Windows 95 = Mac 86

I remember a long time ago seeing a bumper sticker that said something like the above title. Now I confess I am Windows user, primarily since it was the “tradition” that I received. But I recognize that in many ways Macs are better systems. With that I don’t mean to enter into that fracas that is the ongoing war between these two groups. But the bumper stick made an important point. MS users wanted to think of their way as being better until Windows essentially popularized the same general idea. Then the Mac idea was the cat’s meow.

Psychologically it is interesting to me that in theology and philosophy this kind of thing happens quite often, especially if you are Orthodox. Make a criticism of Augustine, and you are labeled a pariah, an ignoramous and your mother was a hampster. But if you’re Catholic, well then, things are much different! This seems to be the case over at Kimel’s blog at his most recent post.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am glad that Fr. Kimel has come to see the truth regarding Augustine’s error on predestination and how serious the influence of that error was on western Christianity. But the point is, I made essentially the same claims years ago. There was no shortage of insults thrown my way, not to mention fist pounding protests that I had been reading Romanides, that I was Western-phobic and suffered from “convertitis.” If I would have just “shut up” and read Augustine, the problem would disolve. I suspect or rather would argue that this posted judgment by Fr. Kimel was due in part to his reading of Farrell’s Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor. He seems to have had a similar experience to Scott Carson as can be seen here and here.

Curiously, those who decried the same claim made by me are quite silent in accusing Kimel of being unCatholic, anti-Western, and simply ignorant of Augustine. More specifically, Kimel appears to quite strongly reject the idea that God selects persons in a deterministic fashion for salvation while passing over others.  This is quite strange since this is exactly the same position as can be found in lots of Catholic doctors and theologians albeit in a variety of nuanced ways. (Aquinas, Scotus, Anselm, Albert) At bottom, it is still essentially the same view. How Kimel is going to reconcile this fact with current Catholic teaching would be worthwhile to consider. Even more curious is the fact that against the Orthodox claim that I have advanced regarding the Augustinian and Scholastic position, Kimel is silent on criticising Michael Liccone’s endorsement of this position. Liccione is quite clear that the reason why some are elected and some are not is that God loves some persons “more than others.” If such a view is repulsive to Kimel, how strange it is to find that Kimel doesn’t extend this repulsion, charges of serious error, etc. to Scotus, Aquinas or Michael Liccione. It is also strange that Kimel finds such a view repulsive and damaging and yet it is quite an acceptable view in Catholicism, holding a very high theological status and long pedigree. A difference of opinion is one thing, but repulsion, heresy and such things are quite another.

In any case, I think people who read Kimel’s entry with approval should be mindful of the fact that this claim was made by myself and then Daniel years before Kimel and readers of Pontifications would even take the claim seriously, let alone admit the point. Perhaps Kimel could be “corrected” by talking to David Bently Hart? Physician, heal thyself.


  1. As I am sure you know, the Western “answer” to the apparent Augustinian double standard that you have describe so well is the Council of Orange. There, the Western Church itself, in regional Council, limited aspects of Augustinian speculative theology. Otherwise, his teaching is sound dogma or virtually so.

    But of course, this answer means, as you note, that, in effect, Augustine can only be criticized or corrected by the West, which in turn implies that Latin Christianity is ENTIRELY sectarian and untethered by the preSchism, orthodox consensus patrum of the Church catholic.

    * * * * *

    Also regarding Kimel and Liccone taking contrary views of election, the Western “answer” to this apparent tension is that both opinions are allowed by Rome (see Ott, for example, to confirm this). Kimel is a Molinist (the innovative and more recent western opinion that parallels Wesleyian Arminianism and Orthodox synergism), championed by the Jesuits and Liccione is more traditional. So, neither may criticize the other, though both may criticize you (or us, I should say) — the sting in (en)tail of Karl the Tall!

    Of course, even this “answer” — theological diveristy and variety — begs the question of (1) ambiguity: Is Revelation so unclear that it implies either unconditional or conditional election to salvation; of (2) coherence: How can unconditional election to salvation not also necessarily imply predestination to damnation?; and finally (3) absurdity — How can it possibly be that the schoolmen were able to deduce the “truth” of immaculate conception (surely a tertiary doctrine, even assuming it is one) but not solve the problems of predestination and election (surely a core doctrine on which the intelligibility of Christianity turns).

    * * * * *

    Fortunately, for those not enthralled with Germanic faux-Romanism, we have the preAugustinian consensus patrum as our guide which teaches that the key to understanding Scripture references to predestination and election is the comprehension of Divine-Human synergy. Thus, we can avoid the bitter taste of Kimel and Liccione’s “Roman pickle.”


  2. Well, there is something for familial loyalty. If I say “my sister, you ought not do that, its not so good” it is very different from someone outside the family saying “uh..look at Matt’s sister…look at those evil things she does.” Anyway, perhaps that is a more charitable reason why Catholics can gently criticize St. Augustine, but when some Orthodox try, it doesn’t work so well.


  3. Matthew,

    Somehow Kimel’s terms seem to be far worse than a “gentle” criticism.

    tragically astray”, “had pernicious repercussions”, “The theory of absolute predestination calls into question, at the most fundamental level, the identity and character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.”, “the sweeping nature of this judgment” and “Not only am I not persuaded but I am offended to the core of my being.” “John Wesley described the doctrine of absolute predestination as blasphemy, and surely that is what it is.” “The holy Creator becomes Satan!” “But even if the hard predestinarianism is pushed into the theological and homiletical background, it continues to do its insidious work.”

    Kimel thinks that it seriously undermines the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity.

    “If you still disagree, then consider what it means for God to be an eternal trinitarian community of absolute and infinite love. Consider what it means that the eternal Son of God should assume human nature, should bear the sins of humanity unto suffering and death, should rise again as the New Adam and ascend to the right hand of the Father.” “Augustine did not explicitly draw the conclusion of double predestination, yet how close he came. Driven by the logic of irresistible grace, he found himself incapable of affirming the universality of the salvific will of the Creator. But for anyone of sensitive conscience, the fine distinction between reprobation and preterition hardly matters. The damage is done.”

    Now Matthew, this language is just as strong and just as sweeping in some cases, as my own. In fact, it is stronger than my own. I was condemned, insulted and dismissed for even suggesting far less. Even Catholic scholars who supported my claims were dismissed out of hand. Much the same could be said for Daniel or for the whipping boy, Romanidies. This kind of language is exactly the same kind of speech that Catholics (and Protestants) trot out from Romanidies as examples of unthinking and ignorant fanaticism. If Romanidies had just read Augustine (he did) or availed himself of more nuanced explications in the Scholastics, his language would have been far more cautious. Don’t you understand, you ignorant and conniving Byzantines, who endlessly search for excuses for your continued schism (Que She who must not be named) that we actually teach the same thing! Yet, when Kimel makes the same claims, that there has been (and continues to be-its not like Rome has thrown off Scotus and Aquinas for example) substantial differences, it is “profound.” It is interesting that I haven’t seen “She who must not be named” saying so much as a peep about Fr. Kimel’s claims regarding Augustine “blasphemy.”

    Pointing out the special pleading has a heuristic point. It shows that the dismissals and hostility were based on ignorance and a psychological need rather than a fair and dispassionate analysis. It also shows a failure on the part of Latins to formally renounce this teaching and that it continues to be an acceptable soteriological and eschatological gloss. And there is a failure among the Latins to admit that this in part forms in fact a substantial difference between us and them and therefore that Rome has compromised core Christian commitments at least on a material basis. Moreover, that such a compromise has justified at least in part the judgments of the East that the Latins have a seriously defective understandings, which, all other things being equal, should things have been reversed, would have justified Rome in refusing inter communion.


  4. Bredon,

    I don’t have a problem with Orange but I don’t think it does the exculpatory and correcting work that you think it does. Orange was lost to much of the Scholastic period. Added to this is the fact that the teaching of Aquinas and even more so, Scotus (and other Scholastics) while taking longer to reach essentially the same point, teach, in fact, the same point, that God loves some people more, which is why they persevere to glory. Last time I checked, Rome has not formally corrected the teaching of Aquinas and Scotus on this point. Their teaching remains to this day, formally speaking, a perfectly acceptable gloss, contra Fr. Kimel. It is true that the harder versions of it like with Banez were rejected, but reading Maritain for example makes it clear that the fundamental problem remains. What difference do all of the attempts to qualify the point make when the point remains the same? God predestines some to heaven and predestines (albeit passively or in some other way) others to hell? Does a corpse care if you kill it softly if the result is still the same?

    Moreover, the offending point is not freestanding. It influences a wide range of doctrines, from baptism to Christology and again, I am not the only person who has thought so. Just look at the work of Basil Studor and he is hardly a Romaphobe. That is, Augustine’s predestinarianism is intrinsically related to his Christology. If there is a defect in the former, there is most certainly one in the latter. And given that Augustine forms the over all grid for most of the Scholastics I’d argue that the same problems show up again to a different degree or in a different place in their theological systems, but show up, they do. Once one learns the dialectical pattern, they aren’t hard to spot. Given the assumptions of the system, there are only a limited number of routes to take.

    As for the second point, I think the fundamental justification for Kimel’s judgment is the teaching of St. Maximus. Kimel said as much if I am not mistaken on a post which has since been removed from his current blog location. If that is true, I wonder is it really true that that Rome allows for both? That would be very interesting given Maximus committment to the genuine plurality of the logoi, which is on its face incompatible with ADS. So I don’t think it does. What, historically Rome allowed for was Thomism and a qualified Molinism. Rome also forbid designating either side heterodox, so that either Kimel has transgressed that line or he thinks Thomism doesn’t teach that God predestines some to heaven in a way that precludes libertarian freedom. If the latter, I don’t see how he pulls that rabbit our of that hat, though perhaps he has some niffty new “development” regarding Thomism that I am unaware of. That is possible. I am hardly the archetype of genius.

    As for Molinism, I am not a Molinist and I don’t think Molinism is compatible with Libertarianism for the simple reason that God’s middle knowledge can’t be grounded in the essences of individual persons. That is, God can’t know what I will do in such and so situation by knowing everything there is to know about my essence. Why? Because persons aren’t essences. Whatever a hypostasis is, it isn’t an essence. Molinism therefore simply hides and moves the determinism to a different location but it is the same old idea that my essence determines my actions. This is why Molinism is just a different gloss of Augustinianism. It doesn’t really move beyond Augustinian predestinarianism. In any case, I don’t think Fr. Kimel is a Molinist and I don’t ever recall in my conversations with him via phone, email or blog that he ever advocated Molinism. Molinism therefore seems quite irrelevant, at best.

    It would be interesting and perhaps useful to see how Kimel and Liccone could reconcile their ideas that God loves some people more and God has a universal salvific will and love for all. That is, that the sufficient explanation for why some persevere is to be found both, entirely in the free cooperation or lack thereof in the agent and also that the sufficient explanation for their perseverance or lack thereof is that God loves some more than others. Yeah, uhm, good luck with that. Isn’t this exactly Kimel’s claim? That the former is true and the latter is false and “blasphemy?” Perhaps the Pope can adjudicate the matter for them. As for me, I’ll stick with St. Maximus.


  5. Perry,

    I don’t think Rome has ever rejected Banez or Alvarez (who is even stronger). I believe Banezian Thomism was just as accepted as any of the gnostic predestinarian positions by Rome.

    To the rest,

    Molinism and Arminianism are not compatible with St. Maximus’ idea of predestination, because those two ideas still hold to the same dialectical grounding of what free choice is or what ends up saying free choice is. Eschatological freedom is the proving ground where these views fail.



  6. Photios,

    Even if it were so regarding Banez, I am willing to give them the point since in the end it matters not. At the end of the day Scotus and Aquinas still get you to the same place. The route is different but the destination is fixed.


  7. You are smart, Perry. Really, really smart. Way smarter then everybody else. You speak with the tongue of angels. You have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge.


  8. Onecore,

    Perhaps you could limit yourself to addressing ideas rather than supposed personality traits that you dislike. Other than that, the best I can offer is the teaching of Epictetus-you only mention these faults because you must be ignorant of the others which are far worse.

    The really funny thing is that Kimel labels key Augustinian teaching “blasphemy” and I get labeled as essentially as a non-Christian!

    In any case, try to restrict yourself to the ideas.


  9. I am aware that, strictly speaking, Molina, Arminius, and Maximus differ on soteriology in important ways–each were writing within the context of their respective, discrete theological traditions (although I concur. But, in broad terms, all three stand for the common sense meaning of human freewill as having important.

    * * * * *

    And yes, under Roman doctrine, not may K. and L. hold contrary soteriological view, they are even free to preach that that the other’s views undermine the faith! I realize that this is incoherent, and many RC scholars acknowledge as much.


  10. Death Bredon,

    Here’s something to think about…

    Why would there be contrary soteriological views? Why would there be different “schools” on the doctrine of predestination? Where are these “schools” continuity with Tradition? Did the apostles hand down multiple faiths with “competing” views on predestination?

    Look at Irenaeus, the anti-Gnostic. Predestination is linked to the resurrection which is linked to recapitulation which is linked to Christ. It is the restoration of the divine image that is predestined for Irenaeus. What went wrong later on? Why was predestination considered prior to Christology in Augustine and the Scholastics? Why does Thomas treat providence and predestination before the Incarnation?

    Kimel’s got it wrong and so is the title of his post. I believe in the predestinarian God, but the predestinarian God doesn’t refer to an attribute about the philosophical simplicity. Christ is the predestined man and the predestinarian God, who restored the imago dei for every man.



  11. OK, I’ll comment, but I am a weak and feeble mind compared to y’all..

    IF Auggie is ‘one of us’ (and, in coming to Orthodoxy, that was a big hurdle to overcome for me- the overt hatred of those who cared so little for the Fathers who were so vehemently opposed to Augustine; or those whose position was, simply because the West used Augustine more than others, we orthodox will use him not at all…) then what is so evil about the concept of predestination?

    Does not St. Paul state as much? Is it not scriptural? If (unlike protestant sacramental theology, such as it is) we allow for the presanctified Eucharist, that retains its’ nature as the Body and Blood of Christ, in the short span of time between the Priest’s offering and the congregation’s participating, one could {in eschatological time} say that that bread and wine were ‘predestined’ to be ‘saved’ i.e., indwelt by God for the benefit of ‘all mankind’ i.e., that specific congregation.

    Where is it said that God is a Universalist? (to go to the opposite pole) If God calls those ‘who are his own’ then are there those who are NOT his own? While the ‘other sheep’ in St. John’s Gospel were not confined to the borders of Biblical Israel, that does not NECESSARILY mean that ALL ‘other sheep’ are to be saved! Is the Gospel NOT ‘universal,’ if in predicating that the term ‘world’ meant to the Biblical writers, ONLY the boundaries of Magna Europa? Is this conceivable?
    IF not, why not? If so, then what is the problem with only a ‘few’ being saved, in the vast numberless hordes of hominids out there?

    What then of the Divine will, when it comes to those who are NOT saved, who HATE God, and who die in their sins? Does God not control the ‘cattle on a thousand hills’ who are His?

    Pardon me for raising issues that you may have answered, but I believe that predestination/election is equally as valid as sanctification/theosis. And that this is the Biblical, Patristic, Orthodox way of looking at it. But in any case, neither set of constructs is either a) universally available or thereby b) universally appropriated, whether one believes in Man’s ‘free will’ to either choose to be saved, OR damned.


  12. Have you had a chance to tread Dr. Farrell’s dissertation on Saint Maximus, I think he gives a very satisfying account to the questions, and gives a Christological interpretation to John 6:37-44.


  13. Free Choice in Maximus etc.? Yes, I believe I have a copy lying about. But that does not answer the question. All that the Father GIVETH me shall COME to me. Sounds pretty predestinarian, if you ask me. This is not sufficient. Unless Bp. Photios clearly writes to this effect, and my feeble mind has forgotten it….


  14. Yes in the Appendix area, where Dr. Farrell discusses Maximus and Augustine he exegetes John 6:37ff and shows how Augustine interprets the passage from anm overall Predesinarian context vs. what should be a Christological context (the proper ordo theologiae). Also Perry expands on Farrell and gives what I think is a satisfying exegesis to the passage here:

    We firmly believe that there is a play between the general (human nature) and the particular (human persons) in the passage.


  15. I have very briefly looked at the URL you mentioned. In the first paragraph, In it, right after the Star Wars stuff, I read this, which i consider to be heretical, frankly…. “I think the Scripture indicates that all are redeemed in Christ, otherwise they would not be raised and hence not be “in Christ.” ”

    And again, we are back at the starting point, with NOTHING having been said or decided. I do not believe that Man can ‘choose’ to be saved, for that is Pelagianism. I also do not rest comfortably with the notion that Man is ‘predestined to be saved’, and firmly call the idea that is a caricature of either Augustine or Calvin that he is saved against his will (which is also heretical- cf. above) yet, if this ‘so great salvation’ is ‘In Christ’ (which is sort of gilding the lily… of course it is in Christ, who else?), then….

    IF Man can REJECT the Gospel, then Christ’s sacrifice (IF- and this is a BIGGGGG if!) being for ‘all men’ (everywhere, Hottentot as well as Scot, etc.) is NOT EFFICACIOUS, for Man can CHOOSE- from first motives, before any ‘prevenient grace’ (I hate using these terms, but what can you do?) MIGHT influence him to see the great gift of Eternal Life, and he might be saved.

    But, if man freely chooses to be damned, then clearly, Christ did NOT come for ‘all men’ but only for the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ as is noted in the first Gospel, Matthew. This verse was NEVER revoked, and the extent of the ‘Go ye into ALL the world,’ again posits that the term ‘world’ MIGHT JUST NOT BE THE ENTIRE GLOBE, but only the ‘world’ of the Roman Empire that the Apostles and the Human Christ knew..

    If that is the case, it is clear that only ‘some’ are saved, and the vast majority are ‘passed by’ or ‘passed over’- just as in the OT, the vastly numerically greater Egyptians (who were part of the ‘all the world of the Israelites’) were NOT included in THAT passover.

    Why is it so bizarre or ‘non-Orthodox’ to say that election is what the Scriptures say it is?

    “We firmly believe that there is a play between the general (human nature) and the particular (human persons) in the passage.”

    Of course there is an interplay, but God (who gives us life) Gives us SALVATION BEFORE WE CHOOSE TO BE SAVED. That is the teaching of Romans, for goodness sake…..


  16. Can I just ask seriously how does one even get to this point? I mean, I consider myself a theology nerd (I’ve been studying Orthodoxy for about a year after becoming Catholic, and now want more than anything to join the Church) – but you guys are hardcore. Keep it up.



  17. Fr. John – isn’t the life, death, and resurrection of Christ efficacious for all in the sense of ‘objective’ salvation, which enables us to walk the path of righteousness where before we could not? In other words, if the actions of the incarnate Logos transform all of humanity, yet leave room for personal cooperation, then we can say that salvation is ‘for all’.

    Also – why do you think that men cannot reject the Gospel?


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