Middle Ages

Roman Catholic theological term for reward from God for works done by believers.

The system of merit was like a staircase to God

The idea of merit was elaborately developed by the medieval scholastics. Condign merit (meritum de condigno) was described as merit awarded because it was fully deserved. Congruent merit (meritum de congruo) was described as half-merit or merit awarded by divine generosity in view of imperfect human works. Condign merit, Thomas Aquinas taught, can only be awarded in recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual. Congruent merit is awarded when the individual does what he or she is able to do (facere quod in se est) and God responds with the gift of needed merit. This allowed later scholastic theologians to argue that salvation requires an initial first act on the part of the believer which is then completed by the gift of merit granted through God's grace. In this scheme salvation is awarded in view of an adequate accumulation of merit.

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