St. Augustine says somewhere (quoted in the old Catholic Encyclopedia):

Predestination is nothing else than the foreknowledge and foreordaining of those gracious gifts which make certain the salvation of all who are saved

Predestination - Catholic Encyclopedia

So... is this just a tautology? The fact that those who are saved will have salvation doesn't seem terribly deep, is this all the farther a Catholic can go with the concept of predestination?

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    a answer here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/15886/…
    – Mike
    May 8, 2013 at 9:08
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    This isn't St. Augustine, so I'm not sure it qualifies as an answer, but I think the Catholic Catechism takes it to the extent a Catholic can in paragraphs 599 and 600.
    – svidgen
    May 8, 2013 at 13:53
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    I am not sure if this question is focused on Catholic theology or Augustinian views on predestination.
    – Double U
    Jun 23, 2013 at 0:02
  • @anonymous do they contradict each other?
    – Peter Turner
    Jun 23, 2013 at 1:07
  • To answer the question, I do not think that the quote is a tautology. Written from a Catholic point-of-view, Augustine got the idea from Paul. Paul introduced the idea that original sin inheritance to atone for which Christ's suffering and death were necessary. We can achieve nothing good except by having righteousness imputed to us by Christ's sacrifice. Therefore, we are depraved. Source: Predestination: Augustine to Calvin and Beyond, by John Casey.
    – Double U
    Jun 23, 2013 at 1:08

2 Answers 2


As the quotation in the body of your question points out, St. Augustine deduced from the New Testament texts the following definition: "Predestination is the foreknowledge and the preparation of those gifts of God whereby they who are delivered are most certainly delivered."(1) In this definition the word "foreknowledge" is not taken as meaning that God foresees the merits of the elect, but that He foreknows and prepares the gifts by which the elect will actually be saved in the order of execution. "By His predestination, God foreknew what He had to do,"(2) so as to direct His elect infallibly to eternal life. Here Augustine is echoing our Lord's words: "My sheep . . . shall not perish for ever. And no man shall pluck them out of My hand." (3)

According to St. Augustine, predestination presupposes a decisive and definite will on God's part to sanctify and freely save all the elect. (4) God knows them individually and He wills to have them perform meritoriously acts that are required for entering heaven. He wills to give them the grace to persevere until the end. “..It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish according to His good will."(5) The fact that God foresees our salutary and meritorious acts presupposes, according to the teaching of St. Augustine, the decree of the divine will as regards these acts. (6)

Far be it that man should have the power to frustrate the intention of the omnipotent Being who has foreknowledge of all things. These have but a faint conception of so great a question or what they have does not suffice, who think that the omnipotent God wills something and is powerless to effect it because of weak man preventing Him.

Augustine says that God’s will is omnipotent and efficacious (most efficacious).(7) We read in one of his treatises as follows: "There is no doubt that human wills cannot resist (in sensu composito) the will of God, who hath done whatsoever He willed in heaven and on earth, in that He does what He wills and when He wills. Undoubtedly He has the power to move the human heart to submit, as it pleases Him, to His omnipotent will."(8) From this we see that, in St. Augustine's view, the decrees of the divine will are infallible not because God foreknows that we will give our consent, but because He is omnipotent. He also says: "The wills of men are more in God's power than in their own."(9) In another of his works he says: "There is no doubt that we will whenever we will, but He is the cause of our willing what is good; . . . there is no doubt that we act whenever we act, but He is the cause of our acting, by most efficaciously strengthening our will."(10) Still more clearly when speaking professedly on this subject of predestination, he says that "no one who is hardened in heart rejects grace, because it is primarily given to remove this hardness of heart.''(11)

St. Augustine repeatedly teaches and stresses that predestination is gratuitous. In discussing the gift of perseverance, he says: "Of two children equally held captive by original sin, why is one taken and the other left? And of two wicked persons already advanced in years, why is one called and the other not? All this pertains to the inscrutable judgments of God."(12) He also says: "Why God draws this one and not that other, seek not to judge, if thou wilt not err."(13) What precisely constitutes the crux of the mystery, according to St. Augustine's opinion, is man's inability to find out the reasons for the divine choice. He is continually harking back to this impossibility, and his opponents find no avenue of escape from it. This impossibility is a pledge of his fidelity to the teaching of St. Paul. It is, so to speak, the theme of his teaching. (14)

As a Doctor of the Church, Augustine greatly developed the Catholic doctrine of predestination. The fathers previous to the time of St. Augustine, especially the Greek fathers, often interpreted predestination as meaning the will to give glory after this life. They scarcely spoke of it except by way of exhortation, and then they had in mind the preconceived order of execution in which merits precede glory, whereas as intended by God it happens in the inverse order. (15) In the order of intention God wills the end before the means; that is why He wills to save the good thief to whom He grants the grace of final perseverance. But in the order of execution He gives eternal life as the reward of meritorious acts. This distinction between intention and execution was only gradually applied to the problem of predestination. At first it was applied obscurely by St. Augustine, and then more and more explicitly by the Scholastic theologians.

Predestination, (16) as is defined by the Church, has not been infrequently met with the heresy of predestinarianism:

The essence of this heretical Predestinarianism (17) may be expressed in these two fundamental propositions which bear to each other the relation of cause and effect:

• the absolute will of God as the sole cause of the salvation or damnation of the individual, without regard to his merits or demerits;

• as to the elect, it denies the freedom of the will under the influence of efficacious grace while it puts the reprobate under the necessity of committing sin in consequence of the absence of grace.

The Church’s defense of St. Augustine’s doctrine of gratuitous free will clarifies to us what the Church has persistently taught, first of all against predestinarianism, and then against Calvinism, Bajanism, and Jansenism.

In the fifth century, Lucidus, a priest of the Catholic Church who was accused of having taught predestinarianism or predestination to evil, made a retractation of his teaching in the Council of Arles, which was held in the year 473. His opinion, as formulated by the council, reads as follows: "That Christ the Lord, our Savior, did not die for the salvation of all mankind; . . . that God's foreknowledge forcibly impels man to everlasting death, or that those who are lost, are lost by God's will. . . . Likewise I reject the opinion of one who says that some are destined to everlasting death and others are predestined to everlasting life."(18) In his retraction, Lucidus affirmed that he who is lost could have been saved. (19)

Council of Quierzy (853)

Canon 1 - That God wills in a certain way to save all men

Canon 2 - That there is no such thing as predestination to evil, but that God decreed from all eternity to inflict the penalty of damnation for the sin of final impenitence, a sin which He foresaw and in no way caused but merely permitted.

Canon 3 - Almighty God wills without exception, all men to be saved, though not all are saved. That some are saved, however, is the gift of Him who saves; if some perish, it is the fault of them that perish.

The 3rd Council of Valence (855) insisted more strongly on the gratuity of predestination to eternal life in so far as it is distinct from simple foreknowledge, for this latter also extends to evil. According to the declarations of this council, the least good and the least punishment that is justly inflicted, never occur without a positive and infallible decree from God, and no sin is committed, and nowhere by preference, without His foreknowledge and permission.(20)

Council of Langres (859)

Canon 1 - Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done in heaven and on earth. For nothing is done in heaven or on earth, except what He Himself is pleased to do, or justly permits to be done. This means that all good things, whether easy or difficult to accomplish, whether natural or supernatural, come from God, and that sin does not occur, nor in this one rather than in the other, without His divine permission.

Canon 2 - God wills all men to be saved and no one to perish. . . nor after the fall of the first man is it His will forcibly to deprive man of free will.

Canon 3 - That those, however, who are walking in the path of righteousness, may continue to do so and persevere in their innocence, He heals and aids their free will by grace.

Canon 4 - They who go far from God, who is desirous of gathering the children of Jerusalem that wills it not, will perish.

Canon 5 - Hence it is because of God's grace that the world is saved; and it is because man has free will that the world be judged.

Canon 6 - Adam, through willing what is evil, lost the power to do what is good. . . . Wherefore the whole human race became a mass of perdition. If no one had been rescued from it, God's justice would not have been to blame. That many are saved, however, is due to God's ineffable grace.

This last statement echoes what St. Augustine said. Thus at the end of these conferences of the ninth century, the bishops, assembled in council at Thuzey, rejected absolutely the theory of predestination to evil and affirmed God's universal will to save, as Prosper had done. God never commands the impossible, but He wills to make it possible for all to fulfil His precepts and obtain salvation. That is what all the bishops assembled in this last mentioned council affirmed with SS. Augustine and Prosper. But they do not deny the other aspect of the mystery, which is: the absolute gratuity of predestination, of true predestination as opposed to reprobation.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this teaching of the Church was confirmed both by the decisions of the Council of Trent against the errors of Protestantism and by the condemnation of Jansenism. The Church again declares that man, though having contracted the stain of original sin, is free to do good by the aid of grace, consenting to co-operate with it, though at the same time he can resist it.(21) From this it follows that God predestines no one to evil;(22) but He wills, on the contrary, the salvation of all men; and Christ dies for all, although all do not receive the benefit that is the fruit of His death, "but only those to whom the merit of His passion is communicated."(23) In the case of adults good works are necessary for salvation, and, in the order of execution, heavenly glory is the reward granted at the end of their probation for meritorious acts.

It is likewise declared against Jansenism that Christ did not die only for the predestined, or only for the faithful; (24) that there is a grace which is truly sufficient, and which makes the fulfilment of God's precepts possible for all those on whom these precepts are imposed. The Church, quoting the words of St. Augustine, says again in refuting the Protestants and Jansenists: "God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou art able, and to pray for what thou art not able to do."(25) She also says that "God does not abandon the just without previously having been abandoned by them. That some perish, is the fault of those who perish." (26)

Holy Scripture expressed the same thought in these words: "Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in Me."(27)

  1. De dono persever., chap. 14.
  2. De praed. sanct., chap. 10.
  3. John 10: 27-28.
  4. Cf. Enchiridion, chap. 100, no. 26
  5. Phil. 2: 13; cf. De praed. sanct., XVIII, 41; De dono persever., XXIII, 63.
  6. De dono persever., XVII, 41, 47; XIX, 48; XX, 50; De praed. sanct., XVII, 34; XVIII, 37.
  7. Cf. Enchiridion, chaps. 95 ff
  8. De correptione et gratia, chap. 14.
  9. Ibid., cf. De civitate Dei, V, 9.
  10. De gratia et libero arbitrio, chap. 16.
  11. De praed. Sanct., chap. 8. In his tractae ad Simplicandum, Bk. I, q.2, no. 13, St. Augustine speaks of a congruent grace that is adapted to the dispositions of the individual, these being known by God
  12. De dono persever., chap.9
  13. In Joan., tr. 26
  14. De dono persever., VIII, 17; IX, 12, 21; XI, 25; XII, 30. De praed. sanct., VIII, 16; XIV, 26. De correptione et gratia, VIII, 17, 19(in the order of execution).
  15. Cf. Dict. de Théol. Cath., art. "Prédestination," by Father Simonin, O.P.
  16. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm
  17. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12376b.htm
  18. http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma.php, no. 316
  19. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13703a.htm
  20. http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma.php, nos. 321-22.
  21. Ibid., no. 797; d. no. 816
  22. Ibid., no. 827.
  23. Ibid., no. 795.
  24. Ibid., nos. 1096, 1294, 1380 ff.
  25. Ibid., no. 804.
  26. Ibid., nos. 804. 806, 1794.
  27. Hosea 13:9

I see this as a clarification of what predestination is.

The two major components are keys:

  1. Fore-knowledge
  2. Fore-ordination

The pattern for this is seen when you look at one creation being followed by another creation as is implied in Revelation 21:1. We go from this "world" we are now in to what the scriptures call the "world to come" when there shall be "a new heavens and a new earth".

The concept here is there is a process we undergo between worlds that assigns to us some level of functioning in the world to follow. Paul talked about this in 1 Cor. 15 where he made an analogy to answer the question of what flesh shall we rise up in when we are resurrected in the "world to come". He used the symbols we also see in the creation account. He said some shall rise up with the flesh of fishes, some of fowls, some of creeping things, etc. and the glory they rise up with shall be likened to the sun, moon and stars.

So, when we are judged by the Father, this is performed according to His knowledge of who and what we were in this world and then we have granted to us a "new name" that fore-ordains us to some particular manner of flesh in some capacity of glory for our "world to come".

You can think of this as when Adam was given dominion over all things and was commanded by God to have all creatures brought before him so that Adam could give them all a "name". If you think of it this way, you can see Adam as a type of the Father passing judgment upon all "creatures" and assigning them to some level of glory when they come into the new heavens and the new earth.

If you look at Adam's lifespan of 930 years, you can see that this great labor to "name" (judge) all "creatures" (people) into a new fore-ordained level of glory (per 1 Cor. 15), would be no small undertaking. Therefore, Adam was given a Bride, Eve, as a helpmeet and companion to assist in the performance of these tasks.

This can all clearly come into focus if you see Adam and Eve coming at the tail end of Creation's 6th Day (millennium) and being given dominion that was intended to span Creation's 7th Day (the Millennium). In other words, Adam was brought in at the latter-days of the current cycle of Creation in order to organize and prepare the new cycle of Creation to follow.

So, God delegated to Adam and His Bride Eve the responsibility to perform the work of gathering all of the knowledge necessary in order to foreordain (name) all souls of that cycle of Creation to some level of glory in the cycle of Creation to follow. Thus, a very substantial amount of genealogical work would be required of Adam and Eve in order to properly and responsibly perform the duties God gave them.

When Genesis 2:4 says that everything spoken prior in the days of Creation pertains to the generations of people that was organized in "one day", it was indicating that this labor to organize every soul to some level of glory took about one millennia. This labor is the "spiritual creation" that precedes the actual rolling out of the implementation of the "material creation", in terms of people actually getting physically resurrected in accordance with what they had foreordained on their behalf according to what "name" Adam and Eve gave them.

Notwithstanding individuals all have a fore-ordination given to them by Adam based upon His knowledge of them, which is what they bring into their resurrection as their pre-destined circumstances, they can progress or digress depending upon their individual choices. Each cycle of Creation brings a new opportunity to have a new "Book of Life" written with new knowledge given to a new Adam who then issues a new name to all "creatures". This cycle repeats over and over as worlds come and go.

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    Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful answer, but I wanted what the Catholic Church teaches (so I tagged it [tag: catholicism] this seems more like something from Life of Pi.
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 28, 2013 at 12:14
  • I simply answered the question as posed. If you only wanted the Catholic perspective, then the question needs to explicitly request such so people like me don't waste my breath saying things to be made fun of. Aug 15, 2013 at 16:42
  • I think I did, I agree with you about wasting time answering questions though
    – Peter Turner
    Aug 16, 2013 at 1:10
  • You didn't explicitly state that you were only interested in the Catholic perspective. The view I shared isn't specific to any particular sect or branch of Christianity and is simply derived from what is written in holy scripture and I see no reason why a Catholic would be incapable of conceiving things as I have presented here. Sep 18, 2013 at 4:33

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