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What Does It Mean to Have Free Will?

According to one venerable tradition, with roots in St. Augustine, the mark of freedom is to be able to bring about an effect as an “uncaused cause.” In other words, to act freely is to act without constraints. Neither God nor neurological processes, neither phobias nor any other event is causally responsible for our actions. We, as agents, are causally responsible.

We could call this view of freedom “originalism,” after the philosopher Ted Honderich, who speaks of “origination,” because free actions originate with the human person as their cause. As an originalist, the medieval Franciscan John Duns Scotus says we are “total cause” of what we freely will. Say you freely eat a meal. You are the cause of eating; the responsibility for eating the meal is yours, period.

Scotus developed this view in response to another tradition, also rooted in Augustine, which is associated with the Dominican order and whose classical articulation is in the writings of another medieval philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas. For Aquinas, you choose to eat the meal, but God causes you to make that choice. Even though God causes you to choose to eat, you still do so freely. (If this sounds like a stretch to you, you’re not alone.) To make sense of the idea, Aquinas says that there are different ways you can be free, different reasons for your freedom. Later Dominican interpreters celebrated one Thomistic understanding of freedom that has come to be known as “freedom-for-excellence” — freedom understood as acting virtuously for true human happiness.

Many see a tension between freedom-for-excellence and the originalist view of freedom. You could think of the contrast between the two in this way: it is the difference between having to follow laws in order to do something freely, and just doing whatever you want without being constrained by anything except yourself. For instance, to speak a language freely, I have to follow the laws of grammar, so that what appear as constraints (grammar rules) are in fact conditions for my free action of speaking. For the originalist, by contrast, a truly free act has no constraints because the cause is just me, not anything outside of my control that constrains me to act as I do rather than some other way.

The distinction between these two concepts of freedom has enjoyed renewed discussion in our day, owing largely to Isaiah Berlin’s influential 1958 lecture “Two Concepts of Liberty.” The distinction has found use in many contexts, from public policy to practical psychology, and its application is even more profound in philosophical theology — the discipline I will address here.

Forced but Free
Most philosophical theologians today, such as Scott Macdonald and Timothy O’Connor, join Christian thinkers across the ages in supporting a Franciscan, originalist conception of freedom. Other philosophical theologians today favor a Dominican account, such as Jesse Couenhoven and Jack Mulder. In other disciplines, the ratio of favor shifts. For many, scientific considerations threaten any claim humans might have to being uncaused causes of their own behavior. “The more you argue that the world is law-like, the more ready you are to include human beings in the system,” as Michael Ruse says. As scientists gradually continue to discover law-like connections between events, we may someday come to think about “decision-making in the same way we think about any physical process,” David Eagleman suggests.

But if all our human actions are just like any other physical process, then any freedom on our part would need to be compatible with physical events causing us to behave as we do. Aquinas’ account of freedom is compatibilist, because according to that account I act freely even though I’m caused to act as I do by events outside my control. For Aquinas, God causes me to choose whatever I choose to do, but I still do what I do freely. A Thomist attracted to scientific determinism today might say that God causes me to choose what I do through natural causes.

When we first consider compatibilism, most of us are puzzled. How could anyone think of my act as free if I’m caused to choose to do it by physical processes outside of my control? Here behavioral scientists could appeal to freedom-for-excellence as an example of one genuine kind of freedom that seems compatible with my being caused to act as I do. I might be fortunate enough to live well because of good choices. If so, it does not matter whether or not physical events like neurological processes triggered by genes or a nurturing environment cause me to behave well. Regardless of whether I’m an original cause or not, I still might live a fulfilling life as a result of wise choices, rather than an unfulfilled life crushed by addiction. Living my life free from addiction frees me for an excellent life.

Freedom-for-excellence is a genuine kind of freedom; it is a kind of freedom worth having. No wonder freedom-for-excellence has broad appeal. It has enjoyed wide influence, reaching well outside the walls of academia. It has been especially influential in recent Catholic reflections, though a similar emphasis can be found implicit in other Christian traditions such as Calvinism and non-Christian traditions such as secular Platonism (graphically depicted by the novelist Iris Murdoch) and Buddhism. The great Dominican theologian Servais Pinckaers articulated freedom-for-excellence in a way that came to influence many, through intermediary teachers who reach a wide audience of intelligent laypersons. Pinckaers says we act freely when we act virtuously to achieve excellence, even though we are forced to conform to moral laws. These laws enhance freedom, rather than spoiling it, because by conforming our behavior to them we are able to achieve excellence, in the same way that by conforming our behavior to grammar rules we are able to achieve linguistic excellence. By contrast, when we behave lawlessly, we fall into the slavery of addiction and misery. Accordingly, the great popular evangelist Bishop Robert Barron criticizes the Franciscan account of freedom, because it sets us against “other people, societies, churches, laws, ultimately God — the supreme threat to my capacity to determine the meaning of my life.” Barron follows Pope Benedict, who warns that Scotus sowed a dangerous seed with his conception of freedom. Similarly, George Weigel argues that the Franciscan conception of freedom takes us into “the soulless dystopia of a brave new world,” where “freedom self-destructs,” because seeing freedom in opposition with human nature leads to the biotechnological revolution that promises to remanufacture human nature.

I submit for your examination a compromise. As I see it, there’s a place for both accounts of freedom, originalist freedom and freedom-for-excellence. Each is a genuine form of freedom. Each is important for certain kinds of explanation, theological, political, philosophical, or scientific. The two traditions have competed historically because it looks at first as if we must make a hard choice between the two. However, I will suggest the two conceptions are compatible, so the dilemma can be avoided. Furthermore, once we understand how the two notions can be seen as compatible, we can also understand how each conception can be defended against what would otherwise look like destructive criticisms.

In Defense of Originalist Freedom
Let’s look at Scotus’ view of freedom, originalism, which is said to be opposed to laws and to a pre-set human nature that determine the meaning and goal of our lives. If we look more closely, the opposition begins to disappear. Laws are compatible with the originalist view of freedom. So is human nature. To recognize this we should have a look at what constraints get imposed on our behavior by laws and human nature, according to even a Thomistic understanding. Aquinas followed Aristotle in thinking of human nature as something like a design plan, determining what you must do in order to flourish in life. According to this view, an evil person, such as Hitler, doesn’t flourish because he doesn’t live virtuously. It doesn’t even matter whether he ever recognizes his failure or not, because human nature is established by God, not by the person living the life. By contrast, virtuous people like Churchill or Dorothy Day may fulfill their nature, at least approximately.

Now, considering again the originalist standpoint, why might someone think that human nature, or God, stand in opposition to freedom, that these things prevent me from choosing freely? Maybe the answer is that, on the originalist account, it looks as though I can’t decide for myself what I must do to flourish; I cannot determine the meaning and goal of my life, at least in this respect. But so what? Why couldn’t God give me originalist freedom, with which I could freely will to work with God’s natural design for me or against it? I could say, “I don’t care whether I’m achieving natural human flourishing by manufacturing all this meth. I’m financially flourishing and that’s good enough for me!” In so doing, I’m acting both against God’s natural design and I’m acting as the uncaused cause of that choice, as Scotus would insist. I freely choose to do wrong. In other words, we can maintain an originalist view of freedom — I alone am responsible for my choice — and still grant that there is a divine or natural order: I can freely choose to act or not act in accordance with that order.

Similarly, some people seem convinced that any moral law set by God would quash our freedom. Not so. Sure, if God establishes the moral law, we are not at liberty to go about “inventing right and wrong,” as philosopher J.L. Mackie puts it. Even so, we can still choose to follow the moral law or not, as free uncaused causers of our own actions. To see this, compare moral laws to physical laws. I’m not free to set up whatever physical laws I choose. Still, I might be free in the originalist sense to do certain things, even though I live in a world with physical laws (established by God or nature). Given the laws of physics, for instance, I can run to your aid on the soccer field, but I can’t fly to your aid like Superman. Yet whether I run or stay put, I’m the cause of what I do, at least according to Scotus.

So far, I’ve vindicated originalism against objections that it must conflict with laws or human nature. I’ve argued that it need not conflict with them, so the existence of laws (whether moral or physical) or of human nature is no argument against originalism. But I have not shown why anyone would be motivated to believe in the originalist account of freedom. And I’ve only begun to show why anyone would be motivated to believe in freedom-for-excellence (Barron and Spitzer do a great job at that). I will now take up these tasks.

God or We — Who’s Responsible?
I want to highlight an important role that freedom-for-excellence can play in theology, by reconciling our need for grace to do good, on the one hand, and our freedom in the originalist sense, on the other hand. In the course of explaining the reconciliation, it will become clear that we need both.

As we learn from Augustine’s Confessions, he felt the crushing burden of his vices and of his own helplessness to lift himself without God’s grace. That fits with many people’s experience. Besides, it’s Christian orthodoxy: without grace, there is no action toward spiritual flourishing. Here it’s helpful to invoke freedom-for-excellence. Without God’s help, we lack freedom-for-excellence, freedom to be virtuous. In my insecurity, I go shopping for clothes; later I look in my closet with buyer’s remorse. Or, I’m late again and ask myself what went wrong with my time management. Or, my memory of adolescence is no longer fresh, so I overreact to my son’s adolescent mistakes instead of understanding them. In situations like these, we sense the need for God’s uplifting grace to clear our heads and to put us on the path of virtue.

In fact, this account fits well with scientific determinism’s insistence that we cannot help ourselves when we behave poorly. Scientific determinism says that all of our behavior is determined by psychological, biological, and ultimately physical conditions. That includes even our living out the theological virtues of faith and love, necessary for salvation. Perhaps someday science will explain the physical conditions giving rise to “who we believe in and pray to,” for example, or “who we love,” as Robert Sapolsky suggests. Though not generally known for his theological orthodoxy, Sapolsky comes up with the right theological moral anyway. He says that we’ll someday see in all deviant behavior “a reality of ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”

The necessity of grace to act well gives us reason to suppose that if we fail to achieve excellence, we can’t help it. We simply cannot muster the vision needed to move us to lift ourselves. (See my paper “Epistemological Matters Matter for Theological Understanding.”) Grace restores our freedom to be excellent, which is obviously important. So why recognize freedom of any other sort besides this freedom-for-excellence? What motivates Scotus to insist on originalist freedom? Well, suppose I’m caused to do whatever I do entirely by forces, such as physical laws and or divine grace, which I cannot control. Then I have no causal role in any of my actions as an original uncaused cause. The theological problem with such full-blown determinism is that God then “becomes responsible for the evil of the human will,” as Eleanor Stump puts it. Because if God is the cause of my actions, and if I choose to do evil, then it appears that God is the cause of my evil actions. How, then, could anyone be allowed to suffer punishment, much less eternal punishment? We’re just victims of circumstances and events outside our control. Augustine puzzles over this unwelcome problem, which appears to afflict his account of freedom and the need for grace to act well.

If Augustine can’t be helpful in providing a resolution, help won’t come easily. But let’s try to shed some light on the matter with the help of C.S. Lewis. I borrow his example, to illustrate my own moral. Lewis imagines two men who act cowardly in the face of war. As it happens, both men are about to undergo psychoanalytic treatment. Both have, “as a result of things in their sub-conscious, exaggerated, irrational fears, which no amount of moral effort can do anything about. Now suppose that a psychoanalyst comes along and cures these two.” The factors formerly forcing them to act cowardly are now gone. They are free to act according to their underlying values of courage. Though Lewis doesn’t elaborate in this way, let us add that these deeper-seated values are chosen with originalist freedom. Lewis continues: “Now that they are cured, these two men might take quite different lines. The first might say, ‘Thank goodness I’ve got rid of all those doo-dahs. Now at last I can do what I always wanted to do — my duty to my country.’” He will feel liberated because he now sees how to honor his deep-seated values by right action. Paranoid illusions that led him to believe he was acting sensibly by sneaking away to save his own skin had prevented him from standing by his fellows in their time of need. The love and loyalty that were there all along as underlying values can only now manifest themselves in loyal action, I would argue, because we humans are unable to produce good actions until we are given the grace of a clear head to see how to live out good underlying values in practice. In this example, that “grace” is given through a channel used by God, the psychoanalyst.

Turn now to Lewis’s second patient, who after his cure says: “One of the good things about being less frightened is that I can now look after myself much more efficiently.” After his paranoia is cured, he continues to act selfishly — because his freely willed underlying values were selfish all along. With or without the paranoid illusions that he was acting sensibly in saving himself, he is still free to choose to act cowardly, thanks to his original freedom. You could think of God’s grace as preventing obstacles like paranoia that would otherwise force either man to act selfishly. Neither could help himself to act well as long as his paranoia blocked his vision. Without paranoia, both could later help themselves, though only one of them did in fact help himself. Of course, most of us don’t suffer from dramatic psychological conditions that could be relieved by psychoanalysis. But there are manifold influences on all of us, from our unique circumstances to our biological and psychological makeup, which Lewis’s simple imaginative story serves to illustrate.

Freely Chosen Values
Let us revisit what John Henry Newman called the “trap in which all determinists are caught”: that if we are free to do evil, then God becomes blameworthy for what we do. We don’t blame anyone for having bad vision, which is physically determined. If our moral behavior is similarly physically determined, then how can we blame people for bad behavior? “It is not fair, for example, that a person should be punished for adultery, if they were always going to be an adulterer, simply because that’s how the physics worked out in their case,” insists Julian Baggini. Right? Well, hold on. That makes sense only if physical events entirely determine what I do and if I have no originalist freedom to contribute to my behavior. If I have originalist freedom to select my own deep-seated values, then I might still find myself stuck in my evil ways, determined to act poorly instead of well, barring the grace of God. I’ll still be miserable, incapable of acting in fulfilling ways. So, in that sense, my actions are determined and beyond my control. But I’ll still be blameworthy for my originally chosen deep-seated values, which contribute to my vicious choices in action — that choice is entirely my own.

Going back to Lewis, the two men may be afflicted by paranoid illusions, but they both freely possess their differing underlying values revealed through psychoanalysis. They are the origin of those values. The particular actions that follow from those values and external circumstances are another matter. So Lewis’s good man cannot be blamed for having been a coward before getting cured; he’d have stood by his fellow soldiers had he had a clearer head and seen his way to right action. As it was — without the “grace” of the psychoanalyst — the good man was incapable of lifting himself out of his miserable ways on account of the crushing weight of his paranoia. But Lewis’s bad man is blameworthy. Why? Because his own chosen values contributed to his misbehavior — they “overdetermined” his actions, to use a technical term. No psychoanalyst could have saved him from acting badly.

If we can trace all evil, ultimately, to freely chosen values — original causes — which manifest themselves in all the mischief in the world, then God is off the hook. If we freely choose the right values, in the originalist sense, then divine grace helps us to act virtuously and thereby to enjoy the blessed life made possible by living the way of faith, hope, love, or the other virtues — enabling freedom-for-excellence. But if we freely choose the wrong values, then we, not God, are blameworthy.

Why does evil manifest itself in the first place, as we experience the joys and sorrows of living in this world? Now, that’s a topic for another occasion.

Discussion Questions:

  1. According to C.S. Lewis, his story illustrates how we must not judge someone as blameworthy for doing an action that is wrong: “Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices.” How should that affect the punishment of criminals in our justice system? How should that affect whether we can know that Judas or Hitler are in Hell (supposing there is a Hell)?
  2. Many people are under the impression that science is making inroads against the view that we have free will. As Sapolsky writes, “If there really is free will, it’s getting consigned to domains too mundane to be worth the effort to want — do I want briefs or boxer shorts today?” How might a defender of each kind of freedom, freedom-for-excellence and originalism, respond to this charge against free will?
  3. Sometimes scientists, such as Francis Collins, who are inclined to defend free will, say something like this: genetic determinism is untenable because it is too simplistic. They emphasize that genes also interact with each other and the environment. How does this fare as a defense of originalist freedom? Of freedom-for-excellence?
  4. Bishop Barron, in masterful lectures celebrating freedom-for-excellence, argues that Scotus’ view of freedom is opposed to law. He suggests that from the perspective of originalism, the Psalm, “Lord, how I love your Law, how I meditate upon it day and night” doesn’t “make a lick of sense.” How might a defender of originalism respond?
  5. Many philosophers dismiss scientific evidence for determinism as “meager and anemic.” How strong do you think the scientific evidence for determinism is?

Discussion Summary

These comments are a fine tribute to the life of the mind at work in the intelligent layperson. I cannot do justice to the richness of the generous responses, but I will try to touch on a few recurring concerns (of the 10 responses posted so far, anyway).

I begin with Emily’s question, which others raise as well: Is my view that “the grace of God does not touch our originally chosen values?” Yes, that’s right — if you mean that grace doesn’t force or push me to pick certain basic values. Grace leaves us free as original sources of our basic values. Grace, as I see it, illuminates our understanding. This then liberates us as whole persons to choose freely as uncaused causes, between what options we now understand to be open to us. In this way, grace does not touch our responsibility as uncaused causes who of their own original powers either accept or reject the offers God generously opens to us. You could see grace as what provides options and clarifies them for us, in this confusing post-fallen world.

One source of misunderstanding may be this. Many commenters seem to assume that we know perfectly well what is the right thing to do, but that our will is too weak to actually do it. We can’t muster the strength of will — the oomph! — to make the right choice. We’re too weak to give up the bottle, even though we know intellectually that we should, and wish we could. So, this idea goes, God’s grace somehow has to affect our will — our faculty by which we oomph! —  if we’re do what we know is the right thing to do.

My view is different. The whole problem is with the intellect, I say — for a person with good originally chosen values, which are freely chosen by the person who wills to embrace these values. (You could also have rotten originally chosen values: That’s open to us too because we’re free original causes of our choice to embrace good values or not.) None of these problems directly concerns the will. We are just confused about what’s really good, so that’s why we choose wrongly. When we see clearly, we always move to act well — again, assuming we’re a person with good originally chosen values. Our will is not what is weak. So, grace doesn’t have to affect the will directly. It leaves the will perfectly free, on its own to do good or bad; it has to do so, if we’re going to be freely accountable for what we do. As uncaused causes we can take or leave the options God clarifies for us in grace. This idea is suggested by Augustine: “See how the Father attracts. He delights in teaching, and not in imposing necessity on men. That is how he attracts men towards himself.” Grace still helps us to act well in order to reach a satisfying goal such as the happy life. Grace helps us to act well indirectly, by way of correcting our misunderstanding. Take, for example, an incontinent alcoholic with good originally chosen values. He might even see the problem clearly, at certain times. Perhaps he laments over his broken family and lost job, so he vows to do better. But suppose he’s overwhelmed by temptation one night when he sees his whiskey bottle. He “forgets” temporarily, in the cloudiness of the addiction, all that he’s losing by giving in to the pleasure of the whiskey, which is all he can think about now. (Aristotle uses a similar example, in his Ethics.)

If I behave in this way, I’ll never be happy. The whiskey bottle will be gone soon; it won’t deliver all that it promised; and I’ll be left with worries worse than the worries I was drowning with my whiskey in the first place. Grace enables me to act better because it exposes such deception to me in a clear, sustained way. Grace allows me to see clearly all the manifold ways that my addictive behavior changes me and those around me, and I become repulsed or afraid. So I take appropriate action, which might be to repent and make amends or to avoid further drinking. Grace helps me to act better by letting me see not only the wreck that alcohol has made of my life, but also by letting me see how turning around my life by giving up alcohol would truly satisfy me. With the help of grace to light up the way, I’m able to use my freedom to make choices that bring satisfaction, not misery.

To be satisfied, I need both the right values, and the grace to live a life of choices that honor those values. For me, originalist freedom enters where I freely embrace the right values as an uncaused cause — where I choose to embrace the good or not. That is where the rubber hits the road. God offers his Life. We are free to take it or leave it. I can only be satisfied by good choices opened up to me by grace, if I embrace good values. I have to have the right values in the first place in order to be satisfied by seeing those values honored or promoted or embodied by choices that reflect those values. If I don’t value the good in the first place, then I won’t be satisfied or happy when something good comes about as a result of good choices, no matter how clearly I understand that this good thing has come about. The reward of good choices will be worthless to me. That, by the way, is why the loss of heaven is possible: No matter how much God gives me gratuitously, it isn’t rewarding if I don’t freely value it.

Grace leads to action, then. Grace doesn’t merely, as one commenter worries, expose which people “are good or bad of their own volition,” without changing their actions. In fact, that isn’t even any part of what grace does. God can judge the heart, but we can’t. Grace doesn’t make us good judges of who will or won’t cooperate with grace in order to reach happiness or paradise. Paul teaches, “I don’t even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3). Grace does something else; it enables us to do what will bring us into paradise.

In sum, when I see clearly I always move to act well — again, provided I accept God’s generous offers to join in the life of communion he offers to me. And that all comes down to what my originally chosen values are. Some of the commenters would like the will to get more direct help than this intellectual help. They suggest thinking of grace as God’s pushing the oomph! button of the will, so to speak, causing me to do what I knew all along was for the better, but didn’t have the strength to execute. You can still maintain originalism if you believe this, so long as you also believe that I too have to press the button along with God — and if you further believe that my cooperation needed to make the choice is my own original doing.

But even though you could still be an originalist and hold that grace “pushes the button” of the will, I’d rather assign a richer role to the original choice of the agent. Why? Here is a start of an answer. To me, it is a mark of God’s loving respect for me as an individual distinct from God but who can be united to him — and of God’s having fashioned me in his image and likeness. God is free. Therefore, one way to be made in God’s image and likeness is to be similarly free. God is the original free uncaused cause of his own gracious acts of love. It is in no sense out of necessity that God acts graciously. So that is one reason I don’t say grace directly presses the button of the will.

Another is that when I reflect on examples, the idea that God acts directly on the will seems superfluous to account for my actual experience. I’ve already offered examples, which have apparently been enough to satisfy at least some readers (such as SkeptiChristian). Here I would once more recommend the philosopher Iris Murdoch’s novels. For the time being, I will offer just one more example.

Say you have good values at heart but the fact that I’m experiencing pain leaves you cold, even though you ought to be moved to offer a listening ear. Then something happens and you “get” what I’m going through and really see the urgency of offering a listening ear. Maybe you undergo a similar hardship, and then you feel my pain in a clear, visceral way — you really understand what it’s like for me. So you are moved to console others in similar situations. This kind of understanding, which is sometimes called “experiential understanding,” can be necessary to motivate us to take appropriate action. According to Aquinas, this sort of understanding is the highest form of wisdom — the understanding that comes from an experience of encounter, which prompts us to respond well and without hesitation. (I elaborate on this idea in an article called “Epistemological Matters Matter for Theological Understanding,” intended for an intelligent, nonprofessional readership.)

Of course, experiences can cloud our vision as well as enlighten us. If you have a father who abandoned you, you might find yourself thinking of God the Father as aloof and unloving. As a result — and without God’s offers of grace through faith — you might disavow religion. Psychological disorders can also cloud our vision, as in C.S. Lewis’s example about paranoia, discussed in my essay. Paranoia “hinders our reason from seeing truly because it distorts our picture of reality,” as one commenter puts it. A remedy comes with virtues such as courage. But these are grounded in an understanding of the goods they promise, on my view. Even a virtue such as hope — which enables us to pursue what is in some respect yet unseen — is essentially a gift of vision by which the intellect sees more clearly what we should pursue hopefully by our own original choice. As Pope Benedict XVI teaches in the encyclical on Christian Hope, Spe Salvi, hope is in some deep sense a gift of vision and understanding of the joys available to us, because it opens our minds to see — however dimly — what life in communion as members of Christ’s body is all about. With hope, we are given “a certain perception” of the unparalleled beauty available to us, which is “a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen.” As a result, our hopeful striving is enlightened by vision, even though there is a respect in which what is to come remains unseen, insofar as it “is not yet visible in the external world.”

I began this discussion with a question that was raised by a number of commenters: Is it my view that “the grace of God does not touch our originally chosen values,” as Emily put it? The answer is yes: God’s grace gives us the understanding to choose freely actions that uphold our values, but we ourselves embrace those values, as free original causes pushed only by ourselves, not God.

Emily also summed another related question: Is my view that “God’s grace works only through the ‘natural’ realm?” Here my response is “no.” We can act well according to one or both of two rough standards. There are the standards of the “natural order” and the standards of the “theological order.” Acting well naturally brings me satisfaction in this life. Aristotle didn’t have anything like Christian heavenly satisfaction in mind when he wrote about the satisfying life available to temperate, courageous people who live wisely. He was just observing that even those who may appear happy by satisfying their baser desires are still blind to real happiness in this life, for which you need temperance.

Aquinas follows Aristotle but also elaborates on a new order — a theological one — which is directed to a life in communion with God and with other persons invited to become members of Christ’s body. The end here is not flourishing in this life — the natural order — but unsurpassable happiness, for which we need the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and love. These enable you to partake in that life.

I think of God’s graces as working in both orders. As we’ve seen, in the secular context, we need “common” natural grace, which is available through natural virtues such as courage and temperance to overcome things like paranoia and alcohol abuse. But theological virtues, such as faith, hope, and charity — which are directed to life with God — are achieved by means of supernatural grace.

So I recognize both a natural and a theological order. Grace is needed for anyone to live well — both in this life and the next.