I’m confused reading about the state of grace. Fr Michael Kerper says in this article, “Frankly, we can never know this with absolute certainty” regarding a person knowing if they are in a state of grace, but then I read from Jim Blackburn on this forum that, “The Church recognizes that we can know we are in a state of grace.” But can a person know with absolute certainty? I’m confused reading the two. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding something.
I think you are reading into Fr. Kerper’s words something he is not saying. He’s saying that merely not being a state of mortal sin isn’t enough–that we ought to be seeking to become saints not merely be without mortal sin. Hence, we cannot take being in a state of grace for granted merely because we aren’t in a state of mortal sin. Not having mortal sin on our souls as a gauge of our spiritual health is a negative way of approaching God–as if God is a traffic cop waiting for us to go over the speed limit–again… Whereas God is the grace we need, therefore we ought to be drawing as close to him as possible. Looked at that way, the two statements aren’t in conflict but complement each other.
To know something, and to know it with absolute certainty are not the same thing.
The Council of Trent teaches:
…as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.
Note it does *not *say we can never be reasonably sure we are in grace, but that we cannot have the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error (as the Protestants then taught, and some still teach today).
According to Scripture, this is also because we reserve the judgment of our souls ultimately to God. That’s His prerogative, not ours.
1 Cor. 4: It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself;  I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord.  Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.
You can’t be absolutely sure of anything, to the extent that God is sure. God has all absolute knowledge, and we don’t.
But we all can be reasonably sure about the state of our souls, and whether we are living in mortal sin or not.
Just like we can be reasonably sure that we are walking down the street, and not levitating a millimeter above the pavement while experiencing simulated gravity.
Mintaka, what you write contradicts the Council, which says that the Christian “may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace”. This suggests a higher level of uncertainty than you suggest. I don’t think anyone has fear or apprehension about such improbabilities as floating above the pavement.
No. Mintaka is right. We can be reasonably sure we are in a state of grace, for example, if we believe and practice the Catholic faith, and make a good confession. And this reasonable surety is required for reception of Communion. If you think you are in a state of mortal sin, even though you are not sure, you cannot receive. If you are conscious of grace sin, you cannot receive.
We can have a high degree of certitude, but not absolute certitude, that a baptized infant is in the state of grace. Why is this certitude not absolute? If the baptism were not valid, then the infant would not be in a state of grace. There is some human knowledge concerning the facts about that particular baptism that is necesary, so our certitude is not absolute.
The Trent Council Fathers were referencing “eternal security,” which is what Trent calls “the vain confidence of the heretics.” The idea of “fear and apprehension” is referencing Paul’s “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Here’s the whole quote:
“But, although it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake; yet is it not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone; seeing that it may exist, yea, does in our day exist, amongst heretics and schismatics; and with great vehemence is this vain confidence, and one alien from all godliness, preached up in opposition to the Catholic Church. But neither is this to be asserted, - that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified, but he that believes for certain that he is absolved and justified; and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone: as though whoso has not this belief, doubts of the promises of God, and of the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even o each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”
Yes, I agree that we can be reasonably sure (see my first post above!).
It seems we agree, but have different emphasis; perhaps you are taking a more pastoral approach, to discourage Luther-like scrupulosity, and it is good to discourage that. I’m coming at it more from the angle of, nowadays everyone thinks that everyone is going to heaven without any effort. Perhaps due in part to the influence of certain heresies which Trent was addressing at the time, which heresies, unfortunately, are still alive and well today.
So it’s a matter of having hope – which neither despairs nor presumes.
Good point about Phil. 2:12, fear and trembling. I think that’s exactly what the Council means.