia Latina 45:1018). In this general sense, divine predestination has a bearing on all the works of God. Everything that He does and effects is predestined by Him through an eternal decree before it is carried out in time.
More precisely, however, predestination signifies the ordination of God by which certain men are led efficaciously to the attainment of salvation. On the part of God, this divine ordination involves two actions. There is, first, an act of the divine intellect, by which God infallibly foreknows which men are to be saved and the precise means whereby they will attain this salvation. Second, it includes an act of the will of god by means of which He decrees to save these men in the very fashion that He Himself has planned.
For this reason, St. Augustine has defined predestination as "the foreknowledge and preparation of those gifts of God whereby they who are liberated are most certainly liberated" (Persev. 14.35; Patrologia Latina 45:1014). According to Augustine, the object of predestination is salvation, the freeing from servitude of sin, and all the benefits through which salvation is attained, i.e., efficacious graces, including the gift of final perseverance. The infallible connection between these benefits, that is, the means and the freeing from servitude, has its ultimate foundation in God Himself. The subject of predestination is all men who are in fact saved. Predestination, therefore, formally exists in God. It is an act of God in His divine eternity. In the definition above, the "fore" in foreknowledge and the "pre" in preparation express the independence of the activity of God in this process rather than the eternity of god.
Although the definition of Augustine is classic, that of St. thomas aquinas is, perhaps, more exact. According to the Angelic Doctor, "predestination is a plan existing in the divine mind for the ordering of some persons to eternal salvation" (Summa theologiae 1a, 23.2). The object of predestination for St. Thomas, then, is the supernatural end to be attained by a rational creature and the infallible ordination of means to that end.
It is evident that the subject of predestination can only be an intellectual creature. It is also clear that predestination exists formally in God alone, that is, in the divine mind.
Viewed, therefore, in its totality predestination includes on the part of God the following: (1) the prevision of the end; (2) a determined grade or degree of glory; and (3) the ordination of the means. These three factors are concerned with acts of the divine intellect. In addition, there are the following, which are concerned with the divine will: (1) the first calling of the elect to justification; (2) the decree to confer efficacious graces; and (3) the decree to confer the gift of final perseverance.
Although the act of the divine will is most simple, it nevertheless does not attain its created objectives in the same way. Hence, predestination has been considered by the theologians in concepts of varying comprehensiveness:
(1) Predestination viewed in its totality. This is predestination insofar as it is concerned with the complete series of graces by which man is saved. Predestination in this sense considers the entire process from beginning to end, from the first calling of a soul to the way of salvation to the conferral of final glory.
(2) Predestination partially viewed. This is predestination considered in only one aspect of the entire series of effects. It is derived from the division of the entire process of predestination into its logical, component parts. Thus, one may consider predestination to faith alone, predestination to justification alone, or even predestination to glory alone.
According to the teaching of the Church and of Sacred Scripture itself, predestination viewed in its totality is, in the fullest sense of the word, gratuitous; it is not merited, on the part of man; it is independent of all that is purely human or outside of God. The proper gratuitousness of predestination consists in this, that there is absolutely no reason or foundation on the part of any man why it should pertain to him to have the total series of effects that constitute predestination viewed in its totality, that is, from its initial step of first calling to the ultimate conferral of glory.
Despite the fact that the will of God cannot be moved by any created will, the question has, nevertheless, arisen whether the existence of this entire series of created effects, that constitutes total predestination, may not have some basis or foundation in the individual man who is saved?
The only answer that can be given to this question is that the ultimate and definitive reason for the salvation of any man is not to be found in man himself but rather in the mercy of God. However, this basic fact, fundamental though it may be, need not exclude, as the proximate reason for salvation, the meritorious acts of man himself.
Also, basic to any discussion of the theology of predestination is the distinction between the gratuitousness of the supernatural order, the destining of all mankind to a supernatural end, and the gratuitousness of predestination. One is not the other. The universal fact of the gratuitousness of man's supernatural destiny consists in the truth that God, by His mere liberality, gives to every member of the human race the possibility of salvation. It is, therefore, a gratuitousness in the order of merely sufficient graces. The gratuitousness of predestination adds this to the above, namely, that the ultimate reason for the actuation of this possibility of salvation is to be found in God Himself. It is a gratuitousness in the order of efficacious graces. This is what is called the principle of divine predilection. It is a special predilection of God toward those who are eventually saved. God is so disposed to these men not because of any good in them that attracts His love; He acts in this way simply because He so wills. In itself divine predilection is at the very core of the mystery of predestination.
Catholic teaching. The presentation of the nature of predestination according to Catholic teaching will become more clear and meaningful as it is viewed in its historical setting.
The mystery of predestination stands in the middle of two extremes, each of which either completely abandons one or the other of its two organically connected elements, or, at any rate, puts such excessive emphasis on one that the other is neglected. Either the independence and self-activity of man is overly stressed to the exclusion of God's initiation and guidance of man's preliminary steps and continued progress (Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism), or the divine initiative and guidance is represented as inexorably driving and hurrying man along in such a way that his own free movement and advance are obscured or completely denied (predestinationism).
Prior to the time of St. Augustine the Fathers of the Church were not preoccupied with the problem of predestination. It was the bishop of Hippo who first treated the mystery exhaustively, with the theological decisiveness so characteristic of him.
From 418 until 531, there took place in the Western Church many grave controversies concerned with explaining the ultimate foundation for the salvation of those who are saved (the elect) as well as ascertaining the reason for the condemnation of those who are in fact not saved (the reprobate). This theological ferment centered around the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian controversies.
Pelagianism. This heresy (see pelagius and pelagianism) denied the necessity of supernatural grace and consequently did not admit of predestination in the true sense of the word. It maintained that man, by the mere use of his free will and by his other natural powers, is able to believe and act in a salutary manner without the assistance of supernatural grace and thus obtain eternal beatitude. According to this doctrine, some species of predestination could be admitted. It would be nothing more, however, than the foreknowledge of God through which He foresees which men will attain salvation through their own efforts. Consequently God, through His divine prevision, chooses as the blessed those whom He has foreseen would be saved solely through their own powers.
Semi-Pelagianism. On the other hand, Semi-Pelagianism attempted to mitigate the extreme position of Pelagianism. It affirmed that without the assistance of divine grace fallen man is unable, by his natural powers, either to be justified or to posit acts that would be meritorious of eternal life. But above all else, the universal salvific will of God must be maintained. It was felt that this salvific will would really be denied, unless it was unequivocally affirmed that the ultimate foundation for the salvation of the saved and the condemnation of the reprobate is to be found in the good use or abuse of human freedom. If God truly and sincerely desires all men to be saved, He must, on His part, will the salvation of all with a complete equality and indifference. He must show no favoritism or special preference regarding the salvation of one man over that of another. If this were not the case, then the salvation of one man and the damnation of another would be directly due to God's action alone. This would destroy any semblance of a universal salvific will and would be unjust.
Semi-Pelagianism claimed, therefore, that Augustine's basic principle, of the gratuitous predilection and preelection of God being the ultimate reason for the salvation of the elect, is irreconcilable with the dogma of the universal salvific will. The ultimate foundation for salvation must be found in man, not in God. Man, though he is fallen, is able through his own natural powers to desire and ask for salvation. He is able to believe and thus posit the first step in the process of salvation, which is faith. God then comes and confers the rest, i.e., justification, meritorious acts, and glory. Despite the disparity between man's meager natural efforts and the conferral of the supernatural gifts by God, it is, nevertheless, this unaided free use of his will directed toward God that is the ultimate reason why one man rather than another attains justification and salvation. In addition, Semi-Pelagianism rejected the doctrine that final perseverance is a gratuitous gift of God, the conferral of which depends solely on the divine largesse. This position would be untenable in view of God's necessary impartiality toward all men. God is not a respecter of persons.
Doctrine of St. Augustine. Against all of this St. Augustine and his followers denied emphatically that any man is predestined for salvation because God foresaw that he would attain this state through his own efforts. The contrary is true. Men lead holy lives and perform meritorious acts because they have been preelected by God. They were so chosen precisely that they might be justified by the grace of God, posit meritorious acts, persevere, and consequently be saved. That is, God did not choose these men from eternal salvation because they were already holy, but rather, for reasons known only to Himself, He chose them while yet unworthy in order that He Himself might make them holy and thus worthy of eternal glory (Praed. sanct. 17.34; Patrologia Latina 44:985).
According to Augustine, the decrees of the divine will are infallible regarding predestination not because God foreknows that man will give his consent; they are infallible because He is omnipotent and accomplishes what He wills (Corrept. 14.43; Patrologia Latina 44:942).
After the death of St. Augustine (430), a variety of pamphlets and treatises were written; some distorted the teaching of Augustine; others were frankly critical of it as being too extreme. Among the critics (Semi-Pelagians) were John cassian, St. vincent of lerins, faustus of riez, and gennadius of marseilles. Those who defended Augustine were prosper of aquitaine, fulgentius of ruspe, and St. caesarius of arles.
True to the teaching of the master, Prosper wrote: "We must most sincerely believe and profess that God wills all men to be saved. For this indeed, is the mind of the Apostle (1 Tm 2.4), who most urgently commands what is a most devout custom in all Churches, that suppliant prayers be offered to God for all men. That many of these perish is the fault of those who perish; that many are saved is the gift of Him who saves" (Liber Responsionum 2, Patrologia Latina 51:179; cf. Fulgentius, Epist. 17, Patrologia Latina 65:451–493; St. Caesarius, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 2.2:2178).
The Semi-Pelagian controversy can be considered to have been terminated through the intervention of Pope boniface ii (530–532), when he approved as Catholic doctrine the teaching of the Second Council of orange (529) concerning "the beginning of faith" (initium fidei ): "by the sin of the first man, the free will of man was so inclined and attenuated that subsequently no one was able either to love God as he should, or to believe in God, or to accomplish what is good because of God, unless the grace of divine mercy first comes to him … in every good work, it is not we who first initiate it and only afterwards are assisted by the mercy of God, but it is He Himself, who, without any prior merit or good on our part, inspires us to faith and to love of Himself" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 396–397; see faith, beginning of).
Papal approval (Denzinger 398–399) equivalent to a dogmatic definition was given to the doctrine of Orange II; the Church afterward thus accepted the doctrine approved by Boniface II and already contained in the Indiculus Caelestini (Denzinger 238–249).
Although neither Orange II nor Boniface II expressly taught the gratuitousness of predestination itself, nevertheless, they did teach, as being of faith, the gratuitousness of an efficacious calling to faith; they taught that the ultimate source of man's faith, justification, and subsequent salvation is the gratuitous gift of God. It may be stated, therefore, that the gratuitousness of predestination viewed in its totality is contained at least virtually and perhaps formally implicitly in the above pronouncements of the magisterium.
Other Errors. Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism, which deprived God of His rightful role in the total process of predestination, were followed by a variety of doctrines that went to the opposite extreme. These predestinationist teachings attacked the universality of God's salvific will. On the occasion of these errors, the doctrine of the Church was reaffirmed with still greater precision and clarity as the need required.
Substantially, predestinationism teaches that God does not sincerely will the salvation of all men. On the contrary, God wills absolutely the salvation of only some men; the rest He absolutely and unconditionally wills to condemn. In fact, the latter were created for the express purpose of being condemned to eternal punishment. Toward them God has never had a salvific intent. This pernicious doctrine was first taught by a priest of Gaul, Lucidus by name. It was condemned at the Council of Arles in 475 and again at Orange II (Denzinger 330–342, 397).
In the 9th century, the monk gottschalk of orbais renewed the same error. This was condemned in the Council of Quercy in 853 (Denzinger 621–624) and again by a synod of Valence in 855 (Denzinger 625–633). The latter was extremely important, because it explicitly posited a distinction between the foreknowledge of God and predestination itself.
The 16th century witnessed another form of the same heresy, as it was taught by calvin (1509–64). His position may be summarized as follows: (1) From all eternity, God chooses a certain portion of mankind to be saved; the others He positively and antecedently wills to condemn. (2) God not only wills the damnation of the latter, but also directly wills moral evil or sin itself in the same way that He wills moral goodness. (3) Predestination, therefore, is nothing more than the eternal decree of God by which He has decided upon the fate of each man. Some are preelected to eternal life, and others positively are preordained to eternal damnation.
In the 17th century, the followers of Calvin split into two groups. One group, the supralapsarians, maintained that God from all eternity, antecedently to the prevision of original sin, did not desire the salvation of all mankind, but rather predestined a portion of them to glory, while the rest He condemned absolutely to eternal punishment. A second group, the infralapsarians, varied the above doctrine to the extent that this uneven decree of God came only after His prevision of the fall of man, not before.
Lastly, Cornelius Jansen of Louvain (d. 1638) agreed with the infralapsarians to the extent that he taught it is Semi-Pelagian to hold that Christ died for all mankind.
Teaching of the Church. Throughout the years, on the occasion of these pernicious doctrines, the Church condemned these aberrations from revealed truth. In addition, the Church reaffirmed with greater precision and clarity the revealed doctrine of the sincere universal salvific will of God.
The following are some of the declarations that are pertinent:
- God predestines no one to evil (Denz 1567).
- He wills, on the contrary, the salvation of all men (Denz 623).
- Christ did not die solely for the predestined or the faithful (Denz 2005, 2304, 2430).
- There is a grace that is truly sufficient and that is a true gift of God (Denz 2306).
- The grace of conversion is offered to sinners (Denz 1542).
- They only are deprived of it who, failing in their duty, refuse it; this is something which God permits but of which He is by no means the cause (Denz 1556, 1567,2866).
To sum up, one must say that the Church affirms particularly three truths against Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism: (1) The cause of predestination to grace or justification is not the divine foreknowledge of naturally good works that are performed by men, neither is the cause preliminary to any act of the natural order that prepares man for salvation. This efficacious calling is due solely to God. It is initiated by Him because of His divine largesse. (2) Predestination to glory is not a result of foreseen supernatural merits that would continue to be effective apart from the special gift of final perseverance. (3) Predestination, viewed in its totality, that is, the entire series of graces from beginning to end, is gratuitous, and hence previous to the foreseen merits of man. In a word, that some are saved is the gift of Him who saves (Denz 623).
Against the various forms of predestinationism the Church teaches that: (1) God sincerely wills the salvation of all men and thus makes the fulfillment of His precepts possible for all. (2) There is neither predestination to evil as a final end nor predestination to any evil deed in particular. (3) Christ died for all men without exception. (4) Nevertheless, God has decreed from all eternity to inflict eternal punishment for the sin of final impenitence, which He has foreseen for all eternity. He is by no means the cause of the impenitence, but merely permits it.
In the words of St. Prosper, "That many … perish is the fault of those who perish; that many are saved is the gift of Him who saves."
Theological systems. The fundamental point at issue in this difficult problem is the necessity of reconciling predestination, viewed as a species of predilection for a select group, with God's will to save all mankind. Sacred Scripture emphatically declares that God wills all men to be saved (1 Tm 2.4), and yet God's sacred word asserts with equal force that in fact all are not predestined, but that those "whom He has predestined, them He has also called; and … also justified; … and glorified (Rom 8.30). Hence the difficulty.
Is it human effort that makes God's help efficacious, or is it rather the intrinsic efficacy of God's help that prompts human effort? And if grace is of itself efficacious, how is it that God mercifully grants it to the elect and justly refuses it to the rest of men? Moreover, predestination is not concerned merely with two groups of souls, the saved and the unsaved, but it is especially concerned with individuals. The question is: why has God placed in the number of the elect this particular person and not that other? Why has He chosen James rather than John and not vice versa? This unequal distribution of such exceedingly important gifts to individuals who are equal both by nature and by reason of original sin is seemingly unjust on the part of an all-loving God.
Such is the inherent difficulty of the problem or rather the obscurity of the mystery with which the theologians of the Church have grappled. They have attempted to formulate answers that would be within the framework of revealed doctrine and the magisterial pronouncements of the Church.
Different points of departure, a variety of diverse opinions concerning many basic theological problems (divine concurrence, divine foreknowledge of future free acts, human freedom and supernatural grace), led to serious theological controversy and to a plethora of theological systems.
Among the outstanding efforts on the part of the greatest minds in the Church are the following.
St. Thomas Aquinas. The Angelic Doctor defined predestination as "a plan existing in the divine mind for the ordering of some persons to eternal salvation" (Summa theologiae 1a, 23.2). It is, therefore, the plan conceived in the divine mind whereby a selected group of rational creatures is so governed by God that they will infallibly obtain eternal beatitude. Consequently, predestination is formally in the divine intellect, although it presupposes the act of the will (De ver. 6.1). Predestination is a single process which encompasses at one and the same time all the graces by which each person is led to his final end, as well as the conferral itself of glory (ibid. 6.1). The conferral of grace is the effect of predestination, insofar as it is the means that leads a creature to the attainment of his end. The granting of glory is also the effect of predestination, insofar as it is the end for the attainment of which efficacious grace was given to these select souls.
Logically, predestination may be distinguished into three operations: dilection, election, and formal predestination. Dilection is the absolute decree of the divine will whereby God wills eternal life, that is, a determined measure of eternal happiness for a select group of men. Election is the same act of the will, insofar as through it God chooses a certain group of men to be saved rather than others whom He could have chosen. Formal predestination is the plan existing in the divine intellect according to which God accomplishes the salvation of those whom He has chosen. These three divine operations are so united that logically dilection is prior to election, and election is prior to formal predestination (Summa theologiae 1a, 23.4; In 1 Sent. 41.1). According to Aquinas, the foreknowledge of merits is neither the cause nor the reason for predestination; meritorious acts are rather the effects of predestination (Summa theologiae 1a, 23.5).
Luis de Molina, SJ. The founder of molinism, and along with him Francisco de toledo, Gabriel vÁzquez, and St. francis de sales, agreed substantially with St. Thomas concerning the nature of predestination. He agreed that it is the divine plan that is formally in the divine intellect, although conjoined with the will. Predestination is one. It concerns all the means from first calling to the attainment of beatitude itself (Concordia 23.1.1, 2) and is entirely gratuitous. Therefore, predestination is not granted because of the divine foreknowledge of the free will of the creature, as if God predestined some because He foresaw the good use of their free will and reprobated the rest because of His foreknowledge of the abuse of their free will.
molina taught that there exists in God a knowledge of all possible beings, as well as a knowledge of all possible orders of things. As a result, God knows all possible free acts of all possible men in all possible world orders. Presupposing this knowledge on the part of God, He, for His own reasons, freely chooses one order of things and wills its fulfillment. Thus, He chooses, those men to be saved whom in this world order He has foreseen would make good use of the graces that would be granted to them in these particular circumstances, men whom He has foreseen would persevere and ultimately merit eternal felicity. There is absolutely no causal influence, on the part of rational creatures, that influences God to choose this particular world order over other possible world orders. As a matter of fact, the very men whom God has foreseen will attain the blessings of eternal life in this present world order He also has foreseen in another equally possible world order as the group constituting those who would die unrepentant and thus be condemned. For this reason, it must be firmly held that election and predestination itself is entirely gratuitous.
The absolute decree of God to choose this world order is directly concerned with His foreknowledge of graces, which for some will be efficacious and for others merely sufficient. In knowingly choosing this world order in which a select group of men will receive graces which will prove to be efficacious, God is exercising toward these men a special predilection that He does not exercise toward others. The choice of this world order, in a sense, can be said to be the basic reason why the men thus benefited are saved.
The explanation of Molina is founded on his opinion concerning the manner by which God knows future free acts. He maintains that this knowledge is in God independently of any decree of the will of God that would physically predetermine the will of man to one course of action, predetermination, he holds, would destroy human freedom. He concludes, therefore, that each individual freely determines himself to cooperate with grace or not. Molina, therefore, believes that the conferral of glory can be decreed absolutely by God only after He has foreseen absolutely the cooperation with grace and hence the meritorious acts of man. The reason for this is that the decree of election and predilection is concerned only with the graces to be conferred. Accordingly, in Molina's system there exists neither antecedent positive reprobation nor antecedent negative reprobation. Consequently, after the prevision, as absolute futures, of the merits of the first group and the demerits of the second group, God absolutely wills to give glory to the first and eternal punishment to the second.
Domingo Báñez. In opposition to Molina the Spanish Dominican theologian held that predestination to glory, viewed in itself, is decreed before the provision of any merits whatsoever (ante praevisa merita ). The very first action of God concerning the chosen group of men (the elect) is their election to glory, and, conversely, His very first action concerning the rest of men is their exclusion from glory or from an efficacious election to glory. This predestination of certain souls to glory before the prevision of their merits is, of course, not a result of any merit on the part of man, but is entirely gratuitous. God wills this by reason of His absolute dominion over all creatures and through His inscrutable counsel. This is the first decree of God in the order of intention.
God in His divine wisdom has decreed to confer glory to the elect as the reward of merit. Therefore, after the decree of predestination to glory, God absolutely decrees the meritorious acts that are to be posited freely by each of the elect. Following this second decree, God absolutely decrees to give for each meritorious act graces that are intrinsically efficacious, graces that will infallibly predetermine man's will to a meritorious act. To those who were not elected, the negatively reprobated, God, subsequently to the decree excluding them from glory or from an efficacious election to glory, decrees not to give them efficacious graces, but graces that are merely sufficient. He premoves them to the matter of sin and permits malice. Having posited these decrees, God knows infallibly that they will freely sin and perish unrepentant.
For the elect the execution of this divine plan is accomplished in the inverse order of its intention: (1) the granting of graces that are intrinsically efficacious; (2) the positing of meritorious acts, and death in the state of grace; (3) the conferral of glory because of merit. Conversely, for the reprobate, the nonelected, the execution of the divine plan is in a similar fashion. There is (1) the granting of merely sufficient graces; (2) permission to sin and the subsequent death of the unrepentant sinner; and (3) the positive reprobation of the sinner, subsequent to the prevision of his death in an unrepentant state. (see bÁÑez and baÑezianism.)
Congruists. The Jesuits St. Robert bellarmine and Francisco suÁrez presented a doctrine called congruism. In agreement with Báñez, congruism stated that there existed in God a predestination to glory for chosen souls, a predestination that is prior to the provision of any absolute merits on the part of the elect. By His middle knowledge (scientia media), God foresees as futuribles the merits and demerits of all men. God's prevision of this, however, is not a factor that moves Him to choose this world order over any other. It is necessary, however, to posit this knowledge on the part of God in order to explain how He acts wisely and intelligently in His election of one group of men rather than another.
The first decree of God in the absolute order is the will to predestine a select group of men to glory before the provision of any absolute merits on their part. The reason for this decree of God is not a result of the provision of any goodness on the part of these chosen souls, but rather is a result entirely of the predestination and mercy of God. The choice is completely gratuitous. Following the will to select these chosen ones, God decrees to confer on them graces that through middle knowledge He foresees will be efficacious, that is, graces that are infallibly connected with salutary acts. This decree of the divine will concerning efficacious graces and merits is necessary, and God has decreed to give glory to those whom He has chosen.
Conversely, God absolutely decrees to exclude the nonelect from an efficacious election to glory. It is important to note that He wills this exclusion antecedently to and in fact independently of the provision of any demerits on the part of the reprobate. He is able to do this because of His absolute dominion over all creatures and because of His inscrutable counsel. This is termed negative antecedent reprobation. As a consequence of this decree to exclude them from an efficacious election, He wills to exclude them from the order of efficacious graces. He confers upon them graces that are not congruous, graces that through middle knowledge He has foreseen will be merely sufficient. As for Báñez, so for Bellarmine, the order of execution of the divine plan is inverse to the order of intention.
Conclusion. Such were the answers given by the great theologians of the Church to the almost insurmountable problems involved in the doctrine of predestination. In matters of this type, theology may avert the evident contradiction, but it is not within its province to demonstrate philosophically the intrinsic possibility of mysteries. see mystery (in theology). Just as the reality of the mysteries of the Trinity, Incarnation, and predestination remain obscure in this life, so does their intrinsic possibility (Denz 3015–20).
In this very difficult question of predestination, one must always bear in mind that he knows God merely by analogy, through concepts that are completely unequal to the task of representing Him exactly as He is in Himself. For God unites in His essence various aspects that appear inharmonious to man for the simple reason that man's cognition is potential and imperfect.
Following the example of Christ, it is possible practically to consider the question under the light that shines forth in His preaching. The inspired description of the salvific will of God in the Gospels presents Christ weeping over Jerusalem and contains those heartrending words, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou who killest the prophets and stonest those who are sent to thee! How often would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but thou wouldst not!" (Mt 23.37). The sincere unambiguous salvific will of God appears, indeed, forcefully in the Gospels; recall the widow seeking the lost drachma, the father and his prodigal son, and the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 sheep in the desert in order to find the one that is lost (Lk 15.1–32). Only Christ, who is one with the Father, can narrate what attitude of mind the Father has toward men, and from the above examples it is evident that it is one of infinite love and mercy.
See Also: free will and grace; free will and providence; grace, efficacious; grace, sufficient; omniscience; predestination (in noncatholic theology).
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[a. g. palladino]