Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Theology of Grace Notes from Class #1 (Father Pilon)

I've decided to post my notes from this class in case anyone out there is interested in learning more about the Church's teaching on the topic of grace. Understanding grace is essential to understanding the Christian life. It is also highly complex and often misunderstood. The development of theological and doctrinal explication of what is meant by grace has a long history.

The doctrine of grace is central to Catholic doctrine and to who we are as a result of baptism.

The text we are using in this course is John Hardon S.J.'s book History and Theology of Grace: The Catholic Teaching on Divine Grace. My professor Fr. Pilon is coming from a Thomistic background.

Here are some questions we are going to address in this class:

What is grace?
What does it do for us? What is its purpose and final end?
How does grace relate to human freedom?
How does justification take place?
What are the different types of graces?
What is the distinction between grace and nature? And how do they interact?

By nature, we are God's natural image. But this gift, which is grace, elevates human nature. We become the image of God on a supernatural level.

We can not understand the human person without a proper understanding of grace. What is needed to understand this is a theological anthropology of the human person.

For St. Thomas, grace is the beginning of the Beatific Vision.

What is grace?
Is it a thing? Is it a something? Another term for it (I believe according to theologian Henry de Lubac) is supernature. St. Thomas says that grace is not a substance but a quality. It is a dynamic quality that transforms a substance-- specifically the substance of the soul. It is more a form than a substance.
It is not an easy notion to define. ("We talk about grace too casually." -Fr. Pilon)

Is it an accident?

Grace is a supernatural quality greater than all natural substances. What is substantial in God is accidental for humans. It is our greatest gift. Grace is a kind of an dynamic act which God creates in us in order to transform the soul. It is a quality communicated to the soul which is greater than the soul itself. It allows the soul to participate in the divine nature. It enables man to become a child of God. It enables us to live the life of God's child by elevating the powers of the soul. (Grace is somewhat Trinitarian? It is a supernatural reflection of the image of the Trinity.)

Grace is not our human nature. This was the mistake Pelagius made. He believed that graces were only external (not an internal action of the soul) and that man's free-will was a grace. The Pelagian heresy also includes the belief that our free-will choices for the good is what saves us. Christ is only a good example. His example is an external grace but it's just a model to follow. Pelagianism is a sort of naturalism by which we are led to our natural end by virtue of our human nature. Catholicism teaches that God destined us for a SUPERnatural destiny of participation in His very life which is a supernatural end.

Man's true destiny and greatness is made known only by revelation. -Theologian Rudolph Schnackenberg

Grace does not destroy our nature, it perfects our nature. In Colossians 3:10, St. Paul speaks of a "new nature." It is not technically a new nature, but a transformed nature.

(Historical/Theological note: The term "supernatural" although implied does not appear in its final form until the Middle Ages. Very interesting!)

It's God's power that has granted to us the possibility of participating in the divine nature. (Peter 1:4) (The Eastern Fathers of the Church use the term divinization.)Without this grace, we cannot participate in His life.

Meanings of Grace

1. Complex notion: gift totally gratuitous, supernatural (a word the Synoptic gospels don't use at all, we get the word from St. Paul) (What about the above note on the final appearance of the word emerging from the Middle Ages? I'll check on this and get back to you, blog.)

2. God as the giver-source of this gift and as the gift

-Old Testament-

a. divine attitude toward/action toward/ or in creature:

I believe this means grace as a divine disposition toward the creature. The Greek root means to lean toward or incline toward someone.

Terms (Greek or Hebrew?) Hanan/Hen: Hanan means to lean toward/incline toward someone. Hen (from the same root) expresses a result in the person themselves or a quality in a person. This does not work theologically in a Christian perspective in which God is the protagonist. In the OT, God is Hanan toward the poor especially.

The Greek word Caris was chosen. This word means loving-kindness, favor. Thus, God is gracious to us, etc. The Old Testament translation regarding Mary is "Oh highly favored one!"

Whenever God loves, it produces an effect. (Not sure where this fits in, perhaps it means that the grace in us is the effect of God's loving action/loving-kindness.)

The term Hesed implies a kind of act on behalf of God, where God is loving someone.
This word is used in Covenantal language in the Old Testament to emphasize the bond of that faithful love. The grace is the act of granting the gift of love. The closest Latin word is pietas (piety)which is steadfast love/loving kindness. Man should respond in this way to God.

b. Grace as the effect in the creature:

-God's justice in man-

Sedeq/Mishpat-righteousness. The term Mishpat is the judgment itself of justification. (This is discovered in the prophets-God transforms man by making him just, declaring him just.)

(Luther's understanding of justification is a throwback to the declaration of righteousness in the Old Testament. His understanding is closer to the Old Testament concept. This is vastly different from the New Testament concept of justification which is that we are made really just--it's not just a declaration.)

-Communion with God-

Why does God bother make us just? He bothers to make us just because we can't have communion with Him in an unjust state. So he has to make us just. (Not by necessity of course...) The whole point of human life is ultimate communion with God, without that, life is meaningless. (Wisdom prophets?)

Everything we mean by grace is ultimately divine love.

St. Augustine sees grace as a moralist because he sees it as charity infused and transforming the will. Later, in St. Thomas' perspective on grace is that it transforms the very substance of the soul. The soul itself is transformed. (I'm failing to see a distinction...I'll check and get back to you, blog.)

Man, by his nature, is not capable of loving God. His nature has to be elevated. The powers (I'm assuming of his soul...) must be elevated a quantum leap in order to love God. This is what is meant by sanctifying grace.

Grace is fundamentally tied to divine love since it is its origin. Grace and nature are interacting at every moment. It's a cooperative adventure. God is with us and acting in us at all times.

-The Synoptic Gospels-

Grace is a saving gift related to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is itself a saving gift. Membership means son ship.

a. Son ship/Membership into the Kingdom is created through the divine initiative.
b. Metanoia is pre-condition to entering the Kingdom.
c. Filial spirit is the result-this new life requires additional gifts to persevere
d. Two stages: now and the eschaton
e. Our participation in the Kingdom is provisional in this life

-Grace in the Gospel of John-

a. Light, Life, Love, (God is the origin) Sonship
b. The Incarnation is the capital grace
c. Jesus is the manifestation of:

1. Light-which guides man to Life (Father Pilon's favorite book in the Bible--also one of my favorites--is the book of Sirach. Read this book to understand Christ as the Light.)
2. Eternal life which is already now, but not yet
3. Sonship-which makes us God's children now
4. Parable of the Vine: organic gift (???)

Three profound effects of God's love:

1. God's love brings about a change from slavery into son ship.
2. It brings us out of darkness into the light of truth.
3. It resurrects man from death to life.

In St. John, the communication of grace is the communication of light, life, and love which makes us God's sons.

Grace is a supernatural gift communicated to a creature by God out of his benevolence.

1. Divine son ship
2. Children by divine adoption

a. Divine adoption (This is a NT concept, NOT an OT concept!)
b. The Adoption is by grace (which is God's favor upon us...which causes a change.)
c. Grace causes an essential regeneration of nature
d. Baptism is an essential means of this adoption and entrance into the life of grace
e. The critical notion of participation in the divine nature (Greek notion in Augustine and st. Thomas)

Grace according to St. Paul:

St. Paul had to deal with the question of justification contrary to the notion of the Pharisees that one is saved through his works. Thus, for St. Paul we get the word "caris" as the means of Justification.
(Need to check on the root meaning of this word--the word charism means a gift (and further grace) of the Holy Spirit whose root I'm sure is caris...once again, I'll get back to you!)

Grace and Justification: the new vision (No idea what this means...)

1. Justice is a gift of life (which is a power to act justly)
2. Christ is the capital grace. He is the source and exemplar:

a. New Adam: source of a New Humanity
b. Man is reconciled and recreated in Christ through the gift of His grace
c. Grace is participation in His Life and death
d. Faith and Baptism are preconditions to entry into His life and the Kingdom

3. Effects of Justification: negative and positive (?)
-contrast with and continuity with the Law (?)
Effect of divine love-which always is casual (?)

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