Grace is a form accidental to the soul

Any substance is either the nature of that of which it is the substance, or a part of its nature. In this sense, matter and form are both called “substance.” But grace is higher than human nature. It cannot then be its substance, nor yet the form of its substance. Grace is a form accidental to the soul. What exists as substance in God occurs as accident in the soul which shares in divine good, as is obvious in the case of knowledge. But since the soul shares in divine good imperfectly, this participation itself, which is grace, exists in the soul in a less perfect mode than that in which the soul exists in itself. Such grace is nevertheless nobler than the soul’s nature, in so far as it is an expression or sharing of the divine goodness, even though it is not nobler than the soul in respect of its mode of being.

Nature and Grace, Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Question 110 Article 2

Photo by Lawrence Lew via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Four questions:

  • Is grace a quality of the soul?
  • Was it in us at birth?
  • Is every action of grace learned behavior?
  • Or is it given to us as an exhibition of the Holy Spirit’s work through us?

Last night, I was driving home from Costco and Ikea with Megan, and we listened to an interview with Jessica Chastain about her role in Tree of LIfe. She made a few interesting points which I’ve been chewing on.

  • The film is spiritual, not religious as it’s not calling someone to conversion. I don’t know if she was just trying to be politically correct or not. But Jesus made an important distinction between those who know about God and those who have a relationship with God in Matthew 7:21-23. In Jesus’ eyes, knowing about God without looking to conversion is pointless.
  • Grace is at war with human nature. I really like this distinction. It’s not Ms. Chastain’s– she doesn’t take credit for it, it comes from Aquinas. Her example had to do with getting slapped. When you are slapped by someone your nature’s response to to fight back. But graces response is to return a slap with love and compassion. What’s revealing to me about that is how little of that I see in Christian culture. Oh, that we may be a people who respond to one another with love and compassion.
  • Grace is not owned by Christianity. While Ms. Chastain made an attempt to argue that grace is a universal religious expression she couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a uniquely Christian response. While I’m certain other religions have a form of grace… the response she described  is uniquely Christian grace.

Here’s what I know: When God’s grace shows up it takes your breath away.

You experience it or you witness it and– in your humanity– you try to replicate it in how you live your life.

But when grace arrives and it’s from God it comes out of no where and leaves you in awe.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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