Tuesday, June 30, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - The Resurrection Causes Justification

With respect to Christ's resurrection, St. Thomas says that it is the instrumental cause of our justification.

Christ's Resurrection works in virtue of the Godhead; now this virtue extends not only to the resurrection of bodies, but also to that of souls: for it comes of God that the soul lives by grace, and that the body lives by the soul. Consequently, Christ's Resurrection has instrumentally an effective power not only with regard to the resurrection of bodies, but also with respect to the resurrection of souls. In like fashion it is an exemplar cause with regard to the resurrection of souls, because even in our souls we must be conformed with the rising Christ: as the Apostle says (Romans 6:4-11) "Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life": and as He, "rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, so let us reckon that we (Vulgate: 'you')" are dead to sin, that we may "live together with Him." [ST III Q56 A2; emphasis added]

But our works do not cause the resurrection of Christ. Therefore our works do not cause our justification, and furthermore the Gospel proclaimed by the Catholic Church is not "works-based" as is erroneously suggested by some.

St. Thomas continues:

Two things concur in the justification of souls, namely, forgiveness of sin and newness of life through grace. Consequently, as to efficacy, which comes of the Divine power, the Passion as well as the Resurrection of Christ is the cause of justification as to both the above. But as to exemplarity, properly speaking Christ's Passion and death are the cause of the forgiveness of guilt, by which forgiveness we die unto sin: whereas Christ's Resurrection is the cause of newness of life, which comes through grace or justice [ibid., ad 4]

Again we see that justification is entirely the work of God, not of man.

St. Thomas on Justification - Grace causes faith

Writing on the question of whether lifeless faith can become living faith (which he affirms), St. Thomas addresses the following Objection:

Objection 3. Further, God's grace, by its advent, has no less effect in a believer than in an unbeliever. Now by coming to an unbeliever it causes the habit of faith. Therefore when it comes to a believer, who hitherto had the habit of lifeless faith, it causes another habit of faith in him. [ST II-II, Q4, A4]

Aquinas replies:

Reply to Objection 3. Grace causes faith not only when faith begins anew to be in a man, but also as long as faith lasts. For it has been said above (I, 104, 1; I-II, 109, 9) that God is always working man's justification, even as the sun is always lighting up the air. Hence grace is not less effective when it comes to a believer than when it comes to an unbeliever: since it causes faith in both, in the former by confirming and perfecting it, in the latter by creating it anew. [ibid., ad 3; emphasis added]

God causes our faith, and God causes our justification; it is never caused by anything that we do, but rather by his grace. Those who say that we believe otherwise are badly misinformed. We cannot save ourselves.

Monday, June 29, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Grace comes first in justification

We have seen that there are four things required for justification:
  1. the infusion of grace;
  2. the movement of the free-will towards God by faith;
  3. the movement of the free-will towards sin;
  4. the remission of sins.

I've numbered them here, but is this the correct logical order? St. Thomas says that it is:

The aforesaid four things required for the justification of the ungodly are simultaneous in time, since the justification of the ungodly is not successive, as stated above (Article 7 [Discussed here - RdP]); but in the order of nature, one is prior to another; and in their natural order the first is the infusion of grace; the second, the free-will's movement towards God; the third, the free-will's movement towards sin; the fourth, the remission of sin.

The reason for this is that in every movement the motion of the mover is naturally first; the disposition of the matter, or the movement of the moved, is second; the end or term of the movement in which the motion of the mover rests, is last. Now the motion of God the Mover is the infusion of grace, as stated above (Article 6 [Discussed here - RdP); the movement or disposition of the moved is the free-will's double movement; and the term or end of the movement is the remission of sin, as stated above (Article 6). Hence in their natural order the first in the justification of the ungodly is the infusion of grace; the second is the free-will's movement towards God; the third is the free-will's movement towards sin, for he who is being justified detests sin because it is against God, and thus the free-will's movement towards God naturally precedes the free-will's movement towards sin, since it is its cause and reason; the fourth and last is the remission of sin, to which this transmutation is ordained as to an end, as stated above (1,6). [ST I-II, Q113, A8]

Hence we see that – though justification is instantaneous – it nevertheless comes entirely from grace, which logically precedes the other things in which justification consists; so once again our salvation cannot reasonably be described as "works-based."

St. Thomas on Justification - Justification is by Grace

This post's title is pretty redundant, given that this has been the principle theme of the whole series. But given its subject matter, it seems particularly appropriate.

In ST I-II, Q113, A7 St. Thomas argues that justification is instantaneous.

The justification of the ungodly is caused by the justifying grace of the Holy Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit comes to men's minds suddenly, according to Acts 2:2: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming," upon which the gloss says that "the grace of the Holy Ghost knows no tardy efforts." Hence the justification of the ungodly is not successive, but instantaneous.

What we want to notice here, for purposes of this series, is twofold. First, that justification is caused by the grace of the Holy Spirt: and in this way we know that it is none of man's effort that can win him salvation; we are saved by the grace of God alone, as Aquinas says here.

Secondly, his theme is that justification is instantaneous. But this likewise rules out any possibility that our works play a role in the forgiveness of our sins.

St. Thomas on Justification - The Order of Justification

There is a logical order to the four necessary things in which justification consists.

There are four things which are accounted to be necessary for the justification of the ungodly, viz. the infusion of grace, the movement of the free-will towards God by faith, the movement of the free-will towards sin, and the remission of sins. [ST I-II, Q113, A6]

Justification begins with grace, continues with the movements of the free will toward God and away from sin, and the end of the movement in justification. It should be said, for the sake of the one who might look at this sequence and erroneously conclude that the movements of the will Aquinas mentions make the Gospel "works-based," that we have already seen how these movements do not and cannot occur apart from grace - not merely in their beginning, but likewise throughout. Because that grace by which we are justified is God's operating grace, which is God's work, not ours. And of course we have seen that man's salvation is from grace.

St. Thomas continues:

The reason for this is that, as stated above (Article 1), the justification of the ungodly is a movement whereby the soul is moved by God from a state of sin to a state of justice. Now in the movement whereby one thing is moved by another, three things are required: first, the motion of the mover; secondly, the movement of the moved; thirdly, the consummation of the movement, or the attainment of the end. On the part of the Divine motion, there is the infusion of grace; on the part of the free-will which is moved, there are two movements--of departure from the term "whence," and of approach to the term "whereto"; but the consummation of the movement or the attainment of the end of the movement is implied in the remission of sins; for in this is the justification of the ungodly completed. [ST, op. cit.]

Note once again that the will is moved by God, which is grace.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Repentance and Faith

It is not enough for the Christian to believe, notwithstanding the erroneous claims of some Protestants. The Christian must also repent.

As stated above (Article 1 [discussed here – RdP]), the justification of the ungodly is a certain movement whereby the human mind is moved by God from the state of sin to the state of justice. Hence it is necessary for the human mind to regard both extremes by an act of free-will, as a body in local movement is related to both terms of the movement. Now it is clear that in local movement the moving body leaves the term "whence" and nears the term "whereto." Hence the human mind whilst it is being justified, must, by a movement of its free-will withdraw from sin and draw near to justice.

Now to withdraw from sin and to draw near to justice, in an act of free-will, means detestation and desire. For Augustine says on the words "the hireling fleeth," etc. (John 10:12): "Our emotions are the movements of our soul; joy is the soul's outpouring; fear is the soul's flight; your soul goes forward when you seek; your soul flees, when you are afraid." Hence in the justification of the ungodly there must be two acts of the free-will--one, whereby it tends to God's justice; the other whereby it hates sin. [ST I-II, Q113, A5; emphasis added]

St. Thomas does not use the word here, but it's sufficiently clear that repentance is what is in view here: we cannot cling to sin at the same time that we profess faith in Christ. This is consistent with the gospels' summaries of the preaching of the Lord Jesus: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17); "The time is accomplished and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). It is consistent with St. Peter's sermon on Pentecost: "Do penance: and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). Hence we see that those who profess a gospel of "sola fide" are mistaken.

Some will say that to make repentance a requirement of salvation is tantamount to a works-based gospel, but it's worth pointing out that Aquinas already addresses this above, when he says that "the justification of the ungodly is a certain movement whereby the human mind is moved by God from the state of sin to the state of justice" (emphasis added). Hence we see that repentance is a gift of grace, and not something we can do in and of ourselves.

Pope Benedict XVI on Grownup Faith

In the last few decades the expression "grown-up faith" has spread. It is often used in relation to the attitudes of those who no longer pay attention to what the Church and its Pastors say — which is to say, those who choose on their own what to believe or not believe in a sort of "do-it-yourself" faith. Expressing oneself against the Magisterium of the Church is presented as a sort of "courage," whereas in fact not much courage is needed because one can be certain that it will get public applause. Instead courage is needed to adhere to the Church's faith, even if it contradicts the mould of today's world. Paul calls this non-conformism a "grown-up faith." For him following the prevailing winds and currents of the time is childish. For this reason dedicating oneself to the inviolability of life from its beginning, radically opposing the principle of violence, in the defence precisely of the most defenceless; recognising the lifetime marriage between a man and a woman in accordance with the Creator's order, re-established again by Christ is also part of a grown-up faith. A grown-up faith does not follow any current here and there. It is against the winds of fashion.


Let's be grownups, and hold fast to the Faith delivered once for all to the Church.

Point of clarification concerning what faith is

In a prior post we saw that faith is required for justification. I think it's worth taking a moment to clarify what it was that St. Thomas means by that.

What he does not mean simply is the Protestant notion of faith as trust – although of course one must trust God (it must be said that if one knows God by grace in the way that St. Thomas says in ST I-II Q113 A4, then it's absurd to suggest that one could do other than trust him: for if you do not trust him, then by the very nature of the case you do not have that knowledge of him that comes by grace; so that while trust is necessary, it seems also to be an inescapable concomitant of the knowledge of which Thomas speaks) – is assent.

That this is so seems clear, for example, from his usage of Hebrews 11:6:

But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that he is: and is a rewarder to them that seek him.

Believing that God is does not amount to an act of trust, which would be absurd. Clearly it must be an act of assent – in other words, to believe in fact that God really does exist: not by way of trusting someone's word about it, but rather by assenting to the fact that he is.

(Of course, as Hebrews says we must also believe that he rewards those that seek him. Reward implies merit, but Protestants say there is no sense in which God can be said to reward us, which makes this a difficult passage for them to say the least. Meanwhile we as Catholics know that we can affirm what the passage says, because we know that God does reward the merits that he gives to us. But I digress.)

Faith in the Catholic sense – in the sense intended by St. Thomas – implies assent to the dogmas of the faith. This faith need not be explicit, as we have also seen, but it cannot be absent.

St. Thomas on Justification - Faith is Required

As we saw previously, an act of free will is required for our salvation: "no one comes to the Father by justifying grace without a movement of the free-will." God does not justify us against our will.

In the same way, faith is required of us.

As stated above (Article 3, discussed here) a movement of free-will is required for the justification of the ungodly, inasmuch as man's mind is moved by God. Now God moves man's soul by turning it to Himself according to Psalm 84:7 (Septuagint): "Thou wilt turn us, O God, and bring us to life." Hence for the justification of the ungodly a movement of the mind is required, by which it is turned to God. Now the first turning to God is by faith, according to Hebrews 11:6: "He that cometh to God must believe that He is." Hence a movement of faith is required for the justification of the ungodly. [ST I-II, Q113, A4]

This faith, however, is not mere natural knowledge of God, but rather the knowledge of God that comes by faith:

By natural knowledge a man is not turned to God, according as He is the object of beatitude and the cause of justification. Hence such knowledge does not suffice for justification. [ibid., ad 2]

But if natural knowledge is insufficient, then only a God-given knowledge could be. Hence that faith which is required of us is a gift from God, just as St. Paul says in Eph. 2:8: "For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God."

So we see once again that we are entirely dependent upon God for our salvation; it is not something that we can earn on our own merits. Those who say that the Catholic Gospel is "works-based" are misinformed.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - The Necessity of Free Will

God does not grant us salvation against our will.

It is written (John 6:45): "Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me." Now to learn cannot be without a movement of the free-will, since the learner assents to the teacher. Hence, no one comes to the Father by justifying grace without a movement of the free-will. [ST I-II, Q113, A3]

Of course, this is not to say that we can save ourselves:

The justification of the ungodly is brought about by God moving man to justice. For He it is "that justifieth the ungodly" according to Romans 4:5. [ibid.]

But when he does this, he does not work contrary to human nature.

Now God moves everything in its own manner, just as we see that in natural things, what is heavy and what is light are moved differently, on account of their diverse natures. Hence He moves man to justice according to the condition of his human nature. But it is man's proper nature to have free-will. Hence in him who has the use of reason, God's motion to justice does not take place without a movement of the free-will; but He so infuses the gift of justifying grace that at the same time He moves the free-will to accept the gift of grace, in such as are capable of being moved thus. [ibid.; emphasis added]

It should go without saying (although I fear otherwise) that Aquinas' point about how God moves man depends not upon the particular examples – based upon a medieval understanding of physics – that he uses to establish his analogy. The point is that God does not work contrary to the nature of a thing when he moves it; he doesn't toss rocks up into the sky when gravity ought to be pulling them down to the ground. And in the same way, he doesn't save a man in violation of the man's free will.

Even so, as St. Thomas points out, even this act of the free will is occasioned by grace, so that once again we see there is no possible way in which one could say that the Catholic Gospel is works-based. No. It is founded solely upon grace.

St. Thomas on Justification - Grace and Remission of Sins

It is not possible to obtain the remission of sins apart from the grace of God. But as we saw in a previous post, justification is the remission of sins. If it is not possible, then, to receive remission of sins apart from grace, then it is not possible to be justified apart from grace, and those who say that Catholics believe a "works-based" gospel are badly misinformed.

[B]y sinning a man offends God as stated above (Question 71, Article 5). Now an offense is remitted to anyone, only when the soul of the offender is at peace with the offended. Hence sin is remitted to us, when God is at peace with us, and this peace consists in the love whereby God loves us. Now God's love, considered on the part of the Divine act, is eternal and unchangeable; whereas, as regards the effect it imprints on us, it is sometimes interrupted, inasmuch as we sometimes fall short of it and once more require it. Now the effect of the Divine love in us, which is taken away by sin, is grace, whereby a man is made worthy of eternal life, from which sin shuts him out. Hence we could not conceive the remission of guilt, without the infusion of grace. [ST I-II, Q113, A2; emphasis added]

Also with respect to the baselessness of the charges that many Protestants make against the Gospel, it's not enough to just stop sinning.

As Augustine says (De Nup. et Concup. i, 26), if to leave off sinning was the same as to have no sin, it would be enough if Scripture warned us thus: "'My son, hast thou sinned? do so no more?' Now this is not enough, but it is added: 'But for thy former sins also pray that they may be forgiven thee.'" For the act of sin passes, but the guilt remains, as stated above (Question 87, Article 6). [ST, op. cit., ad 3]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The so-called self-authenticating canon

Here is a very good article by Neal Judisch on the Protestant's problems with the Canon, especially focusing on the problems with the claim advanced by some that the canon is "self-authenticating" [cough]. I commend it to you.

St. Thomas on Justification - Remission of Sins

St. Thomas tells us that "remission of sins is justification." Now the Protestant might jump at this and say that such a declaration shows us that Aquinas really believed something like "sola fide". But he would be mistaken.

Justification taken passively implies a movement towards justice, as heating implies a movement towards heat. But since justice, by its nature, implies a certain rectitude of order, it may be taken in two ways: first, inasmuch as it implies a right order in man's act, and thus justice is placed amongst the virtues--either as particular justice, which directs a man's acts by regulating them in relation to his fellowman--or as legal justice, which directs a man's acts by regulating them in their relation to the common good of society, as appears from Ethic. v, 1. [ST I-II, Q113, A1; emphasis added]

"Movement towards justice" doesn't imply the instantaneous thing the Protestant believes, in which he reduces justification to a mere judicial decree. No. It implies the acquisition of the thing, "as heating implies a movement towards heat."

Secondly, justice is so-called inasmuch as it implies a certain rectitude of order in the interior disposition of a man, in so far as what is highest in man is subject to God, and the inferior powers of the soul are subject to the superior, i.e. to the reason; and this disposition the Philosopher calls "justice metaphorically speaking" (Ethic. v, 11). Now this justice may be in man in two ways: first, by simple generation, which is from privation to form; and thus justification may belong even to such as are not in sin, when they receive this justice from God, as Adam is said to have received original justice. Secondly, this justice may be brought about in man by a movement from one contrary to the other, and thus justification implies a transmutation from the state of injustice to the aforesaid state of justice. And it is thus we are now speaking of the justification of the ungodly, according to the Apostle (Romans 4:5): "But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly," etc. And because movement is named after its term "whereto" rather than from its term "whence," the transmutation whereby anyone is changed by the remission of sins from the state of ungodliness to the state of justice, borrows its name from its term "whereto," and is called "justification of the ungodly." [ST, op. cit.]

This is not to say that there is no "instantaneous" aspect to justification at all. God's forgiveness is not a thing given progressively. But St. Thomas tells us that the movement towards justice (which is what justification means) is a movement towards "a certain rectitude of order in the interior disposition of a man, in so far as what is highest in man is subject to God."

It's clear from this explanation that St. Thomas is concerned not merely with a judicial condition, but rather with the question of whether the sinner becomes just.

Every sin, inasmuch as it implies the disorder of a mind not subject to God, may be called injustice, as being contrary to the aforesaid justice. [ibid., ad 1]

A judicial declaration is not the same as a removal of this disorder; it does not make the unjust to be holy, to be just. Obviously this doesn't mean that the declaration is irrelevant: far from it! But it does mean that we can't get by on that alone. God doesn't simply declare our sins to be forgiven; by his grace he moves us towards justice - towards actually being holy.

None of this happens because of human action. The Catholic Church does not teach a works-based salvation. God forgives our sins by his grace; God moves us to become just by his grace, and we cannot become just apart from his grace. Those who say that the Catholic Church teaches otherwise are badly misinformed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - What must be explicitly believed?

Having examined the end points of implicit and explicit faith, St. Thomas addresses whether certain dogmas must be believed explicitly or not.

As stated above (5; 1, 8), the object of faith includes, properly and directly, that thing through which man obtains beatitude. Now the mystery of Christ's Incarnation and Passion is the way by which men obtain beatitude; for it is written (Acts 4:12): "There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved." Therefore belief of some kind in the mystery of Christ's Incarnation was necessary at all times and for all persons, but this belief differed according to differences of times and persons. [ST II-II, Q2, A7; emphasis added]

So we see that belief "of some kind" is always necessary - but this must be qualified by when and who. With regard to man before the Fall:

[B]efore the state of sin, man believed, explicitly in Christ's Incarnation, in so far as it was intended for the consummation of glory, but not as it was intended to deliver man from sin by the Passion and Resurrection, since man had no foreknowledge of his future sin. He does, however, seem to have had foreknowledge of the Incarnation of Christ, from the fact that he said (Genesis 2:24): "Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife," of which the Apostle says (Ephesians 5:32) that "this is a great sacrament . . . in Christ and the Church," and it is incredible that the first man was ignorant about this sacrament. [ST, op. cit.]

And with regard to man after the Fall, but before the Incarnation:

But after sin, man believed explicitly in Christ, not only as to the Incarnation, but also as to the Passion and Resurrection, whereby the human race is delivered from sin and death: for they would not, else, have foreshadowed Christ's Passion by certain sacrifices both before and after the Law, the meaning of which sacrifices was known by the learned explicitly, while the simple folk, under the veil of those sacrifices, believed them to be ordained by God in reference to Christ's coming, and thus their knowledge was covered with a veil, so to speak. [ibid.]

Now one thing that we ought to recognize here is that what St. Thomas seems to describe as an explicit belief in Christ here is not at all what we would think of in that way! For he acknowledges that this belief centered upon the sacrifices which foreshadowed the coming Messiah, and even that "their knowledge was covered with a veil." We see also the the distinction between what is required of the learned and what is required of the uneducated, something we looked at earlier.

These things, while important, are of more historical interest in comparison to the last division Aquinas has in mind – namely, the condition of those who have lived since Christ came.

After grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above (Question 1, Article 8). As to other minute points in reference to the articles of the Incarnation, men have been bound to believe them more or less explicitly according to each one's state and office. [ST II-II, Q2, A7 again; emphasis added]

Okay, so St. Thomas tells us that we are bound to explicitly believe in "the mysteries of Christ," and primarily those contained in the Creed. But that is not the last word, and it's probably a good thing, because apart from professional theologians I suspect that there aren't many folks who are competent to explicitly believe everything the Church teaches concerning the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity!

The third objection to II-II Q2 A7 asserts that there are non-Christians who "obtained salvation through the ministry of the angels, as Dionysius states (Coel. Hier. ix). Now it would seem that the gentiles had neither explicit nor implicit faith in Christ, since they received no revelation. Therefore it seems that it was not necessary for the salvation of all to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ." St. Thomas replies (ad 3) first by offering examples of Gentiles who did receive revelations of Christ from God (including Job, 19:25). Even this is not the end, however:

If, however, some were saved without receiving any revelation, they were not saved without faith in a Mediator, for, though they did not believe in Him explicitly, they did, nevertheless, have implicit faith through believing in Divine providence, since they believed that God would deliver mankind in whatever way was pleasing to Him, and according to the revelation of the Spirit to those who knew the truth, as stated in Job 35:11: "Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth." [ST, op. cit.]

Hence we see that Aquinas allows even for implicit faith – under the proper circumstances and conditions – in those things that we must "explicitly" believe. This is consistent, for example, with Romans 2:14-15: "For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. Who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another."

Once again, however, we dare not try to play games with God. We have brains, and he would have us use them. We ought not to ignore our duty to understand the truth as best we can, pretending that because it's difficult, or because we aren't able to understand it very well, we are free to leave such things to the experts. No. We must do our best. But God is merciful, and because we are saved by grace, and not by means of nor by virtue of anything that we believe, our weaknesses do not leave us condemned. Only we must not think that the weakness of the theologically flabby man who never lifts a two-pound doctrinal weight is the same as the weakness of those who through no fault of their own are not able to believe these things explicitly.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Explicit Faith

In our last episode we saw that we receive grace through faith - whether that faith be explicit or implicit. In this post we see that explicit faith is required to the extent that this is possible for us.

It is written (Job 1:14): "The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them," because, as Gregory expounds this passage (Moral. ii, 17), the simple, who are signified by the asses, ought, in matters of faith, to stay by the learned, who are denoted by the oxen. [ST II-II, Q2, A6]

This indicates that not merely that diminished capacity (as in the case of infants or the mentally handicapped) but even education is in view as something that affects one's obligation for explicit faith. But even thorough education doesn't imply an absolute duty for believing explicitly in literally every dogma of the Church, because the Faith is not a merely rational thing. It is supernatural, and exceeds the capacity of reason.

The unfolding of matters of faith is the result of Divine revelation: for matters of faith surpass natural reason. [ibid.]

People have varying measures of intellectual and educational capacity, but none of us is able to fully grasp every jot and tittle of the Faith. Still, those with greater gifts ought to be able to explicitly believe more than the rest of us, and consequently more is expected of them. And this, of course, is what the Bible teaches us.

And that servant, who knew the will of his lord and prepared not himself and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. [Luke 12:47-48; emphasis added]

In the words of Ben Parker: "With great power, comes great responsibility."

This doesn't mean that those of less capacity are so off the hook that they can believe just anything: implicit faith doesn't imply no obligation whatsoever. We must still do the best we can, and our intent and purpose to believe the truth is surely part of what it means to have implicit faith – for those of us who are able to form such intentions. The grace that saturates the Gospel taught by the Catholic Church is surely evident in this, that God does not demand more of us than we can actually do (and even then it is his grace that enables us to do it).

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Man for All Seasons

It is the Feast of St. Thomas More, and so we watched A Man for All Seasons tonight in memory of this great servant of Christ and man of England. It's an extraordinary film, and I highly recommend it.
The Duke of Norfolk: Oh confound all this. I'm not a scholar, I don't know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can't you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!

Sir Thomas More: And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

May we all come with St. Thomas More into God's presence, for fellowship.

St. Thomas - Grace and Faith

Earlier this month we saw that the New Law of the Gospel is the Grace of the Holy Spirit, as St. Thomas writes in ST I-II, Q106, A1; we noted that as such it is not a law that can be fulfilled by anything that we do, as though by such obedience we could earn salvation.

In the same article, Aquinas responds to this objection (it is worth pointing out that the question in view is whether the Law of the Gospel is a written law or not):
Further, the law of the Gospel is proper to those who are in the state of the New Testament. But the law that is instilled in the heart is common to those who are in the New Testament and to those who are in the Old Testament: for it is written (Wisdom 7:27) that Divine Wisdom "through nations conveyeth herself into holy souls, she maketh the friends of God and prophets." Therefore the New Law is not instilled in our hearts. [Objection 3]

St. Thomas replies:
No man ever had the grace of the Holy Ghost except through faith in Christ either explicit or implicit: and by faith in Christ man belongs to the New Testament. Consequently whoever had the law of grace instilled into them belonged to the New Testament. [ad 3; emphasis added]

Note that we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit through faith; but it's important to see that it is grace, and that it is not contingent upon the character of our faith. This is a significant and telling difference between the Catholic Gospel and the Protestant idea of "sola fide," by which it is understood that a man must have explicit faith in Christ [alone] for salvation.

But we are not saved by our faith; we are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. To suggest that our faith must be explicit leaves no room for hope for those who – through no fault of their own – are unable to have explicit faith, such as the infant or the mentally infirm. Furthermore, the typical Protestant insists that he must retain this explicit faith to the end of his life; but this leaves no room for those who through infirmity lose the capacity for faith.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - We cannot merit perseverance

As with everything else related to our salvation, we cannot merit perseverance. Rather, it is a gift of grace.
What we merit, we obtain from God, unless it is hindered by sin. Now many have meritorious works, who do not obtain perseverance; nor can it be urged that this takes place because of the impediment of sin, since sin itself is opposed to perseverance; and thus if anyone were to merit perseverance, God would not permit him to fall into sin. Hence perseverance does not come under merit. [ST I-II, Q114, A9]

That is the sed contra for article 9. Normally St. Thomas reserves it for an appeal to authority, which ordinarily comes from Scripture, the Fathers, or some recognized authority; in this case he simply says it's unreasonable to suggest that we could merit perseverance.

But that is not all.
Since man's free-will is naturally flexible towards good and evil, there are two ways of obtaining from God perseverance in good: first, inasmuch as free-will is determined to good by consummate grace, which will be in glory; secondly, on the part of the Divine motion, which inclines man to good unto the end. Now as explained above (6,7,8), that which is related as a term to the free-will's movement directed to God the mover, falls under human merit; and not what is related to the aforesaid movement as principle. Hence it is clear that the perseverance of glory which is the term of the aforesaid movement falls under merit; but perseverance of the wayfarer does not fall under merit, since it depends solely on the Divine motion, which is the principle of all merit. Now God freely bestows the good of perseverance, on whomsoever He bestows it. [ibid.; emphasis added]

In other words: perseverance is a gift of grace as well. This is why we pray that we might persevere to the end – because we hope to receive that which we do not deserve [see ibid., ad 1].

It turns out that if you think Humpty Dumpty looks silly...

...you are actually Humpty Dumpty, not Humpty Dumpty. Oh, and you're antisocially bullheaded, too.


Whatever. Anything is possible once a man has jumped the shark.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Merit and Increase of Grace

This is related to our present subject because it touches upon the question of merit; some misinformed Protestants have completely mixed-up ideas about what the Catholic Church teaches on this topic, and it's worth taking the time to clear the fog.

Having received grace from God, can we merit the gift of more grace?
Augustine says (super Ep. Joan.; cf. Ep. clxxxvi) that "charity merits increase, and being increased merits to be perfected." Hence the increase of grace or charity falls under merit. [ST I-II, Q114, A8]

As always, though, Aquinas is careful as to what exactly he means.
As stated above (6,7), whatever the motion of grace reaches to, falls under condign merit. Now the motion of a mover extends not merely to the last term of the movement, but to the whole progress of the movement. But the term of the movement of grace is eternal life; and progress in this movement is by the increase of charity or grace according to Proverbs 4:18: "But the path of the just as a shining light, goeth forward and increaseth even to perfect day," which is the day of glory. And thus the increase of grace falls under condign merit.

Now as we saw, condign merit comes from grace; indeed, all merit flows from God's grace, which is why (as we've seen) Augustine says that God rewards that which he has given. Consequently we see that the Catholic gospel isn't works-based, contrary to the errors spread by some; rather, the Gospel is based upon grace.

Freshening the place up a bit

Having been inspired by Dave's example, I realized that I haven't changed the base template for The Supplement in a couple years. Unlike him, though, this is purely a hobby for me, and I'm not interested in paying for someone to whip up something nice. So a Blogger template change will have to suffice. Let's see how long I can stand it. :-)

Through the Looking Glass

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

Quotations from Dante - Still More on Humility

Yes, many things there are, which seem to be

Perplexing, though quite falsely so, because

They have good reasons which we cannot see.

[Purgatorio, XXII, 28-30]
A child is often innocently mistaken about things which are beyond his powers just because he lacks the knowledge, experience, or wisdom to understand them properly. It's easy for us to pat them patronizingly on the head with a "someday you'll understand," but we ignore the unpleasant truth that we often do the same thing. We aren't really any different from the boy who stomps his feet and insists that things are the just the way that he sees them; in fact, sometimes we stomp our own feet, and nothing in the world is going to change our minds. This sort of thing isn't simple ignorance; it's really prejudice and obstinacy.

St. Thomas on Justification - Grace after a fall

In this series we have seen that St. Thomas consistently teaches us that a man can in no way merit the grace by which he is united to Christ. Well, what about the one who falls into mortal sin as a Christian? May he merit the grace of restoration by something that he might do? No.
It is written (Ezekiel 18:24): "If the just man turn himself away from his justice and do iniquity . . . all his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered." Therefore his previous merits will nowise help him to rise again. Hence no one can merit for himself restoration after a fall. [ST I-II, Q114, A7]
When we break fellowship with God, we break fellowship with God.
No one can merit for himself restoration after a future fall, either condignly or congruously. He cannot merit for himself condignly, since the reason of this merit depends on the motion of Divine grace, and this motion is interrupted by the subsequent sin; hence all benefits which he afterwards obtains from God, whereby he is restored, do not fall under merit--the motion of the preceding grace not extending to them. Again, congruous merit, whereby one merits the first grace for another, is prevented from having its effect on account of the impediment of sin in the one for whom it is merited. Much more, therefore, is the efficacy of such merit impeded by the obstacle which is in him who merits, and in him for whom it is merited; for both these are in the same person. And therefore a man can nowise merit for himself restoration after a fall.
We do not and cannot "deserve" to be reconciled to God.

Friday, June 19, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - "all merit is repugnant to grace"

St. Thomas denies that a man can merit the first grace (that by which he is justified).
The nature of grace is repugnant to reward of works, according to Romans 4:4: "Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace but according to debt." Now a man merits what is reckoned to him according to debt, as the reward of his works. Hence a man may not merit the first grace.

I answer that, The gift of grace may be considered in two ways: first in the nature of a gratuitous gift, and thus it is manifest that all merit is repugnant to grace, since as the Apostle says (Romans 11:6), "if by grace, it is not now by works." Secondly, it may be considered as regards the nature of the thing given, and thus, also, it cannot come under the merit of him who has not grace, both because it exceeds the proportion of nature, and because previous to grace a man in the state of sin has an obstacle to his meriting grace, viz. sin. But when anyone has grace, the grace already possessed cannot come under merit, since reward is the term of the work, but grace is the principle of all our good works, as stated above (109 [discussed here, here, here, and here --RdP]). But if anyone merits a further gratuitous gift by virtue of the preceding grace, it would not be the first grace. Hence it is manifest that no one can merit for himself the first grace. [ST I-II, Q114, A5; bold in original, italics added]
Here we see St. Thomas emphasize first that merit is directly contrary to the very meaning of grace, and consequently grace ceases to be grace if it is merited. He reminds us that sin is a further obstacle to any pretense of meriting grace - one that by itself would utterly prevent such merit even if the two weren't contraries. And he tells us again that grace is the principle of any merit we may have subsequent to being justified.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Charity

This post isn't so much or merely a consideration of Aquinas' views on justification as it is a look at the consequences of certain things he says for the Protestant notion of "sola fide" (and since that is related to justification, I feel justified myself in tagging this post thusly).

With respect to the virtues' role in the merit of Christians, St. Thomas says "the merit of eternal life rests chiefly with charity."
Our Lord said (John 14:21): "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father; and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him." Now everlasting life consists in the manifest knowledge of God, according to John 17:3: "This is eternal life: that they may know Thee, the only true" and living "God." Hence the merit of eternal life rests chiefly with charity.

I answer that, As we may gather from what has been stated above (Article 1 [which we looked at here --RdP]), human acts have the nature of merit from two causes: first and chiefly from the Divine ordination, inasmuch as acts are said to merit that good to which man is divinely ordained. Secondly, on the part of free-will, inasmuch as man, more than other creatures, has the power of voluntary acts by acting by himself. And in both these ways does merit chiefly rest with charity. For we must bear in mind that everlasting life consists in the enjoyment of God. Now the human mind's movement to the fruition of the Divine good is the proper act of charity, whereby all the acts of the other virtues are ordained to this end, since all the other virtues are commanded by charity. Hence the merit of life everlasting pertains first to charity, and secondly, to the other virtues, inasmuch as their acts are commanded by charity. So, likewise, is it manifest that what we do out of love we do most willingly. Hence, even inasmuch as merit depends on voluntariness, merit is chiefly attributed to charity. [ST I-II Q114 A4]
Now of course - as we have seen repeatedly - it must be borne in mind that merit comes solely from the grace of God, and that we do not (and cannot) merit eternal life by anything that we do ourselves. So it seems then in this connection that the instrumental means by which grace works this merit in us is by way of the virtue of charity, which itself (as St. Thomas says elsewhere) is a gift of God. So we see here too that our salvation is wholly from God, and not due to ourselves, notwithstanding the mistakes of others.

But there is more that seems worth saying here. It seems that the Protestant elevation of faith to the sole principle of justification is directly contrary not merely to what Aquinas says in the present article, but to Scripture. One of the objections to which he replies in I-II Q114 A4 is this:
Further, the greatest principle of merit would seem to be the one whose acts are most meritorious. But the acts of faith and patience or fortitude would seem to be the most meritorious, as appears in the martyrs, who strove for the faith patiently and bravely even till death. Hence other virtues are a greater principle of merit than charity. [Objection 3]
To which he replies:
The act of faith is not meritorious unless "faith . . . worketh by charity" (Galatians 5:6). So, too, the acts of patience and fortitude are not meritorious unless a man does them out of charity, according to 1 Corinthians 13:3: "If I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." [ad 3]
More, the apostle writes:
And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
How then is charity greater than faith if charity has no role whatsoever (as "sola fide" requires) in salvation? It isn't. Hence it seems that the principle is badly mistaken, out of a misguided though honest interest in avoiding the suggestion that we can work our way to heaven. We can't, and the Catholic Church has never said otherwise. But neither can we see God if we do not have love, sola fide notwithstanding.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Can we merit eternal life?

The answer to the question posed in this post's subject depends upon how we speak of things, as is not uncommon with St. Thomas, careful as he is to make distinctions.

The first distinction relates to things we might merit by work as an effect of our free will.
Man's meritorious work may be considered in two ways: first, as it proceeds from free-will; secondly, as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost. If it is considered as regards the substance of the work, and inasmuch as it springs from the free-will, there can be no condignity because of the very great inequality. But there is congruity, on account of an equality of proportion: for it would seem congruous that, if a man does what he can, God should reward him according to the excellence of his power. [ST I-II, Q114, A3; emphasis added]
This hearkens back to what we have seen previously - namely, that the infinite gulf between God's greatness and our creatureliness means that there is no possible way that we could ever merit something from God in the sense of imposing a debt upon him by virtue of something that we do. Consequently and contrary to the false opinions of some, we do not say that we can earn our salvation - for we cannot.

The second distinction relates to merit as proceeding from God.
If, however, we speak of a meritorious work, inasmuch as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting, it is meritorious of life everlasting condignly. For thus the value of its merit depends upon the power of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting according to John 4:14: "Shall become in him a fount of water springing up into life everlasting." And the worth of the work depends on the dignity of grace, whereby a man, being made a partaker of the Divine Nature, is adopted as a son of God, to whom the inheritance is due by right of adoption, according to Romans 8:17: "If sons, heirs also." [ST, op. cit.; emphasis added]
So we see that if a man merits eternal life, it is not from himself at all, but rather that merit is from the grace of the Holy Spirit poured out upon him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - We cannot merit eternal life on our own

Citing Romans 6:23, St. Thomas says that grace is eternal life and consequently is not a thing we can merit on our own.
Man without grace may be looked at in two states, as was said above (Question 109, Article 2): the first, a state of perfect nature, in which Adam was before his sin; the second, a state of corrupt nature, in which we are before being restored by grace. Therefore, if we speak of man in the first state, there is only one reason why man cannot merit eternal life without grace, by his purely natural endowments, viz. because man's merit depends on the Divine pre-ordination. Now no act of anything whatsoever is divinely ordained to anything exceeding the proportion of the powers which are the principles of its act; for it is a law of Divine providence that nothing shall act beyond its powers. Now everlasting life is a good exceeding the proportion of created nature; since it exceeds its knowledge and desire, according to 1 Corinthians 2:9: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man." And hence it is that no created nature is a sufficient principle of an act meritorious of eternal life, unless there is added a supernatural gift, which we call grace. But if we speak of man as existing in sin, a second reason is added to this, viz. the impediment of sin. For since sin is an offense against God, excluding us from eternal life, as is clear from what has been said above (71, 6; 113, 2), no one existing in a state of mortal sin can merit eternal life unless first he be reconciled to God, through his sin being forgiven, which is brought about by grace. For the sinner deserves not life, but death, according to Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin is death." [ST I-II, Q114, A2; emphasis added]
Hence without grace we cannot be saved; hence our own works cannot save us.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quotations from Dante - Sound Words from the First Cornice of Purgatory

The First Cornice is for those who bore the stain of pride. One of the souls there - who seems to be well on his way to overcoming that stain, if the following is any measure - says to Dante:
A breath of wind - no more - is earthly fame,
And now this way it blows and that way now,
And as it changes quarter, changes name.

Ten centuries hence what greater fame hast thou,
Stripping the flesh off late, than if thou'dst died
Ere thou wast done with gee-gee and bow-wow?

Ten centuries hence - and that's a briefer tide,
Matched with eternity, than one eye-wink
To that wheeled course Heaven's tardiest sphere must ride.

[Canto XI, 100-108; italics in original; bold added]
How true it is! We get so bound up in trying to look good, as if a moment's glory (even if it's a lifetime) is worth anything compared to eternity.

Quotations from Dante - Pray for those in Purgatory

If a good word's said always there for us,
What should not here be done for them by prayers
From those whose will takes root where all good does?

Truly we ought to help them cleanse the smears
They carried hence, that, weightless and washed white,
They may fare forth and seek the starry spheres.

[Canto XI, 31-36]

St. Thomas on Justification - In what sense a man may merit something from God

The present post could be considered an example of "both...and" that is characteristically Catholic, in contrast to the typical "either...or" of the Protestant. For example, the Protestant Arminian might appeal to Joshua 24:15 ("Choose today whom you wish to serve") and ignore (or explain away) Eph. 1:11 ("In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will"), and vice versa for the Calvinist. In the present case, the Protestant will say that an obedience that is necessary for salvation is inconsistent with salvation by grace alone, while the Catholic affirms both precisely because the Bible teaches them both; and we attempt to understand how this may be.

In response to the question "Whether a man may merit anything from God?" St. Thomas writes:
It is written (Jeremiah 31:16): "There is a reward for thy work." Now a reward means something bestowed by reason of merit. Hence it would seem that a man may merit from God. [ST I-II, Q114, A1]
Now what is this, especially given that it was earlier today that we saw Aquinas write that man could not merit any supernatural gifts at all? Well, the first thing that must be said of course is that perhaps St. Thomas has made a mistake; he is only human after all. Notwithstanding that possibility, though, it must be said that he is astonishingly consistent in his work, so that we are better off to not presuming that he has contradicted himself. Similarly, given his own (and that of his fellow scholastics) intensely conservative outlook on the truth - so that they prefer not to pursue novelties, but to adhere to the Faith delivered - we must surely presume that some explanation is forthcoming. And there is.
I answer that, Merit and reward refer to the same, for a reward means something given anyone in return for work or toil, as a price for it. Hence, as it is an act of justice to give a just price for anything received from another, so also is it an act of justice to make a return for work or toil. Now justice is a kind of equality, as is clear from the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 3), and hence justice is simply between those that are simply equal; but where there is no absolute equality between them, neither is there absolute justice, but there may be a certain manner of justice, as when we speak of a father's or a master's right (Ethic. v, 6), as the Philosopher says. And hence where there is justice simply, there is the character of merit and reward simply. But where there is no simple right, but only relative, there is no character of merit simply, but only relatively, in so far as the character of justice is found there, since the child merits something from his father and the slave from his lord.

Now it is clear that between God and man there is the greatest inequality: for they are infinitely apart, and all man's good is from God. Hence there can be no justice of absolute equality between man and God, but only of a certain proportion, inasmuch as both operate after their own manner. Now the manner and measure of human virtue is in man from God. Hence man's merit with God only exists on the presupposition of the Divine ordination, so that man obtains from God, as a reward of his operation, what God gave him the power of operation for, even as natural things by their proper movements and operations obtain that to which they were ordained by God; differently, indeed, since the rational creature moves itself to act by its free-will, hence its action has the character of merit, which is not so in other creatures. [ST, op. cit.; emphasis added]
In other words, he means nothing different here than what we've previously seen, and what St. Augustine said:
no one merits the grace which brings them to attain to justice; our prayer is a gift; no one merits justification; no one merits Faith, which is a gift, without which no one does good; love is given by God; our merits are gifts effected through grace; when God rewards, He crowns His gifts, even the merits He has given; eternal life is a grace. [emphasis added]
This post really adds nothing new to what we have seen, but I include it by way of addressing a part of the Summa that might possibly be quoted out of context by Aquinas' (and Catholics') detractors. The point remains the same: we cannot save ourselves; we cannot earn salvation.

St. Thomas on Justification - Grace and Merit

Merit implies a certain sort of debt: that is, it may be said that something is owed to the man who merits that thing. Is there some way in which it could be said that man merits justification or salvation from God? Aquinas says that there is not:
Grace, inasmuch as it is gratuitously given, excludes the notion of debt. Now debt may be taken in two ways: first, as arising from merit; and this regards the person whose it is to do meritorious works, according to Romans 4:4: "Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt." The second debt regards the condition of nature. Thus we say it is due to a man to have reason, and whatever else belongs to human nature. Yet in neither way is debt taken to mean that God is under an obligation to His creature, but rather that the creature ought to be subject to God, that the Divine ordination may be fulfilled in it, which is that a certain nature should have certain conditions or properties, and that by doing certain works it should attain to something further. And hence natural endowments are not a debt in the first sense but in the second. But supernatural gifts are due in neither sense. Hence they especially merit the name of grace. [ST I-II, Q111, A1, ad 2; emphasis added]
God does not owe us salvation, and there is no way that he can become indebted to us so as to owe it to us. Consequently, as St. Thomas says here, "supernatural gifts ... especially merit the name of grace."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Quotations from Dante - Grace in judgment

Some folks have the false idea that the Church has become "liberal" in that She has a broader view than they as to who we must consider to be our brothers in Christ. But the Church merely respects the teaching of the parable of the wheat and tares in this.
And the servants of the good man of the house coming said to him. Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then hath it cockle? And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servants said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up? And he said: No, lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn. [Mt. 13:27-30]
And this is no novel practice of the Church notwithstanding the complaints of Her critics. We may see this from Canto IX of the Purgatorio, where Dante has the Angel at the Gate say:
From Peter I hold these, who bade me err
In opening rather than in keeping fast,
So men but kneeled to me without demur. [127-129; page 137 in the Sayers translation]
"Err in opening rather than in keeping fast:" that is, don't be too quick to judge. Now one may quibble as to how well such a principle might have been observed in Dante's time, but it surely is the case that he wasn't making it up: he was a faithful Catholic. And it is this principle that explains why we may rightly refer to Protestants as our brothers in Christ, just as the Church teaches today. For that matter we must apply it amongst ourselves, since we dare not presume that every Catholic born will Catholic die!

St. Thomas on Justification - We always need grace

Some folks have the mistaken idea that the Catholic Church teaches a notion of grace that is essentially no more than a "kick start" - that after God has given us a push in the right direction, it's up to us to save ourselves. There may be more folks holding to this erroneous view than that the Church teaches a full-blown salvation by works, but they are no less mistaken than the latter bunch. Answering the question, "Whether one who has already obtained grace, can, of himself and without further help of grace, do good and avoid sin?" St. Thomas denies that we can.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Natura et Gratia xxvi) that "as the eye of the body though most healthy cannot see unless it is helped by the brightness of light, so, neither can a man, even if he is most righteous, live righteously unless he be helped by the eternal light of justice." But justification is by grace, according to Romans 3:24: "Being justified freely by His grace." Hence even a man who already possesses grace needs a further assistance of grace in order to live righteously. [ST I-II, Q109, A9; emphasis added]
From this it appears that it is not possible for a man to save himself or earn anything from God on his own. Aquinas continues:
As stated above (Article 5 [and as we saw here - RdP]), in order to live righteously a man needs a twofold help of God--first, a habitual gift whereby corrupted human nature is healed, and after being healed is lifted up so as to work deeds meritoriously of everlasting life, which exceed the capability of nature. Secondly, man needs the help of grace in order to be moved by God to act.

Now with regard to the first kind of help, man does not need a further help of grace, e.g. a further infused habit. Yet he needs the help of grace in another way, i.e. in order to be moved by God to act righteously, and this for two reasons: first, for the general reason that no created thing can put forth any act, unless by virtue of the Divine motion. Secondly, for this special reason--the condition of the state of human nature. For although healed by grace as to the mind, yet it remains corrupted and poisoned in the flesh, whereby it serves "the law of sin," Romans 7:25. In the intellect, too, there seems the darkness of ignorance, whereby, as is written (Romans 8:26): "We know not what we should pray for as we ought"; since on account of the various turns of circumstances, and because we do not know ourselves perfectly, we cannot fully know what is for our good, according to Wisdom 9:14: "For the thoughts of mortal men are fearful and our counsels uncertain." Hence we must be guided and guarded by God, Who knows and can do all things. For which reason also it is becoming in those who have been born again as sons of God, to say: "Lead us not into temptation," and "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven," and whatever else is contained in the Lord's Prayer pertaining to this.
We have no hope of heaven apart from grace. This does not mean that we do nothing, though. We must still strive after holiness. But these works of holiness are entirely dependent upon the grace of God, and apart from them we could not do them; and their entire merit is from the grace of God, so that there is no way in which we may say of ourselves that we have merited anything in and of ourselves.

Now there are Protestants who object to saying that we must obey God in order to be saved, even when such obedience is wholly given and founded upon grace as we have seen. This objection is nonsensical when the Protestants in question nevertheless say that we must obey God, and that those who do not obey God cannot be saved. To say the one negatively is but the contrapositive of the other, and both are true.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest: which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. [Gal. 5:19-21]
This obviously means that what we Christians do matters, because Paul addresses these remarks to Christians, and warns them against such deeds (verses 16 & 21). How would it make sense to warn the Galatians about this if it could not possibly affect them? It wouldn't.
And if a brother or sister be naked and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself. [James 2:15-17]
And what sense would it make for the writer of Hebrews to warn Christians that they could lose their salvation if they can't lose their salvation?
For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, Have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God and making him a mockery. [Heb. 6:4-6]
Some (who hold that "the elect" cannot lose their salvation) will deny that the Elect are in view here, but really: do they really expect us to believe that on their own view of things non-elect men have been illuminated? That the non-elect have "tasted the heavenly gift," or that they have been "partakers of the Holy Ghost"? These are precisely the things that they say the Elect enjoy! But the author of Hebrews says it is precisely people who have enjoyed these things who nevertheless may fall away, if they are not careful of what they do. But if they must be careful of what they do, then what they do actually has a bearing on their eternal future. And this is of course what Christ says in the parable of the sheep and the goats: what we do matters.

But as St. Thomas says here, and as he says elsewhere too, we cannot obey God so as to attain salvation apart from his grace. The reward we receive is nothing but God rewarding his own gifts. We cannot justify ourselves; we need God's grace. We cannot obey God ourselves; we need God's grace. It is always grace. But grace is simply not so alien to our deeds so as suggest the irrational nonsense that where deeds are present, grace cannot be (as some foolishly suggest).

St. Thomas on Justification - We cannot merit everlasting life apart from grace

We cannot merit eternal life without grace; therefore our works cannot save us without grace.
The Apostle says (Romans 6:23): "The grace of God is life everlasting." And as a gloss says, this is said "that we may understand that God, of His own mercy, leads us to everlasting life." [ST I-II, Q109, A5]
If the grace of God is eternal life, then eternal life cannot be merited; it must be received. One reason for this (as we have seen) is that our final End (the Beatific Vision) is beyond our finite, mortal powers:
Acts conducing to an end must be proportioned to the end. But no act exceeds the proportion of its active principle; and hence we see in natural things, that nothing can by its operation bring about an effect which exceeds its active force, but only such as is proportionate to its power. Now everlasting life is an end exceeding the proportion of human nature, as is clear from what we have said above (Question 5, Article 5[which we have already examined - RdP]).
It is not possible for us to merit that which is beyond our powers:
Hence man, by his natural endowments, cannot produce meritorious works proportionate to everlasting life; and for this a higher force is needed, viz. the force of grace. And thus without grace man cannot merit everlasting life; yet he can perform works conducing to a good which is natural to man, as "to toil in the fields, to drink, to eat, or to have friends," and the like...
But we can never merit salvation by our works themselves. That which makes them meritorious is not that they are ours, but that God has given us grace: as St. Augustine has said:
no one merits the grace which brings them to attain to justice; our prayer is a gift; no one merits justification; no one merits Faith, which is a gift, without which no one does good; love is given by God; our merits are gifts effected through grace; when God rewards, He crowns His gifts, even the merits He has given; eternal life is a grace... [Letter 194; emphasis added]
The Catholic view of our salvation is that we are saved by grace alone, notwithstanding the erroneous misinformation that is spread by the enemies of the Church.

St. Thomas on Justification - No justification through the ceremonial law

This is something of a minor point, but I think it serves a contributory function in the general case we are making concerning the Gospel taught by the Catholic Church.

We have already seen, with regards to ST I-II, Q103, A2, that Aquinas taught us the fact that sins are only expiated through Christ. The reason of this necessity, he tells us in the same place, is that there is no law given by which our sins may be justified before God.
"If there had been a law given which could justify, Christ died in vain," i.e. without cause. But this is inadmissible. Therefore the ceremonies of the Old Law did not confer justice. [emphasis added]
There is no means by which something we do ourselves can justify us before God; he has given us no such law. Part of the reason for this is that it is beyond our ability to attain to our last end by anything we do ourselves, as we have also seen. We cannot keep the moral law by our own strength, as we have seen, and we cannot be justified by anything we do either; so we see that our salvation is entirely from God.

St. Thomas on Justification - We need grace in order to become good

Catholics believe what the Psalm says:
Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? or who shall rest in thy holy hill?

He that walketh without blemish, and worketh justice:

He that speaketh truth in his heart, who hath not used deceit in his tongue: Nor hath done evil to his neighbour: nor taken up a reproach against his neighbours.

In his sight the malignant is brought to nothing: but he glorifieth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his neighbour, and deceiveth not;

He that hath not put out his money to usury, nor taken bribes against the innocent: He that doth these things, shall not be moved for ever. [Ps. 14/15]
We believe it moreso, perhaps, than Protestants seem to do, because we believe that we must be truly righteous - and not simply declared righteous - in order to see God's face. The difference is similar to that between a man who has never murdered, and a murderer who gets off in a trial despite his actual guilt: the latter man has been declared innocent although he really isn't. As the Psalm indicates, such a declaration would be totally inadequate for the hope of actually seeing God: the murderer is not righteous, no matter how often a court lets him off. The analogy is not quite perfect maybe, but the point is that we must be holy to see God, not merely declared, by way of what amounts to a legal fiction, to be "holy".

In ST I-II Q99 A2 ad 3, St. Thomas tells us that we need grace in order to keep the precepts of the moral law.
As Augustine proves (De Spiritu et Litera xiv), even the letter of the law is said to be the occasion of death, as to the moral precepts; in so far as, to wit, it prescribes what is good, without furnishing the aid of grace for its fulfilment.
If grace is necessary for the fulfillment of the moral precepts, then we cannot do so in our own strength. But if we cannot fulfill them in our own strength, then we cannot be holy in our own strength, and consequently we cannot see God's Face apart from his grace. And of course none of this addresses the related issue of the justification our sins require - a justification that we can in no way accomplish, achieve, or merit based upon anything we do (as we have seen repeatedly in this series).

So once again we see that the Catholic Church does not teach a works-based Gospel, notwithstanding the erroneous and misinformed complaints of Her critics.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Reason cannot save us

In a previous post we saw that it is beyond our human powers to attain to our final end. This post is related to it, in the way of an additional consideration.

Natural reason is not able to save us. Explaining why the Mosaic Law was given to Israel, St. Thomas writes:
It was most fitting for the Law to be given at the time of Moses. The reason for this may be taken from two things in respect of which every law is imposed on two kinds of men. Because it is imposed on some men who are hard-hearted and proud, whom the law restrains and tames: and it is imposed on good men, who, through being instructed by the law, are helped to fulfil what they desire to do. Hence it was fitting that the Law should be given at such a time as would be appropriate for the overcoming of man's pride. For man was proud of two things, viz. of knowledge and of power. He was proud of his knowledge, as though his natural reason could suffice him for salvation: and accordingly, in order that his pride might be overcome in this matter, man was left to the guidance of his reason without the help of a written law: and man was able to learn from experience that his reason was deficient, since about the time of Abraham man had fallen headlong into idolatry and the most shameful vices. Wherefore, after those times, it was necessary for a written law to be given as a remedy for human ignorance: because "by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). But, after man had been instructed by the Law, his pride was convinced of his weakness, through his being unable to fulfil what he knew. Hence, as the Apostle concludes (Romans 8:3-4), "what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sent [Vulgate: 'sending'] His own Son . . . that the justification of the Law might be fulfilled in us." [ST I-II, Q98, A6; ellipsis in original; emphasis added]
The Catholic Faith is not Gnostic, as though we are saved by knowledge, and we cannot reason our way to salvation.

In point of fact, we do not believe that our salvation is contingent upon "getting it right" in terms of things we explicitly believe or think. Objectively and formally the Catholic must believe that which the Church teaches; subjectively and materially there may be various obstructions impeding one's belief in those things. The mentally handicapped may not be able to believe in any of the dogmas of the Church, but this does not mean that he is unable to be saved. Some dogmas may be entirely beyond another man's ability to understand, but this does not mean he is doomed to hell. As we have seen in this series, we are saved by Christ and not by anything that we do or think, and so ignorance of the truth likewise does not condemn a man.

It seems that many Protestants do not think through this problem, probably because it's not at all typical among them to think about the importance of the difference between formal and material apprehension of the truth. They say that we are saved "sola fide," but on their telling of the tale one must wonder then how (for example) the mentally handicapped can be saved who are unable to exercise such a faith. Perhaps some will make allowances for that inability (which is good), but one then wonders how they can consistently say that other sorts of real impediments to "sola fide" are irrelevant, and that those prevented by those obstructions from exercising it are nevertheless doomed to hell. There is also, in some respects, a Gnostic element to Protestantism: it's not just that one is saved by faith alone, but that he must also believe that he is saved by faith alone. But does not this fly in the face of the related belief held by Protestants that man is saved by Christ alone? Is it not contradictory to say that salvation "by Christ alone" includes the requirement that you must explicitly believe you are saved by "sola fide"? It seems to me that it does.

But the Catholic Gospel is not like this. We are not saved by what we know, and those who are genuinely unable to believe dogmas of the Church are not by that defect condemned. We are saved by grace alone; we are saved by Christ alone. Our reason cannot save us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Salvation by works is impossible

We cannot win our way to heaven on the basis of our own works, because it is beyond the power of human nature to do so.
Man is naturally the principle of his action, by his intellect and will. But final Happiness prepared for the saints, surpasses the intellect and will of man; for the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 2:9) "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him." Therefore man cannot attain Happiness by his natural powers. [ST I-II, Q5, A5; note that here St. Thomas uses Aristotelian language with respect to man's final end; that Happiness which we seek is heaven, the Beatific Vision of God]
It's worth pointing out, too, that Aquinas is not even considering the problem of sin, as we shall see:
[M]an's perfect Happiness, as stated above (Question 3, Article 8), consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now the vision of God's Essence surpasses the nature not only of man, but also of every creature, as was shown in the I, 12, 4. For the natural knowledge of every creature is in keeping with the mode of his substance: thus it is said of the intelligence (De Causis; Prop. viii) that "it knows things that are above it, and things that are below it, according to the mode of its substance." But every knowledge that is according to the mode of created substance, falls short of the vision of the Divine Essence, which infinitely surpasses all created substance. Consequently neither man, nor any creature, can attain final Happiness by his natural powers. [I-II, Q5, A5]
Even if we were to disregard the fact that our sins prevent us from seeing God, by our very nature we are not capable of attaining to the Beatific Vision.
It is written: "The grace of God is life everlasting" (Romans 6:23). But life everlasting consists in the vision of the Divine essence, according to the words: "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God," etc. (John 17:3). Therefore to see the essence of God is possible to the created intellect by grace, and not by nature. [I, Q12, A4]
If life everlasting is knowledge of God in the Beatific Vision, and if the grace of God is life everlasting - as the two passages St. Thomas quotes here say - then we can only see God by grace.

Consequently the problem for those who say that Catholics believe a "works-based" salvation is twofold. As we have seen in this series, we cannot be justified by anything that we do; Christ alone forgives our sins. And even when our sins are forgiven, it is impossible for us to attain to eternal life on the basis of our own efforts, because an eternal goal is beyond the measure of our finite powers. It is only by God's grace that we can fulfill our final End; it is only by his grace that we can spend Eternity with him. Those who say otherwise about us are badly misinformed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - Justification is caused by the Holy Spirit

Far from being caused by anything that a man does himself, in today's episode Aquinas tells us that our justification is the work of the Holy Spirit:
The justification of the ungodly is caused by the justifying grace of the Holy Spirit. [ST I-II, Q113, A7]
Once again we see that a man cannot justify himself; it is a gift he must receive from God, or he will never be justified at all.
The entire justification of the ungodly consists as to its origin in the infusion of grace. For it is by grace that free-will is moved and sin is remitted. [ibid.]
And again:
[T]he remission of sins is caused by the Holy Ghost, as by the gift of God. [ST III, Q3, A8, ad 3; emphasis added]
If the remission of sins is caused by the Holy Spirit, and if it is a gift, then it is not something that is earned or merited; otherwise it would not be a gift. Hence we see once again that those who claim that the Gospel proclaimed by the Catholic Church is "works-based" are badly misinformed.

Oh brother

TF jumps the shark, saying that the Holy Father is
the most prominent living enemy of the Christian faith...
I can't think of a more fitting rejoinder than Spock's:
Really, Turretinfan. You must learn to govern your passions; they will be your undoing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

St. Thomas on Justification - How Grace is Divided

St. Thomas was a scholastic - yea, their prince - and a crucial aspect of the schoolman's art was that of making distinctions. They sought to understand things thoroughly, and doing that demands care in the use of language; and that care in the use of language demands the making of distinctions. So where we might perhaps speak offhandedly or generally about God's grace, St. Thomas and his peers went to great lengths to carefully express what they meant by the term.

In ST I-II, Q111 Aquinas discusses the division of grace, and in article 2 the distinction of operating and cooperating grace. But before he distinguishes them, he calls to our minds a prior distinction:
As stated above (Question 110, Article 2) grace may be taken in two ways; first, as a Divine help, whereby God moves us to will and to act; secondly, as a habitual gift divinely bestowed on us.
The present discussion will benefit if we briefly review what the Angelic Doctor said in Q109 A1 rather than Q110 A2 (linked above so that you can follow along as you choose), because in the latter article he actually refers to the argument he makes in Q109 A1.
Now in corporeal things we see that for movement there is required not merely the form which is the principle of the movement or action, but there is also required the motion of the first mover. Now the first mover in the order of corporeal things is the heavenly body. Hence no matter how perfectly fire has heat, it would not bring about alteration, except by the motion of the heavenly body. But it is clear that as all corporeal movements are reduced to the motion of the heavenly body as to the first corporeal mover, so all movements, both corporeal and spiritual, are reduced to the simple First Mover, Who is God. And hence no matter how perfect a corporeal or spiritual nature is supposed to be, it cannot proceed to its act unless it be moved by God; but this motion is according to the plan of His providence, and not by necessity of nature, as the motion of the heavenly body. Now not only is every motion from God as from the First Mover, but all formal perfection is from Him as from the First Act. And thus the act of the intellect or of any created being whatsoever depends upon God in two ways: first, inasmuch as it is from Him that it has the form whereby it acts; secondly, inasmuch as it is moved by Him to act.
This seems to be the first of the two ways in which St. Thomas says (in Q110 A2) we may understand grace - namely, "as a Divine help, whereby God moves us to will and to act."
[M]an is aided by God's gratuitous will in two ways: first, inasmuch as man's soul is moved by God to know or will or do something, and in this way the gratuitous effect in man is not a quality, but a movement of the soul; for "motion is the act of the mover in the moved." [Q110 A2]
The second way in which grace may be understood is as a "habitual gift," whereby God graciously assists us in the fulfillment of our end (the Beatific Vision) - something to which we could not attain by our natural powers.
Secondly, man is helped by God's gratuitous will, inasmuch as a habitual gift is infused by God into the soul; and for this reason, that it is not fitting that God should provide less for those He loves, that they may acquire supernatural good, than for creatures, whom He loves that they may acquire natural good. Now He so provides for natural creatures, that not merely does He move them to their natural acts, but He bestows upon them certain forms and powers, which are the principles of acts, in order that they may of themselves be inclined to these movements, and thus the movements whereby they are moved by God become natural and easy to creatures, according to Wisdom 8:1: "she . . . ordereth all things sweetly." Much more therefore does He infuse into such as He moves towards the acquisition of supernatural good, certain forms or supernatural qualities, whereby they may be moved by Him sweetly and promptly to acquire eternal good. [ibid.]
Now all this has been the background for I-II, Q111 A2, where (as noted above) St. Thomas says that grace may be understood in either of the two ways we have just reviewed (i.e., as a divine help, or as a habitual gift); and so (hopefully!) we now have said enough to be able to continue to what he says about the distinction of operating and cooperating grace.
Now in both these ways [viz., as a divine help, or as a habitual gift - RdP] grace is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating. For the operation of an effect is not attributed to the thing moved but to the mover. Hence in that effect in which our mind is moved and does not move, but in which God is the sole mover, the operation is attributed to God, and it is with reference to this that we speak of "operating grace." But in that effect in which our mind both moves and is moved, the operation is not only attributed to God, but also to the soul; and it is with reference to this that we speak of "cooperating grace."
Aquinas says it is "operating grace" when God moves us to some action apart from ourselves: that is what he means when he says, "Hence in that effect in which our mind is moved and does not move, but in which God is the sole mover, the operation is attributed to God." In other words, there is no motion on our part in this case; we have not willed or done or thought anything. God has done it all. That is operating grace.

On the other hand, "cooperating grace" is of the sort when we do will, or act, or think: "But in that effect in which our mind both moves and is moved, the operation is not only attributed to God, but also to the soul; and it is with reference to this that we speak of 'cooperating grace.'"
Now there is a double act in us. First, there is the interior act of the will, and with regard to this act the will is a thing moved, and God is the mover; and especially when the will, which hitherto willed evil, begins to will good. And hence, inasmuch as God moves the human mind to this act, we speak of operating grace. But there is another, exterior act; and since it is commanded by the will, as was shown above (Question 17, Article 9) the operation of this act is attributed to the will. And because God assists us in this act, both by strengthening our will interiorly so as to attain to the act, and by granting outwardly the capability of operating, it is with respect to this that we speak of cooperating grace. Hence after the aforesaid words Augustine subjoins: "He operates that we may will; and when we will, He cooperates that we may perfect." And thus if grace is taken for God's gratuitous motion whereby He moves us to meritorious good, it is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating grace. [emphasis added]
So much for the sense of grace as a divine help; now we must turn to the sense of grace as a habitual gift.
But if grace is taken for the habitual gift, then again there is a double effect of grace, even as of every other form; the first of which is "being," and the second, "operation"; thus the work of heat is to make its subject hot, and to give heat outwardly. And thus habitual grace, inasmuch as it heals and justifies the soul, or makes it pleasing to God, is called operating grace; but inasmuch as it is the principle of meritorious works, which spring from the free-will, it is called cooperating grace. [emphasis added]
At last we come to the payoff for our present subject - namely, how all this is related to justification. St. Thomas tells us that it is operating grace that justifies. "[H]abitual grace, inasmuch as it heals and justifies the soul, or makes it pleasing to God, is called operating grace." Now as we have just seen, operating grace is that by which we distinguish the grace of God insofar as it acts upon us without any motion, or action, or willing on our part. But it is God's operating grace that justifies us. Therefore we have no part in our own justification; it is entirely a work of God done in us. Consequently we see once again that those who suppose that the Catholic Church teaches a works-based gospel are badly misinformed. There is no means by which we may justify ourselves before God; consequently we cannot save ourselves from our sins. We are entirely indebted to his grace.