I would consider myself an unconfirmed catholic. I find myself adhering to almost all of the doctrines of the church and trusting the church on the rest. I am in RCIA now and have been doing a lot of research on protestant/catholic issues.

One thing that I’ve noticed that I have never heard mention of is that it seems that Catholics and Protestants have an underlying different paradigm. It seems that many of the apologetics that the sides use against each other completely fail to convince the other because we do not think about the underlying points of view that make the arguments convincing to us. I have not been able to really develop this idea but I wanted to get some dialogue on it and see what others think about it. Let me give a few examples of what I’m thinking of.

In the Summa Theologica, Aquinas uses the dictum, ‘Grace perfects nature,’ as a matter of course. It is an axiom not a deduction. This axiom leads to some conclusions about the cooperation of grace and free-will and it seems to lead to the catholic view of the nature of grace. I had never thought of this statement before, but I thought it was revelatory. After considering it, I thought of my paradigm in the protestant church. I would say that it is tacit that grace is removed from nature. I think especially in the reformed tradition that accentuates the sovereignty of God. As a protestant i could hear arguments about Mary as the ark of the covenant and such but I found this totally unconvincing, almost a grasping at straws on the catholic part. But when I started to change how I thought fundamentally, i.e. that history and nature are sacramental - or as Aquinas quotes Gregory,“it states a fact but reveals a mystery.” - then I started to see that those same arguments worked. All of this came roundabout by looking at the philosophy of art. My conclusions on art made me change how I thought and that way of thinking all of the sudden opened up the door of Catholicism to me.

Here are some examples of where I think I see this paradigm problem.

With a disconnection between grace and nature, there is in some ways a touch of manicheanism in some protestant circles (nature or ‘the flesh’ is where sin is and death is the remedy for its poison: therefore purgatory is unnecessary.)

Or again is some fundamentalist circles, the young earth creationist movement. (God did it apart from nature.) Contra the (what seems to be dominant) catholic idea of theistic evolution, that God works through nature to create.

Or with the saints, it seems that the protestant paradigm is that it is just God above and us below. But if Grace does perfect nature, then our nature becomes more like His nature as we are perfected. So the saints make perfect sense as those who have attained a brilliant nature like His and that grace not only works on them but also through them. This argument seems perfectly sensible to me, but if I wanted to present it to a fundamentalist thinker, it would not resonate, because the paradigm is different.

Finally with the crux of the reformation, faith alone by grace alone.
I see this as another example of this seperation. For the reformers, we cannot do anything to attain salvation (by the works of the law), which seems true, but then they push it to the extreme that we cannot even cooperate with grace/ or election. It is done to us, but not through us. For Luther, it is that we are utterly depraved and incapable of choosing God. I don’t know if this is true or not, but even if it is, it does not negate the possibility of God healing our ability to choose Him, and still allow us to cooperate with grace and be perfected by grace.

I would love to hear your critiques and rebuttals.

God Bless,

Hi Justin,

I had not heard “grace perfects nature” before, but I’ve heard “I make all things new”, which seems to me to include the former concept. Anyway, I certainly agree with the points you made. I also think that the Incarnation is intricately tied up with all of this. When God became Incarnate he became man, but he also became universe - that is, he united himself with his entire material creation. And it wasn’t a parlor trick or a temporary ploy. God is united fully and for all time with man and with all of his creation, and he is inexorably making all things new. So much of the Catholic paradigm flows from this full and for all time unification (and the following everlasting unification at the end of time).

God’s plan moves forward in heaven and on earth in the most beautiful and glorious way, and at every step he calls us (and the angels, and perhaps every creature and every thing) to join with him in that plan, for God is love and love is giving and sharing that which is good. So for Catholics it shouldn’t just be about “getting myself to heaven”, but about accepting the invitation of our Lord and Father and Savior and joining in his mighty work of unsurpassing love - something which we do in fits and starts, but which the angels and saints I’m sure do unceasingly.

Gee, I get carried away. :o

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