The Seed of Glory: Catholic Teaching on Theology of Grace Pt. 5 – Conclusions

by Aug 10, 20210 comments

5. Conclusions

Link to the full series of posts here.

Throughout this series, I have tried to make the case that the Church’s teaching on the nature of sanctifying grace is indespensible to Christianity and the Gospel message. We have seen that God not only came to save us from our sins, but He came to perfect us so that we can share in His divine nature and be united to Him for all of eternity. He does the former through his atoning death on the cross; He does the latter by giving us His grace.

Infused grace has been the consitent teaching of the Church from the very beginning. Grace is the reason why so many of the early Church Fathers like St. Athanasius could unabashedly say things that likely make modern Christian a bit uncomfortable: “God became man that man may become gods”.[1] Divinization is the gospel. We aren’t just saved from something (our sins), we are saved for something (union with God) and grace is what makes this possible. Though our final glorification may be veiled right now, the seeds of this glorification are there in full and we are all called to the spiritual life to help these seeds blossom.

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Before we close out everything in this discussion, I would like to briefly revisit some of the common misunderstandings that people have of Catholic teaching surrounding grace and our salvation.

Does Catholicism teach justification by works righteousness?

Here is a section from the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

7 Of these two parts [The Law or the Gospel] the adversaries select the Law, because human reason naturally understands, in some way, the Law (for it has the same judgment divinely written in the mind); [the natural law agrees with the law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments] and by the Law they seek the remission of sins and justification.[2]

The false apostles preached a conditional gospel. So do the papists. They admit that faith is the foundation of salvation. But they add the conditional clause that faith can save only when it is furnished with good works. This is wrong. The true Gospel declares that good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the gift and work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it apprehends Christ, the Redeemer.[3]

Whoever teaches that good works are indispensable unto salvation, that to gain heaven a person must suffer afflictions and follow the example of Christ and of the saints, is a minister of the Law, of sin, wrath, and of death, for the conscience knows how impossible it is for a person to fulfill the Law.[4]

It seems to me that the main charge from Lutherans (and many Proteastants) against Catholics is that they teach salvation by works or works righteousness. Now, after everything we have looked at I hope it is apparent that:

1. Catholics teach our adoption into God’s family is a total and free gift given solely on account of our living faith in Christ. This includes any subsequent reentries into God’s family after mortal sin or apostasy.

2. As a result of our adoption into God’s family, we receive cardiac righteousness through sanctifying grace, other gifts of God such as the theological virtues, and God Himself dwelling in us (Ez 36:25–27, Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, Romans 5:5, 2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Cor. 6:9–11, Gal 6:15).

3. Because all works done after adoption into God’s family are only done because of and through our cooperation with God’s gifts (John 15), our eternal salvation is still not a debt owed to us by strict condign merit or communitive justice; it is still a free gift of God given to those who persevered in their state of grace simply because God has promised to do so (Mt 25:31–46, Mt 7:21–23, Rm 2:6–11, Rev 20:11–15, Rev 2:23, Jm 2:24–26, Rm 2:13, 2 Cor 5:10, Mt. 16:27).

“If, then, your good merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His own gifts.” (Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 6. 15.)

Catholics do not teach any form of works righteousness, then. I think we can put it in simple syllogism to help show the logic.

1. If Catholics teach God gives his gift of adoption into His family as a debt for any work done or as a reward for having an internal state of righteousness brought about by works, then it is a form of works righteousness.

2. Catholics explicitly exclude debt from God in our adoption into God’s family; they exclude any works done or an internal state of righteousness as earning adoption (God adopts us solely by faith and faith itself is also His gift).

3. Therefore, Catholics do not teach works righteousness.

Remember, this remains true every step of the way in life. Cardiac righteousness is received on account of being adopted into Christ via faith. If we ever mortally sin or fall away from faith, we lose our cardiac righteousness and remove ourselves from God’s family. We always enter back into God’s family and receive back cardiac righteousness through repentance and faith.

As Romans 4 stands, then, the Catholic reading does not violate the gratuitous nature of the gift of justification given freely on account faith. We are always adopted into God’s family by a gift of faith and repentance from God. This faith counts as if we had lived a perfectly life and done all the good works that would be necessary to receive God’s gift of cardiac righteousness.

It seems to me that the burden of proof is on Protestants to show that Romans 4 strictly teaches imputed righteousness and is not compatible with the idea that we receive cardiac righteousness as a free gift. The debate, once again, seems to really revolve around the location and nature of justifying righteousness:

1. Is it purely extrinsic or is it intrinsic?

2. Is it really God’s very own righteousness or is it a separate righteousness from God’s but still given to us from God?

3. Is original sin completely removed in justification or does it remain?

If Catholics don’t teach works righteousness, are works really necessary?

Yes. They don’t earn us adoption into God’s family or initial sanctifying grace/justifying grace. They do keep us in this state of grace and help us grow in it. Justification is the giving of cardiac righteousness that then enables us to keep and fulfill the law which we will be judged by at the final judgement (Mt 25:31–46, Mt 7:21–23, Rm 2:6–11, Rev 20:11–15, Rev 2:23, Jm 2:24–26, Rm 2:13, 2 Cor 5:10, Mt. 16:27). To disagree with this is to disagree with Christ and the other authors of the New Testament, themselves.

Is ongoing justification works righteousness?

Some Protestants may begin to see that Catholics clearly do not teach that works play any part in our intial conversion and initial justification. They still may object that Catholics teach that our works done after initial justification, what we could call ongoing justification, are what justify us before God – i.e. earn us adoption into God’s family, the forgiveness of sins, and the reward of eternal life.

I think here lies another misunderstanding. Catholics do not teach that works justify us before God at any stage of our lives in the sense that Protestants are speaking of. To see why one has to understand the Catholic teaching that justification includes receiving the gift of cardiac righteousness. When you do, then we can see that our entrance into heaven is always based on whether we still have the gift of cardiac righteousness or if we threw it away through unbelief or motal sin. We cooperate with God in keeping the gift of grace and growing in the gift of grace but we never receive sanctifying grace and cardiac righteousness as a result of our works. We receive sanctifying grace and cardiac righteousness so that we can do good works. This is why so many call sanctifying grace the seed of glory.

A man’s works are not proportioned to causing the habit of this righteousness; rather, a man’s heart needs first to be justified inwardly by God, so that he can perform works proportioned to divine glory.[5]

Now it is evident that sanctifying grace bears the same relation to beatitude as the seedlike form in nature does to the natural effect; hence (1 John 3:9) grace is called the “seed” of God.[6]

Thus, in regard to its end, grace, as it is the seed of glory, is defined as a participation in the divine nature and is determined by the subject in which it resides, that is, the essence of the soul.[7]

Hence grace is spoken of, in tradition, as the seed of glory, a certain beginning of eternal life, according to the words of Christ : “He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting” (John 3 :36)[8]

Here, I don’t think Lutherans and Catholics are that far off, either. Typically, Lutherans also say works are necessary they just don’t earn us salvation. Catholics, likewise think works are necessary and they don’t earn us cardiac righteousness which, in a sense, is eternal life. In a very strict sense, we can, of course, talk about congruous merit and then we need to look closely at why Augustine and the historic Church has taught that “If, then, your good merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His own gifts.” (Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 6. 15.) But congruous merit is always still a gratuitous gift given on the account of the liberality of the giver. We know that God is just and can trust His promise to do so, but it remains a gift and not a debt of commutative justice, nonetheless.

Once again, the debate really seems to really revolve around the location and nature of justifying righteousness.

Shell, The Beach Pearl, Beach, Sand, Seashell, Sea

Pearl of Great Price Analogy

I want to take a moment to speak of the analogy I frequently have used to explain the Catholic view of salvation because I think it illustrates the Catholic view of things a bit easier. This is an analogy of receiving an inheritance.

I often think of justification as receiving a large inheritance of gifts that includes a special faith coin, or in biblical language, the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45–46). This inheritance is not given to us based on anything we do, it is a free gift given through faith in God (remembering that faith itself is also a gift from God – CCC 153). There is literally nothing we do to earn this inheritance in any way, it is given solely because we are a member of God’s family through faith in Christ.

In this analogy, the faith coin represents sanctifying grace and is the fee required to enter into heaven upon our death. Without it, it is impossible to enter heaven for no amount of works we do can earn us the entrance fee to heaven. This is always true at any point of our lives, initial justification through final justification.

In addition to this faith coin, we also receive a lot of other gifts (e.g. theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit). These gifts are like the talents given by the master to his servants (Matthew 25:14–30). We are expected to take these (also gratuitous) gifts and multiply them. We do so through the spiritual life and works. Those of us who receive the initial inheritance but fail to do these required works will have everything taken away, including their faith coin/sanctifying grace.

Matthew 25:29–30 (ESV)

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

A Fundamental Misunderstanding?

It seems to me that one of the common hang ups on the teaching of sanctifying grace is if an internal righteousness exists that we can increase over time, doesn’t this mean that our salvation depends on the degree to which we increase this righteousness with our works?

Our justice before God does not consist in the degree to which we have realized our godly potential. It really is as simple as are we in a state of grace or not; do we have sanctifying grace/the pearl of great price/cardiac righteousness or not? If we are in a state of grace, we are saved and will go to heaven. If we are not in a state of grace, we do not go to heaven.

And we must always remember that our works are not what make us righteous (or put us in a state of grace); God makes us righteous (puts us in a state of grace) so we can do works. Again, this is summed up beautifully by Aquinas here:

A man’s works are not proportioned to causing the habit of this righteousness; rather, a man’s heart needs first to be justified inwardly by God, so that he can perform works proportioned to divine glory.[9]

We are all in various positions on the path to union with God. We are all in various stages of clearing out all our attachments to sin. Those of us who are further along, are more ready to enter straight into heaven and full union with God. Those of us that are not as far along in purging ourselves from our attachments to sin will have more purging to take place after death.

This could easily lead direclty into to a discussion of purgatory, which is not what is our key discussion right now so I will leave that aside for a later time. Nonetheless, the key point to note is that it really is as simple as are you in a state of grace or not as to whether you can enter into heaven or not.

This seems to me, to not actually be that different from Lutherans who would ask if we are in a state of faith rather than a state of grace. Of course, the important differences get us right back to our discussion and trying to answer where we place the justifying righteousness God gives us (internal or external), what is the nature of the grace (is it Jesus’ very own righteousness or a separate righteousness still from God but not God’s own), and if this is a complete cleansing of sin or if some part of our sinful nature remains.

Magisterium - Wikipedia

50/50 Tie go to the Church and Tradition?

I truly can see how Protestants read their key verses, such as Romans 4, as sola fide via imputed righteousness. I don’t think it is the best reading of the verses, but there are many brilliant Protestant thinkers that have very intelligent reasons for why they think that way. The problem is many of these verses are not as clear as we sometimes would like them to be. It seems to me there are other possible readings for these verses and I don’t see how we can say the verses clearly teach a Protestant view or a Catholic view. There are even many different mutually exclusive views on these verses within the Protestant community (an example of baptismal regeneration also comes to mind, here).

As I began to realize that the sola fide via imputed righteousness view of these famous verses is not the only reasonable interpretation, I then started to wonder how it is that God could have left his Church in such a state of theological confusion over core doctrine. I also saw in the Bible that St. Peter warns that St. Paul is sometimes hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).

This is where I started to look at the authority claims of the Catholic Church and also look to see if it was as historically consistent on its teachings as it claims to be (indefectible). To my surprise, when I investigated the Catholic teaching on these things, what the Church teaches now seemed much more in line with the full traditions of the Church than what Lutherans teach. This really started to weigh on me as I was considering Catholicism. It seemed to me that, at a best, we could give a 50/50 tie as to what these disputed verses meant as they can be read multiple ways. I had a hard time finding a reason why I should not let that tie go to the Church that also has many good biblical and historical reasons for claiming that they have the sole authority to make binding dogma on the universal Church (also an entirely different discussion!).

Sermon on the Mount - Wikipedia

A Different Gospel

What is at stake with these competeing views of the nature and location of justifying grace is two different views of the Gospel. Where Protestants see the Gospel as something extrinsic, an alien righteousness from God that covers us with His righteousness while we remain sinners on the inside, Catholics have always understood the Gospel to be intrinsic and transformational. There are even many modern, highly influential Protestant scholars such as Alister McGrath that are showing these views of justification sola fide via imputed righteousness were a novel view of the Gospel unique to Luther; they simply were not known in the Church before the Reformers.

The point at issue is a little difficult to explain. It centers on the question of the location of justifying righteousness. Both Augustine and Luther are agreed that God graciously gives sinful humans a righteousness which justifies them. But where is that righteousness located? Augustine argued that it was to be found within believers; Luther insisted that it remained outside believers. That is, for Augustine, the righteousness in question is internal; for Luther, it is external.

In Augustine’s view, God bestows justifying righteousness upon the sinner in such a way that it becomes part of his or her person. As a result, this righteousness, although originating outside the sinner, becomes part of him or her. In Luther’s view, by contrast, the righteousness in question remains outside the sinner: it is an “alien righteousness” (iustitia aliena). God treats, or “reckons,” this righteousness as if it is part of the sinner’s person. In his lectures on Romans of 1515–16, Luther developed the idea of the “alien righteousness of Christ,” imputed – not imparted – to the believer by faith, as the grounds of justification.

These ideas were further developed by Luther’s follower Philipp Melanchthon, resulting in an explicit statement of the doctrine now generally known as “forensic justification.” Whereas Augustine taught that the sinner is made righteous in justification, Melanchthon taught that he is counted as righteous or pronounced to be righteous. For Augustine, “justifying righteousness” is imparted; for Melanchthon, it is imputed in the sense of being declared or pronounced to be righteous.Melanchthon now drew a sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous, designating the former “justification” and the latter “sanctification” or “regeneration.” For Augustine, these were simply different aspects of the same thing.

The importance of this development lies in the fact that it marks a complete break with the teaching of the church up to that point. From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. Melanchthon’s concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this. As it was taken up by virtually all the major reformers subsequently, it came to represent a standard difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic from then on.[10]

In brief, then, Trent maintained the medieval tradition, stretching back to Augustine, which saw justification as comprising both an event and a process – the event of being declared to be righteous through the work of Christ and the process of being made righteous through the internal work of the Holy Spirit. Reformers such as Melanchthon and Calvin distinguished these two matters, treating the word “justification” as referring only to the event of being declared to be righteous; the accompanying process of internal renewal, which they termed “sanctification” or “regeneration,” they regarded as theologically distinct.

Serious confusion thus resulted: Catholics and Protestants used the same word “justification” to mean very different things. Trent used it to mean what, according to Protestants, was both justification and sanctification.[11]

Despite the astonishing theological diversity of the late medieval period, a consensus relating to the nature of justification was maintained throughout …. It continued to be understood as the process by which a man is made righteous …. The essential feature of the Reformation doctrine of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification and regeneration … where none had been acknowledged before in the history of the Christian doctrine. A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into the western theological tradition where none had ever existed, or ever been contemplated, before. The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification [as imputation] must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum.[12]

Unfortunately, Luther simply thought he knew better than long traditions before him.

Of this difference between the Law and the Gospel nothing can be discovered in the writings of the monks or scholastics, nor for that matter in the writings of the ancient fathers. Augustine understood the difference somewhat. Jerome and others knew nothing of it. The silence in the Church concerning the difference between the Law and the Gospel has resulted in untold harm. Unless a sharp distinction is maintained between the purpose and function of the Law and the Gospel, the Christian doctrine cannot be kept free from error.[13]

No. 347: Augustine at First Devoured, Then Put Aside, Summer or Fall, 1532

“Ever since I came to an understanding of Paul, I have not been able to think well of any doctor [of the church]. They have become of little value to me. At first I devoured, not merely read, Augustine. But when the door was opened for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine. There are only two notable assertions in all of Augustine. [LW 54:49–50, WATR 1:140 (347)].

The True Gospel

Here is again, Fr. Arintero giving a synopsis of the Catholic view of the gospel, which has been the same view since the beginning of the Church. This is salvation through infused grace, cardiac righteousness, transformation, and theosis.

The Council of Trent [Sess. VI, can. 7] teaches: “Justification is not merely the remission of sins, but it is also the sanctification and renovation of the inner man.” So it is, according to the teaching of St. Augustine, that “He who justifies us also deifies us, because in justifying us, He makes us sons of God.” [Ps. 49, 2.] Therefore the divine Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) purifies us and with His own blood cleanses our conscience of dead works to serve the living God.[Heb. 1:3; 9:14] He is come “that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished, and everlasting just inmay be brought.” [Dan. 9:24]

For that reason we ought also to repent and be converted, that our sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19). Then the Lord, who through His mercy blots out our sins (Isa. 43:25), will pour upon us clean water and cleanse us from all our filthiness (Ezech. 36:25). Even the saints beg Him to wash them yet more from their iniquity and cleanse them from their sin for they know that He will wash them and they will be made whiter than snow and He will give them joy and gladness (Ps. 50) , Through the ardor of charity their “sins shall melt away, as the ice in the fair warm weather.” [Ecclus. 3:17] The Lord will put away our iniquities and He will cast all our sins into the bottom of the sea (Mich. 7:19).[Ps. 102:12]

The Apostle, after reminding the faithful of the most sorrowful state in which they formerly found themselves, adds: “And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the spirit of our God.” [1 Cor. 6:11] And this divine Spirit of sanctification, through whom we are created for eternal life by receiving His divine grace, continually renews the face of our hearts.[Ps. 103:30] He charges us to be renewed in the spirit of our mind and to put on the new man (Eph. 4:23 f.) and to make sure our calling and election by means of good works (II Pet. 1:10) through which we cooperate as much as possible in our renewal. [Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:22–24, 1 Peter 2:9]

In this way, using the waters of grace which wash and give fertility, we shall grow luxuriant, like a tree planted near the running waters which shall bring forth its fruit in due season (Ps. 1:3). We shall flourish like the palm tree and prosper like the cedars of Lebanon (Ps. 91:13).[Ecclus. 24:15–32] Thus does divine wisdom fructify in us and we begin to exhale, not the stench of whitened sepulchers, but the sweet odor of Christ (II Cor. 2:15).[Titus 2:11]

After we have been reborn of the Holy Ghost and renewed in Him, we shall be truly spiritual [ John 3:6] and that to such an extent that He can then say to our souls, “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee.” [Cant. 4:7] Growing in all things according to Him, we shall “be filled unto all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).43

Such is and ought to be the process of our deification. We are not so many mummies under the illusory wrappings of an imputed justice, nor are we solidified in a changeless mold. Rather we are obligated to cooperate with the grace which vivifies us in order to increase it and to make fruitful the gifts we have received. Therefore we ought to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, and we ought to die more and more to ourselves in order to live more anti more perfectly in Him. We must be renewed from day to day and continually purify ourselves of the traces of the old ferment of iniquity and be cleansed of the earthly dust which imperceptibly clings to us. By truly cooperating with the grace which heals, purifies, and deifies us; by being washed and inebriated with the blood of Christ in the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist; and by sharing His sufferings, we can repair the evils of our fallen state and, by virtue of His most precious blood, arrive at a much greater height than we could have attained in the state of original innocence.44 Indeed, many saints believe that even had man retained his original innocence the divine Word would have become incarnate in order to deify us and to serve as the key to the supernatural order,45 but He would not then have suffered for our redemption. By the same token, we would not now have the good fortune of sharing in His triumphs, which are as sublime as they are bloody and as glorious as they are sorrowful, for we would not be able to follow Him valiantly along the arduous path to Calvary.[14]

Arnold van Westerhout - Portrait of John of the Cross.jpeg

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

It seems to me the most important thing in this dispute over the nature of the Gospel is how it plays out in the practical day to day life of the Christian. On the Catholic view, we are all called to the spiritual life and grow in the divine life that God has put inside of us. This brings us back to the opening of this series where Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange said:

The interior life is for all the one thing necessary[15]

This is isn’t optional and our failure to do so won’t be covered by Christ’s imputed righteousness. I feel like Lutherans can’t clearly say the same. Sola fide via imputed righteousness seems to set up the conditions for people to say that living a life like the saints sounds good as an ideal, but since I am saint and sinner in this life (simul iustus et peccator) and I am justified by Christ’s imputed righteousness, I don’t need to fret too much about all the ways that I fail to meet this ideal – all is forgiven if I have faith and a blanket of Jesus’ righteousness. When I read the Bible, especially the Gospels and Jesus’ direct words, I just don’t see this; I see the call to radical holiness and the call to bear my cross as Christ did. It sounds like from Jesus that even many Christians may not realize they have not followed His call correctly:

Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21–23)

Jesus is calling all Christians to a radical mode of life. This is because Jesus wants to share His very divine life with us. The Gospel is divinization and the seed of this glory is God’s sanctifying grace! All this is summed up beautifully in some of my favorite sections from the Cathechism of the Catholic Church.

460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81 (1265, 1391; 1988)

2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”65 All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”66 (915; 2545; 825)

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that … doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.67

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63[16]

FN: 63 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277.

Pope Benedict XVI - Wikipedia

And finally, I will leave us with Pope Benedict XVI’s beautiful idea here:

“Man is not satisfied with solutions beneath the level of divinization.” (Cardinal Ratzinger)[17]

Suggested Resources:

1. Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriele di Santa Maria Maddalena– Classic daily meditations that go very deep into the heart of Catholic Spiritual theology.

2. Philokalia Podcast – Catholic priest Fr. David Abernathy does a group study reading through classic spiritual texts from the Eastern Fathers such as the Philokalia, Evergertinos, Divine Ladder of Ascent, etc.

3. Engrafted into Christ by Christopher Malloy – look at the Joint Declaration on Justification (1999) and why it is a flawed document on both sides. Also gives an in depth look at both Catholic and Lutheran teaching on justification at the time of the Reformation, leading up to the Council of Trent, and the process of the council itself. It then looks

4. Paul: A new Covenant Jew by Brant Pitre, Michael Barber, and John Kincaid – This is a fantastic modern book that walks through how Catholics view Paul’s teaching in light of modern scholarship. It tackles both the New and Old perspectives on Paul along with showing why looking to the Old Testament is so key to understanding what Paul was teaching.

5. Paul’s “ Works of the Law” in the Perspective of Second-Century Reception by Matthew J. Thomas – A fantastic work that shows the 2nd century Church Fathers unanimously saw “works of the law” to mean Jewish ceremonial law.

6. The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church by Fr. John Arintero. One of the best texts I have read that walks through the Catholic view of grace and the spiritual life.

2 Peter 1:3–4 (ESV)

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence,[b] 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Blog End

  1. See a list of the many patristic Fathers that all said this in one form or another here:  ↩
  2. Apology of the Augsburg Confession. IV.  ↩
  3. Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians; The Martin Luther Collection: 15 Classic Works (p. 222). Waxkeep Publishing.  ↩
  4. ibid. p. 236  ↩
  5. Thomas Aquinas, Lectures on the Letter to the Romans (trans. Fabian Larcher, O.P.; available online at the website of Nova et Vetera: The English Edition of the International Theological Journal,,4; lect. 1.  ↩
  6. ST. I. Q 62. A III.  ↩
  7. Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginauld. GRACE Commentary on the Summa theologica of St. Thomas, la llae, q. 109–14. p. 8  ↩
  8. ibid. p. 141  ↩
  9. Thomas Aquinas, Lectures on the Letter to the Romans  ↩
  10. **McGrath, Alister. Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 4th ed. p 127**  ↩
  11. ibid. p. 135  ↩
  12. **Alister McGrath – Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. Vol. I. Pg. 186**  ↩
  13. **Luther, Matin. Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. Chatper 3, v. 19. (1535).**  ↩
  14. **Arintero, Fr. John G. O.P. The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church. P. 94–97**  ↩
  15. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Three Ways of the Spiritual Life.  ↩
  16. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2010 and 2011)  ↩
  17. Hofer, Divinization, 31  ↩

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