Sunday, December 04, 2005

sola fides? je pense que non!

What happened to love and hope? If faith alone is all you need to assure you of salvation, why should I bother loving God, myself, and others or having hope in the mercy and justice of God and his salvific plan? I should not bother, n'est pas?

So, to be blunt as possible, je dis ca: works matter!

The fundamental option theory in traditional Catholic thought holds that we have a free choice at the core of our being that orients us toward God or away from God. That is to say, at our ontological core, we each make a decision to orient our lives toward God as the Summum Bonum, or we decide to make a created good our highest good and consequently orient ourselves toward it rather than God. When we act in accordance with a created good as our highest good, we sin, for we have demoted God. In that we can sin and do decide this fundamental option for ourselves alerts us to our freedom. This decision for or against God is inextricable from our actions (those are the "works").

Understanding the fundamental option can help us to distinguish mortal sin from venial sin. The particular acts that can change our fundamental option are the acts designated as mortal sin: the object
is grave matter, and the person must fully know it is grave matter and deliberately consent to it. All three of these conditions together make a sin mortal; such mortality, if you will, obliterates the fundamental option for God because it shifts that choice held at the core of our being. However, a venial sin is not defined by these three conditions; it cannot move that core choice and therefore cannot change our fundamental option for God.

The Catholic view of human nature is that, while we were fallen due to original sin, Christ’s redemptive act both healed our nature and elevated it; we call this redeemed nature. Although we, as Christians, may fall from grace when we choose to follow our concupiscent tendency to sin, we will never return to a fallen nature mired in sin. We have sanctifying grace that dwells within us. Venial sins cannot dislodge this grace, but mortal sins are a rejection of that grace.

On the other hand, classical Protestantism views the human as totally depraved; there is nothing but sin in him, and sin is what defines his nature (
simul iustus et peccator, as Martin Luther put it). The redemptive act of Christ works to justify man in that Christ declares man righteous, although man actually remains in a state of depravity. To the Protestant, Christ did nothing to heal or elevate human nature; Christ merely covers man’s sin so that God does not see man’s utter depravity but sees his righteous Son instead. In that man is depraved, every sin cuts man off from grace (in the sense that the Catholic understands grace); every sin is an infinite offense against the infinite God. Since they see man as depraved, mired in sin with nothing good in his nature, but simultaneously justified, Protestants dismiss the serious effects of sin on grace. They do not distinguish degrees of sin; no sin is great enough to cut man off the grace imputed by Christ, who covers all sin.

Man must recognize that he
always has before him the spiritual horizon of hope, thanks to the help of divine grace and with the cooperation of human freedom." (Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 103) This grace comes through the redemptive act of Christ; it should not be rejected “so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”(1 Corinthians 1:17 NAB) This is the danger man faces if he does not affirm the connection between his concrete actions and his fundamental option toward God.

Suggested reading:
Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

Saturday, December 03, 2005

1 Corinthians 13:13

nunc autem manet fides spes caritas tria haec maior autem his est caritas (Vulgate)

so faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love (NAB)