Maritain and the Divine Acceptance of Evil

Jacques Maritain, “Reflections on Theological Knowledge,” Untrammeled Approaches, 257-258:

“Each time that a creature sins (and in each case the creature takes the first initiative, the initiative of nothingness), God is deprived of a joy (‘Above and beyond’ according to our way of looking at things) which was due to Him by another and which that other does not give Him, and something inadmissible to God is produced in the world.  But even before triumphing over what is inadmissible by a greater good which will overcompensate for it later on, God Himself, far from being subject to it, raises it above everything by His consent.  In accepting such a privation (which in no way affects His being but only the creatures relation to Him), He takes it in hand and raises it up like a trophy, attesting to the divinely pure grandeur of His victorious Acceptance (ours is never such except at the cost of some defeat); and this is something that adds absolutely nothing to the intrinsic perfection and glory of the divine Esse, and is eternally precontained in Its essential and supereminent infinity.  For this is an integral part of a mysterious divine perfection which, even though it has reference to the privation of what is due to God by creatures existing at some particular point in time, is infinitely beyond the reach of creatures… This divine perfection is eternally present in Godand, by the infinite transcendence of the Divine Being, is the unnamed exemplar, incapable of being designated by any of our concepts, toward which like blind men we raise our eyes, and which corresponds in uncreated glory what suffering is in us .”

On the Measure of the Moral Act (Re: Gifts of Holy Spirit but More Broadly Applicable)

Jacques Maritain, Existence and the Existent, trans. Lewis Galantiere and Gerald B. Phelan (New York: Pantheon, 1948), 54-56:

"In the moral problems of which we speak, where we are obliged to reconcile contrasting virtues and duties, choice has to be made not only between good and evil but also, and usually, between the good and the better.  It is at such a moment that we enter into the deepest arcana of moral life and that the individuality of the moral act assumes its supreme dimensions.  St. Thomas teaches that the standard of the gifts of the Holy Ghost is higher than that of the moral virtues; that of the gift of counsel is higher than that of prudence.  The saints always amaze us.  Their virtues are freer than those of a merely virtuous man.  Now and again, in circumstances outwardly alike, they act quite differently from the way in which a merely virtuous man acts.  They are indulgent where he would be severe, severe where he would be indulgent.  When a saint deserts her children or exposes them to rebellion in order to enter into religion; when another saint allows her brother to be assassinated at the monastery gate in order that there be no violation of the cloister; when a saint strips himself naked before his bishop out of love of poverty; when another chooses to be a beggar and shocks people by his vermin; when another abandons the duties of his status in society and becomes a galley slave out of love of the captives; when still another allows himself to be unjustly condemned rather than defend himself against a dishonorable accusation—they go beyond the mean.  What does that signify?  They have their own kind of mean, their own kind of standards.  But they are valid only for each one of them.  Although their standards are higher than those of reason, it is not because of the object taken in itself that the act measured by their standards is better than an act measured by the mere moral virtues; rather it is so by the inner impetus which the saints receive from the Spirit of God in the depths of their incommunicable subjectivity, which impetus goes beyond the measure of reason to a higher good discerned by them alone, and to which they are called to bear witness.  This is why there would be no saintliness in the world if all excess and all that reason judges insensate were removed from the world.  This is why we utter something deeper than we realize when we say of such acts that they are admirable but not imitable.  They are not generalizable, universalizable.  They are good; indeed, they are the best of all moral acts.  But they are good only for him who does them.  We are here very far from the Kantian universal with its morality defined by the possibliity of making the maxim of an act into a law for all men."

Theology is Not Merely Rational Knowledge of Revealed Truths

"To say that theology is philosophy applied to revealed truth is to say by definition that theology is the scientific misunderstanding of revealed truth (in the same way that a certain exegesis which, deprived of the theological habitus is nothing more than the purely rational light—'animal' in St. Paul's meaning of the word—of historical criticism applied to the word of God."

- Jacques Maritain, The Dream of Descartes [56]

The Christian and the World

"As I pointed out many years ago [in Integral Humanism], the deepest requirement of a new age of civilization, to the extent to which Christianity inspires it, will be the sanctification of secular life...

In these perspectives [i.e., those that recognize that the Christian call is indeed one to inner sanctity and perfection in love] we may understand that a new 'style' of sanctity (I do not speak of a new 'type' of sanctity, for sanctity has its eternal type in the person of Christ), a new step in the sanctification of secular life, is needed for the rejuvenation of the world.  Not only will the spirit of Christ overflow into secular life and seek for witnesses among those who labor in yards and factories, in social work, politics or poetry, as well as among monks dedicated to the search for perfection; but a kind of divine simplification will help people to realize that the perfection of human life does not consist in a stoic athleticism of virtue or in a humanly calculated application of holy recipes, but rather in a ceaselessly increasing love, despite our mistakes and weaknesses, between the Uncreated Self and the created self.  There will be a growing consciousness that everything depends on that descent of the divine plenitude into the human being of which I spoke above [in this article], and which performs in man death and resurrection.  There will be a growing consciousness that man's sanctification has its touchstone in the love of his fellow man, which requires him to be always ready to give what he has—and himself—and finally to die in some manner for those he loves."

The True Believer

"A living Christianity is necessary to the world.  Faith must be actual, practical, existential faith.  To believe in God means to live in such a manner that life could not possibly be lived if God did not exist.  For the practical believer, gospel justice, gospel attentiveness to everything human must inspire not only the deeds of the saints, but the structure and institutions of common life, and must penetrate to the depths of terrestrial existence."

-- Jacques Maritain, "A New Approach to God" (The Range of Reason, p.100)

Practical Atheists

"Practical atheists also have buried their souls.  But they have the appearance and color of life although they are dust within.  The gospel terms them whited sepulchers.  It would be too optimistic to pretend that their time has passed.  Yet to say that they will be of no great use in the coming struggles and hazards of civilization seems to be an understatement." 

-- Jacques Maritain, "A New Approach to God" (The Range of Reason, p.100)

The Ultimate End and an Atheist Outlook

"Atheism begins with a kind of new start in moral activity, a determination to confront good and evil in an absolutely free experience, by casting aside any ultimate end—a determination which is mistaken for enfranchisement and moral maturity and boils down in reality to the complete giving of self to some earthy "Great Being": either Mankind as for Auguste Comte, or as for others, a Work to be done or a Party to serve.  At the same time the relation to the absolute Good which the moral good essentially implies is abolished, and as a result the very nature of the moral good is changed and is replaced by an idol."

-- Jacques Maritain, "A New Approach to God" (The Range of Reason, p.98)

Promoting the Grandeur of Reason

"The main issue now is to promote rather than to humble reason.  Religious thought will not so much have to defend itself against philosophical (critical) reason, as at the time of the Enlightenment, as it will have to defend philosophical (ontological) reason both against sheer irrationalism or a metaphysics of despair and such ultimate fruits of rationalism as pseudo-scientific positivism and dialectical materialism."

-- Jacques Maritain, "A New Approach to God" (The Range of Reason, p.94)

The (Truly) Erotic Man

"Thus it is that when a man has been really awakened to the sense of being or existence, and grasps intuitively the obscure, living depth of the self and subjectivity, he experiences, by virtue of the inner dynamism of this intuition, that love is not a passing pleasure or a more or less intense emotion, but the root tendency and very meaning of his being alive.  He becomes both an 'ontological' and an 'erotic' man; his man anew."

-- Jacques Maritain, "A New Approach to God" (The Range of Reason, p.92)