Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Roman Catholic View of Nature and Grace Part 2

The source of synergistic justification and holy water

I’m continuing the Gregg Allison’s explication of “nature and grace” in Roman Catholicism that was started here:

In one sense, these two divergent views reflect in part the different models of the nature-grace relationship as developed by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas: “[W]hereas the Augustinian tradition has stressed the concept of natura vitiate [spoiled or fallen nature], therefore underlining the pervasive and corrupting reality of sin and the utter primacy of grace, the Thomistic tradition has instead insisted on the inner resources of nature’s capacitas dei [capacity for God], giving a more positive account of its intrinsic disposition towards the elevating operations of grace” (citing De Chirico, pg 228. See footnote [1] below for more information).

On this issue, [following the Reformers] evangelical theology follows the Augustinian tradition, with its pessimistic view of nature because of the devastating impact of sin on it, while Catholic theology follows the Thomistic tradition, with its relatively optimistic perspective on nature and its openness to and capacity for grace.

Up to this point, our focus has been on the constitutive element of nature, with a discussion of sin subsumed under this element, so attention must now turn to the second constitutive element of the Catholic theological system: grace. “An overall positive posture towards nature, coupled with a mild concept of sin, leads to a corresponding vision of grace.”

This Catholic notion of grace “begins in nature . . . in the sense that in nature it finds a receptive attitude and potential resources which it can make use of in its operation. Nature always participates in grace whereas grace always presupposes the ad intra [from the inside; inherent] ability of nature to be stirred by it and co-operate with it. . . .

The continuity between nature and grace allows the . . . mutual involvement between the forces of nature and those of grace. According to the Roman Catholic system, the methodology of grace always involves the participation of nature and the active collaboration of the latter [nature] in the outworking of the former [grace].”

According to evangelical theology, grace has nothing to work with in nature because creation has been devastatingly tainted by sin; indeed, “grace cannot but operate ad extra [from the outside; extrinsically ] with regard to nature because nature is so entrenched in sin to the point of not even being fully aware of its reprobate state, and only an external, unilateral operation of divine grace can redeem what is completely lost. Nothing that pertains to sinful nature is deemed to be capable of contributing to grace.”

To summarize, the Catholic theological system is constructed on a continuum between nature and grace, whereas evangelical theology insists on a sin-produced divide or chasm between nature and grace.

Allison, Gregg R. (2014-11-30). Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Kindle Locations 941-962). Crossway. Kindle Edition, pgs 49-50 in the printed edition.

[1] De Chirico goes on to note that neither of these actual “traditions” “in spite of their theological and historical importance, are not representative of the whole system which is not exclusively Augustinian, nor exclusively Thomistic. The Roman Catholic system provides a sufficiently capable platform which can host both, while not being totally identified nor identifiable with [either one] of them. This is another significant pointer to the catholicity of the system itself” (De Chirico, pg 228).

The Lutheran writer Martin Yee, in his Facebook group “Lutheran Apologetics”, cites Walter Kasper in a recent article, describing how this sort of thing occurs:

“In many places, [the Fathers at Vatican II] had to find compromise formulas, in which, often, the positions of the majority are located immediately next to those of the minority, designed to delimit them. Thus, the conciliar texts themselves have a huge potential for conflict and open the door to a selective reception in either direction.”

Cardinal Walter Kasper, L'Osservatore Romano, April 12, 2013.

I’ve also cited Ratzinger and also David Wells discussing this phenomenon:

“Ratzinger: for every statement advanced in one direction, the text offers one supporting the other side”.

Rome’s Divided Mind.

Martin continues to add his own conclusion:

But how can the teaching of a document be infallible if the bishops themselves disagreed on its content to the extent that compromises which reflected not just ambiguities but different doctrinal positions had to be written into it? In the Bible, God's prophets and apostles did not speak out of both sides of their mouths - why would their supposed successors do so? How can the faithful give their full assent to the teaching contained therein if the bishops themselves could not and if the documents actually contain contradictory positions, as the cardinal implies?

It is no wonder that, according to the cardinal, these compromises opened the door to the conflict and division - not to mention the outright crisis of the precipitous decline in priestly and religious vocations and participation in the sacramental life of lay Catholics - that has racked the Roman church ever since (which, it is lately hoped, Pope Francis can heal, although in attempting to do so he seems to be adding to the confusion).

I, for one, am glad to see Rome, through its holy dissembling, continue to shoot itself in the foot. The Roman hierarchy deserves all the trouble in the world that they can buy for themselves.

This is Rome’s “and-and” concept getting carried away. It illustrates how Roman Catholics can say that that various “traditions” are not “Tradition” (and hence, not “dogma”) even though they are written into supposedly infallible conciliar council statements. Very much of this stems from Rome’s desire to claim as “tradition” things that are self-contradictory.

But it also illustrates that Rome is not necessarily interested in understanding God’s actual program in the world; they are interested in creating a self-supporting system that self-supports the Roman bishop in his perch atop the Roman house-of-cards hierarchy. The key words being “self-supported”. It’s why I say, Whatever else the ‘definition of the word church’ contains, it must be purged of Roman conceptions of Rome”.

Rome is all about aggrandizing Rome.

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