In my last post I briefly mentioned the concept of choice. During my short time grazing the vast surface of theology, I’ve learnt that many Christians find it difficult – or at least confounding – to reconcile the idea of free will with an omnipotent, omniscient (not to mention benevolent) God.
Last year, in one of my modules, we momentarily touched upon this seemingly apparent dichotomy between man possessing free will and God. Seeing as my lecturer, Professor Alan Torrance (a highly acclaimed theologian and on the whole a charming man in my opinion) is a Calvinist, most of what he teaches his students are his own beliefs. I do not think he agreed with it entirely, but Perkin’s Golden Chain was one of them.
Perkin’s Golden Chain, in short, illustrates a flow chart of soteriology which demonstrates that man does not have the choice to accept or deny God, but that faith is the product of God’s ‘effectual call’. If one takes Perkin’s Chain to be correct then free will is simply a delusion that man endures; similar to the lives of the proles I mentioned in my 1984 post. But surely this example of Hyper-Calvinism contradicts the Catholic belief that humanity does in fact have free will? Aquinas believed that man has the freedom of choice (liberum arbitrium) and that this choice works with God’s grace and not in contradiction to it. He says, ‘People are free to make decisions. Otherwise counsels, precepts, prohibitions, rewards and punishment would all be pointless’ (ST Ia, 83, 1).
For Aquinas, God cannot intervene in the choices of man as He created them to be freely acting agents; to interfere would prevent them from doing so.
It is as if God has laid out several paths for us and we have the opportunity to choose which route to take. This is similar to Calvinist compatabilism.
But if God is the ultimate cause of our decisions then perhaps you ask whether we are truly free at all? If this is the case, then is God to blame when people choose to lie, steal and murder? Such a question gives rise to another: If God is the Ultimate Good, then how can Evil exist in the world?