The theology of grace is one of the most widely argued topics in all of Christian doctrine. So heavily debated is it that nearly all of the great theologians and philosophers of Christianity have at some point argued their case regarding grace. Two of the leading thinkers of the Christian Faith, St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther, both added their ideas to the available philosophical doctrines. In its first two sections, this paper will explore the basic ideas concerning grace of Aquinas, then a very brief explanation of the ideas of Luther, simply for the basis of comparison later on. The third and fourth sections of the paper will focus on the places in the doctrines of Luther and Aquinas where their thoughts diverge and/or converge. Many times, as will be shown Luther's thought is a direct reaction to that of Aquinas, which adds a crucial element to the understanding of both.
[...] The Origins of Grace and their Cause As to the origins of grace, Martin Grabmann interprets Thomas as teaching that grace and the truth which results are given through Jesus Christ—“grace flows upon us by incarnate word by means of sensible signs, and, on the other hand, external sensible effects proceed from internal grace through which the flesh is subordinated to the spirit” (Grabmann 174). In other words there is a twofold association between external works and grace, in that either works lead to grace, as he teaches is the case with the sacraments, or works are executed under the influence of grace (Grabmann 174). [...]
[...] In his clear and precise way, Aquinas expounds upon his doctrine, which has been and remains a cornerstone of the Catholic faith. Section II: Sola Gratia—A Brief Introduction to Luther's Grace Now that we have examined many of Aquinas's views on grace, we must briefly explore Martin Luther's in order that in the remaining two sections we may compare and understand their differences. Luther advanced a theology based solely on God's grace through Jesus Christ, rather than on human works or effort of any kind. [...]
[...] Luther's sola gratia stands against Thomas's association between grace and merit, and Luther stands firm in his belief that salvation is not a process, but a freely given gift of God, undistinguishable from grace itself. About the scholastics and Pelagians, with whom he groups Thomas, he says, the Pelagians, although they assert that a good work can be performed without grace, at least do not claim that heaven can be obtained without grace. The scholastics certainly say the same thing when they teach that without grace a good work can be performed, though not a meritorious (Gerrish 124-126). [...]
[...] In this way, truth can only be fully realized when God reveals it on a dimension beyond that of reason and nature, therefore supernaturally. Thomas explains, gift of grace exceeds every capacity of nature, since it is none other than a participation of the divine nature, which exceeds every other nature.”[iii] Arvin Vos perhaps explains Thomas's thought process most accurately when he explains that grace is in actuality a reordering of nature, contributing a ultimate end toward which nature must be directed” (Vos 158). [...]
[...] Section IV: The Use of Grace by Luther and Aquinas Now that we have looked at not only Aquinas's doctrines surrounding grace, but the way that Luther's paralleled, differed, and in some cases were prompted by Aquinas's, we will focus on the differing ways in which both Luther and Aquinas used grace as a tool for spreading their beliefs. At the 2001 Luther-Aquinas Opening Keynote Address, Dr. James Nestingen identified both Luther and Aquinas as “Theologians of Grace,” if but on very different terms. [...]
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