Monday, September 11, 2006

Garrigou-Lagrange on Predestination

I am about half way through Garrigou-Lagrange's book Predestination, which argues for a Thomistic understanding of the doctrine. Garrigou-Lagrange was prolific Catholic theologian who wrote extensively during the last century. The first half provides a historical summary of the doctrine of predestination (not unlike McGrath's treatment of justification in Iustitia Dei). The second half promises to be a synthesis of his own treatment of the topic, but in as much as he is unapologetically committed to Thomas, it's reading pretty much the same as the first half. A couple of thoughts from my reading thus far.

First, Garrigou-Lagrange demonstrates quite clearly that Augustine and Thomas were basically in agreement on the subject of predestination. That is, both Augustine and Thomas maintained the absolute gratuity of predestination prior to merits (either foreseen or actual). In fact, the divergence between Augustine and Thomas seems to be more related to present day Augustinians and Thomists than to the original proponents themselves. The differnces between the two seem minor enough that Garrigou-Lagrange doesn't spend more than a couple of pages on them. This was encouraging to me, in as much as I am in agreement with Augustine on this point (as are many conservative evangelicals) and was glad to find that Aquinas stands fully in the Augustinian tradition as well. It was also interesting to note the strong desire to distance both Augustine and Aquinas from Calvin and Luther (as well as Jansinism-which I know very little about) on this issue, though I think that is more a reflection of Garrigou-Langrange's Catholic loyalties than anything substantive. In my observations, the differences are minor.

Second, I was intrigued by the emphasis on love that is woven throughout the Thomistic interpretation of unconditional election. Garrigou-Lagrange intrepets Thomas--and indeed the whole subject--from what he terms Thomas' principle of predilection--"that no created being would be better than another unless it were loved more by God." This means that for Thomas (and Garrigou-Lagrange) election presupposes love. Why does God choose the elect for salvation and pass over the non-elect? Because he loves the elect with a greater love. Protestant expressions of Augustine on this doctrine (a.k.a Calvinism) do not typically contain this emphasis on the love of God. They tend to center instead on the glory of God and the unconditional nature of grace in the face of humanity's great rebellion. Worms all!--Yet God has chosen to save us in spite of ourselves. Perhaps this is not a fair summary of Calvin himself, but certainly his legacy in evanglicalism has not managed to meaningfully fuse together the love of God and the gratitous election of sinners. I appreciate the Thomistic emphasis of love in his treatment of predistination, particuarly in as much as he finds continuity with Paul.

This empahsis on love leads to a second signicant implication explicit within Thomas' doctrine or predilection--God does not love everyone equally. A remarkable statment to make in the face of popular evangelicalsim, but from what I read in scripture here and here (along with others passages), a true statement (and one which my pastor has affirmed publically). In fact, I believe it is our evangelical failure to recognize this aspect of predilection that causes us to loose sight of the love of God in unconditional election. If God loves everyone equally, then love cannot be his motive in election. Thus the emphasis in evanglical expressions of Augustiniansim focus on the unworthiness of sinners and the glory of God. Thomas' (and I think Augustine's) doctrine of predestination contains the evangelical empahsis without sacrficing the Thomistic emphasis on God's love for the elect.

But why does God love the elect more than the non-elect? "Ask not" Augustine says, "If you wish not to error."


Canadian Calvinist said...

I have this book and enjoyed much of what was said as well. He clearly and passionately defends "Grace alone", but also clearly declares that we do "merit" salvation by grace wrought, God ordained works. We Protestants have concerns with this but I wonder if both sides definitions of merit cause some confusion here. Augustine said that when God rewards our merits, He is but crowning His own gifts to us. The scripture repeatedly talks about a judgement according to our works!?!? The Thomist, while defending Grace against Pelagian tendencies seems to make this a judgement of our "merits" that God's Spirit has worked in us. I feel a closer connection in some ways to those Catholic apologists who so vigorously defend God's sovereign working of Grace than I do with much modern Protestant teaching that makes Man the prime mover in salvation, however we need to be careful when it comes to merit.The Council of Orange is a wonderful document from the sixth century regarding this.

Gerald said...

Thanks Darrin,

I think that you are right in pointing out the many judgment passages. These are portions of Scripture which contemporary Protestants have chronic difficulty dealing with. In my mind Augustine does a pretty good job of providing a way forward. And so does Luther--though his approach is lost in later Lutheranism I think.

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