Agreement on grace as a free gift of God


#1

Recently I have been concerned about grace in Christianity, and have participated in discussions concerning it in CAF. At present I am studying recent work, especially by John Barclay, and it seems to me now that there is agreement among many Christian thinkers, whether Catholic or not.

In summary Christians may agree that:

1 We are saved by the merits of Jesus Christ;

2 We can do nothing meritorious without grace;

3 Grace is a free gift from God unmerited on our part, especially initially;

4 Grace is unconditioned (given without requiring our worth), but is NOT unconditional (our response is expected, since God is a judge). In the ancient world every gift was in expectation of a return.;

5 The old way of expressing the unmerited gift of grave was via prevenient grace, the supernatural gift given to enable us to do meritorious actions, since without grace we cannot do actions pleasing to God;

6 Another term for prevenient grace is antecedent grace, perhaps more common in Catholic circles. (Other terms are gratia praeveniens, antecedens, excitans, vocans,operans);

7 Trent confirms this “In adults the beginning of justification must proceed from the antecedent grace of God acquired by Jesus Christ”.

In conclusion all Christians can now agree on what grace is.

However I am not sure if I am correct, so I would welcome comments and corrections.


#2

There are many major disagreements over grace in 21st century Christianity.

It seems evident, so I am interested in seeing you give examples of several denominations with identical doctrines of grace to that of the RCC.


#3

I see nothing in the post that is contrary to Catholic doctrines on grace.

For an iteresting philosophical explanation of the operation of prevenient grace, see Jacques Maritain’s *Existence and Existent *in which Maritain call this grace God’s shatterable impulse to do good.


#4

O_mlly,
thank you so much. Another reply seems to disagree.

But in my post there is what I think others claim, I may be wrong, which is not unknown.


#5

e_c

I would like to hear about differences, and try to resolve them.Often surface disagreements disappear with deeper study.

Different denominations disagree, and within denominations/Churches there are disagreements. In the RCC on many issues Jesuits and Opus Dei members disagree, as do Dominicans and Franciscans, as well as traditionalists and progressives. I would say it would be difficult to get two Catholics who agree on all points in religion.


#6

Well, I think you may be taking this too far. :slight_smile: The various orders simply have different spiritualties and emphasis, not that they disagree on doctrine/dogma. Certainly there are individuals within every order that are more orthodox/heterodox in belief and practice, as there are among the faithful in general. The teachings of the Church, such as that on grace, are constant. I would say, rather, that it is we (in our human weakness) who tend to stray from them.


#7

Della,
Here is a case where Catholics disagree, as I would not go along fully with you, but as you can see from my signature I agree with freedom in many things, but agreement on essentials.

I hold with Blessed J H Newman that doctrine has developed, early Christians in Judea differed in their belief from us.

As an example consider “extra ecclesia nulla salus”, its meaning has changed. But I do not want to discuss this here.

So I think it is important to study carefully what grace is. I think there is substantial agreement. Let us see.


#8

Well, it would be great to settle the de auxiliis controversy once and for all, wouldn’t it! Since it was about 500 years ago that the Holy See told the Dominicans and Jesuits to stop accusing each other of heresy, and that the matter would be settled at an “opportune time,” perhaps that time has come in this very thread! :smiley:

De Lubac has raised pertinent questions about grace and its relation to a possible double-end of integral human nature.

There is still the classic Banez/Molina controversy surrounding sufficient and efficient grace.

In the headlines now there is the sad, sad debate about whether all people have sufficient grace to live out the 6th commandment, which is like a bizarre rehashing of Jansen and friends.

So the thesis that “all Christians may agree on what grace is” is certainly suspect, and that’s only looking at the live discussions within Catholic thought. We don’t even need to get into Calvinism, Lutheranism, the Quakers, the Baptists, etc., etc. And surely in all kinds of places you will find Semi-Pelagianism cropping up (true-blue Pelagianism is admittedly hard to find). And generally it seems that anywhere you find a different sacramental theology and a different ecclesiology you will find a different doctrine of grace.


#9

They didn’t differ essentially, but in practice and emphasis, no doubt they did. :slight_smile:

As an example consider “extra ecclesia nulla salus”, its meaning has changed. But I do not want to discuss this here.

I think that’s debatable, but as you say, this isn’t the thread in which to discuss it.

So I think it is important to study carefully what grace is. I think there is substantial agreement. Let us see.

I would hate to be a thread killer, but I don’t think one can define grace with any single definition. After all, the CCC has 10 pages of online references for the word “grace.” As I see it, grace is like a multi-faceted diamond. No one plane, face, or refraction of light/color from it’s prism can define what a well-cut diamond is, can it? In like manner, grace is the kind of mystery that the more we try to define it the more it eludes definition, don’t you think? :wink:


#10

E_c

Thanks for your interest.

I believe “Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great” (1 Tim. 3:16 NRS), so what do we do? Do we give up in CAF, admitting that we cannot grasp our religion and what grace is? Do we settle for ignorance and apathy or do we try to resolve what our Catholicism means at the present time?

I admit I am out of my depth, but I still think I should make an effort. I think St Peter had the right idea “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, (1 Pet. 3:15 NAB).

You mention De Lubac, Banez, Jansen and Molina, as well as “old unhappy, far-off things And battles long ago”. But at least we should try to understand our religion and “justify the ways of God to men”.

When you referred to Molina, I thought you meant Bruce Malina, with whom I discussed social-scientific bible methods in St Andrews some years ago, and not Luis de Molina.

You seem to live in the past. In trying to understand St Paul and grace I think of Dunn, Wright and Barclay. I wonder where the Catholics are. Vat II ended over 50 years ago, has there been progress in understanding our faith since then?

So I think it is worthwhile to try to see what is grace in these difficult times, and to focus sharply on this topic.


#11

Della,

thank you for such a beautiful post. I agree with you, up to a point.

You claim “grace is like a multi-faceted diamond”, this sounds poetical, but in school over 60 years ago (I think) I learned that grace is a supernatural gift given to us by God to do good acts and to sanctify the soul, So Catholics had an idea of what grace was.

Protestants varied in their views, but essentially they held grace in a forensic sense, that God judged a person meritorious, but now many Protestants would not believe justification is solely forensic. That is the point, many Protestants have moved. In the 1970s the New Perspective on Paul emerged, later modified to New Perspectives, and then Fresh Perspectives. This change in the study of Paul is of note.

It is of interest to consider the JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church.

I am intrigued by “Sanctum erit, facere bonum in caritate”. Again in school about 60 years we used to chant out “when you have a purpose or an end in view, you use the subjunctive instead of ‘to’”. So why is a subjunctive not used?


#12

I’m very confused by what you want. These are live issues… one even making headlines as we speak… hardly “living in the past,” as if we were talking about Quesnel and Baius and their times, or the lead up to 2nd Orange.

You asked about the extent of the agreement and disagreement. I’ve produced a sketch of an answer. There are discussions going on right now on these topics… simply because they are being discussed does not mean they can’t reach a conclusion. You seem to suggest that this is the case. :confused:


#13

e_c

Thanks for your most recent post (#12).

I want to show that at the present it is possible to indicate that Christians can agree, at least to some extent, on the nature of grace.

You seem to claim you have sketched a basis of agreement, when you wrote “You asked about the extent of the agreement and disagreement. I’ve produced a sketch of an answer”. I interpreted your previous post differently, that here in CAF I cannot show there is some agreement, since you wrote:

So the thesis that “all Christians may agree on what grace is” is certainly suspect, and that’s only looking at the live discussions within Catholic thought. We don’t even need to get into Calvinism, Lutheranism, the Quakers, the Baptists, etc., etc.

I hold that with charity and integrity Christians can agree and show the agreement…

I hope to write a more comprehensive reply after some time thinking, studying and praying.


#14

I think a major point of divergence is with the Protestant view that holds that grace is nothing more than favor, God’s forgiveness of sin, for example.


#15

Also, for the performance of a morally good action Sanctifying Grace is not required.
And the concepts grace and natural merit are mutually exclusive, grace cannot be merited by natural works.


#16

Yes its a free gift to help us , we do not bear grace, grace bears us. It is not for us to help grace, but rather grace has been given to aid us in our lives.


#17

Yes, there is agreement on general qualities. The details are the problem, and they are important details.

Good luck.


#18

e_c,
thanks again, I appreciate your interest.

I agree details may differ between Christians. But here I am trying to sort out my own ideas as much as anything else, hence I appreciate the discussion. I find many problems link up (St. Paul, grace, gift, justification, righteousness, sacraments etc.) and I find clarity and precision of thought difficult, but I think the effort to understand is worthwhile.


#19

Vico

I agree fully with you. Sanctifying grace is not actual grace, and grace is a gratuitous gift of God.


#20

fhansen,

you wrote.

But a point I am raising is that some Lutherans/Protestants have changed. I believe that now not all Protestants believe grace is solely forensic or imputed.

I read in that oracle of all things correct (Wikipedia):

“Both imputed and infused righteousness agree that God is the source of our righteousness, and that it is a gift that humans cannot deserve.”.


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