Friday, 4 March 2011

Nature-grace and natural-supernatural

Sean Doyle, in Synthesizing the Vedanta: The Theology of Pierre Johanns, S.J. (2006) speaks interchangeably of the nature-grace distinction and the natural-supernatural distinction.

This needs to be explored, but I think the two are not coincident. Grace may be operative in both natural and supernatural religions, for example. The natural-supernatural distinction is based on proportion: truths that are proportionate to human nature are called natural truths; truths that are beyond the proportion of human nature are called supernatural truths. This distinction was drawn by Thomas. And Thomas admitted clearly the possibility of God revealing not only supernatural but also natural truths.

Vatican II clearly admits the possibility of grace operative in non-Christian religions and even among atheists. But that hardly does away with the natural-supernatural distinction.

Still, a certain amount of confusion followed after Vatican II. Having accepted the operation of grace beyond the boundaries of the Church, theologians did away also with the natural-supernatural distinction. I am not sure that this follows. And I am not sure whether maintaining such a distinction is politically incorrect. 

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