Wednesday, February 01, 2006
A Jeff Dean insight:
I think a key distinction we are missing regards the Catholc and Protestant understanding of human nature.
Thomas Aquinas argued that death was part of human nature, such that Adam would have died had he not sinned.
Luther and Calvin, among others, argued the contrary point: death is not "natural," but rather the punishment (or "consequence," as I prefer to think) of sin. Such a distinction is closer to an Eastern Orthodox understanding than a Roman Catholic.
The results in the following distinction: Roman Catholic theology must insist that salvation *adds* something to the human situation, whereas classical Protestant theology claims instead that salvation *removes* something from the human condition situation.
Thus, a Roman Catholic theology would consider the term "sinner" to represent the lack of God's grace, because a "sinner" is one to whom saving grace has not been added. Grace in the Roman Catholic equation, then, is something added to expand the nature of a person, not necessarily to combat "sin."
A Protestant theology, however, would consider "sinner" to be the apt description of a person as such. Grace in the Protestant sense, then, is not something added, but rather the willingness of the Father to overlook our sins because of the sacrifice of the Son.
We might say, then, that "grace" is best understood as a noun for Roman Catholics: something that God gives. Protestants, however, are apt to understand "grace" more as an adverb: the manner in which God acts.
Posted by John Zahl at 10:54 PM