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Nature, Grace, and Covenant: The Deeper Protestant Conception and Twentieth-Century Roman Catholicism

The beatific vision (1 John 3:2) is the consummation of God’s relationship with his people. While Christians of all traditions acknowledge this blessed future to some degree, there are significant differences as to how it all works out. The Reformed tradition has understood this future and its genesis in terms of a covenantal relationship between God and Adam.

If you have listened much to our podcasts or courses at Reformed Forum, you likely have heard us discuss “the deeper Protestant conception.” This is a phrase first used by Geerhardus Vos in his Reformed Dogmatics. It involves the notion that man originally was created good yet with an eschatological purpose. Even before the fall into sin, Adam was intended to advance to a higher, more glorious, eschatological life with God in heavenly places. Elsewhere, this is captured in the phrase, “eschatology precedes soteriology.”

Yet developments in Roman Catholic theology throughout the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century gave rise to a movement that also advocates for eschatology preceding soteriology and a dismantling of the traditional dualistic separation of nature and grace.

In this address, Camden Bucey traces the historical developments of Roman Catholic theology in the twentieth century. In so doing, we may deepen our understanding of the already deeper Protestant conception while improving our ability to represent the diversity of Catholic thought leading up to and following the Second Vatican Council.

This address was delivered at our 2021 Theology Conference held at Providence OPC in Pflugerville, Texas.

Chapter Markers

00:00:00 Introduction
00:05:22 Nature, Grace, and Covenant
00:11:01 Basic Features of the Covenant of Works
00:18:42 The Deeper Protestant Conception
00:31:43 Twentieth-Century Developments in Catholicism
00:40:03 Henri de Lubac’s Proposal
00:45:57 Karl Rahner’s Response
00:50:22 Understanding Merit in Relation to Nature, Grace, and Covenant
00:57:40 Twentieth-Century Catholicism and the Reformed Tradition
01:10:55 Conclusion


Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.


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