2 minute read

Determinism Free will and Predestination

Reformation And Counter-reformation

Martin Luther's (1483–1546) theological education exposed him to a largely Ockhamist understanding of human freedom and predestination. He reacted strongly against this approach by denying that the human will is significantly free apart from grace and apparently by holding that predestination and reprobation are parallel. Although medieval theologians had described this position as predestinarianism, modern and contemporary scholars often call it double predestination. Subsequent Lutherans modified his position. Similarly, John Calvin (1509–1564) explicitly rejected the medieval understanding of free choice and may have adhered to double predestination. However, later Reformed theologians such as Pietro Martire Vermigli (1500–1562; also known as Peter Martyr) defended the medieval distinction between predestination and reprobation. There is not one official Reformed position on predestination. For example, Reformed theologians split over whether God's eternal decree that some will be reprobate is prior or posterior to his permission of Adam's sin. In general, later Protestant Orthodoxy permitted views on Predestination that were less severe than those of the early Protestant Reformers.

There was a variety of early Catholic responses to the Protestant Reformers, since Catholic theologians were variously Augustinian, Thomist, Scotist, and Ockhamist. Even humanists such as Erasmus (1466?–1536) were worried about the apparent denial of human freedom. The new Jesuit order reacted strongly by emphasizing a free human cooperation with grace. The Jesuit Luis de Molina (1535–1600) taught that God decides what someone will do only by foreseeing what he would do in a set of circumstances and then creating the agent and those circumstances. In general, Jesuits held an Ockhamist understanding of God's causation whereby both God and the agent contribute to the agent's action. Dominicans such as Dominic Banez (1528–1604) and John of St. Thomas (1589–1644) were the most important critics of the Jesuit positions. John held that the Protestants and Jesuits both err in thinking that a predetermination by God's grace is incompatible with human freedom. Moreover, he thought that God wills to deprive the reprobate of grace and glory, and that this decision is prior to the permission of Adam's sin. The Dominicans claimed with some plausibility that they followed the teachings of both Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Pope Paul V declared that the Jesuits were not to be called Semipelagians and the Dominicans were not to be called Calvinists, and they were both allowed to teach their respective positions until further notice.

Contemporary theologians and philosophers of religion still read with sympathy the works of Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, and Luis de Molina. Nevertheless, the Augustinian and Thomist accounts of predestination have few contemporary followers. Many now adhere to "open" theories according to which God has no complete foreknowledge of and control over human actions. Earlier Christians would have rejected such views for denying God's omnipotence and omniscience.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Formate to GastropodaDeterminism Free will and Predestination - Ancient Greek Philosophy, Jews, Christians, And Muslims, Scholastic Christian Thought, Reformation And Counter-reformation