Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aquinas on Predestination

[Compiled nearly a decade ago by my then student (now colleague and friend), Matt Gaetano.]

St. Thomas Aquinas from The Summa 

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. For neither does this happen otherwise than by divine help, according to the prophet Jeremias (Lam. 5:21): "convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted." Yet predestination has in this way, in regard to its effect, the goodness of God for its reason; towards which the whole effect of predestination is directed as to an end; and from which it proceeds, as from its first moving principle.

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 (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 (22, 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.

It is not exactly the same thing in the case of the number of the reprobate, who would seem to be pre-ordained by God for the good of the elect, in whose regard "all things work together unto good" (Rm. 8:28). Concerning the number of all the predestined, some say that so many men will be saved as angels fell; some, so many as there were angels left; others, as many as the number of angels created by God. It is, however, better to say that, "to God alone is known the number for whom is reserved eternal happiness [From the 'secret' prayer of the missal, 'pro vivis et defunctis.']"

I answer that, Concerning this question, there were different errors. Some, regarding the certainty of divine predestination, said that prayers were superfluous, as also anything else done to attain salvation; because whether these things were done or not, the predestined would attain, and the reprobate would not attain, eternal salvation. But against this opinion are all the warnings of Holy Scripture, exhorting us to prayer and other good works.

Others declared that the divine predestination was altered through prayer. This is stated to have the opinion of the Egyptians, who thought that the divine ordination, which they called fate, could be frustrated by certain sacrifices and prayers. Against this also is the authority of Scripture. For it is said: "But the triumpher in Israel will not spare and will not be moved to repentance" (1 Kgs. 15:29); and that "the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance" (Rm. 11:29).

Wherefore we must say otherwise that in predestination two things are to be considered--namely, the divine ordination; and its effect. As regards the former, in no possible way can predestination be furthered by the prayers of the saints. For it is not due to their prayers that anyone is predestined by God. As regards the latter, predestination is said to be helped by the prayers of the saints, and by other good works; because providence, of which predestination is a part, does not do away with secondary causes but so provides effects, that the order of secondary causes falls also under providence. So, as natural effects are provided by God in such a way that natural causes are directed to bring about those natural effects, without which those effects would not happen; so the salvation of a person is predestined by God in such a way, that whatever helps that person towards salvation falls under the order of predestination; whether it be one's own prayers or those of another; or other good works, and such like, without which one would not attain to salvation. Whence, the predestined must strive after good works and prayer; because through these means predestination is most certainly fulfilled. For this reason it is said: "Labor more that by good works you may make sure your calling and election" (2 Pt. 1:10).

Monday, February 20, 2012



1.  Gnosticism–“the doctrine of salvation by knowledge
A Gnostic is “one who knows

The grandfather/mother of all heresies in the Christian church
o    greatest theological threat to the early Church
o    St. John combats it in his New Testament writings (specifically labeling the Gnostics as “anti-Christs”)
o    Paul writes of them to Timothy (1 Tim 4:3)
o    Had lots and lots of writings circulating (still)

Developed prior to Christianity, but attempted to use Christianity as its vehicle.
·                No one exactly sure where it developed, though seems to be an adulteration of Plato’s teachings

Held that matter was a deterioration of the spirit; the universe is a depravation of the Deity
call god the “Depth” or the “Fullness of Being

Ultimate end of all good Gnostics: to become one with the matter of the universe, one with the Parent-Deity (S-t-n).

This ultimate end will be facilitated by the appearance of a God-sent savior who will impart the magic, the knowledge to us

How–through knowledge, and, specifically, through magic
·                Simon the Magician (Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24) is often regarded as the first Christian Gnostic 
·                There were spells and formulas for almost everything–but usually for protection against evil

Those who knew were called the “elect”; they would repent of sin (the material) and reenter the godhead.

Gnosticism, according to Eric Voegelin
Either can result in Gnosticism–the belief that through knowledge we can reorder the structure and history of the world according to human will.

Idea of Gnosticism very old–at the very least, beginning six centuries before Christ.

We identify it with the rise of Christianity, because it came to the fore and attempted to capture Christianity (hence, St. John’s warnings against “anti-Christs”)

Gnostic belief stresses (and stressed) that man is in an alien world and must find his way back home.  “Who has cast me into the suffering of this world?” asked the ‘Great Life’–who is considered the “first, alien Life form the worlds of light.”

Other quotes from ancient Gnostic texts:
o    “This world was not made according to the desire of the Life”
o    “Not by the will of the Great Life art thou come hither.”
o    “Who conveyed me into the evil darkness?”
o    “Deliver us from the darkness of this world into which we are flung.”
o    “The wretched soul has strayed into a labyrinth of torment and wanders around without a way out. . . . It seeks to escape from the bitter chaos, but knows not how to get out.”
o    “Why didst thou create this world, why didst thou order the tribes here from thy midst?”

Clement of Alexandria wrote: Gnosis is “the knowledge of who we were and what we became, of where we were and whereinto we have been flung, of whereto we are hastening and wherefrom we are redeemed, of what birth is and rebirth.

Gnostic mythopoeia revolves around issues of exile and discovery of the hidden way home.

In Gnostic belief, the Judeo-Christian God is the evil one, who put souls into the prison of a human body and a physical world.  The “true God” according to the Gnostics is hidden and alien.  He years for us, but we must find him.

Salvation, then, come through mystery sects and systems, from magic, ecstacy, libertinism (or strict asceticism), and terrorism (after all, violence against the material is a service to the hidden and alien god.)

The goal of the gnostic becomes one of reordering
Want to reorder man, history, and society as unjust–and through man’s creative power, recreate the world as just and perfect.

Of the modern Gnostics (more on this in a minute–but rather than looking for a hidden god, they deny the existence of any god), Nietzsche is the most blatant:
·                “To rule, and to be no longer a servant of a god: this means was left behind to ennoble man.”
·                “Alas, my brothers, that God whom I created was human world and human madness, like all gods”
·                “What you called ‘the world’ shall be created only by you: it shall be your reason, your image, your will, your love.”
·                “If there were gods, how could I endure not being a god!  Therefore, there are no gods.”

All modern ideologies—Marxism, Fascism, National Socialism—are in some way Gnostic.

2.  Marconianism
Founded in 144a.d. by Marcion, a Bishop

Rejected the Old Testament completely, and taught that Christ was the son of the good God (not the same as the Jewish God).  Extremely anti-Semitic.  Wanted nothing to do with the Jews.  Accepted ONLY St. Paul’s writings.
Christ was God Manifest not God Incarnate
·                Marconians rejected the notion of Mary, of Christ as a child
·                He merely came as God. Rejected all sexuality

3.  Manichaeism
Founded by a Persian (name unknown) Mani (215-277ad; means “leader”) on March 20, 242ad: “As once Buddha came to Indian, Zoroaster to Persia, and Jesus to the lands of the West, so came in the present time, this prophecy through me, the Mani, to the land of Babylonia.”  He was, he said, the “Apostle of the True God.”

Mani proclaimed himself the paraclete promised by Jesus.  Therefore, he rejected the Acts of the Apostles–because it told of the “false paraclete.”

Intentionally a synthesis of Zoroastrianism, Babylonian folklore, Buddhist ethics, and Christianity

Was essentially a version of Gnosticism.  Said that one–“the elect”–could know salvation through knowledge; through knowledge and pure reason (rejected the “mysteries” found in Christianity) could know the composition, past, present, and future of the universe.

There were two gods (or Principles), completely equal: the Good and the Bad
·                The Good lived in heaven and controlled Time, Light, Force, and Goodness
·                The Bad lived underground and controlled Poison, Smoke, Depths, Marshes, and Fire

History began when the Bad decided to invade the realm of the Good.

Those on the side of the Good–the “Elect” would abstain from all earthly joys: property, meat (whose flesh would rouse the evil side, as the evil side controlled animals), sex, commerce, etc.

Spread throughout the known world up until about 1000ad–when it seems to have died off.

4.  Arianism–denied the full divinity of Christ
First Unitarians, developed around 313a.d.; Arius was from Libya and Syria

Jesus was somewhere in between God and Man; created at the time of his appearance on Earth.  Had not always been there as St. John tells us.

The Church squelched it–so the followers of Arius took it to the Barbarians and spread it quickly.                                                                      

5.  Donatism
Developed in the fourth century in North Africa.

Argued that all priests must be pure for their actions to be valid (ultimately a faith/works argument).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stratford Caldecott's Website

HC Catholic Community, if you're looking for a serious website regarding Roman Catholic issues, please look at Stratford Caldecott's website: 


I've never had the privilege of meeting Caldecott, but we've corresponded, and I've thoroughly enjoyed his books and articles on Tolkien as well as on the liberal arts.  Frankly, it's rare to have a person of this quality in any generation.  

So, enjoy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

120! Happy Birthday, Professor Tolkien!

One of the greatest converts to Catholicism in the twentieth century, J.R.R. Tolkien, would've turned 120 today.  

May he enjoy the good company of friends, a few pints, and some excellent pipeweed today in the heavenly Bird and the Baby.

Happy Birthday, Ronald!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah Begins

From the First Book of Maccabees:

And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again in the hundred forty and third year, and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude, And entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, And the table of the shewbread, and the pouring vessels, and the vials. and the censers of gold, and the veil, and the crown, and the golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which he pulled off. He took also the silver and the gold, and the precious vessels: also he took the hidden treasures which he found. And when he had taken all away, he went into his own land, having made a great massacre, and spoken very proudly. Therefore there was a great mourning in Israel.

For it was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil adversary to Israel. Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it:  Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them: whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and became strange to those that were born in her; and her own children left her.  Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach her honour into contempt.  As had been her glory, so was her dishonour increased, and her excellency was turned into mourning.  Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, And every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. 

And drove the Israelites into secret places, even wheresoever they could flee for succour. Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side; And burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets. And when they had rent in pieces the books of the law which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any the book of the testament, or if any committed to the law, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death. Thus did they by their authority unto the Israelites every month, to as many as were found in the cities. Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol altar, which was upon the altar of God. At which time according to the commandment they put to death certain women, that had caused their children to be circumcised. And they hanged the infants about their necks, and rifled their houses, and slew them that had circumcised them. Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing. Wherefore the rather to die, that they might not be defiled with meats, and that they might not profane the holy covenant: so then they died. And there was very great wrath upon Israel. 

Now therefore come thou first, and fulfil the king's commandment, like as all the heathen have done, yea, and the men of Juda also, and such as remain at Jerusalem: so shalt thou and thy house be in the number of the king's friends, and thou and thy children shall be honoured with silver and gold, and many rewards.  Then Mattathias answered and spake with a loud voice, Though all the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments: Yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers.  God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances.  We will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christopher Dawson on the Nature and Destiny of Man

Christopher Dawson, “The Nature and Destiny of Man,” 1920.

Man “is neither flesh nor spirit, but a compound of both. . . . His nature is open on either side to impressions and is capable of a twofold activity, and his whole destiny depends on the proper co-ordination of the two elements in his nature: and not his destiny alone; for since he is a bridge, the lower world is in some sense dependent on him for its spiritualization and its integration into the universal order." (57)

"The riches of the kingdom of the spirit are inexhaustible." (62-63) "There is a point at which the world of spirit comes in conscious contact with the world of matter.  That point is man." (63)  "Man left to himself is powerless to reconcile the antinomy of his spiritual and material natures." (68)  Jesus Christ "is the restorer of the human race, the New Man, in whom humanity has a fresh beginning and man acquires a new nature." (69)  "For it is only through Christ, the second Adam, and in the organic connection (69) with Him, that the new humanity is to be built up.  By the vital activity of the Spirit of Christ working through the Church and the Sacraments, mankind is remoulded and renewed; the disorder and weakness of human nature is overcome, and the domination of charity in spiritual love is substituted for the blindness of physical impulse and the narrowness and evil of selfish desire.  The consummation of this work is restoration by the unification of humanity under the vital control of the Spirit of God may seem infinitely distant, since it involves the absolute conquest of matter by spirit, and the spiritualization and immortalization of the human body-in fact, a new world and a new humanity; but no lesser term is proposed by the Catholic Faith as the destiny of the human race." (70)

"The Christian life, therefore, consists in the gradual reformation of nature from within by the operation of the Divine Spirit, which is the actuating principle of the new life, just as the human soul is the actuating principle of the life of the body.  The power manifests itself in the mind by faith, which is man's participation of God's Knowledge, and in the will by charity of spiritual love, which is man's participation in God's Will." (76-77)

"Thus St. Augustine argues that all the virtues are nothing but love; Temperance is love reserving itself for God, fortitude love, bearing all things for God, justice love, serving God by well-ordering the things that are in man's power, and so forth.  Hence his famous saying, 'Love God and do what you will.'" (77)

"God's Mind, to which he attains by Faith, is so far above his own that he is unable to see, he can only believe.  But already, if he gives himself up to the operation of grace, God's Will moves his own, and he is drawn strongly and painfully to the denial of his own will and the sacrifice of his natural activities.  It is a common error, especially among the non-Catholic Christian sects, to confuse charity, or supernatural desire, with devout feelings and religious sentiment.  Charity, however, belongs essentially to the deepest and most spiritual part of the soul, a region beyond the reach of feeling or the self-analysis, and it is only indirectly and accidentally manifested in the consciousness or in the emotions." (77-78)

". . .  . it is just as false to treat nature and grace as mutually exclusive things, as it is to oppose body and soul, or matter and spirit, to one another; for the union of nature and grace makes up the Christian, just as the union of body and soul makes up the natural man.  The supernatural is not the contradiction of nature, but its restoration and crown, and every faculty of man, whether high or low, is destined to have its share in his new supernatural life." (80)

"Whether we look at the Italy of the Renaissance, the England of the Industrial Revolution, or the Germany of the last forty years, we see in each case that the progress and wealth which are founded on individual or national selfishness, lead only to destruction and suffering.  A civilization which recognizes its own limitations, and bows before the kingdom of the spirit, even though it be weak and immature like European civilization during the Dark Ages, has more true life in it than the victorious material civilization of our own age.  There is no hope for humanity in science and economic organization: these are but instruments, which may be used for death, instead of for life, if the will that uses them is disordered." (81)

"Civilization after civilization in the past have stagnated and fallen into ruin, because they are tainted at the source, in the spiritual will which lies behind the outward show of things.  The only final escape for humanity from this heartbreaking false starts and frustrated hopes is through the conquest of the world by charity-the coming of the Kingdom of God." (81-82).

"Only in the saints, with whom the process is exceptionally advanced, is the whole external life conformed to the new inward principle.  In the ordinary Christian, the natural life goes on almost unchanged, based on its principle and following its own laws.  It is to this region that much of what we are accustomed to look on historically as Christian civilization belongs.  But behind all this the supernatural principle carries on its seminal activity and forms the embryonic life, which is destined eventually to absorb into itself and remake the whole nature, mental and physical, with all its vital activities." (82)

"The Christian faith alone offers man a perfection which is not relative but transitory, but absolute and eternal.  The Christian faith alone has measured how deep is the need of humanity and how great is the possibility of restoration." (83)

"Then the body, and with it the whole material world, will be brought into a true relation with the soul, so that everywhere matter is the extension of spirit, and not its limit; the instrument of spirit, and not its enemy.  St. Paul speaks of the material creation groaning and travailing in pain until the time in which it also will be delivered from the service of corruption and will have its share in the liberty of the perfected and glorified supernatural order.  The transfiguration of the material world is of course most vital in the case of the human body." (83)

"Nevertheless without this final restoration of the body, the Christian doctrine of Man would remain incomplete.  Man was created to be the soul of the material world, the link between the two creations; that through him, as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, the divine might shine as through a glass into the earthly world, and the earthly, elevated with the divine, might be freed from corruptibility, and transfigured." (83-84)