Fides et Ratio

Faith Seeking Understanding

Location: Texas

I am a 21 year old student at Dallas Baptist University majoring in Philosophy.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Thoughts on Nature/Grace Part II, John Calvin

While I was at work today I was thinkingabout the Nature/grace distinction. I was thinking about the nature/grace distinction because I was discussing with a Roman Catholic whether or not John Calvin was an Augustinian. He said that he wasn't a consistant Augustinian, because he confused the nature/grace distinction. However, as I hope to show this might not be the best portrayal of Calvin's view.

Calvin was not a Medieval Scholastics scholar (which is where the debate over nature/grace arose with the Thomists reacting to the Scotists, see Henri de Lubac), he was a humanist and knew the patristics very well for his time. It was Luther who was the Scholastics scholar (see his Disputation Against Scholastic Theology for a good scholastic rebuttal), because luther was trained in the schools. Calvin was trained to be a lawyer, not a theologian. He got many insights from Guillame Farel from his early stay in Geneva and Martin Bucer during the "exile years" in Strasbourg to form his full-orbed theological system.

Scholars are not decided on Augustine's relation to nature/grace, either. Of course the pioneering work of the Nouvelle Theologie, i.e. Henri de Lubac revolutionized Augustinian studies, I just don't know if you can pigeonhole Calvin in such a nice way that many do in this area.

For instance, Book I of the Institutes on man's "scientia divinitatis" or knowledge of God, you have Calvin's view of "Common Grace", which later divines came to refer to it as. It is my view that Calvin's view of Common Grace goes quite well with what people like de Lubac and Millbank are doing with Augustine and Aquinas, respectively.

The nature/grace distinction is a very good topic in Philosophical Theology and I am going to study it more. These are just preliminary thoughts on Calvin's relation thereto.


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