What is the role of free will in Thomistic predestination?

My understanding of Thomist teachings:

  • people have free will to do what they want
  • everyone gets sufficient amount of grace (Sufficient for what, if they will go to hell as they live a sinful life.)
  • God just chooses some for salvation (predestines them), gives them a special amount of grace (efficacious grace) and these will go to Heaven
  • the others (who got sufficient amount of grace) are reprobates who go to hell

I do not see any real connection between free will and grace - I suppose there is no. Thus, I do not understand how God chooses whom to provide efficacious grace and how this can be aligned with a loving God (e.g. what if he chooses killers etc. for salvation).

  • 1
    @zippy2006 I tried to narrow it down. Aug 4, 2018 at 6:46
  • Thanks, that is helpful! I'm curious about the source you are using? Do you mean efficacious grace rather than efficient grace? I've never heard of efficient grace.
    – zippy2006
    Aug 4, 2018 at 15:23
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    You are right, first I thought that those are the same but realized that this is the right term (efficacious grace). My source is mainly (but not exclusively) reddit.com/r/Catholicism/comments/7fndj0/… (which is not a 100% surely correct one). Aug 6, 2018 at 7:12

2 Answers 2


The view of Norman Geisler, who was a Thomistic scholar, is that free will and election are not innately contradictory. Geisler wrote the book "Chosen but Free". He explains that while God's choosing and man's free will seem to be contradictory, philosophically they can't be shown to be so.

A key verse for Geisler is 1 Peter 1:1-2 where God's choice is "according to" His foreknowledge. Calvinism claims that God chooses independent of His foreknowledge. Arminianism usually says that God chooses based on His foreknowledge of our faith. But Geisler based on Aquinas simply posits that God's choice doesn't contradict free will.

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    Hi, welcome to the site, Paul - this is a good answer! I saw you post a couple link-only answers and this one is much better!
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 23, 2019 at 17:14
  • I don't see how this isn't begging the question. Do you mean to say that Geisler, and by extension Aquinas, simply just deny the issue exists? In keeping with Calvin's special trick when the logic failed, did they just label it antinomy and move on as if nothing is wrong? If that's not an accurate representation of Geisler and Aquinas, then I think you need to spell it out better in your answer, because that's what I'm getting from it.
    – user3961
    Oct 23, 2019 at 19:42
  • @3961 I think the burden of proof is on the one claiming they are contradictory, which involves demonstrating the manner in which God Himself chooses in detail, among other things. Oct 23, 2019 at 19:59
  • @SolaGratia Either way, I prefer answers that expound a bit and even quote authors and historians that they mention by name. When the official answer looks like a non-answer, I'd really rather get the words from the horse's mouth.
    – user3961
    Oct 23, 2019 at 20:17

God moves a thing according to the nature of thing he moves. So when God gives grace to a man, he gives it to him according to his nature; so God gives grace to a man so that man receives it freely. Also, predestination is in God, and our choices are in us, so they inhere in two different subjects.

Also, it is important that God is not one influence and our will another influence, but God causes us to be free (for nothing escapes God's causality). Our free will and God's predestination are not two competing influences, but God predestines some to be saved according to their nature, ie. freely. So there exists connection between God's predestination and our free will, namely, God predestined some to be saved freely.

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