Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More on Sin and Grace

"Christ grants justification to those who believe in him, simply because they have faith and not because they serve the law. The blessing granted to Abraham for his exemplary faith is extended to the Gentiles, so that we may receive the promised Spirit through faith.

In other words, the promised gift to believers is not a spirit of outward observance but one of inward devotion inspired by love." - St. Augustine's commentary on Galatians

I've been reading Bl. Cardinal Newman's daily devotional book and it is painstakingly Pelagian in its assertions and all the worst sections are from his Anglican days. Moralism is a Protestant disease that Catholics seem to love. This year, I am reading daily devotions from St. Augustine. He writes some extraordinary things about salvation and is very careful in his writings to speak alot about sin and alot about grace.

I was in the chaplaincy office yesterday and a Presbyterian who is becoming Catholic said to me that his professor described Christianity's view of the world as marred by sin, and he thought that sounded Protestant to him.


I don't think he'll ever ask my opinion again on that matter, as I thoroughly thrashed any attempts to remove Original Sin and Concupiscence from our theology. To fight Pelagianism and Total Depravity you don't try to find a middle ground between sin and grace, this is the mistake of some Jesuits and Newman (late Anglican period), rather you multiply sin and you multiply grace.

The more terribly you paint sin, the more wonderful you paint grace. The more Adam the more Christ I think. Or as the Lutherans say, the more law, the more gospel.

I've seen three different perspectives on justification in Catholic life:

1. Universalism / acceptance / Liberalism

2. "Semi-Pelagianism"(for my Reformed audience) which basically makes it sound like God brings 50% to the table and we bring 50% to the table and this synergism somehow solves the problem.

3. Augustinianism (Thank God for Pope Benedict XVI) - God gives 100%, he gives us every ounce of grace that we need for salvation. Every prayer, work, or even the desire for these things, is motivated by God, as the council of Orange declares. "What have you that you did not receive" as the apostle saith. The difference between Augustinianism and Protestantism or rather the divergence between Catholic and Protestant Augustinianism, is twofold.

Does God formally (Aristotelian Category) work this salvation, justification, and sanctification in us, or outside of us. Catholics say in, Protestants say out.

Does faith mean fiducia or fide, is it personal trust in God (will) or assent to his promises (intellect), or both.

Finally, Protestants radically diverge from Augustine on the issue of love (as we do from him on the issue of reprobation). St. Augustine clearly believed that humans do love God through the power of the Holy Spirit and that this love was tied to their faith, in a holistic turn to God and regeneration, rather than just a trust without love or without any interior transformation necessary.