Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Identify this Quote on Grace and Merit



I came across this striking quote on grace and merit the other day:

There is no way for grace to enter, if merit has taken residence in the soul. A full acknowledgment of grace is a sign of the fullness of grace. Indeed, if the soul possesses anything of its own, to that extent grace must give place to it: whatever you impute to merit you steal from grace. I want nothing to do with the sort of merit which excludes grace.
So, who is the author and what's his theology? Calvin? Luther? Augustine?

Without googling phrases from the quote, does anyone recognize who this famous theologian is?

Feel free to guess in the comments. I'll post the answer in a day or two.

15 comments:

Sister Mary Agnes said...

Without Googling? Awwww ... so if I am too curious to wait and Google I won't be posting my answer--wouldn't be fair!

Galactic Catholic said...

I was gonna guess Chrysostom, but it didn't look fiery enough.

kentuckyliz said...

Garrigou-Lagrange

Francis de Sales

Teresa of Avila

Therese of Lisieux

Maximilian Kolbe

those are my random guesses

Nick said...

Google doesn't bring up anything helpful :(

NYC Theophilus said...

I believe it's St. Augustine. Pax. Henry

Sister Mary Agnes said...

I hate to be contradictory, but I do not see how a Catholic saint could have written this quote. The quote seems to imply that merit and grace are mutually exclusive.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph 2025, "We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God." So merit and grace go hand in hand: grace is God's gift and because of grace we can merit.

In paragraph 2026 it says, "The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God." Again, I do not see here the dispute between grace and merit that is in the mystery quote above.

My guess is Luther, because I think this resembles a little bit the discrepancy he taught between grace and works. But it's just a guess. I haven't studied the theology of the Reformers yet.

OK, I did use Google to look up the Catechism online...

NYC Theophilus said...

Hello Sr. Mary Agnes - you may be right that it's Luther and not St. Augustine but Luther did build a lot of his theology on the works of St. Augustine. Again, relying solely on memory, I'd say it's from his writings against Pelagius. I'm curious to know who actually wrote the quote though.

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin said...

Augustine is my guess. The quote doesn't reject merit outright but says grace before merit.

John Bergsma said...

This is a great discussion, with good guesses. I'll post the answer on Thursday morning. Thanks for the comments, all. By the way, if you DO know the answer, don't give it TOTALLY away in the comments, so we can keep a little suspense for a few more hours.

NYC Theophilus said...

Andrew's reply points out something I was thinking about last night - and it's the theme of the movie "Inception". John listed three names and we've accepted that it's probably one of those three individuals. BUT, that may not be the case at all. So bravo to Andrew for thinking outside the box. St. Bernard is a very interesting choice!

Andrew said...

I was going to wait, but I wanted to confess that I cheated, thus I deleted my post hoping to keep it somewhat of a guess.

Gotta go to confession now!

Sister Mary Agnes said...

Well, if it was a Catholic saint who wrote it, I hope Dr. Bergsma gives a little more of the context of the quote ... I still think it doesn't sound like what the Church teaches, but context might clarify it for me--if it was a Catholic who wrote it, that is.

Brian said...

It is a Catholic saint. I am reading "The Fulfillment of All Desire" by Ralph Martin right now and he quotes it. I am pretty sure the point is that nothing preceeds grace. Everything we do flows from grace and complete submission to Christ. That sounds Catholic to me...

Brian said...

Oopps.. I just read Dr. Bergsma's post asking us not to give the answer totally away. I apologize. Feel free to delete my prior post if it gives up too much info.