Why do some people receive the gift of faith and not others?
I will offer an explanation to try to simplify things a bit without complicating them even more.



First, the faculty of the will must be properly understood. Everything that proceeds from God proceeds from what is good, including us. The soul, being made in the image and likeness of God, is designed to correspond to God's goodness. He designed our souls to correspond to and reflect this goodness. He gave us the power to choose this good so that we could receive a reward without injustice, but He did not design it to be used as a licence to reject this good (and, hence, choose evil). He permitted that we reject this power, however, in the Garden of Eden, at which time the influence of God's goodness upon our faculties became greatly diminished. This makes the power of free will much more rebellious and desirous to do exactly that which it was designed NOT to do: reject goodness.

Because of this, it appears that each choice is much more arbitrary than it was designed to be. But again, free will was given to us not that we would do evil, but that we would have the power to choose good. Original Sin has come between us and God such that this correspondence has been somewhat obscured by our own selfishness. So, when the soul, aided by God's grace, is finally able to pierce the haze of the debilitating effects of Original Sin, it freely responds to the grace in the way it was designed to respond every time. It doesn't respond in this way every time because it has no alternative; it responds in this way because free will was designed to correspond to God's goodness, to have the capacity to be infallibly inclined to choose good.



The relationship between sufficient grace and efficacious grace is a bit more tricky, but certainly not beyond comprehension. As has already been pointed out, the former leaves the will without excuse before the God; the latter leaves the will without opportunity to boast of itself. Allow me to try to parse this fundamental distinction a bit for the sake of the discussion because I believe this is essential to understanding the bigger question concerning election and reprobation:

First, it must be understood that the human will is unable to (1) will and (2) act without God's supplementary grace. Like an engine lacking fuel, the human capacity to do either (will or act) lacks actualization until supplemented by God's all-powerful grace.

From the human perspective, the process of performing a good action (and co-operating with grace) begins with God imparting the free will with sufficient grace. This sufficient grace has a two-fold function:

1. It empowers the will with the ability to freely act.

2. It enables the free will to actually will to do good.

Sufficient grace, of itself, is not enough for the free will to go through with (to bring about) the good act. It is only enough to make the good action primitively attractive to the will. But this primitive attraction (which is at this point only "primitive" because of the effects of fallen human nature) has only the effect of causing the free will to desire to perform the good act, for it recognizes the beauty of good; it, of itself, does not have the power to move the will to perform the good action. In this way, sufficient grace is sufficient for the actual willing of a good act, but it is not sufficient for actual carrying out of the good act.

If the free will does not co-operate with the primitive attractiveness of the good act by (1) sinfully resisting its intrinsic beauty and thus (2) failing to will to perform the good act, then God does not send efficacious grace to the soul that the salutary end of the grace might be infallibly brought about. The grace remains merely sufficient grace and the good act can not be performed.

However, if the free will co-operates with and acts upon this attraction by (1) not rejecting it, (2) dwelling upon it, and thus (3) willing to perform the good act, then God, according to His discretion, imparts efficacious grace.

Efficacious grace is infallibly efficacious in that it never fails to bring about the good end of the grace. It also complements sufficient grace by augmenting the primitive desirability (attractiveness) of the good end of the grace to such a degree that this end is now supernaturally (compellingly) delightful.

Efficacious grace moves the free will to co-operate with it by means of the "victorious delight" by which the soul, while ever-retaining the capacity and ability to resist it, is moved to co-operate because of the salutary end's correspondence to the infallibly compelling beauty of God's goodness. Though the free will always retains the capacity and ability to resist, it feels compelled to co-operate with the grace of God because of the grace's intrinsic delightfulness. In this way, efficacious grace infallibly achieves its end: the performance of the good act.

So, the desirability of an action as it appears before free will is not enough to effect the good action; it is sufficient only to will to perform the good action if its primitive attractiveness is not resisted by the free will. The victorious delight, however, is sufficient for the actual commission of the act, and since it is infallibly efficacious, it is intrinsically distinct from sufficient grace.

Hence, when the soul culpably resists sufficient grace, it is left without excuse before God, but when the soul infallibly co-operates with the power of efficacious grace, the accomplishment of the salutary end of the grace is principally attributed to the effect of the goodness of God's grace rather than the determinations of the free will.



As this relates to the doctrine of Catholic predestination, no better explanation will do, I think, than that provided by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange in his Thomistic synthesis, Reality
Chapter 11, Article Two: Predestination Wrote:What we here attempt is a summary of the principles which underlie Thomistic doctrine on the high mystery of predestination. [431].

1. Scriptural Foundation

St. Thomas studied deeply those texts in St. John and St. Paul which express the mystery of predestination, its gratuitousness, and its infallibility. Here follow the chief texts.

a) "Those whom Thou gavest Me have I kept: and none of them is lost but the son of perdition that the Scripture may be fulfilled." [432].

b) "My sheep hear My voice. And I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them life everlasting: and they shall not perish forever. And no man shall pluck them out of My hand. That which My Father hath given Me is greater than all: and no one can snatch them out of the hand of My Father." [433].

c) "For many are called, but few are chosen." [434].

St. Thomas, based on tradition, interprets these texts as follows: There are elect souls, chosen by God from all eternity. They will be infallibly saved; if they fall, God will raise them up, their merits will not be lost. Others, like the son of perdition, will be lost. Yet God never commands the impossible, and gives to all men genuine power to fulfill His precepts at the moment when these precepts bind according to the individual's knowledge. Repentance was genuinely possible for Judas, but the act did not come into existence. Remark again the distance between potency and act. The mystery lies chiefly in harmonizing God's universal will of salvation with the predestination, not of all, but of a certain number known only to God.

This same mystery we find often affirmed by St. Paul, implicitly and explicitly. Here are the chief texts.

a) "For what distinguisheth thee? or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received? " [435] This is equivalent to saying: No one would be better than another, were he not more loved and strengthened by God, though for all the fulfillment of God's precepts is genuinely possible. "It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will." [436].

b) "He chose us in Him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight. He hath predestinated us to be His adopted children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to make shine forth the glory of His grace, by which He has made us pleasing in His eyes, in His beloved son." [437].

This text speaks explicitly of predestination. So St. Augustine. So St. Thomas and his school. St. Thomas sets in relief both the good pleasure of God's will and the designs of God's mind, to show the eternal freedom of the act of predestination.

c) "We know that to them who love God all things work together unto good, to those who are called according to His designs. For those whom He foreknew, these also He predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His son, that His son might be the firstborn among many brethren. And whom He predestinated, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified." [438].

"Those whom He foreknew, these also He predestinated." How does St. Thomas, following St. Augustine, understand these salient words? Nowhere does he understand them of simple prevision of our merits. Such a meaning has no foundation in St. Paul, and is excluded by many of his affirmations. [439] The real meaning is this: "Those whom God foreknew with divine benevolence, these He predestinated." And for what purpose? That His Son might be the first among many brethren. This is the genuine meaning of "foreknew."

d) This same idea appears clearly in the commentary on Romans, [440] where St. Paul is magnifying the sovereign independence of God in dispensing His graces. The Jews, the chosen people of old, have been rejected by reason of their unbelief, and salvation is being announced to the pagans. St. Paul sets forth the underlying principle of God's predilection, applicable both to nation and to individuals:

"What shall we say? Is there injustice in God? Far from it. For He says to Moses: 'I will have mercy on whom I will, I will have compassion on whom I will. ' This then depends not on him who wills, not on him who runs, but on God who shows mercy." [441] If predestination includes a positive act of God, hardening of the heart, on the contrary, is only permitted by God and comes from the evil use which man makes of his freedom. Let no man, then, call God to account. Hence the conclusions: "Oh unsounded depth of God's wisdom and knowledge! How incomprehensible are His judgments, how unsearchable His ways!. Who hath first given to Him, that recompense should be made? For of Him and by Him and in Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen." [442].

2. Definition of Predestination

The Scripture texts just quoted are the foundation of the doctrine, Augustinian and Thomistic, of predestination. The definition of St. Augustine runs thus: Predestination is God's foreknowledge and preparation of those gifts whereby all those who are saved are infallibly saved. [443] By predestination, he says elsewhere, God foreknew what He Himself would do. [444].

The definition of St. Thomas runs thus: That plan in God's mind whereby He sends the rational creature to that eternal life which is its goal, is called predestination, for to destine means to send.

This definition agrees with that of St. Augustine. In God's mind there is an eternal plan whereby this man, this angel, reaches his supernatural end. This plan, divinely ordained and decreed, includes the efficacious ways and means which lead this man, this angel, to his ultimate goal. This is the doctrine of Scripture. [445] This is the doctrine of the two saints, Augustine and Thomas.

3. Questions

Why did God choose certain creatures, whom, if they fall, He raises ever again, while He rejects others after permitting their final impenitence? The answer of St. Thomas, based on revelation, runs as follows: In the predestined, God manifests His goodness under the form of mercy. In the reprobate, He manifests His goodness under the form of justice. This answer comes from St. Paul: "If God, willing to show His wrath (His justice): and to make His power known, endured (permitted) with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, and if He willed to show the riches of His glory in the vessels of mercy which He had prepared for glory... (where is the injustice?)."

Divine goodness, we recall, tends to communicate itself, and thus becomes the principle of mercy. But divine goodness, on the other hand, has the inalienable right to the supreme love of creatures, and thus becomes the principle of justice. Both the splendor of infinite justice and the glory of infinite mercy are necessary for the full manifestation of God's goodness. Thus evil is permitted only in view of a higher good, a good of which divine wisdom is the only judge, a good which the elect will contemplate in heaven. To this doctrine Thomists add nothing. They simply defend it. And this holds good likewise of the answer to the following question.

Why does God predestine this creature rather than the other? Our Lord says: "No man can come to Me unless the Father who hath sent Me draw him." [446] St. Augustine [447] continues: Why the Father draws this man, and does not draw that man, judge not unless you would misjudge. Why did not the saint find an easier answer? He could have said: God predestines this man rather than the other because He foresaw that the one, and not the other, would make good use of the grace offered or even given to him. But then one man would be better than the other without having been more loved and strengthened by God, a position contrary to St. Paul [448] and to our Lord. [449] The merits of the elect, says St. Thomas, far from being the cause of predestination, are, on the contrary, the effects of predestination. [450].

Let us here repeat the saint's formula of the principle of predilection: "Since God's love is the source of all created goodness, no creature would in any way be better than another, did God not will to give it a good greater than the good He gives to another." [451] Hence, as the saint says elsewhere, [452] God's love precedes God's choice, and God's choice precedes God's predestination. And in that same article he adds that predestination to glory precedes predestination to grace. [453].

The Pelagians thought of God as spectator, not as author, of that salutary consent which distinguishes the just from the wicked. The Semi-Pelagians said the same of the initium fidei et bonae voluntatis. St. Thomas, following St. Augustine, teaches that from God comes everything there is in us of good, from the beginning of a good will to the most intimate goodness of our free and self-determined salutary acts.

To the question, then, of God's motive in choosing one rather than the other, St. Thomas answers that the future merits of the elect cannot be the reason of their predestination, since these merits are, on the contrary, the effect of their predestination. Then he adds: "Why God chose these for glory and reprobated others finds answer only in the divine will. [454] Of two dying men, each equally and evilly disposed, why does God move one to repentance and permit the other to die impenitent? There is no answer but the divine pleasure. [455].

Thomists restrict themselves to defending this doctrine against Molinism and congruism. They add to it nothing positive. The more explicit terms they employ have no other purpose than to exclude from the doctrine false interpretations, which favor simultaneous concursus or premotio indifferens.

Mystery there is in this doctrine, mystery unfathomable but inevitable. How harmonize God's gratuitous predestination with God's will of salvation for all men? How harmonize infinite mercy, infinite justice, and infinite freedom? Mystery there is, but no contradiction. There would be contradiction, if God's salvific will were illusory, if God did not make fulfillment of His precepts really and genuinely possible. For thus He would, contrary to His goodness, mercy, and justice, command the impossible. But if these precepts are really possible for all, whereas they are in fact kept by some and not by all, then those who do keep them, being better, must have received more from God.

St. Thomas [456] thus sums up the matter: "One who gives by grace (not by justice) can at his good pleasure give more or less, and to whom he pleases, if only he denies to no one what justice demands. [457] Thus, the householder says: 'Take what is thine and go. Or is it not lawful for me to do as I will? ' " [458].

This doctrine is expressed by the common language of daily life. When of two great sinners one is converted, Christians say: God showed him special mercy. This solution of daily life accords with that of St. Augustine and St. Thomas when they contemplate the mysterious harmony of infinite mercy and infinite justice. When God with sovereign freedom grants to one the grace of final perseverance, it is a gift of mercy. When He does not grant it to another, it is a deed of justice, due to last resistance to a last appeal.

Against all deviations in this matter, toward predestinationism, Protestantism, and Jansenism, on the one hand, and, on the other, toward Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, we must hold fast these two truths, central and mutually complementary: first, "God never commands the impossible," and second, "No one would be better than another were he not loved more by God." Guided by these truths we can begin to see where the mystery lies. Infinite justice, infinite mercy, sovereign liberty are all united, are even identified, in the Deity's transcendent pre-eminence, which remains hidden from us as long as we do not have the beatific vision. But in the chiaro oscuro of life here below, grace, which is a participation of the Deity, tranquillizes the just man, and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit console him, strengthen his hope, and make his love more pure, disinterested, and strong, so that in the incertitude of salvation he has the ever-growing certitude of hope, which is a certitude of tendency toward salvation. The proper and formal object of infused hope is not, in fact, our own effort, but the infinite mercy of the "God who aids us," [459] who arouses us here to effort and who will there crown-that effort. [460].



So, in the practical order, think of it something like this:

First, we know that, according to Scripture, God predestines some to go to Heaven and some to go to Hell. Why does he "predestine" some to go to Hell? Because God's goodness is manifested in both His mercy and in His justice. Which person specifically goes to Hell? That is according to God's inscrutable will. How do they go to Hell? By their own free choice to do so. Read on.

Second, no-one goes to hell who is in the state of sanctifying grace. Thus, those who go to Hell have willfully rejected sanctifying grace by (mis)use of their own free will. Hence, those who separate themselves from this state of sanctifying grace do so by willfully committing a mortal sin and thus willfully rejecting their hope of salvation at the time of the sin.

Third, God knows from all eternity which persons will freely choose to separate themselves from Him. He knows no only who will do so, but also how often and at exactly which point in time they will choose to do so. So, in selecting the reprobate, He simply determines to take the lives of some while they are in the state of mortal sin; in selecting the elect, he simply determines to take the lives of some while they are in the state of sanctifying grace.

Fourth, the opportunity for continual repentence granted to the elect is a gratuitous act of mercy on God's part; it is not something deserved, earned, or merited. God chooses to grant these according to some greater good that will be brought about by doing so. (They may go on to convert many more, they may lead exceptional examples, or they may further glorify God by serving as living testimonies of his infinite mercy.) As a result, the elect are "at God's mercy," so to speak, and will spend eternity thanking and glorifying God for His undeserved mercy.

Hence, God selects certain souls for reprobation before the beginning of time. But He does not select them unconditionally or in a way that prevents them from doing anything about it. A person who is selected for reprobation is selected as a consequence of his own choice to place himself in the state of mortal sin. He freely put himself in that state of mortal sin knowing that God could take his life at any time. Thus, he has no-one to blame for his mortal sin (and, hence, deliberate and willful rejection of salvation) than himself. So, when God takes his life (as He knew He would do from the beginning), that soul's damnation isn't because it had no choice in the matter; it is because that soul died while in the state of willful separation from God, which was a seperation of which it was fully aware when it committed that mortal sin (that knowledge is part of what makes it mortal).

So think of it like a time line:

|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|___|

Each of those intervals represent a differint period in a person's life: some are intervals of time in which a soul perseveres in santifying grace while others are periods where the souls freely rejects salvation knowing that he is choosing eternal punishment at the moment he commits the sin. The variable combinations according to each person that has ever lived is incalculable, but that is part of the mystery of why God chooses who He chooses.

God chooses to elect a person for salvation or select them for reprobation according to whichever selection will bring about the greatest good (something absolutely unknowable to us). He also foresees all of these periods in a person's life and chooses to take a person's life at a point in time that corresponds to that destination for which He has selected them. But if He takes them at a period in which they are persevering in mortal sin and free rejection of God, what excuse do they have?

Think about this if ever you are in the state of mortal sin. You freely chose that state knowing what it meant. This should 'light a fire underneath of us' (to use the cliché pun) and cause us to double our efforts to stay out of mortal sin no matter what happens. The thought of being in the state of mortal sin should fill us with terror at the realization that we do not know what time God has already chosen for our death. Reflect on all the times that you have been in the state of mortal sin and consider that God could have taken you during any of those periods as He has so many others, but He didn't. Truly we can say with the psalmist, 'His mercy endureth forever!' Now resolve never to let yourself fall into the state of mortal sin again.

It is possible that a person would persevere all their life without mortal sin, fall one time, and then die. Such a person would be damned, but not without justice. A mortal sin is a free choice to reject God, not an accident or a mistake. It requires several very serious conditions. And as Christ said, 'the last shall be first and the first shall be last.' He might allow this to bring about some greater good.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that this fate befalls the majority of the reprobate. Rather, the majority of the reprobate are those who persist in mortal sin all (if not most) of their lives. Seeing this in advance, He simply chooses to take them at a period in which they are in this state of mortal sin. As Our Master said, 'he who persevereth to the end shall be saved.'

On the other hand, there are those who persist in mortal sin for some time, but God's foreknowledge, seeing the attainment of a greater good by moving them to reversion, waits patiently till the time that is most expedient to this end and suspends their death until such a time as they have repented of their sins. As the parable goes, Christ paid all the laborers the same wage regardless of how long they had labored. In the end, our payment isn't about "fairness" according to our subjective point of views or "equality" down here amongst individuals. It is about which provides God with the greatest glory without denying anyone the means of salvation. That is the whole reason we are here in the first place. All we need to know is that we received our due justice.

In conclusion, what we have here is a beautifully-harmonious juxtaposition of three ideas: (1) that God predestines us to either election or reprobation, (2) that our election is not deserved but that it is a free gift from God, but (3) that our reprobation is entirely dependent on our own free rejection of salvation at any given point in time.

On one hand, we have the understanding that God has predetermined the moment of our death; on the other, we have the understanding that our decision to be in the state of mortal sin at that time is completely and totally our free choice. If God finds us at a time we are in the state of sanctifying grace we have only God to thank. But if God finds us at a time we are in the state of mortal sin we have only ourselves to curse.

There is no injustice here, just another beautiful mystery of the Faith.
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Re: Why do some people receive the gift of faith and not others? - by INPEFESS - 12-10-2011, 03:30 AM



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