Religious Strife and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
THE MOST FAMOUS of the religious quarrels, the Jansenist controversy, dated back a quarter of a century. Cornelius Jansen, called Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres, had died in 1638, leaving in manuscript a large theological work in which he had attempted to restate and condense St. Augustine’s doctrine concerning grace and election. After the Fall, is man capable of desiring and doing good unaided? Is grace given to all Christians because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ? Can they cooperate to obtain such grace? No, Jansenius answered. If man could do good unaided, if Adam’s sin had not made him incapable of it, what would be the point of the redemption? And if man could cooperate with the action of grace, what would become of divine omnipotence? While man is incapable of good, he is capable of evil. This is a mystery that reason wonders at, because it cannot conceive how man may be responsible for evil without being equally responsible for good. Nor does reason grasp how one pan of a balance may descend and the other fail to rise. But for the Jansenists, reason was pride. Man must convince himself that unaided he is capable only of sin, but that he is saved by grace, he must constantly crave it by practicing the most rigorous Christian morality: the life of a Christian is a perpetual act of penitence.
KeywordsNeighboring Province Moral Reflection Protestant Church Ancien Regime Catholic Religion
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