Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sufficient Grace

A reader (!) asks, "If we accept that man's cooperation with sufficient grace always remains in potency if he is not given an efficacious grace how, then, can we understand man's culpability in resisting sufficient grace when no efficacious grace to cooperate with it is granted?"

Hmmm, good question, and certainly a classic! What sort of guilt (culpa) is there in those who could not cooperate with grace? 

Take first the example of the unbaptized baby. Until regenerated, the infant bears the culpa of original sin, and is subject to that sin's poena, punishment. Yet the child has no personal sins, no personal sins to be punished. (Hence Limbo, with its perfect natural happiness apart from supernatural beatitude. Here we have culpability without positive punishment, it seems to me.)

Second, what about the sinner, the person whose deeds have been evil, who does not receive the efficacious grace to cooperate with God? I'm not sure it's precisely the lack of cooperation that is culpable. (I'll have to check and see how the Church treats this!) I'll guess, for the moment, that our best course is to think about people who don't receive the actual efficacious grace to cooperate in the same way that we think of divine reprobation: God withholds supernatural assistance from them as a punishment for actual sins. It's their (our) malice, uncharity, and sloth that cause guilt and justify punishment -- not the mere lack of cooperation, and still less the lack of operative grace.

This has got to be one of the murkiest parts of theology. It would be easier if semi-Pelagianism were true, and there were no predestination. All this requires more thought.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


My copy of Flynn & Murray's Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology arrived. It's fat, at least, which makes its $105 price tag slightly less appalling. It's hard to say whether this is appropriate reading for the Triduum Sacrum, which starts tomorrow, but here I go. I will use this space to take notes, with a view to writing something more substantial later on. 

The ressourcement (return to sources) is often named as the more conservative movement in 20th C. theology, especially at and after Vatican II, it's opposite number being aggiornamento (updating, adapting "to today"). I'm not sure what "conservative" means here. Though this book may teach me otherwise, my impression to date is that ressourcement was a revolutionary movement, a return that involved jumping over the heritage that was actually handed down in favor of an historical reconstruction. 

Something tells me my reading of Nicolás Gómez Dávila (the Colombian philosopher) will be helpful in dealing with ressourcement and "historical" theology. History is a young discipline, and theologians are in love with it -- perhaps as they were once in love with philosophy? Gómez Dávila warns always against solutions and reforms: it is not he, the reactionary, who thinks a return to the past will solve things; instead the reactionary seeks shade from current madness, is skeptical but not hopeless, and waits on divine deliverance while he lives and works against fraud, intellectual dishonesty, and barbarism.

I like NGD more and more.