Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A great many times I post to tell you something or perhaps persuade some to my viewpoint or the Catholic Church’s viewpoint. However, at this moment, my post is directed to the community for an answer to a concept that has troubled me when pondering on God. The concept is Free Will and its relationship to predestination. Attempting to wade into the waters of Free Will, I typed into my Verbum software “Augustine” and “Free Will.” The amount of material that St. Augustine wrote on the subject appears to be nothing more than a mountain that appears impossible to summit. There are countless letters he wrote during the Pelagius crisis and some of his thoughts on the subjects he would also retract or clarify later in his life.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote this about Free Will in his SUMMA THEOLOGIAE:
I answer that, Man has free-will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain. In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge. And some act from judgment, but not a free judgment; as brute animals. For the sheep, seeing the wolf, judges it a thing to be shunned, from a natural and not a free judgment, because it judges, not from reason, but from natural instinct. And the same thing is to be said of any judgment of brute animals. But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.
I recently listened to a podcast called “Pints with Aquinas” where the host quoted this very part of the SUMMA THEOLOGIAE. The example the host gave, which did make sense, is that when we put money into a vending machine and nothing comes out our reaction might be to kick it rather than point and declare, “You are a thief!”
I suppose what has troubled me most about the whole concept is Judas. Did Judas have Free Will? Could he have not betrayed Christ? How would Christ have died for our sins if Judas did not act? I suppose God would have found another way is an easy answer, but why does scripture say, “24 [a]The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Mt. 26:24) I suppose it doesn’t declare that this was the purpose of Judas’ birth, but yet if we’re to also understand that God is omniscient, how can this be possible?
To further clarify my concern, the concept of the omniscient God that knows my actions before I choose to do them has also been a troubling concept in connection to Free Will and the relationship with evil. I acquiescence that it’s true as God’s knowledge stands outside of time. St. Augustine in his Confessions wrote that God creates only good, and in fact, if he created evil because God is an absolute good, he would not be God. (Confessions 7:4:6) (If you read book 7 of the Confessions, One can see St. Augustine anguish over this very matter)
St. Augustine later concludes in Chapter 12 of Book 7 of his Confessions, “Whatever suffers corruption is deprived of some good, and this fact is most certain. If things are deprived of all good whatsoever. They will not exist at all.”
If we can focus back to Judas, God created Judas and Judas was good because he was a creation of God. God allowed Judas to exist so that he may choose God; however, Judas betrays Christ and God knew he would do this, it justs begs the question from me, “If God knows our actions upon our creation, if he knows that will choose a certain path and goes through with our creation, how does that exactly work?