Protestantism, Nature, Grace

In the section on Protestantism in Part III of my Josias essay on religious liberty, I tried to understand the Protestant view of nature and grace. Given the emphasis on grace in Protestant soteriology I used to assume that they would probably underestimate the goodness of nature and the extent to which it is preserved and restored by grace. But going to a Calvinist conference a few years ago I realized that this was not actually what they do. It was only through reading my friends at The Calvinist International though that I came to see that they in fact do virtually the opposite. Peter Escalante’s essay “Two Ends or Two Kingdoms?” shows with great clarity that to the Reformers grace merely restores nature without elevating it. Escalante is an alumnus of my alma mater and knows Catholic theology quite well, and I think his presentation both of my side and of his is accurate. As his colleague, Steven Wedgeworth, points out, our disagreements are not on what the positions are, but on which one is right. Continue reading

In Defense of a Certain Kind of Story About the Origins of Modernity

Alan Jacobs recently posted an outline of an argument against a certain sort of story about the origins of modernity told by many Thomists—the sort of account given by Gilson in Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages and by Maritain in Three Reformers; the Ockham→ Luther→ Calvin→ Bacon→ Descartes→ modernity tale of decline. Jacob’s makes six complaints about this sort of account. No two versions of the account are the same, and so Jacobs focuses on the versions of it presented by Brad Gregory in The Unintended Reformation  and Thomas Pfau in Minding the Modern. I haven’t read Pfau, but I have read Gregory, and while I would quibble with some of his points, I agree with the basic outline of his argument. So I disagree with Jacobs, and in what follows I give a brief response to all six of his complaints. Continue reading