Monday, January 16, 2006

'Created' & 'Uncreated' Grace

I've gotten into an enjoyable discussion at Pontifications today about grace, and a particular issue arose: does the Catholic Church specifically, dogmatically, hold to the distinction between "created" and "uncreated" grace; more specifically, in the context of the grace that sanctifies and remains in us?

I may have embarrassed myself (but oh well), but I have been arguing that while the distinction between "created" and "uncreated" grace has a very good "pedigree" as part of the tradition, it is, nonetheless, speculative rather than dogmatic -- i.e., one is not a heretic if one understands grace and justification without reference to "created" grace. My interlocutor, "Photius," sees the Council of Trent's decree on justification presupposing a "created" grace, and excluding uncreated grace, as the "formal cause" of our justification.

I'd be interested in comments, but what I'd really appreciate is someone pointing me toward something truly authoritative, and/or right on-point to this specific (and to my mind, ethereal) question.


Mark Anthony said...

Ethereal? The only intellectual pursuit better than theological disputation is theological disputation with beer.

The distinction of "created" and "uncreated" grace comes from the Scholastics, predating Trent. If my memory does not fail me, created grace is an active process, infusing the life and power of God into our lives as aid and strength. For example, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are specific instances of created grace.

Uncreated grace is passive (I know that isn't precise), describing a state, not an action. Examples would be the Hypostatic Union, Beatific Vision, and the Indwelling we receive in Baptism.

Created grace makes possible the presence of uncreated grace in us. The problem here is terminology. You are right, I think, that the distinction in question is speculative. There is no dogmatic definition conerning these two tytpes of grace (the Catechism makes no mention of the distinction). Active grace makes possible the indwelling state of grace that deepens and widens the presence of active grace.

It really is a chicken-egg issue.

Pontificator said...

Fr Fox, I too am very much interested in what you learn. From my limited reading on this subject, my amateurish guess is that while created grace has certainly been assumed by Catholic the Catholic Church since the late Middle Ages, the Church has not dogmatically committed itself to any formulations about it. If she had, then Newman certainly would not have been able to republish his Lectures on Justification with so few "corrections." And as you noted on my blog, the CCC seems able to talk about the indwelling of God within the human soul without invoking created grace.

One book you may find helpful is Piet Fransen's The New Life of Grace (1969). For an irenic discussion of Aquinas and Palamas, see A. N. Williams's The Ground of Union.

Please do let me know if you learn of anything "authoritative" on this matter. Thanks!

Rich Hutnik said...

Doesn't "created grace" open oneself up to idolatry if accepted as being actual grace from God? If it isn't God who is the originator of the energies that affect the change, but the byproduct of agents that do things, then does that not lead to something else besides God saving humanity?