Calvin’s Daddy

“Ockham holds that in most cases God and creatures act together as ‘partial causes.’  God does not will to produce most effects alone, but acts as a partial cause together with a created secondary cause, such that the partial causality exercised by the secondary cause is not superfluous.  Here, however, God suspends the causal power of the secondary causes (that is, the beatified will) and acts as the total efficient cause of the will’s enjoyment.  The beatific act then will not be a free but a necessary act.”

Simon Francis Gaine O.P., Will There Be Free Will in Heaven? T & T Clark, 78-79

35 Responses to Calvin’s Daddy

  1. I think it’s kind of easy. A morally evil act is always one of slavery to self, or to the passions, or to the flesh, whichever way we care to think about it. An evil act is always an unfree act. It would be an oxymoron to suppose that *perfect* freedom (such as God has, such as we shall have in heaven) could ever act iunfreely. That’s all. *Perfectly* free will does not even have to make the choice between good and evil, because the question doesn’t even arise, just as the question doesn’t arise for you (let’s hope!) whether to strangle your children in their sleep.


  2. The Scylding,

    Sort of…but their’s a deeper problem with the west that underlies that…to wet your appetite:


  3. The Scylding says:

    Here’s another idea, even ‘suspicion’ if I can use the word:

    I suspect that the Calvinists (and Arminians for that matter) would rather fall in a continuation, albeit a protestant incarnation. of scholasticism, as opposed to the minimalists. The RCC abhors Ockham, and some have commented on Luthers debt to the latter. Although one would likely not espose all of Ockham’s work (and I know too little of him anyway). should we not look for “Calvin’s daddy” among the scholastics? Luther also owed much to Bernard of Clairvaux, and thus being influenced by both the early scholastics as well as the nominalists, he avoided the excesses of both?

    Although I’m not Orthodox, wouldn’t it make more sense if, from the Orthodox point of view, scholasticism be described as the main problem with the “West”?

  4. As a side note, it’s really hard to see how an action is really voluntary if you have but one thing to do. If the act is necessary, why is it voluntary? And if you must be good by the exclusion of all other possibilities by another controlling agent, voluntary action looks like a falsehood at that point. Many have tried to defend such a thesis, but it is a failure and makes a mockery of Christ’s deliberation in the garden and His incarnate economy.


  5. For Maximus, and not Thomas, the vision of God is voluntary and man can choose otherwise among infinite type of goods that are not identical, except that they could all be identified as God’s activities


    This is very helpful. St. Maximus’ is a different vision of “heaven” for sure. It used to bother me when I saw movies of heaven where God wasn’t visibly present and people were busy doing other things, but maybe they were more correct than my understanding at the time.

  6. kepha,

    If you couldn’t do the “open” option, something must be wrong with your internet cache settings.


  7. kepha says:

    Okay, I got it now. I had to save it to my computer. Thx.

  8. kepha says:


    When I click on it a pop-up window opens and asks if I want to “open” or “save” the document. When I click “open” it says that the file does not exist.

  9. kepha says:

    The will is being purged now along with the entire human person, and it is complete upon death. It’s entrance into the eternal presence of the living triune God is not then another period wherein the will must be maintained lest it fall. God Himself is the missing link to the will’s fulfillment. As I said before, God eternally completes the will, eternally satisifies it, gives it eternal rest. If Heaven is indeed, as the writer to the Hebrews states, an eternal and perfect sabbath, then there is not risk of man corrupting it as he did repeatedly the earthly sabbath. It’s not so much that the will aquires what it has always longed for, so much as it is the will is given what it was created for. Adam never got to receive what he was created for. He fell. The redeemed, upon entering Heaven, will be in a superior state than Adam was.

    P.S. For some reason I cannot access the document. I’ve tried several times.

  10. Andrea,

    For an act to be voluntary, you must be the source of the act. For what Perry and I consider something to be a free act, you must be the source of the act AND have multiple options afforded to you and not necessarily dialectical. For Thomas, the beatific vision is voluntary yet man cannot choose otherwise, because the object is singular, simple, and one (even if complex to your mind, the choice is really still for the same object). For Maximus, and not Thomas, the vision of God is voluntary and man can choose otherwise among infinite type of goods that are not identical, except that they could all be identified as God’s activities: the objects here are different for your mind BECAUSE they are different in actuality. Here “different” doesn’t mean morally opposed or metaphysically opposed as designating ‘other’ divine natures. They are all rooted in the same divine ousia. Each being simple, they would also be complex to your mind, since the mind wouldn’t grasp what simplicity amounts to anyways.


  11. The question is whether eschatological action is free, not voluntary.

    That’s new to me. So far all I can find on the distinction between voluntary behavior and free will is from this statement in the Wikipedia article on Free Will, “Another argument for incompatibilism is that of the “causal chain.” Most incompatibilists reject the idea that freedom of action consists simply in “voluntary” behavior. They insist, rather, that free will means that man must be the “ultimate” or “originating” cause of his actions.”

    I wish they’d explained voluntary behavior more so that I could see a difference. Usually they have links to distinguished words.

  12. Scylding,

    Luther had a disdain for philosophy being the handmaiden of theology. To that end, he would stand with us. In as much as Luther wished to restore the correct order of theology, that all reason and philosophy is subordinated to the scriptures and our experience of God in liturgical worship, he was right-on. Nevertheless, he was wrong on many of his theological conclusions because his “restoration” was still nurtured under “Augustinism.” He still can’t quite get there because of his ignorance of the Orthodox patristic mind. Maybe if he would’ve first pondered the filioque problem (related to the God who I am to be likened to) instead of how he could be right with God (the manner of my standing before this God), he might’ve gotten there. It’s more important to understand first Who Christ is, before understanding how to be right with Him. Other than that, I applaud Luther for many many things, most notably his courage and heart.


  13. Rob Grano says:

    It’s interesting that while many Protestant scholars either reject or downplay the influence of nominalism on the Reformation, one scholar that I know of takes a different approach. Lutheran theologian Heiko Oberman, in a book the title of which escapes me, accepts the fact of the influence of nominalism, but denies that its influence should be considered heterodox. I found his arguments unconvincing, but his contentions, being quite scholarly, bear looking at if only to refute them.

  14. Luther could be the least Protestant of Protestants. I tend to take someone like Hooker (what a name for a theologian!) to be at least as good a candidate. In any case, there could be lots of ways of reading Luther as the least of all. One reason could be he didn’t live long enough to carry out further theological development.

    In any case, what I wanted to point out in this quote about Ockham is the following. Notice that for Ockham, causation only admits of particulars so that any synergy has to be between two acts that occur together. There is no intrinsic relation between them. Salvation then would have to be a 50-50 proposition. If one side can’t maintain its “50” part of the deal (total depravity) then the other side has to do everything.
    In order to secure moral impeccability, nature has to be overridden by grace. Here you can clearly see the Ockhamistic influence on Reformation thinking, specifically in terms of Nominalism.

  15. Another thought on freedom regarding sin and evil. Our freedom is not only to be thought of as a moral choice but as a free acceptance of God. He does not force HImself on us in love and so we are free to accept Him or reject Him. The latter choice leads to evil but only this ability to accept and reject can we love Him. A forced acceptance does not give room for true love and again we cannot be in His image and likeness in this case because God is love. God does not not accept Himself because “He cannot deny Himself.” Thus, He cannot sin by doing so but remains as Himself in all goodness and love.

  16. The Scylding says:

    Look I’m no theologian, but isn’t that what Luther tried to say – namely that there are mysteries (I’m partially referring to Monk Patrick’s post). St Thomas’ scholasticism is in essence, in my understanding at least, an appeal to rationalism. And Calvin was a lawyer (lol)……

    Is this why there has been some acceptance for movements like the (new) Finnish perspective on Luther, where Lutheranism and Orthodoxy move (somewhat) closer?

    Might we even say that with MODERN categories, Luther is (oh the irony) the least Protestant of the protestants?

  17. JKC,

    Quite right, which is why focusing on free will alone as a sufficient justification for the permission of evil is a mistake. It simply can’t do the work that many wish it to. Something else has to be added to the account.

  18. JKC says:

    I might be mistaken, but to say that those in heaven will not sin because they will only have the good to choose from still assumes the underlying problem presented in this post: Free will is the precondition for sin.

    I think that there are two separate problems that have to be avoided.

    1. Free will necessarily includes the choice between moral opposites
    2. Free will necessarily includes the possibility to sin.

    None of these can be said of God who has free will, so they are not necessary aspects to those who have free will.

    You can deny the first and still unknowingly assume the second.

    The second can say that choices don’t have to be morally opposing, yet assume the possibility to sin is there if two morally opposing choices are presented. So, instead of taking freedom away, God removes the evil choices so evil can not be actualized by the will. Again, this assumes that free will necessarily includes the possibility to sin.

    Since free will doesn’t include the possibility to sin, it doesn’t matter if there are morally opposing options. I think Jesus proves this in that He had free will, was tempted with morally opposing choices, and yet remained unable to sin.

  19. Kepha,

    In Orthodoxy there is no beaitifc vision. Second, even if the will always wills what it wants, that of itself doesn’t imply that the will is free. The question is whether eschatological action is free, not voluntary. Consequently, the view of the eschaton between Catholics and Protestants, on the one side, and Orthodoxy on the other is different, because we have different Christologies. Consquently, Catholicism and Protestantism are more similar to each other than to Orthodoxy.

  20. Kepha,

    That was for the link to the font…the link to the paper works fine. You can dig around on the internet to get the font.


  21. kepha says:


    I tried to open the document but it no longer exists.

  22. Kepha-your answer is platonic and not a christian one. You advocate, like St. Augustine, a kind of anthropological monergism. Given your presuppositions, God should’ve just corrected our “instability” from the get-go and prevented the whole “mess.” See my essay which draws from Dr. Farrell’s book here:


  23. kepha says:

    I should re-phrase myself. Once in the eternal presence of God, it is not that the will is no longer free but that it will finally be exercised aright, and consistently so! Let me try and put it another way: if my daughter slaps me in the face and I punish her, I am not thereby taking away her “free will,” but rather am I correcting her abuse of her “free will” and showing her how to use it aright. Here on earth is where the correction takes place for us redeemed. For this reason our will is not at complete rest, but upon entering into the eternal presence of God, like a fed stomach, we will simply be satisfied.

    As far as the angels being able to choose between good and evil, my question is: Do the angels enjoy — and did Lucifer enjoy — the Beatific Vision? I have always been under the impression that this was not the case. If it is not, then the answer is obvious. Man will “see Him just as He is” (1 Jn 3:2).

  24. jacob says:

    I haven’t finished it yet – I actually took a break to tackle his DISPUTATION WITH PYRRHUS (and feel I might need to read ON THE COSMIC MYSTERY OF JESUS CHRIST to understand the intro to DISPUTATION!) – but I think it was worth it, esp. since it’s now available from no one anywhere! I need to photocopy it so my copy stays in good shape. (DISPUTATION is also now out of print, but eighth day books had a few new copies, and may still have some.)

    I just wish that St. Tikhon’s Press had done a better job of proofreading both books., as there are some inexcusable typos.

  25. Joseph says:


    Was it worth the money?

  26. jacob says:

    kepha Says:

    October 8th, 2007 at 1:47 am
    The will will not be free once it enters into the Eternal Presence of God, but it will not be free because it has found what it always wanted. As one falls in love upon first sight, as the saying goes, so will we fall in love with God when we “see Him just as He is” (1Jn 3:2).

    Though I haven’t finished it yet, in FREE CHOICE IN SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR by Joseph P. Farrell, it appears that St. Maximus says that free will in the eschaton won’t be a problem because all the available choices will be good, and there will not be the hesitation and deliberation that accompanies all our choices here.

    But there will indeed be free choice/free will in the eschaton.

  27. Levi says:

    Probably because Calvinism is always picking on everyone else, and shoving itself down everyone’s throat. Ha, just kidding…sort of…

    But really, Calvinism likes to champion itself as the Gospel to people, and if it is a heresy that is calling itself the Gospel shouldn’t we spend some time picking on it?

  28. David Richards says:

    Why are we picking on Calvinism lately?

  29. Whether rightly or not this issue was a big part of my move to Orthodoxy. In a Protestant framework, as far as I understood it at the time which was (and is) very limited, I could not overcome the problem of free-will without some form of determinism, which undermines ones full humanity.

    Theosis provides the answer because it eliminates the real problem which is time and change. Even though God is free, He does not change or rather exists in an unchanging dynamism. Thus, freedom doesn’t necessitate change. In theosis man participates in eternity and ceases to be subject to time, space and change and in this sense as discussed on another thread can even be said to be beginningless. Thus, without change there is no fear of falling(changing) from the eternal state and yet no determinism is required for this but complete freedom is maintained, God’s freedom.

    Created beings must accept God’s will (and freedom) in time through obedience (because that is the only way a free created choice can be made) but once accepted then there is no necessity for the will to remain in time and change because God is free and not subject to such. Hence, the angels had the freedom to choose obedience to God or not and then could be preserved in this choice. Man too has the time of this life to choose obedience to God and His free will as their own free will and in participating in God’s timeless life become preserved in this freedom without need of necessity, which denies our being in the image and likeness of God.

    Anyway, these are my thoughts on the matter at present. Also, if there are free choices among good options doesn’t mean that there isn’t an evil option just that freedom isn’t only a choice between good and evil.

  30. JKC says:

    It seems that the problem of an eternal falling comes from the concept that free will always includes the ability to choose between moral opposites.

    It also seems that using free will as the reason why there is evil in the world (the most popular defense), also assumes this idea. I think many unknowing accept and use the idea that free will necessitates a choice between moral opposites in order to keep God innocent, and then fall into trouble when they work back to the eternal state, the incarnation, creation, etc.

    Yet, I also don’t see how having only the good to choose from totally solves the problem either. If only good options exist in God’s presence or in heaven, what did Satan have to choose from that would allow his fell? What stops angles and saints from falling now?

    I think, and I could be wrong, but I believe Maximus solves the problem primarily in a personal, internal way, rather then primarily relying on having good external things to choose from.

  31. Levi says:

    a freewill* Is it some coercive force? Sure seems redolent of platonism to me.

  32. Levi says:

    If one doesn’t have of freewill; then how are they doing the loving?

  33. kepha says:

    The will will not be free once it enters into the Eternal Presence of God, but it will not be free because it has found what it always wanted. As one falls in love upon first sight, as the saying goes, so will we fall in love with God when we “see Him just as He is” (1Jn 3:2).

  34. the hobbit says:

    Let me see if I understand. As Orthodox, I think we would agree with the first & second sentence. To say that man can not cause would seem to enter into a determinist system where God is always the cause. What does not make sense in this system is that God would act one way yet in the eschaton He would act another way (that is suspending causal power in the glorified). My guess here is that Ockham did accept any plurality of goods, and therefore in order for many to choose the good and not evil in the beatified state, man’s will must be controlled by God. From Ockham it seems one step to Calvin, whereby Calvin extends the necessity of the will beyond the eschaton to all of man’s existence.

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