Grace and Predestination
|The Church following Holy Scripture teaches that there is
Election by God of the chosen to be saved as a free will grace on His
part Who has the initiative in salvation and so is the First Cause of
their salvation; the Church also teaches that man has free will to
accept this grace or not. It is traditionally summarized in four
God wills all men to be saved and so gives sufficient grace to all to be saved;
But not all men are saved; those who are not saved are damned by their own free will (cf. Council of Orange);
Those whom He chooses to be saved will infallibly be saved in a way that respects their freedom, and this is called Predestination;
Those who are not saved are not chosen by God in view of their foreseen free will rejection of grace which will be given and without which no one can be saved.
Anyone who denies the four propositions is a heretic. How to understand the four propositions is where different theologies come in. Anyone who denies that God knows our future free actions denies God's infallible choice of the Elect and God's infallible knowledge of the Damned and so is a heretic.
The main thing to understand is that God's thoughts are not man's thoughts, i.e., He does not think as we do one step at a time, nor does He love as we do (gradually), but He both thinks and loves limitlessly all at once in an Eternal moment in which He knows Himself completely and actually as most intelligible in Himself and most loveable in Himself, and everything else in that one perfect act of knowing Himself. He therefore cannot learn anything, but when He decides to create knows the creature by making it to be, not by receiving information from the creature and so coming to learn something new.
In other words, His knowledge is creative. Any change or development is on the side of the creature, for He is neither better nor worse, greater nor smaller, no less after creating than before.
Historically there are two orthodox theologies of grace that explained the Revealed Truth of Grace and Predestination in the Western Church: St. Thomas Aquinas', and in the 16th century the Jesuit school of theology (though St. Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit and Doctor of the Church who followed St. Thomas). St. Thomas' explanation approached the subject from man's point of view. The Church has not picked one explanation over the other. Both approaches rest on the Church's Faith that God has (infallible, of course!) knowledge of the destiny of the Elect and the Damned.
Basically the Jesuit school says God knows how those who are going to be saved will accept His initiative of Grace and how the damned will refuse His Grace.
St. Thomas following St. Augustine, though improving on him, stresses that God causes (as well as knows) the Chosen to get infallibly to Heaven, persuading them with many graces freely to accept (so that if they do not accept some grace He gives other graces that they will accept freely); while He gives sufficient grace for the Damned to be saved, but foreseeing they will reject His ordinary graces, He does not choose them and so does not give extraordinary graces to assure their salvation and respects their choice to reject Him.
This means no one can presume he will be saved and so reject a grace to avoid serious sin banking on a future grace, since God is not obligated to give another grace of repentance. This can be especially surmised in the particular sin of rejecting the Faith; many of these never return to it and it seems God lets them go their way.
The Church, however, never tires of preaching the merciful love of God available to sinners and unbelievers alike.
WE do not know if we are chosen or not and so pray for the grace of final perseverence: "Count us among those You have chosen," from the Roman canon right before the Consecration of the Mass.
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