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March 27, 2012



I didn't refer to Peter as Solomon. I referred to Solomon as Solomon, the writer of the book of Proverbs. There was no sarcasm or allusion intended.

Now, my responses to some of the other comments contained a certain amount of irony and parody, that I shan't deny. But I would submit that there's a difference between responding to insipid mockery with a joke of my own, or a firm rebuke, as opposed to engaging in a mean-spirited condemnation of others.

Do you feel that I was being cruel or ugly?

Or forsaking reason?
I don't.

Thanks Daron. And I don't mean these questions to Dan in a rhetorical or defensive way. If I'm in need of correction, then he's quite right to offer and I would gladly accept it. Wouldn't be the first time that I could stand to throttle back.


Merely that you believe it does not count against the value of ridiculing the notion.

What justifies such a belief?

Many sit quietly in Mass (or lead it) not believing.

Others sit quietly not even noticing what is being claimed.

Other sit wondering if they are the only ones that think the whole thing is a bit weird.

The value of the ridicule is to wake them up.


What counts against it, RonH? Why is it ridiculous to the informed?


In my mechanic's shop, they have a little sign that says "Don't tell us it's an emergency. Your bad planning is not our emergency."

In this case "Don't tell me it's an embarassment. Your ignorance is not our embarassment."

You aren't "waking me up" with any of this. I've studied it and contemplated it. You've skimmed a website and reposted sections, interspersed with "REALLY?" Now you offer excuses.

This does not demonstrate knowledge, character, or an attractive manner. It does not wake anyone up. It hurts feelings and elicits snickering in scoffers.

It is the behavior of a coxcomb.


My second sentence was meant to connect to the first. In retrospect, I can see it's not obvious that that's what I meant to do. Sorry.

A justification of the belief would count against the ridicule. That someone holds the belief does nothing to shield it.



If someone pursuing your logic of what should shield them against ridicule went into a university class and belittled a Sikh or a Jewish student that way, they'd be expelled. If they did it in a workplace, they would be fired. If a politician did it, he'd be recalled.

Justifying abuse on the basis of your prejudice against someone's creed amounts to bigotry.

Hi RonH,
I'm not sure what you were clarifying for me, but let's presume it cleared something up.

Once again, what counts against transubstantiation?
Why is it ridiculous?

Because it's asserted without evidence.


That doesn't make something ridiculous, RonH.
I have brown hair. That's asserted without evidence and it is not ridiculous.


What's your evidence that it's asserted without evidence? I don't believe your claim.

We keep coming back to your ignorance not being our embarrassment. You've also failed to demonstrate how systematically harassing people on the basis of creed is not bigotry, which is both unethical and illegal.

Your hair, huh?

1) It's asserted.
2) It certainly looks like nothing happens.
3) You've had a chance and pointed to no evidence.

I'll withdraw my claim when you present me with evidence.

Illegal? Send me the law. I'll turn myself in to the local authorities.


I pointed out the circumstances earlier under which it would be illegal, in the context of employment, education, etc. If you're planning on doing it at parties or on the street, then you're going to simply be an unwelcome guest or pavement pizza, depending on whom you try it with. And if you plan to just sit around doing it on the internet, that makes you... well, exactly what you are.

As to the other bit, It doesn't matter if you can see it or not. You are not the arbiter of science and reason. That you are unpersuaded is only biographical information about you. If you mean you want to see physical evidence that God is in the wafer and wine (maybe some sort of noetic energy?), then you're making an obvious category error. You might as well ask to see a pound of logic, or two inches worth of commiseration.

By your standard, I should be allowed to harass gays, feminists, or pretty much anyone whose beliefs differ from mine, since "beliefs aren't protected".

But obviously you wouldn't allow that. You'd engage in an exercise of special pleading, trying to carefully calibrate a fallacious standard of reasoning by which you may persecute the groups whom you dislike, but protect those whom you like. That is nothing more than rationalizing your own prejudice.

Why not just admit that you don't believe the same things we do, and let it be that? The attitude you're attempting to defend is contrary to the principles of pluralistic democracy, civil society, and common decency, not to mention the sort of religious tolerance which forms the backbone of a free society.

Your proposed tactic fails to hold any water in terms of logos, ethos, or pathos. It won't advance your cause. You just like the way it feels when you make snide, mocking commentary on the beliefs of those with whom you disagree, and then rationalize why it's alright afterwards.

Incidentally, for Daron and anyone else who might be legitimately curious is pretty interesting stuff. If only Constantine (of movie and comic fame) had really found the real Spear of Destiny, we coulda checked whether it was AB too. Forensic evidence is always a plus. I guess some atheists would find it to be...


A thorn in their side.


That's right, RonH, my hair. It's brown. I've asserted it without evidence.
Is it ridiculous to believe? Or did you misspeak when you said that was the reason that transubstantiation is ridiculous to you?


Did I ridicule you or a belief?



Was your purpose in ridiculing the belief a hope that the belief would feel bad and change itself? Or were you maybe hoping that *I* would feel something?

Actually, nevermind, the dodges have long since become tedious. This is just punching the proverbial tar baby, and I'd hate to think where I am on Professor Internet's "Should You Argue?" flowchart.

Grr, Bennett.
I just saw your link and I was to be headed out the door. Now I have to stop and do more internetting.
Thanks alot. ;)


You're welcome ^_^ Happy nettings.

Quite a busy thread going here, enjoyed the journey though.

Hi Bennett, I have not been exposed to any of the instances of miracles described on the link, but I dont believe this is the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Maybe I'm unaware of the extent of the doctrine, but my understanding is that the substance changes at consecration but the accidental properties dont. They appear to be bread and wine after consecration only because our interaction is with accidental properties, not true form/substance. It is experienced by faith. ala "hoc est corpus meum" not "hocus pocus"


You would be right, especially vis a vis the accidental properties. That's why those particular instances are considered "miraculous" rather than "Tuesday". I just found them interesting, especially since many of them occurred to priests who were doubting the actual doctrine--which is a relatively subtle thing.

Good turn of phrase on the last sentence, by the way ;)

If ridicule is good, why was there apparently a call for zero tolerance of it if it was towards atheism?

What about contempt?

Is contempt a good thing too?


I referred to Solomon as Solomon, the writer of the book of Proverbs. There was no sarcasm or allusion intended.

Sorry for the delay in responding and sorry for the misunderstanding on the Solomon point. My fault there.

Still, my point was to encourage respect. I fully understand "responding in kind" and I engage in it myself, sometimes. But when I do so, I sometimes wonder if I'm giving in to a wrong instinct. Rather than respond to the level of politeness/respect offered, I tend to hope to respond respectfully and with kindness regardless of the tone from the Other.

You can be your own judge on that point.

Reminds me of a class I once had on negotiating?

In a situation with a hard negotiator and a soft negotiator, the hard negotiator generally wins because they have no intention of bending and the soft negotiator will give ground in order to ease the negotiations to a conclusion.

Here, I think the expectation is that the atheist is seen as the hard negotiator and the Christian should be the soft negotiator and give ground in order to keep everyone happy.

Confusion on both sides happens if a Christian tries to stop being soft, because they don't want to give ground, knowing the atheist will walk away before they give any.

If that's for my sake, I don't find being respectful and considerate to be "soft."

I think the whole world is tired of all the bickering that is so common in the public conversation, that's all I'm saying. Respect is a good thing and Christians are commanded to disagree respectfully and gently.

Predators tend to go after their perception of the weakest in the herd.

Are you suggesting that respect = weakness? That kindness = weakness?

Are you suggesting that the atheists here = predators"?

You know, for we Christians in the audience, it may be worthwhile to recall some of our teachings. For instance...

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us...

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone...

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


In fact, I'd suggest that in the Bible, the one place where we see sharp words and sarcasm being used is when Jesus uses such tactics, but it is important that we note WHO Jesus used these tactics with: The religious hypocrites, the ones who presumed to speak for God and did so with arrogance and without grace. I think that should be a warning to we religious types.

Beyond Jesus' harsh words with religious folk, how did he treat the un-believers, the "sinners," the prostitutes, the tax collectors!, the soldiers who killed him!?

In case after case, it is with respect and gentle love.

I'd suggest that we remember: Meek does NOT equal weak.


The reference to soft vs. hard negotiators is like that between soft and hard forms of martial arts. One relies on redirection and finesse, the other on direct drive. I find that it's best to be neither, but rather adapt to circumstances. If you got to, say, India or the Middle East, they regard "soft" tactics as weak and will walk right over you, but "hard" tactics are simply the way of things--it's not taking as disrespectful. In fact, being too soft can even be seen as sneaky or sly. Hardness is direct, honest, and open. You have to read your interlocutor. Many is the atheist who will slap you, then demand to see the other cheek.

I'm reminded of an interview between Christopher Hitchens and a mainline liberal congregation leader. He was criticising the usual hobby horses--the Resurrection, Balaam's ass, talking snakes, etc. She asked "But what if I don't really believe in any of those things?"

"You don't believe the Resurrection occured?"

"Well, maybe not as a literal event."

"I'd say that if you don't believe Jesus Christ died for your sins and was resurrected supernaturally, then you are in no real sense a Christian."

In trying to appease the world and her interviewer, she'd argued herself right out of the Kingdom. And rather than giving her a cookie, Hitchens regarded the woman with contempt. She didn't even have the courage of her convictions. Someone, I think maybe his brother Peter, said you could feel the joy in him when someone would openly confess the Resurrection and other miracles, because here was someone who'd actually defend the point being made, rather than dance around it.

Meek doesn't equal weak, but weak doesn't equal meek either.


In trying to appease the world and her interviewer, she'd argued herself right out of the Kingdom.

Well, fortunately for her, Hithcens is not the final arbiter of salvation, so his arguments and her arguments have no real affect on her salvation. Agreed?


If you got to, say, India or the Middle East, they regard "soft" tactics as weak and will walk right over you, but "hard" tactics are simply the way of things--it's not taking as disrespectful. In fact, being too soft can even be seen as sneaky or sly.

Well, as can be observed in the real world, we're not in the Middle East, are we? In conversations in OUR culture, mutual respect and dignity is generally preferred. Trying to steamroll one's position/points is generally seen as bullying, not polite.

And again, we as Christians, are taught to deal with those who disagree and make our positions with respect and gentleness.


Thanks for the reassurance Bennett, I though you'd appreciate the last comment since you are quite adept at those kinds of multi layered statements your own self.


"her arguments have no real affect on her salvation. Agreed?"

Disagreed, I'm afraid. Denying Christ has a pretty strong effect on one's salvation, I'd say. It certainly removes one from orthodox Christianity, per the Creeds. She wasn't offering that as a hypothetical, that's what her excuse for a church teaches, in the Shelby Spong way of things.

On the other point, agreed that we are not in the Middle East or India. Those were examples of cultural milieus in which firmness and directness are perceived as respectful, and gentle obliqueness is seen as wheedling. You do not respect a hard-minded person by treating him with kid gloves.

Now mind you, when someone is genuinely interested and simply seems misinformed or misled, I strive to show the utmost gentleness and politeness. You may peruse the back-threads here, if you like. Saint Paul in his letters noted, to paraphrase, when dealing with Greeks he used philosophy, amongst Jews he used the Law, when among the Romans he did as the Romans, and so on.

What would you have me say "Oh, golly. I guess you're entitled to your opinion that Christians are murdering rapists, the eucharist is just a snack pack, and Mary was a lying whore. I sure do wish you'd reconsider. Would you like some tea and cookies? Oh, I can cram them where? Gosh, if you insist. I sure wouldn't want to upset a nice fella like you."

A better tactic with such people, now that beating them with canes has gone out of fashion, is to take a firm stance.

Paul said "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit"

Solomon was even less charitable "Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise your words"

Christ himself wondered aloud how long he would have to put up with a "wicked and adulterous generation."

They could all tell the difference between someone who didn't know any better (look at how generously Christ dealt with, say, Nicodemus, who didn't "get it", but *wanted to*), as opposed to those who were just trying to trap or get a rise out.

When I was a kid, my father didn't punish me for ignorance--that's to be expected. He might have been upset or disappointed, but he didn't get worked up when I was simply not-getting-it, but devoid of malign intent.

A smart mouth, on the other hand, was a good way to arrange a meeting with the business end of a leather belt. He saw no point in reasoning with someone who was engaged in sophistry. They'll only use your own wisdom against you.

In qin na, there are arm-locks that'll dislocate the wrist, elbow, and shoulder all at one go. The recipient's arm will never work right again. But if you do that and end the fight, you don't have to resort to Kindess ("Kindness", as the comedienne quoth, "being the name of my knife"). By the standard of fighting for one's life, crippling is 'gentle', compared to some of the other options. Like, say, "Pulling the Needle from the Seafloor."

Now, obviously this is not fighting for anyone's life. It's not even an in-person debate. It's the interwebs.

But it is crucial to note when you're talking to someone who wants information, and when you're talking to someone who just wants a fight. It would probably be wiser to abide the Prime Directive in the latter instance, but if you can't do that, you won't get far being sweetness and light, either.

So am I gentle? Sure. I certainly withhold a stunning number of retorts and prosecutions which would be too cutting. Having that kind of "talent" is my cross to bear, and I don't find my sharp tongue much of a virtue. I stick to Marquis of Queensbury rules, as best I can, and won't deny failing from time to time.

But I won't compliment the Emperor on his fine clothes.

Bennett, I understand that you probably have a history with some of these commenters. As noted, you will have to decide how best to treat folk for yourself.

My points remain valid, nonetheless, I believe...

1. The ONLY examples we have of Jesus (in whose steps we are called to follow) being sarcastic or harsh with anyone are with the RELIGIOUS hypocrites of his days - those who represented the official faith community and who had taken the wrong tack in following God by making faith an exercise in graceless rule-following. Those were the only people we see Jesus speaking harshly to.

2. Showing respect is not weak.

3. IF someone is "being the fool," then responding in kind is only dropping to their level. The proverbs cautions us against responding in kind to a fool.

I would add...

4. Speaking of "crippling" folk as a "kindness" and "gentle" sounds a bit too much like Orwell and not enough like Jesus for my tastes.

To be clear, I'm not speaking of just agreeing to be agreeable, that would be silly. I'm speaking of simple gentle respect and humility in our responses, especially with those who aren't of the faith. As Paul taught (following Jesus' example)...

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone... IF your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

I fear your approach sounds more of the military than of Jesus the Christ.

So, returning to my question to you:

we as Christians, are taught to deal with those who disagree and make our positions with respect and gentleness.


Also, I had said...

"her arguments have no real affect on her salvation. Agreed?"

To which Bennett responded...

Disagreed, I'm afraid. Denying Christ has a pretty strong effect on one's salvation, I'd say.

A. She did not deny Christ. That didn't happen in the little snippet of text you offered, anyway. She didn't even deny the Resurrection, to me. She sounded like she was suggesting that she took the resurrection to be metaphorical, rather than literal (a point on which I would disagree).

B. Given that, my comment remains sound, I believe: We are NOT saved by our arguments. We are not NOT saved by some atheist making the argument that we're not saved. We are saved by God's grace, through faith in Jesus. Whether or not she is trusting in God's grace, I could not say, but her argument does not declare that she isn't.

Do you agree that we are saved by God's grace? Not by our perfect understanding of how that grace works, not by our perfectly sound arguments and reasonings, but by God's grace?

Thank you, sir, for your opinions thus far.

Or, re...

you won't get far being sweetness and light, either.

Does Jesus/Paul's teaching about giving our perceived enemies food and drink and responding with kindness strike you as "Sweetness and light" and, if so, do you think their suggested method is ineffective?

Or, as Peter notes about Jesus' approach...

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly...

Do NOT repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing...

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander...

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude...
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you...

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed...

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Do you think that this sort of patient, long-suffering response was appropriate when it was much closer to a life and death situation? And, if so, if it's mere disagreement with someone who is more smart-alecky than you'd like, ought we not respond in kindness, rather than in-kind?


Okey dokey, we're getting rather far afield here, so I'll try to be brief in responding to the many points at hand, using your numbering system.

1. I don't see any reason why hypocrisy is only problematic if the person is religious. For that matter, Jesus only spoke harshly to Jewish religious leaders. Does that mean only Rabbis are fair game now, but hypocritical Anglicans are fine?

2. Of course not. But neither is weakness respectful. In boxing, letting your guard down is considered a taunt. You show respect by keeping up your dukes. There isn't a one-size-fits-all form of respect.

3. Now there you do have a good point. It's important to know when you're having a legitimate exchange, and when you're doing this:

4. Would you prefer I break his arm or his neck? In this particular hypothetical, to relent only means that I die. Someone's going to get it, regardless. However, this was meant to be an example of restraint in use of force (much as you see police officers trained in), as an analogy for restraint in speech. To firmly rebuke someone is not "gentle" in one sense, but it's far better than shredding them a new one. And it may get through where deference won't. This was not, however, intended to get us into a discussion of Just War Theory, or when Christians may use physical violence. It was simply an analogy, as with the boxer above. Note that William Lane Craig entitled one of his books about apologetics "On Guard" with a picture of a fencer in riposte on the cover, and continually uses the language of fencing as a metaphor for conversation. I don't think he meant to imply that we ought to use rapiers upon our interlocutors--merely a rapier wit.

Now, onto the salvation issue (always a fun one). Since this is a theological, rather than philosophical point, I don't think we're bound to agree.

A. Taking the Resurrection to be metaphorical is, as Hitchens pointed out (he doesn't get to arbitrate, but I see no issue in his logic) tantamount to denying Christ's Lordship. It denies the Triune God. It denies the actual forgiveness of sins via atonement on the cross. If his resurrection is a 'metaphor' then the real Jesus of Nazareth was most probably a crazy or evil person, who was buried in a shallow grave and eaten by dogs. If Christ is not risen, then we are the most pitiable of men. If Christ is not God, then from whence comes the aforementioned grace which saves us?

Now, she or any member of her congregation might be saved *anyway*. The guy in Timbuktu who's never heard the Gospel might be saved. This would be despite their beliefs, not because of them. We can't very well prevent God from saving whomever he ding-dong pleases, if he pleases.


If you want to talk about justification (and here I hold to Catholic doctrine, which will put me at odds with many of the Evangelical or Calvinists), then we must have faith in Christ. In terms of formal logic, it is a sufficient condition, whereas God's grace is the necessary one. Grace begets faith, faith begets a response in action, the response produces fruit of the Spirit, and the whole string of effects begets salvation from sin in this life and the next.

If our response to God's message has no effect, and we are merely predestined playthings, then that gets us to Calvinism and pretty much does away with free will, in my opinion (and that of the RCC). A response of "it's a metaphor" means "Well, it's a nice story, but it's just a story. In reality, there is no such animal."

Saint Paul is very clear about this point. No Resurrection, No Salvation.

B. On the other hand, I don't think engaging in a hypothetical chat with an atheist, in terms of "Oh, but how would you react if X weren't true? Or if I said Y instead?" is blasphemy. It's just talk. However, that is actually the doctrine of her congregation, and many other hyper-liberal denominations. As far as I'm concerned, it amounts to atheism with a frock, and Hitchens called it like it was. God might forgive it, but it certainly isn't what he asked for.

I mentioned her argument in the context of how giving ground often only ends up antagonizing a hard-minded debater. It's counter to the ends of reasoned debate. Hitchens would have been *pleased* to be confronted, and *insulted* to be dodged. You gotta read the other guy.

As I note you have, by the way. I appreciate you being firm and honest with me. And I also thank you for your opinions. I think that between the two of the positions we're taking for the sake of debate, there's a synthesis of soft-hard, firm-but-not-harsh, gentle-but-not-wishy-washy that can be modulated as needs be.

As to the latter followup,

To clarify, I'm not saying we should curse or insult anyone, nor engage in fallacious reasoning, nor lie, etc. However, if we are cursed and insulted, let us call it cursing and insulting, not "reasoned debate" or "difference of opinion." If we are lied to, let us call it "lies" not "subjective truth", if we are confronted with flawed reasoning, let us call it what it is, and so on.

For what it's worth, I pray for each and every person I've ever had a disagreement with here. I hold sincere hope in my heart that they will repent, and I choose to hold faith that their anger and spite is the result of some hurt and/or fear, not an evil character. We're all sinners before God, and I don't imagine myself better than them.

That said, many would find it a slap in the face to be told that, and interpret it as condescension. I am trying to show respect by standing ground.

Nowhere here will you find me say "Mock them! Ridicule them!" as if it were a logical tactic. In fact, read above to see me arguing *against* exactly that, for many strong (and strongly worded) reasons.

But if someone says (as earlier still in the thread) "let me show you an analogy between the Church and North Korea" I'm not apt to just let it slide when they later claim they never made a comparison. By definition of 'analogy' they did exactly that, with a clear intent. Claiming otherwise means they either do not know what an analogy is, or think I don't.

My response was not to say "You jerk! Get lost!" I just quoted back their words, and the dictionary definition of analogy. I don't know whether they were didn't know better, or were attempting to lie, but they certainly did not have both information and honest intent, or else there's no possible way to make such a statement. Firm correction, Dan, not abuse. That's what I'm arguing for.

(To clarify, when I say "I hope they repent" in the above, I'm referring specifically to those who hate God and say so, not merely those with whom I have some disagreement of interpretation and could easily be just as wrong. There's a Puritan sort of Pride in asking God to make everyone else think just like me)

Hey Bennett,
I'm with you most of the way here except for what seem to me your gratuitous slights against Reformation thinking.
Thought I'd share some Aquinas with you:
Next (v. 4), he [Paul] treats of the blessing of election; he sets forth the advantages of this election because: it is free, as he chose us in him; it is eternal, before the foundation of the world; it is fruitful, that we should be holy; and it is gratuitous, in charity.
Therefore he states: He blessed us in the same way—not through our merits but from the grace of Christ—as he chose us and, separating us from those headed to destruction, freely foreordained us in him, that is, through Christ. “You have not chosen me; but I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16). This happened before the foundation of the world, from eternity, before we came into being. For when the children were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election, might stand” (Rom. 9:11). He chose us, I say, not because we were holy—we had not yet come into existence—but that we should be holy in virtues and unspotted by vices. For election performs this twofold action of justice: “Turn away from evil and do good” (Ps. 33:15).
Then (v. 5) he adds the third blessing, that of predestination in the foreordained community of those who are good. Six characteristics of predestination are sketched here. First, it is an eternal act, having predestinated; secondly, it has a temporal object, us; thirdly, it offers a present privilege, the adoption of children through Jesus Christ; fourthly, the result is future, unto himself; fifthly, its manner [of being realized] is gratuitous, according to the purpose of his will; sixthly, it has a fitting effect, unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
Hence he affirms that God, having predestinated us, has fore-chosen us by grace alone unto the adoption of children that we might share with the other adopted children the goods yet to come—thus he says unto the adoption of children. “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons,” and further on, “waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:15 & 23).
Divine predestination is neither necessitated on God’s part nor due to those who are predestined; it is rather according to the purpose of his will. This is the fourth characteristic which recommends the blessing to us, for it springs from pure love. Predestination, according to [how man] conceives it, presupposes election, and election love. A twofold cause of this immense blessing is designated here. One is the efficient cause— which is the simple will of God—according to the purpose of his will. “Therefore, he has mercy on whomever he wills; and whomever he wills he hardens” (Rom. 9:18). “Of his own will he has given us birth by the word of truth (Jam. 1:18). Unto the praise of the glory of his grace specifies the final cause which is that we may praise and know the goodness of God. Once again this eminent blessing is recommended inasmuch as the homage [it results in] is in accord with itself. For the [efficient] cause of divine predestination is simply the will of God, while the end is a knowledge of his goodness.
Whence it should be realized that Gods will in no way has a cause but is the first cause of everything else.
In this perspective, neither can predestination find any reason on the part of the creature but only on the part of God. For there are two effects of predestination, grace and glory. Within the realm of what is willed [by God], grace can be identified as a reason for the effects which are oriented towards glory. For example, God crowned Peter because he fought well, and he did this because he was strengthened in grace. But no reason for the grace, as a primary effect, can be found on the part of man himself which would also be the reason for predestination. This would be to assert that the source of good works was in man by himself and not by grace. Such was the heretical teaching of the Pelagians who held that the source of good works exists within ourselves. Thus it is evident that the reason for predestination is the will of God alone, on account of which the Apostle says according to the purpose of his will. 
By now it must be clear how divine predestination neither has nor can have any cause but the will of God alone. This, in turn, reveals how the only motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate the divine goodness to others.


He eliminates two errors concerning the first point. The first of these is that, since he had said we are saved by faith, any one can hold the opinion that faith itself originates within ourselves and that to believe is determined by our own wishes. Therefore to abolish this he states and that not of yourselves. Free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above human reason. “Matters too great for human understanding have been shown to you” (Sir 3:25). “No one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it, according to that text of Wisdom 9 (17): “Who could ever have known your will, had you not given Wisdom and sent your Holy Spirit from above.” For this reason he adds for it is the gift of God, namely, faith itself. “For you have been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29). “To another, faith is given in the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:9).


I didn't think I slighted anyone--if so, it was unintentional and I apologize. That said, I did, I think, spell out that we receive faith by grace, and must in turn respond to it. Faith in God is explicitly a theological virtue in Catholic teaching--that is, it's a gift from God and cannot be cultivated, bought, sold, or earned.

God certainly determines who will receive the light of his revelation, but we decide what to do in response. If you deny the latter, then you were never 'saved' because you never had a choice. The danger was illusory and the whole thing is a trick.

That said, the teaching is a complicated one. I'm content enough to just do my best in everything and leave the rest to God, without warring against my brothers over how many angels will fit on a pinhead.

Obviously smarter and holier men than me have been debating the issue at length for about four centuries now, and the Schism hasn't healed itself. I doubt whether we'll create more friendship than enmity by getting into this particular doctrine via blog comments.

For whatever it's worth (I don't consider myself an authority here), I tend to find the concepts of Middle Knowledge and Molinism to be a pretty reasonable model of how it may work.

Thanks for the apology, Bennett - even though you didn't really see the need.
I think I agree with your last sentence at 5:42, Bennett.
Which is why I feel compelled to respond when people make remarks about what Calvinism does or does not mean with regards to free choice and predestination and oppose this to Catholic (for instance) belief.

I've read that if Luther had read the right experts on Aquinas there never would have been a Reformation. I don't know about that, but it seems very often the views are separated more by caricature than fact.

This is likely overkill at this point, but continuing in the above link:

Hence the Apostle says that he hath graced us, that is, made us pleasing that we should be worthy of his love. “See what love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; ans so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).\…\\ 
He chose us is the same as to say he predestinated us. And the same idea is expressed in that we should be holy and unspotted as in unto the adoption of children.

Next, when he says predestined according to his purpose, he writes of the free predestination of God concerning which Romans 8 (30) deals: “And those he predestinated he has also called.” The reason for this predestination is not our merits but the will of God alone, on account of which he adds according to the purpose of him. “And we know that to those who love God, all things work together unto good; to those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
I rightly declared, he says of the first, by whose grace you were saved; and indeed, I still confidently say For, in place of “because,” by grace you are saved. “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15: 10), “being justified freely by his grace” (Rom 3:24). For to be saved is the same as to be justified.


The second error he rejects is that anyone can believe that faith is given by God to us on the merit of our preceding actions. To exclude this he adds Not of preceding works that we merited at one time to be saved; for this is the grace, as was mentioned above, and according to Romans 11 (6): “If by grace, it is not now by works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” He follows with the reason why God saves man by faith without any preceding merits, that no man may glory in himself but refer all the glory to God.

It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus , who became for us wisdom from God, justice, sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:29-30).


The second essential characteristic of grace is that it is not from previous works; this is expressed when he adds created. To create anything is to produce it from nothing; hence, when anyone is justified without preceding merits, he can be said to have been created as though made from nothing. This creative action of justification occurs through the power of Christ communicating the Holy Spirit.


Moreover, not only are the habits of virtue and grace given to us , but we are inwardly renewed through the Spirit in order to act uprightly. Whence he goes on in good works since the good works themselves are [made possible] to us by God. “For you have accomplished all we have done” (Is 26:12).
Since “those he predestined he also called” through grace, as Romans 8 (30) expresses it, therefore he adds something concerning predestination, saying, which good works God has prepared. For predestination is nothing else than the pre-arrangement of God’s blessings, among which blessings our good works themselves are numbered.


[[these two gifts are by faith]]

The means by which these are given us is by the faith of him, namely, of Christ. “Being justified, therefore, by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5: 1).


Therefore to abolish this he states and that not of yourselves. Free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above human reason.

And from the Summa:

Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is a part of providence, in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation, so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 1).

It seems to me that a person who agrees with Aquinas on predestination and choice agrees with Calvin.

I find Molinism somewhat attractive as well, but it again seems to make God subject to man's will in some way. Of course, like the Trinity, I don't have to figure out the how to assent to the that.

Man, fellas, I know it's off topic, but you all sure make this sound complicated.

I believe that we are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus and that's about it. "Middle knowledge?" "Molinism..."?? The Summa?? Predestination??

Where do you find that stuff in the Bible or in logic? Saved by Grace. Faith in Jesus. Repent. Follow God. Saved by Grace! That says all I need to know.

Oh, and God saving us by God's grace is never pre-conditioned on us perfectly understanding it or expressing it in a way that other Christians find pleasing. At least not in the Bible and not logically, so far as makes sense to me.

Is it possible some have over-thought this and made a whole complicated and convoluted System out of something as simple as grace and forgiveness?

Hi Dan,
if you read the material I supplied, or follow the links you will note this is from Aquinas' commentary on Ephesians. So, yes, it's form the Bible.

And predestination?
Romans 8:29, 30

If you don't think this topic is worthy of discussion you don't have to discuss it.

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