Divine Participation and Possession

The doctrines of divine participation and possession are key principles when it comes to the Christian life. This comes about by sanctifying grace, and through sanctifying grace we become partakers in the divine nature. The doctrines of participation and election are found in many places within sacred scripture. One such verse is 1 Corinthians 6:19 which states, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own” (NRSV)? The Gospel of John, other Pauline epistles, and the first letter of John also describe the indwelling of God.
The early church fathers taught that to participate and began when one is baptized (Gleason 126). This is when sanctifying grace takes over the soul. The unbaptized soul is not capable being possessed by the Divine, but at baptism we become “Christ-bearers” (Gleason 126). St. Augustine also echoes this idea of the indwelling of God. He makes the point that all of creation points to the glory and divinity of God. However, God only dwells in certain things. Those who are not Christians and are not in a state of grace are indwelled with Christ.
There was very little historical development from the end of the patristic era until the scholastic period. This is where St. Thomas Aquinas made the comparison with man and other parts of creation. Only man was created with in the image of God, with intelligence, and only man can be called sons of God and adopted through the gift of grace (Hardon Ch. 5). From there the Protestant reformers made taught the imputation of the merits of Christ and objected to the historic church teaching about perfection in the soul (Hardon Ch. 5). The Council of Trent tried to correct the damage done by the reformers. Trent reiterated church teaching and stated that the baptized were reborn and become friends of God (Hardon Ch. 5).

 

Works Cited

Gleason, R.W. Grace.  New York:  Shead & Ward, 1962.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

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Understanding of Actual Graces

To understand actual grace, it is important to differentiate it from sanctifying grace.  Sanctifying grace is that grace that grace that we receive at Baptism.  Actual grace is that grace that assists us in our daily lives.  It inspires us and guides our minds to focus on the things of God and assists us on our journey to the beatific vision (Hardon Ch.6).

The concept of actual grace has strong roots within the pages of sacred scripture.  In the Psalms the Psalmist is asking God to enlighten and guide him.  St. John write in John chapter six that no one can come to Jesus unless the father calls him (Jn 6:44-46).  The concept continues in Acts 16:14 where the Lord touched the heart of Lydia to follow the instruction of St. Paul. It continues into the book of Revelation where “divine grace operates on the will” (Hardon Ch.6).  Grace is a gift and the gift needs a giver (Gleason 125).  Without the giver our efforts are in vain.

The concept of actual grace in scripture went unchallenged until the Pelagian controversy arose.   This is when St Augustine first gives a detailed explanation in his anti-pelagian writings.  He explains that is God who works within us, and any good that we do is because God operated because our wills require a mover (Hardon Ch. 6).  This sentiment was echoed, though a little differently at the councils of Carthage and Orange.  Carthage noted that the knowledge of what to do and the love for dong it come from God, while Orange added that it is the inspiration and illumination of the Spirit that allows us to do such things.

The theological analysis of actual graces can get quite complex, but it need not be so.  John Hardon defines actual graces as “internal and immediate illuminations of the intellect and inspirations of the human will” (Hardon Ch.6).  They are internal because they allow a person to perform actions that can lead to heaven.  If we are moved to live a life of charity, then this is a work of actual grace.  Actual grace can further be broken down into prevenient grace and cooperating grace.  Prevenient grace precedes our free will to exercise it.  It is the grace that calls us to a particular action.  Cooperating grace is when the graces coincide with our will and assists us in doing what we should do.  In addition to two types of actual grace, there are two theories that seek to describe actual grace.  One is the Molinist notion is based on the simultaneous of God and man’s faculties working together (Hardon Ch. 6).  The other is the Thomist which states that God acts on the mind first to enable the action.

 

Works Cited

Gleason, R.W. Grace.  New York:  Shead & Ward, 1962.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Grace and the Faculty of Mind

At the beginning of sacred scripture, we read how God created man.  Man was created in a state of grace, and through sin this grace was lost.  This led to mankind having the stain of original sin, and a desire to sin called concupiscence.  This nature requires grace to assist us in our post-lapsarian nature.  This is done because grace effects the faculty of our mind and the capacity of our will.

A result of sin is that we focus on carnal things.  No matter how hard we try to avoid sin we will fall back into it without the help of grace.  Our minds can be restored through grace, and through this grace we have a greater propensity to avoid mortal sin (ST II, Q 109, A 8).  According to Aquinas, grace transforms the mind and makes one alert to situations that will make us fall from grace.  It helps us know what is good, and what we should and should not do.  We know what we should do, are in a state of grace, and can ask God to assist us in doing the right thing.  Grace can effect the faculty of the mind by helping us avoid mortal sin, though we may still commit venial sin (ST II, Q 109, A 8).

Grace also has a strong effect on the capacity of our will.  Regarding the will in post-lapsarian man Fr. John Hardon writes, “because of the fall the moral will is a passive faculty which always leans on the side where the weight of attraction is stronger” (Hardon Ch. 3).  Our wills strive to make contact with things, and our sinful nature will always go toward the greatest attraction.  Grace comes in and alters what attracts us.  Through grace our will strives to love God and others.  The light of grace turns a selfish will towards hope and charity, and through hope and charity we can see the love of God (Journet 1.6).  We can love God and in turn reflect that love toward others.

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Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Guest Post: Typology in the Bible

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

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I’m often told that I’m the spitting image of my dad, less about 30 years. And not just because I’m his lookalike. The similarities continue through our interests, tastes, and even career. By all accounts, I’d imagine any fair observer might look at the two of us and think, “Yup. That makes sense.”

Many people approach the Old and New Testaments of the Bible looking for a similar resemblance. The Old Testament tells us of God creating the universe, calling Israel to be His people, and leading them into the days of Christ. The New Testament tells us about Jesus and His ministry, provides us with instruction on how to live a Christian life, and even gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship. Yet sometimes people struggle to see how the two connect.

There are many different ways in which we can relate the two testaments, but I would like to focus on just one right now. As St. Augustine put it eloquently: “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”1 The study of this relationship between the Old and New Testaments is called Typology.

What is Typology?

Typology is the study of how various things in the Old Testament prefigured what was later fulfilled in the New Testament. And these “things” we call types (from the Greek typos). Scripture Scholar Scott Hahn describes a type as a, “real person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament.”2

In this light, we see in the Old Testament not only the progress of salvation history, but many divine analogies to greater New Testament realities.

The New Adam
We see this in St. Paul’s description of Adam as a type of Jesus. He explained that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14, emphasis added). Paul viewed Jesus as a new Adam. Among many other similarities, they were both born in a state of original innocence, they both faced off with Satan, and they both impacted the whole of humanity.

Though with this comparison we can see just how superior the new Adam is when compared to the old. The first Adam failed where Jesus succeeded. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom 5:15).

Other Types of Types
Not all types refer to Jesus. As I plan to demonstrate in future articles, typology can be applied to other things in the New Testament.

We can see an example of this when the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament tabernacle as a, “shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb 8:5). (Or click here to see an example of Eve as a type of Mary).

It’s important to note, as Hahn said earlier, that a type is always inferior to its fulfillment in the New Testament. What was once a shadow is revealed in all its glory in the New Testament.

Learning from the Master

Some might be interested to hear that this method of reading scripture isn’t new. Christians have seen the typological relationship between the Old and New Testaments for centuries. And for good reason too. Jesus himself read the Old Testament in this way.

Take the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’ followers were walking on the road to Emmaus shortly after reports of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread. The two encounter Jesus on the road, but they didn’t recognize him. The three talked for a while, and we’re told that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). How great of a Bible study would that have been!

Now remember, at this time there was no New Testament. They were still living it. The “scriptures” referred to the Old Testament. And from the Old Testament, Jesus showed “the things concerning himself.”

Why Study Typology?

Some may think of typology as a highfalutin method of biblical study reserved for academics in halls of higher education. And no doubt it could be. But the value of typology is more than that. It’s how the first Christians approached the scriptures. It’s how Jesus himself approached the scriptures.

By reading the New Testament in light of Old Testament types, a whole new dimension of the Bible opens up to us. We can see the brilliance of the divine analogies that were made so long ago. So much of Biblical history spells out the heavenly realities that we now know in the Christian era. And we can use these Old Testament types to shape our understanding of Christian doctrine.

Last, but certainly not least, typology allows us to approach the Bible with a new appreciation as we see the handy-work of a master storyteller unfold.

 

Sources

  1. St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch 2.73; and Catechism of the Catholic Church 129.
  2. Hahn, Scott W. Hail, Holy Queen: the Mother of God in the Word of God. Image Books, 2006, pp. 23.

 

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Limits of Natural Knowledge

Truth is all around us.  It is something concrete and is not able to be changed.  For one to come to truth one must have a knowledge of that truth.  In this case there is natural and supernatural knowledge.  Man is a creature of reason, and it is through this reason that man differentiates himself from lower creature.  However, there are limitations to natural knowledge, and to understand divine truths, or supernatural knowledge, the grace of God must be present.

For one to know any element of truth, God must first move the intellect to do so .  Supernatural grace is not something needed to know natural knowledge.  This can be seen in many places in sacred scripture, but probably most famously in Romans chapter one.  One of the verses in question is Romans 1:20 which states, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse” (NRSV).  Natural knowledge, great as it may be, is limited in scope.  Through natural knowledge we can know that God exists, and we can come to a know the end of things, scientific processes, and we are to relate to each other.

Grace changed things and allows us to obtain supernatural knowledge.  This does not mean that we will be understand all things about the divine, but God touches us and raises us up.  We become fully dependent on God and God works through us.  This supernatural knowledge brought about by grace gives a a reinforcement “to the power of the soul over the body, of reason over the passions, of man over the world, belongs to the sphere of preternatural gifts, which we might call miraculous” (Journet 5.5).  Furthermore, this supernatural knowledge of knowing that we are fully dependent on God and understanding that we cannot do anything apart from him, helps us persevere in grace and charity (Hardon Ch. 3).

 

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Grace and Merit in the Creation of Man

When we look to the world around us it is hard to believe that there once was a world without sin.  In Question 95 of Thomas Aquinas’s masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, he describes the relationship between grace and merit in pre-lapsarian man.  Was man initially created in a state of grace, and if so how does that relate to merit?  In answering this question Aquinas first looks to sacred scripture.  He quotes a section of Ecclesiastes 7:30 which states, “God made man right” (Douay-Rheims).

Aquinas concludes that man was created in a state of grace.  The reason of man was subject to God and the lower powers of man to reason, and the body to soul (ST1, Q95, A1).  After the fall the lower parts, of man that were once captive to reason, were not longer captive to reason.  If this were the case, then Adam and Eve would not have been ashamed when they noticed they were naked.  Their reason was subject to God and the loss of grace “dissolved the obedience of the flesh to the soul” (ST1, Q95, A1).

So, if in a pre-lapsarian state was created in a state of grace, then how does merit relate to grace?  Regarding merit Aquinas writes, “the degree of merit is measured by the degree of the action itself” (ST1, Q95, A4).  When one thinks of merit one thinks of a reward.  Man was made in a state of innocence and God said that man was good (GN 1:31).  For a period, man lived in a state of innocence.  During this period of innocence, the work of man is more meritorious than when man is in a sinful state (ST1, Q95, A4).  This brings us to the two kinds of merit:  absolute and proportional.  When in a state of innocence man, the absolute work done would made greater virtue in man because of the work.  In proportion a greater need for merit exists after sin, and this can only be done through grace.  Pre-lapsarian man, though created in grace, still used grace in an absolute manner to do meritorious works.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed July 17, 2018.

Grace, Free Will, and the Beatific Vision

Grace is a free gift that is given by God.  What does one do with the grace received?  When a gift is given to someone it requires upkeep or it will deteriorate and decay.  In the gift of grace, we must cooperate through our own free will, or we can destroy this divine gift (Journet 2.1).  Grace cleanses us from original sin, we cooperate with this grace through free will, and as a result we get oriented toward our divine destiny in the beatific vision (Hardon).  The three work together in such a way that their relationship is integral to each other.

The Catholic tradition is not a type of semi-pelagian motif, but views grace as of first importance.  One cannot earn their way into Heaven because without grace there is no salvation (Hardon).  One cannot get to Heaven, no matter how many good works, without grace.  If one is estranged from God, then grace is needed to be disposed to justification (Hardon).  Once received there is the possibly, through free will, to reject this grace.

St. Augustine observed this struggle with free will and grace quite brilliantly.  Regarding this Dr. Ireland writes, “When he places side by side the consequences of his sin and the effects of God’s grace in his life, he detects two wills in conflict with each other:  the corrupt will turn away from God, the pristine will turn toward God” (Ireland 24).  In one scenario the grace of God is rejected, and we go our own way.  In another we embrace this gift, it is free, but some action was taken on our part (i.e. accepting).  Charles Journet uses an analogy of two men stuck in a well.  God reaches out his hand to save and one takes his hand while the other does not (Journet 2.3).  In this scenario each used their free will to accept the gift or deny it.  By accepting the gift of grace through free will daily we reach a higher stage in sanctifying grace.  God calls us to be like him and we must be willing to take that extra step, take his hand, and be obedient to his call.  Through his mercy we can accept this grace and embrace the beatific vision.

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Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Ireland, Patricia.  Guardian of a Pure Heart: St. Augustine on the Path to Heaven.  Staten Island:  St. Pauls/Alba House, 2009.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

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