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Synergism and Monergism: Which one is scriptural?

updated on 11 Mar 2019

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The debate between synergism and monergism is related to salvation, grace/mercy from God and our free-will, therefore we need to know definition of all of them first.  Salvation is being rescued by God from eternal damnation in hell.  Grace from God is freefavourwe receive from Him that we do not deserve.  Mercy from God, on the other hand, is when He does notlet us get what we actually deserve.  There are a number of definitions of free-will, from both philosophical and theological views.  Simplest definition of free-will could be our ability to control our actions, to freelychoose between good and evil, between life and death.  Scripture testifies that we do have such free-will (underlined emphasis added):

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evilIf you obey the commandmentsof the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lordyour God, obeying his voice, and clinging to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lordswore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20, RSV, underlined emphasis added)

Yet Scripture also says that God is in control in our eternal destiny.  In Romans 9:21-23 it uses metaphor of God as the potter while we are the clay.  God molded us to become either vessel of beauty or vessel for menial use – the latter is vessel of wrath made for destruction.  Whether a piece of clay becomes a vessel of beauty or for menial use is at the sole discretion of the potter – as clay we cannot freelychoose. “So it depends not on man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16, RSV).  In other words, the belief that God is in control in our destiny, is rooted in Scripture.

I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

Isaiah 46:9-11 (RSV)

Because of this Scripture teaches that we have been saved[i]by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and through sanctification[ii](2 Thessalonians 2:13) – Sanctification is work of God (1 Thessalonians 5:23).    Jesus said in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless he is firstdrawnby God the Father.

What makes God control our destiny, i.e. our salvation depends on His grace/mercy?  All Christians believe that at the Fall (i.e. when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, Genesis 3:1-6), sin came to the world and with it came death. Therefore as sin came into the world through one man [Adam] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned (Romans 5:12, RSV).   While what Adam did was his personal sin, but as his descendants all of us are affected by it[iii]– it is known as Original Sin[iv].  It makes us born in fallen state, i.e. with inclination to sin and therefore makes us sinners.  Scripture says the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  We become children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  Born with original sin is the reason why our salvation depends on God’s grace or mercy.

How to reconcile Scriptural teaching that we have free-will to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) with the one that says God is in control of our destiny (Romans 9:21-23)?   If God is in control in our destiny, do Christians believe in what is known as determinism?  Determinism is philosophical view that our actions are pre-determined from eternity, i.e. we do not act according to our free-will, even though it seems to us we do it freely. A good analogy of determinism is: God is a movie director who appointed all of us for specific roles in a movie He planned from eternity.   When we watch a movie, whatever all actors/actresses did and said, even the costume they wore etc. were predetermined, following movie script prepared by the director.  The actors/actresses did not choose and were unable to change that.    Thus God appointed Judas Iscariot as actor who betrayed Christ, while Paul was the actor who started as enemy of Christianity but then became great apostle.  The actors who played 9/11 hijackers took control of planes on that day and flew them to hit World Trade Centre buildings, killing themselves and other actors/actresses who must be on those planes and in the buildings.  Determinism makes God responsible for either our salvation or damnation, just like a movie director appoints actors/actresses for their roles in a movie.  On the other hand, if we believe in free-will, then we are the ones who control our destiny and this contradicts Romans 9:21-23.

In early fifth century AD Pelagius[v]and Celestius[vi]taught that the Fall does not affect mankind. We can freelywilland workforour salvation – God’s grace has only optionalrole in assisting that free will.   Their teaching was summarized in:

(1) Adam was created mortal and would have dead even if he had not sinned

(2) Adam’s sin affected only himself, not the whole human race

(3) Children are born in the same state as that of Adam before he sinned

(4) the human race does not die corporately with Adam or rise corporately with Christ

(5) the Law as well as the Gospel offer the entrance to the kingdom of heaven

(6) even before the coming of Christ, there were human persons without sin.

Ferguson, E. (editor): Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2ndedition, page 887

Against their teaching, now known as pelagianism, St. Augustine[vii], taught that without God’s grace we are unable to reach salvation.  He did not deny the existence of free will but unless it is moved by God’s grace we can do nothing[viii].  He introduced what is now known as prevenientgrace, i.e. grace that precedes our free-will.  Later some tried to have middle ground between Pelagianism and Augustinianism – they admitted the necessityof grace but we, through our free will, are still able to take the first stepin our salvation.  In other words, God provides grace for salvation of all of us, but it depends on us whether we take it or not.  Their teaching is now known as semi-pelagianism.   Pelagianism teaches that our salvation depends on us, with grace has only optional role in assisting our free-will. In semi-pelagianism, on the other hand, our salvation depends on both our free-will and God’s Grace – these two must work together and they are mutually independent.

In both pelagianism and semi-pelagianism we are the ones who control our destiny through our free-will.  Because of this they were condemned in synod/council[ix]of Carthagenorth Africa in 411 AD and later in (second) council held in Orange(or Arausio), in southern France in 529 AD[x].   Council of Orange declared Catholic position on relation between our will and that of God: we can only freelydo good when our will is firstmoved by the will of God, while in doing evil we ourselves freelydo it.  Thus God is still in control because He is the one who makes us freelydo what please Him that leads to our salvation, but He is notthe one who makes us do evil.  It affirms both God’s sovereignty in our destiny and our free-will to choose between life and death, therefore reconciles those two.

“The good will of God and of man.  Men do their own will, not God’s, when they do what displeases God; but when they do what they wish, in order to serve the divine will, even though willingly they do what they do, nevertheless, it is the will of Him by whom what they will is both prepared and ordered” 

Canon 23 of Orange Council (underlined emphasis added)

Although it did not use the word, the above canon could be the first who introduced synergismbetween our free-will and that of God.  Synergismcomes from (Greek) words synand ergon.  Ergon means work while prefix syn means together.  In synergism while grace from God works in us that enables us to do good, we are not passive but freelycooperate with it.

During 16thcentury Reformation the Reformers proposed another teaching on relation between our will and that of God.  

  1. After the Fall there is no free-will, we are either captive of either the will of God or the will of devil

In his works “The Bondage of the Will”, written to counter that of Erasmus[xi]who wrote “The Freedom of the Will”, Reformer Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) wrote:

On the other hand in relation to God, or in matters pertaining to salvation or damnation, a man has no free choice, but is a captive, subject and slave either of the will of God or the will of Satan.

Luther: The Bondage of the Will(underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 70

Luther explained further what he meant by being slave of either the will of God or that of Satan:

Thus the human will is placed between the two like a beast of burden.  If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills, as the psalm says: “I am become as a beast [before thee] and I am always with thee”[Psalms 73:22].  If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it


English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, pages 65-66

For if God is in us, Satan is absent, and only a good-will is present; if God is absent, Satan is present, and only an evil-will is in us.


English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 112

Luther used the analogy of beast of burden to represent us – we act according to who rides us or who is in control of us, God or Satan – we do not have freedom to control our actions, not even to choose who controls us. Had there been cars in his time, then he could use cars to represent us.  The behaviour of any car depends on who is behind steering wheel, i.e. whether he/she is a good driver or a drunken one.  According to Luther, our free-will is empty phrase[xii]and only God has free-will[xiii].  Because we do not have free-will, about our salvation Luther wrote:

In just the same way (our answer continues), before man is changed into a new creature of the Kingdom of the Spirit, he does nothing and attempts nothing to prepare himself for this renewal and this Kingdom, and when he has been recreated he does nothing and attempts nothing toward remaining in this Kingdom,but the Spirit alone does both of these things in us, recreating us without us and preserving us without our help in our recreated state, as also James says: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of his power, that we might be a beginning of his creature” [James 1:18]—speaking of the renewed creature.


English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 243

Although he neither used nor introduced the term, Luther could be the first to teach monergism.  The word monergism comes from monoand ergon – prefix mono means single while Greek noun ergon means work.  Monergism teaches that in our salvation God worksalonein us while we do nothing – in Luther’s words “he does nothing and attempts nothing”.  Based on what he wrote above (the underlined parts) Luther taught that our salvation is entirely monergistic, from beginning to end.

  1. After the fall, though the will itself remains free, its capacity for choice is limited by the sinfulness of human nature.   Human beings retain the capacity of choice, but all choosing occurs in the context of sin[xiv].

This teaching came from Reformer John Calvin (1509 – 1564) who wrote:

Now let us hear what the Holy Spirit declares. I will be content with a single passage, since the argument is not about the thing itself, but only about what is called. When Paul describes the state of the saints, he affirms that they are bound as prisoners with the chains of sin insofar as they have not yet been set free by the Spirit of God[Romans 7:23].And when he speaks of man’s nature, he says he is sold under sin [Romans 7:14].  If the saints are in bondage to the extent that they are still left to themselves and their own nature, what is to be said of those in whom their nature alone flourishes and reigns? If after regeneration man has only half freedom, what has he in the time of his original carnal generation but total bondage? Paul had also said this very thing earlier.  For in the sixth chapter he gives thanks to God that the Romans have been set free from sin, to which they were previously in bondage [Romans 6:17].We see how before regeneration it is not remnants of the flesh but the whole person which he yields up to bondage.

Calvin: The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pages 68-69 (underlined emphasis added)

English translation by G.I. Davies and edited by A.N.S. Lane

A bound will, finally, is one which because of its corruptness is held captive under the authority of evil desires, so that it can choose nothing but evil, even if it does so of its own accord and gladly, without being driven by any external impulse.

ibid, page 69

While Luther makes the devil as the source of our evil acts because we simply follow and cannot resist his will, Calvin taught that our sinful nature, which is the outcome of the Fall, makes us do so freely. Calvin affirmed free-will as long as it does notmean freedom to choose between life and death, between good and evil.  According to him, we are free, not under coercion, to choose evil.

If freedom is opposed to coercion, I both acknowledge and consistently maintain that choice is free, and I hold anyone who thinks otherwise to be heretic, If, I say, it were called free in the sense of not being coerced nor forcibly moved by an external impulse, but moving of its own accord, I have no objection. The reason I find this epithet [i.e. free] unsatisfactory is that people commonly think of quite something different when they hear or read it being applied to the human will. Since in fact they take it to imply ability and power, one cannot prevent from entering the minds of most people, as soon as the will is called free, the illusion that it therefore has both good and evil within its power, so that it can by its own strength choose either one of them.

ibid, page 68

Calvin wrote that only grace from God can set free our will, i.e. it enables us to choose good and for this he relied on Augustine’s teaching.

But the question is asked whether freedom to choose good or evil does not naturally reside in man. He [Augustine]replies: “It must be acknowledged that we have free choice to do both evil and good. But in doing evil each one is free of righteousness and the slave of sin, while in doing good, no one can be free, unless he has first been set free by the Son of God [Augustine: Rebuke and Grace 1.2, NPNF[xv]5:472]. So people are freed from evil by the grace of God aloneWithout this they do no good at all, whether by thinking, or by willing and loving, or by acting.  This means not only that when [grace] shows them they know what they should do, but that when it enables them they gladly do what they know [to be right]. [Augustine: ibid 2.3]And he then explains this more briefly. “The human will does not obtain grace through its freedom, but rather freedom through grace.”  [ibid 8.17, NPNF 5:478]

ibid, page 130

While Luther taught monergistic salvation from beginning to end, Calvin and mostof those who follow him teach that only in the beginning, i.e. when God regenerate us, is monergistic.

The act of grace which regenerates, operating within the spontaneous energies of the soul and changing their character, can neither be co-operated with nor resisted. But the instant the soul is regenerated it begins to co-operatewith and sometimes, alas! also to resist subsequent gracious influences prevenient and co-operative.

Hodge, A.A.[xvi]: Outlines of Theology, page 448-449 (underlined emphasis added)

Regeneration, then, is to be conceived monergistically. God alone works, and the sinner has no part in it whatsoever. This, of course, does not mean, that man does not co-operate in later stages of the work of redemption. It is quite evident from Scripture that he does.

Berkhof[xvii]: Systematic Theology, page 473 (underlined emphasis added)

There is much confusion about the debate between monergism and synergism. When Augustinianism is defined as monergistic, one must remember that itis monergistic with respect to the beginning of salvation, not to the whole process. Augustinianism does not reject all synergism, but does reject a synergism that is all synergism.

Sproul[xviii]: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 73

Sanctification is not monergistic.  It is synergistic. That is, it demands the cooperation of the regenerate believer.

Sproul:Chosen by God, page 131 (underlined emphasis added)

In contrast Horton[xix]rejects synergistic sanctification.

It is vital to distinguish the new birth (or effectual calling) from conversion. In the former, we are passive: acted upon and within by the triune God through the gospel.  In the latter we are active(having been “activated” by grace), since we are raised from spiritual death to everlasting life.

Does this mean that we are monergists at the point of regeneration and justification, only to become synergists thereafter? Not at all, our faith and grateful obedience are not only responses to God’s gift but are produced in us from beginning to end by the same grace of God.

Horton: For Calvinism, page 110, 111 (underlined emphasis added)

Monergistic regeneration could be illustrated in the following analogy: When a mechanic decides to repair a damaged car, he/she will do all the work alone or monergistically, i.e. that car cannot and does not need to cooperate and there is no kicking and screaming from it either.  Thus, God grace works alone on us, who, like damaged cars, were spiritually dead persons. No cooperation is required and no kicking and screaming either[xx].

Monergism in regeneration is based on the interpretation of the phrase “dead in sin or trespasses” in New Testament (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).  Monergists draw an analogy between “dead” in those verses and physical death, i.e. a physically dead person obviously can do nothing until he/she is revived back to life.  We are spiritually dead even though biologically alive[xxi], wrote Sproul.  God alone regenerates us who are spiritually dead and therefore cannot and do not need to cooperate.  Therefore monergistic regeneration must take place before we can freely have faith in Christ[xxii].

When Scripture says we are dead in sins it can be interpreted without making analogy to physical death.  Scripture says the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4); and whoever sins is of the devil (1 John 3:8).  Thus, our sins do not entitle us to enter heaven and in that sense, we are “dead”. The (Greek) word regeneration occurs only twice in New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5) and neither of them talks about being regenerated as understood by monergists.  Catholics relate washing of regeneration in Titus 3:5 to Sacrament of Baptism, through which we are raised from death to new life (Romans 6:4)[xxiii].  Even Augustine[xxiv], Luther[xxv]and Calvin[xxvi]understood “washing of regeneration” in Titus 3:5 to mean Baptism.

The main reasons why monergists reject synergism are: (1) they think in synergism we contribute something in our salvation through our cooperation and (2) they equate synergism with semi Pelagianism[xxvii].  Synergistic salvation, according to them, is no longer by grace alone.  By grace alone or in Latin “sola gratia” is one of the five sola’s[xxviii]of the Reformation.   However, synergism does not teach we contribute something in our salvation.  Our ability to freely cooperate with grace from God comes from God Himself. Synergism has indeed scriptural support. The Greek verb sunergeo, meaning “to work together” (from where we have the English word “synergy”), appears five times in New Testament, one of them is: “We know that in everythingGod works[Greek sunergei]for goodwith those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, RSV, underlined emphasis added).  The verse says that in everythingGod works together with us – it does not say He works with us only in Sanctification.  Scripture also uses corresponding Greek adjective sunergos, meaning fellow worker or co-worker, in a number of places, one of them is: For we are God’s fellow workers[Greek sunergoi]; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9, RSV, underlined emphasis added).   Thus, while Scripture does say God works with us or we are not simply passive, it is grace that works in us and enables us to do it – we do not contribute anything in our salvation.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harderthan any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10 (underline emphasis added)

Most monergists who follow Calvin believe that Sanctification is synergistic.   Scripture says that God saves us through Sanctification (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and Sanctification is His works (1 Thessalonians 5:23), not His and our works, even though we are not passive.

Monergism and synergism differs in the impact of the Fall.


After the Fall, human nature is wounded but not totally corrupted[xxix].


After the Fall, human nature is totally corrupted, or known as total depravity[xxx].

  1. After the Fall, we still have free-will but without God’s grace we cannotuse it to believe in Christ, to do good and therefore to be saved[xxxi].

This is the teaching of the Catholic Church on the relation between grace and free-will.   It was declared at Council of Orange in 529 AD and was restated in Council of Trent to counter that of Reformers, and is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactivewhile receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, hecannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993 (underlined emphasis added)

Compared to that of Calvin, while it is expressed in different words they are not opposing each other – we can say they are parallel.  Both say we depend on grace, not on our free-will, for our salvation.  The difference is the Catholic Church teaches synergistic salvation, from beginning to end while Calvin and most of his followers believe that the beginning of our salvation, i.e. when God regenerates us, is monergistic, and the rest is synergistic.  Among Protestants, Arminian[xxxii]Protestants are also synergists.

In synergism prevenient grace given is efficacious, i.e. it governstheir free-will or it makes them cooperate freely.  Grace is the primary cause of our free action, without it we cannot freely do good.  This is what makes synergism differ from semi-pelagianism.

So it remains true that grace is not efficacious because free will consents, but conversely the free will consents because grace efficaciously premovesit to the willing and performance of a good act.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Controversies on Grace: Thomism(underlined emphasis added)

For it is not the will which by its free consent determines the power of grace, but conversely it is grace which makes the free good act possible, prepares for it and co-operates in its execution.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Controversies on Grace: Molinism (underlined emphasis added)[xxxiii]

Sovereignty of Grace. Catholic belief in the sovereignty of grace holds that no free act leading to salvation can be performed unless it is initiated, sustained, and brought to completion by the merciful gift or grace of God.  To deny this is to destroy the whole meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see, e.g., John 6.44; 15.5; Phil 2.13, 2 Cor 3.5, Rom 11.6), as the Church affirmed in its vigorous reaction to Pelagianism (Denz[xxxiv]222-230, 371-397).

Catholic Theology. Every Catholic theology maintains that man’s supernatural act is produced both by his free will and by God’s grace, but the relationship between them is not that of two independent causes mutually cooperating.  On the contrary, the free consent is itself a gift of grace. While one legitimately speaks of “cooperating with grace” (Denz 379, 397, 1525), this cooperation is given to men by the gracious God. He so gives it to men that is truly theirs, but it is theirs without ceasing to depend on the saving good pleasure of God. God and man act on totally different planesOnly the divine freedom is absolutely independent.  Man’s freedom is creaturely freedom, and even in its free activity it is dependent on Subsistent Freedom.  Yet this dependence does do away with human freedom, for God’s causality transcends every category of cause man can imagine.  It gives lesser causes their own action in a way that is totally in harmony with their natures.  Beings that are not free He moves to an activity that is determined; beings that are free He moves to an activity that is free and responsible while not ceasing to be the product of grace. Herein there is mystery, but not absurdity.

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, page 93: Free Will and Grace(underlined emphasis added)

St. Thomas Aquinas (died in 1274) explained the relation between freedom of man and God’s providence as follows:

St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed both divine providence and man’s freedom. God’s knowledge and existence are not the same as those of His creatures. He does not know things successively but with one eternal act; otherwise He would be subject to change and imperfection (ST[xxxv]1a, 14.4; 14.7). Nor does He exist in time (ST 1a, 14.13 ad 3).   Thus the manner and limitations of created intelligence and power must not be ascribed to Him.  On the other hand man is free. If he were not, counsels, exhortations, precepts, prohibitions, rewards and punishments would be purposeless(ST 1a, 83.1).  To harmonize these two truths Thomas distinguished between primaryand secondarycausality.  To be free the creature need not be the first but only the secondary cause of his actions. An analogy is proposed.  When a man makes something, he works on already existing thing, yet he is the real cause of what is produced.  God is the first cause of all things; man, acting under His influence, is the true secondary cause of his own actions(ST 1a, 83.1 ad 3).

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6 page 94 (underlined emphasis added)

How about St. Augustine’s view on this issue?  Calvin and Sproul cited from him and made him their ally.  Consider Augustine’s statement cited by Calvin:” Thehuman will does not obtain grace through its freedom, but rather freedom through grace.”  Both synergist and monergist agree on what Augustine wrote. The following statement by Augustine should settle whether he was synergist or taught monergistic regeneration:

But God made you without you.  You didn’t, after all, give any consent to God making you.  How were you to consent, if you didn’t yet exist?  So while hemade you without you, he doesn’t justify you without you.  So he made you without your knowing it, he justifies you with your willing consent to it

Augustine: Sermon 169.13(underlined emphasis added)

English translation from: The Works of Saint Augustine: sermons III/5 (148-183), page 231

How God’s grace works in us efficaciously while we remain free, is a mystery. Until today there is no dogmatic (binding) declaration from the Catholic Church on this issue, though there are a number of explanations proposed by a number of Catholic theologians[xxxvi].

The way in which the fact of man’s free choice is reconciled with fundamental Christian truth of his total dependence on the grace of God is, ultimately, a mystery. The Catholic Church has always believed and taught both truths while its theologians have full liberty to attempt to explain their compatibility.

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, page 93: Free Will and Grace

Synergism could be illustrated in the following analogy: A surgeon told his patient that he needs to perform surgery on him/her but he cannot do it without his/her written consent.  He does not force the patient to sign it and his patient is free and is able to decide not to sign it, but he/she signed it willingly.   For sure his patient would not sign it if a non-surgeon asked him/her to do the same. If a person with his degree, qualification and reputation can make another person cooperate while he remains free, then grace from God should be able to do the same.

For those who still confuse synergism with semi-pelagianism, semi Pelagianism can be illustrated in the following analogy:  An institution announces in public that they offer free course.   Those who are interested will freely register and freely attend it, those who are not interested will freely decide not to register.    That institution does notchoose who will register and attend the free course.  On the other hand, in the analogy of synergism above, a surgeon will notgo around and asks everybody, on random basis, to sign letter of consent so that he can perform surgery on them.  He/she chooses his/her patients and he/she is in full control in doing so.  Thus in synergism and monergism, because God is in control in our destiny, there is what is known as Election– He chooses whom He wants to save, known as the Elect.  There is no election in both semi-pelagianism and Pelagianism because we are the ones who control our destiny.

All Christians believe in Election because it is taught in Scripture.  In Matthew 25:34 Christ told the Elect (the sheep) to enter the kingdom of heaven prepared for them from the foundation(creation) of the world.   The Greek word, eklektos, meaning the Elect or the Chosen, appear in many places in New Testament (Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:22, Romans 8:33, 16:13, Colossians 3:12, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2, Revelation 17:14).

How did God choose the Elect? Until today the Catholic Church does not define dogmatically the nature of Election.  It may remain a mystery as God does not have to reveal everything to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).   There are two distinct theological views on election, followed by both Catholics and Protestants:

  • Unconditional(Absolute) Election: God by His decree chose the Elect when He created the world. It is adopted by the Thomists, Augustinians, some Molinistsand Calvinist (Reformed) Thomism is philosophical and theological teachings developed by St. Thomas Aquinas and by religious order he established, the Dominicans. Augustinians is religious order established in 1256 based on Augustine teachings on monastic life.   Reformer Martin Luther belonged to this order. Molinism came from teaching of Jesuittheologian Luis de Molina (1535 – 1600). Jesuit or Society of Jesus is religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola(1491 – 1556) in 1540.
  • ConditionalElection: God, being omniscience and not bound by time dimension, chose the Elect when He created the world based on His Divine Foreknowledge of their free response to His grace. It is adopted by most Molinists, St. Francis of Sales (1567 – 1622) and Arminian

If God chose the Elect, did He also choose those who will end up in hell or the Reprobate?   Scripture says God desires salvation of all men (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).  He has no intention to put any one in hell (Ezekiel 33:11) and His Grace brings salvation to all men(Titus 2:11) through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22). The phrase “prepared from the foundation of the world” is notapplied to the goats (the Reprobate) in Matthew 25:41 – the verse plainly says that hell is prepared for the devil and his angels, not for them. Thus, the Catholic Church always rejects the belief that God unconditionally predestined anyone to hell[xxxvii].  The Catholic Church position on Reprobation is Conditional Reprobation, i.e. God rejects them based on His Divine Foreknowledge of their rejection to His saving grace.  God gives His Grace to all (Titus 2:11) – efficacious grace to the Elect that makes them cooperate freely,but to the Reprobate, sufficientbut inefficaciousgrace, based on their foreseenrejection of His grace[xxxviii].  In other words, the Reprobate is responsible for their own damnation.

Among Protestants, those who adhere to Calvinism believe in Unconditional Reprobation, i.e. God when He created the world, by His decree, assigned the Reprobate to be damned in hell.  Combined with Unconditional Election, it is known as double predestination– God by His decree (or unconditionally) predestined some to heaven (the Elect) and the rest to hell (the Reprobate)[xxxix].  According to Sproul, it is positive-negativedouble predestination[xl], i.e. while God actively provides His saving grace to the Elect to save them, He simply bypasses the Reprobate and without grace they are damned to hell.  Since both the Elect and the Reprobate were born in fallen state, God freely chose the former to be saved and He is deemed not responsible for the damnation of the latter, though He did decide from eternity to bypass them from receiving His grace.  Unconditional Reprobation is condemned at Council of Trent[xli].

[i]     In Greek the verb “to save” in Ephesians 2:8 is in passive perfect tense.  Unlike that of English, Greek perfect tense refers to completed action in the past with continuing result to the present, from speaker or writer point of view. Thus Ephesians 2:8 says that we were saved by grace and always remains saved by grace.

[ii]    Sanctification (Greek ‘agiasmoV) and holiness (Greek ‘agiosune) have the same stem, holy (Greek ‘agioV). To sanctify (Greek ‘agiazo) or to consecrate means to make holy or to purify.

[iii]   Catechism of the Catholic Church # 404

[iv]    known as Ancestral Sin in Eastern Orthodox Church

[v]     Pelagius (ca. 350 AD to 425 AD) is thought to be a British monk.

[vi]    Celestius (died ca. 435 AD) was Pelagius follower.

[vii]   Augustine (354 AD to 430 AD) was bishop of Hippo in North Africa. He was one of Doctors of the (Catholic) Church.  Doctor of the Church is honour given to those with great contribution in the development of Church doctrines.

[viii]  Therefore, my dearly beloved, as we have now proved by our former testimonies from the Holy Scripture that there is in man free determination of will for living rightly and acting rightly; so now let us see what are the divine testimonies concerning the grace of God, without which we are not able to do any good thing.

Augustine: On Grace and Free Will. Chapter 7 (underlined emphasis added)

For complete text refer to

[ix]    The (English) word synod comes from Greek synodoswhile the (English) word council comes from Latin concilium– both words mean assembly or gathering.  It refers to ecclesiastical (church) gathering under hierarchical authority, for the discussion and decision of matters relating to faith, morals or discipline.

[x]     The council promulgated 25 canons followed by conclusion, and can be summarized as (1) the existence of original sin, 2), God foreordained no one to evil but we do evil through our own free-will, and (3) prevenient grace from God enables us to do good works, to obey His Commandments and to be saved while we remain free.

Canon 1.    If anyone says that by the offense of Adam’s transgression not the whole man, that is according to body and soul, was changed for the worse, but believes that while the liberty of the soul endures without harm, the body only is exposed to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and resists the Scripture which says: “The soul, that has sinned, shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]; and: “Do you not know that to whom you show yourselves servants to obey, you are the servants of him whom you obey?” [Romans 6:16]; and: Anyone is adjudged the slave of him by whom he is overcome[2 Peter 2:19].

Canon 2.    If anyone asserts that Adam’s transgression injured him alone and not his descendants, or declares that certainly death of the body only, which is the punishment of sin, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man into the whole human race, he will do an injustice to God, contradicting the Apostle who says: Through one man sin entered in the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed into all men, in whom all have sinned[Rom. 5:12].

Canon 3.    If anyone says that the grace of God can be bestowed by human invocation, but that the grace itself does not bring it to pass that it be invoked by us, he contradicts Isaias the Prophet, or the Apostle who says the same thing: “I was found by those who were not seeking me: I appeared openly to those, who did not ask me” [Romans 10:20; Isaiah 65:1].

Canon 4.    If anyone contends that in order that we may be cleansed from sin, God waits for our good will, but does not acknowledge that even the wish to be purged is produced in us through the infusion and operation of the Holy Spirit, he opposes the Holy Spirit Himself, who says through Solomon: “Good will is prepared by the Lord” [Proverbs 8:35: LXX], and the Apostle who beneficially says: “It is God, who worlds in us both to will and to accomplish according to his good will” [Philippians 2:13].

Canon 5.    If anyone says, that just as the increase [of faith] so also the beginning of faith and the very desire of credulity, by which we believe in Him who justifies the impious, and (by which) we arrive at the regeneration of holy baptism (is) not through the gift of grace, that is, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reforming our will from infidelity to faith, from impiety to piety, but is naturally in us, he is proved (to be) antagonistic to the doctrine of the Apostles, since blessed Paul says: We trust, that he who begins a good work in us, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus[Philippians 1:6]; and the following: It was given to you for Christ not only that you may believe in Him, but also, that you may suffer for Him[Philippians 1:29]; and: By grace you are made safe through faith, and this not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God[Ephesians 2:8]. For those who say that faith, by which we believe in God, is natural, declare that all those who are alien to the Church of Christ are in a measure faithful.

Canon. 6. If anyone asserts that without the grace of God mercy is divinely given to us when we believe, will, desire, try, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, urge, but does not confess that through the infusion and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in us, it is brought about that we believe, wish, or are able to do all these things as we ought, and does not join either to human humility or obedience the help of grace, nor agree that it is the gift of His grace that we are obedient and humble, opposes the Apostle who says: What have you, that you have not received? [1 Corinthians 4:7]; and: By the grace of God I am that, which I am[1 Corinthians 15:10].

Canon. 7. If anyone affirms that without the illumination and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,—who gives to all sweetness in consenting to and believing in the truth,—through the strength of nature he can think anything good which pertains to the salvation of eternal life, as he should, or choose, or consent to salvation, that is to the evangelical proclamation, he is deceived by the heretical spirit, not understanding the voice of God speaking in the Gospel: “Without me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]; and that of the Apostle: Not that we are fit to think everything by ourselves as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God[2 Corinthians 3:5].

Canon 8.    If anyone maintains that some by mercy, but others by free will, which it is evident has been vitiated in all who have been born of the transgression of the first man, are able to come to the grace of baptism, he is proved to be inconsistent with the trite faith. For he asserts that the free will of all was not weakened by the sin of the first man, or assuredly was injured in such a way, that nevertheless certain ones have the power without revelation of God to be able by themselves to seek the mystery of eternal salvation. How contrary this is, the Lord Himself proves, who testifies that not some, but no one can come to Him, except whom the Father draws[John 6:44], and just as he says to PETER: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my Father, who is in heaven” [Matthew 16:17]; and the Apostle: No one can say Lord Jesus except in the Holy Spirit[1 Corinthians 12:3].

Canon 9.    “The assistance of God. It is a divine gift, both when we think rightly and when we restrain our feet from falsity and injustice; for as often as we do good, God operates in us and with us, that we may work”.

Canon 10. The assistance of God. The assistance of God ought to be implored always even by those who have been reborn and have been healed, that they may arrive at a good end, or may be able to continue in good work.

Canon 11. “The obligation of vows. No one would rightly vow anything to God, unless he accepts from Him what he vows” as it is written: And what we have received from your hand, we give to you[1 Chronicles 29:14].

Canon 12. “God loves such as us. God loves us, such as we shall be by His gilt, not such as we are by our own merit”.

Canon 13. The restoration of free will. Freedom of will weakened in the first man cannot be repaired except through the grace of baptism; “once it has been lost, it cannot be restored except by Him by whom it could be given. Thus Truth itself says: If the Son liberates you, then you will be truly free” [John 8:36].

Canon 14. “No wretched person is freed from misery, however small, unless he is first reached by the mercy of God”, just as the Psalmist says: Let thy mercy, Lord, speedily anticipate us[Psalms 78:8]; and also: “My God, His mercy will prevent me” [Psalms 58:11].

Canon 15. “From that which God fashioned, Adam was changed by his own iniquity, but for the worse. From that which injustice has effected, the faithful (man) is changed by the grace of God, but for the better. Therefore, the former change was (the result) of the first transgression, the latter according to the Psalmist is the change of the right hand of the Most High[Psalms 76:11]”.

Canon 16. “Let no one glory in that which he seems to possess, as if he did not receive (it), or think that he has received (it) for this reason, because the sign appeared from without, either that it might be read, or sounded that it might be heard. For thus says the Apostle: If justice(is) through the law, then Christ died for nothing[Galatians 2:21]: ascending on high he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men[Ephesians 4:8; cf. Psalms 67:19], Whoever has, has from Him, but whoever denies that he has from Him, either does not truly possess, or that, which he possesses, is taken away from him[Matthew 25:29]”.

Canon 17. “Worldly desire creates the fortitude of the Gentiles, but the charityof God, which is diffused in our hearts, not by free will, which is from us, but by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us[Rom. 5:5] produces the fortitude of the Christians”.

Canon 18. “That grace is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed; but grace, which is not due, precedes, that they may be done”.

Canon 19. “That no one is saved except by God’s mercy. Even if human nature remained in that integrity in which it was formed, it would in no way save itself without the help of its Creator; therefore, since without the grace of God it cannot guard the health which it received, how without the grace of God will it be able to recover what it has lost?”.

Canon 20. “That without God man can do no good. God does many good things in man, which man does not do; indeed man can do no good that God does not expect that man do”.

Canon 21. “Nature and grace. Just as the Apostle most truly says to those, who, wishing to be justified in the law, have fallen even from grace: If justice is from the law, then Christ died in vain[Galatians 2:21]; so it is most truly said to those who think that grace, which the faith of Christ commends and obtains, is nature: If justice is through nature, then Christdied in vain. For the law was already here, and it did not justify; nature, too, was already present, and it did not justify. Therefore, Christ did not die in vain, that the law also might be fulfilled through Him, who said: I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill(it) [Matthew 5:17], and in order that nature ruined by Adam, might be repaired by Him, who said: He came to seek and to save that which had been lost[Luke 19:10]”.

Canon 22. “Those things which are peculiar to men. No one has anything of his own except lying and sin. But if man has any truth and justice, it is from that fountain for which we ought to thirst in this desert, that bedewed by some drops of water from it, we may not falter on the way”.

Canon 23. “The good will of God and of man. Men do their own will, not God’s, when they do what displeases God; but when they do what they wish, in order to serve the divine will, even though willingly they do what they do, nevertheless, it is the will of Him by whom what they will is both prepared and ordered”.

Canon 24. “The branches of the vine. Thus there are branches in the vine, not that they may bestow anything upon the vine, but that they may receive from it the means by which they may live; so truly the vine is in the branches, that it may furnish vital nourishment to these, not take it from them. And by this it is an advantage to the disciples, not to Christ, that each have Christ abiding in him, and that each abide in Christ. For if the branch is cut off, another can sprout forth from the living root; but that which has been cut off, cannot live without the root [John 15:5 ff.]”.

Canon 25. “The love with which we love God. Truly to love God is a gift of God. He Himself has granted that He be loved, who though not loved loves. Although we were displeasing we were loved, so that there might be produced in us [something] by which we might please. For the Spiritwhom we love together with the Father and the Son pours forth the charity[of the Father and the Son] in our hearts[Romans 5:5]”.

And thus according to the statements of the Holy Scriptures written above, or the explanations of the ancient Fathers, God being propitious, we ought to proclaim and to believe that through the sin of the first man free will was so changed and so weakened that afterwards no one could either love God as he ought, or believe in God, or perform what is good on account of God, unless the grace of divine mercy reached him first. Therefore, we believe that in the [case of] the just Abel, and Noe, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the multitude of the ancient saints that illustrious faith which the Apostle Paul proclaims in their praise [Heb. 11], was conferred not by the good of nature, which had been given before in [the case of] Adam, but through the grace of God. Even after the coming of the Lord we know and likewise believe that this grace was not held in the free will of all who desired to be baptized, but was bestowed by the bounty of Christ, according to what has already been said often, and Paul the Apostle declares: It has been given to you for Christ, not only, that you may believe in him, but also that you may suffer for him[Philippians 1:29]; and this: God, who has begun a good work in you, will perfect it even to the day of our Lord[Philippians 1:6]; and this: By grace you are made safe through faith, and this not of yourselves: for it is the gift of God[Ephesians 2:8]; and that which the Apostle says about himself: I have obtained mercy, that I may be faithful[1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Timothy 1:13]; he did not say: “because I was,” but: “that I may be.” And that:What have you, that you have not received? [1 Corinthians 4:7]. And that: Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights[James 1:17]. And that: No one has anything, except it has been given him from above[John 3:27]. Innumerable are the testimonies of the Sacred Scriptures which can be brought forward to prove grace, but they are passed over out of a desire for brevity; also because, in truth, more [proofs] will not profit those for whom a few do not suffice.

According to the Catholic faith we believe this also, that after grace has been received through baptism, all the baptized with the help and cooperation of Christ can and ought to fulfill what pertains to the salvation of the soul, if they will labor faithfully. We not only do not believe that some have been truly predestined to evil by divine power, but also with every execration we pronounce anathema upon those, if there are [any such], who wish to believe so great an evil. This, too, we profess and believe unto salvation, that in every good work we do not begin, and afterwards are helped by the mercy of God, but He Himself, with no preceding good services [on our part], previously inspires us with faith and love of Him, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacraments of baptism, and after baptism with His help be able to perform those [acts] which are pleasing to Him. So very clearly we should believe that the faith—so admirable—both of that famous thief, whom the Lord restored to his native land of paradise [Luke 23:43], and of Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent [Acts 10:3], and of Zacchaeus, who deserved to receive the Lord Himself [Luke 19:6], was not from nature, but a gift of God’s bounty.

Denzinger: The sources of Catholic Dogma (Enchiridion Symbolorum), 30thedition, pages 75-81

English translation by Roy J. Deferrrari

[xi]  Desiderius Erasmus (1466 to 1536), mostly known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was Dutch humanist. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good (source: American Humanist Association,  Erasmus is mostly known as the person who first published New Testament in Greek based on best manuscripts he could find.

[xii]   For when it has been conceded and agreed that free choice, having lost its liberty, is perforce in bondage to sin and cannot will anything good, I can make no other sense of these words than that free choice is an empty phrase, of which the reality has been lost.

Luther: The Bondage of the Will(underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 116

[xiii]  It follows now that free choice is plainly a divine term, and can be properly applied to none but the Divine Majesty alone; for he alone can do and does (as the psalmist says [Ps. 115:3]) whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth.

Luther: The Bondage of the Will

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 68

[xiv]  Donald K. Mc Kim (Editor): Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith, page 145

[xv]   NPNF (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers) is collection of English translation of the works of a number of early Christians (Church Fathers) who live during and after Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  They are available online at

[xvi]  Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823 – 1886) was Reformed theologian.  He was Principal of Princeton Seminary from 1878 to 1886, after his father, Charles Hodge (1797 to 1878) who held that position from 1851 to 1878.

[xvii]Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) was one of distinguished Reformed theologians.  He taught at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1906 and served as its president from 1931 – 1944.

[xviii]Robert Charles Sproul (1939 – 2017) was president of Reformation Bible College, Reformed theologian, author of numerous books and founder of Ligonier Ministry (

The following online articles from his ministry web site also affirm Sproul belief in synergistic sanctification:

[xix]  Michael Scott Horton (born 1964) is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and Editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

[xx]   Calvinism does not teach and never has taught that God brings people kicking and screaming into the kingdom or has ever excluded anyone who wanted to be there. Remember that the cardinal point of Reformed doctrine of predestination rests on the biblical teaching of man’s spiritual death. Natural man does not want Christ. He will only want Christ if God plants a desire for Christ in his heart. Once that desire is planted, those who come to Christ do not come kicking and screaming against their wills. They come because they want to come. They now desire Jesus. They rush to the Savior. The whole point of irresistible grace is that rebirth quickens someone to spiritual life in such a way that Jesus is now seen in his irresistible sweetness. Jesus is irresistible to those who have been made alive to the things of God. Every soul whose hearts beats with the life of God within it longs for the living Christ. All whom the Father gives to Christ come to Christ (John 6:37).

Sproul: Chosen by God, pages 122 – 123

[xxi]  When we considered in an earlier study our condition of original sin, we used the biblical metaphors of death and slavery. By nature we are born into this world DOA, dead on arrival, spiritually although alive biologically.  We have no inclination whatsoever in our souls towards the things of God – no interest, no passion, no love. We are dead. Because we are spiritually dead, we are slaves to the sinful impulses and lusts that drive our behavior. We are not just participation in sin; such a description is far too weak. The Bible teaches us again and again that we are slaves to sin. Sin is not only in our nature, but it is our master.

Sproul: Romans, St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 188-189

[xxii]The Reformers taught not only that regeneration does precede faith but also it must precede faith.  Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration’s fruit, not its cause.

Sproul: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 23

[xxiii]This sacrament[Baptism]  is also called the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit[Titus 3:5], for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the kingdom of God[John 3:5].

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1215

[xxiv]If the forgiveness of sins were not to be had in the Church, there would be no hope of future life and eternal liberation. We thank God, who gave his Church such a gift. Here you are; you are going to come to the holy font, you will be washed in saving baptism, you will be renewed in the “bath of rebirth” [Titus 3:5], you will be without any sin at all as you come up from that birth. All the things that were plaguing you in the past will be there be blotted out.

Augustine, Sermon 213.9

English translation from: Augustine through the Ages, an Encyclopaedia, page 88

[xxv]  In Titus 3:5 St. Paul terms Baptism “a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” In the last chapter of Mark we read that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). And in this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore God’s words dare not be tampered with. Of course, we are well aware that Baptism is natural water. But after the Holy Spirit is added to it, we have more than mere water. It becomes a veritable bath of rejuvenation, a living bath which washes and purges man of sin and death, which cleanses him of all sin.

Luther: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapter 3

English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 22, page 284

[xxvi]By the washing of regeneration, I have no doubt that he alludes, at least, to baptism, and even I will not object to have this passage expounded as relating to baptism; not that salvation is contained in the outward symbol of water, but because baptism tells to us the salvation obtained by Christ.

Calvin: Commentary on Timothy, Titus, Philemon

Available online at

[xxvii]The difference between Augustine and Cassian[John Cassian, died c. 435 AD, is thought to be originator of semi-pelagianism]is the difference between monergism and synergism at the beginning of salvation. Cassian and semi-Pelagianism is, with respect to the sinner’s initial step toward salvation, decidedly synergistic. God makes his grace available to sinner, but the sinner must, with his infirm will, cooperate with this grace in order to have faith or to be regenerated. Faith precedes regeneration.

Sproul:Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will, page 73

       What Sproul described above is semi-pelagianism but he applied it to synergism.

[xxviii]          Five sola’s of Reformation: sola fide(by faith alone), sola scriptura(by Scripture alone), sola gratia(by grace alone),solus Christus(through Christ alone) and soli Deo Gloria(to the glory of God alone).

[xxix]Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a depravation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 405

[xxx]  Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

Westminster Confession of Faith,  IX.3

[xxxi]If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

Council of Trent: Canon III of the decree on Justification

[xxxii]The name Arminian came from Dutch Protestant theologian Jacob Harmensenor in Latin Jacobus Arminius(1560 – 1609).  For more information:


[xxxiv]          Denz comes from Denzinger(1819 – 1883), who compiled Enchiridion Symbolorum, a handbook or compendium containing collection of creeds, chief decrees and definitions of councils and of past popes.  Each of them was given a number with prefix Denzor Dzor DS(Denzinger – Schönmetzer).  It was first published in 1854 and continuously extended.  Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger was one of the leading Catholic German theologians in his time.

[xxxv]Summa Theologica is the best-known work of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 to 1274), available at

[xxxvi]          It was Dominican theologian Banez (died in 1604) who formulated Thomism teaching on relation between grace and free-will. That of Augustinian was developed by Noris (died in 1704) and Berti (died in 1766) and that of Molinism by Luis de Molina (1535 – 1600).  Extension of Molinism, known as Congruism, was developed by Suarez (died in 1617), St. Robert Bellarmine (died in 1621) and Jesuit General Aquaviva (died in 1613).  Other than Thomism, Augustinianism, Molinism and Congruism, that of Ysambert (died in 1642), Habert (died in 1668), Tournely (died in 1729) and St. Alphonsus of Liguori (died in 1787) syncretizes all previous four and is therefore known as Syncretism.  For more detail of all those five:

Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 248-249

Catholic encyclopedia at

[xxxvii]         God predestined no one to go to hell

Catechism ofthe Catholic Church # 1037

       We not only do not believe that some have been truly predestined to evil by divine power, but also with every execration we pronounce anathema upon those, if there are [any such], who wish to believe so great an evil.

Council of Orange in 529 AD

[xxxviii]        God, by an Eternal Resolve of His Will, predestines certain men, on account of their foreseen sins, to eternal rejection.

According to the teaching of the Church, there is conditioned positive reprobation, that is, it occurs with consideration of foreseen future demerits (post et propter praevisa demerita).

The conditional nature of Positive Reprobation is demanded by the generality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. This excludes God’s desiring in advance the damnation of certain men(cf. 1 Tim. 2, 4; Ez. 33,11; 2 Peter 3,9).

St. Augustine teaches: “God is good, God is just. He can save a person without good works, because He is good; but He cannot condemn anyone without evil works, because He is just” (Contra Jul. III 18, 35].

Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 245

       Ludwig Ott (1906 – 1985) was Catholic priest and theologian.

Contra (or Against) Julian was correspondence between St. Augustine and Julian, bishop of Eclanum(near Benevento in present day Italy).

full text of English translation is available at

[xxxix]          By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation.

Calvin: Institutes of Christian Religion3.21.5

[xl]    Refer to Teaching Series (from drop down menu after clicking “Learn” at top) at http://ligonier.orgon “Predestination”, Lecture 8: The Other Side of the Coin.

[xli]   If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is attained by those only who are predestined unto life, but that all others, who are called, are called indeed, but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil: let him be anathema

Canon XVII of the Decree concerning Justification, Council of Trent


Leave a Comment
  1. Unio ChristI / Dec 27 2014 5:57 am

    what do you think about the non-compétitive view of aquinas

    • vivator / Dec 27 2014 12:32 pm

      Thank you for the given link. It is the first time I heard about non-competitive view of Aquinas. How to explain how God’s prevenient grace can work efficaciously while human remains free is not easy. The Catholic Church does not give dogmatic explanation and currently there are a number of views: Thomism, Augustianism, Molinism, Congruism and Syncretism. The detail of each can be found in Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma page 248 or (online) Catholic encyclopedia. I am not sure to which view what Aquinas wrote belongs to.

  2. Steve Reid / Dec 24 2014 2:06 am

    Sola el Papa when thrown into the mix with Sola scriptura really deceives the uninitiated and the flesh gets pleased when people get their ears tickled with smooth humanism talk and not sound doctrine. I decided to enroll for a catholic seminar titled – “Finding God in nature” – a talk which confirmed my worst fears.

    • vivator / Dec 25 2014 12:33 pm

      The Bible says the foundation and pillar of truth is the Church (1 Tim 3:15) Isn’t that clear enough? There is no such thing as sola papa and neither is sola scriptura! You are the one who is deceived!

  3. FingersBackAtYou / Mar 18 2014 4:08 pm

    There are so many problems here…perhaps best summarized in your last paragraph on the left:

    “Catholics believe we will enter heaven if we die without any un-repented mortal sin..”

    Notice the complete absence of Jesus in that statement.

    The question is not what your mortal sins are, but rather what are you to do with all your sin? I pray that every Catholic would in true humility ask The Lord for the Holy Spirit’s guidance before reading this excellent piece on sin vs. “mortal” sin…

    Indeed, “Which one is scriptural?”

    • vivator / Mar 18 2014 5:56 pm

      Jesus is NOT absence in the statement “Catholics believe we will enter heaven if we die without any un-repented mortal sin..” First, Catholics repent from their sin through Sacrament of Reconciliation, which Christ Himself instituted (John 20:23). Second, we can repent only after being moved by God’s prevenient grace given through Christ by the Holy Spirit. If you have problem with Catholic grouping of mortal and not-mortal (venial) sins you should read 1 John 5:16-17 – it is scriptural. For obvious reason the link you provided ignore those verses – a common practice among those who share the same belief with you.

      • FourFingersBackAtYou / Mar 19 2014 7:34 pm

        There is no equating of the Catholic idea of “mortal” sin with 1 John 5:16-17.
        Despite what you say, the Catholic idea of “mortal” sin is not scriptural and goes far beyond the Word of God.

        The sin of presumption according to Rome is a mortal sin: “It may be defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them.” Catholic Encyclopedia

        But is this what the Bible says?

        “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” Here the knowledge of eternal life is a ‘know so,’ not a ‘maybe so’ or ‘hope so.’
        This means that trusting in God’s promises of eternal salvation by faith alone consigns me to hell according to the bizarre theology of Rome!

        The Church of Rome itself is guilty of the sin of presumption… presuming it has the authority to enumerate what constitutes the fiction of “mortal” sin.

        1 Cor. 4:6 – “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”

      • vivator / Mar 19 2014 8:33 pm

        Scripture is supposed to be your only authority but ironically you prefer to rely on the authority of your man-made church. 1 Cor 4:6 is even best applied to you because you are the one who goes beyond Scripture by rejecting the Words of God in 1 John 5:16-17 that clearly mentions mortal and non-mortal sins. You quote cleverly selected verses of Scripture to justify salvation by faith alone – the verse you cited does NOT say “who ONLY believe”. Do you really believe that if you have faith in Christ you will be guaranteed heaven even if you keep on sinning without repenting? That will explain why you are so strongly against sin of presumption!

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