“Pelagian Westminster?”

Jun 30th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The following essay is a guest contribution by Barrett Turner. Barrett completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia. This Spring he graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary with an M.Div. This Fall he will be pursuing his doctorate in moral theology at the Catholic University of America. He lives with his wife and son in Alexandria, Virginia. They were members of the Presbyterian Church in America until they were received into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil this year.


Barrett Turner

One sometimes hears the charge that the Catholic Church, through the Tridentine decrees on justification, adopted a semi-Pelagian soteriology.1 I contend here that Calvinists for their own part must give account for the similarity of their view of the Covenant of Works to the Pelagian view on nature and grace in the original state of man.

Historically, the charge of semi-Pelagianism against the Catholic doctrine of justification is difficult to support, given the Church’s prior condemnation of both Pelagian and semi-Pelagian theologies. The Second Synod of Orange, which was approved by Pope Boniface II in A.D. 531, stated the following:

If anyone contends that God waits for our decision to cleanse us from sin and does not confess that the bestowal of the Spirit and his action in us moves us to will to be cleansed, he opposes this Holy Spirit who says through Solomon, ‘The will is prepared by the Lord’ [Prov. 8:35 LXX], and the salutary preaching of the Apostle, ‘It is God who works in you both to will and to accomplish for good will.’ [Phil. 2:13] (Canon 4)

And Canon 18 of that same Council reads:

No merits precede grace. Rewards are due for good works if they are performed; grace, which is not owed, precedes so that they will be performed.

So much for the accusation of semi-Pelagianism.

I instead propose instead that Calvinism is closer than Catholicism to the teachings of Pelagius with respect to the fundamental relationship of man to God in the primitive state. Through the doctrine of the Covenant of Works, as articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Reformed tradition approaches Pelagius’ conflation of nature and grace before the Fall of Adam and Eve.

To see why this is the case, we first have to understand what constitutes salvation. From the Church Fathers’ reflection on biblical revelation, the Church has taught that the beatitude of heaven consists in the immediate vision of God. In other words, the reason why people are eternally happy in heaven is because they will see God “face to face;” they see God as He is and as He sees Himself. This theme runs throughout the entire narrative of Sacred Scripture, from Moses’ desire to see God’s face (of course not referring to a corporeal visage) to St. John’s promise that “when [Jesus] shall have appeared, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2) St. Augustine comments on this verse, connecting it to the beatific vision:

Thus do the holy angels see already, who are also called our angels. . . . Just as they see, so too shall we see; but we do not see thus. That is why the Apostle says what I repeated just above, “Now we see obscurely by a mirror, but then face to face.” This vision is reserved as a reward, certainly, for our faith; and of it also the Apostle John speaks: “When He shall have appeared,” he says, “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”2

What was at stake in the Pelagian controversy was more than just whether man needs grace after the Fall to obtain this vision of God. What is often missed in the controversy is an additional element, namely, whether man needed grace even in the Garden to obtain eternal blessedness.3 The Second Synod of Orange says in its nineteenth canon:

No one is saved without God’s mercy. Human nature, even had it remained in the integrity in which it was created, could by no means have saved itself without the assistance of its creator. Thus, since without God’s grace it could not retain the salvation it had received, without God’s grace how will it be able to gain the salvation it has lost?

By contrast, Pelagius had asserted that after the initial ‘grace’ of creation, Adam and Eve could merit eternal life by their own natural effort.4 In opposing Pelagius’ denial of man’s need for God’s grace to obtain salvation, the Augustinian theologians posited the necessity of infused grace for man’s salvation before the Fall.

St. Augustine teaches that if man were to love God above all things and for God’s own sake, he needed the grace of supernatural charity implanted in his heart.5 With infused charity, man is elevated from mere creatureliness to become a son of God, capable of loving God with filial piety.6 The Church eventually formally defined this Augustinian teaching of the priority and necessity of grace for salvation both before and after the Fall into sin.7

Now the theological standard for conservative Presbyterian denominations in America is the Westminster Confession and its attendant catechisms. Within the document is a section describing the “Covenant of Works,” a late Calvinist doctrine explaining how our first parents were to inherit eternal life. As Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof explains, if the gap between God and his creatures is infinite, there is no possibility for a creature to merit anything with respect to God.8 The Covenant of Works doctrine seeks to solve this problem by positing an extrinsic arrangement whereby God promises eternal life to Adam and his descendants upon Adam’s perfect obedience (WCF, ch. 7, sec. 2). Without such an arrangement, man could in nowise merit eternal life from God.

The parallel between this doctrine and Pelagianism is that Reformed theologians who accept the Covenant of Works tradition ascribe to Adam and Eve a natural righteousness and a natural power by which they were to keep the Covenant of Works. These theologians deny the Catholic doctrine that the first couple needed a supernatural charity infused into their souls to make their wills proportional to the supernatural end of the vision of God. Berkhof is explicit here: “[Man] was by nature endowed with that original righteousness which is the crowning glory of the image of God.”9 Thus, for Calvinists with allegiances to Westminster, the Covenant of Works doctrine implicates them in a basic Pelagian view of salvation in the original state of man.

Some Calvinists might think such a characterization is unfair, especially since any covenant between God and man contains an element of gracious condescension, as noted by Berkhof and taught by the Westminster Confession.10 Therefore, even the Covenant of Works was ‘gracious’ in that the arrangement was made by God’s condescension to man. However, the problem with this objection is that Pelagius also left room for extrinsic ‘graces’ in his scheme. For Pelagius, ‘grace’ was either the gift of initial creation of man (especially man’s faculties of intellect and will)11 or the ‘grace’ of ‘the law and the teaching’ which would help mankind to salvation by making it easier for him to do what he nevertheless could do by his own power of free will.12 No one denies that man’s creation is totally gratuitous, so this cannot be the controversial doctrine. More germane is the notion that something merely extrinsic to man can be the ‘grace’ needed for salvation, such as a covenant or a law. In limiting grace to merely extrinsic things, Pelagius could still hold that man by his own power is able to obey perfectly and thereby merit eternal blessedness. The same obtains for the idea of the Covenant of Works as articulated by the Westminster Assembly: such a covenant would only add an extrinsic ‘gracious’ arrangement to man’s natural state. It would not actually elevate man such that his actions could have a salutary quality in the supernatural realm.

In contrast, Catholic theology understands that in order for Adam to merit the reward of the beatific vision, the relationship between Adam and God in the Garden had to be one of divine sonship. Not only were Adam and Eve given the gift of existence as human beings with a rational nature, they were also given something gratuitous in addition to their existence and nature, namely, sanctifying grace and charity. By the gifts of sanctifying grace and charity they were more than just God’s creatures; they were God’s children, adopted and destined for no mere imperfect creaturely happiness. In addition to this, God gave them actual grace to incline their wills to choose the good, namely Himself. God created them for a supernatural end, namely, to see His own essence and to share in the eternal blessedness of the Holy Trinity, to fulfill a destiny fitting for children of God. This is why they needed something in addition to mere human nature, so that they could become partakers of the divine one (2 Peter 1:4).

  1. Semi-Pelagianism is the notion that man, by his natural desire and free will alone, is able to begin to turn to God, who then responds by giving grace to increase man’s faith and elevate man by making him a partaker of the divine nature. See the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Semi-Pelagianism. []
  2. St. Augustine, City of God, 22, 29, 1. []
  3. Regarding this grace that Adam and Eve had before the Fall, St. Augustine wrote:

    The former immortality man lost through the exercise of his free-will; the latter he shall obtain through grace, whereas, if he had not sinned, he should have obtained it by desert. Even in that case, however, there could have been no merit without grace; because, although the mere exercise of man’s free-will was sufficient to bring in sin, his free-will would not have sufficed for his maintenance in righteousness, unless God had assisted it by imparting a portion of His unchangeable goodness. Just as it is in man’s power to die whenever he will (for, not to speak of other means, any one can put an end to himself by simple abstinence from food), but the mere will cannot preserve life in the absence of food and the other means of life; so man in paradise was able of his mere will, simply by abandoning righteousness, to destroy himself; but to have maintained a life of righteousness would have been too much for his will, unless it had been sustained by the Creator’s power. … We are to understand, then, that man’s good deserts are themselves the gift of God, so that when these obtain the recompense of eternal life, it is simply grace given for grace. Man, therefore, was thus made upright that, though unable to remain in his uprightness without divine help, he could of his own mere will depart from it. (Enchiridion, 106-107.)

    Elsewhere he wrote:

    When, indeed, Adam sinned by not obeying God, then his body — although it was a natural and mortal body — lost the grace whereby it used in every part of it to be obedient to the soul. (On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, Book 1, 21.)

    []

  4. St. Augustine writes:

    “For this, too, the Pelagians have been bold enough to aver, that grace is the nature in which we were created, so as to possess a rational mind, by which we are enabled to understand — formed as we are in the image of God, so as to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth.” (On Grace and Free Will, 25.)

    In contrast to Pelagius’s position, St. Augustine argued:

    The first man had not that grace by which he should never will to be evil; but assuredly he had that in which if he willed to abide he would never be evil, and without which, moreover, he could not by free will be good, but which, nevertheless, by free will he could forsake. God, therefore, did not will even him to be without His grace, which He left in his free will; because free will is sufficient for evil, but is too little for good, unless it is aided by Omnipotent Good. And if that man had not forsaken that assistance of his free will, he would always have been good; but he forsook it, and he was forsaken. Because such was the nature of the aid, that he could forsake it when he would, and that he could continue in it if he would; but not such that it could be brought about that he would. This first is the grace which was given to the first Adam. (On Rebuke and Grace, 31.)

    []

  5. Cf. Romans 5:5. []
  6. St. Augustine says of Adam and Eve, “as soon as they disobeyed the Divine command, and forfeited Divine grace, they were ashamed of their nakedness.” (City of God, 13, 13. []
  7. See Session V of the Council of Trent. See also St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I Q.95 a.1. []
  8. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 215 ff. []
  9. Systematic Theology, p. 209. If by “naturally righteous” it is meant that Adam was in right covenantal relationship to God because through sanctifying grace he was participating in the divine nature “by nature,” then he would in this sense be divine by nature, i.e. by participating in the divine nature. To have the beatific vision is to share in God’s own happiness in knowing Himself. This is due only to God. Without grace Adam could only have had a righteousness that was proportional to human nature. In such a hypothetical state of “pure nature” it would have been possible to have a righteousness that was purely natural, i.e. a justice in regard to God that was proportionate to human nature, and not supernatural (i.e. a righteousness that transcends human nature simply speaking — cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II q. 109, a.2). That being said, this natural righteousness would not be meritorious for supernatural beatitude, so it is unclear to me how Reformed theologians like Berkhof could maintain the above idea. []
  10. Ch. 7, sec. 1. []
  11. cf. Augustine, On Nature and Grace, ch. 59 []
  12. Cf. St. Augustine, On the Grace of Christ and on Original Sin Bk. 1, ch. 45. The Catholic Encyclopedia article on ‘Actual Grace‘ states:

    Pelagius and his disciple Caelestius, who found an active associate in the skillful and learned Bishop Julian of Eclanum, admitted from the beginning the improper creative grace, later also a merely external supernatural grace, such as the Bible and the example of Christ.

    []

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  1. This is a very important subject to speak on, for it lays the foundation for how each side builds their soteriology from. St Paul clearly says man is a “Temple of the Holy Spirit,” meaning grace (and the Indwelling of the Spirit) are not a function of nature but rather ‘super-added’, and thus Adam must have lost this Indwelling at the Fall.

    An important parallel or bridge to this discussion is to read St Pius V’s condemnations of Michael Du Bay (also known as Baius) in Denzinger 1001ff: http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma11.php
    Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about him:

    QUOTE: “Baius is a Pelagian in his concept of the primitive state of man. He is a Calvinist in his presentation of the downfall. He is more than a Lutheran and little short of the Socinian in his theory of Redemption.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02209c.htm

    Baius was Catholic but adopted Calvinistic principles. Many are stunned to hear “pelagian” applied to the “primitive” state of man, yet that’s where the core of the heresy rests. What is interesting is how this plays into the Fall as well. From Pelagius’ view, man had nothing to “fall from,” thus he denied any sort of follow-up “grace” for salvation. The Reformers went the opposite way, using the same erroneous foundation, and rather than having nothing to “fall from” concluded man’s very nature became corrupt, like an apple turning rotten, resulting in a ‘sin nature’. But this is a form of Manicheanism, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes in it’s entry on Justification:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08573a.htm

    What most don’t understand is the Catholic/Biblical concept of ‘grace building on nature’, which avoids Pelagianism because when man fell, he was stripped of super-added grace rather than harming human nature in it’s essence. Some good examples are in order, which St Augustine and others have made. One example is that while an eye can be wholly sound and have 20/20 vision, it none the less cannot see in the dark, however if something is added to assist the eye, like a torch, the eye can indeed see in the dark. Or a more modern example, man cannot see far off into space with the naked eye, yet with a telescope a whole new ‘universe’ of sorts is revealed that he can see and affirm. If Adam didn’t have super-added gifts, then that means he could believe in God by nature, which is blasphemy, and akin to being able to see far off galaxies with the naked eye. As you note, this is even more severe when it comes to loving God with supernatural Charity, which would make Adam’s love of God a purely creaturely love.

  2. Barrett,

    Thanks very much for this interesting article. One thing to consider is what follows from your argument, regarding the “Covenant of Grace.” If Adam and Eve were in a state of grace in the Garden, having sanctifying grace and agape poured out in their hearts (Rom 5:5), then this distinction between the “Covenant of Works” and the “Covenant of Grace” is at least misleading, because in that case the “Covenant of Works” was also gracious, and not only by an extrinsic arrangement, but even by the infusion of grace into their hearts. Typically in Reformed theology the Covenant of Grace is treated as an entirely different ‘economy’ of salvation, compared to that under the Covenant of Works. In the Garden, according to this theology, we would have had to work our way to heaven. But because man fell through sin, and could no longer keep the Covenant of Works, therefore God made a new Covenant (i.e. the Covenant of Grace), wherein He would send Christ to fulfill the Covenant of Works in our place, so that we didn’t have to keep it. For that reason, according to this theology, under the Covenant of Grace we don’t have to work; we are free, because Christ has already completed the obligations of the Covenant of Works in our place. In other words, in terms of what it means for us, the Covenant of Grace is a replacement for the Covenant of Works; under the Covenant of Grace, salvation by grace replaces salvation by works. And this is part of the reason why justification is conceived as by extrinsic imputation. Christ fulfills the Covenant of Works in our place, and then our accounts are swapped with His.

    But, if Adam and Eve were under grace in the Garden, having infused grace in their hearts, then grace does not replace works. Being in a state of grace, and being under an obligation to work for salvation, are not mutually exclusive, because they were both the case in the Garden. And that means that the Covenant of Grace should not be understood as a replacement economy, but as restoring us, through the grace merited by Christ’s sacrifice, to what Adam and Eve had in the Garden (minus the preternatural gifts), but this time as gift restored by Love’s sacrifice. In this way, your thesis implies a theology of restoration, as opposed to a theology of replacement. And in this way your argument implies that justification in the Covenant of Grace is by infusion, not by account swapping, because Adam and Eve were justified by infusion, and through baptism we receive the sanctifying grace of Christ the Second Adam that we would have received through natural descent from the first Adam, had Adam not sinned.

    Your thesis also supports chapter 16 of Session VI of the Council of Trent, which teaches that by the grace given to us through Christ’s sacrifice, the reward for our labor is eternal life, both as a grace mercifully promised, and a reward promised by God for our good works done out of agape:

    For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches, continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace, since Christ our Savior says: “If anyone shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting.” Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves, nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ. (Council of Trent, Session VI, chapter 16)

    In other words, understanding the Covenant of Grace as God’s way of restoring us to grace (rather than replacing our obligation under the Covenant of Works) helps explain Trent VI.16, because the notion of working under grace for the reward of eternal life, makes sense if we are, in a way, restored to the grace that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden (minus the preternatural gifts), except that the grace we receive is through the self-giving sacrifice of the Second Adam, who poured out all His own blood that we may run the race that is set out before us, the race having eternal life as its reward.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. Barrett,

    Let me add something else about grace, because Protestants and Catholics do not have exactly the same conception of what grace is, and as a result, we sometimes end up talking past each other when we talk about grace. For Protestants, typically, grace is only a divine attitude, namely, God’s undeserved favor. For example, earlier this year I had a conversation with R. Scott Clark (Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California) about grace. In the course of that conversation he wrote [UPDATE: Clark has moved his blog, so this post can now be found here]:

    We Protestants don’t have “created grace” we have “favor” with God. It’s not a “thing.” It’s not some “stuff.” It’s God’s attitude toward us. Full stop.

    I responded:

    So, were those [first] Reformed theologians completely wrong about grace being infused in sanctification, or are you saying that the infused grace (in sanctification) is infused divine favor? If the latter, then, what exactly do you mean by the infusion of divine favor?

    Scott replied:

    I’m not sure that I would use that language now.

    If, as Scott claimed, grace is “God’s attitude toward us. Full stop,” then grace cannot be infused into us. That’s because it makes no sense for an attitude to be infused. And that’s why the notion of infused grace is unavailable to Scott, because he has defined grace as only an attitude or stance on God’s part. Now, given your argument in this post, conceiving of grace as only a divine attitude, and not as any divine gift given to us out of that divine favor, would entail a Pelagian pre-Fall soteriology. That’s because, as I pointed out, a divine attitude cannot be infused. And yet as you have pointed out, the notion that man could fulfill the Covenant of Works without the infusion of grace is essentially Pelagian.

    By contrast, St. Augustine and St. Thomas talk about grace not only as divine favor, but also as the divine gift given to us, within us. For example, St. Thomas writes:

    According to the common manner of speech, grace is usually taken in three ways. First, for anyone’s love, as we are accustomed to say that the soldier is in the good graces of the king, i.e. the king looks on him with favor. Secondly, it is taken for any gift freely bestowed, as we are accustomed to say: I do you this act of grace. Thirdly, it is taken for the recompense of a gift given “gratis,” inasmuch as we are said to be “grateful” for benefits. Of these three the second depends on the first, since one bestows something on another “gratis” from the love wherewith he receives him into his good “graces.” And from the second proceeds the third, since from benefits bestowed “gratis” arises “gratitude.” Now as regards the last two, it is clear that grace implies something in him who receives grace: first, the gift given gratis; secondly, the acknowledgment of the gift. But as regards the first, a difference must be noted between the grace of God and the grace of man; for since the creature’s good springs from the Divine will, some good in the creature flows from God’s love, whereby He wishes the good of the creature. On the other hand, the will of man is moved by the good pre-existing in things; and hence man’s love does not wholly cause the good of the thing, but pre-supposes it either in part or wholly. Therefore it is clear that every love of God is followed at some time by a good caused in the creature, but not co-eternal with the eternal love. And according to this difference of good the love of God to the creature is looked at differently. For one is common, whereby He loves “all things that are” (Wisdom 11:25), and thereby gives things their natural being. But the second is a special love, whereby He draws the rational creature above the condition of its nature to a participation of the Divine good; and according to this love He is said to love anyone simply, since it is by this love that God simply wishes the eternal good, which is Himself, for the creature. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.110 a.1 [my emphases])

    This “participation of the Divine good” is the grace infused into us, whereby we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). For St. Thomas, grace can be infused, because grace is not merely a divine attitude, but also the gift of participation in the divine nature. (See also Daniel Keating’s Deification and Grace, 2007) In this way, St. Thomas, like St. Augustine, avoids a Pelagian soteriology in man’s pre-Fall condition. But given the soundness of your argument, conceiving of grace as only a divine attitude seems to entail a Pelagian soteriology in the Garden.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  4. […] Turner makes the claim here that the Protestant view of Adam and Eve before the Fall is semi-Pelagian. Does that count? I mean […]

  5. I find this article seriously weak in argumentation. I would suggest to interact more with Kline and Vos and Bavinck than Berkof.

  6. Bryan,

    As far as Scott Clark’s protestations go, Berkhof in his systematic theology (p. 324) speaks of created graces in the humanity of Christ.

  7. Dear “WTSstudent”,

    Welcome to Called to Communion and thank you for commenting. Would you mind if we could use your first name?

    We take arguments and criticisms seriously here. I’m sure the author and my fellow contributors would be happy to receive your critique and see if the premises and conclusions in this article stand up to scrutiny. But to get there, do you think you could give us a little more about why you think the article is “seriously weak”? Interacting with other authors would not make weak argumentation strong, but perhaps would make it more comprehensive.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  8. WTSstudent,

    I am not clear on where Bavink or Vos dissent from the majority Reformation position of taking righteousness as natural. It is quite widespread, at least in my reading in Kuyper, Hodge, Van Til and a host of other writers. (Of Kline, I have no idea.) so if you think the article is off, the please point the way to where these other sources indicate that righteousness is not intrinsic to the imago dei.

  9. Nick,

    You wrote : “If Adam didn’t have super-added gifts, then that means he could believe in God by nature, which is blasphemy, and akin to being able to see far off galaxies with the naked eye. As you note, this is even more severe when it comes to loving God with supernatural Charity, which would make Adam’s love of God a purely creaturely love.”

    This isn’t necessarily so. And it being not necessarily so doesn’t entail Pelagianism either and here is why. If one rejects the idea of super added grace at creation, it is open to one to think of Adam as innocent yet lacking righteousness. And one might think that because one might think that righteousness is necessarily a product of hypostatic activity and since pace Origen persons didn’t pre-exist their embodiment, they cannot have any. This would stave off Pelagianism while rejecting the Augustinian notion of super added grace. What it would entail is that Adam’s belief in God came by experience with God and in synergy.

  10. Perry,

    I’m not sure I understand your point (which probably isn’t a surprise to you). What is “faith” to you (Eastern Orthodoxy)? When Paul says “faith, hope, and charity” (which not all men have), I see them as means of interacting with God in a way that surpasses human nature – and I cannot conceive of these as ‘functions of human nature’. Or what about man being a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” with the Holy Spirit clearly not present in non-Christians?

    When you speak of Adam as “innocent yet lacking righteousness,” I don’t see how that gets around what “faith, hope and charity” are and do, nor how it answers what Adam ‘fell from’. It sounds a lot like the Protestant system where Adam lacked ‘legal righteousness’ which required ‘perfect personal obedience’ (sounds like your comment of “a product of hypostatic activity”) – though clearly that’s not the way Orthodoxy thinks/believes.

    Your ‘answer’ comes down to: “What it would entail is that Adam’s belief in God came by experience with God and in synergy.” But I don’t see how this helps since I don’t know how this ‘third option’ is different from the Catholic claim (which fully believes in “experience with God and synergy”).

    The Eastern Orthodox Confession of Dositheos (aka 1672 Council of Jerusalem) sounds very “Roman Catholic” (even “Augustinian”) in this regard, especially sections like #14: http://www.crivoice.org/creeddositheus.html

  11. When I was at Westminster I was taught that though the Covenant of Works could be a helpful category in understanding the test of love and trust that faced our first parents, the overarching category was Grace, at the beginning and at the end. Even the law of prohibition in the Garden was an act of grace, sustaining Adam and Eve in their fellowship with their Creator God. The Law/Grace distinction could only be made in the wider category of the grace of God. In this way man was never left to works as a means to sustain his relationship to God and of which his nature was capable apart from operative grace.

  12. Good morning, everyone. We’re almost on the verge of a discussion here–that’s great!

    I should say to “WTSstudent” that I considered including Bavinck, given that he criticizes the Catholic view at length in his Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, ch. 12, the chapter on human nature. Whether he says anything substantially different than Berkhof regarding Adam’s original righteousness as being natural, I don’t remember him departing from the Reformed standard. Now, he wants to qualify (as does Berkhof) in what sense that original righteousness is natural so as to avoid the critique that man is losing something essential to his nature when he fell.

    Nevertheless, I was somewhat disappointed in Bavinck in some of criticisms. I didn’t want to open that can of worms in the post, but since you bring him up I’ll give some of my birdbrain thoughts.

    I’m not convinced that Bavinck really understands the Catholic view on some important points. For example, he sees the Catholic view of grace as “transform[ing] everything into grace” because infused charity is a gift just like “life, intellect, wisdom, power, and so forth” (544). Yet surely Bavinck knows that the Catholic tradition distinguishes between the gift of existence on the one hand and the gift of being called to share in the divine life and the immediate vision of God. I think he is really objecting to the idea of a beatitude above the power of human nature that could be bestowed on man in addition to the gift of being created in the first place.

    In the same place, Bavinck also misunderstands the role of actual grace in the attainment of salvation of a person already in a state of grace, like Adam and Eve. So he misconstrues the Catholic view by saying:

    From the moment man has received those initial gifts [of infused grace/charity/etc], says Rome, he himself is moved by that grace to go to work, and everything he receives from here on he receives as a reward for his merits. Even eternal life is no longer a truly gracious gift of God but a fitting, worthy, proportionate reward for work done. It could still be called a gift of grace only because the power that enabled humans to perform meritorious works was a gift of grace. It is just as the Pelagians put it in ancient times: the enablement (posse) is from God, the will (velle) from man.

    But I think there are two problems with this portrait. First, it appears that Bavinck’s critique assumes a view of causality that is truly either/or. Either God is directly causing it or man is directly causing it, in this case the performance of a salutary or meritorious work. Surely, though, as with sanctification, the Reformed are willing to admit a more complex picture of causality than that. Second, and correlatively, he acts as though the Catholic tradition hasn’t affirmed the necessity of grace for every good action, even for someone already in a state of grace (i.e., having supernatural charity from God). An example would be St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, q. 109, a. 9. St. Thomas affirms that the man who is already in a state of grace is also dependent on God for the grace to act. So I don’t know why Bavinck thinks that the Catholic position just reverts to some kind of “ungraciousness”.

    Another example of where Bavinck misses the mark, in my view, is the charge that because Catholics have this hypothetical “pure nature” they talk about, therefore Catholics just view the fall as the loss of the frosting from the top of the cake (frosting being infused charity, donum superadditum) while basic, good nature remains. But I think this minimizes how Catholics see the fall affecting the soul of man. The removal of sanctifying grace due to sinning against charity isn’t skimming icing off a cake and then man just starts over in some “pure nature” state. “Pure nature” is a hypothetical state of initial creation, not one that Catholics see as having been actualized before or after the fall. Once God destined man for eternal beatitude, there was no going back from that.

    Basically, I think Bavinck’s problem with the Catholic conception of the original state of man is what he sees as the “neoplatonic” notion of the beatitific vision, accompanied with his objection to what he sees as a rather embarrassing adoption by Catholics of the idea of the gradation of being, such that the combination of matter and spirit in Adam is like an unstable combination of bread and vegemite (sorry, Aussies). Or tin foil in a microwave, or whatever.

    Peace,
    Barrett

  13. Don,

    Thanks for commenting and bringing up your training at WTS. Maybe you’re WTSstudent and I just don’t know. I would say that I learned similar things at CTS.

    Would you mind explaining how the “grace” of the law of prohibition in the Garden is any different from Pelagius’ “grace” of the “the law and the teaching”?

    Also, based on what you said about man being capable of a relationship with God apart from operative grace, do you object to or want to qualify what Berkhof says? It seems to me that you’re in basic agreement with him, but maybe I’m wrong. What is different from your view and simply saying that the graciousness of the CoW is the gift of creation? Is it just the addition of a legal arrangement? How would you define a “covenant”?

    Also, if the CoW is a test of love in the context of grace, what do you see as being different about the WCF’s “Covenant of Grace”? Is it just that there is no longer a test of love for CoG people?

    Finally, I think you might be surprised to know that for Catholic theology man could have had a relationship with God “naturally” in the hypothetical state of pure nature. It would not consist in being ordered to the supernatural end of the beatific vision, though. Maybe some other guys here can correct me if I’m wrong in thinking that. Anyone else?

    Sorry to bombard you with question–just trying to draw out your position a little more explicitly.

    Peace,
    Barrett

  14. Barrett and friends,

    Recently Wes White (PCA pastor) laid out an explanation of the Reformed distinction between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace, in a post titled “What is Monocovenantalism?.” Wes’s post shows clearly how the distinction between the two covenants (i.e. Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace) is in his opinion a reflection of the only two possible ways of justification: law or faith. He writes:

    This distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace is of the utmost importance. As it says in Ps. 130:3-4, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” If we stand before God on the basis of what we have done, then there is no hope. The only hope that we have is the free forgiveness of God in Christ. The Apostle Paul says that “if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath” (Rom. 4:14-15). It must be one or the other. It will either be by the covenant of works or the covenant of grace. Justification will either be by the law or by faith.

    Wes’s statement makes law and faith mutually exclusive means of justification. It implies that Adam’s pre-Fall justification would have been by law without faith, and that our present day justification is by faith without works. But according to St. Augustine and the Fathers, when St. Paul denies that we are justified by works, he is talking about works-apart-from-grace, and thus works-apart-from-agape. So, if Adam and Eve had sanctifying grace, and infused agape in the pre-Fall condition, then their obedience would have been works-done-out-of-grace-and-agape, and hence it wouldn’t be the sort St. Paul was condemning in his letters to the Romans and to the Galatians. And in that case, the parallel Wes is trying to make between justification by law or faith, on the one hand, and the Covenant of Works or the Covenant of Grace, on the other hand, breaks down. In other words, if Barrett is correct that pre-Fall Adam and Eve had infused grace, and that denying this entails Pelagianism, then Wes’s attempt to make the Covenant of Works / Covenant of Grace distinction correspond to St. Paul’s distinction between justification by “works of the law” and justification by grace, is mistaken.

    Now contrast that with the Federal Vision position. The Joint FV Statement says the following about the covenant with Adam:

    We affirm that Adam was in a covenant of life with the triune God in the Garden of Eden, in which arrangement Adam was required to obey God completely, from the heart. We hold further that all such obedience, had it occurred, would have been rendered from a heart of faith alone, in a spirit of loving trust. Adam was created to progress from immature glory to mature glory, but that glorification too would have been a gift of grace, received by faith alone.

    We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements. In line with this, we affirm that until the expulsion from the Garden, Adam was free to eat from the tree of life. We deny that Adam had to earn or merit righteousness, life, glorification, or anything else.

    Initially the problem seems to be the opposite of the problem with Wes’s position. Wes takes grace out of the Covenant of Works, and his pre-Fall soteriology is in that respect Pelagian. But the FV position, on the other hand, takes meritorious works out the covenant with Adam. In other words, the FV position takes the “Covenant of Grace” (which was already based on a false dichotomy of grace and works, as I have shown above) and extends it back to the very beginning. But, the FV position is also Pelagian in a certain respect. Here’s why. Denying that Adam’s graced works would have been meritorious for the beatific vision, is denying that Adam was made “proportional to the supernatural end of the vision of God.” It implies that had Adam (in grace and agape) perfectly obeyed God, it would have been right that Adam’s ‘reward’ for his life of perfect, self-sacrificing obedience out of agape should be that Adam never see God’s face. And if God had chosen to let Adam see His face after a life of perfect self-sacrificing obedience out of agape, God would have prefaced it by saying, “You know, you don’t deserve this at all, and you really don’t belong here at all, but I’m going to let you see My face anyway.” The idea that Adam’s pre-Fall obedience would not have been ordered toward a supernatural end implies that Adam did not have agape (which is a supernatural virtue), and thus did not have sanctifying grace (i.e. a participation in the divine nature), by which his actions were made proportional to the supernatural end which is the beatific vision. So the FV position, even though extending the “Covenant of Grace” back into the Garden, is nonetheless Pelagian in this particular respect, that it treats ‘grace’ as extrinsic and not infused, and thus implies that man in his own nature can see the face of God. If it granted that grace were infused, then Adam would have been made “proportional to the supernatural end of the vision of God,” and his obedience-out-of-agape would have been truly meritorious toward the beatific vision.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  15. Barrett,

    First, thanks for this article. You guest authors are going to put us regular contributors out of a job!

    But I think there are two problems with this portrait. First, it appears that Bavinck’s critique assumes a view of causality that is truly either/or. Either God is directly causing it or man is directly causing it, in this case the performance of a salutary or meritorious work.

    I haven’t read Bavinck but from the way you’re describing his view, it appears to me to rest on the error of a mechanical view of nature hence the strict monergism. According to his false caricature of grace in Catholic theology, God gives man the (grace) to do good as a dog trainer gives his dog the ability to roll over. Sure we can attribute the act of rolling over to the trainer ultimately, but it is the dog who actually does the rolling over. The trainer (alone) enables; the dog (alone) rolls over. Virtually every Protestant I’ve ever met believes that this is the Catholic doctrine. But this is not even intelligible given Catholic theology. For Protestants, since they can’t accept the dog alone rolling over (I mean man alone doing good) they reject the system and say the trainer alone must do the rolling over (I mean God alone doing good). The straw man has been utterly defeated – his grassy innards scattered over the field.

    The other problem is with the concept of reward. It seems that the Protestants objection to “merit” and “reward” is also based on a mechanical view of the cosmos. That in their idea of the Catholic doctrine, getting the reward of heaven for one’s good works is akin to the trainer giving the dog a treat for rolling over. But God does not “reward” strictly speaking because reward is a reaction and, as I said in my post on justification, God does not react. So much for those false caricatures of Catholic soteriology.

    Dunno how much of this actually applies to Bavinck but it certainly applies to almost every Protestant I’ve ever met.

  16. Nick,

    When one speaks of surpassing human nature, that will depend on what we think constitutes human nature as such. If we take God to be related to creatures by efficient causation and by analogy, then your concerns will have merit. But if we conceive of the relationship differently with God as related to creatures formally, then the virtues will not come to human nature from “the outside.”

    Consequently they will not be accidental to human nature. The distinction to keep in mind for non-Protestant and non-Catholic conceptions in the East is between the imago dei as a potency and the actualization of it via divine power or activity. Notice this brief exchange between Maixmus and Pyrrus in the Disputation.

    “Maximus: Yes, natural things. Pyrrhus: If they be natural things, why do they not exist in all men equally, since all men have an identical nature? Maximus: But they do exist equally in all men because of the identical nature! Pyrrhus: Then why is there such a great disparity [of virtues] in us? Maximus: Because we do not all practice what is natural to us to an equal degree; indeed, if we [all] practiced equally [those virtues] natural to us as we were created to do, then one would be able to perceive one virtue in us all, just as there is one nature [in us all], and “one virtue” would not admit of a “more” or “less.” Pyrrhus: If virtue be something natural [to us], and if what is natural to us existeth not through asceticism but by reason of our creation, then why is it that we acquire the virtues, which are natural, with asceticism and labours? Maximus: Asceticism, and the toils that go with it, was devised simply in order to ward off deception, which established itself through sensory perception. It is not [as if] the virtues have been newly introduced from outside, for they inhere in us from creation, as hath already been said. Therefore, when deception is completely expelled, the soul immediately exhibits the splendor of its natural virtue.”

    As for your question about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is not a virtue nor an activity, but the giver and not identical to the gifts given qua divine power. So I can’t see how the material on the Spirit indwelling maps on to the question of the virtues.

    Here’s a few things to keep in mind. Orthodoxy isn’t Protestantism. It bears no significant lines of influence or cross pollination in its doctrinal formulas. It isn’t influenced by Nominalism or late medieval scholasticism in the ways the Reformers were. It isn’t concerned with the same problems or worries. So if it looks Protestant, this is probably due to a misreading. The same goes for Protestant readings of say Augustine.

    Consequently, to speak of “legal righteousness” in a Protestant sense is entirely inapplicable, since the Orthodox, like Rome, do not share the relevant conception of law, let alone righteousness. There simply is no forensic justice in Orthodoxy since there are no created intermediaries between God and creation, pace Arianism. If on my view Adam acquired righteousness by his personal acts in co-operation with God, this righteousness wouldn’t be forensic and ungrounded in Adam. Nor would it be the product of a synergy based on extrinsic helps. Adam’s acquired and achieved righteousness is a product of personal choices in divine power. If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t be praiseworthy. The righteousness would be natural and not hypostatic, thereby conflating the categories of person and nature. Adam could not have said righteousness prior to his personal activity since he didn’t exist to choose anything and said righteousness only comes through his personal activity. If it didn’t, he would lack free will.This is why Theophilius of Antioch says Adam was created between mortality and immortality and not either. (Epistle to Autolychus 2:27)

    As for the Fall, we maintain that qua imago dei the Fall does not alter human nature since the imago dei is a divine logos or activity. Adam looses the divine power at his disposal by which he personally operated in and with his natural powers. Hence it is impossible for humans to fully actualize the potency of their image without divine power. That potency is never lost or intrinsically altered. Pelagius’ error was to take this potency for an actuality and so to conflate image and likeness.

    When I wrote that Adam’s belief in God came from experience, I meant by virtue of his personal acquaintance with God in the garden. It is not infused into him. I am not clear if this is what Catholic theology has in mind but I’ll leave that to Catholics to explain one way or the other. Nor is it by any means clear that we mean to locate synergy in the same place. So for example, Augustine locates synergy under the influence of condign grace in justification, just as Aquinas does. But the divine will moves the human will at some metaphysical point without the co-operation of the human will. That isn’t synergy and that isn’t what the Orthodox think. For us, its synergy “all the way down.”

    As for the Confession of Dositheos, it sounds Catholic because it was composed under direct Jesuit influence. There are a number of questions that are relevant. Did the Eastern Church using Latin terminology mean the same thing as those terms meant in the West? Are such terms to be understood within the context of pre-established Orthodox theological structures or in Latin structures? What is the normative standing of the Confession since its production among the Orthodox? Is it on a par with Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon or no? What did the East have to say about such matters prior to it and after it? Without addressing these questions, I can’t see how citing the Confession could count against what I have written. More to the point, if as Catholic writers often allege that the Orthodox have no magisterium, then the Confession can’t represent normative Orthodox teaching. If it can’t, then citing it can’t support your position or not as far as I am able to see.

    All of this is say, that I don’t think the argument you made earlier follows. It only follows on a certain understanding of the relationship between nature and grace. All I wished to point out is that there are different non-Pelagian ways of understanding that relation and on those understandings, your argument doesn’t go through.

  17. Perry,

    In taking Adam to be innocent at creation, would you then take the idea of super-added grace at creation to be a form of monergism?

  18. Nathan,

    Yes I would.

    Bryan,

    Here are some other Reformed sources.

    Charles Hodge,
    “They [Rome] distinguish, therefore, between the image of God and original righteousness. The latter they say is lost, the former retained. Protestants, on the other hand, hold that it is the divine image in its most important constituents, that man forfeited by his apostasy. This, however, may be considered only a difference as to words. The important point of difference is this, that the Protestants hold that original righteousness, so far as it consisted in the moral excellence of Adam, was natural, while the Romanists maintain that it was supernatural…Protestants maintain that original righteousness was concreated and natural.” Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 103.

    Francis Turretin,
    “Was original righteousness natural or supernatural? The former we affirm, and the latter we deny against the Romanists.” (Institutes, v. 1, p. 470)

    “However, the orthodox [the Reformed] (although not denying that this righteousness may be called supernatural with regard to the corrupt state and holding that it is not natural constitutively or consecutively) yet think it may well be called natural originally and perfectively (with regard to the pure state because created with it). (Ibid, 471)

    “Although original righteousness can properly be called ‘grace’ or ‘a gratuitous gift’ (and so not due on the part of God, just as the nature itself also, created by him), it does not follow that it is supernatural or not due to the perfection of the innocent nature. For although God owned nothing to man, yet it being posited that he willed to create man after his own image, he was bound to create him righteous and holy.” (Ibid, 473)

  19. Thanks Perry.

    Barrett,

    I’ll throw some more thoughts into the mix, in light of the quotations Perry added. Turretin’s denial that Adam’s original righteousness was supernatural entails the following dilemma. Either (1) man is by his very nature ordered to the beatific vision, or (2) heaven is something less than the beatific vision. Consider the first horn of the dilemma first. If man were by his very nature ordered to the beatific vision this would make the inner life of God natural to man, and something owed to man by God in order to fulfill man’s nature. But the inner life of God belongs by nature only to God; it belongs to the angels and saints not by nature but as gratuitous gift. Otherwise grace is not grace. So by making man naturally ordered to a supernatural end this horn of the dilemma contains an implicit denial of the Creator-creature distinction. This is one of the key arguments in Larry Feingold’s book The Natural Desire to See God.

    As for the second horn of the dilemma, if Adam’s original righteousness was not supernatural, then it was not ordered to a supernatural end. In that case, ‘heaven’ is not the beatific vision, but something proportional to man as man, i.e. the perfect knowledge of God as He can be known by the natural light of unassisted created reason. This horn of the dilemma would reduce ‘heaven’ to something akin to the perfected natural happiness of Aristotle and the ‘righteous pagans,’ and thus reduce heaven to a kind of everlasting Limbo. In other words, it would reduce heaven to the first level of hell.

    St. Thomas writes:

    But man’s perfect Happiness, as stated above (Question 3, Article 8), consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now the vision of God’s Essence surpasses the nature not only of man, but also of every creature, as was shown in the I, 12, 4. For the natural knowledge of every creature is in keeping with the mode of his substance: thus it is said of the intelligence (De Causis; Prop. viii) that “it knows things that are above it, and things that are below it, according to the mode of its substance.” But every knowledge that is according to the mode of created substance, falls short of the vision of the Divine Essence, which infinitely surpasses all created substance. Consequently neither man, nor any creature, can attain final Happiness by his natural powers. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.5 a.5 co.)

    So the dilemma entailed by Turretin’s claim requires that we choose between a denial of the Creator-creature distinction, or a denial of heaven. But both are contrary to orthodoxy. Hence, by modus tollens, Turretin’s premise (i.e. that man’s original righteousness was not supernatural) should be rejected.

    But there are some objections. Turretin raises the following objection: “For although God owed nothing to man, yet it being posited that he willed to create man after his own image, he was bound to create him righteous and holy.” Turretin’s mistake here is to offer a false dilemma: either God makes man with [natural] righteousness, or God does not make man in God’s image. The third option that Turretin overlooks (and which makes his dilemma a false dilemma) is that God makes man with supernatural righteousness, i.e. sanctifying grace and the infused virtue of agape. In other words, Turretin’s dilemma mistakenly conflates natural righteousness and supernatural righteousness. With only natural righteousness Adam and Eve would have given to God His due as their Creator (but not as their Father), and they would have loved Him (not with agape) but with the natural love for God as their Creator (but not as their Father). With this natural love they would have loved him even more than they loved themselves. And yet, they would not be in friendship with God as Father. Only with the supernatural grace of agape could they love God not just as Creator, but as Father, and be truly sons of God.

    Hodge’s objection is that original righteousness is natural to man because original righteousness is (or is part of) the image of God in which man is made. If original righteousness were (or were part of) the image of God, this wouldn’t require that original righteousness be natural rather than supernatural. So the evidence underdetermines Hodge’s conclusion.

    Lastly, consider Mark Horne’s objection:

    The chronology of when Adam might have been given the title of “son” (“whether that was a pre-lapsarian (pre-fall) or post-lapsarian relationship”) is irrelevant. The relationship is by virtue of origin. Seth is Adam’s son because he came from Adam and Adam is God’s son because he came from God. In both cases they received their life from the other. There is no suggestion here that there is some kind of “adoption.” The issue is birth and origin. Adam was God’s son by virtue of God’s creation. Adam after all was created in the image of God, and that is a mark of sonship: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5.3).

    Mark offers two reason to think that Adam was a son by nature. First, he says that Adam was a son of God in virtue of his coming from God. This is not a good reason, because sharks and geese and flies also came from God, but are not sons of God. Mark’s second reason is the same as Hodge’s, namely, that Adam was created in God’s image, and being made in God’s image is a mark of sonship, as seen in the example of Seth. But, just because the offspring of a man is the son of that man, it does not follow that when God creates a rational creature, this rational creature is a son of God. Implicit in Mark’s argument, therefore, is a [mistaken] assumption that human reproduction is sufficiently analogous to divine creation that truths concerning the former can be applied to the latter. Such an assumption implicitly denies (or fails to take sufficient notice of) the Creator-creature distinction. The interesting thing about the example of Seth is that St. Thomas (following St. Augustine) makes a distinction between ‘image’ and ‘likeness.’ See Summa Theologica I. Q.93 a.9. Whether St. Thomas is right about that or not, I don’t know and have no intention of arguing. But if he is right about that, then Seth did bear the likeness of Adam because after the Fall Adam had lost original righteousness, and thus Seth, by being born without original righteousness from fallen Adam, was truly said to be not only in the image of Adam as man, but also in his likeness as fallen.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  20. Tim,

    Thanks, man! I think your Cesar Milan illustration captures the essence of Bavinck’s objection. Tangentially, I think his Reformed Dogmatics will replace Berkhof in conservative Reformed seminaries. WTS is having a sale where folks can get it for just under 100 USD. He is much better than Berkhof on historical theology, though not perfect as I mentioned above.

    Bryan,

    I think your dilemma aptly expresses the problem. A lot of folks are comfortable expressing the eschaton only in earthly terms at the moment and/or take an agnostic stance toward what the image of God in man is. Also, I think the “image” and “likeness” distinction goes all the way back to Irenaeus. I can’t find the reference, though.

    BHT

  21. Barrett,

    Ask and you shall receive.

    ““And then, again, this Word was manifested when the Word of God was made man, assimilating Himself to man, and man to Himself, so that by means of his resemblance to the Son, man might become precious to the Father. For in times long past, it was said that man was created after the image of God, but it was not [actually] shown; for the Word was as yet invisible, after whose image man was created, Wherefore also he did easily lose the similitude. When, however, the Word of God became flesh, He confirmed both these: for He both showed forth the image truly, since He became Himself what was His image; and He re-established the similitude after a sure manner, by assimilating man to the invisible Father through means of the visible Word.” Against Heresies, 5.16.2

  22. Barrett,

    I’ll say a few more things on this post, because I think this post is more important than some may realize.

    What stands out to me about the WCF’s prooftexts regarding the Covenant of Works is the undefended assumption that what St. Paul says about the Law in Galatians and Romans, applies to the situation of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. The prooftext in the WCF (Chap. VII.2) for its claim that “the first covenant was a covenant of works” is Galatians 3:12, “And the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, he who practices them shall live by them.” But Gal 3:12 is about the Law of Moses, because in Gal 3:10 St. Paul is talking about “the book of the law” and quoting from Deut 27:26. The book of the law is the Law given to Moses. The WCF authors assumed that because Adam and Eve would have been given eternal Life had they obeyed God, and because St. Paul said in Gal 3:12 that the person who practices the commands of the Law “shall live by them,” therefore Gal 3:12 supports the Reformed doctrine of the Covenant of Works. This fails to take into account that if a person did not have grace, but managed to keep all the letter of the Law of Moses, this would not be enough for salvation, because such a person would not have agape in his heart. The Law does not give faith and agape; it has not the power to do so. The Law has to be written on our hearts, and this can be done only by the Holy Spirit. But if Adam and Eve had obeyed God, they would have entered into eternal Life; and this shows that pre-Fall Adam and Eve were not under the Law (in the sense of being devoid of sanctifying grace and agape), on pain of Pelagianism.

    The Confession continues: “wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity.” (WCF VII.2) The first prooftext given here is Romans 10:5, “Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the Law shall live by it.” Again, Romans 10:5 is explicitly about the Law of Moses, but the WCF authors assume that this verse supports a doctrine about man’s pre-Fall relation to God.

    The next prooftext given is Romans 5:12-20. There St. Paul explains that death came into the world through Adam’s sin. St. Paul says, “sin was in the world before the Law was given, … yet death reigned from Adam to Moses ….” (Rom 5:13-14) If sin was in the world before the Law was given, then the Law being referred to cannot be the prohibition against eating from the Tree of Good and Evil; the Law being referred to can only be the Law of Moses. A bit further down St. Paul writes, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass ….” (Rom 5:19-20) Here again, if the Law came in to increase trespasses, then this implies that trespasses were already present, and thus that the Law being referred to is the Law of Moses, not the moral law in the Garden or the prohibition regarding the Tree. But the WCF authors appeal to this passage in support of the idea of the Covenant of Works. Their assumption is that whatever is true of the situation of man (viz-a-viz salvation) under the Law of Moses, must also have been true of the pre-Fall covenant, and therefore that St. Paul’s statements about the Law somehow support this notion of the [Reformed doctrine of the] Covenant of Works. That assumption is not being derived from the text, but is presupposed in order to justify appealing to what St. Paul says about the Law of Moses as support for the Reformed doctrine of the Covenant of Works, as though what St. Paul says about the Law of Moses supports the Reformed doctrine of the Covenant of Works.

    Finally, the last line of WCF VII.2 is “upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” The prooftexts are Gen 2:17 “in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” and Gal 3:10, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, and do them.” Of course the Gen 2:17 prohibition applies to the pre-Fall condition. But again, appealing to Gal 3:10 to support the Covenant of Works presupposes that wherever there is any kind of law, the situation is soteriologically equivalent to the situation under the Law of Moses. But that’s not a safe assumption.

    Underlying this assumption is the notion that law and grace are incompatible. Therefore, according to this way of thinking, since Adam and Eve were under a kind of law (i.e. prohibition regarding the Tree, and eternal Life conditioned on obedience) therefore, they must not have been under grace. And therefore they must have been under the same kind of situation as were those persons under the Law of Moses. But the Church Fathers did not believe that law and grace were incompatible. Rather, they understood St. Paul’s teaching against the “law of works” to be referring to those who pursued a righteousness of their own, apart from grace. Those who had received the grace that comes through Christ not only had their sins forgiven, but they fulfilled the law by way of agape poured out into their heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). And love fulfills the law. (Rom 13:10, Gal 5:14) So according to the Church Fathers the dichotomy for St. Paul was not between law and grace, but between law-apart-from-grace-and-agape, and grace-and-agape-by-which-we-fulfill-the-law. The former had a spirit of fear before God, but the latter have the Spirit by which we are sons, and act not out of fear of punishment, but out of love for God as our Father.

    But because what St. Paul is condemning (in Romans and Galatians) is Law-apart-from-grace-and-agape, the WCF authors’ assumption that the nature of the Covenant of Works is shown by what St. Paul says about the Law, implies that pre-Fall Adam and Eve were likewise devoid of grace. And this entails a Pelagian pre-Fall soteriology, as you have shown in the post above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. A few questions. 1. If Adam had not yet sinned in the Garden what does he need to be saved from? 2. Since when does Reformed theology deny the fall or original sin which is really the heart of Pelagianism? I don’t find this argument to be very sound. It seems to misrepresent or ignor the issues.

  24. Jason,

    Your first question, about the meaning of salvation apart from sin, has to do with the 19th canon of the second synod of Orange (529, approved by Pope Boniface II 531) cited above in the article:

    No one is saved without God’s mercy. Human nature, even had it remained in the integrity in which it was created, could by no means have saved itself without the assistance of its creator. Thus, since without God’s grace it could not retain the salvation it had received, without God’s grace how will it be able to gain the salvation it has lost?

    Here you see that for the bishops at Orange “salvation” meant two things, one being the culmination of the other: first, it refers to Adam and Eve being made sons of God (the salvation man had received); second, it refers to the end of their sonship, namely, eternal blessedness with God (what it had yet to obtain). This blessedness would come from the vision of God, something not owed to any creature. Adam and Eve were destined to a share in the divine life. So “salvation” here is not defined first of all with reference to sin, but to nature. But we agree that after the fall, salvation must be also “from” sin. The problem of defining salvation merely in terms of its “from-ness” is that it is difficult to deal with the biblical picture of eternal fellowship with God being the reward of the faithful. If “salvation” were merely from sin, then the end of the Bible would look just like the beginning, a simple restoration of the Garden. But this is not the case. Have you heard about the concept of deification? What do you think Adam and Eve were to obtain in the Garden had they not fallen, i.e., what does “life” mean in WCF 7.2? Would they be confirmed in their initial state and that is the reward of the CoW, or were they destined to anything else in addition to that?

    As for you second question, no one has suggested that the Reformed tradition denies something like what the Tradition has meant by the fall or original sin. The historic debate between the Pelagians and St. Augustine et al. was focused on the salvation of man in the infralapsarian state. However, the debate began to touch on the salvation of the original pair and the necessity of supernatural charity for salvation. That second Orange felt it important enough to issue a canon on the topic is shown above. Whether an argument touches on a less prominent issue does not mean that argument is frivolous or unsound.

    Perhaps I could ask you to take a different approach. If you would like to show how the argument is unsound, you should show how it is the case. Would you mind showing how this article “misrepresent[s] or ignor[s] the issues”? I think we could have a much more beneficial discussion. I would also recommend Bryan’s comment at #19 since I think the dilemma he poses gets right to the heart of the issue.

    Peace,
    Barrett

  25. Barrett,

    Perhaps I can tease out some more implications here. If one believes that (1) Adam and Eve could, through obedience under the Covenant of Works, have entered into heaven, and one believes that (2) being under the law and having [infused] grace are mutually exclusive, and one believes that (3) in the Covenant of Works Adam and Eve were under the law, then a Pelagian pre-Fall soteriology logically follows, as you have shown, because then one is claiming that Adam and Eve could have gotten to heaven through obedience apart from [infused] grace. The irony is that the law-grace dichotomy gives one too many options; salvation is never by law alone, but always only by grace.

    But that second premise (i.e. that being under law and having [infused] grace are mutually exclusive) is problematic for another reason. The Apostle John writes that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Yet the Apostle Paul writes, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” (Gal 4:4) So Christ was both full of grace and under the Law. This seems to be incompatible with the notion that being under the law and having [infused] grace are mutually exclusive.

    Assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus had no infused grace. The Sixth Council taught infallibly (see my post here) that Christ has two wills, because, as Chalcedon infallibly taught, Christ has two natures. Monothelitism is a heresy. But because there is only one will per nature, and there is only one divine nature, therefore there is only one divine will, not three divine wills. (See here.) So Christ cannot merit with His divine will, because there is no higher being or will from which the divine will can merit anything. Therefore, Christ could merit only with His human will. So if, per hypothesis, Christ had no infused grace, then the claim that He, by His human will without infused grace, merited not only heaven but also grace for every human person to enter into heaven, then Pelagianism is true not only of pre-Fall Adam and Eve, but also of Christ. In that case, while it was gracious for Christ to choose to become incarnate, nevertheless, once He took on human nature, He did everything He did for us as man by unaided human will-power. Here again, the same dilemma raised in #19 arises. If Christ by unaided human will can merit heaven, then either man is by his very nature ordered to the beatific vision, or heaven is something less than the beatific vision.

    But if we acknowledge that Christ had infused grace, then this undermines the denial that Adam and Eve had infused grace. In other words, if even Christ needed infused grace in order to merit eternal life, then a fortiori so would Adam and Eve. And as soon as we acknowledge that pre-Fall Adam and Eve had infused grace, then what I said in comment #2 about the distinction between the Covenant of Grace and the Covenant of Works follows, i.e. the whole paradigm falls apart.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Greetings all. Very interesting discussion. The “covenant of works” has always struck me as allowing for being accused of Pelagianism but also the other end of things the “covenant of grace” also strikes me as being Pelagian from a practical standpoint well due to the way love/charity/works/obedience are reduced to necessary fruits of grace and thus there is a very strong impetus for an individual to act as if he has eternal election and thus claim for himself election based on the presence of said works in his life. But that is not the discussion here.

    Mr. Barrett Turner’s article is very good, though I would add two caveats

    1.) The Second Synod of Orange – My friend who has her M.Div from RTS Charlotte was taught that this synod is semi-Pelagian and thus proves that Catholics are Pelagian. While I don’t grasp her understanding completely (I believe her objection is tied to the idea that works are meritorious as quoted above in Canon 18) this is what is being taught at least by Dr. Hoffecker there http://www.rts.edu/Site/Academics/Docs/Syllabi/Orlando/2009/2009_04_2HT502_History_of_Christianity_I.pdf

    2.) Faith for Reformed minded individuals is a species of trust whereas for Catholics, and the early Church Fathers, it is a species of knowledge (knowledge gained through the relationship of love I would say). As such, when we speak about grace, for the Reformed it is that which brings about trust in God (God’s attitude towards us brings about our trust in Him), and for the Catholic it is that which conforms the individual to God and allows one to see “God face to face”. I feel that distinction should be drawn into the discussion as it may have some impact.

    But what I wish to add to this discussion is built upon Mr. Bryan Cross’ first post and is a possible Reformed solution to the problem raised (though I find that it creates an even worse problem). It strikes me that the “covenant of works” is not only Pelagian but it is also Dispensationalist in how it pits the covenants against each other and it is this dispensationalist aspect that can cancel out the Pelagian accusation. As Brian stated, the covenant of grace replaces the covenant of works via Christ fulfilling the Old Covenant. Mr. Wes White analysis of the law of works and the law of grace being mutually exclusive is standard, but it has a further point being that it was not intended by God for man to be capable of fulfilling the “covenant of works” and in fact the attempted fulfilling of the “covenant of works” by the unjust man is what damns man to hell (at least as how I have heard it presented cf. WCF VII.II , XVI, XIX ) It is also of note that when the WCF speaks of the “covenant of works” being a rule of righteousness (WCF XIX.II) it does not mean that by which we conform our lives to, but rather a dividing line and reminder of how far one falls short and is incapable of achieving (XIX.VI). WCF XIX.I states that Adam was endued with the power and ability to keep the law (notice that the word endued means “to cloth or dress/ to prepare with some trait” so even here pre-Fall righteousness is not a matter of nature but rather an external “alien righteousness”) but I would argue here that the WCF divines would not agree that Adam actually could keep the “covenant of works” even though he was endued, for it is of note that the justified man, though imputed, cannot actually keep the “covenant of works” but falls short due to his nature (even though here the WCF speaks of the sin nature which remains, VII.I speaks of the nature of man in an unfallen state also being unable to achieve neither blessedness nor reward). The problem is that man’s nature, whether pre or post fall, is incapable of completing the “covenant of works” it must be endued or imputed with an alien righteousness, a righteousness which completes the “covenant of works” but not man. Only God can complete the “covenant of works” as it is necessarily beyond the nature of man as nature is opposed to grace. Perhaps though I read too much dualism into the WCF, but none the less the “covenant of works” if achievable by pre fall man is Pelagian for the reasons Barrett Turner stated (and for the same reasons the “covenant of grace” is often assailed as being in practice Pelagian). The only way to avoid this is to suggest that the “covenant of works” was always incapable of being fulfilled and instead exists as a test and dispensation that remains until Christ can fulfill that covenant and replace it with the one of grace. Now this is further backed up by the Reformed notion of predestination which understands the fall not as something that man chose to do to himself, but rather as something which God had foreordained before all of creation (WCF V.IV, VI.I), a foreordaining that can only occur if man is incapable of fulfilling the covenant of works, even if endued, due to his very nature and distance from God. God is off the hook (sort of) for being the author of evil because it is man’s nature that causes the fall thus it can be said that it is man’s fault because his nature, not being divine, will always fall short of the glory of God. The covenant of works doesn’t really serve a purpose other than allowing man to sin because he cannot complete it and then it exists as a continued reminder of man’s sinful nature and inability to please God apart from imputed righteousness, even though it is still mandatory by the WCF X.VI,VII to live in obedience to the moral part of the covenant of works.

    But of course that all just means that God created something which he doesn’t like and is incapable of pleasing Him and further was intended not to please Him so that He could teach His creature to trust Him and grace and not the creature’s own works.

    The focus of the whole Reformed system is the problem with the inability of man to complete the “covenant of works” and it must be said that it is due to man’s nature and the whole focus on the shift from infused transformational justification to imputed justification has got to rest on the idea of man’s nature always being incapable of meeting the “covenant of works”. One cannot speak of transforming man’s nature (ontological sacramental divinization/theosis) because this created nature, and in fact any created nature, will always be incapable of achieving and pleasing God in-it-of-itself. The only solution is to impute an alien righteousness (gained via penal substitution on the cross) to an individual so that God’s own achievements, which alone are pleasing to Him, is counted as man’s while man’s nature incapable of achieving whether in a pre-fall, fallen, or state in heaven.

    In a nut shell though, I think that the Pelagianism in the “covenant of works” definitely exists only if we consider the “covenant of works” to be achievable by pre-fall Adam. However I would argue that the Reformed system can chiefly eliminate this Pelagian element by implicitly understanding the Fall as designed, planned, and actively willed by God to occur because man, by nature, even endued nature, as incapable of fulfilled the “covenant of works” and the attempted fulfillment is the Pelagian heresy which is damnable and the worst sort of blasphemy. However this forces Reformed theology into fatalism and a very antagonistic view of nature vs. grace – not that this isn’t present in the system anyway. The worse thing that I find this solution doing is that is utterly destroys love in the whole system. There is no reason for God to created or redeem man (other than it shows that God is God and man cannot be like or do what God does, and it is simply by God’s approval (grace) that one finds salvation) and there is no reason for man to want to be saved, nor can it be said that man can even want to be saved apart from grace because that concept is not part of his nature but rather is only a fruit of grace. (This the intense pressure to conform in Reformed assurance – the system is not attractive but adherence to an unattractive system proves election as it is only by grace that one can say it is attractive – thus the pressure to stay Reformed even when confronted with reason or scripture that provides an alternative understanding of salvation.)

    Obviously there is a lot of tension in the Reformed system that can break down into a host of divergent theologies and I do not intent to speak for all of Reformed theology, just as what I see as the lay of the landscape from far off, what I have heard people say, and my own pickings through Reformed theology in search of a solution to break down some walls that seperate Catholics from Reformed.

  27. Hi Barrett,

    You are wrong in your analysis and understanding of the Reformed Theology as expressed in the WCF and your implication that it is Pelagian. The analysis should not have focused on the Covenant of Works per se but on the nature of the created man. The WCF nor the Reformed Theology does not endorse the idea that man could perform/merit, outside of the grace of God, the promise of the Covenant of Works. The question, therefore, should be asked on what constitutes the nature of created man before the fall? When God created man, did he endowed him with original righteousness as part of the imago dei? Or is original righteousness something separate from the imago dei so that it is an extra-gift given to man after his creation? That’s the question to analyse in order to assess whether or not there is something Pelagian about Reformed Theology in its formulation about the nature of the created man and his abilities to fulfill the Covenant of Works. Here are summary points:

    1) Reformed Theology has taught that when God created man, that creation included not only knowledge, will, etc… but also original righteousness. This original righteousness is an integral part of being made in the image of God. It is not something separate or an addition to the imago dei. In the original state, man can relate to God as God graciously created him in His image carrying with him original righteousness. Man, therefore, acts righteously not from his own strength or apart from God’s grace but under His grace as he is created in the image of God. Unlike the medieval theologians, Reformed Theologians do not distinguish the composition of grace in the creation of man as natural and supernatural. When man fell, the imago dei was affected even in the will and knowledge of man — thus total depravity.

    2) Roman Catholic Theology has maintained (at least in its traditions) with some prominent medieval theologians that the nature of man does not include original righteousness. Although, not dogmatically defined, famous theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas endorse the view that original righteousness is not part of the nature man as the imago dei. Original righteousness is rather, an additional grace (a supernatural grace) given to man after his creation. In the creation of man, grace is divided into natural and supernatural. That which is natural is man’s willing, knowledge and etc… original righteousness not included but was given as a supernatural gift and thus is an integral part of the nature of the original man although such gift is supernatural. When man fell because of sin, original righteousness was forfeited but the will and knowledge of man remained intact as part of the nature of man.

    3) Pelagian Theology denies original righteousness in the creation of man as part of man’s nature whether natural or supernatural. Man was neutrally made and original righteousness is given only as a merit or reward. In other words, the nature of man is not righteous or unrighteous but, bearing the imago dei, man has the capacity to become righteous or unrighteous by his free will. They therefore deny original sin when the first man fell.

    4) In this analysis, Reformed Theology or the Roman Catholic Theology is not Pelagian. Both took into account the fact that the nature of man included original righteousness. According to Rome, it is a gift given supernaturally . The Reformers also teach that original righteousness is part of the nature of man but it does not endorse the medeival theologians’ distinction of natural and supernatural grace. The Pelagians do not endorse any of these teachings about original righteousness being part of the nature of man. Pelagians believe, contrary to the medieval theologians and reformers, that the pre-fall nature of man includes original righteousness (whether supernaturally given or not). Pelagians taught that original righteousness is something to be merited by a neutrally created man. Man is neither righteous or unrighteous in his original state but has the capacity (as they are bearers of the imago dei) to become righteous or unrighteous.

    Regards,
    Joey

  28. Dear Mr. Joey Henry –

    You really should cite your sources as what you have mentioned is not what I have been taught either in terms of Reformed or Catholic. I will deal with the Reformed aspect only below and let others deal with the Catholic.

    In what you wrote, you suggest that Reformed Theology teaches “This original righteousness is an integral part of being made in the image of God. It is not something separate or an addition to the imago dei”.

    I believe you are mistaken here.

    First let us look at what Reformed Theology teaches about righteousness in the redeemed man. The WCF XI.I teaches that the righteousness in the redeemed man is an ALIEN RIGHTIOUSNESS, independent of, separate to, and in addition to the nature of man.

    Reformed Theologian R.C. Sproul teaches in his article “None Righteous” that “Either we rest our hope in our own righteousness, which is altogether inadequate, or we flee to another’s righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own inherently. The only place such perfect righteousness can be found is in Christ — that is the good news of the Gospel. Subtract this element of alien righteousness that God “counts” or “imputes” for us, and we have no biblical Gospel at all. Without imputation, the Gospel becomes “another gospel,” and such a “gospel” brings nothing but the anathema of God. (None Righteous)

    The whole idea of “simul iustus et peccator” is based on the righteousness in redeemed man being an alien righteousness.

    Now let us turn to the state of pre fallen man. In WCF IV.II states that “God created man ….endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image” Notice here that the term endued is used. The term endued does not speak of the nature of a thing, but rather the appearance / accident of a thing. Endued and imputed are related terms.

    R.C. Sproul teaches that “When God punished Adam by taking away his original righteousness, we were all likewise punished.” (Adam’s Fall and Mine).

    Here we can see that righteousness in pre-fallen Adam is not related to his nature but is rather something endued to him – something that can be taken away. As Mr. Brian Cross noted above, grace for the Reformed Theologian means “divine approval. Full stop.” Thus pre-fall Adam was in a state of divine approval (state of grace) because He had been endued with this righteousness that was related to the image of God but not part of man’s original created nature. Here we can see that righteousness pre-fall is in fact something in addition to man’s created nature – an alien righteousness, something which out which man can only sin.

    Further proof of man’s original righteousness being something alien to his own nature lies in the fact that Reformed Theology only speaks of imputed justification. If righteousness was something that was part of pre-fallen man’s nature, to restore man would require the infusion of righteousness. If righteousness was something that was alien to pre-fallen man’s nature, to restore man would require the imputation of righteousness. Reformed Theology speaks only of imputed righteousness.

    Now I would argue that Mr. Barrett Turner is indeed correct in calling Reformed Theology Pelagian, if, as I suggested, the covenant of works could have actually been completed by man.

    Let us turn again to R.C. Sproul for confirmation: “Man’s relationship to God in creation was based on works. What Adam failed to achieve, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded in achieving. Ultimately the only way one can be justified is by works.” (Getting the Gospel Right)

    If Adam could have completed the covenant of works, then the system is Pelagian plain and simple. However as I have argued above, the only way to avoide this charge is for Reformed Theology to say that it was not actually possible for pre-fall Adam to complete the covenant of works, chiefly because, qualatatively, the alien endued rightiousness is not the same thing as the alien imputed rightiousness of Christ — thus pre-fallen man is incapable of pleasing God and necessarily fell as soon as he had the chance to.

  29. Joey,

    Thanks for you comment and for taking some time to write out your concerns. I’ll try to respond in kind and match the respect you’ve shown the article. I agree that the question of original righteousness is important and I had wished that I had more time to discuss this in my article. I will concede to you that such a discussion would make my article more comprehensive.

    Nevertheless, the article makes a case that the Reformed tradition is Pelagian with respect to its conflation of nature and grace, with the subsequent affirmation that all that was needed for man to merit eternal beatitude was for God to give extrinsic graces such as law, commandment, covenant, etc. Your comments regarding original righteousness don’t mitigate this implication but confirm it: man’s righteousness with regard to God was natural, even if accidental. So what I’m saying is not that Calvinists don’t believe in any sort of effects from Adam coming down to us. Rather, the point of agreement with Pelagianism being talked about is the reduction of grace to nature entailed by the Covenant of Works doctrine.

    You wrote,

    The WCF nor the Reformed Theology does not endorse the idea that man could perform/merit, outside of the grace of God, the promise of the Covenant of Works.

    Are you sure that this is a correct statement of Reformed theology? I’m pretty sure that Reformed theology holds that man could keep the CoW by nature once the covenant was given. But I’m open to hearing where you’re getting the above idea from. Would you mind making the case for this with some citations? See my Bavinck quote below, BTW.

    Some comments on your other points:

    In the original state, man can relate to God as God graciously created him in His image carrying with him original righteousness. Man, therefore, acts righteously not from his own strength or apart from God’s grace but under His grace as he is created in the image of God.

    You’re conflating the gift of creation with grace, and this is the charge of the article, that the Reformed tradition shares with Pelagianism a conflation of nature and grace. Everyone agrees that creation is unmerited and total gift. What’s at stake here is how man obtains eternal blessedness. If God created man in such a way as to include a original righteousness proportional to a supernatural end, then the article’s criticism obtains. The only way out, I suppose, would be to deny a supernatural end…

    Unlike the medieval theologians, Reformed Theologians do not distinguish the composition of grace in the creation of man as natural and supernatural. When man fell, the imago dei was affected even in the will and knowledge of man — thus total depravity.

    Two things here: first, would you provide some citations for the claim that the Reformed tradition acknowledges any kind of grace “in” man except the “grace” of creation? As far as I’m aware, original righteousness is no more grace than creation in the Reformed tradition. This is why Bavinck says that original righteousness is grace only in a broad sense, and that the loss of original righteousness means that man lost “something that belonged to his nature” and that it is “inseparable from the idea of man as such” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:551).

    Second, the Council of Trent, following Aquinas, also taught that the will and intellect were affected by the fall. So the Reformed view of total depravity must entail something beyond what you wrote. To understand the Catholic view, I recommend Bryan Cross’s articles here and here on the effects of the fall on the human soul according to St. Thomas, or simply reading St. Thomas’s Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 85, a. 3.

    Roman Catholic Theology has maintained (at least in its traditions) with some prominent medieval theologians that the nature of man does not include original righteousness. Although, not dogmatically defined, famous theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas endorse the view that original righteousness is not part of the nature man as the imago dei. Original righteousness is rather, an additional grace (a supernatural grace) given to man after his creation. In the creation of man, grace is divided into natural and supernatural.

    In Catholic theology, grace is not natural since grace itself inclines us to a supernatural end. Creation is a “grace” broadly speaking (like Bavinck above), so it is a gift that we don’t deserve. Since grace is supernatural, it would be a contradiction in terms for it to be also natural in the way you’re meaning it. A natural end would be within whatever natural powers a creature possess through God’s creating that creature. This is why cows and rocks and dogs do not need grace to reach natural ends.

    Also, it would be incorrect to state that Sts. Augustine and Aquinas taught that sanctifying grace was given after creation. They distinguish the orders of nature and grace to be sure, but hold that man was given grace at the same moment of being created. It was Peter Lombard and some later Franciscans who thought that man was given sanctifying grace after being created. They’re in the minority of the Catholic tradition, but even they still held that this was acquired with the help of actual grace. According to Ott, St. Thomas’s teaching is more congruent with the teachings of the Church Fathers and enjoys majority status in the theological tradition.

    That which is natural is man’s willing, knowledge and etc… original righteousness not included but was given as a supernatural gift and thus is an integral part of the nature of the original man although such gift is supernatural.

    Again, you’re conflating nature and grace. Being made in a state of grace is not natural, unless you want to assert that the supernatural end of man is due to man, which begins to blur the distinction between God and creatures (see #19 above). Also, Catholic theology holds that Adam and Eve’s knowledge was preternatural in that it was infused, but that was lost after the fall. They still had the faculty of intellect (maybe this is what you mean).

    When man fell because of sin, original righteousness was forfeited but the will and knowledge of man remained intact as part of the nature of man.

    This is kinda inaccurate, even if what you mean by “knowledge” really is the faculty of the intellect. Again, the intellect and will were affected by the fall. I’ll put another plug in for Bryan’s articles on the wounds to nature from original sin or just reading the Summa (or even session 5 of Trent, which dealt with original sin).

    Pelagian Theology denies original righteousness in the creation of man as part of man’s nature whether natural or supernatural. Man was neutrally made and original righteousness is given only as a merit or reward. In other words, the nature of man is not righteous or unrighteous but, bearing the imago dei, man has the capacity to become righteous or unrighteous by his free will. They therefore deny original sin when the first man fell.

    Sure, but the point of the article isn’t to deny that Calvinists believe in original sin. The point is that like Pelagianism, Calvinists don’t see anything needing to be added to nature to incline man to a supernatural end. And this either entails that man is due eternal blessedness by nature, or that salvation is something less than full communion with God in the beatific vision.

    Ok, hopes that this clarifies some of the issues at stake here and some points about Catholic theology. Let me know if I’m missing something in your comment.

    Peace,
    Barrett

  30. BTW, Joey,

    I recommend reading my footnote 9 in the article since it deals with a natural righteousness (I don’t blame you if you didn’t see it the first time–it’s only a footnote). Also I recommend reading the Summa, I-II, q. 109, aa. 2-5, which you can find here. This is in St. Thomas’s treatise on grace. St. Thomas considers the following questions in those articles: “Without God’s grace, can man do or wish any good? Without grace, can man love God above all things? Without grace, can man keep the commandments of the Law? Without grace, can he merit eternal life?” Reading those might shed some light on the Catholic view.

    Best,
    Barrett

  31. Hi Barrett,

    Thanks for your response. I’ll deal with it if time permits may be this coming saturday when I get to the library and when I get a wifi after a week long travel.

    Thanks,
    Joey

  32. Hi Barret,

    I will not deal with every point you’ve raised in your response. Instead, I will try to engage the heart of your argument. I think, this last statement, succinctly summarizes your charge of a “Pelagian Westminister (sic)”:

    “The point is that like Pelagianism, Calvinists don’t see anything needing to be added to nature to incline man to a supernatural end. And this either entails that man is due eternal blessedness by nature, or that salvation is something less than full communion with God in the beatific vision.”

    a) The argument that Pelagianism and “Calvinists share the view that nothing supernatural is to be added to nature to incline man to a supernatural end” needs to be examined. First, it needs to be asked what is a Pelagian’s concept of the nature of the pre-fallen man? As I have explained in my previous post, a Pelagian does not endorse the idea that man is created in “original righteousness”. Instead, he is created neutral and has the capacity to become righteous or unrighteous based on his autonomous free will. However, reformed theology has maintained that pre-fallen man, as the bearers of the imago dei, is endowed with “original righteousness” and therefore acts in obedience to God because of this gift as part of his nature being the bearer of the imago dei. This “original righteousness” is not something separate from the nature of man because to do so would mean that the imago dei does not inherently carry with it “original righteousness”. As God is holy by nature, the man he creates perfectly bearing His image has “original righteousness”. It is not legitimate, therefore, to argue that just because Reformed Theology does not endorse the medieval distinction of natural and supernatural grace in the aspect of “original righteousness”, that it is because, it is endorsing the Pelagian concept. Far from it!

    b) It needs also to be asked how this presupposition relates to Pelagianism: “In order to achieve a supernatural end, one needs to have a supernatural grace.” I have to ask myself, why you endorse this presupposition. I think the answer from your post is clear: “the first couple needed a supernatural charity infused into their souls to make their wills proportional to the supernatural end of the vision of God.” The key word here is “proportional” which is needed in order to hold to the idea of “meritorious good works”. It seems that your presupposition demands that a supernatural charity merits proportionally the supernatural end. I need not remind you that although acts of charity, according to the traditions of Roman Theology, are supernatural, nevertheless, it does not eliminate the creature/creator distinction such that acts of charity are really acts of the creature and therefore the merits of such acts belong to the creature. The creature actually merits supernatural ends because he does something proportionally rewarding to that end. This idea comes dangerously close to the ideals of Pelagianism – i.e. God rewards the free acts of man according to its merits.

    c) I should also ask you an important question. Since you believe that supernatural grace is needed for man to attain supernatural end, do you believe that pre-fallen man has the ability to reject such supernatural grace? Is it within the nature of pre-fallen man to will or reject cooperation to this supernatural grace? The answer to this question would determine also if the supernatural/natural distinction really eliminates your brand of Pelagian heresy in your own theological system.

    Regards,
    Joey

  33. Let me help to throw some light onto some things a little bit.

    I would suggest that for Calvinism that salvation is something “less than full communion with God in the beatific vision” at least as far as the concept of that goes in Catholic theology for in Reformed theology, there is no equivalent to deification / theosis, and as such, the end of man in Reformed theology is something less than what it is in Catholic theology. Theosis –the concept that man is called not to a natural end (an Edenic State) but rather to a supernatural end, that is man is called to a co-operative synergistic relationship of love between God and man where by man has a true participation in the divine life of God, a sort of reverse hypostatic union between the human individual and God’s very nature – I have not found the equivalent in Reformed Theology.

    The only way one can get from our human nature to that supernatural end is through the infusion of grace and divine life which brings us beyond our nature and natural end and into the supernatural end for which we were created in the first place.

    Calvinism being rather rigorously monergistic, sees nothing about co-operation in grace, because as stated above by Brian Cross, grace is simply “divine approval” not that which heals us and brings us into communion of God by transforming our very nature and infusing into us the divine life.

    When Catholics speak of the distinction between “natural grace” and “supernatural grace” what is meant is that “natural grace” brings creation towards its specific natural end and “supernatural grace” towards a supernatural end. All created things, by their nature have a natural end that is to say that their end is determined by their nature. A supernatural end means that an individual’s end exceeds and goes beyond their very nature and is not in fact determined by the individual’s nature. It is supera- natural, above, beyond, transcendent to nature – impossible to achieve through one’s nature alone or through natural grace alone.

    The accusation of Pelagianism in Calvinism is this – Calvinism posits that pre fall Adam could have, by his created nature alone, endued with original righteousness and divine aproval, completed the “covenant of works” and in doing so, achieved the supernatural end of man. It is in the not endorsing of the medieval distinction of natural and supernatural grace that the charge is leveled.

    The only escape that I can see for a Calvinist to avoid Pelagianism is to resort to fatalism and suggest that the covenant of works was impossible to fulfill because endued righteousness is less than the imputed righteousness of Christ, and as such, man was created without ability to prevent his own fall.

    As to specific things in Joey Henry’s last post

    1a.) Reformed theology teaches, as per the WCF, that man was endued not endowed with original righteousness. Endowed relates to the internal nature of the individual while endued relates to externals. Additionally, as restored man is “imputed with an alien righteousness” the righteousness that was lost must have also been “alien” and external to the nature of man. Additionally you write that man is the “bearer of the imago dei”. Here we can see that your usage of imago dei is an external concept to man’s nature as if it was part of the constitutive nature of man you would have said “is the imago dei” rather than “bearer”.

    2a.) You are using proportional in a sense that evokes “measurement”. Catholic theology here uses proportional evoke a sense of “configuration”.

    2.b) No it doesn’t come close to the ideals of Pelagianism. It is strictly Augustine’s understanding of synergistic grace. See his writing ON GRACE AND FREE WILL. An act of charity is neither an act of charity that is strictly from the individual (Pelagianism) nor strictly from God (Quietism). Rather an act of charity is an act that originates from God and which a man participates in in a co-operative effort as a freely willed action. For Augustine, eternal life is both grace and reward.

    3a.) Adam did, by his own free choice, rejected the supernatural grace and being in the very image of God counted equality with God as a thing to be grasped and thus fell. It is important to note that pre-fall Adam was not in a neutral state for Catholics, either morally or according to nature, but was fully good, fully inclined to do good, and fully co-operated with grace. Neither was Adam ignorant nor a simpleton nor a child as yet uninstructed in the will of God. What is true though is that Adam was not at his supernatural end and even though he walked in the garden with God he was not yet in heaven with God. The fall of Adam is both a falling away from his supernatural end as well as his natural end (for example, death is not part of the natural order of man’s creation but man became subjected to it upon his fall.)

  34. Joey,

    I appreciate your desire to keep discussing the article and seeking to clarify the issue here. That you’re not able to deal with every point of my previous comment is no skin off my back. The only thing that I’d ask in any further comment to answer the question I asked twice above, namely, what are the sources that show that it is a Reformed commonplace that man could not merit in the CoW without the intrinsic grace of God? This question deals with the issue being discussed here about the relationship of nature and grace in the Reformed conception of man’s relationship to God in the Garden. If you cannot provide such a source, I don’t see any reason to suppose that you’re correct. The best the Calvinist position can do (it seems to me) is to affirm that salvation in the CoW is based only on the promise of God and man’s natural abilities. But as I asked above, it is hard to see how this is anything more than an extrinsic “grace”. I’m willing to be shown where I’m wrong, but you haven’t addressed this key question at the heart of the post and our exchange. This is also why whether the Reformed position includes a natural original righteousness (which is true, and this hasn’t been denied in the comments above) is irrelevant, because even a natural original righteousness shares with Pelagius the confusion of nature and grace, i.e., that man can perform salutary works (vis-a-vis a supernatural end/salvation) by the powers of his own unaided natural condition.

    If affirming merit commits someone to Pelagianism, as you imply under “b”, St. Augustine and the other opponents of Pelagius never got the memo. The anti-Pelagian theologians didn’t call into question the idea of merit, just the notion of Pelagius that man could merit from God something by unaided nature. Instead, the anti-Pelagian writers don’t give up on the idea of merit, they put it in its proper context: supernatural grace. In fact, St. Augustine himself writes in several places about the merit of the justified before God. In his letter to Sixtus in 418, he writes:

    What merits of his own has the saved to boast of when, if he were dealt with according to his merits, he would be nothing if not damned? Have the just then no merits at all? Of course they do, for they are the just. But they had no merits by which they were made just.

    So Augustine is teaching that while no one can merit justification, once a person is made just by grace he may merit before God. In sermon 158, Augustine writes:

    God is made a debtor not by receiving something from us but by promising us what He is pleased to promise. For sometimes we say to a man: “You owe me because I gave you something”; and other times we say: “You owe me because you promised me something.” […] In that way, then we can make a demand of our Lord and say, “Pay what You promised because we did what You commanded.” And you can do this because, by your labors, you helped.

    Here again Augustine notes that the man made just by grace may merit before God only by cooperating with the grace given. These teachings of St. Augustine were affirmed by Second Orange (529) in the course of proscribing Pelagian theology:

    (Canon 18) No merits precede grace. Rewards are due for good works if they are performed; grace, which is not owed, precedes so that they will be performed.

    Elsewhere Augustine teaches that the glory of the saints in heaven differs by their merit. See sermon 87.6. The Catholic Church likewise doesn’t teach that man merits grace or reward from God by his free acts alone–as Pelagius–but instead places merit in the context of grace. How is affirming merit in the context of and on the basis of God’s grace a Pelagian doctrine, when it was affirmed both by St. Augustine and 2nd Orange?

    To answer your question about whether man could resist grace in the Garden, the answer is yes. Man was given grace in the Garden, but man fell, therefore man could sin against charity in the state of innocence. If grace destroyed man’s free will (i.e., the divine image comprised of intellect and will) in the Garden, grace would destroy nature. Given that Augustine affirmed this as well (posse non peccare implies that it is also possible to sin), I don’t see you’re point.

    Instead, I think you might be making your position worse. You imply by your question that any theological position that entails that man can resist grace is Pelagian. I assume you would also hold that only the Reformed doctrine of irresistible grace avoids a Pelagian soteriology. If true, then, you have just removed grace from the Garden, precisely the contention of this post. The dilemma is this: Either Adam and Eve had grace, in which case they would not have fallen (given that grace is irresistible); or Adam and Eve did not have grace, in which case they could fall. Adam and Eve fell. Therefore Adam and Eve did not have grace in the Garden. This conclusion is why I’ve been saying that the doctrine of the CoW is fundamentally Pelagian.

    Pax,
    Barrett

  35. Barrett Turner: Through the doctrine of the Covenant of Works, as articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Reformed tradition approaches Pelagius’ conflation of nature and grace before the Fall of Adam and Eve.

    Jay Dyer argues against “Calvin’s Pelagianism” from a different angle, while also affirming Barret Turner’s quote above:

    Christ’s Assumption of Fallen Nature: Calvinism’s Pelagianism

    “… many Catholic theologians since the time of the reformation have observed, the reformed Calvinistic view is actually a Pelagian view of pre-lapsarian man, the Calvinist and the Pelagian differing only in how they see the results of the fall. For Pelagius, as well as for the Calvinist, man did not need grace in the garden. …”

    http://jaysanalysis.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/christs-assumption-of-fallen-nature-calvinisms-pelagianism/

    I would love to see Jay’s argument discussed in a CTC thread. My personal wishes aside, I thought “David” made a response to Jay’s argument that is germane to Barrett Turner’s thread. David writes:

    Calvin and the original Reformers had no knowledge of a Covenant of Works. The earliest date to the Covenant of Works in Reformed theology was about the 1670s’ish. And then, too, which makes this interesting, it didn’t function for folk like Ursinus and Olevianus as a set works-contract that it later came to denote.

    If Calvin had no personal knowledge of the Covenant of Works, then shouldn’t we look to what Calvin actually wrote? Calvin’s Institutes address the issue of the state of Adam in his pre-fall state:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xvi.html

    Institutes of the Christian Religion
    CHAPTER 15 – STATE IN WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. THE FACULTIES OF THE SOUL—THE IMAGE OF GOD—FREE WILL—ORIGINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    8. … God has provided the soul of man [i.e. Adam in the pre-fall state] with intellect, by which he might discern good from evil, just from unjust, and might know what to follow or to shun, reason going before with her lamp … To this he has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence, and Judgment, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness. Thereafter choice was added to direct the appetites, and temper all the organic motions; the will being thus perfectly submissive to the authority of reason. In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life.

    It seems obvious to me that Calvin is teaching a Pelagian view of Adam in Adam’s pre-fall state. This particular passage from the Institutes raises several other questions for me concerning Calvin’s theology that I am hoping someone can answer.

    Calvin is claiming that pre-fall Adam could have obtained eternal life by exercising his free will. But before the Fall, Adam already possessed bodily immortality as one of the preternatural gifts. What, exactly, is the eternal life that Adam could have obtained by exercising his free will? If Adam had exercised his free will to “rise up to God and obtain eternal happiness”, would Adam’s eternal happiness have been different than the eternal happiness that man obtains through Christ?

    Another point that Calvin makes here utterly baffles me. Calvin claims that before Adam ate of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that Adam already had the knowledge of evil.; i.e. Calvin explicitly claims that God gave pre-fall Adam an “intellect, by which he might discern good from evil.”

    If Adam already had the knowledge of good and evil before he fell, how could the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil totally corrupt Adam’s pre-fall nature?

  36. Hi Barret,

    My concern at this point is that you are imposing upon Reformed Theology the medieval nature/grace distinction and demand from it what it does not recognize. For example, you assert that “natural original righteousness shares with Pelagius the confusion of nature and grace, i.e., that man can perform salutary works (vis-a-vis a supernatural end/salvation) by the powers of his own unaided natural condition.” Note that, the confusion only exists to a person who bought the medieval nature/grace distinction as true in his worldview. This is also evident in your asking for a source like this: “what are the sources that show that it is a Reformed commonplace that man could not merit in the CoW without the intrinsic grace of God?” However, it is your worldview that divides up grace into “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” and it seems confusing on my part why you demand this presupposition to Reformed Theology. My original comment is actually this:

    “The WCF nor the Reformed Theology does not endorse the idea that man could perform/merit, outside of the grace of God, the promise of the Covenant of Works.”

    What is the promise of the Covenant of Works? It is life (WCF 7.2; WSC 20). Most reformed theologians believe that this is the eschatological life promised. The covenant was stated in a forensic overtone, “You shall not eat”, the obedience of which would result not in death but life. The covenant itself entered side by side with natural law as Adam is bound naturally to obey God. There are several commands from God already given (Gen 1:28-30). Adam is the creature and God is the creator. The mere obedience of Adam of the command “You shall not eat” does not in any way oblige God to grant him what we term as eschatological life. David Dickson in Therapeutica Sacra page 105 noted that the obedience of Adam “not to eat” is insufficient to merit eternal life as Adam would have only fulfilled what he dutifully should do as a creature. To grant, therefore, eternal life to Adam is grounded first and foremost not in the merits of Adamic obedience but on the grace of God. A.A. Hodge explains, in Outlines of Theology page 310-311, “It was also essentially a gracious covenant, because although every creature is, as such, bound to serve the Creator to the full extent of his powers, the Creator cannot be bound as a mere matter of justice to grant the creature fellowship with himself, or to raise him to an infallible standard of moral power, or to crown him with eternal and inalienable felicity.” Francis Turretin in The State of Man Before the Fall and the Covenant of Nature chapter XIV explained, “Although man was already bound to this obedience by a natural obligation as a rational creature, necessarily subject to the dominion of God and his law, yet he was mote strongly bound by a federal obligation which God so stipulated that man—by the powers received in creation could perform it, although in order that he might actually perform it, he still needed the help of God both to actuate these faculties and powers and to preserve them from change. This help did not tend to the infusion of any new power, but only to exercising the efficacy of that power which he had received. Now this did not belong properly to the covenant of nature, but always depended on the most free good pleasure of God; otherwise the covenant of nature had been immutable, and man had never sinned.”

    I would just like to reiterate the logical error of your argument. Just because Reformed Theology does not endorse the medieval distinction of nature and grace does not in way mean that we have the same framework as Pelagius. We do not have his framework at all. Pelagius does not believe that man has original righteousness and that this must be preserved by the grace of God in order to fulfill the Covenant of Works. Pelagius rather believed that man was created neutral; he does not need the gift of original righteousness but has the capacity to become righteous upon his own autonomous freewill. In other words, just because we share one element with Pelagius (no medieval nature/grace distinction) does not mean we are Pelagians. In the same manner as Pelagius believed in God and, for that matter, Reformed Theology believe in God, does not mean we are Pelagians. This is basic logic… one that falls under the category of the fallacy of division and equivocation.

    I will deal on the second point I made and your response regarding Merit if time permits.

    Thanks,
    Joey

  37. Joey ~

    It is precisely this statement here that is Pelagian

    “….by the powers received in creation could perform it, although in order that he might actually perform it, he still needed the help of God both to actuate these faculties and powers and to preserve them from change. This help did not tend to the infusion of any new power, but only to exercising the efficacy of that power which he had received.” Francis Turretin in The State of Man Before the Fall and the Covenant of Nature Chapter XIV

    Compare this to Augustine’s description of Pelagianism in ON GRACE AND FREE WILL. You will see that Turretin’s view matches Augustine’s description of Pelagianism.

    The Pelagian too maintains that grace is only the help that exercises the efficacy of what had been received.

    Look at what Turretin is saying —> grace is given according to man’s nature so that he might actuate those faculties. Is that not Pelagianism? Pelagianism (at least Semi-Pelagianism) is the teaching that man, by the powers he received in creation, is able to perform, by external grace which gives man the help to act according to his internal nature, the commands of God which lead to eternity with God.

    Do notice that Turretin reduces grace to an external “help” to man’s created nature. Do notice that grace is given according to man’s merits – by his nature man merits this external “help”.

  38. Joey said: “Pelagius does not believe that man has original righteousness and that this must be preserved by the grace of God in order to fulfill the Covenant of Works. Pelagius rather believed that man was created neutral; he does not need the gift of original righteousness but has the capacity to become righteous upon his own autonomous freewill.”

    I think there is something important in this that others have either not picked up on or have responded to it differently. I have seen this statement repeated a few times, but I’d like to point out some Pelagian problems I see in it.

    For Protestants, justification is forensic. One is found “righteous” before the law only *upon* completion of a life of perfect obedience. It’s akin to scoring a 100% on your school test and the teacher writing “A+” on the paper. Thus, for Protestants, Adam certainly was in a “neutral” state in the Garden, and the notion of already having ‘positive’ righteousness doesn’t make sense. This is ‘legal righteousness’ we’re talking about – according to the Protestant division of legal and moral righteousness.

    RC Sproul gives a very good quick summary of this in this famous video clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IapqqQ45Q4w
    Watch especially from 2:45 onward, which is logically what applies to Adam. (side note: this video has a lot of things Catholics would disagree with)

    I believe Joey is missing this point, confusing Protestant categories of legal and moral righteousness. In Catholicism, justification is grounded upon Adoption through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life is grounded upon persevering in that Adoption. For Protestants, the ‘moral’ righteousness of the individual is independent of the ‘legal righteousness’ (since one can be justified but not sanctified).

    The problem, properly framed for Protestants, is how Adam could score 100% on his test. Did Adam have the inherent knowledge/ability to do this? Or was his own abilities insufficient? Let’s say Adam had to do a very complex math problem. Protestants would say Adam could do that in his head. Catholics would say it required a calculator, and without this calculator, Adam couldn’t have scored 100%. The calculator represents sanctifying grace. After the fall, Protestants say Christ scored 100% on the same test, and imputed that score to the sinner. (As some have pointed out, this leads to Christological problems as well)

    The only alternative for the Protestant is to say the calculator was part of human nature, rather than super-added, but at the fall this calculator was lost, resulting in a new nature lacking essential properties of the original nature, now it’s a ‘sin nature’ (a form of manichaeanism).

  39. Joey: What is the promise of the Covenant of Works? It is life (WCF 7.2; WSC 20). Most reformed theologians believe that this is the eschatological life promised.

    Could you please explain what you mean by “eschatological life”? What is the difference between the immortal life that Adam possessed before the Fall and the “eschatological life” for which he was created to receive.

    Is the “eschatological life” you mention different from what Calvin calls “eternal life” in the quote from the Institutes that I gave in my post # 35?

    Would it be correct to say that Adam was predestined by God to receive the “eschatological life” contingent upon Adam’s obedience?

    Joey: To grant, therefore, eternal life to Adam is grounded first and foremost not in the merits of Adamic obedience but on the grace of God.

    Please define what you mean by “grace” in the above sentence. Defining your terms would help me understand what you are trying to say.

  40. Joey,

    If my claim were as trivial as “Reformed theology is Pelagian because Pelagius was from Britain and so was Richard Baxter and John Owen!” then of course you could give some logic lessons. But I don’t think you’re understanding the point of the argument, though maybe I’m wrong. The main point of the article is that in so far as the Covenant of Works doctrine argues that man can obtain a supernatural end by his natural powers, even given the promise of God, it shares some fundamental nature/grace problems with Pelagius. As I have argued, this position with regard to how man was to obtain salvation in the Garden was not an error that was just coincidentally repulsed by St. Augustine along with the other Pelagian propositions. This is why my argument is based on the historical sources, citing categories such as infused charity that Augustine himself used (before the medieval period) and also citing 2nd Orange. (I notice that you have not attempted to do the same thus far.) Now perhaps my argument is wrong, but if it is good it won’t be trivially so (e.g., “Pelagius believed in a historical Adam and so did the Westminster divines!”).

    Ways in which you could argue against this position include: showing that the Reformed doctrine of the Covenant of Works includes infused charity by which Adam was made a son of God and inclined to a supernatural end; arguing that “eschatological life” doesn’t include the vision of God and thus denying that man was destined by God for a supernatural end, just a natural one; trying to argue from the historical sources that Adam having infused charity wasn’t an issue directly related to the Pelagian controversy; conceding that the Reformed tradition shares with Pelagius the omission of supernatural charity from the Garden but then arguing for why this doesn’t matter; or something else. What won’t do is to claim that Reformed Christians don’t need to think about the nature/grace distinction because its “medieval”. That’s not an argument, and the nature/grace “worldview” doesn’t seem too far out in left field when St. Augustine thought making a distinction between nature and grace was important to do in his conflict with Pelagius and his ilk, not just with regard to fallen man but to the original man.

    I do want to express gratitude to you for answering my request to supply some Reformed sources, in this case Hodge and Turretin. Nathan has already asked a good question regarding Turretin, namely, by what power did man keep the Covenant of Works? As for Hodge, I’ve asked in the article and several times in the comments: how does God giving a covenant any different from giving a merely extrinsic grace like Pelagius’ law? Is Adam a son of God in the Garden or is he yet to attain adoption? If he had adoption, on what basis? Merely an extrinsic promise, or did God elevate Adam’s nature by grace to a level of filial communion? If you read Augustine, you will find that the promise of God is not sufficient by itself for man to obtain salvation in the Garden. As Augustine held, the necessary conditions are (at least) free will, the promise of God, and infused charity. Reformed theology does not seem to posit infused charity in the Garden.

    I look forward to your response about merit in St. Augustine and 2nd Orange.

    To the everyone: I’m currently on vacation and don’t have regular access to the internet, so my responses may not be very frequent over the next week and half or so. (And even if I did have regular access, I would be busy relaxing.) God bless you guys!

    Barrett

  41. There is an interesting thread looking for some Catholic comment and apologetics
    http://anglicandownunder.blogspot.com/2010/08/there-is-one-gospel-only-one-because.html
    If you cannot respond, maybe you know who can.

  42. Barrett Turner:

    Thank you for your essay, which I only discovered in recent days. As I review what you say here, it becomes obvious that the definition of the term “grace” is key for the various parties you cite, particularly as that term is applied to pre-fall Adam. How would you understand the term, particularly but not only in its application to pre-fall Adam, and how do you compare and contrast your understanding with that of, for instance, Berkhof and Augustine?

  43. Today, Doug Wilson, in “More to Theology than Admiring the Cape,” claimed:

    “Those who hold that the covenant of works was not gracious must, of necessity, deny the imputation of active obedience of Christ.

    His argument is very similar to what I said above in comment #25. Here I’ll add some comments to what Doug says, because it is directly relevant to Barrett’s post:

    Doug writes:

    Now I have maintained that the covenant of life, as I prefer to call it, was a covenant dependent upon Adam’s obedience. But the word obedience, unlike the word works, reminds people that there is a relationship involved. There is someone on the other side who has required the obedience, and provided the resources necessary for it. The context of all true obedience is grace. The context of works, as some are arguing for it, is autonomy — raw conformity to a raw standard.

    Doug is mistaken here, not recognizing that man, by virtue of having reason, has the natural law, within which is our obligation to worship and obey God our Creator. Our obligation to obey God is intrinsic to being by nature rational creatures; it does not depend on the gift of grace. God could have made us with reason but without giving us grace (because grace is not owed to nature, but is gratuitous); and we would still be required to obey God. So Doug’s claim here, that the context of all true obedience is grace, is not true, because it mistakenly conflates nature and grace (unless by “true obedience” he means obedience done out of agape). But, I don’t wish to focus on that, because that’s not my point in writing this. I want to focus on what he says next. He goes on:

    Now I understand that in the history of the Reformed tradition, many who use the language of “works” here have been careful to define this as gracious, which makes it what I am calling obedience. I would not quarrel over words, lest I then come to be accused of being anti-Semantic, thus adding to my troubles.

    And so here is the problem. If we must have raw merit imputed to us, and this raw merit, as a result of Christ’s sinless life, atoning death, and justifying resurrection, is imputed to us, what happens when we are confronted with undeniable evidence that the life that Christ lived on our behalf was not “raw” at all, but was empowered by the Holy Spirit sent from the Father?

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18),

    “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:32-33).

    Everything Jesus did through the course of His ministry was gifted to Him through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. That means that if raw merit is essential to whatever gets imputed to us, the life of Jesus cannot be imputed to us.

    On this point, Doug is exactly right. This is roughly what I was saying in comment #25.

    Doug continues:

    And conversely, if the life of Jesus is imputed to us, as I affirm heartily, with my hair in a braid, then what is imputed to us is the obedience of a faithful man, in faithful relationship with a gracious God.

    The nominalistic extra nos [legal fiction] notion of imputation Doug is assuming here is heretical, having been condemned by Canon 11 of Session Six of the Council of Trent, the orthodox doctrine of imputation being one of imputation on the basis of instantaneously and supernaturally infused sanctifying grace and agape. Union with Christ is not merely notional, because God is Truth. He declares us righteous only if in fact, by the presence in us of the infused gifts of sanctifying grace and agape, we truly are righteous. By the infusion of sanctifying grace and agape we truly participate in the divine life, and thus are truly made sons of God.

    But, the dilemma Doug offers is valid. Because Jesus was full of grace, and operated in His human will in the fullness of the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, therefore if a person wants to claim that we are justified by the imputation of what Doug calls “raw merit” (i.e. purely natural, without grace, and without the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit), then such a person will not find any “raw merit” in Christ. But, on the other horn of the dilemma, if this person insists that it is Christ’s righteousness that is imputed to us, then he cannot say that it is a “raw merit” that is imputed to us, because Christ was “full of grace,” and so Christ’s merit is not a merit accomplished apart from grace or apart from the Holy Spirit. Either way, the works/grace dichotomy in the Covenant of Works / Covenant of Grace theology, breaks down. And on that point, Doug is exactly right.

  44. Basically, the argument becomes a Christological one: if Christ is the Second Adam, yet Christ had the Holy Spirit and other such gifts endowed with His humanity (which to deny would be rank heresy), then the First Adam had to have had this as well, otherwise there is no genuine parallel in “covenants”.

    It would be saying Adam was required to live a perfectly obedient life based on his natural human powers alone, yet Jesus was able to do it with super-natural powers. This is not only “unfair” and “unjust” demands from God, it makes Jesus’ perfect obedience one of gracious-merit and thus a covenant-of-infused-grace (two concepts flatly denied by the Reformed camp).

    It truly is a slam-dunk against Sola Fide.

  45. In view of my comment #3, above, Scott Clark’s seemingly approving way of quoting St. Augustine today on grace before the fall, is perhaps a positive sign, especially in light of Mark Horne’s repost this morning on the Covenant of Works. I say ‘positive’ because recognizing that Adam and Eve had grace prior to the fall has important positive implications with respect to the goal of Catholic-Reformed reconciliation, as I have described in the comments of this thread.

    In the quotation Scott cites, in speaking of two kinds of grace St. Augustine is not talking about two divine attitudes. God was exceedingly gracious in endowing our first parents with sanctifying grace and agape prior to the fall. He was even more gracious in restoring these gifts to them after they willfully rejected Him. Nor does St. Augustine mean that the grace that was in Adam and Eve prior to their fall differs essentially from the grace that is in us in the New Covenant. Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve had sanctifying grace, agape, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit; and so do we in the New Covenant. (They had the preternatural gifts as well, but that’s another topic.)

    The grace we receive differs from the grace they received in the means and cost of its procurement, in the fuller revelation of its gratuitous character, and in its effects in us due to our fallen condition. The grace we receive is more costly than that which Adam and Eve received because it was procured through the sacrifice of God’s only Son. It is more undeserved, because like the prodigal son, man threw it away after already once having it. Just as the father’s generosity to the prodigal son is more apparent than to the brother, so the grace that comes through Christ more fully manifests God’s love and mercy than did the grace He gave to Adam and Eve. Finally, the grace we receive accomplishes more, not because in itself it is different, but because when we receive it in the New Covenant, we are starting from a condition of sin, concupiscence and enmity with God. When we receive sanctifying grace and agape, it not only places us in friendship with God (as it did with Adam and Eve), it also washes away our sins, and empowers us to resist concupiscence (it did not do this in pre-fall Adam and Eve, because they had no sin and no concupiscence). So the difference in kind is not a difference in the essence, for then there would have to be two Gods. Rather, it is a difference in procurement and effects, on account of the difference in man (and in man’s relation to God) between his pre-fall condition and his post-fall condition.

  46. Bryan,

    Quick question regarding #45. How do we understand the essential “sameness” of original grace and New Covenant grace in relation to the state of man prior to the Fall and the state of man “in Christ”? In other words, New Covenant grace not only returns us to a state of grace-endowed natural blessedness (Eden), but ushers us into the Beatific Vision – which ultimately overflows into our bodies at the resurrection and into the entire created order at the consummation of all things (new heavens and new earth). Is the idea that “theoretically” original grace would have ultimately led to that same destination (Beatific Vision) had the Fall not occured (though, of course, God forsaw the Fall and Incranation/passion such that the “theoretical” possibility was never a “real” possibility)? I only ask because I have heard some Catholics communicate the idea that original grace was somehow different than New Covenant grace in that the former was ordered to a “natural” beatitude; whereas the latter is ordered to a “supernatural” beatitude. Thanks in advance for any insights/thoughts or references to St. Thomas / Magisterium, etc. on this point.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  47. Ray:

    I only ask because I have heard some Catholics communicate the idea that original grace was somehow different than New Covenant grace in that the former was ordered to a “natural” beatitude; whereas the latter is ordered to a “supernatural” beatitude.

    If that’s what you’ve heard, I think it’s plain silly. Grace is by definition “supernatural,” so that any beatitude to which grace orders us is supernatural. There is a legitimate question whether the beatitude attainable under the New Covenant is greater than that which would have been attainable in the pre-lapsarian state. St. Thomas said yes. But if that answer is correct, the difference is one of degree, not of kind.

    Best,
    Mike

  48. Mike

    Thanks for that. I have always understood that grace must be essentially the same since its source is God. My lack of clarity, I believe stems from the following section of the catechism which has been incorporated into a couple homilies I have heard, as well as a popular talk given by Scott Hahn.

    But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.”307 And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!'” CCC 412

    Now neither the priests, nor Hahn were discussing the nature of grace per se, and their talks were of a general sort, highlighting how God brings good from evil. Still, I got the idea from their words (perhaps erroneously on my part), as well as from this portion of the catechism itself, that while grace could not be essentially different; it seems to have (apparently/possibly) been ordered to different supernatural ends (the notion being that a “supernatural” end need not necessarily be the Beatific Vision). I think I worded my comment in a confused way by using the term “natural beatitude”. One might conceive of a pre-lapsarian grace which situated man in a “natural” order with “natural” bodies (as opposed to glorified bodies) – even though possessed of preternatural gifts – yet with some human/divine communion that is “supernatural” on some level without amounting to the beatific vision and perhaps without ever resulting in the glorification of the body or corporeal nature. For Thomas to say that human nature can be raised to something “greater”, it seems to imply that the original trajectory of grace was not “as great”.

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the degree (quantity?) of grace supplied in the New Covenant is greater and therefore capable of drawing man to a higher supernatural destination than was possible via pre-lapsarian grace. Probably most of my fuzziness on this matter is a result of our inability to have any clear idea of exactly what man’s grace-enabled “supernatural” end really would have been without the Fall – and likely, that question is meaningless since God “saw” the Fall (and the Lamb) from all eternity concomitant with His creative act.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  49. Ray Stamper: Still, I got the idea from their words (perhaps erroneously on my part), as well as from this portion of the catechism itself, that while grace could not be essentially different; it seems to have (apparently/possibly) been ordered to different supernatural ends (the notion being that a “supernatural” end need not necessarily be the Beatific Vision).

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about the original holiness of Adam and Eve, and how they were destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory:

    CCC 398 … Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.

    Christians are only fully divinized by beholding the beatific vision, and since Adam and Eve were destined (predestined) to be fully divinized, it is my opinion, that had Adam and Eve had been obedient, they would have eventually beheld the beatific vision. But even if Adam and Eve had been obedient, they would never have been able to put God into a position where God owed Adam and Eve the beatific vision as a wage due their good works in the terrestrial paradise. Adam and Eve would have needed an increace in sanctifying grace to behold the beatific vision, and that increase would have come as a gratitous gift from God. I think that the Tree of Life is an Old Testament type that signifies the participation in the divine life of God that allows man to behold the beatific vision. Why do I say that? Because Adam and Eve already possessed the preternatural gift of immortality before they fell, so the Tree of Life wouldn’t have given an unfallen Adam and Eve what they already possessed – i.e bodily immortality. The Tree of Life would have given Adam and Eve the beatific vision, and once a man or an angel beholds the beatific vision, sinning becomes impossible. Obviously since Adam and Eve could sin in their unfallen state, they were in need of an increase in sanctifying grace before they could behold the beatific vision of God.

    To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev 2:7

    The CCC speaks of the Fall as “Freedom put to the test” (see CCC 396). Adam and Eve’s “test” is symbolized as the temptation to eat the deadly fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Had Adam and Eve conquered in that test, they would have able to eat the food of the Tree of Life. We must also conquer in order to eat of the Tree of Life, but we can only conquer by partaking in the divine life of God – a partaking which comes through the Incarnate Word.

    More speculation on my part …

    I think that if Adam and Eve had been obedient, the Second Person of the Trinity would have become incarnate in the terrestrial paradise at the fulness of time, and the vessel of the incarnation would have been Mary. IMO, the incarnate Word is the fruit of the Tree of Life – the Word made flesh is the food that gives eternal life:

    This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” … “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6: 50-51 & 56

  50. Bryan Cross: So the difference in kind is not a difference in the essence, for then there would have to be two Gods.

    I think I understand why you say that the sanctifying grace which Adam and Eve possessed before the Fall cannot be essentially different from the sanctifying grace that Christians receive at baptism. Sanctifying grace, by definition, is a partaking in the divine life of God, and since there is only one God, there cannot be an essential difference in Adam and Eve’s partaking in the divine life of God, and the Christian’s partaking in the divine life of God. Am I on the right track?

    A question for you, if I may. As you know, sanctifying grace can be increased in us, as it is when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, or when we are properly disposed to receive the grace of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. What strikes me is that Adam and Eve were able to partake in the divine life of God without the Incarnation, and the baptized Christian in a state of grace, partakes in the divine life of God because of the Incarnation. Is it possible that because of the Incarnation, that Christians have a greater participation in the divine life of God than the participation in the divine life of God that Adam and Eve possessed when they dwelt in original justice?

    My thinking is that the Sacraments of the Church enable Christians to possess a greater participation in the divine life of God, than the participation in the divine life of God that Adam and Eve enjoyed without access to the Sacraments.

  51. Ray:

    My thoughts about pre- and post-lapsarian grace may be found here: http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2007/12/freedom-evolution-and-original-sin.html

    Best,
    Mike

  52. Mateo

    I think that if Adam and Eve had been obedient, the Second Person of the Trinity would have become incarnate in the terrestrial paradise at the fulness of time, and the vessel of the incarnation would have been Mary. IMO, the incarnate Word is the fruit of the Tree of Life – the Word made flesh is the food that gives eternal life

    My own speculations are almost identical to yours regarding the “what if”, had there been no Fall. I did not mean to imply that I embraced the view that pre-lapsarian grace “would have” led to some lesser supernatural end than the BV – only that I had (perhaps errantly) gotten the impression from others that the pre-lapsarian end might arguably have been something less than the BV. I have always tended to think (as you do) that original justice was, indeed, ordered to the BV and that – yes -, a test of fidelity was necessary before that gift of grace would be increased so as to allow for human divinization. Which brings me to a related question that re-occurs to me upon reading your question to Bryan:

    Is it possible that because of the Incarnation, that Christians have a greater participation in the divine life of God than the participation in the divine life of God that Adam and Eve possessed when they dwelt in original justice?

    Following is a long-standing speculative thought/question I have entertained. We know that the ancient saints were “in holding” until the Passion of Christ, which speaks to the notion that Christ’s Incarnation and Passion “opened heaven for humanity”. Often times, it seems that this “opening of heaven” by Christ is associated largely with the need for atonement of sins (which is no doubt true so far as it goes) as though it was the Fall and its consequences which primarily entailed a situation of “waiting” for the BV or “heaven’s opening” under the old covenant.

    But is it not also possible that the hypostatic union of Christ’s Divinity and humanity forged a bond (ontogical?) with man (and through man the entire created order) such that the “finite/ temporal/changable order” could thereafter be glorified and elevated into a union with God that was not possible prior to the hypostatic union. In other words, the idea that Christ “opened heaven for humanity” may be primarily a function of the Incarnation rather than the Passion – the later being a step (albeit forseen) necessary to correct the results of the Fall. In this way the “glory of God” defaced by the Fall and sin at the provocation of satan is restored – and restored in a far grander way – since man can now recognize and glorify God not only as the Source of and Summit of all goodness, but also for His infinite personal love displayed on the cross.

    Such an understanding, ISTM, comports well with the speculation that the Incarnation was the primordial plan all along, and would (theoretically) have occured even without the Fall, so that Christ (in Whom, through Whom, and FOR Whom) all things were made, might be All and in All. In short, divinization THROUGH CHRIST (sonship in the Son) in both its individual and corporate manifestations was always the hidden intention of God’s heart.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  53. Ray, (re: #46)

    Is the idea that “theoretically” original grace would have ultimately led to that same destination (Beatific Vision) had the Fall not occurred

    Yes. The Beatific Vision was not a divine reward for sinning; such union with God was to be the reward of their graced-obedience, just as it was the reward of the angels who obeyed. The serpent alludes to this in his temptation of Eve, by offering them a ‘shortcut’ to divinization. But the shortcut is divination in a very different sense — i.e. making oneself one’s own god. The divinization the serpent offers is in actuality an atheosis, a separation from God, and a self-hating rejection of that in us that necessarily points to God as our end, our true home and perfect happiness. And thus the serpent’s proposal is a deceptive illusion that is initially attractive in that it seems to offer divinity, but instead leads to self-loathing misery in the darkness of loneliness, regret and eternally unquenchable thirst.

    I only ask because I have heard some Catholics communicate the idea that original grace was somehow different than New Covenant grace in that the former was ordered to a “natural” beatitude; whereas the latter is ordered to a “supernatural” beatitude.

    If such “original grace” were removed, and only nature remained, man by his nature as rational animal would still be ordered to natural beatitude. And this shows (by parsimony) that what such persons are talking about is only nature, even if they call it ‘grace.’ They are confusing “original grace” with nature. That is (theoretically) the other form of Pelagianism, i.e. denying that grace is necessary to attain our end not by denying that grace is necessary for attaining a supernatural end, but by denying that the end to which we are called is supernatural.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  54. Ray, I very much like what you said in you post #52. Well said! I would like to make a few comments that spring to my mind based on what you have just written.

    Ray Stamper: I did not mean to imply that I embraced the view that pre-lapsarian grace “would have” led to some lesser supernatural end than the BV – only that I had (perhaps errantly) gotten the impression from others that the pre-lapsarian end might arguably have been something less than the BV.

    I have never heard this argument before, but I have heard an argument for the “natural” beatitude – i.e. the theological opinion that infants that die without the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism will never see the beatific vision, instead, they are destined to live happy lives in eternity in the natural beatitude. I guess that someone might speculate that if Adam and Eve had never fallen, and that if the Incarnation was dependent upon Adam sinning, then Adam and Eve and their progeny would be destined for the natural beatitude.

    Duns Scotus objected to the idea that the greatest gift ever given to man was dependent upon man sinning. See this article by Seamus Mulholland OFM:

    … In Scotus, the Incarnation is not a contingency plan when the original creative process of God goes awry because of sin. Scotus rejects this notion as too central an emphasis on Man to the extent that the freedom of God to act in love is determined by an external necessity i.e. the redemption from sin. Scotus understands the Incarnation as always being in the mind of God even before the historical and existential physicality of creation itself and the fact of sin. …
    http://franciscans.beimler.org/Incarnation%20Spirituality.html

    Ray Stamper: But is it not also possible that the hypostatic union of Christ’s Divinity and humanity forged a bond (ontogical?) with man (and through man the entire created order) such that the “finite/ temporal/changable order” could thereafter be glorified and elevated into a union with God that was not possible prior to the hypostatic union. In other words, the idea that Christ “opened heaven for humanity” may be primarily a function of the Incarnation rather than the Passion – the later being a step (albeit forseen) necessary to correct the results of the Fall. In this way the “glory of God” defaced by the Fall and sin at the provocation of satan is restored – and restored in a far grander way – since man can now recognize and glorify God not only as the Source of and Summit of all goodness, but also for His infinite personal love displayed on the cross.

    I would say that the opening of heaven is primarily an act of love. That said, I think that you, I and Seamus Mulholland OFM are on the same page regarding this:

    Scotus argues that the reason for the Incarnation is Love. The Love of God in himself and the free desire that God has to share that love with another who can love him as perfectly as he loves himself, i.e. the Christ. Scotus says that all the souls that were ever created and about to be created could not, cannot and never will measure up to the supreme love that Christ has for the Trinity. The very fact of the preconception of the Incarnation in Scotus’s thought means that we are co-heirs to this Trinitarian love that Christ has. The Incarnation, then in Duns Scotus, becomes the unrepeatable, unique, and single defining act of God’s love. God, says Scotus, is what he is: we know that God exists and we know what that existence is: Love. Thus, if Man had not sinned Christ would still have come, since this was predetermined from all eternity in the mind of God as the supreme manifestation of his love for the creation he brings about in his free act. The Incarnation is the effect of God freely choosing to end his self-isolation and show who and what He is to that creation. The Incarnation, therefore, in Franciscan spirituality is centered on Love and not sin. Sin has been given too much prominence in contemporary soteriology: God redeems from sin because he loves us?: no, says the Scotist, God loves us and then redeems us. Redemption is an act of love first and foremost, not an act of saving us from sin, and the first act of redemption is the Incarnation.

    “Redemption is an act of love first and foremost, not an act of saving us from sin …”. I believe this, and that is why I think that Mary acknowledged God as her savior:

    And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Luke 1:46-49

    What has God saved Mary from? Her sin? No, what God saves Mary from is a state of being. Mary was born without sin, and Adam and Eve were created without sin. But Mary, like Adam and Eve, were predestined for a higher state of being, the state of being where one can behold the beatific vision.

    Adam name his wife Eve, because she is the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). The New Adam proclaimed Mary to be our mother from the Cross:

    Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” John 19:27

    Eve is my mother because all men and women are her children in a natural sense. But Mary is my mother, because she is the Mediatix of all Graces. Through grace, I am reborn from a natural life to a new and higher life, a supernatural life where I live as a child of God that partakes in the divine life of God.

  55. Ray (et al),

    This question about grace as it relates to the pre- and post-fall states, is discussed extensively in Lawrence Feingold’s magisterial book, The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and His Interpreters 2nd ed. (Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2010). Take a look at the back-of-the-book blurbs (and the caliber of the blurb-ers). I’m working my way through it now. At $35, it’s a no brainer.

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