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Moral Good, the Beatific Vision, and God’s Kingdom

Writings by Germain Grisez and Peter Ryan, S.J.

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Edited By Peter J. Weigel

For close to half a century, the work of Germain Grisez has been highly influential, and his writings continue to receive considerable attention from philosophers and theologians of diverse viewpoints. His co-author for this work is the professor and noted moral theologian Fr. Peter Ryan, S.J., currently the executive director of the Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). These two eminent scholars explore fundamental questions about Christian eschatology, moral theory, the purpose of human life, and the promise of human fulfilment. The authors examine Christian teaching on the final destiny of persons, investigating the meaning of God’s kingdom, the hope of the beatific vision, and the centrality of moral goodness and divine grace in one’s final end. This work is an ideal source for students, scholars, ministers and lay persons interested in basic questions of Christian theology, the philosophy of religion, ethical theory, and Catholic doctrine.
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How Can the Beatific Vision Both Fulfill Human Nature and Be Utterly Gratuitous?

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PETER F. RYAN, S.J.

Christians believe that human beings are called to supernatural fulfillment in the beatific vision. To reach it, we must be elevated by grace. The supernatural is no mere theological category. Scripture itself speaks of our call to become “sharers in the divine nature,” “children of God,” and makes it clear that this calling is utterly gratuitous, entirely above God’s gift of our natural being.

At the same time, the beatific vision plainly must, in some sense, fulfill human nature—or, as I shall put it, be naturally fulfilling. We must be capable of receiving it. In fact, receiving it must be good for us; otherwise, we could not be interested in it. Unless we are better off receiving it than not, we would have no reason to accept the offer of the beatific vision—and Christians believe that we do have such a reason.

How can the beatific vision be both naturally fulfilling and utterly gratuitous? One might respond that the issue should pose no problem, because Christians have always believed that we cannot be fulfilled apart from God and that he freely gives himself to us. However, while faith makes it clear that heavenly beatitude is both utterly gratuitous and naturally fulfilling, theology should explain how that is possible.

This teaching of faith might seem so obvious as to preclude theological problems. Indeed, certain expressions of that teaching suggest that it poses no problem. We...

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