In my last post we saw that John Calvin concluded that man’s free will has no role in his salvation. Calvin was rightly concerned about any theory that reduced the providence of God or that gave mankind too much credit. However, as we saw his extreme TULIP theology is burdened with some very troubling conclusions regarding the nature of God.
In this post I will present a simple summary of the Catholic view of God’s plan for our salvation. This teaching not only preserves the unlimited providence and power of God, but also acknowledges that man was created with and retains a free will. We try to avoid getting too complicated here at SCT so I’m going to present the teaching using a few pictures and a simple analogy. Now, all analogies are not perfect especially when we try to describe the mysteries of God so don’t take this too far. However, I think you’ll find this perspective to be very intuitive and easy to understand.
Lets get started by considering one of God’s beautiful creatures, a simple white dove. Take a look at this picture.
We see that God created this dove with a set a wings that allows it to fly. You could also say this dove even knows how to fly because of the grace of God. The dove has been given eyes to see and a sense of balance.
We also notice that the dove has two legs and feet which allows it to walk. I think it’s also fair to say that the dove knows how to walk because of the grace of God. Finally, we must also remember that this dove has a free will. This dove can make a choice to either fly somewhere or to walk. Either flying or walking are both within the natural capability of this dove – thanks to the unlimited power and gifts of God. He created this dove with wings to fly, legs to walk, and the ability to choose.
Now lets look at this same dove being held in the loving hands if its Creator. It is the power of God that is holding the dove in this picture. The dove is not flying with wings nor is it walking with legs – it is being supported by those all-powerful hands. Now the Creator desires all of His creatures to (fly to) heaven but the dove is not forced. God doesn’t simply stick some of us in the “heaven” cage, and others in the “hell” cage. That is Calvin’s TULIP theology which makes God to be an unjust monster. No, there is a better understanding of God’s plan.
According to Catholic teaching on salvation, God gives sufficient saving grace to all his children so that if we choose, we are able to fly towards our loving Father. Some day He will pull His hands apart, removing His support. At that point He allows our free will to determine our eternal destiny. The nature of an all powerful, all loving and just God demands it.
We can then choose to ignore the gift of flight. We can choose to fall to the floor and use His gifts to walk away…
Or we can choose to use His gifts and soar towards the heavens.
The power is His, but the choice is ours…