There are many different ways to interpret the theology of grace. In this paper, I will be discussing four major theologians who have the most popular insights on grace.
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These theologians include Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Rahner who all have their own unique perspective on grace. All of their theories seem to intertwine with one another but each individual one has a different twist that makes them slightly different.
The first theologian I’m going to discuss is Augustine. Augustine was known as the ‘ Father of Grace.’ He believed that all human nature is in disorder due to universal sin of Adam and Eve.
According to Augustine, sin is passed on by sexual acts, even if a married couple engaged in sexual actions it was still considered a sin. He held in the idea of Massa Damnata which means that everyone is damned due to Adam and Eve. Augustine thought that only a few chosen would be elected in that to receive the grace of perseverance of God will be saved, also known as double predestinations.
Next is Aquinas, a student of Aristotle. He tried to bring theology and philosophy together by using the science of philosophy into theology explanation. He believed that before Original Sin, grace is a central or ontological change of nature to the supernatural.
Grace is added to nature and is a disposition to the end glory. Then after Original Sin, grace involves a corrupt nature through Adam and Eve being healed and the healed nature being elevated to reach the supernatural. He thought that grace is medicinal.
Grace is a personal relationship, not just a thing, in the life of the Trinity. A graced person was raised into the divine life. Aquinas believed in a Beatific Vision which consisted of two planes – nature and super nature. It was only possible to achieve when graced is added to nature and a person will have a mental experience and encounter happiness.
Luther is the next theologian; he was a Roman Catholic and an Augustinian monk. He believed that you could not conclude being a sinner and that every sin is serious. Luther confessed a sin seven times a day. He thought that grace is forgiveness of god in which salvation comes through God. Trust of God was expressed in God’s merciful love.
Luther believed that a merciful god would deliver anyone from the evil they did. Only by the grace of God can forgiveness of sin be achieved. Even after you are graced, you are still partly a sinner. He believed that you could not merit grace and could not learn grace through works, it is all given. Grace is totally undeserved and only through God’s choice can you be graced.
Lastly is Rahner, who was a Neo-Thomist and a student of Aquinas. Rahner believed in the supernatural existential and obediential potency meaning that as we’re born we have the ability and capacity to receive the love of God.
He said that grace was God’s self-communication in love. Also, grace is not an extra addition to human nature. “ Karl Rahner developed a theology that views grace as the offer of God’s love that is intrinsic to existent human nature (pg. 1).” He believed that you can either accept or reject the honor of grace.
“ According to Rahner, human beings ‘ freely choose to ratify or to reject that orientation which is itself the free gift of a loving God, but the orientation remains structured into their being (pg. 2).” You’re only free when you love. If you decide to love then you are authentic but if you decide not to love then you are disgraced. Rahner believed that like God, we can know and can love – which is a union with God.
“ According to Rahner, Jesus represents the fullest possible manifestation of grace (pg. 6).” He thought that Jesus was the archetype of grace meaning he was the offer of grace in flesh. Rahner also had a unique concept of anonymous Christianity which is the idea that even if you don’t have a relationship with Christ, you can still be a Christian.
Even though all of these theories are very plausible, they each have a positive and negative side to them. Such as, a plus side of Augustine’s theology of grace is a personal relationship with God but the idea that grace is not universal is a con. For Aquinas, a down side is that it involves sophisticated language which is difficult to understand. A pro of that is he considered grace to universally available.
A positive idea of Luther is he perceives a personal, existential, and affective portrayal of grace in trusting God like Augustine. However, his theory is passive and there is no room for human activity and no collaboration of God. Finally, there is Rahner who has the plus that it is relational that grace is not just a thing but relationship with God but like Aquinas, there is a complex vocabulary and is difficult to interpret.