Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why does God give to some five and to others only one talent?

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 25:14-30
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one – to each according to his ability. […] For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.
There is great danger in the interpretation of this parable, for one may easily come to the false conclusion that grace is given according to nature, in the sense that man merits grace through his natural efforts – such would be the heresy of the Pelagians.
However, we know that grace DOES NOT build on nature, rather (as St. Thomas said in the first question of the Summa) grace perfects nature. Thus, it is not according to one’s own natural talents, but according to the generous will of God, that one receives more grace and another less grace.
In the final analysis, the divine will alone must be credited with the diversity of graces among men.

The correct interpretation of the parable
In every parable, it is important to recall that certain elements are simply embellishments to the story, others are to be taken in a highly allegorical sense, and some (very few) may be taken almost literally. What is most important is to recognize the central message and teaching of the parable – all the rest will turn upon this.
Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide summarizes the parable nicely: “The object of the parable is to show how exact an account Christ will require from the slothful in the Day of Judgment; and how great will be the reward which He will give to the diligent, who have carefully used His gifts to the glory of God.”
It is obvious enough that the man who went off on the journey is the Christ – for our Savior descended into hell and then was raised and ascended into heaven. He will come again, and all will render an account for their works in the final judgment – of course, those who die before the second coming receive the particular judgment immediately upon bodily death.
Those who receive the talents are all men – but, most especially, believers. Still, it is necessary to emphasize that all men receive the talents, insofar as the talent symbolizes actual grace – for all men receive at least sufficient actual graces, though not all receive efficient grace unto salvation (nor do all receive sanctifying grace through faith).
But if the man is Christ and the servants are all people and the talents are graces, how can we explain the fact that one is given more talents (i.e. more graces) than another?
Considered absolutely, grace is entirely depended upon the divine will
We must understand: God DOES NOT love all people equally. The Most Blessed Virgin Mary has been loved more than any other human persons – hence, without any merit of her own, she was conceived immaculate. Likewise, we may consider St. Paul who, while yet a sinner, was given the grace not only of conversion, but also of the apostolate to the gentiles.
God loves some more than others, but he still loves all. Love does not have to be equal when it is gratuitous – for, most assuredly, none of us (not even our blessed Lady) deserver the love of God. To show us that he is merciful and compassionate, God gives some graces to all people (hence, all receive at least one talent). Yet, to prove to us that his love is gratuitous and not a legal requirement, God loves some more than others and gives special graces to some which he does not give to others (hence, some receive five, others two, talents).
The parable mentions that the talents were given to the servants according to their ability, yet we must admit that even this natural ability is itself pre-determined by God as the Creator. Further, it must be emphasized that grace does not simply build upon nature, but rather grace perfects nature. Hence, while one may have less natural talents than anther, grace is able to perfect the limited natural talents of one and raise him above another (consider the examples of St. Francis of Assisi or St. Catherine of Siena, who were not learned but have become great teachers for all the faithful).
The generosity of God, who gives some grace to all and more grace to some
At first, it may be a bit difficult for us to accept the fact that God does not give equal graces to all; but then we must remember that none of us deserve any grace at all! Indeed, the inequality of grace is a proof to us of the gratuity of grace – if grace was given equally to all, we might forget that it is grace (gratis data, freely given), but could instead think it a matter of justice!
St. Thomas Aquinas, surely the greatest theologian of the Church, offers a magnificent reflection on this point (ST I, q.25, a.5, ad 3):
“The reason of the predestination of some, and reprobation of other, must me sought for in the goodness of God. […] God wills to manifest his goodness in men, in respect to those whom he predestines, by means of his mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of his justice, punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others. […] Yet why this particular part of matter is under this particular form, and that under another [e.g. why this is a rock or a tree or a human], depends upon the simple will of God. […] Neither on this account can there be said to be injustice in God, if he prepares unequal lots for not unequal things. […] In things which are given gratuitously, a person can give more or less, just as he pleases (provided he deprives nobody of his due), without any infringement of justice.”
Just as the Almighty chooses to make this bit of matter a tree, and that bit a rock, and this bit a human; so too, he chooses to give more grace to this man and less grace to that one. Still, as existence is given to all matter, so too some grace is given to all men – hence, the Lord is most generous and merciful to all!
Let us strive to be conformed to the divine will, for this is the essence of holiness.


Anonymous said...

I just don't understand how you can say that God loves some people more than He loves others, when His love is infinite. To me it seems more accurate to say that he gives more graces to some than others, but that His love for all is infinite.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Ryan, You appear to be a young priest, and I urge you to reconsider the statement that God loves some more than others. God has a divine plan which we can not see. He knows our needs and desires because he created us. Just because one person is given more talents, I don't think that means they are loved more. They are given more responsibility to go with those talents. We are all called to use our talents to serve God, and I would not agree that those with more talents are loved more.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymouses (11:35 and 12:08),
You must use a pseudonym (as requested) ... in the future, anonymous comments will not be posted.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (12:08pm),
What does my age have to do with the question? I have cited St. Thomas Aquinas and he was not too young when he wrote the Summa!

Yes, simply put, God does love some more ... he loves his only-begotten Son more than all others, he loves Christ in his humanity more than all others, he loves us all only as an extension of the love he has for his Son.

Further, God loves Mary more than the rest ... this is why she received more graces (especially, the grace of the Immaculate Conception).

He loves all men more than he loves rocks, but he loves some men more than others.

Love does not have to be equal, that is the whole point of God's love - it is gratuitous, and is unequal, but all receive enough love and enough graces.

It is only in the nonsense of the modernist age that people have lost the sense according to which we ought to love some more than others -- a parent ought to love his child more than those of others, for example; and his love of even his own children will also naturally be diverse and unequal, but he still must love them all.

As you say "God has a divine plan which we cannot see" ... he have to trust that plan, and recognize that we have no right to require God to love according to our sensibilities -- he loves us all, and he loves some more than others, and he is very good in all his works.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous 11:35,
Yes, his love for all is infinite ... and certainly far beyond what any of us deserve.

Still, it is easy to see (mathematically) that one infinity can be greater than another; so too, we say that God loves all, and that he loves some more than others.
[just as he loves men more than rocks, but this does not denote an injustice toward the rocks]

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Reminder: Purely anonymous comments will not be posted ... I've had to delete some already ... you must at least place a pseudonym or name at the end of the comment, like so:

- Fr. Ryan

Anonymous said...

Father, while many orthodox believers would agree with the various points made here, you present this view of Divine love, grace, human will, and salvation as if it carries magisterial authority, when in fact there is a spectrum of allowable thinking on this matter. If we were to imagine a road with a heretical ditch on either side, the left ditch being predestinarianism and the right, semi-pelagianism, Augustine & Thomas would be on the left while, Erasmus and even the council of Trent would be on the right. It would be more "gracious" of you to present the whole matter, as opposed to your preferential side of the road. 

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Even the heretical semi-pelagians would admit that God loves some more than others.

Certainly, the Jesuits (i.e. the Molinists, who are nothing like the semi-pelagians) hold that God loves some more than others.

The commentary above comes mostly from Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide SJ, he was a lover of St. Thomas, but was certainly no strict Thomist ... very much influenced by the Jesuit tradition.

Hence, the position above (excepting the final quote from St. Thomas) is very much middle of the road ... no one, at least no orthodox Catholic theologian, has ever claimed that the reason for diversity of graces is (in the simple and absolute sense) anything other than the goodness and love of God, which is diverse (loving some more than others).

Tito Edwards said...

So if God made "John's" life easier than "Bob's", John is loved more. And John will be loved more than Bob who had a difficult life (through no fault of his own).

Did I get that right?

Hence why life is unfair?

I'm confused.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I wouldn't want to try and make to many direct correlations between "easier" and "harder" lives ... what is certain is that God loves some more and gives some more graces.

Even a person with a very difficult life can have received many more graces -- in fact, this often happens.

The main point is that, considered absolutely, God's love is dependent upon his mercy and goodness -- and hence, because it is not a matter of strict justice, he may love some more than others (and, in point of fact, he does love some more than others).

Now, the strict Thomist will compare this to the way that God made one a rock, another a tree, and another a man ... so too, he predestines some and reprobates others ... however, this analogy is a bit tricky (since none are reprobate without sin); but it is the analogy favored by the strict Thomists.

If one goes to hell, it is through his own fault (though this is tricky when it comes to the idea of limbo); and if one goes to heaven it is through merit (again, tricky for baptized children who die young) ... hence, none loose all grace without some fault; but some are given less grace than others without any fault (e.g. it's not your fault or mine that we were not immaculately conceived, and neither did our Lady merit this grace herself).

Hope it is a bit clearer now.
I would think that this mystery would lead us to marvel at the generosity of God who loves each of us more than we deserve to be loved.

Peace! +

Anonymous said...

The topic of sovereign love is too great a task to be contained in an article or blog. The verbiage alone is quite never ceases to be a can of worms, no matter where you find it (i.e. separated brethren version: Calvin vs. Wesley)...erg.

RJS said...


This was a magnificent posting. I enjoyed every bit of it.

Anonymous said...

Father, with respect, is the idea of limbo still viable? I was taught that the concept was promoted in a time where the Church believed that God was limited by His sacraments (i.e. Baptism). Isn't the Church now at least implicitly promoting something close to universal reconciliation? After all Pope John Paul II made St. Therese of Lisieux (who believed in UR) a doctor of the Church! What do you make of these things?

Courtney said...

This is an interesting article. I hadnt thought about God loving some more than others before. And Fr Ryan, you do justify it reasonably (but not in my view conclusively) with respect to the Immaculate Conception etc. However, I dont think the issue made further upthread regarding God being infinite love is answered fully. We can`t as you say, consider one infinity greater than another - by definition infinity is not bounded. So if God loves us all infinitely, I think we cannot then say one is loved more than another in a quantitative sense. We certainly can say that one is loved differently to another - even that God does not love us equally (i.e. the same). Unfortunately, we cannot as finite beings comprehend infinity, and therefore cannot ever fully know and rationalise the extent of Gods love.

On another point though, if we do run with the idea that God loves us unequally, I can see how this can make us feel uncomfortable. Even jealous at how Gods gratuitous generosity is manifested (a little like the older son in the prodigals return). And perhaps this might be an insight into Lucifer`s rebellion - I have always wondered why an angel would rebel. Could it be that God also loves Angels unequally?

Anonymous said...

Is limbo real or theoretical? My priest said it was just a middle age idea that bored theologians came up with.


Anonymous said...

I always thought the amount of initial "talents" were less personal in terms of how much God loved us and more about God distributing what was necessary to accomplish His will on the planet. What kind of love do you means Father, agape? And why would limbo need to exist if God can give extrasacramental graces?

Sal said...

Lorito Kara-an,from Philippines,
Thanks, father for a great post.
It is fresh from a gospel I heared from our priest the gospel today (sunday)He said our life is the investment of Lord God,He gave His graces and he Know there are failures we made.All He wants is to use our talent (to make good)so that his investment will have profit.That all I have to share as a Catholic.
God bless ,I pray that you will use your talent to teach us.

mdepie said...

I think the confusion is in terms of the difficult area of predestination. I do not know what you mean by love. At one time Love was defined by the Church as willing the eternal good of another. If you mean this, then perhaps one can think God wills some men to have greater eternal happiness than others, but I think it is necessary to believe that God wills everyone to have sufficient grace to be saved. (Otherwise God would create some people with the specific intent that they be damned. I think the Church as rejected this, it is sort of "Calvinistic"

kkollwitz said...

"it is gratuitous, and is unequal"

That seems consistent with the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

A Sinner said...

Yes, this is a hard teaching for modern ears, but Cardinal George recently emphasized it too: God loves some more than others.

The very fact that some people are holier than others (and how we know grace works with free will) proves this. By definition, if you are holier, God loves you more (as His love comes PRIOR to, and in fact is the CAUSE of that holiness).

Aquinas makes this point:

"Since to love a thing is to will it good, in a twofold way anything may be loved more, or less. In one way on the part of the act of the will itself, which is more or less intense. In this way God does not love some things more than others, because He loves all things by an act of the will that is one, simple, and always the same. In another way on the part of the good itself that a person wills for the beloved. In this way we are said to love that one more than another, for whom we will a greater good, though our will is not more intense. In this way we must needs say that God loves some things more than others. For since God's love is the cause of goodness in things, as has been said, no one thing would be better than another, if God did not will greater good for one than for another."

So there is a sense in which God loves all equally, but in the sense of how much good He wills for them...the very fact that different people have different levels of goodness proves that He loves them more, since His love is the only cause of goodness in anything. Love is willing the good of another, and since some things are more good than others (and since God's will is sovereign), He obviously willed more good for some things and less for others.

A Sinner said...

However, I would add, the "Thomist" opinion that makes the "why" essentially not the only one, nor definitively taught

There ARE Catholic opinions allowed for why God loves some more (ie, gives more grace) that give a BIT more independent agency to free will (without slipping into Arminianism).

I think about this a lot, and I'm yet to find any school fully satisfactory.

The Thomist opinion certainly has a robust theology of grace and free will that avoids any sort of pelagianism, but can make God's decision seem just a little too arbitrary, can seem like it turns "free will" and "sufficient" grace into just a sort of ontological legal fiction by which God is able to exculpate Himself from active causation from sin through how HE defines the terms of secondary causes.

And yet, if He arbitrarily doesn't stop sin some cases, by not granting the grace of non-sinning that we all need to not sin, isn't that sort of a passive causation given that He's also the one who designed the system to work in such a way that sin is the "default" if He doesn't actively provide grace?

On the other hand, of course, that's just the problem with the non-Thomist schools: how can non-sinning be anything other than a grace? If we are to avoid pelagianism or semi-pelagianism, then a notion of free will that says "some people chose to reject grace, and THAT'S why they didn't get it" is problematic, as the other people's choice NOT to resist grace like that...must itself be a grace!

The "best" solution I've seen (that I feel comes "close" but still has problems I think about and wish could be resolved) is something along the lines of Fr William Most redefining the problem so that sin is not the "default," or, at least, defining the "sufficient grace" that is given to everyone to mean that a good choice is made the default (through that grace).

Of course, the Thomists would object, that solves nothing as the other people NOT making such an active choice must itself be a grace (and one that that the people who do actively reject obviously did not get).

I have a "sense" that the solution to such an objection would have something to do with the fact that in such a scenario goodness has already been made the "default" by way of the sufficient grace, and so such non-sin would not necessarily require explanation by any "additional" graced cause.

Or at least, if you insist it does, I see a certain double-standard here: in the Thomist scenario, God choosing to give efficacious grace (only) to some is not taken to be an active willing of the (then inevitable) sin of the others, anymore than me giving alms to one beggar should be interpreted as me actively or positively willing the poverty of the others (and that remains true even if I COULD give to them too.) True enough.

BUT if that passive non-choice on God's part is recognized as a sort of metaphysical zero in such cases (ie, the choice to grace some does not constitute an active or positive choice NOT to grace the others)...then why should a similar non-choice be interpreted as an active act requiring an additional cause/grace when it is human wills in question? Why would NOT choosing to actively work against the "default" be a metaphysical zero with God, but something requiring additional explanation with humans?

I'm still thinking about this...

AngelaT said...

I have little problem with the idea that God may move some more than others (he certainly loves the one he loves least more than anyone could ever love him back...), though, I find it difficult to see how greater bestowal of gifts = more love. However, would he not ultimately hold one accountable for all the graces he has given a person? Christ also commended the poor widow for given 2 copper coins to the temple, since she gave all that she had, even though more "blessed" wealthy men gave much greater amounts.

But something troubles me... What does it mean that God gives sufficient grace to everybody but not efficient grace? I am not all that learned in scholastic thought, so I need help with this. What is sufficient grace, and what is efficient grace? My guess would be that sufficient grace refers to the fact that God gives enough grace to everyone to convert and finally be united with him in heaven, but that efficient grace refers more to the sacraments, since they work in one and work him towards holiness so that he may go to Heaven... but I am not sure...

But St. Thomas' quote also almost sounds like double predestination to me (which would be seemingly contradictory to what i thought sufficient grace to be). This is not the implication of the "God loves some more than others" idea, is it?

Zevlag said...

Hopefully this doesn't sound stupid but here it goes. Saying that God loves some less, can those people do something to make themselves be loved more?

Matt said...

I do not understand the idea of grace not building on nature, but of perfecting nature. Wouldn't perfecting nature require building on it ? How can you perfect anything without working with what is already there ? How could it be called a perfection ? To perfect something is to bring it to what it was meant to be. You have to start from what is. Something has to be there in the first place before it can be perfected, and what is there is what is being perfected. That seems to me the same thing as building on. That would lead us to think that perfecting must build on what is there, otherwise it would be the nonsensical perfection of nothing.


Patrick O'C said...

In a way, I can understand the consternation felt by some here regarding the unequal Love of God. However Scripture is clear..."Jacob I loved. Esau I hated." Of course, "hated" means to "love less". We should simply marvel at the strange beauty of our God. His ways are not ours.
Patrick O'C

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Joe, Sara, Sal
Regarding "limbo" ... the issue is just too complicated to discuss here ... short answer: Yes, we are certainly still free to believe in limbo (and I am certain of its truth, personally) ... long answer: I have written quite a number of articles on the subject of limbo, and I plan on writing another soon (on whether we can/should pray for babies who die), you can find these by typing "limbo" in the search engine on the side-bar.

In any case, the children in limbo (if there is a limbo) have a perfect natural love of God and receive from him the great gift of perfect natural happiness ... but they lack the beatific vision, and the supernatural happiness of heaven ... even still, they receive a gift freely given, since they do not have to exist at all.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I know it is hard to understand or conceptualize, but it is a simple mathematical truth that one infinity can be greater than another.

In any case, God loves us all far more than we deserve (he loves us gratuitously), but he loves some more than others (he love us freely).

I think you are definitely on to something regarding the sin of Lucifer! +

[God most certainly does love the angels unequally, as you rightly intuited]

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
Thank you for the excellent quotation from St. Thomas!

Yes, it is difficult to distinguish sufficient from efficacious grace ... as a "Thomist of the Strict Observance" (after the mind of Garrigou-Lagrange), I beleive that the Jesuits are terribly confussed and that "scientia media" makes things much worse ... however, they are certainly NOT semi-pelagians, so they are free to believe as their conscience dictates.

Rather than going into these distinctions, I think it is important to recognize that even the article (well, all except the last quote from St. Thomas) would be agreeable even to the Jesuits!

Indeed, it is a great mystery ... I'm still thinking about it too! :-)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Do not fear, St. Thomas is no Calvinist!

The point is that none are damned without a fault on their part ... and none have been actively willed/compelled by God to commit mortal sin -- thus, "Your destruction is of yourself, o Israel".

St. Thomas' treaty on predestination is very very good ... but it is hard to understand if we don't keep primary and secondary causality in mind ... I think I wrote something about this earlier ... In any case, I do remember that Msgr. Pope had a good article to this effect a few months back ... perhaps search the web for it (from the ADW blog).

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You ask a very good question! Thank you!

Yes, we can grow in grace ... that is called "merit".
However, considered absolutely, we cannot do anything to make God love us more -- he loves us because he is good (even though we are wretched and undeserving of his love) ... this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us -- and I, personally, find that really consoling! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The reason why we do not say that "grace builds on nature" is that it sounds as though grace and nature are a two story house, with grace setting on top of nature -- rather than "grace perfecting nature", which shows that grace enters into nature and elevates it (i.e. nature does remain below, unchanged).

Further, the idea that we must have nature in order before grace can build upon it is the heresy of semi-pelagianism.
We cannot even prepare for grace without grace!

I know that this is a complicated point ... further, I am not as clear as I would like to be.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrcik O'C, kkollwitz, Terol_oo, RJS, et al.
I'm very happy that the article was helpful to you. Thank you for the kind words!

To All:
Indeed, many thanks to all who comment ... I hope that we can keep discussion open and free ... do know that I appreciate different points of view (even if I am very committed to the Thomistic system, and sometimes a bit harsh on other theories).

Oremus pro invicem! +

A Sinner said...

"I believe that the Jesuits are terribly confused and that 'scientia media' makes things much worse ... however, they are certainly NOT semi-pelagians, so they are free to believe as their conscience dictates."

I don't believe the Molinists solve anything either. However, have you read the proposal of Fr. Most?

Tito Edwards said...

Thank you father!

Sarah said...

Father, I'm very slow theologically, so perhaps you already elucidated this point in the post or comment and I missed it. But are you (or is Thomas) saying sainthood is dependent on being more loved by God? It seems from the parable even the one with a single talent is expected to live a holy life, but is that possible? This all sounds a bit like Calvinism and election, but again I am quite slow to understand! Thank you.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It is a very complicated question ... and it is hard to avoid errors on both sides.

On the one hand, we know that God loves us even before we do good ... indeed, God's love is what makes us to be a saint ... so, yes, "sainthood is depended on being more loved by God" -- this is especially clear in the case of the Virgin Mary.

On the other hand, everyone receives enough grace to do good -- and none can say that God demanded something of them which was impossible.
Unlike the criticism of the wicked servant, God is not so "demanding", nor does he "harvest where he did not plant" ... rather, he always gives us grace sufficient to be a saint.

However, it is clear (historically) that some receive greater graces than others (like our Lady), and that the only explanation of this favor is the love of God -- though, of course, the co-operation on the part of the saint gains great merit and increase in grace on their part.

Finally, when it comes to the mysteries of grace, we are all "quite slow to understand"! If only we let the Holy Spirit guide us, and remain true to the tradition ... and pray, pray, pray! :-)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
I'm not familiar with the work of Fr. Most ... though I do believe I've heard that name somewhere.

Fr. Reginal Garrigou-Lagrange (the greatest theologian of our age) has a great book titled "Predestination" ... and another "Providence" ... both of which are very very helpful in understanding this issue. Well worth the read!

Peace. +

Dan said...

I'm convinced that this parable may also be interpreted as a continuation of the theme of unconditional love and generosity as in "The Prodigal Son" and "The Hired Workers."

Here we have the "Master" tearing down barriers between Master & Servant, and giving to them generously. (I think in todays money 1 talent would be about 3 MILLION $$)

I think that the servant was condemned because of his total blindness as to who his master really was. Note how the parable specifically gives description of the servant's opinion of the master.

The servant failed to have a trusting relationship with the master, and his fear and anxiety paralyzed him.

What think Ye?

Sarah said...

Thank you very much Father, that makes a lot more sense to me now. Peace!

Roman said...

With regard to Fr. Most, I don't think even he addresses the "problem" of why God loves some more then others (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange calls this the principle of divine predilection - one would not be better than another if one were not loved more by God. God doesn't love by being passively attracted towards a certain person's goodness. Rather he causes the good in them. Every ounce of good, down to the very fiber of one's being is from God as first cause).

In the end, this is an ineffable mystery that no school of thought can explain. Why was Mary given the prerogative of being Mother of God, and not Jane Doe who might have lived across the street from her? Why was the good thief on the cross given the efficacious grace necessary to convert, and the other not? All schools admit that one cannot explain this.

From Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's, Reality:

"Mystery remains mystery. How can God have both a universal will of salvation and a divine predilection for the elect? How can God be simultaneously infinitely just, infinitely merciful, and supremely free? We must leave the mystery where it belongs: in the transcendent pre-eminence of the deity, in the inner life of God, to be unveiled to us only in the beatific vision. There we shall see what now we believe: That some are saved is the Savior's gift, that some are lost is their own fault. [1153] But even here below simple everyday Christian speech grasps the reality of the mystery. What a special act of God's mercy, it says, when of two sinners equal in evil disposition one alone is converted. All that is good comes from God, evil alone cannot come from Him.

St. Thomas [456] thus sums up the matter: "One who gives by grace (not by justice) can at his good pleasure give more or less, and to whom he pleases, if only he denies to no one what justice demands. [457] Thus, the householder says: 'Take what is thine and go. Or is it not lawful for me to do as I will? ' " [458].

This doctrine is expressed by the common language of daily life. When of two great sinners one is converted, Christians say: God showed him special mercy. This solution of daily life accords with that of St. Augustine and St. Thomas when they contemplate the mysterious harmony of infinite mercy and infinite justice. When God with sovereign freedom grants to one the grace of final perseverance, it is a gift of mercy. When He does not grant it to another, it is a deed of justice, due to last resistance to a last appeal."

Reverend Doctor Victoria Allen Howard, Anchorite said...

I disagree with the statement that God loves some more than others. All men are equal; it is just that they are different. The Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, compared us to flowers. A daisy may not be as pretty or smell as good as a rose; but if all flowers were roses, what a bore would that be! To God, the daisy is just as essential and loved by God as the rose. Everything matters to God; some suffer more than others and some have greater minds and some can sing and some cannot. But all are equally loved by God for the role that only they can play.

Fr. Matthew said...


As a fellow priest who often has to explain the inequality of God's love, I've found it easiest to refer to the diversity of sacramental grace. Certainly born-and-raised Catholics did nothing at their conception to merit greater graces than children born to atheist parents. But some children receive the grace of Baptism, the grace of Confession, and the grace of Holy Communion before or right at the age of reason, while other children are deprived of this. Now, either we say that Baptism, Confession, and Communion are not actually incredible effects of God's love, (and so every child is equally loved by God), or we affirm that some children undeservedly receive a deeper share of God's love than others. If we deny the first, then we deny the entire saving mission of Christ and His Church, and so must repudiate our faith (or our logic), or we must affirsm the mystery of God's undeserved unequal love. The simple fact is, God loves a child more who receives Him in Communion than one who does not. Communion is an incommensurable gift, and cannot be compared to, say, nice parents, etc. But not everyone receives it. Ergo, etc.

Hope this helps! I may not have been terribly clear, but this thrust of argument has helped me to demonstrate this to people troubled by this truth in the past. (In fact, in my homily today, following a thought of the Jesuit Suarez, I compared those with five talents to Catholics, those with two to non-Catholic Christians, and those with one to non-Christians.)

wpr said...

Thanks for this article Father. It always frustrates me when I hear people say that God loves everyone equally. That God loves some more than others is clearly evident from Scripture. See, e.g., Rom. 9:13 (“I loved Jacob but hated Esau.”) (NAB). Even the often modernist NAB recognizes this fact in a footnote, suggesting (I assume correctly) that "hate," in this context, means "love less."

Could you expand a little more on your statement "it is easy to see (mathematically) that one infinity can be greater than another?" Could you at least provide a citation to a mathematician on this? I am no math major, but it is not at all "easy to see" for me.


Anonymous said...

The essence of what Father Ryan says is: more love corresponds to more graces given. But it disturbes me that I can "know" the magnitude of God's love for one human being in relationship to another by just looking comparatively at the graces bestowed on each of them. (This assumes that both individuals were faithful servants that wasted no talents, and it excludes cases of individuals that wasted God's graces only known to God and the individual).
How could I presume to know the heart of God and the measure of His love by assessing the measure if His graces given to us?
As a grandfather I love my two grand children equally much but I could still I bestow "graces" differently to each. In the case of God: what is gratuitous is the bestowing of his graces to each of us, not the necessarily measure of his love (save for Jesus and Mary who are in another plane in relation to the rest of us).


Br. Seminarian said...

Father, thank you for the post. It is very edifying.

I think this is relevant to the conversation.
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus mentions the issue of God's degree of love for us in her autobiography, Story of a Soul.

"One day I expressed surprise that God does not give an equal amount of glory to all the elect in Heaven--I was afraid that they would not all be quite happy. She sent me to fetch Papa's big tumbler, and put it beside my tiny thimble, then, filling both with water, she asked me which seemed the fuller. I replied that one was as full as the other--it was impossible to pour more water into either of them, for they could not hold it. In this way Pauline made it clear to me that in Heaven the least of the Blessed does not envy the happiness of the greatest; and so, by bringing the highest mysteries down to the level of my understanding, she gave my soul the food it needed."

I think we are afraid to say that one of us is greater than another in God's kingdom, because of our fear of earthly inequality. How far God's ways are above our ways! The first shall be last, the lowly exalted, the poor rich. There is a heirarchy, but in God's kingdom, it is one of love.

RFSjr said...

At first, I was surprised to read that God "loves" some creatures more than others. However, upon further reflection, I believe that that conclusion is necessary, for the following reasons:
1. All of creation evidences a hierarchy of being.
2. That which is higher is more perfect.
3. That which is more perfect is that which possesses more good.
4. By definition, to love is to will the good of the beloved.
5. To will more good for a particular beloved is to love that beloved more.
6. If there are creatures with a higher perfection than other less perfect creatures, then God loves the more perfect creature more than the less perfect creature. But there are creatures with a higher perfection. Therefore, God loves the more perfect creature more than the less perfect creature.
As an aside, in my opinion, Fr. Bernard Lonergan is the greatest theologian since St. Thomas Aquinas. Among other reasons, because Lonergan solved the Banezian - Molinist dispute by proving them both wrong. See Grace and Freedom at
Finally, in my opinion, in the hierarchy of blogs, Fr Ryan's blog is one of the best Catholic blogs of which I am aware.

RFSjr said...

My name is Ron,

At first, I was surprised to read that God "loves" some creatures more than others. However, upon further reflection, I believe that that conclusion is necessary, for the following reasons:
1. All of creation evidences a hierarchy of being.
2. That which is higher is more perfect.
3. That which is more perfect is that which possesses more good.
4. By definition, to love is to will the good of the beloved.
5. To will more good for a particular beloved is to love that beloved more.
6. If there are creatures with a higher perfection than other less perfect creatures, then God loves the more perfect creature more than the less perfect creature. But there are creatures with a higher perfection. Therefore, God loves the more perfect creature more than the less perfect creature.
As an aside, in my opinion, Fr. Bernard Lonergan is the greatest theologian since St. Thomas Aquinas. Among other reasons, because Lonergan solved the Banezian - Molinist dispute by proving them both wrong. See Grace and Freedom at
Finally, in my opinion, in the hierarchy of blogs, Fr Ryan's blog is one of the best Catholic blogs of which I am aware.

Dismas said...

The mystery of the God's love and the talents always confounds and fascinates me at the same time. It always hinges on the question of why I was born into a Catholic family and the Catholic Church and others not. The fact that God could have chosen me to be born into a jungle learning to beat drums to appease other gods or any other number of equally disadvantaged situations doesn't escape me.

Nothing seems to be more effective in reminding me not to take my situation for granted by neglecting to work out my salvation in fear and trembling.

There but for the grace of God go I, never may I waste His graces granted me. Thank God for indulgences and penance, so much that demands to be atoned.

Nick said...

I think it's a problem of terminology ("Love") combined with the fact we cannot fully understand God's Love.

The primary "objection" is that God's Love becomes portrayed as sort of "random". If everyone is equally in sin, for example, to say God loves one over the other apart from anything they are or would do would make the choice almost "random" (which is not language we can ascribe to God). If God's loving someone more is conditioned on a role He would have them play in Salvation History, then that might make more sense. But loving/predestining someone prior to any merits or demerits OR plans for them is "random love" (for lack of a better term).

Benjamin Sanchez said...

I totally disagree with the idea that God loves some more than others. Some are given very important roles in the salvation of the world, but God does this for the good of all. I totally disagree with your undertsanding, nor can it be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I've been reading the writings of the Popes and saints for a very long time and have never read such an idea.

Michelangelo said...


Thank you so much for this homily and exposition of the concepts around this parable. Please pray that I might become more diligent in my daily work, in my prayer, in my love for my family, I seem to myself to be so slothful.

Certainly, as God the Father loved the Blessed Mother more than all other men, as St. Jean Marie Vianney said, "Every time Our Lady looked at Jesus, she suffered." So being loved more certainly does not mean an easier life, indeed I would say it means the opposite.

Our Lady courageously stood at the foot of the Cross, and I believe she was given the grace to to receive all the sins of men from the Beginning to the Final Day, our sins and sufferings passed through her Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart, and she offered them to her Son on the Cross, so that He might transform them into the most precious of all elements to the greater honor and glory of His Heavenly Father. What diligent work, what suffering!

God bless you, Father.

drewskibrewski said...

God is, indeed, gratuitously gracious. Romans 9 powerfully explains God's freedom in election, and St. Thomas Aquinas utilizes this portion of Sacred Scripture in his discussion of predestination in ST I, q. 23, a. 5. It certainly is thoroughly mysterious, "yet predestination has in this way, in regard to its effect, the goodness of God for its reason."

Fr. Erlenbush, I have another question, though. In the article, you described the men who received the talents as "believers". Can you explain this identification? Thank you very much.

Peace and hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Drew A.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Br. Seminarian,
Indeed, the Little Flower could well be called the "Doctor of Predestination"! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A friend of mine also made this connection with the Prodigal Son (which is in Luke, and not in Matthew) ... he pointed out that the wicked/lazy servant did not squander his wealth (like the prodigal), but that he is still wicked insofar as he did not grow in grace.

I think you make a great point as well! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thanks for the excellent quote from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Rev Dr Howard,
I'm sorry, but St. Therese is definitely on the side of recognize that God loves some more than others ... but he still love all some, and more than we deserve.

It is only in the modern sentimental age that we fail to recognize that true love need not be equal ... rather, the gratuity of grace is shown precisely insofar as he loves us all, but loves us all unequally ... this is the teaching of the saints (summarized quite well by St. Thomas).

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Fr. Matthew,
Excellent use of the parable!
Thanks for sharing. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Yes, the "Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated" is the classic text. Thanks for citing it!

Regarding infinity ... there are an infinite number of points between one and two on a graph ... and there are an infinite number of points between one and three on a graph ... but there are still more points between one and three.

Or another (more obvious) example: From 2 + 3 + 4 ... to infinity, is an infinity. But 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 ... to infinity, is a larger infinity.

Consider, the space on a graph from 1 (on the Y axis) up, is infinite. The space on the same graph from 2 (Y axis) up, is infinite. But, minus the space from 2 up from the space from 1 up ... and you can see that one infinity was larger than the other.

Hope this makes some sense.
[unfortunately, I don't have any advanced mathematics books with me anymore ... gave them all away after college ... so I have no citation!]

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The truth is that we cannot ever know how much God loves another (or ourselves), until we are in heaven and after the final judgment when all is made known.

One might seem to be loved less, but perhaps God will give them many grace later, or there may be hidden graces.
One seems to be loved more, but perhaps he will fall away and be condemned.
We are in no position to judge ourselves, let alone our neighbor.

His love is the cause of graces given ... hence, the greater the graces given, the more love ... and that is ok; because God loves us all freely -- and he is most generous.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@RFSjr (Ron),
I like the way you laid out the argument ... quite clear!

I'm glad to hear that you liked the post ... but I must disagree with you about Lonergan ... personally, I am convinced by Banez ... but there is room for disagreement in these matters!
Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thanks for highlighting the mysterious aspect of God's love ... and for brining in the quote from Augustine, which would make no sense at all if God did not love some more than others out of his pure goodness (rather than on account of their works).

Yes, a strong sense of the divine will and goodness (that God chooses freely to give graces, and not [absolutely speaking] on account of any goodness in us) teaches us humility and helps us not to judge others.
Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Every orthodox theologian (even the Jesuits) would hold that God predestines and loves his elect prior to any merits of theirs.
It is not our good works that cause God to love us ... rather his love causes our good works.

Neither can the divine will be considered "random" ... since this divine will is perfectly united with the divine reason, and is the source of all logic.
The divine will precedes all human willing or striving ... we must hold to this point.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Benjamin Sanchez,
First, I TOTALLY wish you could have used the word "totally" at least five more times in your comment!
(do you really "totally disgree" ... there is nothing at all you can agree with me on? ... there is no possible hope for any common ground? ... that is pretty sad ... I totally had no idea that I was so totally wrong)

Second, as to whether the saints spoke this way ... how can you say you have never read this from the saints ... didn't you read the citation of St. Thomas which I put at the end of the article? Or do you not count the greatest theologian and doctor of the Church as a saint?

"Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated" ... what more need we say? God loves some more than others ... look at the commentaries of the Fathers or the scholastics on these verses ... then come back and talk.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You bring out a good point ... those whom God loves most especially, always suffer intensely ... for they are given a special share in the suffering of the Beloved Son of God.

Thanks for the comment! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@drewskibrewski (Drew A.),
Thanks for the very pointed citation from St. Thomas!

Regarding the parable ... I considered that all three were believers because:
a) They are "servants" of the master.
b) They all know the master (though the wicked servant has a very confused idea)
c) They all receive some "talent", which I understand to speak especially to sanctifying grace (which is generally given in baptism)
d) They all face a true judgment where they render an account -- but those without faith will not even have that, for they are totally displeasing to God and will be condemned straight away.

Still, I do believe that the parable can be interpreted to refer to all (believers and unbelievers) insofar as all receive at least sufficient grace.

So I wouldn't want to hold a real hard-line one way or the other. +

Donny Wallace said...

Yes God loves some more than others but it is not as it sounds from this forum. This is not a favoritism that is based on factors which are predetermined by God from the start of time. That is probably an invention of Luther but at least a misunderstanding by Protestants. Remember Cain and Abel. God loved Abel more because he was trying to please God from the heart. He was using his free will to please the creator and was rewarded as a result. I fulyl believe from studies done through brain scans as well as my personal observations that people who have less materially but are really showing they are doing what they are meant to do and are living their life a certain way have greater amounts of joy and even happiness than other people who are much more successful on a secular level. In fact studies indicate that Asians in villages with certain types of factors for happiness and community support are on average 4 times happier than the Americans studied in the research even though they are living below the American version of the Minimum wage. Maybe you addressed this point somewhere in your blog Father but without it your analysis is a misrepresentation of the Bible and God's true ways. And it makes you sound Protestant.

Chris M. said...

I think we are looking at love too narrowly in this context.

1) To each of us is given at least some grace.

2) Some receive more grace than others.

3) The amount of grace given is not a quantification of God's love for that soul. It's a measurement of what that soul can actually contain in terms of grace (how big is that vessel?).

4) God's act of giving more grace to some than others (e.g., Mary, the saints, etc.) is not an "in your face" snub of everyone else. He does it so that we can have examples and incentives of holiness in our midst. The mere act of giving us saints is an act of love not only towards that saint, but to all of us, since he owes us neither grace nor saints in the first place.

What was God's ultimate love for the world? Becoming incarnate and dying for us. Is that less loving than if he had just given every one of us the spectrum of Marian graces? No, of course not. He gave us a means of receiving direct grace through the sacraments, but his act of laying down his life is an infinite amount of love offered to each of us, all of humanity. What we do with this Truth determines whether we are cast into the darkness, or receive torrents of grace to come.

That may still seem "unfair" to some, but the point missed by many in this parable, is that the person with just one talent (ordinary grace?) is not excluded from becoming the one with five talents and more. All we have to do is COOPERATE with the grace we are given, and that grace will multiply.

Thus, the question at hand: Does the amount of grace prove God loves some souls more than others? The answer is "no". Why? Because he's given to each a talent, and to each of us, the power to grow that grace immeasurably. At some point, whether we have just ONE talent, or immeasurable talents (e.g., the Blessed Mother), those talents are only useful when we say "YES" to God.

Don't forget, the Blessed Mother still had to give her "YES" to cooperation with God. All that grace, and one "NO" would have been the end of the Gospel. One "NO" from us ordinary people can mean the end of our salvation. The power of "NO" or "YES" is in the hands of each one of us - whether we have one or a million talents. The beautiful message of hope, however, is that I, with just one talent, can become the bearer of much more, if I just say "YES" to God.

Zevlag said...

You said, "those whom God loves most especially, always suffer intensely." Do these specific people, do they have to necessarily be in a state of grace or could they also be in mortal sin and be loved more than those who are in a state of grace? Hopefully you understood my question.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

They are not always necessarily in the state of grace, but God will bring them to grace at some point and (through their sufferings) he will raise them to heroic virtue.

Great question! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Donny Wallace,
I'm sorry it sounds protestant to you ... your comment sounds pelagian to me.

What I am giving here is not even as strong as what St. Augustine and even St. Thomas said ... it is the middle-road of the Catholic theologians.

We simply cannot say that (speaking absolutely) God loves us because of our good works ... that would make God dependent upon us ... it would also damn us all to hell, since we can do nothing except insofar as his love calls us to goodness.

Rather, God's love is the cause of our good works ... the reason why Abel was pleasing to God was his good works, but the reason he did those good works is because God loved him more and gave him the grace to do them.
God's love comes before all else, especially man's striving.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Chris M.,
You say that God gives more graces to some because they are more able to receive them ... they are a larger basin for grace.

But do you claim that this dispossition to grace is natural? I certainly hope not! (since that would be the heresy of semi-pelagianism)
But if the disposition to receive more grace is not natural, then it must have been granted by God.

So, why do some receive more grace? Because they have a disposition for more grace. And why this dispositon? Because God gave them this disposition. And why did God give some a greater receptivity than others? Because God loves some more than others.

There is nothing at all wrong with admitting that God loves some more than others, and that this is why he gives some more graces than others.
Because God loves us all far more than we deserve, and gives us all more graces than we deserve.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...


Enough of this nonsense, "it's not fair for God to love some more than others" ... give a citation from Scripture or Tradition which says that God loves all equally.

Here is my passage from Scripture:
"Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated." (Romans 9:13, Malachi 1:2-3)

Here is my citation from tradition: "God loves all men and all creatures, inasmuch as He wishes them all some good; but He does not wish every good to them all. So far, therefore, as He does not wish this particular good--namely, eternal life--He is said to hate or reprobated them." (St. Thomas, ST I, q.23, a.3, ad 1 -- the same can be found in his commentary on Romans, paragraphs 763-4)

The claim that God does not have a special love for the Virgin Mary - such that (before any merits of her own) she is loved more than all other creatures - is offensive to pious ears and smacking of heresy.
Of course God loves Mary more, and he always has ... she is his "chosen daughter" from the beginning, simply because he willed to show his goodness (not because of any merits of hers).

Nick said...

I don't think the dispute is over God loving some more than others - that's agreed upon. The question is what is the basis for this gratuitous extra loving of some (not that we'll ever fully know).

I simply ventured the theory certain people might need it more because they're called to a higher/special task, so this way the extra gifting corresponds to a Providential purpose.

I'm not saying you're doing this, but to read the text as "Jacob have I loved [just because] and Esau have I hated [just because]" is obviously ridiculous. If you read that verse in context, it's actually referring to the nation of Israel and Edom, with Edom being condemned for continuing to live in rebellion.

And for the record, Romans 9 is actually far less "predestinarian" than most people would think, for Paul is pointing out how the Jews were the epitome of being loved more and blessed with all these blessings (the term predestination is never used), yet they largely fell away and weren't saved. The key is to read Rom 9,10,11 as one unit AND read the OT quotations in context.

A Sinner said...

Yes, Cardinal George recently even re-emphasized this in a statement he made: look it up, people!

There is ONE sense in which God loves all equally, as Aquinas says, but another sense in which He very clearly doesn't (by the very fact that there are different levels of holiness in the World).

How this synergizes with free will and the sufficient vs efficacious grace distinction is an open question in the Church. There MAY be some orthodox way to say God loves some less because of their own sin rather than that He loves others more arbitrarily (and that the rest sin by default of that).

But either way, no proper understanding of the metaphysical relationship between God and goodness can lead to any other conclusion.

filiusdextris said...

While not rejecting that God bestows grace upon some more than others, I don't think it necessarily follows that he loves them fundamentally more. That might be a possible explanation, but there might be one or more others.

He might love us fundamentally equally, and then love us more according to the grace with which we cooperate with his love. I think this accounts for everything as well. He can prefer Jacob over Esau in that Jacob's heart (cor)responds to God's more fully.

God can still love the servants given the different talents, or the Jew vs. the Pagan, or the Catholic vs. the non-Catholic equally, but still grant one more talents, and then judge based on those talents. We all have our own crosses - it's how we carry them that counts. The Catechism teaches that the Ten Commandments (and undoubtedly their perfected form in the New Law of Jesus) are emblazoned upon every heart at conception. If we have access to the Church and God's sacraments, but fail to profit by them in slothful ignorance, that will be held against us. Therefore it's a grace, but also a potential curse if we don't respond with our hearts to that grace. So God can love at judgment equally one who perfects with one talent and one who perfects with ten talents. He might love the perfect ten more, but this is not a necessary conclusion.

With regards to our Blessed Mother, her grace is singular, so explanations that befit her may not mesh with those of other people. Ultimately we may not know. Would it be heretical to suggest that God knew her before he created her soul? Possibly, hard to avoid error with concrete suggestions here. Another suggestion is that God graced the human who was to be most cooperative with his will with singular graces. Another, simpler and more likely reason, is the fitting and proper standard as the tabernacle of our Lord. With this grace of the immaculate conception and others, she fully aligned her heart to God. She remained free to reject God if she had wanted with her human will, right? Personally I'm content to assign her creation free from sin as part of mystery, and honor the gift of God to humanity through our mother.

God who knows the future, indeed all possible futures whether he permits them or not, has a just way of judging all souls from the moment of conception. He can know whether an unborn baby accepts or reject him in its heart and can judge accordingly.

I think it's important to stay humble in this matter, to keep an open mind and not foreclose upon God's love and mercy which is infinite (not that we really can, we just might think we can). Instead of making pronouncements, the topic should be more on the discussion level in view towards advancing along the path of wisdom and righteousness.

Still, thank you, Father, for your post, and to all for all the wonderful insights afterwards. My first inspiration was St. Therese's thimble, too. (Also much akin to C.S. Lewis's concept of "bigness" in heaven in his short classic, The Great Divorce.) God's fullness is certainly more clearly seen in some than in others. To what extent this concept lies in underlying love (or for some other reason like response to love), I am not sure that this has been fully revealed. At the end of the day, for me, it doesn't matter, I just have to be a good steward of the resources God has given me. If I'm put in a situation where I have to judge others or administrate resources, I think this gospel has another valid lesson for me, that is, not to treat people as necessarily equal. Ave Maria!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@ A Sinner,
Yes! Thank you for the reference to Cardinal George! Praise God that there are at least some clear thinkers in the Church today! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Cite a Church Father or Doctor ... I have given you St. Thomas' answer (which follows the Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine) -- speaking absolutely, God loves some more than others because he chooses to love them more; it is his free will and goodness and nothing in creation.

And yes, I do believe that God predestines one "just because" -- i.e. just because he loves them.
[though he reprobates none except on account of their (foreseen) sins, and by the fact that they are not predestined]

It is a matter of faith that predestination is certain (infallible), and that predestination is not merited by our good works ... predestination comes from the love of God which is the source of all logic.
Don't call it "ridiculous".

In any case, the Fathers, Doctors and scholastics interpret Romans 9 as the classic text on predestination ... so I'm wondering where you are getting your interpretation.

Nick said...

Hello Father,

I think you misunderstood my use of "just because," which by that I meant "no reasoned basis" as opposed to your take "because it's God's prerogative".

You don't seem to have addressed my fundamental point which is that - as a suggestion - maybe God loves more and graces more because that person is called to a higher/special task.

St John Chrysostom - a doctor of the church - is one example off the top of my head that held Romans 9 was not to be taken in a "predestinarian" (I'm using that term loosely) fashion. As one example, when Paul mentions the pottery in Romans 9, Chrysostom says this is to be read in light of Jeremiah 18. And his commentary on Romans 8:29 he says "predestined to glory" means receiving the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I do believe God loves/graces some people more than others, as well as loving and gracing all to some degree; and I believe in Predestination in so far as God Providentially guides one's steps so that they cooperate with grace and Persevere to the end.

There are parameters the Church lays down, but how we choose to believe other details is up to us individually so long as we stay within Dogmatic parameters. Most people don't realize there are multiple theories on how to incorporate the Dogmatic parameters on this issue.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Still, it cannot be that the "call to the higher task" precedes God's love ... it simply cannot be that the reason why God loved Mary more was that she was called to be the Mother of God -- the thought is absurd!

Rather, she was so-called, because she was loved more.
God's love comes before any election, or any plan. God's love is the cause of the special role to which people have been called -- because he loves them more, he calls them in a special way, and gives them special graces.

Also, Jeremiah is yet another great example of this divine election -- he was chosen by God's love, not by any merits of his own; and (while in the womb) was freed from original sin.

I understand that there are many theories to explain this ... Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide (my source for this article) is a Jesuit and leans toward the Molinist camp (as opposed to the Thomistic side) -- I am a strict Thomist, but the article above is very much in the middle of the road as far as what is permissible for a Catholic to believe.

God's love comes before all else! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Regarding St. John Chrysostom ... I'm not sure what you are referring to, but in his 16th Homily on Romans, he expounds 9:13 as follows: "He [God] does not wait, as man does, to see from the issue of their acts the good and him who is not so, but even before these He knows which is the wicked and which not such."

Now, doesn't that sound like an explanation of predestination to you?

Nick said...

I guess that only raises the question in how we "order" God's operations (e.g. Love comes "before" calling). I've not thought of it much, but I don't see how God's act of loving can be independent of the act of calling.

Just thinking out loud: it doesn't make sense to say God loves a soul that doesn't exist yet, but it does make sense to say God has good things for a soul that will come to exist in the "future".

As for St John Chrysostom and that quote you give. In my experience, St John is very "well rounded" in his interpretation. Here is some context:

"What was the cause then why one was loved and the other hated? Why was it that one served, the other was served? It was because one was wicked, and the other good. And yet the children being not yet born, one was honored and the other condemned. For when they were not as yet born, God said, "the elder shall serve the younger." With what intent then did God say this? Because He does not wait, as man does, to see from the issue of their acts the good and him who is not so, but even before these He knows which is the wicked and which not such. And this took place in the Israelites' case also, in a still more wonderful way. Why, he says, do I speak of Esau and of Jacob, of whom one was wicked and the other good? For in the Israelites' case, the sin belonged to all, since they all worshipped the calf. Yet notwithstanding some had mercy shown them, and others had not."

Here St John appears to be saying God doesn't need to wait and see if man will be wicked or good, He foresees this.

The fact is, Esau being first born held the rights. He only lost this (providentially) by his sin, as Hebrews 12:16 says,
"See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

First, thank you for continuing this discussion ... I hope that my short replies are not too strong ... in truth, I only mean to be as direct and clear as possible.
Thank you for your charity!

Second, yes, Chrysostom does give a beautiful context there ... but my point is only to say that he very clearly does read Romans 9:13 as referring to predestination. [likewise, Homily 15 on Romans 8 ... on the particular verse you mentioned, St. John Chrysostom gives another reference to the predetermination of God ... so it is clear to me that he reads St. Paul's words in the context of predestination]

Finally, the question of God's love and our existence is interesting ... the simple fact is that, in the order of causes (though not in the order of time), God's love does precede our existence ... if he did not love us we would not exist.
It is not as though we exist and then God loves us, but God's love is the cause of our existence ... again, its not a matter of temporal succession, but of causal order.

Likewise, the order in God's operations is a causal order, not a temporal one.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'll give you the last word ... if you choose to make another comment ... I don't have time right now to continue further (but I will certainly read and post any further comment you have).

p.s. I also love Chrysostom's commentaries!

Rafael said...

Dear Fr. Ryan and all

I am a Catholic mathematician, and could not help but say something about the matter of the sizes of the mathematical infinities.

I would say that my formation in Math helps me understand the notion you are saying: that even when God's love to us is infinite, He can still love some more than others. However, I do not see this argument as a "proof" or anything like that, but just a a side example. After all, these mathematical concepts are just ideals, while God's love is real.

BTW, the easiest formal argument for the many mathematical infinities is along the lines of

I just want to say to all that do not want to understand that many times God's Word says something different that
our preconceptions from the politically correct 21th century, that they should consider the words of the Owner of the Vineyard:
"Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?"

Best regards,

Father S. said...


I understand the point that you are making, but it seems that we can certainly say that "grace builds on nature," understanding, of course, the full meaning of "perficere." In defense of this phrase, I cite the official English translation of "Fides et ratio," paragraph 43. I ask you to turn your attention to the third sentence below:

"More radically, Thomas recognized that nature, philosophy's proper concern, could contribute to the understanding of divine Revelation. Faith therefore has no fear of reason, but seeks it out and has trust in it. Just as grace builds on nature and brings it to fulfilment,(45) so faith builds upon and perfects reason. Illumined by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God. Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an “exercise of thought”; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice.(46)"

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Father S,
The latin of the relevant text is: "Quemadmodum gratia supponit naturam eamque perficit" ... "Just as grace SUPPOSES nature and perfects it..."

Further the footnote cites the Summa (I, q.1, a.8, ad 2) - "cum enim gratia non tollat naturam sed perficiat" (grace does not destroy nature but perfects it)

Sadly, translations are not very reliable; and neither Thomas nor John Paul II said that grace "builds on" nature.
Grace supposes nature (hence, there must be a theoretical "pure nature" - as all true Thomists hold there is), grace perfects nature, but we ought not say that grace 'builds on' nature.

Grace is not set on top of nature as a 'second story' -- hence, we do not say that grace builds on nature, but that it perfects nature.

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Father S.,
Also, although you took that translation from the Vatican website (I believe), it is not really an "offcial" translation ... as I understand it, there is no such thing as an official translation ... the authoritative text is the Latin.

Leo said...

Dear Fr.,
I would like to add a few of my thoughts concerning your post - first of all, I think this is a very complex issue and I hope you will excuse me for saying you're not doing too much justice or showing pastoral sensitivity by putting this so simply without much of a qualification on terms/concepts or more detailed explanations.
For starters, (largely the lack of better qualifications on 'love' in the English), i think the use of the word 'love' in the post needs to be qualified. I suspect it's being used to express a number of different concepts.

Here are a few points on this-

1. God's relationship with every person is unique and He loves them uniquely. On even a human level, every relationship tends to be unique and should be considered on it's own terms and it's not a proper comparison to judge between relationships so simply.

2. There is an ordering in love - my father loved my mother first which resulted in me and my siblings being born. My father loves me equally - but he has loved my mother before me. And in the same way, i cannot compare his love for me to his love for my mother. Both relationships are unique but find their proper place in the family ( hope that explains my prev point as well)

3. God relates to his people through familial covenants - and I would think the proper way of looking at the relationship of God with his people is the family. So yes, to combine both the above points, He has loved His Son more than everyone and anyone - that love is what gave birth to all of creation. But He is to be the "first born among many brothers" (Rom 8:29) and if so, then no father would love one child more than another but loves each one in a unique way.

4. Again in a family, there could be some children who are close to their parents and live the parent's ideal - others could go astray in different ways and cause the parents a lot of pain. Naturally, the parents would love the children who are close to them, *who have a relationship with them* "more" than the ones who have gone astray - and that is (again for want of better qualifiers), a love that is "more" in the sense of there existing a relationship which has given it the opportunity to develop - while the children who are not with the parents are still loved as children- but there is no relationship.
Maybe to develop further on that point, you could say God, "who sees the end from the beginning" have loved some "more" in the sense related above but not otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Dear Father and forum;
It is good to debate, but we must remain on the point if we are to grow in faith and holiness. I offer this except from The Story of a Soul by St Therese of the Child Jesus, she explains much of what Father has said:
"For a long time I had wondered why God had preferences, why He did not give the same degree of grace to everyone. I was rather surprised that He should pour out such extraordinary graces on great sinners like St. Paul, St. Augustine and so many others, forcing His grace on them, so to speak. I was rather surprised, too, when reading the lives of the Saints, to find Our Lord treating certain privileged souls with the greatest tenderness from the cradle to the grave, removing all obstacles from their upward path to Him, and preserving the radiance of their baptismal robe from the stains of sin. Also, I wondered why so many poor savages die without even hearing Our Lord's name. Jesus chose to enlighten me on this mystery. He opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower He has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily's whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent nor make less ravishing the daisy's charm. I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, nature would lose her spring adornments, and the fields would be no longer enameled with their varied flowers.
So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord. It pleases Him to create great Saints, who may be compared with the lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when he should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are.
I saw something further: that Our Lord's love shines out just as much through a little soul who yields completely to His grace as it does through the greatest. True love is shown in self-abasement, and if everyone were like the saintly doctors who adorn the Church, it would seem that God had not far enough to stoop when He came to them. But He has, in fact, created the child, who knows nothing and can only make feeble cries, and the poor savage, with only Natural Law to guide him; and it is to hearts such as these flowers of the field, and by stooping so low to them, He shows how infinitley great He is. Just as the sun shines equally on the cedar and the little flower, so the Divine Sun shines equally on everyone, great and small. Everything is ordered for their good, just as in nature the seasons are so ordered that the smallest daisy comes to bloom at its appointed time."
Any knowledge we acquire on the gift of faith to us, must bring us back to the point made here and at the end of Father's sermon...submit to doing God's will and you will find abundant grace and love. ANd remember what graces and "talents" we think God gave us, is usually not what He has in mind for us. His way is better, follow it.

Father S. said...


I did not take the text from the Vatican website, though I certainly could have; it would have been the same. Also, it is not an "official" translation, though it is certainly an in-house translation.

The problem, it seems to me, is that the dictum "Gratia non destruit, sed supponit et perficit naturam" is attributed to St. Thomas' Summa. Unless I am looking on the wrong page, it seems to me that this is incorrect. I cannot find this exact phrase anywhere in St. Thomas, though it is classically attributed to him. I think that we can at least say that it is a synthesis of what is classically understood as St. Thomas' position. As it happens, it seems to me that this phrase is combination of the phrases given in question 1--which you mentioned--and question 2, at the ad primum.

In this phrase--which is not, then, from St. Thomas--the question arises as to whether or not we can translate "supponit" as "builds on." On the one hand, we can. On the other hand, "supposes" would be better as a cognate. Certainly we know that grace does, indeed, suppose nature. Sanctifying grace has no use for those who do not have a human nature. If the opposite were true, we would baptize our pets.

Ultimately, the dictum has become part of our theological parlance. There are those who use it without understanding it and there are those who wrongfully attribute it, no doubt. That being said, it seems to be here to stay.

Anonymous said...

I commend you on the patience you have with your forum members. You take seriously your call to preach to all the poor, I thank you. But we all cannot grasp the deep theology of St. Thomas and sometimes need just a little push from the teachers of nature. I hope the qutoe form St. Therese will help some. And by they way, I say this: who are we to think it ia fari or not how God determines to love? One milisecond of His love poured into the heart is enough to live a lifetime on. The joy the peace is imprinted forever. May all your words trigger people to live holy lives. God bless your endeavors.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Your comment has actually helped me immensely in clarifying a central point which I nevertheless failed to state directly in the article.

Your whole comment is based on an anthropomorphic and anthropocentric vision of theology -- you speak of God's love as though it is exactly like the love a human father has for his family.

And this is your great error. This is the main error which my article attacks and attemptes to demolish.
This is why I wrote so bluntly and directly -- we simply must realize that God's love is not simply greater than our love, it is different in kind; it is a different kind of love.

When we say "love" referring to God's love, this is only analogically related to human love -- not equivocal, nor univocal, but anological speech.
This means that we must be extremely careful when we try to make analogies between God's love and human love.

In fact, it is better (and much more true) to say that God DOES NOT love us in the way that a father loves his children -- because the father's love for his son is not the cause of his son's existence or goodness ... in fact, the father loves his son because he is his son.
However, God's love causes our existence and he does not love us because we are good (or because we have a special role in salvation history), but rather his love is what makes us good, what makes us to have a part in salvation.
In other words: God does not love us because we are his children, but his love makes us to be his children.

Ok, that being said, there is no reason why we should shy away from saying that God loves some more than others -- because his ways are not our ways, and his love is more unlike than like human love.

Thus, your final line is very wrong -- it is not that God "sees" what we will do and then loves us ... rather God's love is the cause of goodness in creatures.

Hence (taking a strong Thomistic view now) - just as God loves every human more than he loves rocks, and this is what makes a man to be a man and not a rock - so too, God loves some men more than others, and this is what makes one man to be better than another (though what makes another man worse is is sins).

It is a mystery, to be sure. But we must, we simply must, stop trying to fit God into the tiny little box of human love and human relationships and human family -- he is much bigger than all of that!

Theology must start with God, not with man.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Father S.,
The line from the Summa (as quoted in my earlier comment) comes from the first question and reads: "cum enim gratia non tollat naturam sed perficiat" -- so you are correct that Fides et Ratio is not a direct quotation, but I don't think it was intending to be; rather they are simply stating the basic point of St. Thomas.

In any case, I think that it is clear why I do not like the idea of "builds on" -- it makes it sound like grace covers over nature (as Luther thought).
I can see why you are more open to "builds on" -- because you emphasize the need for a true human nature (and I too am a strong advocate of the "pure nature" camp).

As to your final comment: "It [the phrase] seems to be here to stay" ... I reply: Not if I have anything to say about it! (which I probably don't) :-)

Thank you for the fruitful discussion! +

Anonymous said...

Dear Father S.;
Being an unschooled Catholic in the means of St. Thomas, didn't Father mean by saying grace "builds on" nature that God's grace elevates our nature to holiness by our responding to His invitations of grace. Since grace is God's very life it utilizes our nature to the point that "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." God sees it fit to work with our nature to raise our nature. Right?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I thank you kindly for the excellent quotation from the Little Flower ... as I said earlier, she could well be the "Doctor of Predestination".

Also, thank you for reminding me that we are all on the same team here and are all striving to understand.
Please do pray for me that I might speak clearly but always with charity.
Indeed, I assure you and all readers that I pray daily for you all too!

Let us become saints! +

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. For to communicate the heart and soul in words for others to desire to seek God is most difficult. You however are ordained in the Holy Priesthood. Allow Christ in you to be the words spoken and written. REmember many times He didn't explain in words, an element only He can give. He lived it instead.

What do you mean by Therese as the "Doctor of Predestination"? I want to know what you mean by this. Remember I am in the world and the world has many versions of meaning of the hot words. Please define the word as St. Thomas sees it. Thanks.

Also,I have only been on the forum twice, but you write so intellectual since your audience enjoys intellectual debate. But what are we debating? God?! I would rather sit before Him or pick up trash with love for Him. In that I would learn more than any debate. Submission before God is the key to understanding God. We debate what we do not understand because we think we understand.

I am glad you pray for everyone. I can tell you have a true care for God's sheep. But be aware, Father, to allow God to work more than your words. Like a mother, I remind you what you already know: Do not be upset if people do not understand. The understanding is up to God, not you. Speak truth. Live truth. God will do the rest.

God bless you.

Derek Caudill said...

The Thomists believe God loves some people straight into sin and hell. But we can't criticize that because God is God and does what he wills, and what he wills is good because he's God.

Some, being loved less and thus reprobate by God's free and omnipotent choice, get to suffer subjective torture in hell for all eternity due to the objective, unchangeable metaphysical reality of God's providence.

Disturbing to say the least, and these issues are why I'm no Thomist. I used to place a lot more automatic creedence with St. Thomas's opinions until I learned his doctrine of predestination, which really amounts to Calvinism if you have the courage to carry it to its logical conclusions. That's all Calvin did: he didn't so much teach a new theory in double predestination as just interpret St.'s Augustine and Thomas in terms of their positive implications.

I think the common human heart knows better than this, and it takes no theologian nor philosopher to decipher that something is off with Thomistic election. By strict Thomism, God--who we ought to believe is "The Good"--is made to be considerably less good than even a human father, who is wicked, yet even he wouldn't give his son a snake instead of a fish. But this is what they'd have us to believe God does.

All this being said, I love St. Thomas's insights and especially his general premise that we ought to embrace both faith and reason. Who can calculate all the good that he contributed to Christian theology? But, on the other hand, I have to say absolutely that I believe "Thomistic predestination" was one of the most unfortunate developments in speculative theological opinion. I'm sure that he himself never intended for us to form such a cult around him as some have, and take his word for everything without thinking for ourselves just because he said it or some of his opinions became little-"t"-"traditional;" in fact, I'm sure that's the last thing the great thinker would want. May St. Thomas pray for us that the grace God gives us will be truly "sufficient" and not impotent, and help us all reach heaven.

God bless you all, and God bless you especially, Fr. Erlenbush, for your zeal; but there are some things I simply cannot and will not believe, no matter who says them.


filiusdextris said...

Just curious why everyone else's post merited a comment except mine. Was it that bad or did it just sneak in unseen? :) Good day, Father!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The Thomists most certainly DO NOT believe that God causes anyone to sin! That would be the heresy of Calvin.

Rather, God wills to permit certain defects and sins.

The whole question of grace and free will is far beyond what I am trying to address in this post ... but do be sure, you can be a true Thomist without believeing in double predestination -- and I most certainly wouldn't want you (or anyone) to think that God makes us to sin!

Finally, remember that St. Thomas is following St. Augustine ... and St. Augustine isn't just one doctor among many, he is the DOCTOR OF GRACE -- hence, if we want to know how to think about grace and free will, we should trust St. Augustine (and St. Thomas who follows him).

Thanks for the comment, I hope it is clearer now (or at least that it is clear that we must not follow the Calvinists).
Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Sorry for overlooking you! :)

I will have to comment later ... but briefly ...
We must recognize that Mary was chosen because God loves her especially ... she recieves her special call because God loves her (and not the other way around ... further, she did not merit the call or the love (absolutely speaking).

As to whether she could have rejected the grace ... certainly, the human will is the type of thing which can turn away (in statu viatoris), but in point of fact there was no real possibility of Mary sinning -- and yet she remained free.
Similar to the saints in heaven who cannot sin and yet are free ... or analogous to God who cannot sin, but is ultimately and totally free.

You see, Mary was more free by being moved perfectly by grace and completely removed from all real possibility of sin, than we are who are constantly plagued by sin.

In any case, would you cite a source from the Tradition which would make us think that God loves all equally? I have cited many.

Peace. +

filiusdextris said...

"In any case, would you cite a source from the Tradition which would make us think that God loves all equally? I have cited many."

That was not my point of contention. You have not cited sources to show from what the love was borne could have been fundamental, even whimsical if you will (God's prerogative), or it could have been as a response from the believer as the believer's will aligns with the Father's. You seem to believe it is the first, and I have not rejected that. I've merely said the second will also plausibly explain the facts that some have more graces than others and your sources don't seem to prove why one way or the other.

Kuba said...

i have to say this is the most challenging post i read so far.

I guess it'd be easier to establish some sort of "base line" i.e there is some "level" of God's love that we all get.

-He loved us all into existence (true for all)
-He loved us so he gave His Only Son to die for us (true for all)
-He loves/desires for me to be saved (true for all)

With respect to the above we are all equally loved, i.e. the above statements are true for all (correct me if i am wrong)

So no one can claim any shortage of God's love in that respect.

If i read you post in this way i can understand that any "extras" are only for some.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm not sure how you can say I haven't cited sources ... the whole article was written based on the commentary of Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide (I said this in the article and in the earlier comments).
Further, I cited St. Thomas explicitly several times in the comments and once in the article.

As to whether my sources say what I claim they say ... St. Thomas says that one is predestined and another reprobate after the manner that one piece of matter is made a rock and another a tree ... I would say that I have not gone nearly so far as my sources!

The problem with thinking that God loves some more because they cooprerate is that it makes God's love depend upon our actions -- and that would be terrible, since without God's love we could do nothing (i.e. if God didn't love us, we wouldn't even be able to cooperate).
In the order of causes, God's love comes before any human cooperation ... nothing, absolutely nothing, causes God's love.

If you want a witness to this from the tradition, consider the final homily of St. Augustine in his commentary on John ... he says that Peter loves Jesus more, but that John is loved more by Jesus ... Peter is greater in his love, but Jesus still loves John more -- why? Because it is His gracious will that John should be loved more.

And be very careful about calling God's prerogative "whimsical" -- his will and his love is the foundation of all logic and reason and order.
Hence, there is no law against which we measure God's love ... there is no ruler by which we can judge whether God has loved enough or too much ... rather, God's love establishes all law and all measurement.
And the Doctors (especially St. Thomas) claim that God loves some more than others.

And when it comes to questions on grace, we should listen especially to the Doctor of Grace (St. Augustine) -- take a look at that homily ... you will be surprised at how far Augustine goes (much further than I have in this little article)! (see especially parabraph 4; then the spiritual interpretation given in 5-7)

There is no question, according to St. Augustine, Jesus loves St. John more than St. Peter, even though St. Peter loves Jesus more than does St. John.

[and how clear the divine election is in the case of our Lady, who was chosen through no merit of her own, and has been loved more than all others]

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I think you got it right!
I would add that we all have many little "extras", though some more than others -- and in this way, they are loved more.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

For the Catholic, "predestination" means God's providence insofar as he directs us (and moves us) to heaven.

In this respect it is very different from Calvinist "double-predestination", since that includes the idea that God actively directs (and moves) someone to sin and ultimately to hell.

We must believe in predestination in the Catholic sense (since St. Paul explicitly teaches it) ... we always affirm that heaven is gain through our cooperation with God's predestination ... we are free in this plan ... not all are predestined (at least not Satan and his angels, and any humans who are in hell or will go to hell) ... anyone who is predestined will make it to heaven (predestination is certain).

I know it is hard to understand ... this is why St. Therese is so good! She helps us to remember that predestination and all the rest is part of God's LOVE!

And that love drives out all fear. +

Anonymous said...

What an interesting thread!
Therefore, we (human souls) are all predestined to be with God in Heaven for eternity. BUT not everyone cooperates with His grace to enter Heaven. This is because of free will. Free will was given to humans so we could enter into the Love of God and enjoy eternity with Him freely or to decide not to. As far as Mary is concerned, her choice was given when Gabriel came to her. Unlike Eve, Mary did say Yes to following God's will. I do not know if anyone knows this, but Eve was in Sanctifying grace too, yet she said No to following God and choose evil instead. mary did choose, God gave her the same free will as Eve. That is why Mary is called the New Eve.
Is it right that we say that God "wills" evil only in so far as He permitted free will. Obviously He does not want evil, for GOd is all good and loving, there is no bad in Him. At the fall of Adam and Eve He even foretold how His Son would come. Christ came to suffer and make suffering redemptive so as to make the path to follow grace available to us all. All the evil in the world is a consequence of sin through our free will. Without Christ we wouldn't be able to conquer and rise above suffering of all kinds. For He gives us GRACE! If He predestines all souls to go to Heaven, than He would provide sufficient opportunities and grace for each individual in order for them to get there, BUT the individual MUST cooperate in order to follow Him. We actually predestine ourselves to hell. God sends no one there, we choose it.

Keep up the good work Father!
And yes, Therese believes God wants everyone in Heaven, but she also knows not all go.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Very close ... but while we must say that God loves all and that he wills all to be saved ... we do not say that all are predestined.

Anyone who is predestined will certainly be saved ... thus, it does not seem that every human is predestined (since it is likely that not all people go to heaven).

But you are right, we send ourselves to hell - i.e. by our sins we incur the wrath of God and turn away from heaven.

Peace! +

Anonymous said...

Father; You have challenged me. I like that. My Dogma book says this and I hope this can be shared with everyone:
De fide. "God, by His Eternal Resolve of Will, has predetermined certain men to eternal blessedness." Read Romans 8:29 But no one knows who is unless revealed by special Revelation if they are predestined.

Also I found these:
Despite men's sins God truly and earnestly desires the salvation of all men. (Sent. Fidei proxima.) It explains further: "That God desires the salvation, not only of the predestined, but at least of all the faithful, is formally defined. The Church has rejected as heretical the limitation of the Divine Will for salvation to the predestined by the Predestinatians, the Calvanists, and the Jansenists...the Divine Will of salvation embraces at least all the faithful, as is evident from the official profession of faith of the Church, in which the faithful pray: qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis....Jesus shows in his lament for Jerusalem that He desires the salvation of those also, who sin (Mt 23:37; Lk 19:41). It is evident from John 3:16 that God desires the salvation of all the faithful, at least; for He gave His Son, "that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish." In 1 TImothy 2:4 we read that the Divine will for salvation embraces all men without exception: "He (God) will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Also a dogma:
"God gives all the just sufficient grace (gratia proxime vel remote sufficiens) for the observation of the Divine Commandments." (De fide.)

And "God gives all the faithful who are sinners sufficient grace (gratia saltem remote sufficiens) for conversion." (Sent. communis.)

And "God gives all innocent unbelievers sufficient grace to achieve eternal salvation." (Sent. certa.)

Its a true mystery I happily submit to. And means I must submit to God and work hard in with "hope" to enjoy eternity with God.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm not sure which dogma book you are using, perhaps it is that by Ludwig Ott.

In any case, it is very good!
Indeed, God does desire the salvation of all (and not only the predestined).

How great the love of God! For he has called us into being and (for those who are being save) he has called us into new life in Christ his Son!
Peace to you in Christ our Savior. +

Rick said...

Dear Father Ryan,

I have to say, this has been one of the best reads I've ever done. Not only your article, but the discussion as well.

I have to say also the comments by "A Sinner" and "Sue" are most appreciated.

Now finally my question:

Being loved more implies that more will be demanded, or expected.
Those who are loved more, don't have a reason to complain about the premise of "God loves ones more than others".
Therefore, those complaining would be the ones who would be loved "just one talent, maybe two".
Yet, God could say: what are you complaining about... anyway, if you return one (or two for that matter) talent(s), you will get the same reward as that one who returned five [heaven]. So you're complaining about not being asked more from.
This leads my thought to "Are you willing to drink the same cup..."
Can you comment on this? Don't know if I'm making myself clear, just tying up some loose thoughts...



Anonymous said...

Dear Father and Rick;
I have enjoyed this descussion too. It has benefited my vigor to live for Christ ever much more.
I would like to give another quote from St. Therese's Story of a Soul in order to respond to Rick's last comment:
"I told you once how it puzzled me that God did not give everyone the same amount of glory in Heaven, and I feared they could not all be happy. You sent me off to fetch one of Father's big glasses and made me put my little thimble by the side of it; then you filled them both up with water and asked me which I thought was fuller. I had to admit that one was just as full as the other because neither of them would hold anymore.
That was the way you helped me grasp how it was that in Heaven the least have no cause to envy the greatest."

Rick, if a little soul could only hold one drop of love from God it is sufficient to satisfy that soul forever. I do not believe little souls who are loved by God a little have any jealousy about not having more talents, whether they are here on earth or in heaven. Instead they are humbled and pleased to do for Him as He pleases with the little they have. They praise God for the wonderful wisdom he has for giving them what they can handle and giving others more for what they can handle. Without the variety of us, the beautiful rhythm of God's family would not shine.
Some of us require more harshness from God to get our act in gear. Some need more consolations. Some are so fragile they need a different treatment from Him. I think it is fascinating how we can be treated in so various ways by God and still feel we are loved immensely by Him, as if we are the only one with Him in the world...when it may be only a drop of Heavenly love! To us, if He filled us with the greatest amount, I am afraid we would crack our "wine skins"! He is so grand! And who is to say that by working with Him He does not multiply the talent (love) within us to overflowing?! Drop by drop. "Let my cup overflow."

I think those who complain are those spoiled ones who want more but do nothing to humble themselves. They are so busy comparing the outside of others to their inside. They never look into the mirror and see themselves as God sees them, their good qualities and their bad. Accepting the love of God when you are certain of your faults is hard because it requires change. Second, they do not know His love. If they have encountered His love, they wouldn't think such things. For His love is transforming and alive. It has a virtuous life of its own that fills the soul both day and night with joy and peace and a sense that there is always something little to to for God iwth love. There is no time for jealousy. Who can be jealous when God give them all they need every day, for that day?

Zevlag said...

Since God's love for us is at a certain level and does not change, perhaps what changes is our fidelity and how pleasing we become to Our Lord, my question is....Does the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is a creature, change? Can she grow in love of us

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Great question!
As with all the saints in heaven, our Lady can no longer grow in charity.
Yet, I should think that her love for us becomes more specified toward us and also more realized within us as we grow in holiness. +

Vince K said...


My friends and I were discussing this yesterday and we wondered: Is it true that the amount of sufficiency varies depending on the person? That is, do some people need more love (or grace) to have enough to be able to get to heaven or is the level of sufficiency the same for each person?


Vince K

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Vince K,
It would seem to me that your intuition is correct -- for some people, more grace would be needed than for others.
Hence, I would think that "sufficient" grace would differ from person to person.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The following comment is from Derek Caudill ... at his request it has been edited slightly (and hence I am posting it) ... it is from about 3 days ago.


Thomists have the problem of explaining the following:

There is some division in the idea of grace between "sufficient" and "efficacious" grace. Gratia sufficiens, "sufficient" grace, is potentiality, and gratia efficax, efficacious grace (the grace which actually works), is the actuality or activation of that potentiality, which can come from God's activity alone. In a word, you can't and won't "use" your "grace" unless God makes you do it (but you are somehow still free while he's making you). So, sufficient grace must be moved by efficacious (the further grace from God) in order to result in holiness and salvation.

But here's a sad part of it: God doesn't give this help to everyone, but only to his few elect, whom he decided before creation for no further explicable reason than his will.

Now it's obvious that "sufficient" grace is really not sufficient, though they call it that. I have yet to figure out what they mean it's sufficient for if not salvation. By my lights, in effect they're saying something more like it's sufficient for condemnation.

See, God's leaving (he leaves them and forsakes them forever) the "reprobate" with "sufficient" grace alone infallibly results in their persistent sinning and then damnation, because it's not enough in itself for better living and salvation.

As anyone can see, this puts the blood of the tortured damned on God's hands, because he could easily give everyone efficacious grace if he wanted, but just chooses not to for his own reasons.

It seems that the least of us miserable men can conceive of a God of stronger love; indeed, a corrupt neighbor of ours with stronger love. Then, what becomes of our religion?

What else would God mean to happen when he "non-elects" someone than that they should burn in hell? Surely he can see that would happen, and understand his own role in it.

If either heaven or hell, and not-heaven, then hell! I think God is at least that smart. But can we really slander the Father we've been shown in Christ's face by saying he acts like this?

I don't know how we are to explain predestination; but if we try to, I know we at least have to preserve the goodness of God. And Thomism fails badly in this by everyone's definition of goodness, so then they have to tell us our hearts are wrong. Well, I'm sorry, but my heart is all I've got to go by, and all I've got to give to God, and I say they're wrong.

God wills all men to be saved. If I didn't believe this is clear in Christianity, I'd find a better religion.

In Christ,


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The whole question of sufficient and efficacious grace is a complicated one ... if you are really serious about trying to understand what the Thomists think, I suggest you read the book "Predestination" by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange (I have it linked on line in the right sidebar of NTM).

I will say this: You have not understood what the Thomists think, and the position you attack as "Thomism" in your comment is not Thomism at all ... it is a straw-man.

I will take one particularly outrageous line - you claim that "sufficient grace is not really suffficient, though they [the Thomists] call it that ... in effect they're saying something more like it's sufficient for codnemnation."
This is pure slander! The Thomists most certainly do not think that sufficient grace is a sufficient cause of sin and damnation!

This theme runs throughout your comment -- as though God causes men to sin (according to the Thomists) and then damns them for that sin.
In effect, you accuse the Thomists of being Calvinists. You simply cannot do this ... literally, if you are Catholic, you cannot do this - the Church has stated that the Thomists cannot be accused of heresy; and neither can the Molinists (Jesuits).
You are way out of your league on this one.

To give a brief outline of a few points of Thomism (to correct you false-version "straw man"):
1) God wills all to be saved with an antecedent will.
2) God governs all things and is the primary cause of all things and actions insofar as they are have existence (he does not cause sin itself, since sin is a privation not a possitive reality)
3) Human beings (and angels) have free will and exercise this free will within God's providence ... providence is what allows men to have free will ... God causes men (and angels) to have free will.
4) Predestination is certain, sure and infallible ... it is also part of the free choice of the man/angel (because we are more free when moved by grace to choose the good).
5) Not all are predestined (at least not Satan and his angels, and anyone else who is or ends up in hell).
6) These are called reprobate -- not that God predestines them to hell, but that he condemns them on account of their sins. God truly wills their salvation (antecedently), but in his consequent will (upon the judgment) he wills that they be condemned on account of their sins.
7) All receive sufficient grace such that they could be saved.

8) The mystery of predestination is one of the greatest mysteries of the goodness and love of God!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I will counter with one last point ... I think that you fall into the error condemned by Pius XII in "Humani Generis".

Pius XII says that it is an error to claim that God, in his goodness, must save (or offer salvation) to rational creatures. That God would not be good if he did not offer salvation.
[this is idea is condemned]

In fact, God does offer salvation - on this we agree, as do all the Thomists. However, God does not HAVE TO offer salvation, he would still be good even if he did not offer salvation - and on this we disagree.

You state very clearly in your comment that God cannot be good if he does not offer salvation to all people ... and I respond that God would be good even if he had not created us, let alone offer us salvation, let alone send his Son to redeem us after the Fall!
God would be good even if he did not will all men to be saved.

Now, if fact, God did create us (he even creates us in grace), and he did redeem us after the fall through the death of his Son, and he does will all to be saved ... but this is not a necessary consequent of God's goodness ... he is not obliged to save us (or even to attempt to save us).

God is free in choosing to save us, he is not obliged, his goodness does not demand it of necessity ... and you have confused this point very much.

[interestingly, it is God's freedom and generosity which the Thomists emphasize most of all]

In any case ... this whole debate only barely touches upon this article ... since the main source of the article was Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide, who is a Jesuit, and not a strict Thomist, but rather a Molinist (which is the position which you seem to favor) ... so my article is very much in the middle of the road between the Thomists and the Molinists (except the final quote from St. Thomas, of course).

Peace. +

Steven R said...

Dear Fr.,
I will most definitely back you up on that last comment that God would be good if He did not offer salvation to anybody. First and foremost the gift of Heaven is exactly that, a most gracious gift. When I try to teach people this in my experience I give them the analogy of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden trying to claw their way up at the sky trying to get into Heaven by their own selves. They could never do it, in fact it's quite silly to think they could. I think this might help to show the manner by which grace is exactly that, grace, a gift. Yet nobody should claim that God is indifferent to the salvation of mankind, He offered His only Son to suffer personally for each and every one of us, but He was totally free to do this of His own freedom, not compelled to do it (Christ Himself says in the Gospel that nobody takes His life from Him but He lays it down of His own free will).

This correlates well to a form of Jewish prayer where a litany of the good deeds of God for us (and the people of Israel) is recited with a response, "It would have been enough." The idea is that one good deed for us would have been more than enough to show the generosity and graciousness of God.

Though I'm sure you've probably better analogies that may help here than my simple ones.

With respect to Derek, I don't think you should characterize St. Thomas' idea of predestination so simply, you've actually presented somewhat of a straw man. Having read St. Thomas of Aquinas on predestination, forgive me if I'm wrong, I don't think you've actually perceived all of the subtlety in St. Thomas of Aquinas' teaching on predestination especially with your comments on making God into a wicked human father, in fact I suggest spending some time perhaps re-reading the text from the Summa and maybe even taking a look at some of the other scholastics' treatment of the matter; sometimes it takes a little experience in Scholasticism to perceive the subtleties that can tame what seemed like a barbarous and offensive text in to one filled with wisdom. The Scholastics are well known for their subtlety, to put it bluntly.

Nor do I think you should characterize Thomists so lightly. Would you characterize Augustinians or Franciscans as following a cult of St. Augustine of Hippo or of perhaps the Franciscans of being obsessed with St. Bonaventure or Bl. John Duns Scotus? Thomists are much men like you and I trying to gain inspiration and insights from holy saints who spent hours in prayer and contemplation, assisted by grace. I'm not so much a Thomist myself as I have St. Augustine as my confirmation saint, but I recognize the great worth of St. Thomas especially in the department of the doctrine of grace where I think he supplements St. Augustine well. All this in mind I doubt serious Thomists consider St. Thomas as inerrant as you might suppose, it may be charitable to think of Thomists as being Catholics first, and then Thomist second.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

can some one explain me please

I'm mexican, i was able to go to school and college in my country, I even went to study at NYU a master degree, when i arrived to NY i realized of how the world is really unfair, I met many mexicans living there that didn't have any chance to go to school or anything over here, therefore they migrate illegally to the us. I really feel (and i dont wanna be rude at all) after talking to them, that they were not very smart cause they didnt go to school at all... i mean they are nice, and they were always nice to me cause im mexican, but clearly you can't go into a deep conversation with them, not saying that i'm smart at all but that's what i feel... and i never realized about that when living in mexico cause i dont meet these guys very often over here.

so my questions is.

talent depends on education, what talent can you develop if you don't have any education,



Anonymous said...

Ok, I've read the post. I know some theologians defend the same postion expressed in the post. However, however, this is a blog discussing thelogy, isn't it? So, I miss the counter-argument. Where are the theologians who present a different view? I'd like to see those opinions, since I'm just a lay woman with no background in theology.


Dark light said...

I am no theologian so please forgive any foolishness but if God loves some more than others then won't that mean he will rule over a house divided? I have seen homes where parents favor one child over the others it eventually sows seeds of anger,sadness, hate and jealousy until it boils over. Then isn't God sowing these seeds in us by instigating a policy of "love all but some more than others"

And while I understand that it's by his own will to love us and not some law that he is governed by why would he willingly lavish some while snubbing others though we are all brothers it just seems unGod like at least to me.

Unknown said...

Thank you!!

Unknown said...

from francis:

i think all these discussions about how unequal God is in dispensing his Love and Graces to his children smacks of selfishness. we lose sight of the fact that no matter how good or holy we are, the amount of love or grace we receive is purely gratuitous which we do not deserve one bit because of our sinful nature. instead of focusing on our being at the "receiving end" of God's Love, why do we not just reflect on the giving back to God the love that He so richly deserves as our Creator. please forget about worrying why another person is more loved by God. that's His prerogative and we have no right to dictate. rather, the question we should be asking is ...... WHAT AM I DOING TO LOVE GOD MORE THAN THE HOLY PERSON STANDING NEXT TO ME? i believe that when we love God with all our heart, mind and soul, nothing else should matter anymore, not even the question of why others receive more love and graces from Him. LOVING GOD "AS NEAR TO PERFECTION AS POSSIBLE" IS ALREADY A LIBERATING AND UPLIFTING SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE PERSONALLY. what more can you ask for!!!

Unknown said...

The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.....Psalm 5:5. It does appear according to scripture that God does love some more than others. The word hatest in this passage of scripture means just what it says. It means that He hates the sinner and the sin. God is so holy that He hates those that live in constant habitual sin and those that hate Him. Even if the word hate in this scripture were to mean less than it would still prove the point that God loves some more than others.

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