Summary Against Modern Thought: Without Grace, You Cannot Avoid Sin

Summary Against Modern Thought: Without Grace, You Cannot Avoid Sin

Previous post.

Take a deep breath and get past the first paragraph. Our good saint is nothing if not thorough.


1 Now, this statement of ours, that it is within the power of free choice not to offer an impediment to grace, is applicable to those persons in whom natural potency is integrally present. But if, through a preceding disorder, one swerves toward evil, it will not at all be within his power to offer no impediment to grace. For, though at any definite instant he may be able to refrain from a particular act of sin by his own power, however, if long left to himself, he will fall into sin, whereby an impediment is offered to grace.

Indeed, whenever man’s mind swerves away from the state of rectitude it is evident that he has departed from the order of his proper end. So, what should be the most important thing in his affection, the ultimate end, becomes a less important object of love than that object to which his mind is inordinately turned, as if to an ultimate end. So, whenever anything comes up that is in agreement with the inordinate end but incompatible with his proper end, it will be chosen, unless he is brought back to his proper end, so that be favors the proper end above all things, and this is the effect of grace. However, in so far as he chooses something that is incompatible with his ultimate end, he offers an impediment to grace, for grace gives the direction to the end. It is consequently obvious that after sin a man cannot refrain from all sin during the period preceding his being brought back to the proper order by grace.

Notes A modern way to put all this may be to say that if you screw up and don’t care, you’ll go on screwing up until you do care, or are made to.

2 Besides, when the mind is inclined toward some object it does not stand in a relation of impartiality toward contrary alternatives, but, instead, is more favorable to the object to which it is inclined. But unless it be drawn away from it by a certain concern arising from rational examination, the mind chooses the object to which it is more favorable; hence, in sudden actions, an indication of one’s inner state of character may be especially found.

But it is not possible for a man’s mind continually to maintain such vigilance that it can make a rational investigation of whatever he ought to will or do. Thus, it follows that the mind at times chooses what it is inclined to, provided the inclination be undisturbed, And so, if it be inclined toward sin, it will not long stay without sinning, thus offering an impediment to grace, unless it is brought back to the state of rectitude.

Notes This is the price of habit. This is why Aristotle says to work your way into proper habits, “faking it until you make it.” That’s not a directtranslation.

3 The impulsion of the bodily passions also works toward this result, as also do the things that are attractive on the sense level, and most occasions for bad action whereby man is easily stimulated to sin, unless one be drawn back by means of a firm attachment to the ultimate end, which grace produces.

4 Consequently, the opinion of the Pelagians is evidently stupid, for they said that man in the state of sin is able to avoid sin, without grace. The contrary to this is apparent from the petition in the Psalm (70:9): “When my strength shall fail, do not forsake me.” And the Lord teaches us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Notes Insults are not always improper.

5 However, although those who are in sin cannot avoid by their own power putting an impediment in the way of grace, as we showed, unless they be helped in advance by grace, nevertheless, this is regarded as their fault, because this defect is left in them as a result of a previous fault. Thus, for example, an intoxicated man is not excused from homicide committed in the state of intoxication which he got into through his own fault.

Notes Yes, even this attitude is changing, sadly enough. We are now guilty because of states are allowed to “come upon” us, unbidden. Great nonsense.

6 Besides, although he who is in sin does not have, of his own power, the ability entirely to avoid sin, he has it in his power at present to avoid this or that sin, as we said. Hence, whatever one he does commit, he does so voluntarily. And so, not undeservedly, he is held responsible for his fault.


  1. Michael Dowd

    Among “Moderns”, including some in the Vatican, sexual sin is now a good—as we quickly advance towards the “last days”.

  2. Bobcat

    Well without God’s grace or omnipresence you cannot do anything. That is axiomatic from the fact that all beings exist because of the causal support of God. You have a good Sunday Briggs!

  3. Ann Cherry

    Reading this wonderful Sunday post, I think the good Saint Thomas would have approved of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. While these talk about alcohol, just fill in this blank: We admitted we were powerless over _______ and that our lives had become unmanageable, and came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Then, the action steps.

    Service Material from the General Service Office

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

    6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

    7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    Copyright ? 1952, 1953, 1981 by Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing (now known as Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.)
    All rights reserved.
    Rev. 8/16
    SM F-121

  4. C-Marie

    Our prayer must needs be to the Living God Whom Jesus Christ revealed to us all, for it is in knowing Him and Loving Him and in receiving His Love, that we are healed and by way of the receiving of His Love for us, our own selves and for all, that our desire towards sin wanes until we choose to no longer hurt our Beloved God, nor anyone else.
    God bless, C-Marie

  5. Uncle Mike

    When I was a lad, a wise old codger said to me, “The madder you get, the madder you get.”

    In physics (and metaphysics) this is known as a positive feedback loop or colloquially as “spiraling out of control”.

  6. Trebitsch

    Also: “Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity”.
    St. Augustine

  7. Natural Law comes from natural human morality
    Child abuse drives out natural human morality. Stop child abuse.
    Abused children are easiest to turn because their natural morals are ruined by the abuse.
    They are angry. And anger leads to the Dark Side.

    The Trump team thinks we are in a battle of good vs evil.
    I think it is more like good vs abused children.
    Without compassion for our enemies we become our enemies.

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