Divine grace

Last updated

Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence [1] which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; [2] and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin. [3]



While many schools of Buddhism emphasize self-discipline and effort as the path to enlightenment, something akin to the concept of divine grace is present as well. One of the most prominent examples of this is the doctrine of the Jōdo Shinshū branch of Pure Land Buddhism, founded by the 12th-century Japanese monk, Shinran. In Buddhism, the concept of "merit" refers to the power of good karma built up over time through meditation, effort and spiritual practice- in Japanese, "Jiriki," or "self-power." This merit can be transferred to other sentient beings by a spiritual adept or bodhisattva, motivated by compassion for all beings cultivated through attaining bodhicitta. For Shinran, this ability to muster up genuine self-directed spiritual attainment is lacking in almost all humans, who are in reality "bombu," or foolish beings lost in a sea of delusion and selfishness such that even their good actions are tainted by selfish motivations. The only hope for spiritual advancement is giving up on Jiriki and, through faith, or "shinjin," embracing the Tariki, or "other-power" of an infinitely-compassionate being. This being is Amida Buddha, who countless millennia ago made a primal vow to save all sentient beings by building up enough merit to establish a pure land, into which beings could be reborn simply by invoking his name, and in which they could easily attain full enlightenment. The key difference between Shinran's school and other schools of Pure Land Buddhism is the idea that even this faith and the resulting small effort of reciting Amida's name is impossible without the intervening grace of Amida Buddha working in the deluded human being through the power of Amida's primal vow. Therefore, the recitation of Amida's name is seen more as an expression of gratitude for already-existing grace rather than the self-induced catalyst for a grace not yet present. [4]


Grace in Christianity is the free and unmerited favour of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings. [5] Common Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, thus securing man's eternal salvation from sin.

Within Christianity, there are differing concepts of how grace is attained. In particular, Catholics and Reformed Protestants understand the attainment of grace in substantially different ways. It has been described as "the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, modern liberalism from conservatism". [6] Catholic doctrine teaches that God has imparted Divine Grace upon humanity and uses the vehicle of sacraments, which are carried out in faith, [7] as a primary and effective means to facilitate the reception of his grace. [8] For Catholics, sacraments (carried out in faith) are the incarnational or tangible vehicle through which God's grace becomes personally and existentially received. [9] Reformed Protestants, generally, do not share this sacramental view on the transmittal of grace, [10] but instead favor a less institutionalized mechanism. For example, in the Catholic Church, the primary initiation into a state of grace is granted by God through baptism (in faith) [11] instead of by a simple prayer of faith (sinner's prayer); although, Catholics would not deny the possible efficacy of even a simple prayer for God's grace to flow (Baptism by desire [12] [13] ).

In another example, for Catholics, the sacrament of reconciliation (in faith) is the primary means of transmitting grace after a mortal sin has been committed. [14]

In the New Testament, the word translated as grace is the Greek word charis ( /ˈkrɪs/ ; Ancient Greek : χάρις ), for which Strong's Concordance gives this definition: "Graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude)". [15] [16] Spiritual gifts or charismata which comes from the word family charis, is defined in the New Bible Dictionary as "grace coming to visible effect in word or deed." [17] A Greek word that is related to charis is charisma (gracious gift). Both these words originated from another Greek word chairo (to rejoice, be glad, delighted). [18]

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term used is chen [19] [20] (חֵן), which is defined in Strong's as "favor, grace or charm; grace is the moral quality of kindness, displaying a favorable disposition". [21] In the King James translation, chen is translated as "grace" 38 times, "favour" 26 times, twice as "gracious", [22] once as "pleasant", [23] and once as "precious". [24]


Hindu devotional or bhakti literature available throughout India and Nepal is replete with references to grace (kripa) as the ultimate key required for spiritual self-realization. [25] [ additional citation(s) needed ] Some, such as the ancient sage Vasistha, in his classical work Yoga Vasistha, considered it to be the only way to transcend the bondage of lifetimes of karma. [26] One Hindu philosopher, Madhvacharya, held that grace was not a gift from God, but rather must be earned. [27]


Salafi scholar Umar Sulayman al-Ashqar, dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at Zarqa Private University in Zarqa, Jordan, wrote that "Paradise is something of immense value; a person cannot earn it by virtue of his deeds alone, but by the Grace and Mercy of Allah." [28] This stance is supported by hadith: according to Abu Huraira, Muhammad once said that "None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone ... not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in his grace and mercy." [29]

The Quran says "God is the Possessor of Infinite Grace" [30] and "He bestows this grace upon whomsoever He wills (or desires)." [31] Grace is something attainable by those here on earth from God who meet certain Quranic criteria. For example, they "believe in God and His messengers", and they "race toward forgiveness from their Lord and a Paradise whose width encompasses the heavens and the earth." [32]

See also

Related Research Articles

Limbo Theological concept about the afterlife

In Catholic theology, Limbo is the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned. Medieval theologians of Western Europe described the underworld as divided into three distinct parts: Hell of the Damned,Limbo of the Fathers or Patriarchs, and Limbo of the Infants. The Limbo of the Fathers is an official doctrine of the Catholic Church, but the Limbo of the Infants is not.

Universalism is the philosophical and theological concept that some ideas have universal application or applicability.

Grace in Christianity Concept in Christianity

In Western Christian theology, grace is created by God who gives it as help to one because God desires one to have it, not necessarily because of anything one has done to earn it. It is understood by Western Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people – "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

Penance Repentance of sins

Penance is any act or a set of actions done out of repentance for sins committed, as well as an alternate name for the Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. It also plays a part in confession among Anglicans and Methodists, in which it is a rite, as well as among other Protestants. The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven. Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of "faith" and "good works". Word derivations occur in many languages.

<i>Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus</i> Christian doctrine of religious exclusivity

The Latin phrase extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is a phrase referring to a Christian doctrine about who is to receive salvation.

Westminster Confession of Faith Presbyterian creedal statement

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the "subordinate standard" of doctrine in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

The five solae of the Protestant Reformation are a foundational set of Christian theological principles held by theologians and clergy to be central to the doctrines of justification and salvation as taught by the Reformed and Lutheran branches of Protestantism and Pentecostalism. Each sola represents a key belief in these Protestant traditions in contradistinction to the theological doctrine of the Catholic Church, although they were not assembled as a theological unit until the 20th century. The Reformers are known to have only clearly stated two of the five solae. Even today there are differences as to what constitutes the solae and how many there are, not to mention how to interpret them to reflect the Reformers' beliefs.

Beatific vision Christian theological term for the direct self-communication of God to the individual person

In Christian theology, the beatific vision is the ultimate direct self-communication of God to the individual person. A person possessing the beatific vision reaches, as a member of redeemed humanity in the communion of saints, perfect salvation in its entirety, i.e. heaven. The notion of vision stresses the intellectual component of salvation, though it encompasses the whole of human experience of joy, happiness coming from seeing God finally face to face and not imperfectly through faith..

Body of Christ Biblical phrase

In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two main but separate meanings: it may refer to Jesus' words over the bread at the celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover that "This is my body" in Luke 22:19–20, or it may refer to all individuals who are "in Christ" 1 Corinthians 12:12–14.

The means of grace in Christian theology are those things through which God gives grace. Just what this grace entails is interpreted in various ways: generally speaking, some see it as God blessing humankind so as to sustain and empower the Christian life; others see it as forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Catholic charismatic renewal Movement within the Catholic Church that began in 1967

Catholic charismatic renewal is a movement within the Catholic Church that is part of the wider charismatic movement across historic Christian churches. It has been described as a "current of grace". It began in 1967 when Catholics from Duquesne University attended a Protestant worship service and claimed to have been "baptized in the Holy Spirit". It is heavily influenced by American Protestantism, especially Pentecostalism, with an emphasis on having a "personal relationship with Jesus", deep emotional experiences, and expressing the "gifts of the Holy Spirit".

Ex opere operato is a Latin phrase meaning "from the work performed" and, in reference to sacraments, signifies that they derive their efficacy, not from the minister or recipient, but from the sacrament considered independently of the merits of the minister or the recipient. According to the ex opere operato interpretation of the sacraments, any positive effect comes not from their worthiness or faith but from the sacrament as an instrument of God. "Affirming the ex opere operato efficacy means being sure of God's sovereign and gratuitous intervention in the sacraments." For example, in confirmation the Holy Spirit is bestowed not through the attitude of the bishop and of the person being confirmed but freely by God through the instrumentality of the sacrament. In order to receive sacraments fruitfully, it is believed necessary for the recipient to have faith. It is in those who receive them with the required dispositions that they bear fruit.

In Christian theology, baptism of desire, also called baptism by desire, is a doctrine according to which a person is able to attain the grace of justification through faith, perfect contrition and the desire for baptism, without the water baptism having been received.

The fate of the unlearned, also known as the destiny of the unevangelized, is an eschatological question about the ultimate destiny of people who have not been exposed to a particular theology or doctrine and thus have no opportunity to embrace it. The question is whether those who never hear of requirements issued through divine revelations will be punished for failure to abide by those requirements.

Catholic liturgy Customary public worship service as performed by the Latin Church

In the Catholic Church, liturgy is divine worship, the proclamation of the Gospel, and active charity.

Baptismal regeneration is the name given to doctrines held by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, Anglican, Lutheran and many Protestant denominations which maintain that salvation is intimately linked to the act of baptism, without necessarily holding that salvation is impossible apart from it. Etymologically, the term means "being born again" "through baptism" (baptismal). Etymology concerns the origins and root meanings of words, but these "continually change their meaning, … sometimes moving out of any recognisable contact with their origin … It is nowadays generally agreed that current usage determines meaning." While for Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof, "regeneration" and "new birth" are synonymous, Herbert Lockyer treats the two terms as different in meaning in one publication, but in another states that baptism signifies regeneration.

Catholic theology Study of the doctrines of the Catholic Church

Catholic theology is the understanding of Catholic doctrine or teachings, and results from the studies of theologians. It is based on canonical scripture, and sacred tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. This article serves as an introduction to various topics in Catholic theology, with links to where fuller coverage is found.

Lutheran sacraments

The Lutheran sacraments are "sacred acts of divine institution". Lutherans believe that, whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God along with the divine words of institution, God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component. They teach that God earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. They teach that God also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession.

Sacraments of the Catholic Church Catholic visible rites

There are seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic theology were instituted by Jesus and entrusted to the Church. Sacraments are visible rites seen as signs and efficacious channels of the grace of God to all those who receive them with the proper disposition.

Sacrament Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite that is recognized as being particularly important and significant. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a channel for God's grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace, that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.


  1. Blackmore, Richard Doddridge (1900). Lorna Doone. Ryerson Press. ISBN   0-665-26503-4. OCLC   1084383140.
  2. OED, 2nd ed.: grace(n), 11b
  3. OED, 2nd ed.: grace(n), 11e
  4. "Amazing Grace: Christian and Buddhist | Shin Dharma Net".
  5. OED, 2nd ed.: grace(n), 11a
  6. Charles C. Ryrie, The Grace of God (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), pp. 10-11.
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1127 . Vatican City-State. Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.
  8. "Justification by Grace". www.saintaquinas.com.
  9. Edward Schillebeeckx, Christ, the Sacrament of Encounter with God (Rowman & Littlefield, 1963), Foreword pp. 16
  10. "Heaven: Encyclopedia II - Heaven - Heaven in Protestant Christianity". Archived from the original on 2009-11-24. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1992 . Vatican City-State. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith.
  12. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1260 . Vatican City-State.
  13. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1281 . Vatican City-State. ... those who ... seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized.
  14. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1446 . The Vatican. Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."
  15. "Strong's Greek: 5485. χάρις (charis) -- grace, kindness". strongsnumbers.com.
  16. Strong (2001) Grk entry number 5485 (p. 1653)
  17. "Spiritual Gifts: Listed by Paul, Motivated by Love". Crosswalk.com.
  18. Strong (2001) Grk entry numbers 5486 and 5463
  19. Blue Letter Bible entry for Strongs Hebrew term 2580, Blue Letter Bible institute, retrieved 2011-01-01
  20. "Chen - Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon - New American Standard". Bible Study Tools.
  21. Strong (2001) Hebrew entry number 2580 (p. 1501)
  22. Proverbs 11:16 and Ecclesiastes 9:11
  23. Proverbs 5:19
  24. Proverbs 17:8
  25. Descent of divine grace The Hindu , June 30, 2005.
  26. venkatesananda. "Yoga Vasistha - Daily Readings - Swami Venkatesananda". www.venkatesaya.com.
  27. Great Thinkers of the Eastern World, Ian McGreal.
  28. Bassam Zawadi; Mansur Ahmed, Answering Common Questions on Salvation That Christians Pose to Muslims , retrieved 2011-01-01
  29. "Chapter 15: None Would Attain Salvation Because of his Deeds but it is Through Lord's Mercy, Number 6764", Sahih Muslim, Book 39, University of Southern California center for Jewish-Muslim engagement, archived from the original on 2011-01-02, retrieved 2011-01-01
  30. Quran 62:4
  31. Source: Quran 57:29
  32. see Quran 57:21


Further reading