St. Paul on Justification

Apr 30th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Yesterday Professor Lawrence Feingold gave an outstanding lecture on “St. Paul on Justification.” Listen to the lecture and the Q&A below:
Lecture:
 

Q&A:

 

The mp3 for this lecture (and that of the Q&A), as well as the pdf, can be downloaded here. I’m creating a forum here for us to discuss this lecture.

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  1. Thanks for passing this along. It’s good as usual from Dr. Feingold. I thought the Q&A was particularly insightful.

  2. Brian,

    Are you the same Brian Cross that used to debate on the PCA site?

    Thanks,

    Mike Spreng

  3. Mike,

    I don’t know, because I’m not sure what PCA site you are referring to. I’ve always spelled my first name with a ‘y’. So if this person spelled his name with an ‘i’, then it wasn’t me.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  4. Awesome.

  5. Bryan,
    It was the By Faith site, in the forum section. I don’t think it is still available. The PCA shut it down because the conservatives where winning! Anyhow, I remember debating against some guys on the “Sonship” heresy and the Br”y”an Cross that was writing there was a huge help. The issue was so big that I had to leave the PCA (my presbytery despised anyone that was against it). That was the begining of my road out of the “Reformed” view of Justification.

    Mike

  6. The strength of Dr Feingold’s lecture is, for me, also its weakness. Feingold reads the Apostle Paul through the lens of Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent. I think this is perfectly legitimate and helpful. We all have to begin somewhere, and as Catholics we confess the appropriateness of reading Scripture through the theological tradition of the Church. Feingold demonstrates that the Pauline letters can be plausibly interpreted through the Tridentine understanding of justification and the scholastic distinctions of causality. Protestants may find this lecture valuable for its attempt to demonstrate the biblical grounding of the traditional Catholic construal of justification, though I doubt, if I were a Protestant, I would be persuaded.

    I can’t help feeling that something vital is lost in Feingold’s interpretation. Whose voice is stronger in this lecture, St Paul’s or St Thomas’s? I fear that the Apostle is being squeezed into a scholastic procrustean bed, with little regard for historical exegesis and the real concerns and purposes of St Paul. I suspect that Joseph Fitzmyer may be a more reliable guide to the exegesis of the Pauline epistles than Lawrence Feingold.

    Based on this lecture, I would have to say that Feingold appears to have a marginal grasp of Luther and the motivations lying behind his novel theory of justification. It all sounds like it was just an intellectual debate, with Luther failing to correctly identify the formal cause of our righteousness in Christ. This is unfortunate, in my opinion. The problem here does not become apparent until one attempts to preach the Tridentine ordo salutis. It is very difficult not to fall into a enervating moralism, as well demonstrated in typical Catholic homilies. I am not picking on Trent here. I would advance a similar, though different, criticism of most Reformed construals. The problem is the translation of a third-person description of the process of salvation into first-person gospel proclamation.

  7. Amen, Fr. Kimel. We all start somewhere, and I had to grow out of my radical Thomism phase, as well.

    -Jay

  8. Father Kimel,

    Can you be more specific on which part(s) of his lecture you found lacking?

  9. Tim, I am hesitant to elaborate too much, as I do not want to do injustice to Feingold’s lecture. I confess that I found the lecture boring and my mind wandered quite a bit.

    Perhaps my comprehensive concern about the lecture is best evidenced in the Q&A period. What kinds of questions did this lecture generate? What did everyone first want to talk about? Answer: mortal and venial sins! This, I think, is a usual response. The question is why. Something is wrong if after a presentation of St Paul’s doctrine of justification everyone should find themselves worrying more about their mortal and venial sins than they are rejoicing in the unmerited love and grace of God. If that is the result, then, I humbly suggest, St Paul’s thought has not been presented accurately. Luther may have gotten Paul wrong at critical points (and Feingold identifies a couple of them), but I think Luther also re-discovered in St Paul something that the Western tradition had forgotten, namely, that the authentic preaching of the gospel leads to joy, faith, gratitude, and assurance, not to morbid introspection and the fear of hell.

    Compare Dr Feingold’s lecture with Joseph Fitzmyer’s book *Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans*. Also compare it to Raniero Cantalamessa’s *Life in Christ*.

    I do not object in any way to the reading of Scripture through the theological and dogmatic tradition; but I do believe that one needs to be careful to make sure that the particularities of the biblical authors are recognized and honored. St Paul was not a scholastic. I do not think he would have recognized his understanding of justification (whatever it in fact was) in Feingold’s lecture. This doesn’t mean that the scholastic construal of justification is wrong (systematic theologians often ask and answer questions that biblical authors do not explicitly address), but it does mean that we should be careful about reading back into the biblical authors conceptualities and distinctions that are foreign to their thought.

    In this lecture we really get a lot more Aquinas and Trent than we do St Paul. And that’s too bad. Catholics can stand more than a few big doses of the real Apostle.

  10. Well of everything I’ve ever read from or about Martin Luther – this is thing I identify with the most; that after all my prayers and struggles – I don’t seem to be any better of a person. I keep on choosing sin over God.

    But if there is such a thing as mortal and venial sins (i.e. Aquinas didn’t just invent it), then this would be the purely natural thing for a person to ask about after a discussion on justification where it was mentioned (even if it were not the exclusive lens through which Paul was viewed).

    If what Paul is talking about is so worth rejoicing about, and if it can potentially be lost by a choice (which I am prone to make), then how can it be anything but natural for me to ask about that distinction? Therefore I do not follow the argument that to respond by asking questions (even if in scholastic language) necessarily shows that I don’t get Paul’s real intention nor that I don’t feel the joy I ought to.

    There is a certain joy that flows freely from the gospel. There’s also something very scary – the “pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” part. If we have one without the other – I think we’ve evidently missed the true gospel. But having one does not demonstrate that we have not the other.

  11. Fr. Kimel,

    Do you really think that reading St. Paul through Trent is reading St. Paul through a “scholastic procrustean bed”? I’m wondering now, whether your “third law” is ad hoc, since it enjoins reading the Scripture through the Fathers, but (apparently) not through Trent. The first paragraph in your comment (#6) doesn’t sound at all like your third law. You make it seem that Trent is one among many legitimate places from which to approach St. Paul on justification. But if Trent 6 is infallible, then wouldn’t it be inappropriate for a Catholic to approach St. Paul as if Trent had not taken place or as if Trent were not infallible? Wouldn’t that be analogous to approaching the Old Testament as if Christ had never come?

    The problem here does not become apparent until one attempts to preach the Tridentine ordo salutis. It is very difficult not to fall into a enervating moralism

    Why doesn’t the difficulty of preaching an infallible dogma such as the Tridentine ordo salutis say more about the weakness of the preacher / listeners than about the goodness and truth of the dogma?

    I confess that I found the lecture boring and my mind wandered quite a bit.

    That wasn’t the case for those who attended the lecture, including myself. The room was full, and someone sitting in the back of the room commented to me yesterday how she was amazed that everyone was so attentive and engaged in the lecture. I myself found it very clear and insightful as an explanation of the Catholic doctrine of justification, as found in St. Paul, and as contrasted with Luther’s position.

    Perhaps my comprehensive concern about the lecture is best evidenced in the Q&A period. What kinds of questions did this lecture generate? What did everyone first want to talk about? Answer: mortal and venial sins!

    This was a question raised by a Protestant who had no conception of the distinction (I know because I talked with him). In fact, most of the questions were from Protestants.

    Something is wrong if after a presentation of St Paul’s doctrine of justification everyone should find themselves worrying more about their mortal and venial sins than they are rejoicing in the unmerited love and grace of God.

    Even if they are in a state of mortal sin? Seriously?

    I think Luther also re-discovered in St Paul something that the Western tradition had forgotten, namely, that the authentic preaching of the gospel leads to joy, faith, gratitude, and assurance, not to morbid introspection and the fear of hell.

    What about contrition? “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins”. Why leave off the necessity of repentance as an essential response to the Gospel?

    but it does mean that we should be careful about reading back into the biblical authors conceptualities and distinctions that are foreign to their thought.

    Which foreign conceptuality and distinction do you think Prof. Feingold read back into St. Paul? It is one thing to claim that St. Paul made use of distinctions that St. Paul did not in fact make use of; it is quite another to explain by way of philosophy (that St. Paul didn’t use) conceptualities and distinctions that St. Paul did make use of. It seems to me that Aquinas and Trent and Prof. Feingold are doing the latter.

    In this lecture we really get a lot more Aquinas and Trent than we do St Paul. And that’s too bad. Catholics can stand more than a few big doses of the real Apostle.

    You make it seem as though Aquinas and Trent were a loss, and not a development of what St. Paul taught on justification. That’s quite puzzling to me. Of course Prof. Feingold didn’t exhaust what St. Paul says; he didn’t have time in one lecture to do a comprehensive survey of Romans and Galatians and Ephesians. But Trent gives us an infallible framework through which to understand what St. Paul says about justification. And that seems to me to be the way Catholics should be approaching St. Paul.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  12. He’s right. The Fathers weren’t western scholastics, except for Augustine. The entire milieu of serious concilar dogma in the first 7 centuries was Eastern, not medieval western scholasticism, much of which was ignorant of the Eastern tradition. The meaning of Trent can be found, but much of the mindset of Tridentine Thomists is foreign to the Greek-Hellenic mind of the New Testament and the fathers of the first 7 councils. The fathers & periti of Vatican II recognized this as well, which is why many wanted to move away from medieval scholasticism.

  13. Catholicity is larger than medieval scholasticism that’s for sure. But it’s also larger than Eastern theology. That the early councils were held in the East is as accidental as the fact that the See of Peter is in the West.

  14. I don’t see the big deal with looking at Paul through the lens of Trent; it helps. I also don’t see why we should make Trent the principal lens through which we do, either. I also don’t understand why we have to make a big deal out of red grapes and green grapes. Am I off on this point? I personally don’t think scriptures should ever be read through any particular lens, though these lenses should be kept near our scriptures for guidance. Can we not make grape juice with red grapes and green grapes together?

    Any thoughts?

  15. Tim,

    I agree, but the thought of the East–their terms and concepts–is what was confirmed as normative Orthodoxy by the See of Peter for the first 800 years.

    -Jay

  16. Jared,

    I agree, but it seems we’re always working with some kind of lense. I think the best we can do is be as catholic as possible–meaning inlcuding in our studies a robust understanding of East and West. For example, the West tends to neglect Liturgy as a key component of theological inquiry. Theological inquiry is confined to patristic and biblical texts and systematics, while liturgy is viewed as kind of separate academic discipline. I’m not making this absolute, I’m just sayinh its a tendency. The East has done a much better job, I believe, in integrating the unity of the experience of the Christian in terms of mystagogy. At Vatican II, Eastern Catholic Bishops were complaining of this, and rightly so. There is no systematics apart from individual experience in the Liturgy. Fr. Alexander Schmemann has really good stuff on this point and many Latins have come to appreciate him for it.

    Btw–a little side note–if one gets a good hold in liturgy and its historical forms, it can become a very powerful argument in terms of discussions with Protestants. I have found it to be so.

  17. Jay,

    Yes, but almost all of the great heresies were Eastern as well.

    Jared,

    When reading the Scriptures, we have to look through some lens – it’s impossible to approach something without any bias. That is why we shouldn’t take issue with reading Paul through Trent because not only is Trent a valid way of understanding Paul, it’s an infallible way. It doesn’t exhaustively expound the mysteries which Paul writes on – of course not – and it can’t, perhaps, force one to experience the joy which should accompany a right understanding of say – Galatians, but it does infallibly clarify boundaries within which a Catholic Christian is to understand Paul – particularly on Justification.

    That is why, when a Catholic professor goes to speak on Paul and Justification, we should expect nothing less than a good dose of Tridentine language – because this is how the Church has told us we are to receive Paul (at least within these parameters).

    -Tim

  18. Tim,

    Absolutely, but it’s interesting that the 7 councils are all Eastern and the major theologians whose works are confirmed at those councils are the Eastern Doctors. I’m not denigrading the western Doctors, just saying that if we were interested in getting a more fully “catholic” idea, we could look at what was done at the ecumenical councils: empire-wide. As such, the theology of Augustine, Jerome and Gregory exercise very little influence. There is Pope St. Leo, to be sure, but he is the lone western conciliar figure in a sea of Eastern giants. Conciliarly speaking, of course.

    Nicea I is St. Alexander and later St. Athanasius
    Const. I is St. Gregory of Nazianzus
    Ephesus is all St. Cyril
    Chalcedon is Leo
    Const. II is Justinian
    Const. III is St. Maximus and Pope St. Agatho
    Nicea II is St. John of Damascus

    Undoubtedly, the theology that becomes the ecumenical norm for Trinitarian theology and Christology is that of the orthodox Alexandrians and Cappadocians, for all the later councils work with this framework.

  19. Tim,

    Yes, I agree with you. When I meant that we shouln’t read scripture through any particular lens, I was speaking more specifically of established perspectives (e.g. east , west) Of course, we always cary our own lenses to the scriptures, but, as I think you would agree, having our own lens is not necessarily a wrong thing. However, I do think it is necessary to interpret the Church’s infallable teaching of Justification through the lens of Trent, in order to understand it.

    Jay,

    Yes, I agree with you as well. I am very frusterared with western liturgy, actually. This is why I go to an Byzantine Catholic Church. I wouldn’t be able to express to you how I feal when I go to my mom and dad’s church with them(western; new mass). All I can say is that it makes me want to leave, and I can’t help it. Can you link me with some good material to learn more about what you are saying concerning mystagogy?

    In Christ,
    Jared B

  20. Jared,

    You don’t have to express any frustrations about the way the new mass is often done. I’ve dealt with is since leaving Calvinism and Bahnsen Seminary in 2002-03. It drove me to the SSPX (I do not attend the SSPX mass anymore).

    -Jay

  21. Bryan, you are certainly free to believe that Trent provides us “an infallible framework through which to understand what St Paul says about justification,” but you are no doubt aware that many fine Catholic theologians will disagree with you. Your claim raises serious questions regarding the proper interpretation of biblical and dogmatic statements, the relationship between biblical exegesis and dogma, and the meaning and scope of dogmatic infallibility as defined by Vatican I. I doubt either of us want to engage in controversial argument on these matters, at least I do not.

    Being a faithful Catholic does not commit one to believing that the Tridentine decree on justification represents the best and most adequate way to speak of justification. If it did, then the ecumenical discussion on justification over the past fifty years would have had little point. The simple fact is, the Catholic understanding of justification has developed in the centuries subsequent to Trent and continues to develop at the present moment, as evidenced by the Lutheran/Catholic Agreement on Justification. While this document is not considered to be an infallible dogmatic statement of the Magisterium, it does enjoy an authoritative status that is more than just opinion. In the judgment of one theologian, Edward T. Oakes, given that the Vatican formally signed off on the document, the Council of Trent “must henceforth be seen through the lens of that Joint Statement.”

    At the very least I think that we may say that the Joint Declaration must be the theological starting place for Catholics who wish to engage in theological conversation with Protestants on the subject of justification. Catholic theologians cannot simply re-iterate the anathemas of Trent, as if significant theological rapprochement has not occurred between Protestantism (at least as represented by the churches of the Lutheran World Federation) and the Catholic Church. If the “Lutheran” position as stated in the Agreement is declared not to be church-dividing, and therefore not heretical, then this in itself has dramatic consequences for continued Catholic articulation of the dogma of justification.

    You ask what conceptualities Feingold may have read back into St Paul. Sanctifying (created) grace and the scholastic “causes” of justification immediately come to mind. Please note: I am not declaring that these are illegitimate theological concepts and developments, but I do question their employment when one is purporting to do the scientific exegesis of the Bible. I know there are no hard-and-fast rules here. The negotiation of exegesis and systematic theological reflection is neither easy nor obvious. But there is a difference between what St Paul taught and what St Thomas taught about St Paul. In Dr Feingold’s lecture, I think we heard more the latter than the former.

  22. Fr. Kimel,

    Bryan, you are certainly free to believe that Trent provides us “an infallible framework through which to understand what St Paul says about justification,” but you are no doubt aware that many fine Catholic theologians will disagree with you.

    I would be interested in knowing what criteria you use in determining what constitutes being a “fine” theologian. If a theologian who professes to be Catholic denies the infallibility of Trent, I would see that as disqualifying him from counting as a “fine” [Catholic] theologian. It seems to me that orthodoxy ought to be one of the criteria used to determine whether a theologian is fine or less than fine. It seems that orthodoxy would be the bare minimum.

    Being a faithful Catholic does not commit one to believing that the Tridentine decree on justification represents the best and most adequate way to speak of justification.

    I agree. But it does commit one at least to believe everything infallibly affirmed by Trent and to deny everything infallibly anathematized by Trent. If it doesn’t, then what does “faithful” even mean? Development can never deny anything already infallibly laid down.

    If it did, then the ecumenical discussion on justification over the past fifty years would have had little point.

    That seems like a non sequitur to me. See my two ecumenicisms post.

    The simple fact is, the Catholic understanding of justification has developed in the centuries subsequent to Trent and continues to develop at the present moment, as evidenced by the Lutheran/Catholic Agreement on Justification. While this document is not considered to be an infallible dogmatic statement of the Magisterium, it does enjoy an authoritative status that is more than just opinion.

    It is my understanding that the Joint Declaration has no authority in the Catholic Church. The JD is not a teaching of the extraordinary, ordinary or universal magisterium of the Church. That it was signed by the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity does not make it a teaching of the ordinary magisterium. So I (respectfully) take issue with Fr. Oakes on this point. But this is an extremely important point, one that needs to be examined carefully.

    At the very least I think that we may say that the Joint Declaration must be the theological starting place for Catholics who wish to engage in theological conversation with Protestants on the subject of justification.

    Whether that statement is true depends on whether or not the JD is authoritative Catholic teaching.

    It seems to me that we can affirm that there has been some significant theological rapprochement between the Catholic Church and Lutherans, without denying any of the infallible decrees or canons of Trent.

    but I do question their employment when one is purporting to do the scientific exegesis of the Bible.

    If by “scientific exegesis” you are referring to an activity that does not involve making use of subsequent writings in the Fathers or the Creeds or the General Councils, then sure. But that’s not what Prof. Feingold was intending to do. So I don’t think it would be fair to criticize him for not doing what he wasn’t intending to do in this talk.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. Mike,

    I’m not the same Bryan Cross who debated on the PCA site.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. But there is a difference between what St Paul taught and what St Thomas taught about St Paul.

    Obviously. St. Thomas was not merely quoting Sacred Scripture. Neither were the Tridentine fathers. For that matter, there is a difference between what St. Paul taught (consciously, as a man) and what St. Paul taught (mystically, as inspired by the Holy Spirit).

    We are called to the fullness of truth, which, in the nature of the case, takes us well beyond the purview of “scientific exegesis.” The relation between the literal sense of Scripture and the mystical sense of Scripture is complex indeed. But so is the concept of scientific exegesis, and so is the question of how such exegesis is to be rightly applied, all things considered, to a text whose author is God.

    I can see no reason why anyone is in a better position to discern the truth taught by God in Sacred Scripture written by St. Paul, say, in Romans and Galatians, then the Tridentine fathers.

    The means by which the fathers arrived at their teaching, whether supernatural or naturalistic (or both, as was the case, and is ever the case, in an Ecumenical Council), the time at which they promulgated their teaching, whether the 16th century (as it was), 5th century, or 21st century, and their theological idiom, whether pharisaical, neo-platonic, scholastic (as it sort of was), bombastic, phenomological, personalistic or merely idiosyncratic (which everything is until it becomes fashionable), is ultimately irrelevant to whether or not what they said is true; i.e., corresponds to reality (as it did and does and ever shall, world without end).

    (Now someone can jump in and say that the correspondence theory of truth is complex and controversial. Well, it is not very complex. It is controversial, and that just goes to show that people will disbelieve things that they can’t help knowing.)

    Back to the matter at hand: I cannot see why an exegete who seeks to know as much as he can concerning the the truth of justification ought not, first and foremost, bring what he knows (in whatever way and from whatever source) about the truth of justification to bear upon his reading of Sacred Scripture which treats of justification. For knowledge comes from knowledge, and truth is one.

  25. Father Kimmel,

    You aren’t saying that Trent isn’t infallible but rather that Trent doesn’t do a great job at explaining justification? Is that a good summary?

  26. Bryan, ecumenical councils are not infallible in everything they assert. The category of infallibility is restricted to dogmatic definitions. Hence when you and Tim write that the Tridentine “framework” is infallible, I honestly do not know what you mean. Please specify the dogmatic definition enunciated by Trent that you have in mind and provide the criteria you are employing in identifying this dogmatic definition. You have invoked dogmatic infallibility to support your argument. At this point you have opened a theological can of worms and must now wade into the turbulent waters of inter-Catholic disputation.

    The Catholic Church is simply bigger, more complex, and more nuanced than you seem to allow. We may sometimes wish that the Catholic Church would not allow as much theological diversity as she does, but she does in fact embrace within herself a diversity of theological positions and approaches. The dogma of justification is case in point. Catholic theology does not recognize Trent as having asserted the final word on justification. Trent spoke a necessary word, an irreformable word, but not the final word. If this were not the case, then Newman would have been compelled to repudiate his Lectures on Justification–lectures which were powerfully influential in 20th century Catholic reflection on this topic and continue to be influential in the 21st century.

    You have denied any authoritative status to the Lutheran/Catholic Agreement on Justification. Do you realize the implications of what you have said? If you are right, then the Catholic Church has in fact lied to the world–and specifically, she has lied to the Protestant world. She has asserted a theological agreement on justification where no binding agreement in reality exists–and she has done this with full knowledge and assent of the Holy Father. Are you really willing to say this?

    I find myself constrained to confront you on this point. I have only been a Catholic for a relatively short time, but I have been a Catholic long enough to know that the Catholic Church is NOT accurately and fully represented in your presentation of her teachings on this topic of justification. Excuse my bluntness.

    Faithfully yours,
    Fr Alvin Kimel

  27. Here is some of the hard evidence (make of it what you will, I suppose):

    Since there is being disseminated at this time, not without the loss of many souls and grievous detriment to the unity of the Church, a certain erroneous doctrine concerning justification, the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the most reverend John Maria, Bishop of Praeneste de Monte, and Marcellus, priest of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, cardinals of the holy Roman Church and legates Apostolic a latere, presiding in the name of our most holy Father and Lord in Christ, Paul III, by the providence of God, Pope, intends, for the praise and glory of Almighty God, for the tranquillity of the Church and the salvation of souls, to expound to all the faithful of Christ the true and salutary doctrine of justification, which the Sun of justice,[1] Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith[2] taught, which the Apostles transmitted and which the Catholic Church under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost has always retained; strictly forbidding that anyone henceforth presume to believe, preach or teach otherwise than is defined and declared in the present decree.

    THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
    Session VI – Celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547 under Pope Paul III

    Whence follows the decrees and canons concerning justification, which have been referred to in the preceding comments, and can be read in full here.

    Father Kimel,

    Please specify the Magisterial document promulgated by the Catholic Church that you have in mind and provide the criteria you are employing in identifying this as a Magisterial document illustrating that the Lutheran/Catholic Agreement is the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.

    I expect it too be pretty strong stuff, given your tone.

  28. Father Kimmel,

    Hence when you and Tim write that the Tridentine “framework” is infallible, I honestly do not know what you mean. Please specify the dogmatic definition enunciated by Trent that you have in mind and provide the criteria you are employing in identifying this dogmatic definition.

    I’m not calling scholasticism as an approach to the issue of Justification an infallibly perfect method nor am I saying that there are no other valid methods of approach and I don’t think anyone else here is either. When I call the framework infallible, I’m talking about the anethemas for example – the proclamations “here is what is to be believed” and “here is what is not to be believed”. I hold these to be infallible – do you disagree?

    You said on your blog re: the Eucharist & Trent:
    Like all dogmas, the Tridentine definition is not the final word, though it is a dogmatically definitive word, on the mystery of the eucharistic change; and like all dogmas, it invites further reflection.

    And you seem here to be equating our (Bryan, myself, Andrew) insistence on the infallibility of Trent as saying that Trent was the final word – as if we believed nothing else needed to or could be said of justification. But I for one deny that and I think I know Bryan and Andrew enough to say they would as well.

    But why is Trent “dogmatically definitive” regarding the Eucharist and not so re: justification?

  29. “You aren’t saying that Trent isn’t infallible but rather that Trent doesn’t do a great job at explaining justification? Is that a good summary?”

    Sean, I am reminded of the following passage from Cardinal Newman:

    “[W]hen the Roman schools are treating of one point of theology, they are not treating of other points. When the Council of Trent is treating of man, it is not treating of God. Its enunciations are isolated and defective, taken one by one, of course. If we desire a warmer exhibition of Christian truth than a treatise on Justification admits, we may go to mystical writers such as Schram, whose doctrine on the Holy Eucharist, quoted above in the Advertisement to this edition, is the supplement to an account of formal causes. All theological definitions come short of concrete life. Science is not devotion or literature. If the Fathers are not cold, and the Schoolmen are, this is because the former write in their own persons, and the latter as logicians or disputants. St. Athanasius or St. Augustine has a life, which a system of theology has not. Yet dogmatic theology has its use and its importance notwithstanding.”

    Newman’s own sympathies were clear.

    For example, the Council of Trent declares that the formal cause of justification is inherent righteousness; but some Catholic theologians have questioned the adequacy of this assertion and have wanted to qualify it by speaking of the Holy Spirit as the “quasi-formal” cause of justification. Ecumenical councils speak their definitive word in time. They speak what is necessary to exclude error. But this does not mean that they speak all that needs to be spoken. Nicaea needed to be followed by I Constantinople; Ephesus followed by Chalcedon; etc.

    Trent is particularly difficult for some of us because it is was a Western council that employed a scholastic way of theology that is alien to historic Eastern reflection–and the Catholic Church embraces both West and East–and alien to contemporary Catholic reflection. One of the challenges facing us is to accurately identify the specific Tridentine teaching that is binding on us today. It simply will not do to speak in generalities on this point. That’s not how Catholic theology works. Catholic theologians insist on interpreting Trent within its historical context. What specific errors did the council specifically seek to exclude? Did the council fathers accurately understand and represent the views of the ostensible heretics? Catholic theologians also insist on situating the teaching of any council within the wider context of Christian theology. Do we not distort the Catholic understanding of justification by abstracting it from the doctrines of Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection? The Council of Trent needed to speak an authoritative and irreformable word at a time of theological crisis and confusion; but we need not believe that it was fully and perfectly adequate in all respects in its expression of the mystery of divine revelation.

    We should not find this surprising. Just look at the question of the salvation of the unbaptized. The Florentine dogma seems unequivocal and clear, yet Catholic theologians have insisted on thinking beyond the letter of the dogma. Ditto for the doctrine of Purgatory. Pope Benedict’s reflections on purgatory in his recent encyclical Spe Salvi would have been viewed as controversial, if not heretical, to Catholics 500 years ago. But Catholic theology refuses to remain frozen in inadequate doctrinal formulations–hence the willingness of faithful Catholic theologians to argue and debate essential matters of faith and to even force the re-opening of questions once thought closed.

    Just as Catholics refuse to be biblical fundamentalists, so they also refuse to be dogma fundamentalists. Our words often prove inadquate in light of that divine revelation to which they point.

  30. “Father Kimel, Please specify the Magisterial document promulgated by the Catholic Church that you have in mind and provide the criteria you are employing in identifying this as a Magisterial document illustrating that the Lutheran/Catholic Agreement is the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church. ”

    Hmmm, how would one go about proving this one way or the other. The Catholic Church enters into a formal agreement on doctrine with the Lutheran World Federation, with the support and approval of the CDC and the Holy Father. In the words of the Common Statement:

    “1. On the basis of the agreements reached in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JD), the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church declare together: ‘The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics’ (JD 40). On the basis of this consensus the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church declare together: ‘The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration”‘(JD 41).

    “2. With reference to the Resolution on the Joint Declaration by the Council of the Lutheran World Federation of 16 June 1998 and the response to the Joint Declaration by the Catholic Church of 25 June 1998 and to the questions raised by both of them, the annexed statement (called ‘Annex’) further substantiates the consensus reached in the Joint Declaration; thus it becomes clear that the earlier mutual doctrinal condemnations do not apply to the teaching of the dialogue partners as presented in the Joint Declaration.

    “3. The two partners in dialogue are committed to continued and deepened study of the biblical foundations of the doctrine of justification. They will also seek further common understanding of the doctrine of justification, also beyond what is dealt with in the Joint Declaration and the annexed substantiating statement. Based on the consensus reached, continued dialogue is required specifically on the issues mentioned especially in the Joint Declaration itself (JD 43) as requiring further clarification, in order to reach full church communion, a unity in diversity, in which remaining differences would be ‘reconciled’ and no longer have a divisive force. Lutherans and Catholics will continue their efforts ecumenically in their common witness to interpret the message of justification in language relevant for human beings today, and with reference both to individual and social concerns of our times.

    “By this act of signing The Catholic Church and The Lutheran World Federation confirm the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in its entirety.”

    Does this sound authoritative to you? What “Catholic Church” was it that entered into this agreement? Was the Magisterium uninvolved? Did it simply slip under the dogmatic radar?

    I am not arguing that the Agreement is to be understood on the same level as a conciliar document, but it certainly represents something more than the opinion of a group of theologians. In any case, even if it only represents the consensual opinion of a group of theologians, it is an opinion that was formally permitted and authorized by the Holy Father–and that is sufficient for my purposes. Does the Joint Declaration misrepresent the mind of the Catholic Church? I humbly suggest that the burden of proving the “orthodoxy” of the Joint Declaration lies not on the shoulders of this poor priest but on those who would deny its orthodoxy.

  31. Fr. Kimel, you wrote; “Something is wrong if after a presentation of St Paul’s doctrine of justification everyone should find themselves worrying more about their mortal and venial sins than they are rejoicing in the unmerited love and grace of God. If that is the result, then, I humbly suggest, St Paul’s thought has not been presented accurately. Luther may have gotten Paul wrong at critical points (and Feingold identifies a couple of them), but I think Luther also re-discovered in St Paul something that the Western tradition had forgotten, namely, that the authentic preaching of the gospel leads to joy, faith, gratitude, and assurance, not to morbid introspection and the fear of hell.”

    I hope to have a Priest like you, if, or when, I become Catholic. I love your humble attitude and appreciation for Luther. I hope you preach this every Sunday:) In Christ, Jeremy Tate

  32. Father,

    Concerning your comment #29: Certainly historical and cultural factors supervene upon dogmatic definitions. But they do not swallow up those definitions. I believe that my comment #24 addresses one aspect of Catholic dogma, whether defined here or these or such and so, that transcends these temporal aspects; namely, the truth of the matter.

    As Tim indicated (#28), and as your affirmations of Trent testify, I do not think that we are at cross-purposes on essential questions of fact. The difference in our perspectives (I speak only for myself, of course) seems to be a matter of method, in particular, a hermeneutical question: How might a later dogmatic definition be brought to bear upon the text of Scripture? I also address this in #24.

    As to the authoritative status of the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Statement in the Catholic Church: I think you come a little short of answering my question! My quote from Trent explicitly states upon whose authority the document is promulgated (named by name, the highest living upon earth). Your quote refers to the “Catholic Church,” an venerable institution, but who is doing the referring and by whom are they delegated so to refer? Of course the Vatican knows about the document. That is little to the point. The Magisterium knows about much. It doesn’t ipso facto teach those things.

    As to questioning the “orthodoxy” of the Joint Statement: Who has done that? Your statements, or mine, or anybody’s in this very comment box might be perfectly orthodox, but what is that to their dogmatic authority? The question is one of authority, as taught by the Magisterium, not orthodoxy, as judged by what you or I suppose to be conformable to actual Magisterial teachings. So you see, you have shifted the terms of the question, which remains, I am sad to say, entirely unanswered.

    Once more, in terms of material truth, we are probably not greatly at odds on the Joint Statement itself, nor on the vital issues of salvation, justification, assurance and the whole panoply of good things that impact the human subject in all kinds of ways when the light of the Gospel of grace and forgiveness dawns upon him. Certainly Augustine the African man and mother’s son has as much to say to the point as St. Thomas Aquinas the Catholic, scholastic theologian. And vice versa.

    For some reason, scholasticism raises ire, and it seems that that includes your ire (judging from the blunt language), as though it were to be blamed for being Western and reasonable and thorough and Aristotelian (some of it) and medieval, much more than other schools are to be blamed for evincing the “contrary” characteristics: Eastern and unreasonable and Neo-platonic, or post-scholastic, existential/quasi-critical Catholic Barthianism.

    God knows the seminarians had it rough under the regime of Garrigou-Lagrange. But there is such a thing as over-reaction. Heidegger and Gadamer, et al, are just as pagan as the Philosopher, though less reasonable, and with less excuse.

    It is possible to know what the Catholic Church teaches on justification , and the way to know that is to consult her teaching. St. Paul is a great place to start, and the best way to get to know the truth of his teaching is to consult other sources of infallible teaching, which are not hard to find, and less hard to identify than you seem to suppose. The propositions of the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Statement are worth consideration, but they might be wrong. Trent is a bit of a different case, wouldn’t you say?

  33. Fr. Kimel is right because as you go, I think, you will find it is not as easy to read dogmas of the councils in as wooden a fashion as we might tend, especially coming from Protestantism. If the Catholic Jay of 4 years ago heard myself say that, I would call myself a heretic. But the fact remains and Fr. Kimel has wisdom on this subject.

    Consider what he wrote: “For example, the Council of Trent declares that the formal cause of justification is inherent righteousness; but some Catholic theologians have questioned the adequacy of this assertion and have wanted to qualify it by speaking of the Holy Spirit as the “quasi-formal” cause of justification. Ecumenical councils speak their definitive word in time.”

    This is because of the problems of “created grace,” which I believe is a legitimate issue that needs to be clarified. Pope St. Leo’s Tome was not clear enough in its day: it could be understood in both a Cyrilline and in a Neo-Nestorian sense, and was interpret both ways. The 5th ande 6th councils met to clarify, and so on.

    -Jay

  34. “When I call the framework infallible, I’m talking about the anethemas for example – the proclamations ‘here is what is to be believed’ and ‘here is what is not to be believed’. I hold these to be infallible – do you disagree?”

    Tim, before answering your question directly, let me first point out that within the Catholic Church there is much debate on the proper interpretation of conciliar decrees and canons. I refer you, e.g., to Michael Sullivan’s *Creative Fidelity*. The hermeneutics of dogma is no less complicated and challenging than the hermeneutics of Holy Scripture.

    Assuming that the conciliar canons in question are doctrinal, rather than disciplinary, I have no problems with saying that they provide us with an authoritative dogmatic framework (boundary markers, if you will), as long as we recognize that these canons must themselves be interpreted within their historic and theological context.

    But I’m not sure how this helps us in our interpretation of St Paul. You guys have taken me to task for suggesting that Dr Feingold’s lecture on St Paul and justification is more Tridentine than Pauline. I do not believe that Feingold has given us sound critical-historical exegesis of the Apostle; rather, he has anachronistically imported into St Paul the scholastic theology of Aquinas and Trent. Joseph Fitzmyer, in my opinion, provides a more reliable reading of the Apostle.

    You have responded by asserting the hermeneutical authority of Trent. I have not denied this authority. I simply want scholars who purport to present us with the teaching of St Paul to give us St Paul and not St Thomas Aquinas. I want the Apostle to be interpreted on his own terms (to the extent that is humanly possible for us) and not interpreted to us through conceptualities unknown to the Apostle. I want to hear the voice of Paul himself, before he is assimilated to the later theological tradition.

  35. Fr. Kimel,

    You have denied any authoritative status to the Lutheran/Catholic Agreement on Justification. Do you realize the implications of what you have said? If you are right, then the Catholic Church has in fact lied to the world–and specifically, she has lied to the Protestant world. She has asserted a theological agreement on justification where no binding agreement in reality exists–and she has done this with full knowledge and assent of the Holy Father. Are you really willing to say this?

    Cardinal Dulles, as you know, wrote:

    “The Joint Declaration does not present itself as an authoritative magisterial statement, binding on the faithful of the respective communions. It states that its purpose is to take stock of the results of the dialogues on justification so that the churches may be informed and “be enabled to make binding decisions.”

    Cardinal Scheffcyzyk said something very similar about the JD. And Christopher Malloy writes:

    The document [i.e. JD] was signed by Cardinal Cassidy of the PCPCU. The signing received the public but merely informal and nonauthoritative approval of Pope John Paul II. … Finally, the PCPCU is a Roman dicastery not charged with doctrinal responsibility and authority. Short of specific and formal approval by the Papal See, documents issuing from the PCPCU command no assent from the faithful. Because the JD does not have doctrinal authority, Catholic theologians can freely consider it their responsibility to examine the viability of the claims made therein. (my emphasis)

    You yourself praised Malloy’s book in your 2006 Amazon review. Regarding the disproving of the JD’s ‘orthodoxy’, I think Malloy does just that in his book.

    I also think your claim that if one denies that the JD has doctrinal authority, one is implying that the Catholic Church has “lied to the world”, is simply not true, because it misunderstands the theological and ecclesial implications of Cardinal Cassidy’s signing of the document. Of course Cardinal Cassidy represented the Catholic Church in a certain capacity, namely, as president of the PCPCU. But the PCPCU does not have the same authority as the Roman Pontiff, and John Paul II’s approval was merely informal, and therefore not authoritative. As Malloy says, “Short of specific and formal approval by the Papal See, documents issuing from the PCPCU command no assent from the faithful.” The document therefore does not meet the criteria even for the third grade of assent: i.e. religious submission of will and intellect.

    Therefore, I think there is very good reason to believe that Trent is still the last word (up till now) for Catholics, regarding justification.

    Ecumenical councils speak their definitive word in time. They speak what is necessary to exclude error. But this does not mean that they speak all that needs to be spoken. Nicaea needed to be followed by I Constantinople; Ephesus followed by Chalcedon; etc.

    Nobody here denies that. But Constantinople I did not deny the doctrines infallibly set down by Nicea, nor did Chalcedon deny the doctrines infallibly set down by Ephesus. Likewise, any future teaching of the Catholic Church on justification cannot deny what was infallibly set down in Trent 6.

    Trent is particularly difficult for some of us because it is was a Western council that employed a scholastic way of theology that is alien to historic Eastern reflection–and the Catholic Church embraces both West and East–and alien to contemporary Catholic reflection.

    I’m not sure how you are using the term ‘difficult’. Difficult to believe? Difficult to understand? Predicates such as ‘difficult’ are relational, and therefore can say just as much (or more) about the speaker than about the referent. But difficulty is not the question. Truth is the question. Did the Holy Spirit ensure that what Trent 6 says is true? A Catholic must say yes. The fact that an Ecumenical Council makes use of scholastic theology does not detract from the authority or infallibility of that Council; rather, it confirms the scholastic theology, as used in that capacity. Otherwise the fact that Nicea made use of Greek philosophy could be used to call Nicea into question. Grace elevates nature. The union of nature with grace does not nullify grace.

    One of the challenges facing us is to accurately identify the specific Tridentine teaching that is binding on us today.

    I’m assuming that the only reason you are saying this is because you [mistakenly] think that the JD is doctrinally authoritative. If we [you and I] were to agree that the JD is not doctrinal authoritative, then you would agree that you face no challenge regarding accurately identifying which Tridentine teachings on justification are binding on us today. The answer would be clear: all of them.

    hence the willingness of faithful Catholic theologians to argue and debate essential matters of faith and to even force the re-opening of questions once thought closed.

    There’s that word again: “faithful”, undefined, as if heretics are intrinsically unable to affix the term to themselves. Presumably by “questions once thought closed” you are talking about the decrees or canons of Trent 6. But it is not some secret subset of those decrees and canons that are infallible. They are all infallible truths, and therefore the Church has no authority to revoke them, as she has no authority to revoke the Creed. And therefore, if “faithful” theologians can challenge the infallibly defined dogmas of the Church, then what is the principled difference between a “faithful” theologian and a heretical theologian? What is the principled difference between someone who “refuses to be a dogma fundamentalist”, and a heretic? If there is no principled difference between heretical theologians and “faithful” theologians, then “faithful” doesn’t mean anything.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. It is understandable that Westerners, such as, to my knowledge, everyone participating in this thread, would be open to the insights of the East as sheding fresh light upon old problems. Of course.

    Even so, an Eastern Catholic, thoroughly familiar with the the theologies of Dionysius and the Damascene, the Cappadocians and all Greek and Oriental and Slavic luminaries, might find that the remote and exotic schoolmen, minds ablaze with the light of the most ancient and venerable Latin tradition, did clarify and, in the best possible sense, relativize the thought and acheivements of the Eastern fathers, who are, as everyone knows, the products of their cultural and linguistic advantages and limitations.

    “Scholasticism” is, to the newly awakened Eastern mind, provincial in itself, universal in humanity, intellectual poetry, a love of truth so pure as to dispense with all literary artifice, content to expose itself in the light of revelation as truth, truth as believed, faith a kind of knowledge, more certain than philosophy, which is likewise knowledge, knowledge a union with the mind of God, who is truth, and one, and yet speaks, through the many, and these propositions are not mere sentences, sinced they are true or false, and the mind that loves the truth, the man who seeks God, reasons therefore, and his reason, being human, is universal.

    The provincial theologian of the East, awake to the rational humanity of the deified flesh, understand anew in the light of the West, which relativizes the Taboric light, surpassing and being surpassed (for the mind of the schoolman is not jealous), realizes for the first time that his fathers are Greek, as well as human, and prays for those who (being only provincial and jealous) are less than he, insofar as he knows the glory of the school of those who comment upon upon the sentences, and that the words are human, and universal, as well as Latin.

    The enlightened Greek did not pause to consider those Latins who shirk their own patrimony, Greek-parroting (for only a schoolman can understand, as well as speak, Greek) as though the schools were only relativized, and not human, and divine, as though the Holy Spirit did not descend in fire upon the plains of Italy, and France, and the whole of Europe, our mother.

  37. Yes, well put. I certainly don’t shirk the west, btw. I am a Latin rite Catholic.

  38. I cannot see how somebody can label the Joint Declaration as authoritative but not the canons of Trent…

    I also do not see how the Joint Declaration violates or changes or adds anything to Trent.

  39. Bryan,

    I was not listened to Feingold’s lecture yet, but I think Fr. Kimel makes a very valid point about something being off when a presentation of the Doctrine of Justification is followed up with a series of questions about mortal and venial sins.

    When I first read the Joint Declaration on Justification it was a major breaking point for me really considering the Catholic Church. Do you see the JD as misrepresenting the magisterial position? I understand that you are making a separate point in your conversation with Fr. Kimel, but it sounds like you are not appreciative of the JD. If the JD is off on justification, then for me, even if the Catholic Church is true, it is nothing to get excited about. I believe that Trent is true and infallible (I think), but its colored with the particular heresies it was dealing with. The Catholic Church was forced to condemn a false doctrine of justification, even though Luther’s doctrine emphasized in a radical way, God’s love and grace. This makes it seem like the Catholic Church is condemning free unmerited grace, which it is not. Peter Kreeft makes a point about this in, “The God who Loves you” (p.23) when he speaks of his indebtedness to Luther. Just because the Catholic Church condemns sola fide, does not mean that a condemnation of sola fide even needs to be mentioned in a presentation of justification. I see Rome as teaching that all of salvation is a free gift, from grace alone, and one powerful enough to work a complete change in the internal disposition of the heart of those who recieve it by faith. I gather this from everything I’ve read and particularly John Paul’s emphasis on conversion and evangelization.

  40. Jeremy,

    First, I don’t know how much you know about statistics, but when your sample size is one, then you don’t have enough information to determine much of anything. Therefore, the fact that this particular talk was followed by some questions about the distinction between mortal and venial sins does not establish anything about the talk. There were a variety of people at the talk, and some were Protestants who were unfamiliar with the distinction between mortal and venial sins. When Protestants who are unfamiliar with the distinction between mortal and venial sin hear the Catholic doctrine that it is possible to lose one’s justification through commission of a mortal sin, it is quite natural for them to ask for the distinction between mortal and venial sin. The fact that they were asking about this does not say anything about the truth of the doctrine of justification presented in the talk. Even if it did establish something (which it doesn’t) about the talk, looking to the questions to evaluate the truth of the doctrine presented in the talk implies a pragmatic notion of truth, i.e. that we adjust the message until we get the kind of result we’re looking for. But we must teach what the Church defines infallibly, regardless of the results. And I think that is what Prof. Feingold did; I recommend listening to the talk, and the Q&A, before making any judgments.

    Regarding the JD, see the Cardinal Dulles article in the link in [#35] above. And I highly recommend Christopher Malloy’s book Engrafted into Christ: A Critique of the Joint Declaration.

    If the JD is off on justification, then for me, even if the Catholic Church is true, it is nothing to get excited about.

    That depends on what we love. The truth-lover finds the greatest joy in the truth. If the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, then if Christ is a source of joy to us, then so will be His Mystical Body, the Church.

    This makes it seem like the Catholic Church is condemning free unmerited grace, which it is not. Peter Kreeft makes a point about this in, “The God who Loves you” (p.23) when he speaks of his indebtedness to Luther. Just because the Catholic Church condemns sola fide, does not mean that a condemnation of sola fide even needs to be mentioned in a presentation of justification. I see Rome as teaching that all of salvation is a free gift, from grace alone, and one powerful enough to work a complete change in the internal disposition of the heart of those who receive it by faith. I gather this from everything I’ve read and particularly John Paul’s emphasis on conversion and evangelization.

    I agree with everything you said here. After you listen to the talk, I’d be glad to hear your thoughts on it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  41. Bryan, Christopher Malloy’s book on the Joint Declaration is a thoughtful, well-informed book that needs to be part of the theological conversation; but it only represents the opinion of one man. Against his private opinion, and the opinion of Cardinal Dulles, is the simple fact of the Joint Declaration, an official document signed by representatives of the Vatican in the name of the Catholic Church, with the approval of the CDC and the Holy Father. As the Common Statement makes clear, the Holy See affirmed the document in its entirety and formally declared that the anathemas of Trent do not apply to the “Lutheran” formulation of justification as it is presented in the JD.

    The JD is an authoritative document of a unique kind. It does not enjoy the kind of authority to which the Catholic must give binding assent. Theologians may raise questions about it and criticize it. But the simple fact remains that the contents of this document were thoroughly reviewed, critiqued, and finally approved by the Holy Office. At the very least one must say that the construal of Catholic doctrine found in this document is a permitted, and indeed officially sanctioned, construal. It cannot simply be dismissed as “un-Catholic.” I know I do not have the authority to dismiss it. Do you?

    When I first read Cardinal Dulles’s criticisms of the Joint Declaration, I immediately rang up Richard Neuhaus. The JD had played an important role in my own decision to become Catholic. Richard calmly reminded me that Dulles’s opinions were simply the opinions of one Catholic theologian, and I, and he, were free to disagree with him. I could “hear” him smiling in the background: “Two Catholics, three opinions.”

    A few years ago I had a conversation with a theologian who works in the CDC. I was trying to understand the levels of magisterial authority of different kinds of documents, with specific reference to the JD. This is a kind of obsession peculiar to Catholics. The theologian finally got exasperated with me. “Stop worrying about ‘levels of authority,’ Al. Focus on the question ‘Is it true?'” It was important for me to hear this. Theology is so much more than the cataloguing of magisterial assertions, what Karl Rahner disparaged as “Denzinger theology.” Theology is apprehension of and reflection upon the truth.

    I think I have said enough on this topic for the moment, so I will sign off and let you all continue the conversation. God bless.

  42. Fr. Kimel,

    “Stop worrying about ‘levels of authority,’ Al. Focus on the question ‘Is it true?'”

    If that’s what we believed, then we would be no different from Protestants. In order to have faith as Catholics, we need to know who and what has authority, and what authority they have. Otherwise, it is each man for himself, and we’re rationalists by default. Disparaging a concern for understanding the degrees of magisterial authority by means of a derogatory label like “Denzinger theology” doesn’t falsify or refute it in the least. Ironically, it seems to me that whoever told you the line above (“Stop worrying about levels of authority ….”), didn’t tell you something true. The line is in that respect almost self-refuting. (See my comments here.) When Eve was faced with her choice in the garden, the tempter could have given her this very line. But it wasn’t for her to determine for herself whose word was true (God’s or Satan’s), but in obedience to trust as true the One having the higher authority. That’s the whole purpose of faith in this present life.

    Theology is apprehension of and reflection upon the truth.

    That may be true of natural theology, but sacred theology involves faith, which requires a recognition of and submission to ecclesial authority, on account of the divine authority invested in her by Christ Himself.

    May God grant to us all true faith, and true wisdom about these questions, that we may be in true unity, as we know that He wishes us to be. Thank you for talking with me about this Fr. Kimel. (Out of great respect for you I was reluctant to voice my disagreement, but this was important enough that I couldn’t stay silent. I hope you understand.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. I do not think Fr. Kimel is saying that Trent does not hold authority, or that the JD is of equal footing or more authoritative. He is saying that though Trent is authoritative and infallible, it doesn’t mean that it is the best or most adequate explanation of Pauline theology on Justification. Being infallible does not entail being most adequate. I believe Fr. Kimel was making the claim that Conciliar declarations provide boundary markers, not necessary lenses through which we must understand the truth of doctrines. Truth is in the essence of the docrine, not necessarily in the way it is formulated. As far as trent goes, it presents an infallable teaching on the doctrine of Justification, but not a required way of looking at the doctrine. No one is under any obligation to understand Justification with the lens of the Tridentine fathers, though by no means are they permissed to step outside the boundary markers into those things condemned by Trent. I think this is what Fr. Kimel was trying to say. I can’t see any problem with it. This is the way the Church opperates; this is Vatican II.

  44. Jared, if he had said what you said, we probably wouldn’t have taken an issue with him. But it was precisely the word “infallible” as applied to Trent that he objected to in our usage. None of us have ever claimed nor approached claiming that Trent was exhaustively adequate as if nothing else could be said on the matter. To reiterate what I said (and was not responded to):

    And you seem here to be equating our (Bryan, myself, Andrew) insistence on the infallibility of Trent as saying that Trent was the final word – as if we believed nothing else needed to or could be said of justification. But I for one deny that and I think I know Bryan and Andrew enough to say they would as well.

    Now don’t get me wrong or Bryan or Andrew, we all have tremendous respect for Father Kimel. But I think we simply have to take issue with the way he’s wording it. Bryan brought up a good example -re: ‘don’t worry about levels of authority just worry about truth’. It is precisely when one wants to worry about truth that he will ask these questions about varying levels of authority.

  45. Jared,

    Fr. Kimel’s complain from the very beginning was that Mr. Feingold used scholastic language to talk about justification. If what you’re saying is true – what you’re saying is what Bryan, Tim, and Andrew are saying – and if Fr. Kimel actually said what you claim he said, then I don’t see why he would have such a problem with Mr. Feingold using scholastic language to describe justification.

  46. Ok, here is where I think what Fr. Kimel was emphasizing. From my estimation, he is saying that it is better to dialoge with portestants from the starting ground of JD. According to Fr Kimel, the JD occupies a status more than mere opinion, and that since the Church has authorized the JD, and since it is in line with Catholic dogma, and also more protestant friendly, then it is best to start there. To dialogue with portestants starting with the JD is more useful because it does reflect Catholic teaching, but does so without the more complicated( as it were) terms and concepts of Trent. And if this is the point he was making, I agree with him. It may be a good idea to save Trent for later, seeing that a great many Catholics who have converted to Catholicism from Protestantism did so via the JD formulations, and if unity is what we are seeking, and the JD has demonstrated to be more efficient, it would be prudent to start and focus much attention there. As far as the original post is concerned, however, I believe Mr. Feingold does a splendid job explaining Justification the way he does. It is easy for us to say this,though, but maybe not so for protestants.

  47. Concerning reason and authority, John Henry Newman, in his Essay of the Development of Christian Doctrine (p. 330-31), cites St. Augustine to the point:

    St. Augustine, who had tried both ways, strikingly contrasts them in his De Utilitate credendi, though his direct object in that work is to decide, not between Reason and Faith, but between Reason and Authority. He addresses in it a very dear friend, who, like himself, had become a Manichee, but who, with less happiness than his own, was still retained in the heresy.

    “The Manichees,” he observes, “inveigh against those who, following the authority of the Catholic faith, fortify themselves in the first instance with believing, and before they are able to set eyes upon that truth, which is discerned by the pure soul, prepare themselves for a God who shall illuminate.

    You, Honoratus, know that nothing else was the cause of my falling into their hands, than their professing to put away Authority which was so terrible, and by absolute and simple Reason to lead their hearers to God’s presence, and to rid them of all error.

    For what was there else that forced me, for nearly nine years, to slight the religion which was sown in me when a child by my parents, and to follow them and diligently attend their lectures, but their assertion that I was terrified by superstition, and was bidden to have Faith before I had Reason, whereas they pressed no one to believe before the truth had been discussed and unravelled?

    Who would not be seduced by these promises, and especially a youth, such as they found me then, desirous of truth, nay conceited and forward, by reason of the disputations of certain men of school learning, with a contempt of old-wives’ tales, and a desire of possessing and drinking that clear and unmixed truth which they promised me?”

    Presently he goes on to describe how he was reclaimed. He found the Manichees more successful in pulling down than in building up; he was disappointed in Faustus, whom he found eloquent and nothing besides. Upon this, he did not know what to hold, and was tempted to a general scepticism.

    At length he found he must be guided by Authority; then came the question, Which authority among so many teachers? He cried earnestly to God for help, and at last was led to the Catholic Church.

    He then returns to the question urged against that Church, that “she bids those who come to her believe,” whereas heretics “boast that they do not impose a yoke of believing, but open a fountain of teaching.” On which he observes, “True religion cannot in any manner be rightly embraced, without a belief in those things which each individual afterwards attains and perceives, if he behave himself well and shall deserve it, nor altogether without some weighty and imperative Authority.”

  48. Thanks for these mp3’s! I have been listening and re-listening to them. Could anyone comment on the below question.

    “What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness’. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as grace, but as a debt owed. But to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness” (Rom 4:1-5)

    1) Abraham was not justified by works (any kind of works)
    2) Abraham’s faith was credited as righteousness, and so faith is, in this instance, totally contradictory to works in the means of being justified
    3) Justification by works is a debt owed
    4) Faith being credited for righteousness is the opposite of the principle of debt and rather is a gift of grace
    So we have a couple of problems which stand right out at the surface here that “seems” to work against the Catholic position. Faith and Works are here being contradicted. That much is clear. For those who would want to limit the “works” to those outward exterior ritual observances (non-moral) of the Law of Moses, I would simply say that 1) Aquinas nor Augustine agrees with you, 2) Paul excludes all works in the justification of sinners (Titus 3:5-7), and 3) Paul assumes that Abraham could have been justified by works.

    Secondly, faith being credited as righteousness is a gift of grace. Now why is that? In the book of Hebrews 11, the author demonstrates how the faith of the Patriarchs and Old Testament Saints made them approved before God. In other words, faith was what made them pleasing to God. But how can we say that faith makes us pleasing, acceptable, and approved before God and at the same time call faith a “non-work” (Rom 4:5)? It almost seems like Paul is saying that because faith is credited as righteousness, and because this is supposed to be diametrically opposed to gaining righteousness by works, then faith must not be any kind of quality that merits anything. Almost like faith is nothing but receiving grace. How should we understand faith being something that makes Abraham righteous and at the same time understanding faith as a “non-work” (Rom 4:5).

  49. Erick (re: #48)

    You wrote:

    So we have a couple of problems which stand right out at the surface here that “seems” to work against the Catholic position. Faith and Works are here being contradicted.

    You state that this is a “problem” for the Catholic position, but then you don’t explain why you think it is a problem for the Catholic position. You merely say “Faith and Works are here being contradicted.” But as I have explained in “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” the justification in view here is justification-as-translation. And the Catholic Church does not teach that justification-as-translation is by meritorious works, but by living faith, which is received in baptism as a gift from God poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

    Secondly, faith being credited as righteousness is a gift of grace. Now why is that? In the book of Hebrews 11, the author demonstrates how the faith of the Patriarchs and Old Testament Saints made them approved before God. In other words, faith was what made them pleasing to God. But how can we say that faith makes us pleasing, acceptable, and approved before God and at the same time call faith a “non-work” (Rom 4:5)?

    Why is living faith said to be a gift of grace? Because living faith is a supernatural gift, not a natural virtue or a set of natural virtues that man can attain or achieve by his own natural powers.

    It almost seems like Paul is saying that because faith is credited as righteousness, and because this is supposed to be diametrically opposed to gaining righteousness by works, then faith must not be any kind of quality that merits anything.

    Or that it is living faith, not dead works, that is truly pleasing to God. You’re drawing a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from the premise. Merit is only by living faith, and this living faith is itself the gift of God.

    How should we understand faith being something that makes Abraham righteous and at the same time understanding faith as a “non-work” (Rom 4:5).

    This is what I’ve been explaining at various places on CTC, including not only the links provided just above, but also “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” and “Imputations and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig,” “St. Augustine on Law and Grace,” and “A Reply from a Romery Person.” Faith is a “non-work” because it is in the heart, where God looks and sees. St. Paul’s point in his epistles concerning justification is that works done without faith do not justify a man, because God looks at the heart. What justifies us before God is living faith in the heart, and this living faith by which we have friendship with God, is a gift of God, not something we worked up ourselves. I recommend taking some time to read through those posts and the comments following them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  50. 1) Justification by translation is initiatory, and Abraham’s faith was credited as righteousness with no works many years after his initial relationship with God.

  51. Erick (“God seeker”) (re: #50)

    1) Justification by translation is initiatory, and Abraham’s faith was credited as righteousness with no works many years after his initial relationship with God.

    True; I’ve said as much myself (see the last part of comment #140 in the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread). And that’s fully compatible with what I said in comment #49 above. What justified Abram before God, in Genesis 15, was fundamentally what was in Abram’s heart, namely, living faith. That Abram was already justified prior to that event described in Gen 15:6 does not mean that Gen 15:6 can only apply to or refer to justification-as-increase. Rather, the passage shows (argues St. Paul) what it is, in essence, by which man is justified, namely, living faith, without which no man is justified.

    For future comments, if you would stick with “Erick,” rather than switching back and forth between “Erick” and “God seeker,” that would be helpful. Thanks!

    In the peace, of Christ,

    – Bryan

  52. Bryan,

    Paul says that works, or anything worthy in the sinner, if it is the cause of justification, then it is by works. The whole point in justifying the ungodly is that the ungodly person does not deserve justification, but it is given to him anyway. This preserves the principle of grace, that by Abraham giving himself to God and trusting His promise, Abraham is given the gift which would be normally earned by a sinless and holy life. Adam was just because of His makeup, we are unjust because of thebloss of grace and justice. When we repent and turn. God, we are justified, counted as right with God becaude he chooses to forgive the repentant, those who seek Him.

    Abraham is identified with the non worker for righteousness. In other words, Abraham had no works worthy for him to be righteous, had no earnings. Abraham is the man who has no earnings for his righteousness, years after his relationship with God. His righteousness is a gift, not in the sense of being recreated into holiness and righteousness, but simply by giving his whole self to the trust of Gods word of promise. This giving up of himself to Gods promise was faith, and this was credited as righteousness.

  53. Bryan,

    The difficulty of accepting the Catholic exegesis of the variegated “justification” passages is the emphasis that Paul puts on the sacrifice of Jesus as the ground of justification. The cross of Jesus makes atonement for our sin, and so he puts away that which stood in the way being in communion with God. Now, we know that a person cannot be “in the flesh” or living “according to the flesh” in communion with God (Romans 8), therefore the interior sanctification of the human being is required for communion with God, and this is precisely what is given to us in Baptismal Regeneration and the Renewal of the Holy Spirit….but it seems to me that “justification”, at least that which is done at the moment we are reborn, consists in the status of forgiveness of sin, and does not itself involve the righteous quality which is given to us in our hearts.

    You can label my view as Protestant, But I really do not follow through with either Luther or Calvin. I believe that by means of the Spirit’s regeneration, we are washed of all our guiltiness before the Lord and we are internally sanctified. If one re-enters the life of sin, he/she has forfeited these graces, of course sometimes while still believing. If one remains walking in the Spirit, he hopes for the righteousness of the Last Day. I would say that Lutherans believe this, but I do not believe that we are simultaneously righteous while all the long being in mortal sin. I believe that baptism gives us certain gifts which can be identified and distinguished from one another. Paul himself finds some sort of distinction between “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). In this case, if all four things which equivalent, why write it four times? It would seem that being “washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11) would indicate that the justification act is distinct from the sanctification act. But truly if the justification act is the internal sanctification of the inner human being, what definition could we give to sanctification that would not be equivalent in order to make sense of Paul writing two separate words without the same meaning. And this is not just one time, as if he just feels free to use the dik and agi root words together interchangeably….no…he does the same in 1 Cor 1:30.

    It would make more sense that justification is the exterior substance of the remission of sins while sanctification is the interior renewal to be holy. Both occur and are necessary for salvation, and I guess they can both be subsumed under the grace of “justification” if we were to develop a systematic category which involves both the remission of sin and the inner sanctification of the human person. It seems to me that Trent was absolutely right when they said that justification is both the remission of sins and the inner sanctification of the human person if they were to identify their use of justification as a developed systematic category and not a perfect reflection of how it is used in the Pauline corpus.

  54. Erick,

    Your comment was addressed to Bryan, but I’d like to address your points in comment #53 paragraph by paragraph, since I believe that you raise points of general interest.

    1. The sacrifice of Jesus is indeed the ground of justification, but this is not a problem for the Catholic position, because the Catholic doctrine of justification affirms that, in your words, the “cross of Jesus makes atonement for our sin, and so he puts away that which stood in the way being in communion with God.” Your statements towards the end of the first paragraph, concerning your belief that justification, as discussed by St. Paul, does not include sanctification, have been made several times now on this website, but there are good reasons to disagree (some of which have already been raised). This brings us the second paragraph.

    2. 1 Corinthians 6:11 seriously mitigates against your view of justification, for at least two reasons: First, you make the following point about using multiple words:

    Paul himself finds some sort of distinction between “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). In this case, if all four things which equivalent, why write it four times? It would seem that being “washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11) would indicate that the justification act is distinct from the sanctification act.

    But if this argument were cogent, such that the justifying act could not include the sanctifying act (and vice versa), then it would also entail that the regenerating or washing act does not include the sanctifying act (and vice versa) since St. Paul uses two different words (“washed” and “sanctified”) in 1 Corinthians 6:11. But given what you have recently written about baptism, washing, and regeneration, it seems that you do believe that washing involves sanctification. In that case, you should either change your views on regeneration and sanctification, or else drop the whole multiple words entails multiple actions (rather than distinct aspects of the same act) argument.

    Regarding “justification” and “sanctification,” you asked the following question:

    But truly if the justification act is the internal sanctification of the inner human being, what definition could we give to sanctification that would not be equivalent in order to make sense of Paul writing two separate words without the same meaning[?]

    “Regeneration (washing),” “sanctification”, and “justification” can be effectively used to refer to the same act because these words specify distinct aspects of that act. The first term specifies the sense in which those who have been changed from their former state (“such were some of you”) have been made new (regeneration) or cleansed (washing). The second term specifies the sense in which those who have been changed from their former state have been set apart from sin and for God. The third term specifies the sense in which those who have been changed from their former state have been made righteous, set to rights, “right-wised” by the infusion of charity. (Obviously, justification includes other blessings, as you have rightly noted.)

    This brings us to the second reason why 1 Corinthians 6:11 mitigates against your view of justification: St. Paul is using these words in contradistinction to the Corinthians former manner of life (“such were some of you”). If justification, in itself, did not effect any change in the Corinthians’ condition, then it would be odd for St. Paul to include it in this list. As the songs says: “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”

    3. Trent’s doctrine of justification was defined in response to specific soteriological issues that had been raised by Luther, and which were more generally debated in the context of the Protestant Reformation, which issues hinged upon various interpretations of St. Paul. It would strain credulity to accept Trent, but to deny that St. Paul ever used “justification” in a manner consonant with Trent’s definition (according to which justification includes sanctification).

    Andrew

  55. Andrew,

    I am impressed with your argumentation. I really appreciate the intellectual digging which you’ve done for me to then explore for myself. You’ve been gifted, that is for sure.

    Couple of questions

    1) You argued that the terms “washed”, “sanctified”, and “justified” are all different ways of describing the same thing, namely, the gift of renewed and holy life. By this you argued that “justified” should be in step with the definitions of the other terms. So, “washing”, being the inner cleansing of the mind/heart, would be similar (or exact) to being “justified”, which would mean to be made righteous. So being made righteous and being cleansed in mind/heart are almost the same thing. Similarly, to be “sanctified” means to be made “holy”, and so since to be “justified” must be in line with this meaning, to be “justified” must mean to be “made righteous”. The problem I have with this is that “sanctified” does not denote forgiveness of sin, whereas justification does. Because to be “justified” denotes things such as “not imputing sin to one’s account” (2 Corintihans 5:17; Romans 4:7-9), justification and sanctification cannot by synonyms (or two words describing the same act act), for the word “sanctified” is hardly used to convey the idea of the forgiveness of sin. The blessing of the forgiveness of sin has always been understood as an exterior work of God’s relationship to the sinner. “And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them” (Leviticus 4:20). Atonement renders the transgression forgiven, meaning the person is no longer liable to judgement or guilt, but is now reconciled. This is the language of justification. Given this information, why couldn’t “justified” in 1 Corinthians 6:11 refer to the forgiveness of all the past sins of the Corinthians? The unrighteous will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Is it that the Corinthians need only the transformed into holiness? What of their past crimes against the Lord? It is forgiven, because they have been justified by the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Romans 5:9).

    2) Abraham was justified, but he did not live under the regeneration of the New Covenant Spirit. Therefore, we must be able to come up with a way to define Abraham, as a man in the flesh, being justified by faith in God, without all the input of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the application of sanctifying grace.

  56. Another consideration is that the majority of the early church fathers understood justification as the forgiveness of sins. Now they did not believe in “once saved always saved” or that one need not be “sanctified” to be in communion with God….no, no, no…they believed that one could not be “in communion with God” without “holiness”. But when they spoke about “justification”, the emphasis is always on the forgiveness of sin.

  57. Erick:
    I’ve made some suggestions on Catholic exegetes, but since you seem to be persuaded by patristic interpretations, perhaps St. Augustine’s will help. In De Trinitate, the Doctor of Grace analogizes our salvation to the Trinity itself, where God the Father begets God the Son in love, and the Love between them, the Holy Spirit, unites the two. He builds on that concept to note that the act of our salvation is an extension of this supreme Love of the Trinity; God the Father gives His Son in love, the Son offers Himself in love, and this love is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit to unite us to Him.

    Importantly, Augustine says that the justice of Christ just IS this love in the sacrifice that is the very same divine love poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It’s one continuous, divine, Trinitarian act; that’s why he says that Scripture (including Paul) constantly speaks of divine love in the context of God and of our salvation. That’s what Augustine sees as bringing the concept of sacrifice and justification together: it is all one act of ultimate divine love. There is no separation between the act of sacrifice on the Cross and the grace that justifies us; in reality, they are all one thing, one reality. He further links this to wisdom, as Christ is Wisdom itself, and our knowledge of God is inextricably linked with the love of God into which we are united, the purity of heart (sanctification) which allows us to see God.

    From Augustine’s perspective, all of these things are really one thing, explicitly linked. Maybe that will help you to understand why using different words or different terms should not be taken to imply that they are different things. Instead, they are just synonyms meant to prevent us from taking any one of them as somehow narrowing the good that is to be expressed. In other words, they are all *meant* to say the same thing, but the thing being described is so wonderful and so incomprehensible that one can’t find one word to express it all, so that we instead say many words to try to give some approximation of just how large and wonderful the mystery of salvation really is.

  58. Erick,

    A conversation has run its useful course when the interlocutors start repeating the same things they said previously, and that is happening here. I recommend taking the discussion off the thread, and continuing it privately either with Andrew or myself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. If this conversation is not going to be published, could it at least include the following question: Jonathan Prejan, what is your email address or another way of speaking with you?

    So I have dabbled into conversations over at Catholics Answers and I am a bit disappointed, for when the argument cannot be settled by simply appealing to the authority of the Church, which I understand is, in the Catholic’s mind (and prayerfully soon to be mine), enormously valid, there has not been a very good case made for the equation of “sanctifying renewal of the inner human person” and the “forgiveness of sin”. Again, I would ask if anyone here can respond the earnest desire to reconcile the clarity which in Paul concerning justification and that which is said in the Council of Trent.

    Now, the Council of Trent, in the 6th session, Chapter VII states : “This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only the remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to the hope of life everlasting”.
    It would seem to me, from reading this part, that the Bishops did not see an absolute equation of “forgiveness of sins” and “inner sanctification”. Otherwise, there would have been no need, from the mentioning of “remission of sins”, to add “not only” the remission of sins “but also” the sanctification and renewal of the inward man. This makes it difficult for me understand when I hear today a Catholic explain how the forgiveness of sin IS the literal obliteration of sins. In the first place, I am not sure how forgiveness obliterates anything. When we speak of obliterate, it almost sounds like what is being obliterated is an object or a writings of some sort. Our “sins”, such as committing fornication 35 years ago, does not form a figure in our hearts or a writings in our hearts which is literally and physically destroyed or obliterated. The sin is an “act of disobedience” which makes the person “guilty” of sin, which has no physical alteration in the human inner person. So what is being obliterated? In the first place, can anyone explain why the Bishops did not see a full coverage of justification in the remission of sins alone, if indeed the remission of sins covers this obliteration of sin as well?

  60. Erick, (re: #59)

    You wrote:

    Now, the Council of Trent, in the 6th session, Chapter VII states : “This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only the remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to the hope of life everlasting”. It would seem to me, from reading this part, that the Bishops did not see an absolute equation of “forgiveness of sins” and “inner sanctification”. Otherwise, there would have been no need, from the mentioning of “remission of sins”, to add “not only” the remission of sins “but also” the sanctification and renewal of the inward man.

    I explained this in the paragraph that begins, “First, the distinction of concept is not the same as a distinction of referent” in comment #150 of the “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians” post, and in the quotation from St. Thomas in comment #76 of the “Holy Church” article. And Andrew answered it in comment #54 above. So this question has already been addressed.

    You wrote:

    This makes it difficult for me understand when I hear today a Catholic explain how the forgiveness of sin IS the literal obliteration of sins. In the first place, I am not sure how forgiveness obliterates anything. When we speak of obliterate, it almost sounds like what is being obliterated is an object or a writings of some sort. Our “sins”, such as committing fornication 35 years ago, does not form a figure in our hearts or a writings in our hearts which is literally and physically destroyed or obliterated. The sin is an “act of disobedience” which makes the person “guilty” of sin, which has no physical alteration in the human inner person. So what is being obliterated?

    The guilt of sin is an intrinsic disorder of the will. Forgiveness of sin ‘obliterates’ the disorder in the will. It is not a change in God (who is immutable), but in the one forgiven. The culpa of sin is the disorder of the sinful act. But the reatus culpa [i.e. guilt] is the disorder in the will, and remains until the person is forgiven. And that in turn is distinct from the reatus poena (i.e. debt of punishment) that also remains after the act, until the debt is forgiven or paid.

    In the first place, can anyone explain why the Bishops did not see a full coverage of justification in the remission of sins alone, if indeed the remission of sins covers this obliteration of sin as well?

    This question presupposes that the bishops’ claim that justification includes the sanctification and renewal of the inward man means that they believed remission of sins did not include sanctification and renewal of the inner man. But that’s not a safe (or true) presupposition. By denying that justification is merely remission, the bishops were not claiming or implying that remission does not include sanctification and inward renewal. You’re treating what is conceptually distinguishable as though its being conceptually [and thus semantically] distinguishable makes it ontologically separate. And then you’re presupposing that those (bishops) who made this conceptual distinction believed this to be an ontological distinction. And then you’re asking, (essentially), “Why didn’t the bishops think this ontological thing includes this other ontological thing?” The problem, however, is all the way back in your treating these two phrases (i.e. “remission of sins” and “sanctification and renewal”) as though they refer to ontologically separate acts, when in actuality they are only conceptual distinctions within what is ontologically one act, as was explained in comment #76 of the “Holy Church” post.

    But again, as I said in comment #58 above, because we’re merely repeating ourselves, that is a good sign that the conversation has run its course.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. Erick (re59)-
    I just wanted to take a moment to share with you my thoughts, as one who’s followed your conversation here and really feels for you! In my opinion it’s somewhat of a hold-over from a Protestant worldview that would cause a person to predicate his reconciliation with the Catholic Church upon his thorough understanding of what are some of the most confounding, nuanced, soteriological discussions a Christian could have (remember, you could be catholic and still have these conversations, right!). Also, becoming Catholic is an act of the will, not just the intellect. I have been catholic for a mere 5 years and, having become catholic, and seeing just how much more I didn’t know before I was catholic (that I didn’t know I didn’t know!), I realize that had I allowed myself to become fixated on certain intellectual hang ups, I would have never become catholic. I know you didnt ask, but i would recommend that a searcher grab a hold of the concrete motives of credibility which are fairly easily adduced through study, and attend Mass and RCIA classes (if you’ve not already). This website is, after all, titled “called to communion” for a reason. We are called to communion with Him, not to a satisfactory intellectual grasp of St. Paul’s theology in light of Catholic dogma (though that is certainly a worthy area of inquiry that you could spend the rest of your catholic life exploring!). Finally, it was St. Thomas himself who considered all his efforts straw in contrast to the love and light that is our Lord and God, Christ Jesus. Peace to you on this journey home.

  62. Herbert, I appreciate your kind words. I am actually a cradle catholic. I became reformed at the age of 18 though so the catechesis was not as thorough as you would think .

    In response to what you said, however, I think it is a bit inconsistent to divorce intellect from the application of divine and supernatural faith. Many converts to Catholicism and reverts say that it was through conscious study of what the catholic church has taught and saw them as both scriptural and intellectually and spiritually satisfying.that being said, I cannot but help to question the origin of certain teachings of the catholic church. No church has the right to make up any doctrine. The deposit of faith is given to the apostles from christ, and there. Is no right for anyone to come up with doctrine hundreds of years later. Even the orthodecognize that certain doctrines were not taught before that are now dogma

    Coming to the notion of the forgiveness of sin, can someone at least refer an article that speaks to the catholic understanding of forgiveness? No one here has been able to explain how Paul sees the imputation of righteousness in terms of covering sins (Romans 4:6-8). That is an explicit mistake, if he were operating from a catholic paradigm. . Karl keating actually said in his book ”Catholicism and fundamentalism” that God does not cover sin, and yet Paul and David said he did.

  63. Erick, (re: #62)

    You wrote:

    Coming to the notion of the forgiveness of sin, can someone at least refer an article that speaks to the catholic understanding of forgiveness? No one here has been able to explain how Paul sees the imputation of righteousness in terms of covering sins (Romans 4:6-8). That is an explicit mistake, if he were operating from a catholic paradigm. . Karl keating actually said in his book ”Catholicism and fundamentalism” that God does not cover sin, and yet Paul and David said he did.

    Again, this has already been explained to you, in comment #69 of the “Holy Church” article.

    As for the Keating statement, he is using the term ‘cover’ there in a different sense, i.e. in the sense in which it is used by Protestants who teach simul iustus et peccator. Regarding this, Protestant theologian Michael Horton says the following:

    The Reformation way of putting it was, simul iustus et peccator – “simultaneously justified and sinful.” This was the Reformation debate more than anything else. Rome agreed that the sinner is saved by grace – but by grace transforming the unrighteous into righteous, the unholy into holy, the disobedient into the obedient. Depending on how one appropriates and makes use of this grace, one could eventually be accepted by God. Not so, said Luther and Calvin. Even on a good day, the average Christian is wicked. The believer, however, does not await a verdict in the future; he reminds himself of the verdict already declared: “not guilty.” He lives each day as though he had fully satisfied the requirements of the law. And to enjoy this promise, he does not have to meet certain criteria for growth in grace. Before he can be confident in this promise, he need not “clean up his act.” More than this, he knows he can’t clean up his act to the degree that he can make enough progress to be accepted or approved by sanctification. (Putting Amazing Back into Grace, pp. 166-167, my emphasis)

    On that same page of that book, Horton has a cartoon of a man sweating and trembling, holding a sign that says ‘Sin!’. The man is standing in the shadow of the cross, with an arrow showing that from “God’s View,” the man is hidden, because the man is standing behind the cross. Here’s the cartoon:

    In the Reformed view, that cartoon is true of every believer for every moment of his life as a believer, even in his moments of greatest sanctification. Inside he is a filthy rotten sinner his whole life long, but God covers his sin with the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.

    In Catholic doctrine, by contrast, God does not cover sin in that sense. Rather, God covers sin by removing it at the moment of justification, so that it belongs only to the past. To make Keating out to be denying Romans 4:7 is, to say the least, to read him uncharitably, by failing to distinguish between these two senses of ‘cover.’

    But once again, I’m only saying things I’ve already said to you before. So, like I said above, that’s a good sign that the discussion has run its course.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  64. Indeed, Bryan. That the same reality can fall under two concepts which are neither co-extensive nor co-intensive is a general truth that people often forget in theological contexts.

  65. @Erick (#62):
    The only way that we arrive at dogma in the first place is to have it revealed to us, so there’s no way to judge what was and wasn’t in the content of original revelation apart from the Church. In short, you have no right to tell the Church it has created new dogma when the Church says it hasn’t. And both the Catholic and Orthodox churches say they haven’t. The Chalcedonian dogma of two natures was articulated hundreds of years after Christ’s birth, but it surely wasn’t “new dogma” in the sense of not having been revealed. What you would really be doing here is trying to come up with some “independent” way of knowing what is and isn’t original dogma, which is neither reasonable nor possible given the historical nature of Christian revelation.

    I got your message on justification; please see my response.

  66. Bryan,

    I think it might be more considerate to recognize that Michael Horton sees any imperfection as warranting the dreadful label of depraved sinner. I am not defending Mr. Horton, but I myself, having come from this reformed, find it more convincing to actually apologize from the papacy, authority, or specific texts dealing with justification than when someone says that the reformed believe that aforesaid imputes Christs righteousness to us while all along we remain the same wicked enslaved lustful sinner on the inner reality. For the reformed do believe that upon regeneration, the sinner is renewed and sanctified in holiness, but they considerable anything less than absolute and perpetual perfect obedience in mind heart and motive warrants the description of ”sinful”. So when they say just while sinner, they are simply meaning what St. Augustine said when he argued that man in this life, Eben after grace! Is not wholly perfected. So when a catholic simply says that the reformed believe we remain in the adamic state of human life, which is wickedness, while all the long being reputed with Christs righteousness, is simply distasteful to the reformed. It sounds deceptive . Michael Horton would say that a slave to sin is not justified, why is that not mentioned in your description of his theology? Now I do not support his view, all I am saying is that argument you are using by cutting one section of Horton’s beliefs is not very convincing in the wish to win protestants who are reformed. For you, a million venial sins maintain ones righteousness, and I am not trying to refute this, but you have to consider how the reformed view this before you fall victim to mischaracterizing what the reformed actually mean. Jonathan, I see what you are saying. I didn’t get your message.

  67. Jonathan and Erick:

    In #65, and addressing Erick, Jonathan wrote:

    What you would really be doing here is trying to come up with some “independent” way of knowing what is and isn’t original dogma, which is neither reasonable nor possible given the historical nature of Christian revelation.

    Although a bit of an overstatement, that essentially expresses the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism, aside from other doctrinal differences that can be greater or lesser depending on the Protestant. As I regularly say, the Catholic as such holds that the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith can be reliably known only with recourse to ecclesial authority, whereas that is just what Protestants as such deny. Even “confessional” and “high-church” Protestants believe that their confessions and churches have authority only because they can be independently known to conform to Scripture, where Scripture is understood as the sole inerrant rule of faith. Of course, in my view Jonathan has overstated things because he implies that the Protestant IP is unreasonable, whereas I would argue only that the Catholic IP is more reasonable than the Protestant.

    With that in mind, however, I believe that inquirers such as Erick need to focus primarily on that difference if much headway is to be made in the dialogue.

    Best,
    Mike

  68. Erick, (re: #66)

    I think it might be more considerate to recognize that Michael Horton sees any imperfection as warranting the dreadful label of depraved sinner.

    Nothing I said implies or entails that I do not “recognize” that.

    I am not defending Mr. Horton, but I myself, having come from this reformed, find it more convincing to actually apologize from the papacy, authority, or specific texts dealing with justification than when someone says that the reformed believe that aforesaid imputes Christs righteousness to us while all along we remain the same wicked enslaved lustful sinner on the inner reality.

    Precision and carefulness are important here, so as to avoid setting up straw men. I never said that according to Reformed theology we “remain the same wicked enslaved lustful sinner on the inner reality.” Rather, I said that according to the Reformed position, “Inside [the believer] is a filthy rotten sinner his whole life long.” And that is true, as I have shown in comments 43, 46, 186, 190, 193, and 198 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread. The key principle, for understanding this, is the following: “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation;” (WCF XV.4), and that even the ‘righteous’ man sins every day in thought, word, and deed.

    So when a catholic simply says that the reformed believe we remain in the adamic state of human life, which is wickedness, while all the long being reputed with Christs righteousness, is simply distasteful to the reformed.

    Straw men are also distasteful. ;-)

    Michael Horton would say that a slave to sin is not justified, why is that not mentioned in your description of his theology?

    Because my statement was intended to be truthful, not exhaustive.

    Now I do not support his view, all I am saying is that argument you are using by cutting one section of Horton’s beliefs is not very convincing in the wish to win protestants who are reformed. For you, a million venial sins maintain ones righteousness, and I am not trying to refute this, but you have to consider how the reformed view this before you fall victim to mischaracterizing what the reformed actually mean.

    Except I have not “mischaracterized” Horton’s position. Everything I said in my description of it, he would affirm. Rather, you have mischaracterized what I said, by construing it as meaning that in the Reformed position the believer “remain[s] the same wicked enslaved lustful sinner” and “remain[s] in the adamic state of human life.” Those are things I never said, nor are they entailed by what I said.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  69. OK, I see what you are saying. Apologies.

    Michael,

    I am looking deeply into that very thing. If it was divine law that Christs teaching ministry and ministry authority was to be constrained to bishops validly ordained via apostolic succession, and not human opinion, then one is in the position that any gentile would have been in when Paul claimed authority in Christ whereas he had no scriptures to prove that.

    But validly ordained bishops can err, which lends to the possibility of all bishops erring, and thus the teaching ministry of Christ, as defined above, would cease to he just that. Unless there was something protecting the bishops from erring, either just one over the rest, or all together in council. This is where I am at in the journey.

  70. @Mike (#67):
    I actually agree, and I think the problem that I’ve pointed out would apply to Scriptural authority as well. If you tried to “backdrop” Scriptural teaching with some other historical proof that it was taught by the Apostles, you would end up in the same place. This is essentially what the “historical Jesus” folks would try to do. Unlike the CIP, I do consider that sort of thing unreasonable even in the attempt.

  71. Erick (#69):

    You wrote:

    But validly ordained bishops can err, which lends to the possibility of all bishops erring, and thus the teaching ministry of Christ, as defined above, would cease to he just that. Unless there was something protecting the bishops from erring, either just one over the rest, or all together in council. This is where I am at in the journey.

    I hope you’re aware that I have consistently argued that, if the bishops and/or the pope are not infallible under certain conditions by divine gift, then Catholicism and Orthodoxy are both fatally undermined. If they are, and if Christianity nonetheless remains true, then some version of Protestantism is true, or as close to the truth as we can get. On the other hand, if such infallibility does obtain, then the basic principle of Protestantism, as I described it in my previous comment, is false, and either Catholicism or Orthodoxy is true.

    Why am I reminding you of what seems obvious? Because it allows me to pose the question I believe should be the basic question guiding your inquiry: What sort of argument is needed for determining whether the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith is knowable? I am convinced that the argument must be primarily philosophical and only secondarily historical. And I take it you understand what primary argument I give: absent a living, ecclesial authority that is divinely protected from error under certain conditions, there is no principled way to distinguish authentic expressions of divine revelation as such, and thus the once-for-all deposit of faith as such, from mere human opinions about what those are.

    Best,
    Mike

  72. Folks,

    May I suggest that discussion of the “independent” vs. magisterial way of knowing what is dogma be moved to the “Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique” thread, so that this thread can remain on the topic of St. Paul on justification. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Of course, Bryan. I should have said that myself.

  74. Mike at 71,

    Thank you for your post, especially your first paragraph. I too see the infallibility of the magisterium the hinge for Roman Catholics. Now, onto the thread that Bryan suggests.

    Regards

  75. The English language, even, does not involve a transformation in the object when the object is “forgive” or “remitted from sin”. This is a change from the subject. God (subject) forgives (verb) me (object). It means that he does not count my sin against me. So, for instance, during the time between Adam and Moses, people lived in sin, but sin is not imputed when there is not law. This is a simple fact, sin is not imputed when there is now law. This means that the sinning of human beings between Adam and Moses (particularly Israel) were not transgressions against God’s direct stipulations. But consider the fact that God does not impute the sins of these people, does that automatically mean that he is infusing them with divine charity and the supernatural gifts whereby a man is changed from an unjust man to a just man? I think not. It is an altogether exterior things, bound up with the action of the subject (God) who is not imputing the sins of the human beings from Adam to Moses. Therefore, in the sacrifice of Jesus, was reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. This is the revelation of God’s atoning for man’s sin. To not impute transgression against another is an exterior decision in the subject, God.

    Now, I can already suspect some of the thoughts which arise along the lines that this is going in the direction of the protestant conception of simul justus ek peccator….but you see God cannot be reconciled to a fallen adamic man when he is still subjected to the powers, that is to evil, sin, and the realm of Satanic regime. Therefore, transformation of the object is required for God to come into reconciliation with man. But what Pauline terminology is utilized to demonstrate this? Many, but justification is not one of them. Justification is similar to reconciliation in that they depend on the inner peace of both the subject and the object, in this case God is merciful and man turns to Him in love, but their definitions are wholly bound up in the activity of the Subject.

    The way Trent defined “justification” itself is the act where God is changing man from a sinner into a righteous man…but the way the word is used in Paul is that of the finished verdict upon which depends God’s transforming of the human person from being a sinner to being a righteous person. So where Trent saw “just-if-fication” as man’s changing, God being the actor, Paul sees “justification” as God’s own discharge from condemnation and death on the basis of God changing the human person, a thing which belongs to another terminiology in Paul.

  76. Erick, (re: #75)

    You wrote:

    The English language, even, does not involve a transformation in the object when the object is “forgive” or “remitted from sin”. This is a change from the subject. God (subject) forgives (verb) me (object). It means that he does not count my sin against me.

    This requires us to back up and consider second-order questions about theological method. Catholic theology is not based on the meaning of English words. What it means for God to forgive sins is not based on what it means in English when we say we forgive the sins of others. Nor is what it means for God to forgive sins conceptually based on or determined by what it means for us to forgive each others sins. God is immutable, and therefore cannot change. That’s de fide. So when God forgives our sins, there is no change in God. Rather, the change is in us, by God’s doing. (This is one problem for the purely juridical notion of justification; it is incompatible with God’s immutability.)

    This means that the sinning of human beings between Adam and Moses (particularly Israel) were not transgressions against God’s direct stipulations. But consider the fact that God does not impute the sins of these people, does that automatically mean that he is infusing them with divine charity and the supernatural gifts whereby a man is changed from an unjust man to a just man? I think not. It is an altogether exterior things, bound up with the action of the subject (God) who is not imputing the sins of the human beings from Adam to Moses.

    The persons from Adam to Moses did not have the Ten Commandments given on stone tablets, but they had the natural law. It is not as though they could not sin, or that God simply overlooked their sin. To the degree to which they were ignorant of the Ten Commandments (for which very purpose the Ten Commandments were given), to that degree their culpability for their sins against those commandments was reduced. The non-imputation is about blameworthiness, not an *extrinsic* divine accounting maneuver. They were not culpable for violating the divinely revealed law, as were the children of Israel who received that law at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

    Therefore, in the sacrifice of Jesus, was reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. This is the revelation of God’s atoning for man’s sin. To not impute transgression against another is an exterior decision in the subject, God.

    Because your premise is mistaken (i.e. that the non-imputation of Rom 5:13 is merely an extrinsic accounting maneuver by God), you’re led to a mistaken conclusion about the nature of God’s forgiveness of sin through Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. Bryan,

    I am sure I am mistaken. But I wish to know the mechanics of the mistake. I have been told by someone to do a study of forgiveness of sin in the Old Testament, and I do notice that the levitical systems sought to “purify” and “sanctify” the people, which may have included inward tranformations.

    The author to the Hebrews speaks about how the levitical priests needed to offer the Yom Kippur Lamb once a year because each year came with it’s own consciousness of sins. If this Yom Kippur Lamb could indeed pefect the worshippers, or in the similar language, purify the conscience from dead works, there would no longer be a need to keep offering this Yom Kippur Lamb. Then, the author (let’s just say Paul) says that, in contrast to this limitation in the levitical priesthood, there is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is able to perfect the worshipers and purify the hearts and conscience from dead works. Presumably, Christ does not any longer need to perfect and purify His people, because there is no more consciousness of sins, as there were each year in Israel. Aside from the fact that this logic right here is difficult to understand, what is even more difficult to understand is that there were “consciousness of sins” each year in Israel. What is this “conscisousness of sins”? If it is the existence of guilt not washed away (exterior guilt, debt of punishment, need for sacrifice for remission, which again is external), then this would make perfect sense. For Christ’s sacrifice purifies us from all sin, even post-baptismal sins (venial let’s say) upon the moment of penance, and therefore there is no longer a need for a new sacrifice. But it seems that people in the new covenant do in fact have “conscisouness of sins” even post-baptism, if we understand this “consciousness of sins” to be merely the recognition of sins that we have committed throughout the year. And this is why it is difficult to understand how remission is an internal change.

  78. The following is a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas from the following website on page 172
    http://nvjournal.net/files/Aquinas_on_Romans.pdf

    Then to the one who works, i.e., if anyone be justified by works, the justice would
    be reckoned not as a gift but as his due: “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of
    works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6). But to him who does not
    work, so as to be justified by his works, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his
    faith will be reckoned as justice according to the purpose of God’s grace, not that he
    merits justice through faith, but because the believing itself is the first act of the justice
    God works in him. For from the fact that he believes in God justifying, he submits
    himself to his justification and thus receives its effect.
    This is the literal explanation and accords with the intention of the Apostle, who
    lays special stress on the words, “it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6)” a
    saying which is used when that which is lacking on someone’s part is reckoned to him
    gratis, as if he had accomplished the whole.
    That is why the Apostle says that such reckoning would have no place, if
    righteousness were from works, but only as it is from faith

    This is a crystal clear spot where St. Thomas Aquinas is teaching that the imputation of faith for righteousness is not that by faith the person is also infused with love which is complete perfection before God, but rather that God actually counts faith for righteousness, as if it is the whole, because faith is the first movement toward God making someone righteous. This goes directly contrary to the claim that says Abraham’s faith being reckoned for righteousness simply means that Abraham was a faithful man in perfection

  79. Eric, (re: #78)

    You wrote:

    This is a crystal clear spot where St. Thomas Aquinas is teaching that the imputation of faith for righteousness is not that by faith the person is also infused with love which is complete perfection before God, but rather that God actually counts faith for righteousness, as if it is the whole, because faith is the first movement toward God making someone righteous.

    St. Thomas is speaking of faith formed by charity, as he explains in paragraphs 108 and 302 of his commentary. When he says that believing itself is “the first act of the justice God works in him,” he is not saying that such a man is only partially righteous, or remains only partially righteous throughout the rest of his life while gradually becoming more righteous through sanctification. Rather, St. Thomas is speaking of the order of faith and agape, because faith is the beginning of the movement to love of God, as he explains in the Summa:

    The first beginning of this movement is faith: since “he that cometh to God must believe that He is,” according to Hebrews 11:6. Hence the first beginning of the heart’s purifying is faith; and if this be perfected through being quickened by charity, the heart will be perfectly purified thereby. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.7 a.2.)

    Notice that as soon as charity quickens faith (i.e. makes faith alive), the heart is “perfectly purified thereby.” God counts living faith for righteousness because that is what it is, *not* because it is something less than that but which God nevertheless treats as something more than that. God, who is Truth and cannot lie or be deceived, only counts something as righteousness if that is what righteousness is. The justified man has been unrighteous in his prior condition, and lived an unrighteous life. But at the moment of his justification, by infusion of living faith he becomes a friend of God, and becomes truly righteous as if he has never been at enmity with God, and “had accomplished the whole,” much like the parable of the vineyard. St. Thomas is here, of course, not speaking of subsequent increases in justification or merit, in which not every saint has the same degree of righteousness, but of being being in a state of grace, and having living faith rather than mortal sin in one’s heart.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  80. Thank you for the response there Bryan. I realize that many other statements in Aquinas shed more light on his understanding of justification.

    I’ve been reading and re-reading as much as I can on the theology of St. Paul and it is very difficult to trace in his thought the catholic paradigm for justification. If man was born in a state of pure righteousness and holiness and continued to live in this righteousness and holiness, this man would be just before God, or justified. However, when we want to discuss the justification of sinners, we are going to be speaking of something a bit more complex, for sinners are not righteous in themselves. The very “power of God” (Rom 1:16) will have to be in force in the “justification” of sinners (Rom 3:24). What will God have to do in order to justify sinners? These sinners are those who have been born from Adam deprived of righteousness and holiness, right? But St. Paul does not view the adamic human state as sort of a neutral state, being neither sinful or righteous. In fact, if you read Romans 7, he makes it plain that the natural adamic man is destined to bear fruit unto death, that it to sin. “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the Law were at work in our members, to bear fruit unto death” (Rom 7:5-6). To be born “in the flesh” is the “mode” wherein this “sinning” occurs, and it occurs with “all” who are “in the flesh” (Rom 3:9). Of course, Jesus was in the likeness of sinful flesh, but he was not incorporated into this adamic falleness.

    Interestingly, St. Paul makes somewhat of an illogical distinction between the “body”, the “mind”, and “sin”. He speaks of “sin” as a personality and character all on it’s own (Separate from the “I”) , that has the intelligence of taking oppurtunity and occasion by the good commands of God to subject the human person into sinning. Likewise, the “mind” or the “inner man” is not identical with this character “sin”, and it is “sin” which is in the “body” or “members” which wars against the “mind” and brings the whole “I” into subjection to sinning, bearing fruit unto death. This is the mode of Adamic life, sheer slavery to sin.

    It is difficult to reconcile the argument of Romans 7 with the doctrine of absolute free will. For if it is true that all men are “enslaved to sin” and that this principle inevitably effects the “all have sinned” (Rom 3:10), then it would seem more likely that the human person is not free to choose good, for there would be some that do. But it is because “all” are destined into this habit that precisely argues against the freedom of the will. If humanity was half sinful and half righteous, then this would no doubt attest to the freedom of the will. However, since “all”, without distinction (of course for the sake of the discussion we omit infants, handicapped, Mary, and Jesus), are sinful, it puts a huge question on the freedom of the will.

    And it is actually St. Paul’s argument in Romans 7 that clearly teaches against the freedom of the will. For he says “To will is present, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For in me, that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells” (Rom 7:19-20). This statement is very difficult to reconcile with the Catholic teaching that man is born naturally pure in his body and mind, but without sanctifying grace. Here St. Paul sees man as not just “without” something, but also “with” something. He is equipped with a body that is subject to sin. This “sin” overpowers the will of man and brings him into death. This is why St. Paul says that “sin was producing death in me”.

    So, how does this sort of mankind actually get “justified” before God? In the first place, it is clear that by the total remission of sins (Rom 3:21-4:25), one is justified before God. Remission of sin itself is not an interior transformation. The interior renewal of the human being might be logically in consequence or logically causing the remission of sins, but the remission of sins itself cannot be understood as the ontological obliteration of sin. I have never seen anyone argue for this idea persuasively. If one wishes to say that “by” the remission of sins the soul is renewed or regenerate, this is acceptable. If one wishes to say that the interior renewal of the man is the “cause” of the remission of sins, this is also acceptable. However, to make the remission of sins with the interior renewal of the human being the same thing all together in it’s beginning and finishing, this is beyond any logic available to my grasping.

    St. Paul sees the cross of Jesus as the meritorious cause of the justification of sinners. But how does this “justification” come to us? It is that we are imputed with an alien righteousness that covers the sinfulness of man? Such an idea is entirely acceptable given the logic of Romans 4:6-8. Through the remission of sins, God counts it as if we have never sinned, by remitting all of our sins. The Hebrew parallelism in Psalm 32 highly favors that the “covering of sins” is just another way of explaining the “forgiveness of sins” and the “non-imputation of sins”. It is apparent that St. Thomas Aquinas, on his commentary on Romans 4:6-8, believes that each line in the beginning of Psalm 32 is dealing with something entirely different than the other. David is simply describing the blessing of the man whose sins are forgiven. Why complicate the matter more?

    Abraham’s “faith” being accounted for righteousness no doubt means that “faith” itself was Abraham’s righteousness. God was pleased with Abraham’s faith, and God decided that such a thing was glorifying to Him enough to accept Abraham as righteous. Abraham is not a sinless man. Abraham was not justified by “works”, but was rather justified by “faith”. This means that “faith” had to be what made Abraham righteous. But since “faith” is not “works”, and because “works” can in a perfect world be counted for righteousness, this act of imputing is of grace. To use philosophy, something dominant in the western mind, to somehow accuse God of deceit because He, for some reason unknown to us, chooses and pleases to reckon faith for righteousness.

    What if God, wishing to be glorified in His own grace, counts a man’s “faith” as a pleasing enough righteousness to justify him? The use of philosophy to entrap the logic into necessarily infusing “love” or “perfection” with “faith” so that God is actually telling the truth is a flaw that all systematicians run into when they must keep their systems running in order to understand God.

    If you wish to disagree, then how is Abraham’s faith being his righteousness depend on the principle of grace? If it is true that Abraham’s faith actually contains “love” which is the fulfillment of the whole Law, perfection before God, then Abraham has worked for the wage. For it truly is his mind and heart which have this perfect charity in complete co-operation. Now, if one wishes to say that this shows that God has justified Abraham, meaning, that he has taken a man who was “dead in sin” (devoid of supernatural charity) and infused into him “perfect charity”, and because of this God imputed Abraham’s faith and love as righteousness, then he falls out of the accounting analogy of Romans 4:1-5. The idea is that “faith” is “not working”. To co-operate with divine charity is a work of man, as well as a gracious work of God. Here St. Paul wishes to preserve a monergistic imputation, something that is apart from all works. This is why Paul uses David as another testimony for God’ imputing righteousness to a man apart from works! If it is true that God simply infuses man with faith and perfect charity, by which the sinful human being is transformed into the very likeness of God, then Psalm 32 is not the place to go to find supporting material. But the fact that St. Paul does urge the teaching of Psalm 32 to be another witness to the imputation of righteousness by grace apart from works, and because Catholic must maintain the philosophical idea of God’s integrity, somehow and in some strange way Forgiveness of Sin must mean that same thing as Infusion of Charity. Do you see the clear system that is being pushed into Paul here?

    All that St. Paul wishes to say is that when God forgives a man who repents, He is counting that man’s faith and repentance as “righteousness”, even though it might not be a perfect and pure and complete perfection. This is the idea of the tax collector and the Pharisee in the temple, the tax collector beats His chest out and cries to God for mercy, and he goes home justified by grace. God is offering forgiveness, pardon, for all who have repentance and true contrition before Him. This is what is taking place in Psalm 32! The forgiven tax collector is the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works. Forgiveness is a gift!

    On the contrary, in the Catholic paradigm, God must obliterate the sin in it’s totality as a stain on the human soul prior to their being forgiveness of sins. But this poor tax collector comes with all of his guilt and sin, beats his chest and weeps over his transgressions, and earnestly repents and turns away from his sin, and God, out of nothing but grace and mercy, pardons him from all his iniquity. This is the “righteousness of God”! It is by “faith” (humble repentance)! Not by perfect adherence to the good moral commands of God (Rom 7). For all who wish to be justified by the Law (see the moral commands of Romans 2 and 7), he is under a curse. But in Christ, we have been delivered from the curse because of the remission of sins that comes when we have repentance before God.

    This leads to another mechanical aspect in Catholic theology. I think that in Catholic theology, repentance is perfection. But this is not the case in Scripture, or in the early Fathers. Repentance was made available by a gracious and merciful God who opens His arms for sinners, and repentance itself is a man choosing to leave aside his sin and his love for sin to be purified and turn away from sin. This is not equal to what the Law requires. The Law requires absolute obedience, “Thou shalt not covet”, and once covetousness is commited, the man dies away.

    Also, consider that there is support for the protestant view in Galatians 5:5-6

    “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” .

    This “eagerly waiting” in Paul is always referring to that moment where our bodies will be redeemed into the full sonship, the resurrection of the body, fully gloried, and fully righteous, able to behold the face of God. What St. Paul is saying is that the Judaizers which to be made perfect by the flesh here on earth where the baptized have entered the new creation of which is only the firstfruits now, but the full realization of being perfect is to come in the parousia. This is exactly the language of Phillippians 3:9-14, Paul is not perfect yet! This goes diametrically oppossed to catholic theology that one must be perfect for the attainment of justification. Paul is not perfect but he strives until he obtains the resurrection of the body, which will fully image the glory of God in a perfectly righteous human existence.

    St. Paul is telling the Galatians that we are the firstfruits of those who are righteous, but this righteousness here is not perfect yet, only when our bodies are in the full sonship (Rom 8).

    From my perspective this shows support for the protestant view, not the catholic. In fact, the Judaizers who wished to be perfect in this life by outward Jewish Customs is no real righteousness anyway since it is of the flesh. The Baptized have the Spirit and are renewed in righteousness, but this is not absolute perfection, as you have argued.

  81. Erick, (re: #80)

    Twenty-one hundred words is a bit much for a comment. So I’ll respond only to a few of your claims. You wrote:

    It is difficult to reconcile the argument of Romans 7 with the doctrine of absolute free will.

    It is not difficult, if you understand the Catholic position rightly, which does not teach that concupiscence is no hindrance to our freedom to choose between alternatives, and does not teach that grace is not necessary to choose that which is ordered to our supernatural end. The Catholic doctrine concerning man’s free will does not ignore the role of concupiscence. See “Lawrence Feingold on Freedom of the Will.”

    This statement is very difficult to reconcile with the Catholic teaching that man is born naturally pure in his body and mind,

    Again, it is not difficult if you avoid making a straw man of the Catholic position, because by ‘flesh’ here St. Paul is speaking of concupiscence. And I have discussed this in some detail at “Protestant Objections to the Catholic Doctrines of Original Justice and Original Sin” and the two prerequisite lectures linked there.

    You wrote:

    Remission of sin itself is not an interior transformation.

    This is a mere assertion on your part, and nothing St. Paul says entails it. Moreover, I’ve already explained why this position is mistaken, in the comments under the “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians” post, and in the comments following the “Holy Church: A Testimonial Response to Chris Castaldo” article. And as I mentioned in comment #76 above, the notion that remission of sins is by a change in God, entails a denial of the dogma of divine immutability, and thus an embrace of “open theism.”

    But how does this “justification” come to us?

    It comes to us through the sacraments Christ instituted, by which the grace He merited for us on the cross is applied to us.

    The Hebrew parallelism in Psalm 32 highly favors that the “covering of sins” is just another way of explaining the “forgiveness of sins” and the “non-imputation of sins”.

    If Hebrew parallelism were the determining factor in biblical interpretation, then this would resolve the question. You’re still presupposing the lexical paradigm, as I pointed out in comment #142 of the “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers” thread, and in subsequent comments there. And in that respect, your methodology is begging the question, i.e. presupposing precisely what is in question between Protestants and Catholics.

    The use of philosophy to entrap the logic into necessarily infusing “love” or “perfection” with “faith” so that God is actually telling the truth is a flaw that all systematicians run into when they must keep their systems running in order to understand God.

    No, it is not a “flaw,” nor does merely asserting it to be a flaw demonstrate it to be a flaw. And if you wish to demonstrate it, you’ll need to do it without relying on any philosophy, for that would be question-begging. If you wish to rely on mere assertion, then you’ll need to provide your authority to dictate how the Bible is to be interpreted, and what is to be the proper role of reason and philosophy in both hermeneutics and theology.

    , then how is Abraham’s faith being his righteousness depend on the principle of grace?

    Because faith and agape are supernatural virtues, infused by the Holy Spirit. They are not natural virtues acquired by man’s own natural power.

    If it is true that Abraham’s faith actually contains “love” which is the fulfillment of the whole Law, perfection before God, then Abraham has worked for the wage.

    No, that conclusion does not follow. To show why, note that when a baby is baptized, he or she receives the infused virtues of faith, hope, and agape, and has not yet willed anything.

    For it truly is his mind and heart which have this perfect charity in complete co-operation.

    Cooperation is not ipso facto meritorious. Only those already in a state of grace can merit; see “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin and the Church Fathers.” The work St. Paul is referring to there is outward work without living faith. He is not talking about the act of believing God.

    The idea is that “faith” is “not working”.

    Yes and no. St. Paul never says that faith is not working. Rather, faith is not dead men working dead works. Faith works through love. You are approaching St. Paul through the lexical paradigm, as I’ve said repeatedly now, and in this way are begging the question over and over.

    He is counting that man’s faith and repentance as “righteousness”, even though it might not be a perfect and pure and complete perfection.

    What is righteousness is the living faith in the man’s heart indicated by his repentance and sorrow for having sinned against God whom he should love above all things.

    On the contrary, in the Catholic paradigm, God must obliterate the sin in it’s totality as a stain on the human soul prior to their being forgiveness of sins. But this poor tax collector comes with all of his guilt and sin, beats his chest and weeps over his transgressions, and earnestly repents and turns away from his sin, and God, out of nothing but grace and mercy, pardons him from all his iniquity.

    What you are missing, in your construction of the straw man against the Catholic Church, is that in beating his chest and weeping over his sin, the publican already indicates the agape in his heart, for the man who in mortal sin opposes God does not have contrition for having offended God whom he should love above all things.

    It is by “faith” (humble repentance)! Not by perfect adherence to the good moral commands of God (Rom 7). This leads to another mechanical aspect in Catholic theology … repentance itself is a man choosing to leave aside his sin and his love for sin to be purified and turn away from sin. This is not equal to what the Law requires. The Law requires absolute obedience,

    If by ‘faith’ you mean living faith, then yes, this is the point of the “Imputation and Paradigms” post.

    What St. Paul is saying is that the Judaizers which to be made perfect by the flesh here on earth where the baptized have entered the new creation of which is only the firstfruits now, but the full realization of being perfect is to come in the parousia. This is exactly the language of Phillippians 3:9-14, Paul is not perfect yet! This goes diametrically oppossed to catholic theology that one must be perfect for the attainment of justification

    Here you are setting up over another straw man of the Catholic position, by failing to distinguish between the different ways in which we are perfected. In this present life we remain able to sin, and fall from grace. But not in the age to come. In this present age we wrestle with concupiscence, but not in the age to come. But at the moment of baptism, no sin remains in our heart. In that sense our heart has been perfected, because there is no middle position between the will being ordered to God as our final end, or to something other than God. Again, see the “Imputation and Paradigms” post, and the comments under it.

    Much of this is revisiting things we have already discussed, repeatedly. So I recommend that we take a six month break, to reflect prayerfully before continuing our conversation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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