Thursday, August 06, 2009

Which is More important for Rome: Mary or Predestination?

This was a post over on Catholic Answers: Split: Luther, Calvin, Pope Benedict, etc. agree predestination?

The post itself appears to be from a non-Catholic. The basic idea is that Luther and Calvin followed Augustine's view on predestination. Here was a comment from the post:

St A's interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:4 and Romans 9 are especially revealing. Even more surprisingly, his passage on "Love" seems to imply that Christ died only to save his elect: "the kingdom of death will not hold one for whom [Christ laid down his life." St A's views seem to accord with Martin Luther's, which are explained in detail in his work, "Bondage of the Will." Therein, he claims that justification is based on God's unconditional election, which, in turn, always leads to faith (and faith produces love).

Here's just a quick clarification. It appears to me in Luther's earlier writings he embraced something like "Christ died only to save his elect". In his later writings he has many statements that indicate Christ died for "all," yet he still held to a vigorous predestination, in which God has determined who will be saved. Luther had no problem with paradox- if the Scriptures appeared to say something was x in one place, and y in another, and these did not appear to add up, it didn't matter to him. simply let the Scriptures say what they say. In regards to reading Luther, the Bondage of the Will isn't a bad book to get a hold of. The Johnston/Packer translation reads the best.

As far as I know, There are differences of opinion on the doctrine of predestination within the Roman Catholic Church. That is, Catholics are allowed a range of freedom to hold differing views. As my "dear" Catholic apologist friend Dr. Sippo once said, "there are a range of views permissible within the limits of Catholic orthodoxy" on predestination.

Of course, I would ask why, since the scriptures speak so often about the subject. Think of how many passages speak explicitly about predestination as compared to say, what the Scriptures say about, the Assumption of Mary. The former is allowed a much wider range of interpretation, than the later. I would argue, the Scriptures are much more concerned about predestination than the Assumption, yet there are specific binding dogmatic statements about the Assumption, and not predestination. Perhaps a controversy of some sort will prompt a dogma on predestination at some point, until then, Catholics are free to embrace Augustine's views, or the views of others.

I had one response to these comments, so far:

If the Scriptures were that explicit about Predestination, you would not have this diversity of opinion from good faith Calvinists, Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, etc... The reality of the Assumption has been divinely revealed through the Church in a theological way that the nature of Predestination has not. Of course, you do not believe the Church bears such a charism, so your criteria does not apply here.

I would argue the Scriptures are explicit about predestination. It's the fact that many people (both Catholic and Protestants) don't like that clarity, so they attempt to water those explicit Scriptures down. I think the diversity of opinion is not due to "good faith." Quite the opposite, all those who counter the Augustinian/Luther/Calvin understanding of predestination are prone to not letting the text speak.

But among Catholics, if the Scripture has an important doctrine addressed multiple times, and the Roman church does little or nothing to clarify exactly what that important doctrine is, one wonders if they've learned their lesson from the Reformation. Recall the diversity of opinion about justification caused quite a problem. Rome was forced to take a solid position. Well, fortunately for Rome, it's probably the case the sale of indulgences aren't wrapped up with predestination. Fortunately for Rome, a great number of people could care less exactly what predestination means.

As to, "The reality of the Assumption has been divinely revealed through the Church in a theological way that the nature of Predestination has not"...why? Why is this more of an important subject than predestination? Why did the biblical writers write explicitly on this subject, while they say little or nothing about Mariology? Why wouldn't Rome desire divinely reveal the nature of predestination in a theological way? Must everything hinge on a controversy?

23 comments:

Gojira said...

Although not the point of the post, if I may, a great book concerning the Assumption is Stephen J. Shoemaker's Ancient Traditions of The Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption. Ok that is enough from me not commenting about the point of the post.

James Swan said...

Gorija, how have you been? Its been quite a while.

James Swan said...

perhaps though, you're a different "Gorija" than the one I used to know.

Gojira said...

Nope, I am the same! LOLOLOLOLOL
Yes it has been quite some time. It is excellent to read you, James!

Matthew Bellisario said...

Are you saying there is no clear teaching in Catholicism on predestination? Do you know where the "range of permissible views" within the limits of Catholic teaching begins and ends? Or are you assuming that it is all just up for grabs? It may help if you clarified your understanding of what has been defined within Catholic teaching.

James Swan said...

Dr Sippo states the following on predestination-

"One of the problems we have in catholic apologetics is indeed that there are a variety of positions taken within the Catholic fold on certian key questions. Similarly, there are a variety of positions taken by our prot opponents as well. In some correspondence I had with a "prot controverisalist of my acquiantence" (Pcoma), he complained to me that Gerry Matatics took a different view than I did on predestination. He demanded that I tell him what THE Catholic position was. I tried to explain to him that there was a range of views permissible within the limits of Catholic orthodoxy. Pcoma then complained that it seems our infallible Pope was not able to read the Scriptures and see that it clearly taught Calvinism. I retorted that this particular truth could not currently be reduced to a simplistic formula and quoted some biblical verses that make Calvinism impossible."

His comment was the basis of my statement. If you would like to clarify his statement, go right ahead.

The Four Winds said...

James, I'm sorry I couldn't find a better spot for this comment. Saw your blog post on aomin.org about house church and tradition. Wanted to point you to a great review of Atkerson's book Ekklesia written by Michael Adams (formerly of IDS - Geoff Volker's ministry).
Here's the review: lovebrokethru.com/papers/House_Church.pdf
Hope it's helpful!

James Swan said...

Thanks, I'll check it out. My comments were based entirely on the interview I listened to. I have not read anything from Atkerson, or against Atkerson.

The Four Winds said...

You bet. I think you'll find that your concerns are indeed founded. Atkerson makes a case for house church being the ONLY correct way to do church - and, yes, the argument is pretty much from "apostolic tradition." Some of the practical items are excellent, but I believe it goes too far.

James Swan said...

I posted the house church link, i skimmed some of the key texts, but will give a closer reading later.

Thanks again.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Dr. Sippo's comment that you quoted does not give a whole lot to work off of. How can you put up a post implying that the Catholic Church considers Mary to be more important, yet you do not have a working definition of what the Catholic teaching is? This is what I am talking about. When you make a claim such as this, it would help to have evidence to back up your implication with facts, and not just a quote taken from Dr. Sippo which does not give any specifics as what they disagreed on.

Matthew Bellisario said...

This may be a place to start your online research of the Catholic dogma on predestination. There are certain things on the matter that have been definitively defined. Between those definitions, one can have a range of permissible views as to how they are reconciled.

http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Predestination

http://www.made-inbet.net/archive/catechism/p122a4p2.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Predestination-Reginald-Garrigou-Lagrange/dp/0895556340/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249645613&sr=1-2

James Swan said...

http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Predestination


Wow, you click on this link, and you get a long legal document:

Original Catholic Encyclopedia License
======================================

YOUR USE OF THIS WEB SITE CONSTITUTES YOUR AGREEMENT TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE.

Effective November 1, 2007
User License

...I think I'll stick to another website's posting of the CE.

Alex said...

James, I didn't get that. Wierd

James Swan said...

I'm not sure why you didn't get the long legal disclaimer I did.

Perhaps Matthew was linking to this: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm

In which case, I'll have to get into it later. I'm going to a wolf preserve this afternoon (since of course, anti-Catholics are wolves amongst the sheep).

Ariel said...

Is it still permissible for I as a Protestant to say that Augustinian Catholics lay aside the grace of God, if they believe in the sufficiency of grace, in regards to God's predestination?

I'm confused on this issue.

James Swan said...

Matthew says:

How can you put up a post implying that the Catholic Church considers Mary to be more important, yet you do not have a working definition of what the Catholic teaching is?

Matthew offers:

http://www.made-inbet.net/archive/catechism/p122a4p2.htm

This link states:

This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God."393 This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.

This could mean a few different things, and describe a few different positions, so remains unhelpful as a clarifier. This part likewise describes a few different positions:

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."395 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.396

We can rule out this link at least as being helpful in defining precisely the nature of predestination for Roman Catholicism.

On the other hand, the same document Matthew linked to includes: this link

http://www.made-inbet.net/archive/catechism/p122a3p2.htm

Now, you tell me which the Catechism spends more time on, Predestination, or Mary?

Now, go pick up a Bible, write down all the important verses in which Mary is the primary subject, then write down all the verses in which predestination is the primary subject. Compare and contrast.

James Swan said...

Is it still permissible for I as a Protestant to say that Augustinian Catholics lay aside the grace of God, if they believe in the sufficiency of grace, in regards to God's predestination?

I'm not following your question. Most often, Catholic argumentation can be reduced to admitting the necessity of grace, but not the sufficiency of grace. So for a Catholic to say believe in the sufficiency of grace, they would be undercutting their own system of infused righteousness.

James Swan said...

There are certain things on the matter that have been definitively defined. Between those definitions, one can have a range of permissible views as to how they are reconciled.

Here are two views within Roman Catholicism, Thomism and Molinism. Both extensively try and explain Predestination. Matthew, which one is correct?

Do you hold to either of these, or some other view? How do you know your view is correct?

Matthew Bellisario said...

James, have you read the defined parts of the doctrine by the Church ? Did you read what the Church has defined? If so what do you think has been defined. Just because more is written on one topic in the Catechism does not define that it is more important. Other possible conclusions are that maybe there is not as much to elaborate on, on one particular topic as another. There is a great mystery that predestination and freewill presents us. That is very obvious in the writings of the Church throughout the ages.

I'll give you a hint. The Church defines two important points that must be adhered to concerning predestination. One guards against the sin of presumption, the other against despair. How they reconcile has been debated in the Church since the beginning, because no man knows the mind of God.

Ariel said...

I'm not following your question. Most often, Catholic argumentation can be reduced to admitting the necessity of grace, but not the sufficiency of grace. So for a Catholic to say believe in the sufficiency of grace, they would be undercutting their own system of infused righteousness.

If I was a Thomist, for instance, how would I deny the sufficiency of grace, if God gives me irresistible grace to perform good works?

Jordan Cooper said...

I did not know how else to contact you so I decided to comment on a post having to do with limited atonement. I thought you might find this interesting. http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2009/12/luther-on-atonement.html

I have heard you mention before that the only time Luther taught limited atonement was in his 1515 Romans lectures, but I found some evidence that he held on to that view at least a few years later. Just something I thought may help in your Luther research.

James Swan said...

Hi Jordan,

You can contact me by following the directions located on my blog sidebar ("Contact Information").

If I recall, I have not said "the only time Luther taught limited atonement was in his 1515 Romans lectures". What I have said, is that it appears limited atonement is an early view that Luther held. Those people (particularly Reformed people) use a popular quote from the Romans commentary at the expense of Luther's entire written corpus. It is the only quote they use, because it's the only one they can find, and I doubt they're actually looking.

That you may have found other Luther quotes implying limited atonement is withing the realm of possibility. However, I would speculate they are from Luther's earlier writings.