Friday, August 10, 2007

Grace: Necessity and Sufficiency

The ongoing discussion at the blog ( ) I linked to in my last thread has evolved into a discussion focusing on the doctrine grace. To set the stage for the rest of my post, I need to quote a section from James White’s “August 07, 2007 at 10:41AM” post:

So Dr. Beckwith's claims regarding his reading of Trent now raises all sorts of new questions that he has not addressed. If, in fact, he had read Trent as a serious student of theology in the past, as he seems to be claiming now, how could he say what he said on STR, quoted above? How could he be "amazed" at what any basic reading of the text would have revealed to any layman? How can anyone read Trent and not know it condemns Pelagianism? How could he not know the most basic issues addressed by the Council? (I note in passing that some of his comments to Koukl could be taken to indicate that he does not understand that the canon listing at Trent was the first dogmatic definition of the canon in Roman theology, including the Apocrypha). A person who has read Trent knows that the issue of the Reformation has never, ever been the *necessity* of grace. Everyone knows that. The dividing line at the Reformation was the *sufficiency* of grace, not the necessity of grace. That was the issue remains the issue today.

Two days later (“August 09, 2007 at 11:38AM”), Jonathan Prejean responded to the above with:

"Shocked to find the necessity of Grace in Trent? Has that ever even been an issue? What would be shocking would be to find the sufficiency of Grace in Trent."

Then prepare to be shocked, because Trent teaches the sufficiency of grace as well.

From the Sixth Session on justification:"Of this Justification the causes are these: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting; while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance"

Dr. Beckwith, who spent years studying the meaning of terms like "efficient cause," would obviously recognize that this affirms the sufficiency of grace. James White, who apparently does not know what an efficient cause is, missed it.

This post precipitated an interesting discussion on grace in the subsequent posts, all which (IMHO) should be read in order to get a good grasp of the some of the issues that have been misunderstood by many of our Evangelical separated brethren, including James White who said:

The dividing line at the Reformation was the sufficiency of grace, not the necessity of grace. That was the issue remains the issue today.

To whet your appetite, I shall quote two of my own posts from the ongoing discussion:

Matthew wrote:

>>For it to be sufficient in the Tridentine system, it would have to be the alone cause of regeneration and justification. In which case, Trent would be abiding by the doctrine of the Reformation.>>

Dead wrong. Many Catholic doctors/theologains (e.g. St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. ) adhere to what St. Augustine termed, magnum usque in finem perseverantiae donum (the great gift of final perseverance). It is a pure gift of grace from God, and is totally sufficient.

Grace and peace,

David (“August 09, 2007 at 3:05PM”)


Hi Matt,

You wrote:

>>Was I quoting and/or discussing St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas? No.We were discussing the Canons of the Council of Trent and the dispute over the sufficiency of grace during the Reformation.>>

To correctly understand the Canons of the Council of Trent, one must understand the esteemed Catholic doctors/fathers/theologians who preceded the learned bishops of the council. To think that the Canons of the Council of Trent somehow negated the teachings of such giants as St. Augustine and St. Thomas is, to be brutally blunt, absurd. Catholicism affirms ‘free will’ and ‘perseverance’ (synergism); Calvinists believe that to affirm the first is to deny the second (monergism); putting aside which side is correct on this issue, the fact which remains is that Trent does not does not deny the sufficiency of grace, for the gift of final perseverance remains a key ingredient of the Catholic system of thought.

Grace and peace,

David (“August 09, 2007 at 9:22PM”)

Now, it sure seems to me that if that the so-called “dividing line at the Reformation”, as perceived by James White (and so many others), is based on misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church actually believes about the doctrine of grace.

My next thread shall delve into two related issues pertaining to the doctrine grace: justification and salvation (i.e. the “gospel”).

Grace and peace,


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