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Natural Growth and Extension (Development) or Rupture?

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Natural Growth and Extension (Development) or Rupture?

Post  tornpage on Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:25 am

I certainly don't hold St. Thomas or St. Augustine perfect, nor do I assume that they got everything right - though I am not aware of them being "wrong" (and indeed think they got it right). However, it is this type of stuff that I think highlights the problems many of us have with many of the teachings which have certainly crystallized and taken clear form (though it was present before) in the post-Vatican II Church:

Reasons for Centuries Old Impasse, by Fr. William Most

He still needed to correct the other part of Augustine's
misunderstanding. St. Thomas was centuries early for that, for
Scripture studies had not yet developed far enough then. But today
they have
. Pere Lagrange, in his great commentary on Romans,
supplies what was lacking. He showed that the texts of Scripture on
which both sides had relied in the <De Auxiliis> debates were all
taken out of context. Scripture never explicitly speaks of
predestination to heaven or reprobation to hell. The predestination
it speaks of, according to Pere Lagrange, is always and only a
predestination to full membership in the people of God, the Church.
Now that we know this, we can get past the obstacle that stopped
. (Also, instead of using Scripture, their views were
predetermined by that they thought was metaphysics).

Does this bother any of you, that "Pere Lagrange . . . supplied[d] what was lacking" in the Scriptural understanding of St. Augustine and St. Thomas? We can only now arrive at an understanding on the issue of God's salvific will and move beyond "the obstacle that stopped St. Thomas"?

I thank Fr. Most and others like him, whose thought on this subject helps put the issues in clear terms.

As I said, I don't think that St. Thomas or St. Augustine were "stopped" by a misunderstanding of Scripture that we now have (whether because of "Pere Lagrange" or someone else) - I think they had it right, and that the circle was complete when they finished their work on it.


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Re: Natural Growth and Extension (Development) or Rupture?

Post  MRyan on Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:02 pm


It’s nice when I can find agreement with you. Very Happy

But Fr. Most is giving us his opinion ... and that’s all it is. I’ve always found his criticisms and “corrections” of Augustine and Aquinas a bit too severe, though I must also take some exception to your closing comment that “the circle was complete when they finished their work on it”.

It was not complete, and it is still not complete because it is still an undefined mystery. In fact, there is no one “school” of grace (as they relate to predestination) that the Church insists takes precedence over another. I think it is also true that each system is derived from the staggering work of these two great Doctors, though how faithful each school remains to the core doctrine of the Doctors varies (and is a matter of debate).

That there are abuses, exaggerations and misunderstandings with each of the respective schools goes without saying.

Of course, as you would know if you weren’t so stubborn, the best solution is that which was proposed by Gregory of Valentia and the “German St. Thomas”, Fr. Matthias Joseph Scheeben. Laughing

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Re: Natural Growth and Extension (Development) or Rupture?

Post  tornpage on Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:48 pm

It’s nice when I can find agreement with you.

Yeah, but I think we agree essentially. We have a different manner of approach, and a different comfort level with the current bosses. Smile I tend to point out the problems and tensions in the teachings of the magisterium today, at least what I think you'd agree is a manifest appearance of rupture, and you tend to connect the dots and stress a non-rupture. I'm a cynical gad fly when it comes to the current bosses. Very Happy

It was not complete, and it is still not complete because it is still an undefined mystery.

I believe the model provided to us by St. Augustine and St. Thomas with regard to grace, Predestination and Providence is the true one and can't be "improved" upon, and contains all we need to know about the way God saves men. It is in that sense that I believe their view to be "complete." I do not see mystery and this "complete" view to be in conflict. Indeed, why God decided to save men by the sacrifice of His own Blood is a mystery, as the "whys" generally are.

In fact, there is no one “school” of grace (as they relate to predestination) that the Church insists takes precedence over another.

Yes, the Church allows latitude here. I believe that was an error in judgment, but it is certainly the judgment. At times I do see its wisdom - the not deciding. Of course, I am decided. And it is a good thing for the Jesuitical Molinists that I was not pope during the crisis between them and the Dominican/Thomists. Well, of course it is a good thing for the Church that I have not ever been, and will not ever be, pope - but not on this issue. Very Happy

Of course, as you would know if you weren’t so stubborn, the best solution is that which was proposed by Gregory of Valentia and the “German St. Thomas”, Fr. Matthias Joseph Scheeben. Laughing

Don't get me started.

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Re: Natural Growth and Extension (Development) or Rupture?

Post  MRyan on Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:39 pm

tornpage wrote:
Of course, as you would know if you weren’t so stubborn, the best solution is that which was proposed by Gregory of Valentia and the “German St. Thomas”, Fr. Matthias Joseph Scheeben. Laughing

Don't get me started.

Well, if you insist:

Fr. Matthias Joseph Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity

Chapter XXVII, The True Mystery of Predestination (pp 719-724):

"Consequently we believe we are justified in maintaining that the advocates of gratia praedeterminans and of gratia victrix have disfigured what is most sublime in God's predestination and most glorious for Him, and what is in itself the heart of the mystery. We have still further reasons for this stand.

The defenders of gratia praedeterminans hold that the physically predeterminative force of grace is a property pertaining essentially to every effective influence of God upon the rational creature, and hence also to that divine influence whereby the rational creature is moved to naturally good acts. This very contention reveals that such efficacy is not a specific prerogative of the supernatural movement by which God conducts the creature to eternal life, and consequently that it cannot constitute a specifically Christian mystery. If this theory were true, the excellence of Christian predestination would lie only in the object toward which it moves man, and in the elevation of the faculty of the will as the principle of supernatural acts. But even this elevation of the will to a higher sphere is undermined if the will does not really determine itself in this sphere, and hence does not become the true lord of its higher domain. On the other hand, if even in the natural order no movement is regarded as occurring through predetermination, but every movement is the result of the active liberty and energy bestowed on us, the supernatural movement appears doubly remarkable. It does so for two reasons: first, because it leads us toward a supernatural end; secondly, because God so completely entrusts the principle of this movement to our keeping that in our ascent from earth to heaven we are not only borne aloft, but we ourselves fly upon the wings with which we have been equipped.

But the doctrine of gratia victrix as proposed by the Augustinians obscures the great mystery of Christian predestination much more than the Thomistic conception of the will's activity does. The central point of the Thomistic theory is the movement produced in the interior of the created will by God and the enhancement of its natural energy by a supernatural energy in the movement toward the supernatural end, in brief, the real, physical, or hyperphysical influence of God. In the Augustinian system this central point is relegated to the background, to make room for a moral influence, an influence brought about by the stimulation or delight of the will. Even though the stimulation should be irresistibly attractive, the movement of the will by God is no more extraordinary than the movement of the will by sensible concupiscence, against which grace is supposed to strengthen the will. The necessity of the delectatio coelestis is demanded in this system not by the absolute supernatural character of the act in question, but by the moral weakness of our will. The higher attractiveness of this delectatio implies neither a motion of the will emanating from its interior, where only the Creator can affect it, nor an elevation of the faculty of the will to a higher sphere, which would inform and animate it supernaturally so as to make it capable of supernatural activity. Therefore, if we postulate these latter factors and explain them by saying that God's physical influence is also a moral influence which simultaneously confers physical and moral energy upon the will and thereby establishes its full freedom for action, we shall grasp the idea of the movement of the will by God far more profoundly and vividly without any gratia victrix than do the theologians in question with their gratia victrix.

On the other hand, in acknowledging the connection between prevenient grace and the actual movement of the will simply as a connection founded on fact, and in subjecting it to God's providence only so far as God foresaw it through His scientia media, the Molinists and Congruists do not in any way impair the mystery of Christian predestination, provided they retain what is substantially true in the doctrine of the Thomists and Augustinians. This for the most part they have done, particularly their leaders, Molina and Suarez.

However, it seems to us that the brilliant theologian, Gregory of Valencia, following in the footsteps of St. Thomas, has most profoundly and clearly brought into prominence the real mystical and supernatural character of predestination and of the movement of man by God. According to Gregory, man's progress toward his ultimate supernatural goal takes place as follows.

In order to evoke in man a self-active, supernatural movement of the will, God must transport man to a higher sphere of life, must form, animate, and fructify his natural faculty by a supernatural complement, and must ennoble and transform it, as the body is formed and animated by the infusion of the soul. This elevation, formation, and actuation of the natural faculty is the cardinal point of the entire supernatural movement of man by God. It is a movement in the most proper sense of the word, because it is a transference from potency to act, not to actus secundus but to actus primus, by which the potency is formed and receives the power and inclination to perform supernatural acts. It is brought about by God alone as efficient cause, in the same way that nature was called into being by God alone. Therefore it produces in us a new, higher nature whereby we are endowed in our interior with a capacity for and an inclination toward supernatural good, just as we are endowed by nature itself with regard to natural good. Accordingly, as God, the Creator of nature, is the principle of everything that man does on the basis of and in conformity with his natural tendency to natural good, and moves man by his nature even where in virtue of his nature man moves himself, so in a higher way, by elevating and transforming nature, God is the moving principle of everything that man does in his own right through his higher vital principle.

This movement is, therefore, the starting point for all the other movements which, as activities of man, proceed from it. It is a real movement, physical as opposed to moral, hyperphysical as opposed to natural, an impress which God stamps upon the faculties of the soul that they may pass over to active movement, and thereby attain an end which they could not attain by themselves. This movement brings it about that supernatural activity is man's very own, since it places the principle of activity deep within his faculties. Hence the activity is not something merely produced from outside, but springs forth and issues from a principle of life within the soul. As there is no influence exercised by God on man which is more powerful and thoroughgoing than the movement whereby man's very nature is transformed and elevated, so there is none which more solidly establishes and more satisfactorily explains the independence and self-activity of the person moved. This movement gives us our supernatural freedom, which enables us to cooperate as actively in supernatural acts as we do by means of our natural freedom in natural acts.

However, as intimated above, this movement of man by God is but the most fundamental factor and the cardinal point in the process by which man's salutary striving for his supernatural end is made possible. To carry out this movement in man, God must induce man to accept it; and after God has accomplished this, He must rouse man to activate himself and avail himself of the principles of life conferred on him. In the first phase God initiates the movement mentioned; in the second phase He makes it fruitful. He accomplishes both by means of actual grace, which is not, like habitual grace, the end and radical principle of a movement, but is rather in itself a movement, and by that very fact is capable of eliciting and calling forth a further movement. In itself the actual, excitating, and soliciting grace has no mystical, supernatural character in its influence on the will. But whenever, as here, its function is to move the will to accept a supernatural force or to actuate such a force already within the will, whenever it is to draw the will up to a higher region or induce it to move forward within that region, it must participate in the supernatural character of this force.

Our conception of the movement of the will in the direction of supernatural activity would be very superficial if we sought to regard such supernatural activity as a product of the purely natural will under the influence of actual grace. Actual grace becomes a truly moving force only in connection with or accession to habitual grace, from which the movement, that is, the vital activity of the soul, has to originate. It brings about supernatural activity in the will only when it entails the imprinting of the divine vital principle in the soul, or finds it there already. The two kinds of divine influence, the excitating influence of actual grace and the informing influence of habitual grace, complement and suppose each other. Both together constitute the complete gratia motrix on which man's salutary effort and activity depend. But the actual result of this gratia motrix depends on the free decision of the will which it is to move, and that in two ways, according as man is already animated by habitual grace or not.

In the second case (prior to justification), man's decision coincides with the reception of habitual grace, by which he is to obtain his supernatural freedom. This decision is like the opening of his eyes for the reception of the light that enables him to see: by making the decision, man makes his elevation and formation by God possible. In the first case (subsequent to justification), on the contrary, man makes his decision under the influence of actual grace by using his supernatural freedom to release the force lying dormant in habitual grace. In the second case the decision of the will entails a simple surrender to God, who draws the will to Himself in order to elevate; in the first case, it involves an application and unfolding of the supernatural motion conferred on the will by God. In the second case, not only the simple result, but the entrance of the complete gratia motrix depends on the decision of the will, since the forma impressa makes its appearance only if the will accepts it; but in the first case the complete gratia motrix, that is, both the formal principle and the excitation, is present prior to the decision of the will, although the will can remain unresponsive to its inducement.

But as regards its outcome, this dependence of the divine motion on the voluntary decision of the person who is to be moved does not interrupt the continuity or impair the supernaturalness of the divine impulse. In neither of the instances discussed above is the decision of the will a foreign element forcing its way unbidden into the supernatural process. Such would be the case only if the will had to give its assent quite apart from God's supernatural influence, or if God issued to the will only an external invitation to accede to the impulse emanating from Him. No, if the will determines itself, it makes its decision in response to the internal attraction and urging of God's prevenient grace; for grace stirs the will interiorly. Therefore the decision itself is supernatural in character, as is the grace in virtue of which it ensues. The decision of the will is, as it were, beset on two sides: by actual grace, which per se affects the soul and operates therein only morally, and by habitual grace, which informs the soul physically. Thus the decision is evoked by the former and fructified by the latter, and so the will puts forth a vital act that is both free and supernatural.

Such is the truly mystical theory of the supernatural transmissio hominis in vitam aeternam, a theory most illuminating in its mystical greatness and splendor. St. Thomas points to predestination as its principle and foundation. In the theory thus presented, grace does not obscure liberty, and liberty does not obscure grace; rather, grace is the basis of a mystical freedom, and this freedom reveals the full mystical power and significance of grace. The two factors are organically knit together; one pervades the other. The natural will with its natural freedom is not opposed to grace but, influenced and informed by grace, is raised up and endowed with supernatural energy and freedom, and thus becomes an intrinsic part of the supernatural process." [END]


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