The Historical Character Of Grace
By Ephraim Radner
This is a chapter extracted from his book, Spirit and Nature: The Saint-Medard Miracles in 18th-Century Jansenism. The footnotes will be added soon.
Outline of the Chapter
In this chapter, I will argue that there is a consistent Jansenist view of grace that sees it as that reality which provides a specifically historical continuum for the accomplishment of God’s loving purposes for the human creature. It is this historical dimension of grace that makes possible, and logically necessary, the later Appellant identification of grace with sensible qualities, a prominent conviction among the supporters of the Saint-Medard miracles and the bridge by which the theology of grace and pneumatic experience are seen as coterminous.
Because of the breadth of the topic, I shall adopt a single focus for the discussion: the developing conceptions among Jansenists of the distinction between Adam’s grace in Innocence, and the grace given to fallen human beings. Beginning with de Lubac’s negative evaluation of this distinction in Jansenism, I will try to show in response how Jansenism was in fact wedded to a notion of grace’s continuity between Innocence and Fall, in such a way as to develop a peculiar insistence on history as the embodiment, in some sense, of grace itself.
In trying to demonstrate the consistency of this point of view among Jansenists, and its axiomatic weight in the rise of Appellant thought, I will examine a number of thinkers, beginning with Jansenius himself, next treating both anti-Thomist and neo-Thomist conceptions held by subsequent Jansenists, and culminating in the work of the Appellant d’Etemare. Finally, in order to provide a more theologically systematic summary to the various attitudes just surveyed, I will ground the “historical dimension” of Jansenist grace in the way in which scholastic categories for grace were fundamentally reinterpreted by a Jansenist like Arnauld.
The “Historical Continuum” of Grace as an Alternative to de Lubac’s Critique of Jansenism
If we are to disengage something of the character of Jansenist understandings of grace, we can do no better than to turn to de Lubac’s own critique of that understanding.1 De Lubac’s remains the only serious contemporary wrestling with the theological implications of Jansenist thinking on grace. And, as we noted just above, de Lubac takes seriously enough a theological center of gravity among the Jansenists to affirm its logical generation of the vagaries of sensibilite. And the place he implicitly - but unappreciatively - locates that center is in their fierce following of the scent of divine “effects,” the scattering and linking of pressing moments of divine exigence upon persons over time.2
De Lubac is insistent that the Jansenists’ major disorientation derived from their concentration on the fundamental contrast between innocent Adam and fallen humanity. Jansenius set the stage for this, according to de Lubac, by seizing on the “minor” opposition Augustine makes between the divine assistance sine quo non - “without which” - Adam could not have willed rightly (but which he was free not to use) and the adjutorium quo, the divine assistance directly “by which” sinful people are efficaciously aided toward their salvation. Not only is the emphasizing of this distinction a twisting of Augustine’s total thought, says de Lubac - being found only in passing in the late De correptione et gratia - but by being made central to their theology of grace, it skews the entire Jansenist understanding of the relation between grace and nature altogether.3
It is important to be clear that de Lubac is less interested in the Jansenists for their own sake than he is in rescuing Augustine from their hands so as to adapt him as a model for de Lubac’s own view of the relation of grace and nature. And this is a view in which divine love continuously initiates, makes effective, and completes all human effort in a relationship of union between the human being and God on the model (and through the guarantee) of the Incarnate Word. The point for de Lubac in all this is that this relationship of gracious love is established from the beginning of humanity’s creation and is continuous from the state of Innocence through the Fall and Redemption; the relationship of nature to grace is constant and consistently intimate through the history of the human race.4
Where de Lubac would argue for continuity, he sees the Jansenists raising up a wall of distinction in the manner of Baius: an almost Pelagian freedom in Innocence, and a graceless natural (or gracious supernatural) servitude after the Fall.5 But is this contrast really fair to the Jansenists? To be sure, the decisive change in the relation of the creature to divine grace that is marked by the Fall is emphasized by the Jansenists in a way that calls for decisively different judgments, respectively, about the experience of the human creature in the two conditions of innocence and fall. But is there no continuity in the elements that constitute these different experiences? Let us examine this question briefly.
The crux of the problem, for de Lubac, is not that the reality of grace is denied for innocent Adam by the Jansenists, but that they seem, like Baius, to describe it in terms of a necessary “debt” given over by God to Adam for his free use, that is, as an extrinsic “object.” Jansenius, says de Lubac, “comes close to asserting” that Adam’s original grace was “postulated by essential claims when,
after saying that God owes it to himself to grant his help to the being whom he has just created, he assigns as reason for it not so much the sublimeness of the end to which God destines him, as the weakness of the creature which, brought out of nothingness, always retains an inclination for nothingness.[...] In the same spirit Quesnel exclaimed: “Gratia Adami est sequela creationis, et erat debita naturae sanae et integrae [Proposition 35 condemned by Unigenitus].”6
There is nothing particularly inaccurate about this description of Jansenist thinking in general on the question. De Lubac goes to great lengths to argue that it is a deformation of Augustine’s own thought, but for all that, he must continually admit that the saint’s explicit remarks in his later writings seem to point in this direction, unless they are placed in the wider context of his theology. The real issue is to decide in what the character of this kind of grace as interpreted by the Jansenists consists, and in what way it logically implies something about the redemptive grace of Christ after the Fall.
As de Lubac notes, Arnauld’s Seconde Apologie touches directly on this issue. When discussing Article IV of Habert’s attack on Jansenius, “On the Grace of Angels,” Arnauld takes up the question of the nature of original grace and simply restates, as Jansenius did, Augustine’s arguments in the De correptione chapter 12. What kind of grace was this? Truly supernatural and essential to life with God in every way: “However healthy and strong a rational creature might be, it is hardly any more possible that he take one single step on God’s way without the aid of grace, than it is for the healthiest eye in the world to see without the help of light.”7 But it is not enough to see this “light,” to which grace is compared, as an object functionally extrinsic to the being of the creature. For, as Augustine goes on to say (and this becomes Jansenius’s motto of sorts), however much the divine light cannot be understood as an intrinsic capacity, it is the very means by which the creature fulfills its created nature and purpose:
the Free Will suffices for evil; and it is sufficient for doing good only if it is aided by the sovereign and almighty good; just as the eye is sufficient in itself to see nothing and to dwell among the shadows; but whatever clarity it ,possesses is not sufficient for sight unless it receives from without a greater help and clearer light.8
De Lubac cannot see how the stress on the grace “from without” can be anything other than an extrinsic object whose being is here circumscribed by the use to which the creature puts it. But this is clearly not what either Jansenius or Arnauld understand by Augustine’s imagery. That this “light” of grace was given over to the angels for the free use of the creature is simply a catholic axiom, clearly stated by Augustine.9 It constitutes the adjutorium sine quo non of life with God, but it does not itself effect the right choices for which it is given to the creature; this choice resides in the unencumbered will of the innocent creature. Still, and this is the point, this grace is no less intimate in its presence and effects, to which it is directed by the creature, because it is thus given over to the creature’s will. Rather, its very “use” by the creature is constituted by the most intimate bond imaginable: that of the indwelling divine love that gives itself over to its own creature’s being. It is a grace such that only by its continual selfgiving could it allow “a creature, pulled from nothingness to unite itself, though love, to its Creator.”10
Thus, Jansenius speaks of the original grace as truly “sufficient,” in the sense that its gift was truly adequate to its use because in fact the use was made.11 Arnauld, even more pointedly, emphasizes the fact that the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying the will, was made to the angels in innocence.12 These points make no sense unless they are seen as attempts to found the possibility of the free use of grace, as given to the innocent angels and to Adam, on a relationship of divine intimacy that precedes and accompanies it. In speaking, therefore, of the “debt” to the creature that is original grace, Arnauld clearly defines this in terms of the character of a divine presence that has made the gracious decision to live as the “principle and end” of the creature’s loving enjoyment.13
What disturbs de Lubac the most, and therefore pushes him to understand this Jansenist conception of original grace in as “ungracious” a way as possible, is the manner in which the Fall seems to operate, in relation to this conception, in such a disorienting and distinguishing fashion. If the wholly efficacious nature of medicinal and salvific grace after the Fall stands in such contrast to original grace, as it seems to for the Jansenists, it must mean that original grace is somehow weak, “Pelagian,” unimportant, indelectable. But what if we understand the Jansenist contrast not as an attempt to distinguish the nature of grace itself in terms of its creative end, of that which it constitutes? What if, instead, we see their distinction between original grace and the grace of redemption as one that describes the purely historical character of its human destination? Then we will not be forced to choose between “continuity” and “disjunction” - as if we are dealing with a different God and different creations, as de Lubac fears with the Jansenist model of Innocence and Fall. Rather, we will search for continuity in the purely historical description of how God’s grace takes shape across a landscape of events, in which, to be sure, the Fall stands as a major chasm, though by no means one that determines the purposive character of divine grace itself.
If only with respect to the single question of Adam’s grace, I think the search for this kind of continuity is evident throughout the history of Jansenist thought, even as this thought has embraced a number of different theological styles. We can observe this in both the more “neo-Platonic” attitudes toward the question adopted by the direct followers of Jansenius, as well as in the positions taken by the more self-consciously “neo-Thomist” Jansenists of the movement’s later period.
The “Historical Continuum” of Grace according to Neo-Platonic Jansenism: Jansenius, Gerberon, and the Proximities of God
That Jansenius’s theology of grace was shaped by a “platonizing” attitude deliberately adduced from his study of Augustine, and in direct contrast to the “philosophy” of the schools, has been one of the important demonstrations given us by Orcibal’s labors. De Lubac, as we have seen, does not seem willing to grant the importance of this fact because the Jansenist emphasis on the efficacity of redemptive grace seems to point backward, by contrast, to a “merely sufficient” grace in the innocent Adam, which is discontinuous with the grace of Christ. But Orcibal has cogently argued that Jansenius’s exemplarist emphasis on the created imago Dei of the human being can be joined to an emphasis on efficacious grace precisely because the imago is itself based on a gift of supernatural grace given even to the innocent Adam, and without which Adam would not have been wholly “formed” as a creature envisioned for divine love.14 All nature, according to Jansenius, tends toward nothingness (deorsum) apart from grace, which acts as a kind of glorious “rein” on the creature’s slide into non-being; further, the gift of the imago determined that the rational creature could be satisfied only by God. Therefore, Jansenius made the case that divine grace was an essential and continuous aspect of creation, without which the creature would not only be informis but also, in the case of the rational creature, thereby contradicted as to its divine end.15
In addition, finally, to such ontological support that underlies the structural role of grace, Jansenius speaks of the “actual” mode of grace, for Adam, which responds to the inherent contingency of the creature in the fact of knowing the good, by revealing that good to Adam, so as to act for its realization or apprehension. In a double sense, then, supernatural grace constitutes the rational creature as formed by God: first, by defining that formation itself and its continuance through time, and second, by adhering the creature to the historical ends of its Creator, in order to reach the term of its purpose.16 This grace, known as “charity,” is the “bond” or “glue” that thus marks the historical contiguity of rational creature and Creator both in innocence and redemption; what the Fall alters is not this relationship, but rather the historical experiences that will determine the contours of its configuration. As a result of the Fall, the attractions of creation now set themselves up as separating objects between God and the human person, and what was merely a tendency deorsum in the very reality of creation is now incarnated as a succession of actual alternative ends for love.
Gabriel Gerberon clarifies the relation at work between these elements of continuity and historical particularity in a work that Orcibal has characterized as one of the few attempts at elaborating a devotional system derived directly from Jansenius.17 In the opening of his Miroir de la Piete (1676), Gerberon outlines the major elements of Jansenius’s attitude toward original grace, ones that apply subsequently to all historical conditions of the human person: creation ex nihilo means that there is a tendency in all creatures au neant, toward nothingness; the supernatural and only end of the rational creature is the vision of God who is God Himself (and anything done or lived for less than this is, by definition, sin); the freedom of the creature is defined by any movement toward this end, which is equivalent to the movement of love; finally, this movement (which is grace) is given in creation itself, so that whatever its circumstances, the creature is determined by grace. Gerberon, an early editor of Baius’s works, does not shy away from the Baianist language of grace as a “debt” to the creature, or of God’s “justice” as demanding the conferral of such grace.18
But it should be stressed that the direction of such comments leads to an understanding of the relation of nature and grace that is quite opposed to de Lubac’s interpretation of their implication. Rather than establishing some kind of independence of nature from grace in the condition of innocence, Gerberon marshals this scheme - in which “debt” and “justice” refer to both the ontological and historical creative purpose of God - for the description of a creation that is shot through with the divine presence of grace itself. Baianism, in this context, serves the purpose of elucidating an almost trembling encounter with the fragility of creation, which discloses creation as a translucent being-in-grace. “True piety,” which Gerberon here seeks to explicate, consists in a response to this vision that comprises the attitudes of adoration, thanksgiving, praise, humility, and vigilance. And this kind of piety, in Gerberon’s view, was a human vocation even in the state of innocence.
What distinguishes the state of innocence from that of fallenness, then, is not a different vocation in grace, but simply the set of circumstances in which to pursue this vocation. To the degree that God responds to these different circumstances, then, divine grace assumes distinctive shapes, while nonetheless retaining its active relationship with respect to the creative purpose of God over time. The continuity of grace lies both in its end and in its circumstantial constitution. Gerberon, therefore, can describe the state of Innocence as itself being “grace,” in that the circumstances of innocence were themselves so ordered by God directly as to be “elevating.” No evils or weaknesses or miseries beset Adam - as indeed God had so constructed creation from the beginning - so that there was a perfect and unimpeded congruence between the ontological support of Adam’s being and the path by which humanity would move over time toward consummated beatitude.19
This lack of circumstantial impediment provided the defining structure to human love: it moved toward God of its own, because it was initially established with this focus. “Of its own”, of course, means according to the “free use of the human will”, and, like all Jansenists, Gerberon here speaks of the way in which innocent Adam was given grace to use according to his own choices, in such a way as to move to his end through “merit.” But this is not simply Pelagianism thrown back into Paradise. The premise for this kind of assertion is not the supposed integrity of Adam’s independence from grace, but rather the originally established and unimpeded intimacy of God with and even within Adam. Gerberon uses an extreme and striking expression for this reality: in Innocence, God “abandons” his grace, God “abandons” predestination and merit, into the free will of humanity; by contrast, in redemption, we “abandon” ourselves, or rather, are so abandoned through divine love, to God’s victorious grace.20 No more seamless form of proximity, short of identity, could evoke the continuity of this intrinsically creative relationship of grace than the character of abandonment to the other; yet only the formal distinctions in the respective manners of handling such abandonment - in Innocence and Fall - could capture the defining peculiarities that historical locale provides the notion of grace, or that grace itself takes on.
To be sure, Gerberon uses terms like the “natural grace of innocence” as opposed to the “efficacious” grace of redemption, and he stresses several times the way in which original grace “helped” - that is to say, was efficacious in its own right - only within the realm of ontological maintenance.21 But again, we must beware of thereby assuming the existence of some “space” of human experience in which grace was not operative, and in which instead the human will had some kind of extensive sway. Rather, it was just the lack of such a space, it was just the pressing closeness of creature and creator in innocent Adam that defined human free will as salvific love itself. Only sin, according to Gerberon, can institute such space, by deliberately interjecting a creature between the human heart and God (who is, after all, not an object whose extension can be measured in any case). Indeed, sin provides in history not only the invention of distance, but distance, in what concerns the relation between God and humanity, is never to be measured except in terms of infinity: “the abyss of sin attracts only the abyss of grace.”22 Just as there is not now, so there has never been a middle term between cleaving to God and whole alienation. Insofar as sin introduces a space between the rational creature and God, it is an unbounded emptiness, in which flow each of the proliferating works of God as imperfect ends for love.
The “Historical Continuum” of Grace according to “Neo-Thomist” Jansenists: Quesnel, Boursier, d’Etemare, and the Realm of the Divinely Sensible
We have here, then, a positional reading of the relation of creature to God, within which grace is defined according to the ontological concerns of a neo-Platonism tempered by Christian creationism, The schema, however, turns out to be no different when described in the neo-Thomist terms of efficient causality. As noted earlier, it is not immediately clear that the basic Jansenist commitments on grace are fundamentally altered because of the adoption of certain alternative metaphysical orientations by members of the movement.
As a first example, we can cite Quesnel, who is frequently described as having made a distinctive turn away from the ontological “pessimism” of Jansenius toward a more traditional Thomistic attitude.23 Tans lists several of these Thomistic turns that would have been unacceptable to Jansenius: e.g., Quesnel’s description of human liberty in terms of a potestas ad utrumlibet, that is, as a kind of indifference toward alternative contraries;24 his explication of Christ’s universal salvific will in terms of the distinction between antecedent and consequent divine willing and between the sufficient and efficient character of the blood of Christ; and finally, his description of original grace in terms of a kind of actual “union” with God, rather than as an ontological support within a realm of intimacy.25 But what Tans says about Quesnel’s attachment to Jansenius - that it is based less on an attitude of theological discipleship than on a sense that he must defend a co-defender of Augustine - is equally true of Quesnel’s theological resort to Thomistic arguments. This is evident in, for instance, Quesnel’s short history of the De Auxiliis dispute. His explication and defense of the Dominican position, as well as his examination of the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, are all obvious and uncomplicated attempts at emphasizing the basic Augustinian character of their respective teachings on grace, a character that is sustained from the basic Jansenist perspective: “All the doctrine [on grace] of St. Augustine and St, Thomas boils down to [se reduit a] the doctrine of free predestination and the true efficacity of the grace of Jesus Christ necessary to every action of Piety. “26
With respect to our present topic, the grace of Adam, Tans’s attempt to mark some distance between the basic commitments of Jansenius and Quesnel seems to miss the more fundamental unity. Drawing from a late apologetic work in response to the condemnations of Unigenitus, we can briefly outline Quesnel’s attitude on the question.27 It is true that Quesnel stresses, in his attempt to defend his orthodoxy, the “separability” of Adam’s original grace from his created “nature” - such grace being thus wholly “supernatural.”28 There is no concern here, as with Jansenius, to avoid the whole concept of “pure nature” on the ontological grounds of nature’s tendency deorsum. Instead, Quesnel sets up a contrast between the grace of Adam and the grace of Christ that is framed in terms of its being “singular” and “communally mediated.” With respect to Adam, he writes that he is talking about
a grace that [Adam] received in his own person, and which everyone who would be born from him and from his posterity would also receive in their own person. [...] Adam received sanctifying grace for himself alone, independently of every other creature that came from God. In contrast, the Christian is sanctified in Jesus Christ. For God has placed in this Head, worthy of adoration, the totality of graces that He destined for his members, and none of [his members] receive of these graces except as they derive from Christ’s plenitude and in a manner dependent upon him.29
The question of grace’s mediation, then, is what is at issue. And in lifting up this contrast, by implication Quesnel is characterizing the sanctifying grace that is “separable from nature” as being, in both states of Innocence and Fall, essential to the loving purposes lying behind God’s creation of the human person. Thus, despite his defense of the separability of original grace from nature, Quesnel avoids any construal of “pure nature” by insisting on the “simultaneous infusion” of a sanctifying grace (i.e., the adjutorium sine quo, which is distinguished from the “grace of creation itself”30) at the moment of creation, in order that Adam could advance, individually, along the path of “friendship” with God for which he was created. Without this simultaneous infusion of grace, Adam would have “fallen” into sin immediately, that is, in a sense, “faultlessly.”31 Indeed, it is the historical dimension that determines the moral quality.
This is a somewhat curious turn in Quesnel’s reasoning, but it marks his attempt to explicate the troubling Baianistic phrase (removed from later editions of the Reflexions Morales) concerning Adam’s grace as a sequela creationis et debita naturae sanae et integrae, a consequence of creation and a debt to healthy nature. These words had been condemned in Unigenitus, and someone like de Lubac considers them to be an epitome of the Jansenist error.32 Quesnel, while admitting the ambiguity of the now eliminated phrase, nevertheless insists on the bad faith of those who grasped at its supposed Baianism:
When I said in the first editions [of my work] - which have been reformed by His Eminence - that this grace was due to nature, in its health and wholeness [la nature saine et entiere], how could one imagine that I intended to speak of a true debt in the ordinary sense of the word? For there could never be any promise on God’s part [in this regard], nor any merit on man’s part. It was rather a figure of speech, such as human beings often use, and it meant, with respect to God, that it was something “fitting” to His wisdom, “worthy” of His goodness, and something one might expect of His Providence.33
By “providence,” Quesnel here means the evident “purposes” of God, evident according to the retrospective understanding we have of the created goal for humanity, as it is subsequently revealed to us in Christ. And it is thus a purpose that informs the condition of innocent Adam from the moment of his creation. It is characterized by a relationship of immediate intimacy between God and the creature, but one that is structurally provided by God, and not somehow intrinsically bound up with the being of the creature itself. Thus, Quesnel stresses both the individual and particular receipt of grace, in this innocent condition, as well as the separability of the grace from created nature itself: it is given particularistically and temporally to Adam, and it is its extrinsic quality that guards these two elements. Quesnel variously calls this grace “supernatural,” “sanctifying,” “conserving,” and “independent,” and each of these descriptions serves to constitute the world of particulars in which Adam is created to “rejoice” in “a profound peace with God.”34 The grace of redemption, by contrast, does not in any way reconstitute this world of historical particulars in which the human being is created for friendship with God; instead, it simply provides a different figure according to which the grace of friendship is mediated, that is, the form of the Body of Christ. In both cases, however, grace is understood as the motor for the providentially desired historical existence of creation.
We shall explore in the next chapter some of the implications to this contrast of “forms” for the mediation of grace. But apart from this, it should come as no surprise that the peculiarly temporal and particularistic dimension of this vision of grace should find the language of efficient causality congenial. In making use of such language, however, Jansenists did not, it seems to me, stray very far from the “positional” framework that we saw as informing Gerberon’s contrast of Innocence and Fall: given the historical continuity of God’s plan for the human creature, what distinguishes original from redeeming grace is determined by the configuration of particulars of creation in relation to God’s immediacy. The neo-Thomist appeal to “physical predetermination” in explaining the relation of grace and free will had already been noted approvingly by Jansenius and the early Arnauld (see the latter’s Seconde Apologie, 183f.), but this was never taken up systematically at the time. By the eighteenth century and in Quesnel’s wake, however, such appeals were put to deliberate use by Jansenist apologists. Among the most consistent of these attempts to apply the category of efficient causality to a discussion of grace was a work by Laurent-Francois Boursier. Boursier became one of the guiding theological figures behind the Appellant defense of the Saint-Medard miracles and early convulsions, but he gained a significant reputation early in his career with the publication of a massive investigation of grace described almost obsessively under the rubric of neo-Thomist “physical premotion.”35
While space does not allow us a full description of this fascinating work, its place as a type in subsequent discussion demands that we at least mention its main argument. Boursier draws on the purported Thomist premise that God acts on the human free will through actual (not merely habitual) “physical” aids, aids that have “efficacious force by their own nature” but whose working does not detract from the will’s capacity to act within the “liberty of indifference.” This divine premotion in grace, however, mirrors the mechanism of created life in general, which takes its form from the welter of forces - material, intellectual, and spiritual - acting upon creatures. Boursier elaborately describes human beings in terms of a psychosomatic unity wherein the shape of human life is ultimately determined by this divinely configured orchestration of forces that end in particular nerve impulses. In created Innocence, this orchestration was unimpeded in its effects, and Adam lived in a free and utter intimacy with God, in which the divinely given forces at work upon his life were received with a delectable immediacy analogous to an immersion within a garden of blossoms. At the Fall, however, the advent of concupiscence marked the disruption of this intimacy by a radically opposing set of forces, acting now as impediments to the human creature’s receptivity of God’s configurated premotions. Within this scheme, Boursier could speak - familiarly, in Jansenist terms - of redemptive grace not as a novel power or relationship, but as God’s premotive force moving now “over a greater distance” than before, in overcoming the obstacles of sin. Indeed, Boursier dares to make explicit the full erasure of the Augustinian distinction between the adjutorium sine quo and the adjutorium quo: all grace, even in Paradise, is an adjutorium quo.36
However much a self-styled “neo-Thomist” like Boursier relies on the language of efficient causality, then, he presents a perspective on grace that differs little from Gerberon’s in describing its unified creative power: grace constitutes the world of historical particularities according to which God is present to His creature(s). In fact, in that they function as equivalent terms, one could go so far as to identify this grace, so peculiarly conceived in the Jansenist outlook, with that constituting and constituted history itself.
I shall want to take a last look, in some greater detail, at the way in which Jansenism could fundamentally redefine grace in such historically constitutive terms. But before doing so, it is worth noting how Boursier’s neo-Thomist categories themselves were immediately relativized by other Jansenists in an effort to distinguish the underlying commitments Boursier was upholding with respect to the positional nature of grace’s continuity in its movement through Innocence and Fall. D’Etemare’s Remarques, for instance, deal at some length with Boursier’s work, and he is taken to represent, with others, the “Thomist” understanding of grace that contrasts, to some degree, with the two other major “systems of grace,” the “Molinist” and the “Augustinian.” While most of the time d’Etemare tries to establish the full compatibility of the Thomist and the Augustinian systems, over and against the innovations of Molinism, he cannot deny the differences between them on many counts, and there is no question but that the “Augustinian” system accords most fully with the doctrine of Quesnel’s Reflexions, which he is defending from the attack of Unigenitus. Still, in trying to ferret out the basic commonalities that remain despite these differences, he brings into relief some of the key Jansenist attitudes that persist beneath the different “systems,” a commonality that he recognizes as bringing thinkers like Boursier into the Jansenist (and thus “orthodox”) camp.
Many of the features that distinguish the different systems of grace, according to d’Etemare, revolve around the relationship between Innocence and Fall. The Thomists, he claims, insist on a complete continuity in the metaphysical relationship of creature to Creator through all conditions, whether of innocence, fallenness, or redemption. “Because humanity has come from nothing and is infinitely weak, it stands in need of an extremely powerful help; and because it is God who brought humanity out [of nothing], He exercises over it a sovereign domain.”37 In this sense, “efficacious grace” represents the means by which human beings exist, act, and move to their respective destinies in every respect. “Physical premotion” as grace, in the sense that Boursier uses the term, can therefore provide the explanatory framework in which the whole of human history, whether naturally or religiously understood, plays itself out.38 As in Boursier’s scheme, there is really no difference whatsoever in the structure of grace in Paradise or in redemption. Predestination is “free” of determination by merit even in innocence, since every act of perseverance even then derives from the free and efficacious gift of consent. What needs to be explained, rather, is the way in which sin itself freely arises in a non-deterministic fashion.
The Molinist system, by contrast, explains the human creature naturalistically, as a being created into a realm of freedom from determination, except in those things pertaining to life with God, that is, to his supernatural end.39 Thus, Adam in Paradise existed in full possession of capacities for free willing within a limited sphere of the “natural” - this sphere of capacity and its objects is called “pure nature” - but, by a gratuitous “supernatural grace,” Adam was at the same time elevated to a wider life in communion with God. In losing this added supernatural grace at the Fall, human beings are now universally left to that state of “pure nature,” where they can freely choose and act toward the limited “natural goods” that pertain to this sphere. To the degree that God provides a means for the attainment of a human being’s supernatural end, God does so by supplying supernatural graces to an individual that can, in the same naturalistic fashion, be used or rejected freely. This kind of redeeming grace was dubbed by neo-Thomist and Jansenist critics of the system as “versatile grace,” that is, as divine grace whose use was given over to the free determination of the creature. Predestination in this condition after the Fall is not “free” here, because it refers only to the divine foreknowledge of how individuals will in fact make use of such gifts, and in no way embodies the sovereign divine decision to provide efficacious means to salvation to this or that individual irrespective of his or her capacities to use them.
With these two contrasting outlines in place, d’Etemare can simply construct the Augustinian system out of its rearranged elements.40 Simply put, the Augustinians are “Molinists” with respect to the state of Innocence, and Thomists with respect to the state of sin and redemption. In Paradise, supernatural grace is “versatile” in the sense of being given over to the free use of Adam - this is the “baianistic” principle - but after the Fall, all grace works efficaciously and freely. This is so for two reasons: first, the scope and power of the fallen free will is hindered by the universal introduction of concupiscence; and second, the guilt deriving from original sin breaks the bond of the divine commitment to that offering of grace which had held initially at creation (the debitum of grace in Innocence). Predestination is, as in Gerberon’s term, “given over” into the hands of Adam in Innocence, as personal right decisions acquire or make use of the graces of perseverance; in Fall and Redemption, however, predestination is wholly “free,” since human beings now “deserve” no more than condemnation.
There is nothing very surprising in all this, at least from the Appellant point of view, except perhaps the brazen clarity of its explication. Few Jansenist writers would be willing to adopt the Jesuit notion of “versatile” grace in no matter what form. More interesting is the way d’Etemare tries to locate the Thomist and the Augustinian views in a broader way to the side of Molinism regardless of the particular historical order in which each group might decide to arrange the elements of gratuity and self-determination. To do this, d’Etemare goes after the idea of “pure nature” which he has identified as being somehow central to Molinism.41
The crucial issue defining the two sides, d’Etemare argues, lies less in the explanation given to the mechanism of grace in the state of innocence - whether it be efficacious or not - than it does in the assessment one makes about what counts as a properly human life, in any condition. And on this question, Boursier’s unimpeded divine premotion and Quesnel’s debitum of grace are agreed: the life to which the human being was created is one in which a fundamental intimacy with God is assumed as determined, purposed, or “providential.” D’Etemare goes into elaborate and exegetically sophisticated detail in analyzing Augustine’s own developing views as to the kind and extent of divine aid offered to innocent Adam.42 He concludes, simply, that there is an ambiguity as to whether Augustine posited an “efficacious” grace moving the “first desire” of Adam, which would then determine the use of the auxilium sine quo (Boursier) or whether, in fact, that first desire was part of the constituted “good will” of Adam’s creation that thereby founded the versatile use of the auxilium (Quesnel). But however one comes down on this interpretive question, there can be no quibbling with the fact that the very existence of Adam, as purposively created, was to dwell in unity with God.
Of course, the Molinists insisted that Adam was granted a supernatural elevation from the moment of his creation that made possible this life in unity. How does this differ from the Jansenist commitment? It is not, obviously, the end of such an elevation to which d’Etemare objects. Rather it is the implication derivative of the notion of “elevation” itself that is pernicious, an implication that leads to the presupposition of an originally created “non-elevated” nature that can somehow be subsistent in its integrity apart from a life with God altogether. The pernicious implication of the claim for supernatural elevation in innocence, then, is the idea of a “pure nature,” a fundamental condition to which human beings after the Fall and the loss of that supernatural elevation revert. This natural condition after the Fall, according to the tag, differs from original creation (apart from supernatural elevation) tamquam spoliatus a nudo, only as someone robbed of his clothing differs from someone who is naked. Although without any essentially ongoing connection to God, through grace, this natural condition is good insofar as it represents one term in God’s creative purpose. The condition is shaped by its own, more limited, character, capacities, and ends, whose use and attainment is good in itself. Put simply, the Fall makes effective upon humanity the limits of its created nature, no more, and the fallen life is a limited life in which, for the most part, God lies outside the boundaries.
It is the absolute horror of such a conception of livable if limited independence that so shocks d’Etemare. Could any life on earth without God ever be called “natural”? Further, could such a life without God ever be experienced as anything other than profoundly grotesque?
Does Scripture really reduce the change wrought on human nature by sin to this? The image Scripture paints in so many places, of the misery, the weakness, and the corruption into which man has fallen since Adam’s sin - is all this to be reduced to teaching us simply that man has returned to his natural condition, a condition that is good in itself, even if less elevated than that to which Adam had been called?43
For is there anything that could have greater repercussions than to strip man of the relationship he stands in, either toward God or toward true righteousness, that provides him his worth? or than to give him different duties to accomplish [i.e., natural, not divine duties], different virtues to acquire, different rewards to expect, and different punishments to fear?44
Life without God is pure misery. That is the simple point d’Etemare wishes to make. To pretend otherwise is wholly to misunderstand both the nature of God and of God’s purposes, as well as the vocation of human beings. If nature is God’s creation, then pure misery cannot be pure nature. This is all that is meant by Quesnel’s debitum; and this is all that is meant by the proliferating flowers of Boursier’s garden. If God created human beings, such creation embodies at the least a set of circumstances that can only be described in terms of utter glory - the glory of proximity and conversation, of vision and encounter. And since d’Etemare pushes his discussion of grace back to this point, with this kind of logically necessary embodiment, brushing aside the distinctions between efficacity and versatility in Paradise, it appears that the concept of grace is designed to serve this set of circumstances, and in a wide variety of ways: “grace” stands for its simple description; it stands for its enjoyment; it stands for the elements of relationship that characterize it, including its initiating players (i.e., God); it stands for its motive genesis and conservation. And, as we have already seen in every other Jansenist figure we have examined, “grace,” as a term, represents the circumstantial embodiment of all these aspects as it persists or is reconstituted through time, across the chasm of the Fall, and through its continued redemptive movement.
What we found earlier in d’Etemare’s definition of grace, that is, the qualities of a certain sensibilite, whatever their peculiar characters, flow directly from this fundamental Jansenist perspective. If grace is a “feeling,” that “softens,” “penetrates,” “grips,” and “pleases” the heart,45 it is not so simply because it is power that works on the emotions or at best the affective character of the will. Rather, grace “works,” in the sense of forming the relational gestalt, the very situation in which the history of a “ravishing” relationship takes its shape. It is formatively subsuming, in this respect, of every particular element that can be identified as constituting that relationship, of every divine “effect” in the world. The quality of sensibilite that informs its description is precisely that: the descriptive process itself as it locates the facets of the subsumed whole, that points each one out, that distinguishes each peculiarity as it presents itself in time. It is not so much the affective, as opposed to the intellectual character of this descriptive apprehension that is being stressed in calling grace a sentiment, as it is the purely “sensible,” that is really discrete, quality of each facet. Only sensible experience - as opposed to the atemporal abstractions of intellectual cognition or even formless passions - correlates to the historical particularities that mark the providential continuity of God’s purpose, that is, to grace. Although Jansenists relate this to the Augustinian category of “love,” it should be clear how deliberately they have stressed the potentially temporal aspects surrounding love’s realization.
Jansenistic Grace as a Historical Category: Arnauld’s Systematic Definition
When Jansenists think of grace as an “effect in time,” as Thomas put it, they will not be led to consider the “created” nature of such effects, as these effects might normally be understood, but rather the historically subsuming quality of any reality at all that shapes the relational effects of God’s providential purpose. We have noted how Jansenists avoided the distinction between created and uncreated grace altogether preferring to attribute this traditional scholastic division to a matter of perspective, uncreated grace being seen from the initiating side of God, and created grace being understood from the finite reception of that relationship by a creature. But taken strictly, “grace” refers to the single orchestrating reality of the relationship as a whole: it is of “one nature,” being the single “movement” that brings the human soul into a place of rejoicing in God and creature for God’s sake, however this is to be understood particularly.46
From the narrowly systematic point of view, then, we ought to see Jansenists simplifying the categorizations of grace given by the Schools and relying on a single conceptuality that will emphasize the continuously historically creative and directive character of God’s presence to the human creature. Sensibilite, in the sense that we have begun to elucidate the term, will depend on such a simplification and focus. And this is just what proves to be the case.
It is with this systematic observation that we can give some final support to my explication of the Jansenists’ historicization of grace. And one of the clearest expressions of this more comprehensive systematic move is also one of the earliest, Arnauld’s 1656 treatment of Thomas on grace.47 Written at a time when Arnauld was seeking to defend himself against censure from the Sorbonne, the work marks the first careful attempt to reread Thomas’s treatise on grace in the Summa Theologiae from a Jansenist perspective. While the issue here is that of “efficacious grace,” the topic is not approached through Thomas’s metaphysic of causality as was usually the case with neo-Thomist discussions of grace since the Congregatio De Auxiliis. Rather, Arnauld is far more concerned with an examination of what it means for God to “will” something for His creatures, to layout the particular elements making up the fulness of the divine plan.48
From the first, Arnauld wishes to emphasize the fundamental distinction in Thomas between habitual grace and the grace, more generally understood, by which God acts to fulfill the divine will. Thus, although he admits that Thomas is usually referring to habitual grace when he uses the term “grace,” Arnauld is himself more interested in the auxilium Dei moventis, that grace by which, according to Thomas, all other specific graces are made possible or are given ground for action.49
Governing Arnauld’s reading of texts from the Summa is one basic definition Thomas gives in De Veritate 24:14: the free will is unable to reach the good beyond human nature (salvation) without grace, and while we use the word “grace” here, we must distinguish it from our more common use of the term as “habitual grace”; for this grace by which the creature moves to its divine end is rather the very mercy of God, through which He works an interior motion in the spirit and ordains exterior events for the salvation of an individual.
Drawing on texts from 1a2ae 106 and 109 of the Summa Theologiae, Arnauld describes habitual grace in Thomas’s terms as that which “heals” human nature, “elevates it,” and gives it the capacity (posse) to fulfill the commandments and avoid sin. But his emphasis in describing this habitual grace is on the fact that a habit, even of grace, need not be used at all: it is, as Thomas himself makes essential to the definition, something subject to the free will. “A habit by definition is something we use when we will,” as Arnauld quotes it.50 And, as he goes on, he contrasts this kind of habit with what Thomas describes as the direct work of God the Holy Spirit moving in love within the soul.51
It should be pointed out, however, that love normally considered, for Thomas, is a habit, and is not the direct movement of the Spirit in the human spirit, precisely because such love must be free.52 We can observe already, then, that by pressing the metaphysical imperfections of habitual grace seen in terms of its effect, Arnauld is moving his sights away from the reality of the Christian life as understood subjectively - created grace - toward the realm of God’s own purposes in shaping that life as a whole.
This can be noted further as Arnauld explains in more detail the historical limitations constraining the scope of habitual grace. A habit need not be used, he says, which means simply that a person can still sin who lives under the habit of grace alone.53 It is only God’s direct help that is ever infallible, infallibility being a characteristic that cannot pertain to the contingent instruments of human existence. While habitual grace confers a capacity, it cannot confer the actual willing of the good itself; that is, habitual grace confers the capacity “sufficient not to sin,” but is not in itself a confirmation in righteousness.54
Arnauld turns to Thomas’s Question 109 as his key text for introducing the notion of a “special” grace that is both prior and subsequent to habitual grace, the grace of the auxilium Dei moventis. Thomas is himself somewhat unclear at this point on the relation between these two temporal aspects of the auxilium, a fact that allows Arnauld to subsume all grace that is not explicitly habitual, according to Thomas, into the one form of efficacious divine willing.
In the first place, Thomas presents God as the cause of every “motion,” whether physical or spiritual, and this in two senses: both as prime mover, and as the “primary actuality” of every formal perfection.55 “However perfect a physical or spiritual nature is taken to be, it cannot proceed to actualize itself unless it is moved by God.” This kernel for the later neo-Thomist ideas of physical premotion, however, is qualified by Thomas in terms of its historical outworking: “this actual motion is in accordance with the order of His providence, not according to natural necessity.” To Arnauld’s mind, it is a qualification that moves in the direction of predestination and away from purely metaphysical mechanisms of causality.
In 109:2, Thomas then draws the distinction between Innocent Adam and the condition of fallen humanity. “Intact human nature” (natura integra) required the grace of divine assistance, as prime mover, “to do or to will any good at all.” While “in respect of the sufficiency of his capacity to perform actions, man could by his natural endowments will and perform the good which was proportionate to his own nature” (i.e., acquired virtue), nonetheless intact nature was unable to will or to perform the “transcendent good” (i.e., infused virtue) without special divine assistance.56
Fallen nature needs grace in an additional sense: in order to “heal” its natural capacities so as to perform the natural goods which were accessible to the powers of the natura integra. At this point, the contrast seems small, since in both states human nature needs grace to will supernatural goods (these derive from the infused virtues as directly wrought by God - the auxilium?), as well as the auxilium of the prime mover to will anything at all. In any case, it is this “healing” grace that Arnauld latches onto as “habitual grace” strictly speaking.
Arnauld finds his ammunition by which to dispense of this healing grace, as being anything other than ancillary, in 109:9, which he quotes almost in toto. Thomas points out that, even when once healed in mentem, fallen nature “continues to be spoiled and infected as regards the flesh,” as well as mired in “a kind of darkness of ignorance in the understanding.” This fact reveals our need for the continuous grace of God moving and protecting us as we proceed as viatores through life. On this basis, we are both helped in knowing for what to pray, and we are helped in persisting in that prayer, in order that we might be defended from temptation and so act according to God’s will. For “God knows all things and can do all things.”
This continual aid of grace, Thomas makes clear, is subsequent to the gift of habitual grace. And Thomas goes so far as to say that, in a sense, habitual grace is “imperfect,” in that “it does not totally heal” a person. The grace given subsequent to healing, that is, subsequent to habitual grace, represents the work of the entire Trinity as it “moves and protects us” in the course of our lives as they wind their ways through a world itself beset by imperfection. And as both Thomas and Arnauld emphasize,57 the auxilium as it is understood at this stage is indistinguishable from the grace of perseverance. This being so, Arnauld can attach to the auxilium as a whole the attribute of infallibility or efficaciousness. While Thomas himself does not emphasize this fact, Arnauld can now subordinate the purposes - and thus “efficacity” - of habitual graces that can, by definition, be lost through sin (and this includes infused forms and powers), to the gift by means of which these graces are made to persist in the course of a life.
Since, as we saw, Thomas places the work of the auxilium within the order of providence, Arnauld now is able to have the entire working of grace - in the perfections and “imperfections” of its applications that are nothing else but the form of God’s historical will and purpose - subsumed under the category of predestination. From one perspective, Thomas himself does this, but the emphasis has clearly shifted with Arnauld. Turning more explicitly to Augustine now, Arnauld discusses the visible and experienced effects of the auxilium within the large drama of God’s historical will for an individual or for a people.58 There is, he writes, not only the “universal movement” of God’s grace at work in all creatures, but also the “special grace” that determines the limits and contours of the creature’s movement toward salvation as it is instantiated historically.59
It is worth asking to what degree Arnauld has distorted Thomas’s own thought here. Thomas, as we have seen, uses the notion of God’s “motion” both in a more naturalistic sense - as prime mover and formal cause of actuality - and in more particular senses of special graces for particular motions of willing and acting within the schema of holiness and salvation. Arnauld ends by collapsing these two senses into the one efficacious will of God’s providence and predestination. Efficacity is now applied in a primary sense to the whole of God’s historical will (what Thomas usually calls God’s “consequent” will), which includes in a subordinate way the metaphysical aspects of the divine motion within it. Thereby the whole issue of the “permission” of sin and the occasional withdrawal, in individual instances, of the specifically efficacious grace for salvation becomes merely the historical embodiment of the larger efficacious grace of God’s providential governance of all things, in predestination and in reprobation. Habitual graces, where even a matter of concern, are relegated to mere instrumentalities in this subsuming history of relationship.
In some ways, this collapsing of senses, this simplification of the concept of grace itself, follows the development of terms as Thomas uses them in his treatise on grace as a whole. For there is a clear shift at work from the early part of the treatise, where the auxilium Dei moventis is used rather strictly to refer either to the metaphysical aspects of the divine motion or to the initial converting movement of the will in preparation for the sanctifying grace of justification.60 What Thomas calls “justifying grace,” however, is identified, not with the auxilium but with “healing grace,” that is, with habitual grace.61
Soon after this, we find Thomas describing “justification” as a whole in terms of a joint working of habitual grace and the auxilium, although each aspect is carefully distinguished.62 By Question 113, however, Thomas seems to be emphasizing the underlying priority of the auxilium throughout the reality of justification, characterizing the whole as a gradual “movement,” in itself, of the soul to justice, under the influence of the Deus movens.63 Almost every stage or aspect of this process is now tied to the auxilium Dei moventis, including the infusion of virtue.64 Grace is the Deus movens, God moving as the Holy Spirit indwelling the human soul.65
Simply collapsing the various distinctions among types of grace, then, is something Thomas himself is willing to do. But even this kind of simplification need not necessarily lead in the direction Arnauld takes. The final moment in Thomas’s discussion, where grace becomes consonant with the indwelling Holy Spirit, could easily be interpreted according to the kind of neo-Platonic categories of participation and possession that many have wanted to see as predominant in the later Thomas.66 What is crucial is how one is going to assess the character of the Spirit in his description. And this is the critical thing to be gleaned from our examination of a Jansenist appropriation of Thomas: once Arnauld, as he does, takes the image of “movement” versus “indwelling” as the primary shape of divine grace, then the landscape in which this grace is effective will be determined by aspects of proximity and event, that is, by historical relations. And we can see how the adoption of such a framework for the understanding of grace establishes a fundamental systematic basis for conceiving the Pauline ostensio Spiritus in terms of phenomenal events in general, as well as in the particulars of historical pneumatica.
That the Jansenists aimed at explicating the continuity of grace from Innocence through Fall and Redemption seems to me irrefutable. It is not, however, a continuity governed by participation, as de Lubac suggests it ought to be, participation through a nature engraced by the expansive and overarching reality of the Word to be incarnate. Rather, the continuity lies simply in the ordering of history according to a purposive set of proximities between God and creature. Proximities of delight and wonder and intimacy, to be sure, but distinct encounters, nonetheless, that somehow leave the shapes of creation clearly defined and intrinsically independent of any nature not their own, except insofar as such natures “come close”, one to another. This historical ordering of distinct creatures is, of course, the “predestination” to which the Jansenists held firmly. The very “freedom” of its ordering, its amenability to a variety of possible configurations in the hands of God’s purpose, testifies to the discrete natures involved, each limited enough to be turned to some purpose and some order larger than itself.
But just this freedom, this set of distinctions, this ordering within the context of a temporal dimension that demands specific relations between bodies - just this array of elements that make up what we call history - witness to the distinctive power of order over time and creature that holds together the limits of creation and its consummation. And in Jansenist thinking, if the continuity of God’s grace is to be understood primarily in historical terms, then we are free to take seriously - that is to say, religiously - what in fact does snare our attention in the world: the experience of pain, of incapacity, of dreadful, even wilful, impotence. To call the constituted history of such experience grace itself is to claim that God’s love arises here first, instead of demanding an explanation for experience only as an afterthought to love. The ostensio Spiritus in this schema is essentially tied to its own “apparently” phenomenal contradictions.
There is more to this than “pessimism,” the easy and profoundly misdirected complaint so frequently launched against the Jansenists, as if, when all is said and done, their real fault was to have been too gloomy, beset by the great “temptation of despair.“67 To take the historical shapes of the world more seriously even than the atheists, more seriously even than the hedonists and epicureans, to uphold this set of distinctions and particularities as the environment and stuff of love in a primary sense, and not merely its props, was at the least a claim to take back history, to take back its jolts and its bruises for God, in God’s near shadow. Such a claim, finally, stands as the human articulation of a rigorous phenomenology of the Spirit such as we are pursuing.