Bernard of Clairvaux on Grace and Free Will

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ReformedBrit

Puritan Board Freshman
"It is grace which arouses our free choice, by sowing the seed of the good thought; it is grace which strengthens it so as to lead it to action; it is grace which saves it from experiencing a fall. Grace so cooperates with free choice, however, that only in the first case does grace go a step ahead of it; in the other cases, grace accompanies free choice. What was begun by grace alone is completed by grace and free choice together, in such a way that they contribute to each new work not singly, but jointly - not by turns, but at the same time. It is not as if grace did half the work and free choice the other half; but each does the whole work, according to its own contribution. Grace does the whole work, and so does free choice - with this qualification: the whole work is done in free choice, but the whole work is done by grace." - Bernard of Clairvaux, On Grace and Free Will.

This is a rather interesting quote from Bernard, I think. If I am reading Bernard right here, he seems to be expressing the idea that God's grace is the initiator for our good works/thoughts, but through the instrument of our freely exercised will.

However, his comments about "grace saving it from experiencing a fall" seem a bit strange. I'm not really sure what to make of that comment, but the I think his overally soteriological position presented here is Augustinian, but expressed in rather unorthodox language.

Does anyone have any better elucidating insights?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
"It is grace which arouses our free choice, by sowing the seed of the good thought; it is grace which strengthens it so as to lead it to action; it is grace which saves it from experiencing a fall. Grace so cooperates with free choice, however, that only in the first case does grace go a step ahead of it; in the other cases, grace accompanies free choice. What was begun by grace alone is completed by grace and free choice together, in such a way that they contribute to each new work not singly, but jointly - not by turns, but at the same time. It is not as if grace did half the work and free choice the other half; but each does the whole work, according to its own contribution. Grace does the whole work, and so does free choice - with this qualification: the whole work is done in free choice, but the whole work is done by grace." - Bernard of Clairvaux, On Grace and Free Will.

This is a rather interesting quote from Bernard, I think. If I am reading Bernard right here, he seems to be expressing the idea that God's grace is the initiator for our good works/thoughts, but through the instrument of our freely exercised will.

However, his comments about "grace saving it from experiencing a fall" seem a bit strange. I'm not really sure what to make of that comment, but the I think his overally soteriological position presented here is Augustinian, but expressed in rather unorthodox language.

Does anyone have any better elucidating insights?
Taking it at face value, I don’t have a problem with it. A regenerated person will not always make a right choice, correct? But we now have the freedom to make a right choice. Of course our right choices do not keep us in a state of grace.

Just to add....maybe our poor choices, if they continue, may reveal something deeper about our standing before God. But that’s another subject and is not an aspect of maintaining our own right standing.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Taking it at face value, I don’t have a problem with it. A regenerated person will not always make a right choice, correct? But we now have the freedom to make a right choice. Of course our right choices do not keep us in a state of grace.

Just to add....maybe our poor choices, if they continue, may reveal something deeper about our standing before God. But that’s another subject and is not an aspect of maintaining our own right standing.

He's advancing a scholastic doctrine of concurrence. The rest of it is the medieval doctrine that we are infused with grace in baptism that removes the stain of original sin.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Here is something that I just came across that might be of interest (even if it is a bit off-topic):

"[T]hou, O Christ, art made righteousness unto me from God: need I fear lest thy righteousness, being but one, cannot suffice us both? it is no short or scanty cloak or garment, that cannot cover two; thy large and eternal justice or robe of righteousness, shall cover both thee and me." Bernard of Clairvaux

Quoted in Daniel Featley, Sacra nemesis, The Levite’s scourge, or, Mercurius disciplined. Also diverse remarkable disputes and resolved in the Assembly of Divines related, episcopacy asserted, truth righted, innocency vindicated against detraction (Oxford: Leonard Lichfield, 1644), p. 22.
 

ReformedBrit

Puritan Board Freshman
He's advancing a scholastic doctrine of concurrence. The rest of it is the medieval doctrine that we are infused with grace in baptism that removes the stain of original sin.

Right, but I don't think this quote fits:

it is grace which saves it from experiencing a fall

Is Bernard actually saying here that it is grace that removes the effect of the fall on our nature (rather than prevents us from experiencing it at all)?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Right, but I don't think this quote fits:



Is Bernard actually saying here that it is grace that removes the effect of the fall on our nature (rather than prevents us from experiencing it at all)?

No. He means temporary lapse. Remember he is operating the categories of mortal/venial sin. He would have already affirmed that baptism removes the stain of original sin. What he probably means is that grace in the active believer prevents a mortal sin.
 

ReformedBrit

Puritan Board Freshman
No. He means temporary lapse. Remember he is operating the categories of mortal/venial sin. He would have already affirmed that baptism removes the stain of original sin. What he probably means is that grace in the active believer prevents a mortal sin.

Yes, that is a very helpful observation; thank you!
 
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