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date: 21 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the role of philosophy in the analysis of the sacraments. Borrowing principles from Aquinas, the chapter first examines the sacraments as natural acts of religion. In what way is religious activity natural, and to what extent does a right exercise of religious activity require the presence of grace? By employing a distinction between the natural essence of religion and the concrete state of religious behavior (under the effects of sin and grace), Aquinas avoids the extremes of a Pelagian theory of religion and the pure identification of religion with charity. The second part of the chapter considers sacraments as causes of grace and examines three traditional proposals in Catholic theology: sacramental occasionalism, the theory of moral causality, and that of instrumental “physical” causality. The latter theory is proposed as that which is most consistent with the Chalcedonian understanding of Christ and his divine and human action.

Keywords: grace, virtue of religion, extrinsicism, instrument, sacramental occasionalism, moral causality, physical causality, Thomism

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