Varying Views of Grace

As a convert from Protestantism, one of the challenges was the concept of grace. It was taught, and still is, that justification and sanctification were an instantaneous barrage of grace that instantly transformed. Granted, this is more of a Baptist, view and can change based on denomination. This differs widely from the Catholic view that grace more of a renovation for the soul.

Protestant theology looks at grace as a forensic, or declarative, justification. The reformers saw the concept of concupiscence and took it a step further and said that man is totally depraved. This total depravity prevents man from doing anything good, and all good things done are done by God. Therefore, man is unable to do good even with the help of sanctifying grace. The work of Christ on the cross is therefore imputed to the sinners account when a faith in Christ is declared. Fr. John Hardon writes that in the Protestant view a sinner is “righteous by reason of the imputed merits of Christ and a sinner because his inherited guilt remains” (Hardon Ch.4). Justification is now a matter of declaration whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner making the Father see the sinner as righteous.

The is in stark contrast to the Catholic view that sees sanctifying grace as a transformative force that changes the sinner into a saint. The journey takes a lifetime and is fills with highs and lows. Through the sacrament of baptism all sin is washed away, and we have a clean slate. Through the voluntary of grace on a daily basis and is ours. Regarding this John Hardon states, “what we obtain is truly ours and no mere judicial attribution” (Hardon Ch.4). It is given to us to transform us, not merely to make a once time declaration and not change our nature. In the Protestant system we are not changed, and in the Catholic system Christ transforms us.

Works Cited

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

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Instruments of Grace

Within the theology of grace, we see a connection between the sacraments as instruments of grace, and Christ who is the instrument of grace. Opponents of the church argue that Christ is the sole mediator and cite 1 Timothy 2:5 as a prooftext. Regarding Christ being the only mediator between God and man the church agrees and has also taught it to be so. However, Christ can mediate in any way he desires since he is the second person of the blessed Trinity. Christ chose to mediate through the sacraments. Charles Journet describes this as, “Christ was to come as Mediator, to teach, to give his grace through the sacraments” (Journet 6.6).

It is important to make the distinction instruments of grace, and the instrument of grace. The two are quite different and the distinction is vital. The sacraments are instruments of grace because they were established by Christ to convey grace. He is the instrument through which the sacraments convey grace. St. Thomas Aquinas sums it up quite nicely when he writes, “The principal cause works by the power of its form, to which form the effect is likened; just as fire by its own heat makes something hot. In this way none but God can cause grace” (STIII, Q62, A1).

This is seen in all sacraments and in a profound way in the sacrament of reconciliation. In John 20:23 Jesus tells the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (NRSV). We go to the priest to confess our sins. We are not confessing our sins to a man, but a man who is acting in the person of Christ. It is not a man that is forgiving our sin, but Jesus is working through the priest to do so.

Reconciliation is a part of repentance, and the sinner shows his intention by word and deed. The absolving of sin done by the priest is the work of God who forgives sin (STIII, Q84, A1). This shows that the sacraments are instruments of grace, and that Christ is the cause. Christ is the instrument as he instituted the sacraments.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981. Accessed September 15, 2018.

Stevens, P.G. The Life of Grace. New York: Prentice Hall, 1963.

Procession of Trinitarian Persons

The Trinity is a complex subject, and at times is very misunderstood. Some try to rationalize and fall into error by declaring a type Tritheism, or even Modalism. However, the persons of the Trinity are three persons of one essence. The Trinitarian Godhead is made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all within the Trinity are two processions.
To understand this further it is helpful to define what a procession is. Within God there is a two-fold procession as was mentioned earlier. A procession is a general origin of one thing from another. There are two types of procession by which something can come. The first type of procession is known as Ad Extra. This type of procession speaks of something final springing from another. A good example of this would be a human father producing a son. From a theological perspective this is when something springs from God because God is the cause. The second procession type is Ad Intra, and this procession happens when something remains within its principal.
As previously stated, there are two typed of procession within the Trinity. It is also important to note that though different processions are present does not mean that there are different natures. Regarding this Garrigou-Lagrange state, “In the divine processions, for example, there is no diversity of nature (the nature remains numerically the same) but only a diversity of persons according to the opposition of relation” (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).
The Father proceeds from no one, and simply is because he has always been. The Father was never created nor begotten, but he does have the operations to know and to will (Lecture Notes). From these operations the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed respectively. To some this may seem that the Son and the Holy Spirit were somehow created? If that is the case then Church History needs to make amends with those who were condemned for heresy, but this is not the case. All are God, and it is from the Father that the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed in God (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. VII).
The Son proceeds from the Father for all eternity through generation. This type of procession we can see in several places in sacred scripture and also tradition. One such passage is John 1:18 which states, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (NRSV). Here we see the generation procession that indicates the special relationship and all-knowing nature of the Son. It is through him that we can have a knowledge of the Father. It is the Father’s principle that is being imitated, and this is because they are one essence (Garrigou-LaGrange Ch. VIII). In the tradition of the church, that is through the councils and writings of the early fathers, there is a constant teaching about the nature of Christ in relation to the Father. That teaching is that the Son is consubstantial and of the same substance of the Father, even though he is begotten. One cannot be begotten and consubstantial at the same time. The Son is the Son because he proceeds from generation.
The procession of the Holy Spirit varies from that of the Son. That is because the third person of the Trinity proceeds from the Father and the Son through spiration and as one principle (Lecture Notes). This is also seen in sacred scripture and tradition. One such verse is John 15:26 which states, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf” (NRSV). This passage shows that the Spirit proceeds from the first two, and this is supported in early church writings from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the Councils of Florence and Lyons.

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#00, accessed November 27, 2018.

Sabellianism, Arianism, and the Need for Trinitarian Formulation

In the early church many were attempting to understand the divinity of Christ, and in extension the Holy Trinity.  Today, we have the benefit of the Church correcting false ideas.  However, when these ideas were formulated there was not a dogmatic decree regarding the Trinity though the dogma had been taught in the earliest days of the church.  The heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Subordinationism, and Arianism required that the church formally formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.

Dynamic Monarchian ism taught that the Father was true God, and that Christ was a man who was indwelled with a divine spirit (Preuss 126).  Patripassian Monarchianism takes it a step further by acknowledging Christ as divine but does not go far enough as the two are not of the same substance.  Sabellianism, or Modalism as it is also called, taught that God manifested himself in different modes and that there was only one person of the Godhead.  In short, God was made up of one person (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.5).  Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and taught that He was a creation of the Father, and this was also the Arian view of the Holy Spirit.  In that regard, he was subordinate to the Father.  The heresies mentioned all have elements of subordinationism, because in various respects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is lowered.

With these heresies being taught the souls of the faithful were at risk.  The church rightly saw that an attack on the persons of the Trinity was a salvific issue.  Afterall, if Christ was not fully divine then his sacrifice on the cross meant little or nothing.  The church responded to the heresies, and formally defined the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325.

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

The Incarnation and the New Law of Grace

In sacred scripture we read that man was created he had a perfect relationship with God.  Man is the pinnacle of creation, and God gave man everything.  In return the Lord asked man not to each of one tree in the garden.  Man did not listen, rebelled, and had to face the consequences of sin for the first time.  The sin of our first parents also applies to us.  We all have sinned, and the penalty for that sin is death.  Saint Paul had the same opinion in Romans 6:23 which states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NRSV).  However, the second person of the blessed Trinity, Jesus himself became incarnate to atone and redeem us from our sin.

The incarnation was needed because we could not atone for our sin on our own.  Only someone who was perfect, and without sin could do that.  This perfect sacrifice, Jesus, would also show us the new law of grace.  A way of living, or new law of grace, shows us a deeper understanding of the law.  It shows us how it was supposed to be lived from the beginning, and the divine Son of God, showed us how to live it.  The new law is an interior, infused reality consisting in the grace of the Holy Spirit, received through faith in Jesus Christ and operating through charity.  These virtues, which are also taught in 1 Corinthians 13, are faith, hope, and charity.

Since becoming a catholic these three virtues have been instrumental in my life.  Faith is at the forefront, and the will of Christ is sought in everything that I do.  Faith is the starting point for the New Law, and “the starting point for Christian morality” (Pinckaers 85).  As a father of four, a husband, and one income life throws many curve balls.  Things have not been easy, but my wife and I maintain our hope in Christ.  It is this hope, through faith, that help us persevere and see the good even in the roughest circumstance.  No matter how tight things are we see that there are those who are having much larger problems than ourselves.  We strive to be good disciples, by not only having faith in Christ, but by also having charity.  We trust God for our needs but realize that we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and strive to help whenever possible.  We have found that the practice of the infused virtues has deepened our faith and love for our fellow man.

Image result for incarnation

Works Cited

Pinckaers, Servais.  Morality:  The Catholic View.  St. Augustine’s Press.  South Bend, IN:  2001.  Print.

Lonergan and The Law of the Cross

Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit priest and one of the most influential Catholic thinkers in the twentieth century.  In an effort help others understand the redemption he proposes a theory called the Law of the Cross.  Lonergan looked to the development of western culture and developed his theology to include human science and degradation of human value.  Regarding this William Loewe writes, “it invites theology to enrich itself with the discoveries of the empirical and human sciences and of historical consciousness; more grimly, it presents the cultural crisis engendered by the deterioration of the objective status of meaning and value” (Loewe 162).  Lonergan proposes that Christian faith is the example that changed the world.

The goal of humanity is to make the world a better place.  In short, we want to humanize everything.  This does not mean that are seeking to get rid of God, but that we are seeking the greater good.  However, we are human and we get greedy, try to pump up our ego, and look to satisfy self.  Individual bias, group bias, and common-sense bias distort our humanity and development.  In our individual bias we do what is best for ourselves at all costs.  We make a God of ourselves and our satisfaction reigns supreme.  In our individual bias we look to the good of our group instead of the good of the whole of humanity.  The benefit of the group is what is important even it hurts someone else.  This is an individual bias that is taken to the next level.  The result is two groups that have a hatred for each other and the criticism of the group is not heard because it is not in their interest to hear it.  The only way to maintain “happiness” in the group is with more money and power.  Common sense bias states that one can solve all problems.  It is cocky and thinks too much of itself.  In short, this bias leads to over confidence and pride.  This bias can lead to a way of thinking that leads to a complacency in the way things are.  Since it has always been that way then it must stay that way.  This line of thinking has led to many evil and destructive acts in the world.

The solution to these three biases, or reign of sin as Lonergan puts it, is the Law of the Cross.  This view offers a fresh perspective on Christian identity and it s implications in the world (Loewe 163).  The Christian faith looks to the example of Christ, and the belief that he changed the world.  Through his work on the cross he gave the world a whole new meaning.

The three-bias mentioned above are counteracted by the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.  Charity, or love as we call it now, counteracts these acts of evil.  It is through charity that we let go of our egos and recognize the image of God in other people.  It is through charity that groups look out for the welfare of others to make the world better.  It is through charity that we look past our own common-sense views to see if there is a better way.  We hope that others see the sufficiency of Charity, and faith holds the other two together because it helps us grasp the truth of who God is.

 

Works Cited

Loewe, William P. “Lonergan and the Law of the Cross”. Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977) 162-74

Book Review of The Case For Christ: Daily Moment of Truth

Jesus said that we must love him with all of our minds, heart, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37).  There are many devotionals out there that focus on loving Jesus with heart and soul, but very few address loving him with our minds.  The Case For Christ: Daily Moment of Truth by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg is one that fills the void, and does so very effectively.

I have little doubt that you have either read other work by Lee Strobel, or seen the popular film The Case For Christ.  This devotional follows a similar format, and examines why we are here.  It does so in very general terms at first then moves into more advanced apologetics content.  Each apologetics devotional is only around two pages long.  As a result, topics are only discussed very briefly.  It would behoove the ready to look into longer works that go into detail regarding these more complex subject.  The book is 360 pages long and includes subjects such as science meeting scripture, reincarnation, the divinity of Christ, and historical evidences for the faith.  There is very little uncovered, and wets the appetite of these subjects.

This book is good if you are wanting a brief 5-6 minute overview of scripture and apologetics content.  IF you are looking for an in depth explanation about the proofs of the resurrection this is not the book, and this is not the intent or design of the book.  It is meant to strengthen one’s faith with basic apologetics that will assist in one defending Christianity.  With that is does a pretty good job.  4/5 stars.

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]

Mission of Divine Persons

When discussing the Trinity, we can see that the three persons are of the same essence and One God.  In the Nicean creed we profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  This mission of divine persons can be seen directly in their processions.  Through this mission of procession, we can see their unity and equality.  Through this unity and equality is their ultimate end of the redemption of mankind (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XVII).

Mission involves the sending of someone from another and is made up of being send from a specific destination, to a specific destination, and a link between the two.  To process in mission from one is an implication of equality.  In the military troops are sent forth to another region.  They do not represent themselves, but the nation to whom they belong.  If they do something wrong, it is as if the whole nation has done something wrong.  Though this may not be the best example, especially regarding the Trinity, it makes the point that the procession of divine persons is equal to the sender.  They are worth no less than the one doing the sending.

In the persons of the Trinity the Father is not able to be sent, but the Son and the Holy Spirit can be.  The divine persons being sent do not cease to be where they are or where they are going.  They have always existed and will continue to be.  They are God and thus are omnipresent and omniscient.  This procession in mission is done for the purpose of our very sanctification.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#00, accessed December 12, 2018

Book Review: The Beauty of the Mass

One of the things I had trouble with during my journey to the Catholic Church was what went on at Mass.  I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I would get as everyone sat and kneeled while I was left wondering what was going on.  As I started to understand the theology behind the Mass, I started to see a whole other issue entirely.  I started to notice how some who have been immersed their whole lives have no idea about the beauty and majesty that they are partaking in.

In his book The Beauty of the Mass:  Exploring the Central Act of Worship author Charles S. Johnston takes an in depth look at the Mass.  The book is brilliantly laid out and describes exactly what is happening with every aspect of Mass.  From the initial sign of the cross, to the final blessing, and everything in between the author lays out the reasons why we do what we do.  Even ore importantly, at least to me, is that the Biblical basis is given for it.  There is so much scripture in the Mass!  As if having all the scriptural backup wasn’t enough, the author strengthens his research using church documents and writing from the early church fathers.

Would I recommend that you check out this book?  Absolutely!  It is solid and is good for those who are coming into the church because it gives a great explanation of the Mass.  It is also good of those of us who have been around and I’m sure you will discover something that you didn’t know.  The book is well written and is written in a style that everyone will be able to understand it.  Check it out!

Please visit the author’s website at Nowthatimcatholic.com to learn more about his work.

You purchase the book here.

[Note:  This book was provided by the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.]

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