The Sola Fide as the Power of Unconditional Promise

I was tempted today to simply reprint Stanley Hauerwas’s famous “Sermon on Reformation Sunday,” but everyone does that this time of year, so I decided to simply go about my own business. But after reading a couple of tweets this afternoon, I realized—yet once again—that Catholics and Orthodox are really clueless about the significance of Martin Luther’s recovery of the gospel in the 16th century. And this led me to remember a paper written by Dr Phillip Cary on the Reformation, i.e., Lutheran, construal of the sola fide (faith alone), which is so widely misunderstood but which underscores the formal character of gospel preaching as unconditional promise. And so I embed the paper below for your edification.

Note how different this construal is from what is heard from most Protestant pulpits. Needless to say, the sola fide is almost completely absent from Catholic and Orthodox ambos, which goes a long way toward explaining why the good news of Jesus Christ, in all of its liberating and converting power, is so rarely heard and why congregants would prefer their pastors to skip the homily and just get on with the eucharistic liturgy.

 

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35 Responses to The Sola Fide as the Power of Unconditional Promise

  1. Steven says:

    I’m currently struggling with the question as to whether or not Luther’s idea of sola fide can be compatible with the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I’ve read the “Joint Declaration” but on the Catholic side, I have a difficult time seeing how that squares with Trent. How would you say, from an Orthodox perspective?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Reconciling Trent and the Joint Declaration is an interesting exercise. One needs to acquaint oneself with the Catholic/Lutheran dialogue on justification over the past forty years. One key for the Catholic partners was their coming to see that the anathemas of Trent regarding justification probably do not touch what the Reformers actually taught in the 16th century and most certainly do not touch what most Lutherans teach today. The essays in the 7th volume of the American dialogue, though published years before the JD, are very helpful here. It’s also important to remember that Catholics do not necessarily see Trent as speaking the last word on justification; hence their willingness to listen to Protestants. For my money, Newman’s Lectures on Justification remain an outstanding statement on justification.

      As far as the Orthodox, Orthodox theologians have invested very little energy on the topic. Orthodox interest remains focused on theosis. After all, if one is living within the divine life of the Trinity, what’s the worry about justification? They have a point, don’t you think?

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      • Steven says:

        Fr. Kimel, thank you for the reply and for the recommended resources. They’re now on my Amazon wishlist for my next pay period. I’ve wondered if perhaps the canons of Trent more or less represented both sides talking past each other rather than engaging each other’s actual ideas, similar to the Orthodox dialogs with the Lutherans (where I don’t think the Orthodox understood well the Lutherans’ big idea). One thing I noted when reading the Book of Concord is that at times it seemed the Lutheran reformers were knocking down straw men based on what I understand about Catholic theology, while other times they made some good points. Even today in mainstream Catholic apologetics, they seem to inaccurately portray Lutheran theology as existing entirely in the realm of “legal fiction” and imputation, when my understanding of Lutheran theology is that it is more or less a synthesis of mongerism and synergism, with more of a slant toward monergism. A lot of modern Lutherans mock and stereotype Catholic teachings to the point that they inaccurately represent the teachings they’re trying to refute and thus discredit their own position. Regarding the Orthodox focus on theosis, I can definitely see the point you made. Hopefully I’m on the right track here, but I suppose at the end of the day when your life is immersed in God’s love, the in’s and out’s of how all this stuff happens are less important to you than how you live in relation to God. I suppose though, that for those of us who still struggle to reach that point, some basic knowledge of the technical aspects of justification can be of assistance in getting us to the point that it can take a back seat to theosis. I hope my rant makes some kind of sense. Thank you again, Father.

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  2. Without having read the paper, if it is what I think it is (having just left off reading Luther intensely less than a year ago), I would say to this: Amen!!

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  3. I just received a book in the mail today called “The Reformation Reader”–a collection of primary texts on the Reformation.😛

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  4. Edward I G Lovejoy says:

    If I am following the article correctly the thrust seems to be that the “faith” in Luther’s “faith alone” consists purely in believing that the gift has been offered and having the faith to take it, rather than any particular perceivable inward state: have I got that right? I am otherwise unclear what “faith” means in the context?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Edward, think about what happens when someone speaks an unconditional promise to you. There are no conditions you need to do to to make the promise real, for the promissor has assumed responsibility for the conditions. So what responses are available to you?

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      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        Either “thanks” or “I’d rather you didn’t do that”, I would have thought. My question was really where faith came into it, and whether what Luther meant by “faith” was giving the former response rather than the latter (or no response at all), or, if not, what he did mean, because I couldn’t otherwise quite follow from the paper.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Yes, quite right. I think you have touched on the difficulty, if not impossibility, of describing faith as a “response,” which of course immediately makes it a work that we must perform in order to actualize the promise or which we can search within ourselves to know whether we have it or not. If Cary is right, faith is not that kind of work nor subject to that kind of analysis. It exists only within the existential situation of hearing the gospel. Once we step outside that hearing in order to analyze and reflect upon it, we’ve lost it, for at that moment we are no longer listening to Christ. Hence faith (i.e., our hearing the promise) may perhaps be better described as a mode of existence, rather than a specific act.

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          • Iain Lovejoy says:

            Or (unless this is too Calvinisty?) the state of being which manifests itself as the mode of existence concerned? (“Faith” as a word would seem to me to denote more a mental or spiritual state.)

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          • Mike H says:

            Framing faith as a “mode of existence” (or a “participation”, or any other word that emphasizes the ontological as opposed to a forensic legal status) still makes it a “response” though, does it not?

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          • This may be a bit monergist, but if I understand it correctly, the “response” of faith is just enjoying the new mode of existence into which we have been placed. As Fr. Capon puts it in his inimitable way:

            “As I have said, throughout the whole body of his parables, Jesus spends a great deal of time denying that goodness or badness has anything to do with salvation. The gift of grace, as he portrays it, is a gift of acceptance already granted – a gift that it takes only a response of trust to enjoy. The prodigal is not portrayed as cleaning up his life, only as accepting his father’s acceptance. The eleventh-hour laborers are not shown as having earned their pay by twelvefold exertions, only as having trusted the vineyard owner. And the publican is not sent home justified because he said he would lead a better life, only because he has the faith to confess his death and to trust in a God who could raise the dead.” (Kingdom, Grace, Judgement, p. 508)

            “Salvation is not by works, and the heavenly banquet is not an option. We are saved only by our acceptance of a party already in progress, and God has paid for that party at the price of his own death. Outside the party, there is no life at all.” (Ibid., 459)

            In the Orthodox Church, at the end of the Chrismation service (the sacrament of Confirmation for all you Westerners) the priest announces to the newly-illumined: “You are justified. You are illumined. You are sanctified.” So, it seems, it’s done and over, there’s nothing more to be done in terms of the whole salvation thing; it is finished. Having been compelled out of the highways and byways and into the dining room, sat at the table, and served dinner, faith (it appears) is simply savoring the Bread, tucking into the Lamb, and drinking the Wine – which is what true ascesis is supposed to be. We can, I suppose, get up and leave if we feel so inclined, but that’s a hell of a thing to do.

            At least, that’s how it seems to me at the moment.🙂

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          • Michelle says:

            Father, about this, “It exists only within the existential situation of hearing the gospel.”

            Some people’s existential state in the midst of hearing the gospel is not faith but rejection. Is there a difference in Lutheran and Orthodox theology that accounts for the difference?

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  5. SorryForThreadJacking says:

    Sorry that this isn’t related to the current thread, but I noticed that Edward Feser recently put up his Thomistic defense of eternal damnation (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/10/how-to-go-to-hell_29.html#more). I was wondering if Fr. Kimel might consider a reply to it. I’ve never seen hell defended in this way before so I’m curious what those in the UR camp have to say about it.

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    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      I find the whole argument hopelessly flawed.
      It is immediately contradicted by Edward Fesers own Catholic doctrine, in that purgatory is based on the premise that dead people can actually change, so either purgatory is a waste of time or he is wrong.
      Leaving aside that he can’t believe his own premises and be an orthodox Catholic, his argument from angels is illogical.
      Firstly, if you assume that angels can fall they can self-evidently change since they were not initially created in their final fallen state.
      Secondly if angels can fall, Edward Feser must be wrong about their nature since he goes on to systematically and deliberately rule out any mechanism by which that fall might come about.
      The attempt to finesse the problem of the resurrection body also fails. The argument is that the nature of the resurrection body is constructed so as to prevent repentance. The obvious problem is that God creates the resurrection body and the argument basically requires that God deliberately designs the soul’s resurrection body so as to ensure the soul stays evil, which borders on blasphemy.
      The most serious flaw, however, is that it actually relies on a soul damning itself after death, not before. The notion seems to be that the soul which previously was a mixture of passions, thoughts, impulses and desires (good and bad) will suddenly and irrevocably pick on one alone immediately after death, and if a lot of them are bad, well, it might pick a bad one, and having no passions or thoughts, or any “competing” passions it would then be stuck and couldn’t change its mind. This is daft. If no passions or thoughts can operate on a dead soul, how can it actually be influenced by any of its passions to pick any of them as its ultimate one, and where exactly did all the other competing passions that were part of it go when it picked one? If they are still there it still has competing passions and by the logic of the argument it could still change its mind. If they are stripped away somehow, who took them, or are we back to God deliberately preventing repentance again?
      The argument is meaningless: it creates a notion of angels which is self-contradictary and pure speculation, applies this fictitious nature to human souls (which are quite different) on no apparent basis then reaches a conclusion based on pure assertion.
      It then deals with the further insurmountable problem that applying the argument to the dead is impossible (since we have resurrection bodies and his speculative angels don’t) by just wishing it away without any reasoning at all, just by effectively saying “that’s just how it is”, which is not an argument.
      This sounds to me like the kind of argument you get when instead of starting from an initial premise you work through to reach a reasoned conclusion you start with the conclusion you already hold for completely separate reasons and try to work backwards to somehow construct a different argument for believing it you yourself don’t actually believe.

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      • Young and Rested says:

        I’m basically in agreement with Iain Lovejoy on this one. Some of this seems a bit ad hoc, especially the part about resurrection bodies and not being able to repent (which also strikes me as bordering on blasphemous). I’m sure that there are plenty of other philosophical considerations going on behind the scenes, but this, like most arguments for eternal damnation, seems to have been thought up in an environment where everlasting Hell was a given.

        That non-corporeal beings do not go through a step-by-step reasoning process, but apprehend things directly does not seem to me to imply that they could never change their mind. This would be true only if the information that they had was fixed and I don’t see how this could be the case unless they possessed all knowledge. On Feser’s system (or Aquinas’…it’s hard to tell what Prof. Feser personally holds to and what is simply him explaining the thinking of St. Thomas sometimes…) eternal damnation depends on creatures coming to believe in certain illusions and then subsequently becoming “set” in them because they can no longer be swayed by various passions associated with the physical body. But I would ask why God cannot provide the non-corporeal creature with a greater vision of the truth just because they have no bodily passions and do not go through a reasoning process? It seems to me that in the same immediate way that fallen angels allegedly chose to follow that which is not God (under the illusion that it was good, and hence that it was God), they would choose to follow the true God once those illusions were replaced with truth. I just don’t see how immediacy of apprehension/choice equates to finality. Also, one must wonder: If angels were created with no misconceptions/illusions then what could possibly lead them to reject God? But if angels were created with misconceptions/illusions that are strong enough to supersede whatever true revelations they have of God then God created those evils in them and cannot be rightly be called the good as such.

        Feser states that non-corporeal beings “have only a single appetite – the will as directed toward what the intellect takes to be good.” This seems to me like the simplest possible state in which God could reform them. There are no competing passions, habits or attachments; only true or false information regarding what is good (aka what is God). Present them with a clear vision of the truth and voila, salvation! Such a being would only become unchangeable once there no longer existed anything that could change their mind; hence, once they possessed only truth and no illusions. Thus, it is really only the saved who have an unchangeable orientation in regards to God. As David Bentley Hart so eloquently put it “To see the good truly is to desire it insatiably; not to desire it is not to have known it and so never having been free to choose it.”

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        • brian says:

          The angelic fall, far more than that of human beings, is inscrutable. The fact that it is an irreducible surd is precisely why some Thomists conclude that an utterly irrational persistence in evil is a possibility/probability for those who irrevocably “choose” hell.

          In my view, there is a dimension of mystery tied to the analogy of being that ought to suggest that one should not treat Feser’s descriptive ontology as eschatologically definitive. It’s a form of philosophical parsimony that causes him to refuse a place for animals in the afterlife, for example. In general, the “two-tier” tendency among modern Thomists seems to me to limit “biblical imagination” to what can be ascertained through a particular conception of “natural reason.” The idea that reason is inherently ecstatic and completed by revelatory truth often appears to drop out. Otherwise, one would have to incorporate the Christological difference which brings to bear an action of grace beyond the already gifted relation between Creator and creation. Such, I think, exceeds the rigid limits Feser artifically imposes upon his reflections.

          If one sees that God is “always already” sustaining the being of every creature at every moment — otherwise it would “return to zero” — one must ask what is the difference of Christ? The intimacy deeper than my own knowledge of myself, the name that is my calling, that I imperfectly understand and respond to, is prior to my “conatus essendi,” my striving, dynamic eros. Yet this gift does not surmise the alteration of horizon that comes from the event of Incarnation, Cross, and Resurrection. I posit that there is still an implicit individualism in-built into Feser’s argument. He has not sufficiently reckoned on God as the archetype of Personhood, the Ur-Source of all persons. He has not reckoned upon the unique event of Christ’s joining himself to Creation in a manner that makes the kind of isolated, “surd” refusal an impossibility, for always now Christ is present, saying Yes to the Father where the blind creature that “knows not what it does” says no.

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          • Young and Rested says:

            Thanks Brian, illuminating as always. I pray that God will remove all of our blinders so we, along with all of creation can echo the Yes that is in Christ.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Brian, would you elaborate on what you mean by ‘difference in Christ’ – I am not sure what you mean by this. Difference compared to what, and in what way?

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      • Iain,

        Your response is all based on the false assumption that Ed’s argument is based on a denial of change in the relevant cases; this is explicitly denied throughout (e.g., in the affirmation of habituation in angels). There is no possible way to read the argument in the way you are reading it. The failure to take seriously the role of habituation in the argument seems to vitiate other parts of your response, as well (e.g., the ‘most serious flaw’ which makes the error of sliding from Ed’s talk of passions to talk of “passions or thoughts” and confusing both with habituation of will, none of which is a possible conflation on the principles the argument is explicitly using.)

        It is, of course, always the case that if you interpret an argument on an assumption inconsistent with the argument itself that one will get only incoherence.

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        • Confused Bob says:

          Doesn’t eternal habituation of the will imply that the creature’s orientation is incapable of changing? And doesn’t the immediate nature of the apprehension/choice imply that the habituation occurs as soon as the angel comes into existence (or the person becomes disembodied)?

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          • Habituation is a change, though (as Iain rightly noted), so the claim that the irreversibility for angels is based on habituation requires that they be able to change.

            The argument in Feser’s post is not that angels or dead souls are unable to change in any sense (which would be required for Iain’s objection to work) but that they might not be able to change in one particular way. This is why the argument depends on habituation — habituation is an irreversible process, in itself, and it is a change to something becoming more difficult to change. In this life we can change habits of choice, but when they’re set it’s often very, very difficult, and it’s never by just undoing the process of getting them. It requires an entirely new process heading in an entirely new direction. So the argument in Feser’s post is an argument that undoing vices requires certain conditions and that some of the required conditions no longer exist for fallen angels and human beings after death. One can argue against this, of course, but it’s not an argument that they can’t change at all.

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        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          I don’t think I am misreading it. The article’s key assertion is that a soul cannot change its choice as to what it takes as its good because it is like an angel and the choice is therefore irreversible “given that the corporeal preconditions of a change are absent”. The argument requires both that an angel / disembodied soul can choose out of a number of external influences that which it considers the ultimate good (or it could not pick the worng one), but also that once it has made the choice it lacks the capacity to be influenced by any other further external influences in the same way, thus making its choice irreversible.

          As you say, the article appeals to “habituation” to assert this irreversibility. It does not, however, use “habituation” in any normal meaning of the word. “Habituation” in its normal sense is an ongoing long term process whereby one over time slowly ceases to reason about something and simply takes it as a given without analysis, or, something which one gets used to at an instinctive, bodily level without engaging the intellect at all. (Ironically, the article actually refers to “habituation” with its normal meaning as an interference in cognitive processes in the section mwere it talks about the “third way” we can be led into error, thus conceding it is a cognitive process by the article’s own argument impossible for angels.)

          What for convenience I will call “angelic habitation” in the article, however, is a mere assertion. It is used to describe an invented process whereby an angel, having decided upon what is good by whatever process it is the article allows for them to do, somehow immediately loses the capacity for engaging in this process again in response to any further external influences – no explanation is provided as to why this might be. The article having without reasoning asserted this process exists then applies it to the souls of the dead so as to “freeze” them in the same way.

          The “most serious flaw” in the argument, in case it wasn’t clear, is that the soul is supposed to make its choice “immediately upon death” of what is its ultimate good, presumably choosing between whatever arises from its pre-death existence, thoughts, faith, personality, influences and ideas on the one nad, and on the other hand God. The problem is that the soul’s passion or appetite for these competing potential ultimate goods vs God provide exactly the competing passions or appetites which can sway the soul one way or the other which the article denies can exist after death. The only way they could cease to compete is if either the soul no longer had an passion or appetite for the non-God things (in which case it would have no choice but to choose God) or if God deliberately bowed out of the picture in order to ensure against the dead soul picking him.

          The only remedy proposed to get over this problem is to apply “angelic habitation” to the process, but since there is no logical reason proposed for the necessity of the existence of “angelic habition”, “angelic habitation” if it existed would have to be a deliberate creation of God to prevent the soul repenting, which lack or repentance would then in fact be God’s fault, not the souls.

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          • The notion of habituation that is used is explicitly Thomistic; any other reading of the term is not relevant. And on a Thomistic account of habituation it is indeed the case that (1) it is in principle possible to develop a habit of choice from a single choice even for human beings, although this is not the most common case; (2) such a single-choice development is possible for angels (Ed actually gives the explicit references for some of Aquinas’s own discussions, so your claim that it is asserted without reasoning is very odd given that it is explicitly a development of Aquinas’s reasoning); (3) habituation itself is by definition a change in a broad sense and its typical effect involves a stability resistant to change.

            The relevance of corporeal preconditions is explicitly in the context of a choice having already created a habit — the corporeal preconditions are for a change from an already achieved bad habit (note the clear statement of this in the paragraph immediately preceding the one from which you quote).

            The account of the passions used in the article is again Thomistic; and as I noted previously, your ‘most serious flaw’ argument appears to conflate passions and inclinations of will in a way no Thomist would regard as acceptable. (And the post indicates quite clearly that in the sense intended nothing incorporeal has passions at all (they are in the Thomistic sense of the word simply not the thing you can have without a body), and thus the passions for the incorporeal cannot, as they do in this life, shake up and motivate the development of opposing habits. Again, if you interpret an argument in light of assumptions obviously inconsistent with it, it is inevitable that you get incoherence.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Thanks for the heads-up about the Feser article. I probably won’t be commenting on it, as I’m not about to take Feser on because of my poor grasp of Aquinas. Fortunately, we have already had a couple good reflections on his article (thanks Iain and Young and Rested).

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  6. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Another thought or two on faith as response to unconditional promise.

    (1) Is faith a response? Certainly, but it’s a different kind of response because it is simply life as lived after the gospel word of unconditional promise has been spoken to us. If I live my life trusting the promise (to one degree or another), my living is called faith. If I live my life distrusting, ignoring, or even rejecting the promise, my living is called disfaith (or unbelief, rejection, or apostasy or whatever). Both my faith and disfaith are “responses” but not in the same way my response to a command or unconditional promise is. Thus Gerhard Forde:

    The faith by which one is justified is not an active verb of which the Old Adam or Even is the subject, it is a state-of-being verb. Faith is the state of being by the unconditional claim and promise of the God who calls into being that which is from that which is not. Faith means now having to deal with life in those terms. It is a death and resurrection. (Justification by Faith–A Matter of Death and Life, p. 22)

    (2) My disfaith does not negate Christ’s unconditional promise. We need to think hard about this, because outside the Church we have no experience of genuine unconditional promises. All the promises we make to one another are conditioned by death. Only the One who has triumphed over death can promise his love unconditionally. As noted by Half-Elf Bard above, we cannot enjoy a promise if we disbelieve it or distrust the one who speaks it; but the promise stands. Christ is the Hound of Heaven.

    (3) What do I do or say when I, the gospel-speaker, am confronted with someone who tells me, “I reject your promise and reject your Jesus”? He turns that declared rejection back on itself: “Jesus died precisely for all who reject him!” Every instance of unbelief, sin, and apostasy becomes a fresh occasion to speak the gospel!

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    • Mike H says:

      Here’s a question that sums up my issues (in many cases) with the language of “unconditional promise”:

      Does the semantic content of the “unconditional promise” of the gospel go so far as to include/promise that the substance and out-working of the unconditional promise – it’s benefits so to speak – actually be experienced as such?

      Or does the actual experience/lived appropriation of the substance of the “unconditional promise” fall outside the scope of the promise? A separate thing? Meaning that if nobody ever experienced the promise in any meaningful way it would still qualify as unconditional?

      More basically, what does the “unconditional promise” actually promise to its hearers? A “promise” is a relational word – it isn’t just a declaration or a bit of good news or an “offer” or a creed/statement of belief.

      I think of this not as a preacher but as a hearer. And I have heard many sermons about “unconditional love” that have been followed by exhortations and altar calls so as not to go to hell. And I’m like – do you not understand what you’re saying?

      So this is just to say, I don’t think it’s possible to talk convincingly about unconditional promise without also bringing the eschatological imagination that frames that mode of speaking into the conversation.

      This may be incoherent. Apologies if so. Late night. I’m a Chicagoan.

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      • brian says:

        I think you’re spot on, but modern apologists for the traditional view of hell seem to be content with a one-sided covenant. God is always faithful. God is loving, even if hell is “locked from the inside.” They seem to find that a successful “outworking,” but in that case, is it necessary for anyone to respond with love to God? Why wait for the eschaton at all if what really matters is God’s one-sided love? But most of those sermonizers, as you discern, do not really believe in unconditional love, so even a metaphysics of creation falls outside their purview. What they really mean by unconditional is God is willing to forgive you no matter what you’ve done.

        Congratulations on the Cubbies.

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  7. brian says:

    Robert,

    I was thinking about the most enduring element of Thomas’ thought: the real distinction between essence and existence as giving metaphysical insight into the difference between God and Creation. This aspect of “Existential Thomism” is apt to be recognized by modern Thomists, even if they proceed from a different school of thought. The dependent, gifted nature of creation thus becomes illuminated by what Robert Solokowski calls the “Christian distinction.” Yet it seems to me that frequently there is insufficient reflection upon the cosmic, ontological changes wrought by Christ’s salvific act. Many Thomists proceed with their analyses as if one must constrain notions of the human, of reason, and freedom largely within the limits of a purely Aristotelian anthropology. At least, that is my impression. As a result, I don’t believe they properly think through the constitutive element of relation as it applies to person.

    Person requires both gift and return of gift to be actualized. Modern individuals are incomplete persons. Purely elective association understands freedom along the lines of libertarian choice; it lacks the rationality of an older model of freedom whereby the will is directed by the intellect towards the Good. The Good is revealed by Christ to be Triune. In pursuing the Good, we discover our freedom to be coincident with a flourishing excellence that accepts as given the necessity of our relation to the other. A sense of eschatological judgement that lacks this, that can look with indifference towards the fate of another as having no intrinsic bearing on my own fulfillment as a person, my own capacity to actualize my calling as person to exhibit the creativity of love founders because it is not yet cognizant of the implications of Christ’s advent. Here, the chief issue of contention emerges. Persons are unique, incommensurable, irreplaceable. So, one can see how the Logos could unify both a Divine and human nature. But does Christ align Himself so deeply with the Creation that “all things are made new?”

    For surely, the sustaining act of Creation, while looking forward to the Incarnation, is still within the “six days.” Israel’s repeated failures at fulfillment of the Covenant pointed out the essential conundrum. How could one really liberate an enslaved people that stand in for an entire cosmos lost in the bondage of sin and death? How could one pronounce a yes from both sides when one side is recalcitrant, ignorant, violent, fragmented by passions and dispersed in time? Something more than the initial gift of Creation was needed. I agree, in any event, with John Walton in his surmise that the Old Testament Sabbath is eschatological. The “it is good” proleptically anticipates the “eighth day” of Christ’s Resurrected Body which embraces all of time and space. In this regards, I think Christ attains an intimacy with the creature even greater than what Augustine contemplates. For Augustine can still think an intimacy that ends in catastrophe, in the creature coming to irreparable doom. In this regards, the metaphysics of creation is still a “six days” intimacy, not yet the bloodwine of the Song of Songs — Bulgakov says the latter is the most dazzling likeness to New Testament apocalyptic in the Old Testament. The “Christological difference” is an attempt to articulate a “nuptial” symbiosis whereby Christ adds the synergy of human being to the Divine call to love. He does this not as an “individual exemplar,” but as a fully flourishing person whose powers to “be with” are not extrinsic, limited, and open to the possibility of failure, because “in Christ” there is a perduring “yes” that embraces everyone and everything from the creaturely side as well as the Divine.

    Hope that helps somewhat at clarification. Not sure I am fully satisfied with it, but its the best I can do just now.

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Would you suppose that lack of difference is the criticism one hears from those that reject analogy of being and favor instead the analogy of faith/grace in order to bring Christ’s difference to bear on the issue?

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      • brian says:

        It likely is, but they make a mistake in the opposite direction. There never is a pure nature. One can distinguish nature from grace, but the reality we experience is always imbued with grace and has a trajectory towards eschatological flourishing. If one dispenses with analogy of being, one no longer has a nuptial covenant. Grace no longer completes nature, it runs right over it. As Przywara points out, a radically immanent secularism and a theopanism whereby nature is reduced to a brute nullity are two sides of the same configuration. I think one will find that there are usually significant Christological issues. Barth is very concerned to center everything in Christ, but his rejection of analogy of being puts in question whether Christ can authentically speak for man as well as act for God.

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        • Robert Fortuin says:

          Yes, so true. ‘Grace no longer completes nature, it runs right over it’ – this becomes quite absurd (to me anyways, I find it utterly bizarre) in that it is believed that pre-Christ we are not really human! Brute nullity indeed.

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  8. Mike H says:

    This is a link to an interview with David Congdon about his new book “The God Who Saves”:

    Thought this was an excellent interview and VERY relevant to some of the things being discussed here in the comments and in the original essay. A few of the phrases that you mentioned, Father (ex. faith as “mode of existence”, faith as “response”) show up here.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I have the book and have skimmed it. I’m afraid that Dr Congdon is advancing a theological approach that is “beyond my sympathies.”

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      • brian says:

        One of those odd synchronicities: I was just looking at an article by Congdon yesterday and then at his book on Amazon. I surmised if his argument was in any significant way beholden to Bultmann that I would not be fond of it.

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