Volume 91, 2017
Philosophy, Faith, and Modernity
Mark K. Spencer
Grace, Natura Pura, and the Metaphysics of Status
Personalism and Thomism on the Historicity of the Human Person and the Genealogy of Modernity
Christian Personalists (such as Balthasar and Yannaras) have objected to Thomism’s claim that humans could have existed in a state (status) of pure nature, on the grounds that this claim entails that historical states like grace do not give fundamental meaning to us, that these states are merely accidental, and that it led to modern secularism. I show that Thomism can affirm its traditional claims regarding grace and pure nature, while denying the first two implications, by developing the Thomistic metaphysics of status. In Thomism rightly understood persons develop historically through status in non-accidental ways and grace gives fundamental meaning to our lives. But I also argue that modern secular experiences (such as experiences of secularity, anxiety, and absurdity described by Heidegger, Camus, and Taylor) are natural to the human person, not merely the result of sin, and that this is rightly supported by the theory of pure nature.