Grace a substance?

I’ve heard some Protestants say that the Catholic teaching on Grace is that it’s treated like a substance, while the “Biblical” teaching on Grace is that it’s more God’s favor toward us in a relationship. Is it helpful to talk about Grace as a substance? Is that the Catholic teaching?

I have never heard that because I don’t know what “Protestants say,” nor would I care to be quite honest. The whole concept of grace as a substance is ridiculous and I don’t know what that is based on. Perhaps it is “they” who should be supporting their own claims instead of you having to explain something they said.


Grace is not a substance.
Take a look at the Catechism.

I understand your frustration. I do see how the Catholic understanding of Grace could be viewed that way, at least from a practical perspective. Infused grace could suggest that there is some kind of “substance” or “energy” that is being poured into us. Perhaps substance and energy aren’t the best words for it, but I’m wondering if it is helpful in any way to talk about grace as a such, or is that completely foreign to Catholic teaching?

@Lee1 is there a specific chapter you could point me to?

Yes of course, I did try to paste the relevant section but it failed for some reason.

God bless.

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This part:

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.<Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4>

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.<Cf. 1 Cor 2:7-9>

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:<Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39>
Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.<2 Cor 5:17-18>

2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

And note the 2Peter reference:

2Pe 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

2Pe 1:4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.


Thank you, @fide! This is helpful.

Good, thank you. I’ve found many protestants (not all, but most I’ve talked with) understand grace more of a non-substantial idea on God’s part - “good wishes” on His part, so to speak - not the supernatural gift of a potency of godliness. As the CCC writes, a human “participation” in God’s own life and nature, the divine Life. This is actually “something” real - more than mere “favor” of His part.

it may help to know how grace works. From Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Ludwig Ott)

Actual Grace internally and directlv enlightens the understanding and strengthens the will. (Sent. certa.)

There is a supenatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide.)

There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man’s free act of will. (De fide.)

Sanctifying grace is not a substance, but a real accident, which inheres in the soul’s substance. (Sent. certa.)

As Vico noted from the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ‘Sanctifying grace is not a substance, but a real accident, which inheres in the soul’s substance’ (Sent. certa - means theologically certain). Sanctifying grace does not change our substantial being from being creatures of God and human beings but it modifies our substantial being so it is considered philosophically an accident, a supernatural gift and habitual quality or disposition inherent in the substance of the soul. It is a created supernatural participation in the divine nature which God infuses into the soul and which inheres in the soul’s substance, accidents inhere in the substance. The gift of sanctifying grace does not make us God but like God, a created supernatural participation in the divine nature.

Actual graces are the transient interventions of God upon the soul’s intellect and will, enlightening the understanding and strengthening the will. God supernaturally and directly moves the intellect and will to supernatural good as the first cause of supernatural grace though we need to cooperate with His grace as a second cause with our free will. Actual graces in us are also accidents for the movement or operation of our soul’s powers such as the intellect and will are accidents of our substance but the first cause of these graces and movements is God himself.

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