I have been hearing quite a few people hammering home the claim that man cannot do good works on his own. Is there no way for a non-Christian, outside of the faith, to feel compassion for the poor and choose to feed the poor? Can no one do the right thing without God forcing/assisting them to do so? What do you think?
Absolutely. It is Catholic doctrine that persons can, without grace, perform natural good works such as feeding the poor.
Grace is needed to perservere in good works, and to perform “meritorious” acts.
See forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=876071&postcount=111 for a nice post on this. If you would like, you can look through the rest of that thread for some other interesting points.
Also, St. Paul tells us that God has granted to all of us a measure of grace because of Christ’s redemption of the world. When someone does something good through the grace of God, be they a believer or not, God recognizes this as what it truly is, an unselfish act of divine love. God alone can judge if what you or I or anyone has done was through his grace or for selfish motivations.
Whether Christian or not, if you do not do the good works in the state of grace, then it is of no benefit for your soul, regardless of how many people it helped.
There are worldly people, for example, who do all sorts of community service, or donating large sums of money, or providing buildings, land, and provisions for various situations. But they do so while in the state of mortal sin, for worldly and selfish reasons, not out of love or for the glory of God. Thus, their works are like rotten flowers before God. Nevertheless, God rewards them in this life, and the recipients of those deeds are helped.
Matt 6:2 Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.
No one can do what is pleasing to God unless they are in the state of grace. God mercifully hears the prayer of a sinner seeking salvation and grace. Once in the state of grace, all your good actions take on merit.
At the same time, God derives glory from all creatures, whether they will or not.
A good book in this regard is “The Dialogue of St. Catheirne of Sienna”.
I think it is obvious that non-Christian who reject God, in general, would not be trying to please God, get merits from God, get heaven from God, glorify themselves in the world as having done God’s will etc., for doing good works of love for fellow man.
The question is, do non-Christians/non-Jews have the capacity to do good works outside of having a faith relationship with God? Do you believe that anyone outside of a faith relationship with God, cannot do, non-self-gain, good works our of love for their fellow man? If a non-Christian saw his neighbor straving to death, is there no way he could choose to love and feed his fellow man out of human compassion for another human being without God forcing/assisting him to do so?
Actually it was God’s authorized Jewish leaders who should have had faith in God, who claimed faith in God, and the ones whom one would think if God were going to do good deeds through humans, it would be them, who Christ condemns as evil wicked horn blowers who failed to do good works.
For those who say that God preforms good works through non-believers, why does God choose to preform good works through non-believers when God is not preforming good works through many “believers”?
NAB MAT 23:23
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna? Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
I have been hearing quite a few people hammering home the claim that man cannot do good works on his own.
Man cannot do any good without God first giving him the grace to do it. Even his own personal works aren’t done without God first giving him the grace to do each and every act. Eph 2:8-10 speaks of personal works that don’t justify.
Council of Orange 529 A.D. was formed in order to solve the pelagian and semi-pelagian heresy that plagued the Church started by Pelagius who held that there was no such thing as a sinful nature nor original sin. Romans 5 clearing shows we have both. St. Augustine having an orthodox Catholic position fiercly opposed Pelagius’ heretical belief and the council agreed.
CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.
CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
[size=3][font=Times New Roman]Is there no way for a non-Christian, outside of the faith, to feel compassion for the poor and choose to feed the poor?
If they do, it’s because God first gave them grace to “feel compassion for the poor.” Even if they don’t honestly attribute that gift as being from God alone is irrelevant; it is God who first gave them anything good.
[size=3][font=Times New Roman]Can no one do the right thing without God forcing/assisting them to do so? What do you think?
No of course not. All good comes from God alone (Mark 10:18).
God doesn’t force anyone to do anything they don’t willfully want to do, as we have free will to choose to cooperate with His grace or reject it. Again, canon 20 explains that man can do NO good without God first giving him the grace to do so. All good comes from God and if one is doing personal works on his/her own then those works help toward the common good, but are useless in receiving an eternal reward.
I think by you defining this as “outside of having a faith relationship with God” answers your question. Without God, nothing you do is good. You aren’t even able to do good without a selfish motive. You aren’t even able to properly wish good on someone.
If you take “outside of faith relationship” to mean having rejected God, then no.
At the same time, loving our fellow man is tightly bound to loving God.
The following private revelation to a Doctor of the Church might enlighten us on this point:
How every virtue and every defect is obtained by means of our neighbor.
"I wish also that you should know that every virtue is obtained by means of your
neighbor, and likewise, every defect; he, therefore, who stands in hatred of Me, does
an injury to his neighbor, and to himself, who is his own chief neighbor, and this
injury is both general and particular.
It is general because you are obliged to love
your neighbor as yourself, and loving him, you ought to help him spiritually, with
prayer, counseling him with words, and assisting him both spiritually and
temporally, according to the need in which he may be, at least with your goodwill if
you have nothing else.
A man therefore, who does not love, does not help him, and
thereby does himself an injury; for he cuts off from himself grace, and injures his
neighbor, by depriving him of the benefit of the prayers and of the sweet desires that
he is bound to offer for him to Me. Thus, every act of help that he performs should
proceed from the charity which he has through love of Me.
And every evil also, is
done by means of his neighbor, for, if he do not love Me, he cannot be in charity
with his neighbor; and thus, all evils derive from the soul’s deprivation of love of
Me and her neighbor; whence, inasmuch as such a man does no good, it follows that
he must do evil.
To whom does he evil? First of all to himself, and then to his
neighbor, not against Me, for no evil can touch Me, except in so far as I count done
to Me that which he does to himself. To himself he does the injury of sin, which
deprives him of grace, and worse than this he cannot do to his neighbor.
Him he injures in not paying him the debt, which he owes him, of love, with which he
ought to help him by means of prayer and holy desire offered to Me for him. This is
an assistance which is owed in general to every rational creature; but its usefulness
is more particular when it is done to those who are close at hand, under your eyes,
as to whom, I say, you are all obliged to help one another by word and doctrine, and
the example of good works, and in every other respect in which your neighbor may
be seen to be in need; counseling him exactly as you would yourselves, without any
passion of self-love; and he (a man not loving God) does not do this, because he has
no love towards his neighbor; and, by not doing it, he does him, as you see, a special
injury. And he does him evil, not only by not doing him the good that he might do
him, but by doing him a positive injury and a constant evil. In this way sin causes a
physical and a mental injury. …
"Oh, miserable vice of cruelty, which will deprive the man who practices it of all
mercy, unless he turn to kindness and benevolence towards his neighbor!..
"Against whom does pride bring forth evils? Against the neighbor, through love of
one’s own reputation, whence comes hatred of the neighbor, reputing one’s self to
be greater than he; and in this way is injury done to him. …
Oh, dearest daughter, grieve for the offense against Me, and
weep over these corpses, so that, by prayer, the bands of their death may be loosened!
“See now, that, in all places and in all kinds of people, sin is always produced against
the neighbor, and through his medium; in no other way could sin ever be
committed either secret or open. A secret sin is when you deprive your neighbor of
that which you ought to give him; an open sin is where you perform positive acts of
sin, as I have related to you. It is, therefore, indeed the truth that every sin done
against Me, is done through the medium of the neighbor.”
- Dialoge of St. Catherine of Sienna, p. 20-21
[quote=hurst]I think by you defining this as “outside of having a faith relationship with God” answers your question. Without God, nothing you do is good. You aren’t even able to do good without a selfish motive. You aren’t even able to properly wish good on someone.
If you take “outside of faith relationship” to mean having rejected God, then no.
At the same time, loving our fellow man is tightly bound to loving God.
The following private revelation to a Doctor of the Church might enlighten us on this point:
A person can be outside a faith relationship with God without having rejected God. For the purpose of our discussion let us stop at those simply outside of a faith relationship with God that have not rejected God.
You support my poll option number one yet I see no votes there yet. Could you vote for that option?
I am interested and will read your link. Though I am not sold on that phylosophy. It is hard for me to accept that God made a being who, when faced with a starving person, could not even drop a peice of bread to them. I will read your link.
Would that mean lukewarm, then? Not rejected Him, but then not too excited to know Him, either? I think those are the very one God will reject. (Apoc 3:16)
Perhaps you mean those who do not know God in the first place?
I took another look, and could not vote, because the way everything is worded, I agree with all three.
It can’t be done. All non-Christians cannot/do-not do good works.
- true because by knowingly remaining apart from Christ they cannot now do good
The Holy Spirit performs good works through the faithless as well as the faithful.
- true, because anything the Holy Spirit does is good
God gave man freedom from the control of His will; it is man who chooses to do good works or not.
- true, man chooses whether to cooperate with God for good works
See what I mean?
There are certainly people who would not feed a hungry person, especially if they considered them an enemy. Think of Hitler and the concentration camps.
However, that is beside the point I was making. My point is that even if a person feeds someone who is starving, it doesn’t prove that he did a work of God. He could be doing so in order for his own personal gain. (E.g. the witch feeding Hansel and Gretel)
I think this boils down to a simple matter of imprecise language. What is it you are really asking here?
Without God, no good work can be done. Without man choosing to cooperate with God, no good work can be done. Without another person to do good to, no good work is done.
Performing a physical act whereby someone else benefits is not of itself a good work involving merit or grace.
Are you wondering if it is possible to do a good work without grace? It is not possible, even if the work itself would seem good.
Or does an animal do a good work when it feeds its young? Or does a plant do a good work when it gives off a nice fragrance?
A good work involves more than a physical action.
I think Bishopite is on target in all he said and quoted.
In my previous post, I responded to Steven’s query in a way to stress the Catholic docrine that a person can perform a morally good act without grace. I responded this way, in an admitedly cursory fashion, because of what I observe to be a very common overstatement of the necessity of grace.
In no way do I wish to understate our need for grace. But I want to be clear on this point: aside from a kind of “common grace” or God’s conservative power which keeps all things in being and makes it possible for us to act (and this is sometimes called “grace” in a general sense) a natural man, in his fallen state, without Christ’s grace can perform a morally good act.
Therefore as an answer to Steven’s original question: “Can no one do the right thing without God assisting them to do so?” we must answer in the negative. In other words, yes, someone can do the right thing (and I mean morally choose it with intellect and will) without God’s assistance (if by assistance we mean actual grace).
If you mean a man cannot perform salutory acts or supernatural acts or acts leading to salvation or meritorious acts, then I agree. But it seems to me that you might be overstating this when you say man cannot do any good.
And by quoting these two canons:
[size=3]CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
I get the feeling, perhaps unjustified?, that you may be overstating the necessity of grace again.[/size]
These Canons from the Second Council of Orange must be understood in context. They are speaking of *supernatural good, *or *salutory acts *(hence Canon 18’s word “recompense”)
See, for instance, Canon 7:
CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
You went on to say that if a person performs a morally good act or just act (feeding the poor)
[quote=Bishopite]it’s because God first gave them grace to “feel compassion for the poor.” Even if they don’t honestly attribute that gift as being from God alone is irrelevant; it is God who first gave them anything good.
But this again seem to be going a little too far. Look at this from Vatican Council I:
Hence it follows that the so-called good life, in which the Commandments of God are somehow observed (at least as regards the substance of the words) is far different from the justice and sanctity which lead the one who does these works to the kingdom of heaven. For there is in nature the power for a rational soul to think and do lawful things and this is not blameworthy, but justly and rightly praised. Nevertheless, since these things are done without faith and without grace, none of them has any connection with the godliness that brings a man to eternal life.
(again, emphasis mine)
And all this is summed up in Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:
For the performance of a morally good action, Sanctifying Grace is not required (de fide)" [Ludwig Ott, *Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
, pg 234]
"The grace of faith is not necessary for the performance of a morally good action (sent. certa)" [ibid.]
“Actual grace is not necessary for the performance of a morally good action. (Sent. certa)” [ibid., 235](taken from a post by ItsJustDave.)
I sincerely am not trying to belabor this point, its just that the Chruch has had to be constantly on gaurd against both extremes when it comes to the doctrine of necessity of grace.
I just wanted to touch base with you here and try to clarify your position. I know from your previous posts that you originally come from a different tradition and that you have put much time into prayer and study, and so I look forward to your insights and comments. I hope that we can continue a dialog on this important topic.
As always, I submit to the teaching of the Church on this matter. Any errors are mine alone, and any poor exposition is due to me inadequate abilities.
I just want to isolate this point of yours, because I think that this is one of the ways that I see disscussions about the necessity of grace get off the rails.
Your Hansel and Gretel exaple sets up a dichotomy between doing a work of God (which I presume to mean a salutory act?) versus fattening up children in order to eat them. In other words a dichotomy between salutory acts vs. evil acts.
But there is at least one other alternative, and that would be a morally good act. Such as leading Hansel and Gretel back home because you pity them and think they miss their parents. And, as a witch, you are still a pagan, so you *aren’t *doing this with any regard for God or for His Law.
Can you do that, without grace?
I think you can.
(although you may end up eating one of them on the way back. )
I think he was perfectly justified in stressing the need for grace because it clarified what appeared to be misunderstood.
You also make an excellent case about the fact that a “morally good action” can be made without supernatural grace.
Together these points clarify the interaction between nature and grace, and how grace takes nothing away from nature, but rather elevates its good action to a higher level!
It just gives me more appreciation for the good that the Blessed Virgin Mary is credited for. It also gives me a deeper appreciation for the good will of the angels and saints in heaven. It is part of the basis for the dulia worship we may render to them.
[quote=hurst]I think he was perfectly justified in stressing the need for grace because it clarified what appeared to be misunderstood.
Oops, Hurst, that fragment “perhaps unjustified?” referred to *my feeling. *I meant that perhaps I was unjustified in thinking that Bishopite was overstating the need for grace.
I was the victim of my own bad grammar.
[quote=hurst]grace takes nothing away from nature, but rather elevates its good action to a higher level!
Yes! Exactly right. That is a very succinct but accurate statement.
In fact, in meditating on ans studying the Catholic teaching on Grace, I am often struck by how this point (the ability in our nature to perform, at least sometimes, a good moral act) actually informs and protects the doctrine of the necessity of grace.
This is the whole point of Grace! We *cannot *overcome the “old man” without it. And left to our own devices we may perform some good acts – but not always, and not for long. We needed Christ. This doctrine, it seems to me, only serves to highlight our need for a reedemer!
Because the gangs all here.
Hello Hurst and Verbum Caro,
Pope John Paul II was glorified by the world as an extremly loving and righteous man. Adolph Hitler is shown in history, for ordering the holocaust and other atrocities, as an extremely hateful and wicked man. How much of the difference between the two men is caused by God and how much of the difference between the two men is caused by these men’s hearts, free willed choices, desires etc.? Could Hitler have been as loving as Pope John Paul II, had God chosen to induced him to be so? Is it evil to give Pope John Paul II credit or glory for not acting like Hitler, if it is God who caused the difference between Pope John Paul II’s actions and Hitler’s actions? I mean, after all, it is such glorification, against human credit, similiar to that bestowed on Pope John Paul II, that quoted Church teachings could be seen as warning against.
How much of the difference between the actions of Pope John Paul II and the actions of Adolph Hitler are because of God choosing to make one man righteous and not another man? How much of the difference between the actions of Pope John Paul II and Adolph Hitler is because of their individual human free will? What are your opinions?
[quote=Verbum Caro] Because the gangs all here.
Hello Verbum Caro,
How much of your “” is God’s doing, and how much of it was from your free willed choice? Lots of Laughs!
First of all, God is not the author of sin, even though He created the nature of those who do evil.
Secondly, righteousness is primarily in the heart. It is possible for a wicked heart to feign “good actions”, but while they may receive a temporary reward from men, they will be brought down by God.
Finally, God had chosen to make all men righteous. That is how He created Adam. God created our nature, and saw that it was good. Then He warned us about evil, telling us to avoid it.
Ecclesiasticus 17:6 He created in them the science of the spirit, he filled their heart with wisdom, and shewed them both good and evil. 7 He set his eye upon their hearts to shew them the greatness of his works: 8 That they might praise the name which he hath sanctified: and glory in his wondrous acts, that they might declare the glorious things of his works.
Unfortunately, His righteous creatures did not continue in righteousness, and the effect has been huge. It was a choice they made based on their reasoning and free-will and affections.
Because of our free will, the virtue of obedience to God is possible. Through obedience we join ourselves to God by doing His will with ours. We must love God in our minds and hearts to do this.
Wisdom 1:2 For he is found by them that tempt him not: and he sheweth himself to them that have faith in him. 3 For perverse thoughts separate from God: and his power, when it is tried, reproveth the unwise: 4 For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins. 5 For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and he shall not abide when iniquity cometh in.
So, to answer your question, I would say that the difference in their actions was likely that one did not have faith in God, while the other did. One had a malicious soul that wisdom would not enter, while the other had a kind soul that attracted wisdom. One was deceitful and allowed iniquity in, but the other was honest and was visited by the Holy Spirit of discipline.
1 Par 33:23 And he did not humble himself before the Lord, as Manasses his father had humbled himself, but committed far greater sins.
Psalm 17:28 For thou wilt save the humble people; but wilt bring down the eyes of the proud.
The good act(s) we must make in our nature is to do justice to God in our hearts and subject ourselves to obedience to His will with perseverance. Then will He in His time, after we are tested, visit us with grace, and strengthen us unto eternal life.
Judith 8:16 And therefore let us humble our souls before him, and continuing in an humble spirit, in his service
Ecclesiasticus 3:20 The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things, and thou shalt find grace before God: 21 For great is the power of God alone, and he is honoured by the humble.
1 Peter 5:5 In like manner, ye young men, be subject to the ancients. And do you all insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace.
If you now say, that it was in God’s power to make people humble so that they could be righteous, then I will say He did do that, for we were born as helpless babies, and all started out in humble necessity. But some despise their own youth, or forget it, and depart from God.
Ezechiel 16:43 Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast provoked me in all these things: wherefore I also have turned thy ways upon thy head
It seems to me that God created us with a good nature in humility, and if were persevere in that, we will be found worthy of His help. But if we depart and follow the way of pride and persevere in that, then we will be found worthy of His rebuke.
Wisdom 1:12 Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure ye destruction by the works of your hands. 13 For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living. 14 For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon the earth. 15 For justice is perpetual and immortal. 16 But the wicked with works and words have called it to them: and esteeming it a friend have fallen away, and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof.
Does this answer your question?