Front Page Titles (by Subject) Grace, Original Sin, Predestination - A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, 'Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full'
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Grace, Original Sin, Predestination - Pierre Bayle, A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’ 
A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’, edited, with an Introduction by John Kilcullen and Chandran Kukathas (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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Grace, Original Sin, Predestination
In Bayle’s time Catholics and Protestants all held some version of a doctrine of “grace,” i.e. that God gratuitously gives to human beings something additional to ordinary human nature, to make them holy and capable of acting well and believing rightly, and that without this grace it is impossible to be saved. Even without grace it may be possible to arrive at correct religious beliefs, based on the probability of human testimony (for example, a persuasion that the gospels are reliable historical documents and that their testimony establishes this or that). But this is merely “human” or “historical” faith (p. 524), as distinct from “divine faith” effected by grace. Human faith is not sufficient for salvation; to be saved it is necessary to have the divine faith that is caused by grace.
The doctrine of grace was developed mainly by Saint Augustine in his writings against Pelagius and the Pelagians (see Augustine, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. V). Pelagius tried to encourage efforts to live well by saying that anyone who wished could act rightly. Augustine attacked this optimistic teaching, saying that living well requires special help from God at every stage—the initial wish to live well, actually doing the right thing, and persevering in right action to the end of one’s life. God’s help is “gratuitous,” it cannot be earned. God does not give his grace to everyone; he does not give anyone grace to act rightly on every occasion, and he may in the end not give the grace of “final perseverance” to someone who has lived a substantially good life up to the moment of death. Anyone who dies in a state of sin will be damned, even though he has lived well until then. Only those “predestined” for salvation receive the grace of final perseverance; predestination cannot be earned, it is not based on the quality of a person’s life before the time of death. The difficulty of living well, according to Augustine, has been increased by “Original Sin.” The first human beings, Adam and Eve, by their first sin against God (“the Fall”), brought punishment on themselves and on all their descendants. Part of the punishment is a weakening of the will to act rightly and a clouding of the mind, producing ignorance and error. (Bayle argues at length that error is not always due to Original Sin; see p. 260, p. 473, p. 496.) Since all mankind are guilty of sin—they share the guilt of Adam’s sin, at least—there is, according to Augustine, no injustice in the fact that God does not give his grace to everyone, since he is under no obligation to help anyone.
During the middle ages Augustine’s teaching was followed by most theologians, and the Pelagians (and the semi-Pelagians or Massilians) were regarded as heretics. However, in the fourteenth century William of Ockham and other theologians modified Augustine’s doctrine by suggesting that, while it is true that God is absolutely under no obligation to any creature, he has of his own free choice adopted the rule that he will give grace to those who do their best. (This free choice is nothing accidental: it is identical with God’s goodness and with his being—it is God himself.) Grace cannot be earned, but those who do their best can be confident that grace will not be withheld. In effect, Pelagius’s optimism is reinstated, thanks to God’s free choice of a policy or rule governing his own conduct.8 Bayle refers to this theory at p. 537, as that of “the Schoolmen.”9
Against these Schoolmen Luther and Calvin reasserted the strict Augustinian doctrine. According to Calvin predestination and its opposite (“reprobation”) are determined by God’s eternal decrees, which relate to individuals, not to classes of people who satisfy some condition, and have no reason that human beings can discern. Some features of Lutheran and Calvinist doctrines were condemned by the Catholic Church in the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which, however, reaffirmed a version of Augustine’s doctrines.
Among both Catholics and Protestants there continued to be some uneasiness over some aspects of Augustine’s theory. According to Augustine, the wish to live well, and the acceptance of God’s help, must be already the effect of grace. Since the effects of grace include willingness to accept it, it would seem that grace is irresistible. To some this seemed to give too little room to human free choice. Also, since not everyone is saved, it would seem that God does not give grace to everyone, which seems to conflict with the idea that God’s benevolence is universal, and it seems inequitable that God should give grace to some and not to others just as deserving (or undeserving). Bayle refers to these disputes in several places (see pp. 530, 532–33, and 402).
The Jesuit Luis de Molina made another attempt to modify Augustine’s doctrine to make more room for human free will and ideas of equity in his Harmony of free will with the gifts of grace, and with God’s foreknowledge, providence, predestination and reprobation, Lisbon, 1588. This book led to controversy between Thomists (followers of Thomas Aquinas, who followed Augustine) and Molinists who included most Jesuits). Bayle mentions these schools of thought at p. 342 and p. 524. Toward the end of the sixteenth century, the pope established a commission “De Auxilliis” (“Concerning Helps,” grace being help from God) to decide the debate between Thomists and Molinists. It was unable to decide, and allowed both doctrines to be taught; see The Catholic Encyclopaedia, “Congregatio de Auxiliis,” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04238a.htm.
Molina’s work also provoked Augustine: or the Doctrine of St Augustine on the health, sickness and medicine of human nature, against the Pelagians and Massilians, by the Louvain Catholic theologian Cornelius Jansen. Pope Innocent X condemned five propositions drawn from Jansen’s book: (1)= Some of God’s precepts are, given their present abilities, impossible for just persons willing and trying to fulfil them; (2) in the state of fallen nature, interior grace can never be resisted; (3) for merit and demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not needed, only freedom from compulsion; (4) the heresy of the semi-Pelagians was to hold that human will could resist or obey grace; (5) it is semi-Pelagian to say that Christ died for absolutely all human beings. The main issues here are whether grace is irresistible (propositions 2, 3, and 4) and whether God’s will to save mankind is universal (proposition 5). See The Catholic Encyclopaedia, “Jansenius and Jansenism,” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08285a.htm.
Jansen’s followers (including Antoine Arnauld, Pierre Nicole, Blaise Pascal, and others associated with the Convent of Port-Royal) distinguished between the question of right (whether the five propositions in the sense the pope took them in were heretical) and the question of fact (whether certain words are to be found in the pages of Jansen’s book, and if so whether Jansen intended them in the sense the pope intended to condemn). The Jansenists acknowledged the pope’s power to decide questions of theological principle, and therefore acknowledged that, in whatever sense the pope had taken them, the five propositions were indeed heretical. However, they maintained that as a matter of fact these propositions either were not in Jansen’s book at all or were there in some sense other than the one the pope had condemned. Church authorities insisted that clergy and nuns suspected of Jansenism subscribe to a formulary stating that the condemned propositions were in Jansen’s book in the condemned sense. Many Jansensists signed subject to various qualifications—that the statement of the formulary did not deserve “divine faith,” that it did not deserve even “human faith” (see p. 524). When Church authorities refused to accept signatures with such qualifications and insisted on subscription “pure and simple,” the Jansenists signed with “respectful silence,” with the implication that they would qualify if they could, and in the end the papacy tolerated this. In various places Bayle alludes to the controversy over Jansenism and the distinction between the question of right and the question of fact; see for example pp. 448, 449.
While the controversies over Molinism and Jansenism divided Catholics, a similar controversy took place in the Reformed churches. Calvin’s version of Augustinianism was criticized by the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, who affirmed the universality of God’s benevolence toward mankind and human freedom in accepting or rejecting God’s grace. The Arminians in 1610 published a “Remonstrance” (protest) in which they asserted five propositions, which may be summarized as follows: (1) that God’s decree of Predestination is to save anyone who, through grace, believes and obeys (this is a general policy, rather than a decree relating to individuals); (2) Christ died for the forgiveness and redemption of all men (not only for the predestined); (3) no one can do anything truly good without God’s grace; (4) grace is not irresistible; (5) it is not certain that those who once have true faith can never fall away. Strict Calvinism was reasserted by the Synod of Dort (Dordrecht), 1618–19, which condemned the Arminian propositions. Bayle refers to the controversy between Arminians (also called Remonstrants) and strict Calvinists at various places; see for example pp. 217, 401–2, and 469.
Bayle himself was a Calvinist, but he does not argue in favor of the Calvinist doctrine of grace. He refers to these disputes as illustrations of the difficulty of deciding which position is correct.
See DHC, art. “Augustine.”
[8. ]See Obermann, Heiko, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967).
[9. ]Many, if not most, scholastic theologians rejected the theory, which had been put forward by Ockham.