Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark

Sep 26th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On September 21, Professor Lawrence Feingold of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology and author of The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and his Interpreters gave a lecture titled “The Natural Desire to See God and Man’s Supernatural End” to the Association of Hebrew Catholics. The audio recordings of the lecture and of the following Q&A are available below.


Lawrence Feingold

Lecture:
 

Q&A:
 

The mp3s can be downloaded here. The pdf of the talk is available here.

This lecture helps further the ecumenical dialogue in the following way. Essential to reuniting Protestants and Catholics is finding the disagreements behind the disagreements, because these are the fundamental causes of the division’s persistence, and yet they tend to remain hidden and relatively undiscussed though implicitly presupposed. One such fundamental disagreement concerns the essence and relation of nature and grace, because this disagreement underlies the Protestant-Catholic disagreement concerning the relations of law and gospel, faith and works, and justification and sanctification. And not uncommonly the two sides talk past each other (or critique a straw man) when they use their own concepts for nature and grace when criticizing the other’s position.1 The difference between their respective theologies of nature and grace is especially manifested in their doctrines concerning the pre-fall condition of Adam and Eve. St. Thomas, drawing from Aristotle’s On the Heavens, writes, “parvus error in principio magnus est in fine,” meaning “a small error in the beginning is a large error in the end.” And that is equally true here, where a small error concerning man’s initial state can lead to much larger errors in Christology and soteriology.


Meredith Kline

One Reformed position on this subject is that of Meredith Kline, who taught for many years at Westminster Theological Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary California, and whose theology concerning nature and grace is still the predominant position at that latter institution. For Kline, when God made man He made a “Covenant of Works” with man, and His making this covenant was necessitated by His nature, given His choice to create man. In other words, having freely chosen to make man, God was bound by His own justice to make the “Covenant of Works” with man. This is why for Kline the Covenant of Works is not rightly said to involve grace, because there was nothing gratuitous in the Covenant of Works, beyond the very decision to create man. For Kline, the reward for obedience under the Covenant of Works was heaven, the same reward we are offered through Christ under the Covenant of Grace.

Kline writes:

A principle of works – do this and live – governed the attainment of the consummation-kingdom proferred in the blessing sanction of the creational covenant. Heaven must be earned. According to the terms stipulated by the Creator it would be on the ground of man’s faithful completion of the work of probation that he would be entitled to enter the Sabbath rest. If Adam obediently performed the assignment signified by the probation tree, he would receive, as a matter of pure and simple justice, the reward symbolized by the tree of life.2

The problem with the notion that man without grace can merit heaven is that this is the heresy of Pelagianism, as Barrett Turner showed in his article “Pelagian Westminster?.” But Kline essentially locks himself into that notion by his definition of ‘grace.’ He defines grace as follows:

Properly defined, grace is not merely the bestowal of unmerited blessings but God’s blessing of man in spite of his demerits, in spite of his forfeiture of divine blessings. Clearly, we ought not apply this term grace to the pre-fall situation, for neither the bestowal of blessings on Adam in the very process of creation nor the proposal to grant him additional blessings contemplated him as in a guilty state of demerit.3

Because he defines ‘grace’ as “God’s blessing in spite of [man's] demerits,” there is by definition no room for or possibility of grace in the pre-fall condition. And in this way Kline defines himself into a Pelagian corner.

The error underlying Pelagianism is a denial of the Creator-creature distinction, because Pelagianism treats heaven (i.e. seeing God face to face, as He sees Himself) as man’s natural end, proportionate to man, and thus attainable by man without grace, but simply through man’s own nature. Feingold’s lecture (above) explains why necessarily heaven is natural only to God, and therefore why for any creature heaven is a supernatural end. Therefore no creature, not even any angel, can enter heaven without grace elevating that creature to its supernatural end. (See my post titled “St. Thomas on Angels and Grace.”)

So by denying that God had given grace to Adam and Eve prior to their sin, while at the same time claiming that heaven was their reward for obedience, Kline’s position is Pelagian.

Kline has responded to the objection that “The disproportion between Adam’s work and the promised blessing forbids us to speak of simple justice.” He writes:

Another form of the attack on the Covenant of Works doctrine (and thus on the classic law-gospel contrast) asserts that even if it is allowed that Adam’s obedience would have earned something, the disproportion between the value of that act of service and the value of the proferred blessing forbids us to speak here of simple equity or justice. The contention is that Adam’s ontological status limited the value or weight of his acts. More specifically his act of obedience would not have eternal value or significance; it could not earn a reward of eternal, confirmed life. In the offer of eternal life, so we are told, we must therefore recognize an element of “grace” in the preredemptive covenant. But belying this assessment of the situation is the fact that if it were true that Adam’s act of obedience could not have eternal significance then neither could or did his actual act of disobedience have eternal significance. It did not deserve the punishment of everlasting death. Consistency would compel us to judge God guilty of imposing punishment beyond the demands of justice, pure and simple. God would have to be charged with injustice in inflicting the punishment of Hell, particularly when he exacted that punishment from his Son as the substitute for sinners. The Cross would be the ultimate act of divine injustice. That is the theologically disastrous outcome of blurring the works-grace contrast by appealing to a supposed disproportionality between work and reward.4

Kline’s argument goes like this. “If it were true that Adam’s act of obedience could not have eternal significance then neither could or did his actual act of disobedience have eternal significance.” But Adam’s act of disobedience did have eternal significance, in that it deserved the punishment of everlasting death. Therefore, Adam’s act of obedience could and must have eternal significance.

The problem with this argument is that it is a red herring. Its conclusion is fully compatible with the truth of the objection. Just because Adam’s act of obedience would have had eternal significance, it does not follow either that (a) heaven is proportionate to grace-less obedience or (b) pre-fall Adam was without grace. It seems that Kline is unaware of the distinction discussed in Feingold’s lecture, namely, the distinction between man’s natural and supernatural ends.

Kline continues his response to this objection:

On the approach that mistakenly contends that the presence of God’s paternal love involves grace and so negates the possibility of meritorious works and simple justice, divine justice ceases to be foundational to all divine government. A negative, punitive justice may be recognized, as in the retribution against the wicked in hell, to which paternal love does not reach. But there is no place in that view for positive justice; those who advocate it must deny that the rewarding of doers of the law with life forms the reverse side of the negative justice which punishes the breakers of the law with death. They cannot consistently confess that justice is the foundation of God’s throne (Pss 89:14(15); 97:2).5

Here Kline responds to those who claim that since the Covenant of Works involves grace therefore it cannot involve meritorious works. He rightly points out that such a position excludes divine justice, or arbitrarily recognizes only the negative aspect of justice while denying its positive aspect. The position he is criticizing in this paragraph is obviously not the Catholic position, according to which Adam and Eve could have merited heaven prior to the fall, precisely because God had infused into them sanctifying grace and agape.

Kline continues:

The disproportionality view’s failure with respect to the doctrine of divine justice can be traced to its approach to the definition of justice. A proper approach will hold that God is just and his justice is expressed in all his acts; in particular, it is expressed in the covenant he institutes. The terms of the covenant – the stipulated reward for the stipulated service – are a revelation of that justice. As a revelation of God’s justice the terms of the covenant define justice. According to this definition, Adam’s obedience would have merited the reward of eternal life and not a gram of grace would have been involved.6

Here Kline’s argument goes like this. The terms of the Covenant of Works are a revelation of God’s justice. According to the terms of the Covenant of Works Adam’s obedience would have merited the reward of eternal life. Therefore, by justice alone without a gram of grace, Adam’s obedience would have merited the reward of eternal life.

The problem with that argument is that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. The truth of the two premises is fully compatible with eternal life being the merited reward of graced-obedience.

In the last paragraph of his response to this objection Kline writes:

Refusing to accept God’s covenant word as the definer of justice, the disproportionality view exalts above God’s word a standard of justice of its own making. Assigning ontological values to Adam’s obedience and God’s reward it finds that weighed on its judicial scales they are drastically out of balance. In effect that conclusion imputes an imperfection in justice to the Lord of the covenant. The attempt to hide this affront against the majesty of the Judge of all the earth by condescending to assess the relation of Adam’s act to God’s reward as one of congruent merit is no more successful than Adam’s attempt to manufacture a covering to conceal his nakedness. It succeeds only in exposing the roots of this opposition to Reformed theology in the theology of Rome.7

Here Kline claims that the objection regarding disproportionality does not allow the Biblical account regarding God’s promise of reward and punishment for Adam to define the standard of justice. He means that the objection does not allow the Biblical account to define the standard of justice of what is due as reward to man for obedience carried out by human nature alone, without grace. But Kline’s rejoinder begs the question, by presupposing that the reward in the Biblical account is justly due for obedience carried out by human nature alone, and not carried out by man-infused-with-grace. If God had already given sanctifying grace to Adam when God laid before him the conditions for obedience and disobedience, then those conditions reveal the just reward and punishment for man-infused-with-grace, not for man-without-grace. So Kline’s response presupposes precisely what is in question between those holding his view of the Covenant of Works, and the Catholic Church. In short, none of Kline’s rejoinders to the disproportionality objection refute the Catholic disproportionality objection (as exemplified in the Feingold lecture).


R. Scott Clark

Westminster Professor R. Scott Clark likewise denies the possibility of pre-fall grace, writing: “Thus, the First Adam needed no grace before the fall. Grace is for sinners, not for the sinless.”8 And elsewhere Clark writes, “Grace, as we mostly use it, is reserved to describe God’s favor toward sinners not the sinless and not Adam ante lapsum.”9 Clark and Kline make this claim for two reasons in conjunction. First, they are presupposing a biblicist theological methodology according to which if we do not see in Scripture any explicit claim that Adam and Eve possessed grace prior to the fall, and no such claim follows by logical necessity from any explicit claims in Scripture, then we are right to conclude that Adam and Eve did not possess grace prior to the fall.10 Second, this method presupposes an ecclesial deism (as I’ll show below) according to which the thousand years of theology that preceded the 16th century cannot be trusted, and therefore all the theologians from St. Augustine onward who referred to Adam and Eve having grace prior to the fall can be summarily dismissed.11

Clark’s position differs from Kline’s in that for Clark, but not for Kline, God could have withheld the Covenant of Works from man. Yet Clark, like Kline, maintains that there was no grace in the Covenant of Works. He holds that God entered only into a legal relation with Adam and Eve: “[I]t was a legal, and not a gracious relation. Adam was to earn his entry into glory.”12 For this reason, Clark’s position is Pelagian in the same way as Kline’s. In response to the argument that denying pre-fall grace while affirming the possibility of meriting heaven entails Pelagianism, Clark writes:

Humanity (as Augustine taught us and as Boston repeated) has existed in four states. The prelapsarian state and the post-lapsarian states are distinct. Hence Paul called the natural state post lapsum “dead.” (Eph 2;1-4). Prior to the fall we were “alive.” Our abilities, then, suffered a mortal blow, literally, after the fall. Thus whatever we cannot do (anything meritorious) after the fall is no indicator of human ability before the fall.13

Clark’s argument goes like this. Prior to the fall Adam’s nature was greater than it was after the fall. In other words, human nature became corrupted through Adam’s sin. But Pelagianism is the error of claiming that corrupted human nature without grace can merit heaven. Therefore claiming that pre-fall Adam without grace could merit heaven is not Pelagianism.

But what makes Pelagianism false is not merely that Adam had lost some natural, finite power. What makes Pelagianism false is that no creature is by nature proportionate to the supernatural end which is the Beatific Vision. As the Feingold lecture above explains, the supernatural end which is God’s own inner life is natural and therefore proportionate only to God Himself. Hence no creature, not even the highest angel, could, without grace, merit God’s own inner life. So Clark’s reply that the pre-fall Adam had a greater nature (though without grace) does not obviate the Pelagian error. It treats man as naturally proportionate to God, and in this way denies the Creator-creature distinction.

We know that in order for the heavenly reward for Adam’s obedience to be just, his obedience must have been graced-obedience, i.e. obedience done out of the supernatural virtue of agape flowing from a heart infused with sanctifying grace. Only if his obedience was done through a participation in the divine nature could it be directed to that supernatural end which is heaven. So the Covenant of Works had to have included infused grace, because otherwise one faces either the Scylla of Pelagianism or the Charybdis that the reward Adam could have merited (and which the second Adam did merit) was something infinitely less than heaven.

Both Clark and Michael Horton reject the doctrine of grace as participation in the divine nature. They construe union with Christ as entirely extrinsic and stipulative. Clark writes, “Our union with Christ is both legal and vital, but never ontic. We are “in Christ” by virtue of God’s decree.”14 By ‘vital union’ Clark is referring to a personal relationship between Christ and the believer, effected by the Spirit through the gift of faith. Of course for Clark regeneration precedes faith, because unregenerate man is dead, and therefore unable to believe. For Clark, regeneration is not vital union with Christ; regeneration is a benefit of legal union with Christ. And therefore for Clark neither regeneration nor ‘vital union’ with Christ are an ontological union by way of an infusion of grace or participation in the divine nature. Positing a ‘vital union’ with Christ, construed as fellowship with Christ, while denying a participation in the divine nature, undermines the Creator-creature distinction, because it either treats man as being by his very created nature capable of giving to God the Agape God is by nature, or it reduces divine Agape to the natural love in human-human friendships.

If ‘vital union’ is to be more than extrinsic union, it must be a participation in the divine Life, and thus ontological. But Clark denies ontological union, and denies participation in the divine nature. That makes ‘vital union’ a mere extrinsic union. One problem with a merely covenantal notion of union with Christ is that it reduces heaven to the equivalent of Abraham’s bosom. (Luke 16:22) A merely covenantal union with Christ is what we have now in this present life, and what the saints in Abraham’s bosom had as well. It is not the Beatific Vision. Hence if Clark holds that in the eschatological consummation our union with Christ is only covenantal, and not ontological, then his position denies the possibility of attaining heaven, and offers to men in its place something infinitely lower. But if he admits that in the consummation our union with Christ is ontological, then he has no principled reason for claiming that grace cannot be a participation in the divine nature in addition to divine favor.15

But, again, part of the problem here is semantic. Clark claims that the Covenant of Works was a free act by God, but not gracious. He writes:

Now, that “earning” was within a covenant freely made by God by, as the WCF says, “voluntary condescension,” …. They [the authors of the WCF] turned not to grace to explain God’s free act in covenanting with Adam, instead they turned to the divine free will. Hence “voluntary condescension.” … The Creator/creature relations are such that man did not have any claim on God without God having freely willed to enter into a legal relation. That done, it was a legal, and not a gracious relation. Adam was to earn his entry into glory.16

Because of his definition of ‘grace,’ Clark cannot describe Adam’s pre-fall ability to merit heaven as made possible by infused grace. So he must attribute it to human nature, and thus run into the Pelagian problem. But if he were not hamstrung by this stipulated definition of ‘grace,’ he could simply grant that in offering to Adam the supernatural end which is heaven, and in making this supernatural end attainable in justice by the merit of Adam’s obedience, God had to infuse Adam with a participation in the divine nature (i.e. with grace) to make his actions proportionate to that supernatural end.

Another objection to the Catholic doctrine is the claim that it implies that human nature in itself (even prior to the fall) is defective or fallen. Clark attributes this notion to St. Thomas, writing, “For Thomas, nature is inherently defective and requires grace, as a result of creation, to perfect it.”17 Clark construes the Catholic position in this way. He writes, “We were not created corrupt (Augustine and Thomas) or fallen.”18 Here Clark is claiming that for St. Augustine and St. Thomas, God created man corrupt. But that is untrue and inaccurate. Listen to the second question in the Q&A of the lecture above, in which this very question is addressed; it begins at 5 minutes and 10 seconds into the audio. Human nature is good, because everything God made is good. But our lower appetites (such as our desire for food and our sexual appetite) are not intrinsically ordered to our overall good; they are not in themselves ordered to the good, but to particular types of good. They contribute to our overall good when governed by reason: sometimes prodded forward by reason and other times restrained by reason. Hence they need to be governed by reason, which by its very nature is ordered toward the good, not merely toward that which is good in a certain respect. But since lower appetites are not by their nature docile to reason, therefore without the preternatural gift of integrity, they would often be at odds with reason. So God provided Adam and Eve with the preternatural gift of integrity, which they forfeited when they sinned. The lack of this integrity is not a defect in human nature; something is “defective” only if it falls short of its nature. But human nature does not contain or require this integrity; otherwise we would not now be human, since we do not now possess this integrity. Therefore, the lack of this integrity is not a defect in human nature.19 Likewise, mortality is natural to man, not because man was created defective but because man is a material being. A body is not by its nature as body subject to the soul. This is why corporeal creatures are naturally mortal. Hence the immortality possessed by Adam and Eve was a preternatural gift, and this gift too was lost by their sin. If immortality belonged to human nature proper, then we mortal creatures would not be human; we would be another kind of creature altogether.

A bit further down Clark writes:

The notion that the fall was a fall from grace stems, as I’ve said before, from an unbiblical and pagan view of divine-human relations. We do not exist on one end of a continuum with God. We are and only shall be analogues to God. Full stop.

To say that grace was necessary before the fall is to say that, in effect, divinity is a pre-requisite for obedience, that humanity as such is incapable of obedience. That scheme almost always (and certainly did in Thomas and certainly does in contemporary evangelicalism) lead to a doctrine of theosis — divinization as salvation. See M. Karkainen’s (Fuller Sem) new book where teaches this explicitly.

This, of course, destroys not only the Creator/creature relations by turning the creature into the Creator it also makes our problem ontological rather than moral. Scripture never does this. The Protestants didn’t do this. Augustine and Thomas did. Augustine and Thomas were wrong! Luther, Calvin and our theologians and symbols were more biblical.

This approach also destroys the incarnation. We have a God-Man Savior. His humanity is not deified and his deity is not confused with his humanity. We have a Savior with two distinct natures united in one person.

Why did God the Son have to become, having willed to be our Mediator and representative, a true man? Why not just come without the incarnation? To fulfill the covenant of works broken by Adam. If the “fall” was a “fall from grace” then why all the fuss about the law? About Jesus “righteousness” and “obedience”? Why the brutal 40 day temptation in the wilderness? Why not just “poof” and make it all go away? Why sweat, as it were, great drops of blood? Why “learn obedience” by the things he suffered? Why die outside the camp? Why be circumcised for us on the cross? Because, he was the Second Adam? He had to go back into the garden and do battle with the evil one, as a true man, and he did that his whole life. That is why he said “It is finished!”

None of that makes any sense on an alternate scheme. The truth is that western theology was schizoid for most of 1000 years and God bless that fat little Saxon monk for finalizing the divorce from Plotinus and Dionysius and the rest of the theologians of glory!20

The notion that the fall was a fall from grace does not come from paganism; it follows from two truths that are part of the gospel: (1) man cannot merit a supernatural end without grace, (2) the heaven offered to Adam and Eve upon obedience was the supernatural end of seeing God as He is.21 The Catholic doctrine that Adam and Eve possessed grace prior to their fall does not imply or entail a denial of the Creator-creature distinction. Ironically, however, Clark’s own view that Adam and Eve could attain to heaven without grace does imply a denial of the Creator-creator distinction, because as I explained above, it treats as natural to man (i.e. as intrinsic to his primary nature) what is natural only to God.22

To say that grace was necessary before the fall does not in any way entail that “divinity is a pre-requisite for obedience, that humanity as such is incapable of obedience.” Even if man had never been given grace, he could (in principle) have obeyed and thus attained to his natural end. Clark’s objection here is based on an implicit denial of the distinction between man’s natural and supernatural ends. The necessity of grace is not “for obedience” simpliciter, but for graced-obedience, i.e. obedience coming from a heart of agape, and ordered to man’s supernatural end, rather than to a merely natural end. For obedience ordered to a supernatural end grace is necessary, and for perseverance in that grace, grace upon grace is necessary.

The Creator-creature distinction is an ontological one, and denying that distinction is what underlies the Pelagian error, as explained above. Clark claims that we need grace only because of a moral problem, and not because of an ontological problem. In making this claim, Clark commits himself both to nominalism and to voluntarism, by disconnecting morality from ontology.23 Pope Benedict addressed this notion five years ago in his famous Regensburg Address, in which he said:

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which – as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated – unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, “transcends” knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul – “λογικη λατρεία”, worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

Pope Benedict explains that the voluntaristic theology of certain late medieval thinkers gave rise to positions that “clearly approach” that form of Islamic theology according to which God is not Logos, but will, and thus brute capricious power. Among other consequences, this conception of God makes violence in the name of God justifiable, and leads to the fideism which underlies certain fundamentalist forms of religion.

Catholic theology does not make our problem “ontological rather than moral,” as Clark claims. Catholic theology recognizes that morality and ontology are related, and that we need not only forgiveness of our sins and the grace to obey God’s laws, but a participation in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) in order to attain to our supernatural end. Theosis just is that participation about which St. Peter writes. To reject theosis is to reject our supernatural end of seeing God as He is. And to reject our supernatural end is to reject the gospel.

According to Clark, the theology of St. Augustine and St. Thomas concerning theosis “destroys the incarnation.” Clark seems to think that the doctrine of theosis must result in an ontological confusion of Christ’s two natures. He describes theosis as “overcoming our humanity.”24 For Clark, the Catholic doctrine of participation in the divine nature “vitiates” the Creator-creature distinction.25

But the doctrine of theosis has no such implication, and to construe it that way is to critique a straw man. Theosis is not a confusion of natures, but a participation in the divine nature, as St. Peter says. Participation by its very nature is in something other, because a thing does not participate in itself. Hence creatures’ participation in the divine nature entails a distinction between the Creator and the creature. Therefore the sort of union entailed by participation is not a fusion that confuses the natures or makes one nature out of two; that would eliminate participation. And for this reason grace as participation in the divine nature does not deny the Creator/creature distinction. Grace does not destroy nature but perfects and elevates it. Construing grace as elevating nature such that nature is obliterated is contrary to that dictum. Union with God does not eliminate human nature; human nature remains, but is elevated by its participation in the divine nature. This is revealed in Christ’s glorification, in which His human nature is divinized and glorified, but not destroyed; He remains human, and yet He can go through walls, and His face radiates light like the Sun.

In addition, Clark claims that for St. Thomas and the Catholic Church, grace is a substance. He writes:

The medieval notion was that grace is a substance which can be imparted or dispensed through human agency to sinners. The Protestant view is that grace is a divine disposition toward sinners.26

St. Thomas, however, explicitly denies that grace is a substance.27 What is given to us through the sacraments Christ established in the New Covenant is a participation in the divine nature. Sanctifying grace is the participation of the soul in the life of God. If we did not have sanctifying grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in us would be mere presence (like omnipresence), not union. That’s why there cannot be theosis without sanctifying grace as something distinct from the Holy Spirit. And without union with God in which we participate in the divine nature, we could not enter into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity; we would be cut off from the Beatific Vision, and heaven would be reduced to something equivalent to Abraham’s bosom, with Christ visible to us only in His human nature.

But the second reason Clark thinks that the notion of pre-fall grace destroys the incarnation is that he thinks that pre-fall grace would make the incarnation unnecessary. For Clark grace is conceived as something intrinsically incompatible with law. Therefore, if Adam and Eve fell from grace (as opposed to falling while under law), there would be no reason for Jesus to come and fulfill the law. For Clark, if man had been always under grace, then God could just go ‘poof’ and make all our sin vanish by fiat; there would be no need for atonement or merit or satisfaction. Grace is pure favor, and so for those always under pure favor, there is never any need for law-keeping, not even by someone on their behalf. There’s just no law in grace proper.

Underlying Clark’s entire argument here is his Reformed (Lutheran) presupposition that grace and law cannot go together.28 But if God had already given Adam and Eve sanctifying grace before He commanded them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then Clark’s presupposition is false. When Clark says “None of that makes sense on an alternative scheme” he’s right that none of that makes sense when one presupposes that law and grace are incompatible. But to use that presupposition is to beg the question. If law and grace can go together (as St. Augustine explains that they do — see “St. Augustine on Law and Grace“) then all these thing make perfect sense. So Clark’s whole argument here is an exercise in question-begging, i.e. using a Reformed presupposition to argue against Catholic doctrine.

But there is an irony here in Clark’s claim that the Catholic teaching that Adam and Eve possessed grace prior to their fall “destroys the incarnation.” The irony is that it is Clark’s own position that makes the incarnation unnecessary. The Church’s tradition handed down to us from the early Church Fathers maintains that Christ took on human nature so that we might become partakers of His divine nature through union with Him. As St. Athanasius said:

For He was made man that we might be made God.” (On the Incarnation, 54.3)

And again:

I am from earth, being by nature mortal, but afterwards I have become the Word’s flesh, and He carried my affections, though He is without them; and so I became free from them, being no more abandoned to their service because of the Lord who has made me free from them. For if you object to my being rid of that corruption which is by nature, see that you object not to God’s Word having taken my form of servitude; for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh, and henceforward inherit life everlasting. (Discourse III Against the Arians, 34)

If mere covenantal (and not ontological) union were our eschatological end, such that we are not made partakers of the divine nature, then Christ did not need to take on human flesh. If we were not called to partake of the divine nature, Christ would not have needed to partake of our human nature. Given the Reformed notion of imputation, all that is needed for salvation is a double imputation. For example, instead of sending Christ, God could have created another group of humans equal in number to the elect, made no promise of reward to them (since for Clark God didn’t have to make such a covenant of works with men) monergistically ensured their just obedience to God, and then imputed their obedience to the elect, and imputed the sins of the elect to them. From the divine point of view, it would just be another form of supralapsarianism, except without the incarnation. Of course the notion is far-fetched, but the point is that if man is not ordered to a supernatural end, then Christ did not need to become incarnate.29

For Clark, “western theology was schizoid for most of 1000 years.” That’s the ecclesial deism I mentioned earlier. The alternative is that the Church developed the Apostolic faith organically and faithfully, and that early Protestants influenced by later medieval nominalism and voluntarism had to posit a one thousand year breakdown in orthodoxy in order to justify their theological novelties and their rejection of the Tradition as passed down from the Church Fathers through this thousand year period.

To bring about reconciliation between Protestants I contend that what needs to be examined are not points of disagreement that depend on more substantive assumptions, but those substantive assumptions themselves. Here, it seems to me, the meaning of nature and grace, and their relation, are theologically fundamental, because they play a role in arguments used to reject the other’s position. Prof. Feingold’s lecture above lays out a critical distinction between our natural and supernatural ends, and this distinction significantly illuminates the Catholic understanding of the distinction and relation of nature and grace.

  1. See, for example, “Michael Horton on Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”.” []
  2. Kingdom Prologue, as quoted in “Answering Objections to the Covenant of Works.” (my emphasis) []
  3. Covenant Theology Under Attack.” []
  4. Answering Objections to the Covenant of Works.” []
  5. Answering Objections to the Covenant of Works.” []
  6. Answering Objections to the Covenant of Works.” []
  7. Answering Objections to the Covenant of Works.” []
  8. Concupiscence: Sin and the Mother of Sin.” []
  9. Natural Man Before the fall: Ability and Grace.” []
  10. I have briefly discussed what is wrong with this presupposition both in the “Scripture and Tradition” section of my discussion with Michael Horton, and in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” []
  11. On St. Augustine’s teaching that Adam and Eve had grace prior to the fall, see the first five footnotes in “Pelagian Westminster?” []
  12. Natural Man Before the Fall: Ability and Grace.” []
  13. Natural Man Before the Fall: Ability and Grace.” []
  14. Natural Man before the Fall: Ability and Grace: P. 2.” For Horton’s view of union with Christ see chapter 18 of his recent book The Christian Faith, in which he defines union with Christ as covenantal, and rejects an ontological union (which he describes as ‘fusion’). []
  15. Cf. Summa Theologica I-II Q.110 a.1. []
  16. Natural Man Before the Fall: Ability and Grace.” []
  17. In Clark’s “A Brief Glossary of the Medieval and Reformation Church,” under “Aquinas, Thomas.” []
  18. Natural Man Before the Fall: Ability and Grace.” []
  19. I addressed this same question in about the fourth paragraph of “Michael Horton on Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”.” []
  20. Natural Man Before the Fall: Ability and Grace.” []
  21. Clark maintains that the same end offered to pre-fall Adam on condition of merit is the same end attained by the elect through Christ’s merit. He writes, “The Reformed expressed this affirmation of the goodness of Adam (before the fall) as created (contra Thomas and Augustine) by teaching the covenant of works in which Adam was said to have been, before the fall, able to keep the law and to earn (yes, I said “earn”) a state of consummate blessedness. … This is the background for our view of Jesus’ sinlessness (impeccability) and active obedience for us and imputed to us. Our standards and theologians all have it that Jesus “earned” or “obtained” our justification and eventual consummate blessedness.” []
  22. If two things have the same primary nature, they are the same in kind. Hence, if man and God have the same primary nature, then man is God. []
  23. See “William of Ockham.” []
  24. He writes, “We don’t confess apotheosis. We’re categorically opposed to it. We don’t have to be divinized to be glorified. Consummation does not mean overcoming our humanity. In Pauline terms, in 1 Cor 15, it is conformity to the will and presence of the Holy Spirit …” []
  25. “One of the great, if often unspoken, breakthroughs of the Reformation was the restoration of the Creator/creature distinction. Thomas’ doctrine (and he’s not alone in this at all) of participation in the divine nature vitiates this.” On Clark’s now defunct Heidelblog. []
  26. Clark’s “A Brief Glossary of the Medieval and Reformation Church,” under the entry “Grace.” []
  27. See Summa Theologica I-II Q.110 a.2 ad 2. []
  28. See my “A Response to Darrin Patrick on the Indicates and the Imperatives.” []
  29. For a brief comparison of the Catholic and Reformed conceptions of the atonement, see “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.” []
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  1. Bryan.

    GREAT article. After much consideration over the last few years, I have come to believe that what you bring up in this post is THE hidden and underlying cause of Catholic / Protestant disagreements. When all the upper layer disputes are rolled back, we find beneath it all a profound philosophical divide rooted in the nominalism of the late middle ages.

    You wrote;

    “Underlying Clark’s entire argument here is his Reformed (Lutheran) presupposition that grace and law cannot go together.2″

    And this points to the fact that the underlying metaphysics of Protestantism (and metaphysics of some sort is simply unavoidable when doing theology, as was once pointed out to Karl Barth) fails to understand (or chooses to reject without cogent argument) the philosophical grounds for asserting that Being and Good are controvertible. It fails to see the ontic dimension of immoral acts as a failure to actualize human capacities in route to achieving human fulfillment or man’s final end. It fails to see that sin is fundamentally a choice for a diminishment of being. Christ’s obedience and actions after hypostatic union with our human nature does not just balance the ledger of a moral rule book. Rather, because the Good and Being are controvertible, everything the hypostatic Christ did was at once a fulfillment of human moral obligations and at the same time the source of restoration for all the ontic diminishment of man and the cosmos flowing from the accumulated sins (because sin entails ontic diminishment by latching onto lower goods at the expense of higher) of mankind over the course human history starting with our first parents. Christ is the very foundation of a new creation – He makes all things new. Or to paraphrase St. Irenaeus, “the glory of God is man fully realized”. Anyhow, I believe it is fundamantally the failure of Protestant theologians to either understand or engage the root questions of metaphysics that causes so many of them (not all) to misconstrue and reject the Catholic theological tradition and thus go astray in their soteriology, Christology, and eschatology.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  2. Clark writes: To say that grace was necessary before the fall is to say that, in effect, divinity is a pre-requisite for obedience, that humanity as such is incapable of obedience. That scheme almost always (and certainly did in Thomas and certainly does in contemporary evangelicalism) lead to a doctrine of theosis — divinization as salvation.

    Bryan writes: Catholic theology recognizes that morality and ontology are related, and that we need not only forgiveness of our sins and the grace to obey God’s laws, but a participation in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) in order to attain to our supernatural end. Theosis just is that participation about which St. Peter writes. To reject theosis is to reject our supernatural end of seeing God as He is. And to reject our supernatural end is to reject the gospel.

    …. Both Clark and Michael Horton reject the doctrine of grace as participation in the divine nature. They construe union with Christ as entirely extrinsic and stipulative. Clark writes, “Our union with Christ is both legal and vital, but never ontic.

    “Never ontic.” Not even in Heaven? That says a lot.

    This article makes a strong case that because “grace” is redefined in such a novel way within Calvinism, that Calvinism is a religion that necessarily rejects theosis. I quite agree that to reject theosis is to ultimately reject the gospel. This novel definition of grace by the Calvinists, and their denial of theosis, raises all sorts of questions for me. A big question for me is why do Calvinists bother to baptize? Is baptism in a Calvinist church merely an extrinsic ritual that is performed with no intention whatsoever of bestowing supernatural grace upon the person who is being baptized? Is baptism in a Calvinist church merely a outward sign that is performed with no intention whatsoever of regenerating a person so that they become beings that partake of the divine nature of God?

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    The GRACE OF BAPTISM

    “A new creature”

    1265 & 1266 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. … the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.

    Why would the Catholic Church recognize Calvinist baptism as being valid? The validity of a Sacrament depends on intention, and I am having a problem understanding the intention that a Calvinist has when he baptizes a person. I am also having a problem of understanding the intention that a person has when he or she receives a Calvinist baptism.

    If I understand correctly, (which might be doubtful), when a Calvinist baptizes another person, there is no intention by the Calvinist to administer a Sacrament that bestows supernatural grace (as supernatural grace is understood in the Catholic sense) to the person being baptized. Nor is there any intention by the person receiving a Calvinist baptism to receive supernatural grace. In short, in the Calvinist religion, baptism is an outward ritual that is completely severed from any concept of theosis – “Our union with Christ is both legal and vital, but never ontic.”

    If the intention is utterly lacking when performing a Calvinist baptism to bring about a union with God where one partakes in the divine nature – to bring about a regeneration by the Spirit – then why would the Catholic Church see a Calvinist baptism as being a valid Sacrament of Baptism? The Calvinists may have the formula right when they perform the ritual, but the ritual was established by Christ as a means to an end. It seems to me that when a Calvinist baptizes a person, he lacks any intention to achieve the ends for which Christ instituted the Rite of Baptism.

  3. Ray,

    Am I right in assuming that “controvertible” was a typo, and you meant “convertible”? If so, excellent points. If not, I’m highly confused… :-)

  4. @ T Ciatoris. :>) Yep typo. Shot that comment off in a hurry after a quick read of Bryan’s article this morning. Thanks for pointing it out. That’s what too much bloggin will get ya, controvertible and convertible fly off the keyboard too often and quick. Anyway, its always Good – Being in a convertible (preferrably red), especially when taking a drive on a Sunny Sunday afternoon!

    Cheers!

    Ray

  5. I had no religious context whatever until I was 27 – became a Christian in an evangelical ‘street Christian’ context – that was at the end of 1969. Over the next 10 years I was engaged in trying to educate myself. By 1975 I was a Calvinist in the Van Tillian tradition.

    I remember – maybe about 1980 – realising that Scriptures like St John’s “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” must be purely metaphorical, and that when people told me we would understand the Trinity (for instance) in Heaven, I protested strongly that in order to understand anything about God, even in Heaven, would be impossible. We would have to have divine natures for that to happen.

    I think this was quite right. In reality I think my view of Heaven was not a lot different from that of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons – a perfected natural Paradise.

    It was one of the most wonderful things for me to discover, in the process of becoming a Catholic (1993-5), that the divine nature – to be sure, in a gracious, analogical fashion, would be mine if I persisted.

    St Peter’s “partakers of the divine nature” began to be a lot more (marvellously) attractive to me!

    Thank you for this article. I am going to try to find time to listen to the talks, but the article alone has been of great help.

    jj

  6. This is implied in the article, but all this fuss and disagreement over pre-fall man, grace, humanity attaining Heaven etc. also seems to stem from the Protestant and Catholic concepts of what Heaven exactly is. I’m not a theologian, but I’ve grown up in Evangelical and Reformed circles, and apart from reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, I had never even heard of such a thing as the “beatific vision.” Then I came across Catholic theology and noticed for the first time what Peter writes in 2 Pet. 1:4 on participation in the divine nature. Previously, my concept of Heaven was that it was just a place where we, as humans, were perfected in our natures, worshipped God and were happy with Him — not necessarily participating in His divine nature. The different concepts of what Heaven is might could be added to the fundamental differences b/w Protestant and Catholic.

  7. Note: St. Cyril of Jerusalem said that “partakers of the divine nature” was in reference to the Eucharist. See here (Lecture XXII, On the Mysteries. IV. “On the Body and Blood of Christ”).

  8. “Theosis is not a confusion of natures, but a participation in the divine nature, as St. Peter says.”

    Excellent article Bryan. Understanding theosis is also key to understanding why/how we pray to saints who are currently participating in theosis. Though they are not God, their participation in the life of God is such that they can hear prayers and even be delegated the ability to answer them. It is obvious to me that this is glorifying to God! Just as when our children make us proud by doing our will, we honor God by honoring His glorified children, and he is glorified by our/their participation with him. I love it.

    A few years ago as a hardcore Reformed dude, one of the first things I changed in the Westminster childrens catechism I was teaching my kids was the “covenant of works” language. It made me very uncomfortable. Doug Wilson had a lot to do with my thinking on that. He is fond of saying that the covenants are “all grace”, and he points out the graciousness of God condescending to us in the covenant of works (He calls it the covenant of life). What really made me despise the thinking represented by Clark that “it was a legal, and not a gracious relation. Adam was to earn his entry into glory” is that it seemed to miss the grace given to Adam in the mere fact of possibly entering heaven. After reading this article, I see that I may have been instinctively wary of what seems obvious now: the Pelagianism of the “covenant of works”.

  9. Bryan Cross wrote:

    “St. Thomas, however, explicitly denies that grace is a substance.”

    IMHO, a lot of confusion would be avoided if catechetical texts included some concise unequivocal clarification like:

    Sanctifying grace is not some “fluid”. It is not an entity but a quality (added to the soul). It is not a substance but an accident (added to the soul).

    Which of course becomes clear once we read this catechesis from Fr John Hardon:

    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Grace/Grace_011.htm

  10. Natalia writes: This is implied in the article, but all this fuss and disagreement over pre-fall man, grace, humanity attaining Heaven etc. also seems to stem from the Protestant and Catholic concepts of what Heaven exactly is. … Previously, my concept of Heaven was that it was just a place where we, as humans, were perfected in our natures, worshipped God and were happy with Him — not necessarily participating in His divine nature. The different concepts of what Heaven is might could be added to the fundamental differences b/w Protestant and Catholic.

    Natalia, I think you are exactly right, that the Calvinist view of Heaven and the Catholic view of Heaven must be very different.

    The Calvinist “covenant of works” theology is an assertion that Adam and Eve had to work their way into Heaven. Would Adam and Eve have “perfected their natures” by doing the works necessary to enter Heaven? If so, what, exactly, would be the difference between their state of being in Heaven, and their state of being in the Terrestrial Paradise?

    John Thayer Jensen writes: … I think my view of Heaven [as a Calvinist] was not a lot different from that of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons – a perfected natural Paradise.

    JJ, when you were a Calvinist, did you think that life in Heaven was the same kind of life that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall (with the difference, of course, that there would be no possibility of a Christian ever being cast out from Paradise)?

    The reason that I ask that question is because I wonder if Calvinists attribute any deep meaning to the Tree of Life that grew in the middle of the Garden. My question to a Calvinist is this, if the Fall had never occurred, what kind of life would Adam and Eve have gained by eating the fruit of the Tree of Life?

    For a Calvinist, the Tree of Life can’t be a source that brings about an increase in the spiritual life of Adam and Eve, since the Calvinists are asserting a doctrine of pre-Fall Pelagianism. That is, the Calvinists are asserting that the higher spiritual life of Heaven would have come about as a just reward for the natural works of Adam and Eve performed apart from grace, and not through an unearned gift from God. Now God told Adam and Ever that they were free to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life without having to do any works first, therefore, Adam and Eve could not have come to possess a higher spiritual life from the Tree of Life. But if the Tree of Life was not a source of a higher spiritual life for Adam and Eve, what kind of life was it a source of? How can beings that already have the preternatural gift of bodily immortality gain anything they that did not already possess from the Tree of Life?

    from the article: The error underlying Pelagianism is a denial of the Creator-creature distinction, because Pelagianism treats heaven (i.e. seing God face to face, as He sees Himself) as man’s natural end, proportionate to man, and thus attainable by man without grace, but simply through man’s own nature.

    … what makes Pelagianism false is not merely that Adam had lost some natural, finite power. What makes Pelagianism false is that no creature is by nature proportionate to the supernatural end which is the Beatific Vision.

    It seems to me that Calvinist doctrine of pre-Fall Pelagianism necessarily denies that there is any deep meaning to be found in the mysterious Tree of Life that stood in the middle of the Garden.

    Brent writes: Note: St. Cyril of Jerusalem said that “partakers of the divine nature” was in reference to the Eucharist.

    Right. Through the Eucharist we partake of the divine nature. I think that the mysterious fruit of the Tree of Life is a type found in the Old Testament, a type that is pointing to it fulfillment in the New Testament. The Eucharist in the food that gives eternal life; the Eucharist is also called Communion, because through the Eucharist we achieve a supernatural union with God, a union where we share in the divine nature of God.

    So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
    John 6:53-56

    Calvinists deny that the Eucharist is anything more than natural food – for Calvinists, the Eucharist is not even a supernatural food like manna (which the Jews ate and still died). Which is why I think that Calvinists fail to see any connection to the Tree of Life that stood in the middle of the Garden and the Eucharist as the source of the Christian life.

    Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
    Rev 22:14

  11. R. Scott Clark, in his Heidelberg Commentary writes:

    Rome says that grace perfects nature. This is the “scale of being” view already described. In this scheme nature, as such, is thought to be defective.

    Clark reasons that if grace perfects nature, then nature must be defective. But that conclusion does not follow, because a thing can be perfected in different senses. In one sense, a thing can be perfected by removing its defects and restoring its natural goodness. That sense of perfecting implies a defect in the thing being perfected. In another sense, however, a thing can be perfected by raising it above its natural perfection. This sense of perfecting does not imply any defect in the thing being perfected. Clark seems to be unaware of the distinction between these two ways of being perfected, and hence concludes that if grace perfects nature, then nature must be defective.

    Later in this same document, he writes:

    Scripture teaches that we were created good. This truth needs to be repeated because it has been denied so widely and often that one suspects that most Christians whether evangelical or Roman or Orthodox do not really believe that we were created good. Rome teaches and many evangelicals believe that we were, in some way, defective from the beginning and that the fall happened because we were defective. Of course Scripture says that opposite: “And it was very good.”

    The Catholic Church does not teach that man prior to the fall was defective, or that man prior was not “very good.” Just because something is natural (and not supernatural), this does not make it defective. And therefore giving grace and preternatural gifts to elevate man above his natural perfection does not imply or entail that man prior to the fall was defective. For example, that ants can’t do calculus, and pigs can’t fly does not mean that they are defective. Likewise, that man does not by his very nature have the preternatural gifts of immortality, integrity, and infused knowledge, and by his nature does not have sanctifying grace (i.e. a participation in the divine nature) does not entail that man is defective. Clark is not using ‘defective’ in a principled way, but in an arbitrary way. If ‘defective’ means anything less than the best something can possibly be, then even in Clark’s protology, Adam and Eve were created defective, since they did not yet have obedience and the happiness of heaven. Of course Clark wouldn’t admit that their not having obedience and heaven makes them defective, since then his own position would have the same problem he attributes to the Catholic position. But to avoid this he needs to provide a principled basis for what is perfect and what is defective. Otherwise, he is merely using the term ‘defective’ to mean “any notion of human nature that does not include as many powers and perfections as mine.”

  12. @Mateo:

    JJ, when you were a Calvinist, did you think that life in Heaven was the same kind of life that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall (with the difference, of course, that there would be no possibility of a Christian ever being cast out from Paradise)?

    I doubt I thought too much about it, actually. I just know that I realised one day that “seeing God as He is” would have to require some sort of divine life principle in us. And I could only think that meant we would have to be God – so I immediately thought this would be the Devil’s temptation. The “partaking of the divine life” stuff thus had to be metaphorical – and the reality it pointed to couldn’t be very different from perfected natural life.

    But if the Tree of Life was not a source of a higher spiritual life for Adam and Eve, what kind of life was it a source of?

    I think if I had been asked, I would have said it just meant that we would then be (biologically, probably) immortal – much, as I say, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ and Mormons’ Paradise(s).

  13. Bryan writes: In another sense, however, a thing can be perfected by raising it above its natural perfection.

    Thanks Bryan, for making this point. It is an important point, I think, because not only does it explain how Adam’s nature could have be elevated before the Fall by an increase in sanctifying grace, it also explains how the Fall affected Adam.

    The Calvinists are claiming that Adam lost the human nature that he possessed before the Fall. As far as I can understand Calvinism, after the Fall, Adam became a new species of being, a totally depraved being with a new defective nature, a “sin-nature”. By contrast, the Catholic Church is saying that before the Fall, that Adam had a human nature that was without defect, but it was also a nature that was elevated by both the preternatural gifts and the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace. The Catholic Church teaches that what Adam lost by the Fall was not his human nature, but those gratuitous gifts that raised Adam’s nature above that which was natural to Adam.

    It seems to me that the Calvinists are saying that the Fall gave Adam a new defective nature that he passed on to his progeny. This new defective nature – this “sin-nature” – allowed death to come to man. But wouldn’t Jesus have had to possessed a “sin-nature” too, so that he could suffer and die on the cross? If Jesus didn’t have a “sin-nature”, how was it possible for Jesus to be without sin, and yet suffer death? If Jesus had the same perfect nature that Adam had before the Fall, how could Jesus die?

    Gen 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

    When God beheld Adam and Eve dwelling in the Terrestrial Paradise that he had created, He did not declare what He saw to to be defective. God declared that what He beheld was very good. Very good – but not the best possible good. The spiritual life that Adam and Eve possessed in the Terrestrial Paradise was capable of being perfected, in that it could be elevated to an even a higher state by an increase in supernatural grace.

    Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9

    The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. Genesis 2:16-17

    To me, the fact that there are two trees in the middle of the garden is significant, since they hold a central place in the garden. The fruit of the Tree of Life was food that nourished the life that Adam and Eve possessed before the Fall. The fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was poison for Adam and Eve. Not only would the forbidden fruit take away the preternatural gift of bodily immortality possessed by Adam and Eve, it would take away the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace already possessed by Adam and Eve.

    In Genesis it is written:

    … the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name.
    (Gen 2:19)

    God showed Adam the animals He had created in the Terrestrial Paradise – God was teaching Adam something about the good that He had created, and Adam’s knowledge of what was good was increased by God doing this. My point here is that Adam was not forbidden by God to increase his knowledge of what was good, he was forbidden to acquire the knowledge of evil. Since evil has no existence in and of itself, but is a deprivation of the good, it makes perfect sense to me that the forbidden fruit would have to contain knowledge of the good in order to contain knowledge of what is evil. But Calvin implies that Adam had a knowledge of both good and evil before the Fall:

    Free choice and Adam’s responsibility

    Therefore, God has provided the soul of man 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 [that is, Adam's condition before the Fall], when reason, intelligence, prudence, and judgement, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness.

    Ref: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 15, section 8

    http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/

    Here is my question, and the point of this post. If, as Calvin claims, Adam could discern good from evil before the Fall, Adam would have had to have possessed the knowledge of good and evil before the Fall. So why was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil forbidden to Adam? Why was the knowledge of good and evil deadly poison if Adam already had a knowledge of good and evil before the Fall?

  14. @Mateo:

    To be fair to Kline and Clark, Adam’s obedience in the pre-fall state would have led to a consummated state of creation (the Sabbath rest). In this case, some would view the Tree of Life as what would have been offered to man had he passed the probationary testing period. Had man obeyed God, he would have received the reward, not only of eternal life, but he would have entered into God’s sabbath rest (following the pattern of creation in Gen. 1). This life would have been qualitatively different from mere life in the garden–qualitative since only God could bring it about (the ontologically disproportionate reward due to the finite obedience of man is, in this case, bridged by God’s covenant with man). However, since man failed to meet the covenant stipulations, he brought upon himself the covenant sanctions (i.e., death, fall, etc.). Which, subsequently, the second Adam would have to keep in his stead.

    In my opinion, it is still valid to ask what sort of consummated state this is (i.e., whether it is really very different from the pre-fall state) if, as Calvinists typically hold, grace only restores/heals nature to its original state. I have heard certain Reformed theologians say that grace ‘consummates’ nature, but this would have deep consequences for a Calvinist understanding of grace–especially if it is initially understood as something that can only exist in a context of demerit.

    There also seems to be a tension between the gratuity of the consummated state (though attainment of such a state was conditioned on man’s works, it still exceeded anything that man could merit ontologically) and the emphasis on God’s requirement for perfect obedience. Ontologically speaking, even if man had obeyed, if God did not condescend to man, man’s obedience would have merited nothing. One must either recognize the gratuity of God’s covenant in terms of real grace, or one must unequivocally posit that man naturally deserves the eschatological reward (apart from any grace or ontological disproportionality). To do the former would be to grant a more Catholic understanding of nature/grace (albeit with the continuing problem of a consummated state that is ambiguous with regard to how it can be understood to be an improvement from the pre-fall state of man) or to end in blatant Pelagianism. I don’t think there is any other way around this.

  15. @Mateo:

    As far as I can understand Calvinism, after the Fall, Adam became a new species of being, a totally depraved being with a new defective nature, a “sin-nature”.

    As far as I recall, when I was a Calvinist, though I would not have put things like this – having, in fact, little understanding of Aristotelian/Thomistic categories such species – I would have thought you meant ‘biologically reproducing species’ – I think this is right. I remember speculating about how it could be that Adam brought death into the world. Whether death only to human beings or to animals as well did not matter – actually I assumed the latter – but thinking that this meant that human nature had to have been fundamentally changed by the Fall.

    But if Adam’s immorality was a preternatural gift, then all makes sense.

    What has been so wonderful for me, in becoming a Catholic, was the knowledge of how infinitely greater is what God wants to give me in being united with Him – infinitely greater than I could ever have supposed when a Calvinist.

    jj

  16. @Mateo:

    Here is my question, and the point of this post. If, as Calvin claims, Adam could discern good from evil before the Fall, Adam would have had to have possessed the knowledge of good and evil before the Fall. So why was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil forbidden to Adam? Why was the knowledge of good and evil deadly poison if Adam already had a knowledge of good and evil before the Fall?

    If I understand him, Jim Jordan has the – to me, very interesting – concept that the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was to be given to Adam if Adam passed his probation. Adam’s sin was in taking the fruit for himself. Jim says Adam was naked because he was a child and that he would have been ‘clothed on’ with glory and given the Fruit.

    Don’t know but it does seem interesting to me.

    jj

  17. Gentlemen (and Lady)

    There is an excellent article over at Dr. Ed Feser’s philosophy blog called “Original Sin and Modern Biology II” that touches on many of the issues we are discussing. If interested, you can find the article here.

    As an example, a reader voiced an objection which mirrors the Reformed misunderstanding of the Catholic view of human nature which many of the thread commments here have been addressing. He writes:

    I’m a little shocked however that Dr. Feser [a Catholic philosopher] seems to deny that Original Sin had a deleterious effect on human nature. That I labor under the effects of original sin is not merely because I am conceived without sanctifying grace. If that were so, I would become like pre-lapsarian Adam upon my baptism. Because of the loss of Original Justice, Adam’s act wounds human nature. This damaged nature is transmitted to all his descendants, with the concomitant effects of darkened intellect, weakened will, and inclination to sin. Dr. Feser seems–I think he has just misspoken–to suggest that these effects are in comparison to what I would have if I possessed sanctifying grace. But the intellect is darker in comparison to an unfallen man’s intellect with respect to nature, not with respect to how well that intellect would function with the assistance of sanctifying grace. And so on for the other effects of Original Sin. [bold emphasis mine]

    My response to this notion that the Fall fundamentally altered human nature per se was as follows:

    We can think of pre-lapsarian Adam in two senses: Adam as he existed strictly via nature (perhaps involving the processes of cosmic and biological evolution on the animal side of his nature), and Adam as he existed after reception of special Divine gifts superior to those arising from nature simpliciter.

    In Catholic theology, the nature-transcending gifts which God gave to Adam were of two general types: Supernatural and preternatural. The former gift, strictly speaking, is super-natural, for it just is an indwelling (one might say ontic) participation in the very life of God – that is – sanctifying grace (also technically called original justice). The later category of gift (preternatural) are often called “gifts of integrity”; which, while not strictly “supernatural” (because only God is above nature/creation in the broadest sense of “all that is seen and unseen”), they were nonetheless gifts which added an “integrity” or stability to strictly natural human capacities which nature simpliciter (given the finite, reciprocal, changeable nature of material reality) does not possess. The preternatural gifts included freedom from ignorance in the intellect, freedom from disorder in the will (which by nature is easily drawn to pursue lower, easily accessible finite and pleasurable goods in an inordinate degree such that one easily looses site of the legitimate place and role of such goods in man’s pursuit of his highest good or greatest fulfillment – i.e. natural law and virtue ethics comes into play here); and finally, the preternatural gift of physical integrity which suspended the “natural” tendency of material bodies to change, decay, etc (i.e. freedom from physical sickness and death).

    Again, from a Catholic POV, both the strictly supernatural gift of participation in God’s own life (original justice), as well as the preternatural gifts of integrity (freedom from ignorance, passion and physical dissolution) were gifts ADDED to Adam’s strictly “natural” human nature. In the original disobedience, Adam forfeited BOTH the supernatural and preternatural gifts, returning him to the state of mere natural humanity he possessed before the addition of these gifts. A state, essentially comparable to the present state of un-baptized human beings, who besides being devoid of participation in the life of God (sanctifying grace), quite naturally struggle against intellectual ignorance, unruly passions and disorder of will, and finally physical sickness, decay and death – all of which pertain to the natural order of changeable materiality (even intellectual ignorance is effected by materiality because of the dependence of the intellect on phantasms and percepts generated via material sensate interaction with the external world of nature).

    In baptism (from a Catholic POV), humanity is offered once again the most crucial of the original gifts of God – namely, the indwelling life of God (sanctifying grace / original justice – justification). This gift is offered to all the descendents of Adam in this life; yet God has chosen to withhold from man the additional preternatural gifts of integrity. The reasons for this withholding, according to Catholic theology, have to do with the virtue / value of redemptive suffering, and participation in the life and redemptive suffering of the Incarnate Christ, etc. – which is a much deeper and lengthy topic altogether. The key is that the primary gift of sanctifying grace/original justice is what is restored at baptism. That is the fundamental and crucial recovery which transforms human life – even suffering (which would cease if the preternatural gifts were restored). And, of course, participation in the life of God (sanctifying grace / remaining in a “state of grace”), leads, beyond this world, to an existence radically free (in a more elevated way) from the sufferings inherent to changeable material nature than could ever have been achieved by ongoing possession of the preternatural gifts of integrity.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  18. Hi JJ

    I believe if Adam and Eve had passed their probation period without eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would not have needed that knowledge and they would have remained INNOCENT forever. They then would have been allowed to eat of the fruit of the tree of life which would have given them the ability to partake in Life (God’s life) and they would have been participators in that life. All of their progeny would then have participated also according to their nature. All of the progeny, the whole human race would have been innocent and partakers in the Life of God. (Beatic Vision)

    NHU
    Peace

  19. Could a Catholic theologian here point out to me what is wrong with Nelson’s #18? Something does not seem right, but I precicely put my finger on it.
    One thing I know for sure is that certain attributes of God would not exist in that situation and humans as well would not have the opportunity to show those qualities, like mercy, forgiveness, fortitude, endurance through evil trials, etc.

    It does not seem that a sinless Adam would recieve the same beitific vision we as Christians will. Because of God in Christ “rescuing” us, we have recieved a partaking in the life of God that a potentially obedient Adam could not have recieved. Is that true?

    What about the Felix culpa in the Easter liturgy:

    “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.”

    I think it is the faith of the Church that without that happy fault, we humans would not be able to be in the beatific vision at all, or just in some mediated way as in the garden.

    Fascinating stuff to think about!

    David M.

  20. Nelson writes: I believe if Adam and Eve had passed their probation period without eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would not have needed that knowledge and they would have remained INNOCENT forever.

    I agree with this. Adam and Eve possessed holy innocence in original justice – they were naked without shame. There is a reason why the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden by God to Adam and Eve, and that reason is that the knowledge of evil destroys holy innocence. It would be impossible for Adam and Eve to possess both holy innocence and to have the knowledge that corrupts and destroys their innocence. When Adam and Eve acquired the knowledge of evil, they became ashamed of their nakedness – that is, they lost their gift of holy innocence. This is why I find Calvin’s contention that Adam and Eve had a knowledge of evil before the Fall to be so objectionable, because that means that Adam and Eve never did not possess the gift of holy innocence.

    God is just, and justice requires that the degree of punishment for an offense must be proportionate to the degree to which an action is offensive. For example, it would be unjust to give the death penalty to a child that sasses his mother, even though the child that sasses his mom is breaking the Fourth Commandment. This concept of justice where punishment is proportionate to the offense is found in the Catholic teaching that there are sins that are mortal and sins that are not mortal.

    Adam and Eve must have committed a very grave sin indeed, since their sin brought death not only to themselves, but death and decay to all of creation. Which can only mean that the glory that Adam and Eve had in the Terrestrial Paradise in the state of original justice was of a level so highly exalted that their offense against God merited the punishment that it deserved – the fall of all creation. If, as Calvin contends, that Adam and Eve already knew of evil before the Fall, then what was the nature of their offense that merited such a severe punishment? But that question exposes another problem within Calvinism, since Calvinism denies that there is sin that there is mortal and sin that is not mortal, even though that truth is explicitly taught in scriptures. It seems to me that the concept of a just God is askew within Calvinism, which is revealed most clearly by Calvin’s contention that God has predestined for damnation the majority of humanity, and there is absolutely nothing that those created for damnation can do about it.

    Nelson, I began to think about holy innocence because of comment I read by the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich. She states that when the Christian beholds the beatific vision after the final judgment, that they will be in a state of holy innocence, but their holy innocence will be superior to the holy innocence of original justice. I very much like that idea, that in the world to come, that I will not be able to sin because I won’t know how to sin – I will only know how to love.

    Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:17

    ——————————————————–

    Nelson writes: They then would have been allowed to eat of the fruit of the tree of life which would have given them the ability to partake in Life (God’s life) and they would have been participators in that life.

    Adam and Eve possessed supernatural grace before the Fall, which means that they already were partaking in the divine nature. But I think that you are on the right track- the Tree of Life is a type that represents the source of sanctifying grace that would have brought about the increase in grace that would have allowed Adam and Eve to become fully “divinized”.
    The CCC teaches that Adam and Eve were destined to become fully “divinized”, that is, they were predestined to receive an increase in supernatural grace that would have brought about the beholding of the beatific vision:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Man’s first sin

    398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. 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”.

    When Adam and Eve dwelt in a state of original justice they possessed supernatural grace apart from the Incarnation, while Christians have supernatural grace because of the Incarnation. If the Tree of Life is a type that represents the source of grace that would have elevated humanity to full divinization, then what was the Tree of Life pointing to if the Fall had never occurred? This brings up a question that Catholic theologians debate about, namely, if the Fall had not occurred, would Christ have become incarnate in the Terrestrial Paradise? There are Catholic theologians that think that the incarnation of the Word would have taken place in the Terrestrial Paradise, and that all of humanity would have been raised up to full divinization through the Incarnation. That is, before God created man, it was always God’s will for the Word to become incarnate, and Adam’s choice for sin did not change God’s will.

    Here is a link to a Catholic website that discusses this question more fully:

    … in the Middle Ages, the question about Jesus was expressed very explicitly: Would the Son of God have become incarnate if humanity had not sinned? The great Dominican theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) answered in the negative, viewing the Incarnation as a remedy for sin.

    Another great philosopher and theologian, Franciscan John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), disagreed with Thomas’s emphasis on sin. Indeed, Duns Scotus boldly proclaimed and defended the primacy of the Incarnation. …

    Ref: The Incarnation: Why God Wanted to Become Human
    by Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J.
    http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1202.asp

    I don’t want to sidetrack this thread into a discussion about whether or not the Word would have become incarnate in the Terrestrial Paradise, but I do have a question that I think is germane to this thread. I once heard in an audio tape by Scott Hahn where Scott made a comment about “divinization” (theosis). Scott Hahn said that a Christian that is in a state of grace, is in a state of grace that is superior to the state of grace that Adam and Eve possessed before the Fall. That is something that I was taught too, but I cannot find anything in the official teaching of the Catholic Church that would affirm this belief. What Scott Hahn said, makes sense to me, because the effect of the Incarnation upon creation must be great indeed.

    Does anyone know of a Catholic source that affirms that a Christian in a state of grace, is in a state of grace that is superior to the state of grace of original justice?

  21. David Meyer
    re: your comment in post # 19.

    Do you think that God wanted Adam and Eve to commit sin? How would it be just to punish Adam and Eve if God secretly wanted Adam and Eve to sin?

    What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
    Romas 6:1

    David Meyer writes:
    What about the Felix culpa in the Easter liturgy:
    “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.”

    Good question, David, and one that I don’t know how to answer. If some one could explain to me what we are praying in this prayer, I would be grateful. Are we really offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God for Adam’s sin?

  22. John Thayer Jensen writes: Jim says Adam was naked because he was a child

    Please allow me to clarify what I mean by holy innocence. Adam was a child of God, of course. And when we think about innocence in this fallen world, a child’s innocence naturally rises to mind. But it seems to me that the holy innocence of Adam and Eve before the Fall would have to be very different that the innocence of a child born in a state of original sin. For one thing, Adam and Eve had both the preternatural gift of knowledge, and the infused gift of knowledge that is brought about by sanctifying grace. So I think that when Adam and Eve exercised their freewill to commit sin, that they were acting with a level of knowledge and intellect that was way, way, above that of humans in the fallen world. Innocent children cannot even commit sin until they reach the age of reason, but Adam and Eve had to have committed a grave offense that goes against reason, or the punishment brought down by their free choice of sinful disobedience would not be just.

    Adam and Eve were not alienated from God in the garden, and they could speak to directly to God. Instead of listening to God, they freely chose to listen to a serpent, a creature that was below them in the order of being. How reasonable is that?

    It is hard for me to understand the mercy of God because it is so great. But as hard as it is for me to comprehend God’s mercy, is harder for me to understand the choice for sin by Adam and Eve, because that choice is just so irrational.

  23. Dear Mr Myers,

    I know that there are some who are saved through Christ who will claim greater rewards in heaven for their works and will have greater degrees of happiness than others. But we are talking here of Adam and Eve before the fall. Hence, all of humanity would be in the same boat so to speak as Adam and Eve. I think you are right that a Christian may well receive a greater merit than Adam and Eve. A Christian’s partaking of God may be greater but I will admit I could be wrong.

    Nelson
    Peace

  24. @David Meyer #19

    It does not seem that a sinless Adam would recieve the same beatific vision we as Christians will. Because of God in Christ “rescuing” us, we have recieved a partaking in the life of God that a potentially obedient Adam could not have recieved. Is that true?

    If you are talking about the essence of partaking in divine life and ensuing beatific vision, it is not true. From the CCC (emphasis added):

    375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”. 250 This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life”. 251

    250 Cf. Council of Trent (1546), 5th session, Decree concerning original sin
    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct05.html
    251 Cf. Council Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 2.

    If you are talking about the degree of partaking in divine life and ensuing beatific vision, it is probably true if we consider the potential for growth in supernatural life, which seems to be greater in the case of Christians than in the original case. We cannot know if it is also true regarding the “basal” degree of sanctifying grace Christians receive in Baptism (which I reasonably assume is the same for everybody). Again from CCC:

    412 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!'” 308

    307 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 73, 4: PL 54, 396.
    308 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, I, 3, ad 3; cf. Rom 5:20

    Which also answers Mateo #21.

  25. David Meyer

    so sorry for mispelling your name.

    Nelson

  26. @Mateo #13

    Here is my question, and the point of this post. If, as Calvin claims, Adam could discern good from evil before the Fall, Adam would have had to have possessed the knowledge of good and evil before the Fall. So why was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil forbidden to Adam? Why was the knowledge of good and evil deadly poison if Adam already had a knowledge of good and evil before the Fall?

    Because the forbidden fruit referred to knowledge of good and evil as masters of the moral order, pretending to establish the moral law.

    From John Paul II’s catechesis on September 10, 1986 (emphasis added):

    It is not difficult to discern in this text the essential problems of human life hidden under an apparently simple form. To eat or not to eat the fruit of a certain tree may itself seem irrelevant. However, the tree “of the knowledge of good and evil” denotes the first principle of human life to which a fundamental problem is linked. The tempter knows this very well, for he says: “When you eat of it…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The tree therefore signifies the insurmountable limit for man and for any creature, however perfect. The creature is always merely a creature, and not God. Certainly he cannot claim to be “like God,” to “know good and evil” like God. God alone is the source of all being, God alone is absolute Truth and Goodness, according to which good and evil are measured and from which they receive their distinction. God alone is the eternal legislator, from whom every law in the created world derives, and in particular the law of human nature (lex naturae). As a rational creature, man knows this law and should let himself be guided by it in his own conduct. He himself cannot pretend to establish the moral law, to decide himself what is good and what is bad, independently of the Creator, even against the Creator. Neither man nor any other creature can set himself in the place of God, claiming for himself the mastery of the moral order. This is contrary to creation’s own ontological constitution which is reflected in the psychological-ethical sphere by the fundamental imperatives of conscience and therefore human conduct.

    In the Genesis account, in the guise of an apparently irrelevant plot, we find man’s fundamental problem linked to his very condition as a creature. Man as a rational being should let himself be guided by the “First Truth,” which is moreover the truth of his very existence. Man cannot claim to substitute himself for this truth or to place himself on a par with it. If this principle is called into question, the foundation of the “justice” of the creature in regard to the Creator is shaken to the roots of human action.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19860910en.html

  27. mateo writes: As far as I can understand Calvinism, after the Fall, Adam became a new species of being, a totally depraved being with a new defective nature, a “sin-nature”.

    John Thayer Jensen replies: As far as I recall, when I was a Calvinist, though I would not have put things like this – having, in fact, little understanding of Aristotelian/Thomistic categories such species – I would have thought you meant ‘biologically reproducing species’ – I think this is right. I remember speculating about how it could be that Adam brought death into the world. Whether death only to human beings or to animals as well did not matter – actually I assumed the latter – but thinking that this meant that human nature had to have been fundamentally changed by the Fall.

    JJ, I am no expert on Aristotelian/Thomistic categories either, but there are writers at CTC that are. I think that it might be helpful to have one of our CTC experts give us a definition of what it means to have a human nature, and how a human nature is different from the biology that a human being might have in either the Terrestrial Paradise, or in the place of banishment.

    Thinking out loud, it seems to me that a woman and a man have different biology, but they share a common human nature. A woman that has a hysterectomy has a different biology after that operation, but her human nature would be unchanged by the operation. I think that the physical biology of Adam could change because of the Fall, while Adam’s human nature was unchanged by the Fall.

    Personally, I see no reason to reject the science of modern biology that posits that evolution is a death driven process. I see no need whatsoever to reconcile Genesis with the science of evolution. Genesis is describing the creation of a world before the Fall, and we are living in a place of exile because of the Fall. The Catholic Church teaches us that there was no death in the Terrestrial Paradise before the Fall. What would the physics of the Terrestrial Paradise be without death? Obviously, the physics of the Terrestrial Paradise would have to be quite different than the physics of our fallen world, since everything in our fallen world is subject to death. Our best current science tells us that our entire universe is eventually going to die a “heat death” where all matter disappears – science tells us that everything dies in this world, including stars and galaxies. But science does not have the last say in the matter.

    … creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
    Romans 8:21

    In the Terrestrial Paradise, there was no death at all, less yet a death driven process that brought about evolutionary change. A least one rabbi’s commentary on Genesis makes the claim that animals ate only fruit in Paradise. Since not even plants could die in the Terrestrial Paradise, it makes sense to me, that animals would have to eat the fruit of a plant, since eating fruit does not kill a fruit bearing plant. Isaiah prophesied that because of the Messiah, “The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” IOW, the lion’s biology will ultimately be changed so that the lion no longer has to depend on the death of the ox to keep him alive. But I think that the lion that lies down with the ox when creation is restored will still have the nature of a lion.

    Ray Stamper writes: There is an excellent article over at Dr. Ed Feser’s philosophy blog called “Original Sin and Modern Biology II” that touches on many of the issues we are discussing. If interested, you can find the article here.

    Ray, I thought that was an excellent article, but I didn’t see anything in there about the biology that Adam and Eve might have had before the Fall.

    Ray Stamper writes: We can think of pre-lapsarian Adam in two senses: Adam as he existed strictly via nature (perhaps involving the processes of cosmic and biological evolution on the animal side of his nature), and Adam as he existed after reception of special Divine gifts superior to those arising from nature simpliciter.

    Ray, the only processes of cosmic and biological evolution that I am aware of all involve death and decay (the second law of thermodynamics is about entropy – decay). So I would challenge the idea that Adam could have received his pre-Fall biology by an evolutionary process driven by death and decay. But that debate is for a different thread.

  28. mateo said:

    the only processes of cosmic and biological evolution that I am aware of all involve death and decay (the second law of thermodynamics is about entropy – decay). So I would challenge the idea that Adam could have received his pre-Fall biology by an evolutionary process driven by death and decay

    This is an issue that I have thinking about much lately. I have always been under the assumption, like mateo, that before the Fall there was no death and decay in creation. This is at odds with many who hold (or at least think possible) that Adam and Eve were simply the first humans specially called out by God, see Dr. Liccione here, or that Adam and Eve were the first humans who were raised above caveman status, as the TOF Spot says here.

    But either of these views imply that evolution through death and decay were very much a part of creation pre-Fall. This seems to me to imply a few things which are relevant to this article:
    1) man’s strictly natural end does involve death, even in the Garden pre-Fall, because immortality required a special gift from God (the preternatural gifts).
    2) how do we reconcile a creation which God declared “good” with one that was (pre-Fall) overwhelmingly violent and caused untold suffering for all created creatures (ie – pain and suffering was not a consequence of the Fall but a natural end for created beings)?

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  29. Perhaps off topic, but I am with Aaron G. in my wondering about that. The mere fact of mosquitoes and great white sharks being created (presumably) pre-fall implies that there just must have been death and pain before the fall. And that is hard to wrap my mind around. God seems to have “anticipated” the fall by creating these horrid beasts, -OR- these beasts are not horrid. Either option seems implausible, so I am at a loss. Is there a tertium quid?

    David M.

  30. A couple comments:

    Natalia, your comment #6 is exactly right.

    Mateo, Johannes’ answer (in #26) to your question (in #13) is correct.

    Jim (re: #14), exactly.

    Ray (re: #17), I agree.

    Nelson (re: #18), regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, see Johannes’s comment in #26. Also, if Adam and Eve had not sinned, they would have passed on sanctifying grace to their offspring through procreation, but each child would have had to go through the same probationary test. In other words, if Adam and Eve had obeyed, that doesn’t mean that their offspring would automatically all receive the beatific vision. Their offspring could still have sinned, just as Adam and Eve sinned while having sanctifying grace and the preternatural gifts.

    David (re: #19), yes sinless Adam would have received the same Beatific Vision offered to man through Christ, since there is only one God. Prior to his fall, Adam had the same sanctifying grace we now have through Christ. Each man’s capacity for happiness in the Beatific Vision depends on the measure of the charity in his soul at the moment of death. Those who died having great charity, have a greater capacity to participate in the divine nature, and hence a greater happiness in the Beatific Vision. Those who died having less charity, will have a lesser capacity to participate in the divine nature, and hence have lesser happiness in the Beatific Vision. But each person having the Beatific Vision will be completely happy. It would have been better for Adam not to sin, since it is always better not to sin, than to sin. But, God is able to bring great good out of evil, and wouldn’t allow such evil if He could not bring good out of it. Hence the happiness of the ‘felix culpa’ is that through Adam’s sin, a far greater revelation of God’s love was made possible, namely, Christ’s giving Himself for us on the cross. Not only that, but with the loss of the preternatural gifts, more merit is possible, that is, we too now have greater opportunity to show love for God, through suffering and sacrifice, even martyrdom.

    Aaron (re# 28) and David (re: #29), the Church (and Scriptural) teaching on death coming into the world through sin is talking only about human death. However, the preternatural gifts possessed by man affected all of nature, since the rest of nature was subject to man in the original harmony, such that he was impassible. Aaron, you wrote:

    1) man’s strictly natural end does involve death, even in the Garden pre-Fall, because immortality required a special gift from God (the preternatural gifts).
    2) how do we reconcile a creation which God declared “good” with one that was (pre-Fall) overwhelmingly violent and caused untold suffering for all created creatures (ie – pain and suffering was not a consequence of the Fall but a natural end for created beings)?

    Regarding your first comment, man by nature is mortal, and so by his nature (without the preternatural gifts) his body would die, even though his soul is by nature immortal. So the reason human death comes into the world through sin is because of the loss (through sin) of the preternatural gift of immortality. Regarding your second comment, there is nothing intrinsically evil about one creature killing and eating another. It is not evil for material beings to die, since that is their nature. And it is not evil for a material creature to feel pain, again, because its capacity to feel pain belongs to it by nature as something good for it. Inordinate suffering would be evil. But not suffering per se. And we don’t know how the loss of the preternatural gifts has also affected the relations of the other creatures to each other, such that there could now be inordinate suffering when before there was not inordinate suffering. If so, then the culpability for such inordinate suffering lies with man, to whom God had given stewardship over the rest of the animal kingdom.

    David, (re: #29) there was death and pain among animals before the fall. That’s not evil, just like it is not evil that pigs can’t fly. Death is not evil for a being that is by nature mortal. Pain per se is not evil, for a creature that is by nature passible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. First of all, a suggestion to CtC Admins: it would be nice if there were an additional forum where slightly off-topic issues like the one Mateo raises at the end of his #27 above could be discussed.

    In the absence of such feature, I’ll offer my contribution on that issue here.

    @Mateo #27:

    So I would challenge the idea that Adam could have received his pre-Fall biology by an evolutionary process driven by death and decay.

    I do not challenge that idea, but do supplement it with the Catholic doctrine that Adam & Eve were originally “shielded” from the physical evil that would have affected them otherwise as a result of their biological nature, and that it was as a result of original sin that man lost that privilege (“preternatural gift”) and became subject to physical evil just as animals are. From CCC:

    375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”. 250 This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life”. 251

    376 By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. 252

    252 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:16,19

    @Aaron G #28

    Re point 1): Exactly. As CCC #376 quoted above says, preternatural gifts were given as a radiance of the (supernatural) grace of original holiness, which is essentially the same as sanctifying grace, i.e. partaking in divine life.

    Re point 2): In the case of animals, physical evil is part of God’s design in creation, and exists in view of the overall greater good of the material cosmos. FWIIW, I examined the issue in my blog.
    http://defeyrazon.blogspot.com/2010/04/reflections-on-physical-evil.html

    John Paul II dealt with the issue of physical evil in the general audience on June 4, 1986:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19860604en.html

    – In Wis 1:13, “the living” whose death “God did not make” and in whose death “God does not delight” refers to man, the same to whom the previous verse advise “Do not invite death by the error of your life”.

    – In the case of animals, God did not just “permit” their being affected by natural disasters of predators. Rather, He “willed” it, certainly not “as such”, for its own sake, but “in view of the overall good of the material cosmos”, as the Pope said.

  32. Bryan, thanks for your response, you said:

    the preternatural gifts possessed by man affected all of nature, since the rest of nature was subject to man in the original harmony

    and

    there was death and pain among animals before the fall

    Maybe I’m missing something but it seems that if your first statement is true then your second statement is false. In other words, if all of nature possessed the preternatural gifts, before the Fall, by virtue of man’s possession of them (including immortality), then how was there pain and suffering in the animal kingdom?

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  33. Aaron (re: #32),

    I never said that all of nature possessed the preternatural gifts. Only Adam and Eve possessed the preternatural gifts. What I said is that the preternatural gifts possessed by man affected all of nature, by making the rest of nature subject to man in the original harmony, so that man could be impassible. That’s fully compatible with there being death and pain among animals before the fall.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. Bryan, thanks for the clarification, that makes sense.

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  35. Mateo (27), Aaron (28) and David (29),

    In addition to Bryan’s clarifications, I would like to weigh in on a few of your concerns using some of Mateo’s comments as a springboard.

    Mateo wrote:

    Ray, I thought that was an excellent article, but I didn’t see anything in there about the biology that Adam and Eve might have had before the Fall.

    Right, Dr. Feser’s goal in that article was not to address whether the Fall affected biology in some way; but rather, to show how modern biology in no way undermines the notion of a human nature transmitted to the progeny of Adam lacking the super-added gift of supernatural life/original justice – which is precisely what the doctrine of “Original Sin” entails.

    Mateo wrote:

    Ray, the only processes of cosmic and biological evolution that I am aware of all involve death and decay (the second law of thermodynamics is about entropy – decay).

    Firstly, as I am sure you know, a Catholic is not dogmatically obliged to adhere to cosmic or biological evolution in any of its forms. That said, I do think that both JPII, Benedict XVI, and the majority of Catholic theologians see the aggregate scientific evidence as supportive of cosmic (non-organic) evolution (regardless of the specific mechanisms involved), and very probably supportive of biological evolution (regardless of the specific mechanisms involved). I am not sure why you interpret evolution, in any of its forms, as only involving the notions of “death and decay”. In point of fact, the very thing that calls for philosophical explanation in any evolutionary theory is the rise of increasingly complex, organized and self-sustaining objects, species and interlocking systems. It is, after-all, EVO-lution and not DEVO-lution. If one were only to consider death, decay and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, one would not expect the appearance of increasing complexity and organization along a cosmic time-line. But it seems that such increased organization and complexity is just what we do find. So, in short, the very tendency of “evolution” to defy the 2nd law of thermodynamics is precisely what lends the theory entirely amenable to a theistic interpretation. In other words, ecosystems, biospheres, the entire uni-verse (“turned toward unity”); all represent an interacting, interdependent, reciprocal community of existents.

    God, so one explanation goes, in keeping with the notion of Divine synergistic causality, created the natural order with its own sort of intrinsic freedom (secondary causality), so that through a time-space bound process of interactive combination, division, life, death, rebirth, etc.; the natural order brings forth (perhaps based on natural capacities initially embedded within the very stuff of creation – the initial “singularity” to use a Hawking-esque phrase) a vast panoply and variety of beings, from the sub-atomic to atomic, to molecular, to organic cell life, to plant life, to sentient animal life, to cognitive human life: that is, the entire hierarchy of being within the material order. And all of this arises simultaneously as both the true causal work of nature (acting through its intrinsic secondary causality) and also Being Himself (Actus Purus), Who continually sustains nature in its very act of existence (primary causality), so that nature unfolds progressively according to its own freedom, yielding the rich variegation that we now see all around us. Now all of that is just one possible vision of evolution as the very mechanism of the creative activity of God. My point is simply to argue that evolution is a more nuanced and interesting paradigm than an exclusive focus on death, decay and the 2nd law of thermodynamics would entail. Think of any ecosystem and one finds that the death and decay of some finite existents are the very conditions of birth and flourishing for others. Evolution involves the notion that such dynamically intertwined systems are not simply static in their relationally, but actually entail an intrinsic drive toward greater harmony, complexity and unity over time, at least among communities of organic things, even if the wider backdrop of the inorganic cosmos seems to point toward an eventual “heat death”. There seems to be a simultaneous climb and descent within nature which calls for both philosophical and scientific reflection. Dump the [unwarranted] tendency to tie evolutionary theory to philosophical naturalism, and evolution immediately lights up as a potentially elegant argument for theism.

    Mateo wrote:

    So I would challenge the idea that Adam could have received his pre-Fall biology by an evolutionary process driven by death and decay.

    Given what I have just said concerning the positive, developmental and progressive side of evolutionary thought (the ascent), I see no reason why Adam may not have received his pre-Fall biology via evolution. Both C.S. Lewis and Cardinal Newman affirmed the possibility, and Pope Pius XII explicitly allowed that Catholic theologians may certainly explore this possibility in light of the scientific data (Humani Generis), and I think recent papal commentary is very much leaning in that direction. Though, as I say, no Catholic is obligated to assent to such a view. It is currently an acceptable direction for scientific-theological investigation.

    Mateo wrote:

    The Catholic Church teaches us that there was no death in the Terrestrial Paradise before the Fall.

    We need to be very careful here so as to avoid boxing Church teaching into false corners unnecessarily. Firstly, the Catholic Church teaches that Adam and Eve were given sanctifying grace (Original Holiness), and so were free from spiritual death due to its infusion/possession.

    Secondly, whatever else is entailed by the biblical account of Eden (the terrestrial paradise), the Church teaches Adam and Eve were also immune from intellectual ignorance, disorder of passions and will, and physical death, decay and dissolution. These latter three immunities (from ignorance, disorder of will, and from physical decay) were not intrinsic to human nature per se; but were, rather, immunities achieved only by the added preter-natural “gifts of integrity”, which stabilized human nature against its own natural susceptibilities to ignorance, disordered passion/will and physical decay and dissolution. This much is Church teaching, and it brings out an important insight. Because freedom from ignorance, disorder of will, and physical decay are only achieved by adding preternatural gifts to human nature simpliciter; it follows that human nature per se (left to itself) is, in its natural state, susceptible to intellectual ignorance, disorder of passion and will, and physical dissolution and decay. Further, what is true for human nature, where we understand man as the apex and climax of the material order, holds a fortiori for natures below man in the hierarchy of being – indeed all natures that entail some degree of materiality – because all are ”naturally” susceptible to disorder and dissolution due to the changeability (instability) and causal interdependence intrinsic to the material realm.

    Thirdly, the Church nowhere teaches that other existents such as bacteria, grass, ants or animals shared such immunity within that paradisaical state/place. In fact, the biblical narrative casts Adam as a gardener, presumably of plants that grow and then are harvested – which is a form of death for the plant. Likewise, we need not imagine Adam, in the paradisial state/place, as unable to kill an ant or bacteria by stepping on it. Church teaching only affirms that the nature-transcending gifts of integrity (preternatural), which counteracted the natural instability of materiality, were given to our first parents. It is silent about the condition of other creatures, or the cosmos in general.

    Fourthly, the Church nowhere teaches that whatever conditions obtained within the paradisial state/place, also applied to the rest of the planet or the cosmos. In fact, the narrative speaks of God planting the Garden and placing Adam in it (presumably he was once “outside” it). Further, the narrative has God instructing the pre-lapsarian Adam to “subdue the earth”. In short, neither Church teaching, nor Scripture, entail that the whole earth (or cosmos) represented a terrestrial paradise – in fact, we have textual indications to the contrary.

    Mateo wrote:

    I think that the physical biology of Adam could change because of the Fall, while Adam’s human nature was unchanged by the Fall.

    The drawbacks to this notion are at least twofold. First, in Catholic theology “human nature” is defined as “rational-animal”. The animal side of that equation refers directly to our biology. If Adam was a rational-animal at the time of his elevation by supernatural and preternatural gifts (which the Church affirms, since it was precisely human nature which was elevated by grace); then we must maintain that both sides of his nature (the rational and the animal) prior to elevation, were essentially the same as we experience them today, or else we have no way to understand what we mean when we say that Adam’s “human nature” was elevated by grace. If the animal side of his nature (biology) was not essentially like ours, then his combined rational-animal nature was essentially different from ours. Again, that puts us in the position of not knowing what we are talking about when we say God created “man” (human nature), or that God elevated “human nature” by grace; because the thing created and elevated in that scenario is essentially different from what we have experienced and defined as “human-nature”. Remember we speak of the elevation, fall and redemption of “man”. Unless the term man is essentially the same with respect to “what” exactly was elevated, fell, and now redeemed; it seems likely we may run into some soteriological difficulties. One can also see potential problems for any natural law theory where one takes “nature”, as we now experience it, as the basis for determining which acts fulfill or complete our nature (defined as good acts) over against those which diminish or obstruct such fulfillment (bad acts).

    Secondly, one might maintain that the Fall affected our biology, not in an “essential” way, but only in an “accidental” way. But this can only mean that whatever difference obtains between our biology and that of pre-fallen Adam, does not in any way eliminate or impair any biological property “essential” to the “animal” side of our nature. An “essential” animal property is one that exhibits some characteristic action everywhere an animal is found. Such properties, through their observed operations, are the very basis of our “essential” definition and differentiation of one kind of thing (an animal) as distinct form another (say a plant). To be an animal, for instance, entails the essential property of self-motion. Wherever we observe animals, we observe the property or activity of self-motion. It is a property/activity which enables us to define the essence of what it means to be an “animal”. When we see a living thing which is incapable of self-motion, we know it is not an “animal”, it is some-thing else (perhaps a plant). Hence, “essence follows action”; we know the essence by observing the characteristic action. True accidental changes would not affect any essential property (for instance, difference skin color, or height, or weight would not touch upon any essential property of “animal”). But, if we are predicating only some accidental, non-essential, change in our biology as a result of the Fall, what would it be? And given that such theoretical change did not touch any essential property of what it means to be an animal, and that we can have no idea which accidental property of our current biology was not common to Adam’s pre-fallen biology, nor in what sense such an unidentifiable accidental change might be construed as a “negative” effect of the Fall: the entire supposition seems superfluous, and therefore subject to Ockham’s razor. Why propose the idea in the first place, since it is not needed to save either the dogma or the science?

    I suggest that the principle reason folks feel the need to posit some type of post-Fall change in human nature (or nature generally) results from an initial sense (possibly driven by non-Catholic notions of the Fall and its effects) that our current human nature – as nature – should not be so weak; so easily led into intellectual error, or so easily affected by passions, or even subject to decay and death. It is common to hear the phrase: “death (biological) is not natural for man”. But this stems from a failure to distinguish between human nature per se, in its natural state, and human nature after elevation according to the intentional plan of God. According to God’s intention to elevate human nature into the life of the Trinity and invest it with preternatural or supernatural immunity from ignorance, disorder of will and physical decay; such traits (ignorance, ill-will, and decay) are indeed “unnatural”. But “unnatural” in this sense is only said analogically, in relation to the plan of God. In relation to the intrinsic properties of human nature per se, such traits are, in fact, “natural” or intrinsic to what it means to be a rational-animal (absent any supernatural or preternatural elevation).

    Why should it be that human nature (philosophically “rational-animal”) is naturally susceptible to ignorance, disordered passions/will, and physical decay? It is because both facets of our nature, the rational (intellect/will), and the animal (biology), are connected to materiality to a greater or lesser degree. The scholastic philosophical tradition within Catholicism explains that an intrinsic feature of matter is change or instability (material reality is often referred to as “changeable nature”). Matter involves quantitative extension in space and time. It is experienced everywhere as contingent, as a matrix of constantly shifting causal inter-activity and inter-dependence. To modernize the notion, one need only think of natural systems (planetary, weather, ecosystems, food-chains, etc.), or consider what we now know about the intrinsic motion and flux at the atomic/quantum level of material reality. Thus, any being whose nature includes some aspect of materiality is subject to active change to some degree.

    How this cashes out for the animal side of our nature (biology) is not hard to see. The human body develops along a curve upward from birth, growing toward a peak, and then breaking downward toward biological death and decay (think “over-the-hill”). Our biology begins as a joining of cells to form a zygote and then ascends along an upward growth climb until early adulthood; then it descends toward old age and finally biological death and dissolution where the organic and inorganic elements of our biology, quite literally, return to the dust (“dust to dust”). The organic and inorganic matter which made up our biology during life may then be taken up into the material form of other beings (bacteria, plants, animals, etc). Even while living, our biology is sustained by taking in material substances like bead or wine which become part of our biological composition. All of this shows how the materiality of our biology, quite naturally entails change (growth, maturity, decline, death) because it is the very nature of matter to be non-stable due to causal interactivity with other material things. There is no need to suppose that matter – as matter – behaved differently prior to the Fall. Its very purpose is to facilitate the possibility of physical change and interaction. In itself, matter is entirely good. Hence, the natural tendency of the human body – as a material body – to change across growth, maturity, decay and finally death is not a Fall-induced defect of the animal side of our nature; but rather the natural result of taking our place among the interdependent universe of material existents on the animal side of our nature.

    How is intellectual ignorance said to be a “natural” aspect of human nature? While the operations of the human intellect are fundamentally immaterial, they nonetheless depend for their operation upon percepts (per-ceptions) gathered in by our five-senses (themselves material) which are in contact with an external world of material beings. Without infused knowledge, man must work progressively at gathering and analyzing his sense experience so as to yield knowledge (the reverse of ignorance). Individually, the five senses must re-approach external reality over and over to gain an ever clearer picture of reality or “truth” (the attempt to adequate the mind to reality). One can see this across the life of any individual as his knowledge grows from infancy to adulthood, slowly and though repeated sensate interaction with the world around him. Knowledge is gained through many trials and errors. Then, as the body begins to decline, the senses may no longer function as they should. Even knowledge once gained and committed to memory may become inaccessible when one’s “grey matter” begins to deteriorate. On the corporate level, we see further problems created by the materiality of our biology. Since human beings have a limited life span, in order to facilitate the trans-generational accumulation of knowledge we must “pass-it on” through scrolls or books, or films or whatever. All of these are subject to material decay or destruction (think of the Alexandrian library). In short, the materiality of our biology and the world around us directly entail difficulty in acquiring knowledge as well as susceptibility to many errors along the way. Yet, all of this is quite “natural” for a rational-animal. The rational side of our nature is exposed to difficulty and error due to the intrinsic instability of the material side of our nature and the material world.

    Finally, a tendency toward disordered use of human will is also intrinsic to our “natural” human state. There are at least two reasons for this. Firstly, in voluntary choosing the intellect is said to act as the eyes of the soul and the will as the feet. In other words, the will is naturally drawn to pursue what the intellect presents to it as desirable or loveable. Yet, if the intellect is susceptible to ignorance for the “natural” reasons given above; it is therefore susceptible of presenting something as good to the will which is, in fact, harmful. Hence, the will itself is indirectly susceptible to disorder simply by virtue of its natural tendency to follow the light and lead of an intellect which, through ignorance, may misjudge the true good. Secondly, our human passions (emotions and feelings) are at least partly tied to our biochemistry, which is fundamentally material (non-stable) in nature. As a result, the instability of our material biochemistry is often the source of quickly arising feelings or emotions which may give rise to dis-ordered desire for some immediate, finite good at the expense of some greater good. For instance, the phrase: “his eyes were bigger than his stomach”, speaks to just this sort of thing. Some physical feeling or emotion (at least in part driven by material biochemistry) gives rise to an excessive desire for some food item. The desire is so strong that it blurs the intellect’s ability to make a good judgment about how much of it to eat. In turn, the will, guided by an excessive desire which has not been properly vetted by the intellect, chooses to consume too much of the food in question, with the result that one becomes sick (i.e. looses the greater good of health): a scenario commonly know as an act of gluttony. The bio-chemically driven rise of strong passions does not force the will to act in a disordered way; but such passions have a tendency to make virtuous choices much more difficult. The passions and their tendency to arise quickly and with force is neither good or bad in itself – which is why concupiscence is not technically sin (in fact, it is a fancy word to describe one dimension of our “natural” condition). All of this, in one way or other, flows from our biology (the animal side of our nature): revealing effects of its intrinsic, non-stable, materiality on passions and acts of the will. And all of this is proper to human nature as human nature.

    The Catholic teaching on the role of the preternatural gifts is what enables us to assert that human nature is now, what it always has been. The confusion primarily arises because many folks mistakenly identify Adam’s human nature, after its elevation by preternatural gifts as human nature per se. Doing so leads to the inevitable conclusion that Adam’s human nature and ours are somehow different in a significant way. Rather, the effects of the Fall are to divest Adam of both the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace AND the preternatural gifts of integrity; thus, casting him back upon human nature alone, with all the weaknesses intrinsic to material instability: and that is human nature as we know it.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  36. Regarding pre-fall death of non-human living things, is it relevant here that the Fall of Man must be ante-dated by the Fall of Satan, since Satan tempted Adam?

    I have a vague idea that there are stories in the Fathers about the Creation being trashed by the fallen angels, in primordial history. I suppose this is similar to what some (mostly Protestants, I think) call the Gap Theory of creation – that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 is a reduction of the cosmos to ”tohu wa bohu”

    jj

  37. Ray,

    I appreciate how deeply you have thought through how GOD may be constantly moving along the evolutionary process… Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence that there has been a gradual “upward” progression at all….Regardless of whatever recent papacies think. No matter what I think of St. Peter’s chair in regards to Faith and Morals, I’m still not going there for science. (Although Ratzinger’s ‘In the Beginning….’ leans more towards my point than yours, IMHO)

    Evolution continues to be an unsubstantiated theory put forward and fueled primarily by biased naturalists who are intent on undermining Christianity in any way they can. It is propaganda heavy and substance light…to say the least. I’m continually amazed at the little challenges for which the theory of evolution and an “old” cosmos continues to have absolutely no answer to….like the outward movement of the Moon or the salinity of the oceans.

    I also understand that Christian belief and doctrine can accomodate a metastory based on evolution as GOD’s creative mechanism, by an incredibly elastic interpretation of Gen 1, but regardless of that, the science just isn’t there. The evidence just constantly points to the sudden appearance of fully formed, fully complex organisms. The presence of stratified life in the fossil record is more easily explained based on a world wide flood than old processes forming the rock layers and slowly burying dead organics.

    I do understand that GOD could have created in any fashion HE chose and regardless of how, I am constantly in awe at What HE has made….

  38. Ray Stamper writes: Firstly, as I am sure you know, a Catholic is not dogmatically obliged to adhere to cosmic or biological evolution in any of its forms.

    Agreed.

    Ray Stamper writes: That said, I do think that both JPII, Benedict XVI, and the majority of Catholic theologians see the aggregate scientific evidence as supportive of cosmic (non-organic) evolution (regardless of the specific mechanisms involved), and very probably supportive of biological evolution (regardless of the specific mechanisms involved).

    I have no problem whatsoever with this, and I would love to discuss evolution on a different thread.

    I am not sure that you are understanding what I am trying to say, and if that is so, it would not be your fault, because I don’t think I made it clear about what I believe on some basic points that are germane to this thread. I believe that the Terrestrial Paradise still exists in its uncorrupted and pristine beauty, and that this world where we dwell is not the Terrestrial Paradise. This world is is a very different world from the Terrestrial Paradise; this world is the valley of tears where Adam and Eve were sent into exile after the Fall.

    To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    – Salve Regina

    My other point is that the physical bodies that Adam and Eve had before the Fall were radically changed when they were cast out of the Terrestrial Paradise.

    Like many contemporary Catholics, I never thought that the Terrestrial Paradise and our universe were different places, and because of that, I used to be interested in reconciling the creation accounts of Genesis with scientific evolutionary theory. Now I don’t see the point of it. First, let me explain why I believe that the Terrestrial Paradise still exists.

    I think my first exposure to the idea the Terrestrial Paradise and this world were in separate universes came from reading the biography of the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich by Father Schmöger. Anne Catherine Emmerich had many visions involving the Terrestrial Paradise, and Father Schmöger writes this as a comment to one of Anne’s visions about the Terrestrial Paradise:

    The Fathers tell us that paradise still exists in all its first beauty…. The terrestrial paradise was not created for pure spirits, but for man composed of soul and body; consequently, it is provided with whatever is requisite not only for his sustenance but also for his safeguard against sickness and death, by virtue of the state of original justice in which he was first created. The creatures of this magnificent abode, its animals and plants, belong to a higher order, as much elevated above those of earth as the body of Adam before his sin was superior to his fallen posterity. And as the body of Adam was a real body of flesh and blood, not pure spirit, so, too, paradise is not a celestial or purely spiritual region, but a material place connected with human nature and earth itself. … St. Hildegarde says on this subject in her Scivias, Lib. I., visio II. :

    “When Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, a wall of light was raised around it, and the Divine Power effaced from it all marks of their sin. It was fortified, as it were, by this great light so that no enemy could reach it; but by this God also testified that the transgression which had taken place in paradise should in time be effaced by His mercy. Paradise still exists, a region of joy, blooming in all its pristine loveliness, and imparting abundant fruitfulness to the sterile earth. As the soul communicates life and strength to the body it inhabits, so the earth receives from paradise her supreme vitality; the darkness and corruption of sin, which shroud this miserable world cannot entirely check its influence.”

    Carl E. Schmöger, C.SS.R., The Life of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Volume 1, pp. 155-156, TAN Books and Publishers, INC., Rockford, Illinois

    St. Hildegarde’s remarks are really interesting to me because she sees Paradise as still existing in its uncorrupted beauty, and not only that, there is some mysterious connection between “this miserable world” and Paradise. Also note Father Shmöger’s comment about the animals and plants in the Terrestrial Paradise: “The creatures of this magnificent abode, its animals and plants, belong to a higher order, as much elevated above those of earth as the body of Adam before his sin was superior to his fallen posterity.”

    When I read Fr. Schmöger’s words – “ The Fathers tell us that paradise still exists in all its first beauty” – my first thought was, “They do? Why haven’t I ever heard of this before now?” Fr. Schmöger’s offhand comment about the beliefs of the Fathers in Emmerich’s biography started me on a quest of sorts. I wanted to know where the Father’s taught this idea. It was not too hard to find that evidence, as it was a common belief in the early church that Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11. That Enoch and Elijah were translated by God from this world and sent to the Terrestrial Paradise. That they wait there for the Antichist to appear on earth – they will come back from Paradise to Jerusalem and witness to the truth, and they will be killed as martyrs. So yes, I can show you evidence that it was belief in the early church that the Terrestrial Paradise still exists.

    Fr. Schmöger doesn’t take Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions about the Terrestrial Paradise as something flaky to be dismissed out of hand, instead, he shows that what Catherine Emmerich saw in her visions is similar to what other saints have experienced concerning the Terrestrial Paradise. If I remember right, he quotes material from the life of St. Hildegarde, St. Colette, and St. Lydwine to shed light on the meaning of Catherine Emmerich’s visions about the Terrestrial Paradise.

    To be sure, what I believe about the Terrestrial Paradise has been shaped by private revelation, but it is private revelation given to some our great saints. What I believe is also shaped by what the early church believed as little “t” tradition. Of course, knowledge gained from private revelation would have to be put to the side if I found that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church was teaching infallibly about something that contradicted what I have learned from private revelation concerning the Terrestrial Paradise. To the best of my knowledge, the Magisterim infallibly teaches nothing that contradicts what I believe.

    Where would I get the idea from scriptures that the Terrestrial Paradise still exists? It seems obvious to me that when St. Hildegarde writes, “When Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, a wall of light was raised around it ….”, she is making an allusion to Genesis 3:24 –

    He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

    ——————————–

    mateo writes: The Catholic Church teaches us that there was no death in the Terrestrial Paradise before the Fall.

    Ray Stamper responds: We need to be very careful here so as to avoid boxing Church teaching into false corners unnecessarily.

    Agreed. Let us look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the fate of the cosmos when creation is restored after the Final Judgment:

    1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:

    For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [639]

    1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.

    Note that CCC 1046 is quoting Rom 8:19-23, which I quoted in my post #27. In my post #27, I had this section of the CCC in mind when I made my comment that “The Catholic Church teaches us that there was no death in the Terrestrial Paradise before the Fall.” To wit, just as our dead bodies buried in this world are going to be resurrected and changed into glorified bodies, CCC 1047 is saying that this place of exile that is subject to the death and decay is going to be restored to its original state. This restored physical world where we will dwell with our glorified bodies is the new heavens and new earth that we will dwell in after the Final Judgment. If, as some are saying on this thread, that there was death among plants and animals in the Terrestrial Paradise, then we can look forward to an eternal place of existence where nature is still “red in tooth and claw”. To be honest, I have never heard a teaching from the Catholic Church that animals will be killing and mauling other animals in Heaven.

    The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
    and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
    The cow and the bear shall feed;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
    Isaiah 11:6-7

  39. Mateo,

    You have laid out an excellent theological case for us to be forced to choose between two options:

    1) If evolution, the world “red in tooth and claw” is true in regards to this specific planet we currently live on, then Prefallen Eden was in another dimensional plane.
    2) If the creative mechanism was other than evolution, then Prefallen Eden was on this earth and the garden between four rivers was simply lost during the flood.

    There are a few other theological points which support your view that you did not include. It is pretty clear that the nature of GOD is kindness and self sacrifice. The entire mechanism of natural selection, survival of the fittest etc, seems to me to completely be at odds with the Character of GOD…. I have never really heard anybody reconcile GOD’s Sovereignty, GOD”S Goodness and the existence of pain and evil without falling back into Man’s capacity to Choose……..

    How on earth someone would perform the mental gymnastics necessary to reconcile a creative mechanism which is “red in tooth and claw” with GOD’s Character of Grace is thoroughly beyond me.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that Occam’s razor applies here in spades. The overwhelming mountain of physical evidence (or lack thereof) and the theological realities, all point to Creation by Fiat as laid out in a literal reading of Gen 1 to be the best explanation that fits the evidence with the fewest assumptions.

  40. A few thoughts on this issue. I very much want to believe, like mateo, that there was no death or decay of any sort before the Fall. However, I have a hard time reconciling this with the current scientific understanding (as Ray Stamper points out). There is also that pesky issue of the dinosaurs; no death and decay pre-Fall means that man would have had to have been co-existent with dinosaurs.

    Now I want to propose a via media where we may be able to have our cake and eat it too, and to get everyone’s thoughts. Suppose evolution (ie – death and decay pre-Fall) such that Bryan in post #30 is essentially correct. Now Genesis tells us that God planted a garden, in Eden, on the Earth (notice the three successive areas mentioned, similar to the Temple). Now suppose that man, however he came on the scene, was endowed with sanctifying grace and the preternatural gifts, and that death and decay were not a part of life in the garden, which was a very special and specific place in the larger area of Eden, which was somewhere on Earth (between the Tigris and Euphrates). This may make sense as to why, upon their Fall from grace, Adam and Eve had to leave that garden and spend their existence among the rest of creation.

    Thoughts?

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  41. @Aaron G. #40

    My way of reconciling current science and Genesis narrative as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church (CCC #375-376 quoted in #31):

    The Garden of Eden was not so much a special place as a special state of man. Physically it was probably a very nice place in Africa, but the only special thing that distinguished it from today’s (fewer and fewer) nice environments was that neither lions nor snakes (the plain animals) nor mosquitoes nor bacteria nor viruses attacked humans, because humans (and only humans) were shielded (“preternatural gift”) from the physical evil that would have affected them otherwise as a result of their biological nature (or of the biological layer of their nature, to be more precise.)

    So there is no need to unnecessarily burden ourselves by denying evolution. Of course no Catholic will get excommunicated by holding creationism, or even geocentrism. They would just preclude their testimony of faith from being of use to a large segment of the population, those that do not deny what straight science shows to be true.

    And BTW, the multiverse, eternal inflation and that kind of stuff is just plain BS, not straight science. High-sounding mythology that atheists need to concoct to avoid the logical consequence of extremely special initial conditions and fine tuning.

  42. Mateo # 38

    I have read your post with much interest. Are you saying that Eden and the garden of Paradise might possibly be in a different universe ( dimension)? It does not seem to be such a far out idea as science is even now talking about different dimensions that could possibly exist. ( not to mix our science with religion but truth is truth no matter where it comes from.) Could it be possible that the Scientific big bang theory origin of our universe could have been the moment of the fall of humanity where the cosmos was dragged into mans folly with him? I understand that it’s a big leap but something obviously happened at the fall of man to change everything from God’s perfect creation to a universe of death and destruction. Science can see up to the nanosecond back to the big bang but cannot cross that threshold. It gives one moment to pause and reflect however. Just throwing this out as a thought. You are right the Church has never ruled on it that I am aware of. Some may think this might be science fiction but I’m not so sure it is. Something started this big bang ( God), for a reason and our imperfect universe I don’t think is one that God would have chosen to create originally, however it suits the fallen conditions of man perfectly. Christ came to rescue not only humanity but all of creation. From what? The death and corruption caused by the sin of humanity. Eden and the perfect universe is on the other side of this dimension. This dimension will cease to exist at the second coming and the resurrection of the dead when all will be put back in order. It’s a theory….

    Nelson

  43. Once again, thank you Bryan for another great post. Even though I don’t participate in these dicussions, this site continues to be of great encouragement to me.

    As far as I can tell, Ray has hit the nail on the head when he writes that this issue of nature and grace “is THE hidden and underlying cause of Catholic / Protestant disagreements.” The Catholic understanding is definitely unrivaled in its explanation of how Adam’s sin has been passed down to all of us, and subsequently how sanctifying grace through Christ redeems what was lost in the Fall. Yet while these issues get to the root of the differences between Catholic and Protestant Christianity, the theological challenge that evolution poses in relation to them, also allows them to be the grounds of much ecumenical discussion.

    Regarding the last few posts on evolution…

    The idea of Eden as a specially protected area from the natural tendency of life to die and decay is interesting because otherwise we have thought all of the unfallen earth to be a paradise. The presence of the Tree of Life in the middle of Eden could well symbolize the garden as where the supernatural (and preternatural) gifts flow out from in order for humankind to complete its task to subdue the natural earth, and in a sense participate in God’s creation. (The Apostle’s command to go out to all the nations in Matthew 28 mirrors this, except now the Tree of Life is the Cross, and in doing so the Apostles (the Church) take part in God’s redemption.)

    Yet what still bugs many about this view is the evolutionary origin of man. Biological evolution holds that new forms emerge through natural selection in which the weakest of the species die and the strong–often the most brutal–survive. As Jeremiah writes, the mental gymnastics required to reconcile this creative mechanism with a God of love is, and has in reality proven to be for many, almost impossible. Imagine Adam’s parents unaccountably clubbing their neighbours to death in competition for food. Surely this wouldn’t be the type of family God would have his first ensouled human grow up in? Furthermore, what would prevent fallen, ensouled humanity to procreate with soulless humanity? Evolutionary theory holds that new species emerge as populations, not individuals, yet Original Sin demands monogenism, that we all descend from common ancestors. Pope Pius XII wrote in Humani Generis:

    When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.

    As far as I can tell, in light of the fact that modern evolutionary theory is based upon polygenism, this essentially means that as Catholics we are bound to believe in the special creation of Adam and Eve apart from evolutionary means (unless we hold an alternative, unscientific form of monogenetic evolution), and we are not at liberty to entertain the idea of polygenism.

    Jerimiah wrote: Evolution continues to be an unsubstantiated theory put forward and fueled primarily by biased naturalists who are intent on undermining Christianity in any way they can.

    This is unhelpful to your otherwise plausible claim that the real issue is not our theology but rather the science (or lack thereof). The problem that the creationist and ID movements have is that they fail to see the real (philosophical) reason why science continues to hold to a theory they (legitimately) claim to lack supporting evidence. The real reason is scientism–that only material causality exists–which ironically is a principle of scientific inquiry to which we owe much of the advances in science. Evolution as the source of the variety of life is the only option for a discipline that only has philosophical room for material causes before it is no longer that discipline, namely science. The theological and philosophical task the creationist needs to undertake needs to go far beyond accusing scientists of undermining Christianity. Instead a deeper look at the philosophical grounds of modern science is required in light of its relationship to theological claims.

    Nevertheless, the biggest concern is that science has reached a point where its a priori adherence to material causes has ruptured its relationship to a reality that cannot be explained on solely material grounds. Its absolute materialism forces it to make false conclusions when there are supernatural causes involved for want of having no other material options. This would be so whether the evidence for evolution is convincing or not. (Dawkins’ and Hawkin’s completely unfalsifiable ‘multiverse’ theory is an example of how far this idea can go when all of our understanding of reality is forced down a single corridor.)

    To be honest, I am inclined to believe that modern biology has mistaken what is an ingenius, God-given mechanism of survival (evolution) for the origin of all life. Believing that God created kinds of plant and animal life that have evolved into what may now be defined as separate species (without being separate kinds – e.g. zebras and horses), perhaps even in different epochs as current evolutionary theory itself suggests, is no more a stretch than believing that the first ensouled humans saw their parents as souless beasts.

  44. Johannes: Pius XII’s rejection of polygenism is hardly less burdensome than an outright rejection of evolution. Some might even argue that holding the monogenetic version of evolution that modern science rejects (the version that we are permitted to according to Pius XII) is more burdensome than a literal reading of Genesis. Holding the scientific, polygenetic version of evolution that a Pope has rejected in writing is burdensome in other ways.

    Jono

  45. Gentlemen,

    I think Mateo is right in suggesting that this thread is not the place for a full blown discussion of evolutionary theory, its scientific merits, or its compatibility with divine revelation (though I think such a discussion is immensely important). However, dogmas concerning human origins and human nature per se (like the one’s discussed in the above article), do overlap incoming scientific data in areas like cosmological physics, genetics, paleo-anthropology, archaeology, etc. Christianity is a historical, concrete, religion which makes historical and concrete claims. Hence, scientific and historical findings do share common areas of cognitive real estate with Catholic dogma. Therefore, I would like to offer some very general thoughts about the attitude with which we approach the integration of scientific and historical data with de fide Catholic teaching.

    A Catholic is committed to the fundamental truth that God is the author of both the “book of nature” and the “book of scripture” (as well as guiding His Church in the authentic interpretation of the later – i.e. de fide doctrines); therefore, the truth about nature (when demonstrable) can never, even in principle, conflict with the truth of divine revelation (when rightly interpreted). If at any time there appears to be a conflict between the former and the later, we are certain that the appearance is illusory and results from either an insufficient or inaccurate knowledge of the natural order, or a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the content of revealed truth, or perhaps both.

    Yet, a fundamentally integrated vision of reality (once the heritage of every person born into a cultural milieu predicated and formed on Catholic principles) has been largely lost to modernity. The perception that Catholicism (and indeed, religion in general) represents an antiquated vision of the cosmos dominates much of the modern world; explicitly so in most of academia and implicitly among the wider public. Moreover, in attempting to re-establish an integrated vision of reality, there is great potential for error stemming from poor science or poor theology or both.

    As a result, one of the greatest needs in the Catholic Church, situated as she is in the modern world; is painstakingly careful, cautious, and relentless collaboration of Catholic theologians and philosophers with the modern sciences. The challenge to a Catholic vision of reality is as great (or greater today), than what faced St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, when Christianity found itself confronted (and potentially threatened) by the powerful philosophical vision of Aristotle. We need the spirit of Thomas: a fearless pursuit of truth, wherever it may be found. We need men and women who are especially careful to distinguish between demonstrable scientific findings and any mere pseudoscience attempting to smuggle errant philosophical/metaphysical presuppositions in under the guise of “scientific” speculation (there are an unfortunate number of scientists who attempt to cash in their strictly scientific credentials in exchange for philosophical recognition, and this leads to great confusion in the public). Yet, we need persons equally cautious in insuring that the contents of divine revelation are rightly understood and not fallaciously held to entail any more – or less – than is supported by Magisterial teaching. Only if these two cautions are maintained can a fruitful integration of scientific and revealed data be achieved in route to re-establishing a holistic vision of reality capable of combating today’s rampant intellectual schizophrenia (which has a direct bearing on our actions because it blurs our intellectual judgment concerning the True Good or “End” of human existence which should drive our choices).

    That said, I thank God for the wisdom of the Catholic Church in allowing her children such latitude of opinion in scientific matters, so that we have the opportunity to move slowly and cautiously while simultaneously retaining a spirit of love, and indeed formal communion, with those who currently assess the data in a dramatically divergent way, such as is exemplified by these contrasting assessments offered by Jeremiah and Johannes:

    Jeremiah wrote:

    Evolution continues to be an unsubstantiated theory put forward and fueled primarily by biased naturalists who are intent on undermining Christianity in any way they can. It is propaganda heavy and substance light…to say the least . . . The overwhelming mountain of physical evidence (or lack thereof) and the theological realities, all point to Creation by Fiat as laid out in a literal reading of Gen 1 to be the best explanation that fits the evidence with the fewest assumptions.[bold emphasis mine]

    Johannes wrote:

    So there is no need to unnecessarily burden ourselves by denying evolution. Of course no Catholic will get excommunicated by holding creationism, or even geocentrism. They [those who deny evolution] would just preclude their testimony of faith from being of use to a large segment of the population, those that do not deny what straight science shows to be true.[brackets and bold emphasis mine]

    The beautiful thing about Catholicism is that there is a means by which such divergent assessments of the scientific data and their proper theological interpretation may eventually be settled to re-establish the unified vision of reality I mentioned above. That very means is wonderfully exemplified in this crucial comment by Mateo:

    Of course, knowledge gained from private revelation would have to be put to the side if I found that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church was teaching infallibly about something that contradicted what I have learned from private revelation concerning the Terrestrial Paradise.

    That’s the fundamental Catholic attitude which makes unity of belief possible – the Magisterium has the final say, should she choose to speak to the issue. Ironically, that very principle is what also enables unity of communion, despite diversity of opinion regarding subjects which remain non-dogmatic. Our intentional relation of assent to the Magisterium simultaneously fosters unity and diversity.

    Peace and good to you all!

    Ray

  46. To all,

    One last comment I want to make in regards to the Creation by Evolution/Creation by Fiat discussion is in regards to the origen of spiritual conflict. St. Paul teaches that in Ephesians 6:12 that “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”

    Coupled with this we find in II Cor. 10:5 the folowing “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

    It seems clear from these two passages that when we find individuals who are espousing, vehemently, ideas which are attacking Jesus Christ, we can say confidently and easily that the individual is not speaking on their own, but rather is acting as a pawn for “the rulers….the authorities…..the powers of this dark world” I’m not sure what 2000 years of magisterial teaching says about this exegesis, but I bet they agree.

    Jonathan, I see your point that “This is unhelpful to your otherwise plausible claim that the real issue is not our theology but rather the science…” Unfortunately the real issue, in my opinion, is the power behind the throne, so to speak. The blind of rage of our enemy has so filled the naturalists that they can’t even do science (their own field) with anything approaching even a modicum of honesty. Why would I give them any room? They don’t have evidence, just 100 years of puff pieces in National Geographic.

    That being the case, it is incredible for me to see why we would accomodate the ideas of individuals like Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking who are unabashadly intent on destroying Christ, as if they could.

    Finally, Johannnes you wrote: “They [those who deny evolution] would just preclude their testimony of faith from being of use to a large segment of the population, those that do not deny what straight science shows to be true.[brackets mine].

    I don’t come to conclusions regarding truth based on what the large segment of population thinks, and the vast amount of evolutionary thought is NOT straight science, it is anything but.

    Thank GOD Athanasius and Julian didn’t use the popular vote as a test for truth either.

    Ray, good admonition regarding retaining a spirit of Love….I hope in my zeal and passion I have not offended anyone, if I did, I offer and apology and ask for forgiveness.

  47. Jeremiah writes: You have laid out an excellent theological case for us to be forced to choose between two options:

    1) If evolution, the world “red in tooth and claw” is true in regards to this specific planet we currently live on, then Prefallen Eden was in another dimensional plane.

    2) If the creative mechanism was other than evolution, then Prefallen Eden was on this earth and the garden between four rivers was simply lost during the flood.

    If we already believe that the book of Genesis is divinely inspired, I think that we can speak of “only two options” in this sense:
    1) Death and decay was present in the Terrestrial Paradise
    2) Death and decay was not present in the Terrestrial Paradise.

    There are many ways that one can accept option one, and then try to reconcile it with a belief that scriptures are inerrant. The Protestant fundamentalist “creation science” route would be one way to bring about that reconciliation (and I know Catholics that go that route) , and what is proposed by say, Johannes, is another way altogether. These two ways of reconciling my option one with scriptures certainly do not exhaust all possible ways of bringing about a reconciliation. My main point is that many Catholics seem to think that option one (death and decay in the Terrestrial Paradise) is the only possibility, while being unaware that option two even exists, less yet that option two has a rich history of acceptance within both Catholicism and Judaism.

    Jeremiah writes: How on earth someone would perform the mental gymnastics necessary to reconcile a creative mechanism which is “red in tooth and claw” with GOD’s Character of Grace is thoroughly beyond me.

    I have the same concerns that you are expressing. I picked up the phrase “nature red in tooth and claw” from reading C.S. Lewis who was making an allusion to the poem In Memoriam A.H.H. by Tennyson. The Wikipedia article on Tennyson’s poem says this:

    In writing the poem, Tennyson was influenced by the ideas of evolution presented in Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation which had been published in 1844, and had caused a storm of controversy about the theological implications of impersonal nature functioning without direct divine intervention.

    [A] much-quoted phrase from the poem is “nature, red in tooth and claw,” found in Canto 56, referring to humanity:

    Who trusted God was love indeed
    And love Creation’s final law
    Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
    With ravine, shriek’d against his creed

    Ref: //http:/””””/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Memoriam_A.H.H

    —————————————-

    Nelson writes: I have read your post with much interest. Are you saying that Eden and the garden of Paradise might possibly be in a different universe ( dimension)? It does not seem to be such a far out idea as science is even now talking about different dimensions that could possibly exist.

    First, I would like to say that I believe that there are many ways of reconciling the option of “no death and decay in the Terrestrial paradise” with scriptures. That said, if one truly believes that Enoch and Elijah were taken by God from this world, the question naturally arises as to where, exactly, they were taken.

    Some modern Catholic apologists assert that Enoch and Elijah were assumed bodily into heaven, just like the Blessed Mother. I think that there are many problems with that idea. One, we have no reason to think that Enoch and Elijah were born without original sin – so how did they get into Heaven before Christ opened the gates of Heaven that were close to men born in original sin? When Christ, the first born of the new creation, ascended into Heaven, was he met by Enoch and Elijah who were already there with their bodies? If they were, then it seems to me that there is a way into Heaven that makes Christ’s death on the cross superfluous.

    The belief of the Fathers that Enoch and Elijah are in the Terrestrial Paradise, and not in Heaven, makes much more sense to me. If Enoch and Elijah are beholding the beatific vision in Heaven, they cannot come back to earth and die, since no one that beholds the beatific vision can die. No doubt, the Early Church fathers did believe that Enoch and Elijah were taken from this earth, since that is explicitly taught in scriptures:

    … Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him … Hebrews 11:5

    … And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven … 2Kings 2:11

    .
    Since Enoch and Elijah didn’t die when they left this earth with their bodies, they would not have descended to the bosom of Abraham in the abode of the dead. So Enoch and Elijah went somewhere that is a physical world. Scriptures testify that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Terrestrial Paradise, not that the Terrestrial Paradise was brought to ruin by their sin. It makes a lot of sense to me that Enoch and Elijah were not translated to Heaven, but to the Terrestrial Paradise. Jesus himself makes this testimony about who has ascended into heaven:

    No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.
    John 3:13

    To address your point, do I think that “Eden and the garden of Paradise might possibly be in a different universe ( dimension)”?

    That is the way that I see it. But perhaps I see that way because I lack imagination. In any event, I like what St. Hildegarde is saying – “ Paradise still exists, a region of joy, blooming in all its pristine loveliness, and imparting abundant fruitfulness to the sterile earth. As the soul communicates life and strength to the body it inhabits, so the earth receives from paradise her supreme vitality.”

    To me, what St. Hildegarde is saying brings up an image of Paradise existing in a parallel universe – a parallel universe that is connected in some mysterious way with this “miserable world”. How does Paradise impart “abundant fruitfulness to the sterile earth”? Is there a spiritual connection between the universes? What would it mean for a plants in this world to be spiritually connected to a plants in the Terrestrial Paradise? Or is there some physical connection between the matter of this world and the matter in the Terrestrial Paradise, some sort of “quantum entanglement” between the two universes? (Okay, now I am sounding like I watched too many episodes of Fringe).

    Maybe I am being silly to make a speculation about quantum entanglement, but when Johnannes says “the multiverse, eternal inflation and that kind of stuff is just plain BS, not straight science”, I have to respectfully disagree. To explain why I disagree would take us way off topic, just as explaining why any scientific theory of evolution cannot assume that the second law of thermodynamics is not a fundamental law of physics.

    Nelson writes: Could it be possible that the Scientific big bang theory origin of our universe could have been the moment of the fall of humanity where the cosmos was dragged into mans folly with him?

    I like that idea – Adam’s sin caused an explosion in the multiverse that brought into existence an entirely new universe that is subject to death and decay. But I would like to get back to Bryan’s article, about another point that I made that I think is being too easily dismissed, namely that Adam and Eve did not know evil before the Fall. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that Adam and Eve possessed perfect innocence before the the Fall:

    According to Catholic theology based on the Biblical account, the original condition of our first parents was one of perfect innocence and integrity. By the latter is meant that they were endowed with many prerogatives which, while pertaining to the natural order, were not due to human nature as such–hence they are sometimes termed preternatural. Principal among these were a high degree of infused knowledge, bodily immortality and freedom from pain, and immunity from evil impulses or inclinations. In other words, the lower or animal nature in man was perfectly subjected to the control of reason and the will. Besides this, our first parents were also endowed with sanctifying grace by which they were elevated to the supernatural order.

    Catholic Encyclopedia article, Terrestrial Paradise

    I am trying to make the case that Calvin was wrong, that Adam and Eve could not discern between good and evil before the Fall, because Adam and Eve possessed perfect innocence. So how then could the serpent tempt Adam and Eve, if they had no knowledge of evil, and they possessed the preternatural gift of lack of concupiscence? If, before the Fall, Adam and Eve did not know what evil is, and they didn’t have any inclination to commit evil, how then, could they be temped at all?

    Catholic spiritual theology teaches that discernment is between two good things, not between good and evil. For example, should I become celibate and join a religious order, or should I become married? This is a choice that requires discernment, because it is a choice between two good things. I am trying to say that in a state of perfect innocence Adam and Eve knew the good, and only the good. They knew the good of self-love and they knew a higher good, the love of God that is due God because one is a creature.

    How did the serpent tempt Adam and Eve? It was a temptation to inordinate self-love, to make a choice to put the lower good (self-love) above the greater good (love of God.). The serpent was able to tempt Adam and Eve because they had human natures that gave them the knowledge of the natural law, a knowledge that informed them that as creatures they are subordinate to God, and that they cannot place self-love above love of God, since God is the source of all love.

    Johannes, in his post # 26, quotes this by Pope John Paul II:

    In the Genesis account, in the guise of an apparently irrelevant plot, we find man’s fundamental problem linked to his very condition as a creature. Man as a rational being should let himself be guided by the “First Truth,” which is moreover the truth of his very existence.

    The knowledge that one’s being comes from God is the “First Truth”, and created beings know by nature that love of self cannot be placed above love of God. I believe that what pope John Paul II is saying is fully compatible with Adam and Eve having no knowledge of evil before the Fall. To me, and what the pope is saying, is what is being said in the Catechism about what constituted the essence of man’s first sin:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Man’s first sin

    398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good.

    If one is saying that Adam and Eve had a knowledge from the natural law that is was wrong to choose self-love above love of God, I would not dispute that.

    Let me make an analogy that hope clarifies what I am trying to say about innocence. Parents might teach their innocent child that the she should never get into a car with strangers. The child can discern that her parents are being very serious, and she would know that she should obey her parent when they give a command such as this. The child knows that she should obey her parents, because she has a knowledge of the natural law that guides her conscience – she inherently knows that she must obey her parents because she has a human nature. The child does not have a knowledge of the natural law because of her biology, she has it because of her human nature.

    The parents don’t have all the gruesome details about why their child should not get into a car with strangers, and they typically don’t give those details, because giving her the knowledge of what evil can befall her would destroy her innocence. In a like manner, Adam and Eve knew that they should obey God when he gave them an explicit commandment prohibiting a specific behavior, but they did not need to know all the gruesome details about what death and decay would mean to them before they gave their obedience to God.

    The knowledge of evil that came from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is what made Adam and Eve become ashamed of their nakedness; the knowledge of what is evil is what made Adam and Eve lose the gift of perfect innocence.

    Am what I am claiming here about the pre-Fall gift perfect innocence not compatible with what Pope John Paul II taught Johannes’ post # 26, or am I missing a bigger point made by the Pope?

  48. (Hoping to get this in before the whole evolution-business is declared too off-topic :-)) …

    I am fascinated at Mateo’s other-universe idea – which is a little analogous to Lewis’s “Perelandra” as the un-fallen home of people like Enoch – but it seems to me that there are more difficulties here than just the pre-Fall earth. In particular, the first 11 chapters of Genesis, most of which are post-Fall, are very difficult to make jibe with conventional chronology – and those chapters really do appear to be trying to present a chronology.

    Lewis’s solution was to treat them as semi-mythological – intending to teach us salvation history but not necessarily detailed secular history. It is not clear to me that this is impossible – but nor is it clear that it is possible.

    As a linguist – well, now I work as a computer system admin, but my degrees are in linguistics, and I worked as a linguist for about 11 years – I have some opinions about this history. If C2C start a proper thread on the subject, I’ll express them (don’t get too excited – they are not all that specific :-)).

    jj

  49. Yet God did make man imperishable,
    He made him in the image of His own nature;
    it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
    as those who are its partners will discover.
    Wisdom 2:23-24

    Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.
    Romans 5:12

    We weren’t made for death, which entered the world through sin. Now, entry to eternity is made through death.

    As for the location of Eden, I am an agnostic. I don’t find any reason that it could not be on the earth we live on (albeit shrouded in some fashion), but if it were somewhere or some whence else, it would not bother me. The location of paradise is not central to my faith, and might really be pretty peripheral if I ever thought of it before, and I don’t think I ever did.

    Cordially,

    dt

  50. JJ

    You wrote:

    If C2C start a proper thread on the subject, I’ll express them (don’t get too excited – they are not all that specific :-)).

    I would be all for such a discussion (though I agree this is probably not the thread for it), and in particular, I would like to hear your take on the matter as a linguist. You probably already know this, but there has been a significant amount of documentary output by the Magisterium (or its organs), with varying degrees of authoritative force, regarding the complex nature and genre of the literary narrative we encunter within the first 11 chapters of Genesis (and in particular, the first few chapters), and what hermeneutical guidelines ought to inform our approach to the same. I don’t know about you, but to me there does seem to be a literary shift from the first 3 chapters or so compared to what follows. The concrete historicity of the account seems to become progressively more stable, the further one proceeds through the first 11 chapters; and, of course, by the time one reaches Genesis 12, one encounters an era of Mesopotamian history for which we have significant extra-biblical data. Almost as if primordial and ancient history are de-compressing like a released spring-coil where the earlier chapters of Genesis rapidly release and unfold vast segments of primordial history by leaps and bounds, until finally, by the time we reach Genesis 12 the clip of the decompression slows down to the point where we can begin (and continue) tracking the biblical history alongside extra-biblical benchhmarks. And this decompression seems to correspond to a genre shift from the earlier chapters to the later; which I think captures something of JPII’s (I believe it was him) identification of the earliest chapters of Genesis as mytho-poaeic in genre (keeping clearly in mind that by ‘myth’ he did not mean to imply that the narrative was either ahistorical or untrue, but rather a capturing of core truths flowing from real events embedded in man’s primordial past, but expressed through an ancient poetic literary genre especially suited for condensing, distilling, and communicating crucial truths about man and his origins).

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  51. John Thayer Jensen writes: I am fascinated at Mateo’s other-universe idea …

    I would say that “the other-universe idea” is not my idea, it is, instead, something I learned about from other sources.

    JJ, may I ask you a couple of questions? Where do you think Elijah went when he ascended from this earth? Do you believe that Elijah will come back to earth to witness to the Messiah in the last hour as one of the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11?

    Many of the early church fathers believed that Elijah is waiting in the Terrestrial Paradise to return to earth to be killed as a martyr. That belief is what gives me a foundation for believing in “the other-universe idea.” The way I see it, if Elijah is now in Heaven, then Elijah is beholding the beatific vision in Heaven, and if he is beholding the beatific vision, he cannot die, so he cannot be one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

    This is from Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 Edition about the two witnesses mentioned in Apocalypse chapter 11:

    My two witnesses….shall prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days. It is a very common interpretation, that by these two witnesses must be understood Henoch[Enoch] and Elias[Elijah], who are to come before the end of the world. It is true this is what we read in several of the ancient Fathers, insomuch, that Dr. Wells, in his paraphrase, calls it the “consent of the primitive fathers,” and in his notes says, it is of “unexceptionable authority.” This opinion (at least as to Elias) is grounded on those words of the prophet Malachy, (Malachias iv. 5.) behold, I will send you Elias, the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and also on the words of our Saviour, Christ, (Matthew xvii. 11.) where he tells his disciples: Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things. But I cannot say that the consent of the fathers is so unanimous as to Henoch: for we find by St. Hilary, that some thought Jeremy[Jeremiah] was to come with Elias, and he himself thought that with Elias would come Moses. See his commentary on Matt., p. 710, Nov. edit. Secondly, allowing it a received opinion that Henoch and Elias are again to come before the day of judgment, yet it is not the constant doctrine of the ancient fathers, that by these two witnesses in this place of the Apocalypse, must be understood Henoch and Elias. St. Cyprian expounds it of two sorts of martyrs for the Catholic faith; to wit, they who suffer death, and others who only suffered imprisonment, loss of goods, and the like. Others expound it of the testimonies concerning Christ and his Church, of which some are in the Old Testament, some in the New. To these we must join all those interpreters who expound all the visions and predictions in the Apocalypse, till the 20th chapter, of the persecutions raised by the Jews: or by the heathens against the Church, which have already happened. Of these, both as to ancient fathers and later interpreters, see Alcazar in his Prologomena, note 6, p. 33, and note 12, p. 48. (Witham) — Two witnesses. It is commonly understood of Henoch and Elias. (Challoner)

    Ref: http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id297.html

    Haydock’s Commentary says that the idea that Enoch and Elijah are coming back to this earth to witness to the Messiah is testified to by many, but not all of the Early Church Fathers. I would call this idea a little “t” tradition of the Catholic Church. It should carry some weight because it is the “consent of the primitive fathers”, but I would not want to go so far as to assert that this is a tradition that binds the consciences of all Catholics. If it was, I believe this would be explicitly taught in the CCC.

    Father Schmöger writes, “The Fathers tell us that paradise still exists in all its first beauty … The creatures of this magnificent abode, its animals and plants, belong to a higher order, as much elevated above those of earth as the body of Adam before his sin was superior to his fallen posterity. ” (see my earlier posts) What Fr. Schmöger is saying here is another little “t” tradition, namely that there was no death and decay in the terrestrial Paradise. Some modern Catholic apologists, contrary to this tradition, assert that there was death and decay in “paradise”, and they do this, I believe, in a honest attempt to reconcile the creation accounts of Genesis with modern scientific theories of evolution. But I think that the scientific evidence for evolution only makes a case for the biology that I have as a human being in this fallen world.

    Bryan writes in his post #33:

    … Only Adam and Eve possessed the preternatural gifts. What I said is that the preternatural gifts possessed by man affected all of nature, by making the rest of nature subject to man in the original harmony, so that man could be impassible. That’s fully compatible with there being death and pain among animals before the fall.

    What Bryan has said here is also fully compatible with the idea that the preternatural gifts possessed by man before the Fall prevented the rest of the physical creation from being in bondage to decay.

    St. Paul writes that death is the last enemy to be destroyed by God, and that creation won’t be set free from its bondage to decay until Christians receive their glorified bodies:

    … the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope;
    because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
    and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    Romans 8:19-23

    For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
    1 Cor. 15:21-25

    I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
    in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”
    The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    1 Cor. 15:50-55

    Scriptures teach us that creation won’t be set free from the bondage of decay until men in the Kingdom of God receive imperishable bodies. It makes sense to me, that when Adam and Eve had the preternatural gift of bodily immortality, that creation was not subject to the bondage of decay.

  52. Ray,

    Thanks for comment #35. I have been trying to bring my thoughts into some such line, organizing various bits of information. This helps.

    Andrew

  53. Ray, (re: #35)

    I also appreciate your #35. My only objection is to your two paragraphs (in #35) that respond to Mateo’s claim that the physical biology of Adam could change because of the Fall, while Adam’s human nature was unchanged by the Fall. What makes us human (i.e. homo sapiens) from the point of view of empiriometric biology is not the same as human nature from a philosophical and theological point of view. These are two distinct conceptions of human nature, and they shouldn’t be conflated. (See my comment elsewhere, and Feser’s post 1, post 2 and post 3 on the subject.) Philosophically, there is no requirement that humans must possess or retain a certain number or set of chromosomes, the same genome, a certain brain size/shape, etc. Biological change is fully compatible with retaining human nature (in the philosophical sense), so long as the animals in question retain rationality (defined philosophically, not as IQ). I’m not suggesting that man’s biology changed because of the fall; I’m only pointing out that neither theology nor philosophy preclude biological change within human [as defined philosophically] history, so long as rational animality is retained. We have to avoid the scientism that interchanges empiriometric criteria for species identity with philosophical criteria, as though there is no difference between them because there is no such thing as philosophy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  54. Sinclair Ferguson is a Reformed theologian and author. He is also senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C. Earlier this year he was interviewed by Deborah Finnamore for Ligonier. She asked him a question about grace:

    Deborah Finnamore: In the preface of the book, you write that grace is not a “thing.” What do you mean by this statement?

    Sinclair Ferguson: It is legitimate to speak of “receiving grace,” and sometimes (although I am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misusing this language) we speak of the preaching of the Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as “means of grace.”


    Sinclair Ferguson

    That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — “Christ clothed in the gospel,” as John Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself. Grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a Christian’s life. So while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (“By Grace Alone: An Interview with Sinclair Ferguson.”)

    Ferguson doesn’t interact with the Catholic teaching of grace as participation in the divine nature; his criticism is directed toward the [straw man] notion of grace as a “thing” or a “substance” or a “quasi-substance.” But if union with Christ is only covenantal, and not ontological, then those who enter into union with Christ do not receive even Christ; they merely enter into a covenantal union with Him. In that case what it means to “give Himself to us” is to give someone else (“the ministry of the Holy Spirit”). And if the Holy Spirit also only makes a covenant with us, and there is no ontological union between us and the Holy Spirit, then our union with God remains only covenantal, even in heaven. But if there is ontological union between us and the Holy Spirit, then Ferguson’s objection to the sacraments as means of ontological union between Christ and us [i.e. greater participation in the divine nature] breaks down.

    When grace is mere favor, then “receiving grace” just means acknowledging that God is favorably disposed toward oneself [assuming that one knows that one is "elect to glory"]. “Means of grace” reduce to means of knowledge [gnosis] about God’s favor. If one already has that knowledge, then one does not need those means. Phrases like “means of grace” are leftovers in Reformed theology from its Catholic origin in the 16th century, but they are incompatible with a Reformed conception of grace as mere favor, unless one makes explicit that they mean “means of knowledge.” Reformed theology presently has no middle position between mere covenantal [i.e. extrinsic] union, and a fusion that obliterates the Creator-creature distinction. The solution is precisely the Church’s teaching that grace is not mere divine favor, but also God’s gift of granting us a participation in the divine nature.

  55. @Mateo:

    JJ, may I ask you a couple of questions? Where do you think Elijah went when he ascended from this earth?

    Dunno :-)

    I confess the whole idea of bodily resurrection is a puzzle. Enoch, Elijah, maybe Moses, Our Lady – all have, apparently, “gone to Heaven in the flesh.” What does this mean? I don’t know, didn’t suppose I had enough information usefully to speculate about it.

    And the same is true, a fortiori, regarding the resurrection of the body. Will our bodies have a “where” and a “when?” I would have supposed so. But … St Peter says the world will be destroyed in fire – and then the “new Heavens and the new Earth”

    Do you believe that Elijah will come back to earth to witness to the Messiah in the last hour as one of the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11?

    Again, don’t know. Quite possibly. I had seen various things describing the two witnesses as Peter and Paul – but then those were in books about the proximal fulfilment of Revelation, in AD70.

    And, as I said, Lewis – presumably quite well aware of the traditions you mention, places the ‘hidden Paradise’ in his Perelandra – a book which contains a sublime ‘intellectual vision’ of the Great Dance.

    These matters are, I suspect, beyond me for now – but I am fascinated to read your and others’ discussion of them.

    jj

  56. Bryan,

    Thank you for your comments about my #35. I fully agree that what biologists mean by homo sapien is not the same as what the Catholic philosophical tradition means by “human nature”. I did not mean to speak as if they were the same. Man is a rational-animal, and on the rational side of that equation, the philosopical notion entails the operations of intellect and will as opposed to the modern notion of IQ, yes. Moreover, on the animal side of that equation, “animal” is considered in its Aristotelian sense involving “essence” as determined by observation of characteristic action (as opposed to modern biological emperioschematic description). However, in the interests of clarification for myself, and perhaps others, I would like to repost a small section of the paragraphs in question which might have led to confusion, followed by some clarifying points. I wrote:

    The animal side of that equation refers directly to our biology. If Adam was a rational-animal at the time of his elevation by supernatural and preternatural gifts (which the Church affirms, since it was precisely human nature which was elevated by grace); then we must maintain that both sides of his nature (the rational and the animal) prior to elevation, were essentially the same as we experience them today, or else we have no way to understand what we mean when we say that Adam’s “human nature” was elevated by grace

    I suspect that the first bold section is what gives rise to the concern you mention. I said that the animal side of the “rational-animal” equation refers to (meaning points to) our biology, not that the philosophical sense of “animal” is just the same as the modern biological description. The former is determined from the view of philosophy of nature (determinations of essense vs. accidents in genus, species, etc); whereas the later typically entails an emperioschematic account of “animal” which is subservient to, and indeed an empirical tool for enhancing our understanding of what it means to be an animal at the level of, philosophy of nature or ontology.

    But that is why I framed my argument in two parts according to “essence” and “accident” respectively. The first paragraph in question considers the ramifications of postulating that an “essential” (in the philosophical sense) change was wrought in man’s nature strictly on the animal side of the rational-animal equation. In fact, I listed the activity of self-locomotian as an essential property of what it means to be an animal in the philosophical (not biological sense); an essential property which if not present in a living thing entails the absence of “animal” in the philosophical sense. I then argue that since man is a rational-animal (in the philosophic sense), if one posits an essential change in the animal side of human nature (again understood philosophically) as a result of the Fall, then one must maintain that human nature as we now know it is no longer rational-animal, but rather rational-we-know-not-what. For to posit an essential change in the animal dimesnion of human nature is to posit an essential change in human nature full stop, since man must be truly rational AND truly animal (in the philosophic sense) to remain man. Hence, I am inclined to maintain my objection that positing such an essential change to our animal nature as a result of the Fall has serious consequences for soteriology, natural law theory and perhaps other things as well. So a biological change resulting from the Fall which eliminated an essential property of what it means to be an animal in the philosophic sense (like the elimination of locomotion), would indeed by a serious problem for soteriology and natural law theory, etc.

    In my second paragraph, I entertained the notion of an “accidental” (in the philosophic sense) change in the animal side of human nature resulting from the Fall. My claim in this regad is not nearly as strong. I do not say that positing such a change is problematic for soteriology, natural law or anything else. Positing an accidental change seems to me compatible with Catholic dogma, and certainly such a change would entail some biological change (only it must be a change that does not eradicate an essential property of what it means to be an animal philosophically). What I say in that paragraph is that I see no theological or scientific gain to be had by positing such an accidental change, nor any way of identifying what that accidental change may have been. Thus, I conclude that such a postulate should be dropped according to the rubric of parsimony.

    Anyhow, I very much invite any critical response to the above.

    BTW, I entirely agree that biological change is perfectly compatible with a philosophical understanding of human nature. Indeed, I think human biology has changed significantly (but only according to accident) over the course of time, and may indeed change significantly in the future (perhaps we’ll grow wings :). I only say that if ever a biological change occured due to the Fall, or God-through-evolution, or God-through-primary-causality; which eliminated an essential property of what it means to be an “animal”, we would have a very difficult time continuing to define man as a rational-animal philosophically. So long as our biology changes only in ways that affect “accidents” on the animal side of our nature, no problem ensues. As I say, I think quite a bit of change has happened over time at the accidental level – I just see no reason to speculate that such accidental changes result from the Fall as opposed to ongoing secondary causality within the natural order.

    You wrote:

    Biological change is fully compatible with retaining human nature (in the philosophical sense), so long as the animals in question retain rationality (defined philosophically, not as IQ)

    I think this gets to the crux of what I am trying to clarify. I happen to think the above needs a bit of clarification because it is not only the rational side of human nature that has a specific philosophic meaning, but also the term animal has a specific philosophic meaning tied to the essence of what it means to be an animal; which, in turn, is a definition which depends on the observation of essential properties (which in turn depend on biological facts). Its not just a matter of retaining rationality along with just any biology. Rather, the biology in question must support all the essential properties entailed in the philosophical definition of “animal” as well. Hence, not all biological change is compatible with retaining human nature, even in the philosophical sense, even if rationality is retained; only biological changes which pertain to non-essential properties of “animal” are so compatible (which is why I think one should not project backwards the notion that what “animal” meant before the Fall entailed some essential property which no longer pertains to the post-Fall definition of “animal” – for then we do not mean the same thing by the term “animal” and therefore we do not mean the same thing by rational-animal).

    I had read Dr. Feser’s 3 part series, where part 1 especially stresses the difference between biological man and metaphysical man. However, I think what I have just said is compatible with what he says there.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  57. Ray,

    I agree with what you said. But you were responding to this comment by mateo from #27: “I think that the physical biology of Adam could change because of the Fall, while Adam’s human nature was unchanged by the Fall.” Mateo is presumably talking about the possibility of a ‘downward’ change, since obviously pre-fall man was already rational and already animal. So Mateo is talking about the possibility of a biological change within the philosophical kind ‘rational animal,’ since we today are still rational and still animal. And it seems to me that your two paragraphs in comment #35, and your comment #56 are fully compatible with that kind of a change.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  58. Bryan,

    That makes sense. I suppose it just means that whatever biological change might theoretically have resulted from the Fall, it must remain at the level of a philosophical accident, otherwise the term animal as applied to pre-Fall man and post-Fall man would become equivocal. For if a person posited some essential property pertaining to the non-rational dimension of man’s nature prior to the Fall, which has now been lost or corrupted by the Fall, then the term “animal” that we use to describe the non-rational dimension of man’s post-Fall nature would be “essentially” different from the non-rational dimension of man’s nature pre-Fall. In short, I was attempting to preclude a backward reaching equivocation concerning what it means to be an animal in terms of human nature. But I can see that Mateo’s comment does not necessarily entail any such suggestion; that he is likely assuming the univocal nature of the term animal in whatever change he was theorizing about.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  59. Bryan writes: I agree with what you said. But you were responding to this comment by mateo from #27: “I think that the physical biology of Adam could change because of the Fall, while Adam’s human nature was unchanged by the Fall.” Mateo is presumably talking about the possibility of a ‘downward’ change, since obviously pre-fall man was already rational and already animal. So Mateo is talking about the possibility of a biological change within the philosophical kind ‘rational animal,’ since we today are still rational and still animal.

    Thank you Bryan. This is, indeed, what I was trying to say.

    Personally, I think that the Fall brought a downward change to the biology of Adam. Furthermore, I believe that the Fall also brought a change to the physics that govern biology in our universe, which is why I don’t have problems with scientific evolutionary theories that are based on physical evidence. It does not bother me if science provides evidence that the biology that human beings possess in our fallen universe came about by a process driven by death and decay. In fact, that seems just to me, because Adam sinned by choosing the created over the Creator, and a just negative consequence of that bad choice would be for Adam’s mortal body to become subject to a merciless physics that doesn’t really care if he lives or dies.

    Ray Stamper writes: Its not just a matter of retaining rationality along with just any biology. Rather, the biology in question must support all the essential properties entailed in the philosophical definition of “animal” as well. Hence, not all biological change is compatible with retaining human nature, even in the philosophical sense, even if rationality is retained; only biological changes which pertain to non-essential properties of “animal” are so compatible ….

    Ray, I agree with that, and thank you for that important clarification.

    I believe that the biology that Adam had before the Fall was different from the biology that Adam had after the Fall, and that Adam will receive a different biology than his fallen biology when he receives his glorified body. What remains unchanged throughout Adam’s journey to Heaven is the human nature that Adam possesses. Which is why I said that I do not understand Calvinism. From what I can make of Calvinism, it asserts that Adam’s human nature was changed by the Fall, and that Adam’s human nature will be changed again when he receives his glorified body. Adam’s pre-Fall human nature was changed to a “sin-nature” by his disobedience, and when Adam receives his resurrected body, he will lose his sin-nature, and once again recover his pre-Fall human nature. Which leads me to ask these questions – what really is the difference between Adam’s pre-Fall state of being, and the state of being that Adam will experience after the resurrection of the dead? If “grace” is only a legal and contractual favor received by those with a sin-nature, what, exactly, will Adam gain that he didn’t possess before the Fall when he no longer has a sin-nature? And what kind of nature did the Word assume when he became incarnate? Did the Word assume a “sin-nature” that made Jesus mortal? As a Catholic, I believe the Word took on the same human nature that I have in the fallen world, which is the same human nature that Adam had before the Fall.

    I think that this Catholic teaching that my human nature is the same human nature that Adam had before the Fall has an important consequence in regards to this thread. I have a human nature, and because of that, I am subject to demands placed on me by the natural law. The most fundamental demand placed on my by the natural law is that I must be obedient to God by loving God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul. To be in harmony with God and creation, I can never place self-love above love of God. Adam was created in harmony with God and creation, and Jim H. writes in his post # 14 that Adam’s obedience to God would have merited him nothing:

    Ontologically speaking, even if man had obeyed, if God did not condescend to man, man’s obedience would have merited nothing.

    I quite agree with Jim H. Man, by nature, is obligated to give obedience to God, and man’s obedience to certain commandments of God merits him nothing. Man owes God obedience, and no man should expect any reward from God for merely doing what he is required to do. I believe that Jesus is making exactly that point in this parable:

    “Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
    Luke 17:7-10

    The servant that is merely doing what he is minimally required to do is out of line if he thinks that doing the minimum merits for him a place at the master’s table. To dine at the master’s table is merited by acts that go beyond the minimum – acts of heroic charity.

    And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
    Revelation 19:9

    We can’t expect that we will merit any reward from God for merely keeping the Ten Commandments. We are required to keep those Commandments, because that is what the natural law requires of us.

    I find that within some strains of Evangelical Protestantism, that there is an idea that if “get saved” and then keep the Ten Commandments,that I will merit treasure in Heaven. But the idea that keeping the Ten Commandments merits treasure in heaven idea isn’t scriptural, as seen by the story of the rich young man.

    The Rich Young Man

    Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    Matthew 19:16-21

    The rich young man kept the commandments, and Jesus commended him for that, but the rich young man merited no treasure in heaven by merely acting as a decent human being should act. To merit treasure in heaven, the rich young man needed to go way beyond that way of living, he needed to act with heroic charity – “go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

    The Calvinist “covenant of works” soteriology is asserting that Adam merited a reward for merely obeying a commandment of God that prohibited a sinful action. But Adam, because he had a human nature, was required to keep that commandment of God. I can’t see how Adam could have merited anything for just following the natural law. Why should I expect God to reward me for merely acting like any decent human being should act? Do I expect a parade in my honor just because I didn’t steal or commit adultery? No, I don’t. Then why would Adam merit a reward for not sinning, especially since Adam lacked concupiscence before the Fall, and Adam didn’t have to struggle with an inclination to sin?

    More importantly, if I don’t perform the works of mercy, why should I think that I will have treasure in heaven – or that I will even go to heaven?

  60. Bryan,
    Thanks for introducing me to Lawrence Feingold’s lectures. This man is certainly a gift to the Church! (even if he is just re-stating the Church’s ever-ancient, ever-new understanding.)
    One question that these considerations have opened for me is the following: Given the difference between man’s natural and supernatural ends, what are we to make of the argument from desire, for the existence of God as the satisfaction of man’s deepest desire? The argument points out that all other innate human desires have objects that exist. But if our other innate desires are natural, and ordered toward our natural ends, then is it reasonable to use them to point toward the existence of the one supernatural end of our innate desires? And why should we (or angels, for that matter) find in ourselves an innate desire for something supernatural — is this desire natural though its object is not? Or perhaps the desire is associated with actual grace.
    Pax Christi,
    Nathaniel

  61. Nathaniel,

    Natural end and supernatural end are, as concepts, defined in relation to man’s nature. There are not two Gods: one who is our natural end, and one who is our supernatural end. These terms (i.e. ‘natural end’ and ‘supernatural end’) refer to two ways in which we can know (and love) God. We can know God as our natural end (i.e. as the First Cause, who is perfectly wise, and good and loving), or we can know God as our supernatural end (i.e. as He knows Himself). So our innate desire to know God (as First Cause) is natural, and points to the existence of God. But by grace we have a desire to know God as He knows Himself, and this points to the possibility of the beatific vision. We have no “innate” desire for what is supernatural (i.e. above our nature). We can (and do) have, by actual grace, an elicited desire for what is supernatural, namely, the beatific vision.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  62. Thanks for your answer, and for setting me straight on terminology.
    Does this mean that when we find in ourselves “a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy” [C.S. Lewis, Mere Chrisitianity] — including the experience in this world of knowing God as the first cause — that this desire is not innate or natural to us, but always a result of actual grace? Does that further imply that some actual graces are given equally to all (or nearly all) people (above the age of reason)?

    Thank you Bryan, and all C2C authors, for your edifying and thought-provoking posts!
    Nathaniel

  63. Nathaniel,

    The desire to know and love God eternally as He knows and loves Himself, is not innate, but is elicited by actual grace; it is the desire for the beatific vision, and of course it includes, but goes infinitely beyond, the desire to know and love God as Creator. Yes, actual grace is given to all persons who have attained the age of reason.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  64. Bryan,

    Setting the technical language aside, would you say it is legitimate to say things like, “God made us to know him; Man is hardwired to be content with God only and not with earth; We were created with an inherent desire for eternal life”?

  65. Jason, (re: #64)

    I would qualify that a couple ways. There is a difference between everlasting life, and eternal life. Even the demons and damned live forever, since we humans have immortal souls and angels are immortal spirits. Eternity, however, is proper to God. The gift of eternal life given by grace to the angels who obeyed, and given to those humans who die in a state of grace, is the gift of participation in God’s own eternity, in which there is no time or change. By our human nature alone, we are not ordered to God’s own eternity, i.e. to the beatific vision. The vision of the inner life of God is infinitely above our power to attain. We have no natural desire for what is infinitely above our power to obtain. But, as rational animals, we have a natural desire to know and love God forever, as God can be known and loved according to our natural powers. That would be our natural end, if there were no grace. Even if there were no grace at all, but only nature, we would still be content only by knowing and loving God, and not with earth. So it would still be true (even if there were no grace at all, but only nature) that our hearts would be restless until they rest in God. But by grace, God has called us to a supernatural end, namely, to participate in His eternity. And therefore because of this grace, we long for the beatific vision, which is eternal life. And rejecting that supernatural end results in the loss of attaining even man’s natural end. (Obviously, hell is not man’s natural end.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Bryan Cross writes: There is a difference between everlasting life, and eternal life. Even the demons and damned live forever, since we humans have immortal souls and angels are immortal spirits. Eternity, however, is proper to God. The gift of eternal life given by grace …

    Excellent point – everlasting life is not the same thing as eternal life! Concerning eternal life, the Apostle John proclaims that “which was from the beginning”, that “which was with the Father”, that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” … that is our eternal life:

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God … That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
    John 1:1 & 1 John 1:1-3

    The Apostle John also teaches this about who among us has eternal life:

    Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
    John 6:53-54

  67. Bryan Cross said in #61, 63 & 65:

    But by grace we have a desire to know God as He knows Himself, and this points to the possibility of the beatific vision. We have no “innate” desire for what is supernatural (i.e. above our nature). We can (and do) have, by actual grace, an elicited desire for what is supernatural, namely, the beatific vision.

    The desire to know and love God eternally as He knows and loves Himself, is not innate, but is elicited by actual grace; it is the desire for the beatific vision, and of course it includes, but goes infinitely beyond, the desire to know and love God as Creator. Yes, actual grace is given to all persons who have attained the age of reason.

    We have no natural desire for what is infinitely above our power to obtain.

    Is this position, defended by Professor Lawrence Feingold in his book “The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and his Interpreters”, the only position that is within RC orthodoxy, or is the position of Henri Cardinal de Lubac also acceptable?

    The relevant points in the CCC seem to leave this issue open. Emphasis and comment between parentheses are mine.

    27 The desire for God is written in the human heart (therefore is natural, as explicitely taught in #1718), because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

    The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator. 1

    1 Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes 19 # 1.

    1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:

    We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated. 13

    How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. 14

    God alone satisfies. 15

    1719 The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith.

    13 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 3, 4: PL 32,1312.
    14 St. Augustine, Conf. 10, 20: PL 32, 791.
    15 St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in symb. apost. I.

    As seen, the CCC does not state whether the natural desire for happiness, which is an implicit desire for God (as the natural desire to quench thirst is an implicit desire for water), refers to:

    – a desire to know and love God forever, as God can be known and loved according to our natural powers (the thomist position aka extrinsicism, according to which our nature could be satisfied by natural happiness in a kind of everlasting (*) Abraham’s bosom), or

    – a desire to know and love God eternally as He knows and loves Himself (the de Lubac position aka integralism, according to which our nature cannot be satisfied other than by the beatific vision).

    For a defense of the de Lubac position: “Henri de Lubac on nature and grace: a note on some recent contributions to the debate” by Nicholas J. Healy:
    http://www.communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/healy35-4.pdf

    (*) It is essential to use the “everlasting” qualifier, because in the actual Abraham’s bosom, i.e. the state of the souls of the righteous departed until Jesus’ death, the souls knew (and therefore were conforted by knowing) that their present condition would not be everlasting, as the Messiah would eventually come and take them to the beatific vision.

  68. If my previous comment ever gets past moderation, then this must also become published.

    There is a factor in the thomist-de Lubac debate on the relationship between nature and grace that has much more weight than the right interpretation of the writings of St Thomas Aquinas, namely this sentence in Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical “Humani Generis” #26:

    Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create beings endowed with intellect without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.

    Alii veram « gratuitatem » ordinis supernaturalis corrumpunt, cum autument Deum entia intellectu praedita condere non posse, quin eadem ad beatificam visionem ordinet et vocet.

    The straightforward interpretation of “others” is that it refers to de Lubac, who had published “Surnaturel” in 1946. Thus, if the statement indeed describes de Lubac’s position, then the thomist “extrinsicist” position as defended by Professor Feingold is the only safe option from the viewpoint of RC orthodoxy.

    To me, it is not wholly clear that de Lubac’s position states or even implies that “God cannot create beings endowed with intellect without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision”. While it does state that intelligent beings can attain true happiness only through union with God in the beatific vision, I never read that it denies that God can create intelligent beings that cannot attain true happiness, though of course the latter possibility looks unfitting for an infinitely good God.

  69. Just quick housekeeping FYI. Bryan is taking a sabbatical from Called to Communion and he was doing a lot of the moderation of his entries. We’ll try to keep up with everything!

  70. Johannes,

    Thanks for your two recent comments. Some thoughts. First, I love de Lubac (esp. “Catholicism: Christ & the Common Destiny of Man”, and “The Splendor of the Church”). I agree, that “Surnatural” notwithstanding, it is difficult to clearly peg de Lubac as supportive of the “two natures thesis” which he and others are said to have advocated. I do think it likely that Pius XII has the “two natures” thesis in mind in Humani Generis; the primary concern being to block the idea that the gift of participation in the divine life is somehow “due” to nature, rather than entirely gratuitous (which, if the Beatific Vision were somehow a “natural” desire, it would be “due” to human nature given the scholastic philosophical dictum that no “natural” desire goes unfulfilled).

    Now I believe Gilson wrote to de Lubac, explaining that the two natures thesis was based on a mis-interpretation of St. Thomas’ position initiated by Cajetan; and it is hard to tell the degree to which de Lubac took Gilson’s comments to heart. Gilson maintained that what St. Thomas teaches is that the natural “desire” for God (Augustine’s “restless heart” notion) is a natural desire of the intellect and NOT the will, which is where Cajetan mistakenly (according to Gilson) located that desire (a mistake easily made, since “desire” is normally equated with the appetitive faculties of the soul, the will being the appetitive faculty of the higher part of the soul). The question then becomes, what can be meant by “intellectual” desire, or what object of intellectual desire does the intellect “naturally” desire?

    I think Gilson is clearly correct. If you read the Summa (Part 1 of the Second Part – QQ 1-5), you find St. Thomas arguing that man’s ultimate happiness cannot consist in external goods, bodily, goods, pleasure, etc. He ends up maintaining that the Bonum Perfectum must be some good possessed by the soul (but the soul cannot be that good itself; rather, the soul is the possessor of the perfect good). He then argues that the will cannot be that faculty of the higher soul which possesses the good, for the will is that faculty which pursues the good and delights in the good once the soul is in possession of the good. St. Thomas explains that the intellect must actually possesses the Final Good (for, in a way, the intellect can become all things) which the will pursues and ultimately rests upon through love and delight. Moreover, the Final Good possessed, cannot be in the “practical” intellect which knows the useful good. For the Bonum Perfectum cannot be a good which is “used” for some other end, since it just is that End for which all other goods are used. Hence, the final object of man’s happiness must be something that resides in the “speculative” intellect, where man, in a way, “becomes all things”.

    Thomas explains that the speculative intellect “naturally” has something akin to “desire”; for it seeks, from the very beginning of a child’s life, to know causes through effects – it begins in “wonder” (which Aristotle and Thomas affirm as the beginning of philosophy). Hence, the intellect “naturally” desires to know all things, and specifically the causes of all things. When man sees some effect, he wishes to explain/grasp its cause. When he grasps a cause, if it is not self-explanatory (as no cause but God can be), he seeks further causes which explain. And this “natural” drive of the intellect upward (or backward) through effects to causes, never stops until it grasps the cause or causes of the whole cosmos.

    Now here is a crucial point for the question at hand. When the intellect, through its natural desire to know, reaches knowledge of the First Cause of all temporal and finite effects (the peak of metaphysics); it has reached the end of its natural ability to know (the limits of natural reason). HOWEVER, the intellect does not come to rest with such knowledge. It still retains a desire to know the First Cause more intimately. But given finite effects as its only available resource set, the intellect simply cannot satisfy this further desire, nor can the intellect see or think how this desire to know the First Cause more intimately could ever be fulfilled. The point is quite subtle. The intellect does NOT have a “natural” desire for the Beatific Vision; because, given its limitation to knowledge through finite effects, it knows nothing of the Beatific Vision as a reality or an attainable possibility.

    Naturally speaking, the intellect (natural reason) desires to know all that can be known. The intellect has a “natural” open-ended posture or disposition which, IF it naturally knew about the Beatific Vision and its possible attainment, would entail that a desire for the Beatific Vision is “natural” to man, and therefore due to him by nature as a consequence. But the intellect does NOT, by nature, know anything about the BV; therefore, the BV is not due to the intellect by nature. That is why Bryan is correct when he writes:

    “We have no “innate” desire for what is supernatural (i.e. above our nature)”

    We have no idea (based on nature alone) that the supernatural is attainable. And that is why it is correct to say that the highest end of man, absent elevation by supernatural grace, is knowledge and love of God as First Cause (Unmoved Mover, Actus Purus, Ipsum Esse Subsistens) of all finite things (effects). Any further knowledge of God beyond natural theology would necessarily have to entail some addition to what can be known by human nature, left to its own resources. This, I think, is what Pius XII (and Prof. Feingold, and the Catholic Tradition, etc) want to keep clear.

    But again, there is a subtle caveat which I think creates much of the confusion. St. Thomas seems to teach that the natural speculative intellect DOES have a desire to know the First Cause in some more intimate way. This is why there is a certain sobriety, or sigh, or mild disappointment, associated with Aristotle’s discovery of the Prime Mover, and with the natural limits of the intellect in general. There is a remainder of unfulfilled intellectual desire. The intellect gropes, not knowing how these further longings might be fulfilled. Here is the take-home point:

    Hence, according to St. Thomas, it is true to say that the intellect naturally desires MORE than knowledge of the First Cause through effects; but it is NOT true to say that the intellect naturally desires the Beatific Vision. For nature, left to itself, knows nothing of this reality or its possibility.

    I think the nuance of this point explains why there has been confusion on the issue.

    That St. Thomas thinks this way is, IMO, further supported by the line of argument which St. Thomas continues after explaining that the intellect naturally remains restless, even after achieving knowledge of God through effects. He upholds the position that further knowledge of God (beyond natural theology) can only be attained by the addition of something above nature. For, he explains that knowledge of the Beatific Vision only comes to the intellect through supernatural revelation (informing the intellect of a possibility which reason alone could not know); and that the possibility of attainment of the Beatific Vision comes only through grace infused into the human soul (the addition of a new capacity to the soul which acts as the seed for the BV).

    But, he then reaffirms, in the very context of faith, the natural drive of the intellect to know all that can be known (its natural disposition of openness to the “More”), by noting that the knowledge which the intellect gains through Faith, only inflames the intellect to know God more intimately still; for, even the knowledge of faith is a mediated knowledge of God (we see through a mirror darkly); and this very knowledge, revealed to the natural intellect through divine revelation, causes the intellect to pine for that unmediated direct knowledge of God which faith presents as the true Bonum Perfectum: that Final Good which reason alone could never have guessed at, or hoped for.

    So I think the true solution comes down to this. The intellect has no natural desire for the BV per se, because it knows nothing of its nature or possibility of attainment. In this way, the BV, is in no way “due” to human nature, and remains entirely gratuitous. That is why the “two natures” thesis is wrong. However, there is a sense in which human nature is disposed for grace and the BV (though it cannot properly “desire” it for the reasons I gave). And that is because the intellect has a natural “openness” and desire to know all that can be known. A groping which leads, given its natural resources, to knowledge of God as First Cause. Yet, after achieving the height of natural knowledge of God, that openness (or natural desire) continues as a sort of blind groping for “it knows not what”. The soul, one might say, is, by nature, “fitted/disposed for grace”, but it has no natural knowledge of the possibility of its elevation. This is why Aristotle seems to think that the pinnacle of human happiness entails a life with the necessary resources and leisure to reach the heights of philosophy shared with wise friends. Being an honest philosopher, limited to the resources of nature (having no access to Revelation), he could not securely reach knowledge of any further possibility.

    Yet even after revelation, that natural groping of the intellect only intensifies when the light of revelation falls upon it and partly removes its blindness. For then the intellect begins to ardently desires that unmediated possession of the Good promised by revelation. That, I take it, is what Bryan meant when he wrote:

    “But by grace we have a desire to know God as He knows Himself, and this points to the possibility of the beatific vision.”

    So then, grace enlightens that blind groping which naturally remains in the intellect even after achieving knowledge of God as First Cause. By grace, the intellect now desires to know God as he knows Himself, because revelation has made both this End (BV), and the means to attain it (perseverance in sanctifying grace) known to the intellect.

    But it remains true that while the intellect has no natural desire for the BV per se, the intellect does has a natural desire, or drive, to know God to the maximum degree that God can be known. Its just that knowledge of the BV is only known through the gratuitous order of grace. But once it is known, that same natural drive of the intellect to know God to the greatest degree possible, propels it to seek the attainment of the Vision itself.

    That is how I think that Pius XII’s (and Prof. Feingold’s, and Bryan’s) concern to preserve the utter gratuity of the BV as a gift far exceeding nature or anything due to nature, can be reconciled with St. Augustine’s statement that the “Human heart remains restless until it rests in Thee”; and also how it can be reconciled with the statements in the CCC which seem to indicate a nascent (natural) desire for God:

    ”The desire for God is written in the human heart”

    and

    “This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being”

    and

    “the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it”

    Pax Christi!

    Ray

  71. Hi Ray. I hope you, and all contributors and readers of CtC, had a merry and holy Christmas.

    Your last comment provides a coverage of the intellectual side as thorough as it can be. My only observation is that the ultimate aspiration of man – whether of natural or supernatural origin – is not only enjoying the absolute fullness of truth, but also the absolute fullness of good. Which of course is also achieved in the BV, but my point is that I am not sure that the aspiration to union with the Absolute Good itself is purely intellectual.

    And my source for the previous paragraph is John Paul II’s “Crossing the threshold of hope”, ch 12. Which, although not being magisterial text, is surely worthy of consideration.

    Changing now to the topic of whether the desire for the BV is of natural or supernatural origin, I think I found support for Pius XII’s point in paragraph #2 of Vatican II’s “Lumen Gentium”. (And you can blame my roman catholicism for this, but in my case a line from an Ecumenical Council’s Dogmatic Constitution weighs far more than a book from a philosopher.)

    The ethernal Father, by a most free and hidden design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole world, decreed to raise men to the participation of the divine life, after they had fallen in Adam did not abandon them, but always gave them his help for salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer…

    Aeternus Pater, liberrimo et arcano sapientiae ac bonitatis suae consilio, mundum universum creavit, homines ad participandam vitam divinam elevare decrevit, eosque lapsos in Adamo non dereliquit, semper eis auxilia ad salutem praebens, intuitu Christi, Redemptoris…

    L’eterno Padre, con liberissimo e arcano disegno di sapienza e di bontà, creò l’universo; decise di elevare gli uomini alla partecipazione della sua vita divina; dopo la loro caduta in Adamo non li abbandonò, ma sempre prestò loro gli aiuti per salvarsi, in considerazione di Cristo redentore…

    IMV, the most natural and easiest reading of this text is that the divine decision to raise men to the participation of divine life was independent of men’s creation, i.e. Pius XII’s “thomist” or “extrinsicist” position that grace is not due to nature. Thus, the Lord could have just not decreed to raise men to participation of divine life and leave them in a state of pure nature, with the prospect of achieving a purely natural happiness, certainly less than the BV but still true happiness.

    In contrast, those those who adhere to de Lubac’s position would need to posit that “the whole world” in the text does not include man, and that the decree “to raise men to the participation of the divine life” is included in the divine decision to create man as an intelligent being. IMHO the latter reading of the text looks more unnatural and forced than the former, though not impossible.

    Now, how could it be that undisputably orthodox RC theologians still take de Lubac’s position into serious consideration, as can be seen in this article written on de Lubac’s death by Avery Cardinal Dulles?

    For a possible way to see that, let’s recall Human Generis’ statement:

    Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.

    There are two truths being affirmed here:

    1. The supernatural order, the calling to participation in divine life and the beatific vision, is gratuitous, is “grace”.

    2. The statement that “God cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision” is incompatible with 1.

    To the best of my knowledge, truth 1 is of a much higher hierarchy than truth 2, even possibly belonging to divine deposit of faith. So, I start with unconditionally affirming truth 1.

    Switching now and for the rest of the comment to purely hypothetical thinking, pure mental exercise mode, how could truth 1 be compatible with the concept of the gift of participation of divine life and beatific vision being “due” to nature? By having in mind that the gift of nature is also gratuitous! Thus the divine calling to man to the fullness of being, of truth and good, consists of two stages, which, in the “integralist” position, should not be artificially separated as if stage 1 could be complete in and of itself:

    1. God gratuitously gives nature, without asking for man’s consent.

    2. God gratuitously offers grace, and man has to accept and receive it.

    To note, I did this hypothetical thinking not to defend myself the integralist position, as I am personally quite comfortable with the extrinsicist position, but to allow for a way of viewing the RC “orthodox” theological landscape that does not lead to the conclusion that its situation is “that” bad.

  72. Johannes, (re: #71),

    You wrote:

    how could truth 1 be compatible with the concept of the gift of participation of divine life and beatific vision being “due” to nature? By having in mind that the gift of nature is also gratuitous!

    The gratuity of nature would not make supernatural grace due to nature. Reducing the gratuity of grace to the gratuity of nature eliminates grace as such, even while it retains the gratuity of nature. For example, saying “Even though grace is due to nature, grace is still ultimately gratuitous because nature is gratuitous” eliminates grace as “doubly gratuitous.”

    On the distinction between the gratuity of nature and the gratuity of grace (which is “doubly gratuitous”), I recommend Prof. Feingold’s lecture on sanctifying grace (see here), starting in the 25th minute. My post above also describes the theological consequences of eliminating the distinction between grace and nature.

    I should also add that the combox here is not intended for Catholic theological speculation, but primarily for dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Johannes and Bryan:

    Between the end of the “Modernist” controversy and the start of Vatican II, debate between neo-scholastics whom de Lubac dubbed “extrinsicists,” and those more sympathetic to the nouvelle theologie of de Lubac et al. was sharp, even bitter. Despite general agreement that there has never been such a state as that of “pure nature” (as distinct from nature-cum-grace), the question whether there could be such a state exercised Catholic theologians mightily. Yet the question seems intensely speculative. So, whence the bitterness? And how did the bitterness eventually dissipate? The answers are of general interest to Christians able to follow them, such as those who read this site.

    The bitterness derived from two sources. First, according to de Lubac and certain other nouvelle theologians influenced by patristic thought, God could not, consistently with his justice, create the “rational” beings we know of without elevating them to a share in his life. For reasons beyond my scope here, such beings would be forever doomed to not achieving their inherent telos—a result that would be irrational as well as unjust. But God must, and always does, act reasonably and justly; therefore, he owes it to himself to elevate any rational beings he creates. Grace is thus rational creatures’ “due.” The neo-scholastics rightly rejected that conclusion, because it denies the gratuitousness of grace as such. This issue goes back at least to the time of the Reformation; see, e.g., the condemnation of Michel de Bay in 1567 by Pope Pius V.

    But there was an interesting defense available to de Lubac and his cohort. They could concede that the concept of “rational” creaturehood does not itself require grace as telos, without thereby having to concede that the species of rational creature we know about, such as ourselves, could live well in a state of pure nature. Thus it is hypothetically necessary for God to elevate us, but not absolutely necessary for him to elevate any and every rational creature. Given the kind of rational creature God created us to be, and God’s eternal decree befitting that kind, there can be no state of pure nature for us, but there could be for other sorts of rational creatures whom God could and may have created. It was this defense, I believe, that led John Paul II to affirm de Lubac’s orthodoxy and decide to bestow the red hat on him.

    Even so, the purebred neo-scholastics objected and still object. And that brings me to the second source of the bitterness. If we accept the above defense of de Lubac and the “instrinsicist” position generally, one logical consequence is that what’s usually called ‘limbo’—i.e., the limbus infantium posited by St. Thomas Aquinas—cannot be permanent. Not only has there never been a state of pure nature; there never will be either. There can be no everlasting state of “purely natural” happiness for “infants” (those who never achieved the age of reason) who die unbaptized—the conception of limbo St. Thomas introduced, and which became the standard view among Catholics for centuries thereafter, right up until Vatican II. So if there is a limbo for such people at all, it can only be a temporary facsimile of natural happiness bestowed by grace, rather than the real, permanent thing. The majority of contemporary, orthodox Catholic theologians today are willing to accept that conclusion—including the previous and the present pope. That’s what has dissipated the bitterness. But its ramifications are far from being worked out. And many traditionalists reject it, believing that it undermines the dogma of the necessity of baptism for salvation.

    I believe that, for the longer term, a satisfying solution can only come by getting clearer about the concept of the rational soul. If such souls are naturally and thus necessarily immortal, then the moderate “intrinsicist” position seems to me correct. But that’s just my opinion, and off the main point of this thread. The issue might be worth exploring in another post.

    Best,
    Mike

  74. In various places especially on the internet, I have observed Catholics making the following kind of argument. Catholic leader (e.g. bishop, priest, theologian, celebrity, or author) x is orthodox. He holds position y, or engages in practice z. [Or: He held position y or engaged in practice z until his death, and the Church never condemned him for holding y or practicing z.] Neither y nor z have ever been formally condemned, and neither ~y nor ~z has been formally defined. Therefore we should view position y / practice z as not contrary to the received Tradition, as entirely faithful to the Tradition, or at least as a legitimate orthodox Catholic option.

    I think caution is due when using this argument, because the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Not all the authoritative Tradition has been formally defined, and not all deviations from the authoritative Tradition have been formally condemned. Nor does the Church’s non-action with regard to position y or practice z constitute an implicit endorsement or y or z, especially if the position or practice has been around only a relatively short time [think in Ent terms], or is held only by relatively few, and especially if it is held tentatively or as a mere possibility. Even the Church’s positive statements or actions toward x do not necessarily constitute an official Church endorsement of all his positions and/or practices, and do not thereby indicate that y or z are authentic developments of the Tradition.

    The argument can be shown to be invalid by observing that there are cases in Church history in which the premises are true and the conclusion is false. Otherwise, for any position or practice not previously formally condemned, its adoption by a Catholic leader would entail its orthodoxy. In that case no Catholic leader could even possibly hold a theological error that had not been previously condemned. But in Church history, it is precisely this sort of scenario that typically leads to the Church’s condemnation of a position, namely, some Catholic leader adopts it, and eventually the Church gets around to condemning it. Of course it might not be condemned; in fact it might be an authentic insight that the Church eventually formally incorporates into her definition of the deposit.

    But we haven’t evolved past the era in which non-previously-condemned errors are occasionally adopted by certain Catholic leaders, and then later these errors are subsequently condemned. We’re still in Church history. That is why the mere fact that Catholic leader x holds position y or practices z, does not show that y and z are authentic developments of Catholic Tradition. And therefore this argument should not be used to show the legitimacy or authenticity of novel positions or practices, because the argument does not in fact show this. A Catholic leader being orthodox (so far as we know) in everything else, does not entail that his position y or practice z is an authentic or legitimate theological option in keeping with the Tradition. A Catholic leader does not have to be wrong about many things in order to be wrong about one thing.

  75. Bryan (#74):

    As a general critique, your admonition is of course sound. But if it’s directed at my previous comment in particular, I believe it’s misdirected.

    I do not argue, deductively, that “moderate intrinsicism” (MI) is orthodox because the last few popes, and the majority of contemporary theologicans, consider MI orthodox. You’re right that such an argument would be deductively invalid. Rather, I offer their views as one bit of evidence that MI is orthodox; a fuller argument would require substantially more evidence converging on the conclusion. But “sauce for the goose” and all that: precisely because there is no “definitive” teaching on the matter at hand, the neo-scholastic view standard since St. Thomas could also be wrong. This is where I disagree with the traditionalists and agree with Ratzinger.

    Thus, e.g., when St. Thomas introduced the idea of limbo as a permanent state of purely natural happiness, it was a “novelty” relative to the centuries-old Augustinian view that infants who die unbaptized go to hell, albeit to suffer the “mildest” of punishments. But St. Thomas introduced the thesis of limbo precisely because the notion that there could be such a thing as “mild” everlasting punishment of those who had never committed an actual sin struck him and as many of his contemporaries as wrong–certainly as not required by the Catholic faith. Similarly, St. Thomas’ notion that there could be a state of everlasting but purely natural happiness (for infants who die unbaptized, or for anybody else) strikes me as a theological “epicycle” designed to preserve a particular interpretation of the dogma of the necessity of baptism for salvation. But I’m prepared to argue that that interpretation is not, itself, required by the Catholic faith. Hence there’s no need to posit, for its defense, yet another state in the afterlife.

    Of course I may have misidentified your real concern. Perhaps we could hash this out in another thread, or in private correspondence.

    Best,
    Mike

  76. Mike,

    I had written my #74 before you posted your #73; it wasn’t a response to your #73.

    As for your #73, it seems to me that whether certain interlocutors are “purebred” or ill-bred doesn’t change anything about the soundness of their arguments, though the use of such terms might certainly contribute to a predisposition on the part of readers to be less open or favorably disposed to their arguments.

    But there was an interesting defense available to de Lubac and his cohort. They could concede that the concept of “rational” creaturehood does not itself require grace as telos, without thereby having to concede that the species of rational creature we know about, such as ourselves, could live well in a state of pure nature.

    I think there are multiple problems with this thesis. This isn’t the place to discuss them (see #72), and I don’t have time to discuss them. But you can find some of the problems spelled out in pages 295-392 of The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters. And from a philosophical point of view there are more problems with it as well (not included in that section of the book), that I’d be glad to discuss when I have the time.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. Thanks for the reference, Bryan. I’ll have to add Feingold’s book to my ever-growing wish list.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  78. Since from Brian’s #76 I learned that his #74 was a response to my post, I want to state that I fully agree with what Brian said in #74.

    And in case my #71 gets misinterpreted, I repeat that both Humani Generis #26 in an explicit way, and Lumen Gentium #2 in its easiest and most natural interpretation, point to the thomist “extrinsicist” position as the only correct one.

    And clearly a statement in an encyclical, not to mention one in an ecumenical council’s dogmatic constitution, trumps by far the granting of the purple to a theologian.

  79. Mike,

    Yes, I highly recommend the book. Just to clarify, no pope as pope has endorsed the notion that man apart from grace, and distinct from created rationality per se, has a supernatural end imprinted on his nature.

    As I have explained in the post, being naturally ordered to a supernatural end is proper only to that which is divine by nature. But necessarily, only One is divine by nature, for necessarily God is one. Since created rationality per se is not ordered to a supernatural end, then in the case of human nature, whatever is added to make humans ordered to a supernatural end can only be a participation in the divine nature. But that is just what grace is. Nothing other than grace can be added to a created rational nature to make that nature ordered to a supernatural end.

    The notion that there could be a purely natural happiness was not because mild everlasting punishment “struck” St. Thomas as wrong, as though this notion were the product of a gut-level seat-of-the-pants intuition. It follows necessarily from the fact that being ordered by nature to a supernatural end is possible only for that which is divine by nature, and therefore that grace is doubly gratuitous, and not due to man. And that grace is doubly gratuitous is something the Church has held all along.

    In 1567 Pope St. Pius V condemned Baius’s claim that “The sublimation of human nature and its elevation to participation in the divine nature was due to the integrity of the human being in its first state, and is therefore to be called natural, not supernatural.” (DS 1921) And Pope Clement XI later condemned the following Jansenist position taught by Quesnel, “The grace of Adam is a consequence of creation and was due to his whole and sound nature.” (DS 1385) And Pope Pius VI also condemned this position in the bull Auctorem fidei, in which he wrote, “The doctrine of the [Jansenist] synod about the state of happy innocence … insofar … as it intimates that that state was a consequence of creation, due to man from the natural exigency and condition of human nature, not a gratuitous gift of God, is false, elsewhere condemned in Baius and in Quesnel, erroneous, favorable to the Pelagian heresy.” (DS 1516) What was condemned in these cases is the notion that grace (and hence a fortiori the beatific vision) is necessarily due to man by nature, and what is being preserved by the Magisterium in these cases is the truth that grace (and hence a fortiori the beatific vision) is doubly-gratuitous, and not just gratuitous to an abstract created rationality, but to human nature.

    Concerning the error of modernism, Pope Pius X wrote:

    Those who hear these audacious, these sacrilegious assertions, are simply shocked! And yet, Venerable Brethren, these are not merely the foolish babblings of infidels. There are many Catholics, yea, and priests too, who say these things openly; and they boast that they are going to reform the Church by these ravings! There is no question now of the old error, by which a sort of right to the supernatural order was claimed for the human nature. We have gone far beyond that: we have reached the point when it is affirmed that our most holy religion, in the man Christ as in us, emanated from nature spontaneously and entirely. Than this there is surely nothing more destructive of the whole supernatural order. …

    There are also subjective ones at the disposal of the Modernists, and for those they return to their doctrine of immanence. They endeavour, in fact, to persuade their non-believer that down in the very deeps of his nature and his life lie the need and the desire for religion, and this not a religion of any kind, but the specific religion known as Catholicism, which, they say, is absolutely postulated by the perfect development of life. And here We cannot but deplore once more, and grievously, that there are Catholics who, while rejecting immanence as a doctrine, employ it as a method of apologetics, and who do this so imprudently that they seem to admit that there is in human nature a true and rigorous necessity with regard to the supernatural order – and not merely a capacity and a suitability for the supernatural, such as has at all times been emphasized by Catholic apologists. (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 10, 37)[bolding is mine]

    The double gratuity of grace is also what Pope Pius XII is preserving in Humani generis when he writes, “Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create beings endowed with intellect without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.” Pope Pius XII wasn’t seeking merely to preserve the doubly-gratuitous character of grace for abstract created rationality per se; he was seeking to preserve the doubly-gratuitous character of grace for man. But the doubly-gratuitous character of both grace and the beatific vision entails that a natural beatitude is a theoretical possibility for humans (though of course not necessarily an actuality). Grace would not be doubly gratuitous if man as such (not sinful man) would be forever frustrated or unhappy without it; grace would be owed to man for the fulfillment of his nature, the way air is due to man if he is to fulfill his nature. The notion that man apart from grace, and distinct from created rationality per se, has a supernatural end imprinted on his nature makes the supernatural natural to man, and that destroys the distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Grace, however, as a participation in the divine nature, preserves the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and thus preserves the Creator-creature distinction.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  80. Dr. Lane G. Tipton, Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, criticizes the Catholic theological distinction between nature and grace in a podcast at the Reformed Forum titled “Nature/Grace Dualism.”

    Dr. Lane Tipton (Westminster Theological Seminary) “Nature/Grace Dualism”

  81. Bryan,

    I would like to have your help with something that is disturbing me. There are other religions who believe in “a” God, but don’t recognize the trinity or Jesus Christ, yet they also have a supernatural end and are, as far as they know, worshiping the true God and conforming their lives to the moral law, so does Catholicism recognize them as participants in the divine nature and will they go to heaven even though they do not profess love and fidelity to Jesus Christ or His one holy apostolic church?

    Thank You,
    Susan

  82. Hello Susan, (re: #81)

    See comment #7 in the “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Unity of the Church” thread, and comment #239 in the “From Calvin to the Barque of Peter” thread, and comment #68 and comment #75 in the “Some Thoughts Concerning Michael Horton’s Three Recent Articles” thread.

    Let’s try to keep this thread on the topic of nature and grace.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  83. Here’s a Catholic perspective on the comments by Westminster Theological Seminary professor Lane Tipton, and Camden Bucey in the podcast linked in comment #80 regarding the subject of nature and grace. The discussion of the Catholic understanding of nature and grace extends from minute 8 (8′) to minute 32 (32′). They then go into theological methodology, and apologetic and 2K implications, which I won’t discuss here.

    Much of their discussion is merely descriptive, but some of it is evaluative.

    8′ – 10′ According to Tipton, in traditional Reformed theology, man is subjected to God’s supernatural verbal revelation from the very outset of his consciousness. Man from the outset is designed to function in subordination to God’s special revelation. It is abnormal or sinful for man to think or reason apart from special revelation. For Catholics, claims Tipton, it is perfectly appropriate for Adam to reason about the world based solely on nature, without his reason being aided by supernatural verbal revelation. Man is created in such a way that he operates in the natural order properly, without supernatural revelation.

    Tipton is right that according to Catholic theology, prior to the fall man had been created in such a way that he could operate in the natural order properly without supernatural revelation. Tipton does not present any criticism of that Catholic teaching. But it is not clear whether he thinks that the Catholic idea is that when special revelation had been given, it would have been morally permissible for Adam to disregard it. That, however, is not the Catholic position.

    A Catholic critique of Tipton’s position is that it treats what is gratuitous (i.e. special revelation) as essential to man: “it is abnormal or sinful to think or reason apart from special revelation.” If by “it is abnormal or sinful to think or reason apart from special revelation” he means that it is sinful to disobey special revelation once it is given and known to be given, then that’s fully in agreement with the Catholic position. But if he means that when God made man, God was obligated to provide special revelation, because otherwise man would have been defective, or that God cannot make a rational creature that does not need special revelation in order not to be defective, then Tipton is conflating grace and nature, and thereby (implicitly) denying the Creator-creature distinction, as explained in the article and comments above. And that’s what is most problematic with the denial of the nature-grace distinction.

    11′This is a problem with Catholic theology, Tipton claims, that "the covenantal special revelation of God from the outset is not necessary for a proper understanding of the world and a proper relationship to God." This claim depends on what he means by "proper relationship to God." If he means a relationship of grace and agape, then the claim is false. But if he means merely knowing and loving God as Creator, then the claim is true.

    14′ – 15′ Here he says that this nature-grace distinction creates a “blockhouse mentality” (from Van Til), in which the first story of the house is establishing some probability that God exists, and the second story of the house is showing the truth of Christianity. Then Bucey says:

    “It is suspicious when a Christian apologist can create defense for the existence of God and share that defense with a Muslim or a Jew. What God are we defending if we are defending some bare unity? What in the world does that have to do with the biblical God?

    The fact that God is Three Persons does not mean that God is not One. Arguments showing that God is One can be sound arguments, and affirmed as such both by those who recognize that God is three Persons, and by those who recognize that God is one but deny that God is three Persons.

    16′ Tipton claims that the person has become convinced that theism is true, but has not accepted the truth of Christianity, has moved to a position of “supernatural idolatry.” According to Tipton, both atheists and [mere] theists are going to suffer eternally, separated from the triune God, because they have rejected His revelation in the Son of God and in the Scriptures. Of course another possibility is that they have to believe the truth that God exists, and is one. But they have not yet come to see the motives of credibility regarding Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity. So it is presumption to assume that they are idolators, just as Cornelius was not an idolator even though he had not yet learned the good news concerning Christ.

    17′ Tipton claims that the nature-grace distinction “enshrines autonomy as a virtue.” “You are virtuous if you are thinking autonomously and without supernatural revelation, and operating in terms of reason alone, because that’s the way humans were designed to reason.” That a misrepresentation of the Catholic position. Just because a person is thinking without supernatural revelation, does not make a person virtuous. Nor is “autonomy” a virtue. But if a person could not cook his meals or wipe his nose without God telling him how to do so and when to do so, that would be a defect on the part of man, because God gave reason to man so that man could image God in part by governing the domain entrusted to him as steward. The purpose of special revelation is not to supplant human reason, such that man must be told everything to do, but to reveal God to man for the purpose of a union of friendship between God and man, as Father and adopted sons and daughters. Moreover, humans were designed not only to be able to use their reason on the natural order, but also to be capable of receiving grace and special revelation, for a supernatural union with God.

    18′ – 25′ Tipton claims that in Catholic doctrine, concupiscence is ‘the natural drag’ that a body places on the soul. (I discussed that in comments #41 and #43 of “A Reply To R.C. Sproul.”) Then he says that because in Catholic doctrine, human nature itself was not corrupted by the fall, this is a “low view of sin.” The problem with that claim is that Tipton’s standard for ‘low,’ ‘correct,’ and ‘high’ is Tipton’s interpretation of Scripture. “Low view of sin” turns out to be, given the sola scriptura interpretive framework, any view of sin having fewer negative consequences than one’s own. So it is important to establish the standard of orthodoxy by which what is an orthodox doctrine of sin is rightly distinguished from a heterodox doctrine of sin. In the Catholic paradigm, that standard is the Church’s interpretation of Scripture as informed by the Tradition. In the Protestant paradigm, that standard is the interpretation held by the particular group of persons to which one belongs at that time, the group brought together by sharing that interpretation of Scripture.

    Tipton treats the preternatural gift of integrity as the supernatural gift of grace and righteousness. But the more serious mistake he makes here is claiming that the superadded gift failed, because it allowed Adam to sin. He says, “What accounts for the fact that concupiscence got the best of Adam?” The only answer, claims Tipton, is that this superadded gift did not supply sufficient grace. It was not sufficient to overcome the problem of concupiscence.” Because the superadded gift did not prevent Adam’s sin, therefore, thinks Tipton, the Catholic position makes God responsible for Adam’s sin. The reason why Adam sinned, claims Tipton, starts to reside in some lack in the superadded grace, rather than a problem that lies in Adam. “That’s how the fall happened; at the end of the day, that’s how man was made.”

    This is a strange criticism, coming from a Calvinist who believes that the heart of a man is in the hand of the Lord, who can turn it whatever way He will. He’s in no position to be criticizing the Catholic doctrine of implying that God didn’t do enough to prevent the fall, because in Calvinism, the very same thing could be said of God. But Tipton also misunderstands the Catholic position. Tipton thinks that in Catholic doctrine, concupiscence was responsible for Adam’s sin. But in Catholic doctrine Adam had no concupiscence before the fall, because he had the preternatural gift of integrity by which his lower appetites were ordered to his reason. He lost that preternatural gift of integrity only after he sinned, not before he sinned. (See Summa Theologica II-I Q.82 a.3) So the cause of the fall of Adam was not some deficiency of grace, but Adam’s free will. Tipton makes it seem that in Catholic doctrine, Adam wouldn’t have fallen had it not been for concupiscence. But here he forgets the angels. Some significant portion of the angels sinned, but they did so without concupiscence, not having bodies. Their sin, like Adam and Eve’s was by their own free choice. So concupiscence was not necessary for sin, or the cause of Adam and Eve’s sin.

    29′ Here Tipton claims that in Catholic doctrine, grace is “automatically and mechanically communicated through the instrumentality of the sacraments … the grace of Christ is infused into you regardless of your disposition, whether or not you have faith is irrelevant.” That, however, is not true, as I showed in comment #22 of “Sacramental Graces and Practical Apostasy.”

    The rest of the podcast is about theological method and some other claimed implications of the nature-grace distinction, involving ‘neutrality,’ and Scripture and Tradition, and 2K theology. All that would be off-topic for this thread.

  84. [...] why the forgiveness and salvation He brings are so good. Because the head of the human race, Adam, fell from grace and friendship with God in the beginning because of his disobedience, the rest of humanity is also [...]

  85. Though Dr Cross’ comment #79 provides IMV adequate closure to the issue, those still interested in the “extrinsicist vs Lubacian” controversy might want to read a doctoral dissertation by Fr Matthew Bernard Mulcahy on the subject, available here:

    http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/digitaltheses/public/adt-acuvp238.11012011/index.html

    I found it particularly useful because its approach to the issue is far different from Feingold’s. While Feingold’s approach is mostly “intra-thomist”, i.e. he aims to show that the commentators’ tradition was faithful to St Thomas’ original thought, Fr Mulcahy takes a broader perspective, examining e.g. the position of early Church Fathers on the subject and the (good) spiritual consequences of the thomist position. He even shows that de Lubac’s reading of French history that at least reinforced his rejection of the extrinsicist position was incorrect.

  86. Bryan,

    You wrote, “For obedience ordered to a supernatural end grace is necessary, and for perseverance in that grace, grace upon grace is necessary.”

    This is an elementary Catholic 101 type of question, but why is “grace upon grace” necessary for perseverance in sanctifying grace? By “grace upon grace”, do you mean good works meriting participation in that habitual grace, or do you mean partaking of the sacraments?

    –Christie

  87. Christie (re: #86)

    “Grace upon grace” is necessary for perseverance in sanctifying grace because the gift of sanctifying grace is not identical to the gift of perseverance. Otherwise dying in mortal sin after justification would be impossible. The gift of perseverance is thus an additional grace beyond sanctifying grace, and we should pray daily for this gift. The gift of perseverance is an additional grace because it does not belong to us by nature (i.e. by our human nature) to persevere in grace. For this reason our perseverance in grace is itself a gift of grace, beyond what we can effect by our own natural powers. By “grace upon grace” I simply mean receiving an additional grace beyond the sanctifying grace already received.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  88. Last week at the Association of Hebrew Catholics, Lawrence Feingold of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary gave a lecture titled “Two Orders of Knowledge About God,” in which he explained the distinction between natural knowledge of God and supernatural knowledge of God. The audio of the lecture (and Q&A) is available here, and the handout in pdf form is available here.

  89. […] partake of His divine nature through union with Him. This union is more than merely extrinsic; it is ontological. He is in us and we share in His very […]

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