A Bite in de Lubac’s theory on Nature and Grace? Part 9

We can count the cost immediately. To throw away the category dynamical debitum naturae is to assert the possibility of a meaningless world. That is, to say that there is no such thing as dynamical debitum naturae is to say that there is no requirement of divine wisdom such that any world must be such that its chief parts – intellectual creatures – are capable of reaching a meaningful end. It is to say that God can create intellectual creatures and not see to it that they can and do attain meaningful completion. It is to say that, even without their sinning and even with their obeying natural law and God’s directives, a meaningful end can be per se impossible for them to attain. That is to say, even should they do well and not sin, eternal life for them would be impossible. And what is the “frustration” of such a creature? De Lubac has already said it: The Pain of the Damned. Everlasting Hell! So, de Lubac holds that is possible that God create a creature that remains innocent, even does well, and yet is damned eternally by God.

Here, de Lubac is following the thought of the voluntarist William of Ockham, who abolished all dynamical debita naturae and clung statically only to definitional debita naturae. For Ockham, “If the finite goodness of a created nature does not constitute a decisive reason for God to love it enough to create it, the fact that certain conditions are required for its finite flourishing does not combine with divine self-love to generate an overriding reason to situate the nature in advantageous circumstances either.”[1]

Ockham takes his principle to its conclusion: God could in justice refuse eternal life to one whom he has made deiform through charity. Moreover, God could damn such a one, even though he has actually kept God’s precepts:

“Punishment is owed [to the sinner] because God has thus ordained it. For, as God creates any creature by his mere will, so by his mere will he can do with his creature whatever pleases him. For, just as, if someone were always to love God and do all the works acceptable to God, God could annihilate that person without injury [to his justice], so after all those works God could give him, not eternal life but eternal punishment, without injury [to his justice]. And the reason is that God is no one’s debtor, but whatever he does to us, he does out of mere grace. Therefore, by the fact that God does something, he has done it justly. For it is obvious that Christ never sinned, yet he was punished most vehemently unto death.”[2]

For Ockham, this is the way to secure the gratuity of grace. Since nothing other than essence is owed (if the creature is freely created), therefore anything beyond essence is utterly gratuitous.

[1] Marilyn McCord Adams, “Ockham on Will, Nature, and Morality” in The Cambridge Companion to Ockham, ed. Paul Vincent Spade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 264.

[2] William of Ockham, In IV Sent. (Reportatio), q. 5 (Opera theologica, vol. 7 [St. Bonaventure, NY: 1984], 55:11–21). See also William of Ockham, In I Sent. d. 17, q. 1 (Opera theologica, vol. 3 [St. Bonaventure, NY: 1977], 452:1–5, 453:11–22, 454:12–17). One must hold this thesis “so that God may be necessitated by nothing to confer eternal life on anyone. Thus, this opinion greatly diverges from Pelagius’s error” (In I Sent., d. 17, q. 1 [Opera theologica, vol. 3, 454:26–455:2]).