Saturday, August 11, 2007

James White’s confusion concerning Sufficient Grace


On the sufficiency of grace, James White stated:

The dividing line at the Reformation was the sufficiency of grace, not the necessity of grace. That was the issue then...it remains the issue today. (STR blog - August 07, 2007 at 10:41 AM; see also The Roman Catholic Controversy, p. 135.)


I shall put the above assertion to rest, once and for all, by clearly demonstrating that James does not understand what sufficient grace actually means in its historical context. Note the following from the pen Joseph Pohle:

EFFICACIOUS GRACE AND MERELY SUFFICIENT GRACE.—By efficacious grace (gratia efficax) we understand that divine assistance which with infallible certainty includes free salutary act. Whether the certainty of its operation results from the physical nature of this particular grace, or from God’s infallible foreknowledge (scientia media), is a question in dispute between Thomists and Molinists.

Merely sufficient grace (gratia mere sufficiens) is that divine assistance whereby God communicates to the human will full power to perform a salutary act (posse) but not the action itself (agere).

The division of grace into efficacious and merely sufficient is not identical with that into prevenient and coöperating. Coöperating grace does not ex vi notionis include with infallible certainty the salutary act. It may indeed be efficacious, but in matter of fact frequently fails to attain its object because the will offers resistance.

a) The existence of efficacious graces is as certain as that there is a Heaven filled with Saints…

b) Before demonstrating the existence of sufficient grace it is necessary, in view of certain heretical errors, carefully to define the term.

a) Actual grace may be regarded either in its intrinsic energy or its extrinsic efficacy (efficientia efficacitas). All graces are efficacious considered in there intrinsic energy, because all confer the physical and moral power necessary to perform the salutary act for the sake of which they are bestowed. From this point of view, therefore, and in actu primo, there is no real but a purely logical distinction between efficacious and merely sufficient grace. If we look to the final result however, we find that this differs according as the will either freely coöperates with grace or refuses coöperation. If the will coöperates, grace becomes truly efficacious; if the will resists, grace remains “merely sufficient.” In other words, merely sufficient grace confers full power to act, but is rendered ineffective by the resistance of the will…

Calvinsim and Jansenism, while retaining the name, have eliminated sufficient grace from there doctrinal systems.

Jansenius (+1638) admits a kind of “sufficient grace,” which he calls gratia parva, but it is really insufficient because no action can result from it unless it is supplemented by another more power grace. This heretic denounced sufficient grace in the Catholic sense as a monstrous conception and a means of peopling hell with reprobates. Some of his followers even went so far as to assert that “in our present state sufficient grace is pernicious rather useful to us, and we have reason to pray: From sufficient grace, O Lord, deliver us!”

b) It is an article of faith that there is a merely sufficient grace and that it is truly sufficient even when frustrated by the resistance of the will.
(The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Pohle, PhD., D.D., Grace: Actual and Habitual – A Dogmatic Treatise, adapted and edited by Arthur Preuss, 1947, pp. 41-44.)


There can be no doubt left that James has clearly misunderstood the historical meaning of sufficient grace. As such, he really needs to go on record and acknowledge his confusion.


Grace and peace,

David

3 comments:

Matthew said...

>There can be no doubt left that James has clearly misunderstood the historical meaning of sufficient grace. As such, he really needs to go on record and acknowledge his confusion.<

Hey Perry,
I like your website. I found it over from the Stand to Reason blog. I figured I would move the conversation from there to here.

For the record, James White's confusion on doctrine goes far beyond what you're posting here. Baptism, Lord's Supper, election..take your pick.

I think this issue as you've addressed it here is boiling down to semantics or how words had been used historically. I'm not sure if the author you're quoting is defining these terms himself, or from whom in the early church is he basing these terms on?
White is defining them based on how they were used by the Reformers (as would I). If only to make it clear what the differences in the Reformation actually were.

David Waltz said...

Hi Matthew,

You posted:

>>Hey Perry,
I like your website. I found it over from the Stand to Reason blog. I figured I would move the conversation from there to here.>>

Me: David here, the quote from the beginning of your post is from my blog, not Perry’s website (http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/).

>>For the record, James White's confusion on doctrine goes far beyond what you're posting here. Baptism, Lord's Supper, election..take your pick.>>

Me: Agreed; have much more to say, but felt it best to present the issues one at a time.

>>I think this issue as you've addressed it here is boiling down to semantics or how words had been used historically. I'm not sure if the author you're quoting is defining these terms himself, or from whom in the early church is he basing these terms on?
White is defining them based on how they were used by the Reformers (as would I). If only to make it clear what the differences in the Reformation actually were.>>

Me: Pohle provides other quotes than the one in the section I posted (from Jansenius) which includes Augustine and Aquinas. As for how the Reformers used the phrase “sufficient grace”, Calvin in his Institutes uses it in the same sense that Pohle does; and the great Reformed scholar, Charles Hodge, also maintains this traditional usage in his Systematic Theology. Could you be so kind as to provide quotes from the Reformers, which use the phrase in the sense that James White does?

Grace and peace,

David

CrimsonCatholic said...

Good post, David. I'm not sure what is so difficult about the concept, other than the need for Protestant hagiography to create a conspiracy theory around Rome for its very justification. The irony is that the Protestants who are most ignorant about the actual history of their own religion are the first to accuse Catholics of ignorance about the Catholic tradition.

If only to make it clear what the differences in the Reformation actually were.

I think David has made the point rather eloquently that White doesn't KNOW what the differences in the Reformation actually were. He thinks he does, but the scholarship doesn't back him up.