Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Teaching Of The Church On Grace And Predestination

The quote below comes form Garrigou-Lagrange’s book Predestination. I know the quote is a bit long, but it is immensely worth the read! I truly feel that if Protestants read this book and properly understanding the vital importance and correct meaning of Grace and its effect on nature as well as a proper understanding of Predestination, they would convert to the Catholic Church in a heartbeat!

Protestants need to be exposed to the gems that are the books of Garrigou-Lagrange, Scheeben, and Ratzinger (Pope Benedict). If they do, they will see that the Catholic view of these matters makes a lot more sense and are a lot more in line with Scripture and revelation. (Then after they convert, if they could turn their fellow Catholics on to these authors, that would be great!)

Without further ado:

"As for the controversies of the ninth century in connection with predestination, we must by all means quote the decisions of the councils of Quierzy (853), Valence (855), Langres, Toul, and finally Thuzey. From these divers texts it follows: (1) that God wills in a certain way to save all men; (2) that there is no such thing as predestination to evil, but that God decreed from all eternity to inflict the penalty of damnation for the sin of final impenitence, a sin which He foresaw and in no way caused but merely permitted.

From the canons of the above-mentioned councils we see the meaning and scope of these two propositions. Predestination to evil is clearly excluded in the first canon of Quierzy. As for predestination to eternal life, it is viewed as a grace, a special mercy as regards the elect whom God by His grace has predestined to life, and to eternal life. The second canon reads: ‘Our will, aided by prevenient grace and concomitant is free to do what is good; and our will, forsaken by grace, is free to do what is evil.’ These latter words indicate that sin does not happen without God’s permission, who justly allows it to happen in one, while mercifully preserving another from it. This truth is brought out more clearly in the following canon, and what is of essential significance is that portion which states: ‘Almighty God wills without exception, all men to be saved, though not all are saved. That some are saved, however, is the gift of Him who saves; if some perish, it is the fault of them that perish.’ This canon is taken from the writings of St. Prosper. From this third canon of Quierzy we see that, if the will to save is universal, it is not equally so for all, as the Pelagians wanted it to be. It is efficacious only as regards the elect, and that in virtue of a special gift; but there is no predestination to evil. The two aspects of the mystery are affirmed in plain language, but we fail to perceive the mode of their intimate reconciliation. The fourth canon of Quierzy affirms that Christ died for all men.

The third Council of Valence (855) insisted more strongly on the gratuity of predestination to eternal life in so far as it is distinct from simple foreknowledge, for this latter also extends to evil. According to the declarations of this council, the least good and the least punishment that is justly inflicted, never occur without a positive and infallible decree from God, and no sin is committed, and nowhere by preference, without His foreknowledge and permission.

We know that after the Council of Langrea (859), the discussions concerning predestination between Hincmar, the great opponent of Gottschalk, and the Church of Lyons, were terminated at Thuzey in the year 860. The synodal letter, approved in this council, contains the following affirmations. (1) Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done in heaven and on earth. For nothing is pleased to do, or justly permits to be done. This means that all good things, whether easy or difficult to accomplish, whether natural or supernatural, come from God, and that sin does not occur, nor in this one rather than in the other, without His divine permission. Countless consequences evidently are included in this absolutely general principle of predilection. The other assertions of this synodal letter are derived from this general principle. They are as follows: (2) God wills all men to be saved and no one to perish.... nor after the fall of the first man is it His will forcibly to deprive men of free will. (3) That those, however, who are walking in the path of righteousness, may continue to do so and persevere in their innocence, He heals and aids their free will by grace. (4) They who go far from God, who is desirous of gathering the children of Jerusalem that wills it not, will perish. (5) Hence it is because of God’s grace that the world is saved; and it is because man has free will that the world is judged. (6) Adam, through willing what is evil, lost the power to do what is good.....Wherefore the whole human race became a mass of perdition. If no one had been rescued from it, God’s justice would not have been to blame. That many are saved, however, is due to God’s ineffable grace. This last statement repeats what SS. Augustine and Prosper said. Thus at the end of these conferences of the ninth century, the bishops, assembled in council at Thuzey, rejected absolutely the theory of predestination to evil and affirmed God’s universal will to save, as Prosper had done. God never commands the impossible, but He wills to make it possible for all to fulfil His precepts and obtain salvation. That is what all the bishops assembled in this last mentioned council affirmed with SS. Augustine and Prosper. But they do not deny, on that account, the other aspect of the mystery, to wit: the absolute gratuity of predestination, of true predestination as opposed to reprobation.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This teaching of the Church was confirmed both by the decisions of the Council of Trent against the errors of Protestantism and by the condemnation of Jansenism. The Church again declares that man, though having contracted the stain of original sin, is free to do good by the aid of grace, consenting to co-operate with it, though at the same time he can resist it. From this it follows that God predestines no one to evil; but He wills, on the contrary, the salvation of all men; and Christ dies for all, although all do not receive the benefit that is the fruit of His death, ‘but only those to whom the merit of His passion is communicated.’ In the case of adults good works are necessary for salvation., and, in the order of execution, heavenly glory is the reward granted at the end of their probation for meritorious acts.

It is likewise declared against Jamsenism that Christ did not die only for the predestined, or only for the faithful; that there is a grace which is truly sufficient, and which makes the fulfillment of God’s precepts possible for all those on whom these precepts are imposed. The Church, quoting the words of St. Augustine, says again in refuting the Protestants and Jansenist: ‘God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou art able, and to pray for what thou art not able to do.’ She also says that ‘God does not abandon the just without previously having been abandoned by them.’ It is only mortal sin that deprives them of sanctifying grace, and they are deprived of certain actual graces necessary for salvation only because they resisted sufficient graces. God does not permit us to be tempted beyond our powers of resistance; the grace of conversion is offered to sinners, and only those are deprived of it who, failing in their duty, refuse it, this being something which God permits, but of which He is by no means the cause. The Church, however, though affirming that God by a sufficient grace makes the fulfilment of His precepts possible for all, none the less affirms the efficacy of grace that actually is productive of good works. The Council of Trent declares that ‘God, unless men be themselves wanting His grace, as He has begun the good work, so will He perfect it, working in them to will and to accomplish.’

What are we to conclude then from the teaching of the Church against the conflicting heresies of Semipelagianism and predestinarianism, heresies that were renewed by Calvinism and Jansenism?

To sum up: Against Semipelagianism, we must say that the Church affirms particularly three things: (a) The cause of predestination to grace is not the foreknowledge of naturally good works performed, nor is it due to any preliminary acts of the natural order that are supposed to prepare for salvation. (b) Predestination to glory is not due to foreseen supernatural merits that would continue to be effective apart from the special gift of final perseverance. C) Complete predestination, which compromises the whole series of grace, is gratuitous or previous to foreseen merits. And St. Thomas understands this to mean that ‘whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination.’ In a word: ‘that some are saved is the gift of Him who saves.’

Against predestinarianism and the doctrines of Protestantism and Jansenism that revive it, the Church teaches: (a) God wills in a certain way to save all men and He makes the fulfilment of His precepts possible for all; (b) There is no predestination to evil, but God has decreed from all eternity to inflict eternal punishment for the sin of final impenitence which He foresaw, He being by no means the cause of it but merely permitting it.

We see that the teaching of the Church against these conflicting heresies may be summed up in these profound words of St. Prosper, which the Council of Quierzy makes its own. Against Pelagianism and Semipelagianism the council says: ‘That some are saved, is the gift of Him who saves.’ Against predestinarianism it says: ‘That some perish, is the fault of those who perish.’ Holy Scripture expressed the same thought in these words: ‘Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in Me.’"

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