Zanchi on Union with God

What does Paul mean in Ephesians 3:19 when he says “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God?” Girolamo Zanchi, in his Commentary on Ephesians, interprets Paul to mean that believers are partakers of the divine nature, a participation which depends upon one understanding “the mysteries of piety and its causes, that is, by understanding the love of God in Christ toward us.” This is not a bare cognitive assent, however, but is combined with an experience [sentio] of the love of God within one’s “inner man” by means of grace. Zanchi, like Aquinas, considers union with God to occur primarily through a certain created likeness of God within the soul, or in other words, a renewal of the image of God in the soul by means of certain infused qualities (i.e., wisdom, righteousness, etc.). He explains what it means to be “filled with the fulness of God”:

Translation: Girolamo Zanchi on Ephesians 3:19

By what, then, do we become strong? By a power and virtue, not human, but divine. So, [Paul] says, “that you may be strengthened with power, that is, of God.” Therefore, all of the virtues are excited within us, they stand upright, and are nourished by the power [δυνάμει] and virtue of God, and these are really nothing other than a certain divine power created, excited, and inflamed through the Holy Spirit within us, by which [we are] good, strong, wise, righteous, and finally, we are such as God wants us to be, and by which we have the ability, whatever ability we have, [to be] good. This is the power [δυνάμιν] of God that Peter calls the divine nature: “That you may become (Peter says) partakers of the divine nature.” By the word “nature” here [Peter] means a created quality by which we become like God. Paul calls [it] grace: “By the grace of God I am what I am & his Grace in me was not vain” (1 Cor. 15).

Zanchi, In d. Pauli epistolam ad Ephesios Commentarius, 1594, p. 201.

Braine on de Lubac

While over at Theogothic  a survey of John Milbank’s take on Calvin is being presented I thought I would point everyone to a good critique of Henri de Lubac – this is pertinant since the Rady-O folks are heavily influenced by his interpretation of Thomas’s “natural desire” for the beatific vision. Although I am not an expert on de Lubac and his critics I do understand a few of the critiques from his RC brethren:  de Lubac reads Thomas through a Scotist lens and emphasizes will over intellect, he goes too far in his union of nature and grace – they almost seem identical, he confuses “nature” and “person” in a way that makes human nature liable to change.

David Braine offers a thorough assessment of these critiques and of de Lubac’s apparent mistakes. Braine notes that many of those who criticize Henri de Lubac’s interpretation of Thomas’s teaching in the Summa contra gentiles (3.LVII.iv), quod omnis intellectus naturaliter desiderat divinae substantiae visionem, every intellect has a natural desire for the vision of the divine substance, have not sought to clarify his definition of the word “nature.” Braine lays most of the blame for this misunderstanding upon de Lubac:

de Lubac did not have the gift of using analytical philosophy in the service of theology in the way exemplified in St. Thomas. He therefore makes the mistake of regarding human nature, if realized in an order of providence distinct from the actual order of providence within which we actually come into existence and live, as a specific difference between two natures which are only generically the same. Instead, maintaining the use of the term “nature,” or phusis, exemplified in Aristotelian and most later philosophical usage, he should have said that supernatural finality is something given to persons in virtue of a relation, rather than it gives them a distinct nature. (Braine, “The Debate Between Henri de Lubac and His Critics,” Nova et Vetera, Summer 2008, p. 552)

Where de Lubac spoke of a a supernatural finality “inscribed upon human nature” he should have said “inscribed upon human persons.” The reason for this is that human nature in its abstract philosophical sense is a definition of the quiddity (whatness) of the species “human.” It is not an essential characteristic of human nature that it have supernatural qualities. In his effort to prove that Suarez’s hypothetical world of pure nature never really existed he allows the pendulum to swing to the opposite extreme of confusing nature and the supernatural. Concerning the critique that de Lubac puts too much emphasis on the will in man’s supernatural calling, Braine agrees while being charitable to what he thinks was the essence of de Lubac’s argument:

When it is said that “the soul is naturally capable of grace,” we should say that it is the person as made with intellect and will, and thereby in the image of God, who is being said to be thus capable […] It is only by beginning from the recognition of the person as the primary subject of predication where human beings are concerned, and then by thinking of the soul as the human intellectual principle in the person, and by thinking of intellect and will as aspects of this principle, rather than as powers predicated of it, that we can avoid the idea of the natural desiderium for the vision of God as an exercise of the power called will, elicited by some logically prior exercise of the power called the intellect. (Ibid., p. 556.)

Braine agrees with de Lubac’s critique of Cajetan in the sense that the later considered the desire for the vision of God to be “natural” only secundum quid (in a certain way) and unnatural simpliciter. Braine notes that St. Thomas held the opposite opinion, using the word “natural” to refer not to some hypothetical world of pure nature but to God’s actual order of providence. Therefore, since the real world is the world that is ordered by God’s providence Thomas can say that the desire for the vision of God is natural. This means Thomas gives primacy to the theological perspective whereas Cajetan gives primacy to the natural. Thus, de Lubac is correct in critiquing the notion that man has two distinct ends, one natural, the other supernatural. Finally, Braine seeks to clarify de Lubac’s interpretation of Thomas while offering a critique:

de Lubac’s exegesis of St. Thomas in regard to the natural desire (desiderium) for the vision of God does not appear to be sustainable. If we look at St. Thomas, and examine typical texts in which the “natural desire (desiderium) for the vision of God” is spoken of, such as SCG III, c. 50, it is evident that St. Thomas is speaking of a natural desire which is conditional upon knowledge of the existence of God as cause of all things …. it is a natural desire which can in principle be satisfied, though only through supernatural assistance, and in the actual order of providence under which the whole of creation exists throgh the divine gifts of grace and glory will always be satisfied, unless some obstacle is put to receiving these gifts by the will of the creature which can only hope with those who have reached the age of reason. (Ibid., p. 568.)

In essence, Braine is arguing that de Lubac did not mention the fact that Thomas believed that the natural desire of man for the vision of God is not fulfilled naturally. Thomas believed that in order for man to attain this his final end he needs the added supernatural qualities which lift the soul up to God. Rather than disrespect the memory and life’s work of such a great scholar as Henri de Lubac, Braine includes within his critiques many principles of the former’s theology that still remain valid. Overall his clarifications and critiques of de Lubac and his critics are very helpful and important, especially in regard to those who have been influenced by this proponent of the Ressourcement, some of whom have continued to confuse nature and the supernatural.

Calvin and Vermigli on Adam’s Original Righteousness, pt. I

Within the spirit of the post below concerning snobbery, I suggest that we who rummage through the old dusty pages of theological and philosophical works of days long past adhere to the commonsensical maxim to never create a problem of diverging doctrinal paradigms where an author him/herself did not. For example, I have not read in any Reformer where he disagrees with the “papists” because they view Christ, man, and sin through a dualist nature/grace paradigm.  The anachronistic insertion of such a paradigm would amount to something similar to what C.S. Lewis termed “chronological snobbery.” Therefore, I vow not to insert a problem of dueling “worldviews” where Luther, et al. did not.  Steven has an excellent post for those wanting to know the problems of “worldview thinking.”

Rather than disagree with Rome because of its worldview Calvin and Vermigli opposed what may seem to us as non-essential if not insignificant doctrinal points. It is really easy for us to read the polemics of Luther or Calvin anachronistically, as if they would both be just as militant about some of these points were they living in 21st century Europe or America.  As James Davison Hunter points out, the religious situation in America is no longer divided between Protestant and Catholic, as it was in the 19th and earlier centuries. Rather, we are divided between those who adhere to the authorities of church or Bible and those who value the authority of reason and the freedom to critique supernatural authorities.  Sure, Protestants and Catholics are still divided in terms of doctrine and practice.  However, one can notice the change in rhetorical tone toward a spirit of mutual respect that did not exist for the Reformers.

I am somewhat grieved to bring up a “whipping boy” to accentuate my point, since he is someone who has taught me many things.  Herman Bavinck is that “boy.” First, I must emphasize my respect for Bavinck.  I agree with Richard Gaffin, that Bavinck’s is “Arguably the most important systematic theology ever produced in the Reformed tradition.”  With that said, I offer one critique. Bavinck makes the following statement concerning the Reformed understanding of Adam’s original state:

[For the Reformers] grace serves, not to take up humans into a supernatural order, but to free them from sin.  Grace is opposed not to nature, only to sin.  In its real sense, it was not necessary in the case of Adam before the fall but has only become necessary as a result of sin […] Grace does not give us any more than what, if Adam had not fallen, would have been acquired by him in the way of obedience.  The covenant of grace differes from the covenant of works in method, not in its ultimate goal.  It is the same treasure that was primised in the covenant of works and is granted in the covenant of grace.  Grace restores nature and takes it to its highest pinacle, but it does not add to it any new and heterogeneous constituents. (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3:  Sin and Salvation in Christ, p. 577.)

Now, I must add one caveat to this quote, which I think is a misinterpretation of the Reformers:  Bavinck is critiquing the Catholic doctrine that Adam was created in a state of “pure nature.” According to this doctrine, man was originally created without supernatural gifts, his nature remains constant before receiving grace, while grace is given, and after grace has been removed because of the fall. Throughout the process Adam’s nature remains as it was created.  This was a position held by many Jesuits during the time of Francis Turretin.  Peter Leithart notes here that Turretin attributed this position to Pelagianism, both old and new – as did Vermigli.  Therefore, inasmuch as Bavinck critiques the notion of pure nature he is correct.  The Reformers did not hold to this position.  However, by stating that the Reformers did not believe Adam needed grace before the fall Bavinck misrepresents at least two Reformers:  John Calvin and Peter Martyr Vermigli.

Adam and EveCalvin affirms that Adam was created in the image of God with the “adornments” of wisdom, virtue, and justice, and he calls these the “gifts” which God “willed to be conferred upon human nature.” (Institutes, II.I.4-7.)  But, throughout the Institutes Calvin seems to equate man’s original state with human nature.  He seems to imply that Adam did not have sanctifying grace “superadded” to his nature. Rather, Adam was created with these gifts, and those gifts are natural. At this point I must state clearly that the word “nature” can cause much confussion.  What did Calvin mean by “nature”?  Fortunately, he gives us an idea of his definition when he explains the meaning of “corruption of nature”:  

Therefore we declare that man is corrupted through natural vitiation, but a vitiation that did not flow from nature.  We deny that it has flowed from nature in order to indicate that it is an adventitious quality which comes upon man rather than a substantial property which has been implanted from the beginning.  Yet we call it “natural” in order that no man may think that anyone obtains it through bad conduct, since it holds all men fast by hereditary right. (Ibid., II.I.11.) 

Here Calvin uses the word “nature” to refer both to man’s original state as created by God and his state after the fall. Adam has a nature before the fall and a nature after the fall, but he maintains the same nature/substance throughout.  In other words, his substance remains yet it receives the “adventitious quality” of original sin.  Calvin explains, “in man’s perverted and degenerate nature some sparks still gleam.  These show him to be a rational being, differing from brute beasts, because he is endowed with understanding.” (Ibid., II.II.12.) Therefore, the definition of man as a rational animal, which is his nature, does not change after the fall, and thus original sin is something added to that nature.  We can see something similar with Calvin’s understanding of nature and grace.  He explains that some gifts are natural but others are above nature:

I feel pleased with the well-known saying which has been borrowed from the writings of Augustine, that man’s natural gifts were corrupted by sin, and his supernatural gifts withdrawn; meaning by supernatural gifts the light of faith and righteousness, which would have been sufficient for the attainment of heavenly life and everlasting felicity. Man, when he withdrew his allegiance to God, was deprived of the spiritual gifts by which he had been raised to the hope of eternal salvation. Hence it follows, that he is now an exile from the kingdom of God, so that all things which pertain to the blessed life of the soul are extinguished in him until he recover them by the grace of regeneration. Among these are faith, love to God, charity towards our neighbour, the study of righteousness and holiness. All these, when restored to us by Christ, are to be regarded as adventitious and above nature. If so, we infer that they were previously abolished. (Institutes, Henry Beveridge, trans., II.II.12.)

In this paragraph Calvin affirms both a sin/grace distinction and a nature/grace distinction, or more properly a nature/supernatural distinction.  Adam was created with certain supernatural gifts added to his natural gifts in order that he attain a supernatural end.  After the fall this nature/supernatural distinction in gifts does not disappear but a new category is added, that of sin. Therefore, we can tentatively conclude that Calvin did not consider Adam’s original righteousness to be purely natural, not needing the addition of grace (as Bavinck implies),  nor can we reduce his soteriology to a mere sin/grace distinction.  Because Adam was created with supernatural gifts we can say that these gifts were natural (I think this is what Bavinck means by the term) and in this sense no addition was needed.  However, this does not mean that these gifts were produced from nature, but that Adam had a natural capacity to receive them.  Adam’s faith, hope, and charity were not products of nature but were given supernaturally by God at the time of creation. 

I believe that a nature/grace  distinction (as opposed to a sin/grace distinction) within the writings of Calvin and Vermigli is difficult to find because they considered the removal of original righteousness to be a sin in and of itself, as Calvin mentions in the quote above. Therefore, a post-lapsarian sin/grace distinction is the same as a post-lapsarian nature/grace distinction because  a nature without grace in this world is a corrupt nature.  Because Calvin uses the word “nature” in reference to Adam’s originally righteous state he can say that any removal of grace is a corruption of nature, rather than a return to a state of pure nature. Also, the use of the word “nature” when distinguished from “grace” denotes a metaphysical definition, something that Calvin sought to avoid in order to be perspicuous.  In the next post I will discuss Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of this topic and compare texts from he, Vermigli and Calvin in which they discuss Adam’s original state.       

God’s Will as Moral First Principle

John Donnelly, in his book on Peter Martyr, refers to the Reformers’ moral theology as a system of “thou-shalt-nots” contrasted with Thomas’s system of moral virtue. Others have referred to the former theory of morals as divine command ethics.  This view is way too simplistic.  Sure, Calvin believed the ten commandments to have Christian pedagogical value, so did Luther and others.  Yet, Martyr did not reject but embraced Aristotle’s theory of virtues (with qualifications of course).  In fact their theologies are not much different from that of St. Thomas.  

As I have demonstrated in other posts Thomas saw a necessity for revealed divine law in the fact that original sin has corrupted man’s natural ability to direct his actions in a right order.  Pinckaers and others have rejected the notion that virtue is the center of Thomas’s moral theology.  If that were his view there would be little room for grace, an issue that spans a significant part of the Summa.  If virtue is not central to Thomas’s moral theory then does that mean the divine law is?  No.  I think it is fairly clear that God’s grace plays a central role for Thomas, although my point here is not to err by creating a center where none exists.  Many issues can be called central to his moral thought but one can be quite certain that grace and the divine law do play a significant role.  In commenting on Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians Thomas notes three norms for living the just life:

There are three norms immanent in man by which he may be guided and regulated if he is to walk justly and make spiritual progress.  In man, one of these is the reason which judges about what is to be done in concrete circumstances.  Another is the understanding of universal principles, called synderesis; and thirdly, there is the divine law or God.  Actions are good and meritorious when the person is guided by these three in their proper interrelations; namely, when the action is in accord with the judgment of reason, and this reason judges according to true understanding, or synderesis; and this synderesis is, in turn, directed by the divine law.  (Commentary on Ephesians, pp. 174-5)    

(This is not an example of Pelagian moralism since Thomas has already established in his commentary the necessity of grace for justification).  Thomas continues to affirm that the Gentiles lack all three of these things saying, “This is traceable to their not sharing in the divine light, or not being enlightened and directed by the divine law.” (Ibid.) I find Thomas’s tone in withholding these three norms from the Gentiles very Augustinian but that is beside the point. For Thomas the divine law is made up of both the Old Law which “restrains the hand” and the New Law that “controls the mind.” (ST I-II, Q.91, a.5)  The divine law contains precepts and spiritual guidance. In fact, Thomas sees three conditions that this divine law includes:  it orders man to the common earthly and heavenly good, it directs human internal acts in righteousness, and it induces man to observe its commandments by causing fear and love.  Therefore, one of the main purposes of the divine law is to lead man to virtue. (ST I-II, Q.92, a.1) Thomas is still far from Pelagianism here since the New Law, which is contained in the divine law,  is the grace of the Holy Spirit within believers.  “… the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Ghost, which is given to those who believe in Christ.” (ST I-II, Q.106, a.1)

So, Thomas does see a necessity for “though-shalt-nots” but not without the grace of the Holy Spirit.  It does seem, since he states that the divine law leads to virtue, that virtues are more important in Thomas’s moral theory than divine commands. Virtue may be the end of the divine law, but man cannot be truly virtuous without it.  Thomas states that man is only prudent who puts things in proper perspective. “Everyone who sets things in perspective considers their end; hence he is wise in an absolute sense who knows and acts for the universal end, God.” (Commentary on Ephesians, p. 211.)  How does one know how to act for this universal end of beatitude?  Thomas answers:

For just as speculative reason puts whatever is to be done in perspective and judges it – it is necessary to have conclusions and to judge them by principles – so likewise in the field of performance. Now the first principle through which we ought to judge and regulate everything is the will of God.  Hence the intellect, in moral matters and those which lead to God, must have the will of God for its principle.  If it does, then the intellect becomes prudent. (Ibid)

Therefore it is not true that Thomas’s moral theology is centered on virtue in opposition to “thou-shalt-nots” since he sees both virtue and the divine commands as necessary for right moral actions.  Whether the Reformers held to a high view of virtue is a different discussion.

Grace Is Not “Stuff”

We all have heard that the Medieval view of grace was uber-realist – that infused grace is a substance that comes into the person. Peter Lombard held the opinion that this substance of grace was the Holy Spirit itself. Thomas Aquinas, while not preferring Lombard’s view, sought to demonstrate the gross errors of the former view.  Some, says Aquinas, believe that infused virtue cannot be increased because any added virtue would be new and different (ergo not “increased”) as any brick added to a wall must be a new brick.

Aquinas’s answer to this objection should be very appealing to the modern linguist.  He says that some are led into error by using “virtue” as a noun. As the Medieval interpreter of Aristotle would know, the science of metaphysics has very much to do with defining things.  Terms like substance, form, genus, species, etc. can be put into a syllogism.  These terms represent the way things are but also the way we think.  The subject and predicate correspond to substance and form.  For example “The ball is round” – “ball” represents substance and “round” represents form.  And because “round” is not a thing separate from the “ball” so one should not speak of “grace” or “virtue” as if it were some “thing” of which other “things” can be predicated. 

Aquinas addresses the following to those who think that infused virtues must be newly created by inpouring or that they are material elements: 

They do not notice that just as being belongs not to a form but to a subject by means of the form, so too the process of coming into being (which concludes with there being a form) does not belong to the form, but to the subject.  A form x is called a ‘being’ not because it itself is, if we speak strictly, but because something is it.  In the same way, a form is said to ‘come into being’ not because it itself come into being, but because something comes to be it: namely when its subject is brought from capacity to actualization. (Disputed Questions on the Virtues In General, a. 11)

In other words infused virtue does not exist by itself but “something is it.”  Jim is a faithful man, but Jim’s faith does not exist as part of or apart from Jim. But, others have objected, we speak of infused virtue “increasing.” Doesn’t this imply some sort of added thing? Aquinas, again tickling the penchant of the linguist, replies that we name things that are lesser known from the names of things that are better known.  For example, change of place is better understood than change from material corruption.  Therefore, we speak of a dead relative as having “passed away” or as “gone.” He continues:

In a similar way, since we perceive more easily when something changes its size than when it changes in the sense of altering in quality, it comes about that words suitable for change of size are used also in the context of altering in quality.  Now a body that changes its size until it is complete is said to increase, and the final, complete, size is called ‘big’ by comparison with the incomplete.  Similarly, then, for the reasons I have explained, something that changes in its quality from incomplete to complete is said to ‘increase’ in quality, and the complete quality is described as ‘big’ by comparison with the incomplete. Moreover, since the completeness of a thing is its goodness, Augustine says that even in things that are not big in terms of size, we still take ‘more’ to mean ‘better.’ (Ibid)

So, it is easier for us to speak of virtue “increasing” because the notion of something becoming bigger is just easier to understand than the actualization of a potential quality.  The word “increasing” is here used metaphorically or analogically.  Aquinas is therefore o.k. with speaking of virtue as if it were a substance because it is easier to understand it that way, but he stresses that we must not mistake the sign for the thing, we must recognize that we speak in metaphor.  

BUT, infused virtue is not the same as grace! This is true.  So, why have I been talking about virtue? Because, Aquinas raises the same objection to the infusion of grace in the Summa Theologiae and notes the same problem of “picture thinking” (as Lewis would say). Only, he does not go into as much detail concerning the nature of the problem as he does here, and both infused grace and infused virtue are qualities – neither should be spoken of in terms of quantity.  He speaks of the problem and the solution:

Every substance is either the nature of the thing whereof it is the substance, or is a part of the nature, even as matter and form are called substance.  And because grace is above human nature, it cannot be a substance or a substantial form, but is an accidental form of the soul.  Now what is substantially in God, becomes accidental in the soul participating in the Divine goodness, as is clear in the case of knowledge. (ST I-II, Q.110, a.4)

He also explains the difference between virtue and grace, the former being a disposition governed by the natural light of reason and the latter itself being the root and supernatural light of the virtues.  Grace is the principle whereas the virtues are the medium.  Both are infused and both are qualities that actualize a person’s nature.  Both are spoken of as substances but neither are substances.  Infused grace is a new quality caused by man’s “contact” with the Divine nature.  This opinion (that grace is not a substance) marks a break between Aquinas and the tradition of Peter Lombard and demonstrates a tendency of theological picture-thinking that did exist in the Medieval church. Unfortunately, this tendency did not go away with Aquinas’s clarification and continues to prevail today even among Reformed Protestants.

Nature/Grace Union In Proof-Text Mode

Aquinas did not create a nature/grace dichotomy.  Read de Lubac, Pinckaers, O’Meara, etc.  Heck, even read Copleston.  There’s no such thing as “pure nature”, most Thomas scholars agree. Ergo, I shall resort to proof-text mode but just this one:

For the affection of charity, which is the inclination of grace, is not less orderly than the natural appetite, which is the inclination of nature, for both inclinations flow from Divine wisdom. (ST II-II, 26. a.6)

If you didn’t catch that I’ll paraphrase:  Both natural inclinations and inclinations of grace come from God. As Pinckaers points out it was the prerogative of Ockham to change the meaning of “nature” by separating nature from freedom.  He had the idea that true freedom was not the ability to choose what makes one more human but the capacity to choose not to choose.  Thus human nature lost those gracious natural inclinations and instead became subject to the will.  Nature was no longer seen as including gracious elements but actually became a nuisance to free will. Posse peccare was better than non posse peccare. This was part of the new “science.” The objective eclipsed the subjective.

The harmony between humanity and nature was destroyed by a freedom that claimed to be “indifferent” to nature and defined itself as “non-nature.” The consideration of the nature and spiritual spontaneity of the human person was banished from the horizons of thought. (Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, p. 333)

For Aquinas the will of man is naturally attracted to the good which finds its end in God.  “… all persons do share in the same last end, because we are all seeking happiness, understood as the ultimate and complete fulfillment of all that we are seeking in our lives … there is objectively only one thing which can provide us with this happiness, and that is God Himself.” (Jean Porter, “Right Reason and the Love of God”, in The Theology of Thomas Aquinas, p. 172) All men participate in God’s Eternal Law through the innate first principles of the Natural Law. I think we tend to forget that all men were created in his image.  And yes, that does apply to more than the material nature.  Grace does not destroy nature precisely because nature is graciously predisposed to grace.