The Mystery of Predestination: According to Scripture, the Church, and St Thomas Aquinas written by John Salza was recently released by Tan books. I wanted to review this book because this is a subject I had of which I have never read of specifically in depth. The subject of Predestination if often seen as a subject mostly weighed in on by Protestants, though predestination is specifically mentioned in scripture and has been addressed over time by various counsels. I was previously aware that the two major schools of thought regarding predestination in Catholics theology circles was the Thomist and Molinists views. The argument did get rather heated at one time until I believe the Pope told them to basically “chill out.” So there is no official teaching of the Church in regards predestination other than ruling out some aspects of the subject such as double-predestination as taught by Calvin where some are predestined to Hell. So currently the Thomist, Molinist, or some composite of the two are acceptable views for Catholics to prudentially hold.
I find myself more sympathetic toward the Thomist view and the author of this book argues from the Thomist view. This is not the easiest of subjects and there is a very good reason the word mystery really comes into play when discussing it. As with all mysteries it certainly does not mean we can know nothing on the subject, only that we can never fully understand it. This book though certainly helped me to come to a better understanding of the subject and especially the terminology involved with in discussing predestination. It might seem like a rather esoteric topic, but I think everyone can benefit by more deeply comprehending God’s will towards us in light of salvation and how to some extent his grace works in our life. There is certainly a lot to reflect on here. I know at one time I was actually vain enough to believe that I had read myself into the Church – that by devouring the library in regards to religion that I was just guided by my intellect to discern the truth that lead me into the Catholic Church. Kind of forgot about the fact that I can do nothing without God.
I thought the John Scalzi did a good job of explaining predestination and spent considerable effort on the basics fo the subject along with explaining the Thomist, Molinist views along with the Protestant views on predestination such as exposed by Calvinism and Arminianism. There is a good amount of repetition in this book in the concepts covered, though I think this was necessary in a difficult subject. I thought it aptly reinforced the content.
I did find it rather odd that one of the main foils the author used in espousing the Thomist view was to show them in contrast to the works of Fr. William Most. For those who don’t know, the late Fr. Most was a very solid Scripture Scholar and Theologian and one of whose books I have benefited from. I knew that Fr. Most tried to bring the Thomist and Molinist views together with his own presentation, but I had not read his book on the subject. John Salzi certainly takes issue with Fr. Most’s view on the subject and especially Fr. Most’s understanding of the Thomist view. The views of Fr. Most that the author points out certainly do seem at time to be in conflict with the thoughts of earlier councils. Though it is hard for an armchair theologian and all around amateur on the subject to be able to say if Fr. Most’s views were presented accurately. I can say that the author makes his case very well.
The subject of Calvinism is naturally also covered and contrasted with the Thomist view and a wealth of scriptural evidence is used to show the many problems with the Calvinist view apart from just double-predestination. I found these parts of the book to be very informative with a lot of good questions raised. In fact mostly I really enjoyed this book, though it makes for slow and careful reading. It is certainly not Predestination for Dummies, but the author does a good job of explaining what predestination is along with drawing evidence from scripture and tradition in support of his position.
I have heard good things from solid Catholics about some of this authors other books on Masonry and Purgatory, but as far as I know he also holds to geocentricism which raises some warning bells with me. That though is the only real caveat that I would have and as far as I could tell he presented the Thomist view accurately. Patrick Madrid wrote a blurb favorable for this book so I would trust that the content does not go against Church teaching.
Moving on to lighter reading. Paul: Tarsus to Redemption (Volume 1) is a new Graphic Novel on the Life of St. Paul. Matthew Salisbury a graduate of John Paul the Great University teemed up with with illustrator Sean Lam to tell the story of St. Paul in Manga format. Using comics to tell the truth of the faith has a good amount of modern history behind it and this continues in that tradition using the Japanese style. Now I have have never read any Manga directly though have been introduced to the drawing style via Animé I was introduced to via Adult Swim, but I do have a cat named after a character in Inuyasha. This graphic novel certainly uses the Manga style to good effect and I certainly enjoyed the illustrations used as the story is told. I really wished it had been inked, but the black and white drawings are fairly effective.
Mostly I really enjoyed this retelling of the conversion of Saul to St. Paul and what is to be the first chapter of this story told with further chapters in the future. The story follows Saul apparently some time after the Martyrdom of St. Stephen up to his escape from Damascus. There are some extra-biblical story elements such as a friend of Sauls who is a gentile convert to Judaism and works with him to persecute the Christians. The story mostly follows the events in the book of Acts and in some ways breathes some life into St. Paul as a younger man that you don’t normally see. I have to admit that I was disappointed that the Martyrdom of St. Stephen was not included since it really presents the introduction of the pre-conversion St. Paul in the scriptures and to my mind the perfect starting point. As a tool to introduce a certain audience to the life of St. Paul I feel this Graphic Novel mostly succeeds, but the presentation could be improved on. There were certainly no serious defects that would keep me from recommending it and I do look forward to more in this series and the other subjects they plan to use the same treatment with. You can see some samples of the contents here.