"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why Did Adam Originally Need Grace?


Creation of Adam
Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel, 1510)

Aquinas answers this question in Summa Theologica I Q.95 a.1 co.. He explains that man was made by God in such a way that man's reason was subject to God, his lower powers were perfectly subject to his reason, and his body also was perfectly subject to his soul. But the first subjection was the cause of the latter two subjections. Then Aquinas says,

"Now it is clear that such a subjection of the body to the soul and of the lower powers to reason, was not from nature; otherwise it would have remained after sin; since even in the demons the natural gifts remained after sin, as Dionysius declared (Div. Nom. iv). Hence it is clear that also the primitive subjection by virtue of which reason was subject to God, was not a merely natural gift, but a supernatural endowment of grace; for it is not possible that the effect should be of greater efficiency than the cause. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiii, 13) that, "as soon as they disobeyed the Divine command, and forfeited Divine grace, they were ashamed of their nakedness, for they felt the impulse of disobedience in the flesh, as though it were a punishment corresponding to their own disobedience." Hence if the loss of grace dissolved the obedience of the flesh to the soul, we may gather that the inferior powers were subjected to the soul through grace existing therein."

Here is Aquinas's argument. The subjection of Adam's body to his soul and of the lower powers to his reason was an effect of the subjection of his reason to God. But it is not possible that the effect should exceed the cause. And since the subjection of the body to the soul and of the lower powers to reason was not from nature [for otherwise these two subjections would have remained after Adam's sin], it follows that the subjection of Adam's reason to God was also not a merely natural gift but was a supernatural endowment of grace. And the quotation from Augustine confirms this. Hence Aquinas concludes that if the loss of grace dissolved the obedience of the flesh to the soul, the inferior powers must have been subject to the soul through grace existing in them.

According to Aquinas it is not that Adam was naturally disordered, but that his nature alone did not preserve his order in his original state. Nor is Aquinas saying that Adam initially had some defect. The need for grace in the initial state is not based on matter, for even the angels, as beings having no matter, needed grace in their original state. Aquinas, along with the Church, believed that everything God made was very good, and that Adam was created posse non pecarre (with the ability to avoid sinning). Nor is Aquinas saying that the image of God in man was a superadded gift. Man bears the image of God through the rational power that is natural to man.

For Aquinas, grace is not merely divine favor; it was something in Adam and Eve. Aquinas would have treated the notion that grace is either something ontological or merely divine favor, as a false dilemma. He teaches in Summa Theologica I-II Q.110 a.1 that grace has three aspects. In one sense it refers to favor. In another sense it refers to the gift given as an expression of that favor. And in another sense it refers to the gratitude one has for the reception of a gratuitous gift. So we don't have to choose between grace as divine favor, and grace as divine gift.

The gift of grace that God gave to Adam and Eve was not a substance, but a quality inhering within their souls. (ST I-II Q.110 a.2) God "infuses" (infundit) into us "certain forms or supernatural qualities (aliquas formas seu qualitates supernaturales), whereby we may be moved by Him sweetly and promptly to acquire eternal good." The Catholic Catechism teaches that Adam and Eve were created having the grace of original holiness and justice (CCC 375), by which they were in harmony with God, and thus had an inner harmony within themselves (no concupiscence), a harmony between each other, and a harmony with all of creation. This entire harmony was lost when they disobeyed God.

6 comments:

Tim A. Troutman said...

The difficulty in this question I think is why/how they disobeyed God since disobeying God would be contrary to reason.

I heard Peter Kreeft talk about this problem but didn't really get to any strong conclusions. I guess they're hard to reach. Thoughts?

Principium Unitatis said...

Tim,

They had free will, just as did the angels. That's the only answer. But, unlike the angels, they did not with that one choice choose their eternal destiny, because they were beings in time.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

mateo said...

I don’t know how to write the words that express my reaction to reading this article. Wow! Amazing! Aquinas is like a master gem cutter that uses his skills to bring forth a brilliant gem. Kudos to you, Bryan Cross, for doing a great job in explaining Aquinas’s line of reasoning.

So many things I want to discuss after reading this article …

Here is one thing I would like to discuss. Does Aquinas’ reasoning find resonance or opposition in Calvin’s ideas about the state of Adam before the Fall?

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

Institutes of the Christian Religion
CHAPTER 15.

STATE IN WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. THE FACULTIES OF THE SOUL—THE IMAGE OF GOD—FREE WILL—ORIGINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS.

"… man, at his first creation, was very different from all his posterity; who, deriving their origin from him after he was corrupted, received a hereditary taint. At first every part of the soul was formed to rectitude. There was soundness of mind and freedom of will to choose the good. … Why He did not sustain him by the virtue of perseverance is hidden in his counsel; it is ours to keep within the bounds of soberness. Man had received the power, if he had the will, but he had not the will which would have given the power; for this will would have been followed by perseverance.

I don’t understand what Calvin is saying in that last sentence quoted above.

Is Calvin saying that the Fall would not have happened if God had willed to sustain Adam in the virtue of perseverance?

Principium Unitatis said...

Mateo,

Calvin's position is not that of Aquinas. For Aquinas, Adam, through his first sin, lost grace, but his nature was not destroyed. (See here.) For Calvin, by sin man's nature was "vitiated and almost destroyed, nothing remaining but a ruin, confused, mutilated, and tainted with impurity."

For Aquinas (and the Catholic tradition), heaven is a supernatural end, and man without grace could not have attained that end. To claim otherwise would be Pelagian. (I explain that in more detail in this comment.) But for Calvin, man, by his natural endowments, could have attained a supernatural beatitude. Calvin writes, "To this [i.e. intellect] he [i.e. God] has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence, and Judgment, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness."

In that respect, Calvin's position is Pelagian.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

mateo said...

Bryan Cross: But for Calvin, man, by his natural endowments, could have attained a supernatural beatitude. Calvin writes, "To this [i.e. intellect] he [i.e. God] has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence, and Judgment, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness."

In that respect, Calvin's position is Pelagian.


I see why Calvin’s conception of the pre-Fall Adam is Pelagian. According to Calvin, the pre-Fall Adam had a human nature with “noble endowments”, and it was because of these noble endowments that the pre-Fall Adam had a natural potential that “enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness”.

The “noble endowments” were lost by Adam’s exercise of his free will to disobey God. Does that mean that Calvin believed part of Adam’s human nature was lost in the Fall?

Is that what Calvin is arguing, that there exist two distinct kinds of human nature, a pre-Fall human nature and a post-Fall human nature?

Susan said...


Bryan,

I agree with Mateo. Wow! Amazing! I really enjoyed this article, thank you.

I have a question. Is grace and attribute of God or do we speak of grace as "being", as we say of love; "God is love"? If grace is a quality added, does a person sense a lack of supernatural grace when they sin mortaly and does the sense mean a reasoned recognition, or a pained emotion of conscience? I ask this because it seems to me that to grieve the Holy Spirit means to cause Him to leave. I gather this from King David's "take not they Holy Spirit from me".
I have to admit, upon becoming Catholic I have a hard time "seeing" the second person of the Holy Trinity, I seem to think more abstractly and I'm not sure this is so good considering the incarnation showed us God. My mind works to reconcile what I have learned about antiquity's notions of God and piety; that is, things like grace, virginity, elements of fire and water,mysticism. I used to concentrate my minds-eye on Jesus but now I tend to think of the beatific vision in terms of light.

Thank you,
Susan