Christian Relaunch

Meritorialism

Meritorialism is the belief that realigned humans can do good that merits union with God.

"A meritorious work, inasmuch as it proceeds from the grace of the holy spirit, is meritorious of eternal life".

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 2:1:114, c.1274.

Solafideism is the belief that the merit of the good that humans do is God's alone.

"Man is justified ... through faith alone."

Martin Luther, translating Romans 3:28 to German, 1522.

Meritorialism disguises its Bonhominalism with the ambiguous proviso that the meritorious works "proceed from" God's grace.

"The justice received is preserved and also increased before God through good works; and the said works are not merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but a cause of the increase thereof."

Council of Trent, Session 6, Canons on Justification, 24 (1547).

"The good works of one that is justified are ... also the good merits of him that is justified; and [he], by the good works which he performs through the grace of God ..., merits increase of grace and eternal life."

Council of Trent, Session 6, Canons on Justification, 32 (1547).

If the grace is a sufficient cause then we deserve no praise. If not, then the work as a whole may be said to "proceed from grace" but our contribution, which is necessary, does not flow from grace.

Meritorialism has been called "semipelagian", not to be confused with 5th century semipelagianism, which placed the works before the grace; perhaps "demisemipelagian" would be more accurate.

The merit here postulated has been called "grace-merit" (German Gnadenlohn). As if what another has done could be regarded as my doing.

Luther's German for Romans 3:28 is "Der Mensch gerecht ... allein durch den Glauben." He added the allein ("alone") to what would otherwise have been a more literal translation of Greek dikaiousthai pistei anthropon ("justified [or made righteous] by faith") to convey the sense of Paul's accompanying choris ergon nomou ("without works of law"). The formula "by faith alone" (Latin sola fidei) had been used by any number of writers regarded by Luther's opponents as orthodox, at least as far back as Jerome, and including Thomas Aquinas himself, but Thomas and other more recent writers had undermined it with their Meritorialism, and Luther was reaffirming its full meaning.

The Church of England echoed Luther.

"We are justified by faith alone".

Church of England, Book of Common Prayer, Articles Of Religion, Article 11, originally from the 1562 London Convocation.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the tradition upheld by papal priests included Meritorialism, so it is not surprising that Meritorialists tended to support Clericalism, and Solafideists to support Anticlericalism.

For details of Clericalism, see that heresy's page. (It is a variant of Authoritarianism.)

Back to Bonhominalism.