Thursday, February 04, 2010

Calvin Versus Aquinas on Nature and Grace

Speaking of David VanDrunen, I am reading his new book Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in Reformed Social Thought (and really enjoying it). In his chapter on Calvin and his contemporaries, VanDrunen seeks to situate Calvin’s thinking relative to his medieval predecessors on the two loci under consideration. This passage really struck me this afternoon:

For purposes of comparing [Aquinas] to Calvin, the relative absence of the topic of sin in Thomas’s discussions [on nature and grace] is noteworthy. For Thomas, the fundamental reason why grace is needed in addition to nature is not corruption of nature due to the fall into sin, but the inherent limits of nature itself. While sin aggravates the need for grace in the post-fall world, Thomas’s nature-grace structure remains in all essential aspects the same before and after the fall.
So many questions and avenues for possible discussion, so little time....

I’ll kick us off, though: (1) Does VanDrunen accurately reflect Thomas’s thought here? (2) Does Thomas necessarily cast aspersion on creatureliness as such? In other words, if man before the fall was crippled in some ontological way, does this militate against God’s pronouncement that everything he made was “very good”? (3) If my Reformed readers answer “yes,” then what about Vos’s dictum that eschatology precedes soteriology? To rephrase, if pre-fall Adam longed for eternal life, are we committing the same fallacy we accuse Thomas’s advocates of committing? (4) Are those who insist that grace was operative before the fall in danger of falling into the error of which VanDrunen accuses Thomas, an error which essentially collapses law and gospel? (5) Does anyone else believe that people who write “methinks” should be shot?